Well, after reading a heck of a lot of books in 2020, my reading ritual came to a shockingly abrupt halt. I’m honestly not surprised given that G and I spent most of January moving, becoming landlords, switching our residency, unpacking, and… you know, doing our day jobs. Reading just took a back seat, which is fine. I’d rather reading be enjoyable than a chore.
For Book Club this month, we read the 2020 Book Prize winner Shuggie Bain, which follows a poor working class family in Glasgow, Scotland. It’s a painful read detailing the ups and downs of living with, and loving, someone with an addiction. The depressing subject matter is carried throughout the book, and any glimmers of hope are quickly squashed. Stuart is a terrific writer — and the Glaswegian slang is truly incredible, however I don’t know if I would necessarily recommend the book in the middle of a pandemic where we need a little more hope.
My favorite book of the month will probably be one of my favorites for the year – Homeland Elegies by 2013 Pulitzer Prize winner, Ayad Akhtar. This bold, witty and sometimes endearingly crude fictionalized account of Akhtar’s own life will leave you happily questioning everything. It’s as story of a complicated father and son (Akhtar’s real and fictional father is a Pakistani Immigrant who loves Donald Trump), as much as it is a critical examination of racism (internalized and systematic) and greed. While it sounds heavy, this is first and foremost a witty account of a flawed human moving through life, with some incredibly thought provoking passages that you will highlight and return to. It is no wonder that this book ended up on Obama’s Favorite Book of 2020 list.
I’d love to know what you’re reading and loving!
January 2021 Reads//
Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart
Shuggie Bain is an epic novel about a poor working-class family in Glasgow, Scotland during the 1980s Thatcherism. Hugh “Shuggie” Bain is a lonely boy growing up and trying to get bye with an alcholic mother he adores and a philandering, absentee father whose namesake casts a long shadow over Shuggie’s life. This was a hard but important read– about demons big and small, the many types of unrequited and unreturned love.
This was our January pick for Book Club, and boy were we conflicted. It could not have been any more different from our December pick– A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, a tale of a poor working class family in Brooklyn, Consensus was that this is really the story of Agnes Bain, Shuggie’s deeply troubled yet remarkable mother. Whereas a Tree Grows In Brooklyn is littered with home, there are no moments of joy or celebration. Every member of the Bain family is troubled, miserable and alone. Yet, Stuart sensitively handles the complicated relationship of loving someone with an addiction.
I do not recommend if you are in a dark place.
The Book on Tax Strategies for the Savvy Real Estate Investor by Amanda Han and Matthew MacFarland
Nonfiction // A
I went back and forth on whether to include my real estate investing books on these reading lists, but there may be some of you who actually invest so. what the heck. I heard Amanda Han and Matthew MacFarland on the Bigger Pocket’s Real Estate Investing podcast. They are two super knowledgeable CPAs, who happen to specialize in real-estate investments. This was a really helpful read, and oddly applicable to anyone who runs a small business and does a non-standard deduction.
Note: I’m a really big advocate of learning about personal finance, especially for women. It’s so incredibly frustrating how hard it is to learn about something that has a profound impact on your life and future. Whether you use a CPA or use Turbo Tax, I highly recommend reading some basic books on doing your taxes so you KNOW what you are doing.
Homeland Elegies by Ayad Akhtar
Fiction(-ish) // A+
A fictional novel inspired by Pulitzer Prize-winning Akhtar’s own experience being born and raised in the United States by Pakistani parents will make you question everything. It’s a honest, raw, insightful & crude look into “how did America find itself held captive to a demagogue?”
Akhtar is fearless in examining his own life, as well as his father, a Trump supporting Muslim doctor, which makes for some uncomfortable reading. Not just because what we learn about both Akhtar’s secret lives, but because of the unflinchingly unflattering of an American driven by greed, mistrust and misinformation.
Homeland Elegies is a bold and beautiful work of fiction — which is very much inspired by and similar to Akhtar’s own life experiences. It is as much a father and son story as a story of a broken American, placating illusions of exceptionalism, despite its myriad and indefensible flaws. What I think about over and over again is it is both a thoughtful and sensitive criticism of American’s flaws — capitalism and systematic racism– but also a love letter to being an American. Of accepting the contradictions and contrasts, how “For better, for worse — and its always a bit of both – I don’t want to be anywhere else. I’ve never even thought about it. America is my home.”
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