June 2020 Mini Reviews: Books I Should’ve Read A While Ago

Stay-at-home orders forced me to look around all the bookshelves in my house for books that I hadn’t yet read.  I have been buying more books lately and reading more e-books than normal thanks to Netgalley and Libby, but physical books will ALWAYS have my heart. My hunt for books led me to pick up books that I should’ve read a while ago, both in the sense that they’ve been on my TBR for a while and that they are extremely loved and well read.

Becoming by Michelle Obama

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

9781524763138Although I admit it wasn’t a TBR priority, Michelle Obama’s Becoming was always one of those books that I knew I would read one day. A few of my friends started reading it back in April, so I decided to join in by listening to the audiobook. I’m a sucker for almost any auto-biography or celebrity audiobook that is narrated by the author. Becoming definitely took me a while to listen to – at almost 20 hours in length, it took me over 6 weeks to get through it. This is also because I’m someone who has to be doing something while listening to audiobooks and even podcasts, most commonly when I’m walking or coloring. I also listened to a big chunk of this while unpacking from my college dorm room.

Audiobook listening strategies set aside, Becoming was just as good as everyone says it is! The book really provides Michelle Obama’s backstory before her husband was elected president of the United States. I really enjoyed listening to her time in college and when she first started working (which soon happened to include meeting Barack). It was so fascinating to learn that she never really wanted anything to do with politics and even after she finished serving as First Lady. Throughout, she includes many lessons and conversations surrounding race, education, work, family, and politics. It was interesting hearing about her time in the White House, although it did feel like more of the book dealt with her childhood and pre-First Lady days. I couldn’t help but love anytime she mentioned Lin Manuel-Miranda and her own love for Hamilton.

If you have any interest whatsoever in picking up Becoming (and are way late to the game like I was), I definitely recommend picking this one out.

The Boy on the Wooden Box by Leon Leyson

My Rating: 5/5 Stars 

boyThe Boy on the Wooden Box is the book that most shocks me when I think about books I didn’t pick up until 2020. This memoir was written by and about Holocaust survivor Leon Leyson, who was one of the youngest members of Schindler’s list. I spent quite some time watching and reading critical analyses on the film Schindler’s List in my last Holocaust Studies course, so I’m actually glad in a way that Oskar Schindler was so fresh in my mind when I picked up The Boy on the Wooden Box. My sister considers this to be one of my her all-time favorite books, and my mom had also recently picked it up as we went through our house’s bookshelves while waiting for the library to re-open.

The Boy on the Wooden Box is hands-down one of my new favorite memoirs. Leon Leyson explains his childhood growing up in Narewka, Poland, and in Kraków. It wasn’t long until the German army invaded Kraków, forcing Leon and his family to live in the Kraków ghetto with other Jewish families. Leyson’s father had been working in Schindler’s factory and was able to also get work for his sons there when they were then forced into the Kraków concentration camp. The Boy on the Wooden Box is certainly a difficult text to read, as Leon describes the cruelty he and his family experienced, especially when the reader remembers that Lesson was a child and teenager. Towards the end of the book, Leyson discusses his move to America after the war and how his life changed upon the film’s premiere. Many readers will be familiar with Oskar Schindler, in thanks to Steve Spielberg’s infamous film. To say the least, Leyson has such gratitude and praise for Schindler. Overall, I highly recommend The Boy on the Wooden Box to those who are looking to start reading Holocaust testimony and/or memoirs. Leyson’s afterword with some discussion on inequality and prejudice is especially timely right now.  

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

 My Rating: 4/5 Stars

 Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore had been on my TBR for forever (meaning at least three years). This book also earns bonus points for the fact that its physical paperback glows in the dark -something that took me 3+ years to realize after finally putting the book on my bedside table!6544260

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore was both what I was and was not expecting. The book
follows a guy who starts working at an eccentric twenty-four bookstore. With the help of his friends, he begins unraveling some secrets surrounding the store’s mysterious owner and customers and the odd books they keep coming in to buy. Like many, I definitely agree that any bibliophile will really enjoy Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore . The bookstore was so atmospheric and many of the characters, Clay and Mr. Penumbra especially, have such a love for anything and everything books. The epilogue was just so perfect. I feel like those final paragraphs will stick with me for a while. 
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore involved a lot of what I wasn’t expecting, i.e. the mystery surrounding what’s basically a secret society… and Google. I thought the Google involvement was so cool and interesting, but I also just did not like Kat too much. By the end, I think I understand the bigger points surrounding the mystery and society, but it really was not easy to follow. When I was trying to think of similar books to compare to, my mind keeps going to Ready Player One because Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore does have this quest and, while much smaller, futuristic element. However, I was more invested in the characters’ journeys and getting to know them more than the plot & mystery. From Clay’s roommates to his best friend Neel, I liked reading everyone’s backstories and discovering little details about their character.    

Although I wasn’t crazy about the plot and mystery, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore  was still a book I couldn’t put down because I did want to know what happened next! This book has such a cozy atmosphere and characters that makes you want to hold on to it both during and after reading. I really enjoyed Robin Sloan’s writing style and I plan on checking out Sourdough in the future. 

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Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Any must-read recommendations for me? Share in the comments! 

7 thoughts on “June 2020 Mini Reviews: Books I Should’ve Read A While Ago

  1. I’m going to put The Boy on the Wooden Box by Leon Leyson on my tbr. I loved Schindler’s List and I’m intrigued. Also loved BECOMING, it was definitely one of the best memoirs I’ve read so far, and I enjoyed Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan, although I don’t remember much anymore, only that it was set in the Bay Area which is always something I enjoy reading about.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Can’t wait to see what you think of The Boy on the Wooden Box!! Tbh I’ve forgotten most of what happens in Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore too.

      Liked by 1 person

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