Sunday, December 31, 2017

Books I Read in 2017

This year represents a step back for me on several fronts. I read less this year than last, my fare was less diverse, my reading more concentrated on the present decade than ever before, and I still can't seem to reach gender parity. All in all, I read 123 books this year, down from 135 last year. 150 remains an elusive dream.

You'll also note that several of the books I read this year were novella or even novelette length. I included them on the list, after some debate, rationalizing that some of the larger books I read this year could count as three or four regular-length novels, so hopefully it all evens out.

I started a new job this year, and I'm talking half-hour lunches instead of the one hour I indulged at ATCO. That's cut back on my reading time quite a bit, as did our road trip in August and some stress issues I don't want to write about here. Excuses, excuses, yes.

On to the books themselves. There's a lot of Fred Saberhagen on this list, as I had intended to read all of the Berserker books this year; I didn't make it.

There's also a bunch of Lois McMaster Bujold, because I think her stuff is great. I must say, though, that the Penric and Desdemona series isn't quite grabbing me; I don't feel like there's much jeopardy to be had. I realize that things tend to turn out fine in the end in most of her work, but even so, the stakes seem pretty low here.

I read and enjoyed two books by people I know this year: Kevin Taft's latest political book, Oil's Deep State, and my colleague Nerys Parry's novel Man & other Natural Disasters. Kevin's book is thoroughly researched, well-argued, and important reading for anyone who cares about the corruptive influence on natural resource economies on democracy; Nerys' novel is haunting, evocative, bizarre (in a good way), and has a climax I really did not see coming.

I started reading Dashiell Hammett this year, and while I enjoyed Red Harvest and The Dain Curse, The Maltese Falcon really blew me away, and not just because of nostalgia for the film(s). Sam Spade is a once-in-a-century character, and he's embroiled in one of the truly great detective stories in this one. A real treat.

Jo Walton's trilogy of novels about Greek gods who decide to try and create Plato's ideal community is ambitious, tragic and funny, but didn't move me as much as her earlier, standalone works.

Film and television tie-in novels often aren't worth commentary, but I thoroughly appreciated Mark Frost's two Twin Peaks novels this year, particularly the latter, which provides frustrated viewers of season three with, if not closure, at least some interesting material to chew on. Most of the Star Trek tie-ins I read this year were, as usual, mundane, but David Mack's Section 31: Control, a Julian Bashir story that ties up a long-running subplot from the television series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, was suspenseful and satisfying. And the comedic DS9 novellas from Paula Block and Terry Erdmann are good-natured and fun.

Connie Willis is always amazing, and I loved her latest, Crosstalk, a novel of romantic telepathy and overbearing relatives.

Here's each month's tally of books I read in 2017, followed by a genre, gender, and decade breakdown:

January: 9
Hag-Seed (Margaret Atwood, 2016)
Star Trek Deep Space Nine: Sacraments of Fire (David R. George III, 2015)
A Man Lies Dreaming (Lavie Tidhar, 2014)
Under the Moons of Mars (John Joseph Adams, 2012)
The Long Tomorrow (Leigh Brackett, 1955)
Star Trek Deep Space Nine: Ascendance (David R. George III, 2016)
The Evolution of the Iron Giant (Unknown, 2016)
Last Year (Robert Charles Wilson, 2016)
Red Harvest (Dashiell Hammett, 1929)

February: 10
The Feast of St. Dionysus (Robert Silverberg, 1975)
The Dain Curse (Dashiell Hammett, 1929)
The Maltese Falcon (Dashiell Hammett, 1930)
The Twilight Zone Companion, Second Edition (Marc Scott Zicree, 1989)
My Brother’s Keeper (Charles Sheffield, 1982)
Star Trek Deep Space Nine: Force and Motion (Jeffrey Lang, 2016)
Art of Atari (Tim Lapetino, 2016)
Star Trek Titan: Sight Unseen (James Swallow, 2015)
No Truce with Kings (Poul Anderson, 1963)
Ship of Shadows (Fritz Leiber, 1969)

March: 13
There Will be Time (Poul Anderson, 1972)
Anywhere but Here (Jerry Oltion, 2005)
Ideas of the Year: A Celebration (Unknown, 2016)
The Embarrassments of Science Fiction (Thomas M. Disch, 1975)
Big Ideas and Dead-End Thrills: The Further Embarrassments of Science Fiction (Thomas M. Disch, 1992)
The Art of Bombshells (Marguerite Bennett, 2016)
Now Write! Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror (Laurie Lamson, editor, 2014)
The Deluxe Transitive Vampire (Karen Elizabeth Gordon, 1993)
The New Well-Tempered Sentence (Karen Elizabeth Gordon, 1993)
International Financial Reporting Standards (Unknown, 2011)
MD&A: Guidance on Preparation (Unknown, 2009)
Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wicked Prose (Constance Hale, 2013)
The Secret History of Twin Peaks (Mark Frost, 2016)

April: 18
Crosstalk (Connie Willis, 2017)
Out of the Loud Hound of Darkness (Karen Elizabeth Gordon, 1998)
Torn Wings and Faux Pas (Karen Elizabeth Gordon, 1997)
Star Trek Prey Book 1: Hell’s Heart (John Jackson Miller, 2016)
The Lady Astronaut of Mars (Mary Robinette Kowal, 2013)
Nine Lives (Ursula K. LeGuin, 1969)
The New Atlantis (Ursula K. LeGuin, 1975)
Bloodchild (Octavia E. Butler, 1985)
The Faery Handbag (Kelly Link, 2005)
Sooner or Later Everything Falls Into the Sea (Sarah Pinkser, 2016)
The Orangery (Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, 2016)
You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay (Alyssa Wong, 2016)
The Art of Space Travel (Nina Allan, 2016)
Touring with the Alien (Carolyn Ives Gilman, 2016)
Silent Weapons for Quiet Wars (Unknown, 1979)
The Disheveled Dictionary (Karen Elizabeth Gordon, 1997)
The Collapsing Empire (John Scalzi, 2017)
Star Trek Prey Book 2: The Jackal’s Trick (John Jackson Miller, 2016)

May: 11
Blood Grains Speak Through Memories (Jason Sanford, 2016)
Breakout: How Atari 8-Bit Computers Defined a Generation (Jamie Lendino, 2017)
Gwendy’s Button Box (Stephen King and Richard Chizmar, 2017)
Old Mars (George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, 2013)
The Last Man (Mary Shelley, 1826)
Crooked (Austin Grossman, 2015)
The Tomato Thief (Ursula Vernon, 2016)
In Sea-Salt Tears (Seanan McGuire, 2013)
It Takes Two (Nicola Griffith, 2009)
Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast (Eugie Foster, 2009)
Eros, Philia, Agape (Rachel Swirsky, 2009)

June: 10
The Monster (Stephen Crane, 1898)
The Skylark of Space (E.E. “Doc” Smith, 1928)
Skylark Three (E.E. “Doc” Smith, 1930)
Subspace Explorers (E.E. “Doc” Smith, 1965)
Berserker (Fred Saberhagen, 1967)
Brother Assassin (Fred Saberhagen, 1969)
Berserker’s Planet (Fred Saberhagen, 1975)
Flower Fables (Louisa May Alcott, 1855)
Hospital Sketches (Louisa May Alcott, 1863)
Berserker Man (Fred Saberhagen, 1979)

July: 10
Star Trek Prey Book 3: Hall of Heroes (John Jackson Miller, 2016)
The Ultimate Enemy (Fred Saberhagen, 1979)
The Berserker Wars (Fred Saberhagen, 1981)
The Sagan Diaries (John Scalzi, 2006)
Judge Sn Goes Golfing (John Scalzi, 2009)
How I Proposed to My Wife: An Alien Sex Story (John Scalzi, 2007)
Star Trek Section 31: Control (David Mack, 2017)
Star Trek The Next Generation: Headlong Flight (Dayton Ward, 2017)
Man & other Natural Disasters (Nerys Parry, 2011)
Star Trek Deep Space Nine: The Long Mirage (David R. George III, 2017)

August: 8
The Berserker Throne (Fred Saberhagen, 1985)
Berserker: Blue Death (Fred Saberhagen, 1985)
Mash Up (Gardner Dozois, editor, 2016)
Star Trek: The Face of the Unknown (Christopher L. Bennett, 2017)
We Who Are About To… (Joanna Russ, 1976)
The Berserker Attack (Fred Saberhagen, 1987)
Berserker Lies (Fred Saberhagen, 1990)
Hidden Universe Travel Guide: Klingon (Dayton Ward, 2017)

September: 10
This Shared Dream (Kathleen Ann Goonan, 2011)
Metropolis (Thea von Harbou, 1925)
Clash of the Geeks (John Scalzi, editor, 2010)
Berserkers: The Beginning (Fred Saberhagen, 1998)
Hearts in Suspension (Stephen King, 2016)
Mighty Protectors (Jeff Dee, 2017)
The Female Man (Joanna Russ, 1975)
The Just City (Jo Walton 2014)
The Falling Woman (Pat Murphy, 1986)
Children of the Dust (Catherine Asaro, 2017)

October: 6
The Philosopher Kings (Jo Walton, 2015)
Oil’s Deep State (Kevin Taft, 2017)
Necessity (Jo Walton, 2016)
Star Trek The Next Generation: Hearts and Minds (Dayton Ward, 2017)
Star Trek Deep Space Nine: Enigma Tales (Una McCormack, 2017)
Twin Peaks: The Final Dossier (Mark Frost, 2017)

November: 3
The Memoirs of Wild Bill Hickok (Richard Matheson, 1996)
Career of Evil (J.K. Rowling writing as Robert Galbraith, 2015)
Shield of the Gods (Christopher L. Bennett, 2017)

December: 15
The Diviners (Margaret Laurence, 1974)
Sleeping Beauties (Stephen King and Owen King, 2017)
Proto Zoa (Lois McMaster Bujold, 2011)
Penric’s Demon (Lois McMaster Bujold, 2015)
Penric and the Shaman (Lois McMaster Bujold, 2016)
Penric’s Fox (Lois McMaster Bujold, 2017)
Penric’s Mission (Lois McMaster Bujold, 2017)
Mira’s Last Dance (Lois McMaster Bujold, 2017)
The Prisoner of Limnos (Lois McMater Bujold, 2017)
Rules of Accusation (Paula M. Block and Terry J. Erdmann, 2016)
Lust’s Latinum Lost (and Found) (Paula M. Block and Terry J. Erdmann, 2014)
I, the Constable (Paula M. Block and Terry J. Erdmann, 2017)
Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide (J.K. Rowling, 2016)
Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship, and Dangerous Hobbies (J.K. Rowling, 2016)
Short Stories from Hogwarts of Power, Politics, and Pesky Poltergeists (J.K. Rowling, 2016)

Nonfiction: 20
Fiction: 103

Fantasy: 23
Mainstream: 14
Science Fiction: 48
Star Trek: 18

Top Authors
Fred Saberhagen: 11

Lois McMaster Bujold: 7

Karen Elizabeth Gordon: 5
John Scalzi: 5
Unknown: 5

J.K. Rowling: 4

Paula M. Block: 3
Terry J. Erdmann: 3
David R. George III: 3
Dashiell Hammett: 3
Stephen King: 3
John Jackson Miller: 3
E.E. “Doc” Smith: 3
Dayton Ward: 3
Jo Walton: 3

Louisa May Alcott: 2
Poul Anderson: 2
Christopher L. Bennett: 2
Thomas M. Disch: 2
Gardner Dozois: 2
Mark Frost: 2
Ursula K. LeGuin: 2
Joanna Russ: 2

Books by Women: 59
Books by Men: 64

Books by Decade
1820s: 1
1850s: 1
1860s: 1
1890s: 1
1920s: 4
1930s: 2
1950s: 1
1960s: 6
1970s: 11
1980s: 8
1990s: 9
2000s: 9
2010s: 69


Jeff Shyluk said...

I can't recall if I have reccommended this, but you might want to read Spade & Archer, the prequel to The Maltese Falcon. The Maltese Falcon can't be beat, it is indeed a tour-de-force and a must-read book. Spade & Archer fills in the back story to Sam Spade and how he came to partner with the loutish Miles Archer, a deeper insight as to his relationships with both Effie and Sid Wise, and how he's got such a tenuous arrangement with Polhaus and Dundy of the SFPD. Spade & Archer was written by a real private detective, and so the author's research into the times and places that Sam Spade would inhabit renders them near-perfect. The book itself makes a nearly seamless transition between the before-story and the classic novel. There are a few very clever clues in Spade & Archer that Sam Spade misses that would have perhaps given him a stronger position in The Maltese Falcon.

However, without really spoiling the story, both Miles Archer and Sam Spade get through some very harrowing predicaments unscathed, because, well, they have to. It does seem pointless to put these detectives into serious jeopardy since we know exactly what happens to them. Even so, it's a well-crafted book with writing that fits into Dashiell Hammett's steel-jawed narrative.

Never for Ever said...

What kills me is that given the similar-ish-ness of of our tastes I have only read 10 of the books on your list...Scalzi because you introduced me to him, Penric et al because Curse of Chalion is the greatest Fantasy book ever, and the Diviners because...well.. because its the Diviners.

I might just have to try the Sam Spade. It's one of those genres that everyone should go out of their way to know.

I also commend to you Ann Leckie's Imperial Radch series. It was a delight and she chose "she" as the gender-neutral pronoun and it keeps whacking you upside the head with how many assumptions we make based on gender. Or at least I think so...


Jeff Shyluk said...

@ Never:

Dashiell Hammett was himself a Pinkerton Operative, more or less a hired gun, prior to WWI. His time as a gumshoe informs his early work, which is definitely worth the read. He invents and defines the hard-boiled detective in these stories, and the writing is terse, exciting, and to the point.

The Maltese Falcon, his only Sam Spade story, is the culmination and maturation of that style. It rises far above convention and goes well beyond being a mere genre piece, it's the finest American literature writ very large in letters of cold blood and hot lead. The movie is outstanding; the book transcends that by a wide margin. Sam Spade is a humanistic, flawed hero who is the essence of his era boiled down into the most cunning and resourceful animal a war veteran could ever be - and even with guns, fists, wit, and a couple of loyal friends, he's not quite the match for the fatalistic Wonderley, the diabolical Cairo, the furious Wilmer, and the inimitable Gutman, such a quartet of maladventurers that has never been seen before and has never been equalled afterwards. There are no more Sam Spade stories simply because once you've had the best, there's nowhere else you need to go.

Hammett did follow up The Maltese Falcon with the Thin Man which goes off in a different direction than the rest of his novels. Very readable, breezy, bright, and as completely cynical as an ingot of lead is filled with lead. There's also the Glass Key, which although a standard detective story, ends up being a strong meditation on the concepts of loyalty and friendship cast against the forces of life and death.

Hammett did a lot of genre-building, but his standout works rise far above genre itself. Those books haven't been equalled except perhaps by Raymond Chandler, and then I'd say no-one after that save Philip K Dick.

Earl J. Woods said...

I have indeed read Ann Leckie's Radch novels, and came away with the same lesson you did about assumptions. She has a new one out, though I don't think it's part of the Radch series.

I can only echo Jeff's comments about Hammett; I'll be reading The Glass Key and The Thin Man this year to round out my coverage of his works.