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Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

What Are You Reading This Winter?

You may have heard that there was a big snowstorm in the Northeast over the weekend – I think our final tally here in Brooklyn was about 10 inches, but don’t quote me on that. We told the kids when they went to bed Friday night – oh, who am I kidding? Jackson hasn’t gone to bed before me in years, so we told the kids before I went to sleep – that when they woke up Saturday morning there’d be tons of snow on the ground, and there was. Joanie wanted to immediately bundle up and go sledding (it was still snowing, with 30 MPH winds, and a “feel like” temp of zero degrees, but we took her out anyway and are now waiting for our parenting medals in the mail); Jackson, who has finally realized my dream for him of becoming an avid reader, decided that a snowstorm was the perfect opportunity to have a “reading marathon” and proceeded to spend the day reading as many pages as he could, interrupting himself only occasionally to ask for a snack and to see how many pages I’d read since he last asked. And I read a lot, mostly because I checked out a page-turner from the library on Friday…

Recommended to me by someone on Instagram (who maybe reads here too?), I checked out Pachinko, a nearly 500-page tome that initially intimidated me in its volume, but quickly became my weekend obsession. Pachinko follows the saga of four generations of a Korean family living through the 1900s, much of it in exile in Japan where they faced discrimination and poverty. Having lived in both Japan and Korea during the ’70s and ’80s, it’s especially interesting for me to get a peek at some of the history of the two countries in relation to each other. I don’t know how things are these days – I haven’t been back to either country since 1989 – but even in the ’80s, there was still a lot of tension between the two countries/ the two groups of people, and this novel has helped but some of my childhood memories of that tension into context.

“Pachinko” is my third book of 2022. Before it, I read two very different books: Punch Me Up to the Gods, a memoir about growing up gay and Black in small-town Ohio in the ’80s, and a history book about slavery called How the Word is Passed, which taught me more about slavery than any history class I’ve ever taken and honestly should be required reading for every American (but considering where we are in the country with banning books that make people feel uncomfortable, I know that’ll never happen).

What are you reading these days?

35 comments… add one
  • MPS January 31, 2022, 10:11 am

    I just finished ‘His Only Wife’ by Peace Adzo Medie and ‘Kitchen’ by Yoshimoto Banana.

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    • MPS January 31, 2022, 10:13 am

      Oops, didn’t finish that thought! His Only Wife was really good and made me want to go to Accra, Ghana really bad. Kitchen is very beautiful and good so far too.

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      • Kipiani January 31, 2022, 11:54 am

        Oh, I loved Kitchen! I picked it up shortly after my own grandmother passed away so I definitely read through some tears. Nice to see someone else enjoyed it, too.

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      Dear Wendy January 31, 2022, 12:19 pm

      Adding these to my list!

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  • ktfran January 31, 2022, 10:16 am

    My BFF and I have decided to do a bookclub of sorts. Really, it’s an excuse to call call each other monthly while also keeping us on a reading track. In Dec., we read Apples Never Fall. January was Somebody’s Daughter. We decided to go lighter for February and it’s her turn to pick. We have a phone date on Wednesday, so I’ll know then.

    I’m now adding How the Word is Passed to my list.

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      Dear Wendy January 31, 2022, 10:20 am

      How the Word is Passed should be saved for a month when you’re both feeling ok going a little heavier. It doesn’t spare the reader the more gruesome details of slavery.

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      • ktfran January 31, 2022, 10:29 am

        Thx for the heads up! Very much appreciated.

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    MaterialsGirl January 31, 2022, 12:45 pm

    I charged my old kindle and was looking through it to see what i had last read (must have been during maternity leave last year!?!)… last book was The Color Purple.
    Will have to look through these recommendations and pick something to read after the kids go to bed!

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  • liz January 31, 2022, 1:00 pm

    Ive finished a few books this year so far- If you’re into fantasy, I recommend the Poppy Wars trilogy. Pretty dark but incredibly engrossing. I also really enjoyed Seth Rogen’s memoir, Year Book. I listened to the audiobook (which he narrates) and it was really funny.

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    GertietheDino January 31, 2022, 1:23 pm

    The Midnight Library was the first book I finished this year, currently reading Patient Zero.

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      Dear Wendy January 31, 2022, 1:49 pm

      Oh, I read Midnight Library last year. What did you think of it?

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      LadyInPurpleNotRed January 31, 2022, 2:10 pm

      I read The Midnight Library for my last book club book–it was enjoyable! Our next book is The Lincoln Highway

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    Akeath January 31, 2022, 1:48 pm

    I just finished Skin of the Sea by Natasha Bowen. It’s a fantasy novel based on the original Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Anderson, but it takes place in West Africa in the 1500s and involves a lot of Yoruba West African religion, culture, and history. It’s illuminating and fascinating and I couldn’t put it down.

    Another one I’ve read recently is Before I Disappear by Danielle Stinson. It’s a beautiful story about family, trauma, trust, and human bonds with a scifi twist.

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    Moneypenny January 31, 2022, 1:52 pm

    I just started to read The House on Vesper Sands by Paraic O’Donnell. I like it so far- it’s a mystery taking place in Victorian London. 🙂

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    • Kali February 1, 2022, 2:40 am

      Thanks – just picked this up. Sounds great!

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  • anonymousse January 31, 2022, 2:07 pm

    I finished Louise Erdrich’s The Sentence a week or two ago and then reread a few of her others I’ve already read like The Round House. I love her writing. Not light material but their are always beautifully written moments of such real humanity between people.
    I’m currently reading the new thriller Devil House but so far I’m not really feeling it. I’m also reading A People’s History of the United States again for nonfiction and I’ve got Olga Dies Dreaming in the TBR pile after I make a decision about Devil House.

    I read and wanted to love The Midnight Library. I am conflicted. One on hand, loved the idea and premise but thought it was kind of cheesy? You sold me on Pachinko, Wendy. I was wondering if you’d go for it or not.

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    • anonymousse January 31, 2022, 2:08 pm

      Forgive me for my grammar and spacing issues. Xo

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    • Vathena January 31, 2022, 2:34 pm

      I have The Sentence on hold at the library and I think I may need to wait months for it, haha! The Round House was incredible.

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      • anonymousse January 31, 2022, 3:10 pm

        The Sentence is not as dark. The historical native aspects are, but it’s not like the Round House. I forgot how hard a read that was.

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      • anonymousse January 31, 2022, 3:18 pm

        I’m sorry, maybe my gauge is off. It is set in the last few years & it’s set in MN so there are the George Floyd protests, Covid, etc. But there is also an annoying ghost haunting the store and a lot of beauty in it as well.

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      Copa January 31, 2022, 4:09 pm

      I generally liked The Midnight Library, but yeah, it was a bit cheesy and very predictable. I read it after a heavier read, though, so it was exactly what I wanted/needed in that moment.

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        LadyInPurpleNotRed January 31, 2022, 4:27 pm

        @Copa –same–it was the perfect palate cleanser I needed. I timed it accordingly for that reason.

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      • anonymousse January 31, 2022, 5:10 pm

        I feel the same. I needed it at the time. I have been reading so much more lighter stuff than I ever have before.

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  • Vathena January 31, 2022, 2:30 pm

    So far this year I’ve read 3 books, in keeping with my goal of 3 books per month:

    “Hell of a Book”, by Jason Mott – I’m not entirely sure how to describe the plot, but it was a very compelling read with themes of race, family, media. It did have a touch of unreliable narrator/blurring of fantasy and reality, which I know is not everyone’s jam, but served the story well.

    “Ripper”, by Isabel Allende, about a group of kids and others who play an online crime-solving game but then turn to solving real-life crimes. A good whodunit (and very different from the other Allende novel I read a few years ago, “A Long Petal of the Sea”).

    “The Story of the Lost Child”, by Elena Ferrante – the final novel of the Neapolitan series (I read the first three last year). I liked this one second-best of the four; the first one, “My Brilliant Friend”, was the most enjoyable for me.

    I just started “The Book of Form and Emptiness” by Ruth Ozeki, and I expect it will be excellent. I really recommend “A Tale for the Time Being” if you haven’t read it! I am excited to add some of your recs to my list.

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    Copa January 31, 2022, 4:03 pm

    I’ve read two books so far this year, Maid and Crying in H Mart. I was expecting to love both of ’em (memoirs are my favorite), but was underwhelmed by both.

    Currently about halfway through The Body Keeps the Score and a couple chapters into American Dirt.

    I’m one of those people who always has a bunch of books on hold at the library and do my best as they become available. A handful recently came available from my list:
    – What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding
    – The Panic Years
    – Selfish, Shallow, and Self-absorbed
    – Motherhood
    I laughed aloud when I realized every single book is about whether or not to have kids (with the exception of The Panic Years, though I suspect it will be touched upon in the book). I texted a screenshot to a friend and told her that between these and The Body Keeps the Score, the librarian may have wondered if I’m really going through something.

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      Dear Wendy January 31, 2022, 4:23 pm

      Memoirs are my fave and I loved Crying in H Mart, and I liked Maid (but wouldn’t say I loved it).

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  • Kali January 31, 2022, 8:08 pm

    I read a lot. Currently, I’m in the middle of Maybe You Should Talk To Someone which resonates with me as a cancer and former therapy patient. I’ve recently finished Flynn’s Under The Harrow which was decent but not unforgettable. Before that, I read The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley which was different and not what I expected. I enjoyed it as a fun bit of escapism. I also just finished Coffin Road by Peter May which I’d started over a year ago and just put down. It was interesting for the most part, I didn’t solve the mystery until near the end but I got tired of being lectured about bees. I read Dial A For Aunties by Jessie Sutanto which was a fun, light-hearted romp and the aunties reminded me so much of my extended Filipino/Guamanian family. Aunties are the best! And finally, I just read the latest mystery book by Karen Baugh Menuhin, The Tomb of The Chatelaine. I love her Heathcliff Lennox series and wouldn’t miss one.

    I love this thread and I’ve already added several books to my list thanks to everyone here!

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  • Kali January 31, 2022, 9:04 pm

    My daughter challenged me to make my next book one which had been banned so I selected Unwind. Have heard it has a disturbing ending but I love a dystopian novel.

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  • anonymousse January 31, 2022, 10:05 pm

    Has anyone read A Swim in a Pond in the Rain? I’ve heard it’s really good and also uplifting and positive. It’s in my TBR.

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      Dear Wendy February 1, 2022, 5:58 am

      I checked it out a couple months ago and started reading it – I also heard good things – but it wasn’t my cup of tea, or what I wanted at that time.

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      • anonymousse February 1, 2022, 8:26 am

        I have had a hard time getting into or enjoying most movies, books or tv lately. It’s all I want- the distraction and escape- but not much is hooking me lately.

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        Dear Wendy February 1, 2022, 8:59 am

        I feel you. I’m not there as much at the moment but definitely have felt that way much of the past two years.

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      • Vathena February 1, 2022, 10:26 am

        Anonymousse, have you read “Red, White, and Royal Blue”? I read it in January of last year – shortly after the Capitol insurrection – and I found it to be pure escapist fluff and very entertaining. It’s a gay love story set in a world where a woman won the Presidency in 2016, and covid/trump never existed. It was exactly what I needed to read in January of 2021!

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    • anonymousse February 1, 2022, 2:41 pm

      No, but I will check that out immediately because that sounds absolutely wonderful!! Thank you!

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