Among Others by Jo Walton

Among Others is a love letter to books and reading. It’s about the sheer joy and validation in finding people who are like you. Jo Walton thrills in the connectedness of the human experience, finding magic within the threads that bind us all together. This is a cozy, warm tale about finding your home after tragedy. It is not the trip to Mordor; it is the Scouring of the Shire. The Chosen Ones have already won, and the world is saved… so now, it’s time to live.

My Beautiful Life by KJ Parker

My Beautiful Life plays with structure and characters in a way that seems to be slightly divorced from its intended audience. When taken as a writing study, it’s actually quite interesting – how might an author bring about a story wherein the end is revealed at the beginning? Unfortunately, writing studies typically aren’t being published en masse. They’re just studies, meant to hone writing skills. Although this novella nails the tone and characters it seeks to portray, it was very difficult to connect with the story as a reader. 

Do Not Look Back, My Lion by Alix E. Harrow

Told in Harrow’s always stunning prose, Do Not Look Back, My Lion tells a heart-rending tale of love and sacrifice. She uses gender, title, and reader expectation to create a society that’s both foreign and familiar. Husband has become a role divorced from gender, even as wife has remained a status limited to women. Women are not only the givers of life, but also the takers. 

The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal

I read this book shortly after a trip down to visit my parents and step-siblings in Florida. I had thrown a request up on Reddit’s r/Fantasy board seeking a book with a married couple who are just genuinely good to one another, and this absolutely delivered on this front. The Calculating Stars is a reminder to the reader that couples who genuinely care and hold respect for one another do exist, which is just such a lovely thing in a world filled with books focused on strife. It was also lovely to have a book about two people who are truly a team, where they start out together and finish together. This wasn’t a book about dating or will-they-won’t-they. It was a book about two people who are completely in love with each other and want to support each other. 

The Pursuit of William Abbey by Claire North

I’m convinced: it’s literally impossible for Claire North to write a bad book. I think she’s just genuinely incapable of anything less than excellence. When she writes a sentence, it just comes out good. Every single time. Of this I am certain. Alternatively, there’s the much more mundane and likely scenario: she’s very, very good at proofing, has a wonderful editor and team behind her, and has honed her craft over many years and novels. However her frankly gorgeous writing originates, the result is the same: yet another brilliant novel being gifted to the world. 

Sooner or Later Everything Falls Into the Sea by Sarah Pinsker

Sarah Pinsker eases you in to an unexpected future in her short story, Sooner or Later Everything Falls Into the Sea. It begins with a woman living alone along the beach; Bay scavenges that which washes ashore for a living. She uses the flotsam and jetsam that falls overboard from the large cruise ships which now dominate the seas to sustain her meager lifestyle. One day, it’s not a few odds and ends of supplies which wash ashore… but rather a young rock star. A bassist. 

Queen of the Conquered by Kacen Callender

Queen of the Conquered forces an uncomfortable and often alarming perspective onto the reader, casting them in the role of both the oppressor and the oppressed with masterful control. Callender has added a work of incredible cultural depth and import to the SFF canon. Put simply, this is required reading for anyone with even a speck of interest in the complex social and racial issues that remain ingrained within our society.

The Thing in the Walls Wants Your Small Change by Virginia M. Mohlere

Mohlere takes Caro’s story across many facets of her life, painting with a broad, abstract brush to fill in the details that can’t fit into a short story. We see her painful family situation, we see the hurt in her soul when she sees a family she could have had. Most importantly, we also see her redemption. We see the power of care and loyalty in those we love. I would highly recommend this story to anyone looking for a little chicken soup for the soul.