Look for everyone else’s Top Ten Tuesday list on The Broke and the Bookish.
I forgot to post this last week, so here it is instead. I’ve seen authors speak, but only really met one, so it’s not worth writing a whole post anyway. I’ll just tell you who it is at the end of this list.
I left out the most obvious examples, like graphic novels or Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists—though of course these are all relatively short books. Five of them are translated from other languages, four of them from Japanese, but somehow there’s still a pretty wide variety: British YA comedy, sci-fi/horror, poetry, literary fiction, memoir/social justice nonfiction, and even a play adapted to a novel.
This is one of Murakami’s shorter books, and it’s an easy one to breeze through, even—or maybe especially—if you’re not already familiar with his style (it was the first of his books that I read, and I found his style so refreshing that I couldn’t put it down). An eclectic cast of characters is brought together in the middle of the night, finding more in common with each other than they would in daylight, and it’s lovely and thoughtful and insightful like Murakami always is.
Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging, by Louise Rennison
This YA series is written like a diary, so even the most densely-filled pages read very quickly, and most of them aren’t dense. There are ten books, and you could easily read all of them in a week if you had them on hand (if you like reading about hilarious British teenagers, you’ll want to). If I were you, I wouldn’t read them anywhere that you’re supposed to be quiet.
Annihilation, by Jeff VanderMeer
Rather than the length, it was more the creepy atmosphere of this book that made me want to snuggle up with it and not move until I was finished. I still think the premise is one of the most fascinating I’ve ever read: a team of four female scientists, the twelfth to make the attempt, set out to explore the quarantined Area X, a place where human civilization has been totally abandoned.
Another Brooklyn, by Jacqueline Woodson
Even in her prose, you can tell that Jacqueline Woodson is a poet. This is not a novel in verse, but it flows as easily and lyrically as if it were. I came home from work with it, sat down, and finished in about an hour and a half.
This is easily one of the best, most important books I’ve read about race in the United States, and it’s so short that I feel like there’s no excuse to not read it. Coates has a powerful, very personal perspective to share, and it’s one we all need to hear over and over again.
The Diving Pool, by Yoko Ogawa
There’s a creepiness to many of Ogawa’s stories, the kind that makes you wonder about human nature and the sort of dark potential in all of us—but she’s perfectly capable, at the same time, of writing tender, beautiful relationships like that in The Housekeeper and the Professor. She’s a prolific author, but only a few of her books have been translated into English, and this might be my favorite of them (it’s really hard to choose).
With only 80 pages, this small book feels almost more like a pamphlet in your hand, but the content is not so easily digestible. I’ll tell you up front that it’s a very uncomfortable book to read, and it intends to be.
I didn’t read this book quite in one sitting, but once I got into it I really wanted to. It has elements of mystery, crime, and a psychological thriller, which keep you turning pages even as you are horrified by what’s happening. Maybe don’t be eating anything while you read the second section (but seriously, don’t).
The Lake, by Banana Yoshimoto
Of all the books on this list, The Lake is the most gentle (or tied, at least, with the Mary Oliver that’s coming up). Looking back at all the quotes I loved from it, I get a definite sense of melancholy, but while reading the book I only remember thinking every single page was just lovely. It’s a story of a relationship, of two people dealing with trauma, and the way their pasts affect their coming together.
My Name is Lucy Barton, by Elizabeth Strout
For most of the book I probably would’ve given it five stars, because it just kept happening that I’d read something and be taken aback by how beautifully it was written, or how clearly I could see and feel a certain moment. Toward the end that style started to feel affected, almost pretentious somehow, but it’s a moving book nonetheless.
It’s rare for me to find poetry I really connect with, and Mary Oliver is one of those rarities. This collection includes my favorite poem of all time, “Wild Geese,” along with several other beautiful pieces about birds—I especially liked “Bird” and “The Kingfisher.” And of course you can read poetry as quickly or as slowly as you want to.
The Vegetarian, by Han Kang
This book is very unsettling, even disturbing, so I’m not surprised the response to it is pretty polarized. I loved it and still think about it often.
This was me meeting Lynne Truss several years ago, when she came to speak at my university:
And you can see how excited I was about it. Eats, Shoots and Leaves is still one of my favorite nonfiction books, and I own both the hardcover and paperback editions—because the paperback came with punctuation stickers in it.
I know. You had no idea I was this cool.