This is by no means a complete list, as I intended before I read double my reading goal, so others (especially series) may appear separately to this already long list.
Putin’s Russia: How it Rose, How It is Maintained, and How it Might End
By Mikhail Dmitriev, Evgeny Gontmakher, Lev Gudkov, Sergei Guriev, Boris Makarenko, Alexey Malashenko, Dmitry Oreshkin, Kirill Rogov, and Natalia Zubarevich.
In this groundbreaking collection, nine of Russia’s leading scholars and experts describe and analyze some of the Vladimir Putin regime’s key structural strengths and weaknesses and look at their implications for both the present and the future. As far as the regime’s fault lines are concerned, the evidence presented by the authors shows no reversal, or even narrowing, of these structural dysfunctions in Putin’s third presidential term.
I have a bit of a special interest in Russia, so probably wouldn’t recommend this book to someone less interested in world politics of today, but I found it enlightening.
It covers many topics so you quickly gain a fuller picture of the way this society, full of complexity and contradiction, is headed. And it echoes concerns in other countries going through crises; like the UK, with Brexit – as public opinion differs hugely and we become a culture of ‘us’ and ‘them’.
Certainly not the most enjoyable read, but one that feels somewhat important in this new age of politics – rife with deception and fury.
Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits
By David Wong
Nightmarish villains with superhuman enhancements.
An all-seeing social network that tracks your every move.
Mysterious, smooth-talking power players who lurk behind the scenes.
A young woman from the trailer park.
And her very smelly cat.
Together, they will decide the future of mankind.
Get ready for a world in which anyone can have the powers of a god or the fame of a pop star, in which human achievement soars to new heights while its depravity plunges to the blackest depths. A world in which at least one cat smells like a seafood shop’s dumpster on a hot summer day.
This is the world in which Zoey Ashe finds herself, navigating a futuristic city in which one can find elements of the fantastic, nightmarish and ridiculous on any street corner. Her only trusted advisor is the aforementioned cat, but even in the future, cats cannot give advice. At least not any that you’d want to follow.
Will Zoey figure it all out in time? Or maybe the better question is, will you? After all, the future is coming sooner than you think.
I must admit I was already a fan of David Wong’s writing before this, having previously read John Dies at the End and This Book is Full of Spiders.
I am exactly the kind of person who loves when your protagonists are useless stoners with no clue what the fuck is going on, but are more than up for causing some chaotic antics while the world burns.
If that sounds like you, you’ll enjoy these books.
Futuristic Violence is the first of his (that I know of) to have a female protagonist. Zoey Ashe speaks exactly as you would expect a 20-something waitress with dyed hair, a cat, and a fondness for fanfiction to speak, and I desperately want her to collide with the characters from An Absolutely Remarkable Thing By Hank Green.
The pacing can be a little… messy. But I have come to appreciate that as a part of the fucked up nonsense stories he writes – it would seem wrong any other way! After all, it’s not everyday you inherit your estranged fathers bachelor mansion, hot bodyguard, and stripper holograms and find yourself on the run from cyborgs after the bounty on your head.
Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch
By Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
According to The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch (the world’s only completely accurate book of prophecies, written in 1655, before she exploded), the world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday, in fact. Just before dinner.
So the armies of Good and Evil are amassing, Atlantis is rising, frogs are falling, tempers are flaring. Everything appears to be going according to Divine Plan. Except a somewhat fussy angel and a fast-living demon—both of whom have lived amongst Earth’s mortals since The Beginning and have grown rather fond of the lifestyle—are not actually looking forward to the coming Rapture.According to The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch (the world’s only completely accurate book of prophecies, written in 1655, before she exploded), the world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday, in fact. Just before dinner.
And someone seems to have misplaced the Antichrist . . .
As always with Neil Gaiman, I read this in anticipation of the TV series. And though I have still yet to watch it, I must assume it will follow in the footsteps of American Gods in being better than the book, through the outstanding visuals and cinematography.
Good Omens has a much more fun, light-hearted tone than American Gods, which feels very similar to a lot of British comedy when applied to his writing style. I enjoyed the antics very much – even with some of the more dated aspects preventing it from drawing me into the world entirely.
I’m sure the book provides great insight when compared to the screen adaption, but updated for the times, the array of acting talent will surely lift it to new heights.
The Machine Stops
By E. M. Forster
A classic sci-fi novella, particularly notable for predicting new technologies such as instant messaging and the internet. This short story may seem a fairly on-the-nose dystopia were you not to first look at the publication date: 1909.
It is absolutely astounding the things Forster predicts in this book. Humanity living house-bound underground, reliant on technology for just about everything, communicating long-distance via. the internet and a much more efficient version of Skype, on an earth devastated by pollution. I found it particularly resonated with my isolating experience of chronic illness as this is a future in which that isolation and wheelchair use is considered the norm. This may be the sole reason that elevated this from 3 stars to 4.
I also find it important to note that Forster was gay, as that may apply to the ideas of freedom through-out, and the level of emotional (and physical) distance in even close family relationships, such as mother and newborn. The book may be before it’s time in the same way you could say he was.
Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Tell You Everything You Need To Know About Global Politics
By Tim Marshall
All leaders of nations are constrained by geography. Their choices are limited by mountains, rivers, seas, and concrete. To understand world events, news organizations and other authorities often focus on people, ideas, and political movements, but without geography, we never have the full picture. Now, in the relevant and timely Prisoners of Geography, seasoned journalist Tim Marshall examines Russia, China, the USA, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Japan and Korea, and Greenland and the Arctic—their weather, seas, mountains, rivers, deserts, and borders—to provide a context often missing from our political reportage: how the physical characteristics of these countries affect their strengths and vulnerabilities and the decisions made by their leaders.
If you have any interest in politics at all (or even if you just love maps) this book is a must-read.
It gives an easy-to-understand look at both the past and the future of the world and will give you the answers to ‘why does this country care so much about that one?’ and ‘why is it called the Middle-East?’ Lots of planning for wars no one really wants and OH MY GOD WHY IS NO ONE FREAKING OUT ABOUT HOW CLIMATE CHANGE IS CREATING A NEW TRADE ROUTE TO FIGHT OVER AND THE ONLY ONE PREPARED IS MOTHER RUSSIA?!!
Prepare to be deeply interested in the ways geography affected the past and deeply panicked for how it will fuck up the future.
The Truth About Keeping Secrets
By Savannah Brown
Sydney’s dad is the only psychiatrist for miles around their small Ohio town.
He is also unexpectedly dead.
Is Sydney crazy, or is it kind of weird that her dad-a guy whose entire job revolved around other peoples’ secrets-crashed alone, with no explanation?
And why is June Copeland, homecoming queen and the town’s golden child, at his funeral?
As the two girls grow closer in the wake of the accident, it’s clear that not everyone is happy about their new friendship.
But what is picture perfect June still hiding? And does Sydney even want to know?
Currently, this is set to be my favourite book of the year. I have been a fan of Savannah’s poetry for a long time and that same beautiful phrasing and perfect metaphor is here in her fiction too.
If I didn’t know of her before and was told this was her first novel I simply wouldn’t believe you. She is a writer for the ages. No matter what I say the praise will never be high enough. That is how much I love this book.
It didn’t necessarily feel like it was for me, but for the daughter I’ll never have. It’s a book special to you because you feel its importance, regardless.
I honestly feel it transcends YA or thriller into something deeper and that unique poetic feel is fundamental to that.
I refuse to say more. Just. Read. It.
An Absolutely Remarkable Thing
By Hank Green
The Carls just appeared.
Roaming through New York City at three a.m., twenty-three-year-old April May stumbles across a giant sculpture. Delighted by its appearance and craftsmanship—like a ten-foot-tall Transformer wearing a suit of samurai armor—April and her friend, Andy, make a video with it, which Andy uploads to YouTube. The next day, April wakes up to a viral video and a new life. News quickly spreads that there are Carls in dozens of cities around the world—from Beijing to Buenos Aires—and April, as their first documentarian, finds herself at the center of an intense international media spotlight.
Seizing the opportunity to make her mark on the world, April now has to deal with the consequences her new particular brand of fame has on her relationships, her safety, and her own identity. And all eyes are on April to figure out not just what the Carls are, but what they want from us.
Honestly, I don’t know what I was expecting from Hank, but it was not this. And I am not sure if I was comparing to his brother or not. Whatever caused me to underestimate him as a writer – I was immediately proven wrong.
There are no real stylistic factors to this. The whole story hinges on its characters, especially its flawed protagonist, and they all feel SO REAL. I binge read this book in a day because it was so good. It flowed like life itself – I just could not put it down without feeling a slight worry that the events would continue on without me.
I can’t wait for the sequel!
They Both Die at the End
By Adam Silvera
On September 5th, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: they’re going to die today. Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but for different reasosn, they’re both looking for a new friend on their End Day. The good news: there’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure – to live a lifetime in a single day.
This book had such high expectations to live up to after I absolutely bawled my eyes out at History is All You Left Me. If the ending had not been so soul crushing this may well have been a 3. It was a ‘pull-the-rug-out-from-under-you’ kind of drop, but so well executed.
The themes and overall concept for the book is stellar, but fell a little flat because of a pacing issue. Their many close shaves with death do very little for the story until the very end so those moments can feel boring, unless they focus on side characters, which I wish we had seen more of.
However, you forget all about those issues when there comes a scene of pure Silvera magic, that speaks so faithfully to the queer teen experience.
By Patrick Ness
Adam Thorn is having what will turn out to be the most unsettling, difficult day of his life, with relationships fracturing, a harrowing incident at work, and a showdown between this gay teen and his preacher father that changes everything. It’s a day of confrontation, running, sex, love, heartbreak, and maybe, just maybe, hope. He won’t come out of it unchanged. And all the while, lurking at the edges of the story, something extraordinary and unsettling is on a collision course.
I have such deep respect for the place this book came from. And there are many things to love about it. But the protagonist is not just holding his loved ones at a distance, but the reader too.
There are so many characters I felt more connected to but did not get to spend enough time with because of the structure. And that likely comes to personal preferences as Adam Thorn just was not that likeable to me. Or maybe an older version of him would be as he doesn’t quite seem to know himself yet.
I will always find time to read another Patrick Ness book. However, his year his books have all left me with longing for Class.
More Than This
By Patrick Ness
A boy drowns, desperate and alone in his final moments. He dies. Then he wakes, naked and bruised and thirsty, but alive. How can this be? And what is this strange deserted place?
As he struggles to understand what is happening, the boy dares to hope. Might this not be the end? Might there be more to this life, or perhaps this afterlife?
This was another book with a great concept, hindered by pacing and structure. It has a slow first act, but I loved where it was going once it sped up in the second and third. The only problem was it never quite got there.
I understand what the cliffhanger was trying to get across, but I felt it should have been done better, as in its current state it just makes me want to read the story that comes after instead of the one I got.
The character’s backstories are by far the best part of the whole book, and provide discussion of real issues; such as domestic abuse, suicide, and the struggle facing immigrants and asylum seekers today. It is just a shame they are so short and do not provide more weight, as the explanation for the sci-fi dystopia revealed is a little bit lazy considering the long build it got.
The Girl Who Could Move Sh*t with Her Mind
By Jackson Ford
For Teagan Frost, sh*t just got real.
Teagan Frost is having a hard time keeping it together. Sure, she’s got telekinetic powers—a skill that the government is all too happy to make use of, sending her on secret break-in missions that no ordinary human could carry out. But all she really wants to do is kick back, have a beer, and pretend she’s normal for once.
But then a body turns up at the site of her last job—murdered in a way that only someone like Teagan could have pulled off. She’s got 24 hours to clear her name—and it’s not just her life at stake. If she can’t unravel the conspiracy in time, her hometown of Los Angeles will be in the crosshairs of an underground battle that’s on the brink of exploding…
You can probably guess why I picked this book up.
And it certainly delivers on all the promises made in the blurb. It’s just a shame it wasn’t written by a more skilled writer.
I expected more David Wong style chaos than I got, and I think without that comparison this might have been a low 4 stars instead of a solid 3. So really my only complaint is that it doesn’t read like the kind of drug-fueled nightmare that would ‘blow my tiny mind’.
Mediocre, yet enjoyable – I would happily read the sequel.
Milk and Honey
By Rupi Kaur
Milk and Honey is a collection of poetry and prose about survival. About the experience of violence, abuse, love, loss, and femininity. It is split into four chapters, and each chapter serves a different purpose. Deals with a different pain. Heals a different heartache. ‘milk and honey’ takes readers through a journey of the most bitter moments in life and finds sweetness in them because there is sweetness everywhere if you are just willing to look.
I was so overdue to read this that it had already become a meme.
Everything worth saying about it has already been said, so I will simply say that this is a beautifully bitter sweet collection that I am sure I will return to often – whether that is an act of re-opening old wounds, or healing them.
The Hormone Diaries: The Bloody Truth About Our Periods
By Hannah Witton
An honest, funny and feminist take on living with your period (and hormones!)
Inspired by her YouTube series of the same name, The Hormone Diaries draws on Hannah’s own experiences and, through crowdsourcing on her social media platforms, those of her fans too. With her trademark honesty and humour, Hannah explores and demystifies topics surrounding periods, hormones and contraception, to offer readers support, information and advice.
The definitive period self-help book 50% of the world has been waiting for!
Always striving to be more inclusive, there was very little Hannah missed in writing this guide on our bodies.
I was so glad to see an entire section devoted to the trans masculine experience, and dealt with in an appropriate manner, as I have myself been a part of writing a similar book aimed at a younger trans audience: Understanding Transgender by Honor Head.
A wide variety of hormonal contraceptives are discussed – I only wish she had differentiated between the different kinds of injection, but that is being a bit nitpicky! As someone whose chronic illness is related to hormones, I also loved the section on illness e.g. PCOS.
I’d recommend this to any young person, along with every Sexplanations video on YouTube. More 12-year-olds screaming “dry humping saves lives!” and aspiring to be sexologists would make the world a better place!
The Princess Saves Herself in this One
By Amanda Lovelace
A poetry collection in four parts: the princess, the damsel, the queen, and you. The first three sections piece together the life of the author while the final section serves as a note to the reader. This moving book explores love, loss, grief, healing, empowerment, and inspiration.
This poetry collection creates a tale of how abused children turn into abused adults and finally heal from it all. Relatable in ways that make you smile and hurt, you go on a journey with her as feelings create metaphors create feelings.
The note to the reader is such a sweet touch too.
My Purple Scented Novel
By Ian McEwan
‘You will have heard of my friend the once celebrated novelist Jocelyn Tarbet, but I suspect his memory is beginning to fade…You’d never heard of me, the once obscure novelist Parker Sparrow, until my name was publicly connected with his. To a knowing few, our names remain rigidly attached, like the two ends of a seesaw. His rise coincided with, though did not cause, my decline… I don’t deny there was wrongdoing. I stole a life, and I don’t intend to give it back. You may treat these few pages as a confession.’
Though I will appreciate its role inducting me into the world of audiobooks, I cannot say I was a fan of the book itself. Perfectly constructed phrases here and there I liked but found too clinical, too passive, in tone – much like the title.
The story itself was interesting: plagiarism, envy, betrayal.
Perhaps it just wasn’t my cup of tea.
Pain is Really Strange
By Steve Haines
Answering questions such as ‘how can I change my pain experience?’, ‘what is pain?’, and ‘how do nerves work?’, this short research-based graphic book reveals just how strange pain is and explains how understanding it is often the key to relieving its effects.
Studies show that understanding how pain is created and maintained by the nervous system can significantly lessen the pain you experience. The narrator in this original, gently humorous book explains pain in an easy-to-understand, engaging graphic format and reveals how to change the mind’s habits to transform pain.
Pain is Really Strange caught my eye because I have chronic pain and fatigue. The art style is fun and really aids the more scientific explanations of what is happening in the brain when we experience pain.
However, it gave little insight into chronic pain, which from the title I would have expected more of given chronic pain is the strangest of all. It did get some explanation of what it is, and what is happening in the brain with chronic pain which I appreciated, as I can now imagine it as a really fucked up game of cats cradle in my head, it just wasn’t particularly helpful, except in killing time waiting for the next bus.
Tomorrow Will Be Different: Love, Loss and the Fight for Trans Equality
By Sarah McBride
A timely and captivating memoir about gender identity set against the backdrop of the transgender equality movement, by a leading activist and the National Press Secretary for the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization.
With emotional depth and unparalleled honesty, Sarah shares her personal struggle with gender identity, coming out to her supportive but distraught parents, and finding her way as a woman. She inspires readers with her barrier-breaking political journey that took her, in just four years, from a frightened, closeted college student to one of the nation’s most prominent transgender activists walking the halls of the White House, passing laws, and addressing the country in the midst of a heated presidential election. She also details the heartbreaking romance with her first love and future husband Andy, a trans man and activist, who passed away from cancer in 2014 just days after they were married.
Both her life and her writing has been shaped by politics, so I cannot say I was brought to tears, and given the subject matter that is a bit of a missed opportunity.
Andy really stands out to me as the kind of wonderful person we all need, especially in the trans community, and it would be an honour to be that person for someone.
His experience highlights the extra hurdles trans people face in medicine, even when their identity should be in no way related. As a chronically ill trans man, I see this every week and it is so rarely mentioned (and ignored when it is).
This book shows the journey for trans equality over a small timeframe in which many times we made sacrifices of our own in order to further gay rights – especially in the lead up to marriage equality. We must hope for a better tomorrow, but we must also forge it ourselves. Even if some of us picture ‘a better future’ as 1920s Berlin sometimes.
Heartstopper: Vol 1 & 2
By Alice Oseman
Charlie, a highly-strung, openly gay over-thinker, and Nick, a cheerful, soft-hearted rugby player, meet at a British all-boys grammar school. Friendship blooms quickly, but could there be something more…?
Charlie Spring is in Year 10 at Truham Grammar School for Boys. The past year hasn’t been too great, but at least he’s not being bullied anymore, and he’s sort of got a boyfriend, even if he’s kind of mean and only wants to meet up in secret.
Nick Nelson is in Year 11 and on the school rugby team. He’s heard a little about Charlie – the kid who was outed last year and bullied for a few months – but he’s never had the opportunity to talk to him. That is, until the start of January, in which Nick and Charlie are placed in the same form group and made to sit together.
They quickly become friends, and soon Charlie is falling hard for Nick, even though he doesn’t think he has a chance. But love works in surprising ways, and sometimes good things are waiting just around the corner…
Nick and Charlie are best friends. Nick knows Charlie’s gay, and Charlie is sure that Nick isn’t.
But love works in surprising ways, and Nick is discovering all kinds of things about his friends, his family … and himself.
Alice Oseman owns my soul and got there in just a few short chapters.
This story is so wholesome and true to life – I absolutely cannot get enough of it!
The intersection of teenage life, LGBT struggles, and mental health pulls together seamlessly between cuddles and dog walks and stolen kisses while no one is watching. Not once does it feel heavy in tone, despite some of the subject matter.
It is truly a beautiful tapestry of queer youth.
By Robin Talley
In 1955, eighteen-year-old Janet Jones keeps the love she shares with her best friend Marie a secret. It’s not easy being gay in Washington, DC, in the age of McCarthyism, but when she discovers a series of books about women falling in love with other women, it awakens something in Janet. As she juggles a romance she must keep hidden and a newfound ambition to write and publish her own story, she risks exposing herself—and Marie—to a danger all too real.
Sixty-two years later, Abby Zimet can’t stop thinking about her senior project and its subject — classic 1950s lesbian pulp fiction. Between the pages of her favorite book, the stresses of Abby’s own life are lost to the fictional hopes, desires and tragedies of the characters she’s reading about. She feels especially connected to one author, a woman who wrote under the pseudonym “Marian Love,” and becomes determined to track her down and discover her true identity.
In this novel told in dual narratives, New York Times bestselling author Robin Talley weaves together the lives of two young women connected across generations through the power of words. A stunning story of bravery, love, how far we’ve come and how much farther we have to go.
I had so hoped to find this more impressive, but all the same it was deeply enjoyable – especially in audiobook format. The dual narratives could be clumsy, yet they come together to create a much more compelling story with mystery and a wonderfully wholesome ending.
As vintage obsessed lesbian, Abby, points out: there are very few stories about 1950s lesbians, and there are only so many times you can re-watch Carol.
Pulp fills that gap and does it well.
By Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman, long inspired by ancient mythology in creating the fantastical realms of his fiction, presents a bravura rendition of the Norse gods and their world from their origin though their upheaval in Ragnarok.
Maybe this is because it has a more non-fiction feel to it, but the writing came off very flat, especially compared to Gaiman’s other books. If you’re interested in Norse mythology then I’m sure this will be enjoyable anyway, just as Circe was for me as someone who has always been interested in Greek mythology, and is studying ancient Greek culture.
Picnic at Hanging Rock
By Joan Lindsay
It was a cloudless summer day in the year nineteen hundred.
Everyone at Appleyard College for Young Ladies agreed it was just right for a picnic at Hanging Rock. After lunch, a group of three of the girls climbed into the blaze of the afternoon sun, pressing on through the scrub into the shadows of Hanging Rock. Further, higher, till at last they disappeared.
They never returned.
I listened to the audiobook, read by Yael Stone, and that definitely enhanced the experience as I found it quite slow and rather too ambiguous for my liking. Personally, I don’t think I could tell you what happened or a theory of what happened at all because I was that confused by the end, but it was still enjoyable.
Othello, the Moor of Venice
By William Shakespeare
Along with Hamlet, King Lear, and Macbeth, Othello is one of Shakespeare’s four great tragedies. What distinguishes Othello is its bold treatment of racial and gender themes. It is also the only tragedy to feature a main character, Iago, who truly seems evil, betraying and deceiving those that trust him purely for spite and with no political goal. This edition, the first to give full attention to these themes, includes an extensive introduction stresses the public dimensions of the tragedy, paying particular attention to its treatment of colour and social relations.
So while this edition in particular takes note of racial and gender issues, I found most interesting the references to Othello’s epilepsy through out the play, which even I may have overlooked if they hadn’t used that word specifically. This extra layer of vulnerability and insecurity makes his taken advantage of by Iago more tragic for me and I feel I would not have sympathised with his character so much if I had not noticed this as his wife is such a strong character in comparison.
By Hallie Rubenhold
Five devastating human stories and a dark and moving portrait of Victorian London—the untold lives of the women killed by Jack the Ripper.
Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine and Mary-Jane are famous for the same thing, though they never met. They came from Fleet Street, Knightsbridge, Wolverhampton, Sweden, and Wales. They wrote ballads, ran coffee houses, lived on country estates, they breathed ink-dust from printing presses and escaped people-traffickers.
What they had in common was the year of their murders: 1888. The person responsible was never identified, but the character created by the press to fill that gap has become far more famous than any of these five women.
For more than a century, newspapers have been keen to tell us that “the Ripper” preyed on prostitutes. Not only is this untrue, as historian Hallie Rubenhold has discovered, it has prevented the real stories of these fascinating women from being told. Now, in this devastating narrative of five lives, Rubenhold finally sets the record straight, revealing a world not just of Dickens and Queen Victoria, but of poverty, homelessness and rampant misogyny. They died because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time—but their greatest misfortune was to be born a woman.
I absolutely loved the content of this book and the long forgotten stories it tells desperately need to be heard. However, it felt a little wooden right up until the emotional conclusion about what is to be learned from not just what happened but the way its been told – the message is important and so this might have been a 5 if that had been a reminder through out.