the booklist—june & july

One of the things I’ve always loved about reading, is that particular books take me back to specific places and times over the course of my life.
My bright pink copy of Sophie’s World which I read in Year 11 takes me back to that searching, trying-to-understand-all-the-things period of my younger life and my super smart friend Amy, walking together from my house to hers.
My battered copy of Blue Like Jazz was my first glimpse into real, non-religious, authentic relationship with Jesus, and reminds me of Year 12, drinking coffee for the first time, and drinking vodka for the first time too.
The Hobbit reminds me of a camping trip when I was 11, curled up in the back seat of our old Holden, and Karri trees.
I read Redeeming Love when I worked my first job at a law firm on Barrack Street in the city. I was 17. It reminds me of my chocolate brown pencil skirt and square-toed heels, woollen scarves and the firm’s lunchroom where I read while waiting for my sandwich to toast.

Every time I read a book that I know will stay with me, I also know that this moment in time will stay with me too. Some of the books I read in June will forever remind me of stacking shelves at the State Library, of commutes to the city with rain chasing itself down the train windows, and leaves glued to wet pavement.

Here’s what I’ve read since the beginning of June:

I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
Yes, the world’s climate and a desire to learn and to embrace the stories of black people informed some of my reading choices. Looking back through my booklists I realised that although I was reading somewhat diversely, I could be more intentional and thoughtful in my reading. This one is a memoir of a black Christian woman who shares her experiences as such, in ministry, life and the world. It was beautifully written but at the same time I felt like it lacked a handle—she spoke openly and honestly about the ways in which white people had gotten it so wrong, but I wasn’t given any tools as to how to make it right. What is the right thing to say? How should I speak to you about those issues? It left me hanging, and nervous to say anything.

Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe
Firstly I’ll say that this book is so necessary. I grew up in the 90’s and the Australian history we were taught at school was not only lacking, but misinformed and whitewashed. This book challenges the notion that First Nations people in Australia were hunter-gatherers and attributes them with incredible intelligence, innovation, agriculture, engineering and kindness. It draws on historical facts, artefacts, diaries of colonists, the experiences of First Nations people from other colonised countries, and other evidence. It’s fact-driven, yes, but needed. I’m so glad that our kids are being taught a more accurate history in schools, that we are slowly changing the narrative, and that Indigenous people themselves are rising up and challenging the white story. Read this. And while you’re at it, track down the kids version too.

Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton
To be honest, I started this one because I had a big, monotonous job at the library, shuffling a section of biographies and 900’s from one section to another. I needed an audiobook, and this one happened to be available instantly on BorrowBox. So, over two solid days I listened to this book and it. was. incredible. It absolutely came alive thanks to Stig Wemyss and his absolutely incredible voice acting skills and Eli’s poetic, melancholy, thoughtful narration was so beautifully written. I went in with zero expectations, and came out awed at Dalton’s writing, laughing at some of the very Australian one liners and in shock at where the book took it’s readers. Set in 1980’s Brisbane, it’s a very Australian bildungsroman, with some profound observations about life and family, humour and a plot you could never predict—it was brilliant. (Warning, lots of explicit language!)

The Guest List by Lucy Foley
Mystery/thriller novels have never been my thing, except for a brief phase when I was fifteen and read a whole bunch of Agatha Christie that I found in the depths of my Nanna’s cupboard. Foley had been recommended to me at the library multiple times, and then I saw that The Guest List was one of Reese’s Book Club picks and I happened to come across a copy that I snatched up. I read it in less than 24 hours. It was psychological, intriguing and set in the peat bogs of Ireland (I had to look them up!). You guys, this was like a modern day Agatha Christie! Switching between points of view sometimes irritates me, but I liked getting a glimpse into the minds of some of the characters. It was a fun and easy foray into a genre I don’t usually read!

The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall
I am drawn always to anything set in New York City—it’s my wanderlust muse, my dream. This one is set in Greenwich Village in the 60’s, sold.
The story tackles friendships, marriage and faith, but there’s something more than that… this insight into life, humanity that was beautiful and thought provoking.
Sometimes I felt the characters were being used only to portray specific viewpoints, and there were some changes towards the end that felt out of character for them. It was character driven, explorative, and full of beautiful impressions of growing up in life and faith. It wrapped up a little too quickly towards the end though, felt a bit forced.
But a delightful story.

Miracles and Other Reasonable Things by Sarah Bessey
This book deserves it’s own blog post; maybe one day. For now though all I can say that Sarah Bessey is one of my favourite authors. I love that she is explorative in her faith, suspicious of organised religion, and has clearly experienced the hurtful side of ‘Christianity’, yet she examines God and faith and Christianity in a way that is not condemning or blame casting, or finger pointing. I love that she is an unashamedly Jesus-loving, tongues-speaking, halleluja-ing woman, who also unashamedly calls out our (my!) religious, proud and pious mindsets. I simultaneously love her writing and am jealous of the way she articulates the nitty-gritty heart stuff. I’d like to write like her when I grow up, thank you please.

The Silkworm (Cormoran Strike #2) by Robert Galbraith
The first of this series was our Bookclub’s choice for May (see The May Booklist Here). I was told they got even better than the first, so I ventured to begin the second. Strike is faced with a gorier and more dangerous crime to solve this time, and Robin continues on as his trusty sidekick, despite the obvious annoyance by her fiance. I must admit one of my favourite aspects of these books so far (definitely intend on reading the rest) is the traipsing over London, and lots of eating of English food and drinking beer. I love the imagery of the old pubs, with their dark bars and cosy booths, as Strike and Robin discuss various aspects and suspicions of the crime as it snows outside.

Try Softer: A Fresh Approach to Move Us out of Anxiety, Stress, and Survival Mode–and into a Life of Connection and Joy by Aundi Kolber
Okay so I listened to the audio version of this and when I finished, promptly ordered a paperback. It’s the kind of book that can become a rich resource for doing the deep work of mental health. White knuckling: it’s when we hustle through pain, painful experiences, hurt. It’s when we tell ourselves (or listen to others who tell us) to try harder, knuckle down, push through. And it’s not good for us. Kolber’s approach, as a clinical psychologist and a Christian is to try softer. And she gives us very practical, doable ways to help us identify our white-knuckling, and gently slow down, observe, and be kinder to ourselves. The book is a counselling session that is illuminating and full of care. I can’t wait to get my hard copy to underline and dog-ear, to refer to the tips and tools that are laid out throughout it’s pages. It’s a must read/do/apply.

So. I’m at 36 books this year. Reading for intentionally learning, soul-caring, slowing.
My to-be-read pile really isn’t getting any smaller though!
This month I’ve got The Alice Network, Love Her or Lose Her, My Brilliant Career and a biography about Miles Franklin. What are you reading/hoping to read?
Also, I start Semester Two of uni today, wish me luck!

xx