The end of February came up way too fast. I know it’s a shorter month, but I swear we lost like a week this year. Honestly, the only reason I know four weeks have passed is that I read… wait for it… SEVENTEEN BOOKS this month. I’m amazing, I know. Really though, I might have gone kind of insane. And a lot of these were for reading experiment posts, which was really fun. Overall, I had a lot of fun with reading in February. And since this is going to be a pretty long post, let’s get right to it!
What I Read
Seven romance novels by black authors
This month, I did a post where I read seven romance novels by black authors in seven days. And since this post is going to be long enough without that, and I discussed them all in depth, I figured I’d just link to that post and you can go check it out if you missed it. So, if you want to see which seven romance novels I read this month – click here.
Now, here’s everything else I read this month…
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent – ★★★★☆
I started this book in April. So it’s been sitting, partially read, on my nightstand for nearly a year. And it’s not because I wasn’t enjoying it. This was a pick for my work book club (which consisted of me and one other person) and I put it on hold because I have a tendency to finish book club reads WAY before everyone else finishes them and then meeting suck. So I waited. And it wasn’t happening, so I finally decided to finish it this month. Which was a great decision, because I really enjoyed this book. It was kind of devastating – fortunately, not in the way that made me sob at one in the morning – but also really beautiful. It’s been sitting on my shelves for years, and I am so, so glad I finally got around to reading it.
Tools of Engagement by Tessa Bailey – ★★☆☆☆
Where do I start with this book. It was fine? I picked this up because Chandler Ainsley read it and said it was one of her favorite romances of all time. And she makes a lot of YouTube videos about romance novels, and they’re fun to watch, so I thought I’d give this one a try. Also, I saw quite a few other people talking about how good this was. I’d previously read the first book in this series and kind of enjoyed it. But this one, not so much. I don’t know if I was in a weird mood or what, but I didn’t really like the writing. Is “clenching his back teeth” the new “let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding”? Because that’s what it felt like. It wasn’t terrible, but it also wasn’t at all memorable. It also made me realize that I’m not a huge fan of reading romance about pretty white people with absolutely no diversity whatsoever. It’s just not realistic. And it kind of made me regret the decision to attempt to read seven more romance novels this month (which, hopefully actually turned into a new post and not just a failed idea – look at me actually blogging about these as I read them and not cramming them in the day before my wrap up gets posted!).
Grant by Ron Chernow – ★★★★★
I started this book way back in July, before the epic slump of 2020 hit. I was actually reading this for a reading experiment post – which I am very happy to say was finally posted (click here if you want to see the post that literally took me a year to write). I can’t say this is my favorite biography ever, but I will say it’s my favorite Chernow. That’s right, I liked this more than Alexander Hamilton. Side note: when did I become someone who has favorite historical biographies?
How Much of These Hills is Gold by C. Pam Zhang – ★★★★★
This year, I am working on a massive reading experiment post that will take me all year, requires me to read like twenty books, and should be up in November (fingers crossed). Which is literally the only reason I picked up this book. It honestly sounded slightly interesting, but westerns are absolutely not my thing, so I was not planning on picking it up. But I’m so glad I did! Because I loved it! I read it in a single day, and haven’t stopped thinking about it. This is why I love challenging myself with reading experiment posts – I end up reading some pretty great books that I wouldn’t have otherwise. P.S. you get major points if you can guess the experiment from just this book.
Washington Black by Esi Edugyan – ★★★★☆
I read a few books that fit the Buzzword 2021 Reading Challenge this month, but this is the one I purposefully picked up for it. When I started this book, I was fully expecting it to be a five-star read. So I was a little disappointed when I started to lose interest like halfway through. Not completely, I just wasn’t as into it as when I started. I still think it was a great book, though. I really enjoyed it, and will definitely plan on reading more by Esi Edugyan. I honestly loved how fun and creative this was.
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson – ★★☆☆☆
Reading this book was such a weird experience because half of me didn’t enjoy it and the other half really loved the writing. So I don’t know. I’m honestly not really religious (though I was raised Catholic), and this book basically is a preacher on his deathbed, writing his life’s story for the son he’ll never get to see grow up. Naturally, there’s a lot of talk about Christianity. I didn’t hate it, but it’s not really my jam. I also couldn’t identify with the main character all that much, and kind of didn’t like him. I just don’t think this was the story for me. However, I did enjoy the writing and do plan to continue this series (mostly because I’m reading the last book for an upcoming reading experiment post). From what I’ve read, I think the rest of this series might be more my jam. I read the first chapter of Home and it’s not the same epistolary format as this one, and I already liked it better.
Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan – ★★★★★
I read this for the same post as Grant (spoiler: it involves the highest rated books on my TBR). I didn’t know very much about this when I started, other than that it is a WWII novel. Turns out, it’s based on a true story, which I loved. And it absolutely destroyed me. It didn’t quite make me cry, but I was very close. And there were a few times I gasped out loud or had to put it down for a bit before I could continue. If you like WWII fiction, this is a must-read. Bonus: the man whose story is highlighted in this book, Pino Lello, is still alive today and is involved in the film adaptation starring Tom Holland.
How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi – ★★★★☆
I was planning on reading another nonfiction book for Black History Month, but this one just called to me, so I went with it. And I’ll be completely honest, I didn’t love it as much as I did Stamped from the Beginning. I think this book makes some brilliant points, and it is definitely a valuable addition to my anti-racist reading. It just didn’t make as much as an impact on me as Stamped did. And that’s okay. This isn’t a six-hundred page book about the history of racism. I honestly think that’s more my speed (yes, I’m a massive nerd). This was more anecdotal, which I tend to not enjoy as much. But I still think this is a really great book, and important reading.
Queens of the Conquest by Alison Weir – ★★★★☆
Don’t worry, I also managed to squeeze in an actual history book this month. And it is the second installment of a series I lovingly call The Real Housewives of Medieval England (the real title is Queens of Medieval England). Seriously, though, for straight history books, this series is so much fun. Medieval royals were batshit crazy. I’m still laughing about the anecdote in this book of a woman who had an epic meltdown and threw herself out a window after her husband tried to force her to stay in the chapel through communion service by getting his knights to stand on her dress. I didn’t think this one as quite as good as book one, but it was still excellent. It also prompted me to pick up a copy of Alison Weir’s biography of Eleanor of Aquitaine, who is given a whole section in this book.
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass – ★★★★☆
I finished out Black History Month with this read. And it was so good! I knew Frederick Douglass was famous for his intelligence, but his writing in this book was incredible. Obviously, not the most fun read, but so important. I’ve actually read a few slave narratives before, and this one is by far the best one I’ve come across. I’m so glad I decided to pick this up. I’m planning to read David W. Blight’s biography of Douglass later this year, and I think it will be helpful going into it having already read this.
What I’m Currently Reading
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
Full disclosure, I don’t think I read anything from this in February. Maybe like a chapter. Maybe. Clearly, February was a big reading month, but I intend on making this more of a priority going forward. Because I am really, really enjoying it so far.
The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race by Walter Isaacson
I am so unbelievably excited for this one! Walter Isaacson is one of my favorite biographers – again, who am I? – and it is amazing that he finally came out with a biography about a woman. I hadn’t hear of Jennifer Doudna before this book was announced, but I already love her. Just the few chapters I’ve read already are incredible. This will be out on March 9, and I think it’s going to make the perfect read for Women’s History Month.
The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth and Other Curiosities by Thomas Morris
I mentioned this in my post about the science books I want to read this year. And so many people were curious. Clearly, so was I! I tried so hard to finish this so I could discuss it in this post, but this past week has just been insane. Still, I will be finishing this very soon, because I think we all need to know. I haven’t gotten to the exploding teeth yet, but oh man, that is not even close to the craziest thing that’s in this book. I’m lucky I have a strong stomach, because so much ew. People are gross and kind of dumb, and the human body is really freaking weird. That’s all I have to say for now.
What I Watched
I am not great at keeping up with movies. But one surefire way to get me to finally watch something is to take it off a streaming service. This is the last day you can watch Harriet on HBO Max, and I highly recommend you do, because this was INCREDIBLE. So, so, so good. I know it’s only February, but this might be my favorite movie of the year. I might actually watch it one more time today.
Judas and the Black Messiah
This was a limited release on HBO Max, and everyone has been talking about it. And I can definitely see why. I didn’t love this one quite as much as Harriet, but it was really good. It tells an important story that is sadly very relevant today. Also, Daniel Kaluuya is fantastic in this. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets nominated for something. It reminded me a lot of BlacKKKlansman if you enjoyed that (though I thought Judas and the Black Messiah was better).
One benefit of working from home is that I can watch TV on my lunch break, and my show for this month has been Ozark. Yes, I realize I am super late to the party on this one. But I finally watched it. I’m writing this at the last minute (naturally), and I’m probably going to stay up late to finish the last few episodes after I’m done with this post.
What I Did
Yeah, not exciting, but we’re all still stuck and home and nothing much is going on. And I count this as an achievement considering I did it during a work week, and a busy one at that. I was always curious to see if I could pull something like this off, and it turns out I can. But I’m never doing it again, because this hurt my brain.
This is exactly what it sounds like: I picked the five highest-rated books off my Goodreads TBR and read them to see if they really deserve that rating.
This year, I made it a goal to read every single day. And so far, I haven’t missed a single day. So I thought I’d share some of the ways I manage to read every single day. It was kind of a fun post, and I loved seeing the feedback from all of you!
That’s it for this month! I’d love to hear from you! What was your favorite February read?