Recommendations: Adult Fantasy

I have seen a discussion floating around Twitter about that period between being a teenager and being an adult and the difficulty some people face in finding books that speak to them. I have talked about memoirs in this context before as I find that they are a brilliant way of finding books that talk about exactly these experiences. Rachel has also written a brilliant post recommending adult books for young adults, which you should absolutely check out. But today I want to recommend some Adult Fantasy – because there are so many great books in that section that people maybe ignore. I personally have been struggling with YA fantasy because the focus on love stories is just not something I am super interested in, and have been mostly reading adult fantasy.

I also have thoughts about whose books get classified as YA. Hint: Not those written by men. Coming-of-age stories are a staple in adult fantasy, be it Lord of the Rings or The Name of the Wind. But nobody calls these books YA. But when a young woman writes fantasy suddenly people insist on calling it YA. Case in point: R. F. Kuang’s The Poppy War, which is decidedly NOT YA and super gruesome in parts. The author received some weird backlash when she insisted that her book really, really, really is not YA and should be treated as such. So I would politely ask everybody to think about their assumptions when it comes to placing books in the YA section in their heads.

Urban Fantasy:

The Rivers of London Series by Ben Aaronovitch

9317452I love this series with all my heart. The main character is in his mid-twenties and working as a police man when he stumbles upon the supernatural underbelly of contemporary London. The books are hilarious and self-aware, the cast of characters is diverse and wonderfully drawn, and reading these books just makes me happy. The seventh book is due to come out this month and I cannot wait to hold it in my hands.

The Kate Daniels Series by Ilona Andrews

7940930I went through a ridiculous binge of these books earlier this year and only have the last book in the series left to read. Kate is a wonderful protagonist who I am always rooting for. She is in her early twenties when the series begins and working as a private investigator, trying to just live her life and not get emotionally involved with anybody. I have rarely been as invested in a relationship as I am in hers and Curran (even if he is a bit of an ass sometimes) and love the strong emphasis on friendship these books have at their core. I have also recently read another series by Ilona Andrews which I also whole-heartedly recommend.

High Fantasy:

The Broken Earth trilogy by N. K. Jemisin

19161852I adore this. I don’t even have all that many words to describe how utterly perfect I think this series is. N. K. Jemisin might be my all-time favourite author and I am dragging my feet to read the last of her series that I haven’t read yet because then I would have to wait for new books to appear. The first book is told from three perspectives following three women of different ages and their struggles. It grapples with growing up and family and racism and the end of the world. The themes of family at the core of this series really broke my heart.

The Divine Cities trilogy by Robert Jackson Bennett

25452717The protagonists of this series are on the older end – and I absolutely loved this. They still are looking for their place in the world and they try to be good people (and sometimes fail at this).The characters rebel against their families’ expectations in a way that I found highly relatable. Bennett’s language is assured, his characterization on point, and his world-building intricate.

Standalones:

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

27313170Sitting just at the edge between fantasy and science fiction, this is basically a coming-of-age story, focussing on the friendship between a witch and a scientist. There are strong themes of family and friendship, on doing the right thing as opposed to the easy thing, and of identity and self. The characters in this book are different and wonderful. Anders’ imagination is dazzling and I cannot wait for her new book coming out in January 2019.

Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore

33571217Milo is an old soul, literally – he has lived 9995 lives so far and has yet to achieve perfection. In fact he isn’t even sure he wants to achieve perfection as he is in love with Death (or rather a Death – Suzie). This has to change when he is informed that every soul has in fact only 10000 lives to get it right or it will be erased. This a book, at its core, about finding your place in the world and about being the best person you can be. And I can think of few things more relevant to me.

What are your favourite adult fantasy novels that might be interesting to people trying to find their way into the genre?

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Recommendations for Non-Fiction November

As every month is non-fiction month for me, I will not officially be participating in Non-Fiction November but I still wanted to talk about some of my favourites and recommend a few books that those of you who are looking to read more non-fiction might want to check out. Disclaimer first: my non-fiction reading is heavily dominated by memoirs written by women, feminist essays, and creative non-fiction. I rarely read biographies (but really want to more) and general non-fiction, so here your recommendations are very welcome. Recommendations are always welcome, in fact.

I have based my recommendations on other genres, so that this is also accessible to those who don’t ever read non-fiction.

If you usually read contemporary, then memoirs might be the way to go. Usually fairly accessible, memoirs often deal with that weird period of life between being a child and being properly “grown up” and for me offered a much-needed glimpse into other people’s lives. (I have written a whole post on why I love memoirs which can be found here.)

Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot

35840657One of my absolute favourite books of the year, this short memoir packs an enormous punch. Written in fragments and often in a spiralling way, Mailhot chronicles her fight with mental illness and what it means to be Native. She does not claim to speak a universal truth, but only her truth and I found this incredibly effective. Her language is poetic and abrasive and I am very much in love. I still don’t have the words to talk about this properly, but in my review I tried.

Mean by Myriam Gurba

34381333This book took me totally by surprise. It took me a while to find my bearing and to get used to the abrasive writing style, but once I did and once I realized what Gurba’s essays were working towards, I was hooked and in awe. The book is a total punch to the gut, but so very brilliantly executed that I cannot help but adore it. My review can be found here.

The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch

9214995No list would be complete without me recommending this book. In fact, if you only read one book from this list, maybe choose this. It was my favourite book of last year and just a complete masterpiece. Lidia Yuknavitch has a brilliant way with words and her memoir is raw and honest and just perfect. My longer review can be found here.

If you are really invested in politics, then some of these feminist essay collections might be of interest for you.

Not That Bad ed. by Roxane Gay

35068524One of the best books I have read this year, this collection of personal essays on rape culture really is a must read. I am obviously a huge fan of Roxane Gay’s work and I was very impressed by the way she curated these wonderful essays. There was not a single essay in this collection that I did not appreciate and I found a lot of people whose next work I am eagerly awaiting and whose other essays I am reading religiously. If you can deal the subject matter, I really do recommend picking this up. My longer review can be found here.

Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates

25175985Laura Bates is the founder of the Everyday Sexism project and her collection of essays on the subject and on the project is definitely worth checking out. I listened to the audiobook, which Laura Bates narrates herself and I found myself really immersed in her writing. Her book is impeccably researched and wonderfully realized; she draws both on literature and statistics and on the more personal anecdotes shared on the Everyday Sexism page and builds a really convincing whole. It also did not end with me wanting to burn the world down, which is always a plus. My review is here.

If you usually read literary fiction, then creative non-fiction might just be the thing for you. It is usually exceptionally well-written and for me at least, has a poetry to the sentences that I just adore (and closely mirrors the very best literary fiction in that sense).

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson (or any book written by Maggie Nelson)

28459915Maggie Nelson is possibly the queen of creative non-fiction. Her sentences are crisp and she flits between different ideas and styles in a highly impressive way. The Argonauts deals with her relationship with her gender-fluid husband and chronicles the changes to her body due to pregnancy and the changes to Harry’s body due to hormone therapy. It also deals with so much more, drawing on gender theory and sociology and everything inbetween, and as a reading experience is highly rewarding. Bluets by the same author is also highly recommended.

Ongoingness: The End of a Diary by Sarah Manguso

22244927This book is seriously short but packs an unbelievable punch. Sarah Manguso writes about her complex relationship with her diary, which she kept religiously for most of her adult life, and about why she stopped keeping one. I found this moving and thought-provoking and incredibly well-done. You can find my review here.

Vanishing Twins: A Marriage by Leah Dieterich

37690295Leah Dieterich writes about her marriage, but she also writes about dance and art and polyamory and everything in-between. I absolutely adored her short and snappy essays that build to a much larger whole. She made me think and smile and sad and in general this book just really worked for me. You can find more of my thoughts on the book here.

Are you planning on participating in Non-Fiction November? What books are you planning on reading? Also, what is your favourite non-fiction book?

Thoughts: Man Booker 2018 Predictions

I have not read the shortlist; I do not plan on reading the shortlist. That does not mean I am not super interested to see who will win later today. And I also have thoughts.

I read only two of the shortlisted books:

The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner

356108231I really enjoyed reading this but the longer I keep thinking about it, the more it falls apart. I found Romy a fascinating protagonist, difficult and flawed but also warm and somewhat easy to root for. I liked getting the glimpses into the other inmates’ stories and thought this added a nice, political layer to this book. But, the male perspectives did only peripherally add anything substantial to the book. I do get some parallels and what that says about misogyny but I would have liked this more without these men. I also think that the book is fairly flawed, as much as I enjoyed it. I do think it has a fair chance at winning and I would not be disappointed if it did, but I would not be overjoyed.

Everything Under by Daisy Johnson

36396289I loved this; and unlike The Mars Room, it just keeps on growing on me. I love the non-linear timeline and Johnson’s prose and her wonderful way with characterization. I loved the whole reading experience and I am so very glad that the Man Booker gave me the nudge I needed to read this book. Because I am NOT as enamoured with the cover as everybody seems to be. I would be thrilled if this one won, but I am not really seeing it. But I would be so very pleased!

The four others on the shortlist just all do not sound like my cup of tea, for various reasons.

The Long Take by Robin Robertson

35659255This might be brilliant or it might not be, but I am not interested in Post War books (I read way too many in school) and I am also not the biggest fan of poetry (in English – there is something about English poetry that makes me doubt my language proficiency). I do think that this one is least likely to win, for one because the whole “should poetry be part of the Man Booker”-discussion would get blown up even more, and for another, I just don’t think this is anybody’s favourite to win.

Washington Black by Esi Edugyan

39731474This is so far outside my reading taste, it’s quite impressive actually. I don’t like adventure stories and I also don’t like historical novels. This might be brilliant and it might add something new to the slave narrative and I am sure the writing is lovely, but I don’t see myself reading it. I also don’t think this’ll win the Booker, but I wouldn’t be mad if it did. It does seem to be an accomplished book after all.

 

Milkman by Anna Burns

36047860This sounded right up my alley, until I read parts of it. Stream of consciousness does not always work for me and I am not quite sure my English is good enough for me to appreciate this book (I had similar problems with A Brief History of Seven Killings by the way). It does sound like it might be the best book, from a technical standpoint, on this list and I would be weirdly enough pretty pleased if this won.

The Overstory by Richard Powers

35187203People are really divided on this book and while it sounds fascinating, it is also a ridiculously long book about trees. And I just don’t see myself reading this any time soon (which more often than not means never). I do think that the chances this will win are pretty high, even if the Brits will be aghast if another American man won. I am fairly unbothered either way to be honest.

 

So, to recap, I am pulling for Everything Under but I don’t think it’ll win, I do think The Overstory might win and people will be frothing at their mouths. Or Anna Burns wins this and all will be great.

Which one do you think will win? Which one would you like to win?

Recommendations: Short Story Collections

I love short stories. I only started properly reading them a few years ago but I have developed such an appreciation for the format. When a short story is done right, it can pack an unbelievable punch.

16158505I am currently reading A Guide To Being Born by Ramona Asubel, a rather brilliant collection, with twisty, dark, wonderful, magical stories (I understand why Jen Campbell names this as one of her favourites) and the reading experience got me thinking about what I like in the collections I adore. I gravitate towards short stories with a bit of a magical twist – I find these stories to be super mesmerizing. I also appreciate more realistic stories but here I often find that these collections are overall rather bleak which can get too much for me.

Here are some of my favourite short story collections, in case you are (like me) always looking for more collections to read.

Difficult Women by Roxane Gay

28818921Nobody is surprised to see this collection of this list: I adored every second of it. I am in general a huge fan of Roxane Gay’s writing and these stories are a perfect example for her prose and her characterization, which I am just in awe of. The stories are well-plotted and purposefully structured. You can find my review here.

 

The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra

29236311One of my all-time favourite books, everything about this spoke to me. Marra tells an overarching story in wonderfully structured short stories. His command of language is impressive, his way of characterising people with a sentence and a half something that I find fascinating, and his sense for pacing and plotting is absolutely on display here. Be warned though, the book and its subject matter is bleak (it is after all set in Chechnya and unblinking in its depiction of war and atrocities), but Marra infuses it with just enough hope to be a stunning ode human connection. I cannot wait for his next book.

The Brink by Austin Bunn

22693283I loved this (and its perfect cover!). The stories all deal with some sort of Brink – often the end of the world as we know it. I adored the vagueness of the stories and the punch they had. Bunn is a another of those authors whose next work I am eagerly awaiting. You can find my review here.

 

Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout

32874103Another set of interconnected short stories where I found the whole even greater than the sum of its parts. Strout shows great tenderness for her characters while being unflinching in her portrayal of their short comings. Her stories are wonderfully structured and impeccably paced. She excels especially in depicting families in all their dysfunctional glory. I adored this. My review is here.

Tales of Falling and Flying by Ben Loory

33570520These stories are peculiar. They feature anthropomorphic animals (amongst other things) and revel in their weirdness. But for me, these stories worked exceedingly well and I had a blast with this collection. There is just something poetic and lyrical in the way Loory’s language flows and his imagination is glorious. My review can be found here.

 

The Unfinished World and Other Stories by Amber Sparks

25622828These stories just combine everything I adore in short fiction: they are magical and weird, wonderfully written, and often feature sibling relationships (I adore that). Her language flows wonderfully and every story in this collection is strong on its own. My review can be found here. (Sparks is apparently working on a new collection, an angry, feminist collection, which I cannot wait for.)

Do you read short stories at all? What are your favourite collections?

Thoughts: Authors whose next work I am eagerly anticipating

I follow very few authors religiously. Even if I adore a book by an author, I am not always all that great at picking up other books the author has written. That said, there are a few authors whose next work I am eagerly anticipating. (My inspiration for this post was a similar post done by Zuky, whose blog you should definitely check out if you aren’t following her already)

13922215Katherine Arden

I adored the first two books in her Winternight trilogy and cannot wait for the last book in the series. I am just a huge fan of her writing style and the wonderful sense of place she invokes. That I am a sucker for stories set in the north of Russia certainly didn’t hurt.

Megan Stielstra

Her essay collection The Wrong Way to Save Your Life was one of my favourite books of last year. I have since read and adored her first essay collection and cannot wait to see what she does next. I also own her short story collection but am kind of too scared to pick that up and not have any of her books left to read.

Amber Sparks

She has written one of my all-time favourite short story collections and another one that was similarly great. I follow her on twitter and everything she posts about the collection she is working on sounds absolutely brilliant.

8446300Scott Hawkins

The Library at Mount Char was just so very brilliant and different and just SO much my cup of tea that I have been waiting for a new book by the author ever since. I am starting to give up on that hope because there have not been any news for ages now. That would be such a shame though!

3192838Melissa Broder

I know that I am probably already boring you all with how much of a Melissa Broder fan I am – but there is just somethin so very brilliant about her writing. Having now read both her memoir and her debut novel, I can confidently say that I will be reading everything she writes next.

What are some of the authors whose next work you are eagerly anticipating?

 

30 books for 30 years

I turned 30 this week – which I am actually not mad about. I had a (mostly) great year and I think the year ahead will be awesome as well. My birthday itself was lovely – everybody was super nice to me and lots of my colleagues said nice things about the cakes I made (I much prefer cooking to baking), and I went to a restaurant with a close friend of mine.

So, to celebrate, I thought I would paint my life the only way I know how to: with the books that made me. 30 of them in fact. So, buckle up because this might take a while. (and I promise not all of them will be German books) Continue reading “30 books for 30 years”

Thoughts: My book buying habits are different to my reading habits.

I rearranged my physical TBR shelf today. It felt more like an extended play of tetris than anything else to be fair because I own so so many unread books currently and I do want to keep the books I have read separated from the books I still need to read and I don’t want to give up more shelves than absolutely necessary for unread books. I have talked about my thoughts on owning books before but I still have some more thoughts today.

I have now arranged my unread books according to genres and I realized something: I own way too many unread fiction and literary fiction books when taking into account what I actually read. Looking back at what I read this year this becomes painfully obvious:

I read 71 books so far; of these books 29 books can be vaguely classified as speculative fiction or fantasy (and I am lumping together everything here that is not set in our current world or is set in the future), 19 books are nonfiction, nine were short stories, and only 10 were fiction, literary fiction, or thrillers. But around half of my unread books are fiction. And these are all books I really want to read! (Except for Days Without End; I am not seeing myself reading that one ever. I read a few pages and there is no way I will ever get through that book but so far I cannot get myself to do something about that book on my shelves. But that is another story.) But still, even though I want to read those books I somehow never reach for them.

Oh, also, all except for one of the fiction books I have read this year were NetGalley arcs. That means I have read not a single one of the books on my shelves in this genre this year. (The book I read that I bought myself is There There by Tommy Orange [which you should absolutely rush to read] and that one I pre-ordered and immediately read upon arrival.)

So, what does that mean going forward? I am currently trying to only buy a book once I have read one book of the same genre off my shelves. Let’s see how that goes. I am also not going to buy any fiction novels for the rest of the year. Because I have SUCH great books already.

Here’s a sneak peak of the brilliant books I own but haven’t read:

Have you read any of these books? I think these are all books I would love, so do tell me which I should prioritize.