AADL 2023 Staff Picks — Words

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



A Sign of Affection
by Suu Morishita

Yuki, who is deaf, has a chance encounter with a friend-of-a-friend named Itsuomi. Itsuomi is a world traveler and speaks three languages, but sign language isn’t one of them. The two become friends as they learn to communicate with one another, and eventually, new feelings begin to emerge between them. {AADL}

The Savior’s Book Cafe: Story in Another World
by Oumiya, art by Reiko Sakurada

Tsukina, a 30-something office worker and book-lover, is one day transported to a fantasy world where God tells her she is supposed to become that world’s magical savior. But Tsukina would rather live a quiet life running a book cafe! She uses her magical power to do just that, but another “savior” starts causing trouble, and Tsukina might not be able to avoid being a hero after all. {MelCat}

She Loves to Cook and She Loves to Eat
by Sakaomi Yuzaki

Nomoto loves to cook, but she can’t eat all the food she makes by herself. She invites her neighbor Kasuga to eat with her, and the two are fast friends. {AADL}



by Jordan Morris

This graphic novel is a perfect mix of snark, sass, social commentary, stupid millennial problems, and stabbing vicious sci-fi monsters. {AADL}

Fourth Wing
by Rebecca Yarros

Bookstagram has gone wild over the War College of Basgaith and its dragon riders. And yes, the book is worth all the hype. The feel is Vorkosigan Saga meets Dragon Riders of Pern meets Divergence. {AADL}



Woman Running in the Mountains
by Yuko Tsushima
(originally published in Japan in 1980)


Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law
by Mary Roach


What Are Your Words? A Book About Pronouns
by Katherine Locke, illustrated by Anne Passchier


Glory on Ice
by Maureen Fergus, illustrated by Mark Fearing




Artemis Fowl series
by Eoin Colfer

I end up listening to a lot of audiobooks while processing, and sometimes I just want something available on Libby so I don't need to wait for a hold. I remembered really enjoying the Artemis Fowl series when I was younger, and the audiobooks were available when I checked, so I started the series again. This listen-through was my first time with the audiobook version, and Nathaniel Parker does a phenomenal job keeping the listener engaged with his eloquent narration and unique voices for each character. I tore through the whole series of eight books, remembering why I enjoyed them so much. Artemis Fowl is a unique character among young adult books, being unequivocally the antagonist for the first book and a half or so. Even after this point, he is much more of an antihero than a traditional protagonist. This character dynamic, mixed with detailed and entrancing world-building (featuring high-tech escapades and magical fairies), creates a truly engrossing series that anyone can enjoy. {AADL}



Our Little Kitchen
by Jillian Tamaki

A motley crew brainstorms, prepares, and improvises a bountiful community feast in this lively picture-comic book. I love how Tamaki bends time and space to convey the kitchen's creativity and increasing hustle as guests arrive. Sound effects and many different character voices make it fun to read out loud, over and over. {AADL}

Mr. Gumpy's Outing
by John Burningham

Old man Gumpy wants a tranquil float trip downriver, but a passel of pesky kids and animals threaten to upend his plan. The splotchy, scratchy illustrations complement our mildly cantankerous hero very well. And in the end, Mr. G. turns out to be a fairly decent dude. {AADL}

The Way Home in the Night
by Akiko Miyakoshi

I'm drifting off just thinking about this picture book ... an understated story with gorgeous fuzzy illustrations of urbane animal citizens in the evening. The original papers' laid lines are reproduced on each page, too, giving everything a lovely extra texture. Fellow fans of Chris Van Allsburg will dig this. {AADL}

Peace Sports Illustrated Issue #4
by Isaac Ramos et al.

Good times on pretty bikes! I'm more interested in riding bikes than in assembling/customizing/accessorizing them, but this dreamy, L.A.-based full-color zine gave me a window into those other worlds while remaining focused on promoting positive vibes and adventure. {Ramos Center}

Heavy: An American Memoir
by Kiese Laymon

A searching, raw, courageous, and yes, at times very heavy story of a Black boy growing up in 1990s Mississippi and his various relationships—to his friends, to his girlfriends, to his students, to this country, to his body, to writing, and to his mother, whom he credits for shaping his singular commitment to his craft. My favorite book I read this year. {AADL}

"Just Breathe"
by Alisha Haridasani Gupta

I appreciate this article for helping me to notice my breathing. I've returned to its suggested exercises several times. {New York Times}



by Dennis Cooper

Dennis Cooper is a really brilliant and extremely transgressive author who writes extremely transgressive books. I spent half of the year reading through his George Miles cycle, and Closer emerged as my favorite. I often joke that I don’t consume media to have fun, but I do think the amount of times I’ve reread this kind of proves that. {MELCat}

This Is Not Miami
by Fernanda Melchor

Fernanda Melchor consistently hits it out of the park for me. This Is Not Miami, originally released in 2013, focuses on a series of stories based on real crimes that took place in the author's hometown of Veracruz, Mexico. Melchor is someone who is heavily acquainted with violence and misogyny, but this book took a more personal, albeit veiled, approach than any of her later works. {AADL}

It Was Vulgar and It Was Beautiful: How AIDS Activists Used Art to Fight a Pandemic
by Jack Lowery

In this book, Jack Lowery presents an in-depth look at the art collective Gran Fury, and their use of artistic activism to raise awareness of the AIDS Pandemic and put pressure on governmental officials. While I have read quite a few books and articles on Gran Fury, Lowery provides one of the most comprehensive histories of the group. {AADL}

Out There Screaming: An Anthology of New Black Horror 

I intended to use this space to single out my favorite stories from Out There Screaming, a short-story collection of horror and science fiction centered around Blackness, but I think it would be a list of almost all of the stories. There's a lot to like in this collection, and a lot of authors to discover. {AADL}

Things You May Find Hidden in My Ear: Poems From Gaza
by Mosab Abu Toha 

Mosab Abu Toha’s debut collection of poetry is a beautifully written recollection of growing up under violence and uncertainty. I often have a hard time with poetry, while I can get the meaning I find it hard to be affected, but Toha’s heavy and sometimes blunt writing managed to get through to me. {AADL}

The Laughter 
by Sonora Jha

As previously stated, I don’t consume media to have fun, and reading through the lens of a middle-aged white college professor lusting after a new Pakistani colleague was not fun. That being said, this tense satirical book kept my interest all the way through. {AADL}

Unmasking AI: My Mission to Protect What Is Human in a World of Machines
by Joy Buolamwini

In Unmasking AI, Dr. Joy Buolamwini delves into the discrimination that is encoded in tech and AI development. While AI is often looked at as a robotic other, it is important to note that these “robots” are still created and shaped by humans, and Dr. Buolamwini uses her experiences as a computer scientist to highlight this. {AADL}

by Sophia Coppola

Everything you could ever want to know about the making process for Sophia Coppola’s films, from scripts to moodboards, is in this art book. {Mackbooks}



Broken Earth Trilogy
by N.K Jemison


The Priory of the Orange Tree
by Samantha Shannon


The Nsibidi Scripts
by Nnedi Okorafor


by Naomi Novik


The Thursday Murder Club 
by Richard Osman




by Kanae Minato 

You will NEVER read a revenge story like this one. The twists and turns!! I read it in less than a day and my jaw visibly dropped at multiple scenes. {AADL}

by Costanza Casati 

Refreshing feminist Greek retelling in a time where the Greek-retelling world is becoming way overpopulated. If you love an actual vengeful woman, this is the book for you. {AADL}

After the Forest
by Kell Woods

Hansel and Gretel deal with their trauma years after they visit the witch's house in the forest. {AADL}

The Woman in Me
by Britney Spears

You will come out of this read the biggest Justin Timberlake anti in the world. {AADL}

Love, Pamela
by Pamela Anderson

Listened to the audiobook for fun, but it quickly became one of my favorite celebrity memoirs. {AADL}



Number One Is Walking
by Steve Martin

In this graphic novel, Martin reflects on a lifetime of being on stage with his many friends making movies and music. Such a sweet book and Martin shows his humility and gratitude. But skip the second half that Martin didn’t write. It reads like a collection of bad New Yorker cartoons. {AADL}

by Madeline Miller

My favorite fiction of the year. I loved how tragic, beautiful, and lonely this retelling of Greek mythology was. Miller brings to life a minor character of the Odyssey, filling in the missing chapters of her life while capturing her inner conflicts of being a goddess among mortals. {AADL}

Love and Let Die
by John Higgs

I keep coming back to this book in my mind because it was such a fun read. Higgs traces the parallel histories of James Bond books and movies with The Beatles to show their divergent views of love, modernity, and the British Empire. {AADL}

Culture Warlords
by Talia Lavin

When I was given this book as an offhanded gift, I had no idea that it would have a lasting impact on my view of society and people’s psychology. Lavin investigates the alt-right online, disguising herself as a neo-Nazi to record the people and ideas she encounters in forums and chat rooms. It’s much that you would expect, but more vile. What I didn’t anticipate is that the book would wreck my notion that society was slowly progressing towards a more tolerable and open place with small setbacks along the way. It’s not. {AADL}

Tender Is the Flesh
by Agustina Bazterrica

This is set in the near future where society raises, breeds, and eats humans. Parallel to the story of one man’s questioning of society and family expectations are vivid descriptions of trips to the slaughterhouse, the meat market, the breeding pens, hunting grounds, and the dinner table. {AADL}



Kingdom of Ash 
by Sarah J. Maas

I cannot remember the last time I read a book for fun until I came across the Throne of Glass series. I do not know whether it was the book summary or all the cover art that drew me in, but once I began reading, I could not stop! Kingdom of Ash is the eighth and last book in the series, and I believe Sarah J. Maas has given Aelin Galathynius and her allies a satisfying conclusion. {AADL}

Fourth Wing
by Rebecca Yarros

A thrilling story set in a world on the brink of a war between dragons and gryphons. Violet Sorrengail has been forcibly enrolled by her mother, General Sorrengail, in the Riders' Quadrant of the Basgiath War College to train and become a dragon rider. Doesn't sound too bad, right? Only if you don't account for the around 70 percent death rate, resulting from a combination of dangerous obstacle courses, cut-throat classmates, and incineration by dragon. On top of that, Violet has a disability that makes her body very fragile. I enjoyed reading about how Violet uses her wits to try to survive her first year at the war college. There's a sweet mix of action, fantasy, and romance elements. {AADL}

Iron Flame
by Rebecca Yarros

The sequel to Fourth Wing. Though I am still reading through this book, the story continues to keep me captivated. {AADL}

The Three Little Yogis and the Wolf Who Lost His Breath: A Fairy Tale to Help You Feel Better
by Susan Verde

I have a sweet spot for retellings of classic stories where the "good guys" and the "bad guys" get along. The Three Little Yogis and the Wolf Who Lost His Breath is an adorable spin on The Three Little Pigs, featuring a wolf who believes that the only way to vent his frustration is by huffing and puffing and blowing things down. The wolf later realizes that he does not feel any better afterward, and shortly loses his breath, which only fuels his frustration. The story teaches readers how meditation and yoga can help overcome feelings of frustration in a positive way. Makes for a great story time for both children and adults alike! {AADL}

Ann Arbor Adventures: A Visit to the Ann Arbor District Library 
by Ashlee Kristine Edens, illustrations by Nicole Ray

A cute picture book about all the wonderful resources that the Ann Arbor District Library offers to its community. {AADL} {AADL Digital Download}

The Prince and the Dressmaker
by Jen Wang 

A graphic novel near and dear to my heart, all about pursuing your dreams and embracing who you are. {AADL}

by Sarah Andersen

Endearing slice of life graphic novel about a vampire and werewolf couple. {AADL}



Legends and Lattes
by Travis Baldree

When this book first came out I heard about it online as a fun and lighthearted fantasy romance and that was exactly what I was looking for! So I picked it up as soon as I could and was thrilled with it—it's fun, it's sweet, and it's an all-around great time! {AADL}

Bookshops and Bonedust
by Travis Baldree

As mentioned above I loved the first book in this series, so when I heard about a prequel book coming out I was hesitantly excited, and when it came out I read through the entire thing in one day and I loved it, I can't wait to see what else Travis Baldree comes out with! {AADL}

One Night in Hartswood
by Emma Denny

I had been eagerly waiting for this book to come out in the U.S. for what felt like forever after hearing about it from the author online, and when I finally got my hands on it, I immediately knew I was never gonna stop talking about it. It had me kicking my feet and giggling throughout the entire story, and I can't wait to read it again! {AADL}

How to Keep House While Drowning
by KC Davis

This book was an absolute game-changer for me, helping me to start viewing care tasks less as things I had to do to be a Real Adult, and more as things that I was doing for myself and my happiness. This book helped me to see that no matter how much I was struggling I deserved to live in a space where I was comfortable, even if that version of comfortable didn't match up with what I felt others expected of me, and if I failed in that it was not a moral failing, I was not a bad person if I couldn't manage to do the laundry. {AADL}



Silver Under Nightfall
by Rin Chupeco

A unique adult fantasy story featuring vampires, court politics, and an unlikely love story amidst it all. Follow Remy a disgraced vampire hunter as he wades through Regency-era-inspired courts while becoming entangled with an unlikely vampire couple as they try to solve the case of an uprising vampire plague. {AADL}

A Psalm for the Wild Built
by Becky Chambers

A story of a monk and a robot on a journey to find the meaning of humanity and all life on this planet. Read this if you want to discover why you are truly wonderful. {AADL}



Poverty, by America
by Matthew Desmond

This one offers explanations as well as solutions. {AADL}

Ace: What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex
by Angela Chen

This helped me see all relationships in a new way, including friendships. {AADL}

Vagina Obscura: An Anatomical Voyage
by Rachel E. Gross

Wildly informative. {AADL}

83 Days in Mariupol: A War Diary
by Don Brown

A literal illustration of what happened when Russia invaded Ukraine. {AADL}

Last Night at The Telegraph Club
by Malinda Lo

This teen fiction book was hard to put down. {AADL}

The Alchemy of Moonlight
by David Ferraro

A cute teen romantic fantasy inspired by The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe. {AADL}

One Dark Window
by Rachel Gillig

A richly imagined fairy tale with unforgettable characters. Book one of two. {AADL}

Gideon the Ninth
by Tamsyn Muir

This entire series is beyond phenomenal. {AADL}

The Screaming Staircase
by Jonathan Stroud

I was introduced to this book series by the Netflix series Lockwood & Co. Great for fans of magical kids. {AADL}



Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teaching of Plants
by Robin Wall Kimmerer
(2013; 2016 audiobook edition)

I fell in love with this book, and I love that the author narrates it herself. She has a very calm, soothing voice. I’ve listened to it several times (I often listen to audiobooks more than once to get all the details) and even bought the book version for myself. The way the author weaves the plant information with the indigenous wisdom and her own interactions with the plants is masterful. Sometimes audiobooks drag in the middle when it’s nonfiction, but there was never a dull moment in this book. I enjoyed every minute of it! I think my favorite part is with her students out in the nature preserve. I won’t say more so as not to spoil it if you haven’t read it. {AADL}

The Cooking Gene
by Michael W. Twitty
(2017; 2018 audiobook)

This is another book that just drew me in and never let go. The author weaves together a narrative that’s part memoir and part history of U.S. Southern cuisine and its roots in Africa. He takes us along on his journey through his ancestors’ bloodlines, some of which he has been able to trace back to Africa and the particular tribe his ancestors belonged to. As we journey, we learn more about the history of slavery and the history of food in the U.S. The author shows us how his enslaved ancestors and other enslaved peoples from Africa brought their home recipes and cooking skills with them, which they used not only in cooking for themselves in the slave cabins but also in cooking for the big house. The result is a fascinating look at how the enslaved Africans enriched and created our Southern American cuisine. The audiobook can be found on Libby. This link is to the book format. {AADL}

Hartbridge Christmas #1 – Tic-Tac-Mistletoe
by N.R. Walker

This is the first book in a series of gay romances set in Hartbridge, Montana. They’re just fun, whimsical, Christmas stories about people finding each other and falling in love. The fourth just came out, and I’m excited to be able to read it soon! All four are on Kindle Unlimited. {Goodreads}

Dragon Heart Legacy #1 – The Awakening
by Nora Roberts

I’m a total unabashed Nora Roberts fan, but I often wait to read the trilogies until I can binge all three at once. This year I was able to binge all three of the Dragon Heart Legacy trilogy: The AwakeningThe Becoming, and The Choice. There’s magic, alternate realms, dragons, and romance. What’s not to love?! I resonated with the main character, Breen, quite a bit, but my favorite is Marco. He’s just wonderful and is an amazing friend to Breen. I recommend this trilogy to anyone who loves romantic fantasy. {AADL}

By Deezign Mysteries #1 – Detective McKnight: Deadly Engagement
by Dee McQueen

This book’s author is my high school classmate, so I may be a bit biased, but I really enjoyed this mystery! It’s fast-paced, full of red herrings, you don’t know who to trust in the story, etc. And then there’s a surprising twist at the very end. One that I did NOT see coming at all! I probably should have given the other twists in the book, but I just didn’t! The second book in the series, Blurred Lines, was just released on Thanksgiving. I’m looking forward to reading it as well! {AADL}

Well Met #1 – Well Met
by Jen Deluca

This is another first-in-a-series book. I read the whole series this past year and enjoyed the books. They’re light-hearted, romantic comedies that are centered around the Renaissance Faire scene. There are four books, and they are all fun reads. AADL does not own book one, but it is available on Libby or through MeLCat. The Libby link is to the first book; the AADL link is to the second. {LIBBY} {AADL}

by Samuel R. Delany

A fascinating story about spaceships; secret, encoded messages; interstellar wars; and other languages. Our main character, Rydra Wong, has to figure out how Babel-17 is messing up communications between the Earthpeople’s Alliance teams. The more Rydra learns about this strange communication pattern, the more it alters her behavior. Fascinating science fiction from a master. {AADL}



Poopsie Gets Lost
by Hannah E Harrison

One of the things I love about working at the library is that I have the opportunity to just stumble across great picture books. I keep track of all the picture books I’ve read throughout the year so that I have a list to share with friends who have kids. This is one of my favorites that I read this year! A pampered cat named Poopsie is pressured into going on an adventure by a rather pushy narrator. After a series of mishaps, Poopsie takes back her story from the narrator and decides to do things her way. The illustrations are vibrant and full of life and the story is fun! {AADL}

The Gifted Clans Trilogy
by Graci Kim
(2021, 2022, 2023)

I’m a big fan of Rick Riordan’s books, so this year I’ve been working on the different Rick Riordan Presents series. I’ve enjoyed all of the ones I’ve read so far, but my favorite was The Gifted Clans. The books are inspired by Korean mythology and are full of suspense, heart-warming moments, and funny scenes. I liked listening to the audiobook versions so I could hear the proper pronunciation of the Korean words. {AADL} {Libby}

Montague Siblings Trilogy
by Mackenzi Lee
(2017, 2018, 2021)

I checked out all three of these as audiobooks via Libby. I’m usually pretty particular about historical fiction, either I love the book, or I find it boring. I loved these! They were full of fun and adventure. I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy switching the main character from book to book, but it was a lot of fun, and I liked seeing how the characters developed throughout the trilogy. {AADL} {Libby}

Bea Wolf
by Zach Weinersmith

Bea Wolf is a creative retelling of the classic Beowulf. This graphic novel is delightful, whether you know the tale of Beowulf or not. The story is still told in verse but exchanges the Old English for Modern. The main characters are generations of children who have built a kingdom, ruled from a treehouse. When a fun-hating adult threatens their happy existence, they need a hero to rescue them! {AADL} {Libby}

Komi Can’t Communicate
by Tomohito Oda

This series is great if you are just starting to get into manga. It was recommended to me by a colleague when I mentioned that I would like to read more manga. It’s about a high school girl who can’t talk to others but who makes it a goal to make 100 friends. The books are lighthearted and fast-paced. {AADL}

Legends and Lattes
by Travis Baldree

This novel combines high fantasy with a cozy read and it does this very well! The characters are lovable and engaging and it was a pleasure to read. I am a big fan of fantasy (and also coffee), but I don’t feel like that’s a prerequisite for this book. The author gives plenty of rich descriptions and cues for readers who might not be familiar with classic fantasy races and classes. The author also doesn’t spend a lot of time on lore, focusing rather on the present story. {AADL} {Libby}

Under the Whispering Door
by TJ Klune

After reading The House in the Cerulean Sea last year, I wanted to read more by TJ Klune. I think that I liked Under the Whispering Door even better! For a book that has death as a central premise, it is incredibly full of life. There are incredibly thought-provoking scenes and downright hilarious ones! The author’s portrayal of the afterlife is both original and beautiful. I highly recommend this one! {AADL} {Libby}

The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches
by Sangu Mandanna

I read this one with my book club this year. It was a nice, cozy read and everyone in my book club really enjoyed it. There is a romance element to it, but it’s about found family and the incredible power of finding a place where you can be yourself. {AADL} {Libby}

An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us
by Ed Yong

I felt that Ed Yong did an excellent job of making complex scientific concepts easier to comprehend. This book doesn’t just cover what we think of as the traditional five senses, but rather a whole spectrum of senses from throughout the animal kingdom. It was fascinating to learn more about how other creatures experience the world. {AADL} {Libby}

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants
by Robin Wall Kimmerer

This is another one that I listened to on Libby. I enjoy it when the author does the narration for the audiobook; it just adds a whole additional layer to the story for me. I read this one slowly so that I had time to absorb the information. Dr. Kimmerer expertly weaves together stories from her own life, the traditions of indigenous peoples, and scientific knowledge to create an astoundingly beautiful book. {AADL} {Libby}

The StoryGraph
I made the switch from Goodreads to StoryGraph, and I like it so much better! I know not everyone wants to keep track of their books in this way, but if you enjoy tracking what you read, StoryGraph is a lot of fun! I love pie charts and line graphs, so it’s cool to see what I’ve read this year broken down into graphs. {The StoryGraph}



Traffic: Genius, Rivalry, and Delusion in the Billion-Dollar Race to Go Viral
by Ben Smith

Traffic is a fascinating review of the pursuit of enormous scale in the web economy. Using an engrossing narrative nonfiction approach, Ben Smith unravels the story of how huge publishers like Buzzfeed, HuffPost, Gawker, and others chased clicks and ad revenue up to and off a cliff. It’s an interesting read because almost all of us have engaged with SEO drivel and ad-based economies of scale online in the past 15 years. It’s sometimes confusing why that model even worked at all. Now that the bubble seems to be bursting for companies chasing virality, now is an excellent time to read this book and reflect on what a better web might look like. {AADL}



The Nickel Boys
by Colson Whitehead 

It won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, and with good reason: Whitehead is one of the most gifted authors of his time. In this fast-paced novel, you are drawn into the devastating story of what becomes of two young boys who spend time in a brutal reform school that’s based on a real school. It’s a must-read. {AADL}

Family Style
by Thien Pham 

I had the honor of meeting Thien Pham at A2CAF this past summer right before his new teen graphic novel came out. When I finally got my hands on it I was so delighted with it! It’s a graphic memoir that shares his story of his family fleeing Vietnam, then spending time in a refugee camp in Thailand before settling in California. His memories are heartfelt, funny, and tied to so many foods that hold memory. You need to follow the author’s food-eating adventures on Instagram! {AADL}

Lessons in Chemistry
by Bonnie Garmus  

Maybe I’ll watch the television adaptation? Not sure. But I loved the book! I laughed, I cried, and rooted for Elizabeth the whole time. The book is witty, and it was inspiring to watch a young single mother in the early 1960s forge her own path and not let society or men tell her what to do. It was a pure joy to read. {AADL}

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow
by Gabrielle Zevin 

Lifelong BFFs Sam and Sadie get into video design, and the book spans 30 years sharing their journey of work, love, and friendship over time. It was unputdownable, and you don’t have to like or understand video games to enjoy this one. {AADL}

Night of the Living Rez
by Morgan Talty  

It’s a debut collection of interconnected short stories, but it reads more like a novel that's out of order. It centers on David, who lives on the Penobscot Indian Nation Reservation in Maine. The themes within are that of pain, grief, addiction, mental illness, friendship, and family. It’s a heavy read, but so splendid, and it knocked me onto my knees. {AADL}



Legends & Lattes
by Travis Baldree

An Orc sword-for-hire decides to retire from her long career of questing and adventuring to open up ... a coffee shop. Along the way she meets an anthropomorphic rat with a genius for baking, a mob boss with a soft spot for baked goods, and an artistic succubus who's been hurt before. This strange premise mashes together the sword-and-sorcery, D&D genre with the more contemporary cozy genre. Part of the reason this works so well is that D&D players routinely introduce elements from their own worlds into the world of the game, and so, when anachronisms in the story arise, like the baker inventing a pastry that is cooked twice (i.e., biscotti), or our Orc protagonist, Viv, having to convince her skeptical friends that coffee with steamed milk really will taste good, these anachronisms strangely make the book feel more authentic to its genre. The other reason it works is that Baldree has a cozy author's talent for setting the mood and describing tastes and sensations in a way that makes you crave them. All of this results in a book that is heartwarming, funny, and easy to slip into like a pair of well-worn slippers. Its newly-released prequel, Bookshops & Bonedust, is equally worth reading. {AADL}

Yeager: An Autobiography
by Gen. Chuck Yeager and Leo Janos

I'm not sure I would recommend this as a work of history, because Yeager's life was anything but typical, and I don't put it past him to tell a few tall tales. What this book is, though, is an adrenaline rush. Yeager is mostly remembered today as the first man to fly faster than the speed of sound in 1947. For that reason, he features heavily in the first 45 minutes of the 1983 film The Right Stuff, before fading into the background as the film shifts its focus to the Mercury astronauts. This can leave an impression of him as a flash in the pan, with one great moment in an otherwise ordinary life. Yeager's life was anything but ordinary: he was a fighter pilot in World War II who was shot down, evaded capture, and made his way back to his unit, only to lobby the future President Eisenhower to be allowed to return to duty, where he became a double ace (i.e., he shot down more than 10 enemy planes). He then became a test pilot after the war, set several speed records, and rubbed elbows with everyone from presidents and industrialists to cowboys and bar rats. What elevates these experiences, however, is Yeager's knack for storytelling. You can almost see the twinkle in his eye as he spins the latest yarn about saving a test plane careening out of control at 50,000 feet, or gallivanting off with a government aircraft to buzz his grandparents' house in the hills of West Virginia. Yeager also has a remarkable (and well-practiced) talent for explaining the details of aviation in a way that is clear and doesn't bog down the narrative. As a result, the action never let up, and when it was done, I wanted more. {Penguin Random House}



The Darkness Manifesto
by Johan Eklof

The author never abandons compassion for humanity's need for light and awe-inspiring and novel experiences, even as tourism and sprawl-city living throw off biological rhythms that evolved over hundreds of millions of years. This is no bitter rant, but a journey into the beauty of a night world laced with scents and light lines that moths read and follow. It's unflinching in describing the devastation that light pollution is wreaking. Light is as influential as climate warming; in fact, some changes attributed to climate change are more likely caused by excessive artificial lighting. But lighting might be easier to address, resulting in immediate physical and psychological benefits, and more measurably grounded in cause and effect. "Turn on the dark" and rediscover the stars. {AADL}



The Murderbot Diaries
by Martha Wells


How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States
by Daniel Immerwahr


Stone Butch Blues
by Leslie Feinberg


A Gentleman in Moscow
by Amor Towles


The Many Masks of Andy Zhou
by Jack Cheng


by R. F. Kuang


The Ship Who Sang
by Anne McCaffrey


Walking Practice
by Dolki Min




Assistant to the Villain
by Hannah Nicole Maehrer

Evie's new job is simple: assist the local Villain (capital V) with anything and everything he needs, whether it be a cup of coffee or disposing of severed heads. She just never realized his heart would be one of the many things he trusted her with. It's all fantasy office politics until someone starts targeting The Villain himself. Evie takes that personally. No one messes with her boss but her. Grumpy/Sunshine, slow burn, lots of laughter, and a ton of feels! {AADL

The Alchemy of Moonlight
by David Ferraro

A modern retelling of Ann Radcliffe's The Mysteries of UdolphoThe Alchemy of Moonlight follows Emile, who must either marry a woman or be disowned from his fortune for being gay. He runs away and poses as a servant for the mysterious Montoni family, where he and Count Montoni's nephew, Henri, get along a little too well. When a body shows up one full moon, a handsome and charming doctor shows up to assess the situation. With the mystery of the Montoni family looming over it all, Emile must come to terms with more than just his affection for both men and the bodies that keep piling up around the estates. He must grapple with the supernatural, as well as his own identity and feelings, and hope that Henri and Bram still want him in the end. {AADL}

This Crimson Debt
by Rose Sinister

Grace Kelly Cordero didn't believe in vampires ... until she became one on New Year's Eve. Thrust into a new—yet somehow familiar—world, she has to rely on a gruff but kind older vampire named Harold to learn the ways of her new unlife. Complications arise with Grace's best friend Becca, who won't let go that Grace has been acting incredibly weird. Like, "trying to pretend she's dead" weird. Throw in a cast of characters, all with strong personalities and even stronger heads, and Grace's life becomes a mess the likes of which she's never experienced, and she hates messes. Plus, someone keeps trying to kill her! Again! Why is the afterlife so difficult? Emotional, spicy, and incredibly cathartic. {Bookshop.org}



Leave Me Alone!
by Vera Brosgol 

All my book picks this year are picture books, though I would argue that they can be appreciated by all ages. In this one a woman just wants some peace and quiet so she can finish her knitting. She battles grandchildren, bears, goats, and aliens in search of a little personal space. A touch of the fantastical, the ridiculous, and Muppets-like humor make this one a current favorite. {AADL}

The Ninth Night of Hanukkah
by Erica S. Perl

Having moved to a new apartment, two siblings go knocking on neighbors' doors to help keep their Hanukkah traditions alive (after all, we were all once strangers in a strange land). I think I’m especially fond of this one because it names a variety of cultural traditions, but anyone who has ever moved to a new community can relate to the story. I have yet to make it through the penultimate scene in this book without getting choked up. {AADL}

What Grew in Larry’s Garden
by Laura Alary

OK, I get choked up with this one, too. Intergenerational gardening! Neighborly support! Tomatoes of gratitude! What could be better? May we all grow up with (or to be) a neighbor like Larry. {AADL}

Doing Her Bit: A Story About the Woman’s Land Army of America
by Erin Hagar

Did you know that during World War I women were recruited and trained to do America’s farming? I didn’t. But of course, they were; we don’t eat without farms, so just like Rosie the Riveter in WWII, these women filled the roles in the fields formerly occupied by men. It’s worth a read just to learn about this lesser-known piece of history. {AADL}

Books by Horseback: A Librarian’s Brave Journey to Deliver Books to Children
by Emma Carlson Berne

So, either I cry for a lot of picture books, or that’s my indicator of a good picture book. But what’s not to love about people literally climbing mountains in the name of literacy?! These tough and amazing women rode through some of the most remote Appalachian Mountains to bring books—some handmade—to children and families with no other access to the written word. If anyone ever questions the importance of storytelling to our humanity, give them this book. {AADL}



A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet
A Psalm for the Wild-Built
by Becky Chambers

Halfway through the year I read A Psalm for the Wild Built and fell down a Becky Chambers rabbit hole. I fell in love with her writing and the energy it creates. I found myself trying to hunt down any and every cozy sci-fi book I could find for the rest of the year, and I have yet to find anything that hits the same spot. A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet captured my attention like no other book did this year. I am so in love with the characters in this first book in the series that I haven't been able to continue the rest of the books yet because they follow other people, and I am simply not ready to let the original crew go. But, if you are looking for an incredibly cozy sci-fi with found family, I highly recommend both of Becky Chambers' book series. {AADL} {AADL}

The Adventures of Amina Al-Sirafi 
by S.A. Chakraborty

This book stars the retired pirate Captain Amina Al-Sirafi, who has settled down after a wild life on the seas. Until she's tasked with finding an old crewmate's daughter for a ton of money, and off she goes on a WILD pirate adventure. It's written in a style where she is telling her story to you, and it is incredible. I listened to it on audio, and I'm so glad I did. I can't wait to read the rest of the series as it comes out! {AADL}

Float Plan
by Trish Doller 

I love romance books, and this one is so sweet. If you like Talia Hibbert's books and how they are interconnected, Float Plan has two others set in the same family/friend group. I don't have much else to say about it, other than this is the third book I'm recommending to you that includes a boat adventure, and I didn't realize it until now. (Spaceships are just Spaceboats, let's be honest here.) {AADL} {AADL}



by Amina Luqman-Dawson

Freewater won the Coretta Scott King Award and the Newbery Medal this year, and it’s no wonder why. The book tells the story of several enslaved children—some who grew up in slavery, some who recently escaped slavery, and some who were born free and never experienced slavery. The book tells a very realistic story of what life was like for many enslaved peoples and maroons (runaway slaves who often lived in swamps and forests near plantations) at a digestible level for kids, and it manages to have a fun story with a hopeful ending while touching on a very serious topic. Freewater is my book of the year, and while it’s a kids' book, I think it’s a valuable read for both children and adults. I think it would be a great family road trip audiobook (which is how I listened to it), as it may be important for parents to be available to answer questions kids may have. {AADL}

Talia Hibbert
This year I read every single Talia Hibbert book I could get my hands on. They are excellent—if you are a romance book reader looking for some diversity in your romance books, you’ll love Talia’s books. Talia writes about women of color with autism and chronic illness, and her characters come across as completely genuine and believable because she holds those identities. Some of my favorites included the Brown Sisters series, The Princess Trap, and The Roommate Risk. {AADL}

Nothing to See Here
by Kevin Wilson

This was recommended to me by a patron (thank you!), and it was a great recommendation. The audio was excellent, and I love love loved the story. {AADL}

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed
by Lori Gotlieb

The audiobook, as read by the author, was incredible. I cried SEVERAL times. The stories were interwoven beautifully, and it made me think a lot about my own life and therapy experiences. I’m sure the book is just as excellent, but hearing the author read her own story was very moving. {AADL}

Unprotected: A Memoir
by Billy Porter

One of my lovely co-workers recommended this one, and I listened to it on audiobook. I didn’t know much about Billy Porter before reading it, but I thought the book was beautifully written. I loved the way the book was able to transition easily between the past and the present. {AADL}

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood
by Trevor Noah

I’m a little late to the game with this one, but I finally read it! I listened to this one on audio (I’ve had a year full of audiobooks/biographies read by the author!) and did a lot of laughing, crying, and learning. AADL also has the book and graphic novel, but I’d highly recommend the audiobook version: Noah includes many of the languages he knows, and hearing them read aloud really enhances the story. {AADL}



Islands of Abandonment
by Cal Flyn

Explores how nature returns to areas that humans have left. Oscillates between lush nature writing and sociological/historical investigations into disasters, wars, and deindustrialization. Gradually reveals itself as a warning against unchecked climate change, presenting visions of potential futures based on what’s already occurred throughout the world. Really beautiful prose here. {AADL}

Everything for Everyone: An Oral History of The New York Commune, 2052–2072
by M.E. O’Brien and Eman Abdelhadi

Takes a somewhat esoteric, contemporary political theory (communization theory) and applies it to an inspirational science-fiction narrative. Told in the style of oral history, each chapter is a faux interview with someone who participated in the creation of a series of communes in New York City, which popped up after climate change and political dysfunction reached a breaking point. We get glimpses at the bigger picture of what’s going on in the U.S. and there’s some speculative sci-fi weirdness (algae AI!) but mostly we’re grounded in the emotional reality of the characters, which I love. Dialed to a frequency that’s warm and hopeful but not naive. {AADL}

Tell Me I’m Worthless
by Alison Rumfitt

Horror has always reflected society’s fears and anxieties back at us. Allison Rumfitt’s haunted-house novel is upfront about the anxieties that it is processing: transphobia and fascism. Rumfitt uses the classic haunted house trope of a cursed place exerting malevolent influence on its inhabitants to explore the lure of fascism, even on folks who don’t see themselves as primed for it. The book feels true to modern life, specifically life for queer folks in an increasingly hostile United Kingdom. Her characters are very online in a way that I’m not used to reading in print fiction, despite the internet’s day-to-day impact on our lives. With this and her other book out this year, Brainwyrms, she’s great at writing queer messy dirtbags. (It should be noted that this book has pretty upsetting subject matter and will not be for everyone. The author includes a content warning at the beginning of the book, which is worth reading and heeding.) {AADL}



Ray Bradbury Reading Challenge
This year, instead of challenging myself to read a certain number of books, I gave myself a challenge based on a piece of advice Ray Bradbury once gave in a 2001 keynote speech: read one poem, one essay, and one short story every night. I failed this challenge, but in the process of my "failure," I read more poetry this year than the rest of my life combined, I fell in love with the short story, I learned to dip in and out of anthologies without finishing them, and I learned that reading several different books at the same time is an incredible way to stay reading all year long. I didn't set out to read a certain number of books, but this year I have read more, and more broadly, than any other year of my life.

Poetry Foundation’s Poem of the Day email
As a poetry novice, Poetry Foundation's poem of the day email was a terrific, curated way to dip my toes into uncharted waters. {Website}

Heads of the Colored People
by Nafissa Thompson-Spires

A wonderful, upsetting, and sometimes funny short-story collection. {AADL}

Giovanni's Room
by James Baldwin

A slim, beautiful, heartbreaking novel about desire and self. {AADL}

Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion
by Jia Tolentino

An entertaining and insightful essay collection covering the internet, reality TV, body image, and other delusions. {AADL}

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies
by Deesha Philyaw

A terrific, debut short story collection about Black women, church, and sexuality. {AADL}

Unaccustomed Earth
by Jhumpa Lahiri

From a master of the short story—beautifully drawn characters navigating Indian and Indian American experiences. {AADL}

by Maxine Clair

A coming-of-age, interconnected story collection in the fictional, Black, Kansas City neighborhood of Rattlebone. {MeLCat}

Death With Interruptions
by José Saramago

An experimental, somewhat difficult, and absurd novel in which people stop dying when death decides to take a break. {AADL}

Blood, Sweat & Chrome: The Wild and True Story of Mad Max: Fury Road
by Kyle Buchanan

An entertaining and inside look at the unlikely and harrowing production of Max Max: Fury Road. {AADL}

by John Williams

A quiet campus novel—with a flawed protagonist—about passion and mediocrity. {AADL}

Olive Kitteridge
by Elizabeth Strout

A bittersweet and beautiful novel-in-stories charting the joys, sorrows, tragedies, and grief of the residents of a coastal Maine town. {AADL}

by Blake Crouch

A page-turning, sci-fi thriller in which victims of a supposed "False Memory Syndrome" are haunted by memories of a life they never lived. {AADL}

The Carrying
by Ada Limón

Ada Limón is one of the writers that has convinced me I do, in fact, like poetry. {AADL}

An Elderly Lady Is Up to No Good
by Helene Tursten

A darkly funny quartet of stories in which the titular elderly lady does some murder. {AADL}

by Claire Keegan

A perfect, sparsely written novella about grief and belonging. {AADL}

The House in the Cerulean Sea
by TJ Klune

A heartwarming fantasy novel about belonging, identity, and choosing to protect that which you love. {AADL}

The Diary of a Bookseller
by Shaun Bythell

A charming, curmudgeonly diary that convinced me owning a bookshop is a terrible way to make a living and absolutely something I'd love to do. {Overdrive}

The Crane Wife: A Memoir in Essays
by CJ Hauser

If I ever become skilled or interesting enough, I’d like to write a book of charming, funny, and introspective essays like this one. {AADL}



The Corrections
by Jonathan Franzen

I somehow had made it to 2023 without reading any Jonathan Franzen, but when I was given The Corrections earlier this year I decided it was time that my Franzen-free streak come to an end. I was immediately drawn in by his immersive writing (the book won the National Book Award) and rich character descriptions. The novel follows the five members of the Lambert family: elderly Midwestern parents Alfred and Enid and their three adult children who have fled their small-town upbringing for the East Coast and are all experiencing varying degrees of depression, disenchantment, and disgust with where their choices have led them. The approach of a final family Christmas all together back in the small Minnesota town where Alfred and Enid still live forces everyone to reconcile with the choices they've made throughout their lives. I loved how Franzen puts the reader in each character's head individually and writes the world through their eyes. No matter how you feel about the characters themselves, at least you understand why they act the way they do. Sometimes it was difficult to remember that the book is over 20 years old—it was published 10 days before the 9/11 attacks. Luckily for me and other Franzen fans, he's written three other novels since, including his most recent, Crossroads, in 2021. I've been saving them to get lost in over the winter on long snowy weekends bundled up by the fire. {AADL}

You Could Make This Place Beautiful: A Memoir
by Maggie Smith

Before the publication of this stunning memoir, Maggie Smith was best known for her works of poetry. Though this book isn't poetry, her way with words is so lovely that it almost reads like it is. Smith is shocked by the disintegration of her marriage. How can two people who had been so in love just ... not be anymore? Sure, there had been some ups and downs, but they had been together for 14 years, owned a beautiful home, and had two children that they loved. She tries desperately to save her marriage, but it is over. And in the aftermath she finds herself asking, how do I make sense of all this? As she works to come to terms with her new life—a life that looks very different than what she anticipated—she slowly tries to create beauty from her pain. You Could Make This Place Beautiful is a collection of her thoughts from this period. Her words are deeply personal, but the feelings that come through are universal for anyone who has experienced loss or found that their life just doesn't look the way that they thought it would. As Smith writes, "Life, like a poem, is a series of choices." Some choices are within our control and some are not, but we can always choose, like Smith, to find beauty in the world around us. I initially borrowed this book from the library, but went out and bought it as soon as I finished it, as this is one I want on my shelf forever. {AADL}

Gabrielle Zevin
Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow

I'm very late to the game—no pun intended if you know the storyline of this fantastic novel—but after seeing this book everywhere for over a year, I had to finally pick it up. The general premise didn't seem interesting to me initially: A couple of college kids in the 1990s who knew one another as children start to make video games and become very successful, and we see them grow together and apart with one another and others in their lives over the decades. However, once I finally picked up the book and started reading, I could hardly bear to put it down. Yes, that premise is the basic storyline, but the story itself is so much more than that: love and grief and the unexpected turns that life takes are all covered in stunning writing by Zevin, with fascinating settings in both New York and Los Angeles. If you're interested in early video games, that will only make this book more appealing to you, though you certainly don't need to know much about them to follow the story. I kept crying as I was reading this book, both because there are a few deeply sad moments but also because it was just so lovely, so my only advice is, perhaps don't read this one in public (I had to flee a coffee shop because I kept having to get more napkins to dry my eyes). Highly recommend to all. {AADL}



Raw Dog: The Naked Truth About Hot Dogs
by Jamie Loftus

Jamie Loftus spent a summer road-tripping to the hotdog capitals of the U.S. with her boyfriend, dog, and cat in tow. Loftus adeptly weaves her travel woes (because, yes, they are mostly woes, albeit mainly told with hilarity) among the history of the dish, descriptions of its regional variations, and the general state of factory farming. How a book could, in equal parts, make me never want to eat meat again and want a hotdog SO MUCH is a testament to Loftus’ journalistic and storytelling skills. {AADL}

I Have Some Questions for You
by Rebecca Makkai

When journalist Bodie is asked to return to the boarding school where she attended high school to teach a course on podcasting, she does so, even though it means having to confront the memories of the murder of her former roommate that took place during their senior year. While there, further evidence is discovered, bringing the case back into the spotlight both in the community and in Bodie’s life. This mystery isn’t just about the twists and turns in the case, though those certainly make for a page-turning read; Makkai’s deft writing and the deeper questions of what parts of life can and should be open to public opinion give the book additional depth. {AADL}

A Heart That Works
by Rob Delaney

Rob Delaney, probably best known as a comedic writer and actor, shares the story of the loss of his young son to brain cancer. This is a recommendation with reservations. This book is beautiful. This book is deeply heartbreaking, perhaps especially if you are a parent. But if you are in a state where something heartbreaking has happened to you, reading this book may be cathartic and make you feel less alone. {AADL}



An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us
by Ed Yong


The Road
by Cormac McCarthy


Murder Is Bad Manners
by Robin Stevens


Fifty-Four Pigs
by Phillip Schott


An Inuksuk Means Welcome
by Mary Wallace


by Sophie Blackall


Premeditated Myrtle
by Elizabeth C. Bunce


Maizy Chen's Last Chance
by Lisa Yee




The Sun Is Late and So Is the Farmer
by Philip Stead and Erin Stead

This picture book is incredibly quiet and charming. Erin Stead’s artwork is beyond compare. {AADL}

Little Land
by Diana Sudyka

A beautiful story, with equally beautiful illustrations, by a Midwestern author/illustrator about caring for the land we inhabit. {AADL}

Drawing for Illustration
by Martin Salisbury

A compilation of the best of the best, with key insights to working as an illustrator. {AADL}



The Eyes and the Impossible
by Dave Eggers

A truly innovative novel, I've been hyping this up to anyone who will listen. Told from the perspective of a dog, it's a story about art, friendship, freedom, and community care. Though tackling such big themes might seem overly weighty for an animal book, Eggers manages to balance the heart with irreverent humor. Technically it's billed as middle-grade, but it certainly can (and should!) be enjoyed by people of all ages. The story ends on a perfectly bittersweet yet triumphant note that made me cry. {AADL}

Wash Day Diaries
by Jamila Rowser and Robyn Smith

This slim graphic novel offers a slice-of-life narrative centered on the powerful relationship between four female friends. Rowser and Smith manage to capture these characters when they are most relaxed and grounded in their true selves. They're sloppy, funny, tender, and often talking trash. Much of the work is specific to an urban Black girl experience but this unfiltered celebration of womanhood has universal appeal. {AADL}

After Sappho
by Selby Wynn Schwartz

Unlike anything I've ever read before, this is a "speculative biography" telling the connected stories of historical feminists at the turn of the twentieth century. Though fiction, the work is based on an enormous amount of archival research and weaves in direct quotes from these women's writings and personal letters. Wynn Smith asks great questions about how to break free from heteronormative expectations, how to live in difference, and how to sustain a radical movement without becoming insular and ineffective. {AADL}

84, Charing Cross Road
by Helene Hanff

My fool-proof recipe for a great book: very short, very funny, and very sweet. In this midcentury classic perfect for fans of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, New Yorker Hanff chronicles her decades-long correspondence with Frank Doel, chief buyer for a London antiquarian bookshop. Hanff and Doel never meet in person but overcome barriers of geography, culture, and post-war strife to forge a deep friendship based on their shared love of books and commitment to small kindnesses. {MeLCat}

by Alastair Reid and JooHee Yoon

A recent reprint of a 1960 picture book for the absurdists among us. The book is narrated by a child who "supposes" all kinds of scenarios, from the mundane to the impossible. Suppose I taught my dog how to read? Suppose I went to the moon but didn't like it too much and came home and never told anybody? Or, my personal favorite: Suppose I collected hair trimmings from the barber and mailed them to people I hate. {MeLCat}



The Flowers of Buffoonery 
by Osamu Dazai

As a prequel to one of my favorite novels, No Longer Human, this title was a fun read that centers on darker topics. The Flowers of Buffoonery opens in a seaside sanitarium where Yozo Oba—the narrator of No Longer Human at a younger age—is being kept after a failed suicide attempt. While he is convalescing, his friends and family visit him, and other patients and nurses drift in and out of his room. Against this dispiriting backdrop, everyone tries to maintain a lighthearted, even clownish atmosphere: playing cards, smoking cigarettes, vying for attention, cracking jokes, and trying to make each other laugh. {Website}

The Crow
by James O’Barr

I grew up loving the film adaptation but haven’t read the original graphic novel until just this year. I highly recommend this book if you’re into dramatic/gothic/noir/horror tragedies. {Website}

Spawn: Unwanted Violence
by Todd McFarlane

Comic mini-series focusing on social injustices. This two-issue story was a great stand-alone narrative in the mythos of Spawn. {Website}

by Robert Kirkman
I initially read this book as it was being written but fell off as I’m rather impatient in waiting for comic books to be released. Now that the story is completed, and there are collected omnibus volumes, I was able to revisit and complete the run! I loved exploring this fantastical world. {AADL}



Notes on a Nervous Planet
by Matt Haig

A compilation of essays that look at anxiety in modern life. I also recommend his The Comfort Book, which I have read many times over. {AADL}

The History of Sketch Comedy: A Journey Through the Art and Craft of Humor
by Keegan Michael Key and Elle Key

Both the book and the audiobook are a wonderful roving exploration of comedy’s beginnings in medieval times and vaudeville to its current and future history through the perspective of one of the (objectively) greatest sketch comedians of all time. {AADL}

All About Dinner
by Molly Stevens

I also read her book All About Roasting and am obsessed with her recipes for triple-ginger apple crisp and braised cauliflower with chimichurri sauce. {AADL}

Humor, Seriously
by Jennifer Baker and Naomi Bagadonas

A fun look at the ways we can bring humor into everyday situations. {AADL}



Debt: The First 5000 Years
by David Graeber

Debt is a fascinating anthropological breakdown of the origins of money from a Marxist perspective. The book opens by attempting to dispense with the myth of barter or the idea that primitive cultures had to evolve from the position of barter towards a market economy. Graeber draws from multiple perspectives (interviews, research with indigenous communities, other studies) to critically examine how debt and credit originated from social relations, rather than fiscal ones. His ultimate conclusion is that "everyday communism," or the acts of solidarity and kindness we do for each other every day, serve as the basis for human society. Though I think Graeber's bold claim may need more investigation (as he admits), the evidence leading up to his thesis is rock solid and provides fascinating avenues from which to critique our current systems of governance. His anthropological perspective is refreshing and vital in a world where mythos and conspiracy exude a chokehold on our daily discourse. {AADL}

Gender Trouble
by Judith Butler
(2006 edition)

A seminal work which opened the doors to queer studies and a critical eye to traditional depictions of gender. Judith does a literature review of "continental" feminist works and uses the language of their predecessors to build a basic framework to describe the mechanisms of the gender binary. I find a lot of value in getting their perspective on some of the successes and pitfalls of feminism in their time, and it is a rewarding and valuable read given all of the current political conversations around gender. {Website}



Venomous Lumpsucker
by Ned Beauman

Winner of the 2023 Arthur C. Clarke Award, Venomous Lumpsucker is a darkly funny and sadly plausible near-future novel about a world where "Extinction Credits" have made an industry out of the inevitable, climate-driven ends to endangered species. Featuring a biologist with a bizarre obsession over what may be Earth's smartest fish, and an extinction industry operator just trying to stay out of trouble, this journey through a climate change-ravaged Europe is a challenging but ultimately nearly enjoyable read. {AADL}



The Expanse novel series
by James S. A. Corey

The vast bulk of prose I read this year was the Expanse series. James S.A. Corey (actually two dudes) combines several things I love: nonstop space opera thrills ’n’ spills with constantly ratcheting stakes; scientific problem-solving that makes The Martian feel rote; human moments that feel written from whole lives of experience. This series takes on slight genre inflections with every new installment but retains its delectable core throughout, which is a brilliant romp on the harder side of sci-fi. Bonus points if you listen to the audiobooks—Jefferson Mays’ soulful reading puts the majority of audiobook narrators to shame. {AADL}

Comics by Simon Hanselmann
First as tragedy, then as farce. When I initially encountered Hanselmann’s core group of characters several years back—Meg the witch, Mogg the cat, Owl, and Werewolf Jones—I found their anti-heroics downright repellant. These protagonists spent their days taking drugs, belligerently avoiding making any meaningful change to their lives, and generally making themselves and each other miserable. I read some earlier volumes to see what all the fuss was about, but reached my limit when Werewolf Jones sexually assaulted Owl—I felt bad and icky after reading. Coming back to the series this year, I was gobsmacked at how much I appreciated the series. It helps that Owl does eventually get fed up and move out, but the idea that Owl would continue to endure his tormentors at great personal cost feels real and vitally true, especially having witnessed COVID and the resulting miasma of grift—two veins Hanselmann mines to great effect in 2021’s Crisis Zone, written during the shutdown. I think I was initially reading these for identification, which is a guaranteed bad time (not in itself a bad thing—art is for feelings). But by taking the characters’ malaise as a tragicomic bit, Hanselmann’s comics unfold new layers of acidic humor, aided all the while by his vibrant, enthralling use of watercolor. It’s all about schadenfreude; the smug satisfaction of my life’s lack of resemblance to theirs is the warmly reassuring cherry on top. CW: sexual assault, unrepentant awfulness {AADL}

Comics by Olivier Schrauwen
Another comix artist whose oeuvre I connected with strongly this year is Olivier Schrauwen, a Flemish cartoonist from Brussels. I don’t think I’ve seen a more immediately rewarding blend of high- and low-brow art than in his work. Schrauwen takes wildly fun formal and conceptual swings that integrate avant-garde concepts in a brilliantly approachable fashion, going so far as to illustrate the similes he deploys: where the narration describes a character’s frown in terms of lips “drooping like a limp sausage,” the character is drawn in the same panel with the aforementioned sausage for a frown. Ancillary characters are drawn in literal broad strokes or as placeholder shapes until certain features become relevant, which beyond allowing the reader to “notice” these details in time with the protagonists, makes a greater point about the protagonists’ prejudices. The content of his work is similarly inspired: in Arsene Schrauwen, he relays the ludicrous “biography” of his titular grandfather, project manager for a colonial expansion in the Belgian Congo, interrogating the violence and, here, sometimes literal erasure that constitutes the foundation of the colonial project. Parallel Lives, conversely, looks to the future, depicting the emancipatory possibilities of technology AND the many ways they will likely fail to liberate us from our mutual alienation. But while these topics could easily become tediously heavy, Schrauwen keeps it light with a sophomoric cavalcade of sex jokes and bathroom humor. His male characters are frequently buffoonish and self-absorbed, and characters’ sexual urges provide motivation more often than not, frequently to disastrous effect. Riotously funny and dazzlingly original, each new work from Schrauwen advances the medium of comics. {AADL}



She Loves to Cook, and She Loves to Eat
by Sakaomi Yuzaki

This is a great series where two women connect by food. One woman loves to cook but doesn’t have anyone to cook for and the second woman loves to eat and doesn’t much like cooking. They become friends over time and there are hints of more. {AADL}

Wonder Cat Kyuu-Chan, Volumes 1-7
by Sasami Nitori

I just love, love, love this series. It is the relationship between a white cat that can change his socks on his feet to have different colored feet and his male owner. The series is just so sweet and it can bring me to a happy mood no matter what. There are other characters in the graphic novels that are also special. There are the owner’s co-workers, the shop owner, and the guy who delivers packages. I highly recommend this series if you like cats. {AADL}

Spy X Family, Volumes 1-10
by Tatsuya Endo

I’m only through Volume 6 and haven’t watched either of the two seasons of the anime, but I just love this series. A spy needs to find a family as he needs to go undercover to go after one person. That person is part of this elite school. The “wife” and “daughter” that he picks have their own secrets, and it makes for a lot of laughs, and it is serious at times, too. The wife has a secret occupation, and the daughter has a special power no one knows about. I’m so glad that I finally started reading the series after several people told me about it. {AADL}

I’m Glad My Mom Died
by Jeannette McCurdy

I listened to this as an audiobook, and it was a hard read at times, but it was such a good read. It is about an actress, which to be honest, I had no idea who it was, but I had heard so many good things about the book. It is about her life and how her mom made her anorexic and her mom did many things to Jeannette that were just plain wrong. It is also about her ascent into becoming an actor and what it was like when she was able to leave her mother and learn the world without her. She has had many trials and tribulations in life, but she is very strong and she is going to be just fine. {AADL}

The Old Place
by Bobby Finger

This was a great debut novel for the author. The main character is a woman who was forced to retire from the school system and is very bitter. She also lost her son 12 years ago. Her next-door neighbor is a woman who also lost her son and the two kids were friends. The two women are finally talking after several years, and the friendship is going well until a major secret is revealed that can rock the friendship and the whole town as well. The last half of the book is about how this secret is going to come out and the ramifications. {AADL}

The Light We Carry: Overcoming in Uncertain Times 
by Michelle Obama

I listened to this as an audiobook and it was read by Michelle Obama herself. It was a great listen, and I really enjoyed it. It was heartfelt, inspirational, and there were no empty words in it. She talks about her life, her family, and everything around her. She talks about challenges, changes, and beliefs and makes them positive. {AADL}

Gender Queer: A Memoir
by Maia Kobabe

This is one of the best biographical graphic novels I have read in a long time. It saddens me to no end to know that this is one of the most banned books right now. It is about Maia’s journey to finding eir true self. Maia now uses the pronouns of e/em/eir which is like taking the ‘sh’ and ‘h’ off of ‘she’ and ‘he’, taking the ‘th’ off of ‘them’, and taking the ‘th’ off of ‘their’. I’m so glad e decided to write about eir life. It will help a lot of people going through similar experiences. {AADL}

Friends, Lovers, and the Big, Terrible Thing
by Matthew Perry

I listened to this book earlier this year, months before his passing. Matthew Perry reads the audio version, and it is a fascinating book. He is very honest about his struggles and pulls no punches. He wanted to write this book to help others that are struggling and so he talked about everything in his history. It is very sad in places and other times it is very funny. His untimely death saddens me very much. I didn’t know him, but I feel like I did by reading his book. {AADL}

by Jon Moxley

David Good—also known as Jon Moxley in AEW and Dean Ambrose in WWE—is a wrestler who has written one of the most interesting memoirs I’ve read in a while. I listened to the audiobook and he is the reader and does a great job. He writes like he thinks and the book is not in chronological order at all. He jumps from place to place and back and forth in his life. He also has random sections where he talks about things like his favorite movies, CDs, and at one point, sandwiches. It was a book that I did not want to end. {AADL}

Ringmaster: Vince McMahon and the Unmaking of America
by Abraham Riesman

This is definitely for wrestling fans (like I am). It is a very detailed history of the wrestling world and of Vince McMahon. I found it very fascinating to learn more about different wrestling companies. It is centered on Vince and the way he has helped/forced the way wrestling is today. It is not a pro-Vince book, by any stretch. {AADL}

Sue and Tai-Chan
by Kumiko Suekane

This is a very sweet manga about the interactions of a kitten and an older cat. At first, the older cat doesn’t want the kitten around, but they get used to each other and become bonded. It is a great series to read when I want to forget what is going on in the world and life. {AADL}

Skeleton Crew 
by Stephen King

This is an early short-story collection from Stephen King. I read it a long time ago and wanted to reread it. It was a very entertaining collection of stories. There is a reason that he has been writing for as many years as he has. {AADL}

11 Paper Hearts 
by Kelsey Hartnell

This was a sweet story of a teen in high school who lost 11 weeks of her memory due to an accident. Someone starts leaving paper hearts with clues about what happened during that time. Once she finds where the first paper heart leads her, there is a second one and when she finds where the second one leads her, there is a third, etc. I loved the story and I didn’t expect the ending at all. {Website}



3rd Voice
by Evan Dahm

Dahm’s webcomic Vattu, which finished in 2022 after 12 years in the making, was one of my Pulp picks last year. Due to an RSS feed mishap, I did not realize until this September that he has already gotten well into his next project: 3rd Voice. This comic, set in a (post?-)apocalyptic fantasy world, will be a collection of different stories. Right now we’re in the thick of a story about Spondule and Navichet, scavengers who ride around barren countryside on a weird bike, pilfering usable goods from old battle sites and citadels and selling them from town to town. Navichet steals a book of ancient power whose significance she recognizes but Spondule does not. Soon, they find themselves pursued and have to reckon with the question: is knowledge worth living—and dying—for? Dahm is an excellent storyteller, and I am looking forward to buckling in for wherever 3rd Voice goes, however long it takes. {Website}

American Breakdown: Our Ailing Nation, My Body's Revolt, and the Nineteenth-Century Woman Who Brought Me Back to Life
by Jennifer Lunden

When she was just 21, Jennifer Lunden moved from Canada to the U.S. After a few months, she got sick and it took her over 20 years to get better. This book is two biographies: the biography of Lunden’s illness, and the biography of Alice James, a brilliant 19th-century American woman who was plagued by fatigue and pain throughout her adult life until her early death. Not only do Lunden and James share several symptoms, but they also share, across the century that separates them, the burden of a society that views them as lazy shirkers and a medical establishment that dismisses them as depressed hypochondriacs. Lunden’s book is also a sweeping examination of chronic illness in the United States, particularly illnesses of environment and stress—two things that our medical system, with its focus on isolated symptoms and pathogens, is unequipped to deal with. Lunden draws connections between Victorian arsenic-laced wallpaper, the pesticide flea treatment that almost killed her cat, her struggles with ME/CFS and Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, James’ “neurasthenia” diagnosis, and the government policies that fail to regulate the many chemicals we unknowingly come into contact with every day. American Breakdown’s content is relevant to any American, but those who have struggled with chronic or undiagnosed illness will feel especially seen by this book. {AADL}



The Library of the Dead
by T.L. Huchu

The first clue when I know I'm going to love a book is a great character voice, and this one delivers right away. An unusual, vivid fantasy world, a fast-paced story, and best of all, it's a series. Can't wait to read the next one and listen to this protagonist again. {AADL}

The Tatami Galaxy
by Tomihiko Morimi
(published 2004, translated 2022)

Funny, moving, and even weirder than I expected (which is saying a lot). A take on the alternate universe genre you've probably never seen. {AADL}

The Great White Bard: How to Love Shakespeare While Talking About Race
by Farah Karim-Cooper

Written by a Shakespearean scholar and professor, this book looks closely at the uncomfortable aspects of the plays that tend to get glossed over. A must-read if you're at all interested in Shakespeare, and written academically without being dry. Also a great audiobook if you can get your hands on it. {AADL}

Men at Arms
by Terry Pratchett

If you're like me and everyone you know has been telling you for years to read anything, literally anything, by Terry Pratchett, do yourself a favor and go for it already. There's nothing like realizing how much you like a book, then realizing how much more by that author you still have to read. {AADL}



by Ainslie Hogarth 
What can I say except I love an unhinged narrator. She’s a sweet, doting, delusional woman who loves her husband and when his mother dies (finally, am I right?), everything falls apart and it’s up to her to get everything back on track. Good for her. {AADL}

by Nat Cassidy

Mary is doing her best—she’s going through “the change” as an ordinary, invisible, dowdy, lumpy woman. She loses her job and returns home to care for her elderly aunt and things go off the rails as she uncovers who she is. Good for her. {AADL}



The Crane Wife: A Memoir in Essays
by CJ Hauser

The title essay of this collection, in which Hauser writes about breaking off her engagement, went viral in 2019 when it was published in the Paris Review. It is the cornerstone for this collection where Hauser examines the narratives about love and relationships that are told to us and that we tell ourselves. She works to rewrite these narratives to find herself. None of these 17 essays are written in the same way, and Hauser is unapologetic about refusing to connect them for us. Honest, funny, and sometimes sad. {AADL}

How Far the Light Reaches: A Life in Ten Sea Creatures
by Sabrina Imbler

Imbler, a science writer, is tracing their life through these 10 essays, each about a different sea creature. They brilliantly weave these threads together to create a hybrid of marine science, biology, and deeply personal anecdotes to create a stunning and beautiful memoir. {AADL}

by Daniel Kraus

The main premise of this novel is that a teenage boy, Jay, gets swallowed by a whale. Yes, that does happen, but not in the way you might think. He has one hour left in his oxygen tank. He has to use what he knows about sperm whales, which is a lot, to think about how he might get out. There is no mythology here. There is scientific and biological accuracy. This is real. While Jay is physically facing this challenge, he is also emotionally wrestling with grief and memories of missing connections with his father. This book is a riveting survival story, full of visceral details and careful descriptions of what it would be like to be inside one of the stomachs of a sperm whale. I was riveted. {AADL}

Agatha of Little Neon
by Claire Luchette

Agatha has been a nun for nine years when she and three of her sisters get transferred from their convent to a halfway house in Rhode Island called Little Neon. These four sisters are sent to run Little Neon, but they are all at loose ends for various reasons. With exposure to this different world, different people, and different daily tasks, Agatha starts to reflect on whether she is where she belongs. The story is filled with dead-pan humor, eccentric characters, and strange but hilarious antics. It’s not all hilarity, and though light in tone, it delivers an honest accounting, on Agatha’s part, of some of the misdeeds of the church. An unexpected and truly delightful read! {AADL}



The Cosmere series
by Brandon Sanderson

This isn’t a singular book but rather a whole MCU-esc universe of them called the Cosmere. I have a hard time getting into books so a situation where characters and magic systems are all intertwined is perfect for me. I was in a pretty big reading slump when I started Mistborn: The Final Empire (2006) at the beginning of the year (which is a great entry point to Cosmere, BTW) and, well, I didn’t stop. I spent the whole year reading through all 20-something books in Sanderson’s fantasy universe and now, having traveled from one planetary magic system to another, I’ve made my way back to the planet of Roshar to reread Sanderson’s The Way of Kings (2010), the first book of The Stormlight Archive, which is Sanderson’s magnum opus, with all the other books in the Cosmere pointing toward it. Like the rest of Sanderson’s series, The Stormlight Archive works as a standalone piece but is certainly enhanced if you can catch all the subtle nods to the other series or standalone books in the Cosmere (What IS Hoid doing anyway?). If you love finding Easter eggs in materials and making checklists of “to reads,” then I would suggest checking out Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere (and that’s coming from someone who rarely reads fantasy novels!). {AADL}



Acting Class
by Nick Drnaso 

I liked Drnaso's Sabrina, but I loved Acting Class. It's a dark and unsettling story with a cast of awkward characters who aren't aware of what they signed up for when they enrolled in a free acting class. Part horror, part comedy, and part what-is-happening-right-now. Get ready to get uncomfy in the best possible way. {MeLCat}

The Story of Art Without Men
by Katy Hessel

Hessel does an amazing job writing the history of art created by women and non-binary people from all across the globe. I was pleasantly surprised to see a whole chapter on quilting—an art that used to be labeled as less than fine. Thanks to The Story of Art Without Men, my Goodreads want-to-read list is now filled with artist biographies. Also, I can't get over how beautiful this book is—it has amazing color reproductions of many of the works mentioned. And, it's small enough to carry around so you can show it to all your friends. {AADL}

Monsters: A Fan's Dilemma
by Claire Dederer

Monsters is a perfect example of my favorite type of nonfiction writing—one that employs the true meaning of the word essay (from the French "essayer"—to try). Dederer tries to find answers to questions concerning artists who have acted like monsters. She explores if and how we should separate the art from the artist, how far from our morals an artist has to stray to make us boycott their work, and who/what even is a monster anyway? (My favorite chapter discusses audience reception of Nabokov/Lolita.) It's a quick and thought-provoking read that I highly recommend. {AADL}



A Living Remedy: A Memoir
by Nicole Chung

Nicole Chung doesn’t miss. I will take any opportunity to tell anyone who will listen how great All You Can Ever Know is, and what it meant to me when I read it. When A Living Remedy came out, I immediately put it on hold ... and then kept checking it out, not reading it, and having to return it because there were other requests on it. But good books have a way of finding you right when you need them the most! Chung writes about losing her parents right before, and during the pandemic, and the role of the American healthcare system in their treatment, or lack thereof. As always, the writing was incredible. I couldn’t put the book down and continually cried openly in public. Why didn’t I just read this in the privacy of my own home? Who can say. {AADL}

Family Style: Memories of an American from Vietnam
by Thien Pham

I heard about this book from a different author I follow on Instagram reposting a video of Thien Pham eating noodles every day until this book came out. Both a book and a noodle enthusiast, naturally I was intrigued. Let me tell you! I want pho just thinking about it! The marketing worked. After that, I would check in to see what noodles he was getting into that day, I got to meet him at AADL’s A2CAF event, and I promptly bought his book the day it came out. It didn’t disappoint! Did I tell you anything about this book? It doesn’t matter, all I can think about is noodles now. {AADL}

Record of a Night Too Brief 
by Hiromi Kawakami

After reading and loving People From My Neighborhood last year, I started working my way through Kawakami’s oeuvre. This book is made up of three short stories, the first two of which were exactly what I expected and wanted from this book. The last one, OK yes, was the same level of weird as the other stories, but it grossed me out because I have a weird thing with animals and it had to do with a snake. If it weren’t for that, I’d have no complaints! The first and longest story, Record of a Night Too Brief, was my favorite. It’s magical, it’s odd, but all in a way that feels ordinary. {MeLCat}



Braiding Sweetgrass 
by Robin Wall Kimmerer

I read this for the first time this year, 10 years after its initial release, though it feels as if it could have been written this year. I can’t believe it took me so long to finally pick up and read. The IndigiLit book club was the catalyst for me to finally commit to reading it ... or in my case, listening to it. Not only did the text feel relevant or perhaps more timely than ever, but it also resonated with me on a personal level. Essential reading! {AADL}



Stanley Crouch
Kansas City Lightning: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker
Amazing writing from Stanley Crouch. I have read other biographies on Bird, but Crouch's writing captures an atmosphere unlike the others. As the title says, this is also about the “times” of Charlie Parker, and that context helps to illuminate the man himself. This book only covers part of Parker's life, and Crouch was working on a second installment before he died. I'm hoping one day those drafts or notes will be released.

Kenji Miyazawa
Once and Forever: The Tales of Kenji Miyazawa
A short story collection from Kenji Miyazawa. This was my first time reading Miyazawa's work, and I was not disappointed. If you are into the films of Studio Ghibli, you might enjoy these stories. One of Studio Ghibli's directors, Isao Takahata, even adapted one of Miyazawa's stories into a film. Favorites include “The Earthgod and the Fox.” “The Red Blanket,” and “The Spider, the Slug and the Raccoon.”

Fujiwara Maki
My Picture Diary
A thoughtful diary from 1981 by Fujiwara Maki, newly translated and published in English for the first time. I always like to see what Drawn & Quarterly is publishing and checked this out when it was added to the AADL's collection. I liked the layout style of simple text on one page and the illustration on the opposite. I also appreciated how simple, yet detailed her drawings were. Something about her drawings and accompanying text was charming, even when things were not always going so well. If you have ever read The Man Without Talent, this is an excellent compendium as Tsuge and Maki were married, and both books follow a similar period. 



Saxophone Colossus: The Life and Music of Sonny Rollins
by Aiden Levy

I've been lucky to interview numerous musicians over the years, but most of the chats are just a blur now; half the time when I look back at my old articles, I don't even recall the band's name let alone having spoken with the musicians for a newspaper or magazine feature. (A fast-food worker doesn't remember every burger he flipped, either.) But the one name that always comes to mind if someone asks who I've interviewed is Sonny Rollins, one of the greatest saxophonists in jazz history, whose first recorded appearance was in 1949. I spoke to Rollins soon after 9-11 and we talked about what it was like for him to be trapped in his apartment, which was down the road from the World Trade Center, for several days after the attack.

In 2012, Aiden Levy interviewed Rollins for a Blue Note Records project, and the conversation was so impactful that the author eventually spent seven years of his life talking to the saxophonist and researching his life for this mammoth 700-plus-page tome. Saxophone Colossus: The Life and Music of Sonny Rollins gets insanely granular, which is just the way jazz nerds like it, and I found myself bouncing around the book to read the backstories on my favorite Rollins records— such as the one this book is named after—before settling in for the whole epic narrative. {AADL}

Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story
by Bono

I love the stories behind the songs, and Bono wrote his autobiography through the lens of 40 songs he made with U2. I'm a fan of the albums U2 made between 1984 and 1988—The Unforgettable Fire, The Joshua Tree, and Rattle and Hum—when Bono and Co. were at their most grandiose. I haven't spent much time with any of the group's albums since then despite adoring many singles that have come my way over the past 35 years, but the stories in Surrender made me go back and listen to the records I mostly missed. Eh, I still don't love any full U2 albums since the trilogy, but I enjoyed learning about the songs on them anyway from the man born Paul Hewson, who is full-throttle Bono in Surrender: sweeping, self-effacing, funny, pompous, poetic, annoying, and insightful. {AADL}

More AADL Staff Picks:
➥ 2022

➥ 2021
➥ 2020
➥ 2019
➥ 2018
➥ 2017
➥ 2016