What I Read:
- The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
- Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram
- Mettanoia, Vol. Two: Mental Health and Self Care Strategies (zine) by ??
- The Miserable Mill by Lemony Snicket
- In Conclusion, Don’t Worry About It by Lauren Graham
- A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers
- Anger Is a Gift by Mark Oshiro
- On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden
- Drunk Punk: Getting Sober without Gods or Masters (zine) by Tim Spock
- 50 Queers Who Changed the World by Dan Jones
- Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers
- 3 Spider-Man comics
- The Future of Another Timeline (ARC) by Annalee Newitz
- The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling
What I Got:
- Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon
- 50 Queers Who Changed the World
- Bowie by Wendy Leigh
- Mettanoia, Vol. Two
- How to Be Accountable Workbook (zine) by Joe Biel and Faith Harper
- Drunk Punk
- Skyward by Brandon Sanderson
- The Future of Another Timeline (ARC)
- Solid State: The Story of Abbey Road and the End of the Beatles (ARC) by Kenneth Womack
- A bunch of old comics from my grandpa
- The Luminous Dead
- Punk in NYC’s Lower East Side 1981-1991 (zine) by Ben Nadler
- Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
- DIY Zines and Comix (zine) by Fly-ø
- Scythe by Neal Shusterman
So… I have a bit of a problem. A book problem. Now that I work at a bookstore and I have a bookstagram, my obsession for books has completely taken over my life. The circumstance that is driving this problem is that I get a bookstore discount and access to free ARCs and damaged books. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE having this problem, but the school year is right around the corner, so I’ll be staring at all of these beautiful, unread books for months! Not to mention that one of my goals for this year is to read War and Peace and I didn’t read it this summer. When’s that gonna happen? December? Maybe… Maybe not. That might have to roll over to 2020.
The good thing about this overwhelming access to books is that it allowed me to get back into reading sci-fi without worrying about spending too much money. Becky Chambers has revamped my love for all the space sagas and physics-heavy books I used to read all the time in high school. Her books in the Wayfarers trilogy (all of which are listed above because I read them all this month) offer so many characters that are easy to care about. She makes me question what my definition of a sentient person is, shows me how xenophobia can be worse in isolated communities, and offers many different answers to the big question of “What’s the point?” The first book, surprisingly, is my least favorite in the series, but it is still super amazing. This is the one that made me challenge my ideas of “normal” and how different societies can only be judged through the lens of that society’s norms. It made me care about aliens and humans and an AI. They found a family in each other, and getting a peek into that family was absolutely worth my time.
The second book, A Closed and Common Orbit, is my favorite of the three. This one follows a sentient AI that has been given a body in human form. She struggles with her limited field of vision in wide spaces and feels like her body is not her own, that it is not her. But she learns to dance, makes friends, gets a job, and finds a way to live her life that is weird to me but comfortable for her. We all have limitations, and no one’s should ever be discounted as not legitimate enough to deal with. In a conversation with my family about the future of AI, I realized I was the only one who wasn’t scared that AI could become sentient. Because if they are, they’re going to be people. And people are both good and bad. If the AIs take over, it is because a small group of them were bad or were taken advantage of by humans. Basically, I am all for introducing new types of people (even artificial ones) into the groups I spend time with.
Record of a Spaceborn Few focused mainly on a human colony of space stations (called the Exodus Fleet) that formed after humans ruined Earth. It follows a caretaker of the dead, a teenager trying to get onto a planet, an archivist, and a visitor who has ancestral roots in the fleet. What’s the point? this book asked over and over again. Why do we uphold customs and traditions? Why do we care about our past? Why do we move forward in some aspects and not in others? The beauty of this book is that we don’t get answers. We just get to see different people’s ways of dealing with this uncertainty, giving themselves a purpose rather than going out to find one.
Becky Chambers is a new favorite author of mine, and I can’t wait to read every single book she writes, because not only did she rekindle my love for reading sci-fi, she also made me a more empathetic human being. Just in case the aliens decide to contact us sooner than we think, I’ll be ready. (Maybe.)
I read three more sci-fi books this month: On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden, The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz, and The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling.
On a Sunbeam was very similar to The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet in that it involved queer people in space who find a family on their ship. It was such a wholesome and beautiful graphic novel that I read when I needed a break from the heaviness of Anger Is A Gift. The art was lovely and the characters were lovable, not to mention that there was a nonbinary character who was the absolute best. I can’t wait to re-read this in the future.
Annalee Newitz’s book was disappointing. It wasn’t bad, but I just never cared enough.
The blurb advertised a punk-rock, time-travel story, and that’s what I got, but the characters didn’t grab me. I was confused by the explanations of the naturally occurring Machines and how they worked, and I found it hard to keep some things straight. I wasn’t always sure why things were happening and one of the two narrative perspectives just didn’t feel that important to me. The book didn’t feel cohesive. That being said, I did like the uniqueness of the idea of naturally occurring time machines and I loved the feminism at play in the story (feminism that includes trans women and nonbinary people). I guess it was more time travel than punk rock, and I was looking for the reverse.
And now, onto The Luminous Dead. Oh. My. Fuck. (Sorry, Mom.) This book is messed up. I’ve been reading lots of fluffy books (whether contemporary or sci-fi) and wanted something thrilling that didn’t hit too close to home. This book delivered. I’ll admit, the first third of the book was really slow, involving a girl climbing through a cave with only a handler above ground to keep her company. The handler lies to her about motives and what she is seeing, and this person also can pump the caver’s body full of drugs and hormones whenever they want. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I won’t say why it gets thrilling, but believe me when I say I will not being looking at caves the same way anytime soon. They creep me out now, and I almost stayed up super late one night to get through it. (Thirty more pages! I finished it right when I woke up.) I was looking for a change from the heartwarming stories I was reading and I definitely got it (even if the ending was still a little bit cheesy).
I read my first contemporary book, Darius the Great is Not Okay, when I was waiting for the other Becky Chambers books to come in at the library. Even though the plot sometimes felt thin, I’m so glad this book exists because it will show teens (and even adults) that having depression or other mental illnesses doesn’t have to be your entire life. It’s okay to need medication to stay alive and functional. Because many books focus on the struggles of mental illness rather than what we can do to combat it, this is an important message. The ending of this book almost made me cry, but in the best way. It was a realistic but hopeful ending. My favorite kind.
Anger Is A Gift, on the other hand, did not make me cry at the end. It made me cry several times in the middle and toward the end and in random cute friendship moments. This book hits hard. Very hard. It is a difficult yet necessary read about police brutality and violence against high school students of color. So many identities were represented in this book, and I can’t believe people aren’t raving about this as much as they are about The Hate U Give. Moss’s story made me feel so much more than that book did. Bits (the POC enby, badass, and quiet kid) and Rawiya (the Muslim, hijabi, punk rocker) were my favorites of the tight-knit friend group I got to follow through this story. But all of the characters will stick with me for a while. This should be mandatory reading for any white police officer in an area with a large population of POC, as well as for high school students, no matter what their circumstance. (I would look up a list of trigger warnings for this book before diving in, though. I’ll link CeCe’s (from Problems of a Book Nerd) review, which is very comprehensive and super well-written.)
For the last few books and zines I read, I’m just going to give short thoughts, because I want the spotlight to be on the books I’ve discussed above. I’m trying to add more focus into these posts rather than rambling the whole time.
Lauren Graham’s book was short, sweet, and uplifting. The Drunk Punk zine made me see the humanity of drunk drivers as well as the humanity of their victims beyond just numbers. 50 Queers Who Changed the World was good but not great; there was lots of deadnaming, but I also loved learning about some amazing queer people I had never heard of (and some I already knew). The Miserable Mill was miserable for the Baudelaires but entertaining for me. I learned that old Spider-Man comics are super heckin’ cheesy. (One was sponsored by a toothpaste company and had several scenes set at the dentist’s office… I guess even Doc Ock and Spider-Man need to take care of their teeth?)
July has been focused on reading, Spider-Man, and working, and while I have loved all of
those things, my creative writing has fallen by the wayside. I am struggling with the story I’m writing, and I’m completely changing the plot once again, but hopefully my brain will calm down with the anxiety and let me enjoy writing more in August. Either way, I am excited to turn my novel into a superhero story, just to fuel my recently rekindled Spider-Man obsession, and to read some of the many books I have acquired before I get bogged down by schoolwork!