To help kick off Black History Month, I’m highlighting several books I’ve enjoyed that were written by black authors, as well as some that I have on my to-read list.
I’ve been heavily involved with a monthly virtual book club dedicated to steampunk and steampunk-adjacent books – Temporal Textual Talks, aka Virtual Steampunk Book Club (https://www.facebook.com/groups/565219680824876) – and have been rewarded with the pleasure of reading a number of outstanding books, some of which I’m delighted to share with you here.
I read Nalo Hopkinson’s Brown Girl in the Ring more than a decade ago, and it sticks with me to this day. I would call it primarily Urban Fantasy, but it has a touch of post apocalyptic-ness to it as well. It’s a great story even if it has no connection to Virtual Book Club.
Goodreads link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/57504.Brown_Girl_in_the_Ring?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=zLQz5sFRgH&rank=2
I recently read Ring Shout, the latest by P. Djeli Clark, who is fast becoming one of my favorite authors. The story involves monster hunters, the KKK, and a sinister plot by otherworldly entities. Like all of Clark’s work, I found it hard to put down and it’s short, so while it was very satisfying it ended too soon. I also highly recommend his other books: Haunting of Tram Car 015, and Black Gods Drums. Goodreads link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/49247242-ring-shout?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=6zfINl4wYN&rank=1
Witchmark, by C.L. Polk, is the first in a trilogy, and I read this outstanding novel recently for the Temporal Textual Talks book club. I was utterly captivated by the world building Polk created. There’s a lot going on here and to say much would give things away. It was nominated for a bucket-load of awards in 2019, and won the World Fantasy Award. Goodreads link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36187110-witchmark?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=6Kg24rfNcg&rank=1
I first became acquainted with Maurice Broaddus at Gen Con years ago, having read one of his short stories in Harlan County Horrors. Since then he’s released several novels including a foray into Steampunk/alternate history with Buffalo Soldier. The novel features secret agents, the Wild West, and a race to get a specially gifted child to a safe haven before he is captured and his abilities used for ill. It’s a fast read with plenty of action! Goodreads link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31189156-buffalo-soldier?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=V0PCgpbFwa&rank=3
Because of the book club I’ve been reading a LOT of steampunk books since April of 2020, when Virtual Book Club officially started. It’s occasionally been a challenge to fit in books from other genres, but I found it became a necessity to keep me from burning out on steampunk. However, there are still plenty of books I need to cover for the club coming up. In March, for example, our book will be Maurice Broaddus’s Pimp My Airship. Having enjoyed Buffalo Soldier I’m looking forward to this knowing that steampunk is in good hands with Maurice.
Goodreads link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/45012727-pimp-my-airship
I still haven’t read Everfair despite picking up a signed copy when Nisi did her book tour several years back, and having a convenient excuse to read this would be wonderful. The only complication is that Everfair was read in the the predecessor of the Virtual Book Club, which was an in-person club in the Tucson, Arizona area prior to 2020. A number of the virtual club’s participants come from that group and seem reluctant to re-read titles they already covered. Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26114130-everfair?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=XN4WoqwM5u&rank=1
I’ve been interested in reading Nora Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms for a while now, and sheepishly have to admit that I just haven’t gotten around to it yet, but this year will be the year! Jemisin has won the Hugo award for best novel an unprecedented three years in a row, putting the alt-right trolls who made a career of harassing Ms. Jemisin to shame – and rightly so. Goodreads link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6437061-the-hundred-thousand-kingdoms?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=pQwsk5L4vr&rank=1
A book that I’m lobbying hard for inclusion into this year’s Virtual Book Club reading list is Milton J. Davis’s From Here to Timbuktu. I’ve read a number of short stories by Davis in the genre, and am looking forward to reading this book regardless.
Goodreads link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25196837-from-here-to-timbuktu?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=oQv9AWq38Z&rank=1
Last, but absolutely not least, we have Octavia Butler. In truth, I’ve been intimidated by the gravity and the importance of her vastly influential work and have yet to read anything by her, but this will be the year. I’m happy to take suggestions as to where I should begin with Ms. Butler’s novels; otherwise, I think I’ll start with either Dawn or Kindred.
Octavia Butler’s GOodreas page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/29535.Octavia_E_Butler?from_search=true&from_srp=true
Now more than ever it’s important for us humans to try to understand each other better – particularly if we want to survive as a species. I’m looking forward to challenging myself to read more fiction that’s written by people other than old white guys this year. Hopefully it’ll become a lifelong habit.