I surpassed my goal of reading 40 books in 2015 by reading 56 instead. I may have overshot a little. Here were some of the ones I liked best.
The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
I went into this unsure of how I’d feel about it, considering it was about a dysfunction family and written by a man. What I thought might be an entire book dedicated to manpain turned out to be a funny, endearing narrative told from the perspective of a woman, the older daughter of the Fang family. It follows the Fang children when, after brushes with bad luck, they both end up back in their eccentric, artist parent’s home. They worry they’ll be dragged back into the chaos that was their childhoods. A great story for anyone who worries they’ll never escape being the child of their parents, which is something I know a lot about.
The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ & Amal by E.K. Weaver
Finally. FINALLY this is available all together in one wonderfully, giant package. I’ve been following E.K. Weaver’s characters, TJ and Amal, since she was posting character designs and stitched together long-form comics on, uh, less than reputable art gallery sites. And that was around 2008? 2009? So I’m a little biased. The web comic can be read here, but if you can get your hands on the omnibus, I recommend you do. So much wonderful story, but also concept art, design notes, extras – all in one beautifully bound edition. The story: After coming out to his parents, Amal leaves Berkeley on a cross country trip to see be at his sister’s college graduation. A man he meets at a bar, TJ, agrees to pay for the trip, no questions asked, so long as he gets him to the other side of the United States, and like, right now.
The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
Does this book need an introduction? The life of a British idyll is disrupted when one of their parish council members dies unexpectedly. “Disrupted” might be the wrong world. “Goes totally fucking insane” might be better. I loved this book, and I was crushed to see how much people disliked it overall. The characters and their inner lives were fascinating, and the struggle between the rich and poor of the town was heart-wrenching and hit hard. As someone who grew up poor, this book meant a lot to me. And knowing Rowling lived in poverty before she struck it rich with Harry Potter, I’m sure she’s drawn on a lot of real life experience, and that makes it all the more engaging. If you tried reading the book and thought she was “trying too hard” with the crassness in the first part of the book, or that she was trying to distance herself from the boy who lived, go back and try again. Forget it is by the beloved author of Harry Potter and read it as a stand alone book. You may be surprised what you find.
Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley
I loved this graphic novel, because I’ve been saying for years that I wanted a version of Scott Pilgrim from Ramona’s perspective. And while I may never get that, I did get Seconds, which is pretty close. Katie runs a successful restaurant, but she’s still not content. She wants to open another, but things are not going well. She gets a second chance when she finds a tiny notebook and a basket of mushrooms – all she has to do is eat a mushroom and write what she wants to happen in the notebook, and she gets to go back and change the past! But of course nothing is that simple. As a slacker fuck-up in her twenties, I appreciate that O’Malley’s mastery for creating slacker fuck-up characters extends beyond Scott. My only complaint was that Katie should have ended up with Hazel, but that might just be me.
My Year of Meats by Ruth Ozeki
Have I mentioned I love well-written female protagonists? Because I do. When Jane Tagaki gets a job making a documentary television series for a Japanese audience to sell American meat products, she uncovers not only misogyny, bigotry, and racism, but an insidious industry cover-up that penetrates deep into her biggest fears and (perceived) failures. Not only does Ozeki create wonderful characters in her protagonists, but the families she has Jane and her crew interview are so wonderfully real. I read “A Tale for the Time Being” a couple years ago, and I look forward to reading Ozeki’s third novel, “All Over Creation,” as soon as I can.
The Wicked and The Divine: Volume 1: The Faust Act by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie
WHO LOVES WELL-WRITTEN FEMALE PROTAGONISTS? THIS GIRL. Anyway. I read Gillen & McKelvie’s run on one of my all-time favorite super teams, The Young Avengers, and when I heard they were doing an original story for Image, I jumped on that so fast my head spun. And I was not wrong. Every nine years, a pantheon of gods are reborn into living mortals, and within two years, they are all dead. It’s depressing as hell and gives wonderful commentary on the state of (mainly comic book) fandom. They go to a convention for gods, for Christ’s sake. Pun very intended. Sadly, I haven’t been able to keep up with the releases, but rest assured I will collect the graphic novels as they come out.
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
Marie Kondo and I have a lot in common. I mean, she’s a well-respected, certified domestic goddess and I’m not. But! We both hate clutter and think hanging on to things you never use is unnecessary and should be remedied as soon as possible. I appreciate that Kondo encourages people to purge things from their life, but not to think of those things as useless or garbage. Nicely kept possessions can be sent on to second hand stores, and worn items can be thanked for the joy they brought you and laid to rest in the garbage. You would be surprised how freeing thanking and saying goodbye to a possession you no longer have use for is. Needless to say, she even encourages you to pass her book along to someone else, which I did. Also needless to say, I’m pumped for the sequel. In-depth sorting and organizing tips? Please, go on.