2012 reading retrospective

A link to last year’s reading retrospective, if that’s of any interest.

I read 70 books this year (not counting uncollected comics or scientific articles), down from 75 last year, although last year was probably inflated a little bit by the Vlad Taltos push toward the end. Of those, 32 were written and two co-written by women, which is close to parity; women actually constitute half of total authors, 28 out of 57. This surprised me—I thought the book count would overestimate women relative to the author count, because I read a bunch of Julian May in the spring, but it looks like that’s balanced out by multiple readings of Steven Brust, Barry Hughart, John Scalzi, and Gene Wolfe.

Only 21 books were outside the categories of sf, fantasy, and comics. I do want to work on that a bit. I think a half-and-half mix would be pretty good.

I only reread 15 books this year, down from 28 last year. I think I like this year’s number better. I do want to revisit some things next year—notably GRRM, Pat Rothfuss, and Gene Wolfe. But we’ll see. I sort of have ambitions of becoming a Wolfe scholar, but even a Solar Cycle reread would be a big investment, and I still haven’t read most of what he’s written (although with the Solar Cycle, THE FIFTH HEAD OF CERBERUS, PEACE, and two of the three Soldier books under my belt, I’m starting to feel pretty good).

I’m generally disposed to think of reading as less like “doing something” than like “breathing,” but I’ll make an exception for OUTLAWS OF THE MARSH. I think that thing is about a million words long; Brandon Sanderson is considered a tome-writer at 300,000 words a book, to put it in perspective. I’m proud of having gotten through that, and I would very much like to get way into some more old literature next year. The other Chinese classics, especially the ROMANCE OF THE THREE KINGDOMS, are most immediately relevant to me as I continue writing THE EIGHTH KING, but I’m hoping to make time for some Chaucer and Shakespeare as well. Other aspirational reading includes the John Fowles I have lying around in paperback (DANIEL MARTIN and THE COLLECTOR), as well as Louis Cha’s THE BOOK AND THE SWORD, and a good sampling of the many female crime authors people have recommended to me (Tana French, Gillian Flynn, Kate Atkinson, Dorothy Sayers, Josephine Tey, Ngaio Marsh, among others). I should finish Phil Tucker’s THRONE, but I picked up VAMPIRE MIAMI and I’m liking it a bit more, so THRONE may wait a bit. I’m also excited for Warren Ellis’ GUN MACHINE.

I feel like I should have a summary comment on the she-read project, but I don’t, other than I’m glad I did it and I’m very happy to have discovered almost all of the 14 authors that I read for it. Overall, I’d say my big discoveries of the year were Kelly Link, Barry Hughart, and James McPherson; 1Q84, PEACE, and THE FIFTH HEAD OF CERBERUS were also amazing, although more expectedly so.

In compiling this list, I discovered that joining Goodreads is actually not a very good substitute for retaining a running list, since I mix in giant bolides of books I read a long time ago with books I’m reading now. But I am on Goodreads, and I like it, if only because it’s a place where I can kid myself that people read the reviews that aren’t well-thought-out enough to post on the blog, and because it’s a place to keep a running list of books I want to read. If that sounds fun to you, go ahead and find me there.

* FIVE HUNDRED YEARS AFTER
* THE PATHS OF THE DEAD
* THE LORD OF CASTLE BLACK
* SETHRA LAVODE, Steven Brust
ALL THE WINDWRACKED STARS, Elizabeth Bear
* BROKEDOWN PALACE, Steven Brust
ZOO CITY, Lauren Beukes
ON WRITERS & WRITING, John Gardner
HALF MAGIC, Edward Eager
FEED, Mira Grant
THE GIRL WITH THE SILVER EYES, Willo Davis Roberts
1Q84, Haruki Murakami
* JACK THE BODILESS, Julian May
* DIAMOND MASK, Julian May
THE HUNDRED THOUSAND KINGDOMS, N. K. Jemisin
* MAGNIFICAT, Julian May
* A WRINKLE IN TIME, Madeleine L’Engle
* THE SURVEILLANCE
* THE METACONCERT, Julian May
THE FINDER LIBRARY, VOL. 1, Carla Speed McNeil
THE FINDER LIBRARY, VOL. 2, Carla Speed McNeil
HAVEMERCY, Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett
WELCOME TO YOUR CHILD’S BRAIN, Sandra Aamodt and Sam Wang
THE LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA, Scott Lynch
AMERICAN STUDIES, Louis Menand
* THE SECRET GARDEN, Frances Hodgson Burnett
SHADES OF MILK AND HONEY, Mary Robinette Kowal
THE FIRST 20 MINUTES, Gretchen Reynolds
* THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH, Norton Juster
BATTLE CRY OF FREEDOM, James McPherson
* CHARLOTTE’S WEB, E.B. White
TOLL THE HOUNDS, Steven Erikson
THE POWER OF HABIT, Charles Duhigg
STRANGER THINGS HAPPEN, Kelly Link
IN THE GARDEN OF IDEN, Kage Baker
THE LONG WALK, Richard Bachman
THE VIEW FROM SATURDAY, E. L. Konigsburg
BRIDGE OF BIRDS, Barry Hughart
MEMORY, Linda Nagata
THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS, Robert Heinlein
WE WHO ARE ABOUT TO…, Joanna Russ
SABRIEL, Garth Nix
HALF EMPTY, David Rakoff
THE STORY OF THE STONE, Barry Hughart
YOU’RE NOT FOOLING ANYONE WHEN YOU TAKE YOUR LAPTOP TO A COFFEE SHOP, John Scalzi
DARK PLACES, Gillian Flynn
WHO FEARS DEATH, Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu
DEMONS, Fyodor Dostoevsky
IMMORTAL LYCANTHROPES, Hal Johnson
EIGHT SKILLED GENTLEMEN, Barry Hughart
THE HIGHEST FRONTIER, Joan Slonczewski
OLD MAN’S WAR, John Scalzi
PARENTONOMICS, Joshua Gans
THE GHOST BRIGADES, John Scalzi
* HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE, J. K. Rowling
THE WATER MARGIN, Shi Nai’an
DEATHLESS, Catherynne M. Valente
PICNIC ON PARADISE, Joanna Russ
HOOFPRINT OF THE OX, Master Shengyan
THE IRON DRAGON’S DAUGHTER, Michael Swanwick
THE HAPPIEST TODDLER ON THE BLOCK, Harvey Karp
BLACK WATER, Joyce Carol Oates
ROSEMARY AND RUE, Seanan McGuire
AMONG OTHERS, Jo Walton
HALF THE SKY, Nicholas Kristof & Sheryl WuDunn
APE: AUTHOR, PUBLISHER, ENTREPRENEUR, Guy Kawasaki
SAGA, VOLUME 1, Brian K. Vaughan
PEACE, Gene Wolfe
MRS. DALLOWAY, Virginia Woolf
THE FIFTH HEAD OF CERBERUS, Gene Wolfe

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