Thursday, June 30, 2016

2015: On the Page

I continued to increase my books-read amount this year, which sort of makes up for the sting of failing in the movie count. I also continued to notice the phases I go through when I read. My genre-reading tends to cycle through a "comic-YA lit-modern fiction" loop, with slight sprinklings of the occasional essay compendium or non-fiction pop-culture related title. It's probably a sign that I need to push myself out of a reading comfort zone. Maybe my next challenge should be a non-fiction science text. Or a historical biography (which you'd think I'd enjoy more, but....ehhhhh).

Or maybe I should stick with what's working for me.

Perusing through this year's list, I was struck with the glory of text and place. While reviewing titles, I kept getting flashes of where and when I read them.

I remembered running to job interviews while Syllabus roasted in sunshine on the front seat of my car. Each interview I half-hoped someone would ask me what I was currently reading, so that I could brag about a book that was esoteric AND related to teaching practices! Just look how committed I am to professional development.

I remembered polishing off The Knife of Never Letting Go while lying on the floor of an unfurnished second bedroom, reveling in the fact that I could go to a place that wasn't my bed and wasn't the living room, but an entirely separate room in itself. I also remembered wondering why so many of my colleagues loved that book. Chalk that and Maze Runner up as tomes I'm glad kids love, but which leave me cold.

Fevre Dream was my airport book during the flight to Boston when I graduated with my Masters. I sat around airports during redeye flights, trying to place this tale in the greater structure of vampire lit and nervously dreading a trip that turned out not so bad.

I didn't finish The Brothers Karamazov, but I did attempt it again. And it did keep me company as the most absurd beach book in history while I chilled/burned to a crisp at Carkeek Beach during the most idyllic (read: toasty) summer Seattle has ever had.

2015 was a great year for books overall. I read in more places, read more diverse things, and had recommended reading lists yield better fruit than I'm getting so far in 2016. It was the year I got a Kindle, and even begrudgingly used it (though still sparingly). I found new soul books. And I found some beautiful memories.

Total Books Read: 68

Incredible Comics: Ms. Marvel: Generation Why. Every preteen and teenager should read Ms. Marvel. Not only does it have one of the best superhero origin stories I've read in a long time (not in this volume, but the sentiment stands), but Kamala's continuing adventures seem realistic to her age, while containing a warmth and humor that any book could seriously use. Highly, HIGHLY recommend. Syllabus. Lynda Barry is a new hero. Reading this completely amped me up for teaching again, and after using her journaling formats in my ELL class I can testify: this practice of creativity works! She's a marvel. Everyone go draw spirals right now. An Age of License. I really enjoy Lucy Knisley's voice. She somehow manages to do the impossible when it comes to memoir: be introspective without being indulgent. None of her remembrances seem whiny or entitled, and they all strike a real and familiar emotional chord. A must-read for those lost twenty-somethings on the cusp of a great future. American Vampire vol. 7. I owe some serious, life-changing decisions to Scott Snyder and this series, so it will always be on my favorites list. Also, despite Skinner Sweet being mostly unseen throughout this volume, 7 seriously amped up the big bad facing the American vampires (and vampire hunters). A solid addition to the story. Through the Woods. I love Emily Carroll's art, and the somewhat terrifying tales are right up my tonal alley. Slight unease and a touch of darkness make this a quick but satisfying read. Two Brothers. Ba and Moon's last work, Daytripper, was one of the most incredible books I've ever read. This second take, based around two unlike brothers in Brazil, packs artistic dynamism with an equally heartbreaking tale. It's an all around beautiful work.

Fantastic Realistic (read: ANGSTY) YA Lit: It's Kind of a Funny Story. Some of the greatest descriptions of depression and mental illness I've ever read. Totally captured how in the moment it doesn't feel like an affliction, but just feels like incompetence. Love Letters to the Dead. The ultimate in teen novels--feeling ostracized, finding a cool friend group, overcoming a deeply repressed past, hero worship of super-cool past idols. All familiar, but done in a way I dug. Jumped In. I loved the focus on poetry and music (plus, the local aspects were none too shabby). It managed to have teens growing and becoming adults without a completely earth-shattering trauma, which was a pleasant surprise. Adolescence is difficult enough without all the dramatics added on. I'll Give you the Sun. Gorgeous prose, told from two distinct and lovely character voices. I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of falling in love, which were shown in a way that, if not emotionally healthy, at least felt true to the feeling of infatuation.

Favorite New Books: A Tale for the Time Being. This book, while initially difficult to get into, was stunning. Told from the perspective of an author in Canada reading a journal she found on the beach, telling the story of a Japanese school girl. The way the stories intersect is beautiful, and while I found the sequences in Japan more compelling, the entire thing was well-crafted. Child 44. One of my favorite books from the past few years was The Orphan Master's Son, and this very much felt like the Russian complement to that novel. A tight read that helps the layperson fear government a little bit more.  The Walls Around Us. It is a YA book, but it wasn't necessarily angsty enough to fit in my last category. Mostly because this book is mind-blowingly cool. It's told in a weird, time-bending format, and the central mystery (while not too obtuse) is fascinating.

Favorite Classics that I Re-Read and Which Comforted Me in Their Glory: Dandelion Wine. Mister Pip. A Swiftly Tilting Planet. All the Pretty Horses. I don't have much to say about these, other than I love them all and they are must-reads.


  • Saga vol.4 by Brain K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
  • Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
  • Batman Zero Year vol. 5: Dark City by Scott Snyder
  • Yes Please by Amy Poehler
  • Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol
  • Rat Queens vol. 1: Sass and Sorcery by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch
  • 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
  • Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira
  • The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith
  • The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
  • The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang
  • It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
  • The DUFF by Kody Keplinger
  • Alex and Ada by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughan
  • Smiles to Go by Jerry Spinelli
  • 27 by Howard Sounes
  • Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith
  • Sunshine by Robin McKinley
  • A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
  • A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeline L'Engle
  • Ms. Marvel: Generation Why by G. Willow Wilson, Jacob Wyatt, and Adrian Alphona
  • Syllabus by Lynda Barry
  • Fevre Dream by George R. R. Martin
  • Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin
  • I am Princess X by Cherie Priest
  • American Vampire vol. 7 by Scott Snyder
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
  • This One is Mine by Maria Semple
  • An Age of License by Lucy Knisley
  • Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
  • Wonder by R.J. Palacio
  • Feed  by M. T. Anderson
  • Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge
  • Swamp Thing vol.1: Raise Them Bones by Scott Snyder, Yanick Paquette and Marco Ruby
  • Monster by Walter Dean Myers
  • Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones
  • Althea and Oliver by Cristina Moracho
  • NOS4A2 by Joe Hill
  • Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury
  • The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • The White Mountains by John Christopher
  • Taran Wanderer by Lloyd Alexander
  • The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma
  • All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
  • The Gunslinger by Stephen King
  • The City of Gold and Lead by John Christopher
  • The Way He Lived by Emily Wing Smith
  • Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner
  • Roller Skates by Ruth Sawyer
  • Death Note vol.1 by Tsugami Ohba and Takeshi Obata
  • Ungifted by Gordon Korman
  • Jumped In by Patrick Flores-Scott
  • Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
  • The Carnival at Bray by Jessie Ann Foley
  • I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
  • The Dead and Buried by Kit Harrington
  • Through the Woods by Emily Carroll 
  • War Brothers by Sharon McKay and Daniel Lafrance
  • Creatures of the Night by Neil Gaiman and Michael Zulli
  • Sahara Special by Esme Raji Codell
  • Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
  • Confessions of a Latter-Day Virgin by Nicole Hardy
  • The Martian by Andy Weir
  • I Wear the Black Hat by Chuck Klosterman
  • The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
  • The Tyrant's Daughter by J. C. Carleson
  • Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
  • Two Brothers by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba