Which books are worth the read and which should you skip? Find out what books I’ve been reading lately and whether I recommend them.
I was halfway through November, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that I hadn’t read hardly anything this month. Until I stacked up my recent reads and saw that I was on a streak of some truly massive reads, all well over 500 pages.
My November reading goal was to work on my 2023 Reading Challenge. I released the 2024 reading challenge a few weeks ago, and it always feels strange to talk about the next year’s challenge when I haven’t yet finished the current one.
Luckily, I was able to check off four of my prompts – a Western that everyone on Instagram raved about, one of my favorite books that was published in my birth year, a dragon book everyone is talking about, and a National Book Award-winning nonfiction book.
Now I’ve just got to take all these gigantic tomes back to the library and pick up a recommendation from a librarian to finish out the challenge.
Scroll on down to see what I loved – and hated – this month. As always, feel free to let me know what you’ve been reading lately in the comments! Also, let me know what reading challenge prompts you still need to read before the year is out.
November 2023 Reading List
At a Barbados plantation in 1834, the master gathers his slaves together and announces that they have all been emancipated. Now they are to be his apprentices instead of slaves, although they must now work for him for another six years. Instead of following his directive, Rachel decides to leave, searching for her five children who were sold away.
With endearing characters and an interesting dive into Caribbean history, River Sing Me Home is exactly what you want from historical fiction. Thanks to Rachel’s search for her missing children, you get to see a gamut of outcomes for slave children sold away. Most importantly, River Sing Me Home is a reminder of the struggles Blacks dealt with even after the end of slavery, for oppression and racism don’t disappear overnight.
Haunted by the violent attack of her brother Chris years ago, Katie Shaw sees threats everywhere. When her brother disappears, Katie leaps into action to help her brother once more. Meanwhile, Detective Laurence Page’s investigation of the brutal murder of a professor leads her to suspect the case is connected to Chris’s attack… and to a serial killer said to be able to predict the future.
Creepier and darker than I normally like, I only read The Angel Maker because Celadon Books sent me a free copy … with presents! I was too curious to pass them up, though I basically just got a box of matchsticks. The Angel Maker is a dark, violent story about how much our fate is pre-determined. The novel kept jumping perspective which, though it connected pretty well in the end, made the beginning harder to follow.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Celadon Books. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
In the 1990s, Jack and Elizabeth met as ambitious college students, both dreaming of finding places for themselves in Chicago’s thriving underground art scene. Now, twenty years later, Jack and Elizabeth find that amidst the struggles of parenting and married life, they feel like they barely know each other. Between Facebook feuds and mindfulness cults, the pair must each do the hard work to better understand themselves or they will risk losing each other.
Oprah Winfrey’s book club books are almost always guaranteed to be outstanding reads, but Wellness fell far short of her usual mark of excellence for me. Nathan Hill’s pretentious ramblings were more than I could take. You can tell Hill did a ton of research about sociology and human behavior, mostly because he insists on proving it to you by mentioning all of it. So many people say they love Wellness, so I forced myself to about the 180-page mark. But I hit my limit at the twenty-page rambling story about the mother feeding her picky toddler that resulted in her deciding she wasn’t soulmates with her husband. I do not recommend.
Private Investigators Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott take on another case in the 7th book of the series. A worried father seeks Strike’s help in extracting his son from a religious cult in Norfolk. When Strike uncovers sinister secrets and unexplained deaths, Robin infiltrates the group undercover, a task that might be much more dangerous than she anticipates.
Fans of the Strike series will absolutely love J. K. Rowling’s latest entry. As with the rest of the series, the developing relationship between Strike and Robin is well-done and leaves you coming back for more. However, The Running Grave delights with one of my favorite cases of the series, an in-depth look at a religious cult. The extreme length of the book actually felt justified this time, allowing Robin to fully dive into her undercover assignment. If you aren’t a fan yet, it’s not too late to pick up a copy of The Cuckoo’s Calling.
Rebecca Yarros took the bestseller list by storm this summer with her captivating fantasy romance Fourth Wing. In the highly anticipated sequel, Violet Sorrengail returns for her second year at Basgiath War College. No one expected her to survive this long, much less bond with one of the strongest dragons in existence and a second dragon as well. Now that she knows the secret the nation has been hiding, it will take all her wits to survive her second year, especially with the new vice commandant determined to make her betray the man she loves.
The whole book world was aflame with anticipation at Iron Flame‘s release and Rebecca Yarros did not disappoint. In the second book of the Empyrean series, Violet starts back again at Basgiath War College. While keeping the steamy romance and the fast-paced plot of Fourth Wing, Yarros delivers a clever twist halfway through to keep Iron Flame from feeling like a retread of the first book. And the twists keep coming, culminating in a cliffhanger that will make you desperate to read the third book.
Following the success of her debut novel, Such a Fun Age, Kiley Reid returns with another look at class and race. Agatha Paul arrives at the University of Arkansas as a visiting professor. Looking to interview women for her research about weddings, Agatha meets Millie Cousins, a resident advisor. But as Agatha interviews the residents in Millie’s hall, she wonders how she can use what she finds about their views on class and race to her advantage.
There’s no other way to say it. Come & Get It is a hot mess. Which is highly disappointing because Kiley Reid had all the right pieces to create a masterpiece. The opening chapter hooks you with fascinating characters and an implication that the story will collide into a powerful look at race and class. Instead, the novel goes nowhere, wandering into unnecessarily complicated backstories without any discernible plot. Yet, when a major event does finally happen at the 80% mark, the story just fizzles out, leaving you completely unsatisfied.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from G. P. Putnam’s Sons through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
From the Backlist
Just as strait-laced Ava Wong’s perfect life begins to crumble, her former roommate from mainland China appears with a scheme to make them both rich. Winnie has an audacious plan to import near-perfect fakes of expensive luxury handbags from China, but she just needs someone with an American passport to pull it off. Yet when the enterprise goes south, Winnie disappears, leaving Ava to face the consequences.
Written as Ava’s confession to police, Counterfeit details Ava’s downward spiral as Ava explains how she slowly compromised her morals, sliding deeper and deeper into Winnie’s scheme. Yet, a twist halfway through leaves you questioning how reliable a narrator Ava might be. Although a quick entertaining read, Counterfeit never fully captured my attention and seemed to be trying too hard to be clever.
Ibram X. Kendi
The author of the bestselling How to Be an Antiracist, Ibram X. Kendi has written the top book on the history of racist ideas in America. Covering from the Puritans and the Founding Fathers all the way to the civil rights movement and modern-day activists, Kendi shows that racist ideas and discriminatory practices have permeated American history since its inception.
If you are interested in understanding race relations in America, Stamped from the Beginning is a groundbreaking comprehensive study of the history of racist ideas in America. Showing step-by-step how racial progress is intertwined with the evolution of racist ideas, Kendi’s book would be an excellent study for high school or college. “Study” being the operative word for Stamped from the Beginning is a dense read that begs for you to take notes. Some sections read like a history textbook, overflowing with names and dates, while much of the middle of the book settled into a narrative nonfiction style that was more accessible, though still taking a long time to get through.
In Larry McMurtry’s classic Western novel, carefree Gus McCrae and duty-driven Captain Woodrow Call, two retired Texas Rangers, embark on one last adventure – a crazy cattle drive from Texas to Montana. Far from the easy paycheck they expected, the journey turns dangerous time and again, weaving a tale that showcases the changing American West.
When I asked my Instagram followers what I should read next, I never expected that almost every single comment would rave about a massive old Western I picked up from the library for my reading challenge. Now I understand why. Though the pace is slow, the writing is excellent, and the great characters really drive the story, making it every bit deserving of its Pulitzer Prize. McMurty paints his characters better than almost any author I’ve ever read, bringing them to life with incredibly realistic complexity in a story that showcases the Wild West without glorifying it.
George R. R. Martin
In the sequel to A Game of Thrones, a comet flares red across the sky as the death of Robert Baratheon splits the kingdom, with everyone vying for the Iron Throne. Serving as the Hand of the King, Tyrion Lannister tries to control King Joffrey and prepare King’s Landing for attack. Instead of allying together, Robert’s brothers each declare themselves King. Meanwhile, the Starks, scattered throughout Westeros, all try to survive and Daenerys Targaryen builds her power across the Narrow Sea.
I’m officially obsessed with this series. I can’t begin to say how much I loved the second book. George R. R. Martin continues his epic fantasy with the same characters while adding a few new ones since you never know who will die. A Clash of Kings is full of political intrigue and so many twists and turns. Yet despite the gigantic cast of characters, you still get character development and unique stories from each one. With such a complex story, I was constantly referring to the map in the book’s cover to keep it all straight. I’m just sad to know that the 6th and 7th books were never written, so this epic story might never wrap up.
Orson Scott Card
In a future where humanity is at war with an alien enemy determined to destroy life on Earth, Ender Wiggin is a third child in a family of extraordinarily gifted children. Sent off to battle school at only six years of age, Ender – with his perfect mix of compassion and ruthlessness – is forced to become the military genius humanity so desperately needs.
Ender’s Game is probably the book I’ve reread more than any other. No matter how many times I read it, its fast-paced science fiction narrative hooks me every time. But it’s the deeper themes that keep me coming back with thought-provoking messages on ethics, leadership, and compassion.
I always seem to have multiple books going at once. Here’s a peek at what I’m currently reading.
My To-Read List
What’s up next for me? Before I let you go, here are a few of the titles I’m hoping to get through this upcoming month.
Be sure to come back next month to see which ones I read.
Which Books Did You Read in November?
What books did you love this month? Which books can you not wait to read? As always, let me know in the comments!
More Book List to Enjoy: