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Georg joined Annie Bloom's books in November of 2021. He enjoys reading poetry, contemporary fantasy and sci-fi, horror, and memoirs. Georg grew up in Montana, where he went to the University of Montana for English. He moved to Portland in 2019, and he received his MFA in poetry from Portland State University.
Series I recommend:
The Green Bone Saga by Fonda Lee, starting with Jade City
The Broken Earth Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin, starting with The Fifth Season.
The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells, starting with All Systems Red.
The Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer, starting with Annihilation.
The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois is a monumental novel about Ailey and the history of her family in America, from the Creek tribe in The-Place-In-the-Middle-of-The-Tall-Trees, to the slaves stolen and brought to America in the Middle Passage, to the plantation her family history spirals around, to Jim Crow, down to Ailey. While no story can tell the whole tale, Love Songs feel comprehensive in the history of this family and the many connections and events that occur over the course of hundreds of years.
It is a core sample of American history that, through close attention to the family tree, shows how near these eras are to our own time. Living characters in the novel had grandparents who were slaves. You can feel the immediacy of these atrocities because you can directly trace the pain along this lineage of characters whose perspectives we encounter throughout the telling of this story alongside Ailey.
I experienced the full spectrum of emotions in the course of reading Love Songs. Jeffers creates characters so fully realized that I felt like I was reading their real history, as though I could go to an archive and find their stories myself. Love Songs is one of the greatest novels I have read or likely will read, and its presence is a true achievement.
The Green Bone Saga, and Jade Legacy in particular, is a monumental achievement. Fonda Lee's series has so much depth and complexity to it, and every aspect of the book is so well realized that this world feels particularly real. Each book widens its scope until Jade Legacy spans decades of time where we see children grow up, green bones grow old, and rivalries ebb and flow. Spending so much time with the characters over many phases of their lives made me attached to them deeper than most connections I have with characters. Lee writes her characters with deep empathy, which allows each perspective to feel distinct and full. To me, there are no flat characters or conflicts in this series. The presence of jade in this world is built into the realness of the world, so the trading, smuggling, mining, and owning of jade has impact from a single person in Kekon to the world political stage. This series is one of the best I have read.
Look at This Blue is difficult to pin down with simple categorization. It is one long poem in many fragments, and fragments within those fragments, and moments of recursion. Alice Notley describes the speaker of Look at This Blue as "the record," and in many ways this feels correct. There are points of fragmented lyricism, with an "I" recounting something or witnessing the world, but more often, it seems, the "I" is absent and the record speaks.
Hedge Coke spends much of the book in conversation with intertexts and sources, using found language, quotes, and juxtaposition to bring the record into focus. There are pages of lists whose presences carry so much weight by their aggregation: endangered species, native creatures of California, State-sanctioned massacres in California alone, white supremacist laws created to disadvantage or eliminate specific groups of people, etc. The record speaks and the "I" lives around it.
I almost felt battered back and forth by all of the recording and histories affecting presents, all of the things worth keeping track of but too much to hold in my head all at once.
Throughout all of this, though, a galvanizing force injects the reader with the desire for action and the need for balance and interconnection. I'm left thinking about Mariame Kaba's quote, "hope is a discipline" alongside this book. There is a legacy of white-supremacist violence in the US, and there are people and communities constantly working against it. Now, still, maybe even more, the legacy rears its head and Earth's climate trends chaotic. And we must go to work together.
Saeed Jones's writing feels so effortlessly moving, particularly his prose. This collection not only has inventive phrasing and acute attention to sound throughout (I loved all of the 'b' sounds in these poems), but it also makes great use of series poems and continuation. The similar ideas and formats recur, multiply, and gain depth with each iteration, building a new image (or piecing together a new, larger puzzle).
The poems explore the ebb and flow and sometimes mixture between choking anxiety, desperation, and apocalypse and the mundane, lively, and peaceful, containing the awareness that both destruction and living occur simultaneously. In many ways, this collection is a meditation on grief, the ways the world kills and expects respect and the many facets of grief in our world, more specifically Saeed's world: grief for his mother, dead icons, decaying world, his own hurts, etc.
Nona might be my favorite of the series so far. As a character, Nona is so sweet and earnest, a welcome difference from both Gideon and Harrow as pov characters. Tamsyn Muir continues to show a great control over character voice in her writing, with each character feeling entirely distinct to read. Each perspective makes me feel and think differently, which is one of my greatest sources of enjoyment from these books. There are moments in Nona that I think are some of the best writing I have read from Tamsyn, and one of those moments was the most moving scene in the series for me so far. I'm glad Tamsyn decided Nona needed her own full-length story.
This is R.F. Kuang's best-written book so far, from the prose and story structure to the character development. Babel is the story of an alternate London in the 1830s where language, more accurately translation, and silver combine to create spells. At the center of the novel is the friendship of a cohort of four scholars at Oxford, and surrounding them are the pressures of empire, colonialism, complacency, belonging, and power. In the face of empire and colonial violence, Robin and his friends each have to decide on which line they fall, for or against the British empire because even following the status quo enables the powerful. The system of spells Kuang created for Babel is so fun and innovative, and it leaves room for complexity and mystery. Overall, Babel is incendiary.
Calling for a Blanket Dance is the story of a family, focusing on one central member, across interconnected generations with each chapter being told from a new perspective in the family. Ultimately, this is the story of a family trying to connect, stay together, and support one another. Alongside this central story, Hokeah uses the various voices to add depth to the characters' experiences with and of each other and the world around them. The ebb and flow of tragedy and set backs and the characters working their way out from under them made this story so emotionally impactful, and in a story that could have ended in tragedy or heartbreak, this one, through family, community, love, and commitment, trends toward hope.
Set in the Yucatan Peninsula during the Caste War, The Daughter of Doctor Moreau is a tale of family secrets, naive love, genetic engineering, and a daughter coming into her own power out from under her father, a theme explored from the title to the end of the novel. Silvia Moreno-Garcia's writing is often elegant. She captures the natural beauty of the environment and the strange beauty of Doctor Moreau's animal hybrids. Moreno-Garcia's characters feel well-realized; she is able to consistenlty contain the pain and shortcomings of the characters alongside their loves and strengths. Each character has their own distinct way of understanding the world, and their interplay makes the book's world feel grounded and complex. One of my favorite aspects of The Daughter of Doctor Moreau is the man-playing-God archetype and how the hybrids and others surrounding the Doctor find their faith, especially as their faith in the Doctor and his God wanes.
T. Kingfisher's novella What Moves the Dead is an unsettling deep-dive into Poe's short story "The Fall of the House of Usher." The ways Kingfisher expands the short story add depth to the world, characters, and circumstances of the fall. Kingfisher's exploration of the fungi's role in the Ushers' downfall and the more-than-human intelligence responsible created a visceral and lasting impression on me. There are a few moments that I can't stop picturing in my mind and recoiling at the images. The horror of the situation was more complex than an evil force wreaking havoc, and the complexity is a large part of why this story is lodged in my brain.
The Wet Hex is a collection where many of the poems feel like dreams realized in the world, filled with fragmented images and details that recur throughout the collection that tie it all together. Reading through some of the poems felt like reading a sort of spell.
My favorite section is the collaboration between Shin's poems and Jinny Yu's drawings. The starkness of the visual art and how well the poems and their written images play with the drawings felt captivating. There is a way that the drawings make the poems both more concrete and abstract. They allow the poems to go into a stranger, more literal sense in a way because the accompanying visuals themselves are both concrete and abstract. This is a book eminently worthy of multiple readings, and I expect when I return to this collection the poems will reveal even more.
Embrace Fearlessly the Burning World is a stellar collection of essays grounded in Lopez's experiences of the world and his close observations of natural and human phenomena alongside his internal reactions and memories. Throughout the collection, Lopez is asking himself the question if we can embrace fearlessly the burning world, and what it means to love a damaged world. Many of the essays delve deeper than Lopez's adventures and observations and become more autobiographical as he writes about the ways he has connected to place, grown over the years, his traumas and heartbreaks, and his aging body. It is fill with Lopez's wit, love, and hope that we will act together to create meaningful change.
Ada Limón's The Hurting Kind is a collection of closely watching, both the surrounding world and interior responses to it, filled with the urge to connect and understand. There is a desire to loosen the boundary between self and other running through the collection. The poems feel like small vignettes of connection with speakers trying to bear witness and be witnessed (receive beauty and notice the receiving). Limón frequently asks "who got us here? Who allowed living to happen before and for me?" There is a lineage to our living.
Limón's poems also hold space for the more-than-human and the strange otherness of the non-human, their mystery and our wonder. Oftentimes there is a feeling of ongoingness, where the speaker has left the scene, but the scene will continue without them, where they can imagine its continuing, love and life and the world still existing and moving.
There are so many places where the sentence is on showcase as well: what can be shown or felt within the singular unit and how the movement happens, alongside novel phrasing and painterly images. One of my favorite collections I have read. It makes me feel full and want to reach out toward the world around me.
Nettle & Bone is a fairy tale that focuses on characters who would be on the side in other tales: the third sister, the old witch and her demon hen, a small-kingdom fairy godmother, a skeletal dog, and the knight waiting to die. There is a larger narrative at play surrounding the specific story of Nettle & Bone, and Marra often doesn't pick up on the game being played by the major players. She ultimately has one goal in mind: to kill the prince lording over her family. The storytelling is delightful and eerie, full of magical beings and strange, otherworldly places. The world-at-large in Nettle & Bone feels bigger and more expansive than the story at play, and so it feels like the characters are part of a living place. The book moves quickly and is easy to pick up and become engrossed in, though to me the climax and resolution felt like they could have been stretched out a bit more. The pacing felt a bit rushed to me. Overall, Nettle & Bone is very well-written and realized and a joy to experience.
The Four Treasures of the Sky is a deft and engaging story following Lin Daiyu, a girl kidnapped from China and smuggled into the United States in the 1880s. Zhang's novel takes a magnifying glass to the anti-Chinese sentiment, laws, and violence of the late 19th century US. This is a time and series of events that are largely glossed over in American history, but like many actions of the past, these have repercussions into the present, as seen with renewed anti-Asian sentiment and violence throughout the pandemic. Lin Daiyu's story is not wholly unique to her as a victim in this time, but hers is memorable in her effort to claim her name as her own while others take pieces of herself from her. The interiority of Daiyu and the images Zhang writes are complex and captivating throughout the whole book.
This is a collection concerned with connection and how we get to where we are (both spatially and as people, how we become us). Vuong explores life, violence, love, and death in poems that feel particular to Vuong's voice as a write. The images are strange and unique in the way they don't play out or resolve in an expected way. The lines often take a left turn away from the known into something more specific and strange. This collection of poems invigorates my desire to love and create.
Don't Fear the Reaper is an excellent sequel to My Heart is Chainsaw. The circumstances fit perfectly in the genre and feel particularly cinematic. I can easily visualize how the scenes would look and feel on the screen. I wasn't sure what to expect from Don't Fear the Reaper as a continuation of Jade's story, but I really enjoyed following her during this next tragedy. This book has more emotional depth and strikes a different tone than the excitement in My Heart is a Chainsaw. The aftermath of the Independence Day Massacre has changed everyone, and Jones allows these changes to add more depth to the characters as we get more perspectives in this book. The imagery and descriptions also seem cranked up in this book, and some of this is due to some of the victims being perspective characters at certain points. Overall, I loved my time back in Proofrock, through I felt some of the perspective shifts were a bit jarring and it was a little too long to hold my anticipation/excitement all of the way through.
A book about how humans have impacted the environment in various, unforeseen ways, and how humans are trying to remedy those effects. This book is fascinating with all of the problems and potential solutions, and the ability for us to foresee and mitigate issues from the new solutions.
In Trinidad and Tobago, Yejide is a daughter in a lineage of matriarchs who are tasked with putting the souls of the dead to rest. Darwin is a new gravedigger/tender in Port Angeles's largest graveyard that is filled with restless dead wronged, a sight essentially desecrated. Their connection is gravitational and unavoidable, almost fated. I felt pulled through the story in a similar manner. Banwo fills this books with so many poignant moments of love, spirituality, growth, care, and devotion.
Red Paint is Lapointe's process toward understanding her trauma and beginning healing through the connections to her ancestors, the land, punk music, and writing. Her writing is deeply intimate and introspective, observant of her experiences and the experiences of her predecessors in the Pacific Northwest when colonizers arrived. A book about finding power in connections to lineage and land and self.
A strange and particularly deadly virus that morphs the human body is uncovered in a near future Siberia. It spreads, and the world has to find ways to reinvent ways of living, dying, grieving, and surviving. Each chapter has a new perspective character who is in some way connected to another character or chapter in the book. A beautiful constellation of grief. It feels like an anthology of lives impacted by this incredible occurence. The writing is beautiful, and each chapter is just as moving as the last, full of complex lives and questions and wonderings.
Nagamatsu is also interested in the technologies and businesses that spring up in the future to combat the virus and capitalize on its existence and become important to people (such as robo-dogs with recorded voices of loved ones who have died). Ultimately, he is concerned with nontraditional grief and what we do when something gets in the way of grief or you're not able to say goodbye. This book is grounded in grief and trends toward hope and possibility.
A story of two Syrian immigrants, Sama and Hadi, and their boundless love told alongside anecdotes of migratory birds and their shrinking numbers and lands. The couple is separated by the 2017 travel ban on immigrants and refugees from South East Asia while Syria and its people are in the midst of civil war. The writing is often poetic and beautiful, full of emotional images and complex circumstances.
This book is beautifully written and easy to read punctuated by moments where Erdrich heightens the images and leans into her poetic techniques. I listened to the audiobook, and Louise Erdrich is a great and captiaviting reader of her work. The characters are well-realized and disctinct. This is one of the few books recently where I wanted to stay with the characters and listen to Erdrich read more.
Beautiful, complex, and full of history that connects the characters in the Ukrainian protests and fight against Russia in 2013-2014. I read this months before Russia's further invasion, and it feels well-timed and tells the important recent history in a compelling narrative.
As far as concepts go, Sleeping Beauty meets Into the Spider-verse is fascinating in all of the directions it can, and does, go. A Spindle Splintered is so easy to read and moves fast. In that way it also adopts the feel of a fairy tale. The meta-fictional knowledge that Zinnia adds some depth and fun to the story while also allowing the tale to move forward without any real hitches or slow spots. I found the characters and their relationships to each other heartwarming and endearing. Their support and love knows no bounds, not even the bounds of a multiverse.
Dove is a masterful poet who has been writing for decades, and you can see her experience in this collection. It's full of her years of living and writing. Highly observant of the momentary as well as having frequent and prolonged contact with history, from when events in history took place to the span of a life. Carefully crafted in form and voice (both hers and others she speakes with). One of my favorite aspects of this collection is the way many of the book's sections have their own projects within the larger whole.
Akbar's poems often explore the space of the page, syntax, God and faith, language, power and oppression, etc. One of my favorite poets to return to.
Somebody's Daughter is Ford's Memoir about her younger years, focusing on her relationship with her mother and trying to build a relationship with her father. Ford's style is so easy to read, and she shows how she comes through the other side after the hardships and abuses she experienced.
Kelly's poems all feel carefully measured and emotionally expansive. Many of her images have an intimate connection with the natural world and how the speaker of the poem relates to the world through those images.
Content warning for sexual assault.
VanderMeer creates a captivating mystery surrounded by questions of ecological disaster and conspiratorial powers toiling in the dark. The protagonist embodies what it looks like to be gripped by strange obsession and to follow the trail to the very end.
Essays by Mariame Kaba about organizing and working toward prison abolition. Kaba has spent much of her life doing this work, and these essays provide a foundation for folks who want to and are doing similar work. She discusses recent trials and events where she has organized and what justice would look like to her in those scenarios. One of her strongest points as an organizer, abolitionist, and essayist is her view of hope as a discipline and how to hope/return to hope when powers and laws seem stacked against you.
A horror story of a wronged spirit's revenge as it seeks out the men who wronged it. Jones uses perspective to great effect in this novel, creating chilling, memorable moments of grisly consequences.
Diaz ia a master at capturing complex, resonant emotions through strange, beautiful, and haunting images.
Brown's poems are each masterfully crafted, from their movement from the beginning to the end line, to the lines and line breaks themselves, to form. I find something new each time I return to this collection.
A book worth exploring multiple times! There are also perfomances of this book out there. I listened to the BBC Radio version. Kaminsky builds a narrative throughout the book through individual poems. He creates emotionally complex images about revolution, deafness, love, complicity, death, etc.