• The Curious Metisse

Reading Club: 2018 Summer Books

Updated: Dec 10, 2019

I remember 2017 as a year of transition. I started it in Phuket, Thailand, watching tourists lighting up those massive candle balloons in the air. I had been travelling in East Asia for three months at that point. I was tired. I wanted to go home. I remember not knowing where I wanted to go, what I wanted to do. My life was the opposite of stable or secure. I guess it might sound appealing to some, but I didn’t feel like it was the place where I wanted to be.

The day after, I was in Melbourne, Australia, exhausted and confused. My original plan was to settle down for a bit, to try and find a job to save a bit of money before continuing my travels. I quickly realised I didn’t want to stay. I didn’t want to work a meaningless job, I didn’t want to live off beer and adventure. I wanted to settle down, to build something, to grow. I wanted to go home.

February and March rolled in, and I was home, again, finally. In three months, my boyfriend and I had “settled down”. We had moved in our first flat together, bought all our furniture off IKEA. We had secured jobs, we were moving forward, we were growing. It was only temporary though, and we knew it. There were new people to meet, older friends to keep in touch with, a permanent move to organise. I closed my eyes and the year had gone by.

2017 was tough, but it was necessary. I lost ten kilos that year, reaching my goal weight without trying. The weight loss was a reflection of my mental state, of the stress I was putting my body through. I didn’t do everything perfectly or flawlessly, but I managed to get my life to where I wanted it to be, and quickly. However, there were many hobbies I had to give up in order to put my life together. For instance, I struggled to find the time to put into one of my favourite activities: reading.

I must have read six books throughout the whole 2017. I knew that 2018 needed to be different. I needed to shift my priorities to allow me to pursue hobbies that I truly enjoyed. I love reading, and I always have. As a kid, I was a massive fantasy fan. I loved the fact that I could transport myself in another time and place, and experience the life of some formidable hero.

Time goes by and I now enjoy reading for different reasons. I have realized it is a great way to learn. I have thus started reading more non-fiction books on a variety of topics, from astrophysics to nutrition. My 2018 resolution has paid off. The end of August is around the corner, and I’m happy to say I’ve been able to keep my word. I have read thirteen books so far, and I have another four months to go before the end of the year.

I have found myself with a lot more time on my hand since I’ve moved to Canada. I am aware that I am in the same situation that I was in early 2017. I do not have a place to call home yet. There are even more challenges ahead: no family to rely on, bank accounts to open, health insurance to sort out. I currently live out of three suitcases. If I thought doing it a first time was tough, I can only laugh at where I’m at now.

I try to be much calmer about it this time around though. I guess doing it once makes it seem less scary. Or I might become lazier, one of the two. Anyhow, I have kept my good habits. Thus I thought I would share my 2018 Summer Reading List. I have loved some of the books, been confused by others. Most of them somewhat deal with race. If you’re looking for inspiration, have a look below.

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

I think I saw this book on a must-read list and I picked it out because of the attractive title. I should have realized the word unburied couldn’t mean anything good. Meh. It wasn’t my greatest pick. I’m still mostly confused. I don’t know if you can tell, but I don’t like being confused. I like facts. This story though doesn’t deal with facts and clear answers. It takes place in America, I would say around the 2000s. Each new chapter brings one of the characters’ perspective to the front. You discover throughout the pages a young and clever boy, an absent mother and old grandparents. It’s a confusing book that talks about race, interracial couples, drug abuse, family, death and ghosts. Voilà.

A Separate Peace by John Knowles

This book was suggested to me by a dear friend, so I didn’t hesitate much before plunging in. I was told it was an American classic. Unfortunately, I didn’t quite fall for it. I had the same feeling reading A Separate Peace that I had had with The Catcher in the Rye. It just wasn’t my thing. Amazon praises the book as a “great bestseller for over thirty years” and describes it as “timeless in its description of adolescence during a period when the entire country was losing its innocence to World War II”. I would argue it is a great book for adolescents that are interested in coming-of-age journeys.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

Now I really enjoyed this book. While the two books mentioned above are fiction, this one is a non-fiction. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck could be categorized as a self-help book, although it actually criticizes the recent emergence of a culture of mindless positivity. Mark Manson argues that one must accept the struggles of life and let go of what’s not important to find peace of mind. His tone is blunt, and he doesn’t hesitate to use profanity to illustrate his point. It is a refreshing read that also forces you to confront your fears and problems, and to understand that running away from them is never going to make you happy.

Mes étoiles noires by Lilian Thuram

Another great read from this summer, Mes étoiles noires was this kind of books I didn’t know I was meant to read until it was given to me. Lilian Thuram is a French retired professional football player and an engaged activist against racism. Mes étoiles noires is a compilation of notorious or remarkable black people throughout history. Starting from Lucy, one of our oldest ancestors to President Barack Obama, this book takes you on a journey untold in history classes and gives you a fresh perspective on the achievements of black people and communities. I honestly loved it. It is unfortunately only available in French and Spanish, but I would encourage anyone that masters one of two languages to give it a try.

Les identités meurtrières by Amin Maalouf

I haven’t actually finished Les identités meurtrières yet, but I have enjoyed the author’s approach on identity and identity politics. Amin Maalouf is a French citizen of Lebanese descent, and his perspective on identity resonates a lot with me. In his essay, he stresses on the danger of defining people based on one “dominant” characteristic such as an ethnicity or a religion. Instead, he argues that people have multilayered identities that are constantly shifting and evolving. This book is definitely more academic-oriented but a necessary read for anyone interested in identity politics.

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