by Jeff VanderMeer, 2014
One of the things I bemoan about science-fiction movies and television shows is that it seems that none of the characters have ever read or seen science-fiction. In Annihilation, the same appears to be true. The novel follows a team of four women who have been sent a territory referred to only as “Area X.” Their mission is to find out as much about the area as possible, while also trying to figure what happened to the previous teams that were sent to there. The four-woman team consists of a surveyor, an anthropologist, a psychologist, and our narrator, a biologist. The idea seems interesting enough and, as a child of The X-Files generation, I was immediately drawn to the premise. I wish I could say the story panned out as well as I had hoped.
by Madeleine L’Engle, 1989
narrated by Anne Marie Lee
This was a lackluster ending to a book series that, somehow, I loved as a child. I never read this fifth installment to the Time Quintet that began with A Wrinkle in Time, but after rereading the first four earlier this year, my expectations for the fifth were severely adjusted. This finale does not feature Meg, Calvin, Charles Wallace, or the twins Sandy and Dennys, but focuses on Meg and Calvin’s daughter Polly and the time she spends with her grandparents, Drs. Kate and Alex Murry. She’s been sent to the elder Murrys in the hopes that she’ll gain an even greater education in science than she could have received at home or in school. All of that changes when Zachary, a college student whom she previously dated, shows up at the Murrys and pleads his case for Polly’s company.
by Noelle Stevenson, 2015
This is, perhaps, one of the loveliest little comics I’ve read. The story focuses on the shapeshifter Nimona who comes to the supervillain Lord Ballister Blackheart and endeavors to be his sidekick. The two are pursued by Blackheart’s nemesis, Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin, who is employed by the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics. This premise alone is enough to set it aside from all other stories whose protagonists are always on the side of good. What makes the story even more special is that Stevenson really makes us question whether “bad” is always bad, “good” is always good, and what it means to be a girl who knows her own strength.
by Octavia E. Butler, 1979
It’s 1976 when Dana Franklin, a woman living in LA, first meets Rufus Weylin, the young son of a Maryland plantation owner living in the early 1800s. In their first encounter, Dana saves Rufus from drowning in a river and narrowly escapes the shotgun his father points in her face. From that point, Dana is drawn back through time to the 1800s to save Rufus again and again, and it’s only when she fears for her life that she is pulled back to her present. Unfortunately, as Dana is black, that fear is never too far away.
I have long wanted to read the Bible, not because I’m particularly religious, but because of the profound effect it’s had on both literature and culture. I’ve tried a few times in the past, but I’ve always gotten bogged down by the barrage of rules and lineages and I’ve never made it out of the first five books. I’m starting again, and this time I have a little bit more structured plan. My goal is to read just one chapter – not one book, one chapter – each day. It’ll take me a long time to get to the end, but as I only need a few minutes to read each chapter, there’s a far greater chance that I’ll complete my daily goal.
by Ibram X. Kendi, 2016
Or, Everything You’ve Ever Known and Loved Is Racist and So Are You.
Seriously though, this is one of the most difficult books I’ve read in quite a while. While I don’t consider myself to be lacking in knowledge on the racist practices of America, I still received quite a shock when I read Kendi’s tome. Part of that was not realizing just how far racist ideas permeate the country’s foundation (The SAT? Racist!), and part of that was not realizing that I, too, bought into some of that (but I like Planet of the Apes…). What’s so effective about this book is not that Kendi tackles the larger aspects of racism, but that he unravels some of the tightly knit beliefs that many people espouse as a salve for said racism. It is about slavery, yes, but it also about all of the everyday things that we accept into our lives as normal that were built from the need to oppress.
by Tayari Jones, 2018
A year and a half after Celestial and Roy get married, the unthinkable happens: Roy is convicted of a crime he didn’t commit. The two struggle to remain committed to each other through Roy’s twelve-year sentence, but the strain proves to be too much for this young marriage and Roy is devastated when he receives a letter from Celestial announcing her intention to divorce him. Little do either of them know, Roy’s conviction will be overturned after five years and he will be set free. This story examines the ability of marriage to withstand the pressure of outside forces and whether love really is all two people need to survive. Despite its focus on love, I went into this book with an open mind and I wanted to like it. I promise you, I really did.