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:

2014-favorite-reads-kubi

  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:

2014-favorite-reads-hanna

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.

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2014 Year-End Review: A Belated Post

Of YA Fiction, Literary Complexity, and “Great Adult Literature”

I came across an infuriatingly condescending Slate article by Ruth Graham entitled “Against YA,” wherein she argues that adults should feel guilty about reading books “written for children.”

The author goes on to make broad generalizations about young adult literature, which only emphasize the fact that she hasn’t read enough YA novels to make such claims. Shallow and poorly-written books exist in ALL literary genres, but there are remarkable stories that are insightful, moving, masterfully crafted, and fall under the category of young adult fiction.

What Graham fails to understand is the significant impact that a book makes on a reader regardless of the genre.

YA FictionPhoto courtesy of the sister

To this day, I still consider Roald Dahl’s Matilda as one of my favorite books for it jump-started my love for literature. Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time kick-started a love affair with fantasy and science fiction. Katja Millay’s The Sea of Tranquility and Carol Rifka Brunt’s Tell the Wolves I’m Home moved me in ways that I couldn’t even articulate. Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park made me grateful to be young and in love and to be living in a world where beautiful stories such as this one exists. I will be eternally grateful to J.K. Rowling for writing the Harry Potter books, and to John Green for aiming to “decrease world suck” and introducing young readers to different kinds of literature through his many creative projects (particularly Crash Course Literature). I have often expressed my love for YA books, and I will continue reading these kinds of stories no matter how old I get.

Reprimanding adults (or anyone, for that matter) for reading YA novels simply because they were “written for children” is downright laughable. Graham writes:

Fellow grown-ups, at the risk of sounding snobbish and joyless and old, we are better than this. I know, I know: Live and let read. Far be it from me to disrupt the “everyone should just read/watch/listen to whatever they like” ethos of our era. There’s room for pleasure, escapism, juicy plots, and satisfying endings on the shelves of the serious reader. And if people are reading Eleanor & Park instead of watching Nashville or reading detective novels, so be it, I suppose. But if they are substituting maudlin teen dramas for the complexity of great adult literature, then they are missing something.

By generalizing YA fiction as mediocre and questioning its literary complexity because they “present the teenage perspective in a fundamentally uncritical way”, Graham insults the intelligence of readers, who are more than capable of thinking for themselves.

The problem lies not in the fact that there are adults who read YA fiction. It is in the elitist way of thinking that “we are better than this” and only “great adult literature” is worthy of our time.

Reading, whether for pleasure or cognitive stimulation, is still reading, and no one should ever feel embarrassed about doing so. Granted, there are books that are made entirely out of horseshit and turn brains into mush, but one becomes a discerning reader through practice. The important thing is that there are still people who are choosing to read, no matter the genre of the book or the age of the reader.

Stories affect readers in different ways, and as in everything else, there are exceptionally good ones and excruciatingly bad ones. But nobody should be denied the pleasure of discovering a book so beautiful and moving, that it will remain with you forever.

For more in-depth discussions regarding the matter, click on the following links:

No, you do not have to be ashamed of reading young adult fiction by Alyssa Rosenberg on The Washington Post

Slate’s Condescending “Against YA” Couldn’t Be More Wrong — Young Adult Fiction Is for Everyone by Elisabeth Donnelly on Flavorwire

A Question of Regression by Carina Santos on Nothing Spaces

Hey, Everyone! Read Whatever the Fuck You Want by Mark Shrayber on Jezebel

This was a post by Hanna, who is seriously considering revisiting her childhood favorite books.

Of YA Fiction, Literary Complexity, and “Great Adult Literature”

Book Loot Or, Accumulating More Books to Be Added to My TBR Pile of Gargantuan Proportions

This summer was all about spending time with family, getting sun-kissed, waking up in the wee hours of the morning, working on art projects, creating mix-tapes, watching Korean dramas, reading YA novels, gushing and dancing at a music festival, watching horror flicks, getting smitten with a kitten, rolling down the car windows and singing along to ’80s songs at midnight,  and of course, hoarding books.

If, at this moment, the books on my bedside table start vomiting, they would be spewing out snow, misfit runaways, a chateau mystery, tennis balls, a jukebox, and Mona Lisa’s smile.

We didn’t go out as often as we used to, but I mostly went in and out of bookstores every time we did. I’ve found pretty sweet stuff from bargain bins and secondhand bookshops:

book haul 1

It was such a delightful surprise to find The Second Mrs. Gioconda by E.L. Konigsburg, which is a historical novel that explores the origin of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.

M.L. Longworth’s Death at Chateau Bremont seems like a fun and charming read, while Charles Bock’s Beautiful Children promises to be gritty and harrowing.

I have fallen in love with Under the Tuscan Sun (both the book and the film adaptation) by Frances Mayes, so it was a treat to find her A Year in the World.

John Clarke’s The Tournament has such a clever and fantastic conceit. In this book, he gathered the most brilliant minds of the 20th century and had them duke it out in the craziest tennis tournament that could end all tennis tournaments.

Hidden among dusty gems at a secondhand bookshop in Manila was Kate Atkinson’s Case Histories. I have read rave reviews of Life After Life and heard Kubi sing its praises, which is why I’ve finally decided to read it and obtain more books by the author.

I was immediately drawn to Donna Tartt’s The Little Friend, mostly because of the creepy doll on the cover (thanks, in large part, to one of the world’s best cover designers, Chip Kidd). The gloomy weather seems perfect for a deliciously creepy novel, and I can’t wait to start reading it.

book haul 2

I was elated to find A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin and two more books from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series at a secondhand bookstore in Subic.

Bill Bryson’s Neither Here nor There promises to be a riot, while Michael Chabon’s A Model World and Other Stories offers another opportunity to marvel at the author’s delectable sentences.

I’ve read and loved Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog, but didn’t have my own copy of the book. Both of my sisters have their own copies but this one has a beautiful cover, which was what convinced me to buy it.

Patrick Gale’s Notes from an Exhibition earned high praise from one of the most brilliant people on the planet, Stephen Fry. He described it as “complete perfection” so naturally, I bought it.

Daphne Kalotay’s Russian Winter is simply intriguing and beguiling. I can’t wait to read it.

book haul 3

These two books were given by Kubi, my partner-in-reading-and-book-hoarding. I’ve breezed through pretty much all of the heady works of Francesca Lia Block except for Pretty Dead, which was surprisingly hard to find.

Carol Rifka Brunt’s Tell the Wolves I’m Home was such a beautiful book that had rendered me catatonic. Now that I have my own copy of the damn book that made me bawl my eyes out at three in the morning, I am looking forward to reliving the experience and underlining the bejeezus out of it.

book haul 4

I bought these three delightful books yesterday, while preparing to get my heart ripped to shreds at a screening of the film adaptation of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars.

Diane Johnson’s Into a Paris Quartier is a memoir that provides an intimate look at her beloved St.-Germain-des-Prés. My sister and I were surprised to discover that it was signed by the author herself. Admittedly, it was dedicated to another person, but it was still signed nonetheless.

I learned about cozy mysteries from a discussion that Jim Parsons had with Craig Ferguson. Craig is quite possibly my most favorite human bean in the entire multiverse. It was he who introduced me to a multitude of fascinating writers, including Lawrence Block, who writes brilliant mystery novels. I found The Burglar Who Thought He Was Bogart, one of the books in Block’s Bernie Rhodenbarr series, as well as Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder, which is the first of many delicious mysteries in the Hannah Swensen series by Joanne Fluke.

Unsurprisingly, I have no more shelf space. If my TBR pile were a monster, it would swallow me whole.

Huzzah.

This was a post by Hanna, who is thinking of black bean noodles.

*Photographs courtesy of the sister

Book Loot Or, Accumulating More Books to Be Added to My TBR Pile of Gargantuan Proportions

Currently Reading: Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos

It’s been pretty quiet around here, but we promise that we have been reading!

January has been good to me in terms of finding fantastic books. At Kubi’s behest, I read Carol Rifka Brunt’s brilliant Tell the Wolves I’m Home earlier this month and I was deeply moved by it.

Tell the Wolves I'm Home

I had to read it slowly because I wanted to savor the sentences. It felt like leafing through pages of my journal except the entries were written in beautiful prose. Reading this book was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made so far this year, and I have my partner-in-reading to thank for that. I have no coherent thoughts yet, but I’m hoping that soon I’ll be able to articulate my unmitigated adoration for this book.

Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets

Honestly, I decided to read Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos because I’m a sucker for brilliant titles and beautiful book covers. I wasn’t expecting a clever and funny read but that’s what this book is. I’m reading only a few chapters at a time and so far, I am thoroughly enjoying the protagonist’s Whitmanization of the world.

This was a post by Hanna, who is listening to Elvis Costello to drown out the Monday blues.

Currently Reading: Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos