Favorite recent reads

The Fifth Season, by N. K. Jemisin (2015). One of the best and definitely most innovative fantasy novels I’ve read in ages. In the world of this novel every few hundred years a cataclysm so earth-shattering and violent occurs that it wipes out most of the planet’s population. Because of these “fifth seasons” the world is littered with inexplicable relics from ancient, lost civilizations. I was utterly engrossed in this novel and whole-heartedly recommend it, though unfortunately I thought the sequels were a letdown. I wouldn’t bother with any of them except The Fifth Season, which, again, was one of the best fantasy books I’ve read in years. Oh and the writing is great and the characters are both diverse and often non-straight: a welcome change from typical fantasy.

Stray City, by Chelsey Johnson (2018). A super fun look at gay Portland in the late nineties. Really really good writing and a perfectly created atmosphere–after reading it I still kind of feel like I experienced Portland in the nineties. The best thing about this book, I thought, was that it manages to completely turn the narrative of straight being normal and queer being transgressive on its head: this novel is firmly planted in lesbian culture and in its world straight hookups are the transgression. A fat, satisfying read and some of the best writing I’ve encountered recently.

Random Harvest (1941). By James Hilton, who also wrote Lost Horizon. The compelling story of a college student who, on the eve of World War II, meets an enigmatic member of parliament and goes to work as his secretary. He soon finds out that two and a half years of his employer’s memory are completely missing: the time between a shell blast in France and waking up on a park bench in Liverpool in the rain. I don’t want to say more and spoil it, but this is a wonderfully intriguing book, very atmospherically evocative of the time and place in which it was written.

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