All Those Sexy Books

My reading took a hit this year.

This is true if you look at the books read. I set a modest goal of 40 books, and beat it by six. On the whole the list was nearly split 50/50 with fiction and non-fiction, same for gender. It felt like a lackluster year for books, but I’m not sure how true that is. Here are my standouts, books I would gladly recommend?

Looking over my list, the year started off bright — Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Suzanna Clarke was frankly brilliant. It didn’t feel like a huge book, while reading it I mean. It’s the size of two bricks, yes, but reading it is a flurry of enjoyment. Watership Down by Richard Adams, right on its heels, was immensely moving. A rough patch followed, until I hit the non-fiction book that read like fiction Between Silk and Cyanide, written by World War II codebreaker turned screenwriter Leo Marks. I suppose it’s a cliche to be fascinated with this period of history, but here I am. Stieg Larson’s The Girl Who … series took over my brainspace for March in a weird and wonderful way, and I can’t even tell you why. A few more speed bumps and then I hit House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. That was a book I ran round raving about, pushed on to unsuspecting friends. Still will, if given the opportunity. Kingdom of Gods by N. K. Jemisin brought her series to a fantastic conclusion. Book of Tongues, book one in the weird west series by Gemma Files, hooked me (I’m on to the sequel now). Mechanique by Genevieve Valentine utterly, utterly had me. Loved that book and had I read in the year it was published I would have been hard pressed to say which I liked more, it or Jo Walton’s Among Others. (I love both, but they are very different books.) The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson was very good, and started a spell very similar to my Stieg frenzy. To Write Like A Woman by Joanna Russ was, as expected, profound, powerful and maddening, though I did like How To Suppress Women’s Writing more. Rounding out my favorites were Caitlin R. Kiernan’s The Drowning Girl and Steven Brust’s The Sun, The Moon and the Stars, a gift from a fellow writer that I would recommend to every writer even though the characters are all artists. Hell, because they are artists, you should read it.

But the one thing that list on GoodReads tells you is how much unpublished short fiction I read between May and October. I have no idea if it would be a lot compared to others who slush all the time, but for me it was huge, over three hundred stories, some only a portion, that squeezed out my free reading time for those months. It was probably more short fiction than I’d read in the last two years combined. (Maybe more — I love anthologies but rarely squeeze in what’s currently being published.)

So, there’s the year in review — better than I thought. Normally I keep an up-to-date list of what I’m reading as I go, but after the move I fell out of the habit. The poor page hasn’t been updated in a couple of months (though I am current in GoodReads, of course) and I am wondering if I just shouldn’t leave that tally there and only discuss particular books here that I am all Muppet-flaily about. I’m leaning that way — it’s not like that page gets any traffic, either the live one or the archived ones.

The goal, as ever, is to have a balance of fiction, non-fiction, and how-tos. Currently, I’m on to A Rope of Thorns (File’s Hexslinger #2), The Ramen King and I by Andy Raskin, and Wonderbook by Jeff VanderMeer which is, indeed, a wonder.

Not a bad start to 2014.

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