Brigdh (wordsofastory) wrote,

2019 in books

Here are my final notes on my 2019 reading, in the form of a meme stolen from several people. And I'm only posting it three weeks after the New Year! That's almost an accomplishment, considering that last year I never did get around to doing a similar recap.

How many books read in 2019?
68, which is significantly less than usual! 2018 was 83, for example, and 2017 was 102. Possibly the gap is because I didn't keep track of books I read for work (since I usually don't feel like writing reviews of someone's incredible dull thesis), or if I did genuinely read less this year.

The first book you read in 2019:
The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon. Excellent horror with an uncomfortable amount of racism.

The last book you finished in 2019:
Mrs Martin’s Incomparable Adventure by Courtney Milan. Elderly lesbian hijinks!

The first book you will finish (or did finish!) in 2020:
Trading in Danger by Elizabeth Moon, finished last week! Though, uh, obviously I haven't reviewed it yet.

Fiction/Non-Fiction ratio?
15 nonfiction, 53 fiction.

Male/Female authors?
40 women, or at least partly women, in the case of anthologies.

Non-white authors?
21 authors of color, which ugh, I should have done better than that.

Most books read by one author this year?
I read three each by Courtney Milan (Her Every Wish; After the Wedding; and Mrs Martin’s Incomparable Adventure), Barbara Hambly (Pale Guardian; Prisoner of Midnight; and Lady of Perdition), and Yoon Ha Lee (Ninefox Gambit; Raven Stratagem; and Revenant Gun). Though I have Hexarchate Stories waiting on my shelf, so Lee almost pulled ahead! Though also I almost reread Lady of Perdition, so it might have been a tie again.

How many books in each format?
I believe 26 hard copies and all the rest ebooks, though I didn't keep track while I was reading so I might be misremembering one or two.

Top Five Favorite books read?
In no particular order:

Ninefox Gambit
The Raven Tower
Under the Pendulum Sun
My Best Friend’s Exorcism
The Changeling

All of them were fantastic and haven't left my mind.

Best books you read in 2019?
I like that this is a different question than 'favorite'! I think I'll go with Ninefox Gambit which is such a perfectly crafted puzzle of plot, character, and world.

Least favorite?
The Wolf and the Watchman for an incredibly nasty, depressing slog through historical gore.

Most disappointing book/Book you wished you loved more than you did?
Jezebel: The Untold Story of the Bible’s Harlot Queen should have been much deeper and wider-researched that it was; Black Leopard Red Wolf was absolutely NOT the 'African Game of Thrones' everyone promised; The Invited came nowhere close to living up to the author's previous book; but I think I'll go with The Merchant’s Partner for having BOTH a murder mystery with a terribly obvious solution and terribly-done, misinformed historical research.

Best series you discovered in 2019?
Gotta be Machineries of Empire, no competition. And only partly because I didn't read many new series this year.

Favorite new author you discovered this year?
I'll say a tie between Yoon Ha Lee and Jeannette Ng. I read more of Lee this year, but Ng only has one book out and I really like reading her twitter threads.

Oldest book read?
The two stories in The Rim of Morning were originally published in 1937 ("To Walk the Night") and 1939 ("The Edge of Running Water"). If that doesn't count, Let Me Breathe Thunder is also from 1939. No books over a century old! I feel like that's unusual for me.

The Companion wasn't officially published until Jan 14, 2020 (I read an ARC), which makes it by far the most recent.

Longest book title?
The Truffle Underground: A Tale of Mystery, Mayhem, and Manipulation in the Shadowy Market of the World's Most Expensive Fungus and God, War, and Providence: The Epic Struggle of Roger Williams and the Narragansett Indians against the Puritans of New England are tied at 20 words each!

Shortest title?
Three tied at a single word long: Foundryside, Rosewater, and Quichotte.

How many re-reads?
0. I haven't been much for rereading lately; there's so many new books to cram in!

Any in translation?
Only 3: The Wolf and the Watchman (translated from Swedish), I Remember You (translated from Icelandic), and Fever Dream (translated from Spanish).

How many of this year's books were from the library?
Again, this is an estimate because I didn't keep track while reading, but: 13.

How many books did you buy?
Oh, Christ, far too many.

Book that most changed my perspective:
Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash made me think a lot about recycling, landfills, and single-use items, which was backed up by the many news articles announcing various countries refusing to continue to be the Western world's dumping ground. I feel like this is going to become a major problem in very short order.

Favorite character:
Well, it's always Hannibal Sefton, but he didn't get a particularly character-deepening role in this year's Benjamin January book, so I'll go with either Shuos Jedao (Ninefox Gambit and sequels) or The Strength and Patience of the Hill (The Raven Tower).

Favorite scene:
Rosewater using psychics to create a mental firewall around a bank reoccurs to me every time I make a deposit in an ATM. The climax of A Judgment of Dragons, where creations defy the god that made them, was simply amazing. When (SPOILER) died in Tiamat's Wrath (the one who turned out not to be dead, later in the book). Oddly perhaps, the cute baby scenes in the early parts of The Changeling, like the father posting too many photos of his son to Facebook.

Most inspirational in terms of own writing?
Huh. I don't think anything was, particularly. Most likely it would be one of the boring theses I didn't actually record, because at least I can do better than that.

How many you'd actually read again?
As I said, I haven't been much for rereading lately, but Machineries of Empire absolutely deserves a second look, especially now that I know how everything ends and so many characters' backstories. And I always reread the Benjamin January books more than once.

A book that you never want to read again:
SO MANY OF THESE. I feel like I had worse luck than average in 2019.

Book you recommended most to others in 2019?
Probably The Changeling.

The book series you read the most volumes of in 2019:
Machineries of Empire and The Worth Saga are tied at three each.

The genre you read the most in 2019:
Historical fiction. With some fudging, and many books qualifying in more than one category:
Historical fiction - 17
Horror - 11
Science Fiction - 10
Fantasy - 9
Mystery - 9
Pop science nonfiction – 8
Historical nonfiction - 7
Literary fiction - 5
Romance - 3

Your favorite "classic" you read in 2019:
Let Me Breathe Thunder, though it's probably the only one that could be called a "classic". Still, I think it would have liked it best even if it'd had stiffer competition.

The hardest book you read in 2019 (topic or writing style):
Black Leopard Red Wolf was almost a physical struggle to push through the first third or so.

The funniest book you read in 2019:
Bloodlust & Bonnets, though I didn't read much that was laugh-out-loud funny this year.

The saddest book you read in 2019:
The Confessions of Frannie Langton and The Companion were extremely similar depictions of classism, homophobia, sexism, and racism in the lives of servants in the 1800s, leading to death and murder. Not cheery books. Fever Dream, with its depiction of a woman slowly dying in the midst of an unknown environmental disaster, might have them both beat, though.

The shortest book you read in 2019:
According to GoodReads, Her Every Wish at 117 pages.

The longest book that you read in 2019:
Again according to GoodReads, The Priory of the Orange Tree at 848 pages.

Best book that was outside your comfort zone/a new genre for you?
Hmmm, I didn't read anything that was really unusual for me this year. I suppose I don't read a lot of early 20th century literary fiction, so I'll go with Let Me Breathe Thunder.

Most thrilling, unputdownable book of 2019?
The Winter People, at least until the disappointing climax.

Most beautifully written book in 2019?
Perhaps The Raven Tower? Nothing stood out to me on a prose level, but I did like some of the innovations this took with style and voice.

Book you most anticipated in 2019?
Probably Lady of Perdition; I don't even know how many days I spent refreshing Hambly's Facebook page or NetGalley to be sure I got a copy as soon as possible.

Favorite cover of a book you read in 2019?

I like The Inheritor's Powder simple, stylized take – it gets the content across quickly and looks quite nice.

Dread Nation looks like the best sort of movie poster – I love the flag in the background, questioning its role, and the "rise up" which is somehow all the more powerful for being so small.

Although The Changeling's cover isn't very attention-catching, I found myself staring at it so often while reading. I think it's the contrast between the stark, somewhat abstract trees, and the cute cartoonish vibe of the baby, highlighted even more by the difference between their cold blue and his warm brown. The back cover – with the baby crawling away, just about to disappear behind a tree – is even better, but I can't find an image of it online and I already loaned out my copy.

But My Best Friend's Excorcism is the clear winner. The book's 80s setting is so perfectly captured in this spot-on recreation of trashy Blockbuster videos.

Book you can't believe you waited till 2019 to finally read?
I definitely should have listened to the recommendations and read Machineries of Empire sooner, though many of the descriptions made it sound like military sci-fi, which I'm usually not into. Both of the Richard Stevenson books (On the Other Hand, Death and Ice Blues) were lots of fun, and I shouldn't have waited so long after reading the first in the series to continue.

Was there anything you meant to read, but never got to?
So, so, so, many. My TBR list intimates me.

Did you DNF anything?
Not exactly. I did get halfway through The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and The Anarchy: The Relentless Rise of the East India Company before getting distracted by other books, but I plan to go back and finish both of them.

Looking Ahead:
One book you didn't read this year that will be your #1 priority in 2020?

I've been trying to read The Water Dancer for two months now, but for some reason I keep finding my attention drifting away from it. It's a good book! I enjoy the writing, the characters, the plot! I don't know what my problem is, but I really need to buckle down and finish it.

New book you are most anticipating for 2020?
I don't have anything right now that I'm counting down until the release date, but I'm sure I'll find plenty of excellent reads!

The full list of my 2019 books! Most of these I've written reviews for; the few I haven't gotten to yet, I do intend to write up eventually.
1. The Winter People – Jennifer McMahon
2. The Snake, the Crocodile, and the Dog – Elizabeth Peters
3. Dread Nation – Justina Ireland
4. Babel – Gaston Dorren

5. Jezebel: The Untold Story of the Bible’s Harlot Queen – Lesley Hazleton
6. The Kingdom of Copper – S.A. Chakraborty
7. Rosewater – Tade Thompson
8. Her Every Wish – Courtney Milan
9. Ninefox Gambit – Yoon Ha Lee
10. New Suns – Nisi Shawl, ed
11. Raven Stratagem - Yoon Ha Lee
12. The Wolf and the Watchman – Niklas Natt och Dag

13. A Judgment of Dragons – Phyllis Gotlieb
14. Revenant Gun – Yoon Ha Lee
15. The Edge of Anarchy: The Railroad Barons, the Gilded Age, and the Greatest Labor Uprising in America – Jack Kelly
16. Pale Guardian – Barbara Hambly
17. The Raven Tower – Ann Leckie

18. Prisoner of Midnight – Barbara Hambly
19. A Memory Called Empire – Arkady Martine
20. Black Leopard Red Wolf – Marlon James
21. The Third Horseman: A Story of Weather, War and the Famine History Forgot – William Rosen
22. The Truffle Underground: A Tale of Mystery, Mayhem, and Manipulation in the Shadowy Market of the World’s Most Expensive Fungus – Ryan Jacobs

23. Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash – Elizabeth Royte
24. Watchers of the Dead – Simon Beaufort
25. The True Queen – Zen Cho
26. Foundryside – Robert Jackson Bennett
27. Suburban Safari: A Year on the Lawn – Hannah Holmes

28. The Confessions of Frannie Langton – Sara Collins
29. The Perfect Prince: The Mystery of Perkin Warbeck and His Quest for the Throne of England – Ann Wroe

30. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness – Arundhati Roy
31. The Flowers of Vashnoi – Lois McMaster Bujold
32. The Tiger’s Daughter – K. Arsenault Rivera
33. A People’s Future of the United States – Victor LaValle and John Joseph Adams, eds
34. Under the Pendulum Sun – Jeannette Ng

35. The Merchant’s Partner – Michael Jecks
36. I Remember You – Yrsa Siguroardottir
37. The Inheritor’s Powder: A Tale of Arsenic, Murder, and the New Forensic Science – Sandra Hempel
38. The Sixth Victim – Tessa Harris
39. Quichotte – Salman Rushdie

40. The Truth About Animals: Stoned Sloths, Lovelorn Hippos, and Other Tales from the Wild Side of Wildlife – Lucy Cooke
41. The Priory of the Orange Tree – Samantha Shannon
42. Tiamat’s Wrath – James S.A. Corey
43. Lady of Perdition – Barbara Hambly

44. Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places – Colin Dickey
45. The Invited – Jennifer McMahon
46. The Hunger – Alma Katsu
47. Full Throttle – Joe Hill
48. Fever Dream – Samanta Schweblin, translated by Megan McDowell
49. Little Darlings – Melanie Golding
50. The Rim of Morning: Two Tales of Cosmic Horror – William Sloane
51. My Best Friend’s Exorcism – Grady Hendrix
52. The Dinosaur Tourist – Caitlín R. Kiernan

53. The Grip of It – Jac Jemc
54. The Last Pirate of New York: A Ghost Ship, a Killer, and the Birth of a Gangster Nation – Rich Cohen
55. On the Other Hand, Death – Richard Stevenson
56. Bloodlust & Bonnets – Emily McGovern
57. Ice Blues – Richard Stevenson
58. The Changeling – Victor LaValle
59. Labyrinth of Ice: The Triumphant and Tragic Greely Polar Expedition – Buddy Levy
60. Gods of Jade and Shadow – Silvia Moreno-Garcia
61. Let Me Breathe Thunder – William Attaway
61. An Equal Music – Vikram Seth

62. The Companion – Kim Taylor Blakemore
63. Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void – Mary Roach
64. A Death in Harlem – Karla F.C. Holloway
65. The Slow Moon Climbs: The Science, History, and Meaning of Menopause – Susan P. Mattern
66. After the Wedding – Courtney Milan
67. Mrs Martin’s Incomparable Adventure – Courtney Milan

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