Of Lists, Monster TBR Piles, and Frittering

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Illustration by Ping Zhu for The Oyster Review

Earlier this month, The Oyster Review put together a list of 100 best books published since 2010. I’ve read only four of the books in the top ten: Patti Smith’s Just Kids (#2), Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life (#3), Paul Murray’s Skippy Dies (#6), and Jennifer Egan’s A Visit to the Goon Squad (#7).

A multitude of my favorites showed up on the list, but I still have a lot of catching up to do. Looking through the entire list, I felt like Rory Gilmore in The Road Trip to Harvard, when she found out about the number of books in the Harvard Library:

I’m a failure. I am stupid. I am uninformed and ignorant and… I can’t even think of a second synonym for uninformed. I suck. Thirteen million volumes? I’ve read like, what, three hundred books in my entire life and I’m already sixteen? Do you know how long it would take me to read thirteen million books?

It’s impossible not to feel like I’ve been frittering away my whole life when my TBR pile is of gargantuan proportions, and there are lists, such as this one, that remind me of the number of books that I still have yet to read.

Anyhoo,  how many of The Oyster Review‘s 100 books have you read? What books would make it to your top ten? If you’re looking for excellent book recommendations, check out the list and let us know what you plan on reading.

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Of Lists, Monster TBR Piles, and Frittering

Monthly Reading Wrap-Up: March 2015

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Favorite March Read: Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, and Brooke Allen
Runner-up: Lexicon by Max Barry

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Favorite March Read: The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman
Runner-up: Just Kids by Patti Smith

What were your favorite books from last month? What are you looking forward to reading this April?

Monthly Reading Wrap-Up: March 2015

Kubi’s March in reading

Terry Pratchett died. I cried silently in bed, wrapped in blankets and the early morning haze. I sent a text message to my oldest friend, who shares a love of Discworld with her father. We talked about how Sir Terry passed and I thought of an old blog post I’d written about him and Neil Gaiman. Later that week, I bought his non-fiction collection A Slip of the Keyboard, wanting to hang on to more of his words.

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I read the rest of Lev Grossman’s Magicians Trilogy, which made me think about my own growing pains. The second of the series, The Magician King, marked my return to reading after the desert that was February. I realized long ago that fantasy novels help me regain my reading mojo. The heft of these tomes anchor my wandering attention span, preparing me for the relatively long-term (in this day and age) commitment of finishing a book.


After Magicians, I read Astragal by Albertine Sarrazin. Sarrazin was a French-Algerian writer, a storm of a woman who wrote two novels while serving time for armed robbery. Astragal is about a prison break and all the hiding that ensues. A young woman named Anne escapes prison by climbing over the compound’s wall and, in the process, falls and breaks her ankle – the astragalus bone. She meets a kindred spirit named Julien who helps her and the two fall in love. Patti Smith wrote the foreword to this new reprint of the novel, saying how Albertine and “her luminous eyes led [Smith] through the darkness of her youth.” So it was that I came to read Smith’s Just Kids, the story of her life with the artist Robert Mapplethorpe in New York City around the late 60’s and 70’s. The prose was an absolute delight, poetic but not too flowery, honest but somehow still nostalgic. One reviewer remarks on how Smith managed to maintain an air of innocence throughout the memoir and I agree. They were, after all, just kids.

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So, all for now wombats. I’m looking forward to the promise of summer reading. I’ve got the rest of the Outlander series to work on for the next couple of months (Happy Outlander Day!), as well as a few essay and short story collections. What are your summer reading plans?

Kubi’s March in reading

2014 Year-End Review: A Belated Post

How now, multiverse?

2015 was a stealthy little bugger. We’ve failed to write anything new this year, because LIFE, but we promise we’ve been reading!

KUBI:

Here, belatedly, are Kubi’s favorite books for 2014:

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  1. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  2. The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
  3. Beware of Pity by Stefan Zweig
  4. Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor
  5. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
  6. Edge of Tomorrow by Hiroshi Sakurazaka
  7. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami
  8. Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill
  9. Mourning Diary by Roland Barthes
  10. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
  11. Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed
  12. Levels of Life by Julian Barnes
  13. The Prestige by Christopher Priest
  14. The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman
  15. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

HANNA:

Here, belatedly, are my favorites for 2014:

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A huge chunk of last year was spent hoarding books, worrying about shelf space, attempting to restrain my impulses, devouring YA novels like cake, and making feeble attempts at writing substantial posts.

I had the good fortune to find and hold in my hands some of the most gorgeous works of art such as a signed first edition of Sacré Bleu: A Comedy d’Art by Christopher Moore, which is a thing of beauty and a rollicking good read, and Griffin & Sabine: An Extraordinary Correspondence by Nick Bantock. Someone at work thrust the latter into my hands after learning that I love to read, and I’ve been in love with this series ever since. Nick Bantock is one of my favorite visual artists, and it’s always a delightful treat to find his books on display.

Another one of my favorite artists is Chip Kidd, who is responsible for some of the most clever and unforgettable book covers. I am always in awe of Chip Kidd’s work, and he did a masterful job with the art direction and design of The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami. It is a deliciously terrifying book, and I loved everything about it.

Sometimes, you come across a book that seems thoroughly in tune with your thoughts that it seems as if the universe conspired to have you read it at that particular moment, just when you needed it the most. Both The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet by Reif Larsen and Daytripper by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba cut me from all angles and provided a much needed catharsis. These books are two of my favorite things on this planet, and I thank my lucky stars that they have made their way into my little corner of the world.

2014 also took me on a wild romp across space and time with stellar fantasy novels such as the unbefuckinglievably fantastic Vicious by V.E. Schwab, and the wonderfully silly Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman. Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor provided a satisfying conclusion to the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, which introduced me to Karou and her magnificence.

I was fucking stunned by the sheer genius of The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. I love Locke and the Gentlemen Bastards with all of my heart, but I especially love the book’s language, wit, and magnificent cussing. Scott Lynch is a word painter, and I can only dream of writing something as perfect as this:

“Some day, Locke Lamora,” he said, “some day, you’re going to fuck up so magnificently, so ambitiously, so overwhelmingly that the sky will light up and the moons will spin and the gods themselves will shit comets with glee. And I just hope I’m still around to see it.”

Speaking of sublime writing, I loved Just Kids by Patti Smith for its shockingly beautiful prose, and I underlined the bejeezus out of Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt. I savored every gorgeously written sentence of Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation, which provided heartbreakingly beautiful vignettes about a long relationship and a faltering marriage. I unabashedly adored The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin for its charm, exploration of relationships, and emphasis on books and reading. Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger is damn near perfection, and I will always be in awe of how each story was written in such easy grace.

Finally, Night of Cake and Puppets by Laini Taylor was the perfect happy potion for a year in shambles. It is every bit as lovely and magical as it sounds. Laini Taylor has a beautiful way with words, and I devoured all of it with great relish.

It fills me with pleasure that I didn’t miss any of these books, each of which is a gift to this world, and made last year a little bit nicer.

2014 Year-End Review: A Belated Post