A Blog of Seattle Arts & Lectures

Comments from Summer Book Bingo Readers

It seems like we could all use a pick-me-up lately, and when we started receiving our usual September flood of completed Summer Book Bingo boards via postbox, email, and social media, we couldn’t help but be uplifted by your responses in the space where we encouraged you to reflect on your reading adventures. Before we announce the winners to this year’s Summer Book Bingo this Monday, September 28, at 12:00 p.m. (PDT) on SAL’s and SPL’s channels, we wanted to give you a glimpse at some of readers’ favorite finds, what they’ve learned, and how they’ve felt connected through books this summer.

But first, a quick aside: if you’re curious as to the most-mentioned title in your responses, it was Octavia Bulter’s Kindred, which many of you selected for your Afrofuturism square. Although Octavia Butler passed away in 2006, she has just fulfilled her life-long dream of making it to the New York Times Bestseller list, which is giving us a little glimmer of optimism right now. 

Reading New Favorites

Reading Kindred [by Octavia Butler]. I loved picturing Dana meeting her ancestors and learning what it took to keep her familial line alive. I keep revisiting the premise and wondering what I’d do if I were “pulled” into that period. I’ll never forget this book.

Discovering Robin Wall Kimmerer and reading Sweetgrass was the high of this Summer Book Bingo experience. I placed this book in the “Indigenous Author” square but it could have as easily been in “Uplifting,” “Philosophy/Spirituality,” “Nature,” or even “Poetry.”

Tomi Adeyemi’s Legacy of Orïsha books are incredible! I chose to listen to the books, and the author really brings them to life. I am impatiently waiting for the third book. The Island of Sea Women [by Lisa See] is an excellent, but hard read.

Tomboyland by first-time writer and essayist Melissa Faliveno was a delight. She is an amazing writer in a genre that can be a stretch [for me], but she writes compelling essays which deepen understanding of young people who are born “different” and struggle to find a way to love themselves as they are. The first essay about mid-west tornadoes is electrifying.

My favorite book of the summer was Sanaaq because it’s astounding that the author [Mitiarjuk Nappaaluk] not only created the written version of the Inuit language, but also, despite having never read a book, wrote fiction about Inuit life.

I loved reading Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and The Testaments in this frightening and horrible year of 2020. They gave me hope!

Seeing Min Jin Lee at SAL and reading Pachinko.

Black Leopard, Red Wolf [by Marlon James] was so difficult to get into, but it was worth the perseverance through the beginning section. Now I can’t stop thinking about it. A big thank you to Secret Garden Books for the recommendation!

I loved reading Sara Nović’s book Girl at War. I have a few deaf family members, and it was great to discover a deaf author. A plus—I lived in Germany in 1989 and 1990 and loved learning about the Croatian War from her perspective.

I will go with Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? by mortician Caitlin Doughty. Doughty answers kids’ questions about death with a mix of humor and science that were super fun, fascinating, and educational, even for us adults!

I loved the “Mentioned in Another Book” category! It helped me re-read Parable of the Sower [by Octavia Butler], which led me to the Parable comic [by Damien Duffy]. Loved bingo extra this year—it was a lovely distraction.

My favorite reading experience as a result of Book Bingo was finding a few new-to-me authors (Kacen Callender, Marc Levy, Jacqueline Woodson, and N.K. Jemison) whose work I look forward to continuing to read.

Realizing while reading N.K. Jemison’s The Fifth Season how a novel can put words to a current experience… She imagined it and created a world that gave me both a mirror to our world and a lens through which to view it.

I think my favorite was reading The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue. It was so timely (it’s about the 1918 flu) and was a beautiful, heartbreaking, and visceral reminder of the incredible work nurses do to care for and comfort people with love and respect.

My favorite book was The Summer Book by Tove Jansson, translated from Finnish. In very few words, it created the relationship between the three family members living on a tiny island in the gulf of Finland. Beautiful and moving.

After 19 years and four attempts, finally getting to finish Ulysses. It was worth it.

I have always loved the novels of Jane Gardam. Having the chance to finish her Old Filth Trilogy, reading the books back-to-back, was an immersive treat.

Reading as a Healing Practice

Aside from the experience as a whole really pushing me outside of my normal reading boundaries, it was extremely therapeutic to finally read some of the books that have been sitting on my shelf for months, and in some cases, even years.

Using the recommended lists to find new books I had never heard of during COVID! What bright spot of the year. Also, Rare Encounters with Ordinary Birds by Lyanda Lynn Haupt was delightfully heartfelt and a wonderful calm.

Reading has been my savior this quarantine summer! Having a challenge kept me motivated and gave me something to look forward to! I went a little overboard and even created a spreadsheet to track my books and progress.

Summer Book Bingo—more specifically, reading—has gotten me through a very trying and cruel summer. Because the libraries were closed, I discovered the huge and exciting SPL e-book collection, the Libby App, and reading off a Kindle for the first time. It was wonderful to realize so many books were available to read.

I loved the motivation to read new things and to get cracking at things already on my shelf (taking some license with the categories to fit them in). I’m always looking for sound advice on what to read, and got great ideas from the information on the website on past SAL speakers.

Reading with Others & in Nature

Meeting my friends in the Arboretum to discuss The Overstory [by Richard Powers]!

Every evening after washing the dishes, my daughter and I took turns reading from my worn copy of The Neverending Story [by Michael Ende] (still hiding a bus transfer I’d used as a bookmark thirty years go), sharing our love of stories.

Listening to Akwaeke Emezi’s Freshwater on audiobook while walking through Ravenna Park at dusk—such an evocative environment for such an evocative book!

I really loved The Overstory [by Richard Powers]. I felt more of a connection with nature after reading it. I distinctly remember reading it while camping with friends—reading about other’s efforts to save our forests while I had the privilege to enjoy them.

Reading There There by Tommy Orange with a few friends in our book club featuring diverse authors. It was impressive in structure, in its use of language, and in its exploration of native urban life.

This is a family experience for us. My daughter started years ago making bingo/blackout a goal for all of us. As a result, we talk about books as a family.

The bingo game gets me out of my usual lists, and I always discover some books that I would not have found otherwise. One of those was The Traveling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa. Charming, touching, a man who knows cats. My husband started reading it as I kept reading facts to him; now we want to share the title with all our cat friends. We also both read The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami—easily one of the strangest books I have ever read!

Reading to Expand Your Knowledge

Janet Mock references Why the Caged Bird Sings and Their Eyes Were Watching God quite a bit in Redefining Realness. Reading both after her memoir was a wonderful and insightful experience. I read both because of her.

I read The End of Ice. At the end of the book, Dahr Jamail draws a parallel between a culture of exploitation that depletes the Earth and that same culture that used and uses black and brown bodies for profit. A couple weeks later, I read Between the World and Me. Ta-Nehisi Coates draws a parallel at the end of that book between a nation that exploits black and brown bodies and a nation that exploits the Earth. Different starting points, exact same dots.

The Perveen Mistry Series by Sujata Massey was a total delight! I loved that I learned so much about India in 1921 and about Bombay, princely India, Zoroastrianism, and women’s rights in the course of two engaging stories.

My favorite reading experience was reading So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo because it forced me to explore my white privilege and challenged me to really examine the ways I have thought about myself and how I view race. I loved the very blunt approach of the author.

I loved getting back into reading after not doing it much in high school and college. I also really like trying out new genres that I wouldn’t read otherwise.

I’m a feminist, and I’ve never read anything by Virginia Woolf. I really enjoyed reading A Room of One’s Own as a challenge for the “Published in the 1920s” square to see changes in feminism over the decades.

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston was very eye-opening, no pun intended. I grew up nearby to the book’s setting, but had never heard of the author. Now I want to read everything she ever wrote.

I read books I likely wouldn’t have read—learned many new things—got to read about experiences from different perspectives—like, for the “Non-Binary Author,” She’s Not There: A Life in Two Genders [by Jennifer Finney Boylan].

The availability of e-books was key for the summer of 2020. No-No Boy [John Okada], Tightrope [Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn], The Overstory [Richard Powers], and the Sayers mysteries were my favorites. Categories that expanded my reading were “Epistolary,” “Philosophy,” and “Afrofuturism.”

I really enjoyed reading Surpassing Certainty and am excited to read Janet Mock’s next memoir soon. Thanks for encouraging us to read a trans author. I hadn’t before, and it was past time!

Posted in Summer Book Bingo2020/21 Season