French Exit, Patrick deWitt: Absurdist and dark, except not quite. Meh.
The Snow Gypsy, Lindsay Jayne Ashford: Would have been better with some cuts, I think.
Two Girls Down, Louisa Luna: Too much gratuitous male gaze. He knew he was doing it, but still. I’m here for the kickass female detective, not her supposed partner’s inability to get a grip.
Heads of the Colored People, Nafissa Thompson-Spires: A little surreal, lots going on – but lots to unpack. This was great and we had one of our best-ever book club discussions that night.
The Feather Thief, Kirk Wallace Johnson: Such a weird story! Maybe a little too heavy on the firehouse of facts approach at times, but a great little piece on the history of a niche of natural history.
Once Upon A River, Diane Setterfield: Eerie and meandering, but without tangents. It stuck with me a bit.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith: If your education in American lit skipped this, you should pick it up. Absolutely wonderful.
The Lost Man, Jane Harper: These books are so great. An incredibly isolated setting, but without the claustrophobic feeling you sometimes get from those. You don’t need to have read Harper’s others to read this, it’s a standalone novel.
If you only read one, make it The Lost Man.
Florida, Lauren Groff: Short stories where the land is a character.
Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret, Craig Brown: Wasn’t my cup of tea. Also I somehow did not put it together that some of the glimpses were fictitious.
Severance, Lin Ma: Yup, a re-read already, for book club. Holds up and we had a great discussion.
Ghost Wall, Sarah Moss: Weird/glowering look at what happens when an abuser takes his family on a camping vacation with strangers.
Miss Kopp Just Won’t Quit, Amy Stewart: I didn’t like this one quite as much as the others, but it was still delightful.
A Closed & Common Orbit, Becky Chambers: Very fun story that picks up wiht one of the characters from A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, but isn’t really a sequel.
The Overstory, Richard Powers: I loved the writing, and the combination of a nature story with something very character driven.
If you only read one, make it The Overstory. There’s a reason why it won the Pulitzer.
- Commonwealth, Ann Patchett: Big focus on the people in this one, less on the plot.
- Planetfall, Emma Newman: Slow and then a little too fast towards the end. First in a series I’m not sure I’ll continue.
- Saladish, Ilene Rosen & Donna Gelb: Cookbook full of gorgeous salads I could tell I’d never make.
- Race, Class, and Politics in the Capuccino City, Derek Hyra: Focused on gentrification of the Shaw/U Street corridor. Definitely pick this up if you are into city politics, there’s a big section on that.
- From Here to Eternity, Caitlin Doughty: A look at traditions and rituals of death around the world.
- Tell the Machine Goodnight, Katie Williams: A book about Big Happy.
- Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Gail Honeyman: Happy and sad, with wonderful characters.
- Severance, Ling Ma: A post-apocalyptic story that’s about loneliness instead of survival.
- Design for How People Learn, Julie Dirksen: An easy-to-read guide on designing learning experiences.
- Children of Blood and Bone, Tomi Adeyemi: Young adult fantasy. I liked the overall story but the YA bits were a little too melodramatic for me. (But, I do think they were fairly true to actual teenage life.)
- The Refrigerator Monologues, Catherynne M. Valente & Annie Wu (illustrator): Linked short stories with an illustration for each. I really, really wish this had been a graphic novel!
- Friday Black, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah: Intense & intensely horrifying short stories.
If you only pick up one, I’d make it Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.
- Snap, Belinda Bauer: This is a backwards mystery – you pretty quickly learn who the culprit is, most of the story is about collecting the evidence.
- The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, Becky Chambers: Reminded me of Firefly, get on it! This was a really fun read.
- Convenience Store Woman, Sayaka Murata, Ginny Tapley Takemori (Translator): Quick and quirky. If you’re not sure about it, Longreads has a big excerpt.
- City of Thieves, David Benioff: Character-driven and really well-written.
- How to Get Dressed, Alison Freer: There were a lot of tips in this that were not new to me, but it was easy to skim and I think would be a great resource for anyone who wants to dress better, but isn’t quite sure how to make their wardrobe do that for them.
- The Lowland, Jhumpa Lahiri: Beautifully, beautifully written. “Lyrical” does not feel overblown here.
- Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube, Blair Braverman: For some reason, I thought this book was about something else. Still enjoyed it though!
- The Silence of the Girls, Pat Barker: You have to read this. I can’t wait to discuss with book club in a couple of days.
- The Water Cure, Sophie Mackintosh: Fascinating. Lots of things aren’t explained, but some things are just inexplicable.
If you only read one from this list, it’s a toss-up between The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet and The Silence of the Girls.
First of all, here’s what I read in December:
- Pachinko, Min Jin Lee
- Educated, Tara Westover
- Miss Kopp’s Midnight Confessions, Amy Stewart
- A Judgment in Stone, Ruth Rendell
- Indian Horse, Richard Wagamese
- Man Eaters #1, Chelsea Cain, Kate Niemczyk, & Lia Miternique (Illustrators)
- Spoonbenders, Gregory Daryl
- The Radius of Us, Marie Marquardt
- Monstress, Vol. 1, Marjorie Liu, Sana Takeda (Artist), Rus Wooton (Letterer, Designer), Yoshi Yoshitani (Illustrator),
- Her Body and Other Parties, Carmen Maria Machado
This year I read 101 books, slightly up from the 97 I read last year. That count includes the 6 I didn’t finish, which I’ll omit from here. Of the 95 that I finished, all but 3 were ebooks, and 57 of them came from DCPL’s ebook holdings.
As ever, I remain much more of a fiction reader, but I read 16 works of nonfiction this year. My favorite was Educated, by Tara Westover. Brutal at times, but it showed me a very different perspective, and I found it to be quite thought-provoking. In retrospect, it would have made a great book club pick.
One of my goals for 2018 was to read more new releases, which I defined as within 3 months of release. I read 8 that counted for that goal, and another 10 that were published in 2018. This was a really fun goal that I plan to stick with – of the 18, I managed to get 11 of them from the library. The best trick I figured out is that if you recommend the book, you’re automatically put on the hold list if the book is acquired. The most fun part of this goal was starting Tana French’s latest, The Witch Elm, within a few days of release.
I read 7 books for bookclub this year; the best of them was Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing.
I gave 30 books 5 stars this year. Aside from the ones I’ve already mentioned here, I’d absolutely recommend Seveneves (Neal Stephenson), The Library Book (Susan Orlean), and Pachinko (Min Jin Lee).
After suffering through Islands in the Stream (go figure, a Hemingway novel about men drinking & fishing) I gave up on the Read Harder Challenge. I was spending a lot of time trying to identify books to read for each category, and I got tired of it. I read 13 of the 24 categories, so not bad.
I have kept up with reading new releases (I count that as within three months of publication) and more recently-released stuff in general, which has been really great. I also signed up for Book Riot’s Tailored Book Recommendations service, and will get three recommendations each quarter. I got the first set recently and was pleased to see that none of them were already on my radar, and they all sounded interesting.