Let me explain.
March was such a mediocre reading month and I struggled for days to pretend I enjoyed four of the five books I read enough to call them “Best of the Month.” Finally, I decided that life was too short and that I would combine the wrap-up with April’s, which proved to be wise.
While March wasn’t my best, April was a fun rebound, with speculative fiction, fantasy, horror, feminism, and more!
Check out my favorite reads from March and April and notes on all of my reads below.
Best of the month
“I think, as a species, we have a desire to believe that we’re living at the climax of the story. It’s a kind of narcissism. We want to believe that we’re uniquely important, that we’re living at the end of history, that now, after all these millennia of false alarms, now is finally the worst that it’s ever been, that finally we have reached the end of the world.”From Sea of Tranquility by Dan Emily St. John Mandel
Sea of Tranquility / Emily St. John Mandel
With her newest novel, Emily St. John Mandel may have earned her spot on Gorham and Henry’s Mount Rushmore alongside Hanif Abdurraqib, Brit Bennett, and Fonda Lee. After her pandemic-set Station Eleven bowled me over last year (so much so that I named it my favorite of 2021), she returns with Sea of Tranquility, an ambitious time-travel novel that was the best thing I’ve read over these past two months.
Sea of Tranquility is a masterful mix of speculative fiction and meta storytelling that transports the reader from 1912 Canada all the way to a colony on the moon over the course of its compact narrative. St. John Mandel’s scale may be epic, but what unfolds is an intimate story about what it means to be human in the face of world-ending catastrophe.
The final pages pull taut a thread that had been weaved throughout, and triggered a well of tears in my eyes, cementing Sea of Tranquility‘s place in my heart and on this list.
The Right to Sex / Amia Srinivasan
It’s clear to many that I don’t read a lot of nonfiction, and in my desire to change that I picked up Amia Srinivasan’s The Right to Sex and enjoyed the hell out of it. The book is an examination and state-of-the-movement look at feminism in the 21st century, delving into topics such as power dynamics in professor-student relationships, whether incels have the right to sex, and #MeToo and the lasting power of false rape accusations. While at times it can feel like a summary of current thought in this area, Srinivasan still packs a punch and I found myself making highlights throughout the book. The closing essay on carceral feminism is an absolute knockout.
The Electric Kingdom / David Arnold
Had I wrote the March wrap-up as planned, The Electric Kingdom would’ve landed among the also-rans, a semi-confusing disappointment by a writer I like. Hell, when I started this wrap-up I had nearly put another novel in this place, until I realized that my favorite parts of that book were in fact from this one. David Arnold’s pandemic-set novel (inexplicably the third book in this wrap-up involving a pandemic) is a puzzle box about survival at the end of the world and our place in that story. There are some absolutely zany elements to this story (the plague in question involved human-eating flies, which is a WILD choice) but Arnold, like Emily St. John Mandel, anchors it to the human quest to find meaning amongst that which does not make sense.
Where They Wait / Scott Carson
Back in 2020, Scott Carson’s “debut” horror novel (it’s a pen name of a bestselling thriller writer) The Chill checked so many boxes for me that it created a horror subgenre in my own head: flooded town horror. There’s obviously not many books that fall into this category, but there is a good Scooby-Doo animated movie that does! I was excited for whatever Carson would bring next, but Where They Wait‘s premise had me pumping the breaks. Techno-horror about a cursed mindfulness app? Not for me. Luckily, Carson has something else up his sleeve, and Where They Wait was a fun ride full of mystery and, to my pleasant surprise, maritime lore!
Notes on other march + april reads
Dilla Time / Dan Charnas
After Hanif Abdurraqib’s Go Ahead in the Rain, this is now the second great book I’ve read this year prominently featuring Q-Tip, and that’s kind of remarkable in its way!
No Gods, No Monsters / Cadwell Turnbull
Fascinating urban fantasy with great social commentary, but it ends up getting bogged down by the sheer number of characters introduced in this series-opener.
The Darkness Outside Us / Eliot Schrefer
Gays in space! Far better than it has any right to be, with some profoundly moving moments.
The Dead Queens Club / Hannah Capin
I will never be able to understand how the writer crafted an A++ premise and then wasted it on a trite young adult murder mystery. A wives of Henry VIII inspired story set in high school had the potential to be an absolute blast. Instead, it was a drag.
All That’s Left in the World / Erik J. Brown
Gays in the apocalypse! Station Eleven-lite with some on-the-nose commentary on bigotry, but overall an enjoyable read.
The Dragon Republic / R.F. Kuang
I loved, LOVED this trilogy’s opener, The Poppy War. I liked, *liked* this second book.
Time is a Mother / Ocean Vuong
Ocean Vuong is everyone’s favorite sad millennial writer thanks to his debut novel, On Earth We are Briefly Gorgeous. I didn’t care much for that book and this poetry collection was hit or miss for me, but the hits really hit.
The Mysterious Disappearance of Aidan S. / David Levithan
I am on the record saying that David Levithan has written some of the best and most inventive young people’s fiction ever. This *perfectly fine* middle grade novel is not included in that superlative.
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