Top Ten 2016 Releases I Meant to Read

Well, Whiskey Jenny and I are going to get into some of what we missed in 2016 in our next podcast, but luckily, there were so many books I meant to read in 2016 and didn’t read that I will NEVER RUN OUT OF ANSWERS TO THIS QUESTION. It’s Top Ten Tuesday!

10. Playing Dead: A Journey through the World of Death Fraud, Elizabeth Greenwood. Sarah mentioned this book earlier in the year, and it sounds top-notch, like maybe it would talk about the kind of crimes the Leverage team would be hired to do something about.

9. Burn, Baby, Burn, Meg Medina. This is a case of how many recs does it take from how many book bloggers before I remember to grab a damn book at the library? Sheesh.

8. The Fall of the House of Wilde, Emer O’Sullivan. I admit I have been delaying gratification on this one. I suspect that I will hate it. Emer O’Sullivan seems to have taken a strange dislike to Oscar Wilde, and I — as some of you may know — am mightily defensive of him. I want to save this book for a day when I can really dig into it. You know, sit on my bed in a nest of other Oscar Wilde biographies and sneer at all of Emer O’Sullivan’s conclusions.1

7. Mockingbird, by Chelsea Cain. Look, if fuckboys consider a comic worth hounding an author off of Twitter for, I’m going to want to read it. Every time.

6. Umami, Laia Jufresa. Funny story, I discovered this book on NPR’s Book Concierge in December (of course), and then when I went to add it to my TBR spreadsheet, I discovered that I’d already added it when I read the publisher’s description of it much much earlier in the year. And just forgot to actually pick it up ever.

5. Baho! by Roland Rugero. This is the first Burundian novel ever to be translated into English. My library did not have it for a few months after it came out, and I gave up in despair, but then when I checked back in December, lo and behold, my library had acquired all the small press African novels I wanted all year. Hooray!

4. White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide, Carol Anderson. I mean the title really speaks for itself, doesn’t it?

3. The Abyss Surrounds Us, by Emily Skrutskie. I understand there are both genetically engineered sea monsters and girls kissing each other in this book, and I am in favor of both those things. Plus, there’s a sequel on the way!

2. Democracy for Realists, by Christopher H. Achen and Larry Bartels. I mean, I advisedly didn’t read this in 2016. I was not sure that I could bear to. But it’s about how when we vote for candidates, we’re almost never really voting for their policies, but instead we are voting based on social identities. I think this thesis is super-true and I would like to hear more about it so that I can hopefully become a better, more informed, more rational voter. We’ll see.

1. And finally, the number-one book I wanted to read in 2016 but didn’t would have to be Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil, by Melina Marchetta. Melina Marchetta is a longtime favorite author of YA, but her latest book is an adult mystery novel, and I was too nervous of disliking it to actually even try it. Judge me if you must.

What about you, friends? Did you read most of what you wanted to read in 2016, or are there oodles and oodles of books that escaped you?

  1. Emer O’Sullivan is a legitimate scholar and an actual researcher in her area. I am confident that she knows one zillion percent more about Oscar Wilde than I do.

Ten (well, six) Books for Which My Feelings Have Changed

Happy Tuesday, friends! The Broke and the Bookish are, as ever, hosting a Top Ten Tuesday, and I love the question for this week:

Ten Books I Feel Differently About After Time Has Passed (less love, more love, complicated feelings, indifference, thought it was great in a genre until you became more well read in that genre etc.)

I couldn’t think of ten — my initial responses to most of the books I read continue to hold true on rereads — but here are six, anyway!

1. Emma, by Jane Austen – I think the problem here is that I saw Clueless, one of the world’s most perfect movies, long before I read Emma, and it left me unfit to enjoy the book. It wasn’t that I thought Emma was a dick (I love Emma actually, and I super-identify with her), it was just that I thought the book she was in was terminally boring. I finally read it during a slow day at my second-ever job1 and couldn’t figure out what my problem with it had ever been. It’s my favorite Jane Austen book now!


2. Rose in Bloom, by Louisa May Alcott – No, I know, I’m hitting all the absolute high points in contemporary fiction with this list. DEAL WITH IT. When I read Rose in Bloom as a kid, I thought it was super boring and I didn’t understand why Rose was ever into Charlie in the first place. Or Mac. What was her deal, I thought. Rereading it as an adult (this is true of An Old-Fashioned Girl too actually!), I’m surprised by the level of nuance Alcott gets into both of those relationships. Young Jenny missed it completely.

3. Angela and Diabola, Lynne Reid Banks – I loved this book when I was a kid. As an adult, I felt slightly smug that I was never that into the Indian in the Cupboard books in the first place, reserving my true love for Lynne Reid Banks’s lesser-known, unracist kids’ books, including this one and the apocalyptically terrifying The Fairy Rebel. What superb critical taste my younger self had, I thought.

the pride before which a fall goeth

I recently reread Angela and Diabola and it was a hella rude awakening. (The Fairy Rebel is still fine. That book rocks. Don’t read it right before bed though, or if you have wasps living near you.) The good twin has fair skin and golden hair, and the bad twin is darker-skinned with corkscrew curls. The corkscrew curls are mentioned a lot. It is — uncomfortable to read. Would not give to a child.2

4. We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Shirley Jackson – When I lived in England, I checked this out of our library (which had a paternoster lift, see below for gif depiction) and thought I was going to die of boredom.

so called because you say a prayer when you get in it that you won’t die. Before you ask, yes, you can ride it over the top and down onto the other side

As with Emma, I don’t know what was going on in my head the first time I tried to read this book. We Have Always Lived in the Castle is the furthest thing from boring, and I’m so glad book bloggers convinced me give Shirley Jackson another try. Thanks, bloggers!

5. Possession, A. S. Byatt – People who don’t do a lot of rereading often ask me if I worry that rereading a book will make me like it less. Yes, I think about that sometimes; but if what me and the book had was true love, not just a fling, it should stand the test of time. Possession is a rare but notable failure of rereading. When I first read this book I loved it. Couldn’t put it down. Called it the Arcadia of novels. Was baffled that I never got on with any of A. S. Byatt’s other books. Then I reread it and was like:

OH WELL. I guess it wasn’t true love.

6. Fire and Hemlock, by Diana Wynne Jones. Let me clarify something: My feelings for this book haven’t changed. I loved it when I first read it, I loved it every time I reread it, and I continue to love it with a fierce and abiding passion. What’s changed is that I realize now, in a way I didn’t as a teenager, how many legitimate truth bombs about morality and emotions and adulthood Diana Wynne Jones is dropping in this book. The example I always use is “being a hero means ignoring how silly you feel” — which, goddamn, that is the truest truth that maybe I have ever encountered in fiction. Standing up for what’s right does not actually have a stirring musical soundtrack. More like a soundtrack of chilly, uncomfortable, disapproving silence.

7. See also: The vast majority of Diana Wynne Jones books. I’ve disliked all but maybe four of her books, upon reading them for the first time. Not for nothing did they name Jenny’s Law after me: Diana Wynne Jones Is Better on a Reread.

What about you, friends? Are you a big rereader, or not so much? Do you generally stay true to your first impressions, or can you think of some books you’ve grown out of / into over the years?

  1. Shh, don’t tell my college bookstore.
  2. Just this last Christmas, by contrast, I gave The Fairy Rebel to a child of my acquaintance and she PROBABLY LOVED IT.

Fall Books: A Top Ten Tuesday list

Because this fall is exciting, I’m doing a joyous meme for you guys! The good people at The Broke and the Bookish have asked everyone to say what books they are looking forward to this fall, and I am looking forward to A LOT of things this fall. Onward!

  1. The Rest of Us Just Live Here, Patrick Ness – How many years has it been since I had a new Patrick Ness book to scream about? TOO MANY. TOO MANY IS THE ANSWER. This one is about all the high school kids who aren’t Chosen Ones, who are just trying to steer clear of vampires and prophecies and supervillains and get through goddamn high school.
  2. Carry On, Rainbow Rowell – I admit I gave this book the side-eye when it was first announced. However, Rowell has since mentioned that it has interior illustrations, and YES, the moral of this story is that you can buy me for cheap with interior illustrations. Also Lev Grossman praised it to the skies. Also, it comes out the same weekend as The Rest of Us Just Live Here and is about a Chosen One so that’s going to be some excellent companion reading.
  3. Speaking of interior illustrations, the new edition of Harry Potter, illustrated by Jim Kay, is going to be my whole life come October. Y’all are going to get sick of me talking about it. At least one person is going to ask me “Don’t you already own the first Harry Potter book?” Yes yes I do and come October I will own two copies of the first Harry Potter book FIGHT ME.
  4. Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights, Salman Rushdie – Okay, this one’s already out. But I haven’t read it yet, and I am excited to! It’s been so long since Salman Rushdie put out a book, and although my success rate with him is not 100%, when I click with one of his books, it’s a hell of a click.
  5. Under the Udala Trees, Chinelo Okparanto – I’ve never heard of this author before, but two girls falling in love against the backdrop of the Nigerian civil war? YEP.
  6. Radiance, Cathrynne Valente – Nothing I’ve read by Cathrynne Valente has worked perfectly for me so far. But she seems so right for me as a reader, and I am going to persist until I succeed in loving one of her books. Radiance is about making movies in a science fictional universe, and that sounds awesome.
  7. The Arab of the Future, Riad Sattouf – A graphic memoir of growing up in France, Libya, and Syria. Yep. All yep all the time.
  8. Beauty Is a Wound, Eka Kurniawan – I mean basically I don’t think I’ve ever read one single book by an Indonesian author, so that obviously needs to change.

Okay, I didn’t have ten. I only had eight. OH WELL. What are y’all excited about for the fall season? I will steal your ideas and use them for my own.