Books I Read in October 2019

Note: I am including only the books I loved in these "Books I Read" blog posts. I read a lot, and I don't want to clog the blogsphere (and my blog) with negative reviews. There were a few books I read this month that I did not fully enjoy; those are not included here.

The Tiger at Midnight by Swati Teerdhala

On two sides of a long-running war, a soldier and an assassin sent to kill his military general uncle fall in love over the course of many months in a cat-and-mouse game. Inspired by Indian mythology and gorgeously written, this young adult fantasy is a truly great read. I only read a handful of YA books a year, choosing based on premises that sound fantastic, and this lived up to my expectations. The romance is front and center (usually not my fave), but the plot line, character development, and world building really make the book amazing.

Savage Gods by Paul Kingsnorth

Kingsnorth is an author whose books I read just about as soon as they come out. His writing blows me away. This book is no exception; in fact, this may be my favorite of anything he's written. As a combination of biography, exploration of the writing profession, and analysis of the disconnect between society and nature, this book says things I've been thinking and feeling but have been unable to find a way to express. Feelings about what it means to feel like you need to find a "home," a place to belong, a patch of earth to own and take care of. Feelings about writing and whether the words work to clarify concepts or if they obscure them. For writers, environmentalists, anyone who feels they don't understand the ease in which other folks follow along with the mainstream—I can't recommend this book enough. I always check out books from the library (since I work at one), but this one I may have to buy so I can read it again and again.

Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen

Anything involving time travel I will read. Eighteen years after a time-traveling spy gets trapped in the past, his rescue team comes to recover him. Though he has built a life for himself and doesn't want to leave, he is forced to return to the future, only two weeks after he left. The references to Doctor Who are everywhere in the text—plus in the About the Author section and the Acknowledgements. I'm not complaining—it's one of my favorite shows—but it was a bit distracting. The story, though, more than makes up for it, and the characters and science are compelling as well.

The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz

Again, time travel. Here, a group of feminist activists in the future use time travel to battle misogynists trying to rewrite history to destroy women's rights. Sounds cheesy, yes, but it's written very well. There are surprising plot twists that work perfectly to shape the story arc, and the way the science works in the book is unlike other books I've read. It's a great feminist sci-fi read.

Books I Read in September 2019

The Testament by Margaret Atwood

As this is one of the most popular books this year, I found myself lucky to be one of the first on the hold list at the library. It's an excellent follow-up to The Handmaid's Tale told from three perspectives—none of which are Offred from the first book. The narrative perspectives offer experiences outside Offred's, and they help to round out the world in a more thorough way. Each character is informed by her upbringing and the events happening around her. The plot is engaging and character-driven. For fans of The Handmaid's Tale, this book does not disappoint, but there's no need to have read it to understand this book. As far as sequels go, this one exceeded my expectations.

The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa

In an island off the coast of Japan, various items are disappearing—not only from the world but from people's memories. Birds, bells, fruit, and so on. The people in this small community continue on living without these items, though there are a few people who are unable to forget, and the Memory Police are there to seek them out to keep order in the world. The book's writing style is nonchalant, just as the people experiencing this memory loss are; they lose any sense of emotional attachment to the items once they've been removed from the world. It's an extraordinary exploration of sentimentality and how we move on from loss.

On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

I had some trouble with this one. This writing is absolutely poetic and beautiful, but I felt that it takes itself too seriously. It's written as a letter from a young man to his mother, a Vietnamese immigrant. The writing is stunning, and the topics the book explores are important and uniquely defined. Thematically, the book is about the power of storytelling, of the secrets we decide to keep and when and how we decide to tell them, and of how our relationships are changed and defined by these secrets. In terms of the atmosphere of the book, I'm not sure I was in the right mood to appreciate it; it came off a bit pretentious to me. I used to adore "pretentious" books, if I'm honest, but I've become more sensitive to them now. This book is wise, and it knows it's wise, which was off-putting to me. Again, I may just not have been in the right frame of mind to enjoy it, but the writing truly is beautiful.

Books I Read in August 2019

The Girl Who Could Move Sh*t with Her Mind by Jackson Ford

I couldn't help but pick this one up for the title. And the story did not disappoint: a telekinetic young woman who does secret jobs for a government organization realizes she's not the only one with powers in her city when a murder is committed that only a telekinetic would be capable of. The narrator's voice is hilarious and distinct, and the plot is unexpected and exciting. It's the start to a series I will definitely be continuing.

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Sloan's other book, Sourdough, is one of my absolute favorites; I figured I should read his first book as well! The writing style is along the same vein: witty, intelligent, quirky. The characters the same: funny, genius, lovable. Can't go wrong there. This book is so smart, and the story line is right up my alley. Whatever Sloan's next book is, I'll be picking it up the day it comes out!

Semicolon by Cecelia Watson

I'm a punctuation nerd, and this book called to me. It filled a hole in my grammar-deprived heart I hadn't know was there and reinforced my love of the semicolon (and the em-dash). There is so much knowledge in this book! Fascinating historical facts, particular grammatical incidents, sociological analyses: this book will excite any punctuation savant.