The Reading Year Ahead – 2019

New year, new goals…? Let’s start with a recap of last year’s Un-goals:

  • I will not set a hard number of books or pages to read.

Check! I changed my Goodreads challenge number as I saw fit, both up and down, and it felt great.

  • I will not update my Dewey Decimal and 20th Century lists monthly.

I haven’t updated my Dewey Decimal list at all, and the 20th Century list only when I get the urge. For the record, that’s only once every few months. 😉

  • I will not join any challenges that dictate what books to read.

I broke this one, joining some readathons on Youtube, but that’s okay! Because…

  • I will not hold myself to these goals if they’re not working for me.

I think this is my favorite goal. Flexibility does me good, and the success I had with these un-goals. I read 115 books, embraced my mood reading tendencies, and read a higher percentage of books by authors from marginalized groups. So guess what?

I’m doing it again this year. 😁

2019 Reading Un-goals

  • I will not set a hard number of books or pages to read.
  • I will not join any challenges that dictate what books to read.
  • I will not hold myself to these goals if they’re not working for me.

That being said, I will have some soft, “wouldn’t that be nice”-type sorta-goals I’d like to keep in mind.

First is continuing to read authors from marginalized groups. I broke 40% for the first time in 2018 and would like to do so again this year. Getting to 50% would be icing on the cake.

I’ve also signed up to be a judge for the Booktube Prize on Youtube. That will necessarily direct my reading at certain points in the year, so I’m working that into un-goal number three. Huzzah flexibility!

I may end up returning to more concrete goals in 2020 but for now un-goals are suiting me just fine. What goals and challenges are you looking forward to tackling in the new year?

My Favorite Books of 2018

The end of the year is finally here, huzzah! While the real world has been busy and stressful my reading life has gone much better. Escapism for the win! 😉

So here’s my yearly list of favorite reads. Just like last year there’s an even mix of romance, other fiction, and non-fiction, and authors from marginalized groups show up in a big way. Let’s jump into it, with the titles listed in reverse alphabetical order by title, just because:

26073085White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson

This book left me infuriated, shocked, and heart-broken in turns. Court cases may have guaranteed African-Americans equal rights, but this book showed me that they needed to be fought for outside of the courts two and three times over.

warday

Warday by Whitley Strieber and James Kunetka

Suppose the US and the USSR had a nuclear exchange in 1984. What would happen? Where would get targeted and why? What would the days, weeks, months, and years after look like? Strieber and Kunetka dive deep into all of that in this epistolary-esque account of their travels around America some five years after “Warday”. It’s chilling and brings the aftermath of nuclear war to life.

37648566

Syncopation by Anna Zabo (Twisted Wishes #1)

An m/m romance with an aromantic protagonist written by a non-binary author, centering on a Queer rock band? Yes, please! Add in some BDSM elements, great characterization, and the best anaphylactic shock I’ve read and I’m in love.

38643164

The Lonesome Bodybuilder by Yukiko Motoya, translated by Asa Yoneda

Weird, wonderful short stories that spin out realistic absurdities while examining the role and status of women in Japan. My favorite piece is An Exotic Marriage, a novella about a husband and wife who find themselves resembling each other in more concrete ways than you’d expect.

33931697

Invisible: How Young Women with Serious Health Issues Navigate Work, Relationships, and the Pressure to Seem Just Fine by Michele Lent Hirsch

Part memoir, part anecdote, and part research, Invisible does an amazing job looking at women society deems “too young” or “too pretty” to be sick. Own voices for health issues and being queer, it’s full of thoughts and discussions us relatively healthy folk have never even had to think about while being intersectional to the hilt. Maybe the most underrated new release I’ve read this year.

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Hello Stranger by Lisa Kleypas (The Ravenels #4)

Historical romance based on the first woman doctor in England is totally my thing. Kleypas’ writing is as solid as ever with an extra dose of suspense and some great story arcs for secondary characters as well as the main couple.

30267604

Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag, translated by Srinath Perur

A short book that builds up the story in layers, one chapter at a time. We look into the lives of different members of an Indian family and their rags to riches story… but how did they get all that money so quickly, anyway?

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Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety by Eric Schlosser

The history of nuclear weapons, which is more like a history of nuclear near-accidents, and a gripping account of an incident at an American missile silo. If you’ve never heard of the Damascus Accident don’t look it up now – let Schlosser guide you through it minute by minute in a great example of narrative nonfiction.

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The Chateau by Tiffany Reisz (Original Sinners #9)

A flashback set in the Original Sinners series, The Chateau is great for anyone that’s already in love with Nora, Soren, Kingsley, and the rest of the gang. It’s a gender-flipped and toned down version of The Story of O and includes a killer mind fuck.

35656812All Passion Spent by Vita Sackville-West

The character work in this classic is just great. Lady Shane’s husband, a prominent politician, has died and her children have gathered to decide what to do with mother. When she proclaims her own wants, maybe for the first time in their lives, the kids have no idea what to make of it.

There we have it, my favorite books of 2018! What was your top read of the year? Are there any new releases you’re anticipating next year?

Always Doing is now on Booktube!

Those who follow me on Twitter or Instagram you may have noticed that I recently started a channel on Youtube.  Yup, I’m an honest to goodness Booktuber! Who woulda thunk it?

That’s me! 😊

If you’re not familiar with Booktube it’s a lot like blogs in that people talk about what they’re reading, what they’re loving (or not), and the bookish life in general.  In addition to reviews and monthly wrap ups you’ll find book hauls, tags where people answer a set list of themed questions (like the New to Booktube Tag above), readathons, discussions, and more.

I started the channel because I love watching Booktube and wanted to join the fun.  But don’t worry, this blog isn’t going anywhere! I find that written reviews are still the best way to organize my thoughts and nothing beats the satisfaction of writing one. The videos are an addition, and I hope you’ll enjoy watching me talk about books on top of what you can find here.

So go ahead, pop over to my channel and subscribe if you like what you see!  I’m looking forward to continuing our conversation, whatever medium it may be in. 🙂

Women in Translation Month 2018: Suggestions and Reading List

WiTmonth2018Huzzah for August, Women in Translation Month!  This is the month to read works in translation by women, trans, and non-binary folk.  Precious few books in English are translations, and only a quarter or so of those are by women.  Summer is the perfect time to highlight these amazing books and let the world know how awesome women authors (and translators!) are.

Looking for a place to start?  Here are some #womenintranslation books I’ve read over the past year:

30186905The Queue by Basma Abdel Aziz, translated by Elisabeth Jaquette

A dystopia set in modern day Egypt where a new centralized authority demands that all citizens line up at The Gate to ask permission for even everyday affairs.  The line grows longer and longer… but will The Gate ever open?

39737311Banthology: Stories from Unwanted Nations ed. by Sarah Cleave, translated by various

Short stories, some by women, commissioned after Trump’s discriminatory ban of immigration from Muslim-majority nations.  The pieces range from realistic to fantastical and explore themes of exile, travel, and restrictions on movement.

35049393The Farm in the Green Mountains by Alice Herdan-Zuckmayer, translated by Ida H. Washington

Translated non-fiction, huzzah!  Alice and her family came to the US as refugees, fleeing the Nazis during World War II.  By chance they end up in Vermont and fall in love with the place despite the hard winters, relative isolation, and less-than-smart livestock.  It’s everything I wanted The Egg and I to be – funny and heartwarming, you’ll fall in love with the Green Mountains just as much as Alice does.

6845839Chi’s Sweet Home by Kanata Konami (I can’t find the translator, gah)

This one is a cheat – it’s my first review for #WITmonth, posting Friday!  Chi is a lost kitten that finds a home and is everything cute and adorable.  A perfect pick-me-up for cat lovers, which, judging from twitter, is everyone.

And here’s my reading list for this month.  It tends heavily Japanese because… I’m me. 🙂  I doubt I’ll finish off everything but I’m looking forward to getting to as many as I can.

36481157The Master Key by Masako Togawa, translated by Simon Grove

A puzzle mystery by an LGBTQIA+ author who has been called the Japanese P.D. James.  I know many people like curling up with mysteries in the fall but I like tackling them during the summer – I’ll take any shiver I can get, even if it’s from fear!

31203000Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata, translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori

A very buzzy book at the moment!  I’m using the Japanese cover because holy cow, lookit that.

Keiko is anything but normal, working at a convenience store for 18 years where most people leave after one or two.  But what is normal, anyway?  I’ve already started reading this one in Japanese and I’m loving it so far.

20484692Ten Women by Marcela Serrano, translated by Beth Fowler

Nine women who share a therapist, but little else, meet and tell their stories.  In the process they form bonds and transform their lives, and we get insight into many corners of Chilean society.

38643164The Lonesome Bodybuilder by Yukiko Motoya, translated by Asa Yoneda

Forthcoming from Soft Skull Press.  Motoya has won all kinds of awards here in Japan, including the Akutagawa Prize for a piece featured in this collection of stories.  It’s billed as inventive, with reality slipping into the fantastic, which is just my kind of thing.

40932752False Calm: A Journey Through the Ghost Towns of Patagonia by María Sonia Cristoff, translated by Katherine Silver

Another upcoming release, this one from Transit Books.  The jacket copy says it’s part reportage, part personal essay, and part travelogue… which is all non-fiction, yea!  A look at the towns lost after the oil boom in Patagonia.

It’s going to be a great month!  Do you have any books lined up for Women in Translation Month?  How about some recommendations? Let’s have a chat in the comments 🙂

New Review Feature: Doorways Into Books

In the Dark2 copyI’m excited to announce that I’m adding a new feature to my reviews! It’s designed to help you decide if a particular book will be perfect for you.

Here’s how: Nancy Pearl, a librarian and author, says that there are four doorways that lead a reader into loving a book.  Knowing your favorite doorways is a more reliable way to choose your next read than matching genre or subject alone.

I heard her talk about this several years ago and it has stuck in my head ever since.  Pearl goes in depth in this article, but here’s a quick rundown of the four doorways:

1. Story – aka plot.  “I had to see what happens next,” “I couldn’t put it down.”

2. Character – “The characters felt like real people,” “I was sad to finish – it felt like losing a friend.”

3. Setting – “I felt like I was there,” “I learned so much about that time and place,” “the setting was almost its own character.”

4. Language – “I didn’t follow the plot and that was okay – the writing was so beautiful I kept going,” “I found myself slowing down so I could enjoy the words.”

Personally story is my favorite doorway – nothing will suck me in like a riproaring plot.  After that I like character and setting almost equally, with language coming in a distant fourth.  I appreciate good writing, of course, but language alone won’t make me want to continue on.  Everyone is different, and figuring out your favorites is a fun way to deepen your reading and choose what to enjoy next.

So what does this look like in practice on the blog?

I’ve made pie charts showing the proportion of each element.  It’s subjective, of course, and we can quibble about percentages, but I think most people would agree on which doorways are most prominent.  Let’s look at examples for books I’ve read recently:Rapture in DeathRapture in Death, part of J.D. Robb’s In Death series, is a police procedural set in the future.  The mystery insures it’s heavy with plot, and the recurring cast of characters is a large element, as well.  The setting of 2058 New York adds makes for great worldbuilding.  On the other hand, while the writing is good the language doesn’t set it apart, making it the smallest chunk of the graph.A Line Made By Walking

On the other end of the spectrum, A Line Made by Walking is pure literary fiction.  The language is stunning and the main attraction.  Character and setting are doing their thing but there is very little plot.  Therefore, if you’re a fan of plot like I am this may not be the best fit.

Here’s one more:warday.jpg

Warday is an epistolary novel about life in America after a nuclear war.  Plot and setting drive the narrative as two reporters travel across the country to discover what remains.  The descriptions of bombed out cities and dust storms are vivid, and while the characters are well developed they’re not central to the book’s appeal.

I’ll be adding these graphs to many of my reviews going forward.  We all have different likes and dislikes, so I’m hoping it will help you decide on a book when our tastes don’t quite match up.

So which element – plot, character, setting, or language – draws you into a book the most?  Is there one that you could do without?

The Reading Year Ahead – 2018

Last year I was all about the goals and, uh, it didn’t go so well.  Let’s recap:

  • Read 36,000 pages

I counted by pages instead of books this year, hoping it would encourage me to read longer books.  But… no.  Not only did I miss the goal (31,000 pages read in 2017) but my average pages per book went down.  Eep.  Part of this is due to a huge reading slump I had late in the year so while I’m not happy I missed my goal 110 books is awesome in its own right.

  • Add at least five titles to my ongoing 20th Century list
  • Add at least five titles to my ongoing Dewey list (hopefully 10+)

No and no.  I had maybe one or two for each list.

  • Have 30%+ of my reading be by authors who are people of color or otherwise diverse

This is the one goal I rocked. 33% of books were by authors who are PoC or from other marginalized groups.  Most excellent.

One out of four goals is an awful percentage, and I’m beginning to wonder if these year-long goals are the best thing for me right now. The 20C and Dewey lists, in particular, had no bearing on what books I picked up.  Making sure at least one book in three is by a marginalized author has become ingrained but the rest has fallen by the wayside.

It’s time to shake things up.

2018 Reading Un-goals

I know they say that goals should be worded positively as something you will do, not something you will avoid. But seeing as how last year went I feel a new approach is justified.  Bring on the un-goals!

  • I will not set a hard number of books or pages to read.

I’m still going to put a number in the Goodreads challenge to give myself some kind of pace to measure by, but I will edit it whenever I start getting stressed out.

  • I will not join any challenges that dictate what books to read (with one exception).

Over the past couple of years I fell hard for group challenges on Goodreads and while they were good for me at the time they feel stifling now.  I want the freedom to read what I want without outside pressure.

This doesn’t mean I’ll be skipping out on all challenges, though!  Anything based on a time frame (Dewey’s, 24 in 48, Bout of Books, and so on) are still fair game.  You didn’t think I could give up cold turkey, did you?  I’m also working a major exception in: Reading with Style, a Goodreads group I’ve been with for over four years now.  The challenges there are more an invitation to branch out in your reading, and hopefully that will soak up any challenge-y energy I have.  Ideally RwS will be the frame my 2018 reading is built on, but we’ll see.

  • I will not update my Dewey Decimal and 20th Century lists monthly.

It doesn’t matter when I crunch the numbers so I can wait until the end of the year if I want.  Time and peace gained, no harm done.

  • I will not hold myself to these goals if they’re not working for me.

One year is a long time to stick with something I’m not happy with, so I reserve the right to revisit and change goals as I see fit.  I might want to do a personal challenge or follow a shortlist or do Nonfiction November again, and I can decide at the time if it’s working for me.  Maybe I’ll check in quarterly, maybe not – no pressure, no worries.

The one thing I haven’t touched on is my diversity goal, but it’s for a good reason – reading diversely has become second nature (yea!)  Whenever I open my read shelf on Goodreads I scan the covers, making sure at least two of the six books on the first row are by PoC and other marginalized folks. I may aim for a higher percentage in the future but for the moment this is working great.

Those are my un-goals for 2018!  Have you changed your goals drastically this year?  Which one are you most excited about?

 

My Favorite Books of 2017

Yea for best of lists!  I’ve had putting fun putting this together, as looking through 2017 through the lens of my reading is better than nearly any other lens out there. (And we thought 2016 was bad!)  Here’s hoping that 2018 turns things around, or at least provides as many quality reading experiences as this year.

The list is pretty representative of my intake as a whole – evenly split among non-fiction, romance, and other fiction; plenty of authors from marginalized groups; and the overwhelming majority are written by women.  It’s nice when it works out like that!

So without any further ado here’s my ten favorite books of 2017, in reverse alphabetical order by title and linked to reviews where possible:

29242461When the Marquess Falls by Lorraine Heath

The perfect novella topper to the Hellions of Havisham series.  It doesn’t work as a standalone, though, so be sure to start with Falling into Bed with a Duke.

25189315Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty

A look at what it means to have a good death, written by someone who has been closer to that abyss than most.  Doughty speaks honestly about things we’d never admit to being curious about (why don’t we see dead bodies at the hospital?), things many of us never think about (what happens when a homeless person dies?), and things we should really think about (what do I want to become of my remains?).

30347690A Simple Story: The Last Malambo by Leila Guerriero, translated by Frances Riddle

The malambo is my favorite dance that I never knew about. Guerriero takes us to a competition in Argentina where winning means never dancing the malambo again.  The writing is exquisite and the story sticks with you like no other.

30755704The Red by Tiffany Reisz

Reisz is at her best in erotica mode and it’s all left to hang out here – kink, mind-bending twists, and fine art (for good measure).  Not for the faint of heart but everyone else? Jump in.

31843383Passing Strange by Ellen Klages

The book I’ve pushed on recommended to more people than any other this year – the best bits of historical fiction, queer stories, and magical realism rolled into a tight novella.  I rationed it out to myself so I wouldn’t finish too quickly; the writing is that wonderful.

28186071Like One of the Family: Conversations from a Domestic’s Life by Alice Childress

These vignettes are a joy, and I love the look at what it’s like to be a black domestic worker in 1950’s New York. While the way of life is different there are other parts that are eerily familiar, making it a forever timely read.

25376011For Real by Alexis Hall

A BDSM, LGBTQIA+ romance that flips all.the.tropes in a satisfying, hefty way.  Each hero’s point of view is specific and completely different from the other, making the story believable and authentic even though it’s far from the usual.  Totally deserving of its RITA.

32311672Extreme Measures: Finding a Better Path to the End of Life by Jessica Nutik Zitter

My favorite Nonfiction November read.  Zitter says that doctors are awful at helping patients having a good death because as far as they’re concerned dying on their watch is a failure.  She examines what the “end-of-life conveyor belt” and how to avoid it with engaging stories and cases.  Not an easy read but an essential one.

25489134The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

This book reminded me that adult (as oppossed to YA) fantasy is straight up awesome.  A fairy tale of sorts set in a Russian winter, Arden gives the reader all the respect they deserve while telling engrossing tale with magic and demons and a tiny hint of love.  The second in the series just came out and I can’t wait to get to it.

35297339Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday

Don’t feel bad if you don’t recognize this one – it hasn’t come out yet but I had to include it.  Halliday weaves two completely unrelated stories together in a mind-blowing way that only gets better the more you think and reflect on it.  A longer (and even more gushy!) review on its release day in February.

There we have it, my favorite books of 2017!  What was your top read of the year?  Is there anything I should keep my eye out for in 2018?

Women in Translation Month 2017: Suggestions and Reading List

As you may know this is the Women in Translation Month, started by Meytal Radzinski at Biblibio. Only a quarter or so of books translated into English arwit1e by women so this is a time to draw attention to the awesomeness that’s out there and celebrate it.  And because it’s a look at marginalized voices transgender and nonbinary authors are included in the mix, huzzah!

This is the fourth #WiTMonth and it’s been growing up nicely.  As Radzinski put in a recent post,

This is how I think it should be. Not every reader necessarily devoting all their time to reading women in translation all of August, but enough different readers and reviewers and bloggers and translators and publishers talking about the subject. People learning about the publishing imbalance in translation between men and women. People seeking out new and diverse literature by women writers from around the world. And people doing it not out of any sense of obligation or guilt, but because there are so many good books that this just becomes a month that focuses their reading. This becomes a month with a greater density of recommendations, with more posts, with more attention. Women in translation must exist yearlong, but in August we get to give them that extra platform that they might not always have.

This.  All the this.

In that spirit I won’t be devoting my entire August to women in translation but I do have some interesting titles lined up and ready to go.  Looking for a place to start?  Here are some of my recent favorites:

25330335Seeing Red by Lina Meruane, translated by Megan McDowell

This book clawed into my brain. The prose is relentless, the story is haunting, and the fact that it’s an autobiographical novel makes the main character’s anguish all the more real.

26894137The First Wife by Paulina Chiziane, translated by David Brookshaw

Mozambique’s first published female novelist drops us into her country and tells the story of Rami, a first wife that just found out that her husband actually has five.  The prose has a delightful rhythm to it and I cheered for and commiserated with Rami every step of the way.

A Simple Story: The Last Malambo by Leila Guerriero, translated by Frances Riddle30347690

The rarest of the rare – non-fiction in translation.  The Malambo quickly became my favorite dance that I never knew about as Guerriero follows the dancers that put everything into their craft… for the honor of never being able to dance it again.  Powerful and sure to be one of my favorite reads of 2017.

And now for a reading list!  I picked up The Weaver by Emmi Itäranta thinking it was a translation, but it looks like she rewrote it in English so I’m not sure it counts.  That’s okay, though, as there’s so much to pick from!  Right now I’m looking at:

  • The Queue by Basma Abdel Aziz, translated by Elisabeth Jaquette
  • Eve Out of Her Ruins by Ananda Devi, translated by Jeffrey Zuckerman
  • Translation as Transhumance by Mireille Gansel, translated by Ros Schwartz (to be published November 2017) – perhaps the most fitting book ever 😉

I’d love to hear your recommendations, especially if you know of any non-fiction by women in translation!

The Reading Year Ahead – 2017

Happy New Year!  I love clean slates – perfect for ambition and all kinds of plans.  But before I get into that let’s see how I did with last year’s goals:

  • Have at least 20% of my reading be by an author who is a person of color of otherwise diverse
  • Read from more library categories than last year
  • Add at least ten titles to my ongoing Dewey decimal list

These were all successes.  I ended up around 30% diverse, with one more library category than last year and 15 titles added to Dewey. Woot.

  • Add at least five titles to my ongoing 20th Century list
  • Read at least one more book than last year.

Two fails.  I added four titles to the 20th Century (the pull of the frontlist is strong) and I just barely matched the number of books read.

Mid-year I set a goal to read all of this year’s Goldsmiths Prize nominees… which also didn’t happen.  To be fair, though, a couple of the books haven’t been released in the US yet while library holds doomed me on another.  I do hope to read a couple more in the future and plan to tackle the nominees again in 2017.  So many good books….

Overall I’m happy with what I accomplished. The goal that was the most stressful was number of books – counting feels silly when some books are 100 pages and others are 1000 pages.  So guess what I’m doing this year, bwahahahahahaha.

2017 Reading Goals

  • Read 36,000 pages

The last couple of years I’ve been avoiding chunksters to avoid falling behind on my Goodreads challenge, which is just silly.  Counting pages solves that problem and lets me get to all the delicious tomes that are sitting in heavy piles on my shelf.

So that’s how much I hope to read.  The rest of the goals help me broaden my reading life:

  • Have 30%+ of my reading be by authors who are people of color or otherwise diverse
  • Add at least five titles to my ongoing 20th Century list
  • Add at least five titles to my ongoing Dewey list (hopefully 10+)

Do you count books or pages?  This will be my first year doing pages and I’m still not sure it’ll be the best plan for me, so I’d love to hear what you do.

Here’s to a happy and book-filled 2017!

My Favorite Books of 2016

It’s been quite a year!  …that may be the understatement of the year.  Luckily I’ve read some amazing books to see me through these tough times.  Here are my ten favorites, linked to reviews and in reverse alpha order by title.  Just because.

25607518Why God is a Woman by Nin Andrews

This was my first prose poetry collection and I fell so hard.  Deep and funny and skewering in turns, Andrews uses satire to show how binary gender norms are arbitrary and absurd.  If you’re not a poetry buff fear not, this is accessible and beautiful like no other.

Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera, translated by Lisa Dillman25067884

It won the Best Translated Book Award for a reason – the writing is both light and deep, and Dillman does an awesome job with the translation.  Short and powerful, I’ll be coming back to it in the years to come.

25330335Seeing Red by Lina Meruane, translated by Megan McDowell

This book clawed into my brain and never left.  The image of blood gushing into her eye, robbing her of sight, and her journey as an “apprentice blind woman” are relentless, haunting, and real.

Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente3973532

The Night Circus-sized hole in my heart has finally been filled.  A novel of image and character more than plot, Palimpsest is a place to get lost in, marvel at, and be horrified by.

9780062363596_b2357Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

Women and minorities regularly get left out of our histories, but here they’re finally front and center – the black women “computers” who calculated our path to the stars.  It’s inspiring and fascinating, a natural fit for the silver screen.

Forbidden by Beverly Jenkins25760151

My favorite Jenkins novel so far. Fascinating subject matter, firmly set in time and place, and the love story is oh so sweet. I learned a ton and the research tidbits at the end are delightful.

2635587Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China by Leslie T. Chang

A wide-ranging, deep, and humanizing look at life in modern China.  Chang’s prose is beautiful, and her own family’s story adds nuance to an already deep story.

The Curious Case of Dassoukine’s Trousers by Fouad Laroui, translated by27135621 Emma Ramadan

Finally, a short story collection I love!  Laroui plays with language while exploring what it means to be foreign. Add in some absurdity and laugh-out-loud lines and it’s the new Kazen catnip.

26633749The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction by M.A. Orthofer

This year I got into translated fiction and Orthofer is a wise and learned guide.  Whenever I’m in a rut I flip through it and find something I just have to read – great stuff.

Committed by Dinah Miller and Annette Hanson29955558

A thorough and thoughtful look at involuntary commitment.  Miller and Hanson talk to all sides (including a Scientologist!) and cover the issue from many issues and viewpoints.  Fascinating.

Honorable mentions: The Red Car by Marcy Dermansky, Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf, and Columbine by Dave Cullen.