What I Read in June 2020

I can’t tell you how impressed I am with myself that I’ve been writing these “what I read” posts regularly all year! I mean, sure, it’s just a post once a month but keeping up with anything has felt impossible in 2020.

I help run a virtual book club for The Empowerment Studio Patreon Community. We read Untamed by Glennon Doyle and had such an incredible conversation over Zoom! I love a virtual book club more than I love an in-person one because I don’t have to psych myself up to leave the house. It’s a struggle to get me into a car in 100 degree heat. PS If you want to join our book club and have at least $1 a month to spare, you can sign up at the link above!

OH! Something so exciting happened at Twice Told Tales in June, too! We got set up with a shop page on Bookshop.org! Bookshop.org is such an incredible resource for small bookstores like ours–if there’s a book that you want to buy from us but we don’t have it in stock? You can now order it online, basically, from us! It works almost exactly how Libro.fm works. Only libro.fm is about audiobooks and Bookshop is about physical books! So, when I post links in this piece, I’ll include links to Libro.fm and Bookshop–they both benefit our shop when you buy from them. You don’t have to get them from us, but it’s an option I wanted you to know about.

Okay! What did I read? What did you read?

PS: Octavia Butler’s birthday was in June. This is one of the notes she used to leave for herself when she was writing. This one reads, “Tell stories filled with facts. Make people TOUCH, and TASTE, and KNOW! Make people FEEL! FEEL! FEEL!”

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The Cover of The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd

The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd: 5-Stars
Get it on audiobook here.
Get a physical copy from here.

Okay, so here’s the blurb that’s going around about The Book of Longings: “An extraordinary story set in the first century about a woman who finds her voice and her destiny.” Okay–so, that does nothing for me. Which is why I was lucky that my first introduction was from Book of the Month where they basically described this book as, “The story of Jesus’ feminist wife.” HELL YES. Sign me up. And I loved it a lot. I don’t generally care for historical fiction–and especially not ancient historical fiction. No thank you. But I fell in love with Anna in the first paragraph and by the end (spoiler alert? But I sorta forgot that Jesus died?) I was weeping for her. I’ve never pulled for a character in a book so hard in my life.

The cover of Glennon Doyle’s “Untamed”

Untamed by Glennon Doyle: 5-Stars
Get the audiobook here.
Get the physical copy here.

Like I said, we read this for a book club. What I love the most about this book is the formatting. It’s really just a bunch of unconnected (and yet totally connected) essays of varying lengths. You can pick up this book at any point and just read and get something awesome out of it. You don’t HAVE to read it in order at all–unless you just want to make sure you don’t miss anything.

The cover of Wandering in Strange Lands by Morgan Jerkins

Wandering in Strange Lands: A Daughter of the Great Migration Reclaims Her Roots by Morgan Jerkins: 5-stars
Pre-order the audiobook here.
Pre-order the physical copy here.

I got an advanced copy from Libro.fm and I can not recommend pre-ordering this book enough. It’s going to be released in August. Right now, all the white people I know are filling their TBR lists with work by Black authors. And that’s important! And also, I hope that we keep this energy. That’s why I want you to preorder this book NOW. So that come August you’ll have something to read.
So, usually I really don’t like non-fiction (even though three of the books I read in June are non-fiction) and history doesn’t always grab my attention. But Morgan Jerkins kept me engaged through this whole book. Not only because learning about The Great Migration (which I previously knew 0% about) is fascinating as hell, but because Jerkins is telling the story of her own learning of her family on both sides.
If I start listing all the things I learned in this book, I’ll never stop. There’s so, so, so much about the history of The United States that I don’t know.
Also, I messaged with Morgan Jerkins a little bit on Instagram while I was raving about this book and she’s so sweet and down to earth and deserves so much.

The cover of Carmen Maria Machado’s In the Dream House

In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado: 5-Stars
Get the audiobook here.
Get the physical copy here.

Carmen Maria Machado writes in such… a… visceral… way. Which is wholly unique to her. I’ve never known anyone who’s writing can make me feel so fully, in my body, the way that she does (except for maybe my friend Audra).
This is a memoir of an abusive relationship. As someone who had been in a very similar relationship during my college years as well as a few years ago, this book was as validating as it was triggering. I finished it in less than 24 hours because I needed to finish it and also I needed to stop reading it.
Abuse in queer relationships is seldom, if ever, spoken about and that’s why In The Dream House is such a vital work. Every story is important.

The cover of Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett: 5-Stars
Get the audiobook here.
Get the physical copy here.

The only other work of fiction that I read in June!! I’ve been looking forward to The Vanishing Half for months and I was so excited when it was available on audiobook for me. What a treasure.
The Vanishing Half tells the story of two identical twins who escape from their small, southern town together. Left to their own devices, one sister embraces her Blackness and the other rejects it entirely–failing to mention it even to her own husband. What follows is the way that each woman’s choices shape the future ahead of them. I don’t want to give anything away but I was glued to this book.

— — —

Eveything I read this month was 5-stars! Which is awesome. Books, right now, are incredible. I love reading so much.

What are you reading? Tell me all about it.

What I Read in May 2020

There’s so much going on right now. As I type this, riots are taking over Minneapolis. Dear friends are planning a protest from their small town in the center of Kansas. The deaths of unarmed black people have made national news at least once a week for the past few months. It’s all reaching a fever pitch. And I can only hope that change will come. That change is on the way.

Related: Sonya Renee Taylor on her answer to when White People ask, “What can I do???”

On top of that, tensions are high re: COVID-19. Everything is re-opening. Our store has been opened for almost three weeks at this point. For a while I was having daily disagreements with people about whether or not they needed to wear a mask in our shop. It was wearing me down. Today I’m not feeling quite so worn down but it’s probably because I’ve gotten better at listening to the way my body gives me cues about what it needs. Like this morning when my body told me to quit scrolling Facebook after I found out about the latest, violent, despicable thing our president tweeted.

With all of that going on, it really does feel like kind of an asshole move to write about all the books I read this month! But also, my brain needs a break or it will break. We rest and then we keep fighting. We rest and then we keep fighting. This is a moment of rest. Here’s what I read in May.

(Reminder, all the links to these books go to support our store through libro.fm.)

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The Imperfects by Amy Meyerson, 4-Stars
This was a really fun family story. In the beginning, it started off a little bit like This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Trooper (another one of my all time favorites). It’s got some family drama but it’s also got a bit of WW2 survival and at the center of it all is some kind of jewel heist? I’d love to hear Amy Meyerson’s pitch for this book because there’s a lot but I feel like she made it all work! I only gave it 4-stars though because there were times that I couldn’t tell what the author was going for. Was I reading a dark family drama? Or was it a fun romp? Because it was definitely both? And that was confusing to me.

The Knockout Queen by Rufi Thorpe, 5-stars
I… loved… this… book. It made me feel some things. As I’ve mentioned in my previous What I Read This Month Posts, I haven’t been able to read anything with much heft to it since Coronavirus hit. My brain needs light and fluffy. This book… is not light and fluffy in the least bit and yet somehow I was sucked into it. And it felt so good to feel that again. To feel like, “this is why we read!”
In fact I basically wrote a love letter to Rufi Thorpe on instagram and then she DM’d me to tell me that what I’d said meant so much to her.

While this book takes place in high-school, it’s not a YA book at all. It doesn’t read like YA to me. It’s the story of a friendship–and some traumatic things that took place during that friendship, as told from an adult perspective looking back.

Beach Read by Emily Henry 5-stars
Here’s another book that wasn’t quite what I was expecting. I see “beach read” and I think, “OKAY! Get ready for some mindless, predictable literature!” Which, I believe, completely has its place. This book, though… had so much depth to it. It had some real sexy sex scenes, too, don’t get me wrong. But this book is not all cotton candy. It’s the best of both worlds–a book that won’t traumatize me in an already challenging time while also singing to my high-literature-loving heart.

All Adults Here by Emma Straub, 5-stars
Another 5-star book for me. This month was a GOOD ONE for reading, finally!! I have loved Emma Straub since I read Modern Lovers a few years ago. If I had to tell you the one central thing that this story is about, I’m not sure I could do it. It’s the way that everyone in a family has their own story and the contributes to the bigger story as a whole–as a family. I don’t know if you can tell but an epic family drama is my favorite. That’s not what this is. It’s not epic–it takes place over the course of a few months. It’s not a drama–there is a lot of comedy and light. There’s conflict but that’s necissary to driving a plot along. I love it. I feel like Emma Straub writes different ages effortlessly and blends in queer stories as if they’re *gasp* just, like, normal human stories! Not something to be wedged into a book to make it “relevant”. Ugh. I just really liked this.

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In retrospect, I read only white stories written by only white people this month. I hadn’t even noticed that until just now. WOW. My blind spots are real. I’m going to make a point to read more books by people of color in June. Starting with Wandering in Strange Lands by Morgan Jerkins.

I’m also looking forward to engaging with the Summer Listening Challenge that Libro.fm is hosting starting June 1! It’s so great. Basically there’s a bingo card and you try to get a bingo! The winner gets… I think a year’s worth of free audiobooks! Let me know if you plan to join in!!

Books I Read in April 2020

Hi. We’re still going hard in Pandemic world around here. To be very honest, I thought I wouldn’t write a “what I read” post for the month of April because I thought I didn’t read anything. But my Goodreads account told me otherwise. I finished THREE AND A HALF BOOKS! What?! That’s amazing!

My brain does this super duper fun thing where, when I’m under stress, I can’t read. It takes all the words on the page and turns them into alphabet soup. Super great. Came in real handy in college. In fact, one time I was given an assignment to read and write something. And all I could write about was the fact that I couldn’t read anything and how I thought I was going crazy and what is life… GOD the things professors have to put up with. Anyway, my professor was awesome and understanding and he gave me an A and told me he understood and that I should maybe take a weekend off. He was right.

Anyway! What I read in April (spoiler alert–they’re all audiobooks). Thank God for Libro.fm. For a LOT of reasons. Like, specifically, because of Libro.fm, we were able to make rent at the store for May! Keep buying Audiobooks from libro.fm/twicetoldtales will ya?? All the links in this post will take you to the audiobook version and buying them from that link will help support our store.


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In Five Years by Rebecca Serle
I didn’t know what to think of this book. At first I thought it was rushing through SO MUCH that there was no way I’d keep up or get invested. But I actually super duper loved the ending so maybe it was all ok? I gave it 4 stars out of 5.

45046742._SY475_You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen
It’s been a long time since I read a thriller that really wowed me! There were so many plot twists in this book but NOT the kind that make you feel like they’re coming out of nowhere–they all pay off deliciously and keep you reading. Five stars! I just remembered that I didn’t listen to this on audio. It’s the one physical book I finished all month!

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Becoming Eve: My Journey from Ultra-Orthodox Rabbi to Transgender Woman by Abby Chava Stein
I’ve been really digging spiritual memoirs lately and so I decided to listen to this one. It was so incredible. Kind of a wonderful primer on the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish life for someone like me–a person who has a lot of experience in religious circles but who knows almost nothing about Jewishness in general. So many of the struggles that Abby faced as a child growing up feel familiar to me even though our early days were so, so different. But some questions are universal, I suppose. Anyway–when I decided to watch Unorthodox on Netflix a few weeks later, I was happy that Becoming Eve had familiarized me with much of the Ultra-Orthodox life because that show, while it was amazing, didn’t really take the time to explain the nuances that not everyone would understand.

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I also read half of The Body is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self Love by Sonya Renee Taylor 
I wish I’d listened on Libro.fm because since I had Alphabet Soup Brain ™, I just could not dig through this. Which was a shame because it was actually just over 100 pages and full of such good, juicy stuff.


Right now, I’m not even going to try to force myself to read a physical book. I’ve got so many audiobooks calling my name and it’s not a contest. I’ll start reading with my eyes soon enough, in due time.

What I Read in March 2020

Hello. So much has changed in the two weeks since I last let my thoughts fly about how Covid-19 would be affecting us. For example, the store is now closed. We are still selling things online, though. Which has been super duper helpful in this time. Also! It will probably be something that we try to keep up with as time goes on! I’m learning that our little store is beloved by so much more than our community. In fact, most of my sales lately are going to people who live on either coast. Who knew?? I’m so pleasantly surprised.

Since closing the store, honestly… my stress levels have lowered significantly. It feels kind of backwards, right? Like, I should be more stressed out. But the constant wondering if I was putting my customers and everyone they love at risk by remaining open was keeping me up at night and tying my tummy up in knots. When the stay home order came down from our Governor I was upset for a few days feeling like, “Oh no! We’re going to lose everything! What will our days even look like?!” But after having lived a few of those days… it’s not so bad. I’m living it. It’s working. And I’m feeling very whatever will be will be. There’s nothing like encountering a global pandemic to really loosen your grip on control. Anyway, with all that said–here’s everything that I read in March. As always, all book links go to Libro.fm to the audiobook version. Buying books from Libro.fm helps support Twice Told Tales just as if you were buying from us in store!

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If you read my last post, you’ll remember that I’ve been having trouble finding books that I’m LOVING lately. And this first book was no exception. I finished it because I kept hoping that it would redeem itself but I did not enjoy it. It’s called Separation Anxiety by Laura Zigman. I kept waiting for this main character to realize how maddeningly self-absorbed she was but apparently the author, nor anyone on her editorial team seemed to recognize it as her problem to be solved. SORRY! But I just really, really, really did not like it.
I gave this book 2 stars and I’m not sure I’ve ever done that before.

Five big fat juicy stars to Cameron Esposito for her memoir, Save Yourself. I related to this book so much. And I love Cameron Esposito’s comedy–I knew that her book would be incredible. It’s very funny and it’s full of so much heart. It deals with really painful stuff like religious trauma, sexual assault, body issues, eating disorders, and micro (and macro) aggressions that she’s suffered as a gay woman in the world and in the world of comedy. She deals with hard topics with so much sensitivity–but not in a way that makes you feel like this person is going out of their way to show off their wokeness (which–you know it when you see it) but in a way that is absolutely reasonable and is full of compassion. I loved this. I want her to write another one starting yesterday. I’ll buy everything Cameron Esposito writes forever amen.

I picked up Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore because I was just dying for a new audiobook and I wanted something with some substance. When I started this book, Covid-19 seemed very far away and something to be aware of but not something that would be much of an issue. By the end, our shop was closed and we haven’t touched a friend in weeks. So, like, there was a lot going on. And this book is… heavy. If I would have read it at any other time in life, I probably would have devoured it and loved every minute of it. But as it was, I just wanted it to be over so that I could get my brain into a happier space.
This author does an incredible job at writing characters and really sinking you down into a place. The majority of this book takes place in the heat of a Texas summer and boy do you feel it–the desperation, the sweat, the thirst. I’m going to recommend reading this one in the middle of a winter. So, with all that in mind, I did give the book four stars even though I kind of was not feeling it by the end. Also, I did not enjoy the narrator. I’d recommend picking up the physical copy of this one.

Since I was in desperate need of total fluff and predictability, I grabbed, Not The Girl You Marry by Andie J Christopher. This book was an absolute retelling of How To Lose a Guy in Ten Days. It was exactly what I wanted: fun, trauma-free, drama-filled, raunchy and absolutely, completely predictable. No surprises. I gave it four stars. It would have been five stars but there were some annoying writerly things like using a clever and unusual turn of phrase… and then using it again, another time or two in the same chapter? But that’s just me.


Currently:

I just started a new book called In Five Years by Rebecca Serle. I’m not far into it but it’s giving me Oona Out of Order and What Alice Forgot vibes. I’m excited to let you know if I was accurate about that.

The Body is Not an Apology is a book that we’re reading for a virtual book club for the Empowerment Studio Patreon community! Only $1/ mo gets you in!


What are you reading? What have you loved reading lately?

Now is the time for…

Working title: thoughts on a pandemic.

On one hand, I believe in flattening the curve. On the other hand, becoming a brick-and-mortar business owner has really changed my perspective on… everything. My mind is doing this thing it sometimes does–a super duper fun defense mechanism. When there’s something big that I have no control over, then my brain finds the one thing that I (also don’t have any control over but at least I can pretend) can control and so right now, that’s my business. So I’m obsessing about my business and how slow we’ve been this winter because of all of the snow and all of the flu season. And right when spring hits and we’re all supposed to be out and about and supporting our economy… aaaaaand what’s that? Stay inside? More? Oh god. Okay.

We’re going to stay open unless/ until it feels harmful (or we are otherwise instructed) to do so. But I’ve also been hitting our Instagram and Facebook stories hard to remind people that they can order things over the phone. We’re getting creative and we’re doing the best we can with what we have and that’s all we can do at the end of the day.

All the amazing book-tours are getting cancelled. I love seeing authors online linking to all the bookstores that are going to be affected so that people can still buy their books from them so that they won’t lose out on all the income of having to cancel a big name event. I, myself, recently purchased tickets to go see Liz Gilbert in Wichita in a few weeks. I’m expecting the refund/ cancellation email any minute now.
All my favorite bookstores that I follow on Instagram are closing “indefinitely” and that feels ominous and doom-y.

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But it’s all for the best. It really, really, really is. I know that. I believe that. And also, I just really hope that a temporary situation doesn’t leave permanent gaps in our beautiful small towns that we work so hard to keep vibrant and full of life.

And that is all the complaining and worrying I’m going to allow for myself for today because this is the kind of thing that I have to put limits on for myself–lest I wallow.


Now is the time for (an incomplete list):

Now is the time to lean into small gatherings. Let’s wash our hands thoroughly before refilling someone’s glass of wine. Let’s fill up on pasta primavera since it’s spring time and the best vegetables are starting to pop up.

Now is the time to go to the dog park and grab a bench all to yourself while you listen to your murder podcasts.

Now is the time for re-learning interdependence and community care. About a year ago, a friend of mine mentioned that the faith tradition in which she was raised, taught her to “think corporately” and that’s a phrase that’s never left my mind. But it’s been extra deep in my heart lately. They tell us to self-isolate and I hear, “lean on one another, now.”

Now is the time for lesbian poetry legends:
There come times — perhaps this is one of them —
when we have to take ourselves more seriously or die
when we have to pull back from the incantations,
rhythms we’ve moved to thoughtlessly,
and disenthrall ourselves, bestow
ourselves to silence, or a severer listening, cleansed
of oratory, formulas, choruses, laments, static
crowding the wires.

–Adrienne Rich, from Transcendental Etude

Now is the time for buying that cookbook you’ve been wanting and cooking your whole way through it. For me, it’s Alison Roman’s book(from an indie bookseller!).

What is now the time for, for you and yours?

XOXO, Lib
-Libby