Abbreviations #136: Stamped from the Beginning, The Library Book + The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

June 15, 2021


I’ve been waiting for my library hold to come in for Stamped from the Beginning since last year. It’s one of those non-fiction reads that intimidated the heck out of me when I first thought about picking it up, but I felt so strongly that it was something I had to read. When it finally came in, I immediately started it - and I’m so glad I finally got to read it. Stamped from the Beginning is, essentially, a book that compiles the entire history of anti-Black racist ideas and the role they played in the course of American history. Kendi uses five important historical figures - Cotton Mather, Thomas Jefferson, William Lloyd Garrison, W.E.B. Du Bois and Angela Davis - to illustrate the impact they’ve had in creating, challenging, changing and cementing the variety of racist ideas that exist in America today. As one might expect, the text is quite dense, and if you tested me specifically on dates and details, I’d likely not be able to give you the right answers. But Stamped from the Beginning truly feels like it ought to be required reading. It offers readers the chance to educate themselves by providing historical facts, as well as sketching out a timeline of events to trace throughout history. But, more importantly (in my humble opinion), the book offers context and insight into how anti-Black racist ideas and discourse in the US came to be what it is today. It challenges readers to understand the how and the why, and I personally felt like I came away from it both more knowledgeable about and understanding of anti-Black racism in our country. I definitely think Stamped from the Beginning is a powerful read, and should be added to your TBR, if it’s not already on there. (I listened to the audiobook for this one, but fully intend to purchase a physical copy to reread. The narrator is good, so any instance when I felt like I needed to rewind was specifically related to the actual contents of this book.)

Pub Info: April 12, 2016 by Bold Type Books | Add it on Goodreads


I’d heard a little bit about The Library Book years before I actually picked it up, and I was curious how I would feel about it. This nonfiction read from Susan Orlean is about the Los Angeles Public Library fire, as well as the case of the suspected arsonist Harry Peak. But it also tackles the role libraries play in the lives of many folks, the history of libraries and a variety of important personalities tied to the library history in the United States. I’ll admit that it took me a couple of false starts (two, to be precise) before I was finally able to get hooked enough to actually properly read this one. Luckily, it wound up being a fairly interesting nonfiction read! While I wouldn’t necessarily revisit this again, I did appreciate learning more about the LAPL fire (which I’d been unaware of until I read this) and library history. But mostly, what stuck with me about this read was how pivotal libraries can be for communities. I’ve always known that libraries were important, but it was great to see the emphasis on how much they really provide. Libraries are not just repositories for information, but also offer programs and communities that can really help uplift many members of the community they serve. It was nice to see the nods to librarians, both past and present, and the work they do as well. I felt a deep sense of gratitude for my current ability to access the library, as well as to all the librarians I know for all they do to help facilitate the distribution of these resources (bookish and otherwise). The Library Book was definitely not entirely what I anticipated, but it ended up deepening my love and appreciation for libraries and librarians in the end, for which I’m glad. (I listened to this one on audiobook, which was the format that eventually helped me to get engaged in this story. While my attention did wander every now and then so that I had to rewind to hear what I’d missed, that was not due to the narration, but due to the actual words of this book.)

Pub Info: October 16, 2018 by Simon & Schuster | Add it on Goodreads


My sister Rachel was the one to suggest some years before that I read The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck whenever I got the chance, and I finally did it! This very popular self-help nonfiction read by popular blogger Mark Manson encourages readers to really look at the things in their life that are worth giving a f*ck about, as well as changing their approach to ‘positive thinking’ in order to ensure that we accept and confront the hard stuff in order to really enact change in our lives. While I don’t disagree with some of the concepts Manson tackles, I genuinely had hoped to get more out of reading his book. His anecdotes were entertaining, and certainly provided some color to the concepts that he made his thesis early on. But unlike other self-help nonfiction I’ve read in the past, I finished this one without feeling like I’d learned anything new at all. It didn’t feel like a waste of reading time considering the short length, but this read was ultimately just okay. (I listened to this one on audiobook. Apart from the short length, I also ended up reading this one in its entirety because the narrator was very engaging.)

Pub Info: September 13, 2016 by Harper | Add it on Goodreads

2 comments

  1. Totally agreed on The Subtle Art. After all that hype,it turned out to be rather disappointing.

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  2. Stamped from the Beginning is one I want to read. But like you, how dense it is kind of scares me off a bit. Maybe I'll pick up the YA version and read that. Thanks for sharing your reviews!
    Lisa Loves Literature

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Thanks for leaving a comment! I love seeing what you have to say, and will try to reply (here or on Twitter) as soon as I can :)

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