It’s Readathon Day, the happiest day of the year! Having just come off a vacation where I read far less than I planned to, I am excited to sit down and read and read and read. But first, I’m doing the readathon challenge of naming an awesome book published in each year of the Readathon. Buckle up, kids, you’ve heard me scream about most of these before and you might be tired of them but that won’t stop me.
2007 – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
THIS WAS BITTERSWEET REALLY. Do you remember this? The end of an era? I stayed up all night reading it, and I was so annoying to my sisters that one of them decamped to a different room and the other one said SHUT UP SHUT UP when I gasped over deaths. My wrath over Rita Skeeter’s hit piece on Dumbledore remains as bright and vivid today as it was on that summer eve. Fuck that lady.
2008 – Sea of Poppies, Amitav Ghosh
Historical fiction done absolutely right. In the event, I wasn’t wild about the third and final book in this series, but Sea of Poppies is a marvelous, wandering, playful novel that I absolutely loved. Its sequel River of Smoke is also very excellent, and if there hadn’t been some VERY wobbly consent in the third one, maybe I’d have liked that one too. But Sea of Poppies, man. This is good stuff.
2009 – White Is for Witching, Helen Oyeyemi
The house is both haunted and xenophobic. To this day I barely have a clue what Helen Oyeyemi is talking about w/r/t the plots of her fiction, and it doesn’t even matter. White Is for Witching is spooky and beautiful and who cares about the rest.
2010 – Delusions of Gender, Cordelia Fine
As my lovely friend Ana always says, I’d like to shove copies of Delusions of Gender into anyone’s hands I possibly can. This book debunks neuroscientific nonsense about gender in a crapload of different ways, and it taught me to be both a more critical consumer of neuroscience and a better, more well-informed feminist.
bonus: 2010 was also the year NK Jemisin published The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. I try not to be whatever about this, but I am a massive NK Jemisin hipster and I really did like her before it was cool. I read an excerpt of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms online somewhere before it published and I was fully like “Who is this lady?”
2011 – Chime, Franny Billingsley
Y’all know I love an unreliable narrator, and Franny Billingsley does something in Chime that I’ve not seen played out in many other books, if any: Her protagonist, Briony, is unreliable to us because she is unreliable to herself. Discovering the ways she has been misled is one of the greatest pleasures of this odd, creepy book.
2012 – Thorn, by Intisar Khanani
Thorn is a retelling of the fairy tale “The Goose Girl” that manages to be dark and hopeful at the same time. Intisar Khanani is one of my favorite fantasy writers currently working. I don’t know what else to say beyond that. Thorn is wonderful. You should read it if you haven’t.
2013 – Gemsigns, Stephanie Saulter
It feels like Stephanie Saulter is weirdly unknown, and I can’t figure out why. Maybe she’s just better known in the UK? I have no idea! Gemsigns is this amazing, strange, gripping political science fiction about genetically modified humans fighting for their rights in a world where they have always been considered property. Many are the machinations. I loved it.
2014 – How It Went Down, Kekla Magoon
How It Went Down is a Black Lives Matter story told in many voices, and it’s beyond me that it mostly flew under the radar when it was published. It resists easy answers and insists on the complicated humanity of every one of its narrators. Kekla Magoon is an incredible author who reliably has me in tears.
2015 – The Scorpion Rules, Erin Bow
Two of my friends recently read The Scorpion Rules, thereby reminding me of how much I love it! An all-knowing AI has taken over the world’s weapons systems and prevents war by taking hostage one child from every country’s ruler. If the country declares war, the ruler’s child is killed. Greta is one of those children. The Scorpion Rules and its sequel, The Swan Riders, never go in the direction you expect. They’re packed with twists and turns, but at the same time they give the characters space to be thoughtful and interesting.
2016 – Ninefox Gambit, Yoon Ha Lee
If you read Ninefox Gambit you must accept some level of having no g.d. clue what’s going on with it. It’s dense military sci-fi that weirdly reminds me a lot of my 2015 pick, The Scorpion Rules. Captain Kel Cheris is tasked with a near-impossible military task; the unstable, brilliant, dead tactician Jedao is installed in her head to assist her. Jedao is a superb character and I adored this book and you should too.
2017 – THICK! AS! THIEVES! by Megan Whalen Turner AT LAST FINALLY AT LAST oh God and it was worth the wait dear heaven I love this series
(Yes, this is eleven books. I know that. But more books is better than fewer books, n’est-ce pas?)