March: A Month in Books

I’m happy to report that this month was much better than February in terms of reading. I read several truly fantastic books and nothing below a 4 out of 5. I read a couple extra books this month that weren’t part of my original list, but I needed to complete James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time for a Sunday School class I’m helping to teach during Lent, and then my mom bought Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth by Warsan Shire. I couldn’t stop myself when that beautiful piece fell into my hands (actually I stole it from my mom the moment it came out of the box). These are listed in the order read. If the title is a hyperlink, it takes you to my review.

  1. Inheritance by Christopher Paolini (BR #9)
  2. Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth by Warsan Shire
  3. The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin (BR #17 & Classic)
  4. And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini (BR #5)
  5. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
  6. Digest by Gregory Pardlo
  7. Island of a Thousand Mirrors by Nayomi Munaweera (BR #24)
  8. Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
  9. Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People by Nadia Bolz-Weber
  10. Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit
  11. Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude by Ross Gay

The two new releases I read this month did not disappoint. George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo was phenomenal. His approach was so unique and creative, I was enthralled. Saunders delves deep into what makes us human, what makes us love, and why we cling to what is lost, using one of history’s incredible tragedies as his setting. Lincoln in the Bardo gives us a beautiful portrait of one of the greatest leaders in history and the profound losses and sacrifices Abraham Lincoln made in service to his country. With great compassion and tenderness, Saunders pens a masterpiece of historical and magical fiction that I hope becomes a classic of modern literature.

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid was another incredible recent publication. I received it through my subscription with Book of the Month Club, but it was one I’d been waiting for since it was announced. I wrote a full review here, but I will emphasize how incredible this novel is. Mohsin Hamid rewards us as readers with the great pleasure of reading: the moment you realize how the author has expertly lead us without our knowledge to his beautiful and necessary conclusion. The only other book I have felt the same awe and wonder at a writer’s narrative skill in the past several years was Colson Whitheads The Underground Railroad. Both are absolutely necessary reading.

Of the three collections of poetry I read this month, Warsan Shire’s Teaching My Mother… was the clear favorite. Ross Gay and Gregory Pardlo are incredible poets, but Warsan Shire tapped into something inside me that I have yet to be able to name. Her polished poetry manages to convey chaos trauma sows. I know for certain that I need to reread this tiny book. One thing I love about poetry is that a mere thirty pages contains more than a five-hundred page novel. Shire’s book calls to be read over and over in order to tease out the meaning of every carefully placed syllable.

It was also an exemplary month for nonfiction. I think enough people have expounded the virtues of The Fire Next Time, so I will only say that if you haven’t read it, it is an essential little book for our time. I wrote a full review of Accidental Saints so here I will simply reiterate that while an excellent book for a personal faith journey, Nadia Bolz-Weber falls flat on the larger social issues facing the church. Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to MeΒ was one of the best I’ve read so far this year. Perhaps I’m slightly biased because she is the kind of historian I aspire to be, but her famous essay collection deserves all of the praise it has received since publication. She brilliantly lays out the framework of feminist thought & critique appealing to both the academic and non-academics alike. She has also convinced me to read as much Virginia Woolf as possible.

I’d recommend any of these books to fellow readers. I didn’t hit a single dud this month. I hope you all enjoyed this month in reading & are ready for April and the arrival of outdoor reading weather!

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