Anta Baku, The Cell Phone Towers of Elfland Season 1. I put books in these when I finish them, and this was a long-running serial that wrapped up in December…for now. Light-hearted, unexpectedly full of hedgehogs, fun.
Kate Elliott, Servant Mage. Discussed elsewhere.
Jeannine Hall Gailey, Becoming the Villainess and Unexplained Fevers. Two volumes of poetry from more than a decade apart, watching Gailey grow in her explorations of fairy tales and comic books and other feminist takes on fantastical tropes.
Gwynne Garfinkle, Can’t Find My Way Home. Discussed elsewhere.
Matthew David Goodwin, ed., Latinx Rising: An Anthology of Latinx Science Fiction and Fantasy. I particularly appreciated how much room this anthology made for very short and literary pieces so that there was a range of voices, many of whom I had never read before.
Amelia Gorman, Field Guide to Invasive Species of Minnesota. A beautiful slim volume, each poem lavishly illustrated, gently science fictional, amazing, highly recommended, snuck in under the wire to be one of my favorite books of the year.
Alex Hernandez, Matthew David Goodwin, and Sarah Rafael Garcia, eds., Speculative Fiction for Dreamers: A Latinx Anthology. Though one of the editors of this volume was the same as the volume above, it was a very different feel, a more genre-central feel. Sabrina Vourvoulias’s story was the stand-out piece here, but it was a very solid work in general, and again had a wide range of voices.
Judith Herrin, Ravenna: Capital of Empire, Crucible of Europe. Late Antiquity/early Christendom in a city that doesn’t get as much attention as perhaps it should–lots of politics, lots of mosaics. This was really interesting. The Goths still confuse me. (I think this is a case where the Goths are fractally confusing, though, because I read an entire book about the Goths and got more confused, not less.) It was a relief when we got to the Lombards and were on much more solid ground.
Kirk Wallace Johnson, The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century. “Now wait just a minute,” Johnson says at several points where other people should have said it, and I am grateful for that. This is just a weird situation and a weird book about a weird situation. A flutist stole a bunch of rare birds more or less because he could, and people behaved extremely strangely about it thereafter. It’s not a long book. It’s one that will leave you going, huh. Huh.
Patrick Radden Keefe, Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty. This, on the other hand, is a longish book, and it’s just horrifying at so many turns. Keefe seems to specialize in writing beautifully and meticulously about people doing just hideous things to each other–seeing their humanity and not letting that sway him from seeing what horrible things they’re doing. And it’s the sort of thing where you might think, oh yes, I understand how the opioid epidemic is terrible, and–I still learned so much, I still learned so much about the details in ways that I think really are important, pieces of propaganda that neighbors and relatives repeated and did not know that they were pieces of propaganda meticulously crafted to make this family a buck (many, many bucks) from the suffering of others. The details really do matter, and Keefe documents them so well and writes about them so humanely and also I hope he has taken some nice walks and eaten some nice apples and petted some nice dogs to balance out the horrors he deals with in his work, my God. There’s a reason this is on all the recommended nonfiction lists this year, though. So important, so well done, such a terrible topic.
Yoon Ha Lee, Tiger Honor. Discussed elsewhere.
Ada Limón, Lucky Wreck. A reissue of her first book of poems, worth your time from the very beginning, still amazing to watch her grow as a poet, so great.
Xueting Christine Ni, Sinopticon: A Celebration of Chinese Science Fiction. I found this more intellectually interesting than emotionally engaging, but I’m very glad this sort of work in translation is becoming more available so that I can have more and less favorite volumes of Chinese SF in translation rather than having only one that’s all we get.
Richard Rhodes, John James Audubon: The Making of an American. Lots of Audubon running about trying to figure out how to make a place for himself in the world being the singular figure that he was. Lots of Audubon nearly getting himself killed in novel ways in the process–I did not expect nearly so many cliffhanger chapter endings as there were, and part of that, sure, was how Rhodes chose to frame it, but honestly, we almost did not have Audubon so many times, apparently. Huh. This jaunt into the world of biography has more plot twists than I ever would have guessed.
Dave Ring, ed., Queer Space Force. Kindle. It’s good for us to read things for which we are not the central audience, and this is one of those for me.
Elsa Sjunneson, Being Seen: One Deafblind Woman’s Fight to End Ableism. There’s a lot of this that I nodded along with already knowing, and a lot more of it where the details were new to me, even me, even as interested as I am in disability activism–so how much more, if you aren’t already interested in disability activism. The personal and the political entwine very well here.
Tracy K. Smith, ed., The Best American Poetry 2021. A surprising lot of this is poetry that is trying, very actively, to be about 2020, and yes, I wrote poetry that way this year too, but also I wrote poetry not that way, and…I don’t know, it will be interesting to me to look at this series later and compare what the editors thought was important poetry in the year vs. what actually turned out to be important poetry. Or interesting poetry, or all the other adjectives a poem can have. But mostly important, and that’s…kind of the problem I’m having, even though I was not sorry to have gotten this volume from the library and read it.
Yoss, Red Dust. Hey, do you want a science fiction novella from the 1950s, complete with psionics, particular kinds of alien and robot, and lack of girls? Cuban writer Yoss absolutely has you covered. If you read enough of those earlier in your life, well, this one is another one of those.