Monday, January 9, 2017

2016 in Books

2016 has been a hard year. This post isn't about that: there's little I could add to the grim, uncertain political commentary of the day. For me personally, it's a year that would have been excellent if it weren't so bad: I gained new opportunities this year and finished my 100-book challenge, setting up for what will hopefully be a year of writing in 2017. There's certainly enough to write about.

Last year I set several goals: to do official Star Wars work, to read more, and to read more books by women. I met that first goal in April, talking about one of my favorite characters from the Star Wars novels. As of Dec. 27 when this post was written I have 105 books on the list of what I've read (including one repeat read that I added to the challenge by mistake), 63 of which were by women. That includes collections edited by women and this manga studio, but not Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

Like 2015, 2016 was a year of finding new favorites.While my reading habits had stagnated a bit before, I'm much more versed in contemporary science fiction and fantasy now. With that comes more series. It's harder to recommend series than stand-alone books, but with that comes the thrill of waiting for the next one: I think any one of these would make a compelling TV series.

There was no new Ann Leckie novel this year. We wait in hope.

Favorite Books 2016

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

It boggles my mind that The Sparrow isn't included in the lists of greats of science fiction very often. A Jesuit mission to an alien planet finds more than it bargained for, and a priest wrestles with his faith. An absolute masterpiece of world-building, nuanced musings on religion, and a dawning sense that anything horrible that can happen to the characters, probably will.

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

Has it really been under a year since I started reading these? The Hugo Award-winning first novel in the series was all I could talk about for a while, and the sequel this summer was equally compelling and incredibly well written. Jemisin has become a force of nature like unto her geothermal wizards.

Cloudbound by Fran Wilde

Updraft, the first book in the series of which Cloudbound is the second, wasn't on my best-of list last year. For some reason, it hit me harder when I re-read it, and I was in full fandom mode by the time the sequel came out. This is a cool science fiction story about people surviving through engineering in a world falling apart, and about a woman who changes the world with the power of her voice. I have a feeling 2017 needs this series, even though it's woefully underappreciated in the world of young adult book fandom.

 Radiance by Catherynne Valente

Cat Valente's vibrant, experimental style has grown on me in a big way this year. Radiance has a great elevator pitch - an alternate retro-future where humanity has spaceships and space colonies but silent film still dominates the entertainment scene. It's a great exploration of point of view and features my favorite of things, a doomed expedition - although the plot isn't really as much of a draw as the writing style.

Every Heart A Doorway by Seanan McGuire

How does an author write about obsession and desperation without the story coming off as thin or small in scope? Make the obsession and desperation the core of the characters, but not of the plot. Seanan McGuire treats the "what happens to the kids when they come back from Narnia" question with grace and adds a bloody murder mystery to a well-realized what-if world.

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