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An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons, and True Stories

I’m not sure why this collection didn’t do it for me as much as the others. I feel that part of it was presentation.... some of the comics are presented in landscape and some in portrait so you wind up turning the book sideways and back. Some of it was the way Brunetti referred to all cartoonists as “he” in his introduction. And some of it was that I just don’t think our comic preferences overlap that much. There were some great classics in this mix, but a lot of comics that were just long and weird and not really my thing. It’s rare that I skim a comics collection.

Beasts! Book 1

What fun! This just arrived on my mailbox from Jacob and I enjoyed it a great deal. It’s a collection of illustrations of beasts, some of which you have heard of (vampires, unicorns, werewolves) and most you haven’t. Lots of different illustrators have created full page images next to beautifully designed text. Great for flipping through on a grey morning with a mug of coffee next to you. (and a great palate cleanser from the last book I read)

Best American Comics 2008

Such mixed feelings about these books! I tend to love the :Best American Whateveritis" books because there’s a good assortment of curated stuff. But the comics ones are weird. Because a lot of what is in graphic novels lately is longer form some of these only tell part of a story. And, I have to be honest, a lot of what I am coming for in these is the story. So a piece of a story I find intensely aggravating. And I’m sure this is partly just me, I don’t think this is a BAD way to do things, only that I find it difficult. I also think Barry, though a certified comics genius, likes some different stuff than I do. So there are a lot of familiar faces in here which is great, but also it has a same-y feel to some of what I am already reading. And a lot of stuff that seems needlessly conflict-bound. However, one of my favorite comics is in here (Turtle Keeps it Steady) and it always makes me grin to see it. I’ve got a bunch more of these to read, we;ll see how it all goes.

Best American Comics 2009

There’s some pretty edgy stuff along with some pretty great stuff in this book. More than the last one, I found myself flipping back and forth to the author bios to figure out “Why did they do this?” Sometimes there are good stories, sometimes, there is nothing. Burns has an interesting vision for all of these and I think this issue coheres maybe a little more than last years'.

Best American Comics 2011

This one was both the best and the worst of the bunch. I love Bechdel’s stuff when it’s telling stories (Fun Home, Dykes to Watch Out For) and less when it’s sort of more navel-gazey (Are You My Mother). SO this collection has some great long form stories which I really liked, but some of them are incredibly upsetting (totally OK, just not my speed) including some massacres and a child rape. So! On balance another good one and a great addition to the series, but also had some mixed feelings.

The Best American Comics 2012

These are all different, I enjoyed this one more than the last. Mouly was a great editor. Comics for kids included are in the back which is something I haven’t seen in this series before. Panter cover, what’s not to love? ARC was choppy but I bet the final is grand.

The Best American Comics 2013

I always love these but they can be tough to read when they contain a lot of excerpts from larger works that don’t always stand on their own. I was surprised to see a lot of pieces I didn’t know about, but starting it all off with a piece Alison Bechdel’s “Are You My Mother” started everything off on a slightly wrong foot. Great collection but I’d love to see more emphasis on complete pieces.

Best American Comics 2017

Finally done with this series in terms of what I have at home. This one was interesting in that it included a bunch of “outsider” comics. Some of their work didn’t translate well at small sizes, but as always, a good assortment.

Best American Comics 2018

I did a sprint through a lot of these over the summer and I have some left. This was an ARC so it wasn’t in final form which matters more for graphic novel types of things than novels. So,slightly uneven but basically okay. Some great stuff, some creepy stuff, and some weird stuff (or all three!) which is exactly what I’ve grown to expect and enjoy out of this series

The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2018

It bugs me sort of unreasonably that these are published in October. Because the year is not over! I have been reading these since the beginning and what’s been odd is seeing the changing themes as different editors take over, More cancer one year and more global warming the next. Some issues are full of bloggish style posts and some are a lot more epic longform stuff that goes on seemingly forever. This year’s seemed to be a pretty good mix of stuff and even though it took me a long time to get through this, I liked nearly every article in it which is often not the case.

The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2020

A really interesting and eclectic set of essays, possibly none of which were on the pandemic? I read this series from time to time and often there is a lot of gloom and doom writing about climate or about diseases or some such. No big deal, I get it, but this collection is more varied than most. Not too samey, not too grim. I learned some things and enjoyed reading it.

Best American Science and Nature Writing 2021

As you might imagine, this collection by Ed Yong is terrific, encompassing the urgency of COVID and global warming, among other science and nature-y things. It felt like the authors were mostly female writers, with a thread of hopefulness not typical of these books. I did get the vibe that many of the essays were from the Atlantic which was the only real “sameyness” about the collection. Compared to last year’s collection which was notable in the absence of COVID coverage, this was a nice return to the types of collections I am used to finding in this series.

The Best American Short Stories 2011

I love these collections but usually there are at least one or two stories that I find wincingly terrible. Not so this year. Brooks has assembled an interesting assortment of very different stories that don’t all have that “Written for the New Yorker” feeling to them. While there are a lot of the same themes threading throughout--bad marriages, Rome, quirky childhoods, lost loves, the usual--the stories don’t all feel “of a type” the way these collections usually do. I raced through this set and really enjoyed the range and variety of writing.

The Best American Short Stories 2016

Great stories but a few too many with people with Serious Problems for me to exactly say I enjoyed this. Kids with cancer, cheating parents, criminals, child abuse, bad relationships, terrible families. For every story that was just some people going about their business there was one with depths of unimaginable awfulness. Diaz is a super smart dude and I presume this was stuff that resonated with him but as much as I thought there was a lot of great writing here, I approached it with trepidation every day I read it.

The Best of the Rejection Collection

A great collection of slightly off-kilter cartoons that were too weird to go into the New Yorker. I( like dthe cartoons but, as with many New Yorker stuff, I didn’t always like what was in-between them. In this case it was a lot of “funny” inter5views with cartoonists that were not as good as the cartoons they bookended. Occasionally I’d learn a thing or two but a lot of times it was just weird jokes that didn’t quite land and then some REALLY good cartoons.

Blasphemy

This book was on the NEW table at my library. It had one of those “what did you think?” cards in the back of it and one of the other patrons from my library had written “A little oversexed...” in the back. I’m not totally sure I agree but there are a lot of stories of love, loss, romance and a few other things. I’ve read most of Alexie’s other works, though not recently, and some of these stirred my memory but most were either new or seemed new to me. And they’re SO great.

Alexie has a way of writing about Native American issues (he’s from the Spokane nation) without seeming pedantic or, more importantly, prescriptive. Like, his characters are Native but the point of a lot of the stories is that they’ve got the full range of winners and losers and no-shows and everything else. You get this even more by reading 15-20 stories with differing characters than I have by reading his pieces with the same characters all the way through. Really enjoyed this. Not oversexed.

Contemporary Vermont Fiction: An Anthology

An amazing arrangement of stories from people who you’ve heard of that all have Vermont as one of the extra characters. So great. Perfect for underblanket winter reading.

Covid Chronicles

This was a graphic novel compilation with different artists responding to the pandemic. The time it covers was from early 2020 til October, so taking place during some of the bleaker pre-vax times. It’s not an easy read, but has a lot of different takes on a collective public health disaster and people’s personal responses to it. I really enjoyed the overview it gave me of people’s individual struggles and the interactions they had with people experiencing a thing that was kind of the same but also kind of different.

The Edna Webster Collection of Undiscovered Writings

Richard Brautigan willed his unpublished writings to his friend Edna Webster. They were not doscuvered and published until long after his death. It’s mostly a collection of poems and short fiction but also has two introductory essays which give a bit more Brautigan background, stuff that I as a casual fan never knew. It’s not the most cohesive group of stuff, but it was a lot of fun to find and read.

Field Notes on Science & Nature

A great and beautifully illustrated book on naturalists and their field notes, talking about the how and the why. Canfield has assembled a wide variety if people, most of whom do their note taking in paper format and they discuss what they do and why they think it’s important for them for science and for future generations.

Firebirds Rising

It’s really unusual to get a book that is a collection of short stories by various authors and have the collection be uniformly good. There was, towards the end, one story that I didn’t like as well as the others, but this collection is basically uniformly excellent. I’m sure this is because Sharyn November, who is a friend of mine, is a genius. However, it may also be because she’s especially clever at choosing fiction and cultivating authors to write what they might not otherwise have written. This book has the added bonus of little blurbs by the authors at the end of every story which include web addresses for easy lookup if you’d like to find more by them. It also has the authors describing why they wrote the stories, what inspired them and what they were thinking about. Some of the pieces in this collection are clearly parts of larger works which was good news if I really liked the story/characters but bad news if I felt that I was coming in to a story partway through. People who read YA or just enjoy a good compliation of fantasy/scifi are sure to enjoy this thick book of good stories.

Future Primitive: The New Ecotopias

I was super hot and cold on this collection. Many of the stories are interesting turns on what w world of the future would be like if we started paying attention to our environment (in both utopic and dystopic ways) and some were more typical sci fi stories in a more ecosystem-intentional setting. The few times I started reading a story and was asking myself “What the hell is going on?” were the two times when Robinson had included chapters from longer novels. These pieces read as not-short-stories and were less engaging to read. I found a few of these stories really lovely--one about a near future where fortune-telling is part of the social and political fabric of the world and one about an injured bird god king--but a few other ones I found too uneven or unclear even as I read the back matter and saw, after the fact, what the authors were trying to get at. Ultimately not for me but I’m going to try to track down some similar books on related themes.

In Short

A long book of super-short essays, all under five pages. I put this book down for a long time and just picked it up again and really enjoyed it (possibly b/c of my new shorter attention span). Some authors you’ve heard of--Sherman Alexie, Barry Lopez, Michael Ondaatje--some you probably haven’t. Good biographical blurbs in the back and a truly terrible index.

Killer Year: Stories to Die For.

What a great book! I picked it up at a library book sale thinking it would be good to bring on a trip and sort of wondering how crime fiction was going to translate into short stories. I read a lot of mysteries and have read some true crime in my day but it was all book length stuff. So I went into this collection --an attempt to sort of show off some of the best short crime writing from 2008--with a bit of skepticism but it was all so good. All the stories were succinct, gripping and many stuck with me for days afterwards. Most of the stories also have introductions from other crime writers which was a really nice touch. All in all it really gave the crime writing genre a palpable feel as a thing in addition to being a great collection of readable stories which I think was part of the point.

Magic and Madness in the Library

This book was one of those rare finds and exciting also because it was newly printed. It is an attractive letterpressed book from a small press of excerpts of library stories. If that weren’t enough, it is illustrated by custom woodcuts by Frank Eckmair. Some of the excerpts are already well-known to the library community, such as Borges' library story and Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes. Others are just small excerpts from other well-known texts like a few paragraphs from Don Quixote or Voltaire. The overall result is a book about books and reading that is in and of itself wonderful to read and look at. A tour de force!

Morbid Curiosity Cures the Blues

I really enjoyed this colelction of essays and other contributions to the long-running Morbid Curiosity magazine. From encourters with the supernatural, to fascinations with bloodplay to euthanizing a friend dying from AIDS these stories all share... something that is either something familiar or something offputitng depending on your take on the whole wide weird world of stuff. I especially enjoyed the “value add” of extra tidbits, tips and trivia about the article subjects that Lauren added at the end of most of the selections. People who enjoy weird stuff will enjoy this, I’m glad I read it.

New Cthulhu: The Recent Weird

So interesting! Authors writing stories that are evocative of Lovecraft, only written in this century. Some of the stories were fairly traditional and/or somewhat derivative (which was sort of the point) and others did really interesting things with the style and content to create all new interesting-in-their-own-right tales. Some of the bits did get a little repetetive and I felt like some authors did a little too much gorey explosition instead of the creepy horror-by-implication which Lovecraft was really famous for. My faves were stories that dealt directly with alienation and some of HPL’s more problematic personality issues at the same time as they wrote great stories.

Perfunctorily, Me

Not sure what category to put this book into. It’s a collection of blog posts from the effing librarian, a library blogger who has a witty irreverent blog that I sometimes read. This book was given to me during one of my many travels. And I read it on the way home. Some of the text doesn’t really lend itself to being ported outside of the hypertext millieu, but some does. Some of the jokes don’t quite work but many of them do. I was pleased to see that the book is offered via Amazon [complete with ISBN] or for free via Scribd, so if you’re dying to get more of the effing librarian or just want a nice looking book to put on your librarianan shelf, this one might just do the trick.

The Salmon of Doubt: Hitchhiking the Galaxy One Last Time

Started reading this last year. Finished it this year. Enjoyed getting just a bit more Adams stuff that I hadn’t read even though some of it is a little loose-ended or seems written for a purpose that’s not “read this after I’ve been dead for a decade and the whole world of computers has changed” Even though, fun read, learned a bit more about Adams and got to read just a bit more fiction even if I’ll never know how that particular story ends.

Seinlanguage

Even though a lot of Seinfeld’s early stuff can sound dated, I was surprised how funny parts of this book were. It’s just random observations about stuff, a lot of it nothing special, but none of it is off color and some of it is laugh out loud funny.

Sugar in the Raw

Part of my “make an effort” prgram this year. This collection of essays by young (11-20-ish) black girls in America was a good read. Lots of different perspectives, some that I could get my head around and some that I couldn’t. I tried to silence my inner “Huh?” voice and just listen to what these girls had to say, about being girls growing into women, about America versus other countries, about whether they had white friends, how they got along in school, etc. Eye-opening and well-curated by Carroll, this book is well worth a read, especially if you think it’s maybe not for you.

War Dances

This was a great collection of poems and short fiction and what I think are essays by Alexie. They are all good, mostly make you think and all show off his great writing sense and his humor. I’m not sure how I missed this when it first came out but I am glad I found it.

A Woman’s Liberation: A Choice of Futures by and About Women

Loved this. A lot of thoughtful and interesting looks at different sci fi scenarios, just like you read about elsewhere except these stories all happened to be about women. I really enjoyed every story in this collection, though the LeGuin story started out pretty rapey which was essential to the story but pretty difficult to get through if you’re sensitive to that sort of thing. On the bright side, the Octavia Butler story was NOT rapey which was terrific. Don’t know how I managed to not see this when it came out; glad I found it now.

Worldmakers: SF adventures in terraforming

Picked this up at a library booksale because I liked the cover. Was a bit disappointed when I found out it was from 2001 because I figured some of the stories would be pre-internet. I should not have worried. This is one of the best sorts of anthologies. Dozois has carefully selected stories, they’re arranged well and fit together nicely, and he gives enthusiastic introductions to almost all of them, intros that make you want to read more. I enjoyed every single story here, and they are all over the map from family tales with incidental terraforming to heavy science stories talking about ecopoesis. Reading this collection was a delight and I’m hoping to be able to track down his other collection about transhumanism.