RHC 2017: My Losing Season by Pat Conroy

Read Harder Challenge 2017

This post is part of a series in which I describe the twenty-four books I read in 2017 for Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge

Task: Read a book about sports.

Okay, this one is definitely a book about sports, unlike my first effort to complete this task.

I have a dear friend who’s kind of a big deal in the basketball writing world. I’m not naming him because it feels sort of gross to name drop my legitimately well-known buddy on my blog that I’ve been writing for eight months behind a privacy wall and that is prooooobably going to have a very small audience when and if I ever let someone read it. I don’t want to embarrass him. But I asked him for recommendations, and I got a great list, including Tuff Juice by Caron Butler, Writing on the Wall by Kareem Abdul Jabbar, and Pacific Rims by Rafe Bartholomew.

And he also texted me, “My Losing Season by Pat Conroy is incredible. It’s about being on a team that just sucked. SUCKED. It is the opposite of ‘Determination and heart conquers all!’ Well, no, it turns out that if you suck at basketball, it doesn’t really matter.”

RHC 2017: From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death by Caitlin Doughty

Read Harder Challenge 2017

This post is part of a series in which I describe the twenty-four books I read in 2017 for Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge

Task: Read a nonfiction book about technology.

I needed a chaser after the book profiling the psychological impact of the act of killing, and this was just the thing. While Grossman’s book made me very uncomfortable (and that’s fine), this funny, fascinating death tour From Here to Eternity was oddly comforting.

Caitlin Doughty is a hero of mine. If you’re not familiar and you’re up for the subject matter, her YouTube channel Ask a Mortician is wonderful. She’s also the founder of the Order of the Good Death and Undertaking L.A., a funeral home whose stated mission is to return deathcare to the hands of the bereaved.

Doughty is a very passionate advocate of bringing death back into the public consciousness by bringing mourners closer to their dead loved ones, whether it’s through witnessing cremations, washing and preparing bodies, or spending unstructured, unpressured time with deceased loved ones. She argues that as a culture we’ve developed an unhealthy inability to process or honestly confront death. 

RHC 2017: Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

Read Harder Challenge 2017

This post is part of a series in which I describe the twenty-four books I read in 2017 for Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge

Task: Read a fantasy novel.

Alternative: Read a book set more than 5,000 miles from your location. 

Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor is being developed by HBO and executive produced by George R.R. Martin. This isn’t the only reason you should read it, by any means, but it’ll put you in a good cultural position when the show comes out. Trust me, it’s satisfying to be the one who knows the Red Wedding is coming the entire time and then gets to kick back and laugh at how upset everyone else is.

But again, there are many other far worthier reasons for you to read this. At its heart, it is admittedly the most basic of fantasy plots – the chosen one must undergo rigorous training from a supernatural mentor before embarking on a quest to fulfill her destiny and save the world. But you know, it’s not an intrinsically bad plot. Seeing it driven by a protagonist of color in a world drawn from a history and mythology that’s not that of the United States and/or western Europe felt like a necessary counterbalance to the many, many, many other iterations of that story I’ve encountered. It was also propulsive reading.

RHC 2017: Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur Vol. 1 BFF

Read Harder Challenge 2017

This post is part of a series in which I describe the twenty-four books I read in 2017 for Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge

Task: Read an all-ages comic.

Alternatives: Read a superhero comic with a female lead. Read a book wherein all point-of-view characters are people of color.

I read this during my maternity leave a very long time ago and never got around to posting about it. I’d had a ton of stuff to say about Touching My Father’s Soul and Their Eyes Were Watching God, which arrived in the same Amazon order, but I didn’t have the same reaction to Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur. Please don’t misinterpret that–I liked this comic quite a bit. It just seemed so self-evidently good and its magnificent black nine-year-old girl main character so obviously important that I just didn’t know what else to say about it. So here we go.

Lunella Lafayette is a terribly precocious child heroine who is desperate to unravel the alien technology implanted in her DNA that leaves her vulnerable to a sudden transformation should she comes into contact with a terrigen cloud. There is also a time-traveling dinosaur.  That, right there, is a hell of a premise, and it gets better.

Lunella has some superhero abilities involving consciousness swapping, but her real superpower is her brain. At first, it’s a liability. It’s hard to be a brilliant young girl. She doesn’t fit in. She struggles with parents who don’t understand her and with classmates who make fun of her. But she’s fierce, practical, and resilient. In one of my favorite scenes, she takes a stab at the Hulk, who has just introduced himself as the eighth smartest person in the world, saying, “I don’t need my smarts ranked – like some people.” The Hulk proceeds to be unbearably benevolently paternalistic–and wrong. It’s clear that you should always, always, always listen to Lunella, who unfortunately lives in a world where no one seems to default to taking her seriously. The great thing about her is that she doesn’t let that stop her.

I knew going in that Moon Girl is officially the smartest person in the Marvel Universe. I had no idea where she fit into it though (as discussed elsewhere, the Marvel/DC Universes sort of exhaust me). Thanks, Wikipedia, for informing me that Devil Dinosaur is a Jack Kirby creation from 1978. His original humanoid companion was the furry, apelike Moon-Boy. However, Moon Girl isn’t exactly a reboot of that character–she’s much more interesting (and this reboot kills off the original Moon-Boy).

I adored the way that Lunella was drawn. She wasn’t presented as “cute,” but as a messy and awkward pre-teen (and she is incredibly cute, really, but not in the way that involves having eyes bigger than her wrists). Similarly, Devil Dinosaur looks like a giant red T-Rex, an uncute apex predator (who is totally adorable and acts like a puppy).

Overall, this was an excellent and extremely fun read. Lunella is one of the best preteen badasses I’ve ever met in comics, and I enjoyed spending time with her and her enormous sidekick.