2019 Impactful Reads

The Summer Reading Challenge is over. But my conversations about books aren’t. So, today I bring you part 2 of my mini reviews. I’ve read quite a many good books but I’m sharing my thoughts on only five books that left a great impression on me.

5. Those Who Stay and Those Who Leave by Elena Ferrante

Ferrante say the things I sometimes think and wouldn’t dare voice out loud. She doesn’t only know how the female psyche works; she gives it a name, a place and a feeling to go with. Relationships among friends are as complex and real as they can be.

What I also liked about this book is the glossary of families or characters. It made it easy to connect events from previous books as this is Novel 3 of 5; a series of novels. I didn’t feel I’ve missed out much because I haven’t read the first two. They seem to work well as standalone. 

4. A Day with John Keats by May Byron

I always go back to classics, and I seldom get disappointed. This is a wonderful short read that gives a glimpse to Keats’ life, thoughts and writing process; more of a behind the scenes with the inclusion of some of my favourite poems: Endymion, Autumn, Ode to a Nightingale, etc.

The reader gets another impression that Keats took his vocation seriously. For instance, he is quoted as saying “Whenever I feel vapourish, I rouse myself, wash, and put on a clean shirt; brush my hair and clothes, tie my shoe-strings neatly, and in fact adonize as if I were going out; then all clean and comfortable, I sit down to write.” And write, he did!

3. Becoming by Michelle Obama

So much has been written about this book that I feel I don’t have anything more of value to add. As I mentioned before, Mrs O’s story is really inspiring. One of my favourite quotes…

“but not for one second did I think I’d be sliding into some glamorous, easy role. Nobody who has the words ‘first’ and ‘black’ attached to them ever would. I stood at the foot of the mountain, knowing I’d need to climb my way into favor.” I nod both in agreement and to salute her journey.

2. The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

This book drew me immediately. I went in deep and fast, hypnotized by every word, and kept turning pages until I realised I was halfway. I thought of preparing dinner but decided on a Chinese takeaway instead, because I simply couldn’t put it down. So yeah, I read the entire thing in a single day.

I enjoyed this book, insomuch that I didn’t have the urge to pick up another book afterwards. That is real magic!

1. A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader by edited by Maria Popova et al.

I’ve talked about this book before here but I come back to it, because it is my BEST read this summer. I’ve never felt so much joy reading experts from all walks of life talk about books and their love for reading.

There are all sorts of letters (profound, educational, personal, relatable or simply funny) in this book. Some (to name a few) that touched me immensely are by Steven Pinker, Pamela Paul, Alain de Botton, Anne Lamott and Helen Fagin, who reads her touching letter at Brain Pickings.

This is one of those books you can read over and over again. I highly recommend it to every reader, regardless of age.

Huh…did you notice my impactful reads are mostly by female authors? Well, keep an eye for a post on how I managed to diversify my reads this summer!

I’m always happy to hear your thoughts.

Khaya Ronkainen
Khaya Ronkainen is a writer, poet and creative professional. Her blog focuses on all things poetry and creative nonfiction.


  1. I read 2 out of those 5 (Poet X and Becoming) earlier this year and definitely agree they are standouts. The Velocity of Being sounds quite intriguing. It may be what I read next after I work through my most recent haul from the local library. 😀

  2. I do like the image of the old style typewriter .. amazing.

    Many thanks for sharing your thoughts about these books, none of which I’ve read … yet!

    All the best Jan

  3. Ah, we have similar tastes! 🙂 I promise you won’t be disappointed with The Velocity of Being; it’s worth a read. All the best with your haul. 😀

  4. Thank you, Jan. I do like these vintage typewriters as well, and I’ve hunting one without success. The one pictured here is from a museum. 🙂

    I’m glad you enjoyed my mini reviews. And it sounds like you have a lot of reading to do. Hope you get pick one of these soon!

  5. I learned to type on my mother’s old Underwood typewriter. Interesting to hear they are now museum pieces!

  6. Thank you for these wonderful suggestions, Khaya. I can’t wait to check them out. And, indeed, the typewriter is so beautiful. I remember typing on one as a child at my grandfather’s house. He was a collector of many interesting, beautiful things – though I think the typewriter was just his typewriter. Wish I had it now…

  7. I know, a number of things I used growing up are collectibles nowadays. I learned to type on a typewriter myself. 😊

  8. It’s my pleasure, H. I’m glad to hear you’re planning on trying them out. Happy Reading! Lovely too, to hear about your typewriter experience. It’s a piece that brings back so many wonderful childhood memories.😊

  9. Thank you, Heather. I enjoyed (and inspired by) these books. About reading The Poet X in a single day, it was a combination of having time, intrigue on the subject matter and the “right” size of the book. But yeah, I’ve suffered from book hangovers in the past.😀

  10. A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader sounds like something I’d enjoy. And I think it’s about time I read Becoming. I’ve been waiting for a friend who said she wanted to read it together, but… she’s taking too long (and my curiosity is getting impatient).

  11. I, too, think you’ll enjoy A Velocity of Being. You’ll also find a letter by one of your favourite writers, Neil Gaiman, in the collection. 🙂 The book is really a treasure.

    It took me long too, to read Becoming. I kept hearing friends talk about it, surprised I hadn’t read the book yet. But I wanted to dedicate enough time to read it without much distractions. Because has is such a remarkable story and a great inspiration all girls (young and old).

    Reading with a friend would be a totally enriching experience. Nothing beats bonding over a book with a friend or a loved one. I’d say wait. It’d be worth it!

  12. Sounds like a great reading list.
    I go around quoting John Keats at this time of year, because he wrote so beautifully about autumn. His tragically short life story affected me as much as his poems, and I tend to quote him in my books.

  13. Thanks Cynthia. 🙂 I’m super happy to hear you are a great fan of Keats too. I can relate with going around quoting him, he is one my favourite poets. I tend to open or close my talks by reciting one (a part) of his poems. 😀

  14. I’d like to hear one of your talks! I wrote about him in my second memoir. The chapter, was titled “In bed with a dead poet”.

  15. Ha! I do talks (sometimes) around schools on topics that are not related to poetry but inject it anyway. As I inject it at private celebrations. Now, I’m learning ways to make it useful too in business. 🙂

    But I’m now more intrigued by your memoir, which I had already added to my TBR list, “In bed with a dead poet” is an enticing title. I’m looking forward to reading your book.

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