alchimie: (Default)
Inspired by [personal profile] enemyofperfect who is a constant source of inspiration and delight.

Top 5 Books of 2018
  1. Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin, tr. Megan McDowell -- this was a pick for the 2018 Tournament of Books and I did not mean to read it, because the one-sentence description I had heard was everything I do not read (children in peril), but then I looked at the first page, and next thing I knew I was racing through it. It is an amazing, amazing book, and I was delighted that it won last year's ToB. I recommend it highly, but I would read it in a well-lit room on a strong day; it is definitely horror, even if not the sort of horror I was previously familiar with.

  2. The Idiot by Elif Batuman -- a big sprawling extremely funny novel in which nothing really happens and that is, for me, very much the point. I have never identified so much with a protagonist as I have with Selin, the Turkish-American young woman whose freshman year in college is the centre of this novel. My favourite sentence: "It felt amazing to eat anything without having to listen, nod, smile, or do anything with my eyebrows" -- this is exactly how I feel when I come home from dropping off my children and am able to sit down and just be by myself without having to make certain my face is animated and conveying my emotions to onlookers -- and for me the entire book was full of those moments where I was like, yes, that is just the words for how I feel about it. This was another ToB book, pleasantly enough; I think 2018 was the only year I got two favourites off of the shortlist, not that I have been following it for very long.

  3. Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler -- There is a sort of contemporary novel that I love which seems to get heavily panned by many readers because it is neither deep and serious enough, nor light and frothy enough, and Sweetbitter is a fine example of it. It's about Tess, a young woman working at a restaurant in New York, learning the world in a fragmented, inaccurate way which felt very real to me, and it was intensely pleasurable all through. I loved how Danler wrote about food and cooking and the pleasures of the body, and also how she wrote about the protagonist's infatuation with the lives of others; the prose is overwrought and emotional and perfect for evoking that time in my own life, when working was an adventure and older people were potential models and also potential threats -- there is actually a perfect Carrie Fisher quote about this: "Back then I was always looking ahead to who I wanted to be versus who I didn’t realize I already was, and the wished-for me was most likely based on who other people seemed to be and the desire to have the same effect on others that they had on me." That was absolutely me in my late teens and through my twenties, and that is Tess as well, and Danler illustrates it perfectly without coming down in judgement on any of it.

  4. Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee ([personal profile] yhlee) -- I love books that just dive in to their worldbuilding as though all the foreign concepts were already familiar to the reader; I am sure there is a lot of craft going on to make it so that the reader can piece it together, but the feel of it in the moment is that I am reading a text from the world in question -- obviously everyone already knows what calendrical heresy and formation instinct are, why would the narrator spend time explaining? I loved this entire trilogy, but the first one had both a fantastic story, a flavour of multiplicity in one of the plot elements that made me feel represented even though I doubt that was in the author's mind, and that brain-stretching worldbuilding that I adore. I am tempted to reread it but I am giving it more time to settle first; some books I reread so often that I use them up and I would hate for that to happen with this one.

  5. The Man Who Lived by SebastianL (felix_atticus) -- I have already mentioned this amazing 250,000 word Draco/Harry fanfic that made me fall in love with the entire notion of fanfic, the entire notion of rewriting Harry Potter to talk about how cult-like the wizarding world is, and several other things besides. It absolutely deserves to be on this list; it has not only very good & recognisable canon characters but a cast of original characters that I ended up caring deeply about. It was exactly what I needed when it came my way, and I am so grateful that it exists and has given me new ways to think about myself and my past and the world at large.

Honourable Mentions: Circe by Madeline Miller, Dragonsbane by Barbara Hambly, Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik, The Cranes Dance by Meg Howrey.

I had planned to do the other four categories in this same post, but I ended up writing so much about books I think I will break them off into their own so that it is not too long of a page. Looking back over my last year of reading and thinking about what I loved was delightful and made me very exicted to dive back into my current TBR in case any of them turn out to be treasures.

Date: 2019-01-31 06:55 pm (UTC)From: [personal profile] rachelmanija
rachelmanija: (Books: old)
I have never even heard of your first three, and they sound great! Sweetbitter sounds especially up my alley, though I guess depending on how I like the prose style. Thanks for writing them up.

Date: 2019-02-01 01:48 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] enemyofperfect
enemyofperfect: a spray of orange leaves against a muted background (Default)
I hadn't heard of the first three of these, either, but you make them sound so intriguing! It also makes complete and obvious sense, now that you've said it, that Ninefox Gambit could remind you of multiplicity. I'm glad that was a positive element for you!

Dragonsbane is the other one of these that I've read so far, and I remember it fondly. Have you read The Silicon Tower by the same author? I feel like it deals with some similar character archetypes, but with a different emphasis or angle.

(You are so kind! I find our interactions delightful too!)

April 2019

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