A list to end all (of my) lists

by Zach

As I say goodbye to Iowa City and ICPL, I would like to leave you with a parting gift: my favorite books, the books most influential on my life, the books I have read and read again. Perhaps this will inspire you to pick one of these up.

The telling

Le Guin, Ursula K., 1929-2018.


Once a culturally rich world, the planet Aka has been utterly transformed by technology. Records of the past have been destroyed, and citizens are strictly monitored. But an official observer from Earth named Sutty has learned of a group of outcasts who live in the wilderness. They still believe in the ancient ways and still practice its lost religion - the Telling. Intrigued by their beliefs, Sutty joins them on a sacred pilgrimage into the mountains...and into the dangerous terrain of her own heart, mind, and soul.

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Ursula K. Le Guin is my favorite author. She, above any other, has influenced and inspired my way of thought and my personal philosophy. The Dispossessed and The Left Hand of Darkness are well-loved and well-known, but one of her lesser known and loved books is among her greatest. The Telling is another brief glimpse into a hidden utopia. Aspects of this story are obviously dystopic, the book banning, the corporate overlords, the homophobia etc. But that's not what matters. It's the life that goes on below the surface, the rebellion in action. The utopia is that rebellion, and the continued life and love of culture that predates the dystopia. Read this, and read everything else by her. You won't regret a moment.
- Zach

The time traveler's wife

Niffenegger, Audrey.

FICTION Niffenegger, Audrey

A dazzling novel in the most untraditional fashion, this is the remarkable story of a passionate love affair that endures across a sea of time and captures the two lovers in an impossibly romantic trap.

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I've recommended this before and I'll recommend it again. This is my most read book, having read it four times thus far (and more to come I suspect). I reread it nearly every year around Christmas and New Years because that's the perfect time to do so. It's made me cry often, and the more I read it, the more I see. And each time I finish it I find myself wanting to start it all over again. Every scene, every chapter, there's a moment to love. To see the characters so fully realized in every time and place is a gift. The writing is dramatic in the way that I love--everything is filled with awe or love or anticipation. I can't help but feel sad reading this book, always. It's just a melancholic piece. It's both hopeful and tired. Until the end.
- Zach

Mistborn : the final empire

Sanderson, Brandon.

SCIENCE FICTION Sanderson, Brandon

For a thousand years the ash fell and no flowers bloomed. For a thousand years the Skaa slaved in misery and lived in fear. For a thousand years the Lord Ruler, the "Sliver of Infinity," reigned with absolute power and ultimate terror, divinely invincible. Then, when hope was so long lost that not even its memory remained, a terribly scarred, heart-broken half-Skaa rediscovered it in the depths of the Lord Ruler's most hellish prison. Kelsier "snapped" and found in himself the powers of a Mistborn. A brilliant thief and natural leader, he turned his talents to the ultimate caper, with the Lord Ruler himself as the mark. Kelsier recruited the underworld's elite, the smartest and most trustworthy allomancers, each of whom shares one of his many powers, and all of whom relish a high-stakes challenge. Then Kelsier reveals his ultimate dream, not just the greatest heist in history, but the downfall of the divine despot. But even with the best criminal crew ever assembled, Kel's plan looks more like the ultimate long shot, until luck brings a ragged girl named Vin into his life. Like him, she's a half-Skaa orphan, but she's lived a much harsher life. Vin has learned to expect betrayal from everyone she meets. She will have to learn trust if Kel is to help her master powers of which she never dreamed.

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I've read this series about three times. Sometimes I pick up a middle book and read it, then go on with my life again, other times I'll start from the beginning and see it through to the end. The original trilogy is of course my favorite, but there's a lot to say about the Wax and Wayne quatrology which I won't get into here. The characters are brilliant and diverse in their portrayals, as well as loveable. The magic system is unique, and one of the best I've ever read. And the prose style is so easy. When I'm down and need a read to bring me back up I come to Brandon Sanderson. I read this book first in March 2017 and now every time around March and April I look at the bookshelf and ask myself if it's time to reread them all. I said no this year because book 5 of The Stormlight Archives comes out this year, and so next year we'll go through a lot of reading Brandon Sanderson.
- Zach

Gardens of the moon

Erikson, Steven.


The Malazan Empire simmers with discontent, bled dry by interminable warfare, bitter infighting and bloody confrontations with the formidable Anomander Rake and his Tiste Andii, ancient and implacable sorcerers. Even the imperial legions, long inured to the bloodshed, yearn for some respite. Yet Empress Laseen's rule remains absolute, enforced by her dread Claw assassins. For Sergeant Whiskeyjack and his squad of Bridgeburners, and for Tattersail, surviving cadre mage of the Second Legion, the aftermath of the siege of Pale should have been a time to mourn the many dead. But Darujhistan, last of the Free Cities of Genabackis, yet holds out. It is to this ancient citadel that Laseen turns her predatory gaze. However, it would appear that the Empire is not alone in this great game. Sinister, shadowbound forces are gathering as the gods themselves prepare to play their hand...

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I've read this book a few times because it was one of the first fantasy series I fell in love with. I didn't start reading on a large scale until my freshman year of high school, and while I would not recommend this book for that age group, I don't know if I'd be able to read it again now. It's a ten book series which I have been meaning to reread completely (with side novels too) but it's such a monumental task that I have not gotten to it. The main Malazan Book of the Fallen series is about 10,000 pages, and there are more in-universe stories beyond the main ten. And yet. The work is so worth it. When I first read this series, it inspired me to become a writer--the depth of the world building is unique and vast. I think the only comparisons could be to Tolkien and Sanderson. I aspire for the thoughtfulness, wit, and strength both Erikson and Esselmont have. Amazing.
- Zach

Assassin's apprentice

Hobb, Robin.


In a faraway land where members of the royal family are named for the virtues they embody, one young boy will become a walking enigma. Born on the wrong side of the sheets, Fitz, son of Chivalry Farseer, is a royal bastard, cast out into the world, friendless and lonely. Only his magical link with animals - the old art known as the Wit - gives him solace and companionship. But the Wit, if used too often, is a perilous magic, and one abhorred by the nobility. So when Fitz is finally adopted into the royal household, he must give up his old ways and embrace a new life of weaponry, scribing, courtly manners; and how to kill a man secretly, as he trains to become a royal assassin.

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This series consists of 16 books, 5 sub-series, and after 7 years, I am only done with 13 of the books! And that is not a diss against Robin Hobb, in fact, I think it is a testament to my care for this series. There is no way I could be so patient as I have been unless there was a reason. And that reason is... I want to give these books the time they deserve. And that means I need to be in the right headspace and the atmosphere needs to be right. I recommend reading these outside during the summer months, to breath in the air as your sob or whatever else while reading these. If you're a fan of the witcher series specifically, I think you'd love this.
- Zach

The night circus

Morgenstern, Erin.

SCIENCE FICTION Morgenstern, Erin

Waging a fierce competition for which they have trained since childhood, circus magicians Celia and Marco unexpectedly fall in love with each other and share a fantastical romance that manifests in fateful ways.

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Whenever I see this book on the shelves, I feel the need to pick it up. While having a beautiful outside (the cover is stunning), the inside it remarkably more so. I find myself picking this book up during the winter when I need a warmth I can't quite get anywhere else.
- Zach

Two boys kissing

Levithan, David.


A chorus of men who died of AIDS observes and yearns to help a cross-section of today's gay teens who navigate new love, long-term relationships, coming out, self-acceptance, and more in a society that has changed in many ways.

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One of the first queer books I ever read. I remember hiding this book under my pillow in high school because I didn't want my parents to see what I was reading. I now try to recommend this book everywhere because it's a commonly banned book.
- Zach

The book thief

Zusak, Markus.


Trying to make sense of the horrors of World War II, Death relates the story of Liesel--a young German girl whose book-stealing and story-telling talents help sustain her family and the Jewish man they are hiding, as well as their neighbors.

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If you need a good book to cry to, this may be it. The concept of death narrating a girl's journey through living in Nazi Germany is haunting and beautiful. I think this might be my favorite historical fiction book ever.
- Zach

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

Clarke, Susanna.


The year is 1806. England is beleaguered by the long war with Napoleon, and centuries have passed since practical magicians faded into the nation's past. But scholars of this glorious history discover that one remains: the reclusive Mr Norrell, whose displays of magic send a thrill through the country. Proceeding to London, he raises a beautiful woman from the dead and summons an army of ghostly ships to terrify the French. Yet the cautious, fussy Norrell is challenged by the emergence of another magician: the brilliant novice Jonathan Strange. Young, handsome and daring, Strange is the very antithesis of Norrell. So begins a dangerous battle between these two great men which overwhelms that between England and France. And their own obsessions and secret dabblings with the dark arts are going to cause more trouble than they can imagine.

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I'm just gonna say it. I liked Susanna Clarke before she was cool! And after she won both the Hugo and Nebula awards in 2008 for this book... so maybe not. But I'm so happy she had a resurgence recently with Piranesi (an amazing book by the way, you should read that too), but I wish this resurgence passed some more love onto Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell. It's possibly the best stand alone fantasy story ever, but I feel as though I've been saying that about any and everything on this list, so may be losing meaning. But ANYWAY, this is a masterpiece, another great winter read. So go forth and read!
- Zach


Herbert, Frank.


Originally published in 1965, this best-selling classic won the first Nebula Award and shaped modern science fiction; it will be forever considered a triumph of the imagination. Set on the desert planet Arrakis, Dune is the story of the boy Paul Atreides, who would become the mysterious man known as Muad'dib. He would avenge the traitorous plot against his noble family--and would bring to fruition humankind's most ancient and unattainable dream. A stunning blend of adventure and mysticism, environmentalism and politics.

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Okay I know, but I'm gonna say it again. I liked this before it was cool! And AFTER it had one movie already in the 80's and again, won multiple science fiction awards, but still! Just joking of course. I'm actually not a big fan of the movies, I found the book to be so incredibly complex that I couldn't find the best aspects of it that I enjoyed in the movie. That doesn't mean the movie is bad, or the book is incomprehensible, just a personal thing. I recommend the book with all my heart. I plan on rereading it for years to come because with each readthrough, I suspect you could focus solely on one idea and write a whole paper on it by the end.
- Zach

A little life : a novel

Yanagihara, Hanya.

FICTION Yanagihara, Hanya

When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they're broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity. Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he’ll not only be unable to overcome—but that will define his life forever.

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This book may be on this list, but that does not mean I recommend it. It might just be the hardest book I've ever read before. There are too many content warnings to even put here, and I'm sure I wouldn't remember them all anyway. Despite that, I will say this was one of the best books I read in 2019. Look into this one more before picking it up.
- Zach


Oseman, Alice, author, artist.

GRAPHIC NOVEL Oseman Heartstopper

Boy meets boy. Boys become friends. Boys fall in love. A sweet and charming coming-of-age story that explores friendship, love, and coming out. This edition features beautiful two-color artwork. Absolutely delightful. Sweet, romantic, kind. Beautifully paced. I loved this book. -- Rainbow Rowell, author of Carry On Shy and softhearted Charlie Spring sits next to rugby player Nick Nelson in class one morning. A warm and intimate friendship follows, and that soon develops into something more for Charlie, who doesn't think he has a chance. But Nick is struggling with feelings of his own, and as the two grow closer and take on the ups and downs of high school, they come to understand the surprising and delightful ways in which love works.

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Oh Charlie and Nick. I adore these boys and these books. I first found this story on Webtoons and read it all the way through to the end in one day (the chapters are still on there, and that's still where I reread them). This was during the first bout of quarantine and it helped me feel connected to a community that I didn't really feel a part of yet. It spoke to a younger version of myself that I never got to know.
- Zach

Parable of the sower

Butler, Octavia E.

SCIENCE FICTION Butler, Octavia E.

In 2024, with the world descending into madness and anarchy, one woman begins a fateful journey toward a better future. Lauren Olamina and her family live in one of the only safe neighborhoods remaining on the outskirts of Los Angeles. Behind the walls of their defended enclave, Lauren’s father, a preacher, and a handful of other citizens try to salvage what remains of a culture that has been destroyed by drugs, disease, war, and chronic water shortages. While her father tries to lead people on the righteous path, Lauren struggles with hyperempathy, a condition that makes her extraordinarily sensitive to the pain of others. When fire destroys their compound, Lauren’s family is killed and she is forced out into a world that is fraught with danger. With a handful of other refugees, Lauren must make her way north to safety, along the way conceiving a revolutionary idea that may mean salvation for all mankind.

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This is perhaps one of the most iconic climate fiction books there are. Taking place in 2024. Octavia E. Butler is one of my favorite authors--every book and short story I have read by her has been amazing. Every one. Can you imagine how good of a writer you need to be for that to be the case? Even Ursula K. Le Guin has books that I did not enjoy. But not Octavia E. Butler. It saddens me deeply that this trilogy was never finished, but I'm glad I could read Fledgling, her last published book, anyway.
- Zach

To be taught, if fortunate

Chambers, Becky, author.


"At the turn of the twenty-second century, scientists make a breakthrough in human spaceflight. Through a revolutionary method known as somaforming, astronauts can survive in hostile environments off Earth using synthetic biological supplementations. They can produce antifreeze in subzero temperatures, absorb radiation and convert it for food, and conveniently adjust to the pull of different gravitational forces. With the fragility of the body no longer a limiting factor, human beings are at last able to journey to neighboring exoplanets long known to harbor life. A team of these explorers, Ariadne O'Neill and her three crewmates, are hard at work in a planetary system fifteen light-years from Sol, on a mission to ecologically survey four habitable worlds. But as Ariadne shifts through both form and time, the culture back on Earth has also been transformed. Faced with the possibility of returning to a planet that has forgotten those who have left, Ariadne begins to chronicle the story of the wonders and dangers of her mission, in the hope that someone back home might still be listening."--

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A jarring read if you're not expecting the sadness. This was my first book by Becky Chambers, which introduced me to her amazing style of writing. I love her style and her vision. Her Wayfarers series is wonderful and I enjoyed every moment of it. At first I was annoyed that the characters in each book change and the stories are distinct, but then I grew to love each new setting and set up. Record of a Spaceborn Few being my favorite, as it follows Archivists to an extent!
- Zach

What Makes This Book So Great

Walton, Jo.

813.0876 /Walton

"As any reader of Jo Walton's Among Others might guess, Walton is both an inveterate reader of SF and fantasy, and a chronic re-reader of books. In 2008, then-new science-fiction mega-site Tor.com asked Walton to blog regularly about her re-reading--about all kinds of older fantasy and SF, ranging from acknowledged classics, to guilty pleasures, to forgotten oddities and gems. These posts have consistently been among the most popular features of Tor.com. Now this volumes presents a selection of the best of them, ranging from short essays to long reassessments of some of the field's most ambitious series. Among Walton's many subjects here are the Zones of Thought novels of Vernor Vinge; the question of what genre readers mean by "mainstream"; the underappreciated SF adventures of C. J. Cherryh; the field's many approaches to time travel; the masterful science fiction of Samuel R. Delany; Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children; the early Hainish novels of Ursula K. Le Guin; and a Robert A. Heinlein novel you have most certainly never read. Over 130 essays in all, What Makes This Book So Great is an immensely readable, engaging collection of provocative, opinionated thoughts about past and present-day fantasy and science fiction, from one of our best writers"--

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Absurd we don't have Kalpa Imperial by Angelica Gorodischer in the ICPL collection. It is... phenomenal. One of my favorite books ever. I have yet to reread it because I'm scared it will never be the same as the first time. This book is translated by, you guessed it, Ursula K. Le Guin. I'm so so happy I found this book and I
- Zach

Vagabonds : a novel

Hao, Jingfang, author.


"A century after the Martian war of independence, a group of kids are sent to Earth as delegates from Mars, but when they return home, they are caught between the two worlds, unable to reconcile the beauty and culture of Mars with their experiences on Earth in this spellbinding novel from Hugo Award-winning author Hao Jingfang. This genre-bending novel is set on Earth in the wake of a second civil war...not between two factions in one nation, but two factions in one solar system: Mars and Earth. In an attempt to repair increasing tensions, the colonies of Mars send a group of young people to live on Earth to help reconcile humanity. But the group finds itself with no real home, no friends, and fractured allegiances as they struggle to find a sense of community and identity, trapped between two worlds. Fans of Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go and Naomi Alderman's The Power will fall in love with this novel about lost innocence, an uncertain future, and never feeling at home, no matter where you are in the universe. Translated by Ken Liu, bestselling author of The Paper Menagerie and translator of Cixin Liu's The Three-Body Problem, Vagabonds is the first novel from Hao Jingfang, the first Chinese woman to ever win the esteemed Hugo Award"--

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I love a story set on Mars because it gives the author so much leeway--to use both our own earth's history of the human race as well as to create a whole new society and way of life. It allows for utopia through, admittedly, space colonization. It makes the idea complicated, but for now, this book focuses a lot on utopia and revolution and the idea that it doesn't just end at the final battle. Change is continuous. I really need to reread this one.
- Zach

Light from uncommon stars

Aoki, Ryka, author.


"Good Omens meets The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet in Ryka Aoki's Light From Uncommon Stars, a defiantly joyful adventure set in California's San Gabriel Valley, with cursed violins, Faustian bargains, and queer alien courtship over fresh-made donuts. Shizuka Satomi made a deal with the devil: to escape damnation, she must entice seven other violin prodigies to trade their souls for success. She has already delivered six. When Katrina Nguyen, a young transgender runaway, catches Shizuka's ear with her wild talent, Shizuka can almost feel the curse lifting. She's found her final candidate. But in a donut shop off a bustling highway in the San Gabriel Valley, Shizuka meets Lan Tran, retired starship captain, interstellar refugee, and mother of four. Shizuka doesn't have time for crushes or coffee dates, what with her very soul on the line, but Lan's kind smile and eyes like stars might just redefine a soul's worth. And maybe something as small as a warm donut is powerful enough to break a curse as vast as the California coastline. As the lives of these three women become entangled by chance and fate, a story of magic, identity, curses, and hope begins, and a family worth crossing the universe for is found"--

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Maybe the first book I saw a trans woman represented well in. Truly a masterpiece too. If I could write like Ryka Aoki right now I would do it. She's a master of her craft and this is a wondrous science fiction story following an absurdist and beautiful plot.
- Zach

Braiding sweetgrass

Kimmerer, Robin Wall.

508 /Kimmerer

"As a leading researcher in the field of biology, Robin Wall Kimmerer understands the delicate state of our world. But as an active member of the Potawatomi nation, she senses and relates to the world through a way of knowing far older than any science. In Braiding Sweetgrass, she intertwines these two modes of awareness--the analytic and the emotional, the scientific and the cultural--to ultimately reveal a path toward healing the rift that grows between people and nature. The woven essays that construct this book bring people back into conversation with all that is green and growing; a universe that never stopped speaking to us, even when we forgot how to listen"--

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Probably my favorite non-fiction book ever. I recommend reading this one outside during spring and summer. It gives you a new appreciation of nature and life around you.
- Zach

Red Mars

Robinson, Kim Stanley.

SCIENCE FICTION Robinson, Kim Stanley

For eons, sandstorms have swept the desolate landscape. For centuries, Mars has beckoned humans to conquer its hostile climate. Now, in 2026, a group of 100 colonists is about to fulfill that destiny. John Boone, Maya Toitavna, Frank Chalmers and Arkady Bogdanov lead a terraforming mission. For some, Mars will become a passion driving them to daring acts of courage and madness. For others it offers an opportunity to strip the planet of its riches. For the genetic alchemists, it presents a chance to create a biomedical miracle, a breakthrough that could change all we know about life and death. The colonists orbit giant satellite mirrors to reflect light to the surface. Black dust sprinkled on the polar caps will capture warmth. Massive tunnels, kilometers deep, will be drilled into the mantle to create stupendous vents of hot gases. Against this backdrop of epic upheaval, rivalries, loves and friendships will form and fall to pieces—for there are those who will fight to the death to prevent Mars from ever being changed. Brilliantly imagined, breathtaking in scope and ingenuity, Red Mars is an epic scientific saga, chronicling the next step in evolution, creating a world in its entirety. It shows a future, with both glory and tarnish, that awes with complexity and inspires with vision.

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It's so easy to say this was one of the best books I've ever read. The characters are brilliant, the science is brilliant, the plot was brilliant. I kept thinking of how I'd like to write a paper about this book one day, of the complexities of terraforming (the morality of it, of even coming to Mars in the first place, the beauty of it, and whether Mars is more beautiful Red or Green, and its utility, if it will sustain life for humanity, or if it will stay as is and teach of how the solar system was 5 billion years ago) or so many other things! Read this if you like hard sci-fi and strong political arguments.
- Zach

Whipping girl : a transsexual woman on sexism and the scapegoating of femininity

Serano, Julia, author.

306.768 /Serano

"In the updated second edition of Whipping Girl, Julia Serano, a transsexual woman whose supremely intelligent writing reflects her diverse background as a lesbian transgender activist and professional biologist, shares her powerful experiences and observations -- both pre- and post-transition -- to reveal the ways in which fear, suspicion, and dismissiveness toward femininity shape our societal attitudes toward trans women, as well as gender and sexuality as a whole. Serano's well-honed arguments stem from her ability to bridge the gap between the often-disparate biological and social perspectives on gender. In this provocative manifesto, she exposes how deep-rooted the cultural belief is that femininity is frivolous, weak, and passive, and how this "feminine" weakness exists only to attract and appease male desire. In addition to debunking popular misconceptions about transsexuality, Serano makes the case that today's feminists and transgender activists must work to embrace and empower femininity -- in all of its wondrous forms."--provided by Amazon.com.

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A fantastic text about being trans and transmisogyny. I'd recommend if you call yourself a feminist!
- Zach

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind

Miyazaki, Hayao, 1941-

MANGA Miyazaki Nausicaa Editor's

In a long-ago war, humankind set off a devastating ecological disaster. Thriving industrial societies disappeared. The earth is slowly submerging beneath the expanding Sea of Corruption, an enormous toxic forest that creates mutant insects and releases a miasma of poisonous spores into the air. At the periphery of the sea, tiny kingdoms are scattered on tiny parcels of land. Here lies the Valley of the Wind, a kingdom of barely 500 citizens; a nation given fragile protection from the decaying sea's poisons by the ocean breezes; and home to Nausicaä . Nausicaä, a young princess, has an emphatic bond with the giant Ohmu insects and animals of every creed. She fights to create tolerance, understanding and patience among empires that are fighting over the world's remaining precious natural resources.

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The best manga I've ever read. If you love Studio Ghibli movies, and specifically the Nausicaa movie, you need to read this. It goes so deeply into the themes of the movie that it far surpasses it, and the movie itself is incredible.
- Zach


Kay, Guy Gavriel.


Tigana is the magical story of a beleaguered land struggling to be free. It is the tale of a people so cursed by the black sorcery of a cruel despotic king that even the name of their once-beautiful homeland cannot be spoken or remembered... But years after the devastation, a handful of courageous men and women embark upon a dangerous crusade to overthrow their conquerors and bring back to the dark world the brilliance of a long-lost name...Tigana. Against the magnificently rendered background of a world both sensuous and barbaric, this sweeping epic of a passionate people pursuing their dream is breathtaking in its vision, changing forever the boundaries of fantasy fiction.

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Here's my review after just finishing it: "Perhaps Guy Gavriel Kay will become one of my favorite authors. The themes alone of this book are so well wrought. I am astounded at the complexity of the strings being pulled together at the end of the novel. I gasped, I nearly cried, I was astounded with the prose and desceiptions on each and every page. Every small act is romanticized and characterized. I could hear the pain of screams, feel the sweat of frustration, the shaking of nerves, and the taste of bile before vomiting. Every charater was complex. The villains aren't villains--only men who are thoughtful and emotionally receptive and care for their loved ones fiercely in a way that I can almost agree with and most definitely sympathize with. The heroes are evil. They claim superiority in ethics while doing wrong by using people to do as they wish. The force that was pushed onto them is seen fully in the regret and defeat they feel for needing to go so far. Yet this story wouldn't be the same without seeing the dangers of revolution, the legitimacy of rebellion 'using others as unwilling instruments.'"
- Zach

The moth keeper

O'Neill, Kay (Cartoonist), author, illustrator.


Kit is excited to prove her worth as a Moth-Keeper, a protector of the lunar moths that allow the Night-Lily flower to bloom once a year, but she quickly finds that life as a Moth-Keeper is not what she imagined it would be.

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If you haven't read Kay O'Neill, whether being an adult or younger, you are missing out. The art alone is beyond stunning, but the storyline... it's a beautiful book to remind oneself you're never alone. When I read this book, I was in a bad reading slump going for two months and this had been a beautiful and strong way to grow back into myself, and to start slowly--be kind to myself, and patient. It makes me want to tear up.
- Zach

System collapse

Wells, Martha, author.


"Everyone's favorite lethal SecUnit is back in the next installment in Martha Wells's New York Times bestselling Murderbot Diaries series. Am I making it worse? I think I'm making it worse. Following the events in Network Effect, the Barish-Estranza corporation has sent rescue ships to a newly-colonized planet in peril, as well as additional SecUnits. But if there's an ethical corporation out there, Murderbot has yet to find it, and if Barish-Estranza can't have the planet, they're sure as hell not leaving without something. If that something just happens to be an entire colony of humans, well, a free workforce is a decent runner-up prize. But there's something wrong with Murderbot; it isn't running within normal operational parameters. ART's crew and the humans from Preservation are doing everything they can to protect the colonists, but with Barish-Estranza's SecUnit-heavy persuasion teams, they're going to have to hope Murderbot figures out what's wrong with itself, and fast! Yeah, this plan is... not going to work. The Murderbot Diaries All Systems Red Artificial Condition Rogue Protocol Exit Strategy Network Effect Fugitive Telemetry System Collapse"--

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Of the series, this was my favorite. The Murderbot Diaries are a fascinating adventure into our universe, spanning multiple planets and spheres of influence. I found the use of utopia surrounded by a flawed, corporate system to be highly realistic and affirming, but even more so inspiring in its own way. And the series is just so funny and fun. I recommend the audiobooks.
- Zach

My Ántonia

Cather, Willa, 1873-1947.

FICTION Cather, Willa

"Willa Cather's My Ántonia is considered one of the most significant American novels of the twentieth century. Set during the great migration west to settle the plains of the North American continent, the narrative follows Antonia Shimerda, a pioneer who comes to Nebraska as a child and grows with the country, inspiring a childhood friend, Jim Burden, to write her life story. The novel is important both for its literary aesthetic and as a portrayal of important aspects of American social ideals and history, particularly the centrality of migration to American culture."

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This was a beautiful ode to the prairielands. Another great one to read outside and appreciate the wind in the long grasses. I only read this one outside, and the prose and characters kept me going every moment. Deserving of the classic title.
- Zach

Paul takes the form of a mortal girl : a novel

Lawlor, Andrea, author.

FICTION Lawlor, Andrea

It's 1993 and Paul Polydoris tends bar at the only gay club in a university town thrumming with politics and partying. He studies queer theory, has a dyke best friend, makes zines, and is a flaneur with a rich dating life. But Paul's also got a secret: he's a shapeshifter. Oscillating wildly from Riot Grrrl to leather cub, Paul transforms his body and his gender at will as he crossed the country--a journey and adventure through the deep queer archives of struggle and pleasure. Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl is a riotous, razor-sharp bildungsroman whose hero/ine wends his/her way through a world gutted by loss, pulsing with music, and opening into an array of intimacy and connections.

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This might be the book the end the list with. Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl is one my favorite books that I've read this year. It's a book that relies upon transitions, not just between phases of "boy" or "girl" but also between cities and therefore worlds. How culture changes and stays the same across the country, what being out might look like as a queer person in the midwest. The book inspires me to be more open with new people and trying new things, as well as to recognize my love for music and reading. There's a lot in here that I see myself in, and then more that I wish I was.
- Zach