What I'm Reading: January 2019

January 2019 reading gave me a mix of non-fiction books that cross-fertilized with each other and my work, and my usual big dose of fiction. I started off the month with a big backlog of TBR (to be read) from books I spotted thanks to Twitter, where I find great generosity among authors recommending other authors. Since I keep adding to the list it never really shrinks, but then, the beauty of the e-book is that I always have another book to read.

If you've read and enjoyed any of these, drop a note here and give the author's works a shoutout in whatever spaces you inhabit. They need to keep selling books so they can keep writing so we can keep reading.

Raven Strategem: This second book in the Machineries of Empire trilogy by Yoon Ha Lee (@motomaratai) that opened with Ninefox Gambit was just as compelling as the first, which I read at the end of 2018. Calling this military space opera doesn't begin to do it justice. The belief systems and their implications, the technologies in use and their implications -- the characters, action, and setting all work together for an incredibly detailed understanding of context without burdening the book with sidebar explanations.

Revenant Gun: The third and final book in Machineries of Empire, although I hope for more set in this universe.

Deep Work, Cal Newport: After hearing Jocelyn K. Glei's interview with Newport on her podcast Hurry Slowly (which I highly recommend), I bought this and pre-ordered his next one, Digital Minimalism. I've tried a number of approaches to block out "think time" ever since reading the piece "Maker's Schedule, Manager's Schedule" by Paul Graham a decade ago. This book gives me more tools and the science behind why this matters. (It also gives me a sneaking suspicion that if I keep reading at this pace I won't accomplish any deep work.)

Born to Walk, Dan Rubinstein (@dan_rube): Described by one reviewer as "a hymn to walking", it's also a great round-up of research on the benefits of walking. Chapter headings give you an idea of what you'll take away: Body, Mind, Society, Economy, Politics, Creativity, Spirit, Family. Finished this on the way to the Transportation Research Board annual meeting in Washington, D.C., where I walked 3-4 miles each day to and from my hotel and the convention center. That gave me ample opportunity to pay more attention to the act of walking.

Fierce Conversations, Susan Scott (of @fierce_inc): "Fierce" doesn't mean angry, it means passionate, focused, and hard to tackle. Good specifics about how to approach conversations to get beneath the surface to real people, feelings and issues. Great follow-up to reading Deep Work.

Civil Blood, Chris Hepler (@TheOtherHepler): This combination of vampire virus, Big Pharma run amuck, and Constitutional law was packed with distinctive and compelling characters, plenty of action, and (always a favorite for me) a kick-ass woman as a central character. Looking forward to the sequel.

Swordheart, T. Kingfisher (@ursulav): I so loved this book. It's set in the same world as Kingfisher's Clocktaur Wars and picks up on a short story she wrote that I read a while back, "Sun, Moon, Dust." Say you're an ancient warrior embedded in a sword and when the sword's drawn you come out to protect your wielder, who happens to be a round and cheerful widow of 36 whose distant relatives are scheming to take her new inheritance. Go from there.

Bryony and Roses, T. Kingfisher: Having devoured Swordheart I needed another Kingfisher fix. This wonderful retelling of Beauty and the Beast goes with several other retellings I've read as a new favorite. Basically I just have to read everything she ever writes.

Summer in Orcus, T. Kingfisher: This may be my favorite of all her works. The central character, Summer, is a little girl but that doesn't make this a children's book. It's a Baba Yaga story but it's really about Summer, who has adventures and makes friends and finds courage. Read it.

Radio Silence, Alyssa Cole (@AlyssaColeLit): Switched up my reading out of Fantasyland to an End of the World (or is it?) trilogy. At the beginning we don't know what fried the grid, we just know people's phones, radios, and everything else electronic don't work. People deprived of information are not all nice people. With main characters who are African-American, Korean-American, and gay, this book gets off to a fast start and keeps the pace going.

Signal Boost, Alyssa Cole: Second book in the trilogy. Cole shifts focus to center on a gay love story and we learn more about what happened to the grid.

Mixed Signals, Alyssa Cole: Final book in the trilogy, again shifting focus to center another couple of characters.

My Pantry: Homemade Ingredients That Make Simple Meals Your Own, Alice Waters (@alicewaters) and Fanny Singer. I enjoy reading cookbooks -- I taste things in my head, get ideas for flavor and ingredient combinations, and sometimes even cook the recipes. This work has relatively few recipes and not a lot of new information for me as an experienced cook but would be good for someone who hasn't done much scratch cooking and wants to learn some ways to intensify flavors or wants to make some gourmet gifts.

The Lost Plot and The Mortal Word, Genevieve Cogman (@genevievecogman): Books 4 and 5 in The Invisible Library. I thoroughly enjoyed books 1-3 since being a librarian was my idea of happiness when I was a kid. In the worlds of the Invisible Library the Fae represent chaos, dragons represent order, and the Librarians (with a capital L, of course) have to steal acquire works of fiction from various worlds to maintain balance between the two poles. Dragons can appear in human form, reminding me a bit of the dragon magic in the Shattered Wings series by Aliette de Bodard. In some of these worlds fictional characters are real people. Who wouldn't want to be a book-loving spy/thief?

The Apple-Tree Throne, Premee Mohamed (@premeesaurus): Read this haunting ghost story novella thanks to a recommendation from Aliette de Bodard, who mentioned it on Twitter and on her TBR list in her 2018 awards recommendations post. An alternate British empire, a man haunted by what sounds as if it might have been the Charge of the Light Brigade or a similar disaster.

TBR at this point (and the problem is I keep adding to this!) -- My, how they do add up as I grab things on sale, get my book each month for being an Amazon Prime member, download Kindle Unlimited offerings and then change my mind and return one for another.... If you read any of these come leave a comment to tell me why I should move it up to the top of the list (which, by the way, is in no particular order).

2018 Book List. It's Long. I Read a Lot. As in, a LOT a Lot.

As a kid I read all the time. And by all the time I mean I read not just at every meal (as long as I could get away with it -- parents have an odd fondness for kids actually interacting with others at the dinner table). I read while blow-drying my hair, brushing my teeth, walking down the hallway or going up and down the stairs in our house, and under the covers at night with a flashlight. I learned to read at age five thanks to a mom who was a schoolteacher and put flashcards on everything in the house. I read at blinding speed even without the benefit of an Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics course (I date myself right there).

My e-reader lets me carry a library of books with me wherever I go. My transportation habits give me reading time riding the bus, light rail or train if I'm not bicycling. And I do still occasionally regularly often stay up a little too late reading, although I no longer need the flashlight since the e-reader has its own backlighting.

These factors, and not having kids at home with schedules to be juggled, are why I can rack up such a long list of books read over the course of a year. I'm reconstructing this list based on book purchases and use of Kindle Unlimited so I can share some of my favorites, roughly working backwards from December to January although the chronology isn't exact. 

First, a note on local economies: You should shop at a local, independently owned bookstore. Or check these out through your local library -- did you know they can do that with e-books? Links below are Amazon Affiliate links. I've never made a penny from Amazon but these links give you access to more information and reader reviews. If I ever do make anything I'll donate it to a local nonprofit that helps people who need it most.

You'll note a definite fondness for book series. I love to enter into an author's world and live there a while -- it's better bingeing than Netflix can offer. Notes on what's included:
  • Because I'm reconstructing this list long after reading some of them this isn't a complete set of brief reviews like what I'd hoped to compile. Some have a sentence or two about what stuck with me or why I plan to read more by this author. 
  • Lack of a commentary doesn't indicate a lack of quality in the book. 
  • Where I could find a Twitter account for the author I've included that.
You may also notice that this list skews heavily toward works by women of color and people of color. I've made a conscious effort the past couple of years to make sure I'm reading works that introduce me to perspectives and traditions other than the ones I got so much exposure to as a young white girl growing up in Idaho. I pay attention to writers recommended by the ones whose work I admire (Twitter is especially good for this). If I read a review that says a book doesn't do a good job of representation I skip over it, although that's no guarantee that I always know about such a review. This has been a rich and rewarding experience and I highly recommend you think about what you do and don't get from your current reading lists.

With that, my 2018 reading list:
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