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A Canticle for Liebowitz

This book, a scifi classic, was made up of three short stories. I liked the first one very much and the second two less so. The end is basically suffering porn and I was annoyed at it. People told me I could still get a lot out of this book if I don’t have much knowledge of the bible or Catholicism. I’m not sure they were correct.

Manfried the Man

What if cats were human sized and had cat sized humans as pets? That is hte entire premise of this graphic novel which winds up being about much more than that. Super fun. I am not totally sure why all the man-pets are men, but maybe there’s some reasoning behind it. Well-drawn and well-written, this was a fun romp for the last read of 2018.

Firecrackers: Female Photographers Now

An excellent look at some of the interesting things female photographers have been doing recently. This book tries to have an international focus but seems to mainly be around women in the UK orbit for the most part. Really interesting photographic projects, some more traditional some a lot more experimental. The cover photo, which I found a little off-putting even if interesting, is not representative of what you’ll find inside.

The Tiger Flu

This is one of those books that I finish and then go read other reviews of the book so I can be sure my interpretation of what was going on is actually correct or at least consensus-correct. This was a confusing book. But I liked it! Usually I “nope” out of these books where there’s either a really murky plotline or a lot of “And then she took drugs and you weren’t sure what was real for a few chapters afterwards” situations. But in this case, the plot was interesting, the characters were compelling and it’s SO refreshing to get to read a book where most of the characters are women, especially, a scifi book, that I pushed ahead and was happy I did.

The Fated Sky

I enjoyed this book. It’s a little more complex than the first one in that there’s a little more interpersonal stuff going on and a little less “How do we deal with this catastrophe” There is also a little more random number talking which I am always surprised at (like I get that she is a calculator but lists of numbers when they’re doing “space things” makes for sort of odd reading"). A lot less Nathaniel in this book which is too bad but generally speaking this is about going to Mars, it’s very space-y, it’s a great sequel to the previous book and I look forward to more.

The Best We Could Do

Thi Bui wanted to tell her story in a visual way so she learned to create graphic novels. This is her first and it’s captivating. Starting from the birth of her own baby and her mother’s somewhat paradoxical reactions to it, she goes back and explores the background of both her parents as they struggled in Vietnam under the shifting and oftentimes brutal regimes that were there. Bui herself is a “boat person” who was born in Vietnam and came to America when she was very small. This book is especially poignant against the backdrop of the current immigration crisis and our President’s complete mishandling and barbaric response to it.

Bury the Lead

There is a lot going on in this novel - there’s a health scare at the hospital, Willy gets on pain meds, a woman is killed and tossed in the woods, someone is messing around with a local grocery warehouse. Mayor ties it up nicely as usual and this book has slightly less of the stress-points of some of the past novels where you worry about someone being in trouble or getting hurt (there is a little of that but not much). I enjoyed it, it’s a little dry a times but overall good and what I was expecting.

Speak: The Graphic Novel

This is a powerful graphic novel about high school and ostracization. I did not read the original book but really enjoyed this version of it, illustrated by Emily Carroll, though I needed to switch it to my “daytime reading” pile from my nighttime reading pile because it was too dark for nighttime. It’s a story about a terrible thing that happens and the aftermath which is, in some sense, just as terrible. I related to the character who was isolated in her own home with self-absorbed parents and friends who always seem to be after something and who are also trying to just make their way in the world. I think the story works especially well as a graphic novel because a lot of the imagery is almost better seen than read.


I always like but don’t always love Sedaris. I love that he talks about the ups and downs and actual weird stuff he does on a day to day basis (feeding your lipoma to a snapping turtle? Loved that story!) I have a harder time when he brings his family into it and I worry/think about the story behind the story. His sister is famous in her own right, I wonder what she thinks. Another sister committed suicide after a long period of mental illness and his last reference to her in this book is about closing a door in her face. His father may not live until the next book. It’s all super interesting, a complicated mix of thigns that are funny right next to things that are not that funny but it makes it all the more real.

How to Be a Muslim: An American Story

I struggled a lot with this book which is about one man’s struggling with his own idea of faith and how it overlapped with his physical and mental illnesses and his own desired for what he wanted in his personal life. I’m not sure if it’s just that the author is Muslim and male and younger than me, or if it’s that this book just wasn’t that well written. There were huge chunks in the middle of it which were just recounting parts of the Quran or the life of Mohammed and while this may have been meaningful to the author, it was less understandable from a reader’s perspective. In general this book outlines the author’s journey and then end wraps up maybe a bit too neatly. I wanted more details in some places and fewer details in others. Glad I read it but just barely.

Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War

Wanted to like this but it was already up to three different perspectives and a little too strategic for me and I’m trying to get better at cutting my losses.

Kingdom of the Blind

The latest in the Gamache series. A good one about the really corrosive effects of street drugs. That said, a little too much of the phrase “junkies and tr*nnies and whores” for my tastes even if the main character did do a good job of using correct pronouns later on. People moving in new directions and an interesting main story and side story. Read over a few long airport stays. Worthwhile.

Firefly - Big Damn Hero

I missed these characters. It’s funny reading a book about characfers you only know about from TV/Movies. I enjoyed the Firefly series quite a lot and was happy to learn there was a book out. The book is mostly good. Interesting story, some neat character backstory but also a little bit of dumb fight sequencing (like overly blabity bla) and some boring parts in case you didn’t know who the people were. I will read some more of these (presuming there are any) and I hope they improve a little.

Home After Dark

I should have thought more closely about whether I wanted to read a “haunting coming of age story” right before bed (answer: no) but this book is both amazing and evocative but also tough to read for anyone who had their own difficult childhood and maybe has a hard time with images and stories of child neglect. So good but also so difficult.

The Calculating Stars

I had this suggested by an online simlar-reader and it took me a while to track it down since there was one (1!) hard copy of it in Vermont and the ebook was going to take a while (thanks TOR). Anyhow, I loved it, Having a lead character who is not just female but also Jewish felt like it had been a long time coming in any book not about the Holocaust or Nazis. And this book is about another sort of terrible mess. I love post-apocalyptic fiction but this book has more of the slow burn of climate change (thanks to a meteorite) and less of a sudden “Half of everyone dies” situation. I was hoping for a bit more “this is how we cope” but as it was I mostly enjoyed this look at Dr. York’s attempt to become to first woman in space in a slightly alternate future where Dewey really does defeat Truman.

Herding Cats

Every time i find one of these I haven’t read yet I find myself wishing there were a lot more of them. Sarah Andersen does a great job talking about the work she does, the pets she loves and the anxieties she lives with, in ways that are funny and very very relateable.

Gods of Howl Mountain

Such a poignant look at post war Appalachia and the people who live there and have to make do the best way they can. Some have jobs in the mills. Some run moonshine. Some make moonshine, some are cops. Some are robbers. It’s a great look at one family and the way they deal with what the future has to bear as well as some demons from the past. I loved this book and am going to go read all of Brown’s other ones.

The Pharoah Key

Normally I don’t mind these slightly formulaic thriller type books and I sort of enjoyed the Relic series from Preston and Childs but this one was just... trite. Too much weird drama, not enough weird artifacts, a LOT of implausibility and at the end of it I didn’t feel like I’d learned anything. Not horrible and not nightmare inducing but just... eh.

A River in Darkness: One Man’s Escape from North Korea

This was a super harrowing book about just how lousy it is to live in North Korea, by one man who finally escaped, but was not able to get his family out. It is grim, grim, grim, but told in a narrative fashion so you get a real idea of what the day to day life is like for both urban and rural North Koreans.

Side Life

Really enjoyed this weird look at a tech guy who finds a way to interact with multiple simultaneous realities. For a while I was worried it would be one of those “Hey you started out in the present time but now you’re back in history experiencing WWII” but it was not that. At the center of this book is a vaguely likeable character who has a lot of weird things happen to him, His life veers from satisfactory to really bad and it’s hard to tell how much agency he has in the whole thing. There’s a lot of “What is really real” conversations that are not terrible. There’s a little bit of “Woo multiverse” conversations that are a little more difficult. I am not a person who really enjoys books with multiple timelines and, that said, this would usually not be a book I’d pick up, but there was enough interesting stuff going on in it that I am glad that I did.

Mark Twain’s Autobiography, 1910-2010

Far too clever for its own good this book just did not resonate with me, Was hoping for a graphic novel. What I got was a bunch of “What if Mark Twain were alive and had a totally different sense of humor than he actually has” Not good.

My Favorite Thing Is Monsters Vol. 1

I started out with this as a morning book and then switched it to being an evening book which was a terrible idea! This book is terrifically dark and includes a lot of difficult topics--Nazis, child prostitution, poverty, gay bashing, mom-with-cancer--and it pulls no punches. I wish I had known when I started it that it was Volume one because there are a lot of questions I still have and I have to wait for the next volume. But this is SO GOOD. The illustrations are a fascinating mix of various types of drawing all on lined notebook paper. Captivating storytelling and a main character (who looks like a cute little monster which makes you think early on this won’t be quite as creepo as it turns out to be) you can totally relate to.

The Freeze-Frame Revolution

Watts swears this is a novella but it’s got enough going on in it to really seem like a full on book. In fact I sort of wanted more of this weird story about a long term (think millennia) space voyage to install wormholes where the human crew is regularly put into and out of suspended animation by the not-that-bright AI. And maybe something is wrong? And given that, how do you plan to shake things up? I liked Watts' attention to this especially because a lot of the time I find his stories a little on the dark side for me but I love his plots and so I pick up his books hoping I’ll find a thing that I can dig into. This was that thing.

History of Wolves

I am a sucker for these kid weirdo books. This one is much more than that, but that is the underpinning of this rural story about a girl who is fascinated by wolves but also, sort of, raised by them in a small cabin on a lake. At some point a family moves in across the lake and... long story short there is a child who dies and a lot of explanation about what happened next. Oh and a teacher who may have been a predator, or may not have. The whole story is through the eyes of the young adult girl and sometimes it’s tough to tell if she’s intended to be an unreliable narrator or not. I was really sucked into this story, every character seemed real and I could remember being that kid weirdo and my own stories that were not unlike this one.

A Curious Beginning

I was a big fan of Raybourn’s other mystery series and thought I’d like this one as well. I enjoyed the first book just fine but don’t think I’ll be picking up the second one (though I’d probably like it just fine if I read it). This book has a plucky heroine who is raised and orphan by her two aunts and turns out to have a very interesting backstory. Along the way she befriends the dark swarthy mystery man and... I just felt it was a bit too much like the Lady Jane Grey series. Which, again, I liked, but I felt the forumla sort of heavy in this and I think I’m back to sci fi for a bit.

Corvus: A Life with Birds

This was a great morning book which I would read while watching my own outside birds on the feeders. Woolfson lives in Scotland and not only keeps doves but also has a few inside birds which are not birds you would consider inside birds. Notably she has kept a magpie she calls Spike and a rook she calls Chicken. This book is about how it is to live with birds with some side derails into things like feathers and nesting and all the things that birds do. Woolfson is a charming writer without being overly sentimental and I found that her writing just clicked with me and I enjoyed getting to read along as she learned things about her avian companions.


This book is so deliciously dense with things to think about. It takes place in a possible future where we have humans that are autonomous or indentured, and robots that are the same. Watching the interplay of these groups, overlaying a complex story of corporate greed and various kinds of responses to it (both legal and extralegal) is a fun and delightful romp of a sci fi novel

The Copper Axe

Was looking forward to this time travel book but couldn’t get through the opening chapters that were sort of clunky character development. This may be a good book for some not-me person.

The Keeper of Lost Causes

The person who suggested I read this book is now officially not allowed to reccommend books for me unless she lets me know if there is torture in it or not.

Hotel Silence

This book was full of difficult issues but over all pretty good to read. It’s about a middle-aged man trying to figure out what is going on with his life after his wife leaves him. He has a daughter he is close with, a neighbor friend and a mother with dementia. It’s tough to be him. He goes away for an unknown location but somewhere that war has destroyed. And he finds a space there, and heals. Unlike some of the other books Iv’e read recently, this book has difficult otpics and descriptions (especially of some of the wartime stuff that has happened to this town) and yet it’s not difficult to manage. There’s a flatness to it that, given the subject matter, actually presents as calm. I liked this very much.

Atlas of Unknowns

Picked this up on a libraryt’s booksale shelf which, I’ll be honest, an awful lot of my pleasure reading comes from. It’s a really interestingly complicated story of two sisters growing up without a mother in a somewhat rural part of India in a not very well off family and the different paths their lives take and how they come back together. I loved the different groups of people that sort of played off each other: Christian Indian people versus Hindu Indian people. Indian people who live in the West versus those who have come right from India. Older generations versus younger generations. Men versus women. Fulfilled versus unfulfilled people. Liars versus truth tellers. All of these groups dance around each other and figuring out who is in which groups and why is an interesting exercise. The actual plot here is almost secondary to watching all the interpersonal relationships play themselves out in various ways. So interesting.

Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor

A great, if sobering, look at how the tools that are supposed to help us live better are actually helping big companies and governments keep track of us in ways that don’t always help. Eubanks outlines how tools that are intended to link people with social services can also become surveillance devices and that once you’re in you’re never really out again which creates a culture of the spied-upon and the spyers. Deeply unsettling especially because with all the research she’s put into this, you know she’s right.

Noodling for Flatheads

Great cover and a great topic. Bilger was raised in the South and then left. Then he goes back and talk to people who engage in a lot of “local customs” such as grabbing catfish out of the water with your bare hands and playing marbled with largeish rocks. He talks to the people involved, is generally decent and respectful to them, even though sometimes they have way-out ideas. Along the way you the reader learn about moonshining, catfishing, cock fighting and whether you can raise frogs in bulk. This book is from 2002 and I’d really love to read an update since some of these traditions seemed on the verge of dying out at the time but I’m pretty sure I saw guys catfishing in this way on the tv.

The Aviary

Grabbed it from a booksale shelf at a teeny library. I liked the cover and I wanted to read about a big spooky magician house and not be stuck in the Jonathan Strange universe which, quite frankly, I did not like. This was a great YA book about a girl being raised by her mother while taking care of a very old woman in a big spooky house after the resident magician had died. And there is a big birdcage out back with noisy birds. Fun to sort of see where it’s going, some nice friendship and a very female-centered novel. Enjoyable.


Most of the fiction I read is either scifi or some kind of mystery/thriller, it was refreshing to read a vevry good book about none of those topics. Less is an affable 50 year old gay man. The guy he was with longterm is marrying someone else. He hurls himself into a large number of work type obligations in order to forget. And does not forget. This book is mildly funny. and overall sort of heartwarming but not in a glurgy way. Nearly every character is a man. I’ll seek out other books Greer has written.


I usually love Cory’s books so I was excited for this one. The premise is great, people get fed up with society and they set up their own society. Cool, how do they do it. Cory explains and it’s all really interesting philosophical ideas about building self-reliant stuff. Cool. But then it goes on. Any time two characters are together there’s often a long exposition about this or that philosophical idea. Which is sort of great but it gets deadly dull after a while. Cory writes great characters and their interactions are fun and interesting. But them expounding on the nature of wealthy people is just not that great. I kept skimming wanting to gt back to the STORY. I read to the end, and it was a nice/interesting wrap-up but I was just sort of bummed that it wasn’t better. A little too didactic and I am someone who is On Board with a lot of these philosophies which, come to think about it, may be why I didn’t feel I needed to read them again.

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

A very nice book where not much happens but it;s about small towns and books and reading and so I liked it. A good book for recovering from a toothache or when you’ve maybe had too much of the yammering nonsense out there. Formulaic? Sure. But sometimes that’s what you want out of a book.

Head On

Woooo, Lock In finally had a sequel and this one was pretty good. I am someone who really enjoys getting to read works by authors who can write good disabled characters and Scalzi has created a world where 10% of everyone has a Parkinsonian type of disability where they can think fine but can’t move their bodies. There’s an aftermarket business making robots that they can inhabit using sophisticated neural network stuff. And, of course, resultant interesting stuff that comes out of all of it. I like the subtle disability politics that is also part of the larger “what happened?” mystery that is the primary thrust. This book occasionally gets bogged down in a little bit of overexplaining but it’s minor stuff and I was so happy to get to read this.

The Collapsing Empire

For some reason I always forget how much I love Scalzi’s novels. I saw this one at the library and was stoked to have found a newish novel by him that I hadn’t read yet. And it was funny... the general central plot is all blabla trade war and blabla diplomacy. But it’s told with a bunch of interesting and totally relate=able characters so you really want to find out how the whole thing winds up. And I had a little trouble with the ending, not that I didn’t like it but that I sort of feel I maybe didn’t understand it? So now I have to read about the book in addition to reading the book. And hopefully remember to read more Scalzi before I forget how much I like his writing.

Record of a Spaceborn Few

This book wraps up the Wayfarer trilogy (I think?) and was a good look at “What about the humans in this galaxy anyhow?” question I’d had since the beginning. Other than killing off of one character (unexpected!) and that “every chapter written by a different character and then repeat” thing (never my favorite) I really enjoyed this. More human stories. A lot of people with complicated but mostly-good motivations trying to figure out what to do. I liked all the characters. After a stream of good but difficult books, it was nice to relax with a familiar comfortable world.

Sing, Unburied Sing

I did not know, when I pulled this book out of the Little Free Library by the beach, that it was almost unendingly violent and upsetting in some of the most disturbing ways (child abuse, sadistic rapes, prison violence, a mom’s long painful death from cancer). I am sure it’s a great book but I could not get around that and was completely upset the entire time I was reading it just hoping there was some redemption or peace for the characters. There was, a little.

When Broken Glass Floats: Growing Up Under the Khmer Rouge

This was a departure from my usual reading because I have a pretty firm “No Holocaust memoirs” guideline. That said, this is a different sort of holocaust, the invasion/takeover of Cambodia by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge and the subsequent Cambodian genocide. It’s a thoroughly chilling and unpleasant book as far as the subject matter, but it’s well-told by Him and she has a remarkable memory for the things that happened during what must of been the worst part of her entire life. I learned a lot about the political climate inside of Cambodia in and around this time and even though this was a really tough read, I’m glad I read this book.

Jericho’s Fall

This was a little more thriller and a little less story than the last one. A lot of Carter’s novels seem to hinge on there being some unbearable awfulness that other people will do anything to keep secret. Usually I like that but this was a little too creepy, too many people isolated alone in a house without cell phones, it wasn’t as fun a read.

Inside The Kingdom: My Life In Saudi Arabia

Got this at a library booksale and it was simultaneously an interesting frog-boiling story of a woman from Switzerland who wound up living as a veiled woman in Saudi Arabia and a wife to a very wealthy man who happened to be one of Osama Bin Ladin’s 20-someodd brothers. It’s more her story of what the world is like in Saudi Arabia for women and very little political stuff except as those two things overlap. It’s a weird book to read because she is simultaneously incredibly privileged but also incredibly oppressed. She eventually leaves and she talks about what was involved in that as well. Very interesting read.

The Incal

This is one of the very few graphic novels at my local academic library. I really wanted to like it, and enjoyed the first third of it, but then it got a little too magical for me and I lost the thread of what was happening. It felt, to me, less and less grounded in an actual plot thread and more a complex allegory for... something. At any rate, I put it down at one point and did not pick it up again.

The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece

Random book from a library book sale and it was SO GOOD. This was all about figuring out which of many extant copies of an old painting may have been by the master Caravaggio. Lots of neat research and some great stories of the work behind the work. Harr turns it all into a fun to read story that has had more developments since this book was published.

The Other Woman

The newest one in the series. The enemy is Russia, it’s all about a double agent, very little Chiara or the kids and no art restoration. I am not enjoying the Russia arc as much as some of the other ones from the past.

New England White

Someone handed me Carter’s first book and I really loved it. Got this one at a flea market and felt the same. They are Grishamlike mysteries but a little bit more complex and actually address racial issues while they also deal with the whodunitaspect of whatever has happened. Carter is smart with his writing and his plots are complex. His characters and by and large well to do black people who are often not that well represented in mainstream mysteries. I am excited to read more of Carter’s books.

Surviving the Extremes: What Happens to the Body and Mind at the Limits of Human Endurance

A book by a doctor who has gone to some extreme places doing medicine (mostly for Americans who venture places they maybe shouldn’t go) talking about how your body does, or does not, deal with extreme conditions. These conditions include on top of Everest, in space, up the Amazon, in a desert, lost at sea, you get the idea. He usually tries to mix firsthand impressions, his own and others', with a medical description of just what is going on inside your body. I enjoyed it. It’s not for everyone. There are some pretty grievous injuries and bad things happen to people and some of them die. But if you’re curious to look into how this stuff works, he’s got a good explanation.

No Place To Go: How Public Toilets Fail Our Private Needs

I got an ARC of this from the publisher. It opened on a scenario I wasn’t sure I could empathize with, a mom with two kids trying to find a public bathroom. Not that I didn’t sympathize, but it didn’t grab me. But the rest of the book got better. Lowe is a woman who is interested in public accommodations and how we get them and why we don’t and the actual complex nature of putting bathrooms in public, for the public. As someone who is pretty heavy into libraries, I have been interested in this topic and was a little bummed Lowe didn’t talk more about libraries (she barely touches on them) but this is more about literally “out in public” and looking at issues involved in public toilet provisions and why it’s more difficult than you would think. Lowe is an advocate, speaks with other advocates and has a great style and amusing voice throughout. Everyone should enjoy this book.

Slightly Chipped: Footnotes in Booklore

Sort of a goofy book by two rare book lovers and collectors with a bunch of anecdotes about the book scene that are fun. It’s a little precious and it’s written in the first person plural which is super weird but I could get over it. I learned some fun trivia and anecdotes and got a little wistful since this is clearly talking about a booksale era that is much changed since people started going online both for purchasing as well as selling and pricing books.

Free Food for Millionaires

It’s been a while since I read some non-genre fiction that really captured my attention. I read this on my Kindle and I admit if I had known how long it was I might not have picked it up. This is a great rambly story about one woman who leaves home after getting punched int he face by her father (almost put the book down then, glad I did not) and what she does and what happens to her. She’s a complicated character both simultaneously in charge of her own destiny but also making a lot of choices that made me go o_O. There’s a lot of backstory about Korean culture and class which I found incredibly fascinating. The character is really “thinky” and so I got to learn a lot about a culture I don’t know much about--and a lot of different aspects of it. Glad I read it, think more people should.

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library

This was an Ellen Raskin type puzzle book which is clearly written by someone in love with libraries. Super fun with a bunch of interesting characters and some fun puzzles to figure out.

An introduction to 'Whaler out of New Bedford', a film based on the Purrington-Russell panorama of a whaling voyage round the world, 1841-1845.

As I track down more and more stuff concerning this amazing panorama, I got Jim to get this for me from Harvard Libraries and read the whole thing (it is a short pamphlet) in one sitting. It has some cute details and Morison’s attention to details enough so it’s worth trying to find it if you’re into this sort of panorama stuff.

Going into Town: A Love Letter to New York

Originally written by longtime New Yorker Chast who moved out of NY to raise her kids and then realized her daughter didn’t know what a block was! This is partly informative, partly humorous and full of great things that will make you think about (and remember, if that is your thing) the wacky, giant mess that is New York City.

All Our Wrong Todays

This may be one of my favorite time travel books. I hope it becomes a movie. The author is a screenwriter and there’s definitely some movie-like pacing in this book where you have to turn a page in the story to figure out what just happened. It’s complex and not worth explaining in detail but it’s basically a modern day time travel novel where “mistakes were made” that tries to look at the question about what would happen if you went back in time not too far and made some fairly large mistakes. Enjoyable read.

The First Rule of Punk

Jenna’s booklist for last year had this on it. I like YA books, reading about diverse characters, and PUNK. This was a great book about a kid who has to move from the town she loves to a big city where she’s not sure she’s going to make friends and she doesn’t want to change her style. She gets along with her parents but has predictable disagreements with them. She writes zines, only sort of tries to fit in at her new school, and drinks a lot of coffee. I think all zinesters would really enjoy this book with its likeable characters and not totally predictable plot twists.

This Will Be My Undoing

A really compelling series of essays by Morgan Jerkins a writer who grew up with some privilege and without some privilege. I really enjoyed listening to her navigate the pretty complicated overlapping intersections of her life, her family’s life and all the things she goes through to get from where she was as a young black girl to being an adult black female author. I’ve been reading a lot of essay collections and memoirs by black women this year and this one was maybe the most thought provoking just because I found myself both strongly agreeing and also disagreeing with some of the positions taken by Jerkins and that always sent me back to think “Gee why am I having such a strong reaction to this?” and those were worthwhile thoughts to have.

Access Restricted

A sequel to his other book, this pone follows the protagonist after she blows up the wifi and wins a temporary victory against the people who try to charge you for every (copyrighted) word you say in this dystopic novel. I thought this story was a little more interesting--they leave the dome, they learn more about other places, some of it takes place in Mexico--but there’s a lot of really grim stuff happening to some pretty young characters which, for whatever reason, I found a little tough to take. Loved it, but be warned, parts of it are heavy.

Murder, Manslaughter, and Mayhem on the SouthCoast

Count not resist this on the shelf at my local library. It’s a collection of news reports of people who were killed, who they were killed by, and what eventually happened. Interesting but sort of spotty. Depressing how much stuff is basic domestic violence or people drinking too much. I’ll probably pick up the second volume.

Radio Free Vermont: A Fable of Resistance.

This is a fun book imagining what combination of things might lead up to a Vermont secession movement and looking at one way that could go. It’s all about the events leading up to Town Meeting Day and doesn’t actually get into the nitty gritty of how to secede which is just fine with me. This book is the first fiction book I’ve read by McKibben (after finishing his wife Sue Halpern’s book Summer Hours at The Robbers Library last year) and it’s got a great mix of action and humor and a LOT of Vermont name-dropping and inside jokes that I think anyone who has lived in the Green Mountain State would enjoy.

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.

Gnomon: A novel

So the thing about getting random EPUB files to read sometimes is that you have no idea, on a Kindle, truly how LONG they are. I might have either quit this book sooner if I had known just what sort of a commitment I was getting into. This was a book like Gravity’s Rainbow or maybe Johnathan Strange and Mister Norrel where I kept at it because I felt there was something I was just missing and if I kept reading I’d figure it out. In ALL cases, that did not come true. I know why many people loved this book but I justn felt put out and alienated by it even as I could understand why it is special.

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.

Well, That Escalated Quickly: Memoirs and Mistakes of an Accidental Activist

Grabbed this book off of a free ARC table at VLA and I’m glad I did. I don’t know Ramsey’s work. It was really interesting to not just learn more about YouTuber culture but to hear someone who is a lot deeper into internet culture than I am talk about things that are important including mistakes they made along the way. Ramsey is very funny and has an easy manner in talking about difficult topics so her advice doesn’t read as preachy at all. I hope everyone reads this book.

The Imitation Game: Alan Turing Decoded

For whatever reason I just really did not like this book. The illustration is great but the plot was sort of meted out by multiple voices simultaneously, spent way too long on very specific and arcane bits of math, and overall didn’t give us a really good feeling about Turing relative to what I’ve already read about him. Was expecting better.

The Property

I loved this rich story by Modan about a Jewish grandma and her granddaughter taking a trip to Poland to find out about The Property, a building that had belonged to the family before the war and lost afterwards. The story is beautifully told and has a lot going on that works at many levels (for example, three languages are spoken and this is handled by them being written using different cases). You get to understand some of the human sides of what was going on in Poland that wasn’t just Nazis and war crimes. Lovely book.

Whoopi’s Big Book of Relationships: If Someone Says “You Complete Me,” RUN!.

I thought this would be amusing relationship advice. It was mostly “Don’t get in a relationship” advice. Which is fine but not what I was looking for.

March: Book One

The first in a series of three graphic novels about the civil rights movements particularly the events happening in the mid to late sixties, interspersed with the inauguration of Barack Obama. Lewis was really at the forefront of a lot of important events and this is a more personal look at the ones he was participating in which provide context from a specifically black perspective on what was going on behind the scenes.

March: Book Two

The second book in this series

March: Book Three

The third book in this series.

The Gigantic Beard that was Evil

What a weird funny book. I decided to spend a day looking at graphic novels because I’ve been bogged down in one book the rest of the time. I went to the library in the summer town I’m in and they had almost none! So I got a series about John Lewis and then picked this one up. It’s fun! And weird. At first it starts out seeming to rhyme and I was concerned but then it turns into this super strange story about a guy with a beard that grows and won’t stop, and it becomes a metaphor for all that is safe and all that is unknown and scary. Liked it. Great illustrations.

Birding Is My Favorite Video Game

So fun this cute little comic about the natural world! I really enjoyed seeing all the different ways Mosco can tell stories about birds, animals, bears, lizards, insects and all sorts of other neat things. The book is not just lovely but it also has an index to all the animals in the back of it. The cutest!

Beyond Trans: Does Gender Matter?

Really enjoyed this legalistic exploration into the way various entities deal with sex/gender distinctions along with a look at maybe how they SHOULD be dealing with it. Fogg Davis is a lawyer who is also transgender and he outlines a lot of situations in which people having to indicate their gender (on forms, in person, for reasons) was more of the issue than whatever supposed reason they needed to identify their gender in the first place Fogg Davis makes a compelling case for significantly fewer gender-based restrictions/indicators as people move through society and has interesting and sensible legal reasons for doing so. I liked reading this book and learning more about things I may not think about often enough.

House of Spies

These books are becoming a lot less about art restoration and a lot more about dealing with ISIS and especially crazed terrorists and very large scale activities. I liked this book enough but it didn’t have as much of what I liked in the earlier books.

Black Widow

No art restoration in this one! This book was a long treatise on how people get recruited to do stuff for ISIS and includes the recruitment of a woman from Israel to get recruited by ISIS. New character! But also a lot of terrorism stuff which is a little... not my thing. I enjoyed this book enough but I also felt more like I was paging through it more than hanging on every plot point.

Blind Rage: Letters to Helen Keller

Mixed feelings about this book. I would like to read more by the author. This was a collection of letters the author had written, or had imagined writing, to Helen Keller. The original conceit was that it’s been tough to grow up in the US as a visually or auditorially disabled person and NOT feel that you are somehow under the shadow of wunderkind Helen Keller, always smiling, always sharp and never complaining. I liked that idea. However, the book winds up also getting us way into the weeds about Keller’s life which also included a lot of really annoying explication of just how controlling and difficult Sullivan was which was not my cup of tea. This book was the strongest when Kleege was talking about her own life vis a vis Keller or telling us little stuff that the average person might not know about Keller. But it was a lot of time spent with unpleasant people (Sullivan) and a lot of historical re-creationism which didn’t always sit well with me.

The English Spy

This one is a re-read because it’s the first one of the series I read and now I’ve caught up to it when starting from the beginning. I was pretty sure I didn’t remember most of it and I was right. Still one of the better ones of the series, I think.

The Sisters Are Alright: Changing the Broken Narrative of Black Women in America

I really liked how this book was a combination of facts, anecdotes and general groupings of narratives to talk about the ways black women as a group are treated and mistreated in American society. I read it with interest and learned some things.

The Victorian Internet

This has been on my “to read” list basically since it came out. It’s a pop culture account of what the world was like when telegraphy hit, and hit big, drawing obvious parallels with humanity’s feelings and interactions with the internet. It’s full of good trivia, nice stories and a lot of maybe overly heavy metaphor about how a lot of the cultural trappings of this new technology were dealt with the same way as we’re dealing with the internet. There were a few topics I wanted to know a lot more about but overall this was a fun read from start to finish.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet

A space exploration novel written by a woman and featuring a TRULY diverse cast of characters. Loved it.

The Little Book: A Novel

There’s a special sort of nostalgia fiction that always presses my buttons and this book is one of those. It’s sort of a time travel novel but not really. There is a lot of people figuring out just what is going on and once you learn “the truth” it’s clear that this is mostly a book about getting there and not being there. A lot of background noise about the rise of fascism in Vienna and some famous people who you have heard of make appearances. I felt the book was strongest when it was not talking about Mahler or Freud but fans of those folks might find that to be an extra special benefit.

Playing the Whore

A thoughtful collection of essays about some of the philosophies about sex work, more in how it exists in the larger society (and so, then, how we deal with cops, crime, labor, money) and less the day to day work of sex work. Gira Grant has created a great book about six work that isn’t particularly sexy or titillating. It comes from a pretty firm “This is what I think” perspective which I found useful and refreshing. It’s a short book and left me wanting to know more about what it was talking about which is always a good thing.

Unaccustomed Earth

Another great collection of very poignant short stories usually about Indian people who have, at some point in their lives or their parents lives, moved to New England. Each story is different and a subtly different way of looking at otherness as it crosses generations and geographical boundaries.

We Are As Gods: Back to the Land in the 1970s on the Quest for a New America

Such a great book about back to the landers who wound up in Vermont and what was their deal anyhow. Told by one of the children of the original back-to-landers, this well-researched and well-told story follows a group of people as they leave their comfortable lives for a decidedly less comfortable life (but much more free, or was it?) in rural Vermont where they made all their own food, built or rehabbed all their own houses and tried to build a new world. Daloz makes the compelling argument that freedom for some was not freedom for all (men would work til dinnertime while women would work til bedtime, as one basic example) and even though many of their experiments ultimately failed (the original communes are mostly not still working today) a lot of the values of the original folks are still imbued in Vermont and the rest of the country in very important ways. Institutions in Vermont such as food co-ops, organic food choices, and the community college system came out of the hard work of some of the original Summer of Love expats. This is a story beautifully told, a great read for anyone interested in hippies, the sixties, Vermont’s DIY culture or general permaculture ideals.

The Moon and the Other

This was a great deep book about a ;lunar colony but really about reimagining society to see what different types and groupings of people might exist if you got to start sort of from scratch. This book takes place on the moon. There are lunar colonies and they are very different. Some of them seem like Earth II and some of them are entirely different, with women in charge, men in subservient roles and a whole bunch of different ways of doing things. There are inevitable conflicts. This book is a fascinating thought experiment into how some of those types of conflicts get resolved. One of those books where I finish reading it and then want to go read about the book to learn more about the topics in it in depth.

Lost in the Jungle

I read this book because someone suggested it for something but I couldn’t remember what. And so I was a little surprised that for a book called Lost in the Jungle it basically took nearly 30% of the book for them to actually GET LOST. I found this book a weird read because it’s essentially the story of people who went into the wilderness totally unprepared and... nearly died. Which I did not find that surprising. Ghinsberg is a good writer and I enjoyed his evocative descriptions of a lot of this story, but it’s a little odd to read it as a tale of personal obstacles overcome when one of the other members of his party actually DID die (or probably died) and that gets sort of downplayed. So, mixed feelings, overall a lively read.


Picked this up in a cheapie bin at Drawn and Quarterly. This collection comes out of a comics artist residency down in Florida with some people you may have heard of and many you haven’t. They have to, among other things, draw every day and this is a collection of some of the stuff they drew. A lot of it is personal in nature and it’s interesting to see some of the same experiences (i.e. "that weird guy at the nude beach") show up as motifs over and over. I’m not sure this work would stand alone as a graphic novel to read for fun, but to get an idea of what was going on during this residency and see the various talents of the people residing there was well worth it.

The Postal Age The Emergence of Modern Communications in Nineteenth-Century America

Why is this book so good? Hankin looks at the history of how we send and receive mail with an eye towards looking at whether certain postal regulations seem to have had effects on how we communicated and even how society works. He makes a case that lowering postal rates in the 1840s dramatically changed the way we interacted and the varying way newspapers were priced affected how we got our news. He has done a ton of research and you can look into the epistolary lives of people who lived over 150 years ago. Along the way he has illustrations and a lot of amusing reports of the way society worked or failed to work and how that was interwoven with the history of the postal system in the US.


I’ve loved Telgemeier’s other graphic novels and was happy to find one in my library I hadn’t read. This book is more of a stretch than some of her other ones--she writes about people of color and she writes about a cultural tradition which is (I think?) not entirely her own. So I both read this book and read what people were saying about the book and the way it represents Latinx culture. Next up to read what disability advocates have to say about the way it represents people with cystic fibrosis. I always learn something from reading Telemeier’s books, just not always entirely from Telgemeier herself.

Battle Lines: A Graphic History of the Civil War

This is a great series of very poignant vignettes that bring home the idea of what was really going on in the civil war--the brutality, the spectating, the cruelty, the varied vested interests--in a way that makes it visceral. Even if you feel like you already know abotu the Civil War in the US, maybe especially if you feel this, this is a good book to pick up.

The Heist

I feel like all of these books have sliders, how much is it about art/torture/politics/relationships. This one was more about relationships and art than it was about torture and politics. It also marks the last one I’ve read up to the point where I started this series, with the next book which I may actually re-read since I read it at the beginning of 2016 when life was a little different. Anyhow, this one has a lot of interesting art in it, some Swiss banking and not too much in the way of tradecraft and spy stuff, though there is some. Enjoyable.

Gunpowder Moon

Super creepy fiction about what if the stupid cold war era factionalism which we seem to be revitalizing in this country spreads to the moon? And how would we deal with it and figure out who was responsible? I really enjoyed this lunar thriller which is fast becoming a category of books that just can’t go wrong.

So You Want to Talk About Race

I found this book so helpful! I am one of those white women with a black friend or three who is trying to do the right thing but doesn’t always want to bother everyone with a zillion questions. This book answers some of those questions in a way that is friendly yet also firm (so not like “Oh it’s totally okay that you didn’t know this!” but a little “But it’s good that you know this stuff now") I’ve tried to do basic stuff like not be racist, but it’s more difficult to know if you are doing the right thing when you are, for example, trying to be anti-racist and this book is broken down into chapters basically talking about how to do things--help your friends deal with microaggressions, deal with street harassment, deal with being good listeners--better. Oluo is a blogger turned book author who writes in a way that is engaging and familiar without being like "Hey I am your best friend” I’ve passed this book along to a lot of people.

I’m not crazy, I just lost my glasses.

I vaguely remember reading a copy of this book, I thought when I was in high school but it came out the year I graduated so it may have been in college. This is a series of photos of people living with chronic mental illness. Shavelson interviewed them at length and then worked with the subjects to compress the interviews into short essays and then take a photo with the subject’s input. The result is a very poignant look at the wide range of ways people with serious mental illnesses experience the world. Some of this subjects are doing well and others not so well, but Shavelson imbues them all with a very human dignity, a sort of “This could be any one of us” that makes the storylines compelling.

Hidden History of Vermont

I love how even though I have been living here and collecting trivia here for over twenty years, there is still a lot to learn about this state. Bushnell is a journalist who has put together some interesting essays focusing on weird little aspects of the state. Did you know Vermont has a state terrestrial fossil AND a state aquatic fossil? I did not! The book is split into sections, some of which I knew more about (Vermont’s spiritualist history) and some I knew less about. An enchanting quick read for anyone who loves Vermontiana.

The English Girl

These get harder and harder to differentiate. I first got introduced to Silva via The English Spy (coming up, same orange cover) and so I got confused. This is a more classic Silva novel. An interesting disappearance, some intrigue. a few campaigns to sort things out, but not a lot of political blabla and not a lot of sketchy torture stuff. I enjoyed seeing where this one went.

Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America

So poignant, this book about why we look at oral health as a separate thing from medical health and how that division (and where it may have come from) has seriously impacted America’s poor. Otto does a great job weaving a narrative out of something that is fairly difficult to read about, lots of people with very bad teeth and winds up both castigating the people who work against good oral health while at the same time trying to give optimistic suggestions for how we can get out of this mess. So much more interesting than I thought it was going to be.

Shirley Jackson’s "The Lottery": The Authorized Graphic Adaptation

This is an adaptation of Jackson’s original short story by her grandson, a graphic novelist with his own reputation and style. I liked his intro where he talked about what little he remembered about Jackson and what he was told about her by his family. I liked the stark adaptation since it seemed so familiar. After reading reviews, it was interesting to me that one of the main critiques was that this is nominally a story that resonates with people of all ages and yet this particular version, since it’s illustrated and includes a bathtub scene and some frontal nudity, can’t easily be used in schools. Which made me think all over about what is an isn’t allowed within societies and if maybe that was part of Hyman’s point.

The Fallen Angel

This one was a lot more procedural wonkish than many of the other books. It’s not One Big Job, it’s a lot of little jobs all sort of intermigled with some backstory tossed in. Not as dramatic but overall still enjoyable.

How About Never - Is Never Good for You?

Mankoff was a cartoonist or the guy in charge of cartoons at the New Yorker for 20 years and founded their amazing Cartoon Bank where you can look up any cartoon. this book, published a few years before he left The New Yorker, is his story, both biographical and also a look behind the scenes of a magazine a lot of us have read but may not know too much about. The book is full of cartoons, Makoff’s specific sense of humor, and a lot of interesting stories, especially about other cartoonists. I really enjoyed it.

Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks

I’m not quite Jennings-level fascinated with maps and geography stuff, but I enjoyed his level of passion for them and the humorous way he talked about it. I found myself nodding along when he talked about the Confluence Project, the highest points in all the states, or took us behind the scenes at the Geography Bee. Super fun for anyone who has read an atlas for fun.

Technically Wrong: Sexist Apps, Biased Algorithms, and Other Threats of Toxic Tech

SO MUCH NODDING. Sara has taken a topic that is near and dear to my heart and turned it into a well-researched explanation of why diversity matters, how algos are sexist and why anyone should care about any of this. She’s funny, personable and each chapter is a well crafted precis on a single topic looking closer at things like “the pipeline” or how an artificial intelligence could possibly be sexist. So good.

Portrait of a Spy

One of the more tradecraft-y books in this series. Allon has to get an heiress whose father he assassinated in front of her to become a partner in his plan to dismantle a terrorist organization. Some of it takes place in Dubai, which held my interest. Otherwise it was a good late night book but not super memorable.

The Road Taken: The History and Future of America’s Infrastructure

It’s a little tough to read anything that has bad news in it since in These Weird Times I sort of can’t handle bad news. That said I enjoy the way Petroski can be sort of straightforward about talking about things like the US’s crumbling infrastructure (roads and bridges mainly) and have some ideas of what we can do about it. I learned a lot of good road and highway history and trivia from this book which is a little more readable than some of his straight engineering titles.

The Book of Five Rings

I think I was looking for something a little more metaphorical but this book which outlines the principles of being a good swordfighter--written by Musashi in the 1650s--has a lot of good stuff to know in addition to, you know, learning to kill people with your sword. It’s also a lovely book and this re-issuing of it by Shambhala with translator notes by Wilson is an all-around interesting experience which is not just about learning swordfighting but also about learning how to take a scroll from the 1650s and turn it into a book in the 21st century.

The Rembrandt Affair

Motoring through these. I liked this book which was a little more art-y and a little less torture-y and talked a bit about what happened to the possessions of the Jews after the Holocaust

This Is Just My Face: Try Not to Stare

Loved this! Sidibe has a sense of humor and has had a really interesting life before and during her celebrityhood. And she gets into it, from her parents odd relationship to her phone sex work right up until she got cast in Precious. I enjoyed her sense of humor and her positive take on what sounds like a lot of difficult stuff.

Dark Matter

So weirdly complex and good! I rarely read thrillers that don’t feel somehow like they’re specifically making up a scenario to be as stressful as possible. This odd science-y tale about a guy who sort of figures out how to move around in time--or does he?--scratched an itch for a good “What the heck is happening here?” story that wasn’t also coy or frustrating. Sort of like the way watching Orphan Black took you along with it, giving you enough information to remain involved but not so much that you got bored. Do not want to give a lot away here but I really enjoyed the two nights I read this.

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 Defector

Silva seems to write one book that is two books long and then splits them into separate books. This is the second part of the last book, basically going back to get the bad guy who escaped in the previous book. And... I am starting to feel the strong pull of the formula that Silva uses. A big failed project that should have worked except for that one thing and then the assassin goes in and shoots the guy in the head. Weirdly unsatisfying but I keep reading them.

Norse Mythology

Definitely a theme this year. This book was a retelling of some of the Norse myths using more contemporary language and concepts but the same old characters. Think Thor, as told by Neil Gaiman. Because really, if you’ve seen the movies it can be difficult to not thing of Hiddleston and Hemsworth as you read these tales. I enjoyed this. I like Gaiman’s writing but not always his plot choices so this was a perfect mix.

Judaism: A Very Short Introduction

I liked this one a bit better than the Hinduism one because I felt I had more hooks to hang concepts on to. Also, and I might be wrong about this, the book seemed to be written by the practitioner of the religion. I enjoy these short intros to topics that I’ve always wondered “Do I know the basics about this?”

The Most Perfect Thing: Inside (and Outside) a Bird’s Egg

I picked up this book because I heard a bit of trivia about it on a podcast. Did you know that eggs grow inside a bird the opposite way, in many species, from the way they come out? Truth! And no one is quite sure why, but they rotate right before they are laid. I learned that any many other fascinating things in this book which is written by a bird biologist, Birkhead, who just happens to also have a good sense of humor. Took a long time to read since it’s not all the time you’re looking for a good nature book about how eggshells get made, but when that is what you are looking for, no other thing will do.

Moscow Rules

Yay more painting and a little less Holocaust. Enjoyed this look into Russian arms dealing with a little bit of French Riviera tossed in for good measure.

From Here to Eternity

I made my library get me this from ILL. I loved Doughty’s older book and I follow her on Twitter and other places so I was stoked that not only had she come out with a new book but it was popular! Good news for people who feel that “death topics” for lack of a better work, should get more time in the sun. This book was particularly timely because 1. I had just seen Coco and 2. My mom died last year and even though things went as well as they could, it’s always good to hear from other people about stuff worth avoiding and say “Yay we avoided that” Doughty does have strong feelings about the death industry and she’s not shy about expressing them. She is also funny and not in a weird sarcastic way (Mary Roach comes to mind) but in a hip “You get the joke, right?” sort of way. I enjoyed getting to travel along with her as she examined how other cultures deal with death.

Hinduism: A Very Short Introduction

I am really trying to work on my understanding of multicultural issues and picked this up at the local library. No one had checked out the book since 2007. I enjoyed it. It’s tough for me to keep track of a lot of the names, and easier for me to get a handle on the chapters which deal with things I already have a bit of a backgrounder with--yoga, women’s rights, untouchables. The book is filled with information and while I enjoyed reading it, its near constant use of sidebar material made it hard to follow the threads of chapters. I’m going to read another one in the series, on Judaism, and see if I have the same issues.

The Secret Servant

I have to admit, these books blur together for me a little bit. This one is more of a kidnaping story with the same ending where they sort of blow the main thing they are supposed to do and then Allon goes in and bats cleanup to “finish the job” This book could have taken a really dark turn and I am sort of happy it didn’t.

Klezmer: Tales of the Wild East

Finished this book right after New Year’s Eve. I’ve been reading a lot more Judaica lately and enjoyed this look into what exactly klezmer music IS, as told through a story of a bunch of random musiciains who find each other. Great story with a lot of interesting facts and extra details there at the end. Apparently this is just book one so I need to go find book two!