Read an Edelweiss eARC Content warning: suicide (graphic, on-page), child abuse, gaslighting, fraud, drug abuse, ritual abuse, religious abuse, violence
Go Ask Alice is a book that floated on the periphery of my awareness during middle school. Usually featured as a banned book, I had the vaguest knowledge of its contents. The title of this non-fiction investigation into the origin of this reviled book piqued my interest. I fell into it like being swallowed into a can of worms that covers American politics, the inner workings of publishing, and heart-wrenching stories of families in way over their heads when it comes to their children’s adolescence and mental health.
The story behind the “memoir” is a wild ride from start to finish. It touches on the war on drugs, Satanic panic, ethics in publishing, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
I read 198 books this year in a split of: 39 ARCs, 59 audiobooks, 85 manga volumes, 9 physical copies, 2 light novels, and 6 eBooks. As my boyfriend said, “That’s a lot of things, Jo.” It is that time of year where I want to share my favorites, so please enjoy my top 20 2021 books, top 20 books from before 2021, and, a new feature, 5 manga.
I realize that I make lists for books I’m excited for and book I want to read, and failed on both those lists. So, my lists for 2022 books is mostly about boosting others works regardless of if I personally get around to reading them. That’s just how it is when you’re employed and vastly mis-measure what kind of focus you’ll have as the year goes on. Moving also robbed me of a bunch of my focus, which should not have been as surprising as it is. On top of working full time. On top of being in a relationship and trying to participate in the communities I’m a part of.
Genre: Adult Memoir Year Release: 2021 Source: Audible
Rating: 5 out of 5.
Listened to the audiobook Trigger warnings (all of these are graphic): Child sexual abuse, rape, sexual assault, incest, suicidal ideation, murder, isolation, gaslighting, manipulation, abuse, trauma in the name of religion
I finished listening to this book days ago and have finally figured out how to talk about it. It’s not an easy story or an easy read. But the author’s note at the beginning outlines what Jones set out to do: tell a coming of an age story from the point of view of a girl who grew up in a religious cult. In that, it is successful. Heartbreakingly successful.
November featured not as much reading as I’m used to. That’s because I finished my rewrite as my NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) project, rather than writing the requisite 50,000 words. I did it! I completed the rewrite, and it is now sitting in beta readers’ inboxes. The work took a lot out of me, so much so that I’m still feeling vaguely hungover.
December will feature some more things. But also, what do you mean it’s December already?
Genre: Adult Historical Nonfiction Year Release: 2021 Source: Libro.fm
Rating: 5 out of 5.
Listened to the audiobook Content warnings: Starvation, scurvy, depictions of mental illness, animal slaughter
If you thought Arctic exploration had its moments of “why would anyone ever do this,” Antarctic exploration is on a whole other level. This book follows the expedition of The Belgica, a ship from Belgium with a mostly international crew. What makes this account particularly captivating is its wacky cast of characters and a trip that felt mad long before Adrien de Gerlarche and his crew made it to the southern seas.
Told fairly linearly in multiple points of view, the ending really has you wondering just what such journeys do to people, especially when there’s national and international renown at stake.
Genre: Adult Medical Nonfiction Year Release: 2021 Source: Kindle
Rating: 5 out of 5.
Content warning: PTSD, suicidal ideation, COVID death, illness, bodily fluids, graphic discussion of medical procedures
Fucking harrowing as we get a front line view of the COVID pandemic from the very beginning through the first half of 2021. Nurses shouldn’t have to be this resilient.
Told across several bits of media from texts to tweets to blog posts, Cassie Alexander tells a brutally honest account of her experience working the COVID wards. What also works is how well Alexander knows her audience. There’s an empathy in the discussion and excellent laying out of specific terms and concepts. It’s easy to read from the standpoint of understanding the medicine, but difficult when it comes to even wrapping your mind around this lived experience.
This is the most important book I’ve read this year, and I don’t use that term lightly.
Genre: Adult Historical Nonfiction Year Release: 2005 Source: Audible
Rating: 5 out of 5.
Listened to the audiobook Content warnings: Cannibalism, racism, starvation, dehydration, cannibalism, descriptions of whale butchering
This is the story that inspired Moby Dick. The whaleship Essex attempts to take down a sperm whale, but the sperm whale has other ideas and sinks the ship. What then goes down is a grisly tale of survival and survival cannibalism as the crew members float along the Pacific hoping for rescue. What also features in this narrative is a lot of contextualization of whaling as an international enterprise, the lives of the crew before the tragedy, and what became of them after.
With incredible pacing and thorough research, I found myself glued to this narrative from start to finish.
It took me ten days to listen to the interview between Last Podcast on the Left, Harold Schechter, and Eric Powell discussing their new graphic novel project because I kept getting distracted by reading Schechter’s work. I thought it would make more sense to combine the reviews.
I spend more time than is probably recommended listening to Last Podcast on the Left. Which is why it surprised me that it took me days to get through an interview that’s just under an hour long. Infected with Marcus Parks’ enthusiasm for Schechter’s work, I wanted to dive in and do some of my own reading. Wow, the hype is definitely well-earned. The discussion of mental health in both works seem somewhat progressive for their time, especially given the subject matter. The structure of both novels also kept me engaged and is worth studying from a story-telling perspective.
Genre: Adult Nonfiction Year Release: 2005 Source: Library Physical Copy
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Content warning: starvation, frostbite, medical procedures, microaggressions
Taking a break from Northwest Passage research, I wanted to venture a few decades later to read other tales of exploration. This book, in that regards, is a treasure. Almost told in dual-POV between Americans Peary and Cook, we watch the way these two men’s lives intersected. They both wanted to reach true north, not magnetic north as had been established on prior voyages.
Epic in its telling and scope, True North depicts what should have been a friendship turned into a bitter rivalry in expeditions taking place in the most remote places on Earth.