“Reading is a conversation, all books talk. But a good book listens as well.” English novelist Mark Haddon hit on something there. A book that puts the precision of language to a feeling or experience you've had but were never able to quite define is special—and that recognition is an extraordinary, deeply validating form of being heard.
This year I felt engaged with—in that unable to stop, eyes go blurry, it’s way passed my bedtime way—with a number of books. Terry Tempest Williams and Augusten Burroughs made stops in Albuquerque on book tours and granted me conversations along the way that didn't feel so much like interviews, but left me feeling like I was heard in that unusual way. Williams brought me a stone—a hunk of quartz—from Walden Pond. Burroughs gave me relationship advice—but his whole book was about relationships, so that didn't seem too inappropriate. Both of the books that led these writers to Albuquerque were important reads, which led to vital conversations—The Hour of Land by Williams and Lust and Wonder by Burroughs. Two powerful and good reads by nationally recognized writers who value the audiences and landscapes here, and took the time to stop and share their insights.
Those two individuals, and the two associated reads, stand out in my recollection of 2017, and below, more categorical estimates of what was best in my eyes, of the thousands of pages scanned this year.
Albuquerque Museum Photo Archives Collection: Images in Silver Edited by Glenn Fye
This absolutely beautiful collection of photographs and essays brings Albuquerque's history alive, connecting place, architecture and events in several hundred pages of black and white photography. Locals will love connecting buildings in the images to the places they regularly traffic today, while local experts contextualize the significance of these places in our modern cityscape.
Boundless by Jillian Tamaki
I first accessed Jillian Tamaki's work in another graphic novel, Skim, that spoke to my heart. When I saw her name on this beautiful edition on display at a bookstore, I knew it was worth the price tag and more than worth my time. This is a collection that tells many stories that are imaginative, brilliant and told with imagery favored, making for something evocative and powerful. Each offers the unexpected, and in each, Tamaki illustrates the piece with a hand that deepens the text, the culmination of which lingers for a long while.
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
The political is personal, we know that, but it is so powerfully written in Hamid's Exit West. The story of two migrants moving in the world, how they interact with it in the aftermath of life altered by war, and how they are received as they relocate to Greece and eventually the United States. Hamid hooks the reader and gives us insights into lived experience of many in today's world, which reads as fundamental for those outside of that experience.
Hunger: A Memoir of My Body by Roxane Gay
If Roxane Gay isn't a hero, I don't know who is. Earlier this year she pulled out of a book deal with a major imprint of Simon & Schuster upon learning that they had offered Milo Yiannopoulos a six-figure book deal, and then she rounded out the year by publishing this book—which is all about being in a complicated body, as most of us are. It's so profound, and so rarely discussed, that Gay's book feels like genuine revelation.