An Introduction, Five Books with Alicia
Wherein we posit a book list can act as a personal introduction.
by Frank Herbert
Oh Arrakis, that delicious dessert of a desert planet. Once I fell for Dune, I couldn’t get enough science fiction and fantasy to fill my diet. I was eleven, and my first true book-love had me enraptured. A gifted hardcover from my mom kicked off yearly pilgrimages to the sandy planet, and stoked a lifelong obsession with worlds that breathe, intricate casts of characters, and the intersection of religion, politics, and the fantastic. A shame, then, that my first true book-love continues to cheat on me with just about every sci-fi and fantasy writer out there.
Norwegian Wood: Chopping, Stacking, and Drying Wood the Scandinavian Way
by Lars Mytting
Note: I do not own a cabin, or a forest, or a wood burning stove. And yet, this book spoke to me on an instinctual level. I was mesmerized reading about the seasoning of wood, the felling of trees, and that eternal question—what is the best way to stack logs? The simple charm and personal touch in how it presents some very dry facts is enchanting. Never have I threatened to gift one book to so many people before.
Radiance: A Novel
by Catherynne M. Valente
Some stories you love from the first page, others that swerving midpoint, and still others upon the satisfying conclusion, but with Radiance, my adoration only arrived after I’d shut the book entirely. In many ways, I found this story aspirational of what an author can do when they adore many things at once. Not only does it hit so many of the areas I personally enjoy—space, early Hollywood glamour, a Cthuluesque mystery—but it does so in a non-linear fashion that is inventive and clever. Radiance isn’t only the book’s title, but also the feeling I had when I’d finished reading.
Vladimir Nabokov (the oeuvre)
I read all of Nabokov’s books one summer while riding a bus—from Mary to Look at the Harlequins!. Plenty has been said of Nabokov’s command of language, his lyrical strokes and distinctive characters, who never seemed quite one thing or the other, that I don’t feel a need to wax poetic. Instead, I’ll simply present this line from Invitation to a Beheading: In spite of everything I love you, and will go on loving you – on my knees, with my shoulders drawn back, showing my heels to the headsman and straining my goose neck – even then.
Noragami: Stray God (a series)
Balancing humor and serious reflection, this is by far my favorite manga. The story about a homeless god who wears a tracksuit and the family that forms around him never ceases to impress me with its nuanced portrayals of difficult societal issues atop playful action and adventure. When a work can make you ponder, sniffle, and smile all at once, you tend to get excited for every page flip.