Saturday, December 29, 2018

2018: The year in (good) books

Once again, it is time for the usual end-of-the-year book roundup. In 2019 I read (as in, finished reading) 157 books total, which may sound like a lot, but it does include several comic book tpbs. Within this number, 40 volumes were for the Following folktales around the world project (I finished Europe!), and 19 for a reading challenge that required me to read one folktale a day. Out of the remaining 98, here are the highlights of my year, in no particular order:

Juanita Harrison: My great, wide, beautiful world
I spent the year systematically reading travel journals written by women, and this one definitely took the cake. I wrote an entire blog post about it when I finished, you can read it here. Juanita Harrison, a woman of color, set out at the beginning of the 20th century, with no money but great enthusiasm, to travel alone around the world. She reports her adventures with so much love and cheer that it is impossible not to love her. She has a great time sailing in a typhoon, gives away her belongings more than once (but keeps her favorite sexy undergarments), sleeps in the flowerbeds of the Taj Mahal, leaves some men in the dust, gets a library card in every city, and spends her hat money on museum tickets. Ever since then I like to travel with the mentality of What Would Juanita Harrison Do?
Also, I found her photo, isn't she lovely?

Jen Wang: The Prince and the Dressmaker
Possibly the cutest read of the year, this graphic novel tells the tale of a prince that secretly likes to dress up as a princess, and a dressmaker who wants to be a designer. The tale is told with beautiful colors, expressive artistic style, lots of humor, and an adorable romance plot. Definitely a feel-good book to invest in.
Madeline Miller: Circe
Circe, badass witch of Greek mythology, long deserved her own epic - and Madeline Miller have her a great one. She knows her mythology, and her prose style is gorgeous; I read this book slowly, tasting all the sentences like wine. I also have not read a novel in a long time that had such vivid imagery, and such meaningful, subtle color schemes. Circe's story became whole from the fragments we know, and it is an amazing story indeed. If I had to pick a favorite book of the year, this one would be a strong contender.

Kate Heartfield: Armed in her fashion
Talking about strong contenders: I only recently discovered Kate Heartfield, but I have already finished everything she's written. She has a great sense of humor, a smart writing style (which does not dumb things down for the reader, thank god), and unique ideas. Case in point: This book features a disgruntled wet nurse who sets out to conquer Hell and demand her money back from her good-for-nothing zombie husband. She is accompanied by a great cast of characters, from her shy daughter to a transgender mercenary, and they fight they way across the best historical fantasy setting I have ever seen. By the way, the book is based on a Brueghel painting, you might be familiar with it:

Erik Larson: The Devil in the White City
I don't normally read true crime, therefore this book has long been on my TBR, and ended up being a surprise. I originally started it because of H. H. Holmes (American Horror Story references), but soon realized that there is another, much more intriguing story in the book: The creation of the Chicago World Fair. If someone told me a book on architecture and bureaucracy could be so riveting that I'd skip the serial killer chapters, I would not have believed it. And yet. I would love to see a well done HBO show based on this one.

Juan Diaz Canales - Juanjo Guarnido: Blacksad
Similarly, if someone told me I'd have a crush on a cat in a trench coat, I would have given them a very strange look. I know I am late to the party, but now that I have finally gotten around to reading Blacksad, I totally see what the fuss is all about. Furry noir might sound ridiculous, but oh boy, does it work. The story has all the mandatory elements of good noir, and the artwork is just gorgeous, full of details and expressive faces. Definitely and instant classic.

Happy reading in 2019! Tell me about your favorites! :)

1 comment:

  1. I’ve only read Circe, but yes, it was excellent! And she does know her mythology. A number of times, I said, “Hang on, that wasn't in the myth!” then checked my Robert Graves again and realised that, yes, it was!