In the interest of seeing how what I consume affects what I produce, I’ve been keeping track of the books I read for several years now. It started off as an entry into an annual library drawing and has since become an interesting way to look back on my past reads. Since the list is long, I will not launch into explanations of every book, though I may describe ones that are especially good or bad.
My list is shorter this year than in the past, partly because I have started reading more periodicals (which I do not list). I’ve also consumed more craft and cookbooks. Since these types of nonfiction are not so much read through as browsed and used as inspiration, it didn’t seem fair to include those titles in my tally unless I actually read them from cover to cover. My other non cover-to-cover reading is primarily Rattle poetry magazine. Poetry requires more thought per page, even though the pages themselves are usually much less than a traditional book.
Here is a handy little color code, to make things easier:
Ebooks (novels, non fiction, & graphic novels): Red
Physical books: Black
–one of the most original science fiction stories I’ve read in years. A cosmetics company creates a beauty product that accidentally overwrites your DNA, which naturally has apocalyptic consequences. It’s satirical, funny, witty, and horrific. Every science fiction fan should read this.
–It’s by Philip K. Dick. What else is there to say?
- In the Company of Russell Atkins (poetry anthology) (paperback)
–I read this mainly because I attended the book launch in Cleveland. I had never been exposed to Mr. Atkins’ poetry before. While I can’t say his verse was my cup of tea, the other contributors whose poems appeared in the anthology were greatly influenced by his work. I didn’t love every poem, but those I did, stuck with me.
–Every year the Massillon library and the Massillon Art Museum collaborate to promote a book for the NEA Big Read. True Grit was the 2017 selection, free copies were available all over Massillon, and the Massillon Art Museum’s main exhibit featured costumes from the movie adaptation.
I’ve never been a fan of westerns, but this book, told by the main character about an adventure from her childhood, made me reconsider the genre. The things I didn’t like about the other westerns I’d been exposed to was the lack of characters I could identify with, their overwhelming machismo, and the stereotypical depictions of cowboys doing stereotypical things. This novel is nothing like that.
The protagonist is Mattie Ross, a young girl whose father was murdered. She hires a gunman to hunt down his killer and accompanies him along the way to make sure she gets her money’s worth. She’s believable both as a child forced to bear the burdens of adulthood and a no nonsense female character; she suffers no fools and fights to be taken seriously. I really felt for both her and the gunman, Rooster Cogburn. I loved it.
- Wonder Woman volume 1 by Greg Rucka (graphic novel via Hoopla)
- Female Force: William Moulton Marston, the Creator of Wonder Woman (digital comic via Hoopla)
- Lock In by John Scalzi (ebook via Overdrive)
–In the tradition of great science fiction, this novel shows how technology adapted to humanity–in this case, to deal with a condition that traps people inside their bodies–transforms human society. There’s also an awesome murder mystery that’s complicated by that same technology.
–I read this mainly on the recommendation that it is a great graphic novel illustrating female superheroes. After reading it, I honestly don’t understand how anyone could think that.
In an alternate history dominated by female superheroes, Bruce Wayne never becomes Batman because his parents are saved by a female superhero. Other male heroes never emerged or at least serve different roles. However, while all the men are off fighting the war, the female heroes are still sexualized objects for male pleasure; they are all basically Forties pin-up girls that just happen to fight crime too.
Batgirl wears a baseball-themed costume complete with tiny shorts and wields a bat. Wonder Woman meets up with army brass who give her a costume to wear as well; she thinks she’s dressed as one of their goddesses, because she sees a pinup girl painted on the side of a plane. And don’t even get me started on Harley Quinn. Her plot made no sense, and each page…just, no. Read it if you must, but you’ve been warned.
- The Shape of Home by Lee Chilcote (paperback, poetry re Cleveland and suburbia)
–The Hogarth Shakespeare series is a collection of modern day adaptations of Shakespearean plays by modern authors. In this retelling of The Tempest, Prospero is an actor cast out of his acting company who lives alone with his young daughter. It’s an original take on a classic, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
–When I heard there were a series of graphic novels tackling Hanna Barbara characters, I was intrigued–but I was blown away by this one in particular. The story looks back at the creation of the town of Bedrock, Fred and Barney’s wartime history, and even tackles social issues like racism and the treatment of indigenous peoples. It is one of the wittiest satires I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.
- World’s Best Life Hacks: 200 Ways to Make Your Life Easier by Sarah Devos (ebook via Hoopla)
–I picked up a few helpful tips via this quick and easy read!
—I’ve wanted to read this book for years, but it always seemed to get pushed back for other things. This book is so sad and beautiful. I really identified with the characters. I just loved it.
- Protect Me (Mind Sweeper series, book 0) by AE Jones
–I love this Ohio author’s work. I enjoy seeing the world through the monsters’ or freaks’ point of view, which is usually both interesting and funny. I wonder what that says about me.
- Just a Geek by Wil Wheaton (ebook via Overdrive)
- Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein (audiobook via Overdrive)
- Wonder Woman: Earth One, Vol. 1 (graphic novel via Hoopla) by various
- Wonder Woman Vol. 1: Blood (graphic novel via Hoopla) by various
- Wonder Woman Vol. 2: Guts (graphic novel via Hoopla) by various
- Wonder Woman Vol. 3: Iron (graphic novel via Hoopla) by various
- Wonder Woman Vol 4: War (graphic novel via Hoopla) by various
23. Wonder Woman Vol 5: Flesh by various (graphic novel via Hoopla)
–This was a beautifully told dystopian tale with a message of hope.
- Wonder Woman Vol 6: Bones by various (graphic novel via Hoopla)
- Wonder Woman Vol 7: War-torn by various (graphic novel via Hoopla)
- Wonder Woman Vol 1: The Lies by Greg Rucka and various (graphic novel via Hoopla)
- Wonder Woman ’77: Vol 1 by various (graphic novel via Hoopla)
- Scooby Apocalypse Vol 1 by various (graphic novel via Hoopla)
–This graphic novel is another fun reimagining of classic Hanna Barbara characters, though it isn’t as witty as The Flintstones retelling. It’s pretty much a straight up monster story with Velma and Shaggy working in a secret lab that causes the apocalypse. It is okay, but I honestly didn’t find it that interesting.
–Another interesting but weird read. I did not think it was as good as its predecessor, Fight Club (the novel).
- The 6.5 Habits of Moderately Successful Poets by Jeffrey Skinner (ebook via Overdrive)
- Doctor Who: Revolutions of Terror by various (graphic novel via Hoopla)
- The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (ebook)
- The Princess Bride by William Goldman (audio book via Overdrive)
- The Walking Dead and Philosophy by multiple authors (ebook via Humble Bundle)
–I’ve been slowly working my way through the Pop Culture Philosophy series of ebooks I bought via Humble Bundle. If you get a chance, I strongly suggest you read them. The series tackles real philosophy problems by setting them in pop culture situations. This one tackles morality in stellar fashion, especially such sticky points as suicide, the ethics of killing, and the rights of a person (or zombie).
- Dungeons and Dragons and Philosophy by multiple authors (ebook via Humble Bundle)
–(see above) Same general take, but with different questions set in different worlds.
- Dirk Gentley’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams (audiobook via Hoopla)
- The Walking Dead volume 27: The Whisperer War by various (graphic novel via Hoopla)
–I read this again to refresh my memory before reading the next installment. The book is good up until the disappointing ending. I know other fans loved it, but it didn’t make sense to me.
- The Walking Dead volume 28: A Certain Doom by various (graphic novel via Hoopla)
–I loved this installment! This book is so much better than the one before. There is character growth, unexpected twists and turns, and actual resolution for many plot points. Like all Walking Dead stories, there is more story left to be told. There always is; that’s the point of the series. But I felt very satisfied when I finished reading this one.
- Sublime Stitching by Jenny Hart (ebook via Hoopla)
- Improv Sewing by Nicole Blum and Debra Immergut (ebook via Hoopla)
- Wonder Woman, vol 2, Year One (DC Universe Rebirth) by various (graphic novel via Hoopla)
- Hoopla: the Art of Unexpected Embroidery by Leanne Prain (Trade paperback via library)
–I began embroidering this past year, mostly via YouTube tutorials and practice. However, this book inspired me to sew my own original artwork and think outside the creative box I’d put myself in. It’s a series of articles about different sketch artists that use embroidery in unusual ways–from embroidering cartoons on fabric and stitching street maps on garbage bags to creating miniature portraits. I checked it out of the library three times, and I kept the last checkout overdue ten days so I could really finish. I rarely buy paper editions of books, but this one is definitely a must-have.
- Terminal Alliance: Book One of Janitors of the Post Apocalypse by Jim C. Hines (ebook via Overdrive)
–I can’t imagine anyone other than Jim C. Hines–author of The Princess series, Goblin Quest, and Libriomancer— writing a book about space janitors and making it work. He brings the same irreverent humor to this science fiction gem that he’s brought to his other fantasy titles. Reading this is pure fun, and there’s actual science in this science fiction too!
- Star Wars: Princess Leia by Mark Waid and Terry Dodson (graphic novel via Hoopla)
–When I saw this graphic novel on Hoopla, I was pleasantly surprised! The story takes place shortly after A New Hope and the destruction of Leia’s home world of Alderaan. The rebel leaders tell her to take time to mourn and lay low; the Empire has a bounty on all the survivors of Alderaan. Instead, she wants to gather them all together to keep what’s left of her home alive. I won’t say more to avoid spoilers, but this story sheds some light on Leia’s past and her motivations as she moves forward to save what she can of the world she left behind.
Now I’m just waiting for a series to be written about the older Leia, General Organa.
My books read list this year is significantly shorter than last year, mostly as I consume lots of different things that I don’t necessarily read cover to cover. Currently I am reading a paperback version of Betsy Greer’s Craftivism (courtesy of my local library), Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle (hardback poetry anthology courtesy of the library), and The Very Best of Tad Williams (ebook collection courtesy my friendly neighborhood library via the Overdrive app).
I have temporarily put down (mid-read) How to Be a Craftivist and Battlestar Galactica and Philosophy due to time constraints. I need to prioritize library reading over the books I own so I can read them before they are due, and I proudly own those last two books. Since they are nonfiction essay collections, it’s easy to simply put them down and pick them up again as time permits. The Tad Williams book especially became a priority, because my son was really excited to share this author’s work with me. He hasn’t been this excited about reading fiction on his own in awhile, so I wanted to read it at the same time so we could talk about it together.