Airplane Mode: An Irreverent History of Travel by Shahnaz Habib, translated by Sophie Lewis; Where the Dead Wait by Ally Wilkes; and Monomyth Gn by David Hazan & Cecilia Lo Valvo.

The Mary Sue Book Club, December 2023: Ending Your ‘Books Read’ List on a Strong Note

For the final month of the 2023 edition of The Mary Sue Book Club, I’ve selected some interesting titles to tick off your yearly goals.

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Want to read more translated literature or try poetry? The first title, a narrative in verse, will achieve that goal while highlighting issues of femicide and deforestation. Aimed to read more literature from around the world? Below waits an award-winning anthology series highlighting African stories of speculative fiction. This sub-genre melds sci-fi, horror, fantasy, and more. Additionally, a graphic novel created by an Australian author and Italian artists coming at the end of the month follows the survival of some of the last magic wielders.

Told yourself you were going to try horror this year even if it means only reading during daytime hours? A Bram Stoker-nominated author wove a chilling tale of Arctic rescue missions gone awry.

Maybe you just had the goal of traveling more or seek to do that next year. One non-fiction title features a series of essays on what it’s like to travel as a woman of color—including the joys and the frustrations.

The Simple Art of Killing a Woman by Patrícia Melo, translated by Sophie Lewis

The Simple Art of Killing a Woman by Patrícia Melo, translated by Sophie Lewis.
(Restless Books)

The Simple Art of Killing a Woman vividly conjures the epidemic of femicide in Brazil, the power women can hold in the face of overwhelming male violence, the resilience of community despite state-sponsored degradation, and the potential of the jungle to save us all.

To escape her newly aggressive lover, a young lawyer accepts an assignment in the Amazonian border town of Cruzeiro do Sul. There, she meets Carla, a local prosecutor, and Marcos, the son of an indigenous woman, and learns about the rampant attacks on the region’s women, which have grown so commonplace that the cases quickly fill her large notebook. What she finds in the jungle is not only persistent racism, patriarchy, and deforestation, but a deep longing for answers to her enigmatic past. Through the ritual use of ayahuasca, she meets a chorus of Icamiabas, warrior women bent

Released December 5.

Airplane Mode: An Irreverent History of Travel by Shahnaz Habib

Airplane Mode: An Irreverent History of Travel by Shahnaz Habib.

The color of one’s skin and passport have long dictated the conditions of travel. For Shahnaz Habib, travel and travel writing have always been complicated pleasures. Habib threads the history of travel with her personal story as a child on family vacations in India, an adult curious about the world, and an immigrant for whom roundtrips are an annual fact of life. Tracing the power dynamics that underlie tourism, this insightful debut parses who gets to travel, and who gets to write about the experience.

Threaded through the book are inviting and playful analyses of obvious and not-so-obvious travel artifacts: passports, carousels, bougainvilleas, guidebooks, trains, the idea of wanderlust itself. Together, they tell a subversive history of travel as a Euro-American mode of consumerism—but as any traveler knows, travel is more than that. As an immigrant whose loved ones live across continents, Habib takes a deeply curious and joyful look at a troubled and beloved activity.

Released December 5.

Where the Dead Wait by Ally Wilkes

Where the Dead Wait by Ally Wilkes.
(Atria Books)

William Day should be an acclaimed Arctic explorer. But after a failed expedition, in which his remaining men only survived by eating their dead comrades, he returned in disgrace.

Thirteen years later, his second-in-command, Jesse Stevens, has gone missing in the same frozen waters. Perhaps this is Day’s chance to restore his tarnished reputation by bringing Stevens—the man who’s haunted his whole life—back home. But when the rescue mission becomes an uncanny journey into his past, Day must face up to the things he’s done.

Abandonment. Betrayal. Cannibalism.

Aboard ship, Day must also contend with unwanted passengers: a reporter obsessively digging up the truth about the first expedition, as well as Stevens’s wife, a spirit-medium whose séances both fascinate and frighten. Following a trail of cryptic messages, gaunt bodies, and old bones, their search becomes more and more unnerving, as it becomes clear that the restless dead are never far behind. Something is coming through.

Released December 5.

The Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction 2022 edited by Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, Eugen Bacon, and Milton Davis

The Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction 2022 edited by Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, Eugen Bacon, and Milton Davis.
(CAEZIK SF & Fantasy)

The first won the World Fantasy Award for best anthology and was met with widespread critical acclaim from across the world, with the science fiction trade magazine, Locus, calling it a “must read.” Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, who created the first anthology now joins forces with Eugen Bacon, a 2022 World Fantasy Award finalist and Milton Davis, an award-winning Black Speculative fiction writer and editor to introduce readers to an ever more diverse set of writers associated with Africa.

Release date: December 12.

Monomyth Gn by David Hazan & Cecilia Lo Valvo

Monomyth Gn by David Hazan & Cecilia Lo Valvo.
(Mad Cave Studios)

Magic is all but extinct. When the last ailing wizard casts a final desperate spell to summon the descendants of ancient bloodlines to a school for magic now in disrepair…those chosen ones find a horror of the likes they’ve never experienced. They will have to confront the deepest parts of themselves and defeat each other in order to survive the ordeal.

Release date: December 26.

A rare but honorable mention

I couldn’t find a lot about A Riot at the United Nations: Black Power Internationalism, but with Mariame Kaba involved, it piqued my interest. Published by Haymarket Books (sometime this month) and illustrated by Sam Modder, the zine and graphic story centers the 1961 riot at the United Nations. Many historical figures like Maya Angelou attended, and protests happened around the world.

The cause? After years of horrific oppression by the Belgian people (which includes the first genocide of the 1900s), the Congo gained independence. Within two years of his democratic election win and with the aid of the U.S. government, Belgium assassinated first Congo president Patrice Lumumba and two of his ministers due to their leftist and anti-colonial leanings.

The United Nations didn’t step in, and “Western” powers largely ignored it. This allowed the continued exploitation of the DRC and linked to the current massive displacement, with nearly seven million people fleeing violence. This zine is about the protest to make the world listen and looks to be as relevant as ever.

Which of these titles are you most excited to read? Let us know in the comments.

(featured image: Catapult, Atria Books, and Mad Cave Studios)

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Alyssa Shotwell
(she/her) Award-winning artist and writer with professional experience and education in graphic design, art history, and museum studies. She began her career in journalism in October 2017 when she joined her student newspaper as the Online Editor. This resident of the yeeHaw land spends most of her time drawing, reading and playing the same handful of video games—even as the playtime on Steam reaches the quadruple digits. Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3 & Oxygen Not Included.