Giovanni’s Room

I’m trying to read a book a month this year. Part of it is just to rediscover my love for books (I never stopped loving them per se, or buying them, but I had stopped reading in general) but another part is me spending some time not staring into the screen.

With a new job, I also wanted to make sure I made space for “me time” – just lazing in bed or on the sofa, reading. I’m going to try to see if I can make sure they are all fiction, or at least, not related to my work and research but who knows if I have the time for that criteria?

Giovanni's Room book cover

Giovanni’s Room is a book I encountered by accident. When lockdown happened, I was looking to see how I could try to help support some independent book stores (I’d started buying books from Hive, for example, and quit Amazon because … oh, where do I start?).

I checked out Five Leaves Bookshop in Nottingham, and they were doing these book mystery boxes where you could let them throw together some books for you (valued at £50 or £100). This was at the time the Black Lives Matter protests in the US were very much part of the news cycle (which subsequently swepts across the globe) so my brief to them was that I wanted books by black writers, but also because it was Pride month, some books by diverse queer writers.

The box arrived with about 6-7 books and one of them was Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin. I’ve heard of him, of course, but not the book – which was surprising to me because it’s been called one of the greatest love stories ever written (and it has strong gay/bisexual themes).

Well, I finally found time to read it this month, and finished it yesterday, just in time for the end of January.

This post isn’t meant to be a review, or critique; it is merely for record. But I would recommend the book for sure (here’s the link to buy it off Hive, which supports independent bookstores). I also found this interesting NYT fashion piece about the story, with some great photos.

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