‘Tis the season for best-of-2019 lists. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the books I read aren’t shiny and new, so I can’t really make one of my own. But fret not! We can still talk about the best books that were new to us in 2019. Without further ado, here are mine.
Best of the Best:
Without question, the most memorable book I read in 2019 was The Incal (1980-1988), a graphic novel written by Alejandro Jodorowsky & illustrated by Moebius. After failing to adapt Dune for the big screen, cult director Jodorowsky wrote this weird-as-hell space opera epic instead. Legendary French illustrator Jean Giraud, aka Moebius, inked it. Just a transcendent “what on earth did I just read?” experience.
It was also a good (reading) year for LGBT graphic novels. Specifically, My Brother’s Husband (2014-2017), by Gengoroh Tagame, and Fun Home (2006), by Alison Bechdel. The former tells the story of a Canadian widower visiting his late husband’s estranged brother in Tokyo. The latter is a memoir of Bechdel’s early life growing up in rural Pennsylvania with a closeted father. Both won Eisner Awards.
I was also a big fan of the Broken Earth trilogy, which I wrote about here.
Finally, some honorable mentions:
- A Memory Called Empire (2017), by Arkady Martine. Part 1 in a series, this tells the tale of an impressionistic young ambassador, who represents an independent space station at the court of a ravenous interstellar empire.
- Salvation (2018), by Peter F. Hamilton. I’m as surprised as you are that he made the list. But this well-wrought page-turner is worth picking up if you’re looking for the first part of what I’m sure will be a sprawling epic space opera.
- The Goblin Emperor (2014), an award-winning story of race and class, told through the lens of a minor half-breed heir becoming the ruler of the elven empire. If I had to describe it in one word, it would be ‘kind’. (I picked this one up from one of your recommendations.)
Well, that’s my list. Very interested in seeing yours!
Three books I highly recommend.
1. Hernan Diaz, In the Distance (Coffee House Press, 2017).
A Western like no other you’ll read. The most profound book about loneliness and the American landscape I’ve ever read.
2. Yannick Haenel, Hold Fast Your Crown (Other Press, 2019).
Brilliant prose, hard to classify, impossible to put down. Guy writes a 700-page screenplay on Herman Melville and becomes obsessed with getting Michael Cimino to direct. And then the interesting stuff happens.
3. Michael Gold, Jews Without Money
Originally published in 1930. A fabulous, moving, sharply-observed novel of Jews and other immigrants in the tenements of the Lower East Side. A must-read.
The main thing that I’ve kept recommending this year is Martha Wells’ ‘Murderbot Diaries’. It’s a series of four novellas narrated by Murderbot, a ruthless killing machine who would much rather be watching soap operas. Oddly relatable and extremely readable.
There’s a Murderbot novel coming soon.
Major Major Major Major
@MattF: I’ve read the first three! Very fun.
Dorothy A. Winsor
This is at least reader/writer topical: Does anybody have experience with author speed dating? At Capricon next month, I’m supposed to have two minutes each with a series of prospective readers. What’s the best way to use that time? Do I jump right in with my elevator pitch? Do I pick one of my three books and just have the other two there? Do I take a bit of time to talk to the reader like a human being? (Shall I put this in a different thread instead?)
I loved The Goblin Emperor.
West of the Rockies
I’ve enjoyed D-Day Girls (about the contributions of female spies during WW2.
In the realm of film, my daughter are going to a Fathom Events showing of Weathering With You in a couple weeks. It’s an anime. Anyone seen it? The reviews look solid.
Major Major Major Major
@West of the Rockies: loved Your Name and will be seeing weathering too, not sure if I’m going to the Fathom early screening.
@Dorothy A. Winsor: ‘Goblin Emperor’ was excellent. Other novels I went back to, just for the pleasure of re-reading were ‘Spinning Silver’ by Naomi Novik, ‘The Wolf of Oren-Yaro’ by K. S. Villoso, and ‘Gideon the Ninth’ by Tamsyn Muir.
BC in Illinois
Looking at the bookshelf near my chair for reading, I see that I have spent the year reading books on
This Fight is Our Fight and A Fighting Chance, Elizabeth Warren
The Truths We Hold, Kamala Harris
Know Your Power: A Message for America’s Daughters, Nancy Pelosi
Fight Like a Mother, Shannon Watts (Now on Mrs BC’s bookshelf)
Impeach, Neal Katyal
Impeachment, Cass Sunstein
To End A Presidency, Lawrence Tribe
The Oath and the Office, Corey Brettschneider
Impeachment: A Handbook, Charles L. Black, Jr.
The three volumes of The Political Life of Abraham Lincoln, Sidney Blumenthal
Our Declaration, Danielle Allen
A continuing project of reading the collected works of Dietrich Bonhöffer, along with his biography by Eberhard Bethege and the biography of Hitler by Volker Ullrich. I’m up to Bonhöffer in London (1933-35) and I hope that by the time I get to 1939, the second volume of Ullrich’s biography will be out in English.
But as I look at the books I have been turning to — and my tendency to be spending time with books of dystopian current events — there is one book that I think I have re-read and consulted more than any other:
On Tyranny, by Timothy Snyder
Make of it what you will.
@BC in Illinois: Snyder’s book is great.
Three fabulous books of poetry to recommend:
Native Guard, by Natasha Trethewey
Whereas, by Layli Long Soldier
And, if you haven’t already read it: Claudia Rankine’s Citizen
Say Nothing, by Patrick Radden Keefe, was my favorite book this year.
Also enjoyed American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson.
I think next up will be A Foreign Policy for the Left by Michael Walzer. I heard it was good.
West of the Rockies
Oh, Your Name looks good–it’s on my to-watch list.
My favorite book of 2019 from my book club selections:
The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See
Note: my book club is still going strong (since 1983).
Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir is the most interesting and entertaining book I’ve read in years. As Charles Stross puts it on the cover, tongue in cheek: “Lesbian necromancers explore a haunted gothic palace in space!” Which is completely accurate and yet doesn’t tell a tenth of the story.
I’m honestly ashamed of how little I read last year, though there were reasons. These were the best ones: (links are to my reviews on Goodreads)
Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me, Mariko Tamaki/Rosemary Valero-O’Connell (2019) – comics, YA – thoughtful and funny look at friendship and bad relationships in a queer-friendly Berkeley high school setting.
The XY Conspiracy, Lori Selke (2013) – SF-ish – very odd take on alien conspiracy stories through the eyes of a road-tripping stripper.
Deviation, Luce D’Eramo (1979, translated 2018) – novel/memoir – former teenage Italian fascist goes through a whole lot of shit in WW2, partly due to decisions she doesn’t understand why she made, tries to build a new life later as a paraplegic.
One Dirty Tree, Noah van Sciver (2018) – comics, memoir – growing up poor in New Jersey in a big Mormon family in the ’80s and ’90s.
Tiamat’s Wrath, James S.A. Corey (2019) – SF – book 8 in the Expanse series, which I always liked on a story level but now it’s also really well written. The TV show is great but I’m not sure they’ll ever be able to do this kind of huge-scale stuff.
Nosferatu the Vampyre, Paul Monette (1979) – novelization of the Herzog film – not a very good book but it’s such a weird combination of author and material that it can’t help but be interesting.
UFO-ETI World Master Plan, Allen Michael (1977) – also not a good book, but the best used-bookstore find I’ve had in years; if you want to read the messianic ramblings of someone who started a UFO cult in California that (as far as I can tell) did not do any harm, here you go.
I also read over 300 back issues of Swamp Thing – a compulsive project that (as someone who’s never really followed a single comic series for that long) I found surprisingly interesting even though a lot of the writers were pretty bad.
Oops, my comment is in moderation probably because of all the review links
@Mathguy: And note that there are two more novels from Muir in the works– ‘Harrow the Ninth’ and ‘Alecto the Ninth’. I’m mildly irked that I can’t just slurp the whole thing up.
My books were new-to-me and included Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, which was SO good. Others included Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller and The Hollow of Fear by Sherry Thomas. I am reading Thomas’s latest, The Art of Theft, right now. The series imagines Sherlock Holmes as a woman. I am also reading Pride and Prejudice for the first time; I am 54 years old, how did I avoid reading this book?
I also read some graphic novels, notably the Dresden Files, Vol 1 & 2. I know he has books and I haven’t read them but I did enjoy the graphic novels.
Major Major Major Major
@Suzanne: Say Nothing is in my top five reads for the year, along with Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow, The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom, Working by Robert Caro, and The Woman’s Hour, by Elaine Weiss.
Read “The Big Burn” by Egan, which led me to begin the T. Roosevelt trilogy (am 1 for 3) by Morris and now in the midst of Chernow’s “Grant.”
Big Burn is helpful in comprehending what’s occurring in Australia and would make an excellent third of a western trilogy along with “Beyond the Hundredth Meridian” and “Cadillac Desert.”
That first title really needs to be “Laura Dern…”
Comrade Colette Collaboratrice
@Mathguy: Speaking of lesbian necromancers, I thoroughly enjoyed Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown (2015) and The True Queen (2019) – light, fluffy sub-Austen in tone but imaginative and clever.
The Goblin Emperor is the best fantasy book I’ve read in the last several years, although I don’t read a whole lot of that genre so that’s not saying much.
Along the same lines, everything in Megan Whalen Turner’s Thief series is worthwhile.
Why yes, I have been looking for escapes.
Sister Rail Gun of Warm Humanitarianism
There are reports of another book in the world of the Goblin Emperor in the works.
Major Major Major Major
@Sister Rail Gun of Warm Humanitarianism: I didn’t find the world that interesting, tbh. Merely adequate to cover the story.
Dorothy A. Winsor
I scanned the lists of books read that I include in my monthly newsletter to pick out the ones I liked best. Those would be:
Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson. Middle-eastern hacker finds book of djinn tales that are somehow going to change quantum computing
The Alice Network by Kate Quinn. Historical fiction set during WWII. Women spies.
Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman. A road book in which a character searches for herself. Sounds cliched but is so well done.
I reread a lot of my favorite books this year, which suggests I didn’t find enough new ones to enthrall me.
Dorothy A. Winsor
@Comrade Colette Collaboratrice:
Turner was one of the people I reread this year. The final book in that series is due out this summer. It’s one of my favorite series.
Favorite books read in 2019
Margaret Atwood, The Testaments
Sarah M. Broom, The Yellow House
Taffy Brodesser-Akner, Fleishman Is In Trouble
Marlon James, Black Leopard Red Wolf
Ben Lerner, The Topeka School
Favorite lists of favorite books read by others
Best of 2019 Book Lists
A Year in Reading: 2019
The Booksellers’ Year in Reading
Obvious Russian Troll
@Dorothy A. Winsor:
Honestly, I would go with whatever seems natural to you (although a little practice won’t hurt either). As long as you’re not stumbling over your words like I tend to do I think you’ll be fine.
I did that at a convention where as a social exercise I had to recommend a book I really enjoyed. The embarassing part is that I couldn’t remember the name of the book (fortunately one of the
The book in question was Emma Newman’s Planetfall. She’s got three sequels to it; the second one was also excellent, but I haven’t gotten to the next two because while I really liked the first two they were real optimistic.
I will second Matt’s Martha Wells recommendation and suggest looking at her earlier work. Her Raksura books (starting with The Cloud Roads, I believe) were also excellent–and I will admit that I had stayed away from them because I wasn’t the target audience for novels about shape-shifting winged creatures. I was so wrong.
Some mysteries I enjoyed were Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad novels and Abir Mukherjee’s first two novels set in colonial India right after WW1 (A Rising Man is the first one, I think).
Sister Rail Gun of Warm Humanitarianism
@Major Major Major Major: My understanding is that it’s not a direct sequel, with Maia center stage, so saying that it’s in the same world is probably the best description.
My favorite book this year was Fly Girls by Keith O’Brien, the (true) story of “how five daring women defied all odds and made aviation history”. The way he tied it all together at the end had me in tears. A writer friend of mine keeps saying he wants to write a play based on this book.
I just finished Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty and found it hysterically funny and heartwarming (much more so than the HBO series, which I also enjoyed).
I recently finished reading Goetz Aly’s Hitler’s Beneficiaries: Plunder, Racial War, and the Nazi Welfare State, a fascinating history of Nazi Germany from the point of view of economics with a new interpretation of its causes. [Rest assured, he’s not trying to challenge either the iniquity nor scope of the Holocaust, nor the essential murderousness of it, nor the hatred of Jewish people at its heart.] The German title is Volksstaat (uh, maybe “People’s State” ?) and his thesis is that far from Nazi Germany being a state that tricked its citizens, or that was based on propaganda, in fact, it was based on economics and economic incentives.
In short, Aly shows (with copious documentation, quotes, figures, footnoted heavily) that Germany under the Nazi regime lived well — very well — and that to a great extent this was due to looting on a massive scale all across the occupied and allied lands. And that the war was largely funded by that looting. It’s an interesting thesis that takes nothing away from the essential murderous racism of the Nazis (I think he’s got a pretty serious chip on his shoulder about this — but cloaks it in statistics: he uses the words “murder”, “larceny”, and other words often enough that you get the idea he’s pretty offended by the Nazis as a whole).
What I found most interesting was the way in which incentives created at the top were enough to cause the entire population to engage in this looting. He quotes from people like (to-be-famous author) Heinrich Boll, and his letter to-and-from the home front, discussing what he will be buying up in Belgium (where he was stationed) to send home. Just massive looting. And the same is true when it comes to the dispossession of the Jews and their eventual (ugh) transportation and murder: he shows that these acts, while essentially murderous, had as -proximate- causes the need and/or desire for money and especially gold.
It’s a different take than (say) Goldhagen’s Hitler’s Willing Executioners in that, rather than merely being anti-Semitic, under Nazi Germany the Germans were active participants because they got something: a really good life.
Paid for by the destruction of entire societies in occupied lands.
ETA: One other thing that stands out: His thesis is that basically Nazi Germany was indeed a socialist state for the ethnic German base. He adduces statistics about taxation and various forms of income support for basically “the 99%”. This is in stark contrast to those who associate Nazism (and fascism more generally) with capitalism. I’ll need to read more about this before I can get a firm idea of who’s right.
I usually averaged 25 to 30 books per year until 2019, when goodreads.com tells me I had only read four books that year. I know I had started reading more books than that, but most of them were just too dull to finish.
Major Major Major Major
@Sister Rail Gun of Warm Humanitarianism: yeah, it’s supposed to be about a minor character. Which doesn’t excite me any more than an unrelated book by the same author would, since I didn’t find the setting too intriguing.
I think Big Little Lies is my favorite Moriarty novel.
The Goblin Emperor is one of my favorite books of the last few years. I read it when it was released, and have re-read it a couple times since. I think “Kind” is a good overall description of it.
The “Infomocracy” series, by Malka Older, was fun and worth reading.
I’m currently slogging through “Gamechanger” by L.X. Beckett, and while I’m enjoying it, it is taking me forever to read.
Dorothy A. Winsor
I haven’t seen the show but I really liked the book.
@debbie: Hi, Debbie. You mentioned a book I wanted to read in a previous thread. I meant to write the title down but forgot. It’s the story (non fiction) of an American family (I believe the father was an ambassador) living in Nazi Germany during the buildup to WW2. Thanks.
Side note: I do not read nearly enough books anymore and want to change that this year.
@Chetan Murthy: That sounds unbelievably fascinating. I’m sold.
@bemused: It’s the first one of hers I have read and want to read more. Did you see the HBO series? I liked it, but the first season finale and the second season did not do the book justice IMHO. Also I don’t think the series captured the satiric humor ETA which was very biting.
This year I starting get back into Scandinavian noir. It’s not the best book of 2019 but the one that ended up causing the strongest visceral reaction, a kinda love hate relation ship was The Chestnut Man by Soren Sveistrup. Hated the violence done to women’s bodies but became so invested in the victims’ plight and wanted them to survive, ended up binging the last 3rd of the book. It feels like the one of the things that Scandinavian noir can do exceptionally well is to get you invested in fate of the main victims of the serial killer/deranged killer. Most books in this general genre make the victims just characters there to get killed with the primary emotional focus on the detectives or the non-detective protagonist. From Jussi Adler Olson’s the Keeper of Lost Causes to The Chestnut Man, Scandinavian noir fleshes out the victims and paints them as people, flawed complex people, and makes you root for them and want them to survive the terrible ordeals they endure.
I am re-reading all three volumes of “March” by John Lewis et al. So serious, but I still love his much younger self preaching to the chickens.
Dorothy A. Winsor
@Obvious Russian Troll:
Good advice. And how bad can it be? I’ll never see those people again!
Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook by Ann Bee is certainly high on my list from last year. Combines technology (especially interesting as it’s the simple, if not invisible, sort), food, history and culture.
Similar books from the last year or so include Craeft by Alexander Langlands and A History of the Garden in Fifty Tools by Bill Laws.
Book I was most pleased to find on the library discard shelf so I could have my own copy: Queen Elizabeth in the Garden by Trea Martyn. Actually, that fits the established theme. In my defense, my new books are Pagans: The End of Traditional Religions and the Rise of Christianity by James O’Donnell, The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa and Asia — and how it Died by Philip Jenkins and Christmas: A Biography by Judith Flanders. Slightly different rut.
Wild About Weeds: Garden Design with Rebel Plants by Jack Wallington as a textual amuse-bouche to get me planning for next year.
It’s been said by scholars like Christopher Brown that a huge part of the Holocaust was stripping Jewish people of their possessions and using them as slave labor. Not just in factories — ordinary German housewives would be given Jewish women to be their housemaid/slave. So I’m not surprised that someone wrote an entire book about it.
Want a taste of post-apocalyptic America? Christopher Brown’s first novel, Tropic of Kansas, will give it to you. Among other things Canada has fenced and armed the border… to keep Americans out!
Right now I’m halfway through his second book, Rule of Capture, which is a sort of prequel to Tropic. It’s disturbingly close to some current events. Drowned Houston, anyone?
Also waiting impatiently for William Gibson’s new book, Agency, which will be out in a couple of weeks.
Dorothy A. Winsor discovered that my new favorite trilogy by Deborah Harkness is on sale on Kindle for $1.99 FOR ALL THREE BOOKS.
I started reading it and almost put it down because, ugh, sexy vampires, but she manages to create something new from that old cliché and makes Matthew into a compelling character. Plus I liked that the heroine is a grown-up in her mid-30s, not a teenager.
Also, I’ve been re-reading some of my favorite books from the Vorkosigan saga since I stumbled across Tor’s re-read blog of it. Damn but Bujold is a great writer!
And I recognized some familiar names in the comments …. ??
@sab: I’d like that read that.
@chris: I’m Chris too..and I could’ve written that myself. Though I admit I am too chicken to read the second Brown book. The 1st one is terrifying in its plausibility. I ALSO am waiting for the Gibson book!
Sadly, I don’t have much time for reading, but two books stood out for me.
Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are, by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz (2017). Some of the author’s more optimistic hopes about how Internet Data can help us has been overtaken by malicious attempts to influence or suppress political and social action, but this still remains one of the best, and more accessible books about the use and abuse of data. One thing that still stands out is how aggregate searches for racist humor and other indicators clearly showed the rising racial animus against Obama long before journalists started writing about it, or insisting that “economic anxiety” was at the root of right wing resistance to the first black president. It is telling that some of the more uniformed negative reviews of this book on Amazon and other sites attack it for revealing that some folks are racist and sexist to the core.
Ties That Bound: Founding First Ladies and Slaves (2017), by Marie Jenkins Schwartz. Focusing on Martha Washington, Martha Jefferson and Dolley Madison, this book provides fascinating insights into the interactions between the slave owners and the enslaved people who worked for and provided for them. There is a lot of fascinating detail about how things worked in the city and on the large plantations, and although you do not have the direct testimony of the enslaved people, you still get some idea of resistance and occaisonal escape from bondage, and how some slaves dealt with the drudgery of their daily lives, as well as the contrast of the relative comforts they provided to the presidential families.
One thing that continues to strike me in these histories is how, even though some slaves were clearly the offspring of masters and masters’ sons, no one, especially the wives and daughters wrote about this or spoke about it much to contemporaries and friends.
ever since the election I have been avoiding listening to the radio so I won’t have to listen to that god awful voice. I got good at it during W administration. This time I’ve been listening to a lot of books on tape as I drive to work. A friend who knows I have a liking for sci-fi recommended Octavia Butler and I started with the Parable series. Besides being immensely creative, it is eerily predictive for a novel written in the early 1990’s. American civilization, economy and democracy is collapsing due to climate change, perpetual war mongering, and anti-science religious zealotry. Since reading it I’ve been wondering if Bannon or Manafort or one of the other Trumpanzis in the campaign knew about Butler’s work. She predicted a presidential campaign that rejected science, advocated for a Christian state, and (I’m shitting you not) used the slogan Make America Great Again.
Even though the second book falls flat at the end, I highly recommend as a uniquely female and African American viewpoint that is sorely lacking in sci-fi writing.
I was on a crime jag all year. Here’s the fiction:
Inspector Irene Huss series -scandahoovy murder
Doctor Siri beautifully read by colin cotterill- the reluctant Laotian national coroner and corporeal body of an ancient shaman
Adrian McKinty modern northern Irish crime (with the exception of The Chain)
Poetry of all sorts, but especially Mary Oliver
Testament by Atwood
Best for last – all repeated listening on audible
Michelle Obama Becoming – forever FLOTUS telling her truth in her voice.
I’ll Be Alone in the Dark- the late Michelle McNamara’s dogged pursuit of the Golden State Killer that consumed the lives of many of our friends here in Sacramento
Say Nothing – where to start on a story within a larger and even more terrible story of the Troubles?
Lonely Boy – Sex Pistol guitarist Steve Jones’ life – misery and art and stuff
Bedside – NYT cookbook, Sontag’s on the suffering of others and a book of weekly gardening columns by vital sackville west and the US history by Jill Lapore
Yes! He goes into this, too! Detailing how Jews in city A were dispossessed, in order to yield domestic articles that were shipped to city B, to be distributed to Germans who’d been bombed. Or just because why not. Another case where race A was ethnically cleansed, moved into area of race B, who were ethnically cleansed, who moved into an area previously inhabited by Jewish people, who’d been (drum roll) transported to death camps. All fascinating, and chilling.
What was new to me, was the extent to which the Nazi economy (and economies of occupied territories) depended on the (ahem) proceeds of Jewish dispossession and murder. He has all sorts of details on this, like the crucial role played by Jewish dispossession in the funding of the Nazi occupation of Greece, even down to the granular level of the occupation of the island of Rhodes. This level of -detail- is what’s so interesting.
The overall emotion I felt was a sort of cold and …. smoking anger. That the leaders of Nazi Germany could be so dispassionate in their brutal calculations. He’s very …. methodical in his dismantling of the arguments of those who claimed that they didn’t realize it was happening, while they held their top-level jobs — very, very methodical. Really brings the receipts.
@Kathleen: In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larsen
Yes, that book was awesome. What an interesting and fascinating way to tell the story of the rise of Hitler—through the history of wealthy social climbers and diplomats.
In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson.
It is quite likely that Sally Hemings was Martha Jefferson’s half-sister or aunt, but that kind of connection could not be acknowledged without bringing the whole system down.
@Chris: Cool! New Sandman Slim is coming too!
NPR this morning reported on the RWA kerfuffle here in case you’re not a listener.
Fun Home is one of my favorite books and I’ve read it multiple times. Bechdel has multiple layers in the book and a real knack for managing ambiguity in a story. The musical was great too – you wouldn’t expect a (mostly) comic musical about (probable) suicide to work, but there it is.
There’s a Guardian interview with one of the authors who brought an ethics complaint against Courtney, too. She is of course now whining that it’s not HER fault, she was manipulated into doing it! ?
Given that she also says that her publisher asked her to apologize for the book and she instead doubled down and filed the ethics complaint, I have a feeling that she is not a reliable narrator of this issue, shall we say.
@laura: Thank you, laura!
This isn’t particularly related to your post, so I’ll apologize in advance …
Not that I’m pimping NPR today, but there was a segment on an Israeli daughter of Holocaust survivors’ film (“Afterword”) about coming to terms with her parents’ eternal hatred of Germans vs. the Palestinians’ hatred of Israelis. She comes to realize she has been as wrong about Germans as Israelis have been about Palestinians.
The filmmaker ends with, “It’s only after I finish editing the film that I realized that I was shedding tears because I was missing the comfort of being right, of having the comfort of thinking we are right, they’re wrong. It’s a simple, clear message. I can live with it. And I cannot live with it anymore.”
Anyway, I’m really looking forward to seeing this.
@debbie: Thank you, debbie! Writing. It. Down.!
I really liked Mind and Matter: A Life in Math and Football by John Urschel. It was a book about his career and how he chose mathematics over the possibility of getting traumatic brain injury while playing pro-football. He was at Penn State under Coach Paterno. His view of how the student-athletes were treated during that period tried to be both sensitive to Sandusky’s victims while pointing out that it was rough to be there on a football scholarship during that period.
I am not a football fan, but I enjoyed this book more than I expected to.
@Chetan Murthy: I wrote that one down. Thank you.
Listening this morning (and what I heard is basically all I know), it seemed both sides were overly offended. Not sure what Romance authors drink, but a beer summit might be in order.
I’ve read a few of the articles written about him: they get linked all over, e.g. on Metafilter. He seems like a really decent, kind man. Who has an amazing talent. And who was also a great football player (see what I did there?) I wish I were even *half* the mathematician he is. Ah, well.
P.S. We computer scientists have a term: “math envy”. It’s for explaining why so much CS is laden with math gobbledegook: we wish were real mathematicians. Ah, well.
Hell of an interview, that. Had the same reaction as you.
@Chetan Murthy: The book is very good, and I recommend it.
I have a background in EE and am currently working as a programmer. I do not know as much math as a mathematician, but I did know about a number of the problems Urschel was discussing in this book because they are very famous math problems. There were some that I did not know, but there were also some that I did know.
CS people get really weird about their math. I have seen CS people say that pretty uncomplicated math was complicated.
There are a number of strange things going on there.
There are all sorts of very specific math things that CS people may or may not know about, and that is okay because there is a lot of math out there in the world to understand.
Mathematicians and physicists make math hard by naming things with one-letter-variable names that come out of an equation that CS people have never seen before. This isn’t hard so much as it is people speaking different languages. Mathematicians and physicists are speaking equations, and computer scientists are hopefully speaking with reasonably named variables.
The people writing games are always talking about quaternions, and I do not know anything about them. The mathematicians and the game programmers do.
@Kathleen: We buy the books. I have the boxed set, which I think is the way to go. You can also buy it online. I personally think it needs to be a physical presence in your house. That’s how I read all of my mom’s Oz books. These are more important. Online disappears. Physical sits there needing to be read or explained.
It will be released this Friday. Damned if two people hadn’t reserved it at the library before me!
Looking forward to The Mirror and the Light, the last of the Thomas Cromwell trilogy by Hilary Mantel, due March 10.
KS in MA
@ellie: I just reread Pride and Prejudice a couple of weeks ago. Loved it all over again—Elizabeth is one of the best heroines ever. So glad you’ve found it!
@Bex: Can’t wait to read this as well.
@sab: Yes. I totally agree and was planning to get all 3. I want to share them with my adult grandsons as well. What a great way to engage younger readers.
Me three. After all this waiting, hoping Mantel’s outdone herself.
There is an underlying power struggle between white supremacists and everyone else that may not have come across in a short radio piece, especially one on NPR. It’s definitely not something that can be fixed with a beer summit.
Yeah, the piece conveyed nothing like that. Forget the summit.
My book was listed in Kirkus Review as one of the best novels of 2019. this is the review:Koerber (The Eclipse Dancer, 2018, etc.) offers readers an embittered narrator, a dystopic near future, and an intriguing, nuanced treatment of magic, nature, and justice in this urban-fantasy tale.
Bob Fallon is half-human and “half-forest spirit from the wild hare clan,” and he owns one of the last remaining bits of forested land in northern Wisconsin. It would be easy for him to dismiss humankind entirely—and on some days, that’s exactly what he wants to do. His clan’s mantra of “feed, fuck, fight” has governed a lot of his life, and he can’t help but feel a smoldering rage about the destruction of the forests and other injustices in his surroundings. Koerber’s characterization of Bob is perhaps the book’s strongest element; the protagonist’s jaded, acidic attitude will put readers perfectly into a noirish mindset. At the same time, Bob does a great job of providing context, both for the decaying world he inhabits and for his own limited abilities: “since I’m a fairy, why can’t I fix things?” When Arne, one of his few friends, is jailed for failing to pay speeding tickets, Bob starts raising money for his release, but this is easier said than done, as Bob has spent years avoiding townspeople, doing begrudging odd jobs for them, or outright stealing from them—and the state adds Arne’s room and board to the fine every day. Bob works inside and outside the law as he runs afoul of local militia, a congressman with shady ties, and a host of other fairies, spirits, and tricksters. Overall, the story manages to weave together a complex tapestry of themes, from climate change to poverty to what qualifies as morality in a world that’s facing catastrophe. The prose is clear and concise throughout, giving readers a sense of each scene and character through the protagonist’s eyes.
A wrenching, complex novel that any fantasy fan would do well to pick up.
It’s eerily similar to the “Sad Puppies/Rabid Puppies” problem with white supremacists that SFWA had a couple of years ago, only it’s looking like the permanent staff (not the board of directors made up of authors like Courtney Milan) is a huge part of the blockage. It’s … not fun in Romancelandia right now. ?
I ordered four Penrics, two of which are sitting next to me waiting to be read, and two of which will arrive when published.
@KS in MA:
Austenites may find that they enjoy Elizabeth Gaskell’s _Cranford_, which is suffused with much the same sort of amused, affectionate irony.
Every year, I recommend the Dorothy Dunnett Lymond and Nicolo series to anyone who likes historical fiction. Not new, but simply the finest historical fiction I have ever encountered. I found it difficult at first to engage with the first book of Lymond, but on a repeated attempt made it to about page 125, when suddenly I realized that the writing deserved much more attention than I had been paying.
I retired last year, and I’m looking forward to re-reading Dunnett as one of the chief rewards of my increased leisure.
Another not-new novel which I unreservedly recommend to any who have not read it:
Gain, by Richard Powers.
@Laura Koerber: Your book looks great, Laura!
That last sentence is pretty awesome coming from Kirkus! Congratulations!
J R in WV
Thanks, everyone, for the great suggestions and news about great books. I’ve been reading more, as escapist a set of fiction as I can find. Even trashy urban fantasy is better than the current real world, frankly. But better fiction is a better read.
The necromantic lesbian novel, Gideon the Ninth, was great, I’m looking forward to the next two novels in that set. No sex, just FYI, just affection and love among the violence.
Won’t be reading Nazi history, sorry, too real for right now.
J R in WV
Bought. Sounds right up my alley.
@J R in WV: thank you!
Oh my gosh, oh my gosh!
Just last night I got my three Incal books ( purchased in the 80’s ) back from my son, and was reading up on Jodowrosky this morning talking to my wife about his abortive “Dune” attempt and how he got Salvador Dali to agree to do a role, for $100K a minute of finished film… ( by the way, John Lennon and Apple Records played an interesting role in the distribution, and eventual lack therof, of AJ’s “Holy Mountain” and “El Topo” )
When I switch over to my favorite political blog and discover a Major Major post about my absolute *favorite* comic artist ( in case you can’t tell from my nym.. :)
Jean Giruad, who died one day after my dear aunt did ( May 10, 2012 ) ..
Moebius, Gir.. yeah.. love his work. Own as much of his printed stuff as I believe was ever published in the US ( not that much by volume.. made up for it in quality, )
There was a “Blueberry” movie, but it wasn’t all that much like the comic. Oh well.
John Difool lives again!
Major Major Major Major
@grubert: There’s sort of a happy ending, Jodorosky’s assembled team went on to make Alien.
Glad I could make your day!