Best Books of 2016

There are so many, which is funny given how garbage a year it was in general. I didn’t review all of them, unfortunately, but I’ve linked to those I did, and I wonder if at some point I might go back and do the ones that have really stuck with me. (It always bothers me…

Juliet Takes a Breath, by Gabby Rivera

Four stars, maybe five. Read in December 2016. I’d been excited about this book for a while, and there was a surprise right up front because for some reason—because of the glorious cover design—I had thought it was a graphic novel. It is not. It has a very self-published look underneath that fabulous cover, which was…

The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins

Four stars, read in August 2016. This was exactly what I was hoping it would be. I started calling myself an atheist a few years ago, but I hadn’t yet read any of the oeuvre, though I’ve been vaguely meaning to. This ended up being a good first choice, since Dawkins wrote it with the explicit…

What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours, by Helen Oyeyemi

Four stars, read in November 2016. This ended up being my choice for fiction for the Goodreads Choice Awards.  I am still a little torn because I loved this book, and I didn’t understand it—not all of it, anyway, and it’s hard for me to not be able to understand completely. It took me until…

Shelter, by Jung Yun

Five stars, read in November 2016. This book was my choice for fiction in the first two rounds of the Goodreads Choice Awards, but it was eliminated from the final round.  I read for two hours past my bedtime because that’s how long it took to find a place I could bear to put this…

Blue Iris, by Mary Oliver

Four stars, read in October 2016. It’s confirmed; Mary Oliver is one of the rare poets whose work just works for me. I adore her style and her subjects—the scenes in nature, the exquisite detail, the stunning imagery. In both of the collections I’ve read so far, I enjoy every poem, but find two or three that…

If Beale Street Could Talk, by James Baldwin

Five stars, read in October 2016. This was incredible. I’d read excerpts and quotes that were enough for me to tell James Baldwin was a writer I needed to know, but this is the first of his books I’ve read. I was taken aback almost every few pages by yet another piece of gorgeous text,…

Owls and Other Fantasies, by Mary Oliver

Four stars, read in September 2016. As I often mention, I’m not a poetry person. The genre doesn’t do much for me as a whole, but there are certain poems and poets I really connect with, and Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese” is one of them. You do not have to be good. You do not…

Kokoro, by Natsume Soseki

Four stars, read in August 2016. I found this just lovely in a very quiet, no-frills way (which is the usual, I suppose, for the Japanese writers I’ve been reading). It’s the story of a young man’s relationship with his mentor, and I particularly appreciated the exploration of Sensei’s inability to trust people, including himself. Somehow…

Monstress, by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda

Five stars, read in September 2016. Jesus. Where to start?? This book needs all the superlatives. The artwork and the characters themselves are so beautiful it’s extravagant. The story is suspenseful and spectacularly violent. The protagonist is the most powerful, hardcore badass I’ve read in a long time; like Hannah from Rat Queens, only less…

Rashomon and Seventeen Other Stories, by Ryunosuke Akutagawa

Four stars, read in July 2016. This was gorgeous. Each story is full of imagery, fascinating characters, and an examination of the time period (early 1900s). I can’t believe how closely I relate with the autobiographical stories. “Spinning Gears,” especially the ending, was amazing—sort of hauntingly visual—it almost felt like a movie. I’m not sure…

Shrill: Notes From a Loud Woman, by Lindy West

Five stars, read in August 2016. This was every bit as brilliant as I knew it would be. I kept track of so many quotes I wanted to share, and by quotes I mean chapters, basically. I should probably just link to “Hello, I Am Fat,” because every word of it is gold, and I…

Books Set Outside the U.S.

Check out Top Ten Tuesday at The Broke and the Bookish. Also known as the majority of my favorite books! I haven’t done Top Ten Tuesday in a while, but I can’t pass this one up, and as usual my list will probably end up with a random number like seventeen, or ninety (whenever I can…

The Sympathizer, by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Five stars, read in July 2016. This is a book about a Communist spy during the Vietnam War. That premise was intriguing enough for me to pick it up, but while it continued to be an engaging plot throughout the book, for me the plot became secondary to the smart, insightful narrative voice. We never learn the narrator’s…

A + E 4ever, by I. Merey

Five stars, read in July 2016. This book is gorgeous. I don’t have anything objective to say about it—I just want to gush feelings for a while. It’s so lovely, in fact, that I went and found a bigger-than-usual picture of the cover to use here, just so I could look at it. I read…

Dumplin’, by Julie Murphy

Four stars, read in June 2016. I’ve been considering whether to change this to a five-star rating . . . Can’t quite decide. I already know I want to read it again, and I’m thrilled to see that Goodreads has given it a series page, meaning at least one sequel will be happening. These are…

Out / Real World, by Natsuo Kirino

Out: Five stars, read in June 2016. Real World: Three stars, read in June 2016. I read Out first, and it was really fantastic. It’s cataloged as a mystery, which I suppose it is, but it isn’t the usual format: In this case you’re following along with the people who committed the crimes, and they’re certainly not…

Speed Reviews (Catching Up)

I haven’t been exactly sure what’s going on here lately. I’ve been through some reading slumps and revivals and slumps again, and I think the same is true of my blogging. But in the past couple months, a lot of really great books have come through for me.   The Vegetarian, by Han Kang Five…

The Fever, by Wallace Shawn

Five stars, read in April 2016. After reading his interview with the Paris Review, I knew I wanted to start tracking down Wallace Shawn’s work. I was so surprised by the connection I felt with his ideas in that interview, and it was the same with The Fever. It was written as a kind of one-act play,…

Nimona, by Noelle Stevenson

Five stars, read in September 2015. I didn’t know anything about Noelle Stevenson before I picked up Nimona, but I was intrigued by the lovely cover. It was outstanding, getting much darker than I expected it to, and also way more awesome. The protagonists are supervillains, the antagonists are heroes, and at times you question whether either group…

The Casual Vacancy, by J.K. Rowling

Four stars, read in November 2013. I don’t know if it’s true, but I imagine the reaction to this book is what caused Rowling to adopt a pseudonym for The Cuckoo’s Calling. I’m irritated both that she had to do it, and that it was too late for The Casual Vacancy. This book deserved, and did not…

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, by Cheryl Strayed

Five stars, read the first time in 2014, then again in 2015. This is a book I’m going to read several times in my life. It’s one of my favorites, and I realized that—although I mention it frequently on lists and in recommendations—I’ve never posted an actual review. So I’d like to remedy that. After finishing…

Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl, by Carrie Brownstein

Four stars, read in December 2015. I was a little afraid, as I often am with celebrity memoirs, that this wouldn’t live up to my anticipation of it. I knew Carrie Brownstein mostly from Portlandia, but I’d heard of Sleater-Kinney and knew enough about that to be really excited for the book. I was not…

The Thickety: A Path Begins, by J.A. White

Four stars, read in April 2015. The Thickety is surprisingly dark for juvenile fiction: grisly murders, horrifying creatures, dark magic, the extreme torment of small children by an entire village of cruel religious cult members. I liked it a lot even while I was annoyed by some silly things (the twelve-year-old girl’s dead mother’s dress “fit…

Vanessa and Her Sister, by Priya Parmar

Five stars, read in January 2015. The fictionalized life of Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf is such an excellent premise for a historical novel. I went through some ups and downs with the Stephen sisters, and I loved the chance to experience their lives. For the first 150 pages I just loved everything and soaked it all…

The Wicked + The Divine, by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie

Four stars, first volume read in August 2015. I couldn’t believe it when I realized that the volume I read first was actually volume two. It happened to work out very well—it didn’t take me long to figure out what was happening, so even though I was obviously coming into a story in progress, I thought…

Furiously Happy / Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, by Jenny Lawson

Furiously Happy: Five stars, read in October 2015. Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: Three stars, read in October/November 2015. I really needed to know about Jenny Lawson a long time ago. She’s a blogger who became famous, partly because she’s insanely funny, partly because of the conversation she fosters about mental illness. Like her legions of followers, what…

Othello, by Satomi Ikezawa

Four stars for the whole series, read in January/February 2016. I decided to start trying manga, and after one disappointment and one with pretty good potential, I was surprised to fall instantly in love with this series. The cover of the first book was not at all promising for me, but luckily (for some reason),…