REVIEW – Barely Functional Adult by Meichi Ng

“It’s important for you to hold on to your good days; they keep you sane in the face of bad ones.”

Are you a human being who has even just a little bit of life experience? Then this book is for you! Somehow this little blue blob is hilarious and profound and insightful – and Meichi Ng created one of the most relatable books i’ve ever read. I mean, at some points I had to stop and think, “Wait, did I write this book…?”

So now, naturally, i’m convinced that the author and I could be friends:
Hi Meichi! I’m deathly afraid of wasps and would also love to be cheeseburger rich. I’m pretty sure we could be friends. I’m sorry I laughed at the story about your dead fish (RIP Bobo). Thank you for writing such a wonderful book.

If you’re a fan of Hyperbole and a Half, you’ll definitely love this one too.

Thank you Harper Perennial for the finished copy!

REVIEW – Becoming Duchess Goldblatt by Anonymous

“We have to love other people regardless of their actions and without any hope of reward. Even our enemies deserve our grace.”

Becoming Duchess Goldblatt was the first book I read after the 2020 presidential election, and it was 110% the correct choice. Before you even consider picking up this delightful memoir, you need to first become acquainted with Duchess Goldblatt on Twitter – you have to have a very particular sense of humor to enjoy this one.

“There are hidden benefits to being a fictional person. If people can’t find you, they can’t break your heart.”

The author makes it a point to differentiate herself from her fictional, online persona, but you slowly begin to realize that our dear author is more like Duchess Goldblatt than she originally believed.

That being said, this book is SO lovely. We follow the journey of the person behind Duchess Goldblatt, and what events in her life motivated her to create the account. This book is laugh-out-loud funny and also very emotional (you’ll have a lot of feelings about Lyle Lovett after you read this).

If you’re looking for something heartwarming and hopeful and hilarious, i’d like to officially welcome you to Crooked Path. The Duchess is waiting for you.

“The world is broken, but you are not broken. Things may not be okay, but you’re okay, and you will be. I promise.”

REVIEW – We Keep the Dead Close by Becky Cooper

We Keep the Dead Close is a very well-researched true crime book with an incredibly elaborate “plot.” Yes, Cooper discusses Jane Britton’s murder and the subsequent investigation, but she also covers the gender politics and discrimination that are rooted deep in Harvard’s history.

This held my interest for maybe the first third, and then slowed down a bit towards the middle. Cooper takes a few detours that are somewhat connected to Jane’s story, but feel somewhat meandering at times. You’ll definitely learn more about archaeology than you ever thought possible in a true crime book. This does have some shades of I’ll Be Gone in the Dark – in that Cooper reminded me of Michelle McNamara. Cooper’s obsession with Jane’s case mirrors that of McNamara’s when she was researching the GSK.

Overall, Cooper’s dedication to researching and telling Jane’s story is admirable, and I have to give her major props for the work it took to make this book happen.

Thank you Novel Suspects and Grand Central Publishing for the ARC!

TRUE CRIME REVIEW – Mindhunter by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker

“Monsters had to be supernatural creatures. They couldn’t be just like us.”

This book is an essential choice for true crime fans – John Douglas is basically the OG profiler. Mindhunter is part true crime book, part memoir, as Douglas outlines his start in the FBI, his time in the bureau, and his coworkers (he never fails to give credit where credit is due).

At times, Douglas’ confidence might come across as arrogance, but you have to remember that he is a man that essentially created the game. He knows what he’s talking about, and he’s not afraid to show off his expertise.

Although slightly a victim of its time (Mindhunter was released in 1995), it’s still a solid true crime read and will likely be loved by scores of “Murderinos” and fans of Criminal Minds. I’d highly recommend watching the Netflix show based on this book – Mindhunter (the show) has the hook that Mindhunter (the book) lacks.

REVIEW – Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall

Hood Feminism is a compelling read from the first page right until the very end. Kendall has put together a very reader-friendly book about feminism, anti-racism and the issues that millions of women and children face each day. Instead of focusing so much on that highest glass ceiling, feminists need to work on larger issues – hunger, housing, education – that hold so many women back from succeeding.

This book makes you really check your privilege. And beyond that, it makes you want to ACT. This book isn’t so much about teaching and learning, it’s about taking actions to make meaningful change in your community. This isn’t a book that you read and put on your shelf only to be forgotten about in a few weeks or months. This is a book that should move you – to donate, to volunteer, to speak up, to vote. To use your voice, your privilege, to advocate for others.

REVIEW – Black Fatigue by Mary-Frances Winters

{Available September 15, 2020} Black Fatigue is anti-racism 101 in the absolute best way. It’s the perfect guide for those who are just starting to pick up anti-racism resources, and a great refresher for those who have already done some reading. Mary-Frances Winters outlines the physiological and psychological effects that racism has on Black people, and the struggles that come with dealing with racist attitudes and policies every day.

One thing I really appreciated about this book is how Winters explains how different intersectional identities have varying impacts on the fatigue people face. For instance, a straight Black woman has different privileges than an LGBTQ+ Black woman.

Winters also focuses on her own personal experiences and how things throughout her life have contributed to her Black fatigue. Her first experience with racism/Black fatigue was in Kindergarten (something that rings true for many).

I loved that Winters offered up other books to read and resources to check out throughout the book – she provides a lot of solutions and action items for readers. She also defines a lot of key terms that are relevant to anti-racism education. Black Fatigue would be a great book to reference over and over throughout the span of one’s anti-racism journey.

Thank you Get Red PR for providing me with a digital copy of Black Fatigue.

REVIEW – Chasing Space by Leland Melvin

“Seeing the world without geographic boundaries really puts things into perspective and makes one wonder why there is so much division, hatred, and malice.”

Chasing Space was a highly anticipated read for me. Leland Melvin (you may know him as the NASA astronaut with the best official portrait!) is a former NFL football player and retired astronaut. His memoir is smart and uplifting, and I would call this a must-read for football fans and space lovers alike. Melvin’s personality pops off of the page – you can tell he’s intelligent, compassionate and friendly. The way he writes about his friends and family is heartwarming – this is a man full of love and joy.

“Working at NASA had never crossed my mind. I mean, who work at NASA? Certainly, nobody who looked like me.”

Melvin touches on the importance of representation – particularly in STEM fields and professions. When he joined NASA in 1989, only four Black astronauts had ever been to space. It’s no surprise that NASA has a history of being overwhemingly white (and male, for that matter) and Melvin does cover that a bit in his book.

After experiencing a pretty horrifying setback, Melvin does eventually make it to space (twice!) I loved the section of the book about his time in space – as someone who both loves and is terrified of the idea, I loved his (sorry…no pun intended) down-to-Earth approach of sharing his experiences. Chasing Space almost feels like you’re chatting with a friend. His writing is approachable and conversational, and flows perfectly for a book that exceeds just beyond 250 pages.

Content warning: brief mention of sexual assault of a minor, description of a racially motivated police encounter, hazing.

TRUE CRIME REVIEW – American Predator: The Hunt for the Most Meticulous Serial Killer of the 21st Century by Maureen Callahan

“…I can tell you right now there is no one who knows me, or who has ever known me, who knows anything about me, really…I’m two different people, basically.”
“How long have you been two different people?”
“A long time.”

Oh man. Okay. This is true crime for the SEASONED true crime reader/listener/watcher. If you’re new to the genre, do NOT start here. This book is brutal and Israel Keyes’ cruelty and sociopathy know no bounds. American Predator is short (especially compared to other true crime books i’ve read) but Callahan was able to fit so much into this narrative. We meet a relatively wide range of people involved with capturing Keyes and attempting to uncover the other murders he (likely) committed.

“Sometimes who you were came down to the small things.”

Something that makes American Predator more impactful than other true crime books i’ve read is how recent Keyes committed his crimes. It’s easy to feel distanced from a serial killer who operated in the 70s and 80s, but a lot harder to ignore someone who was murdering people in the 2010s. His back story is disturbing and I found myself wondering (as always) if serial killers are born or created.

Despite the horrors in this book, I highly recommend it to any true crime fan looking for a story they likely know absolutely nothing about.

REVIEW – Neon Girls: A Stripper’s Education in Protest and Power by Jennifer Worley

The premise of this book had me interested from the jump – a nonfiction account of a grad student who becomes a stripper to help pay her way through school. There’s SO MUCH MORE to this, and it’s probably not what you’d expect.

I found myself rooting for these ladies throughout their entire journey. They unionize! They stand up for their rights! They stand up for each other! They’re empowered and empowering.

I learned so much from this book – from the politics of strip clubs to the intricacies and hurdles to forming a union.

Thank you Harper Perennial for sending me an ARC of this book!

REVIEW – How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

This should be required reading, full stop. I listened to the audiobook, which is narrated by Dr. Kendi. His ability to weave his personal stories in with lessons on racism vs. antiracism makes for an incredibly compelling narrative. You can tell Dr. Kendi is a professor – listening to this book made me feel like I was back in a college class, learning valuable lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

This might be considered an “intermediate” book on antiracism – many (white) people start with White Fragility, which I agree is a great choice. This book is a lot heavier and will challenge some of your views about racism/antiracism. Dr. Kendi never leaves you feeling confused or unsure of the point he is trying to make. He explores his own growth and journey to becoming antiracist and owns up to racist thoughts and ideas he held as a child, adolescent and even as an adult.

Dr. Kendi makes it clear – we will all continue to have racist thoughts and ideas even after we begin working to become antiracist. Antiracism is not a destination, it’s not a course you can complete or a box to check. To truly dedicate yourself to becoming antiracist will take lifelong commitment and education.