- If, Then – Kate Hope Day: Three sets of parent-child relationships and several different versions of reality. Plus preppers. Really enjoyed this.
- Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy 2019: You either like this kind of thing, or you don’t. I enjoy the variety.
- The River, Peter Heller: Slow, intense, sad, and compelling.
- My Year of Rest and Relaxation, Otessa Moshfegh: Still not sure what I thought of this one.
- The Great Alone, Kristin Hannah: Hard to read at times, but I really enjoyed this.
- An Ocean of Minutes, Thea Lim: Time travel + post catastrophe novel, A+ combination.
- Here and Now and Then, Mike Chen: More time travel. Slightly predictable plus but really interesting concept driving it.
- Ninth House, Leigh Bardugo: This is what might happen if you though frats were toxic, and set The Secret History at an Ivy League where all the students had gone to Hogwarts.
- Everything I Never Told You, Celeste Ng (audiobook narrated by Cassandra Campbell): What happens when your parents can’t see who you really are.
- Wanderers, Chuck Wending: This and Severance are what you should be reading right now if you’re into horror.
- My Friend Dahmer, Derf Backderf: We had a great discussion at book club about toxic masculinity and bullying, which are very evident in this graphic novel. But maybe not in the way you think.
- This is How You Lose the Time War, Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone: An epistolary novel between two people on the front of a war throughout time. So good.
- We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Shirley Jackson: Small-town cruelty multiplied by ten.
- To Be Taught, If Fortunate, Becky Chambers: ❤ ❤ ❤
I don’t feel like doing a big breakdown of 2019 books – but according to Goodreads I read 92 books and 31,000 pages.
December had a lot of time for reading:
- How Could She, Lauren Mechling: Needed either more plot, or more character development.
- The Language of Secrets, Ausma Zehanat Khan: Great characters but a really dense plot.
- The Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy 2018: Always a great collection.
- Storm Front, Jim Butcher (audiobook): So. Many. Broads.
- The Night of the Gun, David Carr: A journalist turns his investagative reporting skills on himself.
- We Cast a Shadow, Maurice Carlos Ruffin: Really thought-provoking – would be a good book club pick.
- Big Sky, Kate Atkinson: Good ol’ Jackson Brodie.
- The Break, Katherena Vermette: A look at how one terrible night connects an entire extended family.
- The Gone World, Tom Sweterlitsch: Crime procedural plus alternate timelines. Maybe a little too much going on, though.
- All the Names They Used for God, Anjali Sachdeva: Short stories with an air of the fantastic.
- Magpie Murders, Anthony Horowitz: A story-within-a-story murder novel.
- Bowlaway, Elizabeth McCracken: Supposedly about a woman who runs a candlepin bowling alley in Massachusetts. Mostly about the men in her life.
- Providence, Caroline Kepnes: Another one of those sci-fi stories where the sci-fi is beside the point – it’s about the people. Really enjoyed it.
- The Time Traveler’s Almanac, Ann VanderMeer and Jeff VanderMeer, eds.: A great (and huge) collection of short stories abotu time travel. Highly recommend if that’s your thing.
Didn’t finish much this month thanks to a cold and some late nights.
- A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World, C.A. Fletcher: A post-apocalypse book that doesn’t really look much at all at the catastrophe. I really enjoyed the POV of this one.
- The Testaments, Margaret Atwood: A glimpse into the inner workings of Gilead.
- The Luminous Dead, Caitlin Starling: A sci-fi novel where the sci-fi part just is. Ultimately this is a psychological thriller about caving and extreme solitude.
If you only read one, it’s a tossup between A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World and The Luminous Dead.
- Because Internet, Gretchen McColluch: So much fun! If you’ve ever wondered what emojis are all about, or if you’re interested to learn more about how the Internet is changing language, this in the book for you.
- Spinning Silver, Naomi Novik: This takes some elements of Rumplestiltskin and makes an incredible story about them. What I especially loved was how the main character had so much more agency than the miller’s daughter in that fairy tale.
- Trick Mirror, Jia Tolentino: Tolentino is a wonderful essayist – these were all interesting to read and really compelling.
- The Current, Tim Johnston: Another really compelling read – in this one, a terrible accident starts to unravel a crime from a decade ago.
- White Tears, Hari Kunzru: Without getting into spoilers, there is a weird thing going on in this book and I kept waiting for it to get just the tiniest bit clearer and become a bit more interesting. I kept going, thinking that it would shift and I’d be more into it but it never happened.
- The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper, Hallie Rubenhold: (Unfinished) This really wasn’t keeping my attention. I think if you’re interested in the lives of people of the era, it would be interesting. But I was looking for something brought the women’s stories more to the forefront, and this didn’t seem to be doing that.
If you only read one, look at the first four and pick the one that most speaks to you. Better yet, if you’re up for keeping two books on the go, pick one each of the fiction and nonfiction. That’s how I read most of these – nonfiction during the day, and fiction at night. Worked out beautifully.
Parable of the Sower, Parable of the Talents (Earthseed), Octavia Butler: My bookclub chose Parable of the Sower, and we had a good discussion of it. I don’t think I got anything new out of it on the re-read, but it did hold up. I re-read Parable of the Talents as well.
Record of a Spaceborn Few, Becky Chambers: I love this series. This one was a really interesting look at what a homeworld might be like if that homeworld was actually a ship, and you had to assume you’d never be able to resupply.
Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors, Sonali Dev: A wonderful take on Pride & Prejudice, using elements from it rather than a straight retelling.
What If This Were Enough?, Heather Havrilesky: This would be an excellent book club pick – lots to discuss in these essays.
Golden State, Ben H. Winters: Start picking at a little thread and the whole thing unravels. This was really great.
Bluebird, Bluebird, Attica Locke: Texas noir – really interesting characters and setting.
If you only read one. . . it’s hard to say which it should be. If you like mysteries and don’t mind a small element of sci-fi, Golden State. If you like reading about humans in space, Record of a Spaceborn Few. If you need a nonfiction palate cleanser, What If This Were Enough?
An Absolutely Remarkable Thing, Hank Green: Super fun sci-fi meets social media novel.
Unmarrigeable, Sonia Kamal: A modernized version of Pride & Prejudice, what’s not to like?
Started Early, Took My Dog, Kate Atkinson: Really enjoyed how the mystery is slowly revealed rather than solved.
The Swans of Fifth Avenue, Melanie Benjamin: This was fine but I wouldn’t necessarily seek it out.
Bunny, Mona Awad: Psychological thriller or magical realism? Or both? Either way, made me want to re-read The Secret History.
Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead, Sara Gran: More about the people, less about the mystery. Kind of like a lot of the Jackson Brodie series, but Claire DeWitt is a little less introspective, at least in this one.
Rosewater, Tade Thompson: As I said, weird and wonderful. Took a while but it grew on me.
If you only read one, make it either Started Early, Took My Dog, or Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead.
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.