For my first real blog post, I want to share all the corners of the bookish landscape that I’ve recently discovered or rediscovered. There’s a definite theme around this list, and it’s not surprising given my reading mood lately. At the end of each month I plan a great list of books I want to read the next month, and then I promptly leave said list alone and mood-read my way through the month.
Here’s what I’ve been enjoying the past few months:
- Speculative Fiction
Did you love dystopian literature once upon a time? Well, I still do. If you couldn’t get enough of The Hunger Games or Divergent back in the early 2010s, then, oh boy, do I have some recommendations for you.
The definition of Speculative Fiction varies, but, for me, Speculative Fiction sits in a space somewhere between contemporary literature and science fiction. Usually it is near future and usually the world looks somehow different than how ours looks. Whether the difference is from a huge technological, scientific, political, or social change, usually the world — our world, because speculative fiction usually rests in our own world — is somehow different than the way it is now. One of the most recognizable versions for my definition of Speculative Fiction is The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, where a near-future version of our world looks very different because of a political and religious change which took place in its fictional version of America.
Speculative Fiction is my jam. The great thing about speculative fiction is that there is, I think, one for just about everyone. You want to read about Shakespearean actors in a world trying to rebuild after a virus takes out most of the world’s population? You need Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. Do you relate to depressed androids who hack their way through their programming so they can watch trash tv? You would probably like Murderbot from All Systems Red by Martha Wells. Do you like the idea of tough, queer librarians fighting fascism and the patriarchy and riding by horseback on their way to Utah? Well, lucky for you there is Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey.
Read some speculative fiction and thank me later.
Real talk, here. I don’t really know the difference between a novella, a novellette, and a short story. I mean, I know there is a difference, but I don’t properly know how to identify the difference. So, for me, I call just about every book that happens to be less than around 250 pages a novella.
This sweet spot of books, from around 150 to 250 pages, is one of my favorite discoveries of 2020 so far. My journey with novellas started with the Wayward Children series by Seanan McQuire, and, honestly, that’s a great place to start (see #3 below). I tore through Every Heart a Doorway, and I haven’t looked back. If you ever wanted to walk through a portal to another world, you might enjoy hearing about all the kids at Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children who have done just that. If you enjoy lighter fantasies and larger casts of characters, definitely try out Every Heart a Doorway and see if it’s for you.
If Science Fiction is more your speed, All Systems Red is a fun place to start. Murderbot (see above) is entertaining and totally relatable. The plot of the story is compelling, and it somehow manages to not feel too fast-paced, the way that some other shorter books can feel.
But, if you like the idea of a ghost story and you’re not afraid of a different narrative style, I recommend Wylding Hall by Elizabeth Hand. It’s a ghost story about a British folk band from the 1970s who spend a summer in an old English country house. It’s creepy, but not too creepy; it’s character driven, but gives you some distance from the characters since it is told in an interview/documentary style format. This book was simple, but it has stuck with me since I finished it.
Basically, just find you a fun shorter book and give it a chance. It might surprise you. They definitely surprised me.
3. Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant
Here’s number 3 to tie everything together! So, if you don’t know Seanan McGuire, then you totally should. Seanan McGuire writes a lot of books, and I only just discovered her somehow. I mentioned above that I completely devoured Every Heart a Doorway, and that’s true. It’s also true that I read the second and third books in the same series, Down Among the Sticks and Bones and Beneath the Sugar Sky, in that same week. I love the complexity of the different worlds, and I love the way that each world fits itself to the child that finds its way there. The themes of these books are so interesting, and I am so excited to continue in the series further.
When I discovered that Seanan McGuire wrote darker fiction under a pen name (Mira Grant), I was stoked to see what else she has written. If you’ve ever wanted to know what it might be like if we discovered that mermaids are real, but that maybe they aren’t the musical, beautiful creatures we imagined them to be, then do yourself a favor and read Rolling in the Deep and Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant (Seanan McGuire). These stories were chilling and really smart, and full of complex characters doing complicated sciencey things. They also happen to discover killer mermaids while filming a mock-umentary. The audiobooks of both stories are really good, and I can’t recommend them enough if you can handle horror books.
So there it is!
My first post is finished, and maybe you have an idea of what I’ve been reading lately and what you can expect to come in the future. As a mood-reader, though, your guess is as good as mine on what I’ll be reading through the rest of this year.