lists

Blizzard reading, snowstorm Jonas edition

We are about to get hit by what is purportedly going to be the Snowstorm of the Century. Everybody in DC is in a tizzy, grocery store is a scene of carnage, snow predictions increase hourly, the workers are going home (see what I did there) at noon most places, and one of the images on the weather channel this morning simply said ‘MOISTURE’ in giant letters over the area. Last time something similar occurred was in 2010. We lived in Bethesda near the Beltway, and that night a car pulled up by our mailbox and sat there for a good while. Eventually we walked up to it to inquire, and found a woman who simply could not get back home to Virginia because there were no roads. She stayed with us overnight. Two years ago we also had a snowmageddon, albeit of smaller proportions. You may remember it from such blog posts as Bookselling in Extreme Conditions. There might be a repeat of that this weekend, stay tuned.

The important concerns of course are as follows: 1) do we have wine and 2) what am I going to read. Wine has been procured, along with other necessities like chocolate and Swedish fish, and here is your snowstorm Jonas reading list:

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It’s heavy on snow and weird: year’s best weird stories edited by Kathe Koja and Michael Kelly; Schubert’s Winter Journey by Ian Bostridge, which seems like the book written specifically for a snowstorm; ditto for Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen. And new Sjón!

Those of you living in places like Boston and Toronto are probably enjoying this ‘here’s our once-a-year snowstorm, batten down the hatches’ post (I used to live in Moscow, I have a heightened sense of my own snow mastery), so here’s a music video for you so this song can also get stuck in your head every time you turn on the weather channel:

 

 

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Behold my 2015 book list

Here in our nation’s capital the weather has taken a turn for early fall digits, with 70 degrees on Saturday (21C for those of you in the rest of the world). People were walking around in shorts. I was reading outside on the grass.

If you are wondering how widespread the year-end book ranking is, take a look at this aggregated list. Basically everyone, including the Obamas, is making best of 2015 lists. Some of those are odd. ‘Best AP calculus books’? Nothing says ‘happy holidays’ like ‘I hope you don’t fail a test’. Some are important and amazing, like ‘Overlooked books by women’.

Well, I am going to be boring and confine my choices to top few. Because guilt and free books propel my reading habits, most of what I’ve read this year was actually published this year.

Reading trends in 2015:

  • More graphic novels/comics, and definitely more comics in floppy/single issue form.
  • More YA than last year. It’s not a lot, but I didn’t read any YA in 2014 at all.
  • More mainstream fiction, with genre being confined mostly to graphic novel form.
  • More audiobooks, by which I mean ‘any at all’.
  • More poetry, which is once again ‘any at all’.

biggreententSo here we go, the most amazing books I’ve read this year are (in genre order):

  1. Hanya Yanagihara, A Little Life. What a hard book. What an astonishing book. I will probably never read it again, but I am absolutely certain I’m a better human and a better reader after this book.
  2. Lidia Yuknavitch, The Small Backs of Children. This book was strangely overlooked by every award list in the world, for reasons that elude me.
  3. Lyudmila Ulitskaya, The Big Green Tent – cheating a bit here, since it was published in Russian in 2010. For all your sprawling modern Russian novel needs.
  4. Kevin Barry, Beatlebone – I talk about it here. 
  5. Zen Cho, Sorcerer to the Crown

SorcererI feel like I went full literary prize committee here, with 3 out of 5 being ‘serious’, emotionally intense books.

Poetry:

  1. Kate Tempest, Hold Your Own

Non-fiction:

  1. Joni Tevis, The World is on Fire
  2. Maggie Nelson, The Argonauts
  3. Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me
  4. Sarah Ruhl, 100 Essays I Don’t Have Time to Write

Fascinating, they are all essays. Not sure what that says about my non-fiction reading.

Graphic novels/comix:

  1. Warren Ellis, Trees (trade exists)
  2. Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Wicked + The Divine: Fandemonium (I thought the first volume was pretty amazing, this one is even better)
  3. Kelly Sue DeConnick, Valentine De Landro, Bitch Planet (yassss! out in trade)
  4. Noelle Stevenson, Nimona (if you like your comics standalone)

Tbitchplanethere is some really good stuff out in single issues as well: 8house: Arclight by Brandon Graham and a bunch of other people; The Spire by Simon Spurrier, Carlos Magno, and Jeff Stokely, Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chang, and Monstress by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda.

And finally, in the ‘Did I Read The Same Book?’ category we have Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff. So many people loved it, so many award committees thought it was amazing. I had to give up after 70 pages.

If you want to see the complete list of books I’ve read this year, here’s the page.

Lists of books!

For those of you who like Lists of Things, I did some blog maintenance thing yesterday and updated my ‘Read in 2014‘ list and created ‘Read in 2015‘. Go see! They are sort of terrifying, aren’t they? How much free time do I really have?

If you want to know why I keep lists of things I read, it’s because I am one of those People Who Like Lists, because it’s fun, and because I tend to remember events in my life through books. A book can remind me where I was or what I was doing when I was reading it. I read Anthony Marra’s The Tsar Of Love and Techno while camping this summer. I read Benjamin Black’s Christine Falls while waiting for a plane to Toronto in January. I obviously went through some period this summer when I wanted to read only emotionally wrenching books, judging by this lineup:

  • Lidia Yuknavitch, The Small Backs Of Children
  • J. M. Ledgard, Submergence
  • Lyudmila Ulitskaya, The Big Green Tent
  • Hanya Yanagihara, A Little Life

All of these are very good, by the way. But not light.

Other reading trends:

1) There are some graphic novels I read and reread in a span of a few weeks. I am a dedicated comics rereader. A) they don’t take a long time and B) I like to binge on series in comics. I have my annual reread of Warren Ellis’s Transmetropolitan whenever I start feeling too good about people.

2) There is way more poetry in 2015. Me reading poetry is something relatively new. There was an entire period in my life when I was convinced I could only read poetry in my native language. Now it’s more or less a staple of my reading diet.

3) More plays in 2015, also a new phenomenon.

4) There is way less speculative fiction in 2015. I had what I call ‘genre-fatigue’ for a few months (one of the reasons I stopped writing here). I could only take my sci-fi/fantasy in comics form.

5) Apparently I read Alex + Ada volume two, but not one? Doesn’t seem right.

6) I don’t list single-issue comics. It’s a personal preference.

7) I’ve read 192 books in 2014. Didn’t quite make it to 200. TOTAL FAILURE. Kidding.

So there you go. Lists. Now onwards to read 200 books this year!