It’s that time of year again. I’m pleased to report that even with moving, traveling, and starting school again, I still managed to read 53 books in 2017. Not as many as last year, but given the chaos my life has been through in the last 12 months I am not in the least upset. 50 books is a good goal for me, as it’s roughly one book a week–though in reality I read in jumps and spurts. Sometimes a book will take two weeks, whereas, in weeks like this one, I’ll read three books in one week.
For this year’s recap I am going to separate the books I read into categories by my ratings, as well as give a one-sentence (ish) review. Want more info? Message me or look up the book!
THE POWER, Naomi Alderman
Women around the world spontaneously obtain the ability to generate and control electricity and the chaos that ensues left me shaken in the best way. (WORLD WAR Z meets THE HANDMAID’S TALE.)
GLAMOUR ADDICTION, Juliet McMains
A very readable academic analysis of the socioeconomic landscape of competitive Ballroom dance that had me excitedly annotating from page one.
HAMILTON: THE REVOLUTION, Lin-Manual Miranda & Jeremy McCarter
I mean do I really have to explain this–there’s a million things I haven’t done, but just you wait.
THE END OF THE DAY, Claire North
A slow-but-emotional travelogue of the adventures of the Harbinger of Death–not my favorite of North’s novels, but contains her characteristically beautiful prose.
THE COLLAPSING EMPIRE, John Scalzi
The first installment in a cinematic space opera series by sci-fi giant Scalzi, EMPIRE is tightly plotted, has fascinating characters, and the far-future world feels familiar without exactly copying others in the genre.
REJECTED PRINCESSES, Jason Porath
Tired of the Grimm and Disney versions? This collection of women from myth, legend, and history around the world explores less convenient and less kid-friendly tales of women who stuck to their guns and caused a ruckus.
SO YOU’VE BEEN PUBLICLY SHAMED, Jon Ronson
Though slightly dated in our modern light-speed internet world, this exploration of the power of social media is required reading for anyone participating in the Feed.
PANDEMIC, Sonia Shah
Yes, I’m a sucker for the world-wide-plague book, but this non-fiction depiction of how epidemics begin, spread, and shape the world we know today is excellent.
SPINNING MAMBO INTO SALSA, Juliet McMains
An ethnographic and historical comparison of the three US cities that spawned Salsa and Mambo, this book is a must-read for anyone interested in social dance and the phenomenon that is Salsa.
EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU, Celeste Ng
A deft and moving family drama about immigration, middle-class America, and the secrets we keep from those closest to us.
SAILING TO SARANTIUM & LORD OF EMPERORS, Guy Gavriel Kay
A lyrical and occasionally violent duology that walks the line between alt-history and fantasy based on the Byzantine empire.
THE REFRIGERATOR MONOLOGUES, Catherynne Valente
THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES meets every superhero story ever–this short-story collection is piercing look at (loosely) veiled comic book tales and the women they have wronged.
THE NURSES, Alexandra Robbins
A non-fiction account of lives of those in the medical field who often seem to play second-fiddle to doctors. (Honestly I don’t remember much about this one, but I must have enjoyed it.)
STORIES OF YOUR LIFE, AND OTHERS, Ted Chiang
A mind-bending collection of science fiction short stories, including the one that inspired the 2016 movie ARRIVAL.
VAMPIRE GOD, Mary Hallub
The most comprehensive academic analysis of vampire media in the 19th through 21st centuries I have ever read.
IT DEVOURS!, Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor
This second book in the Night Vale world tackles science vs religion, and though they miss the mark a little, I will always love their prose and the universe they have built.
DANCE WRITINGS AND POETRY, Edwin Denby
This collection of original poetry and arts reviews contains gems from mid-20th-century dance critic Edwin Denby, including a fascinating interview regarding classicism with George Balanchine himself.
THE CITY AND THE CITY, China Mieville
Is it science fiction? Is it artfully written detective fiction? I don’t think I’ve read a book so able to walk that line between fantasy and reality–as the characters walk the lines between their inexplicably separated cities.
BEAUTIFUL FLESH: A BODY OF ESSAYS, edited by Stephanie G’Schwind
A collection of essays from a variety of authors, each focusing on a particular body part and their relationship to it. My personal favorite was a musing on the heart and humans’ relationship to electricity from an author with an implanted defibrillator.
WHAT IS LIFE? HOW CHEMISTRY BECOMES BIOLOGY, Addy Pross
A systems chemists attempt to re-frame how we think about life and its origins on our planet. This book is short but technically dense–good for the trained scientist, less so for the layperson.
THE BEGINNING OF THE WORLD IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT, Jen Campbell
A quietly creepy collection of fairy tale and folk-lore-influenced short stories. My favorite was the first story, about a man who buys his girlfriend a new heart to ensure that she won’t leave him.
THE QUEEN OF BLOOD, Sarah Beth Durst
A bit of a guilty pleasure read, this fantasy series opener explores a world where the ruler of the realm must fight back malevolent natural forces.
AMBERLOUGH, Lara Donnelly
CABARET the musical in novel form–this darkly beautiful story details the rise of facism in a fantasy world and how it impacts a colorful cast of miscreants.
THE ESSEX SERPENT, Sarah Perry
A beautiful and suspenseful tale of romance and loss in Victorian England, set again the backdrop of a hunt for a fantasy creature.
HILLBILLY ELEGY, J. D. Vance
Both an autobiography and an attempt to explain the socioeconomic situation of Appalachian folks–but I’m conflicted on how much to buy into his arguments. Worth a read, though.
THE DIABOLIC, S. J. Kincaid
This story of a test-tube-grown bodyguard finding her humanity in a crumbling, corrupt space empire is the first YA sci-fi in a while that I didn’t hate!
BALLROOM DANCING IS NOT FOR SISSIES, Elizabeth & Arthur Seagull
Despite the sub-title, there is nothing R-rated about this how-to guide in balancing relationships and ballroom dancing.
DANCE WITH ME: BALLROOM DANCING AND THE PROMISE OF INSTANT INTIMACY, Julia Erickson
Despite the author’s obvious disdain for GLAMOUR ADDICTION (see Five Stars), this sociological analysis of studio ballroom culture lands on many of the same points as that other title, in addition to a hilariously accurate layout of the different performances of gender roles seen on the social dance floor.
FOSSE, Sam Wasson
High on the drama and the page count, this biography of choreography legend Bob Fosse wastes no opportunity to dip into his sordid history and the seedy side of Broadway.
FUTURE HOME OF THE LIVING GOD, Lousie Erdrich
Despite its lovely prose, this novel doesn’t rise above the fact that it’s basically a less-good retelling of THE HANDMAID’S TALE.
MINDSET, Carol S. Dweck
My boss at my old job ‘suggested’ I read this. I remember nothing about it.
THE MAD SCIENTIST’S GUIDE TO WORLD DOMINATION, Edited by John Joseph Adams
This collection of mad-science-themed short stories was sadly a mixed bag of quality–I loved one or two, barely finished others.
THE AERONAUT’S WINDLASS, Jim Butcher
A rollicking romp through a steampunk fantasy world, though I found the characters stock and the world forgettable. (The cat, though, is worth the price of admission alone.)
THE PALACE THIEF, Ethan Canin
Four not-particularly-memorable short stories concerning isolation and mid-century masculinity.
THREE DARK CROWNS, Kendare Blake
You’d think I’d have learned by now that YA fantasy does not float my boat, but, alas, I went into this tale of warring island factions and powerful queens-to-be expecting more than it delivered.
HOW TO BUILD A GIRL, Caitlin Moran
Sadly the details of this book have also faded, though I recall not understanding the nuances of British classism.
HEADS IN BEDS, Jacob Tomsky
A bit memoir, a bit how-to on cheating the hotel system of years gone by, a bit forgettable.
YOU’RE NEVER WEIRD ON THE INTERNET (ALMOST), Felicia Day
I’ve been a fan of Day since the Guild years, but this memoir suffers from the same problem as most of its internet-personality cohort–her story isn’t over, and the book feels unfinished.
JEROME ROBBINS: HIS LIFE, HIS THEATER, HIS DANCE, Deborah Jowitt
An interesting but dense biography of Broadway legend and second-fiddle-to-Balanchine Robbins. I was glad of the information, but am wary of glorifying a man who had a reputation as a tyrannical director.
DANCING OUT OF LINE: BALLROOMS, BALLETS, AND MOBILITY IN VICTORIAN FICTION AND CULTURE, Molly Engelhardt
Some interesting comparisons between Regency era and Victorian era social dance norms, but this book’s focus on dance depictions in time-period fiction did not hold my interest.
THE HOUSE OF GOD, Samuel Shem
A bizarre and polarizing account of the lives of medical residents in the 1970s that reads like a fever dream.
THEN WE CAME TO THE END, Joshua Ferris
I think this fictionalized account of office life was supposed to be equal parts pathos and satire, but I found it just vaguely sad and forgettable.
FROM BALLROOM TO DANCESPORT: AESTHETICS, ATHLETICS, AND BODY CULTURE, Caroline Picart
The author makes some interesting points about changes necessary to the DanceSport world in order for the sport’s inclusion in the Olympics, but the rest of the book is superseded by GLAMOUR ADDICTION (see Five Star).
AN EMBER IN THE ASHES, Sabaa Tahir
Again with the I-apparently-don’t-like-YA-Fantasy, and this one had the added bonus of being way too violent for my tastes.
THINKING WITH THE DANCING BRAIN, Sandra Minton
Neuroscience 101 for dancers–a nice refresher for me, but not much beyond that.
THE CROWN’S GAME, Evelyn Skye
Romance! Czarist Russia! Romance! Magic! Sadly I didn’t get into the relationship of the main characters.
TANGO AND THE POLITICAL ECONOMY OF PASSION, Marta E. Savigliano
This academic analysis of the history of tango and the socioeconomic forces at work during the dance’s creation had some interesting tid-bits, but I found it difficult to read and some stylistic choices hard to decipher.
ZONE ONE, Colson Whitehead
I love zombie novels, but this one tries to be ‘litrary’ and cerebral and I just found it dull, forgettable, and overly wordy.
THE ANUBIS GATES, Tim Powers
The cover of this absurdist time-traveling fantasy promises way more Ancient Egypt than I actually got. Crazy premise, idiotic characters, and only enough rollicking fun to laugh at.
YOU ARE A BADASS, Jen Sincero
For all its bluster and wanna-be subversiveness, BADASS is a pretty standard self-help book. Sadly I am one of the most self-motivated people I know, so the get-up-and-go was lost on me.
THE BLACK PRISM, Brent Weeks
The fascinating magic system was the only thing carrying me through this mess of unlikable characters and fantasy tropes.
BALLROOM! OBSESSION AND PASSION INSIDE THE WORLD OF COMPETITIVE DANCE, Sharon Savoy
Never have I disagreed so completely with advice given and conclusions drawn as I did from those of professional-ballet-dancer-turned-cabaret-division-star Savoy. Want a rant? Ask me more.
And that’s a wrap! If you made it all the way down here, thank you for reading, and may you have a wonderful New Year!