I think I have an obsession with books. I used to have an obsession with reading books. I was the kid under the covers, trying to hide the flashlight so I could read one more chapter. I was the kid who specified which library I wanted my mother to drive to for the best selection that Saturday morning. I was the kid who was never sent to my room when I got in trouble. My parents knew I would find my happy place in between the pages of a book.
But now, I find that I collect them more than I read them. I wear them as a badge of honor, as one definition of who I am and what I believe about the world. I buy books to support the authors and to encourage publishing houses to take on projects they might normally bypass. I buy books with great intention. Some of them I even begin.
But I find that I rarely make it through a new one mostly because of pain.
When I was a kid, reading was fun. I immersed myself in Dear God, Its Me, Margaret. I can picture myself scrawled across the backseat of our family car as I devoured A Walk To Remember. Walter Dean Myers let me walk down streets I had never seen. I became a fan of Shakespeare and Edgar Allen Poe even as I discovered Langston Hughes and Maya Angelou. Reading was fun.
It often isnt anymore.
Because the books on my shelf now have one common theme- pain. The pain of the past. The pain of the present. They are important books. They are books that correct narratives, that beg us to reckon with the truth of our past. They are books with painful statistics and interviews and quotes from articles written long ago. They are books that work hard to humanize. But it sucks to need humanization, you know? I miss Judy Blume.
So, as someone who is reading very, very slowly these days… Here are two books I simply adore.
The first is Ta-Nehisi Coates novel The Water Dancer. Its hard to put into words why I love this book so much. But Im gonna try because love often demands words. Ive never read a book that so beautifully captures the humanity of the people who were enslaved and gives them a rich interior life that in and of itself upends those painful narratives. It doesnt shy away from for the pain of the past, but it also doesnt rely on inhumanity as the primary force of the story. Throughout you know that the enslaved are stronger, are smarter, are cultured, are beautiful, are thoughtful are generous, are strategic, are human.
There are two paragraphs that took my breath away. One at the beginning of the book and one at the end. The first is a description of how special Black people are and the work of their hands. Even now my heart is beating fast just thinking about how it made me *feel*, filled with pride. The latter comes toward the final pages when the main character is considering how his commitment to the cause is inherently different from those of his white allies. Im not sure there is any better contemporary commentary on allyship out there right now. Its a beautiful book from beginning to end, but this time Coates genius is in making it a book that itsnt painful for a Black woman to read and still feel both entertained and proud of her people.
The second book is a childrens book. One I keep returning to. Its called What Do You Do With An Idea? My mentor gave me her copy of this book and it was the sermon I needed. As someone who is constantly overflowing with ideas, this book was fresh air and encouragement. Sometimes I need simple sentences, yall.
So. What are you reading? Whats changing your mind? What book is so beautifully written, you can hardly stand it? What simple sentences are moving your heart?
*eternally sorry for typos