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Friends, here we are again, at the end of another exhausting year.  We made it! I never lost my reading momentum this year and I’m truly grateful.  In fact, I think reading constantly has been the key to my mental and emotional stability this year (such as it was, which is to say, not great).  I’m definitely a mood reader and this year for the first time I didn’t fight my moods, which were, understandably, somewhat volatile and tumultuous. I didn’t make myself read things I thought I “should.”  Instead, I went where my moods* took me.

I dove into mostly fantasy fiction this year,** immersing myself in stories that are DEFINITELY not real (escapism really works, friends!). On the other hand, I also took deeper look at individual, true-life stories, told in folks’ own voices.  My love for memoirs really snuck up on me, and those listed here are just a handful of my favorites among a large list of wonderful ones. Because when the world feels hostile and uncaring, apparently I yearn for empathy both in myself and in others.  Sharing in the pain and joy of others reminded me of the humanity in all of us (a spoonful of humanity makes the despair go down).

Another habit I’ve honed this past couple of years is not finishing books I’m not liking. As a result, I really loved almost everything I read (my average rating is 4.0+), so making this list was hard.  That’s why there are more honorable mentions then there are favorites. Here’s to another year of moodiness!

Essays: My newfound love for essays has also surprised me this year.  Essays are the perfect format to throw into a mix if you (like me) read more than one book at once.  They are easy to pick up and put down.  My hands-down favorite this year was Tomboyland by Melissa Faliveno, which I’ve already talked about in another post.  Her writing is beautiful and her exploration of gender, sexuality and identity is eye-opening. [Trigger warning for SA]

Honorable mention #1: Leaving Isn’t the Hardest Thing by Lauren Hough.  Lauren grew up in an honest-to-goodness cult.  Her essays walk us through her cult years growing up and her Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell years in the military, and what she did with herself after being “asked” to leave the military.  She’s also a great person to follow on Twitter.  [Trigger warning for SA]

Honorable mention #2:  Here for It by R. Eric Thomas is hilarious and engaging.  His story about his school newspaper article that got him labeled a ‘typical racist white dude’ is unforgettable. His Twitter feed is worth a follow too. 

Nonfiction:  The costs of structural racism in our country are often unseen but white citizens. We seem to think that either they aren’t there or, if we are being honest and know that they are, we have a sneaking suspicion that they are not our costs to pay (spoiler: they are). In The Sum of Us, Heather McGhee, an expert in economics and policy, shows readers how these costs (in housing, healthcare, voting, lending, the job market) hurt us all. And how helping the most vulnerable helps us all.

Honorable mention #1:  This Book Will Make You Kinder by Henry James Garret is a book about empathy and all the obstacles we put in our own way to keep us from being kinder, more empathetic people.  It’s filled with silly (and educational!) drawings but don’t be fooled, this book is for real.

Honorable mention #2
Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male Power by Ijeoma Oluo.  At perhaps no better time than now, in the middle of a botched pandemic response, do we need to examine our cultural need to follow the leadership and authority of folks who are clearly not up to the task.  This book examines the historical context of why we arrived here and what we need to do to change it. 

Memoir (LGBTQ+): It only took a few pages before I fell in love with Ivan Coyote, author of Tomboy Survival Guide.  This is a memoir told as a series of stories of his Canadian upbringing and transition into his true authentic self.  This year I really leaned into stories of identity, specifically gender identity and sexual orientation and this is one of the best I read.  Turns out I’m easily swayed to read anything with Tomboy in the title, and this one didn’t disappoint.  In fact, it sets the bar high for all other tomboy books.

Honorable mention #1:  The Natural Mother of the Child: A Memoir of Nonbinary Parenthood by Krys Malcolm Belc is the emotional and engaging memoir of a trans man who transitioned during his pregnancy for his second child (and first pregnancy).  We follow Kris as he journeys through parenthood and pregnancy with all the unique emotional and logistical challenges that such a pregnancy presented. 

Honorable mention #2:  Stuck in the Middle with You by Jennifer Finney Boylan.  I was introduced to Jennifer Finney Boylan when I read her book Good Boy, about being raised as a boy with his childhood dogs.  Her writing is beautiful and so relatable.  This memoir includes not only the story of Jennifer’s experiences as a parent in more than one gender (she had her children before she transitioned), but also interviews with other parents regarding gender and identity. 

Memoir: If you think that I got a lot of my book recommendations from folks I follow on Twitter you would be correct.  Ashley C. Ford is a gorgeous writer, plain and simple.  I will read anything she writes.  In Somebody’s Daughter she explores shares her deepest self with us and in doing so shows us how we can approach family, love and loyalty while still being true to ourselves.  [Trigger warning for SA]

Honorable mention:  I automatically buy any book that Jenny Lawson writes.  Her previous books have delved into mental health issues in Jenny’s hilarious, chaotic and inimitable way.  Broken follows in this tradition of the author sharing her truest, weirdest, most ridiculous and funniest self.  It’s a book that made me cry but also laugh so hard I couldn’t breathe.

Antiracist: Clint Smith, the author of How The Word Is Passed is a literal poet.  And this fact shines through every sentence of this powerful book.  He takes us on a journey around the country, exploring parts of the U.S. with ties to racism:  Monticello Plantation, Angola Prison, Blandford Cemetery and Galveston Island.  His descriptions are so powerful that the reader can see what he sees, which adds an additional emotional impact to the stories of our horrific past.

Honorable mention #1:  Long Time Coming: Reckoning with Race in America by Michael Eric Dyson is a gut-punch of a book.  Every beautiful, brutally true sentence requires your full mental attention and emotional investment.  Each chapter is addressed to a soul tragically lost to unnecessary and yet all too common violence against Black bodies:  Elijah McClain, Emmett Till, Eric Gardner, Breonna Taylor and others.  It should be read slowly, carefully, and unflinchingly. 

Honorable mention #2 & #3:  The most basic thing we white folks need to do to educate ourselves about racism is to listen to BIPOC voices.  Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man by Emmanuel Acho and The Black Friend: On Being a Better White Person by Joseph, Frederick are two wonderful gifts from the Black community to us white folks – these are books explicitly written for us so that we can hear the things we need to hear.  I recommend both of these books for those just starting their antiracist journeys or for kids.  Uncomfortable Conversations even has a specific young readers version (which I got both my kids!)

Middle Grade: I read Verdigris Pawn by Alysa Wishingrad in less than a day.  I could not put it down.  It’s a delightful middle grade fantasy with characters you really root for.  It has some magic and also some mystery and just enough stakes to have you on the edge of your seat waiting to see what happens next. 

Honorable mention #1 (&2):  I stayed up until 2am reading Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valor by Ally Carter.  It’s a story about orphans and mysteries and dark cloaked figures who are up to no good.  There is murder and intrigue and danger at every turn. There is a group of scrappy kids who are not to be trifled with. When I was done, I went out to buy the sequel. Winterborne Home for Mayhem and Mystery proved just as engaging (requiring another late night).  My kid, my mother and I all loved this series, so it’s good for all ages)

Horror:  Chuck Wendig has no right (as the kids say) to go this hard, not after what he did to us in WanderersThe Book of Accidents is, in many ways, a straightforward horror book.  There is a serial killer, plenty of gore, and some scary-as-shit, unexplained phenomenon.  But there are also portals and magic and demons.  I don’t know how he keeps all these threads together, but he does.  This book defies boundaries and genres.  And it’s so damn good. 

Honorable mention #1:  Dark Waters by Katherine Arden is the third in her Small Spaces Quartet.  This one is set in Spring (the previous two were in Fall and Winter).  The author does “horror for kids” as well as my perennial favorite, Neil Gaiman.  Because it’s middle grade, I always believe the kids will be alright, but there are just enough stakes to make me question this every once in a while.  As an adult, I find these books scary in that atmospheric way that is thrilling.  She’s a great storyteller.

NOTE: I started using The StoryGraph this year instead of GoodReads and consider this an unofficial plug to try this site out. It gives you great end of the year stats (see below for my Moods* and Fiction/NonFiction**)

I’m having trouble reading lately.

Global pandemics can do that to a person.  I need mental and emotional space to fall into a story, and the constant, low-level buzz of worry prickling and poking around in my brain is getting in the way.  I’m definitely not alone. To complicated things, the kind of stories I like to read involve life’s complexity – death, birth, love, tragedy, and loss.  Frankly, real life is too full of drama for me.  I read Wanderers and loved it.  But now we’re living it and it’s not as much fun.

I know a lot of us are in the same boat reading-wise, and feeling a bit sea sick.  I also know that the best antidote to anxiety is laughter.  And the best way to conquer a reading slump is to read something easy, funny, and entertaining.  So I have compiled a list of 11 Delightful, Entertaining, Hilarious, Funny Reads to get us through these wild and scary times.  This list (in no particular order) includes all levels of reading, some comics, some graphic novels, some traditional books.  If you have recommendations, please share!


Battlepug by Mike Norton.  What’s that?  Battle-what?  Yes, PUG.  As in a small, arguably adorable, snuffly, chubby, mild mannered companion.  This comic (vol. 1 available) is an adventure story that features a large, half-naked, Conan-eque hero who can communicate with animals telepathically, including an over-sized pug.  He fights homicidal elves with his band of companions, whom he mostly deserts because he’s that dude.  And there are horse thieves (they’re thieves but they are also HORSES!).  If you want the full Battlepug experience, start with the Compugdium, which includes all the background you need for the new issues of the comic.  But you can skip that if you want; you’ll catch up pretty quickly.  Reading level:  This is for adult or older teenage readers.  There is blood, profanity and nudity.


Knights vs. Dinosaurs [also Knights vs. Monsters & Knights vs. The End (of Everything)] by Matt Phelan. King Arthur’s knights are fond of telling tall tales, especially regarding their alleged prowess in battling dragons. Merlin decides it’s time to give the knights a chance to prove themselves and so he sends them back in time to fight dinosaurs.  Sir Erec, Sir Bors, Sir Hector, Squire Mel and the mysterious Black Knight join forces in an endearing, awkward, bumbling and, in the end, very lucky adventure. When they work together, they conquer their foes.  Reading level:  This is a middle grade book series with lots of great pictures.  A great read-along book for younger readers.


Phoebe and her Unicorn by Dana Simpson. This series of graphics novels follows Phoebe, a girl who accidentally finds a unicorn who grants her a wish.  Phoebe wishes for the unicorn to be her best friend.  And so Marigold Heavenly Nostrils becomes her BFF and helps Phoebe navigate school and parents and bullies with a little bit of magic and a WHOLE lot of sarcasm.  These books are both obviously and subtly funny and adults will find as much to love as kids will. They do not need to be read in order.  Reading level:  This is a middle grade graphic novel series sprinkled with gems of adult humor.


The Adventurer’s Guide to Successful Escapes by Wade Albert White.  Anne, the hero of this story, is an orphan who lives at Saint Lupin’s Institute for Perpetually Wicked and Hideously Unattractive Children.  This rollicky, hilarious series (There is a Guide to Dragons and a Guide to Treasures) is nonstop adventure and laughter.  This series is engaging for both the young readers it’s written for and also any parents who might want to read along (or read alone!).   Reading level:  Middle grade novel series with occasional illustrations.  


I Hate Fairyland by Skottie Young (Vol. 1-4 available). Gert is a 40 year old woman stuck in a 6 year old’s body.  She stumbled into Fairyland and was told if she found the key, she could go home.  But that was almost 30 years ago.  Cynical, tired, ruthlessly homicidal and still endearingly cute, Gert is both accidentally and intentionally chaotic in her quest for revenge on Fairyland.  Her Fairyland guide and friend (?) is a cigar smoking fly named Larrigon Wentsworth III who can’t seem to contain Gert or her rage. Reading level:  Adults only.  Lots of violence, and swearing. 


Bloodlust and Bonnets by Emily McGovern. Lucy is a British gentlewoman, a gentle lady, until she unleashes her bloodlust on what turns out to be a bevy of vampires.  “How did you know they were vampires?” she is asked after she dispatches the lot of them (reader, the answer is she didn’t know they were vampires! Girlfriend is just ragey).  This incident sets her on the hunt for Lady Violet Travesty, during which she accidentally assembles a team of wayward companions including the arrogant, blustery Lord Byron and the mysterious and confusing Sham, a bounty hunter.  The art in this graphic novel is half the hilarity, but the puns and mayhem are the other half.   Reading level:  Hard to say, there is violence and some nudity, but the drawings are so cartoony, it’s hard to take seriously.  My 10 year old read it and LOVED it. 


The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters by Kara LaReau. This series (there are currently three:  The Jolly Regina, The Uncanny Express and the Flight of the Bluebird) follows sisters Kale and Jaundice, who like their monotony thankyouverymuch.  They have order, they have predictability, and they have a schedule. They liked cheese sandwiches and that which is familiar.  But their oddly missing parents have other plans for them, and they keep sending the sisters on adventures, which the girls would rather not participate in.  Reading level:  Middle grade, and a great read-along for parents, who will chuckle at all the little things the kids miss.


Folklords by Matt Kindt and Matt Smith (Issues #1-5 available). Ansel lives in a world populated with ogres and trolls and elves and dwarves.  He’s at the age when he has to choose his Quest, but he has these elaborate dreams of a world so unlike his own, with technology he doesn’t understand.  He seeks the Folklords as his Quest, in the hopes they can explain his dreams, and why he doesn’t fit in.  But he is denied and told the information he seeks is forbidden.  Which of course only makes him sneak off to find his Quest anyway.  Reading level:  Teen and adult, there is some violence.

Pretty Violent

Pretty Violent (with lots of swears) by Derek Hunter (vol. 1 available). Based on the covers alone, it should be no surprise that this comic is brought to us by one of the creators of I Hate Fairyland.  The premise and images are similar.  In this case, an adorable young girl has named herself Gamma Rae and is trying her damned best to be a superhero but just keeps messing it up.  Like really badly.  EPICALLY badly.  Her family of supervillains tries to keep her from what seems to be a fruitless endeavor, but she is undaunted.  She will be the best damn superhero there is if she has to kill everyone trying.  Reading level:  Adult. Violence and swears are right in the title. 


Sparks! By Ian Boothby.   Two cats, dressed in a dog suit, fighting an evil alien named Princess, who basically looks like a adorable toddler.  I mean, what else do you need?


Loki (2019) by Daniel Kibblesmith. This comic got cancelled and that’s a damn shame.  Brought to us by the man who wrote Santa’s Husband, the Loki presented here is funny and arrogant and laugh out loud funny.  If you’ve ever wondering “What would Loki be like as a cowboy?”  this is your series.  The ending of this run is masterful, especially considering it was done the last minute.  If you enjoy Marvel and Loki then check this out, it’s a mere 5 issues, but it should have been more.  Mr. Kibblesmith is also the author of Marvel’s Lockjaw which is, oddly, about an extra large pug, so we have come full circle.

Jessica’s Reading

Jesse’s Reading

Jesse and Jessica are Both Reading

Devin’s Reading