I read like sort of like a spider. I make a web of my reading. I read numerous books from different genres for entirely different reasons all at the same time. Something for the morning before my kids crawl into bed. Something to read to my kids, something else to read that helps me understand my kids. Something for the train. Something else for waiting on the bus. Something for a breather between grading papers. The papers I’m grading. Something else to inspire my own writing. Something that a friend recommended. Something a friend wrote. There are always a few books that I wrap up and really sink into. I’ve been reading Manning Marable’s Malcolm X all year long. I love it. It feels incredibly indulgent. Which is a very strange thing to say about a biography of Malcolm X. But this biography is not directly connected to my own work, or my teaching, or my parenting or wifing…so reading it feels almost transgressive, which maybe is how an biography of Malcolm X should feel after all. To make me feel better about reading that biography, I also started Stokely by Peniel Joseph. Also good. In fiction I re-read Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison and Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid. Both were for a class I was teaching and, as happens, my reading of those brilliant books was deepened by the discussion my students and I had.
But when it comes to discovering new books, this year went to poetry for me. Hustle by David Tomas Martinez and Seam by Tarfia Faizullah were among my favorites. They sort of came out of nowhere and then blew like the wind. But the two books that I’ve read and re-read this year are: The New Testament by Jericho Brown and Citizen by Claudia Rankine. The New Testament and Citizen will change your mind, your heart, the way you build your life, and the way you live in community. Reading the The New Testament is like, well, reading The New Testament. Reading Citizen is reading the work of a great prophet– not necessarily the kind that predicts the future, but the kind that reveals the truth of our present reality. Both books are brilliant.
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