If I’m not reading at least two books at a time I’m failing somehow. And yet, my to-read pile this year never seemed to dwindle. There’s no real strategy to what I will read. I’m not a snob about it. I’ll read everything from speculative fiction to young adult to poetry. When a book I’m reading strikes a chord, I feel it so violently that I want to throw the book across the room. The selections below are just a sample of what moved me to extreme emotions this year:
The Transmigration of Bodies by Yuri Herrera
When I finished reading this slim novel, I immediately wanted to read it again. Then, I wanted to read it in its original Spanish and locate all of Herrera’s works. The Transmigration of Bodies is bleak, hilarious, and so full of grit. Herrera is one of Mexico’s most exiting novelists and I eagerly await his next.
The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma
“We went wild that hot night. We howled, we raged, we screamed.” The first two lines of this young adult novel pulled me right in. The Walls Around Us is a ghost tale with prose so beautiful and images so visceral I wanted to protect the young girls from the pain depicted on the pages.
Certain Dark Things: A Novel by Silvia Moreno Herrera
How do you subvert the vampire story? You set it in Mexico City and replace the stereotypical bloodsuckers with feuding families of vampire narcos. This is an exciting new world of gangster vampires that’s full of suspense and emotion.
Kendra by Coe Booth
I love flawed characters that make questionable decisions. Kendra is such a character, a 14-year-old who desperately wants to connect with her very young mother. Sexuality is handled with brutal honesty in this young adult novel. Booth also depicts the Bronx, New York, my hometown, with such love and authenticity.
The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee
This book came with me on my vacation to Hawaii. The island was the perfect setting to get lost in Chee’s lush world. Every single detail transported me to 19th-century France with its lavish costumes and baroque drama.
In between novels, I usually turn to poetry. These collections sit by my nightstand. Right before I go to sleep, I randomly open a page and read with the hope that the images evoked by these poets will seep into my dreams.
Burgos is one of the most important Puerto Rican poets. Her work is revolutionary. She has such a strong influence on me that her writing makes an appearance in my young adult novel, The Education of Margot Sanchez.
Reliquaria by R.A. Villanueva
Villanueva’s poems seem like prayers, calling out to the past. I’m also attracted to how he plays with Catholicism and its colonial nature in language.
Our Lady of the Crossword by Rigoberto González
González has such a way with words. His poetry is packed with sexuality and culture. The chapbook is also small enough for my purse and travels with me.
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