Mon, Feb. 9th, 2009, 12:08 am || 2008 books write up

add to memories

*looks at date*

Er. Better late than never?

Once again, I read fewer books this year. On the other hand, only two books less than last year, so I think that is not bad, considering that I started grad school and all! And I managed to blog every book I read, with the exception of rereads.

The biggest change for me in 2008 was starting the 50books_poc challenge; namely, to read 50 books by POC in a year. I had originally done it from IBARW to IBARW (August 2007 to August 2008), but it's nice to know that I met it for the calendar year of 2008 as well. If anyone's interested about why, I wrote up why I count and how the challenge affected me during IBARW 3. Next year, my goal is to increase the percentage of books by POC so that it's over 50% of all the books I read, total. I'm still trying to make it enough of a habit that I won't have to count, and it's rather embarrassing to see the huge jump in numbers once I started making an effort. The gap between 13 books by POC versus 64 is enormous and indicative of my own aversive racism; it didn't actually take that much effort to find those 51 additional books (although a large part of that is thanks to my local libraries, and aversive racism plays its own role in book selection in libraries as well).

It is nice to see that I do not have to worry much about the percentage of women I'm reading.

As always, feel free to ask about anything here.

  • Sherman Alexie, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian: Junior is transferring from the school on the Spokane Indian Reservation to the (largely white) school outside; "hope is white," he tell us matter-of-factly but sadly. Alexie manages to be hilariously funny and painfully deadpan and depressing at the same time, often about the exact same things. Nothing in Junior's life is easy, as this transition will show, and Alexie is great at balancing all the complexities of being Indian, wanting to escape the poverty and alcoholism rampant on the rez, but also wanting to stay connected with your family and your people. Also, as a bonus, Ellen Forney's cartoons make me snort with laughter.


  • M.T. Anderson, The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation: The Pox Party: Although I love all the books on this list, this is the second-best book I read all year. In case you don't know the premise yet, don't go look; it won't ruin the book (the reread is every bit as good as the first read), but the surprise is worth it. This book is brilliant on so many levels. First, Anderson does a wonderful pastiche of writing voices of the 1700s, but that's really the least of the book's awesomeness. Mostly, I love how it savagely deconstructs mainstream views of the American Revolution, like the "God-given" rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, how it critiques the notion of scientific objectivity and the Age of Enlightenment, and mostly I love how it never lets up and always keeps pushing. I can see why people think this book is depressing, but reading about the ideas and theories and all the anger made it exhilirating for me.


  • Atul Gawande, Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science and Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance: If I had to pick, I prefer Complications slightly better than Better, but only because I enjoy reading about medical complications and mistakes more than I enjoy reading about people trying to go from good to great. As mentioned, the first book is more about when systems fail and what happens from then on, while the latter is on how to improve systems. Both are extremely interesting if you're interested in medicine, and I'd recommend them to people who like pop science or just fascinating, true stories as well. I particularly like Gawande's complicated portrayal of the US medical system, and I also like that he visits the Indian medical system as well. Some of the chapters aren't for the squeamish (flesh-eating bacteria! lots of needles!), but I loved all of it.


  • Justina Chen Headley, Girl Overboard: Syrah's a poor little rich girl who's still recovering from a broken leg, which prevents her from snowboarding. But instead of telling a simple story from there, Headley goes into Asian inter-generational conflicts without ever taking the easy way, she includes sisters and mothers and aunts and dumpling wrapping, and her world is noticeably multi-cultural, albeit with an emphasis on the Asian. This has all my favorite things about YA for young women, with the added bonus of snowboarding, Chinese culture that isn't the main problem, and emotional denouements that made me cry. It's a little feel-good at the end, but I think Headley earns most of it, and she's one of my new favorite authors in YA.


  • Maggie Helwig, Where She Was Standing: (spoilers halfway through the link) I don't usually read much "literary" fiction (I feel calling it "general" or "non-genre" similarly presents a false dichotomy), but this is worth it. A Canadian student is killed in East Timor, and a white humans-right worker must try to piece together what's happening, both to the student and to East Timor. I am generally wary of a white, Western POV of something like this, but Helwig does an interesting thing and makes the book about the lack of information, the lack of voices, on how the Western world so frequently operates while possessing only fragments of the POV of the East Timorese. It's about negative spaces and where someone had been but no longer is, and Helwig's beautiful, spare prose ties the book together.


  • Angela Johnson, The First Part Last: Headley and Johnson are two of my favorite finds from doing 50books_poc, and Johnson in particular I never would have picked up without a rec from my librarian and a push from the comm. The book's about the teenage father of a newborn baby girl; everything about it screams "problem book," and nothing about it actually is. My own write up of it kind of sucks, and the book itself didn't impress me that much at first. But I keep returning to it in my head, keep thinking about images in it, or the way it gently overturns mass media portrayal of black men, but overall, it's the love Bobby has for his daughter Feather that makes me love it. rachelmanija posted the first page; do check it out.


  • David Mas Masumoto, Epitaph for a Peach: Four Seasons on My Family Farm: I read this when the days were getting shorter and the sun was setting earlier, and I had to ration it out because every chapter made me feel so at peace with the world, so calm and happy and full. Masumoto is a sansei fruit farmer in California's Central Valley trying to save his favorite variety of peach, but the book is more about life on the family farm and the rhythm of the seasons—summer heat and autumn change and the gray gray rain of winter. He interweaves stories about his parents and grandparents with his efforts to go organic, always trying to balance ecology with keeping the farm going. Just lovely.


  • Andrea Smith, Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide: This is my hands-down no-questions-about-it favorite book of the year. Andrea Smith writes about violence against American Indian women and land and traditions, and though I knew some of information in the book, she provides even more and then synthesizes it all in a way that is just mind-blowing. Like Octavian Nothing, Smith tears apart the way the US was founded on forced infertilization, rape of women and land, and the genocide of people and cultures and hammers in how that violence is still happening. I love how she ties together past and present, because nothing is without context; I love how she starts from American Indian women and works out from there; I love her conclusions about sexual violence and how it is part and parcel of cultural, enviromental, emotional, and bodily violence. This should be required reading in US history and feminism. Brilliant.


  • Catherynne M. Valente, The Orphan's Tales: In the Night Garden and The Orphan's Tales: In the Cities of Coin and Spice: Valente's lush prose, tangled web of a plot, and layers upon layers of world-building may not appeal to everyone, but I loved them. The core story is of an orphan girl with stories tattooed on her eyelids, but there are so many tales within. I love Valente's commitment to telling the stories of those who are usually kept out of stories, the monsters and the evil stepmothers and the crones and the differently abled, and how each teller reshapes the tale for their own purpose. I love the stories of all the dying cities, each filled with even more stories lost forever or waiting discovery and a new telling. I'm still not entirely sure the ending hangs together, but the journey there is so full of wonder and awe that I don't particularly care.


  • Elizabeth E. Wein, The Mark of Solomon: The Lion Hunter and The Mark of Solomon: The Empty Kingdom: I cheat and include The Lion Hunter even though I read it in 2007, since the two books act as one.

    Oh, Telemakos. You may be one of my favorite fictional characters right now. Wein continues the story of Telemakos from The Sunbird, keeping with all the fallout that must happen and adding even more danger, along with the birth of a sister, Athena. I adore both Telemakos and Athena, and I love the two together even more. See? My overarching love for these books has me babbling like an idiot! They have a sharp and complicated view of politics in ancient Aksum, along with a similarly sharp and complicated take on the relationships among people, from Telemakos and his sister to his complicated father Medraut to his aunt Goewin and much further beyond that, as he travels outside of Aksum. Wein is exceptionally good at capturing court intrigue and politicking while never losing sight of the human element, or she's exceptionally good at matching her wonderful characters with equally complex plots; I can't tell and I don't care. Anyway, these are awesome and I love them.


Also recommended: Susan Fletcher, Shadow Spinner; Cathy Park Hong, Dance Dance Revolution; Maureen Johnson, The Key to the Golden Firebird; Lee Kyung Ja, Hong Na Young, and Chang Sook Hwan, Traditional Korean Costume; Jen Lin-Liu, Serving the People: A Stir-Fried Journey Through China; China Mieville, Un Lun Dun; Terry Pratchett, Nation and Going Postal; Jo Walton, Half a Crown; Kevin Young, Jelly Roll: A Blues

I feel like Kevin Young and Cathy Park Hong should be in my main list, but their poetry occupies that odd space where I appreciate it when I read it, don't quite understand it, but periodically think back on them and turn them around in my head. Part of it is that I feel like I don't get poetry, and another may be that they simply require more rereading from me.

Total read: 129 (6 rereads)
51 by women of color, 64 by POC, 104 by women

Complete list of books read in 2008
* stands for a book by POC, † stands for a book by a woman
1. Anne Stuart, Ice Storm, Jan 01 †
2. Melissa de la Cruz, Blue Bloods, Jan 06 *†
3. Martha Brooks, Bone Dance, Jan 06 †
4. Jo Walton, Ha'Penny, Jan 09 †
5. Sharon M. Draper, The Battle of Jericho, Jan 12 *†
6. Cynthia Kadohata, Weedflower, Jan 12 *†
7. Maureen Johnson, Girl at Sea, Jan 13 †
8. Susan Fletcher, Alphabet of Dreams, Jan 15 †
9. Chris Crutcher, Whale Talk, Jan 16
10. Valery M. Garrett, Traditional Chinese Clothing in Hong Kong and South China, 1840-1980, Jan 18 †
11. Susan Fletcher, Shadow Spinner, Jan 19 †
12. Maureen Johnson, The Bermudez Triangle, Jan 21 †
13. M.T. Anderson, The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation: The Pox Party, Jan 25
14. Angela Johnson, The First Part Last, Jan 27 *†
15. Maggie Helwig, Where She Was Standing, Jan 28 †
16. Caridad Ferrer, Adios to My Old Life, Feb 02 *†
17. Catherynne M. Valente, The Orphan's Tales: In the Night Garden, Feb 05 †
18. Kevin Young, Jelly Roll: A Blues, Feb 06 *
19. Charlayne Hunter-Gault, New News Out of Africa: Uncovering Africa's Renaissance, Feb 08 *†
20. Cathy Park Hong, Dance Dance Revolution, Feb 08 *†
21. Catherynne M. Valente, The Orphan's Tales: In the Cities of Coin and Spice, Feb 11 †
22. Angela Johnson, Bird, Feb 13 *†
23. Justina Chen Headley, Nothing but the Truth (and a Few White Lies), Feb 14 *†
24. Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu, The Shadow Speaker, Feb 20 *†
25. Justina Chen Headley, Girl Overboard, Feb 21 *†
26. Angela Johnson, A Cool Moonlight, Feb 23 *†
27. Lori Aurelia Williams, When Kambia Elaine Flew in from Neptune, Feb 27 *†
28. Frankie Manning and Cynthia Millman, Frankie Manning: Ambassador of Lindy Hop, Mar 01 *
29. Patricia Gaffney, Sweet Everlasting, Mar 02 †
30. Nalini Singh, Visions of Heat, Mar 02 *†
31. Marjorie M. Liu, Tiger Eye, Mar 03 *†
32. Marjorie M. Liu, Shadow Touch, Mar 05 *†
33. Toni Morrison, Beloved, Mar 06 *†
34. Marjorie M. Liu, The Red Heart of Jade, Mar 06 *†
35. Nalini Singh, Caressed by Ice, Mar 08 *†
36. Marjorie M. Liu, Eye of Heaven, Mar 09 *†
37. Marjorie M. Liu, Soul Song, Mar 11 *†
38. Martha Wells, The Element of Fire, Mar 11 †
39. Atul Gawande, Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance, Mar 11 *
40. Sunny Yang, Hanbok: The Art of Korean Clothing, Mar 13 *†
41. Marjorie M. Liu, The Last Twilight, Mar 14 *†
42. China Mieville, Un Lun Dun, Mar 14
43. Sherman Alexie, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Mar 15 *
44. Shana Abe, The Dream Thief, Mar 16 †(reread)
45. Shana Abe, Queen of Dragons, Mar 16 †
46. Atul Gawande, Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science, Mar 18 *
47. Lee Kyung Ja, Hong Na Young, and Chang Sook Hwan, Traditional Korean Costume, Mar 22 *†
48. Melissa de la Cruz, Masquerade, Mar 26 *†
49. Alex Sanchez, Rainbow Boys, Mar 27 *
50. Nalo Hopkinson and Uppinder Mehan, So Long Been Dreaming: Postcolonial Science Fiction and Fantasy, Mar 30 *†
51. Colleen Gleason, The Rest Falls Away, Apr 01 †
52. Kirin Narayan, Love, Stars, and All That, Apr 02 *†
53. Iksop Lee and S. Robert Ramsey, The Korean Language, Apr 04 *
54. Ann Maxwell, Dancer's Luck, Apr 04 †
55. Lydia Joyce, Shadows in the Night, Apr 08 †
56. Sandra Cisneros, Caramelo, Apr 14 *†
57. Sherry Thomas, Private Arrangements, Apr 17 *†
58. Meljean Brook, Demon Angel, Apr 20 †
59. Lydia Joyce, Voices of the Night, Apr 21 †
60. Lydia Joyce, The Veil of the Night, Apr 22 †
61. Yan Geling, White Snake and Other Stories, Apr 25 *†
62. Valery M. Garrett, Chinese Clothing: An Illustrated Guide, Apr 25 †
63. Octavia E. Butler, Adulthood Rites, Apr 26 *†
64. Cherry Cheva, She's So Money, May 01 *†
65. Lydia Joyce, The Music of the Night, May 02 †
66. Alex Sanchez, Rainbow High, May 03 *
67. Octavia E. Butler, Imago, May 03 *†
68. Shin Myung-ho, Joseon Royal Court Culture: Ceremonial and Daily Life, May 04 *
69. Kashmira Sheth, Keeping Corner, May 07 *†
70. Neil de Grasse Tyson, Universe Down to Earth, May 09 *
71. Octavia E. Butler, Clay's Ark, May 10 *†
72. Maureen Johnson, The Key to the Golden Firebird, May 12 †
73. Sarah Dessen, Lock and Key, May 18 †
74. Sherri Winston, The Kayla Chronicles, May 18 *†
75. Elizabeth E. Wein, The Mark of Solomon: The Empty Kingdom, May 19 †
76. Robin Brande, Evolution, Me, and Other Freaks of Nature, May 20 †
77. M.T. Anderson, The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation: The Pox Party, May 22 (reread)
78. Rachel Manija Brown, All the Fishes Come Home to Roost: An American Misfit in India, May 28 †(reread)
79. Neil de Grasse Tyson, Death by Black Hole and Other Cosmic Quandries, May 28 *
80. Andrea Smith, Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide, May 30 *†
81. Mary Stewart, The Ivy Tree, Jun 04 †
82. L.J. Smith, Daughters of Darkness, Jun 08 †
83. L.J. Smith, Huntress, Jun 08 †
84. L.J. Smith, Spellbinder, Jun 13 †
85. Angela Carter, The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories, Jun 20 †
86. Anchee Min, Empress Orchid, Jul 17 *†
87. Kim Sunee, Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Food, and the Search for Home, Jul 20 *†
88. Barbara Michaels, The Wizard's Daughter, Jul 22 †
89. Barbara Michaels, Into the Darkness, Jul 23 †
90. Marjorie M. Liu, The Wild Road, Aug 08 *†
91. Sherry Thomas, Delicious, Aug 14 *†
92. Laura Esquivel, Like Water for Chocolate, Aug 18 *†
93. Marie Brennan, Midnight Never Come, Aug 20 †
94. C.J. Cherryh, Angel with the Sword, Sep 01 †
95. Sarah Monette, The Bone Key: The Necromantic Mysteries of Kyle Murchinson Booth, Sep 20 †
96. Jennifer 8. Lee, The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food, Sep 20 *†
97. Salman Rushdie, Haroun and the Sea of Stories, Sep 22 *
98. Galen Beckett, The Magicians and Mrs. Quent, Sep 29 †
99. Sarah Smith, The Knowledge of Water, Oct 05 †
100. Jacqueline Carey, Kushiel's Mercy, Oct 12 †
101. Laura Kinsale, Seize the Fire, Oct 14 †(reread)
102. Marjorie M. Liu, A Taste of Crimson, Oct 17 *†
103. Patricia A. McKillip, The Bell at Sealey Head, Oct 20 †
104. Terry Pratchett, Nation, Oct 22
105. Jen Lin-Liu, Serving the People: A Stir-Fried Journey Through China, Oct 24 *†
106. Katherine Duey, Skin Hunger, Oct 25 †
107. Maggie Helwig, Girls Fall Down, Oct 28 †
108. Sherri L. Smith, Lucy the Giant, Oct 29 *†
109. Kristin Cashore, Graceling, Nov 02 †
110. David Mas Masumoto, Epitaph for a Peach: Four Seasons on My Family Farm, Nov 02 *
111. Terry Pratchett, Carpe Jugulum, Nov 07
112. Terry Pratchett, Small Gods, Nov 09
113. Terry Pratchett, Thief of Time, Nov 16
114. Emma Holly, Prince of Ice, Nov 17 †
115. C.E. Murphy, The Queen's Bastard, Nov 21 †
116. Octavia E. Butler, Patternmaster, Nov 24 *†
117. Uehashi Nahoko, Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit, Nov 24 *†
118. Octavia E. Butler, Mind of My Mind, Nov 26 *†
119. Meljean Brook, Demon Bound, Nov 27 †
120. Terry Pratchett, Going Postal, Nov 30
121. Terry Pratchett, Making Money, Dec 01
122. Sherri L. Smith, Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet, Dec 02 *†
123. Scott Westerfeld, The Risen Empire, Dec 05 (reread)
124. Maggie Shayne, Marjorie M. Liu, Alyssa Day, and Meljean Brook, Wild Thing, Dec 06 †
125. Scott Westerfeld, The Killing of Worlds, Dec 08 (reread)
126. Jo Walton, Half a Crown, Dec 10 †
127. Claudia Gray, Evernight, Dec 13 †
128. Victoria Janssen, The Duchess, Her Maid, The Groom, and Their Lover, Dec 16 †
129. Cynthia Leitich Smith, Tantalize, Dec 18 *†