Favorite Reads of 2012!

Okay, let’s talk books! 2012 was a pretty great year of reading for me, so narrowing it down is going to be tough. That said, I tended to strike out on the non-fiction except in a few cases. Plus, I did a hefty amount of Beta reading over the course of the year, some seven novels, that I can’t even count on GoodReads yet — except for one, Disciple: Part 1 by L. Blankenship. (I am a happy, happy Beta!) What were the books that I ran babbling to my writing group about?

  • Among Others by Jo Walton. I did go to logger-heads with one of the members, who couldn’t get into it because he thought it read too much like a memoir. I don’t get it. While the setting is in a different country altogether and describes a decade earlier, I still connected with that character — her isolation, her love of fiction — and it made the book very powerful, deeply satisfying. I got to fangirl Jo Walton at World Fantasy. I loved this book. Deserved every award it won.
  • The City and the City by China Mieville. Made me go aaaaahhhhh!!! You have to read this! Of course, my new worry is that this book, a police procedural with a single fantastic element, is so unlike his normal (and apparently quite baroque) style that I won’t like his other work. I have to get over that, though, and dive in.
  • To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis. This was so delightful, and scratched the British Historical itch I normally scratch via BBC programming.
  • The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi blew my fucking mind. That’s world-building my friends, toe-curlingly good world-building. And a great caper. And just fabulously written. Don’t miss it.
  • The Newsflesh Trilogy — comprised of Feed, Deadline and Blackout — by Mira Grant. This was on my radar, and Orbit had a sale for the first volume. Picked it up and I had every intention of leaving it in the queue but I just needed a zombie fix and I ended up with so much more. Talking outright babble, hands flailing, possible squeeing when talking about it. GO. READ. THEM. (Tempted to check out her Urban Fantasy stuff, but that’s not my usual brand of tea. Probably will, though.)

Other books that I loved in brief: Mortal Love by Elizabeth Hand for being elegant and dark and lush, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson that utterly obsessed me for a week, Microserfs by Douglas Coupland, Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters, Queen of Candesce by Karl Schroeder, and the other two books in the Riverside Series, Swordspoint and The Fall of Kings, by Ellen Kushner (and Delia Sherman for FoK). As for non-fiction, eh, it was a middling year. But the good stuff was really good, so here goes:

  • Alan Clark: Diaries 1972-1999 by Alan Clark. This was a VP recommendation, and boy-howdy, not disappointed. I journal obsessively, and it was nice to see that all the odd things you think of, all the petty crap, all the joys and humors, are not unique to you. Clark was a bit of a bastard, though, a bigot and often sexist, yet he loved England in his own strange and passionate way. Very compelling.
  • The Invention of Murder by Judith Flanders. Christ, we are sick fuckers. If you think reality TV represents a new low in entertainment, you need to read this book. It speaks for how much cultural continuity there actually is over the last 200 years, even if the surface pieces get moved around and dressed up differently.
  • Maps of the Imagination by Peter Tursi. This was cool, full stop. A holistic approach to writing with the metaphor of map-making as the guide. The writing advice was certainly thought provoking, but the history of map-making and just what exactly can be mapped, was fascinating.
  • The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. Want to know why you do, or don’t do, something? Want to finds way to do the things you want to do? Check out the book. Once you understand the patterns, you can pull them apart and remake them. (True for everything, I suppose.)
  • Chicks Dig Timelords and Whedonistas! edited by Lynne Thomas and crew. Women writers talk about the fandoms they love and, better, why they love them or why they love them despite their failings.
  • Story by Robert McKee. What a book. The crunchy peanut butter book on craft. Focused on character motivation, structure and theme, this book made it onto the favorites shelf.
  • Lastly, The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagon. Another diary, but this time the translated work of a woman in the Japanese court from a thousand years ago. Read that again: a thousand years ago. Then read her journals, witty and lively and sad and modern, which destroys any sense of what modern even means. We use ‘modern’ as a shield, separating us from those who’ve come before, and gone — as we, too, will someday go.

So, there you have it. Looking ahead, I have a problem. Besides a to-read pile that has swelled up again like its in the throws of anaphylactic shock, I have an embarrassing number of anthologies that I’ve collected and keep not reading. Half the books on my physical to-read shelf are anthologies. And I keep passing them over when it comes time to pick the next book. I like short fiction, don’t get me wrong, but for me reading is about sinking deep into something. I buy anthologies the way people buy work-out DVDs. Short story collections, in theory, should be perfect for pick up/put down nibbling, but I just don’t. Plus, if I don’t connect with a story, then it’s even harder to go back. I need to just skip them, I know, but I hate skipping parts. Feels like I’m cheating. So 2013 will be the Year of Anthology Reading. At this rate, even doing one a month won’t be enough to clear the backlog. I have four in the pile, not even counting my Zelazny collection, that are single-author collections. Perhaps that will help? MEEP. And, one last note: another VP recommendation I read last year was Logical Chess Move by Move by Irving Chernov. I played through every game on my old chessboard, and then downloaded a program for my Mac to play the computer head-to-head. While I’d won games several times, I’d used the Undo feature once or twice to get there. The other night I won without any take-backs, first time ever. Thank you, Mr. Chernov and Mr. MacDonald.

But first, finally getting to Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. This one might take me a while. *grin*

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