Books that Defined 2019 [CC]


Hey everybody, it’s Anna, and welcome back
to my booktube channel! This video is going to be the first of a two-parter
that I have decided to make as a sort of special edition of my usual geekly
wrap ups because I wanted to make some videos about books that defined 2019 for
me, and then another video about games and other geeky experiences that defined
2019 for me. So if you are watching this now and the second half of the video is
up, I will go ahead and leave it linked up top and you can head over and watch
that as well. So when I was thinking about the books
that defined 2019 for me, I gave a lot of books of five-star ratings. I think that my average on Goodreads is a 4.1, and I think that’s just
because that as I’ve gotten older and I become more acquainted with my reading
tastes, I’ve been selecting more books that
I’m pretty sure that I’m going to enjoy: even if they don’t become my
favorites, they’re going to be a quality reading experience. But when I was trying to figure out what books I wanted to include in
this video, I really wanted to pick the books that stuck with me the most, even
after reading them. So these are books that, I gave pretty high ratings to all
of them, but also books that have stayed with me both intellectually and
emotionally after I finished reading them. So without further ado, I’ll go
ahead and get into those. The first book that stuck with me, that defined 2019, was
“Devotions,” which is the selected poems of Mary Oliver. Mary Oliver is one of my
favorite poets; she used to be my favorite living American author, and then
sadly she passed away towards the beginning of 2019. I remember being
in the bookstore because I was all excited to go out and get this book, and
that was the day that she died, and I was there standing around the poetry table
with a bunch of other older ladies that had come in to buy her books. And I
remember all of us just standing there crying together, mourning her,
celebrating the things that she had taught us, celebrating the great comfort
that the poetry of Mary Oliver has brought to us. That was definitely a defining moment in my reading life, not just for
2019, but I think I’ll look back on that as a defining moment in my life as a
reader at large. I have turned to this book time and time again, the way
that people turn towards their spiritual texts of choice for comfort.
Throughout the year I read the poems slowly to myself out loud: when I’m
having a bad day, when I’m having a good day, when I’m having trouble falling
asleep, anything like that. Mary Oliver just has a poem for every occasion, and
although I’m really sad that she’s no longer with us, I’m so grateful that I
was alive at this time to read the books that she wrote. All right, I think the
next one that I read (this is somewhat loosely chronological, I guess) I read
pretty early in the year as wel,l and that is “Blood, Water, Paint” by Joy
McCullough. I’ve actually seen this show up on a couple of people’s best books of
2019, but not too many; I think because maybe it was a big deal when it
came out, but it came out kind of early in the year, so I didn’t see a lot of
people talking about it later in the year. This is a novel told in verse
that is the story of Artemisia Gentileschi, who was a painter
during the Renaissance, and when she was a young woman, she was raped by her
teacher in the art studio where she was learning how to paint and be an artist.
This is when she was just a teenager, and it’s notable historically because
she was the first person who was able to actually sue her rapist in court and win.
Actually, her father was the one that had to sue because she couldn’t legally bring
suit as a women, and he actually sued for property damage, not rape, because
that’s how that was covered under the law at the time. She went on to paint
a magnificent painting of the biblical scene of Judith beheading Holofernes,
kind of as this response to what she had experienced as somebody that survived
rape in her life. As somebody that is myself a survivor, I found this story to
be incredibly moving, incredibly powerful. I had to stop reading it and just
breathe a couple of times throughout because, especially when she talks about
being tortured with thumbscrew as a painter–being a person that
relies on her hands to do her work–and the legal establishment did not believe
her to the extent that they decided that they needed to torture her in order to
determine whether she was telling the truth or not, and how she still got back
up after that and began painting again… It’s just incredible! I was really
fortunate that at the Seattle Art Museum there was an exhibit this year where
they were featuring her painting of Judith beheading Holofernes,
so I actually got to see it in real life. it was amazing; I had a moment there. This book definitely enhanced my experience of looking at that painting.
Okay, next up are two books that I read for the Indigathon, which was an
indigenous read-a-thon that was co-hosted by Brody and Michelle, and that
happened during Native Heritage Month, which is the month of November. So
the entire month of November, I focused on reading books that were by indigenous
authors, about indigenous characters. The first one I don’t have with me anymore
because I got it from the library, but it’s called “Mamaskatch: a Cree
Coming-of-age” by Darrel J. McLeod. This was a memoir, and also a first literary work
ever, by Darrel J. McLeod, who writes about being a young Cree boy coming of age in
Canada; coming to terms with his queerness; and his family’s history with
residential schools and mistreatment at the hands of the government and the
Catholic Church. He writes about growing up with a parent in the home that had
untreated mental illness and substance abuse issues, and trying to
both care for himself and care for his siblings. The story was really
powerful. I could not believe that this man wrote something that was
so beautiful straight out of the gate! He had never published
creative writings before, but he just had such a way with words, and it felt like I
was sitting down and listening to somebody tell their family’s stories. And
then there was another book that I read for Indigathon– another poetry
collection, actually– called “An American Sunrise” by Joy Harjo, who is the current
poet laureate of the United States. This is a poetry collection that reckons
with her family’s history as it pertains to the Trail of Tears, and being involved in
the Jazz Age in Oklahoma, up until her
experiences as a native woman in the modern era, as a native poet, etc. This
poetry collection also really stuck with me because it was extremely powerful to
read; again, because I felt very honored to be listening to these type of family
stories. I think that that’s one of the most precious things that you can share
with the world, so I really appreciate that I was allowed to share in Joy Harjo’s
stories that way by reading these poems. Okay, next up is a book that I
recommended to a lot of folks for the Indigathon, but I had already read it
before so I didn’t count it: “Gods of Jade and Shadow” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. This is a story about a girl named Cassiopeia that lives in Mexico in
the Jazz Age, and she opens up a mysterious box in her grandfather’s
office and unknowingly releases Hun Kame, who is the ancient Mayan god
of death, into the world. This was a really fascinating historical, but also fantasy, story–also kind of magical realism! Like, this was a
year of me maybe realizing I actually like magical realism more than I thought! I picked this up because I was really intrigued by the gorgeous cover,
and I’m glad that I was, because the story inside was fabulous. I’ve gifted
this book a couple of times throughout the year, and I am really looking forward
to reading more by this author. Speaking of books that I gifted a lot during this
time of year: this is probably not gonna surprise anybody, but I also thought that
“Red, White, and Royal Blue” by Casey McQuiston was a defining reading
experience for me in 2019. I think that this was the year that a lot of
queer joy really came into its own on the page and burst out of more than just
the high school stories that YA had been in interacting with. And now we
have full-on queer joy on the page! I know that this is a book that probably
everybody has heard of; I know that there are some divisive opinions out there
about it, but just reading this put the biggest goofy smile on my face with
happiness. And again, being at the book signing with Casey and just a room full
of happy queers being together was one of my favorite
experiences of my reading life, I think. Okay, let’s see, what else do I have here?
All right, so this year was also what brought us the inaugural Quest for the Bookie Grail, during which I read “The Last Unicorn” by Peter S. Beagle.
This is a fantasy classic that I hadn’t read yet. I’m sad that I slept on
it this long, even though I did know the story because I had watched the movie as
a kid, but reading this book just felt like coming home: coming home to a place
that I have always felt that I belong in books, in like a fantasy type of story.
That’s just where I feel like I’m most alive and I’m most myself as a reader, is
when I am in a fantasy or sci-fi world and fully immersed in that. This
book was both an homage to the entire genre and a extremely inventive and
innovative tale on its own. I recommend that everybody read this, and I recommend
that everybody *reread* this, because I know that this is a book that is going
to continuously enrich me throughout my life, and I can’t wait to go back and
give it another shot. Okay, also during the Bookie Trials and the Reading Rush
this year, I read an amazing queer story called “Out of Salem” by Hal Schrieve. I
also feel like this was the year that I in particular really found my home among
non-binary and trans writers, especially because this was the year that I
came to the realization that I myself am non-binary, and that’s okay and that’s
something that I can actually say out loud and be proud about, and this book
really helped me along the way with that because pretty much everybody in this
book is queer and enby and badass! I really enjoyed it. This book also
has a lot of things to say about disability and bodily difference under
the auspices of monstrous figures from literature, so there are zombie
characters, there are werewolf characters, almost all of those
fantastical characters are queer in some way, and in this book, there are a lot of
analogs drawn between things like conversion therapy
and other mistreatments that the queer community has suffered that
also translate to the more fantastical aspects of these people. This was an amazing story about the importance of resisting authoritarianism
and small-mindedness, broadening your horizons, going outside of your comfort
zone, and creating solidarity with your fellow people, fellow human beings. I
loved this book; I loved the fact that it was by a non-binary author. I want to
read it again. I recommend everybody who’s interested read this.
Speaking of also coming to terms with non-binary identity: another book that
really helped me through this journey this year was “Genderqueer,” which is a
memoir by Maia Kobabe. This is also a graphic novel, graphic memoir I
guess it is! And this is a book that I actually picked up randomly because I
was waiting around in a bookstore coffee shop to meet up with a friend, and I was
like, oh I guess I’ll just like browse the books because what else am I gonna
do while I wait for my friend to get there? And I picked this book up. I think
I started crying in the first chapter of it because so many of the
things that Maia talks about in this book, even if it wasn’t my exact life
experience, resonated with me so deeply that I knew I had to have it. So I went
back up to the barista and just tearfully went “I have to have
this book! I have to take it with me.” and she was like “okay, okay, it’s gonna be
alright.” She offered to give me a hug; it was really nice. I really enjoyed
this book. This is about eir coming-of-age as a young non-binary kid,
and also, we have so many things in common, the two of us: our love
of Lord of the Rings, of Tamora Pierce, our varying levels of comfortability in
our bodies and how our bodies are viewed by other people in the world, and…
oh god, I’m getting choked up just talking about this! But I really really
loved this book and I think it definitely defined the year for me.
Speaking of more non-binary authors, this year during queer lit read-a-thon, and
also the Bookie Trials winter quest, I read “The Deep” by Rivers Solomon,
which is a book that I think is taking the slow creep approach towards
taking over all of booktube silently, but powerfully, and I am so happy about this!
This is a story by a black, non-binary, autistic author who wrote a story about
what would happen if the people that had jumped off of the slave ships to
escape the transatlantic slave trade instead of drowning had survived and formed this entire secret civilization of like, merpeople and
sirens, I guess? They’re not exactly Western ideas of merfolk, but they’re black folks that live underwater and swim and have tails and gills and
stuff like that. So “mermaid” is not exactly it, but it’s the best analogue I
can think of to explain this. This is a story about one of this
group of people that is basically the repository of the entire
civilization’s shared memory and trauma and history because it’s too heavy for
everybody else to carry all the time, so this one person
has been designated to be the repository of an entire civilization’s memory at all
times. This also then ended up being a story that had some very powerful things
to say about climate change, which is not what I expected from the first half of
the book, but for such a slim book, particularly, this just blew me away! I
have been constantly thinking about this book ever since I finished reading it. I
know that it’s kind of a literary game of telephone, almost,
because it’s based off of I think a rap that was based off of a concept album or
something like that. I need to go and listen to the music that this is based
off of because this book was really incredible! Okay, then I have a book that
I read really recently towards the end of the year, and that was “Mary Toft; or,
the Rabbit Queen” by Dexter Palmer. This is a book that I kind of picked up
randomly in a bookstore when Sean and I were on our winter break trip in
Philadelphia, and I picked it up because this is a story about one of my favorite
moments in history, historical medical hoaxes. [It’s] about a woman who
allegedly in 18th century England was giving birth to rabbits. She was not, in
fact, giving birth to rabbits, but I thought that this book had a lot of
really interesting things to say that were not just confined to a singular
century’s discussions of how we know what we know, and what types of methods
do we consider reliable for determining what is true about the world. I think
that it had a lot of important commentary and lessons for issues that
we face today, but also was firmly rooted in those same discussions of the
18th century, and I could really just see through this book the level of care and
detail and attention and research that went into writing this. It kind of reads
like it’s a fiction from the 18th century; it’s a novel that comes with
bibliography and notes, which makes my geeky little heart just sing; and I’m
going to be rereading this book in 2020 because I want to make a more in-depth
discussion video about my thoughts about this book and why I think it’s important
for everybody to read. So, coming in at the last last minute, but definitely a
defining reading experience of 2019. The final book is probably not
going to surprise anybody because this year I read the entire Wayfarers trilogy
by Becky Chambers, which is a space opera sci-fi kind of story that’s
incredibly queer, incredibly diverse. It does things that I think showcase
science fiction at its best, and similar to “The Last Unicorn” when I was reading
these books, it made me really feel like I was coming home. But the book out of
the entire trilogy that I think defined the year of 2019 the most for me was “A
Closed and Common Orbit,” which is the second book, and it is the story of
Pepper, who is one of the side characters from the first book, and Lovelace, who is
the AI that runs the ship in the first book. It is the most powerful story
of friendship and artificial intelligence and questions of humanity
and consciousness that I think I have read in my life
ever. Yes, I’m going to go there! This book made me cry – robotic things in 2019
made me cry! One of them was Oppy, the Mars rover that died, and one of them was this
book because this makes you feel for something that by our standards today we
would not consider human. But it asks you to consider the humanity of things that
you consider inhuman, and it broke my heart open to read this book. I
really loved it; I cried throughout the last half reading it, cried on a park
bench reading it. It was amazing; I definitely would recommend the entire
trilogy to everybody that watches this channel, because if you watch this
channel, we probably have similar tastes. But that book in particular, I think,
stuck with me the most. So those are the books that defined my experience of
reading in 2019! I know I’ve talked a lot with you all about these books so far,
but if you’re new to this channel, or if you’d like to talk with me about any of
the ones that you saw mentioned here, leave me a comment! Also, if you like
these videos and you’re interested to see more of what I do, don’t forget to
hit the subscribe button on your way down to the comments. I will be posting
my part two of this video, which is going to be more of my favorite other
geeky experiences of 2019, so look forward to that as well. As always, thank
you all so much for watching, and I’ll see you in the next one. Bye!

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4 thoughts on “Books that Defined 2019 [CC]”

  1. moon book says:

    At 4:13 shock.
    your amazing person
    I think sometimes people are evil but there are some good people who make you feel welcome and you are one of those

  2. Reader of Books says:

    Ah, isn't the Wayfarers series amazing? I actually read "A Closed and Common Orbit" last week, and am reading "Record of a Spaceborn Few" right now, and, oh my gosh, these characters all feel so real. I'm especially enjoying Isabel and Tamsin, who are just the best ever together. I need more older queer couples like them in my books!

  3. Special Geek40 says:

    Keep it up. love these vids!!!💞🥰💙

  4. leadinglady says:

    I’ve wanted to read Gods of Jade and Shadow for awhile now and you reminded me just how much interest I have for it. I’ll definitely be trying to get to it in 2020 and pushing it ahead on my TBR. Great recs all around! 🖤

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