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20 Jan 2016
The best books I read in 2015

Fiction I loved reading in 2015 that related to gender, race, and class

  • This Burns My Heart by Samuel Park - Heartbreaking, amazing, gorgeous. A woman in South Korea who marries wrong and what that means for her freedom and her life.
  • The Crimson Petal and the White by Michael Faber - A prostitute who tries to get out by becoming the live-in mistress and nanny for a rich guy. Class issues, where book smarts are not enough.
  • The Beacon at Alexandria by Gillian Bradshaw - Roman girl wants to be a doctor, so she disguises herself as a boy and apprentices herself to a Jew. Such Alanna wow &c!
  • Sisters of the Revolution: A Feminist Speculative Fiction Anthology edited by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer - Packed full of spectacular stories!
  • A Door Into Ocean by Joan Slonczewski - A planet of women near a co-ed planet. Politics, gender, nifty scifi.
  • Carnival by Elizabeth Bear - A matriarchal world where “stud” males (as opposed to gay “gentle” males) have very few rights, a gay male couple as ambassadors from a world more like ours but with many issues of its own, and of course alien life forms. I swear this is not porn. Honest to gosh. The thing I really loved about this one was that there were complicated ethical issues with all represented worlds.

Non-fiction I loved reading in 2015 that related to gender, race, and class

  • The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander - You basically have to read this to understand our criminal justice system. It’s fucked up and horrible and real. A perfect companion piece to Torture & Democracy, which you should also read.
  • Picking Cotton: Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton with (ghostwriter) Erin Torneo - A white woman and the black man she (unintentionally) falsely accused of rape, their separate stories, and the way they met and became friends when they finally did the fucking DNA testing and got him out of prison many years later.
  • Wifework: What Marriage Really Means for Women by Susan Maushart - Really fascinating and disturbing. Some of it feels like obvious bullshit. Some of it cuts to the quick.

Other fiction I loved reading in 2015

  • The Expanse Book 2: Caliban’s War by James S.A. Corey - Fantastic! So much better than the first one and all subsequent ones! All about the risks and dangers of communicating and acting with imperfect knowledge.
  • The Fate of Mice by Susan Palwick - Short stories, pretty great.
  • All She Was Worth by Miyuki Miyabe, translated by Alfred Birnbaum - Detective story, in Japan, largely discussing consumer debt.
  • The Siren by Tiffany Reisz - “Erotic romance”. No, but this was great! It really spoke to the tension between who you love and what you need, when they don’t coincide.
  • Aunty Lee’s Delights: A Singaporean Mystery and Aunty Lee’s Deadly Specials: A Singaporean Mystery by Ovidia Yu - I had to read these on my way to Singapore, of course. Fun fluff!
  • The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu - I mostly enjoyed this one because I kept thinking it was about different concepts during various phases along the way reading through it. (Like, for a while there I was convinced it was about the color grue.)

Books I loved reading in 2015 that related to art

  • The Natural Way to Draw by Nicolaides - Particularly great for the stage I was at earlier in the year, I think. Lots of good exercises, and more philosophical. For instance, a big takeaway for me is that when doing gesture drawings you want to feel tension in your body echoing the pose.
  • Watercolor for the Fun of it: getting started by John Lovett - Really helpful exercises and tips, especially re playing with texture.
  • Tate Watercolour Manual: Lessons from the Great Masters by Tony Smibert - Big lessons: different kinds of brushstrokes, and I really should play with tonal value more.
  • The Urban Sketcher: Techniques for Seeing and Drawing on Location by Marc Taro Holmes - I love this author and I love his art and I kinda want to be him when I grow up and this was the best!
  • Local Color: Seeing Place Through Watercolor by Mimi Robinson - Advice on mixing color in various ways, and now I totally want to build my own color palettes for various seasons and walks &c!
  • Urban Watercolor Sketching: A Guide to Drawing, Painting, and Storytelling in Color by Felix Scheinberger - Some good stuff about luminosity, being sparing with color, drawing attention to the important bits, and storytelling in here. Also I love the sketches throughout the book.
  • Experimental Drawing by Robert Kaupelis - I got lots of great ideas for drawing exercises from this.
  • Creative Sketching Workshop: Inspiration, Tips and Exercises for Sketching on the Move edited by Pete Scully
  • Urban Sketching: the complete guide to techniques by Thomas Thorspecken

Books I loved reading in 2015 that related to programming and tech

  • Storm Applied: Strategies for real-time event processing by Sean T. Allen, Matthew Jankowski and Peter Pathirana - So useful! (Storm is a tool I work with and reading this made my job easier, so that was nice.)
  • Seven Concurrency Models in Seven Weeks: When Threads Unravel by Paul Butcher - I was pleasantly surprised by how many of these I was already familiar with, but overall it was a good overview with suggestions for interesting follow-up reading at the end of each section.
  • Functional Programming in Scala by Paul Chiusano and Runar Bjarnason - Lots of stuff I already knew, but pretty clear explanations of some FP concepts, and I like finding good articulations of familiar concepts to help with sharing them.
  • Being Geek: The Software Developer’s Career Handbook by Michael Lopp - My big takeaway here was learning about trickle lists, which turn out to be a pretty useful tool.
  • Beautiful Code: Leading Programmers Explain How They Think edited by Andy Oram & Greg Wilson

Other non-fiction I loved reading in 2015

  • House Rules by Rachel Sontag - A memoir about a fucked up family. Very hard and compelling to read. I felt nauseous through most of it, and yet keep recommending it to people. There’s something particularly intense about reading about families which are obviously horrible but don’t involve any physical abuse.
  • It’s complicated: the social lives of networked teens by Danah Boyd - Actually really interesting discussions of privacy as a social norm rather than technological mandate.
  • The Lone Samurai: The Life of Miyamoto Musashi by William Scott Wilson - Christ, what an asshole. And yet in some ways I want to be him when I grow up.
  • Social Engineering: The Art of Human Hacking by Christopher Hadnagy - Hilariously reminiscent of the time a hypnotist watched me try to bully my boyfriend into reminding me to create a tea blend I wanted to try a week later and then told me that I’m very good at neuro-linguistic programming.

Books I loved re-reading in 2015

  • The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt - This remains one of my favorite books of all time.
  • Unwind by Neal Shusterman - A world in which abortion is illegal but parents can legally have their children unwound between the ages of 13 and 18.
  • Deathless by Catherynna M. Valente - Still gives me a lot of very complicated feels.
  • Narbonic: The Perfect Collection Books One and Two by Shaenon K. Garrity - Look, it’s about a cute evil mad scientist and her adorable henchman named Dave. Of course I love it! This is basically the story of my marriage!

Total number of censored favorites not appearing in this post: 10
Total number of books read in 2015: 160

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