At the end of 2007 I published a list of all the books I had read that year. It was a fun exercise, so in 2008 and 2009 I did it again. And then, for some reason, I stopped. God knows what I was doing that was so fascinating in late December of 2010 and 2011, but apparently I couldn’t find an hour to sit down and bash out a shortish list and some poorly considered opinions on the year’s literature.
The upshot of Younger Me’s laziness is that I now have a list of three year’s worth of books but no clear way to figure out where 2012 started. Using a combination of Amazon receipt emails and trying to recollect whether I received a particular book as a birthday or Christmas gift, I think I’ve ended up with a fairly accurate list — not that anybody else really cares…
In previous years I split my reading list into fiction, non-fiction and fantasy. This year has skewed heavily towards fiction, but I may as well keep the same format for the sake of consistency.
- Infinite Jest (David Foster Wallace)
- For The Win (Cory Doctorow)
- Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland (Lewis Carroll)
- Through The Looking Glass (Lewis Carroll)
- Dracula (Bram Stoker)
- Frankenstein (Mary Shelley)
- A Princess Of Mars (Edgar Rice Burroughs)
- Herland (Charlotte Perkins Gilman)
- The Invisible Man (HG Wells)
- The Martian Chronicles (Ray Bradbury)
- The Left Hand Of Darkness (Ursula K LeGuin)
- Little Brother (Cory Doctorow)
- Anno Dracula (Kim Newman)
- The Stars My Destination (Alfred Bester)
- Ready Player One (Ernest Cline)
- The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress (Robert A Heinlein)
- Citizen Of The Galaxy (Robert A Heinlein)
- Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said (Philip K Dick)
Between July and October I took an online course from Coursera on Fantasy and Science Fiction, which required me to read a book every week and write a short essay on a relevant topic. That syllabus accounts for the middle section of my fiction consumption this year (from Alice’s Adventures… through to Doctorow), but also inspired me to seek out further reading within the genre; classics such as The Stars My Destination and (for some reason) the first Philip K Dick novel I’ve ever picked up.
The literature appreciation aspect of the course also inspired me to start a new reviews blog, where I’ve been posting reviews since late September; I’ve linked to any reviews of books in these lists.
Tuva or Bust! is the story of Richard Feynman’s attempts to reach the geographic centre of Asia; I first read it as a teenager, and the memory has stayed with me for almost twenty years. I finally bought it again, and it’s still a great (if old-fashioned) read. Wil Wheaton’s memoir is also fantastic, one of those books where the hackneyed phrase “raw honesty” genuinely applies.
30 Years of Adventure was a Christmas present from my lovely wife; for anyone with fond memories of adolescent roleplaying, it’s a fascinating look at the creative and business developments behind an almost forty-year-old brand.
- The Heroes (Joe Abercrombie)
- The Blade Itself (Joe Abercrombie)
- The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)
- The Wandering Fire (Guy Gavriel Kay)
- The Darkest Road (Guy Gavriel Kay)
- A Song For Arbonne (Guy Gavriel Kay)
- Red Country (Joe Abercrombie)
I didn’t realise until making this list what a limited range of fantasy authors I had been reading this year. Abercrombie remains my favourite new author, although his latest book Red Country hasn’t immediately jumped to the top of my list of his work. And, as ever, I re-read a fair amount of Kay, even re-buying several books that were lost during last year’s house move.
What is best in (shelf) life?
Of the 31 books I’ve made it through this year, my favourite — the one that had me sitting up until late at night and reading first thing in the morning — was undoubtedly Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One. Wil Wheaton’s book was also very good, and of course I’ll always recommend Joe Abercrombie or Guy Gavriel Kay to anyone with a taste for fantasy.
Sitting in the pile for next year, I have Douglas Coupland’s latest Player One, more LeGuin, Ed The Happy Clown and Peter Bagge comics, Alan Partridge and Stephen Fry autobiographies, several Hemingway novels, Don Quixote, Ulysses and, um, Plato.
I’m looking forward to it.