April 5th, 2015

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Books read March

13-17 for the year. I'm also going to include the sources (and links to sources) of how I heard of the book when I can, and some more information at the end of the post. All these books are available from the Seattle Public Library or your local independent bookstore.

Mat Johnson
Spiegel & Grau, 2011
For about the first half of this book, I laughed a few times every page. It was such delicious, bitter satire, and the style fit the subject matter and the send-up so well. "Pym" is about a professor of literature who becomes obsessed with The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, which only deepens when he's denied tenure (he's denied tenure because he refuses to join the diversity committee or write about exclusively African-American authors). This becomes an alternate word book, you could say, in which The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym is true. After the first half, the book takes a more serious turn that was less humorous but just as gripping. It has a happy ending. Well, I thought it did. (Source: recommended by Nisi Shawl at Potlatch.)

Love is the Drug
Alaya Dawn Johnson
Arthur A. Levine Books, 2014
For a while I thought this was a book Johnson had written before The Summer Prince, but hadn't been able to publish until that book's success. However, it was just as good as The Summer Prince so who knows. By the end of the book I was pretty involved with the characters and thought the resolution worked. As with The Summer Prince, I'd like somebody to make a YouTube playlist of the music referenced. (Source: ??)

The Monkey's Voyage: The Improbable Journeys that Shaped the History of Life
Alan de Queiroz
An examination of the history of the idea of how animal life dispersed around the world. At first, biogeographers thought that animals had dispersed across oceans, as improbable or impossible as that might seem. But with growing knowledge of plate tectonics, it became "obvious" that animals had spread across Gondwana, and then were separated from their cousins by the separation of the continents. This was so obvious, that fossil record disagreements with the theory were dismissed as being unreliable. Better understanding of the molecular clock, however, has lead to a reaffirmation the idea of oceanic dispersal. NOTE: I have a longer review at my restoration blog, Nature Intrudes. (Source: Found the author's website while looking for reviews of another book.)

The Emperor's Blades: Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne, Book 1
Brian Staveley
Another bounce, I got to page 42 or so. Just didn't care for the writing style or the world very much. Still felt like a bog-standard fantasy world, even though the author made sure to point out that the people in it were not just northern European-esque. This came from i09's Best of 2014, so I probably didn't give it enough of a chance.

The UnAmericans
Molly Antopol
This collection of stories has been called "novels in miniature in a couple reviews." These aren't the "nothing happens" stories so stereotypic of mainstream literature; they span decades, generations, wars, and social strata. The writing can seem very direct, but then a bit of description would leave me nearly breathless. These stories portray community and family in a way you don't see much in mainstream literature: as things to be valued. Many stories have a woman or girl trying to break free of family, but choosing to return. (Source: ??)

The demographics: Four were fiction, one nonfiction. Three were by men, two were by women. Three were by people of color. All five were by USAians.

The one linked source: http://io9.com/the-best-science-fiction-and-fantasy-books-of-2014-1676427116

So, in the Excel file were I log books read, I made another spreadsheet were I list the book, author, and the source for my interest in reading it. Most of my reading of the next several months will come from the io9 article above and the following lists:

19 Science-Fiction And Fantasy Novels By Women Of Color You Must Read

The 27th Annual Lambda Literary Award Finalists -- quite a few came from this list.

20 Female Harlem Renaissance Writers You Should Know


Another source for some of the books I'll read eventually is listed as "10 Books for the World," which I lost the URL for. It was an article listing books for YA readers that take place in different countries of the world.

My process for selecting books to read for the last while has been lists compiled for various reasons -- awards, suggestions, etc. Since K. Tempest Bradford proposed what has come to be called The Tempest Challenge, I've made special effort to seek out lists of works by people of color and women. There are several works by white men on the io9 best of 2014 list, so I'm not taking the Tempest challenge as such.

I also thought, for a while, that one thing preventing me from taking the Tempest Challenge is that I read so much natural history nonfiction, so much about restoration and ecology, and that's mostly written about by white men. But then I realized: That's exactly the mindset that Tempest is arguing against, the passive acceptance of whatever the stacked deck of publishing deals you. So I'm also going to make special effort to seek out nonfiction by women and people of color. Some of those reviews will be posted to Nature Intrudes (I hope).

Now I'm off to add the Tiptree honor list and Philip K. Dick shortlist to me every-burgeoning library hold list.