Over on my movies blog that I manage with Beau (my significant other, husband, boyfriend, etc), we do a series of posts called ‘What I Watched’. These posts list what we have watched, how many times we have watched each, and then we include short recommendations for our favorites. These recommendations are not comprehensive reviews, but are how written like how we would recommend them to a friend or colleague. A short pitch with hype and our favorite bits in an elevator ride length statement.

As I had discussed in my January post, I have been journeying to becoming a regular reader of books. Last year I read 11 books. This year so far (at the time of this writing) I have read 18 books out of my goal of 25 for 2020. In summary, I have been reading more and want to continue to read more books. I also want to talk about the books that I read and record my reading habits somewhere besides just Goodreads.

This is why I will be starting a series of posts called ‘Reading’ where I adopt the same list and recommendation format of the ‘What I Watched’ series.

Rules of this Series

Since this series will be new to this blog, I think it is important to introduce some rules:

  1. The items listed are just what I have read. Them being on the list is not an endorsement of quality or a value judgement. A book being on this list just means I read it or started reading it.
  2. I will only recommend books that I would recommend. These will not be comprehensive reviews, just a quick pitch and the content warnings that I can remember from when I read the book.
  3. No number rating systems. Fuck those. They always suck.

These are the rules that I will adhere to when writing in this series. A post may only be two books long, or seven long. If I have a book I want to recommend then that is when a post will be made.

Now for the first list…

What I have read so far…

This first list will be pretty long, as I am going to list all of the books that I have read in 2020 so far in one post. So hold onto your butts, and prepare for my recommendations at the end!

  • A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
  • Mongrels by Nathan Graham Jones
  • The Beauty by Aliya Whiteley
  • Peace, Pipe by Aliya Whiteley
  • No One is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg
  • On Writing by Stephen King
  • Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
  • Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman
  • Preludes & Nocturnes (The Sandman #1) by Neil Gaiman
  • Ronin by Frank Miller
  • The Drowned World by J.G. Ballard
  • The Ritual by Adam Nevill
  • Pet Sematary by Stephen King
  • Snuff by Chuck Palahniuk
  • In the Tall Grass by Stephen King and Joe Hill
  • Coraline by Neil Gaiman
  • The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay
  • I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream by Harlan Ellison

Out of these 18 books there are only a few that I feel comfortable recommending. As in, there are only a few standouts that I would recommend, that are not already commonly recommended on a reading list online.

The Beauty (& Peace, Pipe) by Aliya Whiteley: The Beauty is not a long book. It would actually be a very short paperback if the copy that I ordered did not also include the story Peace, Pipe by the same author. The Beauty was described as a story about love between mushroom people and the loneliness of men in an apocalypse where all of the women became sick and died. The Beauty is more than that, that summary is like calling Pet Sematary a book about cats and cemeteries. The Beauty felt like a story about loneliness and emotional vulnerability where the body horror was fulfilling the emotional needs of the apocalypse’s survivors. That the men who are left behind were willing and wanting to change if it meant that they wouldn’t be alone anymore. That they would accept any change in stereotypical heterosexual partner roles, even if it resulted in physical changes, if it meant they would feel love in coupling again. The Beauty has weird plant sex with people, and people growing new genitals in order to couple with mushroom folks. It’s weird, horrific, and hopeful for a future after a transitional apocalypse.

The second story in the paperback was Peace, Pipe. This story was also a page turner that dwells on thoughts of loneliness and the types of interactions that people need in their existence. That people will find and invent what they need in order to remain whole. Peace, Pipe is about someone who is a linguist who interprets the speech of a pipe in their prison cell, who keeps them company and motivates them to do all in their power to try to fix the mess she has made on another planet and their peoples.

If you choose to check out The Beauty then here is the warnings that I would give to a friend: there is body horror (genitals growing, mushroom child birth), domestic violence signs, and screams of someone being sexually assaulted by mushroom people. Both stories in this paperback are emotionally intense and very good. The most standout horror I have read this year so far.

Mongrels by Nathan Graham Jones: I read this book using Kindle Unlimited but I expect next year to read it again and will be seeking a paperback so I can take notes. This is the first werewolf book that I have read (besides Twilight), and it has set an immensely high bar of quality in what I should expect in future books centered on werewolves. Mongrels takes place in the modern day and is told from the perspective of a young boy who grows up being cared for by his aunt and uncle who are werewolves. Their family is poor and moves often, as people and animals die wherever they go, the family has to move to avoid suspicion.

Mongrels shows what a deep and well explained lore for werewolves can do. They were immensely believable characters that I grew to love dearly in the same way you appreciate your parents more as you grow older. The aunt and uncle are just doing their best to prepare their nephew for being both a person and a werewolf. Teaching him of the dangers inherent in each, and of the unique dangers of being both a wolf and a person. That having to move around often means that you don’t have a income and a job history that isn’t exclusively short stints across the country. Werewolves can just eat what they catch, so this isn’t too terrible, but when you have a kid who can’t shift yet in tow you need human safe food. So you break into cars and dig between the seats for enough change to buy one gas station hot dog. This is a stark description of poverty that is tough to read through, and is only me summarizing one specific instance.

If I don’t read another book with werewolves in it again, I feel satisfied with what I have read in Mongrels alone. I want more of course, but this was a fine treat that I will be hard pressed to find another like it that hits as hard in all the right places as this did. It’s because of this that everything Nathan Graham Jones has written for books was added to my reading list before I even finished Mongrels.

If you are going to check this book out (and I would highly recommend it), then be aware of the following content warnings: pregnancy horror, violence/gore, hunger, and descriptions of poverty. This probably is not a complete list of warnings, but these are the big ones that I can remember months after finishing it.

On Writing by Stephen King: One of the first books that I can remember really digging into and reading completely was a hardcover copy of Stephen King’s Skeleton Crew when I was a kid perusing my local public library. I haven’t read much of his beyond that book, but I have enjoyed most of the movies that I have seen based on King’s stories, and the impact Skeleton Crew had on me may be one of the earliest seeds of my love of the horror genre being planted in my mind and heart. That was one reason why On Writing interested me, I also wanted to read about how Stephen King got into writing and his feelings concerning his writings.

I also wanted to read King’s tips and tricks on how he writes, which is what the back half of this book is all about. Its text recommendations and thoughts on how to set up a space and write. It’s told through anecdotes and stories of his life and was just as energizing to read as well as motivating. After I finished reading On Writing, I wrote a couple short stories and had a reading spree while I still wiped away my tears from reading his description of the infamous car accident.

If you choose to read this book, the major warnings on content are that he details his struggles with alcoholism, drugs, and a very difficult car accident description with accident recovery.

Final Thoughts

There isn’t much left for me to say at the end of this post. I don’t write conclusions for the posts in the ‘What I watched’ series, so it feels weird to write one here. Even if it is the first in a series, the end of a recommendation feels final by itself. I’ll wrap this post up this way I guess… I hope you, dear reader, are safe, in good health, and well.

Until next time, that is all.