Friday, August 18, 2017

Books Round-Up: Best of May

If you are looking for some recommendations, it doesn't matter that these are from a few months ago, does it?
Best Thing I Read in May: Who Will Run the Frog Hospital by Lorrie Moore
The way we invent ourselves, even without realizing what we are doing; the weight of our formative on our adult selves; the way a perfect moment can sustain us through all the tougher daily grind of living: Moore puts it so well in this melancholy and enchanting novel.

"There were soft tall weeds growing up from the lake bottom, and they would do a charming kind of hula and then wind around your legs in a death grip."

"In Paris we eat brains every night. My husband likes the vaporous, fishy mousse of them. They are a kind of seafood, he thinks, locked tightly in the skull like shelled creatures in the dark caves of the ocean."

Best NonFiction Audiobook: Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil DeGrasse Tyson
[audiobook narrated by author: 3.5 hours]
I loved this so much, I listened to it twice in a row. Stars that jiggle, spherical cows, dark matter as our frenemy, the badassery of Einstein, and envisioning the density of a pulsar as like stuffing 100 million elephants into a chapstick casing: Tyson is endlessly entertaining in addition to being informative. 

"For all those who are too busy to read fat books, yet nonetheless seek a conduit to the cosmos."

Best YA Audiobook: The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas
[audiobook narrated by Bahni Turpin: 11 hr 45 min]
The last author who sent me to find Tupac's music on YouTube was Jacqueline Woodson (After Tupac and D Foster). Thank you, Angie Thomas, for pointing me in that direction again. Starr is the brave star of this ripped-from-the-headlines novel: she's real and whole: a fictional teen who will live long in my heart. All the empathy and all the stars for this, and I hope they make the movie soon because I want to see that too!

Best Novel-Told-in-Short-Stories Audiobook: 
Anything Is Possible by Elizabeth Strout
[audiobook narrated by Kimberly Farr: 8.5 hr]
If you loved Olive Kitteridge, as I did, then you will also enjoy Strout's latest collection of interconnected short stories. They are about various small-town people, all loosely connected to another of Strout's characters: Lucy Barton.

"As Patti drove into her driveway, and saw the lights she'd left on, she realized that Lucy Barton's book had understood her. That was it. The book had understood her. Lucy Barton had her own shame, and she had risen right straight out of it."

Best Poetry: Passage by Gwen Benaway
I re-read the poems in this collection compulsively, trying to come up with a coherent review, getting sucked back into the pages each time. Powerful words about all kinds of passages: childhood into adulthood; abuse into healing; city life into wilderness; coupledom to single; male to female. Outstanding queer Indigenous poetry.

"It's my promise,
an oath to the land,
to bear my wrecking with a certain grace.
not the grace of trees,
the smooth breasted laughter of bluejays,
but the grace of mollusks:
bottom feeder, black rimmed,
sharp under foot, slit mouthed,
small and as inescapable
as hunger."

Best Novel in Translation: Eve Out of Her Ruins by Ananda Devi
translated from French by Jeffrey Zuckerman
Alternating POV between four young teenagers who are so real my heart breaks. The poverty and violence of their home - the slums of Mauritius - brands them all, but in unique ways: these are individuals. Knowing them has enlarged me. Transcendent prose lightens this fierce, short LGBTQ novel.

"I wipe my neck. The coarse feel of it surprises me. The lack of hair makes me feel more naked than ever. Then I remember: my mother sheared it off. When I saw myself in the mirror, I saw that I had a lioness's head. I had a mane of hunger."

Best Historical Fiction: The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry
"It's a poor woman whose ambition is only to be loved. She has better things to be getting on with." And that's exactly why I enjoy the female characters in this novel so much: they are busy doing interesting things. Lots of unrequited love and complicated friendships in an atmospheric Victorian setting.

Best Fantasy Graphic Novel: Eartha by Cathy Malkasian
A unique and dreamy world; memorable and endearing characters; gorgeous art; an adventure quest into a dangerous place - Malkasian gets all the elements right in this immersive, moving fantasy/fable for adults. Muted tones; a hefty 255 oversized pages. Queer content.

Best Arthurian Retelling Graphic Novel: 
Yvain by MT Anderson and Andrea Offermann
A rich, evocative retelling of one of the Arthurian tales, one that highlights the differences between men's and women's lives of that era. A happily-ever-after for the knight is merely obligation and constrained options for the queen. It's bitter and I prefer this kind of story over traditional romance. Gorgeous art with lots of movement.

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