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The Messenger

The Pope almost gets assassinated! This was a slightly weird book about a super rich Saudi man who is financing a lot of global terrorism. A plan is hatched to take down that guy’s “money man.” It takes a long time and a lot of team effort. Ultimately that plan fails. Later, Allon manages to kill these people no his own leading one to ask “If he could have done this the whole time, why drag everyone in to it?” A confusing but very lively story.

Timekeepers: How the World Became Obsessed With Time

A lot of fun trivia in this book about time, a lot of which I hadn’t found in other places and was fun to look up and learn more about. Not a total coherence into one big narrative though I think that wasn’t really the point. Enjoyed this and loved learning about the ten hour clock art project, the 24 hour movie titled The Clock, and how they make Swiss watches.

Hidden in Plain View: A secret story of quilts and the underground railroad

I was expecting this to be a much different book. I was expecting to it have a lot of research and interesting historical stuff. Instead I got a lot of stories--which were in and of themselves pretty good--and a lot of anecdata which made me feel weird about the general thesis the authors had: that quilts and their patterns were an integral part of underground railroad communication. I remain unconvinced.

All the Birds in the Sky

Loved this book by a friend of a friend about an unlikely friendship between a witch and a mad scientist at the end of the world. Also: birds!

Animals Strike Curious Poses

Found this book on the new shelf at my library despite the fact that it had come out earlier in the year. I had thought it was a book of nature essays and... it sort of is but it’s more than that. Starting from the loose theme of “animals", Passarello has put together an interesting collection of essays, poetry and thought experiments using animals-that-you’ve-heard of as a jumping off point. She talks about seeing the "unicorn” at the circus or her reading Berger’s book about how we interact with animals or, my very favorite, a retelling of the dirty joke the Aristocrats using only words from Koko’s 1000 word vocabulary. Not all the pieces land but they’re all interesting and engaging.


I am only sorry that this book didn’t cover the time after the primaries and subsequent election. This is a very well done look at the history of the Democratic Party in the postwar era, the increasing bend towards centrism or outright conservativism, and the appeal of Bernie Sanders amidst all of that. I learned a lot about Sanders' background and a lot about the machinations of various factions within the Democrats to do various things. Enjoyable and also creepy.

Passing Strange : True Tales of New England Hauntings and Horrors

I really enjoyed this book about weird occurrences that have been happening in New England since there was a New England. Citro is always an enjoyable storyteller and he does his research (and thanks the library in the credits at the end) so there is always more to learn if you want to keep learning about any of these topics. It took me a while to really get going with this book since there’s a suspension of disbelief that has to happen, reading about all these odd occurrences, but once I got into the swing of these tales, I enjoyed them all and wanted more.

Mark of the Assassin

The assassin’s mark is that he shoots people three times in the face. This is from a small series (2) that Silva wrote before the Gabrial Allon series. I like it only because it’s not all about Israel. Same general stuff. Good and compelling. Moves you along. Strong female characters for the most part, one who is good at archery.

Prince of Fire

These books are good in the wintertime. This one gets away from the Holocaust theme though there is a lot of stuff about Palestine and Israel which is fine and actually fairly interesting. I notice some more subtlety from Silva this time around, some playful language and interesting turns pf phrase which I appreciated.

Plain and Simple: A Journey to the Amish

I started out really disliking this book and they way I felt the author sort of fetishized the simple living of the Amish and at the same time, once she fulfilled a dream of living with them, was super weird and judgey about their lifestyles, their “unhealthy” eating and etc. The author grew up, to my mind, over the course of this book but still seemed to be trying to quell something restless in herself by seeking external validation and guidance. I enjoyed going along on her trip with her.

I work in a public library

A collection of fun anecdotes ripped straight from Tumblr that was more entertaining and less problematic than I thought it would be.

Through the Woods

Really an exceptional graphic novel of very short horror fiction. Carroll has a real way of telling ominous stories that have a really subdued creepiness to them and she doesn’t shy away from showing you the full-on awfulness of some of the creepy things and in other cases just hinting art them.

The Best American Comics 2016

I don’t think Iv’e read any of the books in this series before and I really should. Roz Chast was the editor of this year’s collection of graphic novels and comics. I was surprised how many of them I had read, but also slightly frustrated at how many of them were only excerpts which would drop you right in the middle of a story. Some, most, of them stood on their own but a few did not and I found them an odd choice for this volume.


I was so busy this year I didn’t even note that Mayor had another book out. This one was heavier on the police wonk stuff (not in a bad way!) and lighter on relationship etc. stuff. Was happy to just get to watch the same old crew solve cases in Vermont so I enjoyed this.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck

This book was fine. Blogger turned “entrepreneur” who seemed like he’d read Tim Ferris' Four Hour Work Week wound up writing a book that had enough going for it that it became a best seller. Go dude! It’s a fine book, not that eye-opening to people who have been down the self-help path before, but he’s got a really friendly manner and a very casual attitude that will resonate well with some people.


Scott Kelly was a fuck-up as a kid and then read The Right Stuff and decided to be an astronaut and finally decided to apply himself. For Kelly, who mostly appreciated risk and challenges, normal stuff seemed too boring, so he chose a different path. This is different from other astronuat books because it focuses a lot on the day to day lives of the astronauts... how often they change their socks, how often they have to repair the toilet, how often they feel sick and how come, the differences between the US and Russian space program. I enjoyed it. it bops around from topic to topic a lot but at least it’s not a bunch of “Rah rah America!” stuff (the book is nearly devoid of politics) and not a lot of amazing photos of space though there are one or two.

Stamping Our History: The Story of the United States Portrayed on Its Postage Stamps

Sort of a neat coffee table book looking at the history of the United States through looking at some beat old postage stamps. As with a lot of history stuff, this does skew towards “The history of white people in America” which maybe can’t be helped. I did really enjoy some of the interesting anecdotes and the incredibly beautiful photos of the stamps discussed.

The Rock Says...

Enjoyed this goofy tour through the first part of The Rock’s career, before he had really become a wrestler/actor/celebrity and when he was just mostly a wrestler. I had not known he was a third generation wrestler and I loved hearing stories about how he got to where he was, his time playing pro and not-so-pro football and about the backstory behind a lot of bigtime wrestling. Some of the latter part of this book is written as if it’s from The Rock (i.e. the character’s) viewpoint and I found that a little less interesting but over all this was more fun than I thought it would be.

As Lie Is to Grin

This book took a long time to coalesce, for me. It’s a story about a young black man at the University of Vermont and goes backwards in time talking about his first (?) real girlfriend but also about his difficulties adjusting to college at UVM. Since I knew the author was also a young black man at UVM I was very curious how much overlap there was with the author’s own life and this sort of sidetracked me from the plot of the story which was always a little hard to get a handle on. I’d lke to read more by this author but this one didn’t really work for me and if it had been longer I probably would have stopped reading it.

A Death in Vienna

Happy to see the back of this trilogy which was mostly Holocaust-based, this one being the most Holocaust-y of all. Good books, great series but I was getting worn down by spending a lot of time reliving the terrible atrocities that happened around WWII.

The Confessor

This one was a little more gruesome than some of the other ones I have read. Lots of interesting overlap between Catholicism and Judaism particularly surrounding the Holcaust. I always appreciate that Silva puts a coda at the end of his books talking about which historical things he talks about are true and which are not true.

The English Assassin

I like the Allon books when they talk more about art and less about Nazis. This one has some of both but I basically enjoyed it though it slipped a bit too much into some sadistic violence than I am usually ok with.

Roadside Picnic

A great story, translated from the Russian, about life on Earth after the aliens have come and gone and left some of their weird technology behind them. The visitation sites, six in all, become a fascination for scientists and stalkers (people who creep into the visitation areas and take things to sell) and the interrelationship between these two groups is what drives the story forward.

Machine Man

So good! So creepy! This book about an engineer who get in an accident at the lab and then is surprised to learn he likes his prosthesis in some ways better than his actual limbs. Enough that he tries to get more of them... You never know where this book is going. It has a Repo Man feel to it. It’s sort of gross in parts. I have really liked Barry’s books in the past but this may be my favorite.

Funny in Farsi

This is a short easy read about Dumas’s life growing up partly in Iran and partly in the US. A lot of it has to do with her perceptions of her family and the weird things American’s do. I enjoyed it though it was a little difficult to track since it’s told in a series of vignettes, not entirely chronological.

The Bird’s Nest

I love Shirley Jackson usually but this book about a woman with dissociative personality disorder was really a slog.

What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions

I enjoyed this book. I like XKCD a lot and partly because Munroe is so danged smart about everything. He’s managed to put that all together in this fun compendium of weird questions people have asked him, split into ones he really tries to answer and a few he just illustrates for the heck of it. Mostly fun, sometimes I feel it’s handwavey. Always enjoyable and great illustrations and humor you’ve come to expect from XKCD.

Summer Hours at the Robbers Library

I am a sucker for any book that takes place in a library. Doubly so when they are written by Vermonters. And so when Ms. Halpern wrote me and said “I’ve written this book, how do I get it into the hands of librarians?” I said “Well send me a copy, for starters.” This doesn’t always go well for me. Many books sent to me languish on my To Read pile for far too long. This one, however, fit right into a reading slot and I picked it up and was instantly hooked. it’s two stories: the story of the librarian’s marriage--she’s not married anymore and you don’t know why--and the story of the 15 year old who has to work in the library doing community service over the summer. There are a host of supporting characters, some more character-ish than others.

The facts are revealed slowly. At first I had a hard time with the librarian character who said she wanted to work in a library because she liked the quiet... but eventually I realized there was more to it than that. As someone who had a cousin who was raised in somewhat similar circumstances to the kid who had to do community service, I found empathy with her off-the-grid family and her ability to evaluate the statements they made about the way to live the good life. Above all that I appreciate that even though there was another librarian-aged male character, this was not a love story, it was a story of many different kinds of friendship, and of small towns, and civics and the way we can hold space for one another’s difficult feelings. I am very happy I read it.

The Atrocity Archives

I had a hard time maintaining momentum through this book even though i really like Stross and found the storylines pretty entertaining. Turns out I did not learn until after I finished the whole thing that it originated as two novellas that were sort of smushed together into one book. Which would explain a lot of things. I may try some other Stross titles but I think the Laundry series may not click with me.

The Birdwatcher

I liked this book. It slotted in nicely with the other “moody seascape” books I read last year but this one is a UK story and it’s more of a mystery thriller than just some gloomy fiction. Had nor read Shaw before, picked this up because it was on the “new” shelf at the library. Enjoyed the story, the backstory and the general pace of the thing. Been reading a lot lately, glad to have good books to do it with.

The Colour of Law

I liked but did not love this Grishamesque novel about a high powetred lawyer who decided to do the right thing. Part of it may be that I don’t know Giminez’s bona fides. That is, I know he used to be a Dallas lawyer working for a firm and is now in solo practice but... I don’t know how much he maybe is actually like the slightly clueless main guy. There were a lot of casual racist tropes tossed about and I don’t know the author well enough to know if he did his research or if he was just lazy. Women are treated fairly poorly and not given a lot of agency. So, it’s a good legal thriller, but doesn’t deliver more than your average formulaic one. A good book if you’ve never read the genre before. Disappointing if you’re already pretty well acquainted.

Our smallest towns Big Falls, Blue Eye, Bonanza, & beyond

This is a book with a simple plan: to find the smallest towns in each of the 50 states and take a photo of as many residents as can be gathered together at one time. It’s a great project and turns into an interesting book. It has an intro by Garrison Keillor as well as a few small statements from one of the people in town. Sometimes these stories are sad, or funny, but mostly they are poignant because the bulk of these towns are slowly fading away. There are a few exceptions, places mostly populated by rich people (the town in New York declined to even be photographed) but in general the stories of how these tiny towns came to exist or are slowly ceasing to exist make fascinating reading alongside Kitchen’s great photography.

Cat Zero

I confess to not having known that LabLit (i.e. science-y fiction which is not necessarily scifi) was a thing. I am happy I do now! I got this book via Net Galley and stuck through the really weird cover to a thick book I very much enjoyed. it’s about science but you don’t really have to be a scientist to follow it. I admit there were a few places I glossed over the explanations but you can still follow the plot and the interplay of a lot of interesting and (mostly) likeable characters through a scientific mystery that is sort of layered on top of an interpersonal one.

Unlike some other books I’ve read recently (ahem ARTEMIS) this book has a smart female lead who is also believable in her strengths and weaknesses. She studies a very “unsexy” topic (FLV virus) and has a sort of crummy basement lab along with some other oddballs. Then she thinks she’s on to something. Then she tries to figure it out. This book got me continuing to pick it up to figure out what was going on and I liked the ups and downs of her character and the others. It was evocative without being flowery. Scientific without being either dull or didactic. Also, a minor concern, there is only one dead cat in evidence and it’s dealt with humanely and efficiently so if you’re someone with injured-animal-squeamishness (in which case may I suggest this website this book is still okay to read.

The Hidden People of North Korea: Everyday Life in the Hermit Kingdom

Fascinating but also a little dry and academicky. The authors clearly did a lot of research but I got a little bored when they would just start listing stuff that they knew instead of making it into more of a narrative. Also was wondering how 2009 compared to now.

Glass Houses

Another great Gamache. Penny has been through some shit last year--her husband who had early stage Alzheimers passed away shortly after her last novel was published--and I think you can get traces of that, of the depth of feeling, in this book. Very poingant, and taking place mostly in the village of Three Pines but also sometimes in a courtroom, this is yet another “Is it all going to work out or all get sorted at the end” novel which does not disappoint.

Water for Elephants

Liked it! Sometimes it’s easy to see the bones of a book, the inspirational bits that the author formed a story around. In this case Gruen actually shows you some of the photos as she tells a tale of a boy who somewhat unwillingly ran away to join the circus, and what he found there.

"Now Here’s My Plan": A Book of Futilities

A great collection of cartoons by Silverstein from back in the 60s. While this isn’t a graphic novel per se, Silverstein’s comic use the full page and often tell sequential stories using the space in unique ways. People familiar with his work will see some of his themes emerge. I enjoyed getting to see all new-to-me Silvestein work and was happy I found this.


I love it when non-diverse authors make a serious effort to write a book with a fully diverse cast. And yet, it’s hard because as a member of one of those categories (Weir who is male is writing about a Muslim woman as a lead character) I felt like the character was unfamiliar to me. Which is probably fine, unless it isn’t. And it’s easy to pick nits so I’ll leave that be. Otherwise this is a Weir-ish (i.e. a lot of hard science within an actual story) novel about a colony on the moon and what the politics and practices of that sort of place would look like. Our protagonist is a non-practicing Muslim woman who just happens to also be a genius and a smuggler. And a great cast of other characters who are all on the moon thanks to the Kenyan space program. If you liked the Martian but wish it had some women in it, you’ll probably like this.

Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen

Wanted to love this book but struggled with it. Norris is a likeable interesting person who had held a coveted job of copy editor at the New Yorker, a place that actually cares about such things, for a good long time. And she’s learned stuff about herself, the business and language. However this book couldn’t really figure out which of those thigns it was about. Some chapters were fun autobiographical sketches, some talked about office culture and some were borderline polemics about language. Which were not great. The rest was fine. Norris has a transgender sibling and I winced listening to her mangle pronouns talking about her sibling and then defend usage that is nowhere near current or compassionate practice. At the same time she’d go on a tear about things like “Between you and I” (incorrect, but often used. So, mixed feelings. I’m sure I’d like Norris if I met her but this book wasn’t enough of one thing to get me in its corner.

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.

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.

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.

Watch Me Disappear

This is a tight little “what’s going on” missing person story. I sort of resent that it’s labeled Women’s fiction but that’s my own issue with the world of publishing I guess. This is a story about a mom who does missing... or does she? Figuring out what is going on is the job of her husband and 15 year old daughter as the time runs out on being able to declare her legally dead. This story went more places than I expected it to and I appreciated having some somewhat unreliable narrators in there to help me get perspective on what I thought was going on. A lot of interesting ruminations about family and togetherness as well as some nostalgia stuff for 90s era radical Seattle that rang very true to me.

Scientific Conversations

A neat but weird collection of interviews with scientific people. Some of these are people you have heard of and many are not. It’s mostly dudes. I was interested to learn Dreifus’s techniques which she talks about in the beginning, and also interested to read her often brief follow-ups with her subjects. The book still holds up 16 years later though as more of a “wow, we thought that then” and less as an idea of what is true in science right now. I would love to read an updated version of this with the subjects who were still available.

The Space Between the Stars

I am a sucker for space exploration books, especially post-apocalyptic ones. Even moreso “Something is wrong with the earth and we have to go elsewhere” narratives. This book was, at its core, about a woman and her relationships to other people, particularly her family and herself. The space stuff is a bit of background scene setting but I think this worked out fairly well. Would have liked to have read more about the weird caste system and some of the pre-history to this novel, but I enjoyed this for what it is as well.

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.

Water Knife

This is an interesting dystopian thriller about the near future when water rights are the thing most worth fighting for in the American Southwest. This was a little on the too-gruesome side for me (some torture, some mayhem) bvut I found the characters so compelling I pushed on through it. Great plot and a lot of ideas about how a drastic water shortage would really work. A great page turning read.

The Earth is Near

This is one of those books I don’t know how it made it on to my Kindle but it was just there on my laptop. It’s a “mission to mars” type of book, as written by the ship’s psychologist. It’s really interesting, though not exactly lively. It wasn’t until I had suggested it to another friend that I realized the book was nearly as old as I am! It’s a great mix of big ideas about travel and space and the day to day grind of being on a hostile and even somewhat foreign planet with the unknowns and sudden shifts of fate. Very much enjoyed it.

The Bug

Actually I read this book years ago but I somehow forgot to write it down. I really liked it. Its a story about tech development and (sort of) start up culture or what passed for it in 1984 and the havoc it wreaks on the psyche of the main character.


I like but do not love Junger. I think he is a great writer but he seems a little more... SRS BZNS than I am. So this book which talks about some heavy things, seemed like it would be in his wheelhouse. It’s one of those “essays turned into a short book” things about why we’re isolated, sort of. About how things like PTSD and depression are, seemingly, factors of industrial society and when people come together with a sense of purpose and community, people feel better. He discusses this in terms of soldiers coming back from a war zone (where they had purpose) to a country where they are people seen as victims and/or people with mental health challenges. He talks about how in colonial times White people would often run off with Native Americans and not the other way around. A lot of it seemed WAY too facile for me, but it got me interested enough in the ideas to want to at least learn more about them even if I wasn’t quite sure I believed what he was specifically saying.

Dogtown: Death and Enchantment in a New England Ghost Town

Known about this book since forever but hadn’t picked it up. Glad I finally did. It’s a very evocative look at the history of a place, a slightly wild place in the middle of a very fusty New England locale. East gets enchanted with it via some artwork and then digs deeper. I recognized a lot of Massachusetts in her portrayals but I think it was useful that she’s actually not FROM there because it’s good to see that sort of thing from the outside. At its core this is a story about a murder, but there’s a lot more than that. It made me want to go walk in the woods which is about as good as I can say for a book.

Her Fearful Symmetry

I read The Time Traveler’s Wife and loved in and was hoping this would likewise be good but maybe not as soul-crushingly poignant and ... it was and wasn’t. A very good story centered around a woman who dies and a bunch of people who live near a cemetery. And twins. Niffeneger’s author profile in this book claims she works at HIghgate Cemetery which is sort of true (she did in the process of doing research for the book) and sometimes the book veers a little too far off into factual recitation, but overall it was good and not quite as gut-punching as her debut novel.

The Great Starvation Experiment: Ancel Keys and the Men Who Starved for Science

A great book about a thing I’d mostly known about through a few iconic Life Magazine photos. Tucker tells the story about the starvation experiment--a one year program participated in by conscientious objectors during WWII--and along the way manages to impart a lot of information about science experimentation, CO status, and the general zeitgeist of the United States during wartime. It’s a really interesting well-told story, heavily footnoted at the end but not otherwise bogged down in the sort of teeny details that might get in the way of the narrative.

Another Brooklyn

Not sure how I hadn’t read anything of Woodson’s before. This is a great coming of age story of a young black woman whose family moved from Tennessee to Brooklyn after what we (later) learn was the death of her mother. The book is told in a series of vignettes flashing back to periods of her upbringing from the perspective of what we know is an accomplished professional woman. She tells the stories of her thick-as-thieves and we eventually learn what happened to all of them. Her father at one point finds religion with the national Of Islam and there is a lot of slightly-removed influence of these various parts of her life. While the novel is not autobiographical Woodson did draw from her life experiences and this book does seem very very real.

Suspended Worlds: Historic Theater Scenery in Northern New England

This is an exceptional book that I was enjoying so much I brought it on vacation with me and had to mail it back to the library! A great peek into the history and restoration of Vermont’s (and Northern New England’s) painted theater curtains looking at who made them and why and how many of them got restores. So great, so loving, wonderful photography and a lot of nice side stories. This was a joy to read.

Cabinet of Curiosities

I love the Cabinet of Curiosities concept but after reading three of the Agent Pendergast series I have concluded that these books are a little too creepy for me. I guess I like my thrillers with a little less horror? This book is an excellent romp through not just the Museum of Natural History but also creepy weird old curio collections and random odd falling down houses of New York. It also has the occasional surgery on living humans which ... too creepy!

In This Grave Hour

So far so good. The most recent book by Winspear is a sort of “back to basics” with the old gang back again and a nice home grown mystery. Liked this better than the one before it. Now everyone’s old enough to have kids who are old enough to enlist and I find myself wishing they don’t get killed off in future Dobbs novels.

Crooked Little Vein

Picked this up on a library booksale cart. I’ve long been an admirer of Ellis’s essays but hadn’t read any of his novels. I figured from the title and description this was going to have weird drug stuff in it and... that’s not really it. It’s a fun hard boiled detective story set in more or less current times that has a lot of ancillary “weird shit” happening. Some of that is drug use, some of it is odd fetish stuff, some of it is weird government stuff. A lot of it would have, probably, seemed more weird in 2008 than it does in 2017 with the ubiquity of weirdness thanks to always-on internet and these weird times we find ourselves in. Not that this detracts from the depth of the story. This is a great short lively read and I look forward to picking up more of Ellis’s stuff.

The Inheritor’s Powder

I am not sure how a book about arsenic poisoning could be so dull but this one did not grab me. There was a lot of recitation of historical facts without enough threading it all together.


Better than the one before it, this sequel to Relic had more interesting stuff about subterranean subway dwellers and less weird gory murdering (though there is plenty of that).

Born Both: An Intersex Life

There is a lot going on in this book. Viloria didn’t really discover or understand that s/he was intersex until s/he was in he/r twenties. And spent a lot of time making up for lost time. Viloria is also Hispanic, grew up in a difficult household and had a brother who is gay who was shunned by Viloria’s father. Viloria spends a lot of time taking the reader along with he/r as s/he goes through the various discoveries of he/r own sexuality, dating life, gender presentation and path to becoming an intersex activist. As someone who is interested in the topic of genderfluidity but has mostly read about people who have been transgender, this is a different, sometimes entirely lateral approach to some of the same issues about how to move within a society that is not expecting you the way you are. I really enjoyed it.


This was a thick book sort of about whales from someone I went to high school with and who I still know now on social media. I LOVED the cover and have been thinking about reading it for a while and finally had the opportunity when I was down with a headcold at a friend’s place who had it. And I liked it. It’s an interesting Maine islander sort of story with a bunch of odd quirky characters--the lead is named Orange Whippey--which is sort of funny but not like “funny ha ha” I liked the characters, I sometimes got bogged down in the lengthy diatribes of some of them. I had a hard time connecting to the main character or telling the names of some of the other ones apart. And yet I still really liked it because it all seemed pretty real to me despite some obviously fantastic elements.


a slightly formulaic horror story that nonetheless I enjoyed because it let me nose around in the back hallways and basements of the Natural History Museum.

Please God, Find Me a Husband

Grabbed this out of the Widener basement. It’s a great mix of wonderful accessible cartooning along with a storyline I understood but could not entirely empathize with. The author is in her 30s and single and really really wants to get marries. She is also quite religious. She approaches that issue and tries to figure out what to do about it. The book is very religious but not preachy if that makes sense and I really enjoyed how much the author let us in on her inner monologue of this journey. Also it does NOT wrap up with her finding a husband which I appreciated.

The Library

A swirling collection of vague ideas made really interesting by Chihoi’s illustration style. It was fascinating for me to see hs sketches of his deceased father coming back and ... doing things. I thought I was the only one with zombie dad dreams. The library part is minimal but overall it’s an interesting book outside of the usual moody graphic novels I usually read.


I got an advanced copy of this book from Netgalley. It seems like Gregory and I saw the same James Randi documentary, possibly, because there are some debunking stories in here that seem like they are right form there. Or maybe it’s just that he’s interested in the same things I am. I haven’t read any of his other stuff but enjoyed this story of three generations of maybe-psychics trying to deal with life around them.

The One Hundred Nights of Hero

I was captivated by Greenberg’s earlier book and was happy to find this on my small town library’s shelves. It’s a great weaving of stores within stories which I’m not always up for but I enjoyed very much. Greenberg has a way of having her characters tell stories that are at the same time relatable but also of another time and place. Very feminist and female-centric, I appreciated getting to read mythology that had female heroines at their centers.

Journey to Munich

Really did not like the last book. Glad I stuck it out for this one. Winspear’s books about her intrepid female detective have been weirdly uneven of late. This one gets back on the more traditional track. Not as much dwelling on backstory and Dobbs' somewhat confusing emotional issues. More plot-based and some really interesting looks into pre-war Germany in the 30s at the time of the rise of Hitler. Enjoyable and at the end we’re looking at her doing more detecting.

Coin-Operated Americans: Rebooting Boyhood at the Video Game Arcade

Mixed feelings about this book which I enjoyed but wasn’t totally sure where it was coming from. It reads like a set of disparate essays sort of grasping for a way to all be put together into someone’s dissertation. I recognized myself in the era she describes, as someone who frequented arcades before the crash (in fact I just got back from Funspot last week) but otherwise found some of her discussion a little too academic. This book was strongest when it was referring to things I had a connection to (the iconic Life photo of the gamers, the Gamer Gate stuff of modern day, books I’d read) and less when it’s just sort of waxing poetic about ideas of masculinity that don’t really seem rooted in theory as much as idle musings. Enjoyed but was not enthusiastic about.


A short and beautiful graphic novel about a small French community and a young boy within it whose father suddenly dies. I picked this up from a library book sale pile and was impressed by the really interesting illustrations and the way the author seemed to have a handle on how to world of adults looks to children particularly at a difficult time.

All Rights Reserved

A college friend wrote this book! It’s a dystopian YA novel about a future world where everything is copyrighted, even the words you say out loud. It’s an interesting premise and the lead character opts out by refusing to say anything. Chaos ensues. Sort of. I liked a lot of the specific bits of social commentary in this book--food for poor people is made form 3d printers and one of the most coveted things you can get is a real orange--but I felt weird about the overall environment. I mean it’s tailored to me since there’s a climactic scene in a Very Rare Library but the whole thing was just super-bleak. If bleakness is your thing, this is a well thought out and well implemented cautionary tale about copyright and the increasing corporatization of everything.


Enjoyed this sequel to the trilogy. Had a little more continuity than the second book in terms of seeing characters you recognized. This was true despite some of the book taking place 10000 years in the future. I thought Wilson did a good job with this huge leap and liked the way this story tied up fairly neatly.


Powers clearly has such passion for his subjects. I loved the Gold Bug Variations but was a little more adrift in this one because there were a lot of descriptions of musical stuff that I just couldn’t picture in my mind. Enjoyable but the main plot (guy is trying to do something hinky merging science and music and is maybe going to get in big trouble) gets interwoven with backstory enough so I really wanted to just read one linear story and not the intermerged one. This is the failure of me as a reader and not Powers but it made this book less awesome than it could have been.

A Dangerous Place

I would be stopping reading the Dobbs novels at this point except that I have been told they improve. This book is a radical departure from the previous books in a few notable ways 1. many of the major plot points happen before the book (the main character has many HUGE life events that happen before the novel takes place, this is weird 2. Maisie is sort of a jerk to the people who care about her. This wraps up by the end but it’s weird seeing the character be a jerk 3. there is a lot of expository “Let me tell you what I think happened...” sort of lazy writing that I’m not used to in the other books. So, not terrible but not great either. I’ll check out the next one and see if it improves.

The Housekeeper and the Professor

Really enjoyed this short poignant story about a lower class woman who takes care of an older man with a serious memory problem--he can only remember the last 80 minutes of his life, and things that happened before 1975. The older man is also, was also, a mathematics professor and his mind still engages with math problems even as he has to keep slips of paper attached to himself to remember who his housekeeper is. Lots of levels to this book including baseball and, of course, math.

Thank you and OK

Could not finish this book. Tried for a long time. Its a story about a guy who basically is having a hard time sorting out his life and winds up, through a series of sort of vague non-intention, in Japan at a monastery. Which ... ok. I guess I couldn’t really identify with him and identified a lot more with all the people around him who were put out by his vaguing around. Maybe a good book for someone else, not so much for me,

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley

I got this book as an ARC from a library when I was desperate for something to read on the way home from a trip. I read it quickly, enjoyed it a lot and didn’t learn that it was loosely based on the story of Hercules until reading reviews after the fact. This is one of those “weird girl” stories which I usually like unless they are super scary or sketchy and this is not one of those. A weird dad with few choices (or so he feels) winds up raising a daughter with his limited toolkit. They live in coastal Massachusetts. Good read, more of that “quirky seashore” set of books I was reading earlier.

The Book of Vice: Very Naughty Things (and How to Do Them)

Gave up on this. Listening to a slightly jokey-joke NPR commentator talk about things like swinger’s parties and gigantic feasts was really not for me If you align yourself more with Sagal’s way of looking at the world, you might really enjoy this. I did not.


A follow up to Spin only with all new characters. The character that was the center of the last book is basically dead and one of the other main characters has a sot of side role in this book. I liked but did not love this story which had a new central figure, a quasi-interesting female dilettante who is trying to figure out what happened to her father. The plot is great some of the character development stuff (particularly with the female characters) is not so great but there’s less apocalyptic end of the world stuff which i appreciated.

The Encyclopedia of Early Earth: A Novel

I’m always looking for big graphic novels because I read quickly and I want them to last. This was on the shelf at the library where I was working and now I want to read everything that Greenberg has done. It’s based on a storytelling sort of structure. Characters who are in a story and the stories they tell within the story. Maybe even one story in a story in a story, I wasn’t quite sure. There’s a calm at the center of this book that I found really appealing as well as all the other stuff that is good about it.

The Three-Body Problem

I read this at the same time I read another book which was similar but different. I was ashamed to admit that I had trouble with some of the names, not the fact that some of them were the same, but not being able to determine nuances by what people called one another etc. I enjoyed but had a hard time with the hard science-y aspects of this book since I felt like there was a lot of telling-not-showing and ultimately it wasn’t about the human stories at all which were the parts I found most compelling.

The Spin

I read this at the same time I read another book which was different but similar. I had the feeling that the second book was “better” but I enjoyed this book more. More human relationships and a lot more thinking about what really WOULD happen if the end of the world were... sort of ... maybe ... telegraphed into the future. Worth thinking about. Never gets too gory. Enjoyable.

Lumberjanes Vol. 1: Beware The Kitten Holy

Liked this, but was expecting it to be somehow AMAZING and it was only very good. I think I’ve been really lucky in that I’ve had access to a bunch of great graphic novels with cool female leads that I have had a bunch to choose from. I enjoyed this book but it wasn’t one of my favorites of the genre. There’s clearly a whole culture built up around it and yay hooray for that.

Leaving Everything Most Loved

An interesting book in the series, this one shows a lot of changes happening. Maisie closing up her agency, her staff going separate ways and, of course, a mystery in the middle of it which talks about the history of Indian migration to England, somewhat. I found parts of this book a little too pat and I’m finding the “will she or won’t she?” aspect of her relationship tiresome, but otherwise I’m looking forward to new wind in the sails of this series.

I Will Bite You

One of the things I love about the graphic novel format is the author’s ability to take you inside some strange places you might not otherwise understand. A lot of Lambert’s stories are pretty strange and confusing (to me) but reveal a really interesting mind.

Adventures in Cartooning: How to Turn Your Doodles Into Comics

A super fun story-as-explanation of how you can write and illustrate graphic novels with only a small amount of what people might think of as “raw talent” I really enjoyed this book, geared towards children, of outlining the aspects of graphic storytelling with a “show don’t tell” approach. And a really nice shoutout to Ed Emberly who was always a firm childhood favorite

The Emperor of Ocean Park

Very much enjoyed this first novel by Stephen Carter which has been on my “to read” list for years. A great thriller about upper class Black legal society and the disruption sown when the father of the protagonist dies in what may be a mysterious way. The narrator, while reliable, is standoffish in a way that makes him interesting to read the perspective of and I liked the various settings (DC, Martha’s Vineyard, suburban whereveritwas) that populate the novel.

Fastest Things on Wings: Rescuing Hummingbirds in Hollywood

Did not know much about hummingbird rehab before this. Loved this book. The author is an avid hummingbird fan and talks about the day to day life of her job and interweaves it with imagined hummingbird relationships.

The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances

I really like reading about people with non-traditional approaches to exercise. Inman was a fat kid and lives in some sort of crazy fear of becoming a huge blerching mess again. Running a lot lets him eat what he wants ( a truly terrible assortment of food if he is to be believed) and this is how he wants it. He has advice which may or may not work for you and a lot of funny anecdotes and images to go along with them. If you have a complicated relationship with exercise, you will like this.

How the other half lives

This was a hard book to get through. The combination of the abject poverty and terrible circumstances that befell immigrants to New York in the turn of the last century combined with Riis’s weird brand of racism (maybe it was more appropriate at the time, it’s terribly not appropriate now) made a lot of this slow going. Riis was a social reformer and his story which is recounted in the long intro by David Leviatin, puts a lot of his work into a social context. This is helpful for reading the rest of it. My previous exposure to Riis was mostly just seeing his photos and hearing “He helped make things better.” Getting at the nuance of how some of this social change happened was an interesting back story, as well as hearing about the institutionalized racism and sexism that was prevalent even then (Riis recounts how Black tenement dwellers will pay more money for the same apartment as other lodgers). Glad I read this, especially in today’s uncertain times, but it was and remains a difficult read.

Houdini: The Handcuff King

A great glimpse into one small episode from Houdini’s life which tries to sum up a lot of the complex aspects of the man’s life. Really enjoyable and not just because there are a lot of shots of him hanging out in his underwear.

Bird in a Cage

This is a poignant and well-told story about the life of the author’s grandmother and, by extension, the life of the entire family around her. Roher tells this story in a series of vignettes that jump around between her elderly incapacitated grandmother and the family caring for her, and flashbacks that cover the grandmother’s entire life. Many of them center around the family island where they would get together in the summertimes and it’s a nice consistent way of threading the larger story together.

No You Can’t Touch My Hair

Books that are biographical by humorists are sometimes not as funny as books by non-comedians who are humor writers. I really enjoyed Robinson’s book but I felt like sometimes she was going for stuff which would work in stand-up but which didn’t work as well in writing. That said this book is great I enjoyed her informal style, a lot of the pieces she did about black hair icons and letters to her young niece were really standouts. Listening to someone talk about race from a personal perspective from within an industry you only know from the outside is really interesting.

Elegy for Eddie

Another good book in the series. This one deals with a lot of interesting issues of poverty as well as the encroaching awfulness about what is up with the Nazis. The main character seems to be learning some things about herself and even though some of her relationship stuff seems like it may be getting a little wrapped up in a too-pat fashion, I enjoyed this book more than the one which preceded it.

Thoreau at Walden

Surprised I’ve never put anything from John P on this booklist before since I’ve always been a fan of his work. This is a short set of vignettes involving Thoreau taking his words more or less verbatim (and noting where liberties were taken). It takes some of his choice quotations and little bits from his book Walden and illustrates them. As someone who grew up around Concord I liked seeing the settings and just the love of that part of the natural world. Porcellino did a good job not shying away from Thoreau’s relative privilege (and semi-weirdness) while also getting across why people found his words so compelling.

A Lesson in Secrets

Another in the series. I enjoyed it since it seemed to “move the plot along” both in terms of Maisie’s development but also in terms of the atmosphere of the world around her in terms of encroaching Nazism and people’s feelings about it. There’s also the subtext about the role of pacifism or dissent in this environment as well. A thoughtful novel.

The Shadow Land

I loved The Historian. I never would have picked up this book if I had knows that it had a lengthy multi-chapter explicit concentration camp narrative in the middle of it. The story is otherwise interesting though nowhere near as compelling as The Historian. Kostova reveals in the afterword that this book is more autobiographical which may have something to do with why there are many parts of it that would be interesting-if-true but also make bad fiction. I felt assaulted by the lengthy descriptions of what amounted to torture in the prison camps. I am aware this is true to life and do not want to diminish the suffering of people who were there, but those sort of witness stories are a very specific sort of narrative that I usually avoid. I found myself frequently frustrated reading this book with both the excessive “What I saw when I looked around the town square” sorts of things, the anxious and not-super-compelling main character and the sequence of events that only becomes plausible when you realize how the story ends (an ending that was surprisingly predictable). I don’t mean to be a weird internet person about this, I really like most books but this one was a frustrating read though i did finish it. Not for people who want to avoid torture narratives.

The Mapping of Love and Death

I’d been growing a little tired of these so read a bunch of other books in-between. This was a better one in the series with a lot of complex plots including an American (!) killed in WWI. Maisie starts dating someone seriously and her mentor dies shifting her into a different situation concerning her need to work and etc. A lot of loose ends tied up, a good story, a good read.

Full-Time RVing: A Complete Guide to Life on the Open Road

It’s sort of hard to imagine the usefulness of books like this back in the pre-internet times it was written. I saw when looking it up that there is an updated version and I am curious what it would be like. This guide, which really did give me a great idea of what it would be like to live in an RV, was super meticulous about things that just don’t need to be so detailed now (where to buy thing, notably). I liked the energy of the authors, though some of their priorities did not seem to be mine. At the point at which they were suggesting exactly what ruled graph paper to buy for making lists, I did tune out on some of it. Enjoyable but I’d pick up the new version if I were you.

Gate to Women’s Country

I usually like these ecofeminist books. This one was on the free table at the local college and I picked it up and slogged through parts of it and just couldn’t get excited about picking it up again. Too much weird theatrical overlap (you know the kind where the characters are preparing for a play and there are PAGES of play text in there?) and I couldn’t get over it.

The Stranger in the Woods The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit

This was a book I received an ARC of from Netgalley. I read a lot about this story when it was in the papers. In fact I read every story I could find. The “North Pond Hermit” as Christopher Knight was known, was a solitary man who was living alone in the woods for decades. He had a little camp set up that was totally invisible to the outside world and he sustained himself by stealing from nearby seasonal cabins in northern Maine. Big news when he was finally found, captured and brought to justice. But what happened next?

Finkel tells the story and does a good job giving you details of Knight’s life both in the woods and out of the woods, without pretending like he had more access to Knight than he really did. They exchanged some letters and had a few face to face visits, but Knight was an extremely private person and did not really encourage or seem to enjoy these visits. Finkel winds up in the awkward journalistic situation of trying to create a relationship with a person who doesn’t want one. I appreciated that Finkel didn’t embellish, didn’t make it seem like they were friends, and didn’t try to tie this all up with a bow at the end. Along the way there are a lot of good anecdotes about hermits but not enough to make you tired out by all the not-the-main-story stories.

Devil in a Blue Dress

This was the most-recommended series written by a person of color when I asked about this on my mailing list. I read and enjoyed the first book and will be reading more of them. This is a book written in the 90s about California in the 40s. There’s a lot of grit and casual (and not-so-casual) racism so some of it is tough to read but the plotlines are interesting and I was engrossed all the way through.

The Accidental Time Machine

I love time machine stories! And this one started off pretty good. Guy at MIT finds an accidental time machine, tries to figure out how it works as he deals with a bunch of other things in his life. But then things get weird. He goes so far into the future that things are weird. And then SO far into the future that things are unrecognizable. And there’s this naive gal the protagonist meets along the way who you’re worried he’s going to have an inappropriate relationship with (this is scifi after all). It wraps up neatly but I didn’t like the second half of the book as much as I enjoyed the first half.

Every Stamp Tells a Story

This book is a well-illustrated slightly dry book about the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum written by the former Curator of Philately of the museum. It presumes an interest in the subject matter so that looking at the photos and reading about the plans to build the museum, and choices they made to create and enhance the collection will be of interest. It worked for me and I greatly enjoyed this book.

Underground Airlines

Really enjoyed this alternate “What if Lincoln hadn’t wound up getting elected?” history book where slavery is still legal in the Hard Four states down South and even the North is a mess of racism and complex rule and class systems to keep everyone in line. The story itself is told by a “bounty hunter” of sorts an escaped slave who is now beholden to the government to trap other escaped slaves. Fascinating stuff. Winters does a good job explaining the details without getting bogged down in them and outlining the racist situation without the book actually falling into a lot of racist cliches.

Among the Mad

Enjoyed this one more than the previous one. Maisie is coming to grips with her wartime service and is also deciding to try to be a better friend to Priscilla. Along the way she gets a camera, meets and works with the people at Scotland Yard and learns a lot about mental illness and chemical warfare.