January, I dub thee Holy Shit Change Month. I sold our three tiny houses, and we moved into a gorgeous, spacious apartment. I resigned from the job that made an editor of me and started a job that will likely make an even better editor of me. I slept poorly. I stared at the wall in exhaustion. I joined Amazon Prime so I could watch the Man in the High Castle series and didn’t have any internet to watch it on. I drank a lot of coffee, and read some mother fucking books.
1. Sweet Tooth: Out of the Deep Woods by Jeff Lemire (re-read)
2. Sweet Tooth: In Captivity by Jeff Lemire
3. Sweet Tooth: Animal Armies by Jeff Lemire
4. An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
5. Fist of the Spider Woman: Tales of Fear and Queer Desire edited by Amber Dawn
6. Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle
7. Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
8. Railsea by China Miéville
9. Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson (audio)
10. Black Hole by Charles Burns
11. Clay’s Ark by Octavia Butler
12. Half Bad by Sally Green
13. Ubik by Philip K. Dick (re-read)
14. Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor (audio)
15. Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid
16. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
17. Why I Write by George Orwell
The Best of January
It has been a near-perfect trifecta. Amazing apartment. Amazing job. Amazing books. The audio version of Nnedi Okorafor’s Lagoon was as good as I’d heard. Okorafor is writing some of the best science fiction being published today. Fist of the Spider Woman edited by Amber Dawn—a collection of queer horror short stories that were scary, sexy, and page-turning—derailed my pretence of hating short stories. (My new line: I am extremely picky about short stories.) Patrick Ness’s The Knife of Never Letting Go had the first talking dog in all of fiction, on-screen and off, who not only wasn’t annoying, but who I loved, and an unforgettable narrative voice and an awesome sci fi foundation. I wasn’t even mad at it for involving me in a trilogy.
Runner’s up: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell, Clay’s Ark by Octavia Butler, Ubik by Philip K. Dick, and Half Bad by Sally Green.
I was destined to love Carry On—I love Harry Potter with sheer, unthinking glee, but I also love Lev Grossman’s The Magicians trilogy for dousing that glee in cynicism, lighting it on fire, and exploring in painful detail what the wizarding world might look like if real, apathetic college students attended Hogwarts. Carry On lies somewhere between the two, with delicious, openly canonical queerness and a story that acheives originality in spite of being obvious fruit from the Harry Potter tree.
Clay’s Ark is my favorite Patternmaster book—probably because it is more Fledgling than Patternmaster—and I was completely absorbed in the character relationships it explores. PKD’s Ubik was 1. better my second time around and 2. infintely more fun to read with an entire PKD Read Along, Support Group, and Bingo Card Association. The first time I read Ubik I was unimpressed. The second time, this time, I recognized it as one of his best novels.
I didn’t expect to like Sally Green’s Half Bad, and it went and swept me off of my feet with a violent story about witches and a close look at systematic discrimination.
Wherein I Exit My Reading Comfort Zone, and Return Annoyed, but Unscathed
Sometime in December it occurred to me that I don’t get out much. I read a lot of SFF and some literary fiction and ignore everything else. In 2016, I decided, I would try something new. I would read a romance novel.
People talk a lot of shit about romance novels. People also talk a lot of shit about SFF. Knowing this is bullshit in regards to SFF, I suspect it is bullshit in regards to romance; I just hadn’t found the right book.
Taylor Jenkins Reid’s novel Maybe in Another Life was on a lot of favorites lists at the end of 2015 and, intrigued by the structure (one woman, two alternating paths her life could have taken, depending on one small decision), decided to give it a try. Sadly, the structure was ok at best and blandly repetitive at worst. The romance was so la la, and lacked the depth and literary competency I need to fall in love with a book. Maybe next time. I can say this for Maybe in Another Life: it was exactly the kind of semi-brain-dead entertainment I needed during the bulk of our move. Interpret that as you will.
Having enjoyed two audio book memoirs written and read by young women (You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day and The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer), I have set out in search of more.
My first experiment was Jenny Lawson’s Furiously Happy which made me laugh so hard in the middle of the night I was sure I would wake up my husband, who would then think I was silently weeping because that is how hard I was laughing—trying to hold it in was making my entire body shake and these strange little noises kept slipping past my lips—but contained less of the dark and dirty information about living with depression than I had been expecting. Funny thing: I hadn’t known that Jenny Lawson was The Bloggess.
After a brief fictional stop in Lagoon, I began I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban, another audio memoir about a woman, though the first not read by the author. But seeing as I Am Malala was ghost written, I guess it was never really going to check that box. Anyway. I am still fighting my way through I Am Malala minute for minute because—while I am learning so much about Pakistan— it feels more like blandly posi propaganda than a philosophical isn’t-life-so-complex-and-horrifying-and-yeah-maybe-also-beautiful-too essay-memoir.
This Post Is Already Far Too Long
So it is time for a blitz round. I enjoyed Railsea far more than its inspiration—Moby Dick—but enjoyed thinking about it after I was finished more than I enjoyed reading it. Sweet Tooth is turning out to be a post-apocalyptic comic series well worth my time and money. John Darnielle’s story songs are better than Wolf in White Van, but Wolf in White Van is still a very interesting and worthy book. An Ember in the Ashes was fun, but lacked depth. Why I Write was a misleading title printed on the cover of 90 percent ruminations about England and World War II and history and 7 percent thoughts on writing. I don’t love Charles Burns’ artistic style, but Black Hole is a satisfyingly fucked up story that seemed incredibly normal when read directly after watching The Lobster. And there you have it.
How was your reading month?