For those of you who have been around for a while, you might remember that my husband and I used to do a monthly He Said/She Said review of a book we would read together. We haven’t done that in a long time and I missed having him around here. He’s been reading a lot this year and we’re actually pretty neck and neck as far as number of books read so far in 2017. (Usually I kick his ass.) If you know us at all, you know we are very competitive and I’m determined to beat him again this year. But since he doesn’t blog and uses that time to read, I asked him to write a guest post for me about some of his favorites books this year and he did! (While I finished the book I was reading.) So here are my husband’s Top 5 Books of the Year! (Of course, he totally cheated and the list is actually nine books with five honorable mentions but I’ll let that go since it just means he spent more time on it.) Also, because I’m a nosy jerk, any comments in Italics (that aren’t titles) were added by me.
Top 5 Books of the Year
I’ve been reading what is, by my standards, a lot of books so far this year, so I wanted to share my top five books (including graphic novels) that I have read so far.
In no particular order…
March, Books 1-3 by John Lewis
OK, I am cheating, but I read all three volumes this year and this isn’t my blog. March, by Congressman John Lewis, is a great read. If you have read Maus (and if not, please do so), then I think you’ll have a hard time not drawing parallels to March, which is also about a dark historical period told through a graphic novel that moves between present day and memories. One of the things that I appreciated most about this series is that Congressman Lewis didn’t go out of his way to make things easier. The stories are filled with historical figures that I don’t recall learning about until African-American Studies courses in college, certainly a vast improvement over the version of the Civil Rights Movement typically shared in schools. My son (who is 11) also read the books and found them eye-opening, although some of the complexity seemed over his head at this point.
Cheating again, but that is very on-message for this series. I thoroughly enjoyed these comics. Action. Sarcasm. Crude humour. References to high fantasy generally and D&D specifically. Rat Queens checks a lot of boxes for me. The series is not for everyone, as I imagine the language, gore and open sexuality would be too much for quite a few readers. If none of this sounds like a deal-breaker for you, then they are definitely worth reading. I treasure Lord of the Rings, but I don’t need every fantasy book I read to follow in Tolkien’s exact steps. The characters in Rat Queens play on well-established fantasy tropes but in gender- and expectation-breaking ways that make for a fun result. (It’s a good thing he liked these because if he didn’t, I definitely would have given him many lectures on gender equality and feminism in graphic novels and life. And he always loves those.)
The last graphic novel I am putting on this list. I am not ashamed to admit that I giggled like a fool throughout this collection. (He really did.) Two factors made the book so enjoyable to me. First, the design uses some rare art styles and breaks with a lot of comic traditions, and I tend to love art that breaks form (Scott Pilgrim and Royal Tenenbaums are my favorite movies). Second, Hawkeye in this book is treated as what he is: a guy who is very tough and skilled and wants to do good but isn’t “super.” He has a lot of uncertainty and self-destructive tendencies and spends most of the comic fighting a regular gang of eastern European thugs with a very “dude” heavy vocabulary. His partner and protege, the female Hawkeye, is also a great character in this book who plays the starring role in many of the chapters.
I wanted to read this book because I have seen some pop and academic references to “Black Swans” that did not seem to line up and this struck my curiosity. Taleb’s argument in the book is that humans do a poor job of understanding the real nature of randomness and we therefore (a) underestimate real range of possible events and (b) are too willing to construct explanatory narratives for events that were just randomly possible. I find this central argument both fascinating and convincing. Unfortunately, I found the book a difficult slog and not because of academic density, which I can sometimes forgive, but because of winding and often pretentious side-stories (think of an elitist, upper-class Malcolm Gladwell). While there are few people I would seriously encourage to read the book, I put it on my list because I do think anyone with intellectual curiosity should find a way to engage with Taleb’s ideas. (Note: He did not recommend this book to me.)
I “read” this one as an audiobook, and I highly recommend it. Aziz Ansari reads it himself, I feel it adds to the experience. This book was a pleasant surprise. Knowing almost nothing about it beforehand, I expected little more than a collection of humorous stories about dating. Instead, I discovered that Ansari had partnered with a researcher and done real work on modern dating habits that is used to underline some journalistic-type research into a few different cultures, and the anecdotal stories are layered on top of this. As a result, the book was more than just fun, it was also legitimately informative (my husband is a nerd) and made me feel better about my relationship (I HAVE QUESTIONS ABOUT THIS STATEMENT) (in addition to being glad that we dated before smart phones). I think this is one that anyone would be glad they read (or heard).
So there are my husband’s top books of the year so far! I feel like I should mention that he’s read all of the Throne of Glass series books but I’m still only at three. He totally threatened to spoil the books for me if I didn’t read them soon but I think I’m going to wait until the rest of the books are out. And I haven’t yet had the nerve to tell him the book coming out this year is a Chaol novel (He is not a Chaol fan.) and that he’ll have to wait until next spring for the final book. But maybe I’ll bring it up at the same I question him about how Modern Romance made him feel better about his relationship.
Let us know what your top five books from the year are!