My reading this year has been about 65% of what it was in 2021. I thought it was a lot less, because I have read less books in total, but number of books is such a weird way to count «reading» in general. Time would be a great, but difficult way to count, amount of pages is at least better I think? I did start out the year getting my heart broken by a book in the worst possible way, by “The Secret Commonwealth” by Philip Pullman. I was also so excited for“Book of Night” by Holly Black, but it wasn’t quite what I expected. In so many other ways it has been a great year, with some wonderful books.
The Hand on the Wall (Truly Devious #3) by Maureen Johnson was both a book by one of my other favourite authors and one in a series I haven’t pick up in a while. And yet it was great! It was the semi-conclusion I was looking for, Maureen Johnson continues being great at delivering the stories (both in cast of characters, plot and vibes) she sets up.
Brandon Sanderson hasn’t failed me yet either, and the 4th book of the Stormlight Archive “Rhythm of War” was a great, long fantasy book. It’s nice to dive into his expansive worlds, where every aspect seems so well thought out, but there’s a limit to how many Sanderson books I can enjoy in a year before my brain melts.
This summer, where I hoped to increase my reading time, I read most of my way through multiple books only to find out they were just badly written. I think both “Other People’s Clothes” by Calla Henkel, “Boyfriend Material” Alexis Hall and “The Maidens“ by Alex Michaelides fell under that umbrella. I really wanted to like “Mexican Gothic” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, but it wasn’t quite for me.
The most surprising read this year was a book I picked up in swedish, a language I do not speak, but I can with much effort read as I’m norwegian. In english it’s called “If Cats Disappeared from the World” by Genki Kawamura, originally written in japanese.
I also read two other books that didn’t quite fit with the rest; “The Art of Heikala” which is the artist Heikala about her own process and a book filled with her colourful, great work, and the graphic novel “Mooncakes” by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu. Would recommend both!
I listened to “I’m Glad My Mom Died” by Jennette McCurdy, which I almost don’t want to admit because it was such a chilling read in the way that it felt illegally close to reading someone’s journal of abuse. Of course it’s retold with the perspective of a now-adult, still multiple times I had to stop and remind myself that the author herself decided to share this information. It personally made me reframe how I think of child actors, from the best to the worst cases.
I also listened to “Permanent Record” by Edward Snowden. And it was enlightening, to the point where it made me dislike his personality more and still appreciate the work he’s done and what he tries to achieve in giving out information.
Physical books I’ve bought:
I bought a lot of interesting books this year, I just didn’t get to them. I’m halfway through both a lovely copy of “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley. I think it’s the second time I’ve gotten this far, because it’s such a great, but dense book. And I’ve just finished “Harrow the Ninth” by Tamsyn Muir.
I’ve both bought and read some good poetry; “Look” by Solmaz Sharif and “So Far So Good” by Ursula K. Le Guin (which were the final poems of her life). I started reading “What Is This Thing Called Love” by Kim Addonizio and while I’ve liked and appreciated the pure honesty of other poems of hers, this one became just a bit too gritty for me. Somehow drunkenness in combination with her descriptions of love became too much so I just decided this one wasn’t for me at all.
I also got “Babel by R. F. Kuang” and it will be one of the books I’m most excited to read in 2023.
Kindle books I’ve bought and will hopefully read soon:
“Tuesdays with Morrie” by Mitch Albom (memoir)
“A Master of Djinn” by P. Djèlí Clark (fantasy, steampunk, queer)
“Hench” by Natalie Zina Walschots (fantasy, queer)
“Friends: Understanding the power of our most impor tant relationships” by Robin Dunbar (nonfiction)
“The Library of the Unwritten” by A. J. Hackwith (fantasy, queer)
I’ve yet to make a list of books to read this year, mostly because some of these books I’ve been wanting to pick up since 2020.
Harrow the Ninth (The Locked Tomb #2) by Tamsyn Muir: fantasy book with necromancers in space, the first book was an experience. I tried to read this once, but the writing style is very peculiar compared to the first book, so someone recommended I listened to the audiobook instead.
We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled – Voices from Syria by Wendy Pearlman: I don’t remember where I saw this book first, I hope it’s as good as the reviews seems to say in that it’s accurate about giving space to the “voices from syria”. It’s always difficult to know before you pick up a book, which is why more so than other books I make sure to read non-fiction on my TBR before sharing it.
Permanent Record by Edward Snowden: I’ve already read half of it some time ago, it’s a memoir in how it showcases a lot of Snowden’s life and what built up to him being a whistleblower for the NSA spying on its own citizens through mass surveillance. I did not expect how much he points out the different government structures and the tools the US government had at their disposal already before 2013. I think the backstory part is less interesting to me than Snowden’s thoughts and reflections, but it’s still bound to be worth listening to.
The only way I get myself to read classics is to buy a nice physical copy and then stare at it for months until I might want to, and then more often than not be very happy I did read it.
To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf: I’ve already started reading this and stopped, because I needed to pay more attention than I could right then.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley: I did read this once, I can’t remember much except it starting my Mary Shelley fascination and loving the writing style, but I got this stylish physical copy so I’m going back to it.
The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus: who does not want to read Camus’ philosophy? (But at the same time never feels quite up for the “meditations on suicide”)
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde: each time I pick up this book I get two chapters in, puts it down for too long, and have to reread at least one chapter. One would think that you could finish a book that way, but yet I never seem to get through it. It is nice when I do read it though.
Fantasy & Other Nonfiction
The Library of the Unwritten by A. J. Hackwith: I once saw this recommended with the trope of the morally-gray “retired” character who’s pulled back into action. It might be true considering it’s an epic fantasy with a protagonist who is Head Librarian of a library, which is also a neutral space in Hell. It has a pansexual main character, yet I did not get the impression it’s a big part of the story.
A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark: I’m really excited to read this urban fantasy set in Cairo in Egypt with djinns which features two brilliant female protagonists who tries to uncover the murder of a secret brotherhood. It has queer romance, thieves and steampunk elements.
The Maidens by Alex Michaelides: a dark academia type of book with both a secret society for women, a therapist who is trying to solve a murder at her old university and a suspicious professor of Greek Tragedy.
The Box in the Woods (Truly Devious #4) by Maureen Johnson: the amateur detective protagonist of the story has moved on from the several deaths on her boarding school into the real world, more specifically called in to investigate unsolved cases in a camp area. Along with her friends of course, who all got into the boarding school because of their various skills.
Book of Night by Holly Black: I’ve just committed myself to read Holly Black’s books until they’re no longer interesting anymore. This one is supposed to be an adult debut with a dark fantasy of “shadowy thieves and secret societies”. I’m just hoping it does not make the same grave mistakes “Ninth House” by Leigh Bardugo did as it was her first “adult” novel, but turned out to be simply violent for the spectacle.
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia: a supernatural story set in the 1950s featuring love, enormous wealth, debutante balls and gothic mysteries.
Those Who Prey by Jennifer Moffett: it’s about a lonely college freshman seduced into joining an exclusive cult, a trip to Italy, trying to escape and a mysterious death.
Other People’s Clothes by Calla Henkel: the protagonist and her friend is studying abroad in Berlin, looking for vibrant adventures and starts partying, featuring a bit of murder.
The Story of More by Hope Jahren– How We Got to Climate Change and Where to Go from Here: The author is a geobiologist researcher who has already proven her ability to communicate science in “Lab Girl”. At first sight it seems like a solution-focused climate change book with a lot of science to explain every step behind it.
Firmament – The Hidden Science of Weather, Climate Change and the Air That Surrounds Us by Simon Clark: Simon Clark is another scientist who has proven he can communicate science well, as someone who has yet to take a atmospheric physics course I’m excited to get a primer on it.
I don’t find there’s that much to say about poetry collections before reading it, even if you know of the poet there’s no certainty they do not bring something totally different this time, but I’m very excited to get to all of them.
Here’s part one of book releases I’ve been looking forward to in 2022.
Extasia by Claire Legrand
Releasedate: 22. February 2022
Why I want to read it: the author also wrote “Sawkill Girls” which I liked, and it’s a YA horror with a religious cult, overthrowing patriarchy and sapphic protagonists.
Time is a Mother by Ocean Vuong
Releasedate: 5. April 2022
Why I want to read it: Vuong’s other poetry collection was stunning and real, with big themes like grief and war, but drawing from very personal experiences
Inheritance: a visual poem by Elizabeth Acevedo
Releasedate: 3. May 2022
Why I want to read it: I love Acevedo’s poetry and way to tell stories already. Never know quite what to expect in terms of format, which is great.
I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston
Releasedate: 3. May 2022
Why I want to read it: sapphic romances, especially by authors I already know can write well, are always worth a shot
Book of Night by Holly Black
Releasedate: 3. May 2022
Why I want to read it: a more adult, dark fantasy with thieves, secret societies, magic with consequences and murders. I don’t think I’ve ever read a bad book from Holly Black.
Siren Queen by Nghi Vo
Releasedate: 10. May 2022
Why I want to read it: an unusual book for me to pick up, but a lot of people seem to like this 30s Hollywood story with a Chinese American protagonist who has to navigate dark rituals and folklore in what seems to be somewhat of a fantasy book with sapphics.
We’re already a month into the year but here we go –
Firmament by Simon Clark
Releasedate: 27. January 2022
Why I want to read it: The first book by Simon Clark, which is exciting. His explanations of climate change are always great and easy to follow, and I should probably get to reading this soon as motivation before my atmospherical physics and climate change exam this semester :))
This Woven Kingdom by Tahereh Mafi
Releasedate: 1. February 2022
Why I want to read it: I usually like Tahereh Mafi’s writing and would love a Persian mythology inspired fantasy story from her. So I hope this isn’t just another generic ya fantasy series, despite the title and cover.
Other People’s Clothes by Calla Henkel
Releasedate: 1. February 2022
Why I want to read it: It’s an unusual pick for me, but I want the promised thriller showcasing the “dangerous intensity of female friendships”, murder and morally gray characters.
Lakelore by Anna-Marie McLemore
Releasedate: 8. March 2022
Why I want to read it: I don’t have the best track-record with getting as much into McLemore’s books as I would want to, but both the book’s premises, the magical realism and the writing of them are usually amazing. And I can’t keep away from the promises of “two non-binary teens are pulled into a magical world under a lake“ in this book either.
Portrait of a Thief by Grace D. Li
Releasedate: 5. April 2022
Why I want to read it: a heist novel! Featuring a heist I even deem very acceptable; stealing back pieces of art and people’s belongings displayed in Western museums stolen under war and colonialism. More specifically a group of Chinese American college students (one lesbian, one queer) are stealing back Chinese sculptures and pondering the ethics of it.
Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel
Releasedate: 26. April 2022
Why I want to read it: The protagonist Kaikeyi “transforms herself from an overlooked princess into a warrior, diplomat, and most favored queen, determined to carve a better world for herself and the women around her”, which sounds like a powerful and interesting story. It’s a Ramayana retelling with an asexual protagonist. I’ve seen some reviews disagreeing to such a prominent villain being retold as anything else, but as someone unfamiliar to Hindu stories that’s hard to assess.
Ages ago, nine months to be exact, I made a post of five star book predictions. And the problem with those types of things are that you not only want to read them all, but have time to write reviews, because most of them actually were great.
The Hidden Girl & Other Stories by Ken Liu (my review)
In short I really appreciated and liked this collection of short stories. I had my expectation set high as I like the short story collection The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by the same author. I don’t think I realized the sci-fi thread through this one, but it was a pleasant surprise. Still, it’s harder to make multiple sci-fi stories I find equally fascinating as shorts, so it became a four out of five star read. Absolutely worth it.
Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas
I really would have loved this book as a middle school (or even younger actually) kid. It’s a queer romance between a Latino trans boy and a gay boy, featuring murder mystery and ghosts. And while I loved all those aspects, the plot was predictable for being young adult. I would say it was the age categorization that made my expectations higher and unfair for me to judge, so no star rating here.
Love and Math: The Heart of Hidden Reality by Edward Frenkel
You ever start reading books during off-time and then realize it’s hard to continue once the semester starts, especially if it is too close to whatever you study? I’m still not done with this book, even though I love it. I will say that halfway through, it’s a five star read. I especially loved the discussion on how math education should be changed, and how Frenkel himself got into mathematics.
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong:
This is an emotionally heavy and brilliant book. The writing alone is breath-taking, and made everything come to life in such a way that I needed several breaks while reading it. The book is written as a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read, with a raw honesty. It is centered around his Vietnamese family, living through the war and its consequences, about family, violence and trauma, but also healing, identity and sexuality. The book tries to do much by interweaving storylines through time, and as a consequence it has some slowness and confusion, making it a four out of five star read for me.
I also loved the poetry collection «Night Sky with Exit Wounds» by Vuong. Would absolutely recommend them both.
Lore Olympus by Rachel Smythe (web comic link): this is a on-going web comic, but I’ve binged all the episodes released so far. I really adored the art style, I was unsure of the Hades-Persephone romance because it’s done so much, but it’s very self-aware and certainly cute. I truly liked how much focus it is on Persephone being a young godess trying to be independent, but learning that it’s okay to take support from others, while everyone shitting on her special treatments. Definitely so much personality to these characters, big and small, which is why it’s getting five stars even though I was bored at certain points.
What Is This Thing Called Love by Kim Addonizio (poetry)
Mortal Trash by Kim Addonizio (poetry)
Bukowski in a Sundress: confessions from a writing life by Kim Addonizio (memoir, essays)
Notes on a Silencing by Lacy Crawford (memoir, true crime): about experiencing sexual abuse on an elite boarding school
frank: sonnets by Diane Seuss (poetry)
The Book of Love: poems of ectasy and longing by Rumi (poetry, classics, philosophy)
Tales of Norse Mythology by Hélène A. Guerber (mythology)
The Anthropocene Reviewed: essays on a human-centered planet by John Green (nonfiction, essays)
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson (classics, humor, journalism)
Three things on my mind:
So much has happened lately, most of them really nice. I got through my exams with better marks than I could’ve wished for despite lots of roadblocks, spent some time alone waiting for my 2nd covid-19 vaccine. Managed to get it and finally spend time with friends and family, some I haven’t met in two years now.
This spring exam season was the first time I sat down and was like “I can actually do this” because I do love what I’m studying (physics). I just don’t love the whole regiment I have to uphold to try to get a working, cooperative brain and focus. Like basically I have to schedule when I do certain activities as I know I’ll have pain afterwards, mainly eating, and it was tricky to figure out the most efficient times. I have crohn’s disease among other things, and it’s fairly active still, but we’re working on it.
So I’ve done a lot in my daily life this summer, but I’ve read so little. Mostly poetry. And I have been very happy, for the most part. I’ve watched a lot – a lot – of movies, because that’s a social thing to do. I can’t get through a movie or tv series without skipping some parts if I’m on my own, so I really only get the chance to enjoy them under supervision of other people. I did watch cats, the movie. And would wholeheartedly recommend against it.My body was having physical reactions to not being able to keep up with the godawful CGI/human cat faces, the inconsistency of them making it only more fucked up. Glad I did it with someone beside me, it was hilarious to suffer together. Better movies I watched for the first time was The Matrix (I laughed at every matrix I calculated with for the rest of the week), The Martian, Gravity and My Neighbor Totoro. All great films, of which Totoro is definitely the supreme winner.
I’ve been reading a lot of love poems lately. I opened Felicity by Mary Oliver to the part of Love, and the first thing I met was Rumi’s writing that she included. There was no less of a sign of wisdom to not let fear guide you in anything, let alone emotions of importance like love.
Someone who does not run toward the allure of love walks a road where nothing lives.
We’re in the middle of exam season so I’m trying to not read much else, because I lose too much time at once, hahha. I have the bookshelf of high fantasy books I want to read when sometime maybe finally vacation comes around.
Added to TBR:
Journal of a Solitude by May Sarton. Memoir.
The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson. Thriller, crime.
I Don’t Want To Kill You (John Cleaver #3) by Dan Wells. Exactly the type of horror/thriller book it sounds like
Know My Name by Chanel Miller. Nonfiction, memoir, true crime. Recommendation by Naty’s Bookshelf made me want to read it!
Comradely Greetings by Slavoj Žižek and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova. Nonfiction, philosophy, politics. Based on letters between philosopher Žižek and pussy riot member Tolokonnikova as she was in jail in Russia.
Alien Oceans: The Search for Life in the Depths of Space by Kevin Peter Hand. Nonfiction, science, astrobiology.
Harrow the Ninth (The Locked Tomb #2) by Tamsyn Muir. Queer fantasy/sci-fi.
A Dowry of Blood by S. T. Gibson. Fantasy, horror, vampires. lgbt; bi/pan characters.
Let’s start with a light-hearted, fun thing. I’m looking into which science communicators and scientists (within math and physics mainly) to bring into our university’s science festival. And we already have a list to take from, but I can message whoever I want for the most part and that’s one of the reasons I suddenly found more science books to read again.
I’m kind of tired of myself lately.But life doesn’t stop being weird, and I’ve had some of the most surreal days. So many hospital visits, so little studying in comparison even though exams are just around the corner. Doctors who can’t keep things straight, like the one medicine I was put on and there to talk about? My mom, on the other side of the country, had an allergic reaction and no one would treat her for too long?? Had she not have extensive medical experience with two sick kids and the help of a very frightened young doctor, her anaphylactic shock could have gone very badly. It’s all been very strange and nervewracking. On the bright side, I will get to see a very nice nurse every month moving forward. Also, as I’m writing this I might have circled into my strangest sleep schedule yet with falling asleep at 7pm and waking up numerous times before giving up around 3 am, for the last three days in a row. It’s better than waking up at 4 pm in some aspects, until you realize that the grocery store doesn’t open until 10 am and you’ve ran out of food. I’m so hungry right now, hahha.
*Trigger warning for anything bad mental health and suicidal ideation* Have any other college students taken surveys about mental health during the pandemic? Because our massive one just dropped and 1/2 of students reported major psychological symptoms and around 1/4 of students had seriously considered taking their own lives. What maybe surprised me most was that while other symptoms had a massive jump, suicidal thoughts were already close to that level in 2018. Seems like there’s both an accute problem and an underlying one that never was discussed enough. There seems to be some money being thrown at the problem, but from what I’ve heard lately any mental health programs dealing with those more serious symptoms have issues getting to everyone within a decent time. It isn’t like this wasn’t a predictable result of a year of pandemic? It’s so concerning, because for students we’ve had these low-entry “are you experiencing exam stress?” type of help, but very little else. I was in the system pre-covid and has had therapy throughout it, only online, but everyone should’ve had that chance at any point.
The Shadow and Bones tv series is – well, a thing. I have seen it, after much back and forth about whether I wanted to. I’m not sure what I think other than that I didn’t originally connect with the Grisha books so it could only make that part better for me and they didn’t have enough of the Six of Crows gang to ruin anything bad for me. So would watch again, I guess? It is pretty great to see certain parts in such a visual way, but I feel I have to rewatch it a second time to not just sit there nervous that the show runners will ruin something. Also I’m still worried about the potential second season? But also want to see what they would do? Would love your thoughts if you got any on whether you like the series or not! One thing I’m certain of; I’m loving all the new content about the crows because of the series.
Give at least one recommendation for each of the prompts below
If you don’t have a recommendation, talk about a book you want to read
Tag your friends
A book about friendship
I always look for books about friendship, but somehow all the recommendations I have is heist related? That’s without including all the YA books with too-young characters having to bond because there’s no adults around, of course. Honestly I prefer found-family or platonic relationships to romantic ones in general in books.
But I think of The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt as a story about friendship, as much as it has lonely elements as well. I guess also “The Secret History”. I need more not-gloomy-murder recommendations, is what I’m figuring out.
A translated book
Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder. For once I’m standing by my first language and choosing a norwegian book. I know this book that’s a mix of children’s and philosophy is really well-known, but it’s kind of strange trying to get if people know of it elsewhere in the world. I grew up with the author’s book, but I really want to reread this and see how (or if) different I would understand it now. It’s philosophy made so accessible, even for someone who is forced to take a university philosophy course right now and hating it.
A diverse romance
I’m so bad at reading pure romance books without stopping half-way through. I just finished Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas and while it felt very middle-school and not young adult, it’s the queer romance between a Latino trans boy and a gay boy that I would’ve loved growing up.
A fast-paced book
I rarely remember the pace of a book unless it was horrible one way or another?? I think the sequel A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor by Hank Green had a fast pace in that the set-up of the first book (with strange giant robots that might be alien) needed a lot to tie up and it all managed to happen in this book, through multiple points of view and a group of friends collaborating by working on each of their part of the bigger problem.
A nonfiction (not memoir)
Naty’s Bookshelf mentioned The End of Everything by Katie Mack which I just read and very much agree with her take! It was such an experience reading, written with so much passion about astrophysics and the existential questions. In that way it does have a lot of perspective and personality from Mack and even though I am in university for physics, you don’t need any background to enjoy reading it. She goes briefly through the smaller things you need to follow the theories of how the world will end and what that means.
An underrated memoir
A truly underrated one is “A Woman in the Polar Night” by Christiane Ritter about a german upper-class (or at least comfortable) woman who in 1934 travels to the Arctic to spend a year there. It goes very quickly from “ah, a relaxing, but challenging trip” to “boredom and life & death”. Her writing is stunning as well and really delves into aspects of life that I’ve never had described to me this way, but rings as clear as the snow surrounding her for miles and miles.
A book with fewer than 10.000 ratings on Goodreads
Somehow the first I thought of was (Don’t You) Forget About Me by Kate Karyus Quinn, which was one of those books that was on my TBR for FIVE LONG YEARS with no idea of what it was about. It had such a powerful story of facing reality and dealing with it or continuing making the easy decision of running from it. As a story it’s also on the line between fantasy, magical realism and dystopia in a way I haven’t seen before, set in a “paradise” where no one ever get sick or seem to die. It’s currently at 2171 ratings.
A book with a LGTBQ+ protagonist
I just bought City of Strife by Claudie Arseneault in physical form as I loved it so much and wanted to reread it before reading the rest of this high fantasy series. It has several asexual characters, including the main character (who is also aromantic) and is written by an asexual and aromantic author. All the characters are queer; bisexual, demi, pan, poly, gender fluid, agender, as well as asexual and aromantic is all represented in an overall badass magical city. Really, this book should be underneath the ‘friends’ recommendation as well as I might have a big weakness for main characters who observes everything all the time as a thief or assassin, but also cares deeply for their friends. And the plot builds so naturally on the personalities and choices made by these characters, and the way their lives intertwines by living in the same city. This book just gave me a lovely, fun and exciting experience reading it with characters I squeal over, but also feel comforted by. Without sacrificing any of the heavyness or high fantasy elements usual to the genre.
A book by a trans or non-binary author
I’ve got so many books I want to read that fits here, so these are on my TBR (and hopefully I can get to them after exams):
Freshwater, Pet or basically any other book by Akwaeke Emezi. I’m really interested in how Freshwater protrays mental illness , identity and the protagonist develops separate selves within her as she moves from Nigeria to America for college. But it all in this magical realism/fantasy type of story. Pet is also magical realism/fantasy for somewhat of a younger audience centered around a black, transgender girl who meets a monster and all the adults around her are in denial of their existence.
If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo also has a transgender girl main character who deals with being new in high school and everything that comes with. Relationships, mental illness, conflicts around gender – it seems like a really honest book.
A book with more than 500 pages
The longest book I’ve read and enjoyed is apparently now the popular fanfic All The Young Dudes by MsKingBean89 with its 527k words. And while I do recommend it for all its glorious scenarios as the whole fanfic follows the Harry Potter Marauders through Hogwarts and until the end, giving you everything queer J. K. FUcking Rowling would never – don’t start reading it without having the next few days completely free. The platonic relationships and the different twist on Remus’ character and life all wrecked me.
Besides that, it’s The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson which is one of my favourite fantasy books of all time and also 1283 pages long. It’s a struggle of wanting to write reviews for all my fav books, but then also having too much to say about them and never getting to it. It’s just the best, although I always recommend Mistborn by Sanderson if you’re looking for an easier way into his work and not to dive into this epic fantasy chaos of greatness as it has as much of same brilliant elements in an easier to digest format and size.
A short story collection
Both The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories and The Hidden Girl and Other Stories by Ken Liu are supreme. Just the paper menagerie collection has stories about “The bookmaking habit of select species”, an AI utopia that you might actually want to live in, hujing; beings who are both fox and human, chinese calligraphy and deadly fear of communism / plain racism, being chinese in america, simulacrums; illusions of people stuck in time, aliens, Guan Yu the chinese god of war visiting America (American Gods vibes from that one, it was awesome). Also immense sacrifices and a few stories that willl make you sob inclung about unit 731 and the biological warfare and experimentation in China during WW2.
A book you want everyone to read
In general, the books that had the most impact on me heavily depends on the situation and context in which I read it. Not to mention my on-going struggle of finding a general recommendations list for people in my real life who ask. Because it’s always so much better to tailor them to their interest and like level of understanding of any given genre. For example the already mentioned A Woman in the Polar Night by Christiane Ritter I find myself automatically recommending, but I get that it will be a slow-paced and quite boring book if it doesn’t match with the person.
So I think the best answer is the poetry collection BRANCHES and the new release Grocery List Poems (when it comes out in june, I’ve yet to read it) by Rhiannon McGavin! The writing is easy to follow for those who “aren’t (yet) into poetry”, but I also think McGavin always brings really interesting takes and beautiful writing. She started out as a spoken word poet so a lot of her work is on youtube. I’ve followed her for years, but in general I find that among the younger poets those who already stands out in how clearly they follow their own, more unique path is the ones that grows the most. Of course, easiest way to get into poetry is to start out with someone that speaks about things you are interested in, which sounds obvious, but sometimes needs a reminder.
Yesika Salgado (with the collections Corazón, Tesoro and Hermosa) is another great recommendation for a poet to ‘start with’, but also in general really fantastic. I’ve been rereading the poetry collections and wanted to do a short post on them, but it’s taken a while because each is so powerful and filled with messages connected to its theme that I need to like take a breath in between them. I think my favourite is Tesoro as it’s about family, the women in Salgado’s life and survival.
Permafrost by Eva Baltasar (lesbian protagonist, set in Barcelona)
They Never Learn by Layne Fargo (thriller/mystery, murder, bi women protagonists, femme fatale, dark academia)
Lumberjanes vol. 1 by Stevenson, Ellis, Watters, Allen (graphic novel, queer women)
How to Find a Higgs Boson and Other Big Mysteries in the World of the Very Small by Ivo van Vulpen (science, physics)
Fable by Adrienne Young (YA fantasy, pirates); I’m nervous about this one as I didn’t match well with another novel by the author, but it’s interesting concept of pirate-vibes (well sea merchants) and danger has lured me in once again.
City of Betrayal (City of Spires #2) by Claudie Arseneault (high fantasy, lgbt; big queer cast and aro-ace mc, politics)
Baker Thief also by Claudie Arseneault (urban fantasy, lgbt; among others are aromantic, biromantic, demisexual & nonbinary characters, witches, thieves, enemies-to-lovers)
A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark & the other prequels (steampunk fantasy/sci-fi, set in Cairo, thieves, lgbt; f/f relationship)
Three things on my mind:
I’m just finished with what I named the Easter studying-drinking bootcamp. Weird name since I have had to be sober for most of it (my new meds wasn’t to happy about me drinking probably nor my very much currently active chronic illness). I’ve tried to explain it and this is what I’ve come up with;
We’re three roommates (out of the usual fifteen) and one additional friend having chosen to stay in our university city over easter vacation. Because of covid, but also we all have a lot of school work to catch up on. First one because he’s an engineer too busy making super-awesome-dangerous drones, second one because he takes too many high-level math courses and me because my chronic ill ass (crohn’s mainly) decided to throw a tantrum and become really sick this semester (not yet on the other side of this, which complicates things). Drinking is optional. Making a bunny sculpture as a friend to our ethically-sourced-from-dumpster taxidermy fox is not, as this is the project we chose to make the week a bit more interesting. That is as much as we’ve got planned, we’re just as confused as the people we’ve tried to explain it to.
I’m in so much pain sometimes and I both adore the people around me right now and the awkward support they give as best they can. But also I’ve been conditioned since I was a kid to never trust anyone to not let me down when it comes to chronic illness and it’s so difficult to let people close to me right now, as I do have a lot of solo coping mechanisms that require a lot of effort, energy and focus directed at myself. For the first time in forever I do have some energy though, and can only hope for the best and try to prepare for anything else.
I wish I could discuss with other chronically ill people how bad it feels in the scenario where people want to help, but truly deep down don’t get it. Because it’s the gray area of them trying and you wanting to encourage that, but it ending up with the equivalent of holding someone’s hand and guiding them through a tunnel, pointing out all the things they need to know to even begin that process. And they’re not bound to remember, and nowhere near change, after one walk through it. It just makes sense that they’ve not put in the work that you’ve been forced to. Personally, I’ve both been the sick one and the relative/friend to the sick one, it’s two very different experiences, but still I’ve had to do the work twice at the minimum. Even the smaller things are so interconnected to basically relearning how to view illness both in the view of a person and the ableism in society, it seems impossible to just get people to stop doing them as they don’t understand why and don’t just accept/remember the request.
For example, if you hear even the smaller things like «I hope you get better soon»constantly from people close to you – it’s really draining. Because you sigh inwards and make the choice to explain how it’s not bound to happen magically like that – maybe even the doctor has given you numbers to attach to a time-frame – making sure to assure the loved one you understand they mean well. But still it’s just as if you’re arguing against their well wishes and then the comments of being too pessimistic hit you like pellets, you counter with how you´re objectively realistic – there’s even numbers this time backing you up, not the usual «it´s my body and I’ve been in this situation before». Andthen you know there’s need for another talk about forced (!toxic tbh!) optimism and how it might help for right now, but it will crush anyone’s soul in the long run, but you’ve had that talk beforewith this person. Maybe even the day before. You’ve already spent too much energy on this. You leave it be, even if these parts of the conversation constantly drains you just a bit more as you bite the social bullet again and again. There’s certain people I want to talk less to these days, even if I care for them very much.
After those two very different thoughts & vibes, I hope you had a great easter. And if you wasn’t able to relax, or you dealt with too much family or felt lonely and missed seeing them bc of covid – that’s all very understandable as well and I hope it better weeks are ahead.
(Idk why some of these books was on my winter list.) I’m still as excited about them! Time is weird, and so is seasons, and that is the best reason I got. But I am really excited for spring to come this year, having had to choose between being completely in quarantine and taking walks in storms or snow-storms lately. Hopefully I can read some of these books in a park or even sitting on a bench somewhere outside. I don’t think that’s too much to ask of spring.
A Desolation Called Peace (Teixcalaan #2) by Arkady Martine
Release date: March 2nd 2021
Why I want to read it: I’ve yet to read the first book in this series, but the beginning of this queer sci-fi series has gotten so good reviews. I mean – Aztec empire in space??
Sweet & Bitter Magic by Adrienne Tooley
Release date: March 9th 2021
Why I want to read it: honestly I’m unsure about this book, even with the stunning cover. But sapphic witches, a magical plague, dark powers and love bargains might be too good to pass on, especially as the reviews I’ve noticed have been positive.
She’s Too Pretty to Burn
Release date: March 30th 2021
Why I want to read it:queer girls, a rebel art scene and claiming to be a “sexy, psychological thriller”.
Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas
Release date: March 23rd 2021
Why I want to read it: The protagonist is looking for her missing brothers in a town (and woods) that seem haunted ft. mental health and grief, trauma, anxiety and insomnia. A kind of dark & eerie Peter Pan retelling. From the same author as “Cemetery Boys” which I just read & appreciated.
First Person Singulair: Stories by Haruki Murakami
Release date: April 6th 2021
Why I want to read it: Haruki Murakami’s stories are just great, but I need to take a break in between each of them to digest, which is where hopefully short stories would be a great treat. I would rather go into this knowing less than more, I feel.
Witches Steeped in Gold by Ciannon Smart
Release date: April 20th 2021
Why I want to read it: two enemy witches that create alliance to fight a mutual threat, but power and revenge interferes. Jamaican-inspired fantasy which I’ve seen only good reviews for so far.
Goodbye, Again by Jonny Sun
Release date: April 20th 2021
Why I want to read it: I like Jonny Sun and his “Everyone’s a Aliebn When Ur a Aliebn Too“. This collection of essays, stories and poems promises humor and heartfelt writing covering heavy topics like mental health, happiness, wanting to belong.
One Last Stop by Casey McQuinston
Release date: May 6th 2021
Why I want to read it: I’ve looked forward to this book ever since reading “Red, White & Royal Blue” as the author writes so poignantly with humor and intellect to what could be very cheesy stories. Here a 23-year-old woman is moving to New York, then meets a girl on a train who dazzles her ft. time-travel (idk either hahha). A sapphic romcom type of romance I’m here for.
Heartstopper Vol. 4 by Alice Oseman
Release date: May 13th 2021
Why I want to read it: Heartstopper is like the gay m/m soft teenage romance that makes you sigh of relief in between more dramatic books. I thought vol. 3 went a bit too slow, but overall leaves me with a very nice feeling of hope.
Mister Impossible (Dreamer #2) by Maggie Stiefvater
Release date: May 18th 2021
Why I want to read it: I don’t know what’s going on with this cover, but I love it. Last book followed Ronan (and Adam) from the series “The Raven Boys” and this continues where it left off, I guess. I saw someone ask for Ronan to “live out his gay cottagecore dreams”, but ofc that’s not going to happen. Gay yes; suffering also yes. I just love the magic infused in Stiefvater’s writing with these characters and world.
The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green
Release date: May 18th 2021
Why I want to read it: I’ve already pre-ordered it! Not that John Green needs it, but I really wanted one of the many many signed ones. The cover is lovely, the podcast episodes (same name) behind it are truly stunning pieces of work. I expect more of detailed deep-dives in complex, somewhat strange stories and topics that John Green all somehow manage to tie together to explain some of human nature and society.
Pls share any new releases you’re looking forward to!