I post so rarely that I’m amazed people still read these posts, but thank you and please share what books you are excited for this year.
Harrow the Ninth (The Locked Tomb #2) by Tamsyn Muir. I loved the first book, I’ve been struggling to get through this one to be honest.
Babel by R. F. Kuang (also dark academia): going in pretty blind, but hoping for the best.
A Vampire’s Redemption (The Inquisition Trilogy #2) by Casey Wolfe (queer): the first book was great!
The Library of the Unwritten by A. J. Hackwith: I don’t remember who described this as a morally gray type of character doing the trope of “coming out of retirement” and returning to power, only that protagonist is also a librarian.
Arcanum Unbounded by Bradon Sanderson: a collection of Cosmere stories.
A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark (queer): I’ve heard so many great things about this debut fantasy set in Cairo with murder mystery and secret societies.
Lunch Poems by Frank O’Hara
Closer Baby Closer by Savannah Brown (released in february)
War of the Foxes by Richard Siken
Classics, memoirs and essays
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (classic): I’ve tried getting through this book once already, I love the experience of reading it, but it’s so dense I struggle to get into it (more so than other classics even, idk why?).
The Lonely City: adventures in the art of being alone by Olivia Laing (essay/memoir): I wanted to read this when moving away from university, but it’s like four years later now.
Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom (memoir): I do not know anything about this book, but it appeared on my tbr shelf somehow.
Nonfiction and science
Immun by Anne Spurkland (in norwegian)
Firmament: the hidden science of weather, climate change and air that surrounds us by Simon Clark
The Story of More: how we got to climate change and where to go from here by Hope Jahren
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer: this book keep being referenced in so many science podcasts I listen to!
Friends: Understanding the power of our most important relationships by Robin Dunbar
Personal project / rant
I don’t really do new year’s resolutions, but a type of personal project this year is read or watch more indigenous stories. Probably it would be mostly Sami related, as that’s the indigenous group I have closest knowledge / association with. Last year two separate things were in the national news here around the same time. The first was the question of how far climate change activists were willing to go, in terms of violence against property and/or people. The more I read of the discourse, the more I hated the existential negative parts which never pointed out successful past campaigns (like those fought by indigenous people for their local environment) or had any future strategies in mind. Because I get that climate change has gotten to the point where it is going to be bad anyway, but if you want to be an activist you should have thoughts on how you think it can be better, for your own well-being if nothing else. It hightlighted to me that the values which you base your «ideology» on matters. It’s too easy otherwise to fall into elitism, or the «the world would be better with less people in it» or, you know, eugenics.
Anyway. The other thing in the news a lot was Sami politics where there’s proof non-sami (and right-wing) people were encouraged to meddle in indigenous politics. Mostly to undermine rights and use of land or for financial gain, as far as I understood. And that also often has an enviromental side. It brought up the question of who is Sami «enough» to vote on Sami politics here, but the norwegian government has pretty well-defined requirements. And some fall outside of those, even if they would consider themselves Sami, so that is another debate. But personally I do fill every requirement to be considered part of that registry of Sami people. So I feel like it’s natural that I’ve come to a place where I want to know more.
On the science side, I’m taking atmospheric physics and climate change as a course, which has been great so far.
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.
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.
2020; the year of a pandemic, of my health declining (unrelated), of spending more time with family (if you want it or not) and not to forget – thinking you will read more, but ending up scrolling through tiktok for hours instead. Ah, how much I love the dark academia aesthetic when I’m forced to be separated from my beloved reading places / libraries.
Also, you know the feeling when you were going to write reviews of all of these books, but reviews of favourites is definitely the hardest because you want to get them right and then you will be too far into the year – ah maybe just me, but the ones that is reviewed will be linked.
Best sci-fi/urban fantasy mix: Zero Sum Game by S. L. Huang and the rest of the series! Because of its exceptionally morally gray / villain vibes protagonist and math superpowers.
Best non-fiction (and audiobook): Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow for the great coverage of the Weinstein sexual abuse cases as the journalist who first exposed them and going in-depth about the women affected and the way it was covered up by major news oulets like NBC who later turned out had Matt Lauer’s sexual assault allegations of their bloody hands.
Best graphic novels / comics: Deadly Class by Remender, Craig, Loughridge for just being the most-fucked up thing I’ve read ever formatted as boarding school teenage villains in training.
Best classic: A Separate Peace by John Knowles – is it a classic? It’s very popular and written in 1959, that counts. A coming-of-age novel set right before a war with all of its moral dilemmas, with an exceptional friendship that seems pretty full of gay yearning to me, but it’s not canon.
Best sequel & sci-fi: A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor by Hank Green which is the sequel to An Absolutely Remarkable Thing and the sequel so much lived up to my expectations that I cried. About fame, about aliens, espionage, friends- what more do you need? Queer characters. It’s all there. It’s so well done from the one person who’s got the intersection of experience enough (science, social media, business, all the other things) to make it feel a bit too real.
Best poetry:Night Sky With Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong because it’s just amazing. So vivid, so much looking into violence and the family dynamics of being Vietnamese immigrants.
Best romance:Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuinston for its fun royal/presidental gay romance. I’ve seen a couple of these stories around, but I think this one with its humor as well as real elements is a good top contender. Cute enemies to lovers trope.
Couldn’t get it out of my brain: Wilder Girls by Rory Power for displaying itself as a YA book with some girlpower, but otherwise normal then turning out to be pure horror and abuses of power and fairytale island forest vibes. It stuck around because it has symbolism to girls going through teenage years and puberty, but it was such a good fantasy/sci-fi plot as well. And queer yearning and girls.
Most surprising find: A Woman in the Polar Night is exactly what it tells you it is, but I wouldn’t have found it hadn’t I physically stumbled over it. I did not expect reading about a german woman of the 1930s going to the Arctic and then writing a memoir about it to be such a life-changing experience and at the same time describe certain things I’ve been trying to for years so perfectly.
And then I came to the major & sad realization I didn’t read any straight-up excellent high fantasy this year, or really (only) fantasy at all. That’s usually my biggest genre. I had a lot on my TBR, but most of the year something about my mental state was not ready for the commitment of the brilliant extensive world of any Philip Pullman or Brandon Sanderson book, and otherwise I did not have time. 2021 is the time!
I read the very popular harry potter marauder’s fanficAll the Young Dudes by MsKingBean89 as the last part of this year was spent thinking too much of Harry Potter again. The fanfic follows the marauder’s through their entire Hogwarts years and then into the uncoming war, getting more queer as they grow up. The writing progresses so much as well, which makes sense thinking about how much time this must have taken to write. I got very much into Harry Potter this year, despite hating Rowling, because a close friend of mine read it for the first time and found a lot of comfort in these characters as the pandemic was messing up everyone’s lives. Warning; It’s 520k words (around 1700 pages?) and I read it in two or three days, it was rough to put it down.
I also discovered the absolutely great horror podcast The Magnus Archives this year and it tells such a extensive story, with all of its great cast of character, creepy creatures and meta-storytelling.
Last year, 2019, I made a TBR for the whole year, with very varying results as I did not take enough into account the fact that I was going to university for the first time, hahha. I knew I would have less time, but the actual time I did have to myself, let alone to read for fun, was still so much less than expected.
This year I’ve only made two smaller TBR lists; Spring TBR! & Queer TBR of June for #PrideLibrary20. I want to make a summary update of this years TBR posts at the end of the year as well, but before that – why don’t I make another TBR with the books I might read between now and next semester start in early january? Take into account that it’s exam season, but it finished up early for me this year. So I don’t think any of these books will get started before 10th of December, at the very least. I’ll probably need even more downtime to recover, as I expect the time until exams to be extra dramatic this covid-riddled year.
The End of Year TBR
We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled: Voices from Syria by Wendy Pearlman (memoir, nonfiction; history, war, politics)
We Are Displaced by Malala Yousafzai (nonfiction; memoir, feminism, politics)
Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo (poetry, YA contemporary, lgbt; queer girls)
Poetry & graphic novels
Sweetdark by Savannah Brown (poetry)
Paper Girls vol. 3 – 6 (graphic novel)
On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden (graphic novel, lgbt; f/f, sci-fi)
The Story of More: How We Got to Climate Change and Where to Go From Here by Hope Jahren (science; climate change)
Love and Math by Edward Frenkel (science; math)
Physics of the Impossible by Michio Kaku (science; physics)
Astrobiology: A Very Short Introduction by David C. Catling (science)
The Body in Pain by Elaine Scarry (was also on 2019 TBR oops, philosophy; disability)
Fantasy & sci-fi
Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett (fantasy)
The Secret Commonwealth (The Book of Dust #2) by Philip Pullman (fantasy)
Dune by Frank Herbert (read for bookclub, a classic sci-fi)
Kant: A Very Short Introduction by Roger Scruton (nonfiction; philosophy – preparing for obligatory philosophy class in spring)
The Trial by Franz Kafka (reread for bookclub, classic)
A norwegian collection of debut poets – Signaler 2019
Utopia for Realists by Rutger Bregman (politics)
A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver (nonfiction; poetry writing)
I’ve got a currently-reading shelf on goodreads that always contains too many books that I picked up and never really finished or stopped reading. And then I made a post all about my excuses and what I liked or didn’t like about them, which got way to long and this is the second part of that. Here’s part one.
Permanent Record by Edward Snowden
When I started reading the book: September 2019
Have I picked it up since? No
I listened to Edward Snowden’s voice in the audiobook go through every aspect of how he turned out a whistle-blower, about mass surveillance, how intelligence agencies work, how his experiences has made him into an expert the last six years. It’s about growing up online, morality and that’s how far I got. I think I found some pieces truly interesting, but was a bit bored by the background of the person that is Edward Snowden (it is part memoir after all) just because I’m less interested in that than what he thinks about the digital now and future. Which I’m sure he would’ve gotten to eventually.
Why am I not reading it? I don’t quite know? But it’s that type of book that you want to dive into and do your own research as well, and it’s a bit thought and time consuming, which I’m not up for right now.
Physics of the Impossible by Michio Kaku
When I started reading the book: December 2019
Have I picked it up since? No
I truly can’t say much about this book as I got 50 pages into a 300 page book and hadn’t made up my mind quite. It’s supposed to be about the science needed to mmake impossible things like death rays or force fields or invisibility cloaks real.
Why am I not reading it? I don’t know why I never got back to it
A collection of norwegian debut poems
When I started reading the book: February 2020
Have I picked it up since? No
Here I am trying to become a better person by reading more norwegian – my first language – which I haven’t done much of the last decade and only because of being forced to through high school.
Why am I not reading it? have you ever borrowed a book from the library and then … left town leaving it there? It’s somewhat of a pain to have to extend the return date for half a year (blaming corona again). I would just get a new copy of this one, the problem being that it’s a bit difficult to get my hands on. Poetry and ebooks aren’t always a thing, I’ve recently come to learn.
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
When I started reading the book: February 2020
Have I picked it up since? No
I read Ocean’s poetry and felt a strong need to read his newer fiction as well. It’s as strikingly beautiful and vulnerable, but I picked it up at a highly-anxious time and found that it wasn’t the mindset I wanted to be in reading this book. It’s synopsis explains it truly well actually; “Asking questions central to our American moment, immersed as we are in addiction, violence, and trauma, but undergirded by compassion and tenderness, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is as much about the power of telling one’s own story as it is about the obliterating silence of not being heard.”
Why am I not reading it? too powerful in its pain and violence in a time where I unfortunately wasn’t up for that
By Grand Central Station I Sat Down And Wept by Elizabeth Smart
When I started reading the book: March 2020
Have I picked it up since? No
I truly am mad about not finishing this book because it’s only 128 pages. It’s not that complex, to be real, even if it is a good story. And I was about to finish it in one sitting, as I was literally sitting on the floor in front of the oven waiting for my food to cook. And into the empty kitchen comes one of the many people I live with and comments on it in a way that left a bad taste in my mouth. As if I was sitting there crossed-legged and disheveled reading an old book for the quirky ~aesthetic~ of it, even though no one else was there. I don’t even know now why it made me so suddenly furious, but it was a generally bad time for me, on the verge of deciding whether to leave town because of corona and being very sick from migraines. Simply put, if commenting on what someone is reading, don’t be an asshole about it.
It is a pretty cute, worn edicition though, I picked it up form an Edinburgh used book shop extremely cheap.
Why am I not reading it? I can still feel the ghost of the fury I felt every time I try to finish it
To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
When I started reading the book: June 2020
Have I picked it up since? Yes
Why am I not reading it? Each summer I seem to bring with me one ‘heavy’ physical book absolutely everywhere, and never get to it until my patience runs out and I just sit down and get through it, finding myself enjoying it a lot. I think this is this years book, as I do truly like Woolf’s writing, even if her style is what makes this particular book ‘heavy’, while last year it was the physics of ‘Six Easy Pieces’ by Richard Feynman.
This is basically me doing two reviews in one, with an intro.
Do you every just realize that you don’t know enough about a group of people’s situation? That’s me after bipolar disorder is a thing that has popped up with a question mark among multiple friends more recently. It makes sense; there’s a lot that will show first signs of bipolar in their early twenties, I’ve started at university where people are under a lot of stress, people are separated from their families and more open because they need support. There’s a whole list of causes.
Read a webmd page on what bipolar is on your own, I’m not going to oversimplify it and then obviously get it wrong. I think An Unquiet Mind’s description of it and constantly using manic-depressive instead makes more sense for people unfamiliar, if not for the actual researchers.
I think I knew more about bipolar than most going into this tiny project, but that’s just because the bar is low. I love this podcast especially by sickboy, called My little blue devil and I where a girl Siobhan talks very openly and with humor about her experiences living with bipolar type 2.
As someone who has other illnesses; what I think is most important to keep in mind is that if you’re reading an account of one person’s experience, that’s that one single person. It might give you better insight into what they’re dealing with, but you can’t apply that to everyone else in that category, which makes sense logically, but people seem to completely forget it when it comes to physical and mental illnesses.
When We Collided by Emery Lord
This is a contemporary young adult with a bit of romance. It has such great characters who form a big chosen family type of bond (though many are siblings so … actual family) with their different problems. The main character Vivi is new in town & has bipolar disorder and is definitely the best written of them. It brings all the summer feelings of a romance, along with all the messiness of someone not stable, but naturally so extroverted and fierce that at the beginning it’s hard to tell for those she interacts with. I’m so mad about reviews that call her a manic pixie dream girl because 1) didn’t someone write a long article about never using that description again and we all agreed and 2) she’s literally manic and you can obviously see the switch. Is there anything I’ve learned in the past couple months it’s that a symptom of manic state is that people don’t have the same risk calculation ability.
4/5 stars. I didn’t enjoy every part as I read it, but it’s stuck in my head, especially Vivi, for a month now.
An Unquiet Mind by Kay. R. Jamison
Trigger warning for suicidal and suicide attempt.
This is a memoir from someone who knows what she’s talking about, having bipolar in her family, struggling with it through her university days, eventually researching bipolar disorder and then getting the diagnosis.
I decided early in graduate school that I needed to do something about my moods. It quickly came down to a choice between seeing a psychiatrist or buying a horse. Since almost everyone I knew was seeing a psychiatrist, and since I had an absolute belief that I should be able to handle my own problems, I naturally bought a horse.
That quote sounds about right. Reminds me a lot of;
Anyway, she eventually sells the horse and gets a psychiatrist and Lithium basically saves her life, as she describes it. Along with the amazing descriptions of living with bipolar, the part where she questions her intentions and her career really got to me. She’s got to face the concept that her disorder might make her a bad psychologist, then she goes through all the reasons why that’s wrong. And the checks she has in place if she were to go suddenly into mania (though unlikely). She instead uses that drive and passion to be a better researcher on her own disorder, which was really inspiring.
But I compare myself with my former self, not with others. Not only that, I tend to compare my current self with the best I have been, which is when I have been mildly manic. When I am my present “normal” self, I am far removed from when I have been my liveliest, most productive, most intense, most outgoing and effervescent. In short, for myself, I am a hard act to follow.
They all seemed very related to one another at the time. Not only did they seem related, but they seemed together to contain some essential key to the grandiosely tizzied view of the universe that my mind was beginning to spin.
5/5 stars. It’s beautifully written, so honest and I’m honestly impressed about the courage to publish (in 1995) for someone who is very aware about the risks of having her career as a clinical psychologist questioned afterwards.