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2016 Book List

January 1, 2017

Winter

Bluets, by Maggie Nelson

One of the literary blogs I read is The Millions, and every year they run a series of features about people’s Year in Reading (like this, but shorter). Bluets appeared on a number of people’s lists in 2014 and 2015, so I’d bee interested in reading this. I wanted to like this book more than I wound up actually liking it. I had heard this book discussed in tones reserved for small, personal masterpieces. A series of meditations on the color blue, and the variety of forms the color takes, this book is feminine without being for women, sad without being obsessed with guilt and sadness. It’s not quite fiction, it’s definitely not non-fiction. It has elements of memoir mixed up with fiction. Some of the passages more captivating than others. Some are sexy, some are melancholy. There’s a lot of meditation about the ocean. It doesn’t cohere, quite for me, but I like cohesion versus the scattering that probably more truly reflects reality. I am curious to read more of her work. I’ve heard good things about The Argonauts, which is more true memoir.

Modern Romance, by Aziz Ansari

A book club book! Staehli really loved this, and it wound up becoming our first book club book of the year. I had already read a lot of the statistics Aziz covers in his book in last year’s Dataclysm, by Christian Rudder. The personal anecdotes are the more interesting here: the qualitative research of how people talk about dating and their sex lives, specifically across cultures. It was fascinating to discover how dating expanded options, but the wide choice can paralyze some people as they refuse to settle down. I’ve thought a fair amount of Aziz’s concept of being a maximizer, a person who has to have the best possible thing at any given moment, and how that can actually be detrimental to long-term happiness. This is something I feel like I struggle with myself, wanting to maximize an experience, have it be perfect. As a result, I have done a lot of research about the best tacos in Seattle, the best burritos, the most authentic Chinese, cool cocktail lounges. But I haven’t been to all of these places, I haven’t done that exploration myself (who has that cash?!). But this eliminates a series of explorations, of authentically finding something rather than just yelping and googling the shit out of restaurants, bars, massage parlours, hotels, and others. In some ways, the research is just shoring up against risk. And Aziz’s book is all about being able to take risks, and being comfortable with that fact. Moderate risks, mostly, but still there is an element of risk in dating, and in other things.

Mort(e), by Robert Rapino

This is a book about giant ants transforming people’s pets into giant sentient animals, and how those animals begin murdering humans with the ants, until one of those animals, our Mort(e), and yes, that is really how the name is spelled, and it has an explanation, but its a bad explanation, teams up with the humans to attempt to save a dog he fell in platonic love with when he was a normal cat.

Don’t read this book. You have better things to read.

Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72, by Hunter S. Thompson

When Presidential Election Primary season was in full swing, I re-read this book. It was prescient then, and even more prescient now. It is interesting to see how things have changed. People literally didn’t declare candidacies until like December or January of the election year, more candidates traditionally won states, rather than one person just steamrolling the rest, and you could technically use parliamentary procedure to avoid a contested convention and win the nomination(there was an enormous revision of the Democratic party nominating rules as a result of the 1972 nominating process, where this actually happened). In 1972. George Wallace, famed racist Alabamian Governor was beginning to pick up speed in the nomination process, before nearly getting assassinated in May. He was shot in the back, and was paralyzed from the waist down for the rest of his life. (Fun fact, he was the first public figure to survive an assassination attempt in a long string that started with JFK.). This put an end to his nomination process, but Trump essentially copied his rhetoric and plan for a successful nomination. I was hoping 2016 would end better than 1972, but again, this book turned out to be more prescient than expected.

Mr. Splitfoot, by Samantha Hunt

In 2015, I subscribed to Indispensable, Powell’s book box subscription service. I liked the first few I received, but this was the first “wow” book that I read this year. After disappointments with Bluets, Morte, and some of the Tournament of Books nominations, this book impressed me. It’s sort of a ghost story, about a newly pregnant woman walking with her silent, horribly scarred aunt in upstate New York, a place that has spawned more cults than anywhere else in America. It is also about the Aunt, and her past with her boyfriend, their spiritualism act, and encounters with backwoods hucksters. I went back and forth about whether what our main character was experiencing was real, the line between lived truth and spoke truth, and so much more. I really liked this book. It was unsettling in many ways, like I was re-watching a marathon of Unsolved Mysteries.

Delancey, and A Homemade Life, by Molly Wizenberg

Everyone so often, I will get a hankering for writing about food. Food is such an elemental part of what makes us people. In fact, there is an anthropological argument that cooking food is actually what makes us human, since all those linguists were proven wrong by other mammals capable of a rudimentary language. Molly Wizenberg is a local Seattle writer, and somewhat unwilling restauranteur. She and her soon-to-be-former husband Brandon founded Delancey, which has now grown to include Essex and the recently opened Dino’s Tomato Pie. My friend Maureen originally clued me into her blog, back in 2008, I think, and I’ve been an on-again, off-again reader. Her recipe for caramel corn is really good. These books however, are part memoir, part recipe. Molly comes off as a well rounded person, one who loves passionately, who will cry quickly about many things right before she begins tackling the problem, a person who likes a good raucous night out at a cool kid bar, and then go to the farmer’s market for hangover food the next day. It makes me understand the original appeal of blogs, when the person’s writing and outlook on the world was creative, personal, and compelling enough to make you want to read. There’s just enough there to keep you satisfied while also making you want more, more more. Her recipes are solid, nothing fancy. I think I will try the lasagna bolognese that has been kicking around my “to make” drawer. I’ve been keeping up with her blog since reading these books, and at the end of the year, she made a big life change. Her sexuality evolved from men-focused to be woman-focused, something that apparently has been building since she gave birth to her daughter. She’s still amazing friends with her soon-to-be-former husband, and I hope their businesses continue.

Tournament of Books

Oreo, by Fran Ross

Fran Ross was a black, female comedy writer who died the 1980s. This was her only novel, long out of print that was re-published last year. The book plot summary is a bi-racial girl re-enacts the quest of Theseus in 1970’s New York. It’s a strange, but funny novel. In college, I took an African-American Literature class, and we hit on a few of the books in the Civil Rights and Post-Civil Rights era that was shaking in the 60’s and 70’s: Amiri Baraka, James Baldwin, a few others. This book reminded me a great deal of that, the need and drive for representational stories, the East-Coast absurd humor, the satirical skewering in a New York that would just get worse until the Mid-80s. This book wasn’t really for me, but that’s okay. I enjoyed reading it nonetheless.

The New World, by Chris Adrian and Eli Horowitz

Man, did this book have a powerful ending for an interesting conceit: man has defeated death (maybe) in the future. However in order to get there, your head has to be removed from its body, and cryogenically frozen. You wake up in cyberspace, and must forget all of your past life in order to live forever. The book tells the tale of a married couple, where the husband is dead (but alive) in the future, and the present, where his bereaved wife attempts to understand his choice. The chapters alternate between the two of them, as Jim attempts to understand his new world, and Jane does the same. It’s dark, funny, profound, and metaphysical. The book explores grief, doubt, the concept of self-hood, and marriage fidelity, even in the afterlife.

Bats of the Republic, by Zachary Thomas Dodson

At first glance, this was the book I was most excited to read in the Tournament of Books this year. Science Fiction, with maps even!, in a dystopia future/past that also has its own version of 1800’s America. It had drawings of wild animals, weird atmospherics, interesting typesetting. But that is all it had, it turned out. The plot is paper-thin and relies on characters not having motivations, or constantly having blockades thrown in their way for plot reasons. The characters, their motivations, their emotions, they were all severely lacking. This is a novel where I kept expecting some version of the characters not to be real, that they were all in a dream. That’s how paper-thin they were. Then this book went on a surprising tear in bracket, and I was sad.

The Story of My Teeth, by Valeria Luiselli

I loved this little book about a Mexican auctioneer, who is an incredibly unreliable narrator. Over the years, he has collected a variety of materials, and to give all of his treasures a home, he has decided to auction among the most famous of them, a collection of teeth. But whose teeth are they really? Luiselli actually wrote this book as part of an art-experiment to be read by Juice factory workers, who gave feedback and commentary about the plot, and things they wanted to see in the book. It harkens back a little to the magical realism tradition of South and Latin American authors.

The Tsar of Love and Techno, by Anthony Marra

A series of short, connected stories in Russia from the fall of Communism to the present. Most of the stories take place near the Arctic Circle in an incredibly poisoned town that is responsible for harvesting tons of nickel out of the earth, and the small, corrupt life there. There’s some wonderful imagery: a fake forest made entirely out of metal, that won’t be killed by the cold or the pollution, the placid lake of toxic waste, the fake museum of Russian space travel. Certain stories resonated more with me than others, but I found myself really enjoying the overall idea. Something about the fatalism of modern Russia I think will be relevant in the political future. I was also not surprised at all to find out that Anthony Marra is friends with Adam Johnson, who wrote the Orphan Master’s Son. They have the same ton about them.

The Sellout, by Paul Beatty

The winner of this year’s Tournament of Books, and Man Booker Prize (the first for an American). This book is a satire about American racism, from the historical, oppressive, blatant racism, to the quiet, systemic racism of the present. Our narrator is a black farmer in LA, who accidentally winds up with an elderly black man who makes himself a slave, for which our narrator eventually winds up in the US Supreme Court, smoking an enormous blunt and getting yelled at by Clarence Thomas. This is the first 20 pages, I’m not spoiling anything for you. I laughed a lot during this book, and found it compelling, thoughtful, and well-written. This was one of my favorites to read, and it totally deserves all the awards it got.

And to round out winter, I read

Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nahisi Coates

Written as a series of letters to his son, Ta-Nahisi Coates explores what it means to be a black man in a time in America where black men’s bodies have no real autonomy. Life, freedom, fundamental concepts enshrined in American minds, are mere illusions for a lot of black men. He positions this not as fundamental racism, but white supremacy, that their must by a racial hierarchy built on race and class that positions whites as above black men. The concept is different than racism, and Coates articulates a lot of the ways in which even the founding of the country are predicated on practices and institutions that perpetuate this belief. Powerful, incisive, and fundamentally hopeful, while also realistic this is excellent racism-201 level work for white folks looking to be allies. I also believe that this book fundamentally gave whites a critical eye enough to begin talking about white supremacy just when it took over the country. Coates has helped shift the conversation from racism, to white supremacy, which is more accurate, and what must be disassembled.

Spring

Tale of Sand, by Jim Henson, Jerry Juhl, and Ramon Perez

This year, I read only a few graphic novels, and I felt it, both in numbers of books I read (which usually includes around 10 graphic novels), and in my habits. I found myself missing the visual stylings, the art. I caught up with my friend Jenny right after the Emerald City Comic-Con (for which I have tickets this coming year), and she made some recommendations. I read both of Ramon Perez’s webcomics back in the day, Butternut Squash and Kukuburi. I remember his blog post when he got his first Marvel job, and the resulting hit in update schedule that Butternut Squash took at the time. Tale of Sand is a visual feast with no dialogue, based on an unproduced script of Jim Henson’s. It’s absurdist, circular, and oddly diverse, which sounds like Jim Henson. I wasn’t quite taken with it as I wanted to be, and I think part of it is just that the script wasn’t fully fleshed out, and I think some dialogue would have helped that versus an entirely visual story. Which is not to say that an entirely visual story couldn’t work, but the character motivations needed a little work, I think.

The Divine, by Boaz Lavie, Asaf Hanuka, and Tomer Hanuka

I have heard quibbles about the term graphic novel, especially related to on going series, like X-Men, Batman, etc. How can these things be considered novels when they seemingly never end? Novels imply an end! I usually point these people to detective novels and mysteries, featuring detectives and characters who seemingly never die, never get old, and have novel after novel published featuring them. The Divine is actually a graphic novel in the sense that it is not a part of an ongoing feature. The Divine tells the story of some American mercenaries caught in the South East Asian jungle at the mercy of some child warlords, who may or may not control the magical ancient spirits of the land. It’s a little Alice in Wonderland, a little Heart of Darkness. The art is fantastic, and it’s based somewhat on real circumstances. I re-read sections of this book to better understand it, and recommend it to anyone looking for some short graphic fiction.

Mistborn: The Final Empire, by Brandon Sanderson

A book club book! Mistborn is a weird book. I have heard of Brandon Sanderson before, as one of those good fantasy authors who can build a convincing world, and write believable characters. After reading, I concur but also disagree. I think Brandon Sanderson does build a believable dystopia world, where a seemingly all-powerful ruler keeps evil in check. The plot has enough twists, turns, feints, and clues that I always wanted to keep reading. Our two main characters are well-written, fleshed out, and well-explored. I liked them a great deal, actually. However, the entire surrounding cast was mostly stock characters. They never seemed to be more than stereotypes, their existence primarily to serve the main characters and their plot. Many of us in book club felt this way, that this book had a compelling plot but not compelling characters.

The Doubter’s Almanac, by Ethan Canin

An Indiespensable book. I had never heard of Ethan Canin, never heard of any of his other books, and wasn’t sure initially to make of this book about a possibly too-brilliant mathematician. But The Doubter’s Almanac was a compelling story about brushes with genius, addiction, family, and compulsion. The first part of the novel focuses on Milo, a brilliant though eccentric boy who grows up to make a major mathematical breakthrough. This catapults him into the stratosphere of the math elite, for which is deeply unprepared, or perhaps uniquely prepared, as he drinks, philanders, and curses his way out of job. About halfway through the novel, we switch to Hans, his son, and see how Milo further disgraced himself, and inflicts his compulsions and alcoholism. We see how math becomes vitally important to the finance industry, and how Canin believes some behaviors and tics are inherited. I think your mileage may vary with this book based on how much you enjoy reading about monstrous humans, and then watching their downfall. Reflecting on this book though, is that it was very, very white. I think our token diversity was a Russian lady.

The Gone-Away World, by Nick Harkaway

My friend Aaron and his roommate Brandi pushed this book onto me. I had read Angelmaker last year, and they both said this was a better. Telling the story of a dystopia spoiled by anti-matter accidentally erasing parts of the world, and the odd things that fill the places that were once there. Now inhuman monsters lurk beyond the pipeline that pumps out gas to keep them away. Enter Gonzo, and his never-named best friend, who received ninja training (in Britain, though never named), and now operate part of the “Haulage & HazMat Emergency Civil Freebooting Company.” This book has ninjas, kung-fu, traveling mimes, Tibetan monks, special ops, a Mad Max Style obsession with revved up cars, and some odd twists and turns. It was a fun ride, but ultimately, I think I’m more of a noir guy than a kung-fu guy, so Angelmaker remains my favorite. In doing research for this, I learned that Harkaway is John le Carré’s son, which was odd to learn.

Summer

The Lost Time Accidents, by John Wray

This book seemed like it would be a home run for me: a darkly comic take on the devastations that time travel has taken on an Austrian family, including a family tie-in with Nazis, eccentric aunts in bohemian New York, and current iterations with a current Brooklyn layabout struggling with family history. Alas, I wound up not liking this book. It was more procedural than expected, and a slog to read. I struggled to make time to read this book, and found the main protagonist more annoying that anything else. I was glad to be done with this one.

Annihilation, by Jeff VanderMeer

My pick for book club this year was a re-read of a weird fiction, or novels I wished I could talk about with other people. Annihilation was one of my favorites from last year, and I wished I could talk with others about it. I got my wish, and it was interesting to tackle with others. We did a lot of discussing about what actually happened, what was real, and essential questioning about what was real, what could be trusted, and how much you had to like the narrator to feel compelled to keep reading. Both Lucinda and Maggie got hooked on the series, and finished it before I did. Still need to talk with them about that ending however. We’ll get to that later on.

To Say Nothing of the Dog or How We Found the Bishop’s Bird Stump at Last, by Connie Willis

This is one of my favorite things I read this year. For Christmas last year, I bought Staehli Willis’s first novel, The Doomsday Book, after looking for good science fiction written by women. She read it, and enjoyed it, and it turns out that Maggie was a big Connie Willis fan. She suggested this for book club, and I had an absolutely fabulous time with this book. It is science fiction, but also a romantic comedy and a mystery, and a Victorian novel. This book is incredibly smart, and devilishly funny. I read a vast chunk of this over the Fourth of July weekend, when Staehli and I fled to Victoria, B.C. for Canada Day. Victoria has a pretty British sensibility, and it was glorious goofy fun to read about Victorian mannerism and then recognize them in the people I was interacting with. It was a good time. I want to read all of her books now.

Queen of the Night, by Alexander Chee

I didn’t actually finish this book, but got 2/3 of the way through it’s meaty 500 pages. This is a book that I actually savored. It’s about Opera, in Paris, in the late 1800s. The description is sumptuous, and female, and everything is filled with intrigue, and court society. It was romantic, and mysterious, and also sort of hypnotic. Chee created a strong, fierce protagonist, and I’m sad that I didn’t finish this book.

Leviathan Wakes, by James S.A. Corey

SyFy turned this book into a television show, the Expanse, which I enjoyed quite a bit for it’s diversity, complexity, and mystery. Needing something diverting to read while on a plane to Arizona to attend my Aunt’s wake, I brought this along, having lent it to Matt Beman for several months before I actually opened it up. This was a quick read, especially when I already knew most of the plot beats, but at the same time, I really like what the TV show has done with it: I think it lent crucial diversity and perspective that the story needed to broaden out. The television does a good job with the character depictions, motivations, and the subsequent tragedies that move them. I think more of this book actually comes to life in the TV than in the page. Yet, the show only covers 2/3 of the book, leaving the biggest twists for the future. Suffice to say that when the book goes big, it goes big and insanity totally results for a change. I didn’t really feel a need to keep reading, as the writing was pretty pedestrian, but would recommend this for someone looking for a rip-roaring space opera adventure.

Dissident Gardens, by Jonathan Lethem

One of my creative writing teachers, the one who has been published the most actually, she said my stories reminded her of Jonathan Lethem’s work, specifically Men and Cartoons. He’s been on my to-read list ever since. I tried reading Chronic City, but gave up after it was too dreamy, and I didn’t care about the central mystery/metaphor. Kate had an ARC of this on her shelf, and I had heard it was one of the best Lethem books in years, so I borrowed it. I didn’t get it. I mean, it was fine. The book was about Jewish communists/radicals in the 1950s until the present, including some nice stuff about the Occupy movement in the end, but it was all so intellectualized, so high-falutin, so distanced that I had a difficult time caring about any of the characters. After a few misses, I am not excited to read much more of Jonathan Lethem.

Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi

An Indiespensable book. I will be honest, and say that I fell of the wagon with some of my books from Powells. I have a few still not read, but each one has been good, and usually surprising. Homegoing is the debut novel of Yaa Gyasi that tracks the stories of two half-sisters from the beginning of the slave trade until present day. Each character gets a chapter, and represents a portrait into Ghanian or American worldview during that time and place. Gyasi does an excellent job embodying each character, making them realistic, dropping hints about their future, connections to the past, and how some things come through, and how some are forgotten. I stopped this book about 1/4 of the way through when my Aunt was dying and I needed something less serious, but picked it back up again after a break and devoured the last part. This was a challenging, good novel that made me happy to have diverse reading habits.

Fall

Authority, by Jeff VanderMeer

I didn’t set a goal for myself in reading this year, no number, no book bingo, I just wanted to read freely for a year. I expected myself to read the big thick books that I said I was going to read, but I really didn’t get around to that this year either. I did work my way through some of the things that had been sitting on myself, which included reading the Area X trilogy. Authority is the second book in the series, and re-reading it was pretty valuable. I caught a variety of details I didn’t catch before, and understood more of where the series was going. Annihilation acts as more of a keystone that I expected, and Control’s descent into the weirdness, and the madness he flirts with there is realistic, on-par for genre conventions.

Acceptance, by Jeff VanderMeer

Last year, I wrote that I enjoyed Annihilation because it doesn’t really explain it’s weirdness, just hints at it. This book unfortunately explains, but does so in a way that isn’t quite satisfying. This is sort of the problem with most horror, the unknown is usually better than the known. Here the knowing robs the story of some of its punch. The jumping around in time is okay, but I didn’t have a very compelling reason to like some of the characters, who seemed to dredge up more mysteries that were unsolved. Again, the first book acts as more of a keystone to the whole story, as we revisit and explore the events of the first book from different perspectives. This is illuminating, but at the same time, I’m not sure I cared about the characters as much as VanderMeer wanted me to. That fault may be mine.

Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie

Lucinda and Jake both recommended this to me. Staehli and I visited Elliott Bay Books one weekend in the Spring/Summer, I decided against buying this book, and then found it in a free little library on our walk to a tea shop immediately afterward. Good choice me! I wanted to read more female authors, and this book totally delivered for me. The story of a wayward ship AI trapped in the body of a human, and her goal to set a trap for a similar entity, it’s an excellent exploration of justice, morality, individuality, and also gender. The last one is in part because the ship generalizes by calling everyone “she” regardless of their actual gender, due to a quirk in the original linguistic programming.. This subtle shift in perspective makes the reader question their assumptions. I very much envisioned an entirely female military society until they kept mentioning this woman’s beard, and I realized a character was male. This change complicates normal interactions, sexual interactions, and all sorts of things. I really appreciated the change in worldview, and made me re-examine my own assumptions about default modes. Leckie also admirably builds up a world with characters I did care about, with consistent motivations, and an interesting history. I understand that there are sequels, and I’m not sure what direction they’ll go in, but I am interested.

When She Woke, by Hillary Jordan

A book club book. This is a version of The Scarlet Letter, and most of book club liked the first third of the book, that hewed pretty closely to a future version of the Scarlet Letter: abortion is illegal, as there exists a reproduction gap. There is also a new harsh penalty for anyone who breaks the law: they are “chromed” meaning dyed a bright color consistent with the type of crime. Our narrator is bright red, and faces all sorts of new discrimination because of her choice. However, once we get exposed to a wider world, the book begins to lose its way. Characters make asinine choices that barely make sense, and there are jumps over details, tidy wrapping up of story that doesn’t really call for or need it. This was actually a fun book to pick apart, because it has the elements to be really good, but didn’t stick the landing.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things, by Iain Reid

I think it was the Millions’ Preview that put this on my radar, but I hated this book, and only finished it in a pitch that could be described as hate-reading, something I almost never do. I hated the main character, I hated her boyfriend more. I hated the twist at the end, and I hated the dumb non-sensical choices the characters made to get there. I hated the reasons the author attempted to justify those choices, I hated the message that this implied, I hated the tone, the structure, I hated the pat little summary at the end, I hated the unsolved mystery of who kept calling our main character, I hated basically all parts of this book. Do not read this book.

The Man in the High Castle, by Phillip K. Dick

A book club book. This was weird to read, especially in the context of the election. America lost WWII, and the country has been carved up between the Japanese and the Nazis. This book reflects the racist realities of both of these regimes, which is awkward reading today. The book jumps around in time and place within chapters, and sometimes from paragraph to paragraph. This reads more like an experiment than a fully-fledged novel, but at the same time, there is some excellent stuff here, and actually it mostly has to do with violence, which I’m not sure is a good thing or not, now that I reflect on it.

The Mothers, by Brit Bennett

This surprise book from Indiespensible was my other favorite book from this year. This is a literary page turner about a secret, and how it affects the lives of three characters. The book takes place just two towns over from where I grew up, in a religious black community, one I didn’t know existed there, but I can definitely imagine existing. Bennett’s writing is gorgeous, especially her writing about loss, conviction, and deciding. There are some flourishes that don’t quite work (our main character Nadia in law school reads a little more like a parody), but otherwise, this is a gorgeous novel that I really loved and want others to read.

Slade House, by David Mitchell

My friend Aaron and I talk about books. We’ve talked about David Mitchell previously, and he was curious to read more. He lent me Slade House, and read Bone Clocks in exchange. I liked Slade House more than Bone Clocks because it plays to David Mitchell’s strengths more: repetition with different flourishes, jumping into different characters and exploring the things that drive them, make them unique but also similar to other characters. However, the sci-fi/horror aspects of this book rely heavily on the previous work of Bone Clocks. I’m not sure how much would get caught by someone who hadn’t read Bone Clocks, which is my finally worry about this book: how accessible is it to someone who isn’t already a fan?

Carrie, by Stephen King

I think of Carrie most in the context of the film, which in someways has come to overshadow the book. Carrie was Stephen King’s first published novel, and the paperback rights made him rich pretty much overnight. It launched his career. I’ve read only two other Stephen King books, and it’s interesting to go back and look at his first book. He’s grown as a writer, tamped down some of his worst tendencies (there is a lot of unnecessary breast description in this book). There are some odd stylistic choices here that probably would benefit from an editor making some choices to clarify, but King does make you feel for Carrie. The ending of this novel is very dramatic, and as you get into Carrie’s head, you begin to really empathize with her and her struggle, as the butt of everyone’s jokes. He really does create a compelling motive for her final ending. It’s all a little dramatic, but it is also effective.

The Future and Reflection

Following the election, and looking back on the year, I was considering my reading habits.

I read

  • 2 graphic novels
  • Three memoirs (counting Bluets)
  • Three non-fiction books
  • 9 sci-fi/fantasy weird books
  • 18 literary fiction

I knew I wanted to read differently in 2017 than I did in 2016. I remember a few years ago that a few folks I respected were reading only women, which sounded good. But at the same time, I looked at some of my favorite books, and I appreciated the book with diverse perspectives and diverse representations: The Sellout, The Mothers, To Say Nothing of the Dog, Mr. Splitfoot, Delancey, even Ancillary Justice. These books do the things that we love about literature, it creates a sense of empathy for people who are very different than us, and I felt that was missing from so much of what I read this year, with white men focusing on white men: I’m Thinking of Ending Things, The Lost-Time Accidents, Leviathan Wakes, The Doubter’s Almanac, Bats of the Republic. I decided this year that I was going to read differently.

So after reading 36 books this year, and only 11 by women (worse than last year by about 20%), and only reading five non-American authors, compared with 13 the previous year, I have decided to exclude white men from my reading diet in 2017. I will only be reading women and men of color in 2017. I already have a list of books I am excited to read, from graphic novels to detective fiction to literary fiction to cook books. I’m exited to read diversely, and I encourage everyone to do the same. It’s a small change in my worldview, but one I hope to continue.

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