Michael: I wanted to do a “Top 5 Books” post, but realized I might want to include some things that weren’t books. And I really didn’t want to make a long post even longer or run several listicles. So we decided to have a faux chat about our favorite things from this year.
Erin: Late last winter I was desperate for a way to get my face some moisture. I crowd-sourced my problem on Facebook, as you do, and was told to check out the Oil Cleansing Method. It was a miraculous change from dry to beautifully balanced after just a few weeks, and I recommend it for anyone. Here’s a good place to start: Crunchy Betty’s Nitty Gritty on the Oil Cleansing Method.
Michael: I don’t know anything about that, other than our toddler telling me I need beard oil. My number five is kind of a cheat, since it technically started in 2013, but Rat Queens, Vol. 1: Sass & Sorcery was published in 2014. This all female Dungeons & Dragons adventuring party is rife with metacommentary, humor, and heart. Rat Queens might have made my number one but for the original artist’s domestic abuse charge. Fortunately, he was replaced by someone with an even better hand with non traditional female forms.
Erin: Oh, yeah! Rat Queens is pretty much better than face cleansing methods. You win this list, Michael. Also, I considered this list as things we discovered in 2014, not necessarily things that were created/published in 2014, so cheat away!
Erin: People have preferences when it comes to superheroes–Marvel or DC, comic book-y or gritty, sincere or sassy. With the onslaught of films and television bringing to life the most mainstream (Captain America) to the obscure (Guardians of the Galaxy), I’d become a bit apathetic. We enjoyed Guardians but waited months to see Captain America: Winter Soldier even though we adored the original film. But when The Flash hit the CW this past fall, my apathy dissipated. Now The Flash is the weekly show I look forward to the most. It’s sincere, heart-felt, funny, geeky, and fun.
Michael: I mostly enjoy The Flash because the show will make an odd choice for, uh, reasons, I guess and I can say, “You know who was a good Flash?” And Erin will say, “Wally West?” She was a huge Justice League fan and that show handled him pretty well. Well enough that I wasn’t constantly thinking the speed force was wasted on the character. My number four is the announcement, casting, and cross marketing of the upcoming Jem and the Holograms. I used to come home from school and watch GI-Joe like any red blooded male youth, but Jem was truly outrageous. It’s showtime, Synergy.
Erin: This year I read three truly mentally engaging pieces of science fiction. It started with finally tackling some Philip K. Dick in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Then it continued with introducing Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go into my AP Literature curriculum. But the culmination came with a friend’s loan of issue #1 of Kelly Sue Deconnick’s Bitch Planet. I blogged at length about Androids but easily tripled that writing about Bitch Planet. Bitch Planet, a women-in-prison narrative with clear sci-fi elements, is intriguing, horrifying, insightful, and highly entertaining with a structural presentation that packs surprises and gut-punches. Its continuation is one of the things I look forward to in 2015.
Michael: I never did get around to reading Never Let Me Go this year. Bitch Planet was practically assigned. My number three is Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary by J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien. Almost everyone will tell you Seamus Heaney’s translation is the best whether they’ve read others or not. It’s good, to be sure, but there’s more magic and heroism in Tolkien. And the notes his son included are a master class on the epic and a look behind the scenes of The Lord of the Rings. I reread six versions leading up to this release, but this is the one I want handy.
Erin: Much of our year has been shaped by a single act–joining NetGalley and creating this blog to post reviews of NetGalley books. Last January I had created a GoodReads goal of reading 15 books, a goal that in previous years was completely untenable with my teacherly duties and subsequent reading burnout. Thanks to NetGalley, I blew that goal out of the water and started writing regularly again to boot (but am also frequently up late blogging for the next morning’s deadline). Without NetGalley, I wouldn’t have found these gems: David Shafer’s Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Stephan Eirik Clark’s Sweetness #9, M.R. Carey’s The Girl With All the Gifts, and The Bust DIY Guide to Life.
Michael: While it didn’t significantly impact the number of books I read, NetGalley did allow me opportunities to read outside my comfort zone. I have a feeling Erin’s going to cover my number 2, so I won’t go on too long about Once Upon a Time. Shortly after we started the blog, season three ended with a bombshell: Elsa was coming to Storybrooke. Our toddler loves Frozen, so I pretty much love Frozen, too. I woke up on the first day of the new year to, “The sky’s awake, Dada!” Having never watched Once, we caught up over the summer and became super fans.
Erin: Most people saw Frozen in 2013, but we didn’t encounter it until our toddler turned two and we started seeing if he could sit through movies. Frozen was one of the earlier tests and easily the most successful. His enthusiasm stoked our enthusiasm, but I dare say we love it on more levels than he. For instance, I love the reversal of the true-love-at-first-sight trope so popular in fairy tales and especially Disney princess stories. A little detail I just recently discovered I loved is that Kristoff, the male hero, asks consent for a kiss from Anna, the female hero, at the end of the film. Frozen led us to Once Upon a Time, which became a big deal for Michael and I as we worked our way through the back seasons on Netflix in anticipation of the season 4 Frozen story-arc. Once is our only appointment television–Michael purchased us an antenna just for the show (we don’t have cable anymore, just Netflix and Hulu+). Once further warmed my frozen shipper’s heart that had been dormant for at least two years.
Michael: I’m pretty fond of all that other stuff, but there’s one book I read this year that stands out beyond everything else. The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley was so full of weird wonderful ideas that it changed my expectations for science fiction and fantasy. Hurley’s feminist SFF leaves no notion uninterrogated. With multiple viewpoints from distinct interrelated cultures, gender trinaries and quinaries, and protogynous assassins, all anchored in familiar epic fantasy tropes, this isn’t just my favorite book of the year, it’s one of my favorite books period.