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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!