October 2023 Book Report

Yesterday, I enjoyed lunch with relatives who love to read. We exchanged titles we liked and gave a few brief book reviews. I learned that I come from a long line of avid readers, and we all have similar tastes in books. It was a joy to talk about our favorites and how much we love the book clubs we belong to.

This month, I didn’t read a lot of books. I couldn’t settle on something I wanted to read, so finding the right book for my mood took time. Some readers can select a pile of books and read through them. Unfortunately –or fortunately– I get easily distracted by the other books on my shelf. I guess it’s a nice problem to have, so I can’t complain.

Luckily, I picked one terrific book this month and gave it five stars. So, without further ado…

Yellowface by R.F. Kuang

If you don’t mind a book with unlikeable characters, this is the perfect read for you. Fair warning: There is no character to root for in this novel, but I promise you they are all fascinating in their own right.

But let me back up. Yellowface is about two talented women writers, one more successful than the other. Athena is an Asian-American woman who has published award-winning bestsellers, has loads of fans, and has attained celebrity status in the publishing world. June published one novel that met mixed reviews and editors and publishers that ghosted her left and right. No one is asking her to write something new, and her dream to become a famous writer is fading fast.

The women have had a like/loathe friendship since college, and jealousy runs rampant between them. One night, while the two of them are having dinner in Athena’s apartment, Athena dies suddenly in a freak choking accident. She leaves behind a manuscript of legacy potential about Chinese labor workers, which June snatches up and makes into her own book. Soon, June –now known as Juniper Song–gets all the attention she ever wanted as a writer. Some are suspicious that this novel was really hers. Juniper/June can fend off her doubters for a while, but eventually, they haunt her until she can’t take it anymore.

Yellowface is a satirical look at the writing life and the publishing world. The author also weaves in extreme narcissism, white privilege, online mystery, and the shocking lengths one will go to keep the truth secret. You don’t have to be a writer to appreciate the twists and turns here, and the ending is immensely satisfying.

I listened to this book on Audible and was entertained from start to finish. If you read and enjoyed “Such a Fun Age” by Kiley Reid, I think you will also like the similar themes of race and privilege, the friendship trope, and social commentary in this book.

Nonfiction November

I’m a big fan of nonfiction books. My favorite is memoir and personal essay collections, but I’m also a history buff and a trivia nerd. This combination of interests leads me to pick up anything I find interesting.

I already blogged about “Surely You Can’t Be Serious: The Making of Airplane!” here, but I’m adding one caveat to my previous review. Buying the book is definitely better than listening to it on Audible. While visiting an indie bookstore, I paged through the actual book and realized it was in a scrapbook format. Kind of like a keepsake or a souvenir and less like a book. Had I known this beforehand, I would have mentioned it because it is difficult to translate that format into an audio version. Nevertheless, I still didn’t care for it because it was more about the writers than the movie, which was disappointing.

I’m also in the middle of a few business books, including “Digital Body Language,” which is teaching me how to best connect with colleagues, customers, and cohorts online. So much miscommunication can happen when a rogue punctuation mark, the wrong emoji, or the tone of a text message is used and incorrectly perceived. Not to mention, rectifying the confusion from that communication can waste valuable time in the workday. Whether through a Zoom meeting, a Slack channel, or a simple email, there are ways to be much more effective, and I know I will be an even better communicator after I finish this nonfiction gem. FYI: I checked this book out at the library, returned it, and bought a hard copy for my bookshelf. That’s how much I want to have it handy when I start working again.

I’m hoping to have a much more productive reading life this month. Sadly, my Goodreads goal is looking like a pipe dream, but I’m still hopeful. As always, I’m open to suggestions, so tell me –what have you been reading lately?



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