What I Read in January 2024

Hello, friends! Hope your new year is off to a good start! That has been the case for me. The new job is picking up and I’m learning lots but the work-life balance has been much better so far. This year, rather than reading however many number of books, I’m focusing on reading books that have been on my list (particularly prioritizing books I physically own and some longer books) and reading more books in Korean.

So far, I feel like I’m making a decent progress and fingers crossed, I keep up with this goal better than I did last year! Here’s everything I read in January:


You know when you become aware of something and you start seeing it everywhere?! It was like that with me for this book! I recognized the book cover while we were at Strand’s in NYC last month, and Rex got it for me as a gift. Since then I’ve seen it on so many lists and watched so many TikTok videos mentioning it. Understandably so because it is a great book! I had never read anything by James McBride before (though I have heard of Deacon King Kong) but his masterful storytelling is evident from the beginning pages of The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store.

Set in Chicken Hill neighborhood of Pottstown, Pennsylvania, The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store is a story about the vibrant community of Jewish immigrants and Black people. It highlights the interconnectedness and complexities of our communities that shape us and love us and protect us. There is quite a bit of unfolding in the first half of the book in terms of backstory of the characters (and there are a lot of characters int this book) which may be polarizing but it didn’t bother me at all since this book is pretty average in length and there is plenty of payoff for the buildup!

P.S. I watched/listened to this author chat with James McBride which I really enjoyed!


In If an Egyptian Cannot Speak English, we meet an Egyptian American woman living in Cairo to reconnect with her heritage and teaching English through the British embassy and a man from the village of Shobrakheit who was a photographer during the Arab Spring revolution and is now an unemployed cocaine addict. In the first two parts of the book, the narrator changes frequency between the two protagonists and we learn about them as they fall in love. Things change quite a bit towards the end. There’s a big shift in the storytelling which I found ingenious, considering Noor Naga’s intention to raise the question regarding who gets to tell the story and whose voice is heard.


I remember enjoying Angie Kim’s previous book Miracle Creek a few years ago so I had to get my hands on her new release Happiness Falls, especially after seeing it everywhere in the last year! Happens Falls begins dramatically with the disappearance of the loving father of a biracial Korean-American family living in Virginia. He was the stay-at-home parent who went everywhere with the youngest child Eugene who cannot speak. So when Eugene returns from the park without him and they cannot get a hold of him for hours, the search begins. The investigation that ensues is stressful and suffocating as there is almost immediately a conflict between wanting the dad to come back and for Eugene to not be in legal trouble.

Angie Kim writes her characters with annoying quirks and interests that make the characters feel like real people, and you’re able to really empathize with them and become invested in their lives and stakes, I think even more so in Happiness Falls than Miracle Creek.

HONEY GIRL by Morgan Rogers

I met up with one of my college friends over the holidays, and she explained how she’s been really enjoying it and relating to it which piqued my interest and I immediately started listening to Honey Girl the very same day! At a glance, Honey Girl may feel like a typical, yet another coming-of-age story but there are a lot of things that make Honey Girl special. First of all, the protagonist Grace Porter is twenty-eight and has a PhD in astronomy. Perhaps, she’s supposed to have figured it all by now but I found it so realistic and relatable since so many of us take all of our twenties to feel lost and find our place and purpose in the world.

She is burnt out, struggling with post-grad job search, and feeling pressured by her father who raised her in a strict, military household. As a cherry on top, Grace finds herself a married woman following a girl’s trip to Vegas to celebrate her PhD which she barely recalls happening. This surprise marriage thing throws another wrench into Grace’s plan which forces her to contemplate really hard about what she wants in life even if they were not part of her original plan.

A big turning point in the book for me was when Grace sort of flees for the second time. It was almost like a wake up call for me to really listen to her story to understand why she’s running away (though I should’ve from the beginning!) because I didn’t see that coming. Morgan Rogers created a very real character in Grace where you understand all of the nuances in her life. She also addresses a lot of topics in this book, including therapy, in a very seamlessly manner, which again made me feel like I was learning about Grace vs reading a book.

달러구트 꿈 백화점 #1 (DallerGut Dream Department Store) by 이미예 (Lee Mi-ye)

For my goal of reading more books in Korean, I finally picked up DallerGut Dream Department Store, which my mom picked up for me last time she was in Korea a few years ago (she’s back in Korea again as we speak). As I usually do, I went into it knowing very little (just what’s on the front sleeve of the book), and Lee Mi-ye creates such a special world in the DallerGut series! It’s actually not set in Korea but rather a fantastical dream world where people go when they fall asleep. Almost like a village, there are different shops, including DallerGut Dream Department Store where you can buy dreams you want to dream of, and there is a whole industry of dream makers. And you get to be introduced to all of this through the lens of Penny, a new employee at DallerGut.

It’s such a fascinating concept and heartwarming at times though I would say the book lacks a certain warmth due to the fact that it’s written almost like a translated text. I do believe that was intentional with it being set in an alternative world. It looks like the English translation is coming out this July!

달러구트 꿈 백화점 #2 (DallerGut Dream Department Store) by 이미예 (Lee Mi-ye)

While the first book sets up the world, the second book of DallerGut Dream Department Store series takes it to another level. The focus of the book is to bring back the old regulars who stopped dreaming for various reasons. With these regular customers, you get to know more about their back stories and there is a great resolution to each struggle, which I appreciated reading. Honestly, I wish there was more to this book, especially if there are going be no more books in the series!


First romance book of the year, and it was a good one! Humaira, or “Hani” is one of the most popular girls at school though she finds herself changing or hiding parts of herself to fit in with her white Irish besties. When her friends refuse to believe or acknowledge her bisexual identity, she takes on a fake relationship with Ishita “Ishu”, the only other brown girl at school who is known for being studious and antisocial. Their respective goals from this fake dating is for Hani to be accepted by her friends as she is and for Ishu to become more popular and hopefully get elected as the head girl which will help her get into a good college. As they get to know each other better, they realize they are a good fit for each other.

I won’t say more to spare you of spoilers but I loved Hani and Ishu! I expected a cutesy love story which this is but it’s so much more. It’s about them growing up, becoming comfortable with themselves, and figuring out who they are as people and not confining themselves to what their parents or friends have been telling them they are.

P.S. Adiba Jaigirdar has a new book coming out this year in collaboration with Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé whose Ace of Spades and Where the Sleeping Girls Lie I loved–can’t wait to read it!


I was one of those people who only learned about the fourth Hunger Games book after the movie came out last year, and I told myself I will watch the book AFTER I read the book. So I had to wait for my library hold to come in, and I still haven’t watched the movie yet haha. I think it’ll be worth it though because The Balls of Songbirds and Snakes was a roller coaster ride!

Set several decades prior to the original trilogy, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes follows President Snow as a young man. Coriolanus Snow is from one of the most prestigious and respected families in the Capitol though the family has now lost all their wealth following the war as their investment was in District 13. The future of the House of Snow (and thus the livelihood of his grandma and his cousin Tigris) relies on Coryo’s success. He is one of the student mentors for the tenth annual Hunger Games and he is determined to outshine other mentors. His tribute is the girl from District 12 which disappoints him at first but she seems to be a wild card that could change his life.

Because the timeline and the setting are so different from the original trilogy, I didn’t know what to expect next while reading. After all, they are still experimenting quite a bit with the Hunger Games as a concept and its execution that Coryo (doesn’t know what’s coming next (and I guess everyone really). There is such a discrepancy between Coryo and President Snow that while you know how he ends up being in his later years, it’s difficult to imagine how Coryo could become that person initially. Glimpses into Coryo’s thoughts and frustrations throughout the book illustrate the gradual change in his character and the solidification of his beliefs at the very end. Suzanne Collins is a terrific writer and I can’t believe I hadn’t known about The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes sooner!

P.S. I’m currently reading Babel and listening to They Called Me a Lioness!

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