Good madness

I am the kind of person who when she finds an author she likes, obsessively reads every piece of writing they put their name to.  Or at least every piece of writing that I have discovered that they have put their name to.  I am also the kind of person who pays very little attention to the turn of the Gregorian calendar but genuinely wishes that the change in year brings whatever people are hoping for closer to them.  So in the words of Neil Gaiman: “May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.”

Books are a constant surprise.  I astonish myself by what I read and what I don’t and what surprises me when I’m not looking.  So I’ve decided to make a list of books that I want to read this year.  These are a combination of what smart people I know have suggested and what I’ve decided for myself.  Some of them I’m going to have to buy, most of them I’m hoping to borrow.  Either from a library or from you!  More about that later, but for now – the list (so far).

  1. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
  2. Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link
  3. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
  4. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
  5. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
  6. The Shattering by Karen Healey Thank you Karen!
  7. The Winter Vault by Anne Michaels Thanks Chally!
  8. Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson
  9. Peace, Power, Righteousness: An Indigenous Manifesto by Alfred Taiaike
  10. Colonising Myths – Maori Realities: He Rukuruku Whakaaro by Ani Mikaere
  11. Your Average Nigga: performing race, literacy, and masculinity by Ashanti Vershawn Young
  12. The Time-traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
  13. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins Thank you library.
  14. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
  15. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
  16. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
  17. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
  18. Vida by Marge Piercy
  19. Woman At The Edge Of Time by Marge Piercy Thanks Chally!
  20. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margret Atwood
  21. The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin
  22. The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai Thanks Ma!
  23. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini Also Ma!
  24. The Days That Run Away Like Wild Horses Over Hills by Charles Bukowski
  25. The Revolution Starts At Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities by Ching-in Chen Yay internet shopping!
  26. Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation by Kate Bornstein
  27. The Mismeasure of Man by Stephen Jay Gould
  28. Her Smoke Rose Up Forever By James Tiptree Jr. Thanks Chally!
  29. Houston, Houston, Do You Read? by James Tiptree Jr.
  30. Koiwi, Koiwi by Hinemoana Baker
  31. Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman
  32. The Kindly Ones by Neil Gaiman Yay internet shopping!
  33. Brief Lives by Neil Gaiman Yay internet shopping!
  34. Poet in New York by Frederico Garcia Lorca
  35. The Collected Poems Vol. I by William Carlos Williams
  36. * Chemistry by Damien Wilkins Thank you Opshop.
  37. * Conquest: sexual violence and american indian genocide by Andrea Smith
  38. * Arab and Arab American Feminisms: Gender, Violence and Belonging (Gender, Culture and Politics In The Middle East) edited by Rabab Abdulhadi, Evelyn Alsultany, & Nadine Naber.

So stands the list of books that I know as of today that I want to read within the coming year.  I have cheated and put ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’ on there even though I have already started reading it.  I do this when I write a list, it makes it less daunting because I know that at least one thing is going to get ticked off reasonably quickly.  Yes, I am a strange person.  I have also pared this list down to mean that here sit only the books that I want to read within the year, not books that I need to read at some point.  This I have done by a combination of taking an emotional forecast of the year and the book and matching them to fit.  How comfortably, the year will tell.  I have also left space on this list for fifteen books that other people suggest to me so that I can read things that people think I would enjoy.  So if you have suggestions, be pleased to share them here and I shall put them on the list.

I am probably going to be able to find at least some of these books in lending libraries.  But some I will need to buy… so here is my suggestion… if you feel you can spare any of them and have them, send them to me!  I shall read them and return them in the condition received and you can have a choice of a) a zine, crafty item or food that I make; b) a book on my shelf that you’d like to read; or c) something else entirely that you wish for or need that is in my power to give.  This would be a good place to mention that all my life I have depended on the kindness of (those who started out as) strangers.  Bonus crafty present if you recognise the reference!

I like books, swaps and book swaps.  Also presents.


blah (who’s giving me this book, usually with thanks!) blah  (book read and reviewed with link to review) *blah (book added to the original list post conversations).


13 comments on “Good madness

  1. Karen Healey says:

    I’ll send you a copy of the Shattering in return for food.

    It’ll even be signed.

  2. Chally says:


    Ahaha, I was going to offer to lend you my copy of The Shattering, which Karen also kindly signed for me. Instead: I have copies of The Winter Vault, Woman on the Edge of Time, and Her Smoke Rose Up Forever, which includes “Houston, Houston,” happily. I could probably borrow Autobiography of Red for you if you can’t find a copy. I would like to book swap! 🙂 Have you read Atwood’s The Blind Assassin?

    • brownflotsam says:

      Smartness, it is indeed Streetcar! And sending me any those books will earn you much gratitude (Tiptree Jr. is highest priority)! And I have read The Blind Assassin, what’s more, I have a copy so you shall have it! Along with a crafty present of your choice… sewn, crocheted or embroidered? All feminist of course!
      PS: hold off on Autobiography of Red and I’ll see if I can find it elsewhere first. x

      • Chally says:

        Not smartness, only excessive time in drama classes :). Shall I bring them along when we meet? Thank you, but I already have a copy of TBA – I was just going to say that it’s the best Atwood ever wrote! I’d happily borrow anything else from you, though – feminist theory book, maybe? Oh goodness, craft! How kind. I find the ways of crocheting mysterious, so if that is possible, I would be impressed by such an item. Yay, how exciting!

        • brownflotsam says:

          Heh, sounds about right.. Swapping in person would be excellent. I have some good theory books on POC approaches, queer theory and whiteness so I’ll bring a selection up with me and you can choose. Crocheted pretties it is… I’d better get a move on if I want it to be ready for next week!

  3. Kim says:

    Such a great list. I wish I could help you with it, but the few books I have, I’ve lent to others already (also, it would probably be cheaper for me to buy you the books than post them to you). I’ve been looking for Tiptree, jr for ages, library size is one of the down sides of living in a small town.
    Have you read Nalo Hopkinson? I’ve been enjoying her writing lately (speculative fiction). Also, if you haven’t read Andrea Smith’s “Conquest: sexual violence and american indian genocide”, I’d definitely recommend it.
    Are you going to post your reactions to what you’ve read?

    • brownflotsam says:

      Glad you like! And I hear you on postage, and library size. The library here has failed spectacularly on the Tiptree front as well and has one Ani diFranco album. One. I am shocked and horrified. Haven’t read Nalo Hopkinson, is there one in particular I should begin with?. Andrea Smith’s is going on my list now!
      I think I shall post reactions, seems only fair (in addition to being a good way to feel achieve-y!). Speaking of reactions – what is yours to The Sky People by Patricia Grace?

  4. read.robin says:

    I’ve got electronic copies of Howl’s Moving Castle (and her other book, Castle in the Air – just as good!) and The Handmaid’s Tale (which was a kind of horror story for me).

    Or would you prefer physical copies? I’m weird like that sometimes too. 🙂

  5. Misty Dahl says:

    My friend Graham Joyce wrote a beautiful book called The Silent Land. I’m hesitant to recommend a book like Never Let Me Go because of your reaction to The Handmaids Tale, still…Have you read Never Let Me Go? (It’s so much better than the movie, but still extremely messed up in it’s dystopian way. Still, I love it). Or how about The Illumination by Kevin Brockmeier? If you like The Time Travelers Wife, I get the feeling you might like The Illumination.

    The tagline says: What if the most beautiful thing about us was our pain?

    “At 8:17 on a Friday night, the Illumination commences. Every wound begins to shine, every bruise to glow and shimmer. And in the aftermath of a fatal car accident, a private journal of love notes, written by a husband to his wife, passes into the keeping of a hospital patient and from there through the hands of five other suffering people, touching each of them uniquely.”

    I’m not going to ask you to send any books because I have like a bazillion in my “to read stack” already but I’m always interested in hearing about new titles. And let me just say, that you’re awesome.

    • brownflotsam says:

      Hi Misty!

      I’d love to read ‘Never let me go‘ it looks excellent. I shall add that to my list of books to procure sometime this year. I do like dystopian science fiction! Heh and my sister just suggested ‘The Illumination’ to me two days ago, so I’m glad to have that suggestion fortified by numbers.

      In the way of new titles – have you read much Marge Piercy? I started with ‘Vida‘ and have been working my way through everything she wrote ever since. ‘Neverwhere‘ by Neil Gaiman if you haven’t already read it, The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde if you’re in mind for something lighthearted and takes literature seriously, Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter by Simone de Beauvoir if you like existential thought and Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marques if you’re feeling like reading sentences that turn on themselves.

      And thank you, having seen your website allow me to return the compliment – you are awesome also!

      • Misty Dahl says:

        Great! Thank you so much. I’ll check into those books, minus the Neverwhere; I’ve already read that wonderful book about three times ;)And thank you very much for the return compliment, I hope you have a peasant evening. I’m just at the end of reading another one of Kevin Brockmeir’s book The Brief History of the Dead. I’m loving it.

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