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Such a great creepy book. In this installment we learn more about the organization which has been sending expeditions into Area X. It’s definitely a lot more of a weird bureaucracy procedural than the previous book but I still found weird little bits that I enjoyed.

The Infinite Blacktop

I loved this series so much! This book doesn’t tie everything up but it ties a lot of stuff up. All three of these Claire DeWitt books are a refreshing change of pace from usual hard-boiled detective tropes. The female detective is both terrific but also deeply flawed and, while she does have a fair amount of sex, is not a femme fatale. I appreciated her and her variable morality and her blind spots as well as her strengths in detection. Sorry there are not more of these, I thought they were terrific.


Apparently “weird fiction” is a thing. I loved this first-in-a-trilogy book about a spooky area in the US and the people who are part of an expedition to find out more about it. Except it’s not that simple, the leader of the group is some sort of control freak, one of the members had a husband who was (sort of) killed in a previous expedition, and everyone’s a little strange. It’s a lot of “show me don’t tell me” exposition which I appreciated. Looking forward to the other two novels.

Claire DeWitt and the Bohemian Highway

Another great book in the Claire DeWitt series, this one with more backstory and nested cases within cases. You learn more about Claire, more about how she operates and more about what makes her both a brilliant detective and a hot mess. In this book she’s dealing with her own grief as well as trying to solve mysteries past and present. It’s a lot and takes its toll on her.

Left in the Wind: A Novel of the Lost Colony

I thought I was getting a historical novelization of the lost colony of Roanoke. What I was actually getting was a tale of a ribald wet nurse who fucks her way to the new colonies (written by a man). Not my thing.

Eat the Document

Loved and did not love this book which has two timelines, one from the past and one from almost-now. This is a story that is fiction but it’s clearly getting a LOT of the information in it from real-life things. A group of radicals in the 60s bombs a house where someone is killed and they go underground. That is one story. The two people who went underground (you figure out later this is who they are) are now living near each other, unbeknownst to them, in Seattle in the 90s. Which was weird for me because *I* was in Seattle in the 90s and so much of this both rang true and also didn’t feel like fiction. I made the mistake of reading others' reviews before writing my own and I have to agree that there was a lot to like about this book but keeping the big reveal (what they actually DID back in the 60s) until the last few pages felt a little constructed. I wanted to know more, sooner, I felt a lot of the people had a lack of agency and vagued their way into things. I think this was good and I’d recommend it to people but I might also warn them about some of it.

Uncanny Valley: A memoir

A poignant look at being a woman in tech in the Bay Area pretty darned recently. The parts of this book which were the hardest for me were the parts that were SO TRUE (Wiener worked at one of the same companies that I did, while I was working there during a brief and deeply unpleasant time). She has a great voice and came to the Bay Area from the East Coast and so isn’t really a West Coast native who just vagues her way into things.

Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead

I read another mystery book where the protagonist had a bit of a mental health issue and did not like it, strongly. This one is somehow different, better written, more diverse with a lot more empathy to more of the characters. It’s a weird complicated story, trying to solve a murder or a disappearance which may or may not have happened during Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. It was a romp, it was well done and I loved it.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January

So good and not just because a lot of it takes place in Vermont. This is a fantasy story but only sort of. The basic conceit" what if there were doors to other worlds that you could get to but they were hard to find. What if some people wanted them closed? What if other people wanted them open? How could you move among and between them? There’s a LOT going on in this story which mostly happens through the eyes of a young, female protagonist. A nicely complex story that nonetheless both wraps up and leaves a door open for more story to come.

Await Your Reply

This was fun and complicated, a lot to take in regarding mental health, identity and what it means to be “who you are.” Psychological semi-mystery that leaves you looking for clues and retracing steps at the end. You’re never sure how the various characters are going to intersect and once you find out, it’s surprising. Compelling.

Bitcoin Billionaires: A True Story of Genius, Betrayal, and Redemption

Did not like this. This is the guy who wrote the Social Network and also the book about the MIT kids who made a ton of money playing blackjack. This is about the unlikable Winklevoss twins and unlikeble bitcoin and I did not care for it.

Red Moon

I like how Robinson can write stories with science angles that aren’t all nitpicky details about made-up machines and actually looks at human relationships as part of these systems. He’s hit or miss with me sometimes, but this one was terrific. A lot of palace intrigue type stuff but a heroine who is female and pregnant and not menaced which was itself a grand achievement.

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

This book combined two of my interests: packhorse librarians, and the Blue Fugates of Kentucky. Good. Stressful. Lots of rural small mindedness. A little too much of a foreshadowed romance which I felt sort of brought the whole thing into a less-interesting place. Best part was the author’s notes at the end where you can learn about why she chose these particular topics. Of particular note, the cover (which was how I decided to pick up this book) features a white woman’s hands; the main character in this book isn’t really white (which is part of the whole point). I found that one single bit obnoxious, but blame the marketers and not the author.

Glastenbury, the history of a Vermont ghost town

Glastenbury is one of the five unincorporated towns in Vermont but it used to have people living in it, and a railcar that went there. Resch does some excellent digging to come up with photos and stories and histories of the people who live(d) in the town and what made it work for them and what happened to the structures and stories that made the place up. A great little history.

The Family That Couldn’t Sleep: A Medical Mystery

I really like medical mysteries and stories of medical deduction and this one was great. The general topic is the history of how we learned about prion diseases but it goes over a lot of different stories including a family in Italy who seems to have a bizarre hereditary disease and tribespeople in New Guinea who were thought to be cannibals and have gotten a mysterious disease from that practice. And then the author has his own disease that he briefly mentions in the course of talking about this disease which humanizes the whole thing. I really enjoyed this book, even with its creepy cover.

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union

This book has been on my to-read list for along time and I’m not sure what took me so long. This slightly complex alternate history which winds up with a Jewish enclave in Sitka Alaska made me realize just now non-Jewish so much of my reading is. There’s a lot of tossed-in Yiddishisms and a lot of recognizable characters in this gorgeously-written tale which is a little bit of a mystery but mostly just a story about chess and family and making up for regrets.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

Eleanor is weird and you don’t know why. She has a job and an apartment and a life but just barely. She has a sense of humor. This book follows her as she gets a little less weird and learns things about the world. I really enjoyed the narrator’s voice in this one, appreciated some of her routine-based rigidity and her matter of fact way of talking about a lot of it. Didn’t much care for the big reveal at the end and was super curious about the author’s personal backstory. Very good for a book I’d just randomly picked off of the library shelves.

Murder on Lexington Avenue

This was a period piece mystery that a friend handed to me. It was clearly partway along in a series because there were a lot of “knowing looks” passing between a few of the characters. I enjoyed seeing a slice of NYC right in the cusp of cars and electricity where, again, a lot of your life’s situation depended on your status. This book had the added commentary of the status of Deaf people in the world, were they learning ASL or lip reading? Not something I’ll probably go back to but a competent mystery if a little overwrought at times.

Frenemy Nations: Love and Hate Between Neighbo(u)ring States

Such a great exploration at how two places can be right next to each other geographically, but worlds apart. I picked it up for the NH/VT chapter, but enjoyed DR/Haiti, Algeria/Tunisia and Scotland/Ireland. There’s a personal story interwoven about how Soderstrom left the US to move to Canada and observed the differences. She’s been to many if not all of the countries she talks about. Good info, well-explained.

Altered Carbon

A great novel with the scifi premise "What would happen if you could put your consciousness in other bodies and an entire economy built up around that? Some of the results are cool, some of them are gross, many are in-between. A lot of it depends on who you are or what your status is. I enjoyed this because it’s a romp and I bet it makes for good television. I didn’t enjoy it because in some places it seemed gratuitously gruesome and was haunting. Will probably try to read the next one.


Another memoir of Telegmeier’s growing up. This one about her anxiety disorder that manifests itself as eating/digestive issues. This is all about how she and her family tracked down and diagnosed her issues and partly about going to therapy. Her growing up in California with her parents' slightly non-normative lifestyle (all three kids shared a bedroom until Telegmeier was in her teens) and her extended family all play into this. Tense at times but some nice lessons learned (about school, about family, about growing up) and wraps up well with some words from modern-day Telegmeier.

In Waves

A super poignant and sad memoir about a young woman and the boy who adored her. She learned to surf and this story is partly about the history of surfing and partly about her eventual death (spoiler!!) from cancer. I was not expecting a cancer story and I was expecting a surfing story so I was a little surprised at the direction this took but it was a well-told and really great story nonetheless.

White Bird: A Wonder Story

Other than the fact that this didn’t look like a WWII/Nazi book when I picked it up, I liked this. It takes someone who is a sort of side character in the Wonder world and explains a little bit about the history of that person and their family. Ultimately, this is a story about a Jewish girl in WWII who has to hide out in a barn for a really long time to escape the Nazis. There’s a lot more to it than that, but it definitely is worth reading, though a little graphic at times.

The Future of Another Timeline

A fun time travel romp with the central conceit being “Hey if you could go back in time to right some historical wrongs, but on a more subtle level than killing Hitler, what would you do?” This is a feminist tale through and through and while there is time travel with restrictions, explaining how it works is not what this book is about. Soft science and heavy history (you’ll notice favorite feminist icons along the way) with a little bit of graphic assault, in case that’s something you’re concerned about.


Another great ARC from Offill. Had echoes of Barthelme but in a thoroughly modern context including a lot of post-election dread, caring for mentally ill family members and a feminist viewpoint. Not a ton of words but every one counts. I really like Offill’s voice and her sensitive treatment of complicated issues.

Bomber’s Moon

Thirty of these books! Even though there are some people who are killed in this one, there is a little less of the creepy terrify-and0torture aspects that have put me off some of the previous ones. I enjoyed this, we’re back with Joe Gunther and people are doing well and no major character dies or gets grievously injured.

Underland: A Deep Time Journey

This is the type of non-fiction I love to read. Very nature-bound, not so venerable as to be a little precious. Good stories, learning things I haven’t learned before and taking me places I haven’t been. I read this after getting Lost Words from a friend for my 50th and wanting to know more about Macfarlane who I know vaguely on Twitter. The book goes a lot of places that are hard to get to either because of geography (caves on the sea coast of Norway) or politics (the place they’re building to deposit Nuclear waste deeply underground). Macfarlane seems to show the proper reverence for these places and the people who inhabit the world around them. It was a joy to get to go to these places with him and I’ll definitely go check out his other works.

Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death

This book was just fine. A light mystery in a small town with a female heroine who is lumpy and not at all sure of herself. I enjoyed getting to know the quirky townspeople and I’ll probably read a few more of these. The only downside for me was that it’s from the 90s and there’s some pretty backwards stuff in terms of gender and race issues. Like even if you have a backwards townsperson, I don’t think you’d put semi-racist words in their mouth in a book in 2019? I found it took me out of the story somewhat and if it keeps up too much would probably turn me away from the series.


This was a gorgeous graphic novel which I picked off of the library shelves and I enjoyed looking at it but the storyline was way too dark and sadistic for me and I couldn’t keep up with it, too upsetting.

Waste Tide

So good and so terrible! A searing indictment of capitalism and a fascinating look into complex Chinese culture. And yet every female character was dead, dying, tortured or a 2d cutout. Did not know it was trending that way until I was too deep in to bail. Like literally most of the characters could be described as downtrodden, sure, but none of them get sadistically assaulted until halfway through the book. As someone who tries to avoid that sort of thing, I felt I was invested. And also, if I’m being honest, hoping for a redemption in this book which didn’t really happen.

Lurking: How a Person Became a User

I got an advanced readers copy of this book from Joanne and was happy to get it. I was also briefly interviewed for part of it. This is a story about how the old web, where we were just learning how to interact with one another, became the new web where everyone was trying to “sell our eyeballs” to people and just how much that changed the experience of interacting there. Joanne spent a lot of time online and talks about what she found there, both in the early web being a person interacting on Echo or Friendster, and today where she uses Twitter a little and basically ignores Facebook. It’s really nice to read an account of the early web which isn’t just about “The men who built it” There is some of that in this book but it’s useful. What’s more useful is how Joanne talks about the people she interacted with there, the friendships she made, the “there” that was there as a result of the way people had genuine interactions with one another, in a place that many people didn’t even see as real. She has a great way of evoking sense memories for things many of us have only experienced through typing and reading. And for someone who spent a lot of time in some of those same places (and also in other ones) there’s a very real feeling about that which is nice to read about, it feels like a very genuine reflection of how it felt to be there.

The Hearts of Horses

Such a great book about old timey (right around WWI) Oregon and a young woman who goes around offering to break horses for people. A lot of sense of place of the Pac NW which is one of the things Gloss does so well. I really enjoyed reading around with her main character and all the people she meets along the way. I’m not really a horse person, but you don’t have to be to enjoy reading this book. So many neat little local tidbits along with just trivia like “Well what would a farmer EAT back then, and where would they get it”

The Great American Dust Bowl

This is a great short graphic novel about the dust bowl which is a little odd in what it omits as well as what it includes. According to the sources in the back of the book, it got a lot of material from Egan’s book The Worst Hard Time. I read that book and I’m pretty sure at least oart of it was an indictment of farming practices (lots of land plowed under, in long straight rows) and that was not in this book and it was noticeable. Now it’s entirely possible the author knows better, but I was left confused at the omission. This is an exceptional graphic novel and does a great job at explaining in a really visceral way just why the Dust Bowl era was so difficult to deal with and why so many people left the Midwest during this period.

Binti: The Complete Trilogy

A great combination of inter-human and extra-human issues of assimilation and difference and a young female heroine of color who is up to grappling with it. There are a lot of parts of her young life in which she is told she must be a certain way or become a certain thing In some cases these choices are made for her. In some she has agency. Watching her figure out which is which is a fascinating process. I liked all of these different books (and the “bonus story” I guess, in the middle) but felt it was its strongest when she was learning about her talents and powers and skills, less interesting when it was just part of a big war of all against all sort of conflict. Having people of color, and especially women being the heros of their own story is just a great thing to read


A nice concise story about the complicated world of death, loss, the afterlife, and the current life we’re in. Relateable. Good teenage angsty story that winds up okay.

Fair Coin

One of those Monkey Paw, “careful what you wish for,” stories, in a YA vein. This was on the scifi shelf at the local college and it reads like a YA book but still interesting enough to be worth reading. There’s a coin, and maybe it grants wishes, but maybe it doesn’t. I read it feeling like it was a standalone and now, hey, there’s another one. OK I will probably read that one too. The author seems interesting and that was part of what drove me to read this.

City of Girls

I was looking for a long book that would hold my attention and this is one. It’s an interesting coming of age story that is all told in retrospective and I misread some earlier part of it and wound up reading some of it “wrong” (there’s a central issue about it being told to a woman whose father figures in the story and I thought it was about the wrong guy) which was amusing but gave it an odd flavor. In any case, this was fun, long and a very female centered book in mostly the good ways. I appreciated a fun coming-of-age non-romance that had a bit of snazz in it. I am glad I read this. Still haven’t read Eat Pray Love and don’t plan to.

The Ghost Clause

Picked it up because of a bookshelf on the cover (apparently not on the cover of another version which has a more Vermont-y farmhouse on it). I liked this simple story of an old house and the two couples that lived in it and the ins and outs of their relationships. I hadn’t read Norman before but I think I’ll try more of his books. This book definitely seems autobiographical in some ways but I don’t know enough about him to be sure of what is and what isn’t from his life. There are some real life people who inhabit this fictional tale, some of whom I know personally. It was neat to see them.

Best American Comics 2009

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

A Better Man

I was a little concerned when I started this that it was going to be a LOT about the flood that happens and not enough about the general central mystery. I was wrong. This is a nice complex story, just like all the others. Some drama about what is going on in the Surete, a mystery involving people in or near the local town, and some stuff about the town itself, especially Clara and what she is up to with her painting. It’s a little odd because they never once mention her dead husband Peter which I thought might be part of this. No one major dies but there are some big changes, as always, and we’ll see how that goes.

A Season on the Wind

A great book about birds to read when you’re outside on the porch looking at birds. I liked this book even though it didn’t cohere quite as much as his other book. It’s about migration but also about the love of bird watching and what bird advocacy looks like (there’s a subthread of activism against wind farms that are threatening a spring migration path). Kaufman just seems like a guy who loves birds and loves life and while there was a little too much bird description in this book for me (minor gripe but I skimmed some sections) his love of the whole bird thing is infectious.

Best American Comics 2008

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

The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet

This was a funny book and I’m not sure where I got it. A sort of illustrated journey by a child prodigy who winds up making an epic cross-country train journey to wind up at the Smithsonian in DC. He has a weird relationship with his family and sort of interacts with the world oddly. There’s a hint of the supernatural in here but not much. I read a review of this as I was reading it (I usually don’t) and people seemed to HATE the ending but I sort of liked it. Not a lot goes on in this book and there are a TON of little side notes and particularly illustrations. If this is your bag, this book has a lot of it, and it’s well-done. If you don’t care for that sort of thing, this is not the book for you.


Such a great collection of short stories! I love Gloss and was a little dismayed by Dazzle of Day because it just wasn’t my thing. This book is very much more my thing. Great stories with a wide range of sometimes-quirky people having feelings about a thing. At the same time, slow-paced and deliberate and full of that great “sense of place” that makes Gloss so good at what she does. And maybe a touch of otherworldliness, but not too much. Overall a delight and only sad that I finished it too soon.

Lint Boy

This book was actually sort of upsetting for what is, i am sure, supposed to be a tale about overcoming adversity. Lint Boy comes from the dryer and is captured by a mean sort of sadistic woman who tortures him and the other toys she finds, trying to make them prove they are alive. They plot an escape. I don’t know if it hit me in the feels for some particular reason or what, but I found the sad toys really difficult to deal with and interact with. Well done and well illustrated but maybe not for some kids


This graphic novel about a two-culture kid is two stories in one. One about a kid from Brooklyn trying to make sense of growing up with an absent (dead) soldier father, and one about the mythological history of Japan. They only sort of line up though you get what the author is after. I found some of the Japanese history stuff a little tough to follow, though still really interesting, but I mostly wanted to get back to the young boy and what his deal was. Not quite enough Tenuki, but is there ever?

Fish Girl

Not your usual mermaid story. This one is about a Coney Island style attraction where there’s a young girl mermaid and a guy who acts like he’s Neptune but maybe he isn’t. If you’ve read any of Wiesner’s other books, you’ll recognize his terrific style but the story by Donna Jo Napoli is what really makes it. Complicated, no lusty fisherman, just a young girl trying to figure out what her life is about with her octopus pal.

Landscapes of the Metropolis of Death: Reflections on Memory and Imagination

This is a slender book that is sort of about the death camps in Poland and sort of about how one who has been there, as the author was, thinks back on their time there. Kulka is a historian who is thinking, in this book, about his own history. It’s not the usual camp memoir talking about the unbelievable horrors people endured (though there is a small amount of that if it’s worth knowing about this book) but more about how he remembered what happened. What he learned about afterwards and how he managed his own feelings about these remembrances.

No Way Home, a Memoir of Life on the Run

A great and weird story, told in chapters that bounce around in the timeline, about a girl who has a father who is, we learn later, a drug smuggler. The family is on the run, at first together and then later apart. It’s told as a weird memoir and we learn early on that people turn out okay (they’re all still alive though the dad does go to jail for a time). Wetherall does a great job at really painting a picture of what it’s like to move around, to feel rootless, to get really attached to some things and totally not attached to others. To be really poor but also kinda rich in other ways. She does a great job of setting up the story and I’m glad I read this.

Fetch: How a Bad Dog Brought Me Home

This fell in my lap. A friend’s company publishes this book and he gave it to me. It’s great, instantly familiar since I was punk-scene-adjacent in about the same timeframe that Nicole was and a lot of the stuff seemed familiar. This story bounced around a little and the central piece is her relationship with her dog. The dog is a problem. The girl is a problem. They learn how to navigate the world together. I wish I knew more about some of the stories told in this book (the car accident, what was up with her parents, what was Tom’s deal) but it felt really real, like it was told the way it felt to her. The dog does die in the end, which I guess I should have expected but did not. But it wasn’t a terrible ending and you felt, a little bit, like this would give her a new chapter to do slightly different things with her life.

The New Girl

I definitely have the pattern to these down. You think there’s going to be some sort of action, there’s a lot of spycraft setting it up. Then the action happens and something goes wrong. Then there’s the makeup part of it. Then one of the people is captured. Then there’s a vengeance and/or a make-up part of it. I liuke these books, but this one had a dead kid in it which I like less well. I like the art restoration parts and this had none of that (though there is a painting part). Above all, though, this book talks about the various factions in the Middle East and there’s a lot of interplay between Saudi Arabian higher ups and Israeli higher ups (with Russian and British thrown in for good measure). Good reading, same as most of them.

Paper Machines

Got this book as a trade for doing some book reviewing for MIT Press which explains how I came to be reading what was basically someone’s PhD thesis on the history of card indexes (not quite card catalogs though they do show up). The author is from Vienna and it was fascinating to see an outsider’s view of Dewey, to see how some of his manias looked from outside the profession and outside the country. I learned a lot of stuff in this book, dense though it was, and grew to appreciate the author’s sense of humor, there is a lot of quirky and interesting wordplay in this book just in terms of what is a book, what is an index, what is a card, that sort of thing. I don’t read much academicky stuff lately and books like these make me think I should get back into it.

The Lost Gutenberg

This book wasn’t lost! Other than that, this was an interesting history of one of the 49 (48?) Gutenberg Bibles still in existence. Davis traces the history from the 1800s until today and digs up a lot of interesting information, especially about its last personal owner who was a wealthy woman who bequeathed it to a Catholic Seminary who eventually sold it (probably not in keeping with her wishes). Overall a nice sort of pop history of one of these books.

The New Kid

A really well done graphic novel about being the new kid in a school. But it’s more complicated than that. Jordan Banks is a Black student going to a fancy private school. So not only are some of the kids weird about his race (with sort of micro and macro-aggresions towards him and the other students of color) but also the teachers trot out a lot of the familiar tropes ("Why are you so angry?" etc). Craft does a really good job at teasing out the subtleties of many different types of intersections of race and class, so a lot of these interactions ring true.


The library where I am for the summer does not have a good graphic novel section. However I always check it. This time they had one book by Telgemeier that I hadn’t read before, Sisters. I have a pretty close relationship with my sister but I didn’t always. I thought I could relate to this book. I could not. I found their relationship sort of confusing and a bit of a conflict without resolution. At the end of the book (unless I missed something) we thought the parents might get divorced but we weren’t sure. There was a graphic novel device of having the flashbacks be sort of sepia toned that I found a little confusing. In the past I’ve found Telgemeier’s stuff pretty accessible so maybe this was just a miss for unrelated reasons, but I’ve really liked all the rest of her stuff.

The Dazzle of Day

A Quaker Spacer! This was an interesting book that rambled in sometimes good and sometimes less good ways. The characters are gentle and thoughtful, possibly too gentle. The book meanders. First we’re leaving earth, then we’re on a colony ship, and then we’re around a planet we might move to. And there’s a lot of thinking and you never stay with one character’s viewpoint (or even timeline) for very long. I liked some viewpoints more than others and was more interested in what was going on at some points than others. The writing is very good, but there’s almost no plot, even though some pretty monumentous things happen.

Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs

This book was really fun. I somehow missed that it was specifically for children when I requested it, but it’s enjoyable for all ages. Caitlin Doughty is a known quantity in the “people who write about death” space and I’d really enjoyed her two previous books. This one is even more delightful since she gets to be a little bit more humorous, plus the book has terrific illustrations which accentuated what she was talking about. Kids questions (from actual kids, she notes) range from “Can I get my hamster buried with me?” to “Why was grandma wrapped in plastic wrap under her shirt?” While the topics are tricky, Doughty is knowledgeable but also kind. Her jokes are never at the expense of people mourning a loved one or making fun of people’s beliefs or practices. This is a great educational and fun book and I’m happy I got a chance to see it early.

The Lost Words

I’m not sure if poetry is the right category for this collection of animals and plants and things in nature that are accompanies by poems that are guided by the letters of the things' names. This is a book that is part poetry, part nature appreciation and part illustrations that can not be beat. They all go together in a slim but oversized volume that makes you think about the things you used to pay more attention to in the natural world. Lovely and evocative.

Family Trees: A History of Genealogy in America

I got this book for free from the press after I’d done some galley reviewing for them. Took me a long time both to get to it to read, and also to read it. It’s a great book but a lot more academicky than I was expecting. I think I was expecting a lot more of a pop history of genealogy. Stuff like “looking things up on websites” which is a lot of how I do family research, was just the last few pages of the last chapter. What this book does talk about, however, is why genealogy became such a big deal in the United States and who was doing it. The author, who is French, spends a lot of time looking at what drove people to look up family information, what motivated them. In some cases this was straightforward goals like membership in societies or getting access to estates or pedigrees. In other cases it was more making sure the people in your background were the “right” sort of people. The author spends some time talking about the historical racism of the United States and how that played a part in a lot of this.


Another spacer with a diverse cast but this one was a little too over into the “complex cast” side for me. The title character is a woman of color who wants to be a spaceship engineer. She’s trained but she’s a “dirtheel” and has never actually been in the sky. She’s also managing chronic pain and a weird sister who is some sort of a new age therapist and a judgey pain in the ass. Lots of people die. There’s a poly lesbian romance. I totally appreciated what Koyanagi did with this book, but I found that reading about someone who was experiencing chronic pain was actually just too painful for me (and some of the mushy stuff just went on too long, this is my issue not an issue with the book). Great for most people, not the greatest for me.

All the Names They Used for God

Simply a great collection of short stories about all different things but one thing they seem to share is a sense of poignancy. Each story has some small element of magic, but not in a “watch me pull a rabbit out of a hat” way, but in a “What if mermaids were real?” way. I enjoyed every single story in this book and really look forward to reading more of whatever Sachdeva writes.

This Body’s Not Big Enough for Both of Us

I honestly have no idea why more people didn’t hate this book. It’s the story of a genetic chimera, a person who is “two people” inside one body. They are M/F. You’d think this might be interesting. I have been reading so much “conscious” scifi lately I forgot that a lot of it is trash. This has all these terrible tropes, no feminist sensibility and is too clever by half. I am sorry I finished it.

Al Jaffee’s Mad Life

This book was written before MAD’s demise. It mostly tells the story, illustrated by Jaffee, of Jaffee’s bizarre childhood. He was born in the US and then stolen back to where his family was from in Lithuania by his mother. She had some sort of mental illness and he and his brothers grew up being severely neglected. He came back to the US as a teen and always had an odd time being adjusted. This book is a lot more about him than it is about MAD, though people interested in the inside baseball of MAD will find stuff to occupy them in the last few chapters.


Not even sure how I found this book which is basically a “Grisham, but for political consultants who incidentally know how the internet works” It’s a sort of dystopian near future where we all have a feed that we can access which gives us information, news, friends communications etc. But what if the feed could be hacked? What sort of power would that give you, and not give you? The book is a little plodding, definitely written in a fast-thriller sort of way, but I stayed interested and I’ll be sure to read the next one.

The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell

I was happily surprised to see this at my local library. I’ve enjoyed seeing Kamau’s work but to me he just sort of showed up one day and was all there, a professional comedy guy. This book talks a lot about how he got to where he is and the things he learned along the way. It’s neat because while the Kamau of today is really socially aware and responsible, he wasn’t always this way. Listening to him navigating some of the difficult aspects of learning how to be an intersectional and aware cultural commentator was really fascinating to me.

Exhalation: Stories

SO GOOD. I really enjoy Chiang’s forays into “What if things were almost the same but a little different, how would we be humans?” Surprisingly (to me) the title story was one of my least favorite of the bunch. The one that stuck with me the most was about people who create virtual pets with AI that live in a virtual world, and how they deal with that worl’d changing and shifting, and their pets' increasing consciousness. Favorite part was that there’s a little part in the end where Chiang explains what inspired him to write that story, or something else about it. Some of these ideas are, for lack of a better word, weird, and so it was really interesting to hear how he got from these odd ideas to these full-fledged stories.

Quantum Astrologer’s Handbook

This is nominally a book about Jerome Cardano but also winds up being a bit about quantum physics because Brooks is a physicist in addition to be an author. I really enjoyed another book he wrote, 13 Things That Don’t Make Sense. This book is a little more of a meander. It was great to learn about Cardano but Brooks is also in this book! Which was for a reason but it made the book a little weird, and not entirely non-fiction which is always a tough sell for me. Nonetheless I enjoyed it and learned things but might have liked it more without that conceit.


I know there are sci fi books that are more complicated than this one, but this one hits about the edge of my complexity-meter where it’s worth trying to puzzle it out, but not so hard that I feel stupid and confused all the time. Like his last book, Crouch is taking on themes of multiple timelines. In this case a person building a device that allows you to... sort of... go back in time. Intended as a device to help her mother avoid the terrible downsides of Alzheimers, it instead turns into a whole bunch of new terriblenesses and is deals with the implications of all the other people whose timelines are affected, and who aren’t quite sure what is happening. Interesting to read and the main characters are likeable and make human decisions, errors and choices.

The Library of Lost and Found

On the new shelf at the library. A sweet not-too-complicated book about a librarian who finds a secret in a book that reveals something about her family. You think it’s going to go one way and then it goes... a slightly different way. I enjoyed it, was a light summer read. Relatable librarian.

The Prodigal Tongue: The Love-Hate Relationship Between American and British English

Reports that American English are ruining English English have been greatly exaggerated. This fun and informative look at the differences between the two languages (and the hows and the whys behind how they came to be thought of as so very different) is the subject of this book by American-born UK-living linguist Lynne Murphy. She does the research and looks into the claims and concludes that, hey, both languages are good and bad in different ways but it’s certainly not true that American changes to the English language are in any way the only negative influence on how people speak today.

A Memory Called Empire

Since I’m done with The Expanse I really wanted more “epic spacers” This is a good book that has a lot to do with... alien diplomacy for lack of a better world. A woman come to the new planet where she is to be ambassador only to find that her previous ambassador has likely been murdered. And there’s a succession battle happening on the planet. And she gets caught in the middle of all the drama. A very good and readable book but I wanted a little more in the human relations category and a little less of the “palace intrigue” variety. Enjoyed it but won’t be picking up the sequel.

When You Are Engulfed in Flames

Sedaris is a writer I’m glad I didn’t try and discard earlier in my life because I think I can find him and his “secretly I am kind of a bad person” humor a lot more relate=able at my age than I would have earlier. This is another collection of his, the best essay is probably the laste one which is all about him trying to quit smoking and learn Japanese. But there is another one which is about his relationship with a terrible neighbor which also just hit me in all the feels. Not all humor, exactly, but you can manage to see the bright sides of some of these interactions. Less family stuff, more husband stuff, a medium amount of France, a small amount of body horror. Enjoyable.

Communes and the Green Vision

I really really like books about alternative lifestyles and yet I could not do a thing with this.


Picked this up at a library booksale and was looking forward to it since I like Alvarez’s work. It started out difficult “This woman sounds weird and I totally get why her sisters dislike her...” but then it got deep and complex and I was totally sucked in and won over by the end of it. Not necessary to read the other book before this one, but it can help.

The Bookshop of Yesterdays

Books on the cover! Expected to like this book more, a story about a woman who inherits a bookstore and there are a series of clues left by her deceased relative that give her clues about her life. While I did appreciate the satisfying (if pat) ending, I found a lot of times the characters were doing things that, to me, did not make sense. There’s a lot of drama, a lot of “things seem to be going fine and then one person flips out” interactions. Two-dimensional characters, including the main ones, led me to believe that maybe there was something deeper going on but no, the people were just two-dimensional. Plus there’s a librarian who does offer some good information but is basically shown as a woman reading at her desk. What? There were a lot of odd plot holes (man died and headstone is all there and carved in three days, impossible!) that just took me out of the story. I did read it til the end, but would probably not recommend it to anyone.

Andre the Giant: Life and Legend

Box Brown’s style is sort of not my thing. I was concerned, when I read the Tetris book that he did, that maybe it was just a dull story but he also took Andre the Giant’s life and flattened it in a way that i think would really resonate for some people but didn’t quite work for me.

Your Black Friend and Other Strangers

More of this! Jim brought this from home because he thought I’d like it. The opening essay int his short graphic novel is all about why people should become anarchist. Which is, honestly, not a lesson I needed but I’m always interested in what brings OTHER people into deciding that. Passmore explores how various social identities (chosen and not chosen) can intersect or overlap. In particular looking at how progressive white people do and do not handle their shit with regards to race. His opening title story is the most “accessible” but there’s a lot of other weird and great stuff in here, some of it a lot more abstract. It’s rare that i find something that falls into the weird comix genre that I feel I can relate to or that seems meaningful but this was one of those.

Moon of the Crusted Snow

I think I had stayed away from this book when I first saw it because the pickup truck in the snow on the cover reminded me of some spooky movie I hadn’t wanted to watch. I am sorry I stayed away from this book, it was great. A maybe-post-apocalyptic tale of a First Nations band and their reservation settlement, trying to come to grips with what might be happening the rest of the world. There’s some old ways/new ways clashing and it’s interesting watching how different characters try to work things out. It has a gentleness to it, despite the subject matter and I will try to track down Rice’s other story collection.


I think I am all done with this series published so far and I have enjoyed them all quite a lot. Sort of “gentle” graphic novels about middle school and all the new stuff that you deal with when you are a kid. This one is about a character who is awkward and tries to do the right thing. Ultimately works out.

Tiamat’s Wrath

Another series I am caught up in. There is one more book coming but maybe not until 2020. I was so happy to see this gang of misfits wind up (mostly) back together again at the end of this, it made this book a little more satisfying than the others, even though there is, as always, a lot of loss and sorrow and “WTF is going to happen NOW?” feeling about it. Looking forward to seeing how, or if, it wraps up.


Captivating story of shore dwellers in medieval Japan who rely on the surplus from shipwrecks to keep from starving to death. It’s so gritty, everything matters so much, from learning to fish to how the weather is that year. The villagers are alternately incredibly hard working and also superstitious. As you get drawn more into the story you realize that things are even a little grimmer than you even thought. And it’s all told through the eyes of a 9-11 year old boy. A tough tale but a great story.


Was surprised that this book was only a year old because the copy at our library is SO WORN but I think that just points to what a great book it is. This one is in the series along with Brave (which I also enjoyed) and is about the quiet jock type kid, Jorge, having a crush on Jasmine, the drama kid who is a good friend of his good friend. It’s nice to read books about awkward adolescence where the central characters have a strong bond and it’s not all backstabbing and where the system actually WORKS. I know it’s not true for everyone and some may not like this for that specific reason, but it reads true in a lot of ways and, like Chmakova’s other book, the illustrations are really terrific and just add to the story.

Hey, Kiddo

Krosoczka was raised by his grandparents because his mom was a heroin addict. This graphic novel talks about what that was like all the way from when he was a baby, through his adolescence and into his teenaged years. Spoiler alert: he turns out okay but it was difficult and part of the issue was just how much he didn’t know and how it was sort of hard to find out. This book poked me in a lot of the feels because I had a parents with a problem (different than Krosoczka) and I could relate to some of the same weirdnesses that he relates to. Also he’s about my age, a little younger, and grew up in the same slices of Massachusetts that I did so there were a lot of familiar places.

Ruined by Design: How Designers Destroyed the World, and What We Can Do to Fix It

This book is fierce. It starts off explaining what is wrong with the way a lot of the web, particularly the social web, is designed nowadays and winds up arguing for more regulation (or professional standards) for the design industry. I always enjoy people who are good at taking apart just WHY something is bad, especially if they do it with love and/or caring which indicates that they’re not just cranky oldsters. Monteiro has been a voice in the online community of designers since... ever? And he’s mad. Which is not new, but him channeling that anger into explaining to newer designers exactly how their moral compass should operate is a new angle from my perspective. Shove this into the hands of any UX person you know. It’s so good.

Persepolis Rising

First book in this series where I am like “Wow this is really going to wrap up, isn’t it?” Our heroes are older, creaky and having some attitude issues that come along with those things. And a dictator is coming to power... maybe. There’s a lot going on and for the first time our folks don’t all wind up in the same place. If you like the first six books, you will also like this one.

Babylon’s Ashes

I was pleased with my capsule Twitter review of this one: Am detecting loose theme. Stage setting, team building, new backstory to a central character, oops, something got fucked, let’s call in reluctant James Holden, wow it’s even more fucked than we thought, how will they make it out, they made it, denouement. In short this book has a little less of a “Everyone is nearly dead” ending and more of a “there is a terrible threat they need to neutralize” aspect. In any case, one of the ones I liked the most. Complicated family stuff going on.

Dare to Sketch: A Guide to Drawing on the Go

This is a book about sketching that also has a lot of sketches in it. I appreciated a lot of tips by Scheinberger on how to do this sort of thing right, or well, or the way you want. I am not a sketcher but it’s always been one of those topics where I think I MIGHT and this book makes it seem more likely that I could.

The Library Book

Oh this book! Saw it on a table during National Library Week and had to have it. I’d heard about it and wasn’t sure there would be anything in it for me... don’t I know all the librarian stories? I DO NOT. This was a great tale of the fire that gutted LAPL but also a history of the library itself, all lovingly told by Orlean who loves libraries. I enjoyed every minute I got to hold this book which was itself a nice work of art, great attention to detail spent on the binding, end pages and everything else. Made me want to go look things up. Such a great book. Best of this year.

Granite and Cedar: The People And The Land Of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom

This is a book of photographs that has a story by Howard Frank Mosher running through it. I say that even as I feel it’s sort of a Howard Frank Mosher story that is illustrated with photos. But the pictures came first, hardscrabble Vermonters living way up north, looking into the camera from decades ago. And a story about a few things that happened when the highway went through, Fiction, but not that different from reality. I’ve missed Mosher since he died and it was great to find a little slice of him here.

Nemesis Games

I went through this whole book thinking the title (which is just grey on black in my Kindle Keyboard edition) was Nemesis GATES which made more sense for this story of, in a lot of ways, the end of the world. Our heroes are split up for a lot of this and terrible things are happening everywhere. While it’s not quite so much of a slog as the gradual worsening of the last book, there is a lot of terrible stuff happening and you learn a lot more backstory for one of the characters. Still enjoyable. I feel like I’ve read a lot this month.

Cibola Burn

Each of these books seems to get a little more intense and I keep thinking “There is no way they are going to make it out of THIS” but they seem to. This is another interesting story of planet colonization (one of my faves) with the wrinkle this time that there are competing colonizers: one group of scrubby colonists and one giant megacorporation with a bit of an army. And then things go wrong. We see a few characters from previous books and there’s a whole lot of activity and action. I enjoyed it but it was nailbiting at the end.

The Big Burn

I loved Egan’s book about the Dust Bowl and I loved this lone only a little less because it seemed a little more like one of those giant New Yorker pieces that got fleshed out into a book. The central story is the fire but also how the US got to that point (a giant swath of timber, overseen by very few poorly funded people). And there’s a LOT of how they got to that point, maybe too much I enjoyed learning about Teddy Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot and how they set up national forests but I spent a lot of time wondering how it was going to connect to the larger story. And maybe selfishly I was hoping for more pictures? In any case, this story was still great but a little longer with a little less fire story to it than I was hoping for.


I try to read every thick graphic novel my library gets. Enjoyed this one which was a tough look at middle school bullying with a sympathetic (though spacey and very relateable) main character who has trouble coming to terms with his own bullying. A lot going on in this book including the fact that many bullies are battling their own demon, and a lot of school nonsense (dress codes, censoring the school paper, cliques and mercurial friendships). Very well done with a wide range of characters.

Abaddon’s Gate

Continuing to enjoy this series. This one gets a little weird (for me) with the injection of religion and a bit too much (again, for me) ruminating of the nature of evil and forgiveness and whatever. The rest of it continues to deliver although I can sort of see the writing on the wall, people you know and like in the series are going to die and get ready for it. Looking forward to see what happens next.

Golden State

Easier to read than Underground Airlines which was a worthwhile book but this one seems a bit more ... for me? Near future dystopian novel where we’ve forgotten our past. Or... these people did and now the penalties for lying are stiffer than the penalties for doing actually bad things. And everyone is spied on at all times and record keeping is NUTS. As you may imagine, interesting roles for librarians here. I loved this story but the framing of it (confused a little as to who the narrator was in the very beginning who set the whole thing in a sort of “this is our origin story” sort of setting) but nonetheless, great and fun in a Dickian way without being by Dick.

Arabella of Mars

Picked up this book at the college library and couldn’t figure out of it was for adults or teens. Turns out a lot of people had the same question so I feel a bit better bout my confusion. this is an odd Regency/Steampunk mashup in a world where Mars is colonized but people still take horse drawn carriages. I’ve been reading so much hard science lately that my disbelief suspension was pretty difficult. It’s got an engaging plot and I was carried around by the story, but it’s confusing for people who really like scifi (they have ships... that go to Mars... sort of...) and I wonder if it would be a little confusing for people just looking for a YA romp. And, spoiler alert, it ends with a wedding proposal which... bleh. I enjoyed this well enough but probably won’t seek out the sequels.

Two Lives

I met Reeve Lindbergh briefly when I was at a library event in a town near her and was taken by how she managed to be charming in the face of what I’m sure must have been yet another public appearance in a life totally chock full of them. This memoir is about that, leading her relatively calm and simple life in Vermont but also being the person more or less in charge of her parents' legacy and all that entails. I enjoyed reading along with her stories of day to day life that was a lot like mine and also the parts of her life that were not at all like mine.

Monster: A Graphic Novel

Sometimes my little clunky book software doesn’t do my reading justice. In this case, this book was Sims' adaptation of Walter Dean Myers' book that was illustrated by Dawud Anyabwil. My metadata, it is terrible. I liked this book but I think it was sort of not aimed at me. It’s about a kid who is getting in trouble for maybe being involved in a crime and looking at the different parts of that situation (jail, court, family, school, future, past etc) I had a slightly hard time understanding it but this was taking a book and turning it into a graphic novel so I appreciate that there may have been a lot getting smushed in there. Above all, the illustrator’s style stands out. It’s great, evocative and really helps propel the story along. You can get a sense of this literally just looking at the over. There’s a stylized-for-effect sense to all of it.

Exit Strategy

I am sad to be at the end of these they were all fun and this one tied up the current set of novellas with a satisfying “for now” ending.

Be Prepared

Being an out of place nerd is difficult if your family is from someplace odd and you don’t have a lot of money. What would make it better? Camp! With people like you! But of course the main character in this mostly-autobiographical tale finds out that people can be terrible anyhow. There’s some redemption here and as someone who never went to camp, I read along with interest. Sometimes it’s great to think “Man I’m glad I’m not a kid again.”

Upgrade Soul

What a weird and complex and lovely graphic novel following the path of two older folks who decide to undergo some radical new treatment to.... do something and it doesn’t turn out like they expect. And it gets weird. And creepy. Mostly in good ways. The author really gets to explore a lot of issues (race, class, gender, disability culture) while all the while telling one story that is mostly a love story. Hard to put down, would love to see this made into a movie.

Rogue Protocol

More Murderbot! I think what had really been missing from my scifi reading lately was sarcasm and just wit generally. Everything was so serious, all these little colonies, hoping people will live, watching as things tear them apart. This and that giant war fighting conflict blabity bla. These stories are short and, in an odd way, simple. There is a main character who you know and, if you are me, identify with, and they have adventures where things don’t go as planned. And then they end. And a new adventure starts in the next book. There’s something really calming about these stories. They are a little low affect which suits me fine. It’s a little weird to talk about how you identify with a Murderbot but hey, I like these books.

Assassination Vacation

I avoided reading Sarah Vowell forever mainly because I don’t really like/appreciate the humor of the general This American Life/Hodgman crowd that I felt she ran with.But this book, about touring all the places that were part of the first three presidential assassinations in the US, was a delight. She is funny, not too hipsterishly disaffected and has real joy (or non-joy) at all these little tidbits of what made America America back in the day. I liked it, was surprised I liked it, will try to find other books she’s written and maybe get over myself.

Artificial Condition

More Murderbot! I’d been slogging through a bunch of scifi lately wondering if i was just over it but it turns out I was just reading the wrong scifi. This story was fun, different from the first and made me want to read the third. Nice to be excited about scifi again.

River Notes: The Dance of the Herons

This book hit me right in the feels. A bunch of short little stories that read more like poetry about humans and their relationship to nature, the natural world, and rivers in specific. A very Pacific Northwest feeling book and it made me miss my days in Seattle and want to read a lot more of what Lopez has written.

All Systems Red

Librarian friend on Twitter told me to read this and I’m so glad he did. I felt like I was stuck in a web of sentient-life-form scifi books which I did not enjoy entirely and I kept wanting stuff more like... I wasn’t sure what. Single POV, preferably something robotic or human. Not a book I felt was smarter than me. With characters who weren’t too whiny. So this book, subtitled, The Murderbot Diaries #1, is a great book about a neurotic humanoid robot and how they became, sort of, free. And it’s all one POV the whole way through, and the books have some humor but not tons of it. And the socially anxious robot feels, to me, like a totally normal character who I enjoyed tromping along with. Hooray for this book, so glad I read it.

The City in the Middle of the Night

I loved Anders last book but this one was a little difficult. It starts out basically telling you some stuff about a particular planet, one that is “tidally locked” (i.e. there is one light side and one dark side) that has been colonized by humans a long time ago. And then, in alternating chapters, it reveals more but not all about their story. There are a lot of mystery animals and everything has an ersatz feel to it. The central characters are two female pairs who have complex relationships. Both are fraught an involve a lot of back and forth, but one is broke and one is not. In that regard, I felt like I was reading a YA novel with all the “I love her but I can never see her again!!” dramaz. And then right near the end, a thing happens which wrecked it all for me, and then the story piddled out, clearly moving towards a sequel, which I will not read. Again, I think Anders is a great writer and the problem with this book lies to a large degree with me, but it definitely fizzled out for me.

The Secrets Between Us

I guess this was a sequel to another book and I think I came out ahead because by all accounts that book was a lot more difficult and challenging than this one. And I won’t lie, this one was pretty tough. A lot of extreme poverty in India of the sort I can only sort of wrap my head around. And, through it all, two women of varying class levels who find each other and help each other out all the while remaining guarded about some of the stuff in their lives. Really liked it. Was tough to take in places but always in service to the plot, did not feel gratuitous. And after a few evenings books that were a lot of space war stuff, it was nice to come back to earth.

Fiery Crosses In The Green Mountains: The Story Of The Ku Klux Klan In Vermont

This is an account of Ku Klux Klan activity in Vermont primarily during the Klan’s heyday in the mid 1920’s. It’s mainly put together from Newspaper accounts of Klan activity and also includes some creepy photographs. This book does a good job at outlining just how normalized the Klan was in some areas (Rutland in particular) during this time but how, despite some small pockets of Klan activity, the Klan didn’t really get as much of a foothold in Vermont as they did in New Hampshire or Maine. It’s also worth knowing that unlike White Supremacists who operate in New England nowadays, the Klan was xenophobic towards Catholic people as well as Jewish people and people of color (at the time primarily black people). This book’s cover has a creepy Klansman in front of a burning cross and so is a pretty difficult read in public.

Ancillary Justice

This was a hard one for me to get through. A little too many “weird” names and a little too many concepts that I wasn’t sure I was understanding. i feel like something was supposed to be understood about how the different cultures dealt with gender but I didn’t understand it and instead of it being freeing (hey you don’t know what gender any of the characters are!) I found it confusing. A good story told in my least favorite “alternating timelines where only one of them is truly interesting” format. A suggestion from an internet person, I think I’ll head back to the Expanse for when I need space war stuff.

Jell-O A Biography

This book was a gift and one I don’t think I would have picked up for myself but I enjoyed reading it, even if it was basically a marketing manual for Jell-O (they are super fussy about the spelling). It’s less of a biography and more of a cultural history of the product. Heavily illustrated. And dated. There’s a whole bit on Bill Cosby in there which was wincey to read. I’ve never been much of a jello person (and refuse to spell it in a way that is difficult to type) but I did like learning about the company and the weird ways the product split and un-split over the years. The author did a good job at making this more than a corporate hagiography.

Rolling Blackouts: Dispatches from Turkey, Syria, and Iraq

I had this on my table for literally months. I think I was afraid it was going to be a little graphic or grisly because it was about wartime, but it wasn’t like that at all. In a weird way it was a little dull. It was about a group of young journalists with a lot of money who toured the Middle East n search of a story. And they found, of course, that people’s stories are complicated. And their central story is about one of the friends, someone who joined the military, who travels with them. He feels good about his role in the war, being in the military, but his journalist friend feels he should’t... and that seems teo be the central conflict in the book. Glidden is clearly a talented artist and story teller, but I was only sort of into the story she was telling.

The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2018

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

Caliban’s War

I know there are a lot more of these and I am already concerned about when I am done with them. Epic space stories along the lines of Becky Chalmers (maybe not quite so evolved) where there is a lot of space stuff but also full realized female characters that aren’t all someone’s love interest. Lots going on in all of them and the second book was better than the first.

Tetris: The Games People Play

Got this from a friend whose Wikipedia page I helped with, so not something I would have maybe chosen on my own. Brown is clearly a real talent with a great style and every panel had things you love to look at But this story? About who owned the rights to Tetris? I both loved it for how nerdy it was but also it wasn’t MY nerdiness so sometimes it felt like a slog. And the truly amazing parts of it (all that flying around and communicating when that sort of communication was HARD, and the guy who murdered his family) were sort of downplayed. Brown pulls it off but I’m not sure if this is one of those graphic novels you want to show to people to show off the form An odd story and I learned some things.


Unlike the book I read before this one, this book is basically perfect. Chanani was born in India and came pretty quickly to the US and so this is a story about a girl who is wondering about where she’s from and wondering about her family. There is a magic shawl and it gives her some and not all of the answers. Chanani is a skillful artist and storyteller and I enjoyed even the difficult parts of this story and want to make sure it’s on everyone’s to-read lists.

The Silence of Our Friends

I’m sorry I missed this when it first came out but I guess my library didn’t carry it and I don’t have a lot of other graphic novel options here. This is a complicated story about the South, Texas specifically, and what it takes to deal with all the racism, institutional and otherwise, that just permeates the culture there. The title comes from an altercation on campus where the police basically open fire on black protestors while white onlookers, some of whom are friendly with the protestors, don’t really react. It winds up being okay in the story because there is a crucial aspect to their disinvolvement that solves some larger issues but it still made me feel weird as a sort of moral. In any case, well drawn and written, this is a great companion graphic novel to John Lewis’s March series.

What the Robin Knows: How Birds Reveal the Secrets of the Natural World

This book started out feeling a little woo because of the author’s description of his Native American friend and a few other things but I was won over. I enjoyed learning about the things you can learn from birds if you can take the time to sit and watch and listen over time.

The Witch Elm

This novel is a standalone and not part of the Dublin Murder books but I wasn’t sure that was the case until I was a bit of a ways into it. I liked this novel and it had a great “sense of place” with all the things going on around the sort of shared family homestead. At the same time, the main character gets a head injury not too far into the book and so getting most of the action described in this way can be a little confusing or stilted. Liked it but it didn’t pack quite the same punch as some of her others. I think the whodunit reveals at the end may have seemed a little foreshadowed.

Aviary Wonders Inc.

I had a very random walk to get to this book. I was doing Wikipedia work, noticed the author fo the book I was currently reading wasn’t in Wikipedia but she HAD won an award. Made a page for her, saw which other award winners wasn’t in there and found this author and book. This book is so simple and yet really complicated. Sammworth is an accomplished artist who works in paints and also printmaking. This short book is supposedly a bird catalog in the near future, so that you can have a cool bird in your home with the assumption that all the REAL cool birds are... gone. Thought provoking and also lovely to look at. So glad I found it.

Points North: Stories

This is a collection of Mosher stories finished a few months before his death. And with that context, there’s a certain extra poignancy in the wrapping up of some of the tales from Kingdom County that Mosher readers have come to expect. A few deaths, a few beginnings. Super readable but at the end of it, when you’re wanting more, like many of Mosher’s work, you know that there won’t be any more.

Harvard Square

One of the reviews I read for this book called it “sexually charged” and that was not my feeling at all. There is a lot of boy-girl relating and one of the guys is a bit of a boorish lothario but... eh? I grew up spending time in Harvard Square as a kid and then a 20-something so my opinions on this book may be sort of off from the mainstream people who are readers of Aciman. I liked the lead character but sort of hated his friend, the loudmouth guy at Cafe Algiers who was always harassing women. Of course that is not the perspective of this very male book so I felt like I was reading it from a very other perspective. Well-written, nostalgic, odd.

Leviathan Wakes

A suggestion from Twitter! This was suggested as a good book if I wanted to read more about people trying to communicate with AIs or maybe... “Other intelligence". This after maybe reading too much about sentient spiders in the other book. This one was much better. It had two storylines (that interwove) but both were good! And there is a lot going on. Good female characters. A lot of space life stuff. Not too much "eternal war.” I’ll read the next one!

On A Sunbeam

This book started as a webcomic but I picked it off of the library shelf because it was LONG and it was a graphic novel. It’s great. There are no boys or men in it, though there is one character who uses they/them pronouns. And the gender balance isn’t really central to the story which is more about growing up and space travel and figuring out what you really want out of life. Also it’s lush and lovely despite having an oddly restricted color palette. An excellent read.

Planet Funny

I wanted to read this book so badly I ILLed it and was happy I did. Why is everything so FUNNY nowadays? Jennings looks into this and the history of humor in a way that is amusing but not really “look at me” wacky. The wrap-up talks a little bit about why it needs to be this way and it was written late enough in the #MeToo movement that there are a lot of references to things like gender balance and people complaining about having to be too politically correct. I loved it all the way through and will have to pick up more of Jennings' other books.


My friend told me to read this without telling me anything about it which was probably good. Since if she had said “It’s about a disaffected Millennial who becomes one of the last people on earth and fights zombies sometimes” I might not have read it at all. But the book is oddly affecting and very well told and also includes some of the protagonist’s quirky immigrant upbringing along with all the other “Gee it’s weird to be one of the last people on earth” things.

Children of Time

I both loved and hated this book. Under the best of circumstances I have a hard time with books where alternating chapters are told by different people. I have an even harder time when one of those narrators is compelling and one is totally not. This book has half of it written by what is basically a sentient spider race. And while there is a great thought experiment here “How would a community of spiders who achieved sentience go about evolving?” I just did not care about it and wanted to get back to the humans on the giant ark who were having some real problems. So, this is a great book and well-written and all the rest, but I sort of hated half of it and loved half of it. The ending is satisfying and I am pretty sure I will not read the sequel.


Sometimes I just want folksy just-so Vermonter stories. This one had a sekrit love letter essay to my town’s music hall tucked in the middle. Rusty does an old-timey Vermonter voice in a way that helps you sympathize with perspectives you might disagree with.


A haves and have-nots tale of a world with “industrialized magic” and the dangers of consolidated power. Told from the point of view of a former slave turned gritty thief. Lots of funky workshops (did not know this was a thing I craved, and yet...) and muck. I think a lot of books really aim to create a cool shady underworld where poor people hang out and there are no rules, but I feel like this messy favela-type place really felt real.

Toilets of the World

This was a fun little picture book with images of toilets from all over the world. While I might have liked to know a little more about the selection process (did the authors go to some of these? any of these?) and I am a little curious about some of the assertions they made about non-Western cultures, I did like seeing all the different ways people relieve themselves.

Fake Blood

I picked this up because it was thick and I had no idea part of it was about Transylvania. What fun! It’s all about being a sixth grader and the good and bad that can happen in a lot of different directions. I enjoyed it, I liked the characters and the illustrations were lively and colorful and compelling. I’ll go abck and try to track down Gardner’s other novels.


I was glad to see that this was part of a series because it ended somewhat abruptly. Usually I get confused and irritated by multiple perspectives in a book, especially scifi for some reason but it works here. This is a story told over multiple generations of the people who settled Pax after the Earth had become unlivable. I liked getting to sort of read along as the settlers discuovered what worked and what didn’t, and how that played out over multiple (seven?) generations. Also there are some sentient plants, and some existing settlers.