Want to know what I love most about these round-up posts? I love how my “must read” list expands into genres and styles of writing that I wouldn’t otherwise have discovered on my own. One of the ways I’ve been coping with the current political climate is to read as much as possible, and as widely as possible. I believe that by immersing ourselves in different perspectives (which books can do so well), we are inspired to grow, practice awareness, and find compassion for others. I hope you, dear reader, will also find new perspectives in whatever you’re reading, and that your “must read” pile of books is ever-growing.
We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson (Simon + Schuster, January 2016)
Reviewed by Cassidy
The world is ending, and only one person can stop it. Sixteen-year-old Henry Denton is abducted by aliens and given two choices: press a big red button and save the world, or do nothing and watch everyone die in one hundred and forty-four days. It should be an easy decision. But after Henry’s boyfriend commits suicide and leaves behind no note or explanation, Henry isn’t sure the planet deserves to be saved. An in-depth exploration of grief and how we choose to survive, We Are the Ants is a brilliant, unique, compelling book that I never knew I needed. The book lives in a nebulous space between contemporary and science-fiction. Though Henry is very sure the aliens (or sluggers, as he calls them) are real, the reader is left questioning if they’re actually there, or a manifestation of a deeper trauma.
Here by Richard McGuire (Pantheon Graphic Novels, 2014)
Reviewed by Taylor
Richard McGuire’s graphic novel Here takes place in the same location at different times, going back and forth over billions of years. Through stunning full-page spreads and overlapping frames marked by the year, the reader simultaneously sees the living room of a 20th century house spanning generations in one family, the hunting grounds for Native Americans in the 1600s, the first colonial settlers, the glaciers of the past, the floods of the future, and everything in between. More than being a story with a defined plot, Here is a beautiful piece of art meant to highlight our undeniable impermanence in this world.
Azumanga Daioh by Kiyohiko Azuma (Yen Press 2010)
Reviewed by Aaron
I’m currently reading two too-long books, so while I struggle with those, I’ve been cramming in lots of quick reads. The best of them has been Kiyohiko Azuma’s Azumanga Daioh, a long-running comic strip about girls in high school. Each four-panel strip is a strange delight, weaving through school activities, drunken teachers, bizarre dream sequences, and quiet moments of delight in cats. The characters are multitudinous and varied, so it never feels like the book is showing a “right way” to be a high school girl. The best moments of the strip come from the characters’ failures, especially when shown against the persistence of life and friendship despite those failures.
Well, no, the best parts are the trippy dream sequences with talking ponytails and mutant cat dads. But the friendship stuff is good too.
Haiti Glass by Lenelle Moïse (City Lights 2015)
Reviewed by Wren
Do you ever have a poem stop you in your tracks? That’s how I first encountered Lenelle Moïse’s work. I get the “Poem of the Day” emailed to me from Poetry Foundation, and when her poem “quaking conversation” showed up in my inbox, it shook me to my core. I immediately ordered Haiti Glass from City Lights and devoured it in a single sitting. The collection is a complex, raw love letter to Haiti and the people that live there. It’s at once heartbreaking and joyful, fierce and tender. Moïse deftly wields language to expose and surrender to the complexities of this living, breathing portrait of Haiti. And so, I’ll leave you with the last stanza of “quaking conversation”, the poem that first sparked something in me as a reader:
come sit, come stand, come
cry with me. talk.
there’s much to say.
walk. much more to do.
Happy reading, and listening, and doing, folks.