Oh dear – only 22 books this year, that’s not great. A long way down on last year’s 49, but also a bit above my worst (10). I got ‘blocked’ a couple of times this year, either in the middle of a mediocre book that just didn’t inspire me to pick it up (and I’m pathologically unable to stop reading a book I’ve started) or with a lack of inspiration for what to pick up next. I need to get in a mind-set again of defaulting to reading at certain times (tubes etc) rather than just reaching for my phone, so I’m setting another page count target for the year to see if that helps.
- 22 books, of which 17 were new reads. All of them were read in dead tree form except one which I read on my poor neglected Kindle, mostly due to the fact that I didn’t make it through the pile of books on my shelves to read. .
- A little under 8.5 thousand pages, that’s about 23 pages per day on average, this year I’ll set the target at 40 pages.
- 16 different authors (two books had two authors, and there were two authors that accounted for 10 books between them). Mostly British (74%), a few Americans (38%), one Irish and one Danish (if Sandi Toksvig counts as anything other than a British institution).
- Dead even split between male and female which I’m quite pleased with, (I’m counting Robert Galbraith as female as it’s really JK Rowling).
- Genres – only 3 non-fiction (14%), about half were some form of SF/Fantasy, and the rest were some sort of drama, crime, thriller type. None that I would say are ‘young adult’ this year which is odd for me.
- All of the books are from the 21st century except two (one from 1990 and the other 1932). 9 (41%) were published this year or last.
Read of the Year – The Power – Naomi Alderman. Lots of people have raved about the important messages in this book, and it is a fascinating (and slightly terrifying read), but what struck me more was that it was incredibly enjoyable to read. Many books that are delivering strong and complex arguments lose track of the fact that the plot and characters need to be believable and interesting, but this one didn’t. The plot and characters are well thought through and developed, and the way the book jumps though time moves things along quickly, but it’s always easy to fill in the gaps of what happens in the missing time.
Runner up – Robert Galbraith’s Cormoran Strike series – something about the TV series spoke to me, so I decided to give the books a try and I wasn’t disappointed. I think seeing the TV series first helped because the actors gave a depth to the lead characters that was possibly not entirely there in the writing. They’re not going to go down as great works of literature or anything, but they are a very solid entry to the genre and I spent hours curled up in an armchair unable to put them down and they made me want to read again after some disappointments.
Lifetime Achievement Award – Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series – I re-read the whole series before moving onto the new book 6 and the novella that counts as 7. The series is just as good on second read through and a complete joy which I can’t recommend highly enough. From the first pages of the first book, Peter Grant leaps from the text and is one of the most natural characters I can ever remember reading. The plot occasionally gets away from me, but the characters, and London itself never feel like anything other than pure reality.
Non fiction – only three this year (pathetic!) and two of them were television related. Alan Sepinwall is one of my favourite TV writers and his book (unimaginatively called “TV (The Book)” co-written with Matt Zoller Seitz is a scientifically calculated list of the best American TV series. I don’t necessarily agree with all the entries, but they’re fascinating to read nevertheless. Watching The Crown left me wanting more information and Robert Lacey’s companion book delves a little deeper, although possibly still not deep enough to scratch the itch. Finally, Felicia Day’s autobiography (You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)) is just as vibrant, funny, inspiring and open as she is, and just as wonderful.
- A Closed and Common Orbit – Becky Chambers – After the hugely enjoyable Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, I was really looking forward to the second book in the series. Unfortunately I’m disappointed. The story being told was incredibly basic, with limited settings and characters and very little carry-over from the first book. It felt like it had been rushed out.
- The Sudden Appearance of Hope – Claire North – one of the books that killed my reading momentum. The great ideas and depth of development are here, but the delivery was awful. Way too much time telling us how we should feel about everything, long lectures spelling out all the nuances and intricacies of the issues.
- Welcome to Night Vale: A Novel – Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor – I thought this could be a good entry way for the podcast, but it was just too weird for me, too incoherent.
- Lying in Wait – Liz Nugent was a random thriller a friend gave me which was ok but predictable and disposable.
- Flying Under Bridges – Sandi Toksvig – I love Sandi, but this was unremarkable and a bit of a drag.
- Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons – normally I make an effort to read some classics, but this was the only one I managed this year. It was quirky and fun, but not really outstanding.
- Jurassic Park – Michael Crichton – does this count as a classic, it was 1990, which I guess now is a long time ago. I was slightly underwhelmed, while the fundamental ideas are great and the writing surprisingly as good as film at conveying both the wonder of the dinosaurs and the tension of the action, unfortunately the plot mechanics are a little clunky.
- Revenger – Alastair Reynolds – a quilt assembled from very familiar panels from SF tv and books, but sown together competently.