I decided that 2018 would be a year when I try not to read straight, white, male writers. (I’d also like to read fewer straight, white, female writers this year, but I’m not making that a hard and fast rule.)
Honestly, that’s a challenge because several SWM writers I really like have new books out. But I also feel that, in the present political climate, straight, white men have plenty of vocal advocates at the highest levels of political power. That makes staying the course on my reading challenge easier.
With that as a preamble, here are some of the books I read recently that I’d recommend:
- “The Broken Earth” trilogy by N. K. Jemisin – In my opinion, Ms. Jemisin is the best, most imaginative writer working in fantasy today. This series starts with The Fifth Season, and all three books are sterling. She won Hugo Awards for The Fifth Season and The Obelisk Gate. The final book, The Stone Sky, is a finalist on this year’s Hugo list. If it wins, Ms. Jemisin will become the first author to win three consecutive Hugos. And she deserves them. Writers will love studying how she uses multiple points of view and first-, second-, and third-person narrators to tell the story.
- Red Sorghum by Mo Yan – I hesitate to give this book a full-throated recommendation, mostly because its subject matter is challenging. It’s set in the 1930s during the Japanese invasion of China. It focuses on the experiences of peasant farmers trying to protect their villages from the invasion. The book features some incredibly beautiful descriptions of rural life. It also includes graphic descriptions of body functions and wounds inflicted during the battles. I found I had to switch between a chapter or two of this book and something lighter as a break. For those wanting to learn how to describe gritty scenes with lyric language, this is a must-read.
- Pax by Sara Pennypacker – This book is on an ALA-recommended list for fourth and fifth graders. While I don’t normally read children’s literature, I had to read this for my part-time job at the library. I think this book is destined to join the ranks of Charlotte’s Web, Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, and Old Yeller as a classic.
- Bloodshot and Hellbent by Cherie Priest – Frankly, I love Cherie Priest’s work. Her “The Clockwork Century” steampunk novels are a blast to read. I even enjoyed the first in her “The Borden Dispatches” series, and I’m not usually a horror novel fan. Bloodshot and Hellbent were two of the lighter reads I used to balance Mo Yan’s novel. They feature a vampire who’s also an internationally wanted thief. If you enjoyed Charlize in The Italian Job or Angelina in Gone in 60 Seconds or Mr. and Mrs. Smith, I think you’ll like Raylene Pendle.
I just started The Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler, and I can already tell I’ll love it.
What are you reading now? Any recommendations for me?