Log Horizon by Mamare Touno
It's been a few weeks now since The Catatrasophe where hundreds of thousands of MMORPG players were sucked into another world and everyone is still stuck, still looks more like their digital avatars than their real selves, and still can't get their food to taste right. Shiroe, Naotsugu, and Akatsuki have rescued an acquaintance from another guild, met up with an old friend of theirs, and are returning to Akiba where it's quickly becoming clear that they have to treat this world as if they'll be staying for a while and that means making a lot of changes from when it was a game.
My life has been getting busier and busier since about July last year and I'm starting to really appreciate having "light" novels to read. I still love reading YA, adult novels, and non-fiction but I have less and less time to read and frankly when I don't have a lot of time to read and the novels are slow moving it feels a bit like an insult, I'm not even enjoying my entertainment! Here however the pacing is breezy, the translation feels smooth, and the fact that I already know the story helps move it along quickly. I was a bit worried that the novels might be dull since I still remember these events fairly well but that hasn't been the case so far, I enjoy seeing the differences (which is mostly limited to world-building details or the characters explaining the mechanics of their plans more deeply, nothing huge) and I do have some new insights while reading.
For instance, this novel picks up right where the first novel leaves off so the adventurers are just discovering cooking (I love that such a mundane idea motivates so much of the story) and we alternate viewpoints with the twins Shiroe briefly mentioned in the first novel. Touya and Mimori are roughly middle school age and so have faired worse since the Catastrophe and in hindsight it's shocking that Shiroe didn't think to check up on them earlier (they were even in your party when it happened and you never split the party!). The story does get a bit dark when talking about how the kids are essentially enslaved, I thought that the story was more effective at conveying this point (and how many of the other guilds are willing to look the other way because they still don't view this as a "real" world with moral consequences yet) than the anime. Possibly because it's much easier to connect the themes when they are literally laid out in front of you or possibly because this is my second or third time experiencing this part of the story but it's the insights like this which make revisiting the story as enjoyable as it is for me.
This is also the volume where the politics begin, both with the introduction of a limited form of government and with Touno's love for economics taking center stage*. Economics is not my strong suit but I've always been impressed at how easily LH seems to parse the ideas down, it may seem like there's a lot of exposition at times for it but honestly there's no way around it for this level of detail. And I think that sentence is a good indicator if this story is one for you or not, if you're alright with the idea of some large info dumps in order to understand a larger story (and know that the larger story is more about characters interacting than fights) then give the series a shot, both the anime and the novels are pretty accessible and there really is an odd charm to this low-key, character-driven story.
*seriously, I've also been reading the Maoyu manga recently (the "Kotowaru" version on Bookwalker) and that series gives Spice and Wolf a run for it's money with all of the economic ideas in it