I wrote and published 52 reviews of what I read in 2022 (links here), but with reading 85 books, there was a lot of fiction that didn’t make it to a Reading While Fat review. So here is some notable, worthwhile fiction that deserves mention.
I thoroughly enjoyed listening to The Reading List (2021) by Sara Nisha Adams–it centered on how reading books on a particular list affected a group of characters. Mukesh, an elderly widower who never had the habit of reading, has fallen into a rut since his beloved wife, the reader, has passed. Aliesha is a 17-year old girl who works at a library, and finds a list titled “In Case You Need It” in the back of a book that is returned. After Aliesha is rude to Mukesh on his first visit to the library, she starts reading the books on the list and decides to recommend them to Mukesh and start discussing them with him. Reading makes Mukesh feel closer to his wife, even though she’s gone, and Aliesha can connect to her depressed mother by reading to her. It’s not a completely happy ending, but I was caught up in the story and how the books affected each person.
A Far Wilder Magic (2022) by Allison Saft, is YA fantasy, set in a world similar to our own, historically probably in the mid-20th century, but with alchemy and magic performed by alchemists. Maggie Welty lives alone in her family home, after her mother, an accomplished alchemist, has gone away. Weston Winters appears on her doorstep hoping that her mother can take him as an apprentice, as he has no other options to study alchemy. And then the hala, a deer-like magical creature, has appeared, and the town is consumed by the hunt, which is open to an alchemist and a hunter. Maggie and Weston form a team and enter the hunt competition, but Maggie’s mother still doesn’t reappear. There is some romance, which felt true, and I was caught up in the story.
How Beautiful We Were (2021) by Imbolo Mbue had a unique, first-person plural perspective through most of it, as much of the story is told by the age-mates of Thula, a village girl who became a revolutionary. The African village where Thula lives is plagued with pollution and sick and dying children because of the nearby oil refinery, and neither the government nor the company will do anything about the toxic water. Until one day, the villagers take the matter into their own hands, and nothing is ever the same again. Its theme and feel is similar to that of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, so don’t expect a feel-good story, but a true one that has been repeated around the world all too often.
I have intended to read The Night Circus (2011) by Erin Morgenstern for a long time, so I finally listened to it, and loved it. Celia is the daughter of a great magician, having come to live with him when she was 5 years old. He teaches her how to perform illusions, which she becomes very proficient at, and early on, binds her to a contest with a man in a gray suit, that her schooling is intended to help her succeed in. Marco is an orphan adopted by a man in a gray suit, who is taught charms and other ways to ensure people don’t see what is really there. He is Celia’s opponent, but she doesn’t know that for many years after the competition has begun. The venue for the competition is the Cirque de Reve, or Circus of Dreams, which appears somewhere outside a town one day and only opens at sundown. It’s beautifully written and a love story, and I’d love to be able to visit something like the circus sometime in my life.
I loved the representation in The Kiss Quotient (2018) by Helen Hoang, because nearly all of the characters are Asian-American, one of whom is a woman on the autism spectrum. The love scenes were steamy, and I thought that the characteristics ascribed to Stella’s autism were well-described and realistic. Highly recommend for a hot happily-ever-after that gives some insight into how autism affected this particular character.
The audiobook for A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor (2020) by Hank Green was read by a cast of characters, and picks up right after the events of An Absolutely Remarkable Thing (2018). April May has died, and her friends are trying to make sense of the new world without her and without the Carls. Green switches perspective from one survivor to another, and although the Carls are gone, strange things keep happening, and Maya, specifically, doesn’t believe that April is really gone. This is definitely not a stand-alone; in fact, I wish I had re-read Remarkable Thing right before I read Foolish Endeavor because I think I would have made sense of what was happening sooner. I was caught up in the events, and couldn’t wait to find out how it ended up–wrapped up in this plot are Green’s thoughts about the nature of celebrity and this world where we don’t really know how the amount of time we spend on social media really affects us.
To my recollection, none of the books above included any significant anti-fat bias, although it is sometimes harder for me to remember it when it is subtle and I’m listening to a book rather than reading an electronic or paper copy.