Saturday, December 31, 2016

Books I Read in 2016

2016 is fading into history, and while it was a hard year for many reasons, I take solace in having discovered some wonderful books, new and old. This year I managed to read 135 books, a new record since I started keeping track in 2011, but still short of the 150 I was hoping for. Maybe next year...

I've still failed to achieve gender balance in my reading, as noted below, even slipping a little since last year. But of the women I read, wow, there was some great stuff. I've mostly finished Margaret Atwood's works, save for the recently released Hag-Seed and a couple of her short story collections. The Blind Assassin, The Robber Bride and Cat's Eye were my favourites. I found Surfacing, her second novel, the most puzzling - it doesn't feel at all like an Atwood novel to me, and I can't write it off to early author blues since her first novel, The Edible Woman, feels so fully formed. I was surprised to find that I didn't enjoy her MaddAddam trilogy as much as I had anticipated, and that could be because I'm deeply buried in science fiction tropes; all the speculative elements felt too familiar, and that distracted me from enjoying the character work.

This year I finished off the Harry Potter novels and started in on J.K. Rowling's other work, including The Casual Vacancy and her Robert Galbraith detective stories, worthwhile efforts all.

Finishing Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables books (at least those available in the public domain) lifted my heart early in the year - they're such delightfully innocent fun, so good-hearted and full of life. I want to visit Prince Edward Island more than ever now.

My favourite woman author of 2016, though, is my friend Leslie Vermeer, whose book The Complete Canadian Book Editor was released this fall. Not only is it packed with tons of essential advice for aspiring book editors, it's written with great warmth, crystal clarity and perhaps most importantly, unfailing conscience. I'm obviously very happy for her, and I look forward to her next book.


After many years of promising to get to them someday, I finally read the works of Raymond Chandler, who did not disappoint in the least. As I remarked in an email to my friend Jeff, who I consider something of a Chandler scholar (or at the very least, a gifted analyst of the author), "He built an incredible world full of deeply sympathetic characters - even the villains are mostly just victims of another kind. And Marlowe himself is an astounding character, full of unjustified (in my view) self-loathing and soul-crushing, weary loneliness. And the prose is gorgeous, so very bittersweet."

Because 2016 saw the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, I found myself reading a bunch of Star Trek novels and behind-the-scenes books - as always of varying quality, sadly. The best of the bunch was the two-volume, roughly 1800-page Fifty-Year Mission, an oral history of the show and its spinoffs from the actors, writers, producers and crew who worked on the various series and movies. Even for a long-term Trekkie like me, these two books had a lot of interesting stories to offer. 


My friends who enjoy SF will doubtless be relieved to know that I've finally managed to read some of the seminal works of Robert Heinlein, long neglected by me: Double Star, Starship Troopers and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. I still don't think much of Heinlein's near-Randian politics, but I have to admit these were all crackling stories, and they helped me get closer to my goal of reading all of the Hugo and Nebula Best Novel nominees. 


2016 brings with it the end of Fantagraphics' excellent, 26-volume collection of Charles M. Schulz' Peanuts comic strip, some fifteen years in the making. Lovingly crafted, painstakingly indexed and featuring introductions from a wide range of celebrity fans of the strip, these are gorgeous books that I'm happy to have on my shelves for the rest of my life. And now I can say that I've read every strip. What a wonder it was, too - a real work of genius from start to finish. 


Those are the highlights of my year in reading; the gory details can be found below. Will I finally read The Lord of the Rings in 2017? Time will tell...



January: 14
Anne of the Island (Lucy Maud Montgomery, 1915)
Anne’s House of Dreams (Lucy Maud Montgomery, 1917)
The Bazaar of Bad Dreams (Stephen King, 2015)
Rainbow Valley (Lucy Maud Montgomery, 1919)
Further Chronicles of Avonlea (Lucy Maud Montgomery, 1920)
The Clone (Theodore L. Thomas and Kate Wilhelm, 1965)
Rilla of Ingleside (Lucy Maud Montgomery, 1921)
Phoenix in the Ashes (Joan D. Vinge, 1985)
New Maps of Hell (Kingsley Amis, 1960)
A Bird in the House (Margaret Laurence, 1970)
Alias Grace (Margaret Atwood, 1996)
Surfacing (Margaret Atwood, 1972)
Earthlight (Arthur C. Clarke, 1955)
The Lifeship (Harry Harrison and Gordon R. Dickson, 1985)

February: 10
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August (Claire North, 2014)
No Enemy but Time (Michael Bishop, 1982)
Sight of Proteus (Charles Sheffield, 1978)
Brittle Innings (Michael Bishop, 1994)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (J.K. Rowling, 2007)
The Wild Shore (Kim Stanley Robinson, 1984)
The Gold Coast (Kim Stanley Robinson, 1988)
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (J. K. Rowling, 2001)
Quidditch Through the Ages (J.K. Rowling, 2001)
The Tales of Beedle the Bard (J.K. Rowling, 2008)

March: 12
Pacific Edge (Kim Stanley Robinson, 1990)
Press Start to Play (Daniel H. Wilson and John Joseph Adams, editors, 2015)
Star Trek The Next Generation: Armageddon’s Arrow (Dayton Ward, 2015)
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (Jesse Andrews, 2012)
Life After Life (Kate Atkinson, 2013)
A God in Ruins (Kate Atkinson, 2014)
The State of the Art (Iain M. Banks, 1991)
The Violent Century (Lavie Tidhar, 2013)
The Man Who Bridged the Mist (Kij Johnson, 2011)
The Lifecycle of Software Objects (Ted Chiang, 2010)
Julian: A Christmas Story (Robert Charles Wilson, 2006)
Oceanic (Greg Egan, 1998)

April: 10
The Casual Vacancy (J.K. Rowling, 2012)
Star Trek Voyager: Atonement (Kirsten Beyer, 2015)
The Cuckoo’s Calling (J.K. Rowling writing as Robert Galbraith, 2013)
The Silkworm (J.K. Rowling writing as Robert Galbraith, 2014)
Star Trek Voyager: A Pocket Full of Lies (Kirsten Beyer, 2016)
The Long Utopia (Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter, 2015)
With the Night Mail (Rudyard Kipling, 1905)
As Easy as A.B.C. (Rudyard Kipling, 1912)
The Book on the Edge of Forever (Christopher Priest, 1997)
I am Crying All Inside: The Short Fiction of Clifford D. Simak (Clifford D. Simak, 2015)

May: 6
Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination (J.K. Rowling, 2008)
Cat’s Eye (Margaret Atwood, 1988)
Her Smoke Rose Up Forever (Alice Sheldon writing as James Tiptree, Jr., 1990)
The Western (David Carter, 2008)
David Lynch (Colin Odell & Michelle Le Blanc, 2007)
Horror Films (Colin Odell & Michelle Le Blanc, 2007)

June: 10
Aurora (Kim Stanley Robinson, 2015)
The Dog Said Bow-Wow (Michael Swanwick, 2007)
The Ultimate Earth (Jack Williamson, 2000)
Seven Views of Olduvai Gorge (Mike Resnick, 1994)
A Kill in the Morning (Graeme Shimmin, 2014)
Starship Troopers (Robert A. Heinlein, 1959)
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (Robert A. Heinlein, 1966)
End of Watch (Stephen King, 2016)
Central Station (Lavie Tidhar, 2016)
Stations of the Tide (Michael Swanwick, 1991)

July: 7
Good News From Outer Space (John Kessel, 1989)
Lady Oracle (Margaret Atwood, 1977)
Double Star (Robert A. Heinlein, 1956)
Who? (Algis Budrys, 1958)
Uprooted (Naomi Novik, 2015)
Hidden Universe Travel Guide: Vulcan (Dayton Ward, 2016)
Star Trek: The Official Guide to Our Universe (Andrew Fazekas, 2016)

August: 19
Star Trek: The Art of the Film (Mark Cotta Vaz, 2009)
The Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture (Susan Sackett, 1980)
Star Trek Enterprise Rise of the Federation: Live by the Code (Christopher L. Bennett, 2016)
Bodily Harm (Margaret Atwood, 1981)
The Complete Peanuts, 1999-2000 (Charles M. Schulz with an Introduction by Barack Obama, 2016)
The Edible Woman (Margaret Atwood, 1969)
Thunderbird (Jack McDevitt, 2015)
Star Trek Legacies Book 1: Captain to Captain (Greg Cox, 2016)
Star Trek Legacies Book 2: Best Defense (David Mack, 2016)
Star Trek: Child of Two Worlds (Greg Cox, 2015)
Star Trek: The Latter Fire (James Swallow, 2016)
The King in Yellow (Robert W. Chambers, 1895)
Five Murders (Raymond Chandler, 1944)
Five Sinister Characters (Raymond Chandler, 1945)
The Simple Art of Murder (Raymond Chandler, 1950)
Finding Serenity (Jane Espenson, 2004)
Serenity Found (Jane Espenson, 2007)
The Maker of Moons (Robert W. Chambers, 1896)
The Mystery of Choice (Robert W. Chambers, 1897)

September: 10
Dancing Girls (Margaret Atwood, 1977)
The Big Sleep (Raymond Chandler, 1939)
Farewell, My Lovely (Raymond Chandler, 1940)
The High Window (Raymond Chandler, 1942)
The Complete Canadian Book Editor (Leslie Vermeer, 2016)
Make Love the Bruce Campbell Way (Bruce Campbell, 2005)
Moral Disorder and Other Stories (Margaret Atwood, 2006)
Quantum Night (Robert J. Sawyer, 2016)
The Colossus and Other Poems (Sylvia Plath, 1960)
Star Trek Legacies Book 3: Purgatory’s Key (Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore, 2016)

October: 10
The Fifty-Year Mission: The First 25 Years (Edward Gross & Mark A. Altman, 2016)
Emergence (David R. Palmer, 1984)
The Velveteen Rabbit (Margery Williams, 1922)
The Adolescence of P-1 (Thomas J. Ryan, 1977)
Star Trek Errand of Fury Book 1: Seeds of Rage (Kevin Ryan, 2005)
Sid Meier’s Civilization: Civilization Through the Years (Sid Meier, 2016)
Life Before Man (Margaret Atwood, 1979)
Star Trek Errand of Fury Book 2: Demands of Honor (Kevin Ryan, 2007)
Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen (Lois McMaster Bujold, 2015)
Poems by Emily Dickinson, Series One (Emily Dickinson, 1890)

November: 16
Poems by Emily Dickinson, Series Two (Emily Dickinson, 1891)
Poems by Emily Dickinson, Series Three (Emily Dickinson, 1894)
A Colder War (Charles Stross, 2002)
Oryx and Crake (Margaret Atwood, 2003)
The Lady in the Lake (Raymond Chandler, 1943)
The Little Sister (Raymond Chandler, 1949)
Star Trek Errand of Fury Book 3: Sacrifices of War (Kevin Ryan, 2009)
Dark Matter (Blake Crouch, 2016)
Robots Have No Tails (Henry Kuttner, 1952)
The Long Goodbye (Raymond Chandler, 1953)
Playback (Raymond Chandler, 1958)
Double Indemnity (Raymond Chandler, 1943)
The Year of the Flood (Margaret Atwood, 2009)
Selected Essays and Letters (Raymond Chandler, 1995)
MaddAddam (Margaret Atwood, 2013)
The Heart Goes Last (Margaret Atwood, 2015)

December: 11
Stone Mattress (Margaret Atwood, 2014)
Charlie the Choo-Choo (Beryl Evans, 2016)
Lifehouse (Spider Robinson, 1997)
Covergirls (Louise Simonson, 2007)
Delirium’s Party (Jill Thompson, 2011)
The Complete Peanuts: Comics & Stories 1950 to 2000 (Charles M. Schulz with an afterword by Jean Schulz, 2016)
The Legion of Regrettable Supervillains (Jon Morris, 2016)
The Fifty-Year Mission: The Next 25 Years (Mark A. Altman & Edward Gross, 2016)
The Spirit Ring (Lois McMaster Bujold, 1992)
Irresistible Forces (Catherine Asaro, editor, 2006)
America Lost and Found: The BBS Story (various, 2010)

Nonfiction: 20
Fiction: 115

Genre
Science Fiction: 46
Mainstream: 39
Star Trek: 13
Fantasy: 10
Horror: 3
Peanuts collections: 2

Top Authors
Margaret Atwood: 14

Raymond Chandler: 12

J.K. Rowling: 8

Lucy Maud Montgomery: 5

Kim Stanley Robinson: 4

Robert W. Chambers: 3
Emily Dickinson: 3
Robert A. Heinlein: 3
Kevin Ryan: 3

Mark A. Altman: 2
Kate Atkinson: 2
Kirsten Beyer: 2
Michael Bishop: 2
Lois McMaster Bujold: 2
Greg Cox: 2
Jane Espenson: 2
Edward Gross: 2
Stephen King: 2
Rudyard Kipling: 2
Michelle Le Blanc: 2
Colin Odell: 2
Charles M. Schulz: 2
Michael Swanwick: 2
Lavie Tidhar: 2
Dayton Ward: 2

Books by Women: 55
Books by Men: 80

Books by Decade
1890s: 6
1900s: 1
1910s: 4
1920s: 3
1930s: 1
1940s: 7
1950s: 8
1960s: 5
1970s: 8
1980s: 10
1990s: 12
2000s: 25
2010s: 46

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Earl! I never imagined to see myself in such exalted company. So flattered!