The Week in Books #90

12/14 ✅

The week in books! I’m slowly making my way down this stack, bringing my total books read for the year to 97. Wooo!

1. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. I’m not sure how I went so long without reading anything by Shirley Jackson. I watched the Haunting of Hill House series on Netflix and really enjoyed it, so figured it would be good to read the original novel. From 1959, this book was still super enjoyable and didn’t feel dated at all. It was creepy and fast paced and I liked the ending a lot. Omg the wife of the doctor was so obnoxious, I absolutely loved her. A+!

First published in 1959, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House has been hailed as a perfect work of unnerving terror. It is the story of four seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a “haunting”; Theodora, his lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers—and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.

Penguin Classics

2. The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu. I found this in a little free library on Gabriola and it felt like I had won a prize. I’ve been very excited to read it, and am extra excited now to see that Netflix is doing a series AND so is a company out of China. Within the first 100 pages I was absolutely hooked! I loved the video game world with the people able to dehydrate themselves and go into storage for a later time (the visual of one of the citizens dehydrating into a flat skin and being rolled up and tucked under someone’s arm was so weird and hilarious) and the countdown that appeared in the vision of the main protagonist was spooky and super interesting. This book definitely has Ender’s Game vibes, which in my opinion is good. There are several blurbs out there about this book (including from the publisher) that contain a pretty major spoiler, so you should just take my advice and read this without reading the summary first because it’s more fun if you don’t know the big twist that comes near the end. When I realized this was a trilogy I ordered the rest of the series immediately. A+++++.

Set against the backdrop of China’s Cultural Revolution, a secret military project sends signals into space to establish contact with aliens. An alien civilization on the brink of destruction captures the signal and plans to invade Earth. Meanwhile, on Earth, different camps start forming, planning to either welcome the superior beings and help them take over a world seen as corrupt, or to fight against the invasion. The result is a science fiction masterpiece of enormous scope and vision.


3. All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld. I have had this on my wish list for a while and managed to snag a copy at the Rotary Book Sale in September. It’s a quick read that was very atmospheric. Jake is an Australian sheep farmer living on her own in Britain, and something has been picking off her sheep. While she and a newfound friend attempt to figure out how sheep are being killed the narrative also flows in a reversed state to explain her backstory and how she came to be where she is currently. I really liked the structure of the novel with the chapters alternating between the forward-moving present-tense narrative and the backwards-moving past narrative. Very cool.

Jake Whyte is living on her own in an old farmhouse on a craggy British island, a place of ceaseless rains and battering winds. Her disobedient collie, Dog, and a flock of sheep are her sole companions, which is how she wanted it to be. But every few nights something—or someone—picks off one of the sheep and sets off a new deep pulse of terror. There are foxes in the woods, a strange boy and a strange man, rumors of an obscure, formidable beast. But there is also Jake’s past—hidden thousands of miles away and years ago, held in the silences about her family and the scars that stripe her back—a past that threatens to break into the present.

With exceptional artistry and empathy, All the Birds, Singing reveals an isolated life in all its struggles and stubborn hopes, unexpected beauty, and hard-won redemption.


4. The Truths We Hold by Kamala Harris. Ah, Kamala. I’ve been looking at this on my shelf for a bit, I picked it up because I’m super interested to hear about the first Woman of Colour elected into the position of Vice President. Unfortunately for Kamala (pronounced comma-la) her approval ratings were just announced as the lowest ever for a VP, even lower than Dick Cheney and he shot a man in the chest and face during his time in office! No doubt Kamala has worked hard, and did start many initiatives that were intended to benefit the people. Her book came off a little boasty, though she did find success with her Back on Track program and that deserves to be acknowledged. Her policy on elementary school truancy backfired though, fining parents who allowed their children to miss 10% of the school year $2000 or having them serve up to one year in prison. Criminalizing folks for things sometimes out of their control (particularly with single parent families or low income individuals) is very ouch. She was also behind the takedown of which left many sex workers without income. Overall, she has good intentions which I admire, but when it comes down to it she’s a cop and I’m on the fence about that. Memoir was written well and shared lots of photos from her life which I always enjoy looking at.

Vice President Kamala Harris’s commitment to speaking truth is informed by her upbringing. The daughter of immigrants, she was raised in an Oakland, California community that cared deeply about social justice; her parents–an esteemed economist from Jamaica and an admired cancer researcher from India–met as activists in the civil rights movement when they were graduate students at Berkeley. Growing up, Harris herself never hid her passion for justice, and when she became a prosecutor out of law school, a deputy district attorney, she quickly established herself as one of the most innovative change agents in American law enforcement. She progressed rapidly to become the elected District Attorney for San Francisco, and then the chief law enforcement officer of the state of California as a whole. Known for bringing a voice to the voiceless, she took on the big banks during the foreclosure crisis, winning a historic settlement for California’s working families. Her hallmarks were applying a holistic, data-driven approach to many of California’s thorniest issues, always eschewing stale “tough on crime” rhetoric as presenting a series of false choices. Neither “tough” nor “soft” but smart on crime became her mantra. Being smart means learning the truths that can make us better as a community, and supporting those truths with all our might. That has been the pole star that guided Harris to a transformational career as the top law enforcement official in California, and it is guiding her now as a transformational United States Senator, grappling with an array of complex issues that affect her state, our country, and the world, from health care and the new economy to immigration, national security, the opioid crisis, and accelerating inequality.

By reckoning with the big challenges we face together, drawing on the hard-won wisdom and insight from her own career and the work of those who have most inspired her, Kamala Harris offers in THE TRUTHS WE HOLD a master class in problem solving, in crisis management, and leadership in challenging times. Through the arc of her own life, on into the great work of our day, she communicates a vision of shared struggle, shared purpose, and shared values. In a book rich in many home truths, not least is that a relatively small number of people work very hard to convince a great many of us that we have less in common than we actually do, but it falls to us to look past them and get on with the good work of living our common truth. When we do, our shared effort will continue to sustain us and this great nation, now and in the years to come.

Penguin Randomhouse

A small stack of books I’ve picked up recently at GIRO that I’m excited about; Untamed by Glennon Doyle, My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doer.

I also picked up a cute stack of 5 books from value village this week; Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates, The Bees by Laline Paull, The Midnight Library by Matt Haig, The Bricks that Built the Houses by Kate Tempest, and Closer by Sarah Barmak.

Next stack!

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