What I Read: September 2019

I can’t believe September is over already, but here we are. It was a good reading month for me. I read eight books and I liked all of them. Here they are:

The Nickel Boys


The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead is one of those books that isn’t easy to read (because of the subject matter), but that is necessary to read. It’s about a “reform school” in Jim-Crow-era Florida and the boys who survived it (and don’t). I think understanding the profound and lasting effects of Jim Crow is a responsibility for white Americans.



The Other Mrs. Miller



I can’t get enough of family-based drama books like The Other Mrs. Miller by Allison Dickson. When a new family movies into the house across the street, reclusive Phoebe Miller gets a little too involved in their lives (and vice versa). 



The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters


I vehemently disagreed with Tom Nichols’ chapter on higher education because it showed a real lack of familiarity with the kind of colleges he criticizes. But the rest of the book is important. We are in a crisis because we don’t just reject expertise; we are proud of rejecting it.



The Turn of the Key


The Turn of the Key is a very clever riff on Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw. It’s about a nanny in remote Scotland who starts to believe, for very good reasons, that someone–or something–is after her. It’s very gothic, slow-moving, and spooky. Great Halloween read.




Home Fire


Home Fire is a brilliant retelling of Sophocles’ Antigone. In this version, the players are Londoners and Pakistani immigrants trying to live in Bush-Blair’s post-9/11 world. This novel presents deep characters and a propulsive plot; it also isn’t afraid to call out the ways in which xenophobia quickly becomes status quo. Kudos to my friend Carly for suggesting it.



The Swallows


I’ll read any book set in a boarding school. The Swallows did not disappoint me. It’s about a reluctant creative writing teacher who stumbles upon a school secret that’s been well-hidden and protected for years. Plucky and interesting students plot to take down the patriarchy. I thought this book was hilarious and poignant.



Ask Again, Yes

Sweeping generational family dramas are definitely my literary jam. Ask Again, Yes is beautifully written and presents two families that I deeply cared about. This is one where it’s better to go in cold. In terms of plot, I’ll just say it’s about two families, living next door to each other, who are linked together for years by people, events, mistakes, hate, and love. This is my first book by Mary Beth Keane and I plan to read more.


Counterproductive: Time Management in the Knowledge Economy


I have been waiting to read a treatise that calls out productivity and time management as a form of colonialism. This book was perfect. My only complaint is it’s the kind of academic analysis I wanted to write while on research leave. I’m glad someone beat me to it because this is better than what I would have written. I wouldn’t recommend this to casual readers, but it’s a good read for anyone who is studying the cultural and rhetorical hegemony that is productivity.


Picking my favorite this month is tough. It’s like choosing among my own children. I think Home Fire is the book that will stick with me the longest. So that’s my pick.

Happy reading in October. Time to cover up in a soft quilt and drink tea while reading. It’s my favorite time of year!