So a couple weird things happened this year regarding me and books. First, I read a heck of a lot of non-fiction. Second, I listened to a lot of audiobooks. If you know me well, you know I am a ‘read a physical copy, fiction only’ type of reader. The answer to this weird year is that I worked at the sawmill for a large portion of it. Working at the mill meant that I had nearly two hours of commuting time every day in which I could listen to books but not read them – I get carsick plus it was always dark at least one way (hello shift work). Sometimes I had even more time where I could be listening to a book during the day, it depended on which particular job I found myself in. So that explains the audiobooks. But the reason for the non-fiction is related. I have tried audiobooks before and never really liked them because they changed the way I experienced and imagined the story. I started out listening to podcasts and when I got bored of those I realized that non-fiction books were kind of like listening to podcasts. I started out with autobiographical books that were read by the authors (very much like podcasts) and slowly branched out from there.
Here are the books I read. If there is * it means it was an audiobook. I ended up listening to a couple fiction audiobooks. This was mostly unintentional. I didn’t know The Hate U Give was fiction until after I had started it. And One More Thing was read by the guy who wrote it, so it slipped in as well.
A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle
One More Thing – BJ Novak*
Equivocation – Bill Cain
The Brothers Karamazov – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Slapstick – Kurt Vonnegut
The Outside Circle – Patti LaBoucane
The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas*
Birdie – Tracy Lindberg
Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen
God Bless You, Mr Rosewater – Kurt Vonnegut
Bossypants – Tina Fey*
Yes Please – Amy Poehler*
Scrappy Little Nobody – Anna Kendrick*
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) – Mindy Kaling*
Why Not Me? – Mindy Kaling*
The Princess Diarist – Carrie Fisher*
When They Call You a Terrorist: a black lives matter memoir – Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele*
Wildflower – Drew Barrymore*
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou*
Mom & Me & Mom – Maya Angelou*
The Last Black Unicorn – Tiffany Haddish*
Orange is the New Black – Piper Kerman*
Beautiful Boy – David Sheff*
Wishful Drinking – Carrie Fisher*
Confessions of a Sociopath: a life spent hiding in plain sight – M.E. Thomas*
Tweak – Nic Sheff*
We All Fall Down – Nic Sheff*
Hamilton: The Revolution – Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter*
A Million Little Pieces – James Frey*
The Argonauts – Maggie Nelson*
Quiet – Susan Cain*
12 Years a Slave – Solomon Northup*
Bitter Medicine – Clem and Olivier Martini
Hunger – Roxane Gay*
You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me – Sherman Alexie*
This Will Only Hurt a Little – Busy Philipps*
I’m Afraid of Men – Vivek Shraya*
first, we make the beast beautiful: a new journey through anxiety – Sarah Wilson*
You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me (Sherman Alexie) – This book was beautiful and has stuck with me in a visceral way. I think it was even more so because of the way Sherman read it. It is the first of his books that I have read and I must read more. It is a book that reflects back on his relationship with his mother and has a lot of stories from his childhood on his reservation. I highly recommend it.
When They Call You a Terrorist: a black lives matter memoir (Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele) – If you want to learn about how the BLM movement started, this is the book and these are the people. It is very good and got me started on a trend of seeking out books by those who have had different experiences than me and doing my best to listen. I know it might be more enticing to read The Hate U Give if you are looking for a book about BLM because it is fictional and there is a movie, but you should really read this one instead. Or better, read both. But I would recommend this one first.
Beautiful Boy (David Sheff) / Tweak (Nic Sheff) / We All Fall Down (Nic Sheff) – I know this is three books, but it is the same story. You kind of need to read all three to get the whole story. These books were very very engaging. At times they were sad and at times they were very frustrating. It feels like a very real description of addiction and the struggle to reach recovery. The upside of venturing into these is the knowledge that Nic is very much alive and well today.
Bitter Medicine (Clem and Olivier Martini) – I had to read this one for school, but it was very good. It was written by brothers from Calgary and tells their story of learning to cope with a diagnosis of schizophrenia and interact with the health care system. Olivier drew the pictures and Clem wrote the words and together it is both powerful and informative.
One More Thing (BJ Novak) – I love a good book of short stories and this is one of those. The first story in the book is one of my favourite short stories of all time.
God Bless You, Mr Rosewater (Kurt Vonnegut) – I love Vonnegut. He has been my favourite author for years. I am working towards reading everything he has written.
Birdie (Tracy Lindberg) – I selected this one off a list for one of my assignments last semester. It is fiction, but was written by Indigenous author and the events that it portrays very closely mimics things that have and continue to happen to Indigenous women. It is powerful and moving. If you want to start to understand the legacy of trauma embedded in Indigenous families and how it affects people differently, you should read this book. Even if you don’t, you should still read it.
Quiet (Susan Cain) – This book is about introversion and helped my understand myself a little bit better.
Mom & Me & Mom (Maya Angelou) – I read two Maya Angelou books this year and both were very good. She is a beautiful writer. I put this one on the list because I loved the way it used vignettes and stories throughout her life to show the relationship she had with her mother and how it changed and flowed.
The Brothers Karamazov (Fyodor Dostoyevsky) – This book took me FOREVER to finish. I’m talking like over a year. But it was a good story! And it left me with that heavy sense of accomplishment you get when you finish a long but good read. I am not going to dive into another Dostoyevsky right away, but I will be reading more of him in the future.
I always used to set my reading goal at 52 books a year. It’s enough books that I have to push myself a bit to keep on reading, but also enough that I can usually exceed it and therefore feel accomplished and good about myself. Cut to my masters degree and my reading stats significantly dropped, and instead of ending the year with good feelings of accomplishment I found myself feeling bad about not reading “enough”. One of my 2018 resolutions was to be more gentle with myself, and one small way to do that was to lower my reading goal from 52 books to 30 books. Of course, I finished my degree in April and my reading took off, and I finished the year with a grand total of 71 books read.
I’m gonna insert a caveat here for the folks at home. I read a lot! Me reading a lot doesn’t make me a better person than anyone else! There is no reason to feel bad/guilty/ashamed if you read less than anyone else! Okay now to the list.
In the order I read them, with some notations:
Key: underlined = non-fiction, *asterisked = comic, bold = re-read, ^this symbol = in a series
*The Coldest City / Anthony Johnston
From Here to Eternity/ Caitlin Doughty – if you read one book about death rituals this year let it be this one.
Rosemary’s Baby / Ira Levin – terrifying!!!!!!!!!!!!
*^Monstress, v. 1 / Marjorie Liu, et al – the art in this series is truly remarkable.
*Hostage/ Guy Delisle – I read and enjoy pretty much everything I find that Delisle writes, and this is in my top three of his books.
*^Monstress, v. 2 / Marjorie Liu, et al
*M / Jon J. Muth – LISTEN I appreciate the Art of this book but if I wanted to watch M I would just WATCH it I don’t need to read an exact transcription!!!
*Mr. Higgins Comes Home / Mike Mignola
*^Silk, v. 0 / Robbie Thompson, et al
*^Silk, v. 1 / Robbie Thompson, et al
Iron Cast / Destiny Soria – between this and Hadestown I can’t get enough of Prohibition.
*^Silk, v. 2 / Robbie Thompson – a curse on Marvel for cancelling this ongoing!
Horrorstor / Grady Hendrix
*^Paper Girls, v. 1 / Brian K. Vaughan
The Rules Do Not Apply/ Ariel Levy
The Book of a Thousand Days / Shannon Hale – I have listened to this audiobook so many times that I have a great deal of it memorized; I love it so much. Whenever Josh is out of town I check it out of the library and listen to it to fall asleep.
Attachments /Rainbow Rowell
^The Rook / Daniel O’ Malley – you can tell I was in the throes of the end of my last semester by three comfort reads in a row.
^Retribution Rails / Erin Bowman – I LOVE REVENGE.
*^Paper Girls, v. 2 / Brian K. Vaughan, et al
^Birds of a Feather / Jacqueline Winspear
^Annihilation / Jeff VanderMeer – highly recommend this book, highly do not recommend reading it “to fall asleep” because you won’t and if you do have fun with those dreams.
The Midwife’s Apprentice/ Karen Cushman
Overture to Death / Ngaio Marsh
*^Scott Pilgrim, v. 1 / Bryan Lee O’Malley – it is almost jarring how many of the locations in this book are EXACTLY replicated in the movie (because they were modeled on irl places).
*^Paper Girls, v. 3 / Brian K. Vaughan – if you like Stranger Things you will like Paper Girls.
The Beauty / Aliya Whiteley – perhaps the weirdest book I have read in my entire life and that’s saying something. I loved it.
The Ivington Diaries/ Monty Don – I love plants, here I stand I can do no other.
Eileen / Ottessa Moshfegh – I think I stared blankly at a wall for a good ten minutes after finishing this book.
The Gentle Art of Swedish Death-Cleaning / Margareta Magnusson
*^Scott Pilgrim, v. 2 / Bryan Lee O’Malley – tbh at this point I kinda lost interest in this series!
The Princess Diarist/ Carrie Fisher
The Fire Next Time/ James Baldwin – this was my first time reading Baldwin and I was absolutely floored. This slim volume is a must-read, for your own good.
^Pardonable Lies / Jacqueline Winspear
Death With Interruptions / Jose Saramago – I was glad to have read Blindness before delving into this one. It was good to be a little bit prepared.
*^Paper Girls, v. 4 / Brian K. Vaughan, et al
^Messenger of Truth / Jacquline Winspear – what can I say, I like a good mystery with a good female protagonist.
^Jurassic Park / Micheal Crichton – 2018 was the Year of the Dino for me and I have no regrets.
Killer Fashion / Jennifer Wright – too short
Undead Girl Gang / Lily Anderson – promising premise, ultimately disappointing.
Pride and Prejudice / Jane Austen – I wanted to re-read this and discover if it is better than teenage me thought and newsflash: this book is an absolute treasure, how am I the FIRST person to figure this out?
*Super Late Bloomer/ Julia Kaye – recommend!
^Binti / Nnedi Okorafor
The Problem With My Garden / Kendra Wilson
*World War Z / Max Brooks – another audiobook I listen to repeatedly every year.
Nigel / Monty Don – did I cry while reading this book about dogs and gardening? YES.
Scatter, Adapt, and Remember / Annalee Newitz
*^Inkheart / Cornelia Funke
^All Systems Red / Martha Wells – this is book one of the Murderbot series, and I urge you: do not pass go, do not collect $200, read Murderbot AS SOON AS POSSIBLE this is not a drill.
The Poisoner’s Handbook / Deborah Blum – this book has it all: Prohibition! Poison! The beginning of modern toxicology!
^Binti: Home / Nnedi Okorafor
Malagash / Joey Comeau – this is such a beautiful book, I want everyone to read it.
One Bloody Thing After Another / Joey Comeau – Malagash was so good that I had to IMMEDIATELY read more by Joey Comeau.
The Essex Serpent / Sarah Perry – not NEARLY enough paleontology, WAY too much adultery!
Down to Earth / Monty Don
The Mist / Stephen King – sometimes I get an Urge to read horror novels. I don’t know why!
^Binti: The Night Masquerade / Nnedi Okorafor – this series is excellent, I highly recommend for anyone who a) likes science fiction, or b) wants to expand their reading horizons.
They All Love Jack/ Bruce Robinson – IT GOES ALL THE WAY TO THE TOP!
Sunshine / Robin McKinley
*Spill Zone, v. 2 / Scott Westerfeld – kinda lackluster and unsatisfying, unfortunately
Bird Box / Josh Malerman – saw the preview and said “it is time” and then went and got this book off my shelf and finished it post haste. It’s fine.
*An Age of License / Lucy Knisley – I really like Lucy Knisley and “license” has got to be top ten worst words to spell in the English language.
^River of Teeth / Sarah Gailey – what if the wild west but with hippos?
*The Initiates/ Etienne Davodeau – tbh I’m not exactly sure when precisely I read this book this year because apparently Goodreads didn’t track it?? But I know I did, otherwise I wouldn’t have read Sabrina. Also: it is very good!
*Sabrina / Nick Drnaso – I read this one because Nick Drnaso is one of the artists mentioned in The Initiates, and going in to the book I didn’t actually know what it was about. I’m not sure if that made the experience of reading it better or worse, and I’m not sure I liked this book.
No Stone Unturned/ Steve Jackson – if you’re interested in forensics this is a v good read.
Overall, a very good reading year! Here’s to 2019 and all the books to come.
I’m going to end this post with a strong exhortation to suggest books to your local library if that’s a thing you can do! In Edmonton I can suggest five books a month, and I try to hit that number regularly. Suggest authors from independent presses! Suggest books you think should have a wider audience! Suggest books you think would fill a hole in the library’s collection! Take part in the collection building at your local library!
I watched quite a few movies this year. This is not all of them, just most of them. Movies were included in this post because I particularly liked them or liked a part of them or they felt significant in some way or they were critically acclaimed movies I finally got around to seeing. Some movies I saw this year I didn’t include. Either because I didn’t like them/found them boring (hello, Ready Player One) or because they super didn’t live up to the hype and I didn’t understand why everyone loved them so much because even though parts of the movie were unique, the story as a whole was so unbelievable predictable that it almost wasn’t enjoyable at all (I’m looking at you, The Shape of Water).
Not all of these movies came out in 2018, but they are only included if I watched them for the first time in 2018. Anyways, here are the movies. I present most of them without comment or judgment simply because that would make for far too long a post. Please feel free to engage me on any of these movies the next time you see me or in the comments and I’d be happy to tell you what I thought. I will give my top 10 at the end.
Okay, my top 10 (in alphabetical order, not in ranked order because it was hard enough just picking 10):
20th Century Women – a simple, authentic, indie drama. Honestly, my favourite kind of movie. Feels authentic and genuine without being overly heartfelt and emotional. I think this was the first time I’d seen Greta Gerwig act. I immediately looked up other movies she was in and watched Frances Ha, which was also very good.
A Simple Favor – this movie is equal parts awkward and suspenseful. It was a very weird combo of feelings I shifted between while watching it. It went from absolutely cringeworthy – so awkward I can’t even watch – scenes to the biggest jump scare I think I’ve even encountered in a theatre. If I had been holding popcorn I definitely would have thrown it and I’m pretty sure I actually made audible noise. It manages to straddle a few different genres and leave you feeling like you watched something unique. I would definitely recommend it.
Almost Famous – I met the lead singer of The Matinee in the summer of 2016 and he was shocked that I hadn’t seen this movie. He told me that I had to watch it and I told him I would. Then this fall I saw The Matinee play again here in Edmonton. I had to tell him I hadn’t seen it yet. I remedied the situation pretty soon after. Turns out he was right and this movie is fantastic. I don’t know how I missed it. I feel like I need to watch it a bunch more times because it had so many things to say about so many different things. It left me with the feeling that I definitely didn’t take it all in the first time. I loved it.
Beautiful Boy – I listened to the books this movie was based on while I worked at the sawmill. It is based on the books David and Nic Sheff wrote about Nic’s meth addiction. The books were very good and I was looking very forward to the movie. I think I would have actually enjoyed the movie more if I hadn’t read the books first. I was so concerned that they were going to get the story wrong that I couldn’t just relax and enjoy the movie. But Timothée Chalamet was fantastic, the soundtrack was AMAZING, and it was filmed in the quiet sort of indie way that I love. I am not sure I am in love with Steve Carrel as David, but it wasn’t enough to ruin the movie for me.
Black Panther – I feel like a million other people have watched this movie and written things about it. You already know what made this movie so good so I will just say that I liked it a lot.
Blindspotting – this movie didn’t play at any theatres around here so I spent months waiting for this movie to finally come to iTunes so I could see it. It was written by Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal and is set in Oakland. It felt very important while not being overly heavy. Daveed and Rafael also play the main roles and they are both amazing. The movie follows Daveed’s character as he navigates his last three days of parole and witnesses a police shooting. You should watch it.
Ex Machina – This is one I missed when it came out. I would definitely say it is in my top three for the year. I love this genre. This movie was beautiful and quiet and the first time you watch it you have no idea what is going to happen next. I love it. I’ve watched it two or three times this year and it feels like one of those ‘watch at least once a year’ kind of movies.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople – If you are picking up on the clearly defined type of movie I am into, it is probably no shock to you that this is on the list. I loved this movie. It made me nostalgic for NZ and it was quiet, beautiful, and unique.
I, Tonya – This one mostly made the list because I was not expecting to enjoy it at all. I wouldn’t have chosen to watch it except that I was on a plane and the options were limited. I was almost annoyed that I liked it. But that scene, were Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding is re-enacting Jeff Gillooly’s statement that she chased him with a shotgun and she turns to the camera and says, “this never happened,” won me over. It was the way that the movie was made that I loved.
Landline – I love Jenny Slate. You might remember me writing another time about a movie I liked called Obvious Child. Well, this movie was made by the same people who made that one. I watched it in my hostel in Wellington and I had to watch it in two sittings because my daily wifi allotment ran out halfway through. And yes, you guessed it, it is a quiet, genuine but not trying too hard to be heartfelt, indie drama.
Honourable mention: Mary Poppins Returns – Maybe I am including this because I saw it most recently. But I don’t think so. I wasn’t expecting to love this movie, but I wanted to see it because Emily Blunt as Mary Poppins seemed like a great fit and I do love me some Lin-Manuel Miranda. Movies feel different now than they did when the first Mary Poppins was made; that is to say, I don’t think you could every recreate these days how those old movies feel. So this one didn’t feel like the old one. But it also didn’t feel like a watered down sequel. It lingered with me much longer than I thought it would and some of the songs are still stuck in my head. Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda were fantastic. I liked it a lot.