Some books I read that I only vaguely remember…

(Can a person read too many books? If one measures by how well one can recall them, perhaps I’m in the “too many” camp.) Here are some books I read, but I only vaguely recall. And I only read them last year!

Something Is Killing the Children by James Tynion IV: A monster-slaying comic about a (pretty evil) secret society of monster-slaying folks. I thought the art was pretty great, even if the story felt a little … rote? Oh yeah, the gimmick is that only kids can see the monsters. I could be more generous with this one. I probably would have enjoyed this a lot more in my 20s, when I had a larger appetite for stuff that’s “dark” and “edgy”.

The Tokyo Zodiac Murders by Soji Shimada: I read this one because Shimada is considered the “father” of the Shin-Honkaku (New Orthodox) genre of mystery novels in Japan. I’m fascinated by books that inspire entire new genres of writing. The deal with Shimada is that he loved mystery stories, like Hercule Poirot and Sherlock Holmes, but got frustrated that you couldn’t solve the mysteries from the clues provided in the fiction itself. Shin-Honaku stories give you everything you need to solve the mystery in the story itself. A kind of super extended puzzle. There’s even a point in this book where the author jumps in and says, basically: You know everything you need to know to solve this mystery. Don’t go any further if you want to solve it on your own! The characters are pretty flat, but they’re not really the point of the story. I thought this book was intriguing and pretty unlike other mysteries I’ve read.

The Drowned World by JG Ballard: A post-apocalyptic world flooded by global warming. It felt very much like a book written in the 60s. At the sentence level, pretty fantastic. The plot was pretty forgettable. There’s a way in which this captured the emotional weight of living in a completely unforgiving environment that was quite powerful. Also, the thought of a flooded, jungle England is pretty horrifying in itself. This probably isn’t his best book. I found it in my free little library, I think.

What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us by Laura van den Berg: I’m sorry to say I absolutely no recollection of this book. [quick detour on the internet] Oh! It’s a book of short stories. That’s probably why I didn’t remember much from it. OK, yeah, I remember there was this one short story about a woman who has a job dressing up as Bigfoot that was quite good and definitely worth reading.

Mismatch: How Inclusion Shapes Design by Kat Holmes: A short book that makes these two (among others) super valid points:
1. We’re all of us going to experience being disabled at some point in our lives, either permanently or temporarily, so we should be more mindful about the affordances we provide.
2. When designing something physical or digital, considering the needs of more than just men, for example, will lead to better designs.
I think I would’ve gotten more out of this if I were a designer, but there were a lot of great and specific examples in here.

The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself by Michael A. Singer: A friend of mine really wanted me to read this, so I did. :) As New Age, self-help books go, this is pretty good. Specific, not too much in the way of incomprehensible nonsense, and ultimately pretty pragmatic. Definitely useful for someone who finds themselves bedeviled by their brain’s internal monologuing.

Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez: Impossible to argue with this book’s fundamental premise. The world is designed by and for men, which leaves more than 50% of the human population out in the cold. A super important book that more people should read.

The first two books of The Locked Tomb trilogy

Those would be Gideon the Ninth and Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir.

For the last couple of years now, I’ve been telling everyone I can get my hands on that they should read Gideon the Ninth. It’s a story about space necromancers solving a locked room mystery and so much more. Also, the sword fighting is tops.

Harrow the Ninth is a much more difficult book to recommend. First, because it’s a sequel and Gideon is very much a prerequisite to reading it. (Although, now that I think about it, it might be an easier book to understand if you don’t have to wade through the murk of your Gideon preconceptions…)

Still, I’ve been more fascinated by these books, as experiments in fiction, than almost anything I’ve read in the last several years. Also, the writing is just stellar, if you’re into reading sentences of pure delight.

Am I gushing too much? Maybe. You’ll have to read and find out for yourself.

A Peculiar Peril (The Misadventures of Jonathan Lambshead, v1) by Jeff VanderMeer

When this book came out, it took me by surprise. Although I think I keep fairly close tabs on when VanderMeer’s books are coming out, I’d never heard of this one, until after it had already arrived.

This book is delightfully strange. It’s fascinating to me the way VanderMeer’s writing veers between clipped, terse (but not uninteresting) prose and surrealistic excess. This book sits firmly between the two extremes. The writing here isn’t always surreal, but the things that happen in it certainly are!

An alternate reality Aleister Crowley makes for a pretty excellent villain, all in all. This book has all the hallmarks of your typical YA teenage hero having adventures, but contorts them into curious (or peculiar) shapes.

I’m definitely looking forward to volume 2.