The Reluctant Romantic: Falling in love with a new genre

This month, Doing Dewey is hosting “The Reluctant Romantic,” a chance for readers to fall in love with a new genre!

This reading challenge seems totally apt, given both that Valentine’s Day is coming up and the entire month of February is known as Black History Month here in the US. As such, and given my already strong desire to read more nonfiction this year, I’ve decided to read nonfiction books by or about black Americans and historic figures.

I know that’s not actually a genre, but the rules of this challenge are loose, so deal with it. (If pressed, I guess the genres I’m focusing on would actually be Personal Essays and Biographies.)

So what am I going to read?

I’ve already read many of the usual suspects suggested for February reading, like The Autobiography of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech (both are, of course, excellent reads and highly recommended). But I’m actually interested in reading more about current-day racial issues, since I feel like the way (white) people use the term “black history” tends to suggest that black history is only about the distant past – and clearly we are still living in a world where black and white views of history continue to divide us. Not to mention the whole Black Lives Matter movement, which revolves around problems within the justice system and assorted social issues facing black Americans.

We all need to get educated about these issues, and not just congratulate ourselves on being “post-racial” when, clearly, we are not.

Here’s the list of books I plan to read for this month:

[author_list style=”star”]

  • badfeministBad Feminist by Roxane Gay (perpetually on my To Read list, so I’m bumping it up to the top)
  • Black Cool: One Thousand Streams of Blackness by Rebecca Walker
  • How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America by Kiese Laymon (read the titular essay on Gawker)
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (interesting aside: this book is shelved under “B LACKS” at my local library)
  • Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson (I received this from a book swap last year, and still haven’t had time to read it – thanks for reminding me to bump this one up to the top of my To Read pile as well, Lory!)
  • White Girls by Hilton Als


whitegirls(Possibly random aside: Has anyone else wondered why most of these books have no images on the cover, just the title of the book and the name of the author? Is this a conceit of personal essay books generally, or an issue surrounding books by black authors? The exception here is White Girls which, indeed, features an image of white girls on the cover… although the lone biography here, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, does feature an image of Lacks on the cover. Hmm.)

If you’ve got additional suggestions for me, I’d love to hear them!

And here’s the schedule for the month, if you’d like to pick a genre and play along:

Feb 6 – Genre Speed Dating – What genre are you getting to know this month? Why do you want to give it a chance?

Feb 13 – It’s Complicated – Is there anything that keeps you from reading this genre more?

Feb 20 – Young Love – Have you read the genre you’re trying before? How was your first experience with that genre this month?

Feb 27 – Relationship Status – Where is your relationship with the genre you tried? Will you read more of this genre in the future?

Tentatively Feb 28 – Twitter Chat – 7 pm EST


  • Katie @ Doing Dewey

    Wow, I love what you’re doing with this challenge! Of course I’m excited about nonfiction in general, but I especially love your focus on social issues and I can’t wait to hear about the great books on your to-read list.

  • Brona

    Fascinating choice – I’ll be curious to see your reviews. All the US bloggers have been raving about Between the World and Me – is this one you plan to read at some point?

    Good luck with your challenge.

  • Laura Roberts

    Oh yes! I actually received a copy of Just Mercy from a book swap, Lory, so I will have to bump that one up to the top of my list while I await the others from my local library. Thanks for the reminder!

    Brona: I’ve been pondering reading Between the World and Me as well, since it’s gotten so many rave reviews. If I have enough time to read all of the books on my list, and have some leftover, I will probably try to snag a copy of that as well.

    Katie: Thanks for starting this challenge! I look forward to hearing about your romantic reads, to counter some of the heavier titles on my own list.