Book cover of "Binti: The Night Masquerade" showing Black women with blue tentacle-like hair and cradling a glowing ball floating above her hands.

This third book in Okorafor’s Binti series brings the story of the eponymous character to a close. In this final chapter, Binti comes to know her diverse genetic selves in ways that defy her own understanding. Even among her father’s people, she outshines in aptitude and ability, giving a whole new definition to the meaning of harmonizer. Throughout the experience, she stays true to her many selves, but most of all to her family heritage. The emotional arc of this series is perfectly balanced between external and internal struggle. Okorafor’s world building is elegant and subtle, allowing the reader to focus entirely on Binti’s experience. I’m naturally drawn to space opera-type narratives (though even that feels too simplistic a term), and this series did not disappoint. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Book cover showing earth styled like and apple with a tree growing from its top.

I wanted the first book I read in 2023 to be a work of fiction. I wanted to become immersed and nothing pulls me in faster than post-apocalyptic stories. Appleseed: A Novel by Matt Bell is a story that takes place across three timelines: one in the pre-industrial North American frontier, one in the near future following ecological collapse, and one in the far future after a continental-sized glacier has taken over North America. The characters that inhabit each of these stories are connected, not only by name, but seemingly also in spirit. Interwoven thematically (and sometimes literally) with their stories are the myths of Ancient Greece. 

I found myself having to constantly slow down my reading. I wanted to speed through to see how it all ends: the plot driving above the speed limit. There are moments of wisdom throughout worth slowing down to catch. Each of the characters contemplating their place in nature, mirroring humanity’s greater relationship with the environment. It is a profoundly sad book: there is loss, betrayal, and deep love. We watch as the sins of the fathers and mothers, from one Fall to the next, move humanity and its ecosystem toward its inevitable end, each still seeking for some way to regain paradise. 

I am so happy with my reading practice this past year. I read books from my own collection and recently-published ones. I read both print and e-books, as well as a few audiobooks. There is fiction in there, a graphic novel, poetry, science, and popular culture: by far the most diverse reading list I’ve made it through in years.

  1. I, Robot / Isaac Asimov
  2. I Hope We Choose Love: A Trans Girl’s Notes from the End of the World / Kai Cheng Thom
  3. Self-Compassion / Kristin Neff
  4. White Fragility / Robin DiAngelo
  5. 1619 Project / Nikole Hannah-Jones
  6. Wide Sargasso Sea / Jean Rhys
  7. Braiding Sweetgrass / Robin Wall Kimerer
  8. Fall / Neal Stephenson
  9. Subtle Acts of Exclusion / Tiffany Jana and Michael Baran
  10. Maus / Art Spiegleman
  11. Giles Goat Boy / John Barth
  12. How to Raise an Antiracist / Ibram X. Kendi
  13. Out of Office / Charlie Warzel & Anne Helen Petersen
  14. You Feel It Just Below the Ribs / Jeffrey Cranor & Janina Matthewson
  15. Four Thousand Weeks / Oliver Burkeman
  16. On Poetry and Poets / T.S. Eliot (at least the “On Poetry” parts)
  17. Dracula / Bram Stoker
  18. 168 Hours / Laura Vanderkam
  19. Vineland / Thomas Pynchon
  20. What If 2 / Randall Munroe
  21. Four Thousand Weeks / Oliver Burkeman
  22. The Golden Compass / Philip Pullman
  23. Five Dialogues / Plato (mostly)
  24. Steppenwolf / Herman Hesse

For 2023, I plan to keep up my practice of making time for reading each day, rotating through books already owned, new popular fiction and non-fiction, and poetry. Here’s to another year on this rock with good books!

Like many bibliophiles, I’ve accumulated more books than I actually have time to read. If you stacked all my books on top of each other, they would reach a height of 145 feet. That’s just shy of the Statue of Liberty (minus the pedestal). I acquired most of books in the decade between 2006 and 2017: the years when I was working on my M.A. and M.L.I.S degree and shortly after. Ironically, this was also when I was the most cash-strapped, and so I frequently sought out local used book sales in order to find copies on the cheap, which unexpectedly resulted in purchasing more books than was probably wise.

I’ve been trying to read more of what I already own instead of checking out or purchasing new titles. Within one LibraryThing community, this is called ROOTing: reading our own tomes. Last year, I was able to read about a dozen of my owned-but-not-read books, or ROOTs, and plan to continue the practice.

Reading one ROOT per month seems achievable. Here’s my list for 2022 (in no particular order):

  • I, Robot / Isaac Asimov
  • I Hope We Choose Love / Kai Cheng Thom
  • Steppenwolf / Herman Hesse
  • Unfinished Tales / J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Book of the Courtier / Castiglione
  • Vineland / Thomas Pynchon
  • Wide Sargasso Sea / Jean Rhys
  • Five Dialogues / Plato
  • Subtle Acts of Exclusion / Tiffany Jana and Michael Baron 
  • On Poetry and Poets / T.S. Eliot 
  • Opera and Its Symbols / Robert Donington 
  • A Short History of Philosophy / Robert C. Solomon and Kathleen M. Higgins

There wasn’t much of a science behind this list: mostly just titles I kept passing by while muttering to myself “yeah, I should read that.” Inevitably, I will pick up other books along the way (I’m already reading “Self-Compassion” by Kristen Neff while also reading “I Hope We Choose Love”), but having a realistic goal of one per month should allow me to balance somethings old with somethings new.

I finally started reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. In the first few pages there are two references to Tolkien (even a deep cut reference to the Silmarillion) within the context of adolescent romance and bloody dictatorships. I think I’m going to enjoy this book =)