Jan 05 2016

Taking Stock of 2015

In 2015, I decided to read in three major science fiction and fantasy series that I had somehow missed over the previous twenty years or more. While I had been happily reading other things, they had grown into monuments of the field, and I only knew second-hand what they were all about. So I decided to at least have a look. I was inspired in part by the serendipity of finding a trove of Discworld books in Basel, where I had been traveling for work, and in part by Jo Walton’s enthusiasm for Vlad Taltos and Mike Vorkosigan, as explicated in What Makes This Book So Great. As it turns out, I did not quite get to any of the Vorkosigan books last year, and I only read two Taltos books (though I liked them both), so I still have those to look forward to. Iain M. Banks’ Culture novels are also on my radar for similar reasons. Discworld, on the other hand, has me hooked. I read a good dozen of the books in 2015, and I am finding them everything they were promised to be: hilarious, humane, heartening.

There was slightly less Poland in my reading than last year, but a large chunk of it was Czeslaw Milosz’s History of Polish Literature. I haven’t quite finished blogging about the book, but as I said in my first post about it, every literature should be so fortunate as to have a Nobel laureate to write its history.

2015 was also the year I started reading books on my phone’s screen. The experiment got off to a shaky start, and I am still not a huge fan of this form of reading. I suspect that if I were commuting, I would read more that way. When I had long commutes in Moscow, I read a lot on my Kindle, so I know I’m not averse to e-readers per se.

Non-fiction books that stand out in my recollection, beyond the Milosz, include Midnight at the Pera Palace by Charles King, Jo Walton’s collection of enthusiasms What Makes This Book So Great, Shirley Jackson’s perfect memoir Raising Demons, and Ryszard Kapuscinski’s three meditations on power: The Emperor, Shah of Shahs and Another Day of Life.

I re-read two books in 2015. Barry Hughart’s Bridge of Birds is a delight that I have read many times and have to be careful about picking up because I know I won’t be able to put it down again. Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner is a major work in the history of science fiction, and it stands up well.

The Wolfhound Century trilogy by Peter Higgins is an amazing achievement. I’m still trying to figure out what to say about the third book beyond “breathtaking” and “audacious.” Granted, not everyone will want to read a series that starts out as a police procedural in an alternative history Russia suffused with elements of fantasy and science fiction, but people who don’t are missing out. I suspect that publishing the books at widely spaced intervals meant that they did not get as much attention as they should (the first has a cliffhanger ending, and while that doesn’t matter now that they are all out, it annoyed some reviewers at the time). I see that Dave Hutchinson’s Europe in Autumn may be growing into a series, and I am looking forward to reading the next book. I can still hear how many inflections the characters in The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison put on the word “Serenity,” even with hardly an adverb in sight. That one may get re-read. After reading The Merchant and The Alchemist’s Gate, I am looking forward to more by Ted Chiang.

I finished two books in German in 2015, Viva Polonia by Stefan Möller and Simple Storys by Ingo Schulze. I would like my reading in German to be a slightly larger share of what I read, but I am also lazy about it.

Full list, roughly in order read, is under the fold with links to my reviews here at Frumious.

Eight Pieces of Empire by Lawrence Scott Sheets
Mort by Terry Pratchett
Wolfhound Century by Peter Higgins
The Whisper of the River by Ferrol Sams
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield
Truth and Fear by Peter Higgins; a related post
The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett
What Makes This Book So Great by Jo Walton
Midnight at the Pera Palace by Charles King
The Mallet of Loving Correction by John Scalzi
The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett
Valour & Vanity by Mary Robinette Kowal
Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart
Sourcery by Terry Pratchett
Inside Job by Connie Willis
Age of Ambition by Evan Osnos
Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett
Muse of Fire by Dan Simmons
What If? by Randall Munroe
The Martian by Andy Weir
The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate by Ted Chiang
Pyramids by Terry Pratchett
So, Anyway by John Cleese
The End of the Sentence by Maria Dahvana Headley and Kat Howard
What Makes Sammy Run? by Budd Shulberg
Jhereg by Steven Brust
Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett
Eric by Terry Pratchett
Europe in Autumn by Dave Hutchinson
Viva Polonia by Stefan Möller
Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner
The History of Polish Literature by Czeslaw Milosz. Several posts: beginnings through the eighteenth century, a side note, Romanticism – the crux of the book, Romanticism and Positivism, Young Poland, Independent and Postwar Poland, Reflections
Lock In by John Scalzi
Yendi by Steven Brust
Od Magic by Patricia A. McKillip
Moving Pictures by Terry Pratchett
The Time of Contempt by Andrzej Sapkowski
Simple Storys by Ingo Schulze
The Annihilation Score by Charles Stross
Raising Demons by Shirley Jackson
Life Among the Savages by Shirley Jackson
Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett
The Well-Favored Man by Elizabeth Willey
Of Noble Family by Mary Robinette Kowal
The End of All Things by John Scalzi
The Emperor by Ryszard Kapuscinski
New Amsterdam by Elizabeth Bear
Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett
Shah of Shahs by Ryszard Kapuscinski
Remake by Connie Willis
Another Day of Life by Ryszard Kapuscinski
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Small Gods by Terry Pratchett
Brayan’s Gold by Peter V. Brett
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
The Agonizing Resurrection of Victor Frankenstein by Thomas Ligotti
Cauldron by Jack McDevitt
Nobody’s Home by Tim Powers
Salvage and Demolition by Tim Powers
The Just City by Jo Walton
The Thirty Years War by C.V. Wedgwood
[Read but not yet reviewed]
Radiant State by Peter Higgins
Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie

Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2016/01/05/taking-stock-of-2015/

2 comments

  1. I am not brave enough to put up a link to every single book I read in 2015, but I suppose I should write at least something.

  2. The links are just to the books that I blogged. Clickbait! “These book reviews are INSANELY GREAT! You won’t believe what’s said in #17!!”

    An advantage of my reading only a third as many books as you do is that it’s easier to write about the lot of them. That was also a resolution of mine for 2015, which I kept for 5/6 of the time, and still hope to catch up on. There are also a few more read-but-not-yet-blogged, but I am away from the location of my paper listing just now.

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