Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.
This week’s Top Ten list is a freebie, and I’m focusing on my top books from my 20s.
In April, I turned 30 and published the first part of the list about what books “got me through” my 20s. That list was mainly about the “fun times.”
Checkout the first part of the list here and my playlist over on Spotify for my favorite songs from my 20s.
This second part covers the years I was a caretaker for my grandmother and father when they fell ill in the latter part of my 20s.
The Lost Years
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie will always remind me of the road trip I took to get home after grad school with my mom and two strangers in the middle of a tornado when Southwest dumped us in Branson, Missouri. This road trip was unplanned and was so bananas, every time I look at my worn copy of Americanah, I think about that wild ride and the grace of God that kept us from being blown away like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz during that storm.
You can check out my old post about it and my review of Adichie’s book here to read the whole story.
After graduate school, I spent a lot of time drifting while trying to adjust to life outside of school and to have to help take care of my grandmother and father. While I had always seen my mother taking care of one of my loved ones, I never realized just how much went into caring for people who were ill as a caretaker.
Dealing with the stress of caretaking is what led me to the Bookternet.
When the Bookternet was young and the #WeNeedDiverseBooks Movement was starting out in 2014, I was one of the leaders of a book club on Goodreads called The Writers of Color Book. The primary purpose of the WCBC was to get people on BookTube and elsewhere focused on reading diverse authors that weren’t cookie-cutter selections.
One of my favorite books from the WCBC’s reading list was A Tale For the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki.
Ozeki’s book follows three different timelines: Nao, a sixteen-year-old Japanese teen who her peers are mercilessly bullying, Nao’s grandmother, a hundred-year-old Buddhist nun, and Ruth, a novelist living on a remote island in the Pacific that’s just retrieved a Hello Kitty lunchbox after the 2011 Japanese tsunami and earthquake that killed over 20,000 people. Ozeki’s work shines in the way that it tells such a visceral and heartbreaking story.
Almost a decade later, I’m still thinking about A Tale For the Time Being because of the way it reminded me during my caretaking years that death is inevitable. But, the way you live your life determines how you’ll be remembered.
After graduate school, I spent a lot of time drifting while trying to adjust to life outside of school and to have to help take care of my grandmother and father. While I had always seen my mother taking care of one of my loved ones, I never realized just how much went into caring for people who were ill as a caretaker. Dealing with the stress of caretaking is what led me to the Bookternet.
My favorite author during my 20s were Jhumpa Lahiri. The Namesake is one of my favorite books of all time and the first book I ever did a live show for on YouTube. My favorite short story collection was The Interpreter of Maladies, which was also another WCBC pick.
When I was on night watch with my grandmother and father or going to appointments, I would read short stories to pass the time in the waiting room or until the sun came up.
Outside of Alice Walker, Jhumpa Lahiri has to be one of my favorite short stories writers for her to do with just a few pages. Walker and Lahiri get to the crux of the matter in mere lines when other authors use up hundreds of pages to tell a story. I highly recommend these authors’ short story collections.
5 to 1 by Holly Bodger was the first book I ever photographed on Bookstagram.
For the most part, Bodger’s book was a leftover read from the YA Dystopian era takeover. However, at the time, I remember thinking about how interesting the plot was from other books in the genre.
In 5 to 1, women choose their husbands from five men who vie for their attention in a trial of the woman’s choosing. Bodger tells The Handmaid’s Tale writing about a matriarchal society with the men being hunted if they dare run away from their wives.
My first audiobooks were The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, The Golem and the Jinni by Helen Wecker, and The Bees by Laline Paull. And as intricate as each of these three books was with their cast of characters, I loved them for keeping me company during this time in my life.
The Night Circus was probably the best possible choice to start my love of audiobooks alongside The Golem and the Jinni because of how imaginative both books were. The Night Circus covers a fierce battle between two young magicians, Celia and Marco. These magicians are given the task by their teachers of dueling each other by creating wondrous feats at Le Cirque des Rêves, a continuous night circus that runs throughout the book.
The Bees was equal parts whimsical and sad as Paull told the anthropomorphic tale of Flora 717, a sanitation bee in a hive where the Queen bee is ill. Flora 717 is a bee with unique talents that none of her kin share. Due to this, she’s seen as a threat to her beloved Queen, to who she only wants to dedicate her life.
Like The Golem and the Jinni by Helen Wecker, who I’ve interviewed and reviewed on my blog, Paull and Morgenstern’s books helped get me through long waits at doctor’s offices, and hospital stays when caretaking. These books taught me that even in those dark moments when everything looks bleak, the sun eventually comes out, and you live to fight another day.
When Life Gives You Lemons…
Sometimes the sun does not shine how you want it to. There are no television miracles or solemn moments where your loved one pops back up for a last “hoorah.”
Sometimes the doctor comes in and tells you the person is in a coma, and you have to say your goodbyes while praying all along that maybe God will do you this solid just this one time even though you know it’d be better for your loved ones not to suffer anymore.
When that moment came for me in my late 20s, I wasn’t ready. But, The Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brother, I’m Dying by Edwidge Danticat eased the blows. Both memoirs talk about death and the changes that come with growing up in such a beautiful way. I cried while reading each, and whenever I look at my copies, I remember the time I had to say goodbye to my grandmother and father.
Favorite Books of the Decades
These last few books are stories that connect to events and memories in my 20s that I hold dear.
The first advanced reader copy I ever received was All the Days Past, All the Days to Come by Mildred D. Taylor. Taylor’s Logan Family Saga is a series I’ve been reading since I was a little girl, and I reread all ten books, including the novellas, in order every few years from start to finish to recapture some of that magic. It’s the best book, in my opinion, for you to read if you want an authentic glimpse of the African-American experience in America.
I’m on a personal mission to see all of August Wilson’s Century Cycle performed in person. Fences, the sixth book in the Cycle, was the first play I saw performed live in the West End while studying abroad. Like the Logan Family Saga, Wilson’s Century Cycle is required reading for anyone who wants to peek behind the veil of the African-American heritage.
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz and The Namesake were WCBC picks that introduced me to amazing authors who used language in unique and breathtaking ways. Díaz, in particular, had me thinking about how closely language mirrors traditions and is used by Black, Indigenous, and other writers of color to tell our stories and preserve our histories.
Based on where I read them, two books that stand out are The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat by Edward Kelsey Moore and The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo.
I read Moore’s book while looking after my father when he first got his diagnosis on our front porch. Moore’s whimsical story gave me laughter when I needed it the most. And Acevedo’s story kept me company when my mother and I took our first solo trip without my father to Atlanta the Winter after he died. Acevedo’s novel of confronting pain through poetry brought me comfort when I felt anything but.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith was the first classic that I truly loved. After years of reading, I never felt any connection to the classical novels in the white American canon. But, Smith’s book so clearly lays down how it feels to fall in love with reading, I instantly fell in love.
Timebound by Rysa Walker was one of the first books that taught me to love e-books. Walker’s Chronos Files is a YA time-traveling series is one I devoured in almost a week after saying I would never read with an e-reader. If you’re a fan of Marvel’s current phase about the multiverse, this indie Kindle original may interest you.
What are the books that got you through your last decade?
Comment below and tell me some books that got you through your last decade!
As always, please don’t forget to like, comment, and subscribe. #AllOfTheThings
- #BookReview of “The Land” by Mildred D. Taylor
- Books That Got Me Through My 20s (Pt. 1)
- The Golem and The Jinni & The Hidden Palace by Helene Wecker #BookReview
- Interview With Helene Wecker, Author of “The Hidden Palace”
- May Favorites (Road Trip Story)
- Through The Voice of the “Other:” Book Review on Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie