When I did my roundup of the first 20 books I read this year, I noticed that only three of them were written by women. I wanted to even up that ratio a bit, so made a point of bumping books by women to the top of the stack for this group.

  1. Technopriests: Supreme Collection by Alejandro Jodorowsky, Zoran Janjetov, and Fred Beltran. This was the last major branch of the Jodoverse that I hadn’t read. Jodorowsky remains one of my favorite writers, for his sheer bonkers extravagance, and having recently re-read the Jodoverse books added an extra layer of delight when I recently saw Jodorowsky’s Dune.
  2. Jagannath by Karin Tidbeck. For such a slim volume, I loved the tonal breadth of this collection. These were stories originally published in Swedish and translated by the author, and they are weird and wonderful. A brief, delightful read.
  3. Crash by J. G. Ballard. I found this difficult to finish. For about the first 80 pages I was engaged, but it became punishingly repetitive by the end. The fetishistic novelty wore off long before the book ended, and there was little else to recommend it. Many people whose opinions I respect are fans of Ballard, but I’m still trying to cultivate an appreciation for much of his work.
  4. Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti by Genevieve Valentine. I read this on an airplane and hardly noticed the time passing. It’s kaleidoscopic steampunk with gorgeous images on every page, fragmented into short chapters that build momentum like an avalanche. Genevieve’s second book is coming out tomorrow, and I can’t wait to read it.
  5. The Einstein Intersection by Samuel Delany. This book is… odd. Good, thought provoking. But very strange. It’s surprising to me–in a positive way, mind!–that it’s considered a classic of science fiction. I doubt though that I’m going to be revisiting this book as often as I will Nova.
  6. Saga, vol. 3 by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples. It’s been a long time since I’ve been as excited about an ongoing comic series as I am about Saga. Each new trade is an insta-buy.
  7. The Adventures of Alyx by Joanna Russ. I’m glad I read this, though on the whole I enjoyed it less than I thought I would. A couple of the pieces here I found compelling, but the majority was coldly intellectual with an efficiency of prose that I found tiring even as I thought it admirable. I liked We Who Are About To better, but will still be reading more Russ.
  8. The Girl in the Road by Monica Byrne. Monica is a Clarion classmate of mine and a dear friend, and so it is a delight to report that her first novel is an explosive debut. Ambitious and engrossing. I consumed it in two days and then spent the next week of my life thinking about it, wandering store aisles and taking unconscious inventory of the provisions I would need if I woke up in the future Monica created. It’s not so far away. We all might wake up there yet.
  9. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. I’d been meaning to read Shirley Jackson’s novels for years, and decided to start here. Ho-lee shit. It’s as brilliant as everyone said it was.
  10. A Few Seconds of Radiant Filmstrip by Kevin Brockmeier. Kevin’s a teacher of mine and a friend, so it was a pleasurable but unusual experience to read his first foray into memoir. He has evoked the seventh grade so keenly that I felt my own bubble up as I read, which, as I later told him across a lunch table, put me in the weird position of feeling possessive of someone else’s childhood.
  11. Camp Concentration by Thomas Disch. I think, were it not for Flowers For Algernon exploring some of the same ground first and more accessibly, this would be considered a classic. I thought it an excellent book, though one for which I had to look up many words. I also felt unsure about the ending. It was convincingly rendered, but somehow didn’t fully satisfy. Still, I recommend the book. I think this is the most fully-imagined 1st person voice of increasing intelligence I’ve read.
  12. Unexpected Stories by Octavia Butler. I’d been waiting years to read these stories, and finally getting to do so was both thrilling and bittersweet. This was, so far as I know, my last unread Butler fiction. I wrote about it more here.
  13. Blame by Michelle Huneven. Though she was never one of my teachers, Michelle was on faculty at Iowa when I applied, and is I think one of the people responsible for me getting accepted there. This is the first of her books I’ve read, and I greatly enjoyed it. It’s a novel that sprawls decades and resists tidiness, catching something that feels very true in its tangles. On the strength of this book I’ll be picking up her new one soon.
  14. The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham. My first time reading Wyndham. He was clearly brilliant, and the book is good, but I’m not sure I approached it from the right frame of mind. As is sometimes the case with classic apocalyptica, Triffids belabors ideas that have, since it was published, become cliche. The combination of that and the antiquated, one-note masculinity of the main character kept me from enjoying the novel as much as I otherwise might have. There’s a lot to appreciate here, but I wish I’d gone in with a more historical literary curiosity.
  15. The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. It’s a great book that I had problems with. I wrote about them at some length.
  16. Liar by Justine Larbalestier. After The Sparrow I was in the mood for some YA. This hit the spot. It’s like a young person’s introduction to the unreliable narrator. Great fun.
  17. The Alchemist by Paolo Bacigalupi. I got an ARC of this novella at the Tiptree auction a couple of years ago. When I read it, it was immediately obvious how I would want to use it pedagogically if I ever teach my Fantasy Writing class again.
  18. Osborn: Evil Incarcerated by Kelly-Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios. I enjoyed this, but suspect I would have liked it more had I been previously familiar with the characters. With the talent at Marvel these days, having been a DC kid is feeling more and more like having backed the wrong horse.
  19. The Freedom Maze by Delia Sherman. More YA, and more wonderful reading. This book is like Octavia Bulter’s Kindred, but for young readers.
  20. Self-Help by Lorrie Moore. I had read stories from this, but never the whole thing. As I recently wrote some fiction in the second person, I wanted to finally fix that. A deservingly famous collection.