We fell off the wagon with these a bit at the end of 2019 but… New year, new you! (Or so the cool kids keep saying.)
Anyway, we’ve returned from our holiday with minimal tears, in order to share the latest books out editors are reading.
It was hard for me to make time for reading around the holidays. There were parties to attend, gifts to be purchased, trees to be trimmed, cookies to be baked, and (more importantly) cookies to be devoured. Now that all the sweets are gone, I can focus on a good book.
Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Casiopea Tun is disenchanted with her smalltown life, bullied by her cousin, and working as a servant for her ailing grandfather when she accidentally frees a Mayan god of death. He whisks her away to restore him to his former throne. Success means adventure and wealth. Failure means death.
Casiopea is a charming heroine — headstrong, smart, and brave beyond belief. And the fusion of Mayan myth and 1920s Mexico was delightful and unique. I’m looking forward to reading what Moreno-Garcia comes out with next.
Ten Thousand Thorns by Suzannah Rowntree
In this wuxia retelling of Sleeping Beauty, rebel leader Clouded Sky embarks on a quest to find Princess Morning Light. Legend has it that Princess Morning Light has been meditating in the Ten Thousand Thorns Templet for hundreds of years. Clouded Sky doesn’t believe in legends, but she is the last hope for the rebellion. Reading this inspired me to seek out more wuxia novels and get to know the genre better.
Every holiday season, I inevitably amass a new stack of books to get through. My shelf from last year is cleared, books are loaded onto the main bookshelf, and new books start to pour into this year’s space. 2020 is no exception. Thanks to friends, family, and the ability to summon any book I want from Amazon in two days' time, I always have a healthy ‘to be read’ pile waiting for me. The good news is that I managed to actually get through some during the break.
Walden by Henry David Thoreau
Over a decade ago, I pretended to read Walden in school. I even managed to write a decent essay on it — at least decent enough to fool my teachers. Now, as a (sort of) grown-up, I figured I’d dive back into Thoreau’s experience at the pond to see what all the fuss was about.
Here are my thoughts. The first half-ish of the book is terrific. Thoreau, though he can sound like a college freshman who just took their first philosophy course, makes a ton of great points about living, solitude, what makes for a good life, and many other things. The amount of quotable moments in this part of the book is jawdropping. Then, midway through, he just sort of complains and talks about beans and how deep the pond is, how he listens to birds, and how going to town is a pain in the ass. I think it’s still valuable to read the book in its entirety, but I will warn those who have never picked it up before that the last five or so chapters are a bit of a slog.
War on Peace: The End of Diplomacy and the Decline of American Influence by Ronan Farrow
After reading Catch and Kill, I decided to dive into Farrow’s other highly researched book, War on Peace. Despite having the wordiest title of any book that I can think of, Farrow’s exploration of American diplomacy was insanely interesting.
It’s weird that we can go our whole lives understanding politics and having a cursory knowledge of foreign policy without actually understanding the career service personnel who lead the diplomatic charge across the world. Farrow interviews an absolute ton of people for this book, exploring complex issues, how American diplomacy has shifted over the years, and how the current administration is making matters worse. I must say that I found all of this quite interesting, reading almost like a podcast than a nonfiction book. But, if you plan on reading this, be prepared for a lot of information, a lot of names, and a lot of jumping around.
Into the Planet: My Life as a Cave Diver by Jill Heinerth
I love exploration books. It’s one of the reasons I picked up Walden and Into the Wild. However, I’ve never even really thought about diving before, especially cave diving.
I’m only midway through this one and I gotta say that it’s a wonderful, exciting, and gripping exploration of what it means to be a diver, explorer, and — generally — a complex person. I can’t wait to uncover what this book has to offer in the later chapters. I’ll probably finish it in just a few days because it’s hard to put down.
It’s hard to believe an entirely new decade has come upon us. It’s even harder to believe how far it is we’ve come at The Arcanist. Two podcasts, countless, crafted stories, and, of course, more great reading suggestions from the team.
Out by Natsuo Kirino
This novel was a birthday gift from the team, and it was just the sort of gift that reminded me how well Josh and Andie know me. Out is just the book I’d been waiting for my entire life. When one of their friends kills her husband in a fit of rage, three housewives resolve to help dismember and dispose of the body, embarking on a journey of deceit, greed, and distrust. All of the minimal, concise syntax and imagery that I’ve come to love in Japanese literature, coupled with absolute, unflinching attention to gore. Make sure to read this one on an empty stomach.
Detective Comics: 80 Years of Batman by DC Comics
Yeah, you read that correctly. In 2019, Batman celebrated his 80th birthday. For just shy of a century, the Dark Knight has been cleaning up Gotham, saving the known universe with the Justice League, and striking fear in the hearts of those who would…well, you get the idea. But, even though he’s the biggest loner in comics, the Caped Crusader isn’t a one-man show. This collection features first and key appearances from Robin the Boy Wonder, Batgirl, Batwoman (who now holds the regular Detective Comics title), the Joker, Mr. Freeze and many more. Keep an eye on the sky when you read this one. There may just be a familiar signal in the clouds.
On Time: A Princely Life in Funk by Morris Day and David Ritz
This one wasn’t as much of a deep dive as you might think. Just after Prince’s untimely passing, I went to see Purple Rain with a dear friend. Those of you who’ve seen the film (or are up on your 80’s music trivia) will remember Morris Day and The Time (creators of such hits as “Jungle Love” and “The Bird”). This, in this theater, in the deep of a Sunday night, was my first acquaintance with this group, their vivacious, raucous sound, and their eccentric, unforgettable frontman. Part parody, part undeniable talent, and entirely entertaining, Morris Day relates his friendship with the late Prince, his unique career, and offers his experience on a life lived for and governed by funk.
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