1. Frogkisser! – It’s so cute and absolutely trademark Garth Nix. He’s like the Australian Neil Gaiman if you don’t know him; if you do, and you haven’t read this, why on earth not!?
2. The Hate U Give – this was touted as a classic-to-be before it was even released, and the hype made me apprehensive. How could it ever live up to it? FEAR NOT, FRIENDS. I am here to tell you it was so good that I had to stop at various points, put it down, take deep breaths or cry or laugh, and then start back up. It is SO good. It truly is a classic.
3. Human Acts – oh god, this one is like a stiletto. (Knife, not heel.) It slips past your defenses and makes a wound so fine that you barely feel it. And then you can’t stop bleeding. Han Kang is going to win Korea’s first Nobel in Literature, I just know it.
4. Gather Her Round – I continue to really, really enjoy the Tufa novels. I kind of thought series were dead, what with looking back on the 90s and realizing how awful most of the things I liked really were. Not so! These are books I love individually and collectively.
5. Odds of Lightning – I just really liked this one. It was surprisingly insightful and sweet.
6. Maresi – oh my god what a gut-punch. Want something more after The Handmaid’s Tale? This is more magical and less graphic but no less incisive. I had to order the sequel from the UK since Naondel isn’t published here yet.
7. The Bear and the Nightingale – it’s just so wise. I mean, it’s fun and exciting and historical and grammatically correct (I love it when authors explain their historical and linguistic insights in the notes, actually and truly), but it’s that true fairy-tale wisdom that makes it shine.
8. Summer in Orcus – basically I just want to sit at T. Kingfisher’s feet and have her talk at me. About anything! Everything she writes is so great and I buy it immediately. (This sounds less impressive than it is: I am notoriously cheap and I just lurk on Amazon waiting for things to go on sale.)
9. Lovecraft Country – Matt Ruff is another don’t-think-just-buy author for me. Mirage blew me away, it was so genius: an alt history of 9/11, only it was Christian fundies who attacked the Burj Khalifa. I mean, the sheer cojones it takes to write that, and do it well…anyway, Lovecraft Country has already been optioned as Jordan Peele’s follow-up to Get Out, which should tell you something. But I will tell you more: it twists the knife of Jim Crow racism more in 20 pages than 20 pundits could do in 20 years. Painful but necessary.
10. Mad Miss Mimic – a short tale with a remarkable heroine. The romance is a bit obvious but the main character is anything but, a girl who can mimic anyone’s voice but struggles with her own.
11. Sweet Lamb of Heaven – this reference will be lost on 99.9% of you but it’s basically an American version of Noboru Wataya’s rise to power, as told by his ex-wife. (Wind-Up Bird Chronicle reference. Don’t sweat it.) Anyway, a sinister tale about abusive men and how the system protects them, but also a story of unity and language.
12. Unicorn Tracks – lesbians on safari! With unicorns! Oh my god why hasn’t anyone done this before!
13. The Martian – I did this with Lady Gaga too: I resisted, and then a solid year after everyone was done being impressed, I finally got around to it and now I can’t stop telling everyone about something they already know. UGH, get with the program, Christina! Anyway, I read out the cool sciencey parts to my husband. I missed my stop on the subway. I flirted with the idea of going back to school for botany. Alas, you are not impressed, for you already know.
14. City of Miracles – I reviewed this one already, and the previous two. I talk about them all the time. TOO BAD, YOU’RE GOING TO HEAR ABOUT IT AGAIN. These books are great. Read them.
15. Snow Country – this is so melancholic and evocative. The author tried to cut everything down to its most essential, beautiful bones, and it worked. Bravo.
16. God I read a lot. Probably too much.
17. The Complete Works of Anna Akhmatova – did you know there was a Russian poetess who had a chance to escape the Stalin regime but stayed because she loved Russia so much that she wanted to be the witness for the whole country? And that her tireless efforts saved her only son (eventually) from a gulag? Did you know what a poised and tragic badass she was? Neither did I. Why don’t we learn about these women, I ask you? Well, go learn about her now.
18. Inheritance from Mother – what a shimmering, subtle book. What a rare meditation on the interconnectedness of a single life.
19. Drowned – an eerie, unsettling tale about a disaffected girl visiting her sister in the Swedish countryside. Her sister’s boyfriend is a darkly magnetic man, and the exact nature of his desires is slowly revealed.
20. Wintergirls – by the author of the equally devastating Speak, this book tackles eating disorders and the messy bond between two girls. Sometimes mutually destructive, sometimes mutually supportive, Lia and Cassie’s friendship is stronger than death, but maybe not strong enough for a decent life.