As predicted, my life is not any less chaotic. Since it’s been a hot minute since I wrote a book review, I thought I’d do short reviews of the books I’ve read in the past month. For some semblance of organization, I ma starting off with audiobooks.
Sidenote: I just realized that all of these authors are non-white/cis/het/able dudes, which just makes me happy about myself as a reader. Diverse authors are the bomb dot com, y’all.
This book is one part theory and another part memoir. The theory part of the book is an academic exploration of theories of gender, sex, identity, and relationships. The memoir aspect of the book explores the author’s relationship with her gender fluid partner, artist Harry Dodge, their experiences with pregnancy and queer family-making, and motherhood. She gives the most giant of all middle fingers to the politicized ideas of gender/sex/identity politics, and pushes readers to re-evaluate this notion that all of the things beyond the heteronormative are “radical”, somehow. I love that she included so much empirical evidence for the same, allowing plenty of opportunities for discussion, exploration, and place to leap into building her commentary. Definitely no time like the present for the relevance of this book.
This is a fascinating account of the history of the gene, and explore the impact of genetics on the future of humanity. Siddhartha Mukherjee leaves no doubt that he is a prolific writer. Starting from the before the discovery of the gene, the book is sprinkled with informative stories of the scientists that played their part in the road to discovering the gene and the development of genetics as a field. The narratives are enjoyable, and I really liked that he highlighted the importance of each of their discoveries and why they went about researching this in the first place. Interspersed in all this history is Mukherjee’s personal history and family history of mental illness- lending voice to why he researched and wrote this book. The author has deftly handled transcribing what one fears is extreme scientific detail and information in a way that makes it accessible to the everyday reader. There are a few analogies and lines of thought that I am not completely sure I am on board with, but overall, a fascinating account. I have not yet read The Emperor of All Maladies, and the common opinion from those who have read both is that TEOAM was infinitely better. I imagine that it is hard to top a Pulitzer-winning book, even if it is your own. If anything, TEOAM has moved up on my TBR after this book.
This book. THIS book. It has taken shockingly long time, but I think I am getting to the point where I will exclusively read memoirs in the audiobook format. This book is as good a reason as any. It is just so goddamn beautiful. It is a story about loving your work. It is a story about the ends to which you will go when you love your work. It is also a story about how you need that person who will love the work as much as you do. How many people do you know that love the work so much that they are willing to risk their health, life, and limb for it?
Academia is hard. It is mostly soul-crushing, frustrating, bogged down by politics and it’s unfortunate dependence on capitalism. Research requires funding. Funding demands favorable results. It is gruelling. It is unrelenting. But the moments of success- every single one of those triumphs, will make it seem worthwhile only to the people that have a profound, unwavering passion for the work. Which is not easy, or realistic, or even the healthy.
I could go on and on about this book, but I’ll stop here and let you go experience it for yourself.
Last and final one for this post. This story revolves around a young father, Lucas, whose daughter Vera was recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He and Vera’s mother, Katya, had been separated since before she was born. Lucas decides to take Vera to Lithuania for the summer in the hopes that showing her where his family was from and immersing themselves in the history of their origins might help their relationship, and help Vera navigate her life following her diagnosis. Rufi Thorpe leaves no doubt that she is a phenomenal writer and story-teller. The story brings together elements of Lucas’s family history and his grandmother’s circumstances, letters from Vera to her boyfriend Fang ( who is back home in the US), and Lithuanian history shaped by German occupation during WWII. Lucas and Vera are on a history tour of the city (Vilnius) as a result we also meet a variety of secondary characters, mostly Jewish and American, who are all there searching pieces of their histories that were shaped by occupation. Don’t worry about having to keep track of all the characters; there are threads connecting all of them so you won’t have trouble following the story. It is also a fascinating insight into the thought process and behavior patterns of a person with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, without falling into the trap of using mental illness tropes. It also delves into Lucas’s life- his relationship with his ancestors, his father, with Katya-what brought them together and what pulled them apart. The story had me hooked from the beginning and I could not stop till I was done.
Did you guys get a chance to read any of these books? What were your thoughts? Any suggestions for excellent memoirs on audio- please drop suggestions in the comments!