Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson

It’s been years since I last chose to read instead of to sleep. I was captivated, consumed by this new world. Mistborn isn’t simply a world of magic and wonder; no, it’s full of logic and physics and politics and religion. I wanted to know how this world worked, and I could not stop thinking about how everything in the Mistborn world simply made sense. I read the whole trilogy in a span of two weeks, which is very, very fast for me. It could have been only one week, too, but I had to resume work after the new year and could no longer spend the whole day reading.

World building aside, a major selling point for me was that each book in the trilogy was complete on its own. There was just enough of a cliffhanger at the end of each book, enticing readers such as myself to read the next one, without sacrificing the conclusion and wholeness of the current book. This is a big deal. Some trilogies have books that seemed to be written simply as a lead into the final book. (I’m talking about you, Catching Fire, even if I did inhale The Hunger Games trilogy.) Brandon Sanderson made sure each book had its own complete plotline, all of which kept me hooked.

I also loved the characters. I fell in love with Elend Venture right away, and I loved his character development. I also liked how every main character got their fair share of screen (or page) time, and I was particularly interested in reading Marsh’s plotline. I don’t think there was any character in Mistborn that I didn’t quite like, yet all of them were so different that it was interesting to read how they interacted. This includes the humor thrown around in the trilogy. Even when the world was falling apart and all hope seemed lost, the characters found some humor in their situations. I thought this was a nice reprieve from impending doom that the characters were definitely going to face.

Final thoughts: I am so glad I read this series. If I’d read this a few years ago, I might not have appreciated it as much I do now. I feel that high fantasy is a genre I’d work towards reading, so I would not recommend this to someone who has only started dabbling with fantasy. (Case in point: I read Eragon in high school and could not appreciate it then. Only after reading several Neil Gaiman and VE Schwab books did I start appreciating other worlds outside of Harry Potter. My friends recommended Mistborn to me after I’d told them I was reading The Name of the Wind.) What next? A newfound friend recommended the Wax and Wane series and another recommended The Stormlight Archive. I could go deeper into this world or search out new ones by the same writer. Til next time.

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

At first I was hesitant to read Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood because it did not sound like a book I’d want to read in 2020. As someone who doesn’t watch tv (to clarify, I watch tv shows online; I don’t watch tv-tv), I had no idea whom Trevor Noah was, and I was confused how “funny” was one of the adjectives used to describe this book. So when my friend loaned me this book, I didn’t read it immediately. (My excuse was that I was finishing off another book, which was true anyway, but we all know it’s possible to switch off…) However, I’d had this book on my tbr a little too long for a borrowed book, so I read it (in the same year I borrowed it at that).

OK, so the book was funny. I couldn’t believe that I laughed at some moments—I was reading about apartheid after all. Reading through the highs and lows made me appreciate Trevor Noah’s storytelling skills. It’s as if he knew what his readers were feeling as he wrote, and to make sure we readers don’t feel the need to throw him a pity party, he’d ease the mood. What skill. I enjoyed reading so much that I looked Trevor Noah up and watched some The Daily Show episodes on YouTube. I think I should start watching talk shows. And now I’m thinking I probably should have gone with the audiobook. Or I should listen to the audiobook in the future.

Yes, so overall, Born a Crime is a great read. I should have mentioned sooner that Trevor Noah painted a good picture of his childhood South Africa, so, as a reader, I could easily imagine the streets he walked and the shenanigans he got into. This is a big deal for me. (When I’m not able to visualize the scenes, I feel meh about the book.) Where it got iffy for me was how the book ended. I’m all about reading books that feel complete, and I felt like the Born a Crime jumped to its ending. It didn’t feel seamless to me (huh, he skipped how he went from dj to comedian?) that I felt underwhelmed (wait, it’s done?) when I finished the book. I’m not sure what I’m looking for exactly, and this is a minor minor detail that I can let go of, so I will.

Verdict: This is a darn good book. I’m glad my friend loaned it to me, and I will gladly tell others to read it, too. I haven’t read too many stories about Africa (pretty sure I can count them with my fingers), so this was not only an entertaining but also an informative read.

Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries by Kory Stamper

This one is another book from the pile of unread books I’d accumulated over the years. I bought Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries in New York back in 2017 and finally read this at the end of 2019. So here’s a familiar sounding remark about my latest read: I can’t believe I didn’t read this sooner. (I am currently on a book-buying ban—I make exceptions here and there, particularly for nonfiction—so I can focus on reading the books I already have.)

Reading this was fun. Like the dictionary, it wasn’t instructive (or meant to be); it was descriptive. I wasn’t expecting to bookmark anything on this book, but there were some anecdotes that jived with my humor that I wanted to make sure I could easily find them in the future. Here are two fun pages: 133 and 199—check them out.

Perhaps another reason I am partial to this book is that I have always enjoyed reading and writing. I also used to have very strong opinions about grammar, but I eventually grew to appreciate how language evolves and with it its words and grammar. (Although I have finally accepted the existence of “irregardless,” I still avoid using it like the plague.) It was interesting to read about how the evolution of a word’s definition is captured by lexicographers. In a way, they’re historians.

Something that took me by surprise was that people actually take the time to write to dictionary editors to express their opinions. Wow, people read the dictionary? As it turns out, the answer is yes, and these people’s opinions must be heard. Even lexicographers must read and address angry emails. Imagine that. But there were some friendly neighborhood emails, too (there were a bunch of interesting comments about “irregardless”). As with every industry, there are a handful of thoughtful people that write in out of goodwill. (To these people—thank you. Your words are always a breath of fresh air.)

Finally, there was something about Kory Stamper’s writing style that captured my heart. I found it quite charming, as if I was reading a fairy tale or something. Everything flowed so well that I found myself reading through the night, and let me emphasize that this is the only nonfiction book (by far) that I have chosen to read over sleep. I enjoyed it that much. Eventually sleep got in the way, but don’t let that invalidate my praise.