Like many of you, I opted to participate in the Goodreads 2019 Reading Challenge. I set my book goal at a meager 40 books. Last year I failed to meet my goal, so I decided to significantly lower the number of books I plan to read for this year’s challenge. And I also decided to only read nonfiction. Why would I do that, you ask? It is simple: I want to learn more about the world and people’s culture, their heritage, religion, political stances, their beliefs, likes and dislikes and so much more. I want to learn about natural history, chemistry, biology, and all sciences and disciplines. I want to immerse myself in a world that I am completely unfamiliar with, and at times uncomfortable with. I have always preferred nonfiction over fiction; however, I love me some awesome science fiction, magical realism, or fantasy novels. It will be hard to give those up, but I will forego those amazing reads this year.
When I look at the world today, I can’t help but feel like we have a lot to work on. I think of what Alan Moore wrote in Watchmen: “In an era of stress and anxiety, when the present seems unstable and the future unlikely, the natural response is to retreat and withdraw from reality, taking recourse either in fantasies of the future or in modified visions of a half-imagined past.” I do not want to withdraw from reality and live in a fantasy world. I want to accept the world for what it is, learn as much as I can about it, hopefully do my best to make the world a better place and progress as a decent human being. We should all strive to leave our mark and make this world a much better place. So that is why I have chosen to read only nonfiction this year. Forty books, in my opinion, is a great number to shoot for. Nonfiction can be a bit overwhelming at times.
I began my 2019 nonfiction reading journey with Rob Dunn’s Never Home Alone: From Microbes to Millipedes, Camel Crickets and Honeybees, the Natural History of Where We Live. I loved science as a kid but loathed biology and chemistry in high school. I also dropped my anatomy and physiology class in college. And for whatever reason, I decided to major in Biology before I made the move to study history instead. This book was an amazing read that I highly recommend. It taught me so much about the nearly 200,000 species living with us in our own homes, from the Egyptian meal moths in our cupboards and camel crickets in our basements to the microbes in our showers. Like did you know the microbes in our showers are similar to those found in swamps? Crazy, right? People are quick to use harsh chemicals to clean their homes and they unknowingly cultivate changes that allow some organisms to become more dangerous. This book is sure to educate and entertain! This is a must-read.
I then moved on to 13 Women Artists Children Should Know by Bettina Schuemann. The title should use the word “Everybody” instead of “Children” because I had no clue who many of these amazing artists were before picking this one up. I have never truly appreciated art because I felt like I just could not understand it, but this book allowed me to see true beauty in the art painted and constructed by amazing women.
Of course the book features art by Georgia O’Keeffe and Frida Kahlo, artists I already knew about, but artists like Louise Bourgeois and Cindy Sherman were also featured. Louise Bourgeois’s work was heavily influenced by traumatic psychological events from her childhood, particularly her father’s infidelity. Her artwork is renowned for its highly personal thematic content involving the unconscious, sexual desire, and the body. Cindy Sherman is widely recognized as one of the most important and influential artists in contemporary art and I had no idea who she was. Shame on me, but now I have a concise understanding of who these women artists are and how influential they have been in the art world. I highly recommend this book.
As I move toward my 2019 reading goal, I am considering other great books by diverse authors of color. I am part of the Latinx community and I have done myself a disservice by not reading enough books by Latinx authors and scholars. I plan on reading The Woman in Battle by Loreta Janeta Velazquez, Santeria: The Religion by Migene Gonzalez-Wippler, Open Veins of Latina America by Eduardo Galeano and many others. But I won’t limit myself to reading only Latinx authors. There is so much to learn and so much to be explored. I will just have to wait and see where this year’s reading path takes me. Maybe my logic is flawed, but this is the path I have chosen to take. What are your reading goals for this year?