I keep a reading journal (an example pictured below) and I also post short takes on Patreon each month about what I’m reading, including advance reads and blurbs. (If you’re interested in more frequent updates, with more stories, jump on the Patreon.)
Things are very busy, and in the midst of everything, it’s good to stop now and then and recognize how much wonderful work is out there, to have conversations about great reads, and to keep tabs on how much I’m reading (if I stop reading, it’s like a shark stopping swimming, I think).
So far this year, I’ve read 45 books, 50 or so short stories, four books of poetry, and a whole lot of great essays. And while it’s impossible to list all of it, there are a number of favorites I want to leave on your doorstep – these below, for starters.
- The Mere Wife– Maria Dahvana Headley (spoilers: it’s beautiful) A modernized tale that already feels classic… a mother’s love, and mothers-in-law, a whole lot of vengeance, secrets, and myths. The first section will grab you, the next several hundred pages may tear you up a little, but it’s so so worth it.
- Empire of Sand– Tasha Suri Oh my gosh. Seriously. I thought I knew what this book was doing to me. I was jaded and I had NO idea. A wonderful, fun, excellent read. So so good. Preorder. (Reader, I blurbed). Coming to a store near you soon.
- Blood Water Paint, Joy McCullough – I am destroyed and put back together by this historical fiction in verse about the life of Baroque era painter Artemisia Gentileschi. I devoured this. I want to write something as powerful and beautiful and amazing some day. When interrupted in my reading of it by someone asking me a question, I literally growled.
- The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse, Louise Erdrich — Within the first 10% of the book there are two fake [redacted], a robbery a [redacted], three incredible piano scenes and a [redacted]. Then the story transforms and transforms and transforms again. Huge and sexy in moments, filled with sadness and regret in others. Metaphysical and reflective and all Erdrich.
- Implanted, Lauren Teffeau – coming this fall, and Lauren is both a classmate of mine from Taos as well as a critique buddy. I love this high-tech thriller in its eco-aware shell, even though I thought the squirm factor was going to be really high for me (blood stuff) it worked in uncountable ways. Teffeau knows how to write a training montage too.
Longer Short Stories (Novellas & Novelettes)
- The Tea Master and the Detective, Aliette de Bodard
I blurbed this one and it’s just — gender flipped Sherlock in space anyone? Mindships! TEA. YES you want to read it.
- The Only Harmless Great Thing – Brooke Bolander (Tor.com) – Elephants, radium, class, ethics, liminality, poetry and dreams. This one’s gorgeous and will follow you for a while.
- “The Hydraulic Emperor” Arkady Martine (Uncanny)
Oh this hits a lot of my deepest SFF settings: artifacts, auctions, pissing matches, egos and relationships. All under an alien gaze.
- “Four-Point Affective Calibration” Bogi Takàcs (Lightspeed)
I love the structure of this, and keep thinking about the layers.
- “Origin Story,” T. Kingfisher, (Apex.)
HOLY HELL THIS IS HOW YOU START A STORY. AND HOW YOU CONTINUE. AND HOW YOU END. OMG: “The last of the fairies worked in a charnel house, taking apart the beasts that came dead under her hands.”
- “The No-One Girl and the Flower of the Farther Shore,” E. Lily Yu, (Clarkesworld)
I’ll read everything that Lily writes, this is one reason why.
- “Tank” John Wiswell (Diabolical Plots) – Fanciful, and yet entirely thoughtful in both approach and structure.
- “I Frequently Hear Music in the Very Heart of Noise” – Sarah Pinsker (Uncanny)
This is an epic, sweeping piece told in music and architecture and I refuse to spoil it. (I had this in longer work and it’s short!)
- Also: Conservation Laws – Vandana Singh, This World is Full of Monsters, Jeff Vandermeer, Umbernight, Carolyn Ives Gilman, She Still Loves The Dragon, Elizabeth Bear
- A Thousand Beginnings and Endings – Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman, ed.
Just loved it. The collection ranges far and wide, and I can’t pick out one favorite story because they keep bubbling up in my mind. Current faves: stories by Preeti Chhibber, Alyssa Wong, Shveta Thakrar, and Aliette de Bodard.
- Robots VS. Fairies – anthology – I love this collection. All of them together, each separate. It’s great stuff from Editors Navah Wolfe and Dominik Parisien.
- A Cathedral of Myth and Bone, Short Stories, Kat Howard (advance) [OH MY GOSH SO GOOD] – this is one of the books of my heart. You can’t read it and not demand better of yourself. Beautifully arranged, gorgeously written, I cannot wait for everyone to read it.
- Sick – Porochista Khakpour
A hard memoir to read, especially because so much resonates with my experience, even just phrases like “I didn’t want anything else to be wrong” and “everyone says ‘take care of yourself'”.
- Strapless – Deborah Davis. This one is fascinating and came to me by way of a friend. I’ve known the painting and been a Sargent fan most of my life. I didn’t know the name behind the portrait’s subject: Amelie Gatreau — or how her life brought her within this frame and beyond it. It’s a powerful musing on art and portraiture, with a big resonance re: the Portrait of Dorian Gray.
- “The Final Terrible Voyage of the Nautilus” – WIRED – May Jeong – this is a terrifying true tale that turns the lens not on the crime or the criminal as much as on what was lost. Not crafted around an entertainment of tragedy and violence but a meditation on tragedy and the fact of existence. I will read anything Jeong writes from now on because of this one.
- The Unwomanly Face of War: An Oral History of Women in World War Two, Svetlana Alexievich – Tough going because it’s steeped in history and also really heartbreaking.
Poetry: “Drop Some Amens,” by Brandon O’Brien and “Found Discarded: A Love Poem Questionably Addressed” by Cassandra Khaw (appeared alongside my “The Sea Never Says It Loves You,” in this month’s Uncanny Magazine). Ocean Vuong’s Night Sky With Exit Wounds, Southern Song, Li Quingzhao.
Ocean Meets Sky – picture book (OH IT IS SO GORGEOUS) I love this book’s illustrations with all my heart.