let’s talk about books

Hey, it’s been a long time! I don’t know, I’ve been feeling increasingly alienated by the internet. Well, alienated in general actually. But maybe more so by the internet as a standalone world? It’s become so huge and amorphous, yet at the same time so utterly small it’s suffocating. Whereas it used to be easy to find spaces online as a refuge from daily life, now it’s become almost impossible. I feel like it’s all converging into this one enormous frightening aggressively capitalist beast. Every tiny bit of pixels is selling you something, whether goods or neoliberalist ideas. You can argue that tumblr has an endless leftist politic discourse going on, but it’s too often devoid of any meaning or intent and too often approaches the world in black or white terms, unambiguously and quite frankly naively too. Though of course there’s always some good stuff here and there, but overall the tone of the internet feels aggressive and forced to me right now. Anyway, the internet is getting kinda scary? Is it me? Is it the places I go to? Is it the places I don’t go to? I don’t know. Maybe it’s a phase, maybe I’m growing up. Maybe it’s the death threats I’ve gotten? Haha, of course, to try and unapologetically be yourself and female at that (yet I’m so normative!?!) means the same thing online as off. The world is getting more right-winged and I’m feeling less safer and closer to death every time I watch the news. I write this giggling because it’s almost surreal, yet utterly true. Oh well, I say with a light-hearted sigh. Death is always near and I’ve always felt comfortable with that.

Ok ok. But my nihilism isn’t what I want to write about. Let’s carve out my own safe space here again, you know?

Anyways, I just finished a really nice book so I figured I’d write up on my favourite books I’ve read this year. I don’t think I’ve ever read as little as in 2015 though. There was a period of months that I hardly touched a book. Which is kinda weird because ever since around the age of 15-16 I’ve always needed a book to escape in and fall asleep to. What did I do in those months? I don’t know?? I was hoping you could tell me because I have the worst memory of all time. This is why I have a goodreads. Because too often I’ve started a book and ended it thinking, this seems a little too familiar? Only to find out I’d read it before. This year it happened not only once but twice with No Longer Human by Osamu Dazai. (I would write about this if I remember the book but of course, I’ve again forgotten it. No offence to the book, honest.) But there are some books that stick to me and these are the ones I want to talk about.

A note: in large part I’ve stopped giving star ratings on goodreads because it just doesn’t reflect the many-layered feelings books give me. I can love them for the writing, the tone, the characters, or the theme. I can love them for all of that together, which makes it a good book to me. But, I know there are times that no matter how good a book may be I’m just too damn depressed or anxious to enjoy it. Yet some books can drag me out of that just by something I cannot pin-point. A feeling maybe? Maybe it’s just good writing? Maybe it’s just me being me? Who knows, who cares (I don’t). These couple of books I’ve read this past year have been able to do this and I’ll attempt to describe why or how they left an impression on me. These are in no particular order!

 


15811545A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
Honestly, I just found this a lovely and nice read that was a perfect page-turner for procrastinating on summer exams. The build-up of the story was interesting and fun to read and I enjoyed some of the theories that it explored, but mostly I’m writing this title down because I still think about the Japanese teen girl and her Buddhist grandmother nun a lot. And I’m pretty sure that at one point I drunkenly told my friends their story as if I had known them myself, which is always a sign of a good read to me.

 

22822858A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
This is a book of pure torment. When I read the blurb I was like why would I want to bother reading a Bildungsroman about a bunch of dudes? But I’d seen the awesome Cat mention this on her tumblr enthusiastically and I almost always quickly google any and all books mentioned by people I like and see if they are available as a download and it was. This book plays dangerously with the borders of a gross fetish for trauma (both physical and emotional) and it often made me sick to my stomach. Yanagihara said herself ‘I wanted everything turned up a little too high’. It is more than a little and I still feel pretty ambiguous about some things in this book, but the fact (i.e. a fact that solely lives in my completely subjective inner life) is that the characters in this book still live beside me today like old friends. Sometimes I read an article or something and I think of one of these characters as if they are flesh and blood. My heart wrung itself in pain when I saw this buzzfeed quiz. (I got William.)

 

50144Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto
I’ve been wanting to read this forever and it did not disappoint; it was a very nice story about loneliness, connecting to others, more loneliness and food and basically that is all that I want in life (and books).

 

 

18490560Nobody Is Ever Missing by Catherine Lacey
It was sad and nicely written. I did not connect to the character but that may be because she felt pretty dead inside and so do I. But that is why I liked the story. Loneliness, not knowing who you are, fleeing away from yourself and everyone you love, death. Right up my alley.

 

 

1465484.48 Psychosis by Sarah Kane
Anyways, anything and everything about sadness but most of all mental illness is always at the top of any to-read list for me. It’s a short read. You can find it here. There’s a current Flemish theatre adaption for this! I missed their first run but they’re coming back in April, I can’t wait to see it. I can’t wait to feel ambivalent about it and I can’t wait to read reviews on it that write about mental illness as a creative catalyst and vomit a little.

 

85867Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany
I wouldn’t describe this book as a favourite and I was not compelled by the characters, except a little for the protagonist but the world Delany built here has stuck to me like glue. I don’t say this often, but it was very weird. Like, a little alienatingly weird? But good? I think? A sci-fi classic apparently. (Side note: Delany’s Babel 17/Empire Star on the other hand might be my favourite book of all time, because it’s so fun and the story just glides! That reading experience was one of the most fun times of my life which I’m sure isn’t saying much but if you come across it you should pick it up.)

 

17574849The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide
Given to me by the purest angel on earth, aka Beth, aka my boss over at Doll Hospital?
It’s mainly about a cat, so that should draw me in enough. You know me. It’s basically about a couple who end up sharing a cute cat with their neighbours. I loved how the story builds up and throughout I really felt the couple falling in love with the cat, a couple who isn’t specifically cat-inlined. Also, an incident happens toward the end of the book that made me real-life furious and perplexed which had me sighing angrily on lone busdrives for at least a month after finishing this. I really miss the cat.

 

18952341The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu
This was the book that made me write this! An epic fantasy novel! As you might be able to tell from my list here, I’m not heavily inclined towards fantasy. I do truly love magical realism as well as sci-fi, but fantasy often infuriates me? The world building is so black-white and they often pretend to mean to say something about The Unique Human Experience but more often than not every theory falls flat and is grossly burdened by obvious racism, misogyny etc. This is also true for sci-fi, though. But I’ve read more sci-fi than fantasy so I can find my way there a little easier. Because of this I often sigh deeply at fantasy titles but I mostly chalk this up due to not knowing all that much of the genre and occasionally try to read one. The reason I started this was because I’d read Lui’s Paper Menagerie and fell in love with it. So I took the plunge and ended up being rewarded. Though it starts of with some typical tropes, these get incredibly nuanced throughout the book which is what interested me most. It also has, like, giant mythical whale creatures and ships modelled after them so I’m sold.

So you know, I guess, that’s it.

5 Comments

  • You’re one of a few people I find super interesting on Goodreads bc the books you read are just such a unique sort of arrangement idk I always feel like I wanna read the books you read. The only one I’ve read here is Kitchen and that was years ago so I’ve mostly forgotten too. The cover of A Tale For The Time Being looks really cool and that makes me wanna ready it lmao I’m that person who totally judge a book by its cover. I just love the artistry of book covers??????

    I also really like what you said about Tumblr politics. I grew up from 18-24 on that site (and I’m turning 25 soon) so I’ve definitely grown into lots of different perceptions and approaches to some of the popular Tumblr politics and it’s definitely weird for me to look upon it now bc I feel somewhat separated as an older person now because I can FEEL so much youth and naivety flowing from it lol

    I’ve been kinda rediscovering my childhood/teen love for reading late this year and it’s been very engrossing although I’ve stuck to lots of very popular YA fiction so it’s been very focused on that, which is historically unusual for me. I did discover that I adore The Hunger Games, which surprised me. For some reason I just didn’t expect to find it particularly exciting. Divergent series was also quite good. And the more I read popular YA the more I want to read MORE popular YA hahaha it’s endless.

    • ::celebrate:: <3 i just read anything and everything that is available to be tbqh! the other day i saw someone on my goodreads read a book that had a big ladybird on it's cover i didn't even read the description i was like i obviously have to read this no matter what!

      yes at the youth and naievety flow omg i'm truly old like i'm 27 and i feel like i'm 90 sometimes on tumblr just waving a broom and like muttering angrily get this discourse out of my yard!! only cats and ladybugs allowed!

      i LOVE YA too!! but i can't find any good ones! i honestly loved the hunger games movies as well as divergent luckily i'm super forgetful so i've definitely forgotten the plot so i'm defintiely going to read those too then!! yay! ::good:: ::!::

  • Sorry for my spelling and grammar mistakes btw I was just TOO EXCITED to write that comment 🙂

  • part of the reason I deleted my blog earlier this year was because of what discourse has become on that site and how it’s spilled over into offline spaces, turning into stuff like “otherkin rights” being given the same gravity as lgbt rights. one of my friends told me his college’s lgbt center recently had a panel on how to make mpreg fanfiction trans-inclusive, and at my alma mater a 21-year-old gave a presentation on navigating the kink community. ::x-x:: Stuff like this makes me feel so old and irrelevant and tbh I’m kind of okay with it if that’s what the community has turned into, though i miss being able to go to lgbt events and talking to people who I have stuff in common with apart from my gender and orientation.

    And thank you for this list of books! I did hardly any reading last year and I trust your taste in books so will be stopping by the library to hopefully pick up a few of these. ::sparkles:: ::good::

    • That story is crazy! I’ve been thinking about it ever since I received this comment like… what is wrong with these people…. I hope it’s just general like people just getting started in this #discourse and most of them will grow a lot more and see how skewed some of these theories are? I thought it was only online and that’s like whatever #unfollowed but now it’s spilling over IRL that’s scary to me. I hope people will grow, and soon too.

      I hope you enjoy some of the books!! I must write about my book love more often it seems!

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