sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

November 5, 2017

into the stacks: may 2017
posted by soe 1:04 am

May was my least productive reading month so far this year, when I only finished two books, but I loved both of them, so I think I must have been savoring them.

(I’m skipping April’s reviews for the moment because it’s late and there are a bajillion books to cover that month…)

The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas

This fantastic YA novel from debut author Angie Thomas follows 16-year-old Starr in the aftermath of a police shooting. She’d been at a party and caught a ride home with an old friend from the neighborhood, Khalid, when they’re pulled over by a cop. In details that will surprise no one who’s followed the news over the past few years, the officer overreacts and shoots, and suddenly Khalid is dead and Starr is the only witness. In the weeks that follow, she has to deal with questions from everyone: Had he had a gun in the car, as the officer claimed? (He hadn’t; it had been a hairbrush.) Was Khalid in the local gang? Was he running drugs? Did Starr really even know Khalid anymore, after all, since her parents have her and her brothers in a fancy private school across town now? Did any of that matter, when he hadn’t, in fact, been doing anything wrong when he was shoots? Starr (who saw her other childhood best friend die in front of her in a drive-by shooting as a kid) is under tremendous pressure from the gang members, from the police, from the neighborhood, from her friends to do one thing or another. And in the end, she and her family — and everyone she comes into contact with — will have to live with her actions.

(A note on that “U” in the title for others, like me, who wondered: The title is a direct reference to a Tupac quote in which he explains that “Thug Life” is an acronym for “The Hate U Give Little Infants Fuck Everyone,” talking about how racism is a self-fulfilling story of hatred.)

This is a remarkably strong novel, with well-rounded characters, both White and Black, both police and civilian. The action is well-paced, and it will surprise no one who’s read the book that it’s in the process of being turned into a movie. I highly, highly recommend this for all of us well-intentioned White people.

Pages: 450

Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries, by Kory Stamper

Word by Word comes from a lexicographer at Merriam-Webster who tells you everything you ever wanted to know and a lot of things you didn’t even know you wanted to know about dictionaries, how they get made, their role in society, and their history. You’ll learn about who makes a good dictionary employee (if you like chatting with your coworkers, don’t answer that help wanted ad), all the interesting stuff at the front of the dictionary that no one ever reads (the punctuation in an entry actually means highly specific things), how dictionaries walk that line between being prescriptive and denotive (they’re aiming for the latter, but we keep trying to make them the former), and how new entries make it into the dictionary, among a massive variety of other fascinating things relating to language.

If you have a word lover in your life, this would make an excellent gift. I rarely say this about non-fiction, but I would even re-read this one. (Oh, and if you’re on Twitter, may I recommend that you follow @merriamwebster? They do a great job of trolling the president (who clearly does not love words) and will keep you up-to-date on what’s happening in the news with their trending look-ups.)

Pages: 301

Book stats:
2 books
751 pages
2 print
2 library copies
1 fiction, 1 non-fiction
Diverse main character(s): 1
Audience: 1 adult, 1 YA

Author stats:
2 women
Own voices: 1
Country of residence: American

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