Mademoiselle: Coco Chanel and the Pulse of History by Rhonda K. Garelick. I’m usually wary of celebrity biographies but this one is great. It’s thoroughly researched and unflinching in its coverage of Chanel’s ties to Nazis and her role as an agent for the Vichy occupation. In the end, however, Chanel remains a shadowy figure and the biographer never really pierces the fashion designer’s armor to show us her inner self.
Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson. My word, this book. I’m not finished with it yet and I’ll update when I do but it is gripping me with iron and fire.
SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard. Just started this. I love history and I love Ancient Rome and I’ve enjoyed Beard’s perspective and approach in a couple of televised series. Really looking forward to diving in. (The audiobook is narrated by the phenomenal Phyllida Nash and it’s excellent.)
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman. Almost finished with this. A technically dazzling book, but a few elements of it perturb me. Have to mull it over. Will update after I’m done and have reflected on it a bit.
The Lyra Novels by Patricia C. Wrede. These are like popcorn to me (in the best way!) I can eat a whole bag happily in one sitting. These aren’t sequels, but are all set in the same world and each is very different, but they all share Wrede’s deep world-building, engaging characters, and fast-paced adventures.
The Secret Adversary and Partners in Crime by Agatha Christie. Part of the Tommy and Tuppence mystery series. I’ve always loved the idea of a romantic couple as sleuths (as in the Nick and Nora series!) and as a kid I think I enjoyed the vivacious banter between T+T a lot. But now… it’s hard to read the books without being struck by their sexism, xenophobia, and antisemitism.
Steering the Craft: A Twenty-First-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story by Ursula K. Le Guin. I blew through this book in an excited rush, because it was so inspiring, without giving it the time it deserves. But that’s all right, because it’s an exercise book. There are a series of craft prompts to try alone or, ideally, with a small writing group, and after my initial speed-read, I’m looking forward to going back and trying them from the beginning.
The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu. A bit cheating of me to put this in here, because I’d already read this collection last fall, but wanted to revisit it as I work on my own short stories. Each piece in here is a gem. He’s so fearless about striking at the emotional core of a problem, even when it’s searingly painful. I also love how often he uses (and remixes) historical settings. He’s a meticulous researcher as well, frequently including footnotes for his source material. Inspiring.