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