Recent reads

Summer’s waning, which means my time to power through as many books as humanly possible is waning, too. Soon school will start up for Callum and work will start up for me and I’ll be juggling those things with writing my novels and blogging and reviewing and and and. My consumption of books written for adults will taper off, which is fine, because YA holds way more appeal to me anyway (duh). So I’ll still be reading a ton and writing about those books at Teen Librarian Toolbox, but probably will have to give up my “fun” reading time. To see what else I read this summer, you can look here and here for recaps of 20 books.

I want to know what you’ve been reading, too. Tell me on Facebook or Twitter.


We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby

This collection of essays was FANTASTIC. I’m an easy cry when reading, but it’s much harder to make me laugh. I laughed and laughed while reading this book. Irby, who describes herself as “an old garbage bag full of blood, patiently waiting for death to rescue me,” finds existence and humanity exasperating, so you know I’m automatically like, tell me more! A sample of her hilarious writing, regarding her cat, whom she lovehates: “Free to an even marginally good home, but a terrible one is preferred. Black-and-white domestic shorthair, definitely part goblin, spayed (for the good of the species), fully vaccinated. Bites, hisses, growls when provoked, pretty malignant overall; won’t destroy your furniture or living space, but definitely is in regular communication with dark spirits.” God, I just did not want this book to end. Also, instead of dedicating her book to some important person in her life, she dedicated it to Klonopin. That page alone assured me that Irby is my kind of people. SO DAMN GOOD.


The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker

Why do grown-up books have to be so long? After nearly twenty years of almost exclusively reading YA, I find myself irritated if it takes me more than two days to read something. Doesn’t this book know I have a TBR list that demands attention? That said, though very long, I’m glad I picked this book up. It’s rare to find anything that feels truly fresh and unique and this look at two women who work in animation and together strive for success, search for identity, and work through their pasts really felt like a new story. It spans their time together at college through the professional success they eventually achieve, sending them to New York and also back to their hometowns, where they mine the past for their current projects. A smart look at friendship and art.


Sex Object by Jessica Valenti

Valenti asks, “Who would I be if I lived in a world that didn’t hate women?” Good question. Valenti’s memoir is built around the unifying theme of sexism and being objectified. She doesn’t just look at specific incidents or examples but looks at how, systemically, sexism has affected her entire life, how it has shaped her, and how she has learned to stand up against it. She documents her experiences and uses feminism to critique those experiences, her reactions, and her choices. Though less interesting to me than her other books have been, this quick and at times infuriating read held my attention but didn’t feel particularly illuminating or thoughtful.


The Sunshine Sisters by Jane Green

Pretty much every summer, I can count on getting to read a new book by Jane Green. If you’re not familiar with her, there’s a huge backlist to check out. This new one is about a dying mother and her hope to bring her mostly estranged girls back home together to get over their dysfunctional pasts and move forward together. It’s not as much of a bummer as that summary makes it seem. This one was slow to start—the first many chapters jump from year to year, giving us snapshots of the family, and that really didn’t work for me. It was too slow and I couldn’t really care. But about 1/3 of the way in, the story really takes off, with the last 1/3 or so finally totally capturing my attention. Not my favorite by her, but another solid summer read.


Everything is Teeth by Evie Wyld and illustrated by Joe Sumner

This short and spare graphic memoir packs a punch. Dark—both metaphorically and quite literally, as many pages feature large swathes of black—and poetic, the story follows young Evie from her family’s summer home in Australia to their usual home in England. Through it all, Evie is consumed with thoughts of sharks, assuming they are always lurking around (not just in the water) and waiting for her. Her anxiety is endless, causing her to envision the worst-case scenarios of the harm sharks can cause. She grows obsessed with the story of a shark attack survivor and continues her interest in sharks even when they disturb her, eventually using stories about them to help distract her bullied and beaten brother. The story jumps ahead to her adulthood and takes a more obvious look at the “ebb and flow of life… and death.” Haunting and weird—two of my favorite things.


Imagine Wanting Only This by Kristen Radtke

This graphic memoir was PHENOMENAL. Truly. It’s a stunningly profound look at grief, ruins, impermanence, loss, and meaning. It jumps around from Radtke’s childhood to her college and grad school years to later parts of her adulthood. During college, she begins to grow fascinated with abandoned towns and the ruins of civilizations. She begins traveling the world looking at these sites, searching for some kind of meaning or solace as she mediates on how easily things are lost or left behind. The art is amazing and the writing is equally masterful. The story goes to many unexpected places and Radtke manages to weave all of the pieces together into a powerful and breathtaking examination of loss. Just beautiful.


The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir by Thi Bui

Yes, I’m on an illustrated memoir kick. And they’ve all be so good. At 329 pages, I kept thinking about how long it must’ve taken to write and illustrate this book. Thi Bui tells the story of her mother and father’s young lives, the events that shaped (and haunt) them, and her family’s eventual escape from Vietnam in the 1970s to the United States. She bookends her story with moments from her own son’s birth, reflecting on what it means to be a parent and a child, the damage we do to each other (and have done to us), and the power of family. This incredibly detailed story about identity and home was riveting and emotional.


Meaty by Samantha Irby

This is Irby’s first book of essays, though I tracked it down after reading We Are Never Meeting in Real Life, her second book. She is now one of my new favorite essayists. I laughed and laughed at Meaty (and the fact that she generally refers to her body as her “meaty pre-corpse”) and then also cried my eyes out while reading her essay on what it was like caring for her mother, who had MS and other health issues, while Irby was just a child. If you like swearing, hilarity, and virtuosic levels of snark, these books are for you.


A Different Pond by Bao Phi, Thi Bui (Illustrator)

This picture book, good for ages 5-9 (and, of course, beyond 9), is lovely. Thi Bui wrote that graphic memoir I wrote about just up above here, and it was a real joy to see her art in a larger and more colorful format. The story, about a young Vietnamese boy and his father’s pre-dawn fishing expedition in Minneapolis, is about so much more than just fishing. His father takes him fishing for food, not sport, before going to work his second job. There are references to his parents’ homeland, the war, and family, as well as scenes of the young boy’s life at home—helping his mother, watching both parents leave for work, sharing a meal together once they are home. There is so much love and warmth and beauty in this quiet and important picture book.


According to a Source: A Novel by Abby Stern

This may be the fastest I have ever decided to bail on a book. I stopped reading on page three. I know. Usually I can give something more of a chance before deciding to nope on out. Or I can overlook things that seem irritating/unbelievable and keep going. Here is why I quit: on page 2, the main character explains that her full name is Isabella Warren, which is on her credit card. She has a regular table at the Chateau Marmont, where she hands this card over all the time. She goes by Bella Warren publicly, so this is the name she uses to reserve her table there (etc). Stick with me. She works for a gossip magazine, working “undercover” so she can get all the dirt, and the name she goes by for this job, and the name that appears as her byline, is Ella Warren. She lives in fear of someone figuring this out. This. Her super-awesome undercover name. That is one letter off from her real name. This name that is not exactly a leap from her full name of Isabella. I’m Bella Warren! I’ll go by Ella Warren! No one will ever guess!  Yeah. I got so hung up on how incredibly stupid that was, I just rage quit.