2020 READS: SEPTEMBER

1. Punching The Air by Ibi Zoboi & Yusef Salaam


This book is a lyrical free verse masterpiece. Meet Amal Shahid, artist, poet, prisoner. At just 16 years old, Amal falls prey to America’s biased legal system. When a confrontation in a gentrifying neighborhood has tragic consequences, Amal’s childhood is stolen. He’s forced to grow up fast and face the harsh injustice of his country. This story carries a painful truth. Yusef Salaam of the exonerated five provides an authentic insight into this nightmarish reality. The strength and beauty of Amal’s spirit outshine the ugliness of the world he inhabits. He refuses to be broken and discarded. He will use his voice and his art to tear down the lies that incarcerate him. These stories need to be told, and read, and shared, and believed. Profound. Heart-breaking. Inspirational. I can’t recommend it enough. “At the center of Amal’s story is a cycle of racial violence that continues to plague this country. But this is not just a story about a crime or race. Punching the Air is about the power of art, faith and transcendence in the most debilitating circumstances. It’s our hope that readers will experience the journey of a boy who finds himself in a heated moment where one wrong move threatens his future, and how he uses his art to express his truth, the truth.” – Ibi Zoboi & Yusef Salaam



2. The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix




I feel like this book was written especially for me. It’s a feminist vampire story with a silly name… and it’s set in the ‘90s! I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess Grady Hendrix is a fellow Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan. I was sold on the title alone. I was practically salivating (Homer Simpson style) when I read the synopsis. It was described as Fried Green Tomatoes and Steel Magnolias meet Dracula! Yup, yup, and more yup. Hurry up and take my money! I need to devour this immediately. The plot is in the title. Basically, a group of southern housewives take on a bloodsucking fiend. When local children start disappearing, Patricia Campbell suspects their mysterious new neighbor James Harris has something to do with it. Luckily, she’s learned a thing or two about monsters from her true-crime loving book club. This parasite has met his match. Never mess with a southern belle. Clearly, I had high expectations of this one, and they were pleasantly met and exceeded. I expected the comedy, drama, and supernatural thrills, but I never anticipated the level of horror this story delivered. There were some truly gruesome passages. I mean, retch inducing! It put a crime thriller spin on the vampire genre, and it worked beautifully. It also put the monster back in vampires. Because let’s not forget, they’re serial killers! James Harris felt more like Ted Bundy or Charles Manson than a member of a teen boyband. There wasn’t a hint of romance or sparkling skin to be found. And it was so fricking refreshing! I’m a fan, and I can’t wait to read everything else this author has written. Subversive horror is his forte, and My Best Friend's Exorcism is next on my list. *Trigger warning: There’s a graphic sexual assault scene in this book. This story takes a sharp turn, and it gets dark fast. It's heavy on horror, supernatural and otherwise.


3. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Legacy Edition: Book Two




BOOM! Studios are doing a superb job with these new editions. Collecting every issue of the OG BTVS comics is a gift to fans, especially considering how hard it is to find some of these titles now. We can all relive our best 90s lives during these batshit times! In the second installment, Buffy goes up against superpowered vampires, murderous doppelgangers, and the comic's first Big Bad, Selke. She slays her way through countless other colourful fiends, all while trying to pass her drivers test and keep on top of homework. That’s life on the Hellmouth. I feel ya, Buff. This volume also wraps up the nine-part “Bad Blood” story arc. It features issues 11 – 19, plus other bonus stories from the era. Book Three hits shelves on December 9, 2020.


4. What I Know For Sure by Oprah Winfrey




Soaking up the wisdom from a life well-lived. Oprah’s mind is a beautiful place to get lost in. If you’re in need of a reset, she will help you to center yourself in gratitude. This stunning clothbound book is brimming with insight and inspiration. O magazine’s “What I Know For Sure” column ran for fourteen years, this book has collected and revised its brightest pearls. Like its creator, it is candid, uplifting, funny, joyous, and healing. All things 2020 could use more of. “Give me a great novel or memoir, some tea, and a cozy spot to curl up in, and I’m in heaven. I love to live in another person’s thoughts; I marvel at the bonds I feel with people who come alive on the page, regardless of how different their circumstances might be from mine. I not only feel I know these people, but I also recognize more of myself. Insight, information, knowledge, inspiration, power. All that and more come from a good book.” – Oprah Winfrey


Pick of the Month: Punching The Air by Ibi Zoboi & Yusef Salaam




©2017 by Daniel Devenney.