Books to Read at Every Phase of the Moon
What kind of books would we read when the moon is new? What about when the moon wanes?
Humans have been working with the moon for millennia, from using its phases for the calendar to farmers using the moon to determine planting and harvesting schedules. We have worshipped her light. We have dedicated holidays to her glory. Who doesn’t love the moon? When I first began basing a lot of my own schedule on the moon’s phases, I was surprised to find how natural it felt. I found my body naturally worked best when it was synced up to the moon.
I worked alongside the moon while writing much of The Boy with a Bird in His Chest, so of course the moon appears a lot in the novel. (Someone cheesier might say, “The moon is a character in my book.”) My debut novel is about Owen Tanner, a boy with a bird named Gail living inside his chest. His mother locks him away for a decade, afraid of what the authorities will do if they discover his secret. Eventually Owen must venture outside, and disaster ensues. After a harrowing escape from a doctor’s office, Owen is sent to live with his uncle and cousin in Puget Sound, Washington. It is here that he finds community with a group of queer punks, all who love the moon.
I thought it would be fun to take this idea of working with the moon’s phases and apply it to the types of books we read. What kind of books would we read when the moon is new? What about when the moon wanes?
When the moon is new, it’s a time to begin again, a time to set intentions.
What better way to set intentions than by reading a bildungsroman?
Now is the Hour by Tom Spanbauer
Now is the Hour by Tom Spanbauer follows Rigby John, a gay teenager living in Pocatello, Idaho in the 1970s. Something about Rigby John just doesn’t feel right. He wants out from under his father’s authoritative rule. He wants to escape the small town. Now is the Hour follows Rigby John from when he’s a small child until he’s 18-years-old as he discovers his own sexuality and freedom. An absolute perfect read for when you want to remember how to begin again.
The Thirty Names of Night by Zeyn Joukhadar
The Thirty Names of Night by Zeyn Joukhadar follows a narrator who is unnamed for the first half of the book. As they grieve their mother’s death, they go exploring through New York’s disappearing Syrian neighborhood where they find a journal kept by Laila, a mysterious artist who was adored by their mother. Told in journal entries alternating between Laila and the narrator, The Thirty Names of Night is a book about grief, diaspora, and uncovering a hidden past. Readers will come for the book’s lyrical prose, but they will stay for its incredible magic and honesty.
First Quarter Moon
When the moon is in its first quarter phase, it is ample time to make concrete steps towards the intentions we set when the moon was new.
The Faggots and Their Friends Between Revolutions by Larry Mitchell and Ned Asta
I am uncertain how exactly to describe The Faggots and Their Friends Between Revolutions by Larry Mitchell and Ned Asta. Published originally in 1977 by Calamus Books, a small press started by Ned and Larry with the sole purpose of publishing the book, The Faggots and Their Friends Between Revolutions is a story that is part manifesto, part fairy tale. The book follows several revolutionary groups: the Faggots, the Sissies, the Fairies, and the Women as they all fight against the Men in Suits. The world may be against the revolutionaries but that doesn’t mean they won’t win. For years, the book remained out of print, living only as a PDF shuffled between friends. Nightboat Books reprinted the cult classic in 2019. This is a book to read when it’s time to act.
The full moon is the time for a celebration, an occasion to mark the release of the work you’ve done thus far.
A Dream of a Woman by Casey Plett
Casey Plett’s short story collection, A Dream of a Woman, feels like a snapshot in a moment in time. The collection follows a variety of trans woman as they fall in and out of love, grieve, and grow. The stories are deeply rooted in place: Oregon, New York City, and rural Canada, and while each of the stories depicts conflict and heartbreak, none of it feels wrought or overdone. This is not a collection that relishes in the trauma experienced by the characters, but rather, Plett’s collection is a celebration of transness, of womanhood, and of love.
Third Quarter Moon
As the moon wanes, it is best to reflect on the intentions set at the beginning of the moon cycle. What is different? What can be released?
Inter State: Essays from California by José Vadi
José Vadi wants to know what it was like for his family who came before him. In his collection of essays titled Inter State, Vadi travels across California, tracking many of the places where his farmworker grandparents migrated to as they followed work. In this masterful collection Vadi, an aging skateboarder, reckons with the gentrification of California, capitalism, and his own family’s lineage.
Little Blue Encyclopedia (for Vivian) by Hazel Jayne Plante
When Vivian, a straight trans woman, dies, her best friend (a queer trans woman) responds the only way she knows how, by writing an encyclopedia about their favorite TV show, Little Blue. Little Blue Encyclopedia (for Vivian) by Hazel Jayne Plante is a book about grief, letting go, and unrequited love. It’s a love letter. Told as encyclopedia entries for an imagined television show, the book is as wonderfully inventive as it is deeply sad. This novel is perfect for when a reader wants to mourn the past so they can move into the future.
When the moon goes dark, it is time to be quiet and listen. What do we hear when we stop shuffling and moving forward and wait in the stillness instead?
Unknown Language by Hildegard of Bingen and Huw Lemmey
Unknown Language by Hildegard of Bingen and Huw Lemmey is a dream, a holy vision passed down from on high. A novel written from the perspective of Hildegard of Bingen, a real-world mystic and visionary from the 12th century, Unknown Language follows Hildegard shortly after the apocalypse has begun. Finding angels roaming her town after the rapture, the narrator flees to find a space untouched by the violent authority brought down by God. On Hildegard’s trek, she rediscovers love and herself. A book perfect for dreaming, sure to bring the reader visions of their own.