The Vanishing Half
Brit Bennett, Riverhead Books 2020
I’ve heard this book mentioned a lot, and for good reason. It’s captivating and beautifully written, with characters that I can see and hear like I’m a fly on the wall. Though the story has many POV characters, its main protagonists are twin sisters who grow up very light-skinned black in a still segregated south. In their teens, they run away from their small town, and take vastly different paths.
The story doesn’t rush— it leads you down a winding road gently, measuredly, then suddenly it reveals a shocking sight, and before you can fully recover, it’s time to move on again.
“A town always looked different once you’d returned, like a house where all the furniture had shifted three inches. You wouldn’t mistake it for a stranger’s house but you’d keeping banging your shins on the table corners.”Brit Bennett, The Vanishing Half
The Willpower Instinct
Kelly McGonigal, Avery 2012
It’s January, so I thought I’d read up on the science of willpower to help me keep up with some New Year’s resolutions. (I’m looking at you, purse. I WILL keep you tidy this year!) It’s an easy read, but very informative. It’s the first time I’ve seen willpower described as a biological mechanism, which McGonigal refers to as the “pause-and-plan” response.
“This is what self-control is all about. The most helpful response will be to slow you down, not speed you up (as a fight-or-flight response does). And this is precisely what the pause-and-plan response does. The perception of an internal conflict triggers changes in the brain and body that help you slow down and control your impulses.”Kelly McGonigal, The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It
While I may not be 100% on board with the narrative, (the book makes it sound like our most rational selves would turn down cheesecake every time— what kind of life is that, I ask you?) it’s given me some interesting insights and techniques. I appreciate the summary at the end of each chapter, and the questions that help you apply the lessons.
Vera Brosgol, First Second 2018
I read this one from cover to cover without putting it down. Brosgol just has a way to pull you in and keep you reading. I loved Anya’s Ghost when I read it years ago! Be Prepared is in a different vein— no ghosts or ghouls— but it’s a captivating look at all the awkwardness of growing up, fitting in and learning what being yourself means. It will stay with me for sure! Bonus for the charming expressions.