The Stacks Book Club April Picks

AF46C895-A674-432C-93AB-46EC5D70E4EC.JPGEvery other week on The Stacks Podcast we will be discussing The Stacks Book Club (TSBC) picks. We will be diving into conversations about the books, not only discussing the themes and its greater social and cultural context.

April 11th will be our very first TSBC episode, and we will be discussing Exit West by Mohsin Hamid. This book tells the story of two young people exploring a romance as their country dives into unrest. The books made it on many lists of the best books of 2017, including Barak Obama’s favorites.

On April 25th we will discuss Jesmyn Ward’s memoir, Men We Reaped. In this book Ward deals with the death of five young men that were close to her, and what it means to live, and die, as a black man in the rural south.

We do plan on diving deep into these books, please know there will be spoilers. So make sure you read the book before you listen to any TSBC episodes.

I want the conversations to be engaging, and touch on the topics you want to hear about, send over you questions and thoughts about the books. Likewise, I am constantly looking for books to add to TSBC, your input is greatly appreciated. What books do you think deserve a good talking through?

Make sure you’re subscribed to the podcast so you don’t miss a single episode. I look forward to discussing these books with you in April. Happy reading, and I’ll see you in The Stacks.

The Stacks participates in affiliate programs in which we receive a small commission when products are purchased through some links on this website. This does not effect my opinions on books and products. For more information click here.

The Stacks Podcast — Coming April 4th

Welcome to The Stacks a brand new podcast all about books, hosted by Traci Thomas.

TheStacks_logo_finalThe Stacks will be your one stop shop for talking about books. Traci will be talking with a guest for two consecutive weeks.

Week one will be a bookish conversation about the guest and their reading habits, books they love, books they hate, books they’re embarrassed they still haven’t read yet. Then in Week two Traci and her guest will discuss The Stacks Book Club pick. They’ll dive deep into the book, discussing not only the book itself, but also the greater context the book fits into in our society. Make sure you read the book before you listen, there will be spoilers.

Join us every week here at The Stacks for the kind of conversations about books you love to have.

Connect with The Stacks: iTunes| Instagram | Facebook |Twitter|GoodreadsTraci’s Instagram

Happy Reading, and we’ll see you in The Stacks.

 

#diversiFIVEbooks

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I’ve been an avid reader my whole life, and have really ramped up my reading in the last 2 years. When I decided to launch The Stacks, I also made a choice to join #Bookstagram, a lovely and supportive community on Instagram that is all about books. There is a focus on inclusion and diversity on #Bookstagram, and people are very open to engagement and conversations. I’m telling you, if you’ve never been, #Bookstagram is really cool.

Since I’ve joined #Bookstagram I’ve met some pretty wonderful people (mostly women), and been exposed to some wonderful books (mostly contemporary fiction) I never would have picked up without this community. However, the flip side of this, is that I have seen so many of the same books promoted over and over by many different accounts. I know some of this has to do with publishers marketing these books by giving away free copies in exchange for reviews (though the reviews are honest and not impacted by the means of getting the book).

I am all for books getting talked about and discussed, and I think any conversations about books is a net positive, especially as people move away from books and toward other forms of entertainment. However, this trend leads to unintentionally curated #Bookstagram feeds. That same book that keeps popping up does so at the expense of other books. What voices are we excluding from the conversation? What books, genres, and authors are put on the back burner, so that these ARCs can be reviewed? What conversations are we missing out on?

Even as we talk about diverse books, the same diverse books get most of the attention. Certain authors and types of books are featured, while others are left out. The same 5-10 books by women and people of color are everywhere. Where are all the rest? How can we help to bring books we feel passionately about back into the conversation?

With all that being said, I wanted to challenge the #Bookstagram community to share their own #diversiFIVEbooks. I ask that you follow the prompts, and tag your books and others in the #Bookstagram world to share theirs. Lets see what other amazing books are out there that might not be on our radar.

Here are the prompts

  • A book that you loved before you joined #Bookstagram
  • A book you love by an author from a different ethnicity than you
  • A book you’re excited to read by or about people of color
  • A book you love that you rarely see on #Bookstagram
  • A book in a genre you don’t normally read that you ended up loving (and the genre it comes from)

Here is my list

  • A book that you loved before you joined #Bookstagram
  • A book you love by an author from a different ethnicity than you
  • A book you’re excited to read by or about people of color
  • A book you love that you rarely see on #Bookstagram
  • A book in a genre you don’t normally read that you ended up loving (and the genre it comes from)

I tried to keep the prompts vague so you can all enjoy the process of creating you lists. Looking forward to see what you come up with. 

If you have other thoughts or insights into book diversity on #Bookstagram or anywhere, please leave your thoughts in the comments. I really would love to engage around this topic as I think it is important and useful.

The Stacks participates in affiliate programs in which we receive a small commission when products are purchased through some links on this website. This does not effect my opinions on books and products. For more information click here.

The Far Away Brothers: Two Young Migrants and the Making of an American Life by Lauren Markham

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I heard about this book from Subway Book Review on Instagram and I added it to my TBR (to be read) list thinking I would get to it eventually. However, I decided that I would be focusing on reading a little more about immigration this month, and decided why not dive into this book.

If you’re like me and knew nothing about this book before now, here is a little intro to the story

In this urgent chronicle of contemporary immigration, journalist Lauren Markham follows the seventeen-year-old Flores twins as they make their harrowing journey across the Rio Grande and the Texas desert, into the hands of immigration authorities, and from there to their estranged older brother’s custody in Oakland, CA. Soon these unaccompanied minors are navigating a new school in a new language, working to pay down their mounting coyote debt, and facing their day in immigration court, while also encountering the triumphs and pitfalls of life as American teenagers—girls, grades, Facebook—with only each other for support. With intimate access and breathtaking range, Markham offers a coming of age tale that is also a nuanced portrait of Central America’s child exodus, an investigation of U.S. immigration policy, and an unforgettable testament to the migrant experience.

This book is a fascinating look at the current immigration situation in Central America. It is at once both, micro and macro. In the small sense we follow a set of Salvadorian twins as they leave home and move to California. We experience their failures and triumphs, their pain and their joy. We watch them as they navigate life away from home and family in a whole new world, El Norte. Some of the things they go through are harrowing and spirit breaking, and we follow them as they navigate that. As they grow and as they stumble.

Markham doesn’t stop there. She uses this story as a jumping off point to tell a much bigger story. The story of how this crisis started, how it has evolved, and how dangerous it has all become. Both life in these Central American countries, and life upon coming to America. She looks at the economic instability and violence that prompts people to leave home. We look at the choice to leave home, and how in the face of fear for one’s life, that that choice is less of a choice, and more of an ultimatum. Markham also examines how America has been involved in helping to create the instability in Central America, and what responsibility America has to right their wrongs?

I was moved by this book. I felt I learned so much, and understood the immigration situation, especially that of unaccompanied minors much better. I felt connected to the twins and their personal struggles in a way that humanized children that flee their hometowns to find a better life for themselves and their families. It was a reminder that these children are just that, children, and that they deserve a chance to thrive, and not merely survive. No matter where they were born and what mistakes they make along the way.

I would recommend this book to just about anyone. A lot of the themes are universal, and the topic is so current, it is worth reading and thinking about. If you do read it, or you have read it tell me what you thought about it.

  • Audio CD: 11 hours 12 minutes
  • Narrator: Cassandra Campbell
  • Publisher: Random House Audio (September 12, 2017)
  • 5/5 stars
  • Buy The Far Away Brothers  in print or audio on Amazon

The Stacks participates in affiliate programs in which we receive a small commission when products are purchased through some links on this website. This does not effect my opinions on books and products. For more information click here.

Killing Pablo: The Hunt for the World’s Greatest Outlaw by Mark Bowden

24576BC9-7AA9-4F0A-9BF7-B97FAC7376BA.JPGI’m a few weeks away from my first trip to Colombia. I am super excited about this trip and wanted to read up a little on the country and its history. There is no more famous Colombian than Pablo Escobar, so I thought this book would be a good place to start.

Here is a little more on this book

A tour de force of investigative journalism- Killing Pablo is the story of the violent rise and fall of Pablo Escobar, the head of the Colombian Medellin cocaine cartel. Escobar’s criminal empire held a nation of thirty million hostage in a reign of terror that would only end with his death. In an intense, up-close account, award-winning journalist Mark Bowden exposes details never before revealed about the U.S.-led covert sixteen-month manhunt. With unprecedented access to important players—including Colombian president Ceasr Gaviria and the incorruptible head of the special police unit that pursued Escobar, Colonel Hugo Martinez-as well as top-secret documents and transcripts of Escobar’s intercepted phone conversations, Bowden has produced a gripping narrative that is a stark portrayal of rough justice in the real world

This book is a very straight forward look at the manhunt for Pablo Escobar. Bowden has zeroed in on a very short time period for the majority of the book, 1989-1993, and is looking at the downfall of Escobar and the different groups and individuals that made his assassination possible.

The book is dealing with very complex issues, however Bowden barely skims the surface of the contradictions and hypocrisies that are throughout this book. While Escobar was no doubt a villian and a terrorist, the same can be said of the actions by both the US and Colombian governments, something Bowden glosses over.

The book is jammed packed with facts and details about the process of finding and killing Escobar, Bowden does little analysis of this information. It is as if he is relying on the sheer amount of detail to hide from having to grapple with the problematic elements of this story. There are issues at play, related to race and world policing, that would have added a nice layer to this book. Instead, this book feels as if it barely scratches the surface of all that could be said. Killing Pablo is an in depth and well researched look at exactly what happened, it does not go into detail about the much more interesting, why, and how it continues to happen.

If you’re a fan of The Narcos  Series, you may enjoy this book. The show uses this book as some of its main source materials. However I feel that the show is more exciting and engaging than I found this book. It is also worth reading if you are interested in Colombia, mostly to get a sense of how their government functioned in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

If you do pick it up, let me know what you think in the comments.

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; Reprint edition (July 14, 2015)
  • 2/5 stars
  • Buy Killing Pablo on Amazon

The Stacks participates in affiliate programs in which we receive a small commission when products are purchased through some links on this website. This does not effect my opinions on books and products. For more information click here.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

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The truth is I had picked up this book two years ago and got 30 pages in and just wasn’t that into it. After hearing about how great it was from a bunch of people, I decided to give it a second chance. This time though, I did it as an audio book. My first audio book in years, and my first ever not on a long road trip. I’m really glad I came back to this book.

If you’re not familiar with this story here is a little more about Station Eleven

One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve. Moving back and forth in time—from the actor’s early days as a film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theater troupe known as The Travelling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains—this suspenseful, elegiac novel charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people: the actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor’s first wife, his oldest friend, and a young actress with the Traveling Symphony, caught in the crosshairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet. Sometimes terrifying, sometimes tender, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.

This is one of those books that will stay with you. It is a realistic and bleak examination of the apocalypse. It’s the end of the world, but without any special effects, zombies, or sci-fi. You’re left with only the realization that the world you once knew is gone, and you still must carry on. What does that look like? What does that mean? Station Eleven is the story of humanity in decline, and then whatever happens after that. Survival. Remembrance. Creation.

Mandel is skillful and deliberate in the telling of this story.  Instead of allowing the audience to escape from the horrors of life-after-pandemic by inundating us with images of death and despair, Mandel forces us to confront these terrifying moments one by one. She is sensitive to the time it takes to process these nightmares, and gently guides the reader through. She weaves the different stories together by dangling details that then become strands carried on throughout the book. Mandel’s writing moves the reader through space and time seamlessly.  There is an ease to her prose and she is delicate with the emotions she brings to the surface. It is a balance between the supremely bleak and the surprisingly hopeful.

Considering how deliberate and crafted this book is, the ending left a lot to be desired. I won’t be spoiling anything here, but I will say, it ties up a little too nicely. Toward the end, Station Eleven veers into the precious which up until this point, Mandel really has fought against. Its clean and neat, in a way post-apocalypse shouldn’t be. I won’t say more.

Since I listened to this book it is worth talking about the narrator, Kirsten Potter. She was fantastic. Her ability to shift between characters without being too over the top was greatly appreciated. She was a perfect compliment to the language and helped to articulate the struggle of the characters and the desperation of the time.

I would cosign anyone who wanted to read this book, but would highly recommend it to those who love speculative fiction, dystopian societies, or stories that weave many character together. This is a solid book with a lot to reflect on. I did not want the story to end.

  • Audio CD: 10 hours 41 minutes
  • Publisher: Random House Audio; Unabridged edition (September 9, 2014)
  • 3/5 stars
  • Buy Station Eleven in print or audio on Amazon

The Stacks participates in affiliate programs in which we receive a small commission when products are purchased through some links on this website. This does not effect my opinions on books and products. For more information click here.

 

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

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This is the first YA book I’ve picked up since The Hunger Games. Which I read in 2011. So, it’s been a while. Going into the book I had heard a lot of really great things so I was very eager to read it.

If you’re not familiar with this book, here is a little blurb

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

This book takes a very current and complex issues and attempts to present it for the young adult audience. That is no easy task. This book is dealing with extremely nuanced and controversial topics. I give Thomas insane amounts of respect for taking the Black Lives Matter movement on.

Starr is a fantastic character. I really enjoyed her as our protagonist and our eyes into her world. She is conflicted and lovable. The characters around her are pretty wonderful too. There were moments in this book where I actually laughed to myself, and some relationships that I envied.

I was impressed by how many levels Thomas took on. This book isn’t just about a police shooting, it’s also about the repercussions a police shooting has on an individual and their community. Thomas is looking at internal, interpersonal, and communal struggles. While she doesn’t always hit it on the head, she is striving to show something that is rarely discussed.

I know this is an unpopular opinion, but this book just didn’t do it for me. I found the dialogue to be corny and very explanatory. There are moments in the book where the dialogue is cringe worthy. Thomas is demonstrating to her audience a lot more than she is allow us to uncover.

I felt that the audience for this book was not just young people, but more specifically young white people. It seemed as if Thomas was saying, “Hey, you’ve never thought much about police violence against black folks? Well here is a crash course. Let me blow your mind.” Honestly, I just don’t think that I’m the audience for this story. The book is an introduction, and I have spent a lot of time thinking and talking about these issues with adults and young people, so it felt underwhelming and over simplified. I didn’t feel like Thomas offered me a lot to think about, and I wasn’t impressed with the writing style.

And now, to contradict myself, you should read this book. You should. Really. The book moves quickly and is easy to read, and it is an attempt to talk about some stuff that is hard to talk about. Thats admirable and should be supported. It is a solid book, and the book itself has become a sort of cultural phenomenon. More importantly it is speaking to and about a much bigger and more important cultural crisis, and for that, you should read this book.

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Balzer + Bray; First Edition Later Printing edition (February 28, 2017)
  • 3/5 stars
  • Buy The Hate U Give on Amazon

The Stacks participates in affiliate programs in which we receive a small commission when products are purchased through some links on this website. This does not effect my opinions on books and products. For more information click here.