Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017's best reads

I managed to read 76 books in 2017, according to Goodreads. I would estimate, let's say, 6 or so are graphic novels or collections of comics, so let's put novels and novellas read at 69. What follows after this paragraph is a list of books to which I deemed worthy of applying 5 stars on Goodreads.

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt
Winterglass by Benjanun Sriduangkaew
Shark by Will Self
Umbrella by Will Self
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Agents of Dreamland by Caitlín R. Kiernan
Home by Nnedi Okorafor
Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
Uzumaki by Junji Ito
The Arrival of Missives by Aliya Whiteley
All Those Vanished Engines by Paul Park
Splinter by Adam Roberts
Human Acts by Han Kang
The Folding Star by Alan Hollinghurst

I did not hit gender parity this year, I'm afraid. I read 43% women, and 2.66% non-cis folks. As always, it's not challenging for me to read "more women!" as if it's something I'm required to do. Rather, I like reading everything and women have made significant contributions to the types of genre fiction I like reading, such as Benjanun Sriduangkaew, Ann Leckie, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Nnedi Okorafor, and others. Unlike film, I never have problems accessing women authors and some of my favourite authors are women. As per usual, I'd like to increase my ratio, and incorporate more non-binary and trans writers into my reading. Luckily, one of my all time fav writers of short stories, Casey Plett, has a novel coming out (she is trans) and I very much look forward to reading it.

Not as many perfect scores as last year. Still, the ones that were amazing reads were life-changing, such as Plath and finally finishing Moby-Dick, which was way easier than I was expecting. In terms of goals I set for myself last year (finish the handful of series I had started in years past), I did end up reading more Wolfe and more Adam Roberts, but I did not read any Paul McAuley or M. John Harrison. I now own full series from McAuley (two series!), Harrison, Paul Park, and a handful of other dudes I haven't begun yet. Another year and I accumulated, by an absurd ratio, more books than I could ever hope to read.

If I had to diagnose some trends with my reading in 2017, I would happily point to my dissatisfaction with traditional modes of realism (not a surprise) and aesthetics. Two of my favourite reads this year were the first two in Will Self's modernist trilogy. Aliya Whiteley, Nina Allan, and Ali Smith were trying new things out and I followed them happily; either they were playing with narrative or playing with aesthetics or both, and I was right there with them. The more difficult or inaccessible, the more I seemed to like it (with the exception of Lisa L. Hannett's Lament for the Afterlife, which I had been hoping was even more difficult).

Something I've been thinking about in terms of goals for 2018, a fool's errand as always, as my years of blogging wishful thinking can attest, is perhaps I need to focus more on quality than quantity. In years past, I've tried reading as much as I can, which meant piling on novellas and pulp novels. There's nothing wrong with pulp or shorter works, but I tend to prioritize these over longer, more difficult works. So perhaps in 2018, I might try tackling longer works without worrying about hitting an arbitrary number of novels. Maybe I only finish 35 novels in 2018? Or even 25? What if I finally finish Infinite Jest or Les Miz or any of the mammoth Victorian novels I have kicking around? What an accomplishment. I have a short list of Big Fat Novels I'd like to read, but I fear posting the list might jinx me.

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