Welcome to my reading log. This is where you'll find a list of the books I've read, what I think about them, and my favorite quotations from their pages.
Currently Reading: White Rage by Carol Anderson
1. Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living (read July 2017)
Since I got the idea for the reading log from an essay in this book, it's only fair to place it first on the list. Manjula Martin edits a beautifully cohesive and thought-provoking anthology about how to engage in literary commerce and survive as a professional writer. The essays range from practical (how to buy a house) to heart-rending (rejection and self-worth) and I adored them all.
"Our commerce with the world is not corollary to our art. It is, rather, a vital component of our art, perhaps our art's reason for being. If we regard writing as an act of empathy that presupposes and celebrates the existence of other people, then its commerce with humanity must represent its consummation. The money is just so that we can eat, or to keep a roof over our heads, or (in the pitiful amounts that are typically involved in an exchange between writer and publisher of literary product) a mildly apologetic acknowledgement of labor. But money isn't the real currency here. The real currency of literary commerce is love." -J. Robert Lennon, "Write to Suffer, Publish to Starve"
2. The Starch Solution: Eat the Foods You Love, Regain Your Health, and Lose the Weight for Good (read July 2017)
I've wanted to read Dr. McDougall's classic The Starch Solution for some time now and finally got around to picking up a copy from my local library. It was a surprisingly fast read, given how much information is packed into the book, but perhaps that's also because a sizeable section of the pages is filled with recipes. On the whole, I really enjoyed the book - it's chock-full of helpful nutritional and scientific information that every vegan should have at the ready when the protein police come for us. That said, there is some discussion of weight loss that could be triggering, and I am always cautious to recommend a book about nutrition since I know how quickly healthy eating can twist into orthorexia. Reading this book and being able to separate helpful nutritional information and weight-loss talk was a huge recovery win for me; I'm working on fueling my body in ways that are both physically and mentally healthy, which means treats are a vital part of my food intake!
"You don't need to eat foods from animals to have enough protein in your diet. Plant proteins alone can provide enough of the essential and non-essential amino acids, as long as sources of dietary protein are varied and caloric intake is high enough to meet energy needs [emphasis added]." -The American Heart Association, updated 2011-2016
3. Wanderlust: A Love Affair with Five Continents by Elisabeth Eaves (read August 2017)
My sister lent me several of her favorite travel memoirs and Wanderlust was one of the first I picked up. The book wasn't particularly insightful, but it does contain a few quiet epiphanies about the nature of love, desire, and the need for exploration. At first, I found the author's many romantic missteps obnoxious, but by the end I found myself empathizing with her and the complications of her own heart.
"Love is only a moment passed through, not somewhere you can go and live. That's why people build these scaffolds I've so disdained. They make homes. families, networks of colleagues and friends. They're infrastructure projects unto themselves, connected to others by rods and beams. They know they can't stay on the crest of a wave. They build their worlds to get through all the rest. Maybe I should do that too."
4. An Untamed State by Roxane Gay (read August 2017)
A ringing endorsement from author Edwidge Danticat on the cover of this book implores the reader to "clear your schedule now!" and it's a good thing I did. I read this novel in two days. An Untamed State is the first fiction work of Gay's that I've read (I'd devoured Bad Feminist and Hunger) and could not have been more impressed. I can't recommend this book highly enough, but be mindful that it contains graphic and extensive descriptions of sexual violence.
"I've always loved running, loved how much it hurts, how good it feels when I stop, how much running makes me feel like I have everything I could ever need in my very own body. I slid out of bed and ran down the stairs and out the front door. I ran down the street in my bare feet in the cold night wearing a tank top and pink flannel pajama pants. The moon was full and high and I ran so fast I worried I might outrun my happiness."
5. Difficult Women by Roxane Gay (read August 2017)
Immediately after finishing An Untamed State, I went and checked out Difficult Women at the library. I don't often read short stories, as I sometimes find them to be vaguely unsatisfying, but Roxane Gay's character development and storytelling are so rich that she creates entire worlds in a matter of three pages. She is quickly becoming my favorite author. As with much of her other work, however, Difficult Women does contain sexual violence, so bear that in mind if you pick it up.
"Your sister and I have a lot in common. I can tell by the curve of her spine - her body knows things. You worry I'm going to get tired of her late night phone calls asking you for a ride from the bar or to lend her money. You worry I'll get fed up with being trapped in the tense scenes when your family gets together but I won't, not ever. When you go out of town, your sister comes over and spends the night with me because she understands the curve of my spine."
6. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi (read September 2017)
I read this book at the urging of my friend Jasmine, who described sobbing on the beach in Croatia as she finished it during her solo vacation last month. When Breath Becomes Air is the account of a dying neurosurgeon, who, after a shattering cancer diagnosis at the impossibly young age of thirty-six, traverses the terrain of mortality in his journey from doctor to patient. He writes about death, and life, beautifully. This book will punch you in the gut, but it is exquisite.
"I was searching for a vocabulary with which to make sense of death, to find a way to begin defining myself and inching forward again. The privilege of direct experience had led me away from literary and academic work, yet now I felt that to understand my own direct experiences, I would have to translate them back into language."