2016 in Books

Since 2016 was, I think, my best year of ‘blogging so far, I figured it was worth doing a roundup the things I’ve read.

Best novel: Ancillary Mercy – Anne Leckie
This is such a tough one; I’ve read some really good books this year. If we just go on books new to me, the other contenders were: The Philosopher Kings, All the Birds in the Sky, Children of Time and Uprooted, with the latter being the very close contender for the top spot. Of the two, I think I enjoyed Uprooted slightly more, but Ancillary Mercy is the better book, but it’s incredibly hard to call between them.

Interestingly, all but one of the books in contention for best novel are written by women. I’m quite happy with that.

Best graphic novel: Ody-C – Off to Far Ithaca – Matt Fraction and Christian Ward
And indeed, first book of the year, all the way back on the 7th of January. Kickstarted something of a theme for this year, which was “so graphic novels are a thing I can borrow off my friends… let’s exploit that”. This would also be in the running for “best book” if I hadn’t separated things out. And it remains, by a long stretch, the most beautiful book I’ve read basically ever.

Best other: Stories of Your Life and Others – Ted Chiang
It’s not a novel, so I don’t feel like I can put it in there, but it is honestly some of the best fiction I’ve read this year and I think it really deserves a mention, and its own category.

Best non-genre fiction: First Man in Rome – Coleen McCullough
I don’t, as a rule, ‘blog about the things I read that aren’t SFF. This is partly because then I’d never stop ‘blogging, and partly because it’s just a whole different style of thing to discuss, and I often feel less comfortable in it than I do in genre fiction. But since I’m rounding up my books of 2016, it feels worth mentioning. McCullough’s series follows the political figures of the late Roman Republic, focussing very closely on the details of their lives to give strongly character driven novels. This is the first of the series, of which I have read two so far, and I have no intention of stopping. Sure, the author has some slightly odd biases as to which Romans she loves and which less so (I don’t get her obsession with Sulla, and she’s frankly a bit OTT in her love for Julius Caesar as a young man), but I really enjoy reading them as real characters, and spending so long (and they are long books) getting close to them as people. She covers relatively short periods of time in incredible detail in her books, and the series is definitely one of my favourite discoveries of the year.

Worst novel: Neuromancer – William Gibson
There are runner up prizes for Seveneves, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and Iron Council, but this far and away deserves the top spot. It was just stunningly angry-making and horribly dated, without any sort of redeeming features in the way of plot, setting or cleverness. Because I apparently hate genre-defining novels.

Well…

Special Mention: Tolkien seems to be the exception here.
Whom I apparently like now, after years of bleh. I suspect I shall be exploring this change of heart more in 2017, as The Return of the King beckons, if not also The Silmarillion and The Hobbit.

The other thing worth mentioning is that I really really enjoyed both new book-related decisions I made this year. Firstly, reading all of the Hugo nominated novels. It’s definitely something I intend to repeat this year (and I might actually remember to vote this time), and it was just really satisfying to read popular and current SFF. Sure, I didn’t like all of it, and I in fact had really strong dislike for quite a few of them, but it was really really fun. And meant I could keep up with all the Hugo-shenanigans. I hope the shenanigans subside a bit this year, but in terms of reading current and acclaimed fiction, it seems definitely the way to go. Might extend either to the British Fantasy Awards or the Nebula this year, or read some of the other Hugo categories, we’ll see.

Secondly, I started going to a monthly book club. In a similar way to the Hugo reading, it’s getting me reading things I might not have picked up on my own, and I’m really enjoying the experience. Sure, I don’t always like the books, but I do actually enjoy the process of discussing a book I didn’t enjoy in and of itself, both on here and in book club, and there is some really good discussion there generally. It’s something I really should have tried to do years ago, and I only did it because a friend mocked me for only hanging out with people I know from university. Outside of comfort zone… turns out it’s not always bad.

All in all, it’s been a really good year for me and books. I’ve read more and more based on recommendations, be they from awards, book-club, friends, or flatmate leaving them on my desk, and this seems to be the best solution for a happy reader. I enjoy discussion and disagreement about books, and it’s been a really good year for that too. I’m hoping it carries forward into 2017.

Aims for 2017

  1. Continue an average of one ‘blog post per week for the year.
  2. Continue to read more current SFF, ideally from within the last 12 months.
  3. Try to increase diversity of authors in what I read.
  4. Read along with the Hugo novel nominations
  5. Read along with one of the Nebulas, BFA or Hugo not-novel nominations.
  6. Vote in the Hugos.
  7. Log all of my read books on Goodreads (or similar) so I have a record of how many books I actually read in the year.
  8. Try to read at least some of my now 80+ item To Read list.

Wish me luck!

Next post, and first book of the year, is the book club book for January, Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem, about which I’ve heard a lot of good things, so I’m really looking forward to it.

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About readerofelse

A student of a redundant, useless and thoroughly interesting subject and reader of many books, particularly fantasy, science fiction and plenty else besides.
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