New album from Gene England and the Comics


115) Stretching the Heavens: The Life of Eugene England and the Crisis of Modern Mormonism by Terryl L. Givens, finished on November 21

Givens said at a lecture I attended that presses love the word crisis in the title. It wasn't his original choice.

Anyway, I've heard that Bob Rees isn't thrilled with this biography and its assertions of England's naivete. And I have to say I agree.

In Frankenstein, Victor relays the monster's story to Walton in the monster's own words. Victor is convinced this telling justifies himself and condemns the creature. But, in fact, what Victor cannot see is that the creature's words make him sympathetic and cast Victor in a bad light.

Givens's assertions of naivete create a similar effect. It's difficult to read the evidence he lays out through the same interpretation Givens himself relies on. I don't see Gene as naive as all. What I see is a man who, even though he has been bitten a hundred times, still gives his dog another chance. Because he believes entirely in the good of the dog. And not because the dog has earned that belief. But because he chooses to live in a world where dogs are good and where this dog may yet become good. And the dog can never become good without further opportunities to choose whether or not to bite.

The first portion of this biography is a thrill-a-minute and I kept sharing details with Lady Steed about his childhood or education or marriage or mission or early career. As it goes on, the thrills slow down and the slow-moving tragedies increase. Which is exciting, I suppose, but also depressing.

Gene was the sort of prophet who comes out of the desert, rather than rises through the ranks. The tragedy was that he didn't see himself as a prophet and he did see himself as part of the ranks. Which made him doubly dangerous.

I hope many, many more books are written about this era, its characters, and Eugene England specifically. And I hope they recognize his heroism before the denouement. That he was, in fact, a hero–all the way through.

hard to believe but I think over three months

116) Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness by Kristen Radtke, finished on November 24

I can't remember now where I saw this recommended. Perhaps the same place In was recommended? (Nope.) Ah, well. Maybe some newspaper. Who knows.

Anyway, Radtke's work's familiar, having appeared in The New Yorker and The Believer and other reputable locations. This long book (352 thick pages—they have to be think to handle all this ink) is about loneliness, including what we know about it, what it's for, what with do for it, etc etc. It's a good book, insightful and probably helpful. The midbook aside about guns felt a bit shoehorned in, but I understand the compulsion to include it.

If nothing else, I hope people read this book just to give us a better sense of how to talk about our shared loneliness. It's a book with a lot of potential utility.

  almost three weeks

117) Katie the Catsitter by Colleen AF Venable and Stephanie Yue, finished on November 24

This was the only one of the Washington Post's best graphic novels of the year which I felt like immediately looking for and which was also at my local library. I picked it up right away and read it to my daughter and we enjoyed it very much.

I was surprised to discover it was a superhero comic. But it's a superhero comic unlike any I've read before. It's protagonist is a young girl who just lives in a superhero world with no expectation to (or interest in) ever interact(ing) with superheros.

And so when she gets involved with 217 hypertalented cats, no telling where it might go.

The book attempts to follow the set of emotion beats exemplified by Roller Girl but her "real life" isn't really the point of the book. Even though a lot of pages are invested in her friendships, the book is never half so interested in them as it is in the cats and the more mysterious connections those cats have to the outside world. And those aspects of the book are endlessly fun and delightful. The ending to that portion is satisfying. The friends-plot resolution barely makes sense.

Anyway! Expect a sequel next year!

how long goes here

120) The Crossroads at Midnight by Abby Howard, finished on November 27

This collection of short horror tales is solid. Each one, conceptually, is strong. The weakness is Howard's ability to write children and youth. Unquestionably, the best story is the final one. Not coincidentally, it is the only one to give no speaking lines to anyone under twenty-five.

Abby Howard is the author or Junior Scientist Power Hour, a strip I'm aware of and sometimes remember to visit when I'm incredibly bored and staring at the bottom of an xkcd page. (This is not an insult—there are just too many good webcomics to remember them all.) He's every bit as good at this longer form and I hope he keeps with it.

I don't know how this was marketed, but I found it in my library's YA GN section, so I suspect all those youthful characters throughout the book were seen as a feature, not a bug. Were I his editor, I would suggest otherwise.

two days

121) "Did You Hear What Eddie Gein Done?" by Harold Schechter and Eric Powell, finished on November 30

Another fine comic about an American killer to place alongside My Friend Dahmer and Green River Killer. Those two stand out because they were about recent crimes (relatively speaking) and written by people indirectly connected to the incidents (Dahmer's high school friend and, in Ridgway's case, the detective's son). The story of Gein (which, I learned, and probably not for the first time, is pronounced geen) takes place a bit too far in the past for that. But they've clearly done their research (as promised) and they've also engaged in a bit of speculation that makes a great deal of sense, viz. that Gein's evil may best be explained as a religion of his own making. Not that he necessarily thought of it that way, but it seems to fit the evidence.

The story is sad and horrifying, grotesque and pathetic, perplexing and explanatory.

It is, in short, an excellent work of comics nonfiction. And you can get it for much cheaper than I paid. (But yours won't be signed.)

two days

122) City of Saints by Andrew Hunt, finished on December 4

This book came out almost a decade ago and, if I remember correctly, escaped the AML's notice upon first release. Not until Mette was proudly publishing her LDS-themed, nationally published mystery novel. City of Saints would lead to two sequels, A Killing in Zion and Desolation Flats, but I'm not sure I even heard of them before I was lifting this issue of the cover from Amazon. Why not?

The second of Mette's novels was the end of my reading them (review). I don't see me reading more from this series either, but for simpler reason. Though I imagine Hunt improves, this novel (which won the Tony Hillerman Prize!) has a lot of rookie errors I wouldn't expect from a Macmillian-edited book—a couple weird repetitions, a couple details that get time shifted—little things, but still.

The book's lead, Deputy Art Oveson, is a worthy creation with some trauma he's working through and a big Mormon family. Some of the psychological issues which force him to work the case in a more detective-novel-friendly way feel a tad contrived, though they come together nicely in the end.

The story's based on an actual and once nationally famous Salt Lake murder. You can read more.

Let's also mention briefly the Mormon content which is pervasive but incidental. Hunt's public face makes it really difficult to tell if he's LDS himself. And the 1930s are just alien enough, it can be difficult to tell if something it accurately period or simply wrong. But with few exceptions, I was happy to accept these aspects of 1930 SLC. If any experts have read the novel, I'd love their take.

Finally, no—the reason I'm unlikely to read more is that I simply rarely read more. Certainly, if A Killing in Zion falls into my lap, I'll give it a shot. But the world is filled with books. I enjoyed this brief journey and I am ready to move on.

how long goes here

123) The Deadliest Bouquet by Erica Schultz and Carola Borelli, et al.; finished December 11

A comic sized and issued like a traditional comic you'd see on display at the comics store. A familiar set-up—three sisters raised to be assassins, by an assassin mother. But this one leans into the horror and never pretends anyone here is a superhero. And its ending is much more aligned with, say, a novel, rather than a serial comic that, no matter its protestations, is always planning on dragging the story out for decades.

(I've never told you about Comics' Greatest World. Four four-issue miniseries. Classic 90s comics hype. But I thought they were all terrifically written and I eagerly purchased each sixteen issues. I felt I had been promised a satisfying arc—beginning, middle, and end. But then the final issue, instead of resolving, rolled over into a new [and endless] comics continuum. I was so angry. Betrayed. I could see why it made sense commercially, but artistically, it was a disaster. I never bought another issue. And considering how the entire enterprise collapsed immediately following, I must not have been alone in my opinion.)

Anyway, this was a solid piece of work! It's not Great Art and I doubt we'll be talking about it in ten years, but I wouldn't be surprised if this writer goes on to keep making things we should talk about.

three nights

Previously . . . . :

books from this year

1, 2, 4, 5, 6

001) The Sun Has Burned My Skin: a modest paraphrase of solomon's song of songs by Adam S. Miller, finished January 3
002) You're a Pal, Snoopy by Charles M. Schulz, finished January 4
004) Served edited by Theric Jepson, finished January 9
005) Served edited by Theric Jepson, finished January 17
006) Shem in Zarahemla by Stephen Carter and Jett Atwood, finished January 19

7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 3

007) iPlates: Zerin's Sacrifice by Stephen Carter and Jett Atwood, finished January 21
008) iPlates: Alma in the Wilderness by Stephen Carter and Jett Atwood, finished January 24
009) Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard, finished January 27
010) Served edited by Theric Jepson, finished February 4
011) The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, finished February 4
003) Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett, finished January 6

12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17

012) Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury, finished February 5
013) My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett, finished February 15
014) The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, finished February 16
015) Sisters by Raina Telgemeier, finished February 18
016) A Desolating Sickness: Stories of Pandemic edited by D.J. Butler, finished February 21
017) Nothing Very Important and other stories by Béla Petsco, finished February 22

18, 19, 20, 21, 22

018) Muppets Present "The Great Gatsby" by Ben Crew, finished February 24
 Uncanny Avengers: Counter-Evolutionary by Rick Remender and Daniel Acuna, finished February 28
 Guts by Raina Telgemeier, finished March 2
 The Hoboken Chicken Emergency by D. Manus Pinkwater, finished March 4
022) Ghosts by Raina Telgemeieir, finished March 5

23, 24, 25, 26, 27

023) Consent (for Kids!): Boundaries, Respect, and Being in Charge of You by Rachel Brian, finished March 11
 Memoirs of an Invisible Man by H.F. Saint, finished March 12
 Solutions and Other Problems by Allie Brosh, finished March 20
 The Invisible Saint by Curtis Taylor, finished March 25
 Black Orchid by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean, finished March 25

28, 29, 30

028) Scrap Mettle by Scott Morse, finished March 26
029) Dugout: The Zombie Steals Home by Scott Morse, finished April 1
030) The Barefoot Serpent by Scott Morse, finished April 1

31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36

031) Is Sex Necessary? Or, Why You Feel the Way You Do by James Thurber and E. B. White, finished April 1
032) Boys Who Became Prophets by Lynda Cory Hardy, finished April 11
033) George and Martha: The Complete Stories of Two Best Friends by James Marshall, finished April 12
034) Stuart Little by E.B. White, finished April 14
035) Achilles by Elizabeth Cook, finished April 15
036) Have It Your Way, Charlie Brown by Charles M. Schulz, finished April 15

37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42

037) The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne, finished April 21
038) The Mystery of the Dinosaur Graveyard by Mary Adrian, finished April 22
039) The Garden of Enid—Volume One by Scott Hales, finished May 2
040) Tiny Writings by Danny Nelson, finished May 5
041) Whispering Death! by R.A. Christmas, finished May 6
042) Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare, finished May 9

43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48

043) T is for Trespass by Sue Grafton, finished May 14
044) Sweet Tooth – Volume 1: Out of the Deep Woods by Jeff Lemire, finished May 22
045) Sweet Tooth – Volume 2: In Captivity by Jeff Lemire, finished May 22
046) Sweet Tooth – Volume 3: Animal Armies by Jeff Lemire, finished May 22
047) Sweet Tooth Deluxe Edition – Volume 2 by Jeff Lemire, finished May 22
048) Sweet Tooth Deluxe Edition – Volume 3 by Jeff Lemire, finished May 23

49, 50, 51

049) A Book of Lamentations by James Goldberg, finished on May 23
050) How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell, finished on May 25
051) We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, finished on May 26

52, 53, 54, 55, 56

052) Vertigo CMYK, finished on June 5
053) Plutona by Jeff Lemire and Eme Lenox and friends, finished on January 5
054) The Age of Movies: Selected Writings of Pauline Kael edited by Sanford Schwartz, finished on June 9
055) Pastwatch: the Redemption of Christopher Columbus by Orson Scott Card, finished on June 11
056) American Cult edited by Robyn Chapman, finished on June 12

57, 58, 59, 60, 62, 63

057) Messages on the Water by Merrijane Rice, finished on June 14
058) Words on Fire by Jennifer A. Nielsen, finished on June 16
059) There There by Tommy Orange, finished on June 19
060) The Shakespeare Stories by Andrew Matthews and illustrated by Tony Ross, finished on June 19
062) The Garden of Enid: Adventures of a Weird Mormon Girl, Part Two by Scott Hales, finished on June 20
063) Do the Movies Have a Future? by David Denby, finished on July 14

61, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69

061) World War Z (abridged audiobook) by Max Brooks, finished June 23
064) The Child Buyer by John Hersey, finished on July 14
065) Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, finished on July 15
066) Dani and Ramen: A Nomad's Tale, volume one by Jake Morrison, finished on July 17
067) Dani and Ramen: A Nomad's Tale, volume two by Jake Morrison, finished on July 17
068) The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey, finished on July 23
069) Kirby: King of Comics by Mark Evanier, finished on July 23

70, 71, 72, 73, 74

070) It's a Magical World by Bill Watterson, finished on July 29
071) Future Day Saints: The Gnolaumite Crystal by Matt Page, finished on August 1
072) Dutch House by Ann Patchett, finished on August 5
073) Long Walk to Valhalla by Adam Smith and Matthew Fox, finished on August 7
074) House of Women by Sophie Goldstein, finished on August 10
075) Through the Woods by Emily Carroll, finished on August 10

76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83

076) The House by Paco Roca, finished on August 11
077) Are Comic Books Real? by Alex Nall, finished on August 13
078) Top Ten by Alan Moore and Gene Ha, finished on August 16
079) Baby-sitters Little Sister: Karen's Roller Skates by Katy Farina, finished on August 17
080) Lulu Anew by Étienne Davodeau, finished on August 17
081) The Nature of Oaks: The Rich Ecology of Our Most Essential Native Trees by Douglas W. Tallamy, finished on August 24
082) Thor: The Goddess of Thunder by Aaron/Dauterman/Molina, finished on August 24
083) Pashima by Nidhi Chanani, finished on August 25

84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89

084) Now We're Getting Somewhere by Kim Addonizio, finished on August 27
085) I Am Young by M. Dean, finished on August 30
086) The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye presented by Sonny Liew, finished on August 31
087) The Oven by Sophie Goldstein, finished on August 31
088) Witchlight by Jessi Zabarsky, finished on September 3
089) Loverboys by Gilbert Hernandez, finished on September 3

90, 91, 92, 93, 94

090) Apocalypse Taco by Nathan Hale, finished on September 4
091) In by Will McPhail, finished on September 4
092) Deadpool Does Shakespeare by Gerry Duggan and Ian Doescher, finished on September 4
093) WE3 by Grant Morrison, finished on September 4
094) The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin, finished on September 21

95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100

095) Deeper Thoughts by Jack Handey, finished on September 23
096) Lightfall: The Girl & the Galdurian by Tim Probert, finished on September 23
097) Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O'Connell, finished on September 28
098) My Heart Is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones, finished on September 29
099) Anne of Green Gables by Mariah Marsden and Brenna Thummler, finished on September 29
100) The Grownup by Gillian Flynn, finished on October 1

101, 102, 103, 104, 105, 106, 107

101) The Glass Looker by Mark Elwood, finished on October 3
102) A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness after Siobhan Dowd, finished on October 6
103) Poison for Breakfast by Lemony Snicket, finished on October 12
104) Banned Book Club by Kim Hyun Sook, Ko Hyung-Ju, Ryan Estrada; finished on October 13
105) Romance or The End. by Elaine Kahn, finished on October 14
106 & 107) Macbeth by William Shakespeare, finished on October 18


109) Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir, finished on October 29

108, 110, 111, 112, 113, 114

108) The Book of Mormon, finished on October 19
110) As You Like It by William Shakespeare, finished on November 8
111) Premonition by Michael Lewis, finished on November 8
112) Tuki: Fight for Fire by Jeff Smith, finished on November 12
113) A Life's Work: On Becoming a Mother by Rachel Cusk, finished on November 13
114) The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett, finished on November 17

118, 119

118) Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi, finished on November 26
119) Clockwork Curandera, Volume I: The Witch Owl Parliament by David Bowles & Raúl The Third, finished on November 26

final posts in this series from

2007 = 2008 = 2009 = 2010 = 2011 = 2012
2013 = 2014 = 2015 = 2016 = 2017 = 2018 = 2019 = 2020


the most recent post in the books-read series *

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