Lily's Books of the Year
A Hottie's 2022 Round-Up
'Tis the season for reflection! This year, I am grateful for the Hardcover Hotties for empowering readers to learn and grow and open our minds and hearts. The Hardcover Hotties have helped me rediscover joy in reading (and learning and growing and loving), and I am constantly inspired by the ways they create community.
Here are some reads I enjoyed this year:
1) House of Sticks by Ly Tran ҉ ҉ ҉ ҉ ҉ ҉ ҉
A deeply moving memoir about Ly’s childhood as a Vietnam immigrant to Brooklyn, New York. Ly explores themes of faith and religion, war trauma, poverty and the American Dream, amidst complex family dynamics.
During the October Hardcover Hotties meeting about Sigh, Gone by Phuc Tran, I remember Phuc sharing that he doesn’t necessarily seek out books about the Asian American experience, because that’s an experience he’s already living. While I can see where Phuc is coming from, I personally resonate the most with stories I relate to and engage with. In one chapter, Ly recalls her father coming home from work each afternoon with Dunkin’ Donuts. Running around the living room, her siblings would fight over who got the French cruller, the chocolate eclair, the rainbow sprinkles. Months later while surprising her dad after work, Ly discovered that her father only afforded the donuts by asking for free leftovers from the previous day. I was reminded of all the small sacrifices and small victories my parents shared with me as a kid that I only later came to appreciate as an adult. Ly and Phuc both narrate the coming-of-age struggle to reconcile multiple identities so beautifully, and offer meaningful reflection on what it’s like to move through the world in search of belonging.
2) Born Round by Frank Bruni ҉ ҉ ҉ ҉ ҉ ҉ ҉
Frank Bruni is currently a journalist for The New York Times, and has covered topics ranging from politics to food in the 28 years he’s spent with the publication. Born Round is an extensive memoir about Bruni’s childhood and Italian upbringing, the evolution of his relationship with food, disordered eating, and body image, and the ups and downs of his journalism career.
My personal favorite chapter were Bruni’s recollections of his Italian upbringing, which reminded me so much of my own experiences, being raised by my grandparents. During a visit to his Grandma’s, Bruni packs salads while following the Atkins diet, to which his Grandma replies, “He’s not eating! You eat if you love your Grandma!” “Not lunging for and mobbing over whatever fried, baked, boiled, or broiled offering Grandma put before you was a violation of the unspoken covenant between her and anyone she cared about.” Childhood visits from my own grandparents are similarly marked by mounds of boa buns, scallion pancakes, brown sugar bing, read bean bread, and green onions rolls, etc. etc. Bruni is a wonderful storyteller, and to get a glimpse into each phase of his life and experience his developing maturity is a joy—made me laugh, cry, reflect, and think.
3) The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin ҉ ҉ ҉ ҉ ҉ ҉ ҉
This was an assigned reading for my Philosophy of Literature class, although I genuinely thought it was one of the best novels I’ve ever read, and I’m glad I took the time to enjoy it rather than skimming Sparknotes. Lathe of Heaven follows George Orr, a man whose dreams become reality. George’s psychotherapist, Dr. Hader, realizes George’s dreams can be manipulated and harnessed to do good.Le Guin explores what moral responsibility means, reminding us that the mark we leave on the world outlasts us… duhn duhn duhhhhhhhnnn.
Lathe of Heaven reminded me a lot of the book Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Toff, which also uses storytelling to narrate Taoist teachings. In Tao of Pooh, Hoff writes that “wisdom, happiness, and courage are not waiting somewhere out beyond sight at the end of a straight line; they are a continuous cycle. They are not only the ending, but the beginning as well.” This is the lathe of heaven—the cycle of wisdom, happiness and courage that we do not control by altering reality, but by accepting reality. Really looking forward to reading more of Le Guin’s works.
Looking forward, I’m excited to continue to learn and to grow next year. In particular, discovering new perspectives on food (Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, Cooking as Though You Might Cook Again by Danny Licht, In Bibi’s Kitchen by Hawa Hassan), exploring Native American philosophy (Dancing on Our Turtle’s Back by Leanne Simpson, God is Red by Vine Deloria, Columbus and Other Cannibals by Jack Forbes), and more Asian American memoirs (Speak, Okinawa by Elizabeth Brina, Days of Distraction by Alexandra Chang, and Stay True by Hua Hsu).
Peace + love hotties, and happy reading!