I read 153 books this year in a 50/50 split between audiobooks and other formats. Being unemployed helped that along, didn’t do much for me in terms of my mental health. But there were so many good reads consumed and published this year, I had to make two lists. Enjoy!
Victor LaValle’s works have consistently capture New York City on page in ways not often seen in other forms of media. There’s the variety of characters from all walks of New York life, and the nature and spirit of the city is as much a character as the characters, especially in this bottle episode of a book taking place in an asylum in Queens. Pepper, our trouble-making protagonist, finds himself at New Hyde Hospital following an altercation. When he’s kept there for more than the initial 76-hours of monitoring, he makes unsettling discoveries. Like the devil living in one of the wards, the one the orderlies and doctors don’t believe exists.
The way LaValle captures helplessness against a system is superb. At every turn, the doctors manipulate records, dosages, etc. to eliminate knowledge of the Devil, even though the patients all believe each other. The relationships are rocky, but there are some moments of sweetness to violent encounters. The morality here is a bit gray, as patients have different definitions of survival. Throughout, there is a profound feeling of abandonment, a system that doesn’t care about the very real danger stalking the halls.
In addition, this book takes its time cultivating that sense of helplessness. Digressions span different histories, from Van Gogh to silver mining, highlighting various groups who have been abandoned in the name of advancement. It is masterfully pulled off, even as you’re terrified of things going bump in the night and what those medications are actually doing.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest with very loose allusions to mythology, Victor LaValle artfully adds layers to horror tropes in this earlier work of his.
In December, I made it a small goal to get my Currently Reading List down to zero. While I failed at that, I got most of the way there, even reading two additional books. I start 2020 with a four-book-long backlog, which honestly, it pretty good. Anyway, here is the last recap of the year. Continue reading →
Happy New Year! I rounded out my reading some excellent new favorites, bringing my reading total to 80 books. It’s why I skipped my once-annual Twelve Daysof Reading challenge. That, and I wanted to spend some quality time with friends and family. Continue reading →
I read 81 books this year, mostly thanks to an aggressive ARC schedule and audiobooks. The list here are 18 books which I read this year that I loved, but weren’t necessarily published in 2018. Some are from 2016, one comes out in January 2019, and one collection of manga had been published back in 1972.