Behind the cut is the list of 50 books I read, organized by category. A few books appear multiple times since stuff like LGBT and Short Pieces can span many genres. Stars indicate noteworthy reads, though I couldn't fit them all in the top ten. And, there were no terrible books in this project tbh. Everything on this list is worth a look.
I learned so much from doing this project. It was really interesting and the quality of the books was consistently high. I feel like I have just scratched the surface and there are so many great books out there still.
My friends, I have decided to do a reading challenge this year. I read a few accounts of people who chose to eschew reading books by straight white dudes for one year and how it affected their outlook. I already read many books by women and GLBT writers. I think the area where I really fall down is writers of color. I'd like to change that, starting this year. I'm not at this moment going to commit to only reading books by authors of color. I've never been a fan of the kind of diet where you tell yourself you can't do something! But I am committing myself to reading more books by authors of color. I plan to read at least 50, which should comprise about half of my "reading budget" for the year (bearing in mind it's already March, so that's five books by POC per month). I will keep track of these books and I will report back at the end of the year on my project. Telling you publicly makes me more accountable. :)
I've done a little Internet research, but I'd love to hear from you. What are your favorite books by people of color? What authors should I absolutely not miss? I read a great deal of genre fiction (sci fi, fantasy, romance, mystery). I enjoy graphic novels, whether memoir, fiction, or superhero related. I also read some regular novels and nonfiction (especially essays and micro-histories). Throw some suggestions my way!
Hi all, no doubt you've noticed that I don't really post here anymore. I'm going to try an experiment of posting my book reviews on Google Plus. If you miss them and don't know where to find me there just let me know, I'll hook you up.
My best books of 2013. I'd love to hear what yours were!
This is the second year I have posted a "best books" list without logging every single book that I read throughout the year. That is interesting in part because I have to think back and figure out what books stayed with me the most, as opposed to only going by my initial reactions.
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson A- I found it interesting that one month this year, the Indie next list had two books on it called Life After Life. I was only interested in one of them. This is a very unusual book, and it's mostly set in Europe before and during the World Wars. Most of the really terrific books I've read so far this year are nonfiction but this one was excellent.
The Essential Rumi edited by Coleman Barks (I found this in a box of my stuff while clearing out my parents' attic and decided it was time) - A If you haven't read Rumi, you should. I'm really glad I committed to actually finishing this book.
A Queer and Pleasant Danger by Kate Bornstein (you know how much I like her) - B+ and it made me want to hug every trans and genderqueer person I know. It would be worth it just for her description of life as a Scientologist.
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie A Man, why did I never read this book before? I think it's because I thought it would be sort of sleazy. How to make people like you and do what you want. Boy, I sure was wrong. I mean, it IS about that but it is the furthest thing from sleazy I could imagine. Using what I'm learning from it is already helping me.
Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan. A- (I found this book at a thrift store.) This book is just so sweet and reminds me of my days as a goth.
Marvel 1602 by Neil Gaiman et al. A-. This is a really creative take on Marvel superheroes in Elizabethan England. A- because i didn't love the artwork.
What Makes Love Last by John Gottman (I was inspired to read this by a class I took that talked a lot about communication.) A John Gottman does actual research on couples to find out what makes relationships work. Some of what he says is a little hard to map onto poly relationships, but I found it to be very valuable nonetheless.
Wool by Hugh Howey. A. Think the postapocalyptic novel is done and tired? Think again. This novel about a group of survivors in a silo (who believe God provided their silo with everything they need) will rock your world.
The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson. A. This is a fascinating science fiction piece set in a matristic postapolcalyptic Brazil. That's not enough for you? Then let's bring in some queer characters and a lot of guerilla art and make the whole thing noncolonial. If you're not ready to read it now, I'm not sure what to tell you.
The Expats by Chris Pavone. A-. Kate has a secret from her husband - she is a retired CIA agent. When the two move to Europe with their small children, they meet a couple who Kate begins to suspect are also not what they seem. Her dilemma about what to say to her husband about this is only the first of many as a tense and tangled plot unfolds.
The Art Forger by B. A. Shapiro A (I was inspired to read this because it is the Somerville Reads book this year. I am glad I moved through the reluctance I felt because I didn't like last year's book, Farm City.) A fascinating book about secrets, art, relationships, reputation, and success. I read it in less than a day.
Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon (this is a really long, intense, amazing book - I was sad when I began the last chapter even though it was 1200 pages long) - A+ for a completely new way of thinking about identity, and compulsive readability all the way through.
In Boston on Monday, an act of public violence shocked us. I'm lucky that I wasn't hurt, nor were any of my loved ones. But it's a tough week to live in Beantown and I'd never deny that.
For me, Tuesday was the toughest day so far. I went to work. There were few people on the streets, on the subway, or in the office. Those who were there were low in spirits. I saw a number of people wearing running gear to commemorate the marathon runners affected by this tragedy. Some were crying.
I got through my whole day, including work, class, and errand running. When I finally got home around eight-thirty at night, I had no resources left. Still wearing my jacket and holding my purse, I sat at the kitchen table and bawled while my cats looked at me in confusion.
The next morning, I considered taking a personal day. But I knew what I wanted to do instead.
On the way to work, I picked up three bags of candy. I said to the man behind the counter, "You know, this is a hard week for us here in Boston." He said, "I know. I've lived here five years. Never anything like this before." I took a breath and said, "I decided to give out candy to strangers today. Would you like to be the first?" He said yes, and I gave him a Hershey's kiss, and one for his coworker stocking the shelves.
Then I gave a candy each to the homeless kids on the corner.
I put a piece of candy in the station attendant's window as I went into the subway station. I could hear him laughing in surprised delight as I walked through the gate.
I handed candy out on the platform. I gave one to the guy playing the cello. When the train pulled in, I gave one to the conductor, who gave me a huge, incredulous smile in return. A woman inside the train said, "Thank you so much for doing this. Thank you for caring."
When I got off the train, I gave a piece to the subway maintenance worker with his broom, and one to the transit official who was sitting on the platform to make sure everything was okay. I handed out candy to the army guys keeping the station safe for us. The state police with their motorcycles laughed and flirted and asked for extra candy, which I gave them.
Then I went to work on my office building. I work in a twelve-story downtown, and I handed out candy starting on the floor where I work, then on the floor above, and the floor below. I gave candy to people I see every day and some I'd never met before. I kept going until I'd given away every piece of candy in the three bags I bought. On the way home, I bought more.
It seemed like this small gesture made a lot of people feel better. One woman said that she was going to save the candy for later, and that she knew that when she ate it, she was going to feel a warm feeling inside. One man said that he thought receiving it would inspire him to do a similar act of kindness later in the day. Some people seemed on the verge of tears.
But I'll let you in on a secret. I didn't do it to make them feel better. I did it to make me feel better. And it worked. Planning this got me out of bed yesterday. Remembering it is what got me out of bed today.
I think we're going to be okay, here. But still, consider doing something for someone else today. It may or may not brighten their day. But I'm sure it will improve yours.
"Remember there's no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end." - Scott Adams
Mr Midshipman Hornblower by CS Forester. I can't explain why I didn't read these classic books of naval fiction before. I should have started at least ten years ago. Oh well, now that I know how wonderful they are I can decide how to space them out and order them for my dad and so on. A+
Angelmaker by Nicholas Hardby. Any book that you can reasonably say is about espionage, nuns, the undertaker's union, gangsters, and mechanical bees without covering even all the major topics? Got to be pretty cool. A+
Some Girls, Some Hats, and Hitler by Trudi Kanter. Fascinating memoir of a Viennese milliner caught up in World War II. Real and thought-provoking. A+
Beyond Binary: Genderqueer and Sexually Fluid Speculative Fiction by Brit Mandelo. I make a point of looking through the submissions for the Lambda Award for sci fi, fantasy, and horror every year and this is one I found on that last. Some of the stories are truly excellent and the theme is unique. A
Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. This book is heartbreakingly beautiful and you should not read it if mother-daughter issues and abandonment have been major issues in your life. A
The Iron Wyrm Affair by Lilith Saintcrow. Just when we all thought the steampunk thing was maybe getting a little tired, this book comes along. Truly original, funny, and moving too. A
Diana Comet and Other Improbable Tales by Sandra Macdonald. Last year's Lambda winner. Some of the stories in this collection are mindblowing and some are kind of enh. My favorites were "Diana Comet and the Disappearing Lover" and "Fay and the Goddesses."
Blessings by Anna Quindlen. A gift from my mother, this is a beautiful book that stays with you. Two out of two of the people I lent it to after I finished it cried when they read it.
The Queen's Squadron by RM Meluch. You could see it as GLBT-oriented Stargate fanfic... but actually it's so much more than that. This one blew my mind.
Mr Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. Another book that is hard to classify but really, really good. I was particularly intrigued by the fantasy novel the author created within the book, which seemed so real I looked it up on Amazon.
Yup, it's been a while. I've been sort of keeping track in my head of the best books I've read this year, but there are enough now that I need to write it down or some of them will get lost.
Grade A Books
_Mr Midshipman Hornblower_ by CS Forester. I can't explain why I didn't read these classic books of naval fiction before. I should have started at least ten years ago. Oh well, now that I know how wonderful they are I can decide how to space them out and order them for my dad and so on. A+ _Angelmaker_ by Nicholas Hardby. Any book that you can reasonably say is about espionage, nuns, the undertaker's union, gangsters, and mechanical bees without covering even all the major topics? Got to be pretty cool. A+ _Language of Flowers_ by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. This book is heartbreakingly beautiful and you should not read it if mother-daughter issues and abandonment have been major issues in your life. A _The Iron Wyrm Affair_ by Lilith Saintcrow. Just when we all thought the steampunk thing was maybe getting a little tired, this book comes along. Truly original, funny, and moving too. A
_Diana Comet and Other Improbable Tales_ by Sandra Macdonald. Some of the stories in this collection are mindblowing and some are kind of enh. My favorites were "Diana Comet and the Disappearing Lover" and "Fay and the Goddesses." _Blessings_ by Anna Quindlen. A gift from my mother, this is a beautiful book that stays with you. Two out of two of the people I lent it to after I finished it cried when they read it. _The Queen's Squadron_ by RM Meluch. You could see it as queer-oriented Stargate fanfic... but actually it's so much more than that. This one blew my mind.
I hope this helps anybody who has been missing my book reviews. :)