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June Reading Updates

Yes, you read that write: June Reading Updates. *Checks calendar* Okay yes, it is mid-July, but better late than never, right? Don't worry, the wait will be worth it for a hefty stack featuring more than a few five-star reads.

I shattered my personal reading records in June. My previous months are weeping on the floor wondering what could have happened that I managed to read *drumroll please* 15 books in June. I think this calls for some fireworks.

What accounted for this startling leap in reading? Did I learn how to speed read? No (but wouldn't that be nice). Did I read multiple books at the same time? Sometimes. Was I really bored, feeling anxious and needing an escape, feeling motivated by reading challenges, book clubs, and new releases, and missing my deployed boyfriend? Yes, yes, and yes. Will I hit this level of books in a month again? Probably not. I've read 4 books in July so far with plans to read at least 5 more. But life, while far from normal, is starting to change again. I'll be moving to my new apartment in Virginia in two weeks and will be starting orientation for work in a month. I'm savoring time with my family, packing (well, more like thinking about packing), and connecting with so many talented, kind, funny, clever authors through interviews. I'm enjoying dates with my boyfriend via Zoom and watching too many episodes of Hotel Impossible with my family. I'm petting my dogs every chance I get and thinking about rescuing a dog of my own after I move. I'm dipping my toes into freelancing and creating a TBR list a mile long. I turned 22 but failed to eat breakfast at midnight (sorry Taylor Swift).

So, you're asking yourself, what did I read last month? The first book I read was Untamed by Glennon Doyle. Glennon speaks beautifully about grief, motherhood, marriage, true love, childhood, and addiction. Her voice is unique, her perspective is refreshing, and her writing is immensely quotable.Untamed has every element that I love about motivational nonfiction: an author that feels like your best friend and confidante (and I sure wish she was!), a series of stories and insights that are intensely relatable, humorous and poignant reflections that will make you alternately laugh and cry, and sage advice delivered through anecdotes. To read my full review of one of June's hottest buzz books, check it out here.

I first read Rupi Kaur's poetry when I was at a low point in the spring. Between missing my family and friends, my world being moved online, and my anxiety being higher than normal with all of the uncertainty and changes, I knew I needed to lose myself in the written word again after a reading slump. Milk and honey was a quick and absorbing read that reminded me why I love poetry, and I was so pleased that the sun and her flowers was equally beautiful, poignant, and powerful. If you are a poetry lover or want to introduce yourself to the genre, this collection is perfect for you. My full review can be found here.

White Rage by Carol Anderson was a book that was way out of my reading comfort zone. While I do enjoy memoirs, other forms of nonfiction can be intimidating for me. However, when Dr. Shahnaz Ahmed (the host of the Living a Life Through Books Podcast and Book Club) invited me to attend her June book club with this book, there felt like no better time than the present. The well-researched text is filled with facts, statistics, and anecdotes that history books fail to mention about racism's effects in America since the end of the Civil War. My full thoughts can be found here.

If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha is easily designated as a 5-star read for me. Hands down, no questions asked, this is a literary debut that made my jaw drop. I am starting to see the novel slowly fill my Bookstagram feed this month, and I have to take a moment to shout from the rooftops that this is an underdog that too many people are sleeping on. Here are some of my thoughts from my glowing review: Beauty and privilege are the driving themes of If I Had Your Face, a heart breaking and captivating novel chronicling the interwoven lives of five South Korean women living in the same apartment building. Each woman’s perspective is unique, her troubles tragic, her successes and growth a triumph. None of the women are perfect, but that is what makes them so compelling. They are both unpredictable and someone you know well, someone you want to hug and someone you want to keep at arms length. I love character-driven narratives, and this is one of the best that I’ve read this year. It is truly magical to see each woman’s story unfold, rewind, and intersect again and again.

Well-Read Black Girl by Glory Edim is a collection of essays that every English teacher needs to read this summer. Organized as a series of essays from Black female authors, the collection explores texts both classic and contemporary that were impactful for the women in their youth. In addition to the moving essays about the power of poetry, novels, and plays in shaping identity, the anthology also includes curated lists of recommended texts to read.

I saw The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Dare all over Bookstagram and on so many recommended lists, so I had to check it out for myself. The novel is a sobering reminder that education is a privilege or an impossibility for many young women and girls. At only 14 years old, Adunni is sold to be the third wife of a vile man in order to financially support her family. After circumstances link her to a crime she did not commit, Adunni is unknowingly sold into slavery for an abusive family in Lagos. Her voice is distinct and captivating, and while her story is difficult to stomach, it’s so important that we do not forget that her story, while fictional, is tragically the reality for millions of girls in Nigeria.

Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano promised to break my heart, and wow did it deliver. A haunting and untraditional coming of age novel, Dear Edward follows the teenaged sole survivor of a plane crash. Beautifully and poignantly shifting chapters between Edward’s grieving present and the events leading up to the crash, Ann Napolitano proves that she is an expert scholar of character. She brings her cast of characters to life vividly and immerses you fully in their worlds for a brief time. While the story is full of growth and ends on a hopeful note, I would still keep a box of tissues nearby.

Thanks to the magic of the Skip the Line feature of Libby, I was able to get my hands on a copy of The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett. After compiling all of the buzz book lists and recommended reading lists for the summer, Lit Hub confidently proclaimed that Brit Bennett's sophomore novel was THE BOOK TO BUY. Were they and the 24 media outlets that included it on their lists correct in hyping up this timely and powerful Good Morning America Book Club pick? ABSOLUTELY! I discussed this book at length on the Living a Life Through Books Podcast, and the novel has firmly planted itself in my top 10 favorite books of the year. A multigenerational family story filled with secrets, dynamic characters, and heaps of conflict and heart, the novel was calling my name from the description alone. The writing is genuinely beautiful and thoughtful and precise. I inhaled this book in two days because I needed to know if everyone was going to have a happy ending and needed to know how each twist and turn was resolved. This is exactly the kind of book I want to own so I can go back and savor it again and again. Race, family, and sexuality are powerfully, delicately, tragically, and movingly discussed, and I guarantee that your book club can spend hours discussing the novel.

Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson and Darius the Great is not Okay by Adib Khorram both focus on mental illness and made me cry for all the right reasons. Now let me just preface this by saying that it takes a lot for a book to make me cry, and these authors hit the nail on the head as they poignantly described living with and battling mental illness. Jenny Lawson's anecdotes will make you laugh uncontrollably for the majority of her essay collection, but her opening and closing commentaries on the audiobook touched my heart in ways I doubt any other author could. If you have any interest in anxiety, depression, or chronic illness, this should jump to the top of your TBR. Similarly, I absolutely want to include Darius the Great is Not Okay in my classroom library because Adib Khorram makes depression an understandable topic for teens. My full reviews can be found here and here.

You can tell a book is a winner in my eyes when I give it a 5 star review and purchase the young readers edition for my classroom. Born a Crime showcases Trevor Noah's masterful storytelling skills and humor and paints a vivid portrait of life in South Africa.

While I absolutely loved In Sight of the Mountain by Jamie McGillen, I spoke in length with the author last week on the blog! My full review can be found here, and please don't forget to check out our conversation! Similarly, I will be discussing Sonia O. Was Here and Continents: A Love Story by Anja Snellman in just two days in my upcoming author interview! My glowing reviews can be found here and here. Lastly, Sigh, Gone by Phuc Tran is in the running for my favorite book of the year. I will be discussing the book at length with the author next week on the blog, and I can confidently say that it will be my favorite interview of the summer. My review of the memoir can be found here, and full details will be coming in just one week!

Phew, wow that was a lot. Thanks for all of your support and reading recommendations! I can't wait to share my interview with Anja Snellman with you in 2 days and my interview with Phuc Tran next Friday!

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