Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Books I Read in 2019

For the first time since 2016, I read more books this year than last, though I still fell short of the 123 books I read in 2017 and my record of 135 the year previous. I read 103 books in 2019, short of my revised target of 136.

Here's how my year in books broke down:

Books by Women: 39
Books by Men: 64
I read more women this year than last, not quite approaching parity, but getting closer with a roughly 60/40 men to women ratio.

Nonfiction: 8
Fiction: 95

I read less nonfiction this year than last, but more than made up for the deficit by reading more fiction.

Genre
Fantasy: 10
Mainstream: 12
Science Fiction: 55
Star Trek: 18

My genre breakdown was roughly the same this year as last year.

Top Authors
James S.A. Corey: 15
Isaac Asimov: 8
Jo Walton: 6
Arthur C. Clarke: 5
Martha Wells: 5
Alan Dean Foster: 4
Vonda McIntyre: 4
John M. Ford: 3
Nancy Kress: 3
Lois McMaster Bujold: 2
Peter David: 2
Jack McDevitt: 2
Elizabeth Mitchell: 2
Garfield and Judith Reeves-Stevens: 2
Robert Silverberg: 2
Olaf Stapledon: 2

I wasn't much interested in the Expanse series by James S.A. Corey (a pen name), but on a whim I tried out the first of the novels early this year and found myself quite caught up by the characters and their adventures. I wound up reading the entire series, or at least as much as has yet been published; there's one more novel coming out next year.

As part of my effort to clear some of my backlog of classic SF, I read a handful of Asimov and Clarke novels, ticking off a few Hugo and Nebula winners along the way. Jo Walton continues to impress; I've now read almost everything she's published, and I look forward to more. The same goes for Martha Wells and her Murderbot Diaries; Leslie tipped me off to these delightful novellas, and I look forward to reading the first novel in the series in 2020.

Other highlights this year included The Testaments, Margaret Atwood's excellent sequel to The Handmaid's Tale; Dashiell Hammett's unusual hard-boiled thriller, The Glass Key; the disturbing Less Than Zero, by Bret Easton Ellis; Shaft, by Ernest Tidyman; and Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott.

Books by Decade
1860s: 1
1930s: 3
1950s: 5
1960s: 4
1970s: 7
1980s: 18
1990s: 5
2000s: 7
2010s: 52

As usual, most of the books I read in 2019 came out within the last decade; the 1980s was a distant second.

Here's the complete list of books I read in 2019:

January: 14
Rejoice, a Knife to the Heart (Steven Erikson, 2018)
The Naked Sun (Isaac Asimov, 1956)
Quantum Space (Douglas Phillips, 2018)
The Robots of Dawn (Isaac Asimov, 1983)
Pebble in the Sky (Isaac Asimov, 1950)
Red Moon (Kim Stanley Robinson, 2018)
Knife Children (Lois McMaster Bujold, 2019)
All Systems Red (Martha Wells, 2017)
The Future of Work: Compulsory (Martha Wells, 2018)
Artificial Condition (Martha Wells, 2018)
A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo (Jill Twiss, 2018)
Rogue Protocol (Martha Wells, 2018)
Exit Strategy (Martha Wells, 2018)
The Stars, Like Dust (Isaac Asimov, 1950)

February: 3
Fade In: From Idea to Final Draft (Michael Piller, 2005)
The Currents of Space (Isaac Asimov, 1952)
The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. (Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland, 2017)

March: 5
No Short Roads to Flin Flon (Jack Frey, 2012)
Tomorrow’s Kin (Nancy Kress, 2017)
If Tomorrow Comes (Nancy Kress, 2018)
Terran Tomorrow (Nancy Kress, 2018)
Words on the Rocks: Collected Prose and Poetry of Flin Flon Writers (Alex McGilvery, 2016)

April: 4
Batmobile Cutaways (Richard Jackson, 2018)
Robots and Empire (Isaac Asimov, 1985)
Nine Tomorrows (Isaac Asimov, 1959)
A Time of Changes (Robert Silverberg, 1971)

May: 6
Nightfall and Other Stories (Isaac Asimov, 1969)
The Moon and the Sun (Vonda McIntyre, 1997)
The Healer’s War (Elizabeth Anne Scarborough, 1988)
2001: A Space Odyssey (Arthur C. Clarke, 1968)
2010: Odyssey Two (Arthur C. Clarke, 1982)
The Long Sunset (Jack McDevitt, 2018)

June: 12
2061: Odyssey Three (Arthur C. Clarke, 1987)
3001: The Final Odyssey (Arthur C. Clarke, 1997)
The Captain’s Oath (Christopher L. Bennett, 2019)
After the Flames (Elizabeth Mitchell, 1985)
The Butcher of Anderson Station (James S.A. Corey, 2011)
Octavia Gone (Jack McDevitt, 2019)
An Informal History of the Hugos: A Personal Look Back at the Hugo Awards (Jo Walton, 2018)
Starlings (Jo Walton, 2018)
Leviathan Wakes (James S.A. Corey, 2011)
Strange New Worlds 2016 (Various, 2016)
Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality (Eliezer Yudkowsky, 2015)
Drive (James S.A. Corey, 2012)

July: 11
Caliban’s War (James S.A. Corey, 2012)
Our Hero: Superman on Earth (Tom De Haven, 2010)
Odd John (Olaf Stapledon, 1935)
Deadly Waters (Theodore Judson, 2016)
The Worlds of TSR (Marlys Heeszel, 1994)
The Art of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Fantasy Game (Mary Kirchoff, 1989)
The Art of Dragon Magazine (Jean Blashfield Black, 1988)
The Art of the Dungeons & Dragons Fantasy Game (Margaret Weis, 1985)
A Fall of Moondust (Arthur C. Clarke, 1961)
Lent (Jo Walton, 2019)
Imzadi (Peter David, 1998)

August: 12
Imzadi Forever (Peter David, 2003)
The Book of Skulls (Robert Silverberg, 1972)
The Orphans of Raspay (Lois McMaster Bujold, 2019)
Spock’s World (Diane Duane, 1989)
Sand and Stars (A.C. Crispin, 2004)
Chthon (Piers Anthony, 1967)
Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan (Vonda McIntyre, 1982)
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (Vonda McIntyre, 1984)
Duty, Honor, Redemption (Vonda McIntyre, 2004)
Memory Prime (Garfield and Judith Reeves-Stevens, 1988)
Worlds in Collision (Garfield and Judith Reeves-Stevens, 2003)
The King’s Peace (Jo Walton, 2000)

September: 10
The King’s Name (Jo Walton, 2002)
Star Trek Log One (Alan Dean Foster, 1974)
The Churn (James S.A. Corey, 2014)
Gods of Risk (James S.A. Corey, 2012)
The Prize in the Game (Jo Walton, 2003)
Abaddon’s Gate (James S.A. Corey, 2013)
The Vital Abyss (James S.A. Corey, 2015)
The Institute (Stephen King, 2019)
Cibola Burn (James S.A. Corey, 2014)
Star Trek Log Two (Alan Dean Foster, 1974)

October: 5
Nemesis Games (James S.A.  Corey, 2015)
Babylon’s Ashes (James S.A. Corey, 2016
Star Trek Log Three (Alan Dean Foster, 1974)
Strange Dogs (James S.A. Corey, 2017)
Persepolis Rising (James S.A. Corey, 2017)

November: 10
Tiamat’s Wrath (James S.A. Corey, 2019)
False Knees: An Illustrated Guide to Animal Behavior (Joshua Barkman, 2019)
Collateral Damage (David Mack, 2019)
The Final Reflection (John M. Ford, 1984)
Less Than Zero (Bret Easton Ellis, 1985)
The Testaments (Margaret Atwood, 2019)
Star Trek Log Four (Alan Dean Foster, 1975)
The Pursuit of William Abbey (Claire North, 2019)
The Andromeda Evolution (Daniel F. Wilson, 2019)
As Big as the Ritz (Gregory Benford, 1987)

December: 11
Fugue State (John M. Ford, 1990)
Under the Wheel (Elizabeth Mitchell, 1987)
Shaft (Ernest Tidyman, 1970)
This Is How You Lose the Time War (Amal el-Mohtar and Max Gladstone, 2019)
Auberon (James S.A. Corey, 2019)
Last and First Men (Olaf Stapledon, 1930)
How Much for Just the Planet? (John M. Ford, 1987)
Famous Men Who Never Lived (K Chess, 2019)
Little Women (Louisa May Alcott, 1868)
The Glass Key (Dashiell Hammett, 1931)
Anatomy of a Metahuman (S.D. Perry and Matthew K. Manning, 2018)

Summary
While I'm glad I read more women this year, and that I read more this year than last, I'm still disappointed by my failure to approach 150 a year, something I'm sure, though I can't say for certain, I used to accomplish regularly in my teens and 20s. Did I have more time then, or am I just getting older and slower?

I also need to take on more challenging work, or at least more mainstream material. I love SF, but a steady diet of it to the exclusion of all else isn't healthy.

Maybe 2020 will be my year. Happy reading! 

Monday, December 30, 2019

98,000 Calories

On Saturday, a half-dozen friends assembled at Steve's for some board gaming. During the evening, several of my buddies used mobile apps to record the beers they were drinking, in much the same way as I use Letterboxd to record the films I've watched.

"Someone should make an app like that for Coke," I said.

"They'll never do it," Jeff replied. "People would stop drinking it."

I knew exactly what Jeff meant; if people realized how much soda they were drinking, they'd become more aware of the extent of their habit. So I quickly calculated the health impact of the Coke I drink, estimating two cans a day at 140 calories a can. My eyes bulged when I saw that amounted to a staggering 98,000 calories a year, which Pete and Mike helpfully translated into about 25 pounds of extra weight a year. Holy Moley! No wonder I've fattened up over the years.


Sunday, December 29, 2019

Iconic Science Fiction: The Top 50

Over the course of the last year, I've had fun putting together movie lists on Letterboxd. Some of them required careful thought and consideration, such as Iconic Science Fiction: The Top 50. I tried to select films that are not only great examples of the genre, but influenced films that came after. 

Friday, December 27, 2019

Quick Takes: The Rise of Skywalker

WARNING: Minor SPOILERS for The Rise of Skywalker...



A few nice moments scattered among a fundamentally broken narrative can't save The Rise of Skywalker (J. J. Abrams, 2019), which caroms at breakneck speed to a climax that's as unearned as it is eye-rolling.

It says a lot when the usually annoying C-3PO gets the majority of the film's best moments, and when a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo by Denis Lawson as Wedge Antilles generates more excitement than all the Rey/Ren drama.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Quick Takes: The Arrival

I avoided seeing The Arrival (David Twohy, 1996)  for literal decades because of its middling reputation, so perhaps it's simply my low expectations that informed my surprisingly positive response to what turned out to be, essentially, a 1950s SF film that was somehow inexplicably made in the 1990s. Sheen is about as believable as he needs to be as an astrophysicist, and the conspiratorial elements are suspenseful enough to maintain audience interest.

It's the terraforming/global warming aspect that gives The Arrival some additional interest, and gives the film extra relevance today. At one point, one of the aliens tells Sheen's character "If you can't take care of your planet, you don't deserve it." Unfortunately, I think this line will take on additional prescience with every passing year.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Monday, December 23, 2019

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Friday, December 20, 2019

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Monday, December 16, 2019

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Friday, December 13, 2019

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Monday, December 09, 2019

Sunday, December 08, 2019

Saturday, December 07, 2019

Friday, December 06, 2019

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

Monday, December 02, 2019

Sunday, December 01, 2019