Jan 01 2020

Taking Stock of 2019

My reading jumped another 10 books or so in 2019. I know when, but I don’t really know why. In January, I had been pretty seriously ill (for me, at least). In February, when I was recovered, I read 17 books. That’s not much for, say, Jo Walton or Nicholas Whyte, but it’s the most I’ve read in a single month in many years, probably the most any month this century. Between the sudden burst in February and being a Hugo reader again this year (in lieu of actually attending Worldcon, alas), I read 81 books this year. That’s the most this century, too. Eight of those I don’t plan to write about, two are on the to-do list, so I have written something in the neighborhood of 70,000 words about 71 books over the course of 2019.

I read six books in German (same as 2018), four graphic works (or maybe five, depending on what one thinks of How To), and seven in translation (one from Franch, one from Russian, one from Japanese, one from German, and three from Polish). I think Don’t Panic was a re-read; otherwise, it was all new books this year. That’s unusual for me, the result, I think, of the round of Hugo reading and a concerted but so far largely unsuccessful effort to clear space in the very limited shelving in our Berlin apartment. I read thirty-one works written by women, and Wikipedia says that the gender of the author of The Promised Neverland is not known to the general public.

In June I pulled a couple dozen or so books out of the basement, where they had been languishing in the very outer reaches of t-b-r land. More than half of those are in German, and the largest share from a series that the Süddeutsche Zeitung published in 2008, presenting 20 books related in some way to Munich, where I lived from 1998 to 2008. Five of the six books I read in German this past year are from this series. (The sixth is about contemporary Poland, which I read for my first visit to Warsaw in 20 years of more.) I have enjoyed seeing familiar locations portrayed in art, and stories in the same general setting across decades. Of the six authors, four were new to me. The only book from the Munich set that I had read before 2019 was by Thomas Mann; the book was a new collection, and thus new to me too, but the author was not. If I continue with the set, all of the other authors will be new to me. Before the Munich books, the Süddeutsche also published two runs of “50 great novels of the 20th century.” I have read about half of the first set, and have written about them here, here, here, and here. Further, the Süddeutsche published a set of books that characterize great cities of the world. The only one of those 20 that I am sure I have is Das Haus an der Moskwa by Yuri Trofonov, which is known in English as The House on the Embankment. Its setting was sometimes known as the House of Government. The various Süddeutsche sets will probably be the source of the lion’s share of my reading in German in the near future.

Best sequel to a perfect book, The Privilege of the Sword by Ellen Kushner. Best frolic with a time-tested premise, Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor. Best alternate New Orleans, The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark. Best mashup involving Roman legionaries in Texas, The Incorruptibles by John Hornor Jacobs. Book that best beat expectations, A Backpack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka by Lev Golinkin. Best recent book that I read in 2019, Becoming (more here) by Michelle Obama. Best not-so-recent book that I read in 2019, The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes.

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

Norse Myths by Ingri and Edgar D’Aulaire
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Hitler’s Empire by Mark Mazower
Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang
All the World’s a Stage by Boris Akunin
A Backpack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka by Lev Golinkin
Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch
The Privilege of the Sword by Ellen Kushner
The Tower of the Swallow by Andrzej Sapkowski
Don’t Panic by Neil Gaiman
Wheel of the Infinite by Martha Wells
My Real Children by Jo Walton
The Labyrinth Index by Charles Stross
Why We Took the Car by Wolfgang Herrndorf
Expedition zu den Polen by Steffen Möller
Pump Six and Other Stories by Paolo Bacigalupi
Head On by John Scalzi
Rocannon’s World by Ursula K. Le Guin
Lost Kingdom by Serhii Plokhy
Golden Hill by Francis Spufford
Planet of Exile by Ursula K. Le Guin
You Are One of Them by Elliott Holt
City of Illusions by Ursula K. Le Guin
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
The Bridge by David Remnick
The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
Seven Surrenders by Ada Palmer
Border by Kapka Kassabova
The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins
The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein
All These Vanished Engines by Paul Park
The Lady of the Lake by Andrzej Sapkowski
A Deepness in the Sky by Vernor Vinge
Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor
The House of Unexpected Sisters by Alexander McCall Smith
The Road to Unfreedom by Timothy Snyder
Luna: New Moon by Ian McDonald
Benjamin Franklin by Walter Isaacson
Barbarossa by Alan Clark
Father in a Fix by Neil Boyd
Molotov’s Magic Lantern by Rachel Polonsky
Becoming by Michelle Obama and more Becoming
Luna: Wolf Moon by Ian McDonald
Der Vater eines Mörders by Alfred Andersch
Luna: Moon Rising by Ian McDonald
The Night Manager by John Le Carré
Welcome to Lagos by Chibundu Onuzo
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
An Informal History of the Hugos by Jo Walton
Conversations on Writing by Ursula K. Le Guin and David Naimon
Trauben im Gras by Wolfgang Koeppen
The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal
Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse
The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark
Binti: Home by Nnedi Okorafor
Binti: The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor
Artificial Condition by Martha Wells
The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard
Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach by Kelly Robson
The Boxer Rebellion by Diana Preston
Hexarchate Stories by Yoon Ha Lee
Son of Heaven by David Wingrove
The Incorruptibles by John Hornor Jacobs
How To by Randall Munroe
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
Schellingstrasse 48 by Walter Kolbenhoff
The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes
Structuring the State by Daniel Ziblatt
Sandman: Brief Lives written by Neil Gaiman
Sandman: World’s End written by Neil Gaiman
Edge of Empires: A History of Georgia by Donald Rayfield
The Woman Who Died a Lot by Jasper Fforde
The Fall of the Kings by Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman
Süden und der Straßenbahntrinker by Friedrich Ani
Legacy of Ashes by Tim Weiner
The Promised Neverland #4 written by Kaiu Shirai
A Symphony of Echoes by Jodi Taylor
Herrn Dames Aufzeichnungen by Franziska Gräfin zu Reventlow
1968: The Year That Rocked the World by Mark Kurlansky
Nobody Leaves by Ryszard Kapuscinski
The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin

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