It’s pumpkin spice season everyone. Every fall we like to cozy up with a cup of tea and a long book. Here’s a look at what we’re reading as the leaves get crisp and we shamelessly start buying pumpkin everything at the local Trader Joe’s.
This month I’ve had a lot going on. Every year when the weather cools down my social calendar fills up. There are weddings, weekend trips, parties, and coffee dates to be had. I know a party every weekend is not really anything to whine about, but it has lightened up my reading list a bit. In times when I feel too busy, I lean into the guilty-pleasure comfort of some YA fantasy.
Number One Chinese Restaurant by Lillian Li
Number One Chinese Restaurant is Li’s self-proclaimed stab at the great american novel with an all Chinese cast. The novel follows the employees and owners of The Beijing Duck House. The dust jacket says, “ When disaster strikes, this working family’s controlled chaos is set loose, forcing each character to confront the conflicts that fast-paced restaurant life has kept at bay.”
It’s a very clever debut novel. The fact that all of the characters are Chinese allows them to be more. It’s not a novel about Chinese American experience. It’s a novel about ambition, family, devotion, pride, and secrets that happens to be full of Chinese American people.
All Just Glass by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
Atwater-Rhodes writes delightfully dark, amoral vampire novels that I devoured in middle-school. All Just Glass is the sequel to one of her earlier works that I read back in the day.
It follows the twenty-four hours after Sarah, the vampire-hunting protagonist of Shattered Mirror, is turned into a vampire and follows her struggle with her new reality and her family’s rejection and active hunting of her. I won’t say it was ground breaking but it does take vampire tropes and make them more interesting. More importantly, it was a great nostalgic read that I finished in one sitting.
City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty
I was excited to read City of Brass because it dives into fantasy inspired by myths of the Middle East. So often we get fantasy re-imaginings of medieval Europe, but there’s a whole world out there full of crazy mythological creatures that I think we need to be talking about.
City of Brass kicks off when Nehri accidentally summons a powerful djinn warrior, Dara. Together they flee enemies attracted by Nehri’s magic and seek refuge in Daevabad, the magical djinn homeland. Pretty cool right? Some of the YA aspects (aka the romance) falls flat for me, but it’s a fast read and it’s exciting to see more representation in fantasy literature.
This month has me reading a good bit of nonfiction for once. Bad Blood, which I just finished last night, was an extremely good read. I had followed the story of Theranos for a bit when I covered science and tech for various places, but the story fell off my radar somehow. It’s a stressful, but very interesting, read. The same can be said for Fresh Off the Boat, a book that is both funny and devastating at the same time somehow. I’ve also been reading Bloody Rose, which I’ve been waiting for since finishing Kings of the Wyld.
Bad Blood by John Carreyrou
John Carreyrou — an investigative reporter from The Wall Street Journal — retells the story of Theranos, a blood testing startup that became a Silicon Valley unicorn. However, behind the scenes, it was revealed that none of technology actually worked. What followed was a series of lies, bad business practices, and outright fraud, which Carreyrou recounts in detail. It’s an amazing look at how startup culture can get out of hand in the valley, entrapping some of the business world’s biggest players in its web.
Fresh Off the Boat by Eddie Huang
I’m a huge Eddie Huang fan. From his show on Vice back in the YouTube days to his op-eds, he’s a voice to be reckoned with no matter where he is or what he’s talking about. Though Huang is mostly known for his restaurant — Baohaus — his story is way more complex than one would think. If you are a fan of the show that shares the same name on ABC, I highly recommend setting the record straight by reading his account. It’s hilarious and fraught at the same time, which is a line that Huang seems to walk on with everything he does. It’s a tale of self discovery, success and failure. Highly recommend.
Bloody Rose by Nicholas Eames
Bloody Rose is Eames’ second novel, which takes place in the same world as his first — Kings of the Wyld. The story follows the tale of a young girl who becomes a bard for one of the world’s all-star ‘bands.’ In typical Eames fashion, the story is jam packed with monsters, interesting characters, and jokes. People have likened him to Pratchett, but in all honesty it’s a different type of humor all together, which I enjoy because you can tell he isn’t trying to mimic Pratchett like some writers do (Plus, there’s this tweet). I definitely look forward to the next adventure Eames comes up with it and can’t wait to finish this one off.
One of the things I love about Josh and Andie is they’re uncommonly well-read, unafraid of reading fashionable, high literature, and less-than-fashionable pulp alike. Their collective scope of interest is both vast and inspiring, which led me to most of my reading choices this month.
The Art of War by Sun Tzu
One of the oldest texts ever assembled on the subject of combat, Sun Tzu’s in-depth examination of the tactics, philosophy, and logistics of war has become required reading for aspiring CEOs, psychology majors, and (perhaps misguidedly) people looking to improve their love-lives.
Since founding The Arcanist, Josh, Andie, and myself have all had to switch gears away from our specialty (writing) in favor of something we’ve desperately avoided: business junk. Suffice it to say, I was easily the most resistant (dense) when it came to shifting focuses. Then Josh lent me The Art of War and had me watch a few episodes of The Profit. Sun Tzu’s ultimate message of caution, assessment, both of oneself and one’s goal, and fearlessness was just the lens I needed to properly view the challenges that lay ahead.
Dororo by Osamu Tezuka
This meaty collection by the godfather of manga Osamu Tezuka follows the adventures of Hyakkimaru, a wandering swordsman who must defeat forty-eight demons, each of which possesses one of his forty-eight missing body parts. He is joined by Dororo, a foundling thief, who’s ultimate goal is Hyakkimaru’s sword. Set against Japan’s feudal era, the duo encounter dangers both demonic and human, all the while strengthening their friendship.
As a self-professed weeb, I was surprised to find a story by Tezuka I hadn’t yet heard of. The artwork is iconic, the monsters are horrifying, and the plot weaves perfectly between the grandiose and the intimate. Don’t let the page count fool you, it’s worth the read.
The Fecund’s Melancholy Daughter by Brent Hayward
On paper, Brent Hayward’s novel shouldn’t work. In the first thirty pages, you’ll meet about four dozen people/things/monsters, across several times and places. Unless your name’s Tolstoy, that’s a non-starter in my dossier.
But, I couldn’t put it down.
The Fecund’s Melancholy Daughter defies every rule on world building and character development I’ve ever learned, and, somehow, it’s a breathtaking success of a fantasy story. Find yourself a copy, brew some strong coffee, and allow your mind to be blown.
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
I first discovered this novel in my junior year of college. Ishiguro’s heartbreaking work of speculative genius came to me at just the right time, and showed me that science-fictional elements can, when carried by an emotive, enthralling love story, help drive a work of high literature.
Resting somewhere between a dystopian adventure and a coming-of-age tale, Never Let Me Go is a contemporary classic that not only blurs, but altogether erases the divide between literature and pulp fiction.