Book Chat

Reading Life: July and August 2020

I never quite caught up from July, and then another month slipped by one day at a time until suddenly August was over too, so before too much time passes by, I’m catching up on the last two months of reading. It feels like I’m reading pretty slowly these days, but in the last month I read some really fun summer books and now I’m starting to gravitate toward heavier topics to usher in a new season.

This year I’m continuing to keep a physical journal chronicling my reads, and you can check out more photos on my Instagram account @ladykatiestitchery


July and August 2020 Thoughts


Binti: The Complete Trilogy, by Nnedi Okorafor

Start date: 6/30/2020
Finish date: 7/24/2020

Genre: Science Fiction
Source: Sarah L.
4 stars

Such a delightful Sci-Fi adventure steeped in African culture. I don’t read a ton of sci-fi but when I do, it’s usually because Sarah recommended it! I loved the inventive future filled with mathematical wonders, space travel, and creatures, while still being grounded in themes of home, traditions, and coming of age. In this collection of four short stories (the original trilogy plus a new story), Binti leaves her traditional culture for an intergalactic school, and her journey felt relatable despite the fantastic setting. Fun and thought-provoking!

You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George Washington, by Alexis Coe

Start date: 7/4/2020
Finish date: 7/22/2020

Genre: Nonfiction/History
Source: Libro.FM and Annie Jones of The Bookshelf @anniebjones05
4 stars

A provocative biography of George Washington, unusual only because it’s written by a woman, isn’t 1,000 pages long, and focuses on often-overlooked people and realities of the era. Washington is largely let off the hook for enslaving people because he freed (some of) them in his will, but of course it’s more complicated than that. Behind the legend is a man of his time, who set many precedents but was certainly flawed. This was a great audiobook and came exactly when I needed it (on Independence Day!), as I am continuing to examine what I’ve been taught, reckoning with my country’s past, and trying to understand my world with new context.

Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close, by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman

Start date: 7/13/2020
Finish date: 7/17/2020

Genre: Nonfiction
Source: BOTM
4 stars

Romantic relationships get all the glory in fiction and self-help books, but we all know that friendships can be just as important (and often longer-lasting). The creators of the Call Your Girlfriend podcast examine the ups and downs of their shared history with advice from experts along the way; I really enjoyed the blend of narrative and research. From shine theory to stretching through life changes like cross-country moves and chronic illness to miscommunications that almost ended their friendship, they prove that a Big Friendship is worth the growing pains.

The Heir Affair (sequel to The Royal We), by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

Start date: 7/25/2020
Finish date: 8/7/2020

Genre: Fiction
Source: Sequel to The Royal We
4 stars

I was worried that I would forget the twists and turns of the first book, The Royal We – or worse, that the magic of the fictionalized saga of Will and Kate (AKA Nick and Bex) would dissipate after years of waiting – but never fear: the sequel was just as dishy and entertaining. The story still follows the British royal family, but takes on more of a life of its own, leaving the real-life parallels further behind. Marriage and life as a modern royal might not be quite as much fun, but the characters felt like friends, and it was till entirely too addiction (several duties were shirked to just keep reading a few more minutes.) I hope there’s more coming!

Check out my thoughts on The Royal We here, which I read in October 2015!

Prelude to Bruise, by Saeed Jones

Start date: 8/8/2020
Finish date: 8/8/2020

Genre: Poetry
Source: backlist
4 stars

Intense, thought-provoking poetry by the author of the memoir How We Fight for Our Lives. I don’t read poetry often; it flexes a different mental muscles that’s a bit like exercise (or maybe eating broccoli?) – difficult but beneficial. Sometimes poetry feels like it’s written in a foreign language, and this was no exception, but reading the author’s memoir first helped me understand (some of) the context better. More so than prose, these poems felt visceral, enigmatic, powerful, urgent.

A few of my favorites: Pretending to Drown, Kudzu, Body and Kentucky Bourbon, After Last Night, History, according to Boy

One to Watch, by Kate Stayman-London

Start date: 8/5/2020
Finish date: 8/14/2020

Genre: Fiction
Source: Libro.FM/The Popcast podcast
4 stars

A witty, self-aware, plus-sized lead starring in a reality TV dating show? It’s like the best season of the Bachelorette I’ve never watched. Plenty of tongue-in-cheek behind  the scenes as well as sharp social commentary on body positivity and pop culture. Super fun summer read, especially if you like reality TV (I’m a sucker for it, always have been).

Beach Read, by Emily Henry

Start date: 8/10/2020
Finish date: 8/15/2020

Genre: Fiction
Source: BOTM
4 stars

When two writers – a grumpy and highly acclaimed author of literary fiction and a down-on-her-luck romance writer – wind up as next door neighbors one summer, they place a bet to see if each can write a book outside their usual genres to combat their writers’ blocks. Of course, romance ensues! This book makes me feel guilty for every time I’ve underestimated the romance/women’s fiction genre – of course they can be just as witty, sharp, and deep as any other more “serious” literature; plus, relatable characters experiencing what we all hope for – a happy ending.

The Death of Vivek Oji, by Akwaeke Emzi

Start date: 8/18/2020
Finish date: 8/23/2020

Genre: Fiction
Source: BOTM
4 stars

It’s hard to describe this novel, which begins with an ending (the title says it all), and unfurls a story of identity, secrets, and family, set in Nigeria. Can parents ever fully know their child? I identified so strongly with Vivek’s mother, how entwined she felt with her only child, how foreign it can feel to let them be an individual, but scarier still to realize that you might not recognize their true self anymore. There was one plot thread that didn’t feel fully explored and muddied the (already deep) waters. Sad and heavy at times, but beautifully told, and it gave me a lot to ponder. I would love to discuss this one with a book club!

Currently Reading:

Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor, by Layla F. Saad

Start date: 8/1/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
Source: A Beautiful Mess podcast

I’m slowly working my way through this workbook, which covers the basics of antiracism with 28 days of journaling prompts. The journaling has been eye-opening, even if it’s uncomfortable.

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, by Isabel Wilkerson

Start date: 8/19/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
Source: Blog comment (thanks!)

Absorbing, but heavy. The audiobook narrator is great but it will take me a while to listen to all 22 hours.

The Ninth House, by Leigh Bardugo

Start Date: 8/24/2020
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy
Source: Sommer

Ivy League secret societies + magic = perfect fall reading!

The Montessori Toddler: A Parent’s Guide to Raising a Curious and Responsible Human Being, by Simone Davies

Start date: 8/28/2020
Genre: Nonfiction/Parenting
Source: Sommer

Even though Amelia is at the tail-end of toddlerhood, Jon is just entering this stage, and it’s never too late to get some new ideas… especially since we’re at home all the time now.


A new addition for 2020:

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library

Dolly Parton has an amazing program that sends a free book to every child in Tennessee every month from birth to five years old. It’s such an incredible concept, and we’ve been enjoying Amelia’s books for three years. So many of our new favorite stories have come from this program, and now that Jon has joined too, I want to highlight the books we receive this year so I can remember the new books added to our library. Three cheers for Dolly Parton!

For Jon:

For Amelia:

Books read in July: 3
Books read in August: 5
Books read in 2020: 33
Currently reading: 4

So that’s what I’ve been reading during the seventh and eighth months of 2020!


One thought on “Reading Life: July and August 2020

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