Friday, January 26, 2018

Flash Book Review: Crosstalk by Connie Willis

As always, Connie Willis is delightful.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

I am morbid and scare small children

Actual title: Let's talk about book recommendations and reviews

I can't believe it's 2018. But I say that every year.

Last night, I attended a talk at the local library, "Books you missed in 2017." The library manager did a great job of finding books that I had missed - I'd read only one of the 60+ books on his list, and had just one more on my "to be read" shelf. My list of books to read has expanded by at least 20 entries courtesy of his suggestions.

That said, most of the authors on his list are white. At the end of his talk, I challenged him for the 2018 list - make sure 10% of the authors are non-white. Someone questioned me on that, because "the color of the author's skin doesn't make a book good, and I want to read good books!" 

I would like to argue that there are plenty of good books being published by non-white authors, and they are sadly absent from the librarian's list. Yes, I think everyone in the room was white. That doesn't mean that we shouldn't have diversity in our reading habits. I will admit that I don't look at the author's picture on the jacket before choosing a book, but I will read nearly everything, particularly books involving things I know nothing about. Therefore, I want to read books from people with different perspectives and experiences, which means reading authors who don't look like me or my relatives. 

Tangent: I'll admit that I wasn't willing to start asking about books by non-CIS authors; let's take one small step at a time! Our little suburb's culture is more conservative than I'd like. For example, my local yarn store owner refuses to put up one of Ysolda's rainbow sheep window clings, not because she doesn't welcome everyone, but because she fears losing business if she advertises that she welcomes everyone. Which is why my comment to the librarian is truly a challenge, rather than a critique.

Several people also in attendance were supportive of my challenge, and mentioned attempting to read authors from many different countries (as suggested here). There are many ways to expand one's reading horizons, and I encourage everyone to do so. BookRiot has some great suggestions. (I have the same problem as Danika Ellis.)

That said, someone asked for recommendations, and apparently I failed miserably. She was unwilling to consider reading books that involve death. At all. I wasn't suggesting the literary equivalent of murder-of-the-week TV shows, where two-dimensional characters fall only to give the protagonists something to solve, but books where the deaths are touching and meaningful. I tend to think that if an author can make me care enough about a figment of their imagination that I cry, the book is worth reading. And therefore nearly everything that I recommend includes a death of some sort. (Or is supernatural steampunk, the suggestion of which prompted a shudder.) Hence the title of this post. I don't mean to be morbid, but many good books touch on mortality, and that is reflected in the books I recommend. Death is a part of life, and we've all lost someone we love. When I say that a book radiates love, I think it's worth reading, even if it involves death.

I am sad because she kept saying of the books she would recommend that I wouldn't read them. Yes, of course I'd be interested in the memoirs of a man who left a Hasidic sect. My life is nothing like his was; call me nosy or an armchair anthropologist, but I'd like to learn more about his experiences. 

Anyway, this is what I read last year. I read plenty of books by white people, but lots of other skin tones were represented.  Stay tuned for recommendations. And hopefully more posts. I should recommend books after I read them, rather than only once a year.

Books Read in 2017

001. The Secret of Crickley Hall, James Herbert
002. Infectious Madness: The Surprising Science of How We "Catch" Mental Illness, Harriet A. Washington
003. The Regional Office is Under Attack! Manuel Gonzales
004. Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, Trevor Noah
005. After the Fire, a Still Small Voice, Evie Wyld
006. History of Wolves, Emily Fridlund
007. Everything You Want Me to Be, Mindy Mejia
008. The Last Painting of Sara de Vos, Dominic Smith
009. Mr. Splitfoot, Samantha Hunt
010. Fever Dream, Samanta Schweblin
011. Difficult Women, Roxane Gay
012. Foreign Soil and Other Stories, Maxine Beneba Clarke
013. Burning Bright, Nick Petrie
014. Leopard at the Door, Jennifer McVeigh
015. Stories of Your Life and Others, Ted Chiang
016. Little Deaths, Emma Flint
017. All the Missing Girls, Megan Miranda
018. The Old Man, Thomas Perry
019. A Certain Age, Beatriz Williams
020. Lab Girl, Hope Jahren
021. The Bear and the Nightingale, Katherine Arden
022. The Charm Bracelet, Viola Shipman
023. Autumn, Ali Smith
024. The Dry, Jane Harper
025. The Girl Who Drank the Moon, Kelly Barnhill
026. Universal Harvester, John Darnielle
027. Lucky Boy, Shanthi Sekaran
028. Her Every Fear, Peter Swanson
029. The Sleepwalker, Chris Bohjalian
030. Underground Airlines, Ben H. Winters
031. All Our Wrong Todays, Elan Mastai
032. Norse Mythology, Neil Gaiman
033. The Girl Before, JP Delaney
034. All Grown Up, Jami Attenberg
035. The Most Dangerous Place on Earth, Lindsey Lee Johnson
036. Two Days Gone, Randall Silvis
037. The Evening Road, Laird Hunt
038. Lincoln in the Bardo, George Saunders
039. Old Man's War, John Scalzi
040. The Invention of Wings, Sue Monk Kidd
041. What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky, Lesley Nneka Arimah
042. We Were the Lucky Ones, Georgia Hunter
043. A Doubter's Almanac, Ethan Canin
044. Hag-Seed, Margaret Atwood
045. All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr
046. The Ruins, Scott Smith
047. Marlena, Julie Buntin
048. The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit, Michael Finkel
049. Ladivine, Marie NDiaye
050. The Last One, Alexandra Oliva
051. The Enchanted, Rene Denfield
052. The Moth Presents All These Wonders: True Stories About Facing the Unknown, Catherine Burns, ed.
053. Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, From Missiles to the Moon to Mars, Nathalia Holt
054. No One Is Coming to Save Us, Stephanie Powell Watts
055. On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, Timothy Snyder
056. Underground Fugue, Margaret Singer
057. The Book of Joan, Lidia Yuknavitch
058. The Second Mrs. Hockaday, Susan Rivers
059. The Roanoke Girls, Amy Engel
060. The Stars Are Fire, Anita Shreve
061. The Elephant's Journey, José Saramago
062. Why We Came to the City, Kristopher Jansma
063. Large Animals, Jess Arndt
064. The Chronology of Water, Lidia Yuknavitch
065. The Girl With All the Gifts, M.R. Carey
066. Gilded Cage, Vic James
067. No One Can Pronounce My Name, Rakesh Satyal
068. Exit West, Mohsin Hamid
069. The Story of the Lost Child, Elena Ferrante
070. A Gentleman in Moscow, Amor Towles
071. We Are Never Meeting in Real Life, Samantha Irby
072. Chemistry, Weike Wang
073. Final Girls, Mira Grant
074. The Nix, Nathan Hill
075. Salt Houses, Hala Alyan
076. Saints for All Occasions, J. Courtney Sullivan
077. Body Horror: Capitalism, Fear, Misogyny, Jokes, Anne Elizabeth Moore
078. Radiance, Catherynne M. Valente
079. The Stargazer's Sister, Carrie Brown
080. Golden Hill, Francis Spufford
081. What We Lose, Zinzi Clemmons
082. Final Girls, Riley Sager
083. The Owl Service, Alan Garner
084. Outline, Rachel Cusk
085. The Answers, Catherine Lacey
086. The Pier Falls and Other Stories, Mark Haddon
087. How to Behave in a Crowd, Camille Bordas
088. All Is Not Forgotten, Wendy Walker
089. The City of Mirrors, Justin Cronin
090. The Sherlockian, Graham Moore
091. Me Before You, Jojo Moyes
092. Sourdough, Robin Sloan
093. Mars Crossing, Geoffrey A. Landis
094. Courage Is Contagious: And Other Reasons to Be Grateful for Michelle Obama, Nick Haramis, ed.
095. True Believer: Stalin's Last American Spy, Kati Marton
096. Lentil Underground: Renegade Farmers and the Future of Food in America, Liz Carlisle
097. River of Teeth, Sarah Gailey
098. Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng
099. The Last Days of Night, Graham Moore
100. The Tea Planter's Wife, Dinah Jefferies
101. Artemis, Andy Weir
102. Spineless: The Science of Jellyfish and the Art of Growing a Backbone, Juli Berwald
103. The Power, Naomi Alderman
104. Chrysalis: Maria Sibylla Merian and the Secrets of Metamorphosis, Kim Todd