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  • Writer's pictureThe Bossy Bookworm

Bossy Favorite Reads of the Year So Far

My very favorite Bossy reads so far this year!

My Greedy Reading Lists are usually made up of six books, but I've had a wonderful start to 2024 reading, so here are the nine books I've most loved so far this year.

If you've read any of these titles, I'd love to hear what you think!

And I'd also love to hear: what are some of your favorite reads so far this year?


01 The Vaster Wilds by Lauren Groff

Lauren Groff's beautiful and brutal novel The Vaster Wilds follows a young servant girl running from the Jamestown colony's disease and starvation; she reveals her secrets while scrabbling for survival in the unforgiving wilderness.

The world, the girl knew, was worse than savage, the world was unmoved. It did not care, it could not care, what happened to her, not one bit. She was a mote, a speck, a floating windborne fleck of dust.

Lauren Goff's novel The Vaster Wilds begins in the Jamestown colony in the early 1600s. A servant girl is fleeing her early colonial household in the brutal aftermath of plague and starvation.

Upon being on her own for the first time, she discovers that she is capable of cleverness in the wild as she dives deeper and deeper into the unforgiving wilderness. She manages to problem-solve enormous challenges and, against all odds, survive. Her life in the wild consists of scrabbling for sustenance and carving out shelter; floating deadly cold rivers; and fleeing from wild strangers and beasts.

Hers is a brutal existence buoyed only by meandering thoughts of the past--including her life's one tender connection, to the young daughter of her former household, her former charge--and her growing wonder at the mysteries of the natural world, which are wonderfully imperfect and beautifully wrought by Groff.

I listened to The Vaster Wilds as an audiobook.

For my full review, check out The Vaster Wilds.


02 Gwen & Art Are Not in Love by Lex Croucher

Lex Croucher's queer medieval rom-com--the author's debut young-adult novel--is an absolute gem; it's full of excellent banter and lots of heart. I smiled while reading this one.

“Nobody else is ever going to care as much as you do about the things that you want, Gwendoline. So it's up to you --you can put them aside forever, if you can live with that, or you can put on your big-girl girdle and demand more for yourself.”

It's hundreds of years after King Arthur's reign, and his descendant and namesake Arthur, a future lord and committed partier and social butterfly, has long been betrothed to the short-tempered princess Gwendoline.

Gwendoline has strong opinions and is feeling constricted in her prescribed royal role even without the weight of her pending marriage upon her.

But Gwendoline and Arthur detest each other. And when they're forced to spend the summer together at Camelot to prepare for their upcoming nuptials, it doesn't take long for them to realize that Art has been kissing a boy and that Gwen has a crush on the only female knight in the kingdom.

The premise of Lex Croucher's Gwen & Art Are Not in Love is irresistible, the pacing is great, and the banter is excellent--funny dialogue is a favorite element of mine. I adored the voices of the characters and witnessing their growth over the course of the story.

For my full review, please see Gwen & Art Are Not in Love.


03 To Shape a Dragon's Breath (Nampeshiweisit #1) by Moniquill Blackgoose

Blackgoose offers a fascinating, layered story about a strong-willed, whip-smart young Indigenous woman in a steampunk 1800s Nordic setting, with plenty of dragons, dragon science, and dragon bonding alongside activism and bravery.

Moniquill Blackgoose's To Shape a Dragon's Breath delivers the dragons: in-depth training around being partnered with dragons, dragon-related science, emotional and physical ties to dragons, and the cultural importance, historical significance, and potential power of being linked to dragons.

It's also a steampunk, mid-1800s Nordic setting for some radical rethinking of nonsensical, destructive rules and regulations.

A fifteen-year-old Indigenous Masquisit girl Anequs finds a dragon egg, and when it hatches, she befriends and bonds with the hatchling, Kasaqua. But the Anglish conquerers of Masquapaug insist that a dragon must be raised a certain way, and if Anequs fails to demonstrate that she can control and shape Kasaqua's behavior, the dragon will be killed.

But everyone's about to find out how disruptive a whip-smart, open-minded, and strong-willed young woman can be. Because the restrictive Anglish world--and its selective history of the destruction of the Indigenous people--is due for some changes. And Anequs is just the fearless catalyst who might be able to shift it all.

Blackgoose takes on issues of Indigenous people and colonization, wealth and privilege, gender power imbalances, nontraditional sexual and relationship conventions, the bucking of societal traditions, and more.

And my thirst for boarding school/magical school settings was quenched by the feminist-activist Anequs's dragon academy experience.

For my full review, please see To Shape a Dragon's Breath. I love books about dragons (check out some of my favorites).


04 Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

This is my favorite read of the year so far.

Atul Gawande writes clearly and poignantly about the search to achieve maximum well-being rather than prolonging diminished life at all costs--as well as the many complicating factors that make it difficult to transition to a focus on quality of life.

We've been wrong about what our job is in medicine. We think our job is to ensure health and survival. But really it is larger than that. It is to enable well-being. And well-being is about the reasons one wishes to be alive. Those reasons matter not just at the end of life, or when debility comes, but all along the way.

The past century of medical advancements have transformed some grave conditions from death sentences to manageable or curable illnesses.

But the focus on living longer and attempting to move past former limitations of medical solutions sometimes create a difficult dynamic: pursuing additional years of life at any cost sometimes means paying the price by experiencing a dramatically diminished quality of life.

In Being Mortal, surgeon, former Harvard professor, and public health leader (Assistant Administrator for Global Health at USAID) Atul Gawande explores the successes and failures of the medical field in prolonging a life worth living.

Being Mortal is a beautiful, poignant, clearheaded examination of the intersection of mortality, medicine, dreams, and reality. Gawande emphasizes asking key questions of loved ones to clearly understand their own particular, sometimes surprising lines in the sand regarding quality of life before they are unable to make key decisions for themselves: what are they willing to forgo in order to live?

If you're interested in books about mortality like I am, you might like the books on my Greedy Reading Lists Six Powerful Memoirs about Facing Mortality and Six More Powerful Books about Facing Mortality.

For my full review of this book, please see Being Mortal.


05 We Must Not Think of Ourselves by Heather Grodstein

Grodstein tells a poignant, powerful story of the Warsaw Ghetto--of making a life within its prison walls and of finding resistance and even love in the face of despair.

As Lauren Grodstein's We Must Not Think of Ourselves begins, it's November 1940, and Adam Paskow is one of the thousands of Jews newly imprisoned in the Warsaw Ghetto. He teaches English to children and adjusts to the shock of living in a flat with many other people--and understanding that this is his new reality.

He is soon approached by secret archivists set on recording the incredible, horrifying events that are occurring--but also the everyday stories of the people trying to survive in captivity, danger, and uncertainty. Would Adam be willing to help them gather the stories that shape so many lives?

Adam finds love in unlikely places, recalls his life, and finds ways to try to make a difference in the face of despair. Grodstein presents this incredibly difficult situation through various characters' attempts to accept impending doom, their wavering hope, and the incredibly powerful bonds they build to each other.

For my full review, check out We Must Not Think of Ourselves.


06 Funny Story by Emily Henry

Funny Story is the perfect rom-com read. Henry offers funny banter that made me laugh, some steamy moments, and a sweet love story. Reading this one made me happy.

When Peter abruptly breaks up with Daphne, citing his sudden love for his childhood best friend Petra, Daphne is left emotionally reeling--and without a place to live.

Desperate and devastated, she reluctantly moves into a spare room in the apartment of an acquaintance, "pothead" Miles. He has extra space because he was just dumped by his live-in girlfriend Petra. Who left him for Daphne's fiancé, Peter.

This is exxxxcellent Emily Henry. The banter is fantastic, and I laughed many times while reading this one. There's steaminess and affection and character growth. No one is perfect, no one is swooning, and the love in this happy read is immensely satisfying.

The rom-com conflict that prevents an immediate happy resolution was based on a communication fail--a setup I usually detest, because: just talk to each other!--but this one was so well done and understandable from both sides, I was hook, line, and sinker for all of it.

Henry offers up lots of book love, as usual: Daphne is a dedicated children's librarian.

I listened to Funny Story as an audiobook (narrated by the fantastic Julia Whelan).

For my full review of this book, please see Funny Story.


07 Lone Women by Victor Lavalle

LaValle mixes a Western setting with strong feminist messages, magical realism, haunting elements, and the terrifying, freeing truth in facing one's darker side.

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who live with shame, and those who die from it.

Victor LaValle's Lone Women begins in 1915 with a determined young woman, Adelaide Henry, covering her tracks by burning down her home--with her deceased parents inside. She's packed an incredibly heavy trunk and is setting out from California on a journey to try and leave her past behind.

She's set on becoming a homesteader in Montana, one of the "lone women" taking the government up on its offer of free land.

In LaValle's magical, dark Western, people tend to disappear whenever Adelaide's mysterious trunk opens. But the nature of the danger only becomes clear to the reader in fits and starts.

There's a ton to unpack here, including the exploration of the good and evil warring within each of us; what we do when faced with our own monsters; the terrifying power of perception and manipulated presentation; the potential destruction of lies and glossed-over realities; instances of well-deserved, sometimes brutal justice and the grace of redemption; and the depth of love in a chosen family.

I've seen Lone Women listed as a horror book, and there are horrifying elements, but the novel is far more than that; the story is complex and strange and interesting, with a pace that keeps moving and a satisfying ending.

I listened to this fascinating story as an audiobook. Please click here for my full review of Lone Women.


08 Beautyland by Marie-Helene Bertino

In Beautyland, Bertino offers a poignant, funny, strange story full of extraterrestrial observations of humans and their behavior that ring true. This was odd and lovely.

Adina is born on Earth just as Voyager 1 launches into space. Her mother is a street-smart, scrabbling single parent, while Adina is an unusually perceptive child--with knowledge of another planet, a vivid nighttime school she attends in her mind, and faraway extraterrestrial relatives who have asked for her observations about humans and life on earth--which she provides by sending them her reflections through an otherworldly fax machine.

The reader is privy to Adina's many missives to her extraterrestrial family--and their often-terse replies to her. She feels caught between existences, and the book pulls to a powerful but understated end in which this push and pull is resolved.

I found myself torn throughout reading this; was Adina a character struggling with mental illness and imagining her superiors' replies, or was she truly an alien in a human "shell"? I believed in the latter, but establishing the definitive truth of the situation didn't ultimately matter deeply to me: Adina's eyes offered a beautiful, odd, lovely peek at human behavior, and her observations were just wonderful.

For my full review, check out Beautyland. If you like this book, you might also be interested in the books on my Greedy Reading List Six Great Stories about Robots, Humans and Alien Life, and AI.


09 Starter Villain by John Scalzi

First: this amazing cover. Second: Starter Villain is playful, darkly funny, big-hearted, and wonderfully weird. I loved it and I can't wait to read more John Scalzi books.

“I can’t tell if you’re joking with me,” I said.

“I’m mostly joking with you.”

“That ‘mostly’ is doing a lot of work in that sentence.”

The cover of Starter Villain shows a grumpy-seeming cat's head on a human torso clad in a suit with "Meet the new boss" across the top, so obviously this was going to be a Bossy read. And I love that this is my first review of 2024. Bring on the weird and wonderful books!

In Starter Villain, Charlie's a substitute teacher, divorced, struggling emotionally, socially, and financially, and living in a house his half-siblings want to sell. Then he inherits his long-lost uncle's parking-garage empire. Which turns out to be a cover for a vast supervillain business--complete with an evil lair in an island volcano.

Could this be an unexpected new start that will point Charlie in a productive new direction?

The recently deceased Uncle Jake, an old-fashioned villain, made a lot of enemies--and they're ruthless, well-funded, and out for revenge. Charlie will have to quickly get up to speed and figure out friend from foe in order to stay alive. This villain business is more complicated than it seems.

There's crossing, double-crossing, a wonderfully savvy and knowledgeable second-in-command, nefarious plots, sentient cats, and more. This was playful, smart, funny, and weird.

Click here for my full review of Starter Villain.


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