A Blog of Seattle Arts & Lectures

Parting Thoughts From Summer Book Bingo Readers

As Summer Book Bingo kicked off in May, many of us were poised for a Hot Vax Summer. In the Pacific Northwest it was hot alright, complete with cracked asphalt on the highways and wildfire smoke that reached all the way to the East Coast.

While the dueling fronts of the pandemic and the climate crisis inspired some to take flight, many stayed home—where we’ve been since March 2020. Perhaps that’s why readers yearned to be pushed into new territory this year. At least, new literary territory. One reader noted, “In a year of dashed hopes and uncertain travel or reunions, I got to escape. Falling into stories bigger, deeper, sillier, more romantic, or ghastlier than my everyday proved life-giving.”

In 2021, Summer Book Bingo saw participation from more readers than ever before, which was exciting. Book Bingo brought together family members and friends from all generations. It launched book clubs, it inspired readers to sunbathe and make pico de gallo—and it helped them discover new authors, new genres, and new joys. Even old books gathering dust on the TBR pile became new again.

Book Bingo also sent people scurrying (deliciously) for books. Another reader commented, “I loved the way Summer Book Bingo sent me on a literary scavenger hunt. I texted friends for recommendations, browsed bookstores, and searched booklists like a squirrel collecting nuts.”

We’ve announced the winners to this year’s Adult Summer Book Bingo on SAL’s and SPL’s social media channels, and to celebrate, we wanted to share a glimpse of readers’ favorite finds, moments of discovery, and how books connected them with each other, the world, and aspects of themselves over the summer. Watch the video announcement of winners here—we’ll be contacting the winners shortly!

Comfort Schmumfort—Give Us Challenge and Adventure!

Book Bingo really pushed me out of my comfort zone and got me to read things I never would have chosen on my own.

I love how Book Bingo stretches me beyond my typical reading zone.

I enjoyed being challenged to read more books and in different genres. I never read a graphic novel until I challenged myself with Book Bingo.

I discovered a wonderful Washington-based author, Jess Walter, whose books fit numerous genres. He defies categories!

I appreciate how the categories pushed me to try books I wouldn’t have otherwise.

I really enjoyed the opportunity to get out of my reading rut and try new genres or topics that I normally don’t explore.

I enjoyed exploring genres I don’t usually read.

I had never read a graphic novel, but I wanted to fill in all of the squares, so I tried one. I read The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui. It was a great book that I learned a lot from. I will now read more graphic novels.

I love that Book Bingo encourages me to read in areas not usually of interest to me (sci-fi or politics). In years past I have read some really memorable books that I would not otherwise [have] read, and that I now remember as favorite books.

I always appreciate being asked to read genres out of my comfort zone.

I have pretty eclectic reading tastes, but never really read sci-fi or speculative fiction. Although The Midnight Library [by Matt Haig] was a bit of a stretch, it made me go out of my reading comfort zone. I continue to broaden my horizons!

These categories often pushed me to find books that I never would have read or even been aware of otherwise.

I enjoy Book Bingo because it challenges me to venture out of my comfort zone and investigate different genres.

I discovered some great memoirs especially from Questlove and from David Chang.

Every year you push me to read books I wouldn’t have read.

Book Bingo encouraged me to read outside my comfort zone and search for books I’d actually enjoy in genres I usually avoid.

Being forced out of my comfort zone. I had to read books that I would not normally choose, and I enjoyed most of them.

The BIPOC Food Writing square challenged me to look at books outside of my comfort zone. A librarian helped me find a sports memoir. I also enjoyed the collection of stories in Speculative Los Angeles [edited by Denise Hamilton].

I love that, once again, I’ve read way outside my comfort zone and discovered some wonderful new authors I may have overlooked.

Food writing! I wouldn’t have selected two books about food without the prompt from Book Bingo. They gave me a new appreciation for chefs, food service employees, supply chain, and the food my family eats. Plus, fun trivia and insider information.

Enjoyed the categories—first time I read a graphic novel and I rarely read speculative fiction. Fun to branch out!

Reading books outside of my normal genres is my favorite experience with Book Bingo. It got me out of my rut thanks to a bunch of help from the SPL librarians.

I loved the challenge of reading in genres that were new to me and discovering authors whose books I’ll seek in the coming months.

My Favorite Book Bingo Moment

I was able to travel near and far through reading! I went to Mars via Andy Weir’s The Martian, which was so fun that I watched the movie, too! I walked the streets of London via Peter Ackroyd’s London: A History. I played fantasy football in the Italian NFL via John Grisham’s Playing for Pizza. And I enjoyed a sumptuous wedding in Capri in Kevin Kwan’s Sex and Vanity, such a fun read.

Getting a full-blown sunburn because I was too engrossed in one of my bingo books to notice that the shade moved.

Favorite experience was conversations with my mom around categories she otherwise likely wouldn’t read.

Just thinking about the last page of Hamnet [by Maggie O’Farrell] still brings shivers to my spine and tears to my eyes. What an incredible piece of literature.

Laughing out loud—and then watching the movie of—Shit, Actually by Lindy West!

[I loved] sharing the experience with my eight-year-old daughter.

I didn’t realize how much I would enjoy reading essays! Reading in Bed by Brian Doyle, whose fiction I love, turned me into a fan of essays. It was engaging, humorous, and I want to read more.

My favorite experience is the bookish conversation between friends that Book Bingo inspires as we talk about books we have chosen for each category and about the books we have in common on our boards.

Sitting on the beach at Golden Gardens and reading The Secret History [by Donna Tartt].

My favorite experience was finding the hidden gems in each book—observations that gave me pause: “Single-use life” courtesy of Ocean Vuong and “The world is untranslatable but it is not incomprehensible” from Karl Ove Knausgaard.

I love putting myself in other people’s shoes. When an author can make me suspend who I am and I become an other…it’s an amazing paradigm shift.

Found a new favorite author: Samantha Irby.

My friend and I both asked a third friend for a book recommendation and then ended up forming an unofficial reading group/book club.

My favorite part of this experience is participating with my daughter.

I loved making a game of choosing my books! I also enjoyed comparing choices and progress with friends and fellow participants.

Black Joy! What a wonderful category this year!

My friend and I also participat[ed] in the Ripped Bodice summer romance book bingo, so we’ve had lots of fun trying to find books that hit multiple categories.

I love completing Book Bingo with my daughter who completes the teenager board. We love planning out our squares and comparing progress.

This summer I finally got a library card and instead of spending $30 on new contemporary fiction that I may or may not enjoy, I can read everything for free! As far as titles, The Portrait of a Mirror [by A. Natasha Joukovsky]!

Reading books I usually don’t read, particularly mystery novels. Also discovering the many dimensions of gender inequality in sports reading Stand Up and Shout Out [Women’s Fight for Equal Pay, Equal Rights, and Equal Opportunities in Sports by Joan Steidinger], which I never would have cracked otherwise.

Several friends and I had fun setting personal reading goals and trading suggestions for categories. I have discovered several new authors this way including Sayke Murata, Yuri Herrera, and Damien Dibbin.

Wow, Stacey Abrams can really do everything!

I learned how to make great pico de gallo and Mexican-style salad featuring kale and roasted corn from Danny Trejo‘s book Tejo’s Tacos in the BIPOC Food Writing category. I never would have looked at the book without Book Bingo.

Reading Amari [and the Night Brothers by B. B. Alston] which I might not have prioritized without the Black Joy category!

I loved combing through the shelves at my house, the library, and local bookstore to choose which ones I could match to the categories. The most pleasant decisions.

Honestly, my favorite reading experience was the whole thing. Having to complete bingo 2021 pushed me outside my normal reading patterns, and pushed me to read faster and more diverse content than ever before.

Get Ready, Get Set… Recommendations!

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles is something I would never have picked up otherwise, and it ended up being one of my favorites.

As a Japanese American I particularly enjoyed Rising Son, a nonfiction account of a little-known aspect of Japanese Americans in World War II—MIS members who served in the Pacific.

This year got totally into the MaddAddam trilogy by Margaret Atwood. Really grabbed me—so many parallels with life in this era.

Carpe Fin [by Michael Yahgulanaas] (Graphic Novel) was astonishing, as was Love in Color [by Bolu Babalola] (Black Joy).

I learned a lot about social activism by reading The Firebrand and the First Lady: Portrait of a Friendship: Pauli Murray, Eleanor Roosevelt, and the Struggle for Social Justice [by Patricia Bell-Scott]. Fascinating!

This Time Next Year We’ll Be Laughing by Jacqueline Winspear.

I’ve never read a graphic novel, but thanks to Book Bingo I read March by John Lewis. The book was so well done, I enjoyed it immensely! I plan to read the second and third book in the series as well.

Loved Melinda French Gates reading The Moment of Lift.

My favorite is Farming While Black. Leah Penniman creates a case for more organic food access for people of color, creating communal farms close to where people of color are living, and promotes the culture, spiritualism and science in the art of gardening and farming.

I’ve been trying to reach 50 books in 2021 and this has really helped motivate me. One Last Stop [by Casey McQuiston] was a great queer novel and I never would’ve found it if not for peak picks, so that was pretty sweet.

My favorite read was the Made You Laugh category: Funny in Farsi by Firoozeh Dumas.

My favorite experiences were the learning ones, I loved Tastes Like War [by Grace M. Cho] which I only found because of the food writing square. I learned about schizophrenia and trauma as well as the bonds that cooking Korean dishes helped the author with her mother.

Many standout books this year, but my absolute favorite was Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro. A surprising and memorable book of delights that has stuck with me.

Popisho [by Leone Ross] and Love in Color [by Bolu Babalola], both suggested under Black Joy, were two of my favorite books of the summer. I can’t wait to read more of the entries for that category because they were so warm and atmospheric.

Deacon King Kong [by James McBride] was a great read.

The graphic novel from the Seattle/King County Health Clinic [Sketches from Outside the Margins 2016-2018] and novels by Louise Penny!

Discovered two new authors who made me want to read more of their work: Zen Cho and Arkady Martine.

I discovered a whole new genre of books (cli-fi) that I had never heard of before though, upon investigating, I had read some, such as The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin. I’m glad to know climate change is making its way even more these days into popular consciousness through cli-fi books and film. I really enjoyed the cli-fi book I read to finish my bingo (Ice by Anna Kavan) and hope others will check it out, too.

My book club read Manhattan Beach [by Jennifer Egan] and we all really liked it.

I read The Boys in the Boat [by Daniel James Brown] to fill the Sports square. Of course, I’d heard a lot about it, it was highly recommended, and I had considered reading it… It was so inspiring! A great read!

My read for Sports (Furia [by Yamile Saied Méndez]) was a surprise favorite! I’d dreaded the category, but found the story of the Argentinian footballer eye-opening and so enjoyable. On Your Shelf finally got me to read Mary Robinette Kowal‘s The Calculating Stars, which I’d owned for years, and I enjoyed it so much I went on to read the rest of the series.

The Fire This Time by Jesmyn Ward was powerful and compelling. I read it in a single sitting.

Stopping to read makes summer more pleasurable. Favorites were Crying in H-Mart [by Michelle Zauner], How Beautiful We Were [by Imbolo Mbue], and The Last Thing He Told Me [by Laura Dave].

Loved Louise Erdrich’s The Night Watchman. So enlightening.

The Taliban Cricket Club [by Timeri N. Murari], which was engaging, and made the situation in Afghanistan even more horrifying. Also In Pillness and In Health [by Henriette Ivanans] I was able to see prescription addiction in a different way – no less terrible but a bit more understandable.

I’m not really a fan of fiction, but I’d heard stellar reviews about the book Where the Crawdads Sing [by Delia Owens]. Once my seventeen-year-old daughter said she was reading it, and how good it was, I read it. I have to say, it’s one of the best books I read all summer!

A Lot of Thanks

Thanks to Book Bingo, my TBR [to be read] list is full!

Thanks for making another COVID summer much better.

Thanks for the pretty bingo card!

Thanks for pushing me out of my comfort zone!

Thank you for broadening my horizons.

Thank you for making me better.

Thanks, Book Bingo, for introducing me to a new category of book!

Thank you so very much for a great summer reading adventure!

Thank YOU, dear readers. We can’t wait to read together again next year!

Posted in Summer Book Bingo