If I had to defend why stories matter, I would first be exasperated and in disbelief unto the highest degree that I would even need to. Then I would say: It’s because they let you see into somebody else’s world through somebody else’s eyes who most likely thinks, feels, and believes differently than you do. Through stories, I get the briefest glimpses of what it’s like to see parents divorce, to fall in love, to be bullied, to be someone else other than myself. How else can you do that?
Stories are magic because they help me become more of that buzzy, non-magical sounding word—empathetic. This usually isn’t what I think about when I’m actually reading, but for several books in a row, I finished them thinking, dang I’m going to think/know more about this thing differently now.
Born a Crime did that with the South African apartheid. Long Bright River did that with opioids. El Deafo did that with being friends with someone who’s deaf. The Benefits of Being an Octopus did that with poverty and people who own guns. Eliza and Her Monsters did that with webcomics and being anonymously famous.
Stories change people. As far as I can tell, people resist being changed pretty aggressively, especially when it comes from the efforts of other people. So to that person who says stories are useless—are you kidding???
So yea, I read some good books this month. Here’s three of them.
Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
Keywords: non-fiction memoir, South African apartheid, mother-son, race, class, about very serious things but somehow also insanely funny, so good
First line: The genius of apartheid was convincing people who were the overwhelming majority to turn on each other.
Last line: “But He blessed me with the son who did.”
In a comment coversation with the Story Sponge, we talked about keeping a list of books that have actually mad us laugh out loud. This book would be on my list. I don’t understand how you could read this book without it going on your list. I was waiting for an airport shuttle, and a lady came up and asked what I was reading because she said I was obviously enjoying it–I must’ve been smiling goofily like no other. It needs to be said again: this book was so good.
Long Bright River by Liz Moore
Keywords: sisters, Philadelphia, opioid crisis, cops, plot twists, mother-son, intense
First line: There’s a body on the Gurney Street tracks.
Last line: He drinks.
Goodreads places this book in the mystery, thriller, and mystery thriller genres–this is accurate, but I disagree. To me, a mystery book is a book about a mystery. This book includes a mystery, but it’s not about one. Very different. If I had to quickly summarize this book to someone who asked about it, I would plagarize the Goodreads description: two sisters, one’s a cop, one’s struggling with addiction, they live in a city where opioids reign, and there’s a string of murders that they are forced to get involved with. But I think the true core of the book is Mickey: the narrator, the older sister, the cop. To me, this is her story.
Lucky Caller by Emma Mills
Keywords: YA contemporary, radio class, three sisters, childhood bestfriend
First line: It was Christmas, and Dan was in the middle of proposing to my mom when there was a knock at the door.
Last line: I watched the counter on the current song, and when the time came, pushed up the volume slider, pressed the button, and we were on-air once more.
There are quite a few things about to this book that I need to address.
1. Emma Mills came out with a new book this year and I haven’t seen anybody talk about it–what is going on?
2. All of her books came out with new covers–why??? Lucky Caller is her first book without a patterned cover. Not only were the original covers beautiful, they felt so signature to Emma Mills. I also can’t find online an explanation of why there was a redesign.
3. The writing style of Lucky Caller felt slightly different. It was a little less witty and real?
4. The font size was larger and blocky! I’m serious, font makes a difference.
5. This book wasn’t completely distinct like all her previous books have been. The plot actually reminded me of another one of her books, but I’m not going to say which.
Overall, I still liked it. My very definitive list now either goes Foolish Hearts, First & Then, Lucky Caller or Lucky Caller after Famous in a Small Town.
What are you reading right now?
Do you remember which books have made you laugh out loud? Or which ones have made you cry?
Has a movie or song ever made you cry?