I can never remember what I've read, so I keep two running Notes in my phone: Books to Read and Books Read. I try to find an emoji that best symbolizes the book before I add it to the Books Read list. I can't adequately explain why it gives me such satisfaction to do that, but it does. Here are the books I've enjoyed in the last few months.
[racehorse emoji] The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden
I gobbled up the first book in this series (The Bear and the Nightingale), which felt so fresh and inventive not only because it was well written, but because I knew next to nothing about Russian folklore or medieval Russian history. The second book didn't grab me in the same way until the last third or so, but I am once again fully in its claws.
[palm tree emoji] The Ten Thousand Things by Maria Dermoût
My friend Katja posted a picture of this brightly colored paperback on Instagram and called it a "Gorgeous secret genius Dutch/Indonesian magical realist novel." I trust Katja in all things book, so I immediately ordered it through interlibrary loan. What arrived at the Amherst Jones Library was not a spanking new paperback reissued by NY Review of Books, but a clothbound hardback printed in 1983 by University of Massachusetts Press. It was like I'd requested a book and got a time capsule instead! It was just as gorgeous as Katja said, and also haunting and haunted and ghostly--I loved it.
[pine tree emoji] The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
This was a re-read, but I enjoyed it even more the second time around, noticing all the little details that have their echos in the third and fourth books. The whole series is gold star.
[coffin emoji] Denton Little's Deathdate by Lance Rubin
What a tricky book this was! The lightness and humor kept me reading along happily, and then I would put it down to refill my glass of seltzer and suddenly find a two-hundred-pound existential millstone hanging around my neck like, How did that get there? This book made me think a ton, and it made me laugh.
[door emoji] Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
This was the first book by Neil Gaiman that I'd ever read. I could have read another hundred pages of the story easily. It was so much fun and got my imagination firing in so many ways, it made me very happy for Neil and all his success. Utterly absolutely very well deserved.
[shark emoji] Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller
Even though there was plenty of darkness in this story, I felt such complete joy being carried along on the current of Sam's imagination. In this post-apocalyptic city, floating off what was once Greenland, a woman arrives riding an orca and transporting a polar bear with cages around its paws and muzzle. Finding out who she is and what she wants turns into the most fascinating rabbit hole of a story.
[pile of books emoji] Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller
I really enjoyed Claire's first novel, Our Endless Numbered Days, so I had been meaning to read SL for about a year. I feel stupid for waiting that long. This is the reigning Best Book I've Read So Far This Year, the one to beat. Gorgeous writing, heartbreaking story--I really hope that Claire Fuller has a long, long career that I can continue to enjoy for ages and ages. She's really just the bees knees.