With her signature consideration to all genres, and with a nod toward spreading the love, Elliot has put together a list of sci-fi, fantasy, poetry, even a memoir that highlights some lesser-known, but no less amazing books alongside some more common staff favorites. Her list is full of beautiful books, inside and out.
In the Dream House, by Carmen Maria Machado
I don’t generally read memoirs, but when I picked up a copy of this book I knew it was going to be something different. Having read Her Body and Other Parties I also knew it would be beautifully written. What I got was something so astonishingly brilliant, so unique, so gorgeous, so visceral, so undeniably raw, it broke my heart and mended it in equal measure. This is, primarily, a book chronicling an abusive relationship, but it is also so much more. It is queer history and essays. It is allegory through the use of movies, books, and pop culture. It is a haunted house story, because domestic abuse is the ultimate gothic haunting. It is personal. It is analytical. It is an examination and an excavation. It is a little bit of everything, and yet it is so very much a unified whole. Simply put: this book is a masterpiece.
Bestiary, by Donika Kelly
Poetry doesn’t get a lot of love on most top ten lists so you get two poetry selections from me this year to make up for the dearth everywhere else. Bestiary is a triumph. Kelly’s language is sensuous, raw, and honest – simultaneously spare and lyrical. Bursting with animal imagery the collection takes wing and glides. Her poems resonate with longing and vulnerability, and never shy away from dark truths. Unapologetically black, queer, and feminine this volume packs a hell of a punch.
Lord of the Butterflies, by Andrea Gibson
Written with all the passion I’ve come to expect from Gibson, this collection has teeth. Political, queer, brutally raw, heart-wrenchingly honest, and fierce as hell, these poems hit me right in the heart. These are poems with hearts of anxiety, anger, activism, celebration, and expansive love.
Red, White & Royal Blue, by Casey McQuiston
What’s this? A romance book on my top ten list? No one is more surprised than I am, but this spot was well earned as were the recent Goodreads awards for Best Romance and Debut Novel. The romance is both sweet and steamy, and the characters are richly drawn people you want to spend time with. What really sealed the deal though was the world these characters inhabit. If romance is the plot of the story then politics are the setting. The politics are engaging, and point toward the current political landscape in interesting and occasionally gut wrenching ways. This was a world and a story I was so very happy to get lost in for hours at a time.
DIE: Volume 1 – Fantasy Heartbreaker, by Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans
No top ten list is complete without a graphic novel, and this year my favorite was far and away DIE. This volume is stunning all across the board. The art is stylistically interesting, lovely to look at, and very dreamy. The story centers on a bunch of teens who play an RPG that transports them into the fantasy world, and when they emerge back in reality they aren’t the same. When they return to the game world as adults, it’s even more fraught. I love that is a story about gamers that was so clearly written by someone who has been a part of that culture. Brooding and dripping with regret, rooted in fantasy tropes that have been twisted enough to be fresh, and meditative on the nature of fantasy and collective reality, this volume hit it out of the park.
Dark and Deepest Red, by Anna-Marie McLemore
It’s no secret that I love McLemore’s work. Anna-Marie is probably my favorite author writing in Teen right now, and whenever a new title is announced I do a little happy dance. As it turns out that happy dance was very much in the spirit of things as this latest offering is a retelling of the classic story of the red shoes. This book is absolutely gorgeous. It has all the lush lyrical writing I’ve come to expect, as well and an emotional core that hit me right in the heart. Even better is that McLemore uses the story of the red shoes to tell both a very old story and a very new one all at the same time, and never gets bogged down or hamstrung by what came before. The story manages to feel familiar and fresh all at once. McLemore remains a master and I am ensorcelled by the sheer beauty of storytelling and wordcraft in this book. Dark and Deepest Red hit shelves on the 14th and you absolutely do not want to miss it.
Gideon the Ninth, by Tamsyn Muir
Call it a hunch, but I think this book will also end up on several of my co-worker’s top ten lists this year. So why pick it if I know it’s already going to get some love? Because it deserves every bit of attention and praise heading its way. This was my favorite fiction read of the year, and how could it not be? It was the gothic sci-fi fantasy mash-up my little black heart has been waiting for all my life. Delightfully grotesque, irreverent, macabre, and sly, this book had me laughing, cringing, cheering, and crying in equal measure. If you’ve been looking for a book filled with shambling skeletons, sword fights, weird magic, space travel, snark, frenemy fireworks, and plenty of murder, this book is sure to charm you.
Darkdawn, by Jay Kristoff
The Nevernight Chronicles go out with a bang. Without spoilers, here are some of the things you can expect from this book: Old friends from the previous books putting in appearances. New friends, because why not make a few new friends along the way. Pretty much every enemy you can think of also putting in an appearance. Pirates. Mythology and divinity. True love. Epic battles. Derring do. Snarky footnotes. Cool assassin stuff. Creepy blood magic. Watching characters you probably love die. Watching characters you probably hate also die. Leveling Up. Some meta as hell stuff that made me smile. Plenty of action. And, arguably the most important part, closing the chapter on Mia’s story. If you haven’t picked up this trilogy yet you are missing out. And if you were holding off to make sure it was finished (it was!) and wrapped up in a satisfying fashion (it did!) then your wait is over.
Exit Strategy, by Martha Wells
What can I say about Murderbot that hasn’t been said already? Read these novellas. Just do it. They are quite possibly one of the best things being published in the science fiction genre right now. Who would have guessed that a Murderbot would be one of the most relatable and human characters I’ve read in years? This is good crunchy sci-fi except it also has lots of heart and humor. This book is the fourth novella, and a full length novel is on the way next spring. Now is the perfect time to dive in if you haven’t already. And if you have, well, you’re in for a treat this May (you can preorder Network Effect now and save 15%, hint hint).
The Last Sun, by K.D. Edwards
I’m giving my final spot on this list to a lesser known book I would really like to see get more attention. Do you like urban fantasy but you’re really tired of reading the same tropes over and over again? This book might be your remedy. Enter the Tarot Sequence, a queer urban fantasy series with nods to tarot cards and Atlantis. With all the snark of the Dresden Files, but with plenty of new tricks you haven’t read a million times before. This book is just plain fun, and the second in the series just hit shelves a few weeks ago. If you’re looking to get into a new urban fantasy series that doesn’t have a huge backlog now is the time to jump in.
What didn’t quite make the list? Honorary mentions go to This is How You Lose the Time War, Storm of Locusts, and Aurora Rising. Be sure to check out their reviews on some of the other top ten lists this month, because you should read them too.
You can get any or all of Elliot’s 2019 picks by clicking on the titles above, or calling the store to reserve them!
[…] have seen the latest graphic novel offering from Kieron Gillen floating around our Top Ten lists (check out Elliot’s blurb here). DIE, illustrated by Stephanie Hans, is absolutely marvelous and several of us can’t get […]