book pusher (not a white cis dude edition)

There are books that I recommend to everyone, books that I want everyone in the world to read and love, and I am always interested when people tell me their always-recommends. So I was excited at the recent open thread up at Captain Awkward looking at exactly that; and super disappointed that it was super dudely and super white. I know that’s inevitable, in its way and in the nature of our internet and our (western) society, but still, disappointment. So I made my own open thread.

What are the books that you always recommend to people, that you always want people to love, that you shove at people and wave your hands about and reread constantly? Only rule: the author cannot be a cis white dude. Trans white dude, fine. Cis asian dude, fine. Ladies, all fine. Author doesn’t conform to your gender binary? All good.

Here, I’ll start.

The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon: the only book I took with me in hardcopy when I moved to Beijing; a book I’ve filled with annotations and which was one of the most formative books on my writing style; a book that filled me with joy the first time I ever read it. I give it as presents and I talk about it a lot, but I never lend out my copy because it says a lot about me. TOO MUCH.

Growing Up Asian in Australia (ed Alice Pung): I wish this book had come to me when I was younger, but even as an adult it resonates and is an amazing reflection on the Asian-Australian experience that should be vital reading for all Australians.

Heartsick for Country (ed Sally Morgan, Tjalaminu Mia & Blaze Kwaymullina): another must read for all Australians. I cry every time I read this book, this reflection on being Indigenous Australian and the connection between Indigenous Australians and their countries, and that feeling of heartsickness at damage to the land, at history, at racism and at everything else. ALL THE CRIES. ALL THE RECOMMENDS. This book always reinflames my desire to be the best Australian I can be, prioritising Indigenous Australians and the land and just adflkadf.

Okay, go. Your turn.

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17 thoughts on “book pusher (not a white cis dude edition)

  1. Alex

    Anything and everything by Lois McMaster Bujord, but especially the two collected in the anthology Cordelia’s Honor, and the later Miles Vorkosigan books – Komarr onwards, basically.

  2. Reposting from tumblr now I’ve made sure I am happy with it:

    Seconding Shards of Honour/Cordelia’s Honour by Lois McMaster Bujold from the original post.

    Wild Seed by Octavia Butler: Best Immortal Ever. Two immortal Africans with VERY different attitudes to regular humans circle around each other over the centuries because they have no one else to connect with long term. I don’t remember it being super upsetting but it’s Octavia Butler so there’s probably some consent issues I’m forgetting.

    Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang: Great scifi short stories

    Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan: Great cute little illustrated fantasy short stories about immigration and Australia and stuff.

    Full Metal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa: brilliant steam-punky manga. Thrilling and emotional and funny and clever and just overall great.

    Meanwhile by Jason Shiga: A choose your own adventure comic with brilliantly intertwined paths that lead you all around the book. Also, physics!

    Sister Girl: the writings of an Aboriginal activist and historian by Jackie Huggins: Very accessible collection of essays on topics from the history of aboriginal servants in Queensland to her personal experiences with feminism and the public service.

    To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis: adorable time travel story with lots of romance and humour.

  3. I try to make EVERYONE read the Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner — it starts out as a (fairly standard) middle-grade type of fantasy quest, and then changes POV and breaks every single rule of YA. The books are intricately plotted, usually with at least one head-spinning twist (some people say they say them coming – I say NO ONE IS THAT SMART).

    I wish that the series had more girls having adventures, and I wish the fandom would remember that the main character and his family have brown skin, but I love them and want to hug them, whilst also pushing them on everyone.

  4. Crunchy

    Anything by Banana Yoshimoto. I love her prose; I just want to submerge in it and never resurface, although some people might find her style cloying. She writes small, intimate stories about ambiguous relationships – often family relationships – saturated with nostalgia.

    Haruki Murakami. He doesn’t write characters, especially female characters, as well as Yoshimoto and his prose is less stylized but I can’t put him down once I start reading. I’d suggest starting with his short stories, or A Wild Sheep Chase. Most of his stuff can be classified as fantasy.

    Margo Lanagan. She writes brilliant short sci fi and fantasy stories for young adults. Lots of female characters and interesting ideas. I don’t normally like short stories, but hers I recommend without hesitation.

  5. My list includes all things by Patricia A. McKillip; her fantasies are exquisitely written and tend to belong to brilliantly eccentric, elusive women, with equally unusual men in their lives. My copies have the magical Kinuko Y. Craft covers, and frankly I think I’d read anything she’d illustrated on principle. I also love Holly Black’s books, her ‘Curse Workers’ series led by Cassel Sharp and ‘Tithe’, with Kaye – they are dark and witty and full of heart.

  6. Anything by Octavia Butler

    Anything by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (just read Americanah–great!!)

    Garden of the Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng (bought this for my dad)

    Dreams of Trespass by Fatima Mernissi

    Harry Potter by JKR :3

  7. Justadecoy

    Billy Martin (who wrote as Poppy Z. Brite): The Liquor novels.
    NK Jemisin: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms which was a freebie at Swancon two years ago and I loved.

  8. I’m always pushing Ben Law’s books onto people because they’re just so incredibly likeable. I’ve also been recommending Anne Fadiman’s ‘The Spirit Catches Me and I Fall Down’ to anyone and everyone in recent months. It’s incredible. And Gillian Mears’ ‘Foal’s Bread’ is a weird kind of gothic Australiana that has stuck with me more than most books I’ve read in recent years.

  9. Connie Willis’s “To Say Nothing of the Dog” was my stand-out first rec for this list. I recommend that to anyone who can consume a book.

    I was a bit flummoxed for the rest, however. For instance, I loved NK Jemisin’s “Killing Moon” (so much. SO MUCH) but would probably only recommend it to those who like fantasy, maybe only those who like epic/world fantasy, because it’s very genre.

    That said, I would also recommend to anyone:
    – A Madness of Angels, by Kate Griffin (bonus oodles of fantastic supporting ladies, often of colour)
    – the Dreamhunter/Dreamquake duo, by Elizabeth Knox (I know there’s a problematic element to the quasi-NZ setting; I sort of wish the author had put her thoughts on that in the book as an afterword)

  10. Plus eleventy to pretty much everything listed here. I especially love NK Jemisin and Shaun Tan.

    I’m also a big fan of Kirsten Britten and her Green Rider series, and I adore Andre Norton.

    Not specific books, but these authors are all amazing (and yes SF & fantasy)

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