December has been a good reading month for me. It’s been a good month in general, in fact, and I wanted to write a longer post about some of the things I’ve done and seen, but I don’t know if I’ll have time, so for now here are the reading highlights.

(Side note: I often give extra little titbits in my monthly email newsletter, so subscribe using the quick form in the sidebar if you’re interested.)

Hounded: Stories From the American Road by Alan Emmins

Hounded: Stories from the American Road by Alan Emmins

In this collection of long-form journalism, British writer Alan Emmins explores the America that outsiders don’t tend to see. He shadows bounty hunters, tracks down small-town meth labs, takes a cross-country trip on a Greyhound bus that is far from romantic. It’s a very different type of road trip, and I found it eye-opening.

My Mother Was a Freedom Fighter by Aja Monet

My Mother Was a Freedom Fighter
by Aja Monet

A book of beautiful poems infused with a strong political consciousness. Some tackle inner-city poverty, police brutality or the occupation of Palestine, while others simply meditate on life and human emotions. Some of the innovative typography didn’t come out too well on my ancient Kindle, but I bet it’s a treat in paperback.

A History of Violence by Oscar Martinez

A History of Violence by Oscar Martinez

Wow. This was a gut-wrenching but important book to read. Martínez explores the horrific realities of life in Central America and on the migrant trail through Mexico to the USA.

This book is a helpful antidote to the cold-hearted lies emanating from the White House, both because it explains very clearly why the migrants deserve compassion rather than fear-mongering and because it shows how many of the problems in the countries of Central America were caused by past US policies.

Black Lamb and Grey Falcon by Rebecca West

Black Lamb and Grey Falcon by Rebecca West

I’ve been spending a lot of time in the Balkans over the last few years, and I kept seeing mentions of this book cropping up everywhere, both as a guide to the complex history of the Balkans and as an example of great travel writing.

It is both of those things, but also much more—West’s account of a trip with her husband through Yugoslavia in the 1930s is the framework for her to spend more than a thousand pages pursuing all sorts of tangents through literature, art, philosophy, ancient history, ideas of human nature, and much more.

Sometimes the long-windedness frustrated me, but there were so many fascinating facts and ideas packed in here that overall I recommend it whole-heartedly.

The Verdict

December was a good month of reading for me, and any of these books could have been my top pick in a different month. But I have to pick Black Lamb and Grey Falcon as my favourite. It really is a masterpiece.

In future years, with these monthly roundups as my guide, I hope to be able to look back over the full year of reading and pick out some highlights. But because I only started this in August, most of the year is a blur for me. Here are a few books that stand out, with links to my reviews or the relevant month’s roundup:

For more December and year-end roundups by other bloggers, head over to Feed Your Fiction Addiction or The Sunday Post.

I’d love to hear about your month (or year) of reading. Let me know your highlights in the comments below!

16 Comments

  1. Cassie 30 December 2018 at 11:02 am

    You’ve convinced me, Andrew – I’ve added My Mother Was a Freedom Fighter to my TBR pile. I wanted to add Black Lamb and Grey Falcon as well, but I just don’t think that I can conquer it in a timely manner. I might pick it up as a filler read, though.

    I’m interested to see what the new year brings for you!

    Reply
    1. Andrew Blackman - Site Author 30 December 2018 at 11:48 am

      I think that’s a wise choice, Cassie! Black Lamb and Grey Falcon is a huge time commitment. It took me years to go from first hearing about it to actually finding the time to read it. Hope you enjoy My Mother Was a Freedom Fighter in the meantime 🙂

      Reply
  2. Brian Joseph 30 December 2018 at 2:10 pm

    What an interesting bunch of books. I think that I would like to read them all. At the very least I want to get to A History of Violence within the next few months. Hounded also sounds particularly good. Looking at America’s dark side, or at least its grey side, is something can be very educational and enlightening.

    Reply
    1. Andrew Blackman - Site Author 30 December 2018 at 6:23 pm

      Yes, A History of Violence is quite timely right now with all the anti-migrant rhetoric in the US. It gives a lot of the history and context that are so often absent from media reports and political speeches. It’s a tough read because of the grim realities it covers, but I found it well written and quite enlightening. Hounded is good too – I think I’ll have an interview with the author coming up in a few weeks, so you can learn more about it there.

      Reply
  3. Danielle Hammelef 30 December 2018 at 10:54 pm

    I’m happy December was a great reading month for you. Your picks are books I haven’t heard of before and in genres I don’t usually read. Good luck in 2019!

    Reply
    1. Andrew Blackman - Site Author 31 December 2018 at 6:20 pm

      Thanks Danielle. Good luck to you in 2019 too – hope you have lots of wonderful reading experiences!

      Reply
  4. nikki @bookpunks 31 December 2018 at 12:37 pm

    Ooh, what an interesting list of books. Particularly interested in checking out Hounded. All the best for 2019!

    Reply
    1. Andrew Blackman - Site Author 31 December 2018 at 6:22 pm

      Hi Nikki
      Thanks for visiting! I love the name “bookpunks”—will check out your site now. Happy New Year!

      Reply
  5. Annemieke 2 January 2019 at 7:29 am

    It is funny and strange how when we don’t do these reading round-ups we forget what were favorites or what we even read

    Reply
    1. Andrew Blackman - Site Author 3 January 2019 at 1:34 pm

      Yes, Annemieke! I have a terrible memory, and that’s why I started this blog originally, with the intention of reviewing every book I read. That never happened because of time pressures, so these reading roundups really help me.

      Reply
  6. Anne 3 January 2019 at 11:10 pm

    I posted a whole week of Top10s last week. It was a good reading month in December. I was not reading too many new ARCs but catching up on a few and just reading whatever I wanted a bit. I am grateful to have so many wonderful choices. The more I read other blog, the more great options I find. I hope you had a great couple of holiday weeks. Happy New Year! Anne – Books of My Heart

    Reply
    1. Andrew Blackman - Site Author 4 January 2019 at 3:02 pm

      Hi Anne,
      Thanks for visiting! Ah, it’s great to have such good records that you can create so many Top 10 lists like that. And I see you are even planning your 2019 reading – excellent! Happy New Year to you too 🙂

      Reply
  7. Rachel 9 January 2019 at 4:17 pm

    The longwindedness of Black Lamb Grey Falcon frustrated me too.

    I should check out the one on violence, though it sounds hard to read. I think the hardest book I ever read is The Rape of Nanking. The author’s subsequent suicide is partially blamed on the impact of researching that book.

    Reply
    1. Andrew Blackman - Site Author 11 January 2019 at 8:27 am

      Glad I’m not the only one, Rachel! There were so many times when I thought, “Wasn’t there an editor?” But on the other hand, strict editing could have destroyed so much of what was good in the book. I loved the meandering style, even though it got a bit too much sometimes 🙂

      Wow, that book does sound tough. I just read a bit about it online and I can see why it was hard to read. I’m very sorry to hear that researching it took such a toll on the writer. It’s so important to deal honestly with the past and commemorate people’s experiences, but I can see that immersing yourself in so much horror would really be a lot to deal with.

      Reply
  8. Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction 9 January 2019 at 5:13 pm

    I agree that one of the nice things about these monthly round-ups is that it’s a quick and easy way to see your favorites at the end of the year. Sounds like you read some fantastic books in December! Love that you were able to read one that resonated with you because of your own travels.

    Reply
    1. Andrew Blackman - Site Author 11 January 2019 at 8:28 am

      Yes, Nicole! I plan to continue this year and have a clearer picture of 2019 than I did of 2018. Thanks for organising the monthly event and giving me that extra push to do it 🙂

      Reply

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