Late to the Party
I have a confession to make, my friends. I'm absolutely horrid at keeping up with new media releases. It took me days to see Black Panther when it came out; I almost missed The Shape of Water and Star Wars Episode 8 in theaters entirely. This is true for other formats, including books. It doesn't matter how excited I may be to see or read them, it often ends up with me forgetting about it entirely. This often leads to me kicking myself for not reading or watching it sooner. Usually, however, it's a happy surprise to find out why everyone liked the book/movie/show so much.
This is a brief list of books that I meant to read much sooner than I actually did—hopefully you're better at keeping up with your To-Be-Read list than I am. Hopefully these books will be a pleasant surprise for you as well.
The Boy Who Drew Monsters by Keith Donohue
At first blush, this book doesn't seem to be about much. That said, you won't be able to help but develop a creeping sense of dread as the small circle of characters tell you their sides of the story. I will admit that it took me a little while to understand some of the narrative choices in the book, but the ending more than makes up for the twists and turns that author Keith Donahue throws at you. This is a book I definitely had to read during daylight hours as well; reading it after sunset was a little more than I could handle. I can't say too much more without giving away plot points, so instead I'll tell you to read it and see for yourself, especially if you're a Stephen King fan.
Infomocracy by Malka Older
If you are at all interested in political theory, this is the book for you. The story is set in a future Earth that's split into centenals made up of 100,000 people—no matter geographic location. Huge cities like Tokyo, New York and others have hundreds of miniature governments, whereas places with limited people over wide swaths of land may only have one or two. This system, called micro-democracy, holds elections every five years, and it's up to characters Mishima, Ken and others to ensure its peaceful continuation. As Malka Older's first novel, this story is a thrilling adventure into a technology-based world where things are not as they seem. Older presents technological advancements that make her story possible while commenting succinctly on what people do with unfettered access to information. I can't wait to read the rest of the series.
Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
Wow, what a lovely story. We always hear about kids who go on magical adventures in other worlds, but what happens when they come back to this one? Seanan McGuire gives us a possible answer in Every Heart a Doorway. Written about an isolated school for otherworldly travelers, we're introduced to characters who've been to a wide range of places and returned for one reason or another. We follow Nancy, a traveler to a highly logical Kingdom of the Dead, that's trying to find her way back while dealing with the challenges of a new boarding school. Her friends Sumi, Jack and Cade all help her along the way while trying to return to their own worlds. The writing in this novel is beautiful and lyrical. McGuire's prose drops you into Alice's Wonderland and keeps you there all the way until the end. The audiobook version clocks in just under five hours—it's the perfect thing for some escapism on your commute.
Batman: The Long Halloween by Jeph Loeb
Batman's imagery has an undeniable staying power, as evidenced by numerous forms of media dedicated to him over about eight decades. While the kitschy early stories of Adventure Comics are excellent in their own right, the later stories of the new millennium are entirely something else. The Long Halloween in particular tells the story of a young Batman still figuring out what his role is in Gotham City, working with fellow idealists Harvey Dent and Jim Gordon. Someone is knocking off powerful mobsters every holiday and it's up to our protagonists to figure out who it is before it tears the city apart. This story inspired the Dark Knight trilogy of films, so if you liked that you will want to read this. You'll enjoy Loeb's writing with Tim Sale's art—the gritty noir panels pair perfectly with the whodunnit story.
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
Oddly enough, I followed Nnedi Okorafor on Twitter long before I read any of her fiction. The same sharp wit in 280 characters is ever-present in Binti. I absolutely loved this novella—I can't say enough about how exciting it was to read a piece of afrofuturistic science fiction like this. This is another piece that will drop you into the world with very little explanation of how it works. You're simply expected to know/understand the mechanics of Binti's world. She'll explain things as a matter of self-reflection and it's a thrill to come into an understanding of how huge her accomplishments and her genius actually are. Reflecting on how she came to be the first of her people to attend the best university in the galaxy illustrates her character, but this story is absolutely not going to go the way you think it will. As the story goes on and Binti needs to rely more and more on her wits to stay alive, she shines. Dr. Okorafor's work is really exciting and I can't wait to read the rest of the series.