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Fiction Friday: Bookshop Update And Books I’m Loving Right Now

I’ve been struggling lately, if I’m honest. Writing has been hard and last week was really busy with work. Now that the season is over, there is very little actual Liverpool news to be had that is of substance — a new kit maker that has been largely underwhelming, a new back up left back from the Greek league that I’ve never watched before.

The excitement of work coming back has worn off, and while I feel like I’ve adjusted to my schedule again, I’m still struggling. Struggling to find worth in what I want to say.

Getting me through it has been my Libby app, and the ability to check out audiobooks whenever I want. It’s been a godsend, as I find it hard to actually focus on reading right now. My mom and I talked about it recently, both dealing with this problem. It’s more than just finding the time, it’s sitting down and reading the words and not feeling them stick. Finding it too easy to drift off and forget what I had just read, or even find enjoyment in it.

At least audiobooks, a format I had struggled to embrace up until the pandemic, allow me to absorb and hear something new. I’ve been able to go through so many books this way, as the one book I had been reading when things shut down back in March sits in the same page that I left it in. And this is a book based on a movie that I adore, something that ticks all my favorite boxes. Witches, sisters, protecting each other, check check check. Somehow I can’t focus, I can’t sit down and enjoy it, even though I really, really want to. I thought it would be easy, because I love everything about it and yet it still sits on my couch, neglected.

I added a lot of the books I’ve finished to my Bookshop page, if you’re inclined to pick up something new to read yourself. I’ll even include the audiobook version if you’ve been in the same spot as me. I mentioned a few weeks ago that I’ve been trying to read more books by Black authors and about racism, and that has continued — thankfully with the help of these audiobooks.

One of the audiobooks I just finished, The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin, was read by Jesse L. Martin of Rent and The Flash fame and it was genuinely soothing. I can’t wait to pick up a hard copy version of it, honestly. Elegant and intimate, it’s a genuine look at Baldwin’s life in Harlem in the 60’s as he grows up a gay man and encourages both Blacks and Whites to take part in the civil rights movement — then and now.

For a little lighter reading, I also went through The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory, the author of Royal Holiday. It was no secret that I loved Royal Holiday so when The Proposal was available for me to check out, I jumped at it. It follows Nik Paterson after the guy she had been casually dating for five months surprises her with a proposal, in front of 45k people at Dodger Stadium… and misspells her name on the scoreboard. Carlos Ibarra is also at the game, with his sister Angie, and they both jump in to save Nik from the vulturous camera crew looking for Nik’s reaction after publicly rejecting her would-be fiancé. That starts the classic “we just really like hanging out with each other it’s not serious until it’s SERIOUS” trope that many a fanfiction are based on. It’s easy, fun, and modern and finding out that Guillory has set up her own universe of characters that are all connected essentially made it even better.

I’m also in the middle of Baldwin’s other classic, If Beale Street Could Talk right now. I’m only about a quarter of the way in right now, but it is gentle and intimate in the same way that The Fire Next Time is, except this time it follows a couple - Tish and Fonny - who have been best friends since they were kids. When the book opens, Tish is 19 and pregnant, and Fonny is in jail for a crime he didn’t commit. Both families are tied together trying to free Fonny, not just for Tish but because our justice system is corrupt. Sad and warm, like sitting with an old record player and the blues coming through the speakers. It was recently made into a movie directed by Barry Jenkins and Regina King won an Oscar for playing Tish’s mother Sharon. The movie has been on my list to watch for a while, but I’m glad I’m taking the time to dive into the story first.

Books and stories are so inherently human that of course it is what we turn to when our lives are embroiled in trauma. I’m so glad, so lucky, to be able to check out these audiobooks for free and have them as a comfort. I miss reading, but I know it will come back to me. Stories will always be there for us, in tough times and happy times.

I hope you have the ones you love for comfort, and can maybe support a local bookstore in the process.

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