A Reader’s Decade

No one asked for it, no one needs it but me. Someone might find it, someone might appreciate it other than me.

I had initially considered writing a top ten for books in the past 2009-2019 period, but realised that books are not the only reading I do, or that anyone should do. In no real order, then, other than their timing, the top 10 reads from the past decade that have, in some way, stuck with me: fiction, non fiction, comics, short, illustrated, poetry, and bits in between.

A Monster Calls (2011) – Patrick Ness, Jim Kay, Siobhan Dowds

The first book in my adult life that finally made me cry again. A poignant look at loss, anger, resentment, and catharsis through selfish acts, with terrifying art and words.

The Paper Menagerie (2011) – Ken Liu

A moving, heartwrenching personal story of magic in ordinary memories, in rejected histories, and personal languages.

Transformers: Windblade/Till All Are One (2014-17) – Mairghread Scott, Sarah Stone, Corin Howell, Sara Pitre-Durocher, et al.

I wrote a whole review for the end of the series here, which sums up a lot of my thoughts. But mostly, it’s gorgeous to look at, and a milestone in the lore and stories of Transformers.

The Broken Earth (2015-17) – NK Jemisin

The books of the decade, if you ask me. Post-climate apocalypse specu-melding of magic, reality, science and with a hopeful – truly hopeful – undercurrent in a biting, angry, necessary grief-ridden world.

Autonomous (2017) – Annalee Newitz

Transhumanism, trans narratives, modern slavery/indenture, biomods, and ethical biohacking with some serious questions on ethics, gender, and privatisation of healthcare and war.

La Stanza Profonda (2017) – Vanni Santoni

Still a work in progress, English wise, but a timely CNF piece on how RPGs shaped a generation before the current generation reshaped RPGs, from a radical Italian voice. I’m working on it, okay?

An Unkindness of Ghosts (2017) – Rivers Solomon

Neuro-atypicality and gender non-conformity in a racial caste system that relies on the layout of a single, enormous spaceship, framing several ghost stories in the post-anthropocene.

Machineries of Empire (2016-18) – Yoon Ha Lee

CompSci and maths powering a non-Western inspired space intrigue with some seriously visceral body-based plots, historical geopolitics, and the obsession with eternal life.

Questa Non è Una Partita a Bocce (2018) – ZeroCalcare

It will, eventually, officially, make it into English, but this 14 page story by one of the most popular Italian comics artists today is an exemplary treaty of how media has been normalising the rise of the far right, and what we can all do to counter it.

Because Internet (2019) – Gretchen McCulloch

Required reading for all those who think language is immutable, fixed, and is being dumbed down by online usage, pesky teenagers, and lack of prescriptivism.


Bonus entries:

I Shall Wear Midnight – Terry Pratchett: the best conclusion to and least standalone novel of the Discworld universe and Tiffany Aching’s story. GNU. (via E.C.)
Record of a Spaceborn Few – Becky Chambers: in a universe of macro-stories, focusing in on the people and their details is hard, and a brave choice. (via G.T.)
Monstress – Marjorie Liu, Sana Takeda, et al: history, as we partially know it, as we’ve never seen it, as it won’t remain stuck in the past.
Embassytown – China Miéville: neurolinguistics, the importance of lying in mediation, and semantics as a pivotal plot twist. (via J.S.W.)
The Unwritten – Mike Carey, Peter Gross, Chris Chuckry, Yuko Shimizu, et al: just go read some of the reviews for the Apocalypse coda series.
Journal d’un corps / Storia di un corpo – Daniel Pennac, Yasmina Mélaouah: a life through the language of a body; physical, visceral, as personal as one’s flesh can be. (via A.V.)
L’incanto del parcheggio multipiano – Marino Neri: a contemporary Italian tale drenched in Satoshi Kon story fuel.

There has been plenty of poetry too, especially as I only started actually writing myself at the start of the decade, but nothing I can point to specifically as I type this. Warsan Shire is definitely up there, as are Ocean Vuong, William Letford, Mariangela Gualtieri, the team at Sartoria Utopia.

Two regrets: having yet to read This Little Art, but it’s on its way; only diversifying and decolonising my reading around 2010. Already doing better, 2020 brings clarity after all.

–AV

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