What Are You Reading?

Painting by Gary Melchers of  a woman sitting in a chair reading by an open window that looks out to a flower garden where another person is standingI am fortunate to have lots of bookish friends who share their reading on social media. One is an honest to goodness bookstagrammer. While I don’t have that kind of energy, I am committed to writing more about my reading. Currently, I share my reading with a small group via the LibraryThing 75 Books a Year group. I have belonged for 8 years and gotten increasingly involved over time, which mostly means writing, reading and responding to other people’s posts. The groups use an old-fashioned discussion forum that predates Good Reads by some years and the larger website is wiki-based. I have developed friendships with several people and met three of them face to face when we did a meetup in Colorado. The others, including a retired British coal miner who I also follow on Twitter, are virtual friends only. We use the platform to share our reading and through those conversations, we share our lives as well. It has become my community of choice as I spend less and less time on other social media platforms, especially Facebook.

So, what am I reading? Short answer: anything I want.

The longer answer is that I make an effort to read a wide variety of writing. One way I do that is by participating in LibraryThing challenges, especially the annual Bingo card. At the beginning of the year, a group of volunteers with input from the community come up with a list of 25 reading topics that are then programmed onto a Bingo card. You can see a screenshot of mine below:

a bingo card with topics for reading

Here are a couple Bingo card books that I enjoyed and might not have discovered if it weren’t for the challenge:

When You Get the Chance by Tom Ryan and Robin Stevenson tells the story of cousins who take the road trip of their lives to the Toronto Pride celebration. Mark and Talia, cousins who haven’t seen each other for a long time due to a rift between their sibling parents, reunite at the family cabin for the summer. They are mostly there to clean it out to sell it. They are both in same-sex relationships with Talia’s partner identifying as non-binary, using “they” as a pronoun. Both of them want to get to Toronto for the Pride festival even as they try to figure out the mystery of why their parents don’t get along. The book was written with an eye to educating the reader but the story was fun and upbeat as well. I particularly liked the depictions of older gay couples who tell their stories and also offer support for the next generation.

Zahrah the Windseeker is the first book by Nigerian American writer Nnedi Okorafor. Wikipedia classifies it as young adult book, but I think it would be fine for an older elementary audience as well. Okorafor tells the story of Zahrah, who lives with her family in the Ooni Kingdom on the edge of the Forbidden Forest where no one who ventures returns. Thirteen-year-old Zahrah was born dada,  meaning she has vines growing out her hair, an unusual phenomenon and one the community regards with suspicion, believing such people to possess magic. Their suspicions are correct because as the novel opens, Zahrah is just discovering her powers. She and her best friend decide to explore the forest and quickly encounter almost deadly danger. In order to save her friend, Zahrah must return to the forest. I loved the book: the forest is filled with fantastical creatures that set the imagination alive. But, the characters are very real human beings living in this world and we get to know them and love them even as Zahrah learns to love herself.
And just to show you the range of reading I do, the last Bingo card book is April Lady by Georgette Heyer. I generally don’t read romances but have heard Heyer mentioned by readers I respect. She did not disappoint as she crafted her tale of the Cardross’s: Gile with the fortune who married for love despite his family’s disapproval, and Helen, who also married for love, but seems to be more interested in the money as she amasses a pile of bills. The book is a romp through the Regency world as Helen tries to hide her spending from her husband through silly and ultimately unsuccessful schemes. Fun and frivolous with a little history to give it some redeeming value, I suppose.

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