I read lots and lots of books this month and apparently need more hobbies. Proceed with caution because I love me some books with dark and disturbing themes.
  1. Poor Your Soul by Mira Ptacin
    5/5- First thing I read in April, best thing I read in April. Ptacin had an unplanned pregnancy and then discovered her baby would have multiple fatal birth defects. It's a book about abortion, motherhood, and family in a way that women's lives are rarely looked at in literature.
  2. When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams
    5/5- When Williams' mother died, she left her all her journals only for Williams to discover that the shelves of journals were all blank. It's an important look at women's inner lives and their voices.
  3. Beasts & Children by Amy Parker
    4/5- Debut collection of surprisingly dark short stories that focus on children and animals. Some of these still stay with me a month later.
  4. The Lightkeepers by Abby Geni
    4/5- Kind of a thriller? It takes place when a nature photographer travels to the Farallon Islands off the California coast to live for a year in near isolation. She lives with only a handful of other people, scientists, etc. Bad things happen. It's more a look at identity and dealing with trauma than it is a thriller, but it was so dark and well-written. Haunting. I felt like I was there.
  5. The Good Death by Ann Neumann
    4/5- An important look at the legal and healthcare ramifications surrounding dying in the United States and what constitutes a "good death." It looks at hospice care, disability rights, aid in dying/assisted suicide laws, elder rights, etc. Fascinating.
  6. The Book of Memory by Petina Gappah
    4/5- An albino woman living in a Zimbabwean prison writes letters about her life story and how she wound up in prison to a journalist from the US. Great look at the nature of truth and identity.
  7. Spill Simmer Falter Wither by Sara Baume
    4/5- An aging, depressed man adopts an unwanted dog from the shelter after his father's death and is surprised to enjoy his company. It's a compassionate, sad look at loneliness and companionship. Presented with my gratuitous book ferret Sherlock because he loves attention. And cameras.
  8. The Vegetarian by Han Kang
    5/5- A woman has a traumatic dream, wakes up, and decides to be vegan despite it being very ostracized in Korean culture. Very Kafkaesque look at willpower, societal values, and identity.
  9. The Iceberg by Marion Coutts
    5/5- Memoir by the widow of former lead art critic at The Guardian about his diagnosis with brain cancer and her journey through his treatment and eventual death. Brutally honest look at the role of caretakers and families when dealing with illness. She writes like poetry.
  10. What Lies Between Us by Nayomi Munaweera
    5/5- A Sri Lankan woman sits in a US prison and recounts her confession and life story. It provides an important commentary on adjusting to a new life after emigrating and how to process trauma. Surprisingly dark.
  11. The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner
    5/5- A memoir about growing up in a polygamist Mormon cult in Mexico. The author overcame severe poverty and abusive/neglectful circumstances to build an independent life for herself. Looks at the importance of family and identity. Also surprisingly dark.
  12. The Unfinished World by Amber Sparks
    4/5- Debut collection of short stories that are mix of fantasy, science fiction, and just plain weird. They are awesome, though. Incredibly observant, Sparks really had some writing chops. I'll be picking up anything else she writes.
  13. Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff
    4/5- Historical fiction, horror, fantasy, and pulp noir all in one. Ruff sets a Lovecraftian tale against the backdrop of Jim Crow era Chicago and New England. Very gritty & realistic, it brings up the racial issues Lovecraft espoused through his fiction in a way that has been long overdue. Plus look at that cover!
  14. The Heart by Marlis de Karangal
    4/5- The life of a heart. A young man is in a car wreck and doesn't make it, but his organs, heart included, can be transplanted to others of need. Emotional and well-written. Plus, the cover! 😍
  15. The Smell of Other People's Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock
    4/5- Young adult novel with an amazing title. About four teenagers growing up in Alaska whose lives are unknowingly intertwined. Author makes an effort to include diverse characters/experiences.
  16. This Census-Taker by China Miéville
    4/5- A boy runs screaming from his house on the hill after witnessing a traumatic event & is then forced to live with a father who he thinks is dangerous and does not trust. Short, haunting read.
  17. Cities I've Never Lived In by Sara Majka
    4/5- Small collection of short stories that explores the importance of place, belonging, and community.
  18. Shame and Wonder by David Searcy
    4/5- Short collection of essays by horror writer David Searcy that is deeply personal. Full of rumination and inward emotional looks, they mainly focus on things that take place where he lives in Texas.
  19. Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman
    4/5- Young adult western? I didn't know such a thing existed but I loved it. This is a young adult answer to True Grit featuring a daring female protagonist who goes on a mission to avenge her father's death. Full of badassery.
  20. The Yid by Paul Goldberg
    4/5- Historical fiction that takes place in Soviet Russia just prior to Stalin's death and during his final pogrom. Soviet cops come to arrest a well-known Jewish actor, he takes over and goes on an assassination plot of his own.
  21. This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Njikamp
    4/5- Young adult novel told from multiple perspectives in a by-the-minute account of a high school shooting. An important, timely look at tragedy, friendship, and family.