words about words

This was a pretty solid year in books for me. I discovered new authors I adore and experimented with genre a bit. One find in an anthology led to a new favorite author, and some non-fiction books blew my mind. The entire list is below, but there are some patterns I found worth highlighting.

Not Cli-fi, but just as yikes
  1. This was the year in which Men as Agents of Garbage featured fairly heavily. Starting with Know My Name by Chanel Miller who was sexually assaulted behind a dumpster by a dipshit Stanford swimmer. Perhaps fueled by anger from this (and honestly, still traumatized by the Trump Years) I read I Hate Men by a French essayist. I chose not to activate “show on Goodreads” in fear of offending my husband. Finally, I read TWO thrillers in which the unlucky bearers of a Y chromosome are wiped out by a virus, namely The End of Men and Afterland. Both are very good; I preferred the former.
  2. I’ve been mourning the loss of Ruth Rendell for more than five years. In truth I held off reading her last novel for years so that I still had one more to read. And then, through Amazon’s Original Stories, I discovered a quartet of short novels called House of Crows by Lisa Unger. They were dark and spooky and had one mindfuck I did not see coming. Who IS this, I thought. I realized I’d read one of her stories (The Sleep-Tight Motel) in an Amazon Original Collection called Dark Corners. These collections are fucking fantastic. Anyway I was like “Where have you been all my life?!” and read three more of her books. I told her on Twitter that she filled the Rendell-hole in my life and she was happy to hear it as she also is a huge fan. BFFs? Maybe someday.
  3. I usually listen to non-fiction and read fiction with my eyes. But I decided that to tackle The Stand (the big boy version with all the cuts shoved back in) I would need to take the audio route. It was 47 hours and worth every last minute. All these years later it feels relevant for obvious Captain Tripp/Covid reasons and it seems even more timely if you think about the way our country is divided by ideology the way the two groups of survivors were on opposite sides of the Rocky Mountains. The Dark Man’s minions want to nuke us for shits and gigs? Sounds like people who won’t get vaccinated because fuck you.
  4. Climate Fiction, or cli-fi has been intriguing me lately, unsurprisingly. The Anomaly was a big hit in France last year and has recently been translated and published in English. At one point I was reading it, The Ministry for the Future, and Neal Stephenson’s latest Termination Shock and let’s say there are a lot of parallels. If this is of interest, I highly recommend the Warmer Collection from Amazon Originals. Also, read Bewilderment. Maybe it will hurt less now that the James Webb telescope is safely aloft.
  5. The non-fiction books that knocked me on my ass this year were The Premonition by Michael Lewis and I Contain Multitudes by Ed Yong. They made me want to science.
  6. I’ve not read much fantasy in my life, but I found my way in via folklore. I read The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden and then quickly devoured the sequel The Girl in the Tower. SO GOOD. I’m hanging onto the third book because I want to savor it and also don’t want the trilogy to be over. She’s writing some YA stuff now and I feel like when she publishes another Big People book, it will be safe to read the last book of the trilogy. Yes, I know it’s a weird way to be. (see also Ruth Rendell above). This is why I still haven’t watched the last season of the Sopranos. It may be over for you, but it’s not for me!

Fiction. This list includes novels, stories and two audio-only offerings

The Dark Emma Haughton
Sleeping Dogs Lie Samantha Downing
For Your Own Good Samantha Downing
The Stand Stephen King
Later Stephen King
The Anomaly Herve le Tellier
Rizzio Denise Mina
The Less Dead Denise Mina
Bewilderment Richard Powers
Last Girl Ghosted Lisa Unger
The Stranger Inside Lisa Unger
Confessions on the 7:45 Lisa Unger
Fog Descending Lisa Unger
Love the Way you Lie Lisa Unger
All My Darkest Impulses Lisa Unger
Circling the Drain Lisa Unger
The Temple House Vanishing Rachel Donahue
The Other Black Girl Zakiya Dalila Harris
No One Goes Alone
Erik Larson
We Were Never Here Andrea Bartz
Writers and Lovers Lily King
Father of the Rain Lily King
The Best American Short Stories 2020 Curtis Sittenfeld
Giraffe and Flamingo Curtis Sittenfeld
The Tomorrow Box Curtis Sittenfeld
Matrix Lauren Groff
Velvet was the Night Silvia Moreno Garcia
The Rules of Magic Alice Hoffman
Magic Lessons Alice Hoffman
The Turnout Megan Abbott
You are Ready for Take Off Susan Orlean
The Calculating Stars Mary Robinette Kowal
The Woman Inside E.G. Scott
The Sense of an Ending Julian Barnes
Dream Girl Laura Lippman
Sunburn Laura Lippman
Malibu Rising Taylor Jenkins Reid
Evidence of the Affair Taylor Jenkins Reid
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo Taylor Jenkins Reid
The End of Men Christina Sweeney-Baird
Ghost Story Peter Straub
The Red Lotus Chris Bohjalian
Uprooted Naomi Novik
The Decameron Project The New York Times
Every Vow you Break Peter Swanson
The Girl in the Tower Katherine Arden
The Bear and the Nightingale Katherine Arden
I Would Be Doing This Anyway Jia Tolentino
If You are Lonely and You Know it Yiyun Li
Crewelwork Justin Torres
Simplexity Kiley Reid
Me and Carlos Tom Perrotta
The Summer House Cristina Heniquez
Bloodline Jess Lowrey
Rewards Emma Cline
Full Throttle Joe Hill
Pandemic Robin Cook
The Wife Upstairs Rachel Hawkins
Manhattan Beach Jennifer Egan
The Sea of Lost Girls Carol Goodman
Afterland Lauren Beukes

Non-Fiction. I listened to most of these on Audible

Why We Sleep Matthew Walker
Ms. Adventure Jess Phoenix
The Interstellar Age Jim Bell
Other Minds Peter Godfrey-Smith
Chief Seattle and the Town that Took his Name David M. Buerge
When Women Ruled the World Kara Cooney
Empire of Pain Patrick Radeen Keefe
Finding the Mother Tree Suzanne Simard
Dinosaurs Rediscovered Michael J Benton
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes Caitlin Doughty
Voices in the Ocean Susan Casey
Underland Robert Macfarlane
Beginnner’s Mind Yo Yo Ma
The Premonition Michael Lewis
Leonardo Da Vinci Walter Isaacson
Open Book Jessica Simpson
In the Dream House Carmen Maria Machado
Spillover David Quammen
The Molecule of More Daniel Z Lieberman
Buzz, Sting, Bite Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson
The Witches Stacy Schiff
I Contain Multitudes Ed Yong
Think Again Adam Grant
The Happiness Equation Neil Pasricha
I Hate Men Pauline Harmange
Know my Name Chanel Miller

Comics and Graphic Novels

Man-Eaters: The Cursed 1-5
Serial 1-8
The Neil Gaiman Library Vol 1
The Neil Gaiman Library Vol 2
Locke and Key/Sandman 1 and 2
Norse Mythology vol 1
Gideon Falls The Black Barn
Terry Moore’s Echo vol 1
The October Faction vol 1
Something’s Killing the Children vols 1 and 2
Sand Castle
Rachel Rising 4,5,6,7

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