• Kara C White

The TBR Stack: October 2020

Updated: Apr 28

My October TBR stack is a bit eclectic with a mix of fiction and non-fiction titles that I can't wait to jump into. I'm feeling more confident about meeting my reading goals so I've been able to slow and really savor some books instead of feeling rushed to finish them. I think that mindset will serve me well with this month's selections.



First up, Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds. I've been eager to experience some of Reynold's work so I'm starting with this 2017 award-winning YA novel which is written in free verse. Long Way Down is about 15-year-old Will who just lost his brother in a shooting and is now looking for revenge. Even a quick elevator ride to the bottom floor of his building can seem to take forever with such a weighty decision to make, and with so many others who want to weigh in on his choice.


Also finding space on my reading list this month, Untamed by Glennon Doyle. I spent all summer hearing about this 2020 memoir which has now sold more than a million copies. It's a personal story of growth and discovery with insights and wake-ups for all women just trying navigate through life in front of the backdrop of expectations. I'm often wary of reading a book at the height of its popularity for fear I won't think it lives up to the hype, but I'm giving Untamed a chance to set me free of this fear.


Like so many people, I was grieved over the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg last month. While I knew plenty about her status as a cultural icon and public persona, I realized I knew very little about her real life and work. I'm hoping to correct that with My Own Words, a 2016 book by Ruth Bader Ginsburg herself and her biographers Mary Hartnett and Wendy W. Williams. It's a collection of Ginsburg's own writings and speeches dating back to the eighth grade. I'm looking forward to getting to know the late Justice Ginsburg through her thoughts and words.


Since we're in the midst of Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 to Oct. 15), I wanted to make sure I read the work of a Latinx/Hispanic author during October. I picked A Long Petal of the Sea, the 2019 novel by Isabel Allende. The book is based on true events around the Spanish Civil War and follows the losses and loves of two refugees as they escape to Chile.


Finally, Just Sit: A Meditation Guidebook for People Who Know They Should But Don't by Elizabeth Novogratz and Sukey Novogratz. It seems most of us could use a little less distraction and a lot more mindfulness in our lives. The benefits of meditation are well known and well documented, but I've never really developed the habit. The illustrations in this book are playful and fun so I'm hoping to learn some techniques and tips to make meditation feel less intimidating and more centering. You know, the way it's supposed to feel!


A few thoughts quickly now on what I read in September. It was a good month!


I started with Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. This book, written as a letter from the author to his teenage son, explores the realities of being Black in America. I found it to be intimate and searing. In places the writing was so personal that I felt like an intruder just reading the words. This book was written in 2015 but is still painfully relevant as the nation grapples with the questions and tensions of racial injustice. As I read Coates' experiences, thoughts, and reflections, there were moments I selfishly wished he'd said more... at other uncomfortable moments I even more selfishly wished he'd said less. I'd recommend this book to anyone looking to broaden their perspective and explore issues of race and anti-racism.


I enjoyed both novels I read last month, Writers & Lovers by Lily King and The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. Writers & Lovers brings to life an aspiring writer as she struggles to pursue her dream while grappling with unresolved grief, crushing debt, crippling anxiety, and a fraught love life. I thought some of King's best writing in the novel helped you really feel the physical manifestations of the lead character's anxiety and panic attacks. I found myself gripping the edges of the book a few times, but don't worry, there's hope along with the heartache in this novel.


The Invention of Wings is my favorite Sue Monk Kidd novel I've read thus far (I have not yet read her most recent work, The Book of Longings). This historical fiction imagines the story of real-life sisters and abolitionists, Sarah and Angelina Grimké, as well as the story of a young slave girl in the Grimké household named Hetty. This was a beautiful novel that juxtaposed the lives and evolutions of its characters while allowing the reader to contemplate what real freedom means and who really has it. I'm eager to learn more about the Grimké sisters and hope to add some biographies about their lives to my TBR pile in the future.


I'm still working through The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron, which is a 12-week course on creativity and discovery. I'm also still reading the poetry collection Devotions by Mary Oliver. Her work is breathtaking and has been a lovely way to start my day each morning!


One final note, since October is the season of all things spooky, I'll be adding a few creepy (but not too scary) ghost stories to my reading list this month. More on that next week! Until then, best wishes for further reading!

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