i read so many good books this year! probably partly due to the fact that i also read in greater volume than previous years (for reasons) and also because i joined a second book club this year, and maybe also because my good-book discerning skills keep leveling up with my age. check out my goodreads for a complete list of my 2017 reads; highlights are below.
favorite Young Adult reads
definitely my favorite new reads this year was Tessa Gratton’s Gods of New Asgard series It’s a trilogy but there are also three novellas that you can buy separately or in a collected volume called “The Weight of The Stars”; they each feature a different side character that shows up in one or more of the main books. you HAVE to read these books in order though, because the plots are like concentric circles so they share a lot of the same people and overlap events but if you don’t read them in order you won’t get the context in the same way. the world-building in this series is fantastic; it’s set in the United States of Asgard, like the U.S. but with the majority of people worshipping Norse gods and the culture at large being saturated with Asgardian references instead of Christian ones. oh yeah, and the gods are real and some of them interact with the mortals in these stories. what i like about the setting, besides the fact it is so well thought-out and richly described, is that it can help you think about your current real-world context in a more critical way, when you read all these little details that are different, and think, oh yeah, why DO we do that this way or why DOES everyone assume this other thing? Because in the U.S. of Asgard it’s this other way, because of Thor or because of Odin or because of Freya, so what is the invisible, assumed “because of” for us? ALSO THE PLOT IS THRILLING AND THE CHARACTERS ARE EXTREMELY LOVEABLE.
anyway, i like all three books but i think i would say “The Strange Maid” is my favorite because it features a girl who is, or is trying to be, a Valkyrie (!) and she is hunting a troll so she can cut its heart out for prophecy reasons (!) and she often prays by free-writing poetry all over things, sometimes even painting it on her own skin, and i just think that is really cool. but you have to read ‘The Lost Sun” first! it’s very good too, i promise. i have been pestering lots of my friends to read these ever since i discovered them and now i am pestering you, my blog audience. but they’re so good!
favorite Sci-Fi reads
this year i subscribed to a new literary magazine called FIYAH that publishes speculative fiction by black authors, and there were fantastic short stories in each episode. You can get back-issues from their website and/or subscribe for the upcoming year or years, which i would recommend. my favorite story in FIYAH this year was “Chesirah” by L.D. Lewis, which appeared in Issue 1; the title character is a Fenox, a person who every so often spontaneously combusts into flame and later wakes up reformed from the ashes of her burned body…as long as nothing happens to her ashes before she reforms, which definitely makes trying to break free of her enforced captivity a bit…complicated. my second favorite story was “Cracks” by Xen in Issue 3; a boy spends his nights patrolling the neighborhood to look for, and seal up when necessary, the “cracks” between his reality and the “other”, which isn’t so hard, it’s just his job. Until one day he finds a crack that isn’t so easy to close, because on the other side of it he can see…himself, but in circumstances that he only wishes that he had in his own reality.
favorite bookclub reads
from my speculative fiction bookclub: “Akata Witch” by Nnedi Okorafor. it’s like the wizarding world, but in Nigeria instead of Hogwarts! and also definitely without the ‘chosen one’ thing! the teachers in this book repeatedly tell the kids that yes, they very well might die on any one of their lessons or mission attempts, and that would be too bad but it would just mean that somebody else would have to try to fight the great evil next. it’s such a different attitude from almost every other fantasy/adventure book i’ve ever read! i like it.
from my YA bookclub: “Orleans” by Sherri L. Smith. Set in what used to be the gulf coast states, now a walled-off swampland quarantined from the “outer states” due to the incurable “delta fever”, this dystopia is surprisingly full of hope. that even in a place the rest of the world has given up on, that appears to have been destroyed beyond repair, humanity survives and nature adapts.
favorite non-fiction reads
“Priestdaddy” by Patricia Lockwood–nothing i could write about it will be even a fraction as good as the writing in this memoir. also if you can go to one of her signings she will draw an animal inside the front cover, so now my copy has a cat wearing a pantsuit and it’s awesome.
also, i really enjoyed “The Woman Who Would Be King: Hatshepsut’s Rise to Power in Ancient Egypt” by Kara Cooney. i had never heard of Hatshepsut before reading this book! i added it to my tbr pile after seeing it recommended by someone on twitter, but now i can’t remember who. anyway i learned so much and also it was FOR SOME REASON especially soothing, empowering, (and a little bit heartbreaking) to read about this amazing woman capably wielding national power thousands of years ago, in the year 2017. the author did a really good job of including daily-life details and insights that made Hatshepsut come to life more too, even though much of it is historical guesswork.