• Becca Dzombak

corona-tine dispatch: a running reading list

Updated: Jul 21

I'm trying to avoid binge-watching netflix during the pandemic-induced social isolation. Not because I want to use the time to "better myself" instead (ha), but because sinking into the dark abyss of endless television is definitely one of my unhealthy coping mechanisms. Except for speeding to the end of Game of Thrones (the good seasons) or any seasons in the Bake-Off, when has watching 12+ hours of tv a day been good for anyone? Probably sometime, but rarely for me.


So instead, I'm reading (and baking & consuming lots of carbs). I'm on goodreads but this is a running list of what I'm reading, and why, and whether or not I recommend it. Years ago(!), in undergrad, a friend of mine was browsing my bookshelf and commented offhand, "Huh, you read a lot of white men." And I looked, and I did. And since then, I've been making an effort to read more women and women/people of color. It's way better.

Fiction - Nonfiction - Essays

July

Me and White Supremacy - Layla F. Saad. Working through this starting in early July!

The Fire This Time - ed. Jesmyn Ward. A moving collection of essays and poetry by Black writers, reflecting on being Black in America and the killing of Trayvon Martin. I found some excellent authors to explore through this. I usually read very quickly, but taking time to reflect after each piece and spacing this book out over a number of days was the best approach for me.

If Beale Street Could Talk - James Baldwin. My first Baldwin read, and I'll be reading more, that's for sure.

The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing - Melissa Bank. Not something I'd have picked up on my own, but I enjoyed it well enough. I like the nonlinear structure of 'short story collection' rather than novel, although there was one towards the end where I wasn't sure what the significance was (or who the people were...? no doubt a side effect of reading too quickly).

One Person, No Vote - Dr. Carol Anderson. Fantastic book about the history of voter suppression and race in the U.S. Very well-referenced yet readable. Required reading as we get closer to the 2020 election!

In Five Years - Rebecca Serle. I liked this; I thought it was a light rom-com type book but it left me ugly sobbing in my bed at 2 a.m. because I ended up reading it straight through.

Kindred - Octavia Butler

The Witches Are Coming - Lindy West


June

Everything's Trash, But It's Okay - Phoebe Robinson. I've read this before but I love Phoebe Robinson. If you want to think about race and feminism but also laugh, read her work. Follow her on social media. Listen to her podcasts.

This Will Be My Undoing - Morgan Jenkins

Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents - Octavia Butler

Such a Fun Age - Kiley Reid. A fun but eye-opening fiction that depicts how two white people are racist to the protagonist, a young Black woman who is a babysitter for a wealthy white woman.

Girl, Woman, Other - Bernadine Evaristo. Really interesting concept - twelve stories of women in the U.K., mostly Black, that weave together in time and space to show the variety of lived experience of women of color.


May

Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race - Reni Eddo-Lodge. Great series of essays (well-referenced) on race and intersectional feminism in the UK.

Half a Yellow Sun - C.N. Adichie. I just love her writing, plus I'm learning about history.

Sourdough - Robin Sloan. A quick, entertaining read that turned into a whimsical sort of fiction. Ignoring the fact that Sloan appears not to have talked to a microbiologist, or anyone who knows anything about how hard it is to isolate a single strain, it's fun.

Hood Feminism - Mikki Kendall. Currently reading.


April

wow, no thank you - Samantha Irby. Hilarious, love it, always recommend. I also re-read her we are never, ever meeting in real life.

Americanah - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. 100% recommend.

Purple Hibiscus - C.N. Adichie. 95% recommend - I appreciated the religion-focused arc, but if you're averse to that sort of thing, this might not be for you.

Weather - Jenny Ofili. A weird little book. 25% recommend, higher if you like minimalist prose with little narration or plot. Pro: extremely short read.


March

The Testaments - Margaret Atwood. 90% recommend if you read/watched The Handmaid's Tale. If not, then you could read it, but it might not make much sense? It's not as good as Handmaid's Tale and I was a little surprised at the ending, but I still enjoyed it and read it in about 24 hours.

City of Girls - I think I would have liked this if it had been a little shorter. It's a fun read, a mix of historical and frivolous, but it feels a little too self-indulgent at times. We get it, they're young and beautiful, out drinking on the town. 75% rec., 100% if you just want something light and distracting.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo - Not gonna lie, I judged this as being frivolous and maybe not that well-written in the first few pages, but it got me. I didn't know anything about the plot going into it, and I'd hope the same for others. 100% recommend.

Evicted - M. Desmond. Not at all light and would probably not recommend during a pandemic, but an engaging read that really digs into the issues of homelessness, poverty, and landlord-tenant struggles, including differences in how race plays a role in these problems.


Books I read in the past but would recommend any time

Becoming - Michelle Obama. 100/10 everyone should read.

Invisible Women - C. Perez. An intense book documenting the systematic (if unintentional at times) ways that women have been left out, statistically, and the ramifications for our health, safety, and quality of life. Like Evicted, not a light read. I'll say "well-researched and well-referenced" rather than "heavy on the stats," because that's what I want from a book like this. But everyone living in society should read this.

Braiding Sweetgrass - Kimmerer. An excellent series of essays on the intersection of Native American culture and ecology, by a Native American female ecologist. Beautifully written, made me want to wander through the woods.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem - Joan Didion.

Samantha Irby, any and all.





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