2016 Reading Challenge

About a year ago, I posted a run-down of the books I read in 2015, as well as three separate posts detailing my reading plans for 2016. Brevity may be the soul of wit, but it is not the soul of this blog.

That was early January, but since it feels unlikely that I’m going to finish anything tomorrow, I thought I’d get a jump on the reflecting. This year, I made myself a spreadsheet to track my reading (my engineer husband is so proud). I finished 87 books. Of those, 42 were written by people of color, which is a drastic improvement from my mostly-white 2015 reading list. The breakdown of author gender was pretty similar, with about 2/3 female authors and only one non-binary author.

Wiser people write about the issue of diversity in publishing every day, but here’s my two cents: I had a harder time finding new fiction by people with backgrounds different from my own. These books were not always on library or bookstore shelves. Many of the ones I did find were indie or self-published, rather than from a major publishing house. The discrepancy has certainly made me more conscious about where I spend my book-buying dollars.

I read more nonfiction this year- thirteen books total. A good percentage of those were writing books that I read in an effort to improve my own craft, or maybe figure out what genre the book I’m writing is (With some help from friends and books, I’ve settled on calling it paranormal suspense). Reading with a goal in mind helps decrease the feeling that I’m doing pointless homework.

There was less fantasy this year, or maybe it just looks that way because I stopped lumping “paranormal” in with “fantasy.” There were a lot more romances this year—I was craving happy endings, for sure. According to my lovely spreadsheet I read somewhere in the neighborhood of 24,600 pages total, which is a basically meaningless number because of font sizes and different editions and illustrations and such, but still fun to look at.

I’ll be back sometime next week to let you know what to expect from this blog in 2017 (hint: it is mostly books and yelling about The Magicians). In the meantime, here are my favorites from the past twelve months:

Favorite New Series: Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate. I picked up Soulless back when it first came out in 2009. I can’t remember if I was having paranormal burnout or het romance burnout or what, but I didn’t finish it then. I’m so pleased I got it out of the library again. I’ve never purchased a box set that fast.

Favorite Continuing Series: The Obelisk Gate is the second book in the Broken Earth Trilogy. N.K. Jemisin continues to break my heart in new and creative ways.

Favorite Re-Imagined StoryThe Goose Girl by Shannon Hale. I love a good fairy tale retelling. Even though I’ve never read Hale before, this felt like coming home.

Favorite Classic That I Finally Got Around ToKindred by Octavia Butler. Newer, as “classics” go, but wrenching and still so necessary.

Favorite Comic: I am a little sad to be coming to the end of Alan Moore’s run on Swamp Thing, which gets better and better as it goes.

Favorite Surprise Discovery/Debut Author: I’ve already written about how much I found Mishell Baker’s Borderline thanks to a bookstore staff recommendation. It’s a stunning paranormal mystery full of complex characters, fairies, and modern Hollywood intrigue, and I’m so so happy I picked it up.

Favorite Overall: Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen is the 16th book in Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga. Bujold has incredible range as a writer, but this is how I like her best—sci-fi with a twist of family drama, romance, and comedy.

What other excellent and life-changing literature did you experience this year? Tell me in the comments, and have a safe and happy new year.

Getting Books

I’m still rushing around doing holiday things and visiting people. I’m writing this from a hotel room in Times Square, where my husband took me last night for my big Christmas present. More on that present later, it’s bookish in nature so it will get a post of its own on Wednesday.

On Friday I posted about the books that I gave this year, so today I thought I’d post about the books I received.

Winter Stroll by Elin Hilderbrand

This was my only “surprise” book this year, one that wasn’t on my list. I haven’t read this author before, but judging from the summary this is a family comedy-romance set around a Nantucket holiday tradition. I’ve never been to Nantucket’s stroll, but I’ve been to similar events in other New England towns. I might save this one for next year when I need to get in the spirit.

The rest of the books were on my wish list, which was circulated throughout my family. Most of the books I’ve asked for over the last few years are comics. I like to read trades, which are paperback books that collect several issues of a comic book. They can be on the expensive side, usually about $20 a piece, and I don’t tend to buy them for myself. That makes it a little bit special, the perfect wish list item.

Fables, Volume 14: Witches, by Bill Willingham (author) and Mark Buckingham (illustrator)

I’ve been reading this series for a while now. It was a slow starter for me at first, but after a few volumes I fell in love with this story of folkloric and fictional characters trying to make it in modern New York. If you’re a fan of shows like Once Upon a Time and Grimm, I highly recommend this series. Willingham was fracturing these fairy tales and solving crimes with the Big Bad Wolf well before the current trend.

Locke and Key, Volume 3: Crown of Shadows, by Joe Hill (author) and Gabriel Rodriguez (illustrator)

The first volume of Locke and Key, a fast-paced supernatural mystery about a family who moves to a spooky house in a New England town called Lovecraft. Rookie horror mistake, especially when the person penning your story is Stephen King’s son. I was hooked from the heart-pounding, gory opening scene until the twisty end. The second volume is slower, with more pages devoted to explaining the characters’ backstory and the powers of the Keyhouse. The villains are still at large, the heroes are still vulnerable, and I’m looking forward to the action picking up again in this volume.

Saga of the Swamp Thing Book Four, by Alan Moore (author), Steven Bissette and Stan Woch (illustrators)

Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta was one of the first Western (read: not manga) comics I bought in high school, and in college I read Watchmen with equal enthusiasm. I took a break from him after being disappointed by my foray into The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, but I decided to try again when I saw that my library carried the first book from his run of Swamp Thing. Moore was writing for this series in the 1980s, and his work would influence horror comics for years to come. One of the issues in this book, Bogeyman, gets a shout out in one of my favorite issues of Sandman (see below), and I’m happy to finally get the reference. Even if it’s a gross reference.

The Absolute Sandman, Volume 4, by Neil Gaiman

I read all the original Sandman comics in high school, mostly getting the trades out of the library. Over the past few years I’ve been collecting The Absolute Sandman, which reprints the comics in huge hardcover books. I do mean huge- each book has the equivalent of two or three trades in it, plus some additional material like original scripts or stories. I can always tell when I got one of these, because it’s the heaviest present under the tree. The series has definitely rewarded my re-reading, and I’m looking forward to diving into this volume soon.

That’s what I got for Christmas. How about you? Any interesting books or book-related presents this holiday? Are you home for the holidays, home from the holidays, or still traveling? I started this post in the hotel room, but I’m finishing it in a Starbucks because my husband and I have become nomads who don’t know when we’ll have wireless again.