I realized when putting this together that I haven’t read a book written by a cis man in over two years. Heh. I didn’t intentionally start this streak, but now I know it’s happening, I’m paying attention to see how long it lasts. I do have Steve Martin’s An Object of Beauty on my nightstand though, because Steve Martin, but that’s the all in consideration at the moment. There’s definitely an affect that happens placing a priority on writers who are women, people of color, trans, or differently-abled. It fosters more empathy and now when I read these types of characters written by men, too many of them seem one-dimensional and trope-like.
With that, here’s selection of the best things I read this year, including things on the internet:
Everything is yours / Everything is Not Yours Essay by Clementine Wamariya
I was hooked by the third sentence. This split my brain open in about 47 different directions and is still highly relevant given the current chatter surrounding refugees.
Director Jill Solloway writes a call to arms for lady directors
Widely applicable to any creative field. So ready to get up and re-make the entire world now.
Calling In, by Ngọc Loan Trần.
What happens when someone you admire says something offensive? What happens when we ourselves, are that person?
The Argonauts, Maggie Nelson
On being an artist with a non-traditional family and gender identity. Full of intellectual and rich insights on all of the above. Stunning.
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Karen Joy Fowler
Fantastic plot twist. I yelped when I discovered the character Red reading this in an scene in the most recent season of Orange is the New Black. At this point in the show, (very mild spoiler alert) the prison has burned all of their books due to a bed bug outbreak, so it’s interesting that she’s reading a brand new title from 2014.
Girl in a Band, Kim Gordon
So, so much respect for her as a musician and artist. I devoured this and consider her a role model for lyfe now.
Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl, Carrie Brownstein
I read this in three days. Glad to have her story in her own words.’Nuff said.
The First Bad Man, Miranda July
This one really rocked my view on what’s acceptable and palatable in a story. it’s equal parts bizarre, repulsive, moving and truly human, in that way that only Miranda July can write. I showed me how to get comfortable with oddity, investigate the absurd, and that I can love her characters even if they’re inappropriate, and frankly, gross at times. I didn’t see the end coming here either. The design of the book is noteworthy too, done by famed graphic designer Mike Mills.
Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott
This underscores a lot of what I read in the Artist’s Way but with Lamott’s witty and self-deprecating voice. Seems like I need to read at least one book on the creative process every so often as a reminder to stay the course and that it’s difficult for any artist. Comforting and inspiring to keep in the game.
Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie
You might know this voice more from her sample in Beyoncé’s song, Flawless, but Adichie didn’t arrive there without a glowing career in academia behind her. This book was one of the gems of 2014, with excellent stunning prose and a truly unique cross-cultural perspective. It’s a love story as well.
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes / And other lessons from the Crematory, Caitlin Doughty
This book is a wonderful effort to change the way we handle death and dying in America. Calling us to see and feel it in candid new ways beyond the bloated, disconnected, corporatized offerings many death processes have become in this country. Surprisingly full of adept humor, it also discusses other culture’s death practices both ancient and modern. Highly recommended.