2017 Reading in Review

Well, 2017 was awful. And Trump’s still going to be president in 2018, so my hopes for the upcoming year are not that high. On the other hand, I’ve reached a sort of equilibrium with the family members who dumped me, so I won’t have to relitigate that whole mess in the upcoming year (said Jenny optimistically). And I’ve seen so much bravery and ferocity from people I know: Y’all stay inspiring me.

With that said, I had a pretty terrific reading year in 2017. I encountered some new instant favorites, books I loved so much I shoved them at everyone I knew and immediately requested them for birthday or Christmas. I love books and I love reading and I love y’all, so thanks all the way around for being great.

Monstress, by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda

Never shall I give up my fondness for monster girls. Monstress is a weird and wonderful comic about a girl with special powers who finds herself at war with the whole world. The art is unfathomably lovely.

Iron Cast, Destiny Soria

Two best friends create magical illusions at an illegal night club in Boston, just before Prohibition begins. Iron Cast features found family to the max, including a best-friendship that’s more central to the characters than their romances (which is rare as hell), and some genuinely cool magic. If you’re a reader on the hunt for more one-and-dones in YA, Iron Cast is for you.

Borderline and Phantom Pains, Mishell Baker

I haven’t read much urban fantasy, but Borderline made me want to change that. Mishell Baker’s borderline protagonist is a double amputee and survivor of a suicide attempt, recruited to work for a mysterious organization called the Arcadia Project. Creepy fairies abound (my fave), plus lots of details about the nitty-gritty of cognitive therapy for BPD.

The Woman Next Door, Yewande Omotoso

Contrary to popular belief, I do not like books solely based on their having French flaps. But French flaps help. The Woman Next Door is a lovely, quiet exploration of the aftermath of apartheid in South Africa: the story of two women whose enmity softens into something that is not quite friendship but no longer exactly hostility. It’s also a story about complicity in oppression that doesn’t insist upon redemption. I loved it.

Testosterone Rex, Cordelia Fine

I mean, obviously. Cordelia Fine remains brilliant, and she is so good at making complicated science accessible to a layperson. My big complaint with Testosterone Rex is that it doesn’t talk about non-cis people hardly at all. However, it makes many brilliant arguments about the role hormones like testosterone play in gender and gendered behavior. Read it, and read Delusions of Gender.

White Tears, Hari Kunzru

I said it when I read it, and I’ll say it again now: What the entire fuck. White Tears is a story about white appropriation of black culture, but it’s also a terrifying ghost story and a wild wild ride. It has one of the scariest endings I’ve ever encountered in a book. It’s brilliant and bananas. Get on it.

Amberlough, Lara Elena Donnolly

Amberlough is a secondary world fantasy (without any magic) about the performers in a cabaret confronting the rise of fascism in their country. If you can’t face that sort of a thing during the Trump presidency, it’s absolutely fair play. But if you are up to it, Amberlough is a strange and lovely book, a fantasy novel for lovers of the darkest bits of Cabaret.

Thorn, Intisar Khanani

One of the truly lovely things that happened this year was Intisar Khanani’s book deal with HarperTeen. Soon you’ll be able to get Thorn in a shiny new edition, and you should. It’s a retelling of the fairy tale “The Goose Girl,” a story that’s sad but hopeful, a story about good people trying their best. Intisar Khanani remains one of my favorite fantasy writers currently working.

Ninefox Gambit and Raven Stratagem, by Yoon Ha Lee

I admit that I was fearful of reading Ninefox Gambit, which I’d heard was a particularly dense bit of science fiction. But I’m so glad I pressed onward with it. Ninefox Gambit might be my actual favorite book of the year; I liked it so much that I ran straight out to the library to get Raven Stratagem. It’s about an imperfectly loyal soldier who has to share a brain with a famously brilliant, famously murderous general from the past. I loved it so much. I want you to love it, too.

Song of the Current, Sarah Tolcser

Such an excellent YA adventure novel. Caro takes to the river with a crateful of mystery cargo in the hopes that she can save her father from prison. But when the cargo turns out to be a boy — a snooty-as-hell boy, but good in a fight — she finds herself enmeshed in more plotting and violence than she’d bargained for. And look at that cover!

Starfish, Akemi Dawn Bowman

In YA as in adult fiction, I tend to gravitate more towards SFF stories. But Starfish won me over. It deals with sexual and emotional abuse in families in a way that I’ve encountered virtually never, and it’s exceptionally honest about the impact of growing up with an abusive parent. I loved Starfish, even more so because the author was able to take critique of some of the language in her book, and make a change for future editions.

Jane, Unlimited, Kristin Cashore

If you’d asked me what I expected as a follow-up to Kristin Cashore’s Graceling series, the last thing I’d have said would have been “Rebecca as a choose-your-own adventure, by way of Diana Wynne Jones.” But that’s what I got: Five separate stories in five separate genres, each most wonderfully stranger than the last.

I wish you strength in the New Year, and all the glorious books you can gobble up. What were some of your 2017 faves?

 

 

 

  • Mmmm, intriguing book choices! A couple of those are going on my look-out-for list. Hey – you want creepy fairies? Here’s one for you, hot off the press. An Enchantment of Ravens, by up-and-coming YA writer Margaret Rogerson. Devoured it a few days ago; so good! Like, 9/10 good. Which is really, really good in my personal ratings system. 🙂 http://www.margaretrogerson.com/books/

    Happy New Year, Jenny! Here’s hoping 2018 is kind to us.
    Barb/Leaves & Pages

  • Lisa May

    A very happy New Year! I too am hoping this will be a better year – one without major storms would be nice.

    I see some books I need to add to my library list! They were closed again yesterday – darn these holiday weekends!

  • CoolCurry

    I’m so glad you liked Iron Cast! I loved it immensely, but it hasn’t gotten that much attention.

  • Thorn was so good! I still think about that book a lot, and I’m glad it’ll now be easier for people to get when I recommend it!

  • Kailana

    I really want to get to Monstress Volume 2. I got it for Christmas.

  • Kristen M.

    Jenny! I bought Jane, Unlimited today! It might be my next read because now you’ve made it sound even more awesome.

  • I see here two books I read because of you, and two authors who were already on my list, ditto. I think Jane, Unlimited looks wonderful. Happy New Year, Jenny. May it be delightful.

  • Nishita

    2017 was such an unsettling year. Not horrible as such, but overall filled with anxiety over so many things. In terms of reading as well, it was a bad year for me. Usually I have always been able to forget everything and lose myself in a book, but 2017 was the year where I just couldn’t escape anything.

    I do hope 2018 will be better in every which way for everyone.

  • Eh, f*ck 2017. I am certain 2018 HAS to be better. Right?

    Okay, so I just wrote down almost your entire list (all except the graphic novels/comics because I just don’t appreciate the genre). I might as well get your 2018 TBR now since I know I am going to want to read everything you read and enjoy.

  • I loved Delusions of Gender. I think I quoted most of it out loud to my family. I also wished that I could start again with my kids – I’m dying to know if I could have done better armed with the ideas in that book! So, yes, Testosterone Rex is a yes for me. As well as The Woman Next Door. And you have the most convincing blurb about White Tears I’ve seen so far: “brilliant and bananas” sounds perfect.
    Happy 2018! 🙂

  • Alley

    That POS may still be prez BUT we got mid-terms this year so there is a glimmer of hope.

    And yeah, def need to read White Tears

  • Stefanie

    Have you read the second Monstress volume yet? Sooo good! Also, since you like monster girls, you will probably like a graphic novel called My Favorite Thing is Monsters by Emil Ferris.

  • I have read zero of these books but am super-intrigued by Iron Cast, Testosterone Rex, and White Tears, plus some of the others, too! I hope 2018 is treating you well so far.

  • Awesome highlights! So much the diversity! So much the awesomeness!!!!

    Btw, thanks for consistently being someone who finds the hidden diverse gems and draws attention to them 🙂 you rock! <3