Disclaimer: I do NOT know Lupita Nyong’o. All the information is taken from various social media posts and interviews and could potentially be outdated.
Here we are once again with a new installment of the reader compatibility feature or celeb book club, as I like to call it! In case you missed the previous ones, don’t hesitate to check out the following posts:
– Are Tom Hiddleston and I compatible (readers)?
– Are Chris Evans and I compatible (readers)?
– Are Sebastian Stan and I compatible (readers)?
– Are Pedro Pascal and I compatible (readers)?
And here comes once again the reminder that this is done with the sole intention of it being fun and not taken too seriously. I’m comparing my taste in books with that of actors and actresses to see if we would be “compatible” on the basis of those reading taste alone. How could you ever take that seriously?
This is the first time I’m doing the reading experiment with a woman and I couldn’t be more excited about it being Lupita Nyong’o. Initially, I was looking for more people in the Marvel universe for these posts, because it’s such a heavy focus on this blog in general, but it’s tricky finding extensive book recommendations for most of them. That’s alright! Not everyone is a reader, but when I found this interview with for One Grand Books, I knew I had struck gold. I hadn’t just stumbled upon a great reading list, but also knew there’d be so much more to discover about her life and career.
The Kenyan actress hasn’t just graced our screen in everything from horror to historical dramas and mainstream blockbusters, but has worked behind the camera as well and even wrote her own children’s book (Sulwe)!
There have been some great developments in publishing for that age range, but I was hesitant to include kid lit in this post. Ultimately, I decided to focus on more adult fiction for my experiment. While I want to read books that aren’t necessarily in my comfort zone, I hope you’ll all forgive me, but I wouldn’t even know how to review a children’s book to do it justice. So, without further ado, here are my final picks from the above mentioned interview:
- Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton (with Lara Love Hardin)
- A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson
- Saga by Brian K. Vaughan/Fiona Staples
Genuinely, this is the reading experiment I’ve been the most excited about ever since I’ve started this series. I just glimpsed at what was ahead and had this feeling inside me that this was going to be good. Do I know that for sure? Of course not! But just look at the selection yourself. There’s a graphic novel, fiction and non-fiction alike and the majority of the authors aren’t white men either. There’s definitely cause for celebration here on my part.
Nevertheless, there’s a small voice at the back of my mind that’s telling me to tone it down a little bit. I’ve been burned with previous candidates and I didn’t even have any real expectations with those. Still, I’m (not so cautiously) optimistic! What could go wrong?
Saga by Brian K. Vaughan/Fiona Staples
“A friend of mine recommended it as a good introduction to comic book reading for adults, and I latched onto it.”Luptia Nyong’o in her interview with One Grand Books
Starting with the graphic novel was an easy choice. First of all, I just love reading graphic novels and comic books between heavier reads, because they feel like a such a good palette cleanser, while (mostly) being incredibly fun and intriguing on top of things. Secondly, I own a couple of comics, but I’m not a huge connoisseur by any means and love to explore new stories.
I had obviously heard about Saga before, but knowing that people enjoyed it was about the height of my knowledge. Just imagine how pleasantly surprised I was when I was absolutely sucked into this world!
“It’s Romeo and Juliet passion meets Star Wars epic and Game of Thrones provocativeness but with sharp and witty dialogue and incredibly imaginative illustration.”Luptia Nyong’o in her interview with One Grand Books
I truly couldn’t agree more with Lupita Nyong’o! I love the art style, which isn’t always easy for me, because apparently I’m a snob, but I was also immediately fascinated by the characters and the world-building. It took me a hot minute to get who did what and how everyone was connected, but I just as quickly realized, I was fully invested. Without spoiling anything, I was especially curious after I learned who the narrator was – but my lips are sealed!
Something that also helped me in loving this is that I just kept picturing Daniel Henney as Marko, because I know that man can wield a sword after Wheel of Time! If they make this into a live action show, I’d love to see him in the role! I mean, just add some horns …
One thing I wasn’t entirely prepared for was the fact that this really was made for adults! There is loads of violence, explicit nudity and other adult themes. I suppose it was just a bit too much for me at times, but I still enjoyed myself in the end and that’s all that matters.
As a closing statement, I should probably clarify that I have only read Volume 1 so far! I do intend to read more, but these things aren’t cheap and I like my comics as physical copies.
The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton (with Lara Love Hardin)
The full title of this book is actually The Sun Does Shine: How I found life and freedom on Death Row and let me tell you, this memoir made me break out in tears SEVERAL times.
It’s not the first time I read about racial profiling, wrongful incarceration or other failures of the judicial system, however, this is the first time I read a full length account from a person who actually went through it. The emotions Mr. Hinton’s story provoked ranged from frustration to anger to deep sorrow to relief and so much more. I think it’s impossible for anyone who hasn’t actually lived through this to comprehend how it must have felt to be confronted with potential death every day for so many years, but Mr. Hinton manages to create such a bond with the readers that easily conveys the heavy load of emotions.
There’s a deep-seated doubt in me that I would have been as gracious and forgiving as Mr. Hinton, had I ever found myself in a situation like that. But I was so glad that his faith, his imagination and the relationships he managed to forge throughout his life, even in the most unlikely of places, carried him through. Especially the way he talked about his mother and childhood friend made my heart warm, it was so precious! And yet, I’m also angry that he had to be gracious in the first place. Anger and unkind thoughts should not be surprising when you find yourself accused and convicted of crimes you could not possibly have committed. Sometimes I genuinely don’t know how the people that refused to listen or actively worked against him could sleep at night …
“It’s a real downer to read about something as dark and unfortunate as wrongful incarceration, but Mr. Hinton expresses himself with a heart incomprehensibly swollen with love and gives meaningful insight into his alienating experience. And he does so with a disarming sense of humor.”Luptia Nyong’o in her interview with One Grand Books
I genuinely don’t believe I’ve ever cried this much reading a non-fiction book. This man was incarcerated longer than I have been alive on this planet – I still can’t wrap my head around that fact! But this is now definitely one of my go to recommendations for non-fiction! A kind of must-read!
P.S. For those interested, there is also a book by and a movie about Mr. Hinton’s lawyer, Bryan Stevenson, called Just Mercy! (I’m talking about the capable and very kind man that helped Mr. Hinton and not the lazy and indifferent one that was originally assigned to him.)
A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson
“Treat people with kindness” isn’t just a Harry Styles song (yes, we are in the talks of me doing a reading experiment with him as well at some point), but something I like to live by. And yet, I really struggled with this book. And when I say “struggled”, I mean I would have liked to throw this book against a wall in frustration, but couldn’t do so, because I was reading it as an ebook …
“I come to this book again and again to remind myself what the practice of love is.”Luptia Nyong’o in her interview with One Grand Books
After Lupita said that, I thought I would go into this book and find solace in it the way I did with No Death, No Fear, but instead I found myself more confused and frustrated than anything else.
A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles is basically author Marianne Williamson’s findings and thoughts on A Course of Miracles. I have not read A Course of Miracles or “taken the course” and neither do I intend to, but A Return to Love is more or less her interpretation of it and how she lives her life based on principles she has learned from it. That’s all perfectly okay, I suppose. It has this one really popular quote that I think a lot of people can relate to and that usually reels people in:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.”from A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson
Now, where it gets tricky is when you say a book if for everyone, no matter if they have a religious affinity or not and then make it very, very Christian. I’m talking constant mention of God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and even Virgin Mary at times. You all know from previous posts that I wouldn’t call myself a person of faith. It’s not that I don’t believe in anything at all, but I definitely wouldn’t say I’m religious and I just sort of felt a wall go up inside of me.
As I said in the opening statement, I’m a proponent of being kind to people. I also strongly believe that fear can be a real hindrance in life and should not be the basis upon which you make decisions, but that’s about where my understanding for this book ends. I felt especially uncomfortable with some of the messaging in regards to relationships and health.
Maybe that was not the intent, but the way I read it, the author mostly recommended to pray on everything and not do much. Someone treats you bad? You don’t know their story, just forgive them. Stick with them. And people with mental health issues need not see a therapist, we must not confront our trauma from the past, just forget about it. There’s no point in talking about the negative. But worst of all was the insinuation that health issues (mental, chronic, terminal or otherwise) were based on a lack of love within the person or surrounding the person. The phrasing of those things still worries me to this day.
Ultimately, I’m glad Lupita Nyong’o finds comfort in this book, but I wish I had never read it.
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Americanah was a book that had been on my radar for the longest time. With all the praise surrounding it, I think I went into it with a bit too high expectations. It was bound to disappoint me, but it was still a good read.
My previous experience with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s writing was through We Should All Be Feminists (another must-read!) and I think essays are really her strong suit. In a way, Americanah felt like a series of essays strengthened with the addition of characters. When you read this book, it definitely has the effect as if you were reading authentic accounts from immigrants, which just proves that Adichie captured the experience well. It therefore doesn’t surprise me that Lupita Nyong’o could relate.
“I first read it in 2013 and I was struck with how exactly I related to Adichie’s depiction of the contemporary African immigrant experience. She captures it, expresses it, analyzes it and celebrates it.”Luptia Nyong’o in her interview with One Grand Books
Generally, I thought that a lot of the topics and important themes that were covered in the book should be something a lot more people need to hear and/or read about. Adichie is earnest and unflinching in her commentary on race, class, education and more. It doesn’t just feel insightful but also engaging. However, I still struggled with the pacing a lot, which made the reading itself go dreadfully slow.
According to the blurb, it was supposed to be about young lovers reuniting after 15 years and two very different paths taken in life, but this book was 80% “flashbacks”. There’s nothing wrong with having good backstory, I’d even say so much as having necessary information, but the blurb created a different expectation of the story for me. So, I was constantly waiting for something to happen that wouldn’t come until the final part of the story, even though there was a rich tale told anyway.
Finding a common theme or trend within all the books was a little harder this time around. I think Lupita Nyong’o likes to read about people who have strong convictions and a point of view on life that is truly theirs. Most of the characters and real life people I got to “meet” through these books had more faith in their personal causes than anyone I know. It’s definitely a draw and I can see how that is enticing.
As an actress, director, writer, etc., I can also see her scan the material for what could potentially work on the screen (she mentioned that for Americanah, for example). I wonder if that’s something that always kind of plays in the back of her mind. It would make sense to me considering her profession!
Now, as far as our compatibility goes … well, I set myself up for failure with how excited I was, didn’t I? It started out so well too and I really loved the first two picks, but then it kind of soured. I wouldn’t say Americanah is a bad book at all, please don’t get me wrong, but I definitely did not vibe with A Return to Love. When someone is trying to define God and preach to me, I just want to nope out of there.
Generally, I think Lupita Nyong’o has a varied palette and good taste. I could see myself potentially reading another book that was recommended by her in the future, but considering I thought we might be bookish soulmates, that did not pan out.