Well, it has been a while since I’ve used this thing, but my end-of-the-year Book Review 1 has to go somewhere.
Because it’s not a year until I’ve quantified my reading. This list is current as of December 21st, 2014. Any books I read over the next 10 days may or may not be included as I see fit. Also, because Goodreads does not let you add reread dates (which annoys me to no end, but there you go), this is actually a list of books that I read for the first time in this particular medium in 2014. So there may be a reread or two that made their way on here because I listened to them for the first time. This explains some fairly noticeable lacunae (such as why none of the books I taught this summer are on the list – if I was reading them for the first time as I was teaching them, we would be in trouble).
With that out of the way, let’s look at the data. I read a LOT of recently published books.
Over 1/2 of the books I read were published in the past 3 years and 1/5 were published this year. Which means I’m kinda keeping up, but it also means that if I missed it, I missed it. Over 80% of the books that I read were written in the 21st century. So there is a noticeable bias there.
Next up, the inscrutable rating system. As a reminder, unrated means I read it for school and those don’t really fit on a scale that tells you how much I liked them.
Overall, a smaller percentage of books got 5 and 4 stars as compared to last year, while more books got 3. We do not tolerate grade inflation except that we totally do. And I either “like” or “really like” the vast majority of things. If I don’t at least like it, the odds are good I won’t get through it and then it probably doesn’t end up on goodreads in the first place. The nameless pile of half-finished and all-forgotten tomes is not a part of this round-up.
I also read a lot of fantasy.
Like, a disproportionate amount. And while genres are not mutually exclusive–which is to say that a book can be both fantasy and historical–this means that nearly half the books that I read this year qualify as fantasy. I’d complain, except fantasy is really good and I refuse to buy into the literary versus non-literary divide. Some of the best books doing the most interesting things qualify as genre. And, even if you disagree, de gustibus non est disputandum. So there’s that.
And now we move to the more important things.
The first chart refers to how many books I read by male versus female authors. The fourth chart refers to how many male authors versus female authors I read. So the first chart would count two books by the same woman as 2 books, while the second would count that as 1 author. What this means, basically, is that I was more likely to read several books by a woman than by a man.
Either way, I was really good about gender this year! And, for those of you who missed the brief twitter rant, here’s the deal. It’s still easier for men to get published, to get good marketing, to get recognition, to get reviews and not to have their works dismissed. Whether we’re still in the realm of Joanna Russ’s How to Suppress Women’s Writing 2 or not, there’s still a lot of work to do to achieve parity. So if you don’t go out of your way to read books by women, you will inevitably end up with a disproportionately male reading list. A lot of really excellent work fades because of how bad the industry is at promoting women’s work. So, in the interest of fairness, I’m trying to take up some of the slack, at least in my own reading and have been doing so for the past several years 3.
And, in this case, I was successful.
I was…decidedly less successful when it came to race. 97% of the books that I read this year were by white authors. I don’t need to show you what that pie chart looks like, right? You can imagine it.
And everything I just said about gender holds doubly true for authors of color. If you think being a woman and getting published in SF&F is difficult, just wait until you throw race into the mix.
So this is next year’s resolution (made easier by the fact that both N.K. Jemisin and Aliette de Bodard are publishing new books next year). Read more books by authors of color – catch up with Junot Diaz, read more Nnedi Okorafor (who writes really good middle grade fantasy, but just published a book for adults), give Nalo Hopkinson a try, finally read Octavia Butler and Samual R. Delany (I know, I know!) and, of course, take on the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms omnibus. I, umm, will also take recommendations for non SF&F.
So much for the quantitative analysis. Now for the good bit. What were the greatest books I read this year? Divided by genre and I reserve the right to have several favorite books within a genre. Because.
- The Eternal Sky Trilogy by Elizabeth Bear. First book is Range of Ghosts. Really good at everything you want epic fantasy to be good at.
- The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay. Narrated by Euan Morton. I’ve read this before, but this was my first listen and it was just as wonderful as I remembered. If you enjoy complex fantasy worlds and have an interest in the Abrahamic religions during the golden age of Spain, you will appreciate this book.
- The Seventh Bride by T. Kingfisher, penname of children’s book author Ursula Vernon. It’s kind of a retelling of Bluebeard, but also very much its own fairy tale and it manages to be lyrical and lovely while still absolutely laden with common sense and scary as anything.
- Science Fiction
- Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie. After winning the triple crown (The Arthur C. Clarke, Nebula and Hugo awards) for her previous book, there was some speculation as to whether the sequel could possibly live up. It does.
- Dust by Elizabeth Bear. I stand by my description on goodreads that Dust is the space-opera/arthurian-romance mashup I never knew I needed. I think I love this one despite its strangeness and I admit it’s probably not for everyone, but it seriously worked for me.
- Speculative Fiction (yes, it’s a different category than either SF or F. It’s something that fits in neither.)
- Railsea by China Miéville. I’m going to quote my own review again – “[I]f Herman Melville’s Moby Dick and Jasper Fforde’s Shades of Grey had a very odd looking baby, it would be something like this book.” It’s wonderful, though. Miéville is at his best when he’s not writing solely for adults.
- Historical Fiction
- The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine. A late entry and not even the highest rated book in the genre, but I really liked what it tried to do and, even though it doesn’t quite succeed, I appreciate it nonetheless.
- The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet by Kate Rorick and Bernie Su. Narrated by Ashley Clements. Yes, there’s a book adaptation of the Lizzie Bennet Diaries series. Yes, of course I read it. And it was delightful.
- Young Adult
- The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Sniffle.
- Both Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone and Sarah Rees Brennan’s Lynburn Legacy trilogies finished this year and while I started them last year, the end is the most important for trilogies that are really one story stretched across 3 books 4. First books are Daughter of Smoke and Bone and Unspokenrespectively.
- The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. I really should have read more Ishiguro by now, but I’m working on it!
- Non-Fiction – which is all critical literature this year. So my favorite work of theory…
- Forms of Vitality by Daniel Stern. I really like Daniel Stern, okay?
And…that’s all folks. A gross of books, 39 of which I read for school/work.
- Now with 300% more pie charts! ↩
- The quotes on the cover say it all – “She didn’t write it. She wrote it but she shouldn’t have. She wrote it, but look what she wrote about. She wrote it, but she only wrote one of it. She wrote it, but she isn’t really an artist and it isn’t really art. She wrote it, but she had help. She wrote it, but she’s an anomaly. She wrote it BUT…” ↩
- I should not need to say this, but just in case. This project has not made the quality of my reading go down. (Which just keeps making the point that the best is not always what is most heavily promoted). Quite the opposite – the stories I read are more interesting, they push the bounds of stagnant genres, they create characters who feel more fully realized. They are, in short, more innovative and exciting because of what their authors bring to the table. ↩
The management would like to apologize for putting jokes in the footnotes. ↩