A mini-review for each book I've read; will probably make a full review for each of them at some point. Maybe.

★ indicate my rating for a book out of 5. Books are in chronological order of when I read them.

Take a step back.

Lie with Me by Philippe Besson

Read 2024-04-09. ★★★

Philippe falls in love with the mysterious Thomas, who begin a short affair before the sands of time separate them.

A nice book that I think ultimately fails to capture the memory. See here for my full review.

Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin

Read 2024-02-18. ★★★★★

The American David goes to Paris to find himself, while his fiancée Hella travels around Spain. Here, he meets the bartender Giovanni and the two begin a passionate affair.

Loved, loved, LOVED this book. I could talk about it for hours. Baldwin's writing is equal to none. The book explores what it means to be a man, is somehow feminist despite the main characters' misogyny, and what it means to be an American. You could write papers upon papers about Giovanni (and really all the characters), analyzing why they do what they do. Highly, highly recommend.

Disobedience by Naomi Alderman

Read 2024-02-04. ★★★

Ronit returns to her Orthodox Jewish hometown in England after her father, a prominent Rav, died. Here, she reunites with her childhood paramour, Esti, who is now married to Dovid, Ronit's cousin and successor to the synagogue's leadership.

I thought it was really good! Was a unique discussion on Orthodox Judaism and why Esti feels it better to remain a part of the community, despite being a lesbian. It's kind of funny because everyone in the book is SO DRAMATIC.

Young Mungo by Douglas Stuart

Read 2024-01-26. ★★★★★

The Protestant Mungo falls in love with the Catholic James in a poor part of 1980s Glasgow. The perspective switches between their days together and a later fishing trip with Mungo and two strange men.

One of my favorite novels of all time. The writing is beautiful and the characters are stunningly real. While it does feel like there is a constant "damned if you don't, damned if you do", it truly never feels like there is no hope for the characters. There are some incredibly disturbing things discussed, but I think they are handled tactifully.

The Atlas of Reds and Blues by Devi S. Laskar

Read 2024-01-20. ★★

An unnamed Indian-American woman, simply called "Mother", is murdered by police at her home. We follow her life.

Let's start with the positives. I LOVED the writing style and how the chapters and pages were separated. It gives the idea that all of this is running through her mind as she lays dying. The main characters lacking names I also enjoy. However, I think this book fell flat. While I recognize that it's very personal to Laskar, it feels like there's no reason to have any hope. The entire book can be summed up as "racist things happen to her, she hates her life and family, and then she dies." Nothing more.

The Stranger by Albert Camus

Read 2024-01-13. ★★

After Meursault's mother dies, he murders an Arab man.

Turns out absurdist philosophy doesn't translate very well into fiction. Personally, I think Myth of Sisyphus does it better and I haven't even read all of that book. The book could basically just be Meursault's monologue to the priest and that'd be it.

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

Read 2024-01-07. ★★★★★

Johnny Truant, a hedonistic, sex- and drug-addicted man, discovers the review of a fictional movie, The Navidson Record, from his recently deceased neighbor Zampanò.

This book is absolutely AMAZING. It's writing style is unparalleled and is just an absolute masterpiece. I highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend this book to everyone. It's difficult to understand, but once you read it, there is no going back.

Don't Cry for Me by Daniel Black

Read 2023-12-29. ★★★★

Jacob, a black father who lays dying, writes to his gay son, explaining their family's history and the pressures society puts on black men.

I really loved this! It was intimate and sincere, and I can tell it is very personal to Black. I found the style to be unique and a cool way to push forward the story.

Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke: And Other Misfortunes by Eric LaRocca

Read 2023-12-26. ★★

A collection of three stories: a toxic relationship develops in a forum, a couple shocked by the suicide of their son and the appearance of a strange man, a man gambles his life.

The title is so amazing and the premises are all so interesting, but every story fell flat for me. I felt like they were unnecessarily gory at points, and all of them just had missed potential.

A Minor Chorus by Billy-Ray Belcourt

Read 2023-11-29. ★★★★

Burnt out, a queer indigenous grad student returns to their reservation in northern Alberta for inspiration on writing a novel.

I thought this book was beautiful. All the dialogues were complex and felt like a real conversation between people. Definitely recommend.

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Read 2023-09-01.

A queer retelling of the Iliad.

Controversial take, but I didn't enjoy this book as much as I thought I would. HOWEVER, the book is still really good and I think it did a good job at making the story more approachable for a modern audience and adding queer themes. I also think any reimagining of a classical story that still is able to enrapture the reader deserves high praise.

Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta

Read 2023-03-12. ★★★★

Ijeoma comes to age as Nigeria is enveloped in civil war as Biafra declares independence. She falls in love with another girl; the problem is Ijeoma is Igbo and the girl is Hausa.

Extremely beautiful and moving. I never knew about the Nigerian Civil War and the ethnic tensions within the country, so this book taught me a lot! I really enjoyed it and I can't wait to read more books from Nigerian authors.

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Morena-Garcia

Read 2023-02-19. ★★★

Noemí Taboada goes to High Place in the Mexican countryside, in order to save her newly-wed cousin.

I have mixed feelings about this book. It's certainly not bad by any means, but I think it runs into a lot of logical problems on why things happen. My biggest gripe is despite it being called Mexican, it takes place almost entirely in an English manor. It feels like the story could've taken place anywhere.

血の轍 (Blood on the Tracks) Vol. 1 by Shuzo Oshimi

Read 2023-01-03. ★★★

Seiichi witnesses his mother kill his cousin and must act like everything is normal.

Really good premise! Wish it was longer but that means I gotta read the other volumes then.

These Violent Delights by Micah Nemerever

Read 2023-01-02. ★★★★★

When Paul enters university, he falls in love with Julian. The two enter a toxic, codependent relationship, resulting in them murdering a man.

This is my favorite book OF ALL TIME. The descriptions and writing are so beautiful, everyone feels so real, and the twists are heartwrenching (them murdering someone happens in the prologue). It's easy to sympathize and understand the two main characters even if they are not the greatest of people. HIGHLYYYYYYY recommend.

Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

Read 2022. ★★

In a basement in a small alleyway of Tokyo, a café brews a special type of coffee that allows the drinker to travel back in time. However, the trip can only last before the coffee gets cold.

Alright. The concept is really interesting and it definitely sucks you into the world, but the writing is nothing to write home about and it's a lil bland.

The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida by Clarissa Goenawan

Read 2022. ★★★★★

Following Miwako Sumida's suicide, Ryusei, a friend and lover, and Chie, her best friend, go to the remote village where she died to figure out why she did it.

This book takes what Little Gods did well and did it even better. We learn of Miwako, not by her own words but by others views of her. As the book progresses we get a more complex and intricate portrait of her life. Definitely recommend.

Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong

Read 2022. ★★★★

A poetry collection.

Some absolutely GORGEOUS pieces of poetry. Favorites are Seventh Circle of Earth, Immigrant Haibun, My Father Writes from Prison, Prayer for the Newly Damned, Ode to Masturbation, and Threshold.

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Read 2021. ★★★

We follow Janie Crawford's three marriages, what it means to be a black woman, and the transition from girlhood to womanhood.

I had to read this book for school, but I remember really enjoying it. Another very tragic book, but it follows that bittersweet theme that I mentioned in Pachinko. Considering rereading at some point.

Little Gods by Meng Jin

Read 2021. ★★★★

Liya attempts to figure out the life of her mysterious mother Su Lan by returning to China to speak with those who knew her.

I LOVE this book. Every character perspective is about Su Lan and we learn about who she was by basically everyone but her. I think this is a beautiful way of showing how we impact the people around this and how they interpret you. I think Liya's sections are kinda weak in comparison to the others, but I still recommend it.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Read 2021. ★★★

A group of Classics students at an elite New England college commit an act of brutality that changes the course of all of their lives.

I was in a reading slump when I got to this book and it took me months to get through. I thought it was alright then, but I know if I reread it I would probably like it a lot better. It's a good story and did make me fall in love with the "flawed and unlikeable" main character trope.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Read 2021. ★★★★★

Beginning in 18th century Ghana, we follow two famillies: one whose progenitor was sold to slavery in America and the other who remained in Ghana.

Found the book beautiful and a great representation of the multi-generational story. HIGHLY recommend.

Swimming in the Dark by Tomasz Jedrowski

Read 2021. ★★★

Set in Communist Poland, Ludwik and Janusz bond over a banned copy of Giovanni's Room and fall in love. As they grow older, Janusz rises in the Party while Ludwik supports opposing movements.

I don't really remember this book that well, but I remember liking it. Will probably reread it at some point.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Abertalli

Read 2021. ★★

Simon is outed and falls in love with a guy.

I literally remember nothing about this book lmao.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Read 2021. ★★★★★

Beginning in early 1900s Korea, Sunja is deserted by a Japanese man who impregnated her. Marrying a tubercolosis-ridden minister, the story follows her and the generations that succeed her in Japan and America.

sniffs I'm not crying, you're crying. This book gave me my love of multi-generational stories, and my interest in genealogy by extension. The book is TRAGIC, but it's so beautiful. I find the core theme to be "Ours lives are merely blown around by the winds of time. Still, we survive."

The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas by Ursula K. Le Guin

Read 2021. ★★★★

Omelas is a perfect utopia that exists as the result of the severe abuse of a child. Everyone in the city knows about this.

I think of this book often. The moral questions it poses are relevant and thought-provoking. It's a short read, too. We all say we would walk away from Omelas, but would you actually?

On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

Read 2021. ★★★★★

Little Dog writes a letter to his mother, who can't read. The story weaves through his memories as a gay man and being the child of a Vietnamese immigrant in America.

Ocean Vuong you beautiful motherfucker. The writing is sublime. I will say that the book may've been better as a poetry collection (Vuong is a poet; Seventh Circle of Earth is my favorite poem of all time) and that there's a trigger warning for... basically everything honestly. But I highly recommend it.

What If It's Us by Becky Abertalli + Adam Silvera

Read 2021. ★★

Ben and Arthur meet at a post office and fall in love. That's basically it.

An alright book that doesn't really stand for anything at all. It's a YA book about a cute gay romance; not much more about it. I think this book was the one that made me realize I was a lil too old for YA.

Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman

Read 2020. ★

17-year old Elio begins an affair with Oliver, a 24-year old postdoctorial student, who resides with his family in Southern Italy.

Hated it. Don't get me wrong, the prose is absolutely gorgeous but 1) the age gap was gross 2) any sexual scene just felt really uncomfortable 3) Elio wants to have sex with EVERYTHING 4) the way dialogue was written made it very hard to follow. It's been 4 years since I've read it and I might reread it but... not really high on my list.