AADL 2021 Staff Picks: Words


AADL 2021 Staff Picks: Words

➥ AADL 2021 Staff Picks: Homepage
➥ AADL 2021 Staff Picks: Screens
➥ AADL 2021 Staff Picks: Audio
➥ AADL 2021 Staff Picks: Pulp Life 

Books, audiobooks, graphic novels, comics, websites, and more:



Group: How One Therapist and a Circle of Strangers Saved My Life 
by Christie Tate

This was a fascinating memoir of a lawyer living in Chicago and her journey in group therapy. {AADL}

Sigh, Gone: A Misfit’s Memoir of Great Books, Punk Rock, and the Fight to Fit In
by Phuc Tran 

Tran writes about his family immigrating from Saigon, growing up in Pennsylvania, what it feels like to be an outsider, and finding himself through literature. I immediately wanted to reread this book as soon as I finished it. {AADL}

Goodbye, Again: Essays, Reflections, and Illustrations 
by Jonny Sun

Reading this book felt like having a conversation with a close friend. It was written in a way that makes it easy to pick up and put down, so you don’t need a massive attention span to get into it, which was so helpful to me. I also listened to the audiobook after reading the print book, just for the comfort of it. {AADL}

Why I Wake Early: New Poems
by Mary Oliver 

Just a beautiful book of poetry I would recommend to anyone and everyone, even if poetry isn’t your jam. {AADL}



by Stephen King
(1986), the audiobook, as read by Stephen Weber 

It's 45 hours long and I don't regret it. In fact, this is the audiobook that made me like audiobooks for the first time ever this year. The narrator does a phenomenal job reading the material and you feel like you're right there with the Losers Club. The story: an evil being is murdering children, and a small group of kids takes it upon themselves to do something about it. Yes, there's a killer clown, but for me, the story is about friendship and youth. {AADL} {Libby}

Mary Jane
by Jessica Anya Blau

A coming-of-stage story that features a 14-year-old babysitter that has the summer of her life while taking care of a funny five-year-old, and defying her parents while hanging out with a rock star and an actress at the home of the family she is working for. The young narrator's POV is hilarious and heartwarming. {AADL}



Oh, William!
by Elizabeth Strout 

Every time Elizabeth Strout comes out with a new book it seems to affect me more deeply than the last. This remained true with this year’s publication of her latest, Oh, William!, which features characters some might remember from one of her previous works, My Name Is Lucy Barton. Often, Strout’s novels tell the story of a relatively simple event or events in a character’s life, but her writing and characters are so rich and deeply imagined that I am pulled in and gripped as though I’m reading a thriller. Oh, William! tells the gentle story of a woman who aids her ex-husband in finding out more about his childhood. It was so lovely and rich that I couldn’t tear myself away and read it in one sitting. And, though I’m not usually big on rereading, when I finished the book I simply needed to read more of Strout’s voice, so I placed on hold several of her books I’ve already read to enjoy it yet again. {AADL}



All the Better Part of Me 
by Molly Ringle

This book is so adorable and wonderful that when I finished it, I immediately turned back to the beginning to read it again. I just wasn't ready to let Sinter and Andy go! Easily one of my top favorite reads of all time. It isn't every day that I come across a bisexual romantic lead. {AADL}

by April Daniels

The amazing story of a transgender superhero dealing with real-world problems as well as super. I really got sucked into this series. I can't wait to see where it goes! {AADL}

The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo
by Tom Reiss

My favorite book is The Count of Monte Cristo, so when I learned that many of the count's exploits were based on the real-life adventures of the author's father, I had to learn more. This book is full of history, politics, and action. There should be monuments to Alex Dumas all across France. It's a tragedy that he isn't better remembered after all that he sacrificed. {AADL}

Time to Eat: Delicious Meals for Busy Lives
by Nadiya Hussain

It's rare that I find a cookbook so useful that I want it in my personal collection, but this book fits my requirements in spades. Easy and delicious meals with tips and tricks to make life easier. I've read all of Hussain's cookbooks; this one is my favorite. {AADL}

by Kazu Kibuishi

Even though this graphic novel series is targeted at kids and pre-teens, I found the characters and the story quite engaging. And the art is fantastic, too. It has elements of steampunk as well as being in the fantasy genre. {AADL}

Taproot: A Story About a Gardener and a Ghost
by Keezy Young

This is another adorable romance that made my heart happy, this time between a gardener and a ghost. Yes, really. Utterly charming. {AADL}

Spell of Wheels
by Kate Leth

Three friends who happen to be witches take a road trip to retrieve their stolen magical items. Each witch has unique abilities that complement one another. {AADL}

Bitter Root
by David Walker

In 1920s Harlem, the Sangerye Family uses rootwork to save humanity from evil. This world is so well developed and interesting. I am excited to read future volumes! {AADL}



by Kentaro Miura
(series, 1989 to present)

If you're getting tired of the cookie-cutter Shonen Jump manga or want to sink your teeth into something a lot grittier, darker, and nastier, then this is THE manga for you. Miura creates the ultimate anti-hero in Guts, making you quite literally hate to love him and vice-versa. The plotline goes deep and touches on classism, the human drive to get what they want, introduces side characters you don't forget (and won't want to get attached to), and delivers exquisitely drawn fight scenes. Fun fact, a few key details in Brandon Sanderson's Stormlight Archive books were heavily influenced (plagiarized? an argument we'll leave to Reddit) by his love for Berserk and Kentaro Miura! {AADL}

by Rivers Solomon

A brutal dystopian tale set in an alternate America that unfortunately doesn't look that alternate from our own. The story of a young girl with strange developing powers who flees her cult-like compound to birth and raise her children in the woods, only to discover that the past is unwilling to let her go so easily. Rivers Solomon writes with rage, passion, and imagination that drips off every word. Some sentences I just had to stop and reread again to fully appreciate the depth of them. This absorbing tale takes on race, identity, gender, sexuality, and misogyny and doesn't pull any punches. {AADL}

Name of the Wind
by Patrick Rothfuss

This book has been set on such a freaking high pedestal by fantasy fans, that I actively went out of my way NOT to read it for years. I was finally peer-pressured into reading it this year, and I have NEVER been so thankful I was. Simply put, this book is a masterpiece in every sense of the word. Rothfuss writes a flawless first-person narrative of a wickedly clever young boy who grows to be the most notorious legend his world has ever seen. It has action, romance, tragedy, worldbuilding, and intrigue—basically, if you enjoy reading, you'll enjoy this book. {AADL}



The Ministry for the Future
by Kim Stanley Robinson

Kim Stanley Robinson (or "Stan" to his stans) has a knack for finding silver linings and delivering engaging, thought-provoking novels that are even more about our present than science fiction already is. The Ministry for the Future is a hypothetical, far-fetched UN agency headquartered in Zurich, established to advocate for the interests of the population of the future, primarily in regard to managing and adapting to climate change. This book is loaded with excellent ideas, short, pithy chapters, and some stunt pieces that are more like standalone essays. While it doesn't have the plot-driven feel of a classic sci-fi page-turner, there are so many moving moments, incredible ideas, and plausible outcomes presented in this book that it makes the insurmountable and impractical seem almost tractable. For instance, this book proposes something that a blockchain might actually be good for ... and that's not even the most astounding idea being batted around. Highly recommended. {AADL}

Project Hail Mary
by Andy Weir

Surely 2021's most hotly-anticipated sci-fi release from the author of The Martian and Artemis, Andy Weir's deep-space romp takes his hard SF chops out for a spin to another star to see what they can do. While his signature, plain-spoken, first-person style can feel a little pat and formulaic, the science and the story here are top-notch and the book is impossible to put down. A long-time library patron told me that she never reads sci-fi, but she tried this and it was one of the best books she'd ever read. It's always a good sign for a sci-fi book when the first page is a diagram of the ship, and Project Hail Mary is no exception. {AADL



The Tea Dragon Society
by Katie O'Neill

Apprentice blacksmith Greta learns about the lost art of caring for Tea Dragons. This series is the most casually, beautifully diverse I've ever read, in addition to being just a cute feel-good story for all. {AADL}

The Violence Project
by Jillian Peterson

An in-depth study on mass shooters, presenting well-researched solutions to the crisis. Very balanced, informative, and eye-opening. {AADL}

We Walk: Life With Severe Autism
by Amy S. Lutz

The story of a mother and her child with severe autism. A very balanced perspective of a community often neglected in the autism discussion. {AADL}



by Adrienne M. Brown

This dystopian start to a new series hits close to home. A pandemic devastates Detroit, specifically its Black community. The story shows an intimate understanding of the city and I could recognize and envision the places in a way that transported me right to a place I love. As the story unfolds, it leaves so many questions and theories swirling in my head and I am so eager for Brown's follow-up. {AADL}

Love Around the World
by Alli Brydon

I find so much joy in children's books, especially ones that have such stunning illustrations. This heart-warming book teaches all the different ways love is expressed among different cultures. Even though you will find this in the youth section, I highly recommend it to everyone, regardless of age. {AADL}

Parable of the Sower
by Octavia E. Butler

To be honest, I had Octavia Bulter on my want-to-read author list for a long time. This past year, I finally dove into Parable of the Sower and its follow-up, Parable of the Talents. The trauma our characters face is heart-breaking, their resilience inspiring. It is a novel that pulled me in, making me question how I would act if I were there and what I would do to survive. {AADL}



by Patricia Lockwood

An entertaining memoir by a poet and novelist about returning home after an unexpected crisis to her loud and large Catholic priest father who has a penchant for sitting in his underwear. Sentences worth reading out loud to anyone nearby. {AADL}

Boom Town: The Fantastical Saga of Oklahoma City, Its Chaotic Founding, Its Apocalyptic Weather, Its Purloined Basketball Team, and the Dream of Becoming a World-Class Metropolis
by Sam Anderson

If you told me one of my favorite books of the year was going to be about Oklahoma City, I wouldn't have believed you. But here at the end of the year, I will tell you this: I'd read anything by Sam Anderson. He is a writer who pays great attention, writes beautifully, and can make anything interesting. I came for the OKC Thunder narrative and stayed for everything else. {AADL}

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet 
by Becky Chambers

This was sci-fi comfort food. Humans and aliens work to resolve relationship conflicts and dig a hole through space. Star Trek for the 21st century and all readers. {AADL}

The Anthropocene Reviewed: Essays on a Human-Centered Planet
by John Green

I like John Green's YA books fine, but they're not really my bag. This collection of essays is very much my bag. Each essay, under the guise of a "review" on a five-star scale, is an exploration of different facets of human life. They range from the mundane (air conditioning) to the conceptual (Humanity's Temporal Range), filtered through Green's personal experience. This book expands upon his podcast of the same name, which I also highly recommend. {AADL}

Parable of the Sower
by Octavia Butler

A dystopian pairing to Becky Chambers' utopian offering. Super eery and seemingly prescient, but not without hope. I've known about it for a long time but finally got around to reading some Butler this year. Deserving of its status as a classic of the genre (on the other hand, I didn't like Parable of the Talents nearly as much). {AADL}

Do: Walk
by Libby DeLana

Walking was an activity I've clung to for the past two years. Libby DeLana might be one of its biggest evangelists. She was preaching to the choir, but I ate it up. {DoBookCo.}

The Public Library: A Photographic Essay
by Robert Dawson

A beautiful coffee-table book about our favorite public institution: the library. The book includes photos of libraries big and small and essays from writers about the public library. {AADL}

Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals
by Oliver Burkeman

We are all going to die. Burkeman encourages readers to embrace this, instead of trying to conquer it, in our misguided contemporary quest to become the productivity wizards. {AADL}

The Puppy Who Wanted a Boy
by Jane Thayer, Illustrated by Lisa McCue

I became a father this year. One of the (many) surreal experiences of parenthood has been re-encountering books from my own childhood—particularly ones, such as The Puppy Who Wanted a Boy, that I never would have remembered otherwise. I think the story had left my mind completely, but seeing Lisa McCue's illustrations sent palpable energy through my body and made me feel WEIRD (in a good, nostalgic way). {Bookshop.org}

Owls and Other Fantasies
by Mary Oliver

Historically, I haven't been a poetry person. I'm still not sure that I am, but I do love Mary Oliver. Reading recommendation: out loud, at 3 a.m., to your partner and your weeks-old son as they learn to nurse, you contemplating your life and all the ways it has changed.

The Collage Workbook: How to Get Started and Stay Inspired
by Randel Plowman

I love making and looking at collages, and this year I set out to create an AADL.TV series about it. This book has been a fantastic resource for materials, prompts, and inspiration. {AADL}

"David’s Ankles: How Imperfections Could Bring Down the World’s Most Perfect Statue" (New York Times Magazine)
by Sam Anderson

This year I delighted in discovering the writing of Sam Anderson (thanks to the recommendation by Austin Kleon). This was one of several NYT Magazine pieces by him I read this year as I went down my new writer rabbit hole. {New York Times Magazine}

"Who Is the Bad Art Friend?" (New York Times Magazine)
by Robert Kolker

A real-life, copyright law legal thriller that dares to ask the question: "Do writers not care about my kidney donation?" {New York Times Magazine}

Notes From a Small Press newsletter
by Anne Trubek

A great look at some of the inside workings of a small, independent publisher. {Substack}



Lightning Flowers: My Journey to Uncover the Cost of Saving a Life
by Katherine Standefer

Katherine Standefer, a young woman with a rare, hereditary heart arrhythmia, has also a rare ability to illuminate in her writing the resonance between personal experience and terrestrial rhythms. Uneasy with the knowledge that exploited peoples and places pay the greatest cost for electronic technology, she embarks on a quest to trace the origins of the materials in her implanted heart defibrillator. She visits a factory in California, then mining operations in Rwanda, Madagascar, and South Africa that alter landscapes, pollute water and soil, and impose dominant rhythms and systems of exchange upon cultures. "...To recognize that we are rummaging inside a body. To see these veins for how they lace into the earth." Some medical and insurance nightmares, but overriding beauty and humor. {AADL}



Underland: A Deep Time Journey
by Robert Macfarlane

An engaging exploration of spaces under the Earth’s surface. Macfarlane’s storytelling brings mythology, science, and culture together in vivid detail, and connects us to a deeper understanding of time. {AADL}

Eagles of Heart Mountain: A True Story of Football, Incarceration, and Resistance in World War II America
by Bradford Pearson


They Called Us Enemy
by George Takei

As a person with Japanese-American ancestry, both of these books made a big impact and allowed me to better understand parts of my own family history. {AADL}

Collective Wisdom: Lessons, Inspiration, and Advice From Women Over 50
by Grace Bonney

A fabulous collection of life stories of friendship through interviews, experience, and advice from women of all walks of life. Beautiful photography, lovingly compiled and edited by the amazing Grace Bonney, of Design*Sponge. {Website}

Do/Walk: Navigate Earth, Mind and Body. Step by Step
by Libby Delana




The Guncle
by Steven Rowley

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I laughed, I cried, I rooted for GUP and the kiddos. It was definitely a little more intense than I thought it'd be given all the grief work going on, but it was so good and well-written that I didn't mind the intensity. A great book and highly recommended! {AADL}

Who Would Win? series
by Jerry Pallotta

This is a great older series of kids' books that pit two animals against each other to see who would win in a fight. In doing so, it gives the child information about each animal, their strengths and weaknesses, their anatomy, etc. My niece and nephew are almost 9 and 6 and they thoroughly enjoyed these books! I also got a few of them from MCLS thru Libby. {AADL}

Deck the Donuts
by Ginger Bolton
This is the sixth book in the Deputy Donuts mystery series. This is one of my favorite cozy mystery series and the newest installation does NOT disappoint. I do recommend reading from the beginning of the series if you want to read it. The first book is Survival of the Fritters. {AADL}

by Lis Anna-Langston

This is a cute middle-grade holiday-fiction story. I read it for the purpose of reviewing it. I gave it 3.5 out of 5 stars. I felt that it dragged a bit in the middle but the story was very cute and I believe many children would like the plot of three kids trying to keep a little alien secret while still going to school and trying to get through the first holiday season without the boys' mom. It was charming. {Goodreads}

Little Black Book
by Kate Carlisle
This is the latest book in the Bibliophile mysteries, which is my No. 1 favorite cozy mystery series. I absolutely love Brooklyn and Derek. Carlisle makes their adventures feel so real as if you were right there. This latest book takes us back to Scotland on another mystery with another book. It kept me hooked until the very end! {AADL}

Legally Blind Luck
by James J. Cudney 
Legally Blind Luck is the seventh book in the Braxton Campus mysteries written by my friend, James. I really enjoy this cozy mystery series that takes place on a small university campus in Pennsylvania. In this installment, we find out a little bit about certain characters in the series and it's wonderful. I love learning the backstory of characters! {Goodreads}

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks 
by Rebecca Skloot
I listened to this book on CD and I'm glad I did. It was fascinating to listen to and since I chose the audio book, I didn't have to worry about how to pronounce the medical terms, they were pronounced for me! This book was eye-opening, riveting, and amazing. I even listened to it three times to try and make sure I understood the details of the story. What an amazing tale and eye-opening view into the medical waste versus medical research industry. Highly recommend!! {AADL}

The New Jim Crow
by Michelle Alexander
I also listened to this as a book on CD. This book was VERY eye-opening for me. Alexander clearly lays out the various mechanisms of oppression for people of color, particularly Black people. I listened to it in the summer and I'm about to start relistening to it. It's very powerful and I highly recommend it! {AADL}



The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation
by Jon Gertner

Tired of eccentric billionaires pitching you their condescending plans to lift humankind out of the gutter? This book explores the real history of 20th-century innovations and innovators who led the way to our modern lifestyle. It’s a hopeful reminder of how quiet and understated progress can be. The future is still out there! {AADL}



I became a Grandma, or in this case, a Bammie, in November 2020, so I've been checking out lots of board books this year! Here are some favorites of mine (and Olivia's).

Donut Give Up
by Rose Rossner

This esteem-building book is full of colorful pictures and food-related puns (i.e., "Donut give up!” and “No matter what, you have a pizza my heart”). The messages are of perseverance, patience, and encouraging self-confidence. This is also a great gift to give! {AADL}

My Fridge: My First Book of Food!
art by Margie and Jimbo

This board book is shaped like a refrigerator and has pictures of foods that babies and toddlers will recognize. Foods are categorized as meat, dairy, fruits, veggies, and breads. Kale gets its moment here, as does tofu. {AADL}

Will You Be My Sunshine
by Julia Lobo

The adorable little mouse in this book seeks security and unconditional love from their parents who are also adorable! Their huge eyes and smiling faces are heartwarming. This sturdy board book is bright and colorful. We enjoyed reading this together and it makes a fine little song if you sing it! {AADL

Happy Heart
by Hannah Eliot

This sparkly and colorful die-cut board book opens to shapes of brilliant sunshine, exclaiming, “You are the sun in my sky” and other metaphors of love in rhyme. The page of apple trees says, “You are the apple of my eye!” The book culminates with a giant red glittery heart. There’s dazzling glitter on every page, which is fun and easy to turn for little fingers. {AADL}

I Love You, Little Moo
by Tilly Temple

This farm-centric chunky board book was a family favorite this year. Each page shows a parent and baby animal with a darling rhyme that is completed when the thick flap on the page is lifted. Our little Livvie loves cows (and books!) so she enjoyed this sturdy title. {AADL}

First 101 Words

This “Highlights hide-and-seek book with flaps” is big and easy to handle for little ones. Vocabulary words are divided by categories: farm animals, pets, and meal times to name a few. Bright-colored photos are distinguishable to the extent that a little baby might mistake the cereal picture for actual Cheerios. {AADL}

Baby's First Hashtag
by Susan Allan

This one gets the Snark Award for board books. "O's for Organic ... just five bucks a beet!" Hipsters might be offended. I thought this was funny, not necessarily a fave. Baby Girl didn't get the irony. {AADL}



by Mike Curato

Flamer is a book that I finished in one sitting but has stayed with me ever since. It’s the story of Aiden, a bi-racial closeted teenager, during the last few days at Boy Scout summer camp. Aiden is close to his fellow campers but is also trying to figure out how to stay afloat amid their constant barrage of anti-gay slurs, bullying, and teasing. Flamer is a wrenching, hopeful story that may be triggering for people who have endured homophobic bullying but also has a huge capacity for inspiring empathy and resilience. {AADL}

In the Dream House
by Carmen Maria Machado

Machado is known for her macabre fiction, but her genre-bending memoir In the Dream House shows that our relationships with other people maybe scariest of all. Her tale of a queer, inter-racial relationship that descends from idyll to abuse is gripping and repelling and, ultimately, uplifting. Machado tells a story not often enough told, in a way it’s never been told before. {AADL}

The Afrominimalist’s Guide to Living With Less
by Christine Platt

There are lots of books out there about minimalism, tidying, and decluttering. While I can’t say that Platt’s method of decluttering is my favorite, I love her psychological approach to the problem of over-consumption. She helps us examine messages about money and possessions we may have received from our families and larger communities, and to take a critical but non-judgmental look at where those messages came from. She understands that everyone regardless of their background can benefit from exploring minimalism and encourages readers to take what’s useful and leave the rest. {AADL}

Believing: Our Thirty-Year Journey to End Gender Violence
by Anita Hill

I was expecting this book to be mostly memoir; and while Hill does tell us about her life and her thoughts on the Clarence Thomas hearing 30 years later, the main focus of the book is on the problem of sexual violence, abuse, and harassment in the United States. In clear-eyed and elegant prose, Anita Hill lays out the horrifying scope of gender violence in our institutions, the reasons why it persists, and how real policy changes can help end it. This book might be an emotional read for survivors of gender violence but needs to be widely read, especially by those who think that gender violence is a problem that happens in someone else’s school, church, workplace, or family. {AADL}

by Toni Morrison

I am not sure how I got this far in my life without having read Beloved, but better late than never. It’s not the easiest read, both because of the subject matter and style, but the world that Morrison creates in this novel is just so vivid. It’s the perfect mix of historical realism and supernatural fiction that leaves you feeling like it really happened and you were there. {AADL}

Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Deception
by Jia Tolentino

I missed all the buzz when this book came out a couple of years ago and I’m not even sure now why I requested it, but I’m so glad it arrived in time to be a late-breaking addition to this list. It’s hard to imagine a book that more accurately describes the condition of being a person socialized as female who has come of age in late 20th and early 21st century United States culture. It’s a trick mirror, alright, but Tolentino’s superbly written essays at least allow me to feel seen. {AADL}



Kill Six Billion Demons
by Abbadon (Tom Parkinson-Morgan)

The graphic novel follows recent college graduate Allison who, in the middle of an intimate moment with her boyfriend Zaid, has the Key of Kings slammed into her forehead by an all-powerful demiurge named Zoss. Meanwhile, Zaid is captured and stolen away to Throne, the Center of the Omniverse. Finding companions in the angel White Chain and the demon Cio Ciocielle, Allison embarks on a quest through Throne to save Zaid. The artwork is gorgeous and I respect the deep, colorful mythology within the story, which stays respectful to its sources by imagining what happens when mortals step into the realm of the Gods. Image Comics published a print edition, but it's also free to read online. {Website}



Divergent Mind: Thriving in a World That Wasn't Designed for You
by Jenara Nerenberg

I’ve never felt more seen by a book than when reading this one. Divergent Mind discusses neurodivergence at length and places focus on how neurodivergence in women is often overlooked. This book gave me the ability to better understand my own neurodiversity, how we can move away from a framework that pathologizes our brains and categorizes them into “normal” vs “abnormal” boxes, and offers solutions to how we can better support people with divergent minds. {AADL}



The Left Hand of Darkness
by Ursula K. Le Guin

A sci-fi classic and a gorgeous piece of speculative anthropology with some brilliant, thorough worldbuilding, Left Hand comprises the journals of an interplanetary diplomat struggling to connect with the inhabitants of the remote planet Gethen in the hopes that they will join the galactic confederation he represents. I would personally love to visit the universe in which Le Guin used alternative gender pronouns for the nonbinary ("ambisexual") Gethenians, but failing that, I'll gladly accept this historic piece of queer fiction for what it is. {AADL}

The Murderbot Diaries series
by Martha Wells

Sci-fi and speculative fiction were particularly appealing to me this past year (I wonder why). Murderbot is of a distinctly more laser-filled subgenre than Left Hand, but for all it evokes of a deep-space, first-person shooter, it's also a lively conversation about personhood, trauma, and the value of an individual in a heavily commodified society. It also boasts a uniquely charming narrative voice. Neurodivergent and queer readers, particularly anyone on the ace spectrum, will find some really exciting and relatable material in this series. {AADL}

Black Leopard, Red Wolf
by Marlon James

James' first foray into fantasy is a truly exciting contribution to the contemporary genre landscape.  Black Leopard, Red Wolf breaks away from Euro-centric fantasy conventions codified by disciples of Tolkien (disclaimer: I love Tolkien) to weave a rich epic rooted in African mythology and culture. The story, told in nonlinear beats as the imprisoned narrator-protagonist is interrogated, centers on a man known for his superhuman tracking abilities—it is said that he has a nose—and his reluctantly adopted traveling companions as they quest for a missing boy of mysterious significance. Content advisory for sexual violence. {AADL}

Too Bright to See
by Kyle Lukoff

I came across this novel as part of my exploration of transgender lit for younger readers. Both a suspenseful story of grief as well as a haunting and achingly authentic trans coming-of-age narrative, Too Bright to See is a great read for middle-grade supernatural aficionados, or for anyone who might benefit from a story of self-discovery and transformation. Lukoff has also penned a handful of other trans-informed children's books at a variety of reading levels. {AADL}

Yotsuba&!, vol. 15
by Kiyohiko Azuma

The latest issue of a joyful slice-of-life manga that has never once failed to turn a bad day around—for me, at least. Expressive character art, lovingly rendered backgrounds, a rich cast of characters, and legitimately hilarious writing make this series a personal favorite. {Yen Press}



Lycanthropy and Other Chronic Illnesses
by Kristen O'Neal

Alternating between poignant and hilarious, this excellent novel is about friendship and how disabled bodies can sometimes make existing in an abled world difficult despite their best efforts. It also offers an interesting interpretation of lycanthropy and werewolves that I'd been craving (but also can't get into here because it would spoil the book). {AADL}



The Last Sun
by K.D. Edwards

The best parts of multiple genres and tropes knit together into a fantasy novel series that I am obsessed with. It features the political machinations of Game of Thrones, the fast pace and noir underdog tropes of urban fantasy, and the best of buddy comedies—the ones where the buddies will put their lives on the line for each other but in the meantime take pleasure in annoying the daylights out of each other. Our main duo is Rune (the heir to the Sun Throne, a fallen court, thus the titular "last sun") and the bodyguard bonded to him in infancy, Brand. Rune's primary goal is for him and Brand to survive—not an easy feat when 30 years ago the government sanctioned a hit on your family. The story is set on an island the size of Japan set off the New England coast, the island has only been visible to "the real world" for the last 50 or so years, which means we get all the inspired and laugh-out-loud pop culture references we could ever want while simultaneously getting a delicious depth of devious, magical world building. A great blend of humor, action, queer characters, fight scenes, politics, magic, and fantasy. {AADL}

Waiting for Tom Hanks
by Kerry Winfrey

This is probably the book I've recommended most often in 2021 to those looking for chick-lit or rom-com novels—and based on the title alone, they've all wanted to check it out. Set in Ohio with a protagonist, Annie Cassidy, who grew up obsessed with Nora Ephron rom-coms (think Sleepless in Seattle and When Harry Met Sally), she's not waiting for Tom Hanks, the person; she's waiting for Tom Hanks, the concept. More than just a media obsession, it's tied up with memories of growing up, the family she's lost, and the ability to pull a big, warm, movie-centered blanket of comfort around herself when life gets too tough.

Annie is a writer paying the bills through oddball internet articles while working on a screenplay inspired by her best friend's nonrelationship that's just too perfect to be overlooked (Nora Ephron would definitely approve). Meanwhile, a movie starts filming locally—Annie's chance to make some contacts in the film business. But her days are plagued by prankster and lead actor Drew Danforth, who is definitely not the envisioned Tom Hanks. (Side note: I totally would cast Adam Driver as Drew if I were in charge of the a film adaptation of this novel, but please, cast whomever you like in the theater of your own mind!) If you're the kind of person who already knows what a "meet-cute" is, this book may be for you. {AADL}

The Love Hypothesis
by Ali Hazelwood

The fake relationship trope has been played hundreds of different ways in novels, but this one was delightful. First, we have a point-of-view character in a romance novel who is on the asexual spectrum (probably a demisexual if she were forced to put a label on it, but she doesn't, so why should we?). She's also a Ph.D. candidate in a biology grad department. The whole thing is beautifully neurotic and feels all the feels, while also navigating the trials of grad school, the politics of academia, and the further trials of being a woman in STEM. Major bonus points for a heroine who, in the end, makes the hard choices and champions herself rather than looking for some other person to wear the shining armor. {AADL}



Delicious in Dungeon
by Kui Ryōko

Do you like Dungeons and Dragons, but you wish you could eat the monsters? No? Well, I wouldn't be surprised ... but that is what Laios, main character of Delicious in Dungeon, sets out to do. This manga is full of silly, lighthearted comedy, that builds to tell a heartwarming (and heart-wrenching) story of a group of adventurers who form a rescue party while fighting their way down through an ever-changing dungeon and bite off a bit more than they can chew. Kui has an amazing grasp on how to tell a compelling story, rich with characters and lore, even if the original pretense is a bit silly. Her art style is straightforward and relatively reserved until she whips out breathtaking full-page spreads to which I kept returning to take in any detail I may have missed. I started reading it purely for something to do during long periods at home, but I found myself inhaling every chapter I could get my hands on as fast as possible. {AADL}

by Alice Oseman

Heartstopper is a wholesome story about coming of age, coming out, and healthy communication on all levels of relationships. It was originally a webcomic, but Heartstopper made its paper debut in 2020. The story remains lighthearted while still exploring issues of homophobia, both internally and externally, and I cannot wait for the fourth volume to reach the library soon! {AADL

Pale Colors in a Tall Field
by Carl Phillips

Phillips is a mastermind in poetry, but his newest release takes the cake. After an extensive leave from reading poetry, I picked this book up after seeing someone else check it out, and I've never been more thankful. I've found his lyrical poetry to be incredibly accessible, but still powerful within the simplicity. I've reread Pale Colors twice now and every time I discover something new. {AADL}



by Charlie Kaufman

I don't know what to say. {AADL}



Elric: The Stealer of Souls
by Michael Moorcock
(1963, 2008)

After reading a lot of forward-thinking and positive YA fiction, I needed some old-school gritty fantasy like Elric—the last prince of a dying culture and bearer of a cursed sword that brings ruin and doom on friend and foe alike. I’ve had Elric on my “to read” list for 35 years and I really should have gotten to these books sooner. Moorcock has devised a dark epic fantasy world to explore without being a Tolkien rip-off. {AADL}

The Michigan Murders
by Edward Keyes

I rarely read true-crime stories but I admit I couldn’t resist the weird feeling of reading about these murders happening right here in Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor. As part of the investigation into the murders, they arrested a man on the same street that I live on now, who turned out not to be the killer they were looking for—a murderer, yes, but not the right one. {AADL}

How to Hide an Empire
by Daniel Immerwahr

With all the fiction I read this year, it was a delight to get back to a nonfiction page-turner like this. The beginning reminded me of the joy I felt reading Devil in the White City with all of its cultural references and origins of everyday things. How to Hide an Empire is all about the U.S.’s uneasy standing with its colonies, especially the Philippines and Puerto Rico, and pulls in such disparate references as Little House on the Prairie, the term “manila folders,” the origin of the UN logo, and Kilroy as well as the giant international and domestic events of the last 150 years. Almost every chapter revealed jaw-dropping parts of history I was never taught and that so many people have forgotten. The U.S. attitudes toward other countries and its own racist legacy are even uglier than I imagined. {AADL}

Sweet Time
by Weng Pixin

How enchanting to read this gorgeous graphic novel about loneliness and the gulf that exists between people in relationships. My favorite is the short piece “Ballad” illustrating a series of petals being plucked from a flower as the narrator says, “He loves me, he loves me not.”

Nicky & Vera: A Quiet Hero of the Holocaust and the Children He Rescued
by Peter Sís

A Quiet Hero in the subtitle refers to Nicholas Winton, an Englishman who helped save almost 700 children before the Czech borders were closed by the Nazis. The understated storytelling and signature artwork make this as stirring as any book by Sís. {AADL}



The Ocean at the End of the Lane
by Neil Gaiman

I listened to the audiobook version of this story, read by the author. The main character is an unnamed man who goes back to his childhood neighborhood after a death in the family. While there, he begins to remember supernatural events that occurred during his childhood. I don’t usually like books in the horror genre and there definitely is a horror feeling to the story, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. They just recently adapted this book into a play in London, and I am hoping that it is successful enough to come to the U.S. {AADL} {Libby}

The Invisible Library
by Genevieve Cogman

This is the first book in The Invisible Library series. The series focuses on Irene, a librarian for the mysterious Library, and her apprentice, Kai. The Library has access to millions of alternate worlds and librarians collect unique books from these worlds and bring them to the Library. On top of the challenge of “collecting” books from less than willing donors, the librarians must also navigate the power struggle between the Fae, agents of Chaos, and the Dragons, agents of Order. It is primarily a fast-paced fantasy story with a healthy dose of science fiction and a dash of steampunk mixed in. {AADL

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
by Stuart Turton

This story drops you right into the middle of the action as the main character wakes up with no recollection of who he is and witnesses a woman running for her life. Things only get stranger from there. He lives the same day, over and over again, each time as a different person, trying to solve a murder and figure out who in this world he can actually trust. If you enjoyed the movie Knives Out, you will probably enjoy this novel. There are so many twists and turns that it kept me guessing right up to the very end. {AADL}

Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened
by Allie Brosh

The first chapter of this book had me in tears because I was laughing so hard. Allie Brosh uses illustrations and words in this graphic memoir to show the reader scenes from her life. Not every chapter is as funny as the first, there are definitely some serious ones. For example, two chapters discuss her experience with depression, and it was eye-opening to read her experience. It really gave me a better understanding. Then there are stories like the time a goose got into her house and the experience of trying to remove it. {AADL}



The Deep & Dark Blue
by Niki Smith

I’ve read a few graphic novels by Niki Smith this past year, and this cute book about royalty, magic nuns, and gender expression really held my attention from start to finish. Two princes go into hiding to escape a military coup, but the only option they find is to hide in the nunnery. Nuns in this story have magic powers passed down by their Goddess, who spun fabric to create their world. The princes learn to spin this blue thread alongside the girls, and one is rather adept at it. Can these two use the blue magic to save their kingdom from a power-hungry military leader? Will the one who is obviously transgender realize that she is? Read to find out! {AADL}



Hank's Big Day
by Evan Kuhlman and Chuck Groenink
An epic there-and-back account of a humble pill bug's action-packed day down in the grasslands of a suburban yard. {AADL

My Friends
by Taro Gomi
A little girl learns useful lessons from different animal friends in this short story. Gomi's spare, playful watercolor illustrations dovetail nicely with his text and reverberate on the page, inviting the eye to linger. {MeL

The House in the Night
by Susan Marie Swanson and Beth Krommer 

The warmth of home and the magic of imagination intertwine here so well. The "closer" in our bedtime board book lineup. {AADL}




Firekeeper’s Daughter 
by Angeline Boulley


The Sentence
by Louise Erdrich


The Office of Historical Corrections: A Novella and Stories
by Danielle Evans


by Lauren Groff


by Stephen Graham Jones


The Only Good Indians
by Stephen Graham Jones


Sorrow and Bliss
by Meg Mason


How Beautiful We Were
by Imbolo Mbue


The Secret Lives of Church Ladies
by Deesha Philyaw


by Rachel Yoder



Long Time Coming: Reckoning With Race in America
by Michael Eric Dyson


Heating and Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs
by Beth Ann Fennelly


Heavy: An American Memoir
by Kiese Laymon


The Burden: African Americans and the Enduring Impact of Slavery
edited by Rochelle Riley


Smile: The Story of a Face
by Sarah Ruhl


She Come By It Natural: Dolly Parton and the Women Who Lived Her Songs
by Sarah Smarsh


Intimations: Six Essays
by Zadie Smith


All the Lives We Ever Lived: Seeking Solace in Virginia Woolf
by Katharine Smyth


Free: A Child and a Country at the End of History
by Lea Ypi


Graphic Novels:

The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir
by Thi Bui


The Times I Knew I Was Gay
by Eleanor Crews


Almost American Girl: An Illustrated Memoir
by Robin Ha


Dragon Hoops
by Gene Luen Yang




by Frank Herbert
Experiencing a sudden resurgence of interest due to the movie (though never fully out of the eye of the American public), Dune breathes new life, spirit and vividity into the structure of the timeless Bildungsroman/coming-of-age story. A treat for the imagination that spirits readers to an intricately constructed faraway world lost in swirling sands and political intrigue, Herbert's prosody and narrative remain timeless for good reason. {AADL}

Wednesday Is Indigo Blue: Discovering the Brain of Synesthesia
by Richard Cytowic, David Eagleman, et al.

An exploration into the science and experience of synesthetic perception and cognition, Wednesday Is Indigo Blue demonstrates that sensory experiences are highly subjective from person to person, as yet another facet of dimension in human neurodivergence. {MelCat}

The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness
by Elyn Saks

A memoir by a patient and renowned activist with schizophrenia that narrates the personal experience of what is commonly stigmatized as one of the most irreversible, devastating, and dehumanizing mental disorders. One of the most groundbreaking works in mental health literature, due in part to its lucidity, but also because of its searing commentary on the oftentimes harsh treatment of some of society's most vulnerable and misunderstood. {AADL}

The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier and More Creative
by Florence Williams

With a healthy dose of dry humor and convivial, good-natured curiosity, the author treks across the globe to a variety of scientific studies and retreats in order to better understand the draw of humanity to nature as well as its effects on mood, cognition, attention, and function. More relevant than ever in a day and age where we are increasingly out of touch with the outdoors, The Nature Fix is a refreshing reminder to savor and cherish the natural environment around us. {AADL}



Einstein's Dreams
by Alan Lightman

This book is 30 short chapters. Each one is about a dream, and each dream is a different way to conceptualize time. The dreams all belong to Einstein, and they're meant to be a fictional exploration of what his inner world was like while he worked as a patent clerk in Switzerland developing his theory of relativity. The writer himself is a physicist, and the dreams are based on some of Einstein's own theories as well as some purely conceptual ideas. It's a beautiful book and full of food for thought, especially if you've ever found yourself wondering if time is a circle, or if it could ever flow backward, or if you generally question things of a temporal nature. {AADL

The Butchering Art
by Lindsey Fitzharris

This book tells the tale of Joseph Lister, who in the 19th century transformed the world of medicine with the discovery of hygienic surgical practice. Though the book does delve into the grim methods of old-world surgery, it's also a celebration of the unique genius of Lister and his ceaseless effort to incorporate antiseptic practices into hospitals across Europe. Our modern understanding of germs and clinical care have been entirely shaped by his work, and reading this book grants you an irrepressible appreciation for his vision and determination, as well as some insight into the spooky ways of medicinal yore. Be warned: once you start reading it, it's really hard to put it down. {AADL

Sacred Decay: The Art of Lauren Marx
by Lauren Marx

Lauren Marx is a watercolor artist based in St. Louis, Missouri. Sacred Decay is the first publication of her work. Through the intertwining of haunting flora and fauna she merges the natural and supernatural in a way which reminds me of the relationships between birth and death, sweetness and pain, and safety and vulnerability. Her attention to detail coupled with the intensity of her symbolic imagery is truly spellbinding. I spent a long time pouring over this book in the spring and still find myself thinking about some of the images. {AADL

by Edward Carey

This is the fictionalized story of Marie Tussaud, a legendary wax sculptor who grew up in revolutionary France. She eventually opened a world-famous museum of her work in London that's still open to this day. Although the story can get quite dark and macabre, it's nevertheless a terrifically funny and insightful tale about her life. She overcame an incredible amount of hardship to accomplish the mastery of her craft, and through the book not only do you get a deeper understanding of her unique position in life, but you learn a bit about revolutionary France as well, which I really enjoyed. {AADL}



by Jude Ellison S. Doyle (author) and A.L. Kaplan (artist)

A horror story centered around the traumas of the female experience? Sign me up! Jude Doyle is one of the most insightful writers on gender (TrainwreckDead Blondes and Bad Mothers) that I've encountered, and I was delighted by his foray into fiction. The gorgeous art is a decided bonus to the storytelling. {Boom! Studios}



Tudors (2012)
Rebellion (2014)
by Peter Ackroyd

A couple of years ago, I recommended Foundation, Peter Ackroyd’s thorough and readable history of England from the earliest days to the reign of the Tudors. These two books pick up where that one left one, taking us from Henry VIII to the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and they are as engrossing as their predecessor. I’m on to Revolution next. {AADL} {AADL}

by Emile Zola

The Wild Ass’s Skin
by Honoré de Balzac

Two books from two 19th-century French masters, one a stark realistic look at alcoholism, the other a fantasy-tinged tale of a man who gains the power of wishing but both relentlessly grim. Neither hides where it’s going and it’s not where you want them to go, but the writing is so strong (granted, translated from the French) and the detail so enthralling that you can’t get off the ride. {Overdrive} {Overdrive}

The Enemy Stars
by Poul Anderson

A classic of old school hard science fiction. What do you do when you’re way out in deep space and your transporter doesn’t work anymore? {GoodReads}

Fifty Years of Playboy Cartoons
by Gahan Wilson

Wilson was the master of creepy yet hilarious cartoons. This three-volume collection includes all of those published in Playboy from the famous (“Is Nothing Sacred?”) to the little-known. All are worth a look. {AADL}

Heart of Darkness (1902)
The Secret Agent (1907)
by Joseph Conrad

Conrad is a bit of a slog but his views on the ravages of colonialism (Heart of Darkness) and the sinister underbelly of politics (The Secret Agent) are worth the effort. The Secret Agent was the inspiration for Alfred Hitchcock’s 1936 film Sabotage. {AADL} {AADL}

The Twelve Lives of Alfred Hitchcock
by Edward White

This book dissects Hitchcock’s life and career from 12 different perspectives: “The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up,” “The Murderer,” “The Auteur,” “The Womanizer,” and so on. You may not agree with all of his categories but they are each presented persuasively. {AADL}



What Big Teeth
by Rose Szabo

This book has some great imagery and unique concepts. It follows Eleanor’s return home from boarding school and her attempts to keep the family safe. Addams family vibes without any of the loving safety. {AADL}

I’ll Bring You the Birds From Out of the Sky
by Brian Hodge

This book only had a limited-run printing so finding a copy might be difficult. That said, it was a unique mix of folk and cosmic horror set in Appalachia. It also has some absolutely amazing illustrations from Kim Parkhurst. {Website}

The Return
by Rachel Harrison

I love books with unique spooky descriptions. Elise, Julie, Mae, and Molly have been best friends since college. Julie goes missing and eventually shows back up with no memory of where she was. {AADL}

The Prey of Gods
by Nicky Drayden

This book mashes up a bunch of genres and tropes and sets the plot in South Africa. It’s about demigods, artificial intelligence, genetic engineering gone wrong, hallucinogens. It’s ambitious, imaginative, and a fun read. {AADL}



Pugato Finds a Thing
by Sophie Corrigan


In a Jar
by Deborah Macero


Goddess of Filth
by V. Castro

I was drawn in by the cover and the title and learned I enjoy the horror fiction genre. {AADL}

Breaking Cat News graphic novel series
by Georgia Dunn


A Man and His Cat graphic novel series
by Umi Sakurai

More books in the series are on order! I’ve read the first three (thanks MelCat!) and really enjoy witnessing the development of the relationship of the man and his cat. {AADL}

Oak Flat: A Fight for Sacred Land in the American West
by Lauren Redniss

Visually enjoyable and an educating read. {AADL}

Nothing to See Here
by Kevin Wilson


The Simpsons and Their Mathematics
by Simon Singh

Heady stuff but easy to keep up
with. Have you ever noticed the numerous math references written into the Simpsons? This was a fun read
with tests along the way. I suddenly craved Algebra, really, there is nothing more satisfying than balancing an
equation! {AADL}

by Steven King

OK, I’m now well on my way to reading so much more by this author. {AADL}

The Charlotte Perkins Gilman Reader
by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Been in my list since 2018 thanks to a patron recommendation and I finally, quite happily, got to it! {AADL}

Follow This Thread: A Maze Book to Get Lost In
by Henry Eliot

The spoils of processing returned items is how I found this item! It’s very creatively written as you turn the pages, you turn the orientation of the book, which did get confusing a couple of times and I was momentarily tricked into going backwards through the book. Filled with illustrations that are made up of a single line you can literally follow throughout the book was also a fun part of reading it. {AADL}

Antennae: The Journal
Found this while exploring the ejournals section on mel.org. {Website}



She's Come Undone
by Wally Lamb

Growing up, my family went through multiple copies of She's Come Undone. Somebody dropped one in the bathtub, someone else gave their copy to a friend, a copy found its way lodged between the davenport and the upright piano, never to be seen again. So we bought another copy. That is how important this book was for my mom and sisters. When it came to their attention that I had never read the book, another copy was purchased just for me. I read this book the way a toddler eats an ice cream cone. I am afraid that I will not be saying much else about the book at the risk of ruining even the smallest plot point for you. Reading She's Come Undone was a life event for me, much like getting your driver's license or moving into your own place for the first time. If you are a human being on planet Earth, you will love this book. Run, do not walk, to pick up your copy. {AADL}

Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family
by Robert Kolker

This is the book that made me a nonfiction reader, after years of thinking otherwise. Hidden Valley Road is about a family with 12 kids. Six of them are schizophrenic, six of them are not. Scientists clamored at the opportunity to study such a family and as more questions about mental illness and genetics were answered, a million more questions came out of the woodwork. Hidden Valley Road is a sweeping family drama, an examination of the history of schizophrenia and how it is treated, and a necessary read for anyone interested in looking to explain the seemingly unexplainable. And if you don't want to take my word for it, take Oprah's. Just like She's Come Undone, Hidden Valley Road is a part of Oprah's legendary Book Club. {AADL}

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone
by Lori Gottlieb

Another nonfiction pick! This book is about a therapist, her clients, and her therapist—the total 360 degree therapy experience. It is intimidating, enlightening, and heartwarming. Most of all, it is inspiring. Any book that reminds you that trying is worthwhile is a book worth reading. {AADL}



The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth Trilogy #1)
by N.K. Jemisin

After Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter there is a fifth season, Death. The Stillness is the only continent on a volatile planet where the people have only survived by rigidly following the teachings that have been passed down for thousands of years. This is a masterfully written story about oppression, magic, and surviving the end of the world. {AADL}

Iron Widow
by Xiran Jay Zhao

Wow. This is an intense story, filled with an incredible and deep anger toward a deeply patriarchal society. In this book, Xiran Jay Zhao reimagines the history of the Chinese empress Wu Zetian, but this time as a teenage mecha pilot fighting to change her country and save humanity. It’s got everything you could want: giant robots, aliens, catharsis, and a love triangle that is actually a triangle. {AADL}

Witch Hat Atelier
by Kamome Shirahara 

This is a manga series about a young girl, Coco, who has always longed to be a witch and practice beautiful magic. After meeting the mysterious Qifrey, she gets her wish, and through a series of circumstances joins his atelier to study magic. Kamome Shirahara’s art is absolutely gorgeous and every page is a treat to look at. Coco’s delight in the world around her pulled me in as well. {AADL}

Banned Book Club
by Kim Hyun Sook

This graphic novel is an autobiographical account of Kim Hyun Sook’s time at college in the 1980s during South Korea’s Fifth Republic, an authoritarian military regime. Hyun Sook thinks she’s been invited to a regular book club but soon finds herself defying censorship by reading banned literature and protesting the government’s totalitarianism and anti-intellectualism. {AADL}



Colorization: One Hundred Years of Black Films in a White World
by Wil Haygood

This fascinating book about African-American filmmakers covers the entirety of cinema history, beginning with Oscar Micheaux’s pioneering silent indies and concluding with the recent triumphs of films like Moonlight and Black Panther. Along the way Haygood examines the pyrrhic victory of Hattie McDaniel’s 1939 Academy Award, the midcentury breakthrough of (and backlash to) Sidney Poitier as a leading man, the problematic opportunities of the “blaxploitation” cycle in the early '70s, the cultural ubiquity of Roots, and Spike Lee’s uncompromising visions. The ugly specter of Birth of a Nation and other stigmatizing entertainments lurk as counterpoint, and Haygood provides historical context with accounts of the political and sociological events of each era. Cineastes who think they’ve heard it all before will find new stories and fresh insight, while others will learn about important film artists for the first time, presented in a readable and accessible form. {AADL}



Designing a New Tradition: Loïs Mailou Jones and the Aesthetics of Blackness 
by Rebecca VanDiver 

Loïs Mailou Jones is an artist who should be a household name, however most books I’ve found have skewed towards anecdotes on the famous people she’s met and worked with instead of her own life. VanDiver does an amazing job at juxtaposing Jones’ life with her work, while also making the argument for Jones to be introduced into the western canon of influential artists. {PSU Press}

Dress Codes: How the Laws of Fashion Made History
by Richard Thompson Ford 

Fashion history, and specifically the ways “fashion” intersects with societal acceptance and isolation, is a topic that I think should always be talked about. In this book, Ford identifies and addresses historical “markers” of belonging in Western fashion. One of my favorite things about this book is that it also addresses how these markers of acceptability are influenced by race, and how manner of dress can be utilized as a tool of oppression both legally and culturally. {AADL}

The King of Confidence: A Tale of Utopian Dreamers, Frontier Schemers, True Believers, False Prophets, and the Murder of an American Monarch 
by Miles Harvey 

If the wildly long title did not clue you in, this is an old-fashioned tale of deceit. This book follows the life and times of James Strang, former lawyer turned religious self-proclaimed king. I honestly can’t type more without going into the details of the entire story and rewriting the book, so I will simply say that I highly recommend it. {AADL}

The Look of the Book: Jackets, Covers, and Art at the Edges of Literature 
by David J. Alworth and Peter Mendelsund 

I very frequently judge books by their covers, and I really appreciated THIS book that delves into the art of book covers. The authors examine book cover trends while also breaking down various iconic book covers and the process of book cover creation throughout history. I appreciate the fact that this book highlights specific designers and the importance of what they do, and it’s also just beautiful to look at. {AADL}

The Girl Who Was Saturday Night 
by Heather O’Neill 

I didn’t expect to be visiting this novel this year, but I rediscovered it on one of my many rereads of the Rookie Magazine archives (R.I.P). This book details twins Nicholas and Noushka as teens in Quebec, where their absent father was previously a celebrity. Though the book is somewhat hefty and O’Neill’s writing is pretty dense in imagery, there is a decent amount of ambiguity laced through-out that kept me reading. {AADL}



Visible Mending: Repair, Renew, Reuse the Clothes You Love
by Arounna Khounnoraj

A visual guide to upcycling worn or stained garments and fabrics. Many different patterns and techniques taken from the Japanese art of Shashiko. A well-illustrated book complete with examples and patterns. {AADL}

Death of the Duchess
by Elizabeth Eyre

This historic murder mystery debuts the enigmatic Sigismondo. A courtier, mercenary, and sleuth, Sigismondo and his sidekick Benno navigate the political treachery of the noble houses of Renaissance Italy to discover the truth of the crime. Elizabeth Eyre is the pseudonym of Jill Staynes and Margaret Storey. Both authors were born in 1927 and started to collaborate at age 15 when they were at school together. At the age of 60, the two authors collaborated on the Detective Superintendent Bone series, using the pseudonym Susannah Stacey while at the same time created the Sigismondo Italian Renaissance series. Well-drawn characters, atmospheric tone, and intelligent plots make these books a delight to read, and an inspiration to an aspiring older writer. {AADL}

The Boys in the Cave: Deep Inside the Impossible Rescue in Thailand
by Matt Gutman

A documentary of the 2018 cave incident in Thailand that left 12 youth soccer players and their coach stranded deep inside a cave system for three weeks. A gripping story of rescue by several specialized teams each with a unique skill set. Matt Gutman is authoritative and gives impeccable journalistic coverage of this incredible story of survival against all odds. {AADL}



The Tower of the Swallow (The Witcher #4)
by Andrzej Sapkowski
(1996; 2016 edition)

The Tower of the Swallow is the sixth book in Sapkowski's Witcher series, but only the fourth and penultimate novel of the Geralt and Ciri saga. Geralt and his ragtag group of heroes continue to battle across the continent in search of Ciri. While Ciri does everything she can to stay one step ahead of a murderous gang of mercenaries hot on her trail. This was my favorite installment in The Witcher book series and a perfect way to kill some time until Season 2 releases this month on Netflix. {AADL}

by Madeline Miller

Miller's follow-up novel to the critically acclaimed Song of Achilles is a modern reimagining of multiple Greek myths, most notably Homer's Odyssey, from the point of view of Circe, daughter of Helios and the witch of Aiaia. Banished to a desert island by Zeus due to the power she possess, Circe crosses paths with some of the most famous figures in mythology, including the Minotaur, Prometheus, Scylla, Jason, and, of course, Odysseus. Within Miller's gorgeous prose, Circe seeks to understand what it truly means to be god while the reader contemplates the beauty and fragility of mortality. {AADL}

Blood Meridian or The Evening Redness in the West
by Cormac McCarthy

Drenched in religious symbolism and rife with graphic violence, Cormac McCarthy's Magnum opus is not for the faint of heart. Blood Meridian follows a fictional teenager known simply as "the kid" as he joins up the Glanton gang, a historical group of scalp hunters who terrorized the U.S.-Mexican border between 1849 -1850. McCarthy's quintessential anti-western is a masterpiece, a rare and unique piece of literature that is as horrifying as it is gorgeous. I would recommend it to anyone but I will never read it again. {AADL}



Soccernomics: Why England Loses, Why Germany and Brazil Win, and Why the U.S., Japan, Australia, Turkey—and Even Iraq—Are Destined to Become the Kings of the World's Most Popular Sport
by Simon Kuper & Stefan Szymanski
(2010; 2014 edition)

Moneyball was a study of how statistics can be used to make a baseball team better without spending a ton of money. This book by U-M professor Szymanski and British journalist Kuper is the soccer version of that approach, and it's a fascinating if exhausting examination of how data analysis is changing the world's game. {AADL}

Nonbinary: A Memoir
by Genesis P-Orridge
As the leader of Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV, P-Orridge (1950-2020) was at the forefront of industrial, experimental, pop, and dance music. But they weren't just a radical artist; they lived a life filled with extreme cycles of destruction and creation that made for a fascinating and complicated existence. {AADL}