I'm aware this was actually last week's Top Ten Tuesday, but sssh. Things are crazy, as usual.
It's halfway through the year! Contrary to popular wisdom, I can actually believe it- it feels like it's been a loooong six months. Until I look at how many books I've actually read this year :P still, there's been some real gems in there.
Alphabetical order, because I lack the ability to rank things coherently.
A teenage boy stays with his lesbian sister in New York for the summer. One thing leads to another, and he ends up dating a lesbian who is under the impression that he's a trans guy. And it only gets worse from there. I have a review of this in the works which will hopefully see the light of day- there's so much to say about it which is tying in with all sorts of stuff outside of the book. Suffice to say here that it's hilarious, sexy and totally unique.
Two childhood friends, Ifemelu and Obinze, leave Nigeria for the US and England respectively. This book spans their struggles and successes over thirteen years, before they come into contact again. I loved this book; it's so huge, encompassing issues of identity and race that I rarely thought of before. Even when I wasn't reading it, my mind was still ticking over the characters and their lives.
I read Slaughterhouse-Five a while back and liked it, then I read Cat's Cradle and liked it a little more, but this is the first Vonnegut that I can say I really loved. I don't even know where to begin to try to explain the plot- there's a old, obscure science fiction writer called Kilgore Trout, and another man called Dwayne Hoover who believes every word he writes, and all sorts of crazy shit happens and there are doodles throughout the text. It's completely mad, but funny and weirdly compelling.
This is a wonderfully messy part-essay part-memoir part-drama, which has really stuck with me for some reason. I've been reading and thinking a lot about gender and non-binary identity lately, and this really helped a lot. Also, Kate Bornstein seems delightful and I definitely want to check out some of hir other works.
Based on true accounts of people who managed to escape, this book follows several different people from different rungs of society and their lives in the most secretive country in the world. I'm pretty fascinated/terrified by North Korea- isn't everyone? This was a good basic primer for North Korean history and the current situation (well, then current- Kim Jong-un hadn't taken over yet when this was published), as well as an interesting look at little things about everyday life and the power of propaganda.
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
Set in a post-apocolyptic world after various genetic engineering experiments gone horribly wrong, we follow Snowman and his flashbacks to the time before. Like any famous book, I approached this slightly nervously, but I was quickly swept up in it- the world is so well constructed and the flashbacks really created a sense of mystery and tension. I'll never doubt you again, Margaret Atwood.
Maria (rhymes with Pariah) moves from her small town to Dublin for university, meets people and discovers things about herself. A classic lesbian coming of age story, but from early 90s Ireland which I found wonderfully unique and refreshing. Basically, I'm incapable of disliking anything Emma Donoghue writes.
Written in 1937, this book follows the life of Janie, an African-American woman, her ups and downs, and her relationships with various men. Another of those books that sort of intimidated me by being so highly regarded, but I loved it. Absorbing and fascinating.
No surprises here- I'm a huge Neil Gaiman fan. This is a collection of short stories (and some poetry), many of which are of a dark, scary tone. There's a great variety- a poem about dead saints, an Eleventh Doctor story, a few fairy tale retellings. It's all brilliant.
Last but definitely not least. Also the most recently finished of my top ten, but one of my very favourites. This is the 'biomythography' or memoir of Audre Lorde, talking about her childhood and life as a young woman growing up in the 30s-50s as a black woman, a lesbian, and a feminist. Lots of interesting stuff about intersectionality, but even the mundane details of her Catholic school and work in factories and relationships with women made for compelling reading on their own. Really loved this.