Since it is nearing the end of the year, I’m going to spend a few blog posts talking about the best media I’ve read/seen this year. It won’t be a top ten list because some media will have more than 10 and some will have fewer.
From these lists, I will exclude movies and books that I’ve read or seen before. I just finished my rereading the Harry Potter series and watched most of the original Star Wars. I don’t think I have to convince people to read/watch those. And yes, Harry Potter is still as great (maybe even greater) than when I read it several years ago. Star Wars is also still good but not in the same way that HP is.
This year, I decided to keep track of all the books that I’ve read and grade each one. So the following is a list of the books that received an A or A+.
Best Books (chronologically ordered by when I read them)
- The Magicians, Lev Grossman – This is the first book of a trilogy that is about a world of magic where teenagers deal with sex, drugs, ennui, etc. in a way Harry Potter doesn’t. Very well constructed world that riffs off other magical worlds in clever ways.
- Department of Speculation, Jenny Offill – This book is one of those most heartbreaking and beautifully written books I’ve read all year. It’s about a woman trying to understand her life and art as her marriage begins to crumble. It was hard for me to read at times, and reduced me to tears, but it is so worth it.
- The Elephant Whisperer, Lawrence Anthony – This nonfiction book records Lawrence Anthony’s adventures with a pack of rogue elephants on his reserve in South Africa. One day out of the blue, he got a call asking if he wanted about a dozen elephants. However, if he didn’t take them, they’d be shot. It’s an incredible story about elephant and man.
- Phoebe and her Unicorn and Unicorn on a Roll, Dana Simpson – This YA comic and its sequel is about a young girl who meets a unicorn, named Heavenly Nostrils, and befriends it. The book is described as a new take of Calvin and Hobbes and I think it is fair. It’s a charming series that anyone, young and old, either gender, can get into.
- Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy, Karen Abbott – Karen Abbott is one of my favorite history writers. She focuses on incredible women in US history that have been lost to the main narrative of American history. Previously, she wrote on the Everleigh Sisters, madams of the Levee district in the Chicago, and Gypsy Rose Lee. This current book deals with four women in the Civil War who act as spies and other roles. Two women are from the North and two are from the South. It’s a wonderful story of bravery and daring-do in the time of war.
Margaret Atwood – Another book that was beautiful and painful to read. It tells Penelope’s story from the
Odyssey and Iliad from her perspective. Alternating chapters are in Penelope’s voice and her doomed 12 maidens. Stunning.
- A Cuckoo’s Calling, Robert Galbraith – So yes, a J.K. Rowling book snuck on. When I read Harry Potter, I knew that she had the making of an incredible murder mystery writer. A Cuckoo’s Calling showed that. It’s a great detective series start with Cormoran Strike, an Afghanistan vet who lost his leg in the war. In this case, he attempts to understand the possible suicide of a star model.
- The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac, Sharma Shields – This book begins with a young boy watching his mother walk out on his father and him with a man he thinks is Sasquatch. The book beautifully interweaves his lifelong obsession with Sasquatch and his family, all dealing with sometimes nefarious magic.
- Consider the Fork, Bee Wilson – Since I like reading books about history of objects, I devoured this book about cooking utensils. The book looks at tools in the kitchen: pots, spoons, fire, knives and forks. It’s a fascinating way to look at history through these objects.
- Heads or Tales, Lilli Carré – This is an exquisite set of short stories in graphic novel form. The graphics are simply astonishing and the stories are full of magic and gravitas.
- Wild Seed, Octavia Butler. – This was my first book of Octavia Butler’s, known for her incredible science fiction. It’s an incredible story about Anyanwu, a woman who is a shapeshifter, who encounters a powerful vicious spirit named Domo who is trying to breed his magical race of humans. It’s a beautiful consideration of slavery, love and death, family and duty.
- Champagne, Don Kladstrup and Petie Kladstrup – This book is a great and fascinating history of champagne. It’s a tale of invention, daring-do, and much more. The authors wrote Wine and War that looked at the wine industry under the Nazis in WWII. Champagne is a great addition to their history works.
- Step Aside Pops, Kate Beaton – Web cartoonist Kate Beaton published her third (second) collection of her comics. These are full of history, literature, philosophy. Extremely silly and erudite. Everything I could have wanted!
That’s all for now!