Ok, so, I missed making a list last year, but I'm back to it again now. This list, as ever, is not necessarily of books or collections that were published in the year, but are among what I actually read during the year, keeping in mind my to-read reach will forever exceed the number of hours in my days.
This year was spectacularly awful in so many ways, both personally and globally, but, as ever, books have helped guide, distract, amuse, centre and engage me, pulling me out of myself when I need it most, and encouraging me to reflect in ways large and small. I hope you've found ones to do the same for you.
First on my otherwise in no order list this year is One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston. This was a brilliant, creative, sexy, funny and an all-around queer must-read. I won't go into more detail here, but if you liked McQuiston's debut Red, White & Royal Blue, you will love One Last Stop. It is more queer, more diverse, more class aware, and, despite also being speculative fiction involving psychics and time travel, more deeply real.
Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas (technically YA, but brilliant for any age) not only tells a captivating and exciting story, but has fierce, complex and engaging trans and queer main characters and one of the best examples I can recall of interplay between two languages, in this case Spanish and American English. River of Teeth, a novella by Sarah Gailey, is not only highly creative but will make you care deeply about its entire cast of characters very quickly. I'm listing it here with the caveat that it has an abrupt ending, but the fact that it's labelled "#1" gives me hope there will be a follow-up to take us on more of the characters' journey after the central adventure of the novella has ended.
Dearest Milton James, a romance across two eras, wrapped in sweet humour and a fundamental understanding of queer history) by Australian author N.R. Walker also stood out for me this year in fiction, as did TJ Klune's House in the Cerulean Sea, which my entire family has been recommending to anyone who will listen ever since each of us read it.
This year, I tore through all three books (a fourth came out in December and I have it on order already) in the queer, historical urban fantasy Magic in Manhattan series by Allie Thieren. The series came recommended by my good friend Kathleen, to whom I
am forever grateful. I equally enjoyed reading further this year in the fabulous Whyborne & Griffin series, by Jordan L. Hawk, in the same genre.
My favourite delayed read this year was Christian Baines' Puppet Boy, which I finally got to, having
somehow previously omitted it while reading the rest of Christian's books ages
ago. Puppet Boy reads like a far more insightful, keenly intelligent and more richly layered When Everything Feels Like the Movies. Do not skip this book.
I read two classics, in particular, this year that will stay with me for all eter nity and that I think should both be taught in school (perhaps replacing some other "classics"): the 1956 novel of bisexuality and exported Americana Giovanni's Room by the iconic James Baldwin, and Parable of the Sower, the first in the dystopic Earthseed series by brilliant and heraldic science fiction author Octavia E. Butler. I remain deeply resentful of myself and of the social constructs that lead me to be well into my 40s by the time I read either of these authors. Do not make the same mistakes I did.
My absolute favourite poetry of the year has been Pebble Swing, by Isabella Wang. Her talent is spectacular, and that she has such a wise and insightful approach to language and life at such a young age is practically alarming. Hustling Verse: An Anthology of Sex Workers' Poetry (eds. Amber Dawn and Justin Ducharmes) I actually read and reviewed for Arc Poetry Magazine last year, but it deserves to be on one of these lists. It's an excellent poetry collection from voices we don't usually hear from, but should. David Ly's queer, speculative poetry collection Mythical Man was a stand-out for me as well, with its somehow both economical and ornate use of language, and its magical allegories of queerness and being via a world of mystery and monsters.
In graphic novels, I loved the latest trade in the Monstress series by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda, which only gets more interesting as it goes on. Due to shipping and retailer issues, I have not read the latest trade yet. I've been doing my best to avoid all spoilers as a result, which sometimes means fleeing Twitter at the drop of a reference. I have to say, only slightly begrudgingly, that I was also honestly impressed by the Pride collections that both DC and Marvel put out this year. There is so far to go still, but the big houses have certainly come a long way.
Lastly, I want to mention a book I've started reading but haven't finished yet, since I just received it for Christmas. Bi the Way: The Bisexual Guide to Life, by UK bi+ rights advocate Lo Shearing, receives a mention because I've been looking forward to it since I heard Shearing was working on it, and not only because they quote me in it (it's admittedly a rather depressing quote; but the book as a whole looks extremely inspiring, combining honest assessment of a world full of biphobia and erasure, with a sense of celebration and hope).
All these entries are tips of reading and genre icebergs, and though I don't tally my reads, I read way more this year, and enjoyed far more books and stories, than I've listed here. My apologies to everyone whose work moved me but that my end-of-year brain won't let me recall right now. Please all feel free to comment with books you've read this year and recommend, too.