Weekend reading

Adrian Liang on June 26, 2020
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Weekend reading

The Amazon Books editors are spending the second weekend of the summer with a wide variety of reads, from Morgan Jerkins' investigation of her family's roots to a beautiful resource on flowers.

While our weekend reading lists are usually split between fiction and nonfiction, this weekend everyone is diving into nonfiction. As Jasmine Guillory noted earlier this week, "often summer is when you have the time to really devote yourself to that doorstopper sized book." Read on to see the books we're spending time with this weekend.


Wandering in Strange Lands: A Daughter of the Great Migration Reclaims Her Roots by Morgan Jerkins

Morgan Jerkins, author of the best-selling and acclaimed This Will Be My Undoing, sets out to discover her family’s roots in Wandering in Strange Lands and in so doing paints a larger portrait of African American displacement and disenfranchisement during the Great Migration and its impact on her—“my body, like my lineage, was a mystery.” Traveling across the country, following leads and oral histories of her ancestors, and meeting new people along the way, Jerkins explores her own cultural identity as a Black woman, shedding her family’s credo of only looking forward and never looking back. Jerkins is a beautiful writer, and her curiosity and determination to tell her story makes this memoir impossible to put down.—Al Woodworth


The Beauty in Breaking: A Memoir by Michele Harper

A powerful portrait of an African American emergency room doctor who is on the frontlines in some of the most marginalized neighborhoods in this country, and who has a front row seat to the systematic racism and misogyny that permeates the healthcare system. My colleague, Al, highly recommended this one and added that readers will root for Harper: “Her words make me even more grateful for doctors and nurses.” —Erin Kodicek


A Mind Spread Out on the Ground by Alicia Elliott

Elliott’s memoir of growing up partly in Buffalo and partly in Six Nations, a reserve across the Canadian border, is slow-building roar against the insidious culture of colonization that continues to undermine Indigenous people. “A mind spread out on the ground” is a translation of a Mohawk phrase for depression, and Elliott suffers it as so many Native people do: “Native youth in America face a suicide rate two and a half times the national average.” Born of a white Catholic mom and a Haudenosaunee dad, Elliott grows up as neither one nor the other and yet always both, her emotional footing uncertain even in the best of times. But writing is a way for her to craft herself and build her pride—even as she navigates rage-filling moments like when a white classmate confidently tells Elliott that she will get published right away because she is Native. (Spoiler: She doesn’t.) Through her experiences, Elliott melds her two backgrounds into a strength: “Being both Haudenosaunee and white wasn’t a curse meant to tear me in two; it was a call to uphold the different responsibilities that came with each part of me.” I can’t wait to spend more time with this beautiful, complex, and masterful memoir. —Adrian Liang


Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson

I have only read about 20 pages of Isabel Wilkerson’s new book, Caste, but it has reminded me what a great writer she is. The Warmth of Other Suns, her Pulitzer Prize-winning portrait of the Great Migration, was published 10 years ago—so I guess it’s been a while. In her new book, she argues that America has been—and is—shaped by a caste system, by a hierarchy of human worth. Wilkerson’s ability to create a historical narrative by focusing on the individuals and their experiences within that history is a phenomenal gift. I hope I don’t have to wait another 10 years for her next book. —Chris Schluep


Do You Mind If I Cancel?: (Things That Still Annoy Me) by Gary Janetti

I’ve had Do You Mind If I Cancel?: (Things That Still Annoy Me) on my shelf for a while now, but it called out to me this morning as the perfect book for a sunny weekend at my happy place in the mountains. Author Gary Janetti is a seriously funny guy, a writer and producer for some of the biggest TV comedy hits, and his Instagram posts often have me laughing out loud. I can’t wait to start reading his book of humorous essays. You know who else is a fan of this book? Jonathan Van Ness, who chose Do You Mind If I Cancel? as one of his summer reading picks. Need I say more?—Seira Wilson


Floret Farm's Cut Flower Garden: Grow, Harvest, and Arrange Stunning Seasonal Blooms by Erin Benzakein

Every so often, I have a day where I binge read all the magazines that I subscribe to. They’re all lifestyle or food magazines….I feel like my days of reading fashion magazines may be over. During this past magazine binge, I read two articles about flower gardener/florist Erin Benzakein and her farm, Floret Farm. Benzakein is a cut flower gardener, meaning her beds are for cutting and arranging, not just for visuals. Benzakein has two books: her first is Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden and her latest is Floret Farm’s A Year in Flowers: Designing Gorgeous Arrangements for Every Season. Floret Farm is based in the Skagit Valley, relatively close to Amazon’s Seattle Headquarters, so I felt justified in supporting a local farmer when I purchased Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden. It’s absolutely gorgeous—so stunning that my husband, the green thumb in our family, immediately stole it from my bedside and has been reading it. But this weekend, when our garden is filled with wild geraniums and hollyhocks, I’m stealing it back. Gardening is a relatively new interest of mine, and one that has only grown as I’ve been spending more time at home. While I’m looking forward to browsing the beautiful pictures, I can’t wait to dive into Benzakein’s advice on how to start a cut flower garden, the best flowers for every season, and instructions for seasonal projects (think wreaths, floral crowns and bouquets). —Sarah Gelman


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