The Best of 2015-2016

Looking for a good read and don’t have an age to dig through the last year of my reviews? Here are some of the best things I’ve read since last September:

The best of 2014-2015

One might think that it’s hard for me to remember what happened in the 206 books I read last year. One would be right. Still, there are books I read that stand out as the best of the year.

Here they are, in no particular order:

Nota bene: This list doesn’t exclude books that were published before 1 September 2014.

The List, 2014-2015

I have been writing this blog (in various incarnations) since late August 2005. It’s been moved from Blogger to WordPress, back to Blogger, and back to WordPress. It’s gone through three titles.

Because I started the blog in August, my “book year” runs from 1 September to 31 August. During that year, I keep track of every book I finish. (This started because people kept asking me. Then I got competitive with myself.). I’ve kept more and more information on my list, but the one for 2014-2015 is the most elaborate yet.

See the full list for 2014-2015

Because I’m a nerd, I started doing statistical charts last year. I like having stats.

The List, 2014-2015

Books for the bookish

I don’t make recommendation lists all that often, but I’ve had booky books on the brain lately. There are some books posted on NetGalley and Edelweiss that are like catnip to me. If I see a mention of bookshops, libraries, or mysterious cemeteries of forgotten books, I have to read it. Sometimes I’m disappointed. Other times, I find a book that captures the joy of what it means to be a reader. This list is to share the joy.

Readers are always looking for their next read.

This list is not ranked. It’s in order of books that occurred to me whilst making the list.

Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, by Robin Sloan

This selection is a little controversial because of the ending. Some people like it; some hate it. Either way, Sloan blends the experience of the traditionally bookish with the digitally bookish in a wonderful little philosophical thriller.

Salamander, by Thomas Wharton

I don’t have much to add to my recent review of Salamander (linked in the section head, just above this paragraph).

The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

If you could become the custodian of one book, to make sure it’s not completely forgotten, which book would it be? What if someone is trying to make that book disappear?

Mr Fox, by Helen Oyeyemi

I almost didn’t include this one, because it’s more about authorship and writing, really. But one thing readers always wonder about is how the story came to be on the page in front of them. So, Mr Fox goes on the list.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, by Gabrielle Zevin

Sure, this one is a little sappy, but I love it. A.J. gets to live a life that, for the most part, other readers would envy. He lives surrounded by books and stories.

I trawled through my list of books that I can remember reading to compile this list, which doesn’t contain nearly all of the books I’ve read that involve books and reading. These are just the best of the best. You might ask why books like The Book Thief and The Thirteenth Tale aren’t on this list. My answer is in two parts: a) I made the list and got to decide the criteria, and b) I think The Book Thief is more about other things than it is about reading.

As I scrolled through the list, I kept seeing books like Libriomancer and The Eyre Affair, which are very much about books and story. But they’re not about reading, so they’re not on this list. It occurs to me that I’m going to have to do a list of my favorite meta-literature (books messing around with other books).

Okay, enough editorializing and explaining. Go read, people.

Reader Resolutions, Year II

72af95f5ead99fb2502e267433b12183--woman-reading-portrait-paintings
Leslie Prince Thompson

Last year, I made a set of resolutions for my reading life—since I know I would never be able to keep any resolutions about exercise, being more social, etc. I planned to whittle down my to-read list, read a classic novel (pre-1950) every month, and be better about keeping up my reading journal.

I mostly got there. I was doing pretty good until November, when I tried to read The Turn of the Screw. Other than that, I did manage to read a pre-1950 novel or novella every month in 2014. I did resurrect my reading journal (which has gotten more useful lately). But for every book I took off the to-read list, another one (or two) went back on. ::sigh::

I’ve been thinking about these resolutions for a while. I think I can stick to them for a year.

  1. Keep reading a classic a month. There are so many books I missed while I was an undergraduate. Even with all the new books coming out every week, it’s important to look back at books with true staying power.
  2. Re-read a book I already own once a month. While I was listening to Good Omens, I developed a strong urge to re-read the book. It’s been a while. Also, over the break, I visited a bookstore and found a few more titles to add to my library. When I returned home, I had to shuffle things around to make room for them. My shelves are packed with great reads; it would be a pity to let them languish. So, more re-reading in 2015.

The List, 2013-2014

It’s that time of year again. It’s time to reveal how many books I’ve read during the past twelve months. Since 1 September 2013, I have completed the following 216 titles (since my new blog theme doesn’t show numbers for lists):

  1. The Luminaries, by Eleanor Catton
  2. Dark Triumph, by Robin LaFevers
  3. The Madman’s Daughter, by Megan Shepherd
  4. The Cusanus Game, by Wolfgang Jeshke
  5. Others of My Kind, by James Sallis
  6. Never Go Back, by Lee Child
  7. The Windsor Faction, by D.J. Taylor
  8. Odds Against Tomorrow, by Nathaniel Rich
  9. The Bat, by Jo Nesbø
  10. Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl, by David Barnett
  11. Jar City, by Arnaldur Indriðason
  12. This House is Haunted, by John Boyne
  13. The Lies of Locke Lamora, by Scott Lynch
  14. Annihilation, by Jeff VanderMeer
  15. The Night Guest, by Fiona McFarlane
  16. I Am Forbidden, by Anouk Markovits
  17. Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow
  18. The Heavens Rise, by Christopher Rice
  19. The Kill Room, by Jeffrey Deaver
  20. Homeland, by Cory Doctorow
  21. Niceville, by Carsten Stroud
  22. Hild, by Nicola Griffith
  23. The Sleep Room, by F.R. Tallis
  24. Stella Bain, by Anita Shreve
  25. Johannes Cabal: the Fear Institute, by Jonathan L. Howard
  26. The Ghost of the Mary Celeste, by Valerie Martin
  27. Hyperbole and a Half, by Allie Brosh
  28. The Book Thief, by Marcus Zusak
  29. A Reliable Wife, by Robert Goolrick
  30. The Patron Saint of Liars, by Ann Patchett
  31. Plague, by Lisa Hinsley (novella)
  32. Rising Sun, Falling Shadow, by Daniel Kalla
  33. Three Parts Dead, by Max Gladstone
  34. Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, by Gregory Maguire
  35. The Fall of Saints, by Wanjiku wa Ngugi
  36. Solomon the Peacemaker, by Hunter Welles
  37. Heresy, by S.J. Parris
  38. The Zelmenyaners, by Moyshe Kulbak
  39. Night Film, by Marisha Pessl
  40. The Stone Boy, by Sophie Loubière
  41. Something More Than Night, by Ian Tregillis
  42. The Corpse-Rat King, by Lee Battersly
  43. The Dream Runner, by Kerry Schafer
  44. City of Lost Dreams, by Magnus Flyte
  45. The Lifeboat, by Charlotte Rogan
  46. The World’s Strongest Librarian, by Josh Hanagarne
  47. Divergent, by Veronica Roth
  48. Insurgent, by Veronica Roth
  49. Police, by Jo Nesbø
  50. Wake, by Anna Hope
  51. Above, by Isla Morley
  52. Takedown Twenty, by Janet Evanovich
  53. Longbourn, by Jo Baker
  54. The Cormorant, by Chuck Wendig
  55. Revolutionary, by Alex Myers
  56. The Exiles Return, by Elisabeth de Waal
  57. When It’s a Jar, by Tom Holt
  58. A Different Kingdom, by Paul Kearney
  59. Europe in Autumn, by Dave Hutchinson
  60. Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline
  61. The Aftermath, by Rhidian Brook
  62. Wolfhound Century, by Peter Higgins
  63. The Child Thief, by Dan Smith
  64. The Other Tree, by D.K. Mok
  65. Shades of Milk and Honey, by Mary Robinette Kowal (reread)
  66. Glamour in Glass, by Mary Robinette Kowal (reread)
  67. Without a Summer, by Mary Robinette Kowal (reread)
  68. Saints of the Shadow Bible, by Ian Rankin
  69. Seven for a Secret, by Lyndsay Faye
  70. The Waking Engine, by David Edison
  71. The Woken Gods, by Gwenda Bond
  72. Fair and Tender Ladies, by Chris Nickson
  73. The String Diaries, by Stephen Lloyd Jones
  74. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, by Holly Black
  75. A Dark Matter, by Peter Straub
  76. North and South, by Elizabeth Gaskell
  77. The Furies, by Mark Alpert
  78. Three Princes, by Ramona Wheeler
  79. Day of the Oprichnik, by Vladimir Sorokin (novella)
  80. An Officer and Spy, by Robert Harris
  81. Allegient, by Veronica Roth
  82. Hyde, by Daniel Levine
  83. The Time Tutor, by Bee Ridgway (short story)
  84. Altai, by Wu Ming
  85. The Coming, by Andrej Nikolaidis (novella)
  86. London Under, by Peter Ackroyd 
  87. Cress, by Marissa Meyer
  88. Silence of the Grave, by Arnaldur Indriðason
  89. The Quick, by Lauren Owen
  90. Jamaica Inn, by Daphne du Maurier
  91. Dominion, by C.J. Sansom
  92. Afterparty, by Daryl Gregory
  93. Voices, by Arnaldur Indriðason
  94. Sister Wolf, by Ann Arensberg (novella)
  95. Saga, volumes I, II, and III, by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples
  96. In the Company of Thieves, by Kage Baker (short stories)
  97. Rivers, by Michael Farris Smith
  98. The Antiquarian, by Gustavo Faveròn Patriau (novella)
  99. Q-23, by Paul Theroux (novella)
  100. Human Solutions, by Avi Silberstein (novella)
  101. In the Courtyard of the Cabbalist, by Ruchama King Feuerman
  102. The Draining Lake, by Arnaldur Indriðason
  103. Sinful Folk, by Ned Hayes
  104. The Anatomy of Dreams, by Chloe Krug Benjamin
  105. The Colonial Hotel, by Jonathan Bennett (novella)
  106. The World Exchange, by Alena Graedon
  107. The Midnight Witch, by Paula Brackston
  108. Irenicon, by Aidan Harte
  109. Hypothermia, by Arnaldur Indriðason
  110. Love and Treasure, by Ayalet Waldman
  111. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, by Gabrielle Zevin
  112. Raising Steam, by Terry Pratchett
  113. The Weirdness, by Jeremy P. Bushnell
  114. Unwrapped Sky, by Rjurik Davidson
  115. A Highly Unlikely Scenario; Or, a Neetsa Pizza Employee’s Guide to Saving the World, by Rachel Cantor
  116. The Anatomy Lesson, by Nina Siegel
  117. MacTeague, by Frank Norris
  118. Luminous Chaos, by Jean-Christophe Valtat
  119. Seven Kinds of Hell, by Dana Cameron
  120. One Night in Winter, by Simon Sebag Montefiore
  121. The Kraken King, by Meljean Brook (novella)
  122. The Liminal People, by Ayize Jama-Everett (novella)
  123. Shovel Ready, by Adam Sternbergh
  124. A Thing Done, by Tinney S. Heath
  125. The Lewis Man, by Peter May
  126. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
  127. The Raven’s Banquet, by Clifford Beal
  128. Marvel 1602, by Neil Gaiman and Andy Kubert
  129. London Falling, by Paul Cornell
  130. The Well of Tears, by Roberta Trahan
  131. Nights at the Circus, by Angela Carter
  132. Fear, by Gabriel Chevalier
  133. The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories, by Angela Carter (short stories)
  134. Dark Aemilia, by Sally O’Reilly
  135. The Farm, by Tom Rob Smith
  136. Halfskin, by Tony Bertauski
  137. Mortal Fire, by C.F. Dunn
  138. Midnight in Europe, by Alan Furst
  139. Valour and Vanity, by Mary Robinette Kowal
  140. A Better World, by Marcus Sakey
  141. Strange Bodies, by Marcel Theroux
  142. The Serpent of Venice, by Christopher Moore
  143. Traitor’s Blade, by Sebastien de Castell
  144. Red Winter, by Dan Smith
  145. Season of the Witch, by Natasha Mostert
  146. Outrage, by Arnaldur Indriðason
  147. The Setting Sun, by Bart Moore-Gilbert
  148. Boy, Snow, Bird, by Helen Oyeyemi
  149. All Those Vanished Engines, by Paul Park
  150. In Paradise, by Peter Matthiessen
  151. Forty Acres, by Dwayne Alexander Smith
  152. The Midnight Side, by Natasha Mostert
  153. Half a King, by Joe Abercrombie
  154. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, by Alan Bradley
  155. Warburg in Rome, by James Carroll
  156. The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Purse, by Alan Bradley
  157. My Notorious Life, by Kate Manning
  158. Sedition, by Katherine Grant
  159. I am Half-Sick of Shadows, by Alan Bradley
  160. Speaking From Among the Bones, by Alan Bradley
  161. The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches, by Alan Bradley
  162. The Bone Church, by Victoria Dougherty
  163. The Rise and Fall of Great Powers, by Tom Rachman
  164. Blood Red, by Mercedes Lackey
  165. In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollan
  166. Unruly Places, by Alastair Bonnett
  167. Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn (audiobook)
  168. The Buried Life, by Carrie Patel
  169. You’re All Just Jealous of My Jetpack, by Tom Gauld
  170. The Severed Streets, by Paul Cornell
  171. The Black Hour, by Lori Rader-Day
  172. Silent Witnesses, by Nigel McCrery
  173. Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor
  174. The Good Soldier, by Ford Madox Ford (novella)
  175. World War Z, by Max Brooks (audiobook)
  176. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, by David Schafer
  177. The Denouncer, by Paul M. Levitt
  178. Days of Blood and Starlight, by Laini Taylor
  179. Villette, by Charlotte Brontë
  180. Dreams of Gods and Monsters, by Laini Taylor
  181. The Great and Calamitous Tale of Johan Thoms, by Ian Thornton
  182. My Name is Resolute, by Nancy E. Turner
  183. Working Stiff, by Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell
  184. The True and Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters, by Michelle Lovic
  185. Top Secret Twenty-One, by Janet Evanovich
  186. Monuments Men, by Robert Edsel
  187. Sweetness #9, by Stephan Eirik Clark
  188. The Bullet Catcher’s Daughter, by Rod Duncan
  189. The Madonnas of Leningrad, by Debra Dean (novella)
  190. The Book of Life, by Deborah Harness
  191. The Monster’s Wife, by Kate Horsley
  192. Expo 58, by Jonathan Coe
  193. The Android’s Dream, by John Scalzi (audiobook)
  194. Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel
  195. The Heist, by Daniel Silva
  196. Neverhome, by Laird Hunt
  197. Jude the Obscure, by Thomas Hardy
  198. Unspeakable Things, by Laurie Penny
  199. When Women Were Birds, by Terry Tempest Williams
  200. Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon (reread)
  201. Gutenberg’s Apprentice, by Alix Christie
  202. The Betrayers, by David Bezmozgis
  203. Vicious, by V.E. Schwab
  204. City of Stairs, by Robert Jackson Bennett
  205. The Broken Hours, by Jacqueline Baker (novella)
  206. The Day of Atonement, by David Liss
  207. The Cartographer of No Man’s Land, by P.S. Duffy
  208. Help for the Haunted, by John Searles
  209. The Resurrectionist, by Matthew Guinn
  210. Written in My Heart’s Own Blood, by Diana Gabaldon
  211. The Frozen Dead, by Bernard Morgan
  212. A Little Folly, by Jude Morgan
  213. The Beautiful Land, by Alan Averill
  214. A Burnable Book, by Bruce Holsinger
  215. Broken Monsters, by Lauren Beukes
  216. Life Goes On, by Hans Keilson

Best books of 2013-2014

Since I can’t recommend every book I’ve read in the past twelvemonth (because I don’t think you all have that kind of time), here are the best ones:

  1. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, by Gabrielle Zevin: This is a sweet and moving story of a book store owner who suddenly becomes a father. If you’re a reader, this book is for you. 
  2. The Book Thief, by Marcus Zusak: Words are powerful, even when the world is falling apart. This book is captivating and beautiful.
  3. Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline: I adored this modern epic. It’s a great ride.
  4. The Word Exchange, by Alena Graedon: When words are commercialized, the effects are terrifying.
  5. Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow: Even though this book was written during the height of Patriot Act paranoia, it’s still chillingly relevant. Plus, it’s good, geeky fun.
  6. Longbourn, by Jo Baker: Writing anything new about Pride and Prejudice is next to impossible, but Jo Baker has created something amazing in her tale of the Bennett family’s servants.
  7. Strange Bodies, by Marcel Theroux: This is a delightfully bizarre story of resurrection and writing.
  8. In Paradise, by Peter Matthiessen: Holocaust literature will always be unsettling and vexed and unmoving, but this is one of the few that can offer catharsis.
  9. Night Film, by Marisha Pessl: I love ambiguous mysteries; you get more than one story for your money. 
  10. The Bloody Chamber, by Angela Carter: These are the the best fairy tale retellings I’ve ever found.

Woefully underrated authors

Several of the book sites and podcasts I follow have been talking about under-the-radar books or finding out about new authors that people aren’t really talking about. This post is my contribution. I’m only including authors who’ve written more than one non-series book that I’ve read and liked, otherwise this would just be another book recommendation post.

200px-AnneBronte
Anne Brontë

Anne Brontë

Her sisters Charlotte and Emily get all the attention. As much as I love Jane Eyre, I adore both of Anne Brontë’s novels The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and Agnes Grey. Her books were full of more anger and honesty than you’d expect from Victorian literature. Her characters feel like real people you could meet, even today.

S.G. Browne

I recommend Browne’s books to readers who have off-kilter senses of humor and his novel, Fated, is a personal favorite of mine. I collect funny writers because they are so very hard to find. Like another of my favorite funny writers, Christopher Moore, Browne balanced the funny with the serious, making both all the more poignant.

Daryl Gregory

I’ve been reading Daryl Gregory since Pandemonium came out in 2008. His writing has only gotten better since. The premises of each book has been startling and original. He leaves you thinking about questions that would vex the best philosophers. His latest book, Afterparty, has appeared on John Scalzi’s blog in the Big Ideas series and I’ve seen the book reviewed more widely than any of his past books. Gregory really does deserve to be more widely read.

Karen Maitland

I love Maitland’s dark historical fiction. I first read The Owl Killers, then rushed out to find a copy of Company of Liars. So many novels in the genre omit the grittier elements of their settings, but Maitland pulls no punches. Further, she pinpoints times of crisis in her novels, crises that mean the characters have to face a change in their paradigms.

Marcel Theroux

Marcel Theroux’s novel, Far North, was recommended to me and I completely fell in love with it. Now that I’ve read Strange Bodies, I’m waiting impatiently for his next book. Like Daryl Gregory, Theroux writes terrific speculative fiction. His books are beautifully written. They bridge the gap between science fiction and literary fiction in a way that doesn’t feel like a literary writer moonlighting to show off.

A word about Anthony Marra. Last year, I read Marra’s A Constellation of Vital Phenomena. When I finished, I immediately started recommending it to all my reading friends. I pestered my library director until he read it. For months, it seemed like I was the only person talking about this book. That changed in the fall and I am so pleased. I guess he’s not under-the-radar anymore.