In our monthly book club, we discuss whatever we happen to be reading and ask everyone in the comments to do the same.
The Broken Earth trilogy by N.K. Jemisin
Admittedly, the only person in history to ever win three consecutive Hugo Awards (for all three books in a trilogy, no less) probably doesn’t need any additional recommendations. And yet, I still find myself mentioning her name to fans of Neal Stephenson, say, or Robert Jordan, or hell, even Tolkien, only to have them respond with a blank stare and a “Who?” Which is how I know that N.K. Jemisin is still flying a little under the radar for far too many people. This was the year I finally grabbed my collection of the Broken Earth trilogy off my to-read pile. It’s superlative. (Shocking, I know.) Her dizzyingly imaginative world of The Stillness is so fully realized, with so little of the clumsy hand-holding or forced exposition many sci-fi and fantasy authors feel the need to drop into their narrative, that it reads like a master class in genre literature. Jemisin simply trusts her readers to pick up on the details and norms of her societies, letting her expert storytelling be the guide—show, don’t tell, in book form. Oh, and it kicks ass. [Alex McLevy]
Calamities by Renee Gladman
To read Renee Gladman is to enter a charged and intriguing space. Many questions are asked. Few answers are found. But the hunt is on. The artist and writer always seems to be one sentence ahead or behind or above or below where she seeks to land, so she remains on the move. In Calamities, Gladman’s nonfiction project published by Wave Books in 2016, nearly every mirco-essay begins with “I began the day…” which underscores each piece as a sally, an inquiry into her preoccupations with both writing and drawing. Here she is on the line as it relates to both: “There was not a thing different about them. They entered blank space and made a problem for the page—what next, where to go—and they were lovely in themselves.” In May, Wave will publish Gladman’s Plans For Sentences, which pairs both her text and drawings.
Because Gladman so often conceptualizes writing in spatial terms, while reading Calamities I find myself visualizing each essay as an empty, white room she’s entering, wondering how she might fill it. One also becomes very aware of Gladman’s syntax, of how she builds her sentences. It’s pleasurable to become so locked in to their architecture while simultaneously growing destabilized by their shape-shifting significances. [Laura Adamczyk]