Ashton RayComment

My Year, As Told By Books // 2017

Ashton RayComment
My Year, As Told By Books // 2017

Personally, I feel like I've lived about ten years within the span of the past twelve months. 

I could say a lot about 2017, mostly because I'm ending it in a very different situation than I had anticipated at its start. I've learned so much in these 365 days and these lessons are ones that I imagine I will be writing about for many months to come.

Going along with the full year is the long list of books that I've read. I know that 30 books sounds impossible for some, but I also imagine that 30 books seems very simple for others. For me, it's an accomplishment, especially because this year, and its books, challenged me more than expected.

It was hard for me to choose which books I would give the most attention to, so know that just because they aren't listed in this blog doesn't mean I didn't love them. (Click here to see the full list of this years books.) Truly, out of all the books I've read this year, I can really only think of one I didn't love. So take this list and let it build you own; take these books and let them shape your life. 

The following list isn't in any specific order.

Tears We Cannot Stop // Michael Eric Dyson (Nonfiction)
As you'll notice as you keep reading, this year I read a lot of books on race and American History, a lot of books by people of color, a lot of books that played a role in my waking up, my mourning the days of ignorance, my realization of whiteness. I randomly picked up this book because it's subtitle, "a sermon to white America" caught my attention. It's now the first book I recommend to anyone looking to learn about race in America, as Dyson is firm but gentle, understanding yet honest. He tells his story; he tells the stories of others. The book is written in second person, often making it hard, at times making it too personal in a good way. It left me in tears, faced with the reality of race in America that I, for so long, was completely ignorant of. 

The Autobiography of Malcolm X, as Told to Alex Haley
The only thing I remember being taught about Malcolm X is that he was the antithesis of Martin Luther King Jr.. However, as I learned from reading The Autobiography, that was not the case. Reading this book allowed me to make my own opinions about a man that our history classes distort and disgrace. Reading The Autobiography personified Malcolm X for me, 

The Hate U Give // Angie Thomas
This was one of the books that I stayed up way too late to finish... and left me in tears. The Hate U Give is a powerful perspective on life for African Americans. From the eyes of its teenage protagonist, Starr, The Hate U Give leads its readers through the aftermath of a police shooting, life in the projects, and even the nitty-gritty of high school. It's one of the most powerful stories that I've read in a long time. If you think you're too old to read young adult fiction, let The Hate U Give prove you wrong.

The New Jim Crow // Michelle Alexander
It took me around six months to make it through The New Jim Crow, but I wouldn't have wanted it any other way. Honestly, reading The New Jim Crow is what I imagine it feels like to read through a history textbook, as it is long, dense on history, and centered on a heavy part of our past, but mostly on an ignored part of our present. Michelle Alexander walks through systemic racism in America, mass incarceration, reminding her readers that the effects of slavery and especially of the Jim Crow laws, can still be seen, all around us, today. I believe it should be required reading for, well, everyone. 

Homegoing // Yaa Gyasi
This novel. Liz told me to read it months and months ago, but I wasn't reading much fiction then, so I didn't think anything of it. But, a few weeks ago I picked it up while Christmas shopping, and quickly couldn't put it down (Note: always listen to Liz's book suggestions). Homegoing tells an important story, looking a generations of Africans and African Americans, starting during the beginning of the slave trade and developing all the way to the twentieth century. The story shows the effects of slavery on those in Africa and those who were taken, brought over against their will. It's relevant, powerful, and moving. I think I could say it was my favorite novel of the year.

Turtles All the Way Down // John Green
I'm realizing that this is the only featured book that doesn't deal with race, and for that I'm not sorry. I had no interest in the book until I read this interview with John Green in The New York Times. It wasn't five minutes after reading that interview that I had ordered the book. It was only two days after I got the book that I finished it. I believe that Turtles All the Way Down is an incredibly important novel. Through the perspective of its protagonist, a teenage girl with obsessive thoughts, the novel deals with mental health and living with mental illness. It shows how mental illness touches almost every inch, every interaction that a person has in their day to day life. It's a good story, it's a powerful story, it's a necessary one. Once again, though it's teen fiction, it's a book for everyone. 

As mentioned above, I also read a number of other books, that you can find by clicking here.

There you have them, friends. The books, the pages, that I read throughout this year, the perspectives that have shaped my own, the stories I'll carry with me forever. I will never, ever stop believing the power of words, of stories, of books, because they have played such a huge role in me becoming the woman and the writer that I am. 

I am sure that 2018 will be a lot of things, but more than anything, I'm hoping it'll be another year of good stories, both lived and read by me.