Monday, January 20, 2020

Joe's Books of 2019: Part Two (July - December)

Good morning, and welcome to the second half of a feature listing out everything I read in 2019.  It's a lot. Also, this isn't exactly everything because I have a separate list for comic books / graphic novels that I generally don't talk much about comics on Nerds of a Feather. I leave that for the experts (like Mike). This is my opportunity to catalog all of the books I read in a year and it all down in one place. Well, in two places, because one post for all twelve months of reading might be a little overwhelming.

I slowed down a bit over the last six months. I read 91 books during the first half of the year but only 68 in the back half of 2019. I'm not sure if that is directly related to this being the year I started playing video games again because my video game time is generally not the same times of the day I would also be reading. I think it's just that I'm comparing to an incredibly prolific first half of the year given that my total was only seven books ahead from 2018 and that had a more even balance in reading across the full year.

I read a LOT of Seanan McGuire this year. 24 books in total and 14 of those were in the last six months. November is the only month of the year I did not read a book from Seanan McGuire (or Mira Grant) - so that total should rightly be higher because I'm not sure what happened in November and how I dropped the ball. Last year was my year to catch up on McGuire's Incryptid series. This year was the year of October Daye. I can't get enough of these books.

But - since I read 68 books since July, not everything I read was by Seanan McGuire (only 20% of it was). I read some damn fine books this year. Semiosis was on my shelf for far too long. It was wonderful and somewhat overlooked last year. Don't sleep on it. I adored City of Brasss from S.A. Chakraborty. After dawdling for most of the year and part of last year, I finished N.K. Jemisin's How Long Til Black Future Month and yeah - that story collection is as good as you want it to be.

I also read some of the best books of the year recently. Sarah Pinsker’s debut novel A Song for a New Day was everything I had hoped for after being a fan of her short fiction for years, and more. It was luminous and perfect. Gideon the Ninth wasn’t the novel I expected with the whole “lesbian necromancers in space” tag line, but that’s only because the “in space” part wasn’t as accurate as “in a castle’s catacombs”. Gideon the Ninth is a fierce novel, cracking with wit and violence and one hell of a quest story. Speaking of fierce, The Deep is a raw wound of a novella, throbbing with pain and history but laced with beauty and power. The Deep is something special, though I’m not sure describing something as a “raw wound” is the best sell job. Probably a good thing I don’t work in marketing.

I had a quiet goal of reading 1 short story per day and I never quite hit that number, especially since I focused on collections and anthologies rather than seeking out individual stories online. I came closer than I expected, though, with 223 total stories from anthologies and collections. Since I've already mentioned How Long Til Black Future Month earlier, I'd like to highlight Iraq+100, edited by Hassan Blasim as a particular standout. Also notable are Seanan McGuire's Laughter at the Academy and Molly Gloss's first collection Unforeseen. Both are excellent.

There's always a little bit of a question as to what the word count of a particular novella is, but if I can count correctly, I believe I've read 17 novellas over the course of the last six months. This is where I would normally say most of those novellas were published by Publishing, but I've read a bit of a cross section and two of the best were published by other publishers: The Deep, To Be Taught If Fortunate. I also haven't seen nearly enough conversation around Lina Rather's Sisters of the Vast Black - and maybe it's just me, but "nuns in space" is enough of a hook to get me there, but it's an exploration of faith and gender and it's a beautiful damned story. Publishing also put out JY Yang's The Ascent to Godhood and if you're not reading Yang's Tensorate novellas you're really missing out.

We launched The Hugo Initiative this year at Nerds of a Feather and that pushed me to read some of those Hugo Award winning novels I always meant to, and at least one I never meant to. I long meant to read Doomsday Book and it was lovely. I long meant to read Kate Wilhelm's Where Late the Sweet Birds Sing and it was excellent. Happily, I read They'd Rather Be Right much earlier in the year so I don't have to talk much about it here - but I did re-read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which is still an absolutely delightful novel but perhaps there is unfortunate timing on when my essay came out and recent comments made by Rowling.

I didn't read as much general literature or nonfiction as I'd like to - but this is as good of a time as any to highlight Colson Whitehead's The Nickel Boys, an incredibly powerful and moving novel. To go in a completely opposite direction - Ali Wong's memoir Dear Girls is hilarious, filthy, and absolutely worth reading. And to go in yet another direction except staying with nonfiction, I hope to see Nnedi Okorafor's memoir Broken Places and Outer Spaces on the Hugo Award Related Work ballot.

Finally, I would like to take a look at my reading statistics for 2019 as it relates to gender. This is something I've been thinking about and working on for a number of years now and I have found that I tend to do a better job at meeting my goals when I check in after every month and continually monitor my progress. Even with five years of thoughtful reading choices, it is so easy to find myself reading fewer women than I would like.

It should go without saying, but I know there will be misunderstanding if I don't. This isn't about denying one set of books (written by men) for another (written by women). It's not. This is about embracing as much as possible. This is about discovering new favorite books and new favorite authors that I never would have discovered if I didn't make a point to see out authors I've "always meant to read" but never have. How many of these women have written my favorite books, if I only I took the smallest amount of effort to find them?

Ultimately, I want to read everything. All the books.

If my count is correct (and I have been known to miss a book or two, despite my obsessive list making), 122.5 of the 159 books I've read were written by women (77.04%). That is a significant step up from any previous year and a small increase from where I was at at the end of June (73.62%). I suspect that 2020 is going to step back closer to 50-60%, just based on certain books I plan to read and what that would mean for the rest of the year.

I should also note that I am only counting those writers who use female pronouns in my count of female writers versus male. Any mistakes in this count are mine alone and I apologize for any misunderstandings I may have propagated.

Here are my stats from the last four years for a point of comparison
2018: 68.42%
2017: 51.50%
2016: 56.21%
2015: 58.59%
2014: 45.92%

Now, on with the lists!

Reading statistics

92. One Salt Sea, by Seanan McGuire
93. Semiosis, by Sue Burke
94. Iraq + 100, edited by Hassan Blasim
95. Short Fiction: March - April 2019, by Christopher Rowe, Kathleen Ann Goonan, Lis Mitchell, Rich Larson, Jonathan Carroll
96. The Gathering Storm, by Kate Elliott
97. The Invasion, by Peadar O'Guilin
98. The Stiehl Assassin, by Terry Brooks
99. Stretto, by L. Timmel Duchamp 
100. Uncanny Magazine: Issue 29, edited by Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damien Thomas
101. The Belles, by Dhonielle Clayton 
102. This Immortal, by Roger Zelazny
103. Ashes of Honor, by Seanan McGuire
104. City of Brass, by S.A. Chakraborty

105. Chimes at Midnight, by Seanan McGuire
106. Gods of Jade and Shadow, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
107. Jade War, by Fonda Lee
108. Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang, by Kate Wilhelm
109. The Fire Opal Mechanism, by Fran Wilde
110. The Undefeated, by Una McCormack
111. The Deep, by Rivers Solomon
112. Broken Places and Outer Spaces, by Nnedi Okorafor
113. Silver in the Wood, by Emily Tesh
114. The Winter Long, by Seanan McGuire
115. Grass, by Sheri S. Tepper
116. Miranda in Milan, by Katherine Duckett

117. The Dragon Token, by Melanie Rawn
118. The Dry, by Jane Harper
119. How Long Til Black Future Month, by N.K. Jemisin
120. Wilder Girls, by Rory Power
121. The Nickel Boys, by Colson Whitehead
122. God Land, by Lyz Lenz
123. Trapped in the R.A.W., by Kate Boyes
124. A Red-Rose Chain, by Seanan McGuire
125. Tea with the Black Dragon, by R.A. MacAvoy
126. Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis

127. The Red-Stained Wings, by Elizabeth Bear
128. Come Tumbling Down, by Seanan McGuire
129. The Border Keeper, by Kerstin Hall
130. The Ascent to Godhood, by JY Yang 
131. Consequences, by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
132. Once Broken Faith, by Seanan McGuire
133. Dreams and Slumbers, by Seanan McGuire
134. The Testaments, by Margaret Atwood
135. Laughter at the Academy, by Seanan McGuire
136. Desdemona and the Deep, by C.S.E. Cooney
137. The Brightest Fell, by Seanan McGuire
138. Of Things Unknown, by Seanan McGuire

139. Dear Girls, by Ali Wong
140. The Secret Commonwealth, by Philip Pullman
141. The Institute, by Stephen King
142. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, by J.K. Rowling
143. A Song for a New Day, by Sarah Pinsker
144. Gideon the Ninth, by Tamsyn Muir
145. This Is How You Lose the Time War, by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
146. What I Leave Behind, by Alison McGhee
147. To be Taught, If Fortunate, by Becky Chambers
148. Unforeseen, by Molly Gloss

149. Recursion, by Blake Crouch
150. Ninth House, by Leigh Bardugo
151. Night and Silence, by Seanan McGuire
152. Suffer a Sea Change, by Seanan McGuire
153. Sisters of the Vast Black, by Lina Rater
154. Velveteen Vs. The Junior Super Patriots, by Seanan McGuire
155. Skybowl, by Melanie Rawn
156. Upright Women Wanted, by Sarah Gailey
157. Horror Stories, by Liz Phair
158. Children of Virtue and Vengeance, by Tomi Adeyemi
159. Dead Astronauts, by Jeff VanderMeer

Joe Sherry - Co-editor of Nerds of a Feather, 3x Hugo Award Finalist for Best Fanzine. Minnesotan. He / Him.