Ranking All the Books I Read Between Jul – Sept 2023

As an avid reader, I aim to provide quarterly reviews ranking the books that I read. This post contains the YouTube video, relevant links, and a full video transcript.

YouTube Video

Ranking All the Books I Read Between Jul – Sep 2023

Book Links

Here are the Amazon affiliate links to the books that I read:

If you’re not into Amazon, I love Thriftbooks, and here is my referral link so you can get a free book.

Draco Malfoy & The Mortifying Ordeal of Being In Love is freely available as it is fan fiction.

YouTube Video Transcript

Here you will find the complete transcript of the video in the previous section. There are time stamps for every minute if you want to navigate to a certain part and hyperlinked references/citations.

Introduction

[00:00:00] Hi everyone, in this video I’ll be ranking all the books that I read between July and September. If you’re new here, hello, my name is Smiti and I’m an archaeologist with laws and avid book lover. I like to read a variety of books, so if you’re looking for your next read or you’re really into booktube, this is the video for you, so let’s get into it.

The Midnight Library

First up at 3. 75 stars is Midnight Library by Matt Haig. This story follows Nora, who’s teetering between life and death, and she enters this library where each book contains the possible life she could have lived based on a past decision. She’s offered the opportunity to peruse these lives and then select one the she wants to continue living.

Now, I have such mixed feelings about this book. I really enjoyed the way Haig’s writing drew me in immediately. It’s very engaging, and he does a great job with pacing. I can totally see how this book would lift someone out of a reading rut, and I actually had a friend tell me that this was the book that got her back into reading.

Now for the parts that left me conflicted. There were two things that were a bit off to me. The first was the betrayal of mental health. Now, I have depression and I read that Matt Haig also has depression, so [00:01:00] I’m not saying that the portrayal of depression was inaccurate, it just felt, it lacked a bit of nuance to me.

As with Nora, I really had a hard time connecting with her because she just didn’t feel like she was a real person. Now, I know she’s not a real person, she’s a fictional character, but her character and her characterization didn’t feel as grounded to me. Now, it’s not because she was messy, I actually love messy.

The characters, it was just something about her characterization was off or missing for me. So if you’re looking for an engaging read that’s quite popular, check this book out.

Stone Blind

Next up is Stone Blind by Natalie Haynes. This book weaves in a number of Greek myths and characters, and while it’s said to center around Medusa, it’s actually Medusa’s story that’s more of like the thread that holds everything together.

I really appreciated Haynes’ knowledge of Greek mythology, and that really came through in the writing. However, her writing style didn’t really connect with it. me. I started this as an ebook and I think the only reason I was able to finish it was because I picked it up as an audiobook. So why didn’t I DNF it?

Well, I just really wanted to see how she was gonna pull this story off. Like, she [00:02:00] clearly knows a lot about these stories and myths and I just wanted to see how she put it all together. Now, while I didn’t connect with most of her style, I think there were parts that she executed really well. The way that Haynes wrote about Medusa and her connections with her sisters was especially When I was reading other reviews of the book, I saw that people wished that there was more Medusa in this book, and I have to agree.

I wish there was more Medusa and more Medusa-like writing. If you’re interested in feminist retellings, try this one out and see if it’s for you.

Sourdough

Next up is Sourdough by Robin Starr. This novel follows Lois who’s an overworked software engineer in San Francisco, California. She’s left with a sourdough starter as a gift from the guys running her favorite takeout place who have to abruptly leave the U.S. due to visa issues. The story follows her as she’s trying to keep the sourdough starter alive and all the adventures that it catalyzes.

The premise of this story is unlike anything I’ve read before, so I found that hook intriguing. It got me interested in bread baking, but not enough to actually do it yet.

Still, there were some pretty awesome food [00:03:00] descriptions, and my favorite one was of the spicy soup, which I actually craved more than the actual sourdough bread itself. I do have to give the bread, or I guess the starter, credit because I think it was the most well-developed character in the book. I wish the other characters were a bit more developed, but it was a fun premise and I enjoyed reading about Lois’ adventures and seeing where it was taking her.

So if you’re looking for a quirky, light read, check out this book.

Okay Days

Next in at four stars is Okay Days by Jenny Mustard. This book is a contemporary romance that follows Sam, who’s a carefree, sweet, who loves London, and Lucas, who’s a sensitive and calm Londoner. They’re both trying to figure out their lives, careers, themselves, and their relationship.

Now, Jenny Mustard is a YouTuber that I’ve followed for years, and I was really excited to hear that she was releasing her first debut novel. Now, if you follow Jenny, you can definitely see elements of her personality sprinkled in throughout the book. She has a very distinct It’s a really nice summer read, and I can totally see this as a great vacation read as well.

I appreciated the diversity of topics [00:04:00] touched upon in this book, like mental health, body dysmorphia, reproductive rights, especially given its genre. These topics were definitely heavy, but it didn’t weigh down the book. Instead, it just made the characters feel more real and human. My favorite part of the book was definitely London.

She wrote the setting beautifully, and it really reminded me of my time there and just gave me such nostalgia. So if you’re looking for a readable millennial romance, check this one out.

Crazy Brave

Next in at 4. 25 stars is Crazy Brave by Joy Harjo. This is a memoir that explores the early life of Native American poet, Joy Harjo.

She explores complex family dynamics, her connection to the spiritual world, her experience at a Native American arts boarding schools, romantic relations, and how she got started in her creative pursuits, especially poetry. Her writing is poetic, moving, and haunting. It’s truly unlike any other memoir that I’ve read and I really appreciated her artistry and how she went about structuring this memoir.

[00:05:00] She’s been through a lot and I really appreciated her sharing her story. I was like, aching for her and rejoicing for her as I was reading this book. I was feeling a whirlwind of emotions listening to this book, and I couldn’t believe it was only 172 pages, so about a four hour listen. Listening to this as an audiobook was truly haunting because she narrated the memoir herself.

Now I wish we learned a bit more about what happens to her and some of the other characters because this book stops when she’s in her early 20s. Now for some people and certain aspects of her life, she does offer some glimpses and some sides in passing. And I wouldn’t say there were loose threads because I feel like the scoping was intentional.

It just left me wanting a bit more. So if you’re looking for a nontraditional gripping memoir, check out this book.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

Next in at 4. 5 stars is The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie. This is a classic by Agatha Christie. It’s a Hercule Poirot novel, and technically Hercule Poirot is retired in this quaint English village, but he decides to come out of retirement [00:06:00] momentarily to take on this case of who murdered Roger Ackroyd.

Agatha Christie novels, especially her Hercule Poirot ones, are so It’s such a comfort read for me. When I’m itching for a mystery that isn’t a psychological thriller and won’t leave me scared of having nightmares at night, I reach for an Agatha Christie book. Also, her books are usually easily available on Libby, so you can always get access to them.

Now, this book is often considered to be one of the best crime novels of all time, and I can totally see how influential it was and still is for this genre. I found the writing particularly impressive, especially after reading it.

So if you’re itching to read a mystery that happens to be an influential classic, check out this book.

Galatea

Next in at 4. 75 stars is Galatea by Madeline Miller. This is a feminist retelling of the myth of Galatea and Pygmalion in which a statue is brought to light. It was actually first published as a short story in Exo Orpheus, but now it’s been republished as a short book.

I [00:07:00] thoroughly enjoy reading Madeline Miller’s work. She’s so artful, knowledgeable, and thought provoking in her writing. This is a very short read, but it’s very haunting, and there’s still scenes to think about. So if you’re interested in feminist retellings, especially Greek ones, check this one out.

A Psalm for the Wild-Built

Next up is A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers.

This is a sci-fi fiction fantasy book set in a time centuries after robots gained self-awareness and decided to leave humans and go live in the wilderness. One of the main characters is Sibling Dex, who’s a tea monk who’s definitely going through some things when it comes to identity and life purpose.

So he decides to go into the wilderness. There they encounter the other main character in this book, who’s Mosscap, who’s a robot. Mosscap has been sent to figure out the answers to the question, what do people need? Now, I loved listening to this book. It was both cozy and deep. I love Becky Chambers writing.

It’s engaging, thought provoking, well paced, and, you know, pretty much short and sweet. This book is 160 pages, which is around four [00:08:00] hours, and I mainly listened to this as an audio book. It did take me a minute to understand the world building, but it’s not overly complex. I love the inclusive representation in this book, and it feels so seamless and not representation for representation’s sake.

This book felt like an introduction to something, and just left me wanting more, but more on that soon. If you’re looking for a cozy sci fi book that also ponders identity and life’s meaning, check out this book.

A Prayer for the Crown-Shy

Now, on to the five-star read. First up is A Prayer for the Crown-Shy by Becky Chambers. This is the second book in the Monk and Robot series, which I jumped straight into after reading A Song for the Wild Bill.

This book follows sibling Dex and Moscap as they tour various villages and cities and continue to ask the question, what do people need? I really love this second book and it’s my favorite out of the two that’s been released so far. While I felt the first book had more of a philosophical air, that still is there in the second book, but we see sibling Dex and Moscap experiencing things and learning things, which is pretty cool to see.[00:09:00]

There’s a bit more action, some more characters, and I literally laughed out loud during certain scenes. I read this as an ebook and it was short and sweet like the first one. It came in at around 152 pages, which would make it around a four hour listen. So if you liked A Song for the Wild Bill, definitely check this book out.

How to Raise an Antiracist

Next in is How to Raise an Antiracist by Ibram Kendi. In this book, Kendi guides us through the various

I listened to this as an audiobook and I was deeply moved to hear Kendi narrate this book himself, especially the parts when he mixes in personal narrative. I think this book will resonate with caregivers depending caregiving journey. For me, I appreciated the encouragement and examples of how to go about talking to young kids about things like race.

A differential treatment of others and other hard topics. As a book lover, I appreciated all the children’s book [00:10:00] recommendations you gave when it comes to going about building an antiracist library and explaining the power of having an antiracist library for your kid. Now in my kid’s own library, I feel like we have some books that have some problematic aspects to it, and that’s where the nuance in Kendi’s approach comes in.

For example, there’s this book that my kid and I often read about a monster being in your room, and you have to do various things to the book to get the monster out of your room. After reading the book a few times, my kid noticed and vocalized that we were kind of being mean to the monster and that that wasn’t kind and he actually wanted the monster to stay in the room.

So we had a conversation about it and we both decided to change the story to be kinder and more inclusive of the monster. Now I know this won’t work in every situation, but I felt really empowered by this book. to have this conversation with my child. However, this book also showed me how I could do better in the same exact situation, because before my kid expressed his feelings about the monster book, I was feeling uncomfortable about how the monster was being treated.

And [00:11:00] I went ahead and altered some of the words myself. Kenny’s book, not only empowered me to have the conversation when my kid brings up these things, but it also empowered me to be proactive about having these conversations. When I noticed things as well, that I want my kid. to understand. So if you want to have some guidance about how to approach anti racism with children, definitely check out this book.

The Lathe of Heaven

Next up is The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin. This is a classic sci fi novel. It follows George Orr who has the ability to change reality with his dreams. He ends up getting treatment by a psychiatrist called Dr. Haber who ends up understanding the enormity of George’s power and starts manipulating reality, which George doesn’t agree with.

Now, I was shocked to learn that this book was first published in 1971. The social commentary and critique is Especially regarding race, felt so relevant and modern. I also appreciated that this felt like an accessible sci fi novel, especially when it came to world building. In fact, as new realities emerged, we were figuring out these [00:12:00] worlds just as George, the main protagonist, was as well.

This book would have been really cool to read in high school, especially alongside 1984. You could really get some interesting parallels there, and I’m not the first to notice that. And I definitely think my high school self would have liked this book. Anyway, I can totally see why this author and work is considered legendary.

I listened to this as an audiobook and the narration was excellent and one I highly recommend. So, if you’re a sci fi lover, or even if you’re not into sci fi, I definitely recommend checking out this book.

Ace

Next up is Ace by Angela Chen. This is a nonfiction book that explores asexuality through the lens of interviews, cultural analysis, and the author’s own journey as a person who identifies as asexual.

The writing is simple. I appreciate the way the author balanced delivering valuable information while communicating her limitations when it came to interpretations and just the general lack of knowledge surrounding asexuality currently. This nuance and honesty is just so important. so valuable to the [00:13:00] reader.

I learned a lot and I still think about things mentioned in this book, especially regarding consent. I’ve read online that many people who identify as ace found a lot of solace in reading this book. So if you want to learn more about diversity when it comes to sexual orientations, definitely check out this book.

Draco Malfoy & The Mortifying Ordeal of Being In Love

Last up, and probably the most surprising five-star read for me this quarter, is Draco Malfoy & The Mortifying Ordeal of Being In Love by isthisselfcarenow, this is a slow burn romance between Draco Malfoy and Hermione Granger characters who strongly disliked each other in the Harry Potter universe.

It’s fanfiction, so there are certain things that happened in the original books that are a bit altered here. In this book, Draco is an Auror who’s assigned to protect Hermione, who’s a medical researcher and healer who has some top secret study that some people are after. They’re both competent, a bit consumed by their work, and single.

I was a huge Harry Potter fan growing up. But, like many other people, I was left disappointed by the words and actions of the original author. Now, my friend Erin, who also has similar feelings to me [00:14:00] about the Harry Potter universe, suggested I check out this book, and I was intrigued. Now, in terms of the Harry Potter universe, I think the author of this fanfiction does a great job of staying true to the characters, setting, and kind of the overall essence of Harry Potter.

But more importantly for me, they offer a nuance and understanding of the universe and critiques certain aspects I also questioned when Draco and Hermione are back at Hogwart’s and Draco wants to visit his old Slytherin quarters and Hermione joins him. She basically goes on to say that if she had seen this space and they had not been separated by houses, it would have humanized Draco a bit more to her.

These critiques and moments are sprinkled in throughout the story which I really appreciate. Now when it comes to romance, which is the main focus of the book, this is hands down the best romance I’ve ever read. The characters are competent and their feelings and struggles and plights are very believable.

It’s definitely a slow-burn romance and I found it very enjoyable. This was [00:15:00] also my first ever fan fiction read and I just wish I knew the identity of the author because they write so well and I wish I could read more books by them. So if you ever were a fan of Harry Potter and want to engage in that world without really engaging it, check out this book.

Outro

Now if you’re curious about the books that I ranked last quarter, you can check that out in this video here. That’s all for today’s video and I’ll see you in the next one. Bye.

Credits

Noor Hanania: Lead Video Editor

Smiti Nathan: Director, Producer, Support Video Editor

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Smiti Nathan

I’m an archaeologist that travels around the world for both work and pleasure. I have a penchant for exploring ancient and modern places and the people, plants, and foods entangled in them. I write about archaeology, travel, and productivity.

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