Reading 2016

This year I set myself the goal of reading 52 books, where a ‘book’ is a novel, novella, story collection, or non-fiction book. Sadly, I have failed in my quest. Not by much, granted, but I doubt I’m going to finish 5 more books in the next 2 weeks.

I set a couple of rules this year, too. First was no re-reads, because I had so many books I wanted to read for the first time, and I knew re-reads would just slow me down. Second was an even split between books by men and books by women. Of course this second rule made me realise how white my reading was. And also, that binary split potentially allows plenty of non-binary authors to slip through the cracks. Which are two things that I’m going to address in my reading in 2017.

Below the jump, find the lists of all the books and comics I read. The stand-outs are marked in bold, and I’ve added some thoughts on some of them.

1. Drawing Blood, Poppy Z. Brite
2. Ready Player One, Ernest Cline
3. The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood
 – I’m really late to this Margaret Atwood bandwagon, but good lord, The Handmaid’s Tale is an incredible book. Sadly, it’s also quite relevant.
4. A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter J. Miller Jr.
5. The Bloody Chamber, Angela Carter
6. Roadwork, Stephen King (as Richard Bachman)
7. Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
8. The Running Man, Stephen King (as Richard Bachman)
9. Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins
10. The Peripheral, William Gibson
11. Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins
12. The Caryatids, Bruce Sterling
13. Ammonite, Nicola Griffith
 – Ammonite has quite a few similarities to Ursula Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, but if you can only read one, I’d recommend Nicola Griffith’s book. It’s not that The Left Hand of Darkness isn’t a great book, or that it isn’t deserving of being a science fiction classic, but rather it just seems to me that it’s too much about the Cold War. I was too young in the 80s to be gripped by Cold War terror, and looking back now it just seems irrelevant. Anyway, umm, I really enjoyed Ammonite.
14. Elektrograd: Rusted Blood, Warren Ellis
15. Prostitute Laundry, Charlotte Shane
16. In the Dust of this Planet, Eugene Thacker
17. Playing Beatie Bow, Ruth Park
18. The Girl With All The Gifts, M.R. Carey
19. Magic for Beginners, Kelly Link
 – I felt like there were a few stories in this collection that fell flat, but the ones that work? They’re incredible. Kelly Link’s best stories are so good that they simultaneously make me want to keep trying to write short stories so I might one day reach the level of her shorts and make me want to give up writing short stories forever.
20. Atta, Jarret Kobek
21. Children of Men, P.D. James
 – One of those rare cases where you could probably just skip the book in favour of the movie. It’s not a bad book, it’s just a little dry, with some too-convenient coincidences.
22. Transition, Iain Banks
23. The Poison Eaters, Holly Black
24. Embed With Games, Cara Ellison
25. Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel
 – I avoided this book for a while because, even though people raved about it, I find Shakespeare really off-putting. In fact, I can’t remember anything about Brave New World other than it felt like a third of the book was just reprinted Shakespeare. But, Station Eleven is phenomenal. It’s billed as being a book about a troupe traversing a post-apocalyptic land, but that’s really only a third of the book – the rest of the book is about people and the connections they make. It’s about family, and friendship, and love, and hate, and forgiveness, and so much else. It’s beautiful.
26. Styz, Bhavo Dhooge
27. Blood Stain, Peter Lalor
28. A Lament for the Afterlife, Lisa L. Hannett
29. The Girl in the Road, Monica Byrne
 – Whilst I’m still not sure exactly what happened at the end of this book, I love it. It manages to be as inventive as Gibson’s books, whilst still being a book about people, rather than about ideas, entities, and conspiracies.
30. Wolf in White Van, John Darnielle
 – This book really spoke to me in a number of ways. It’s similar to Chuck Palahniuk’s work in that it follows a character with some niche obsessions, and it’s written to keep certain things secret from the reader until the right moment. It differs to Palahniuk’s work though, in that the book doesn’t hinge entirely on some big twist, and Darnielle’s prose is exceptional. This is one of those books that makes me want to one day write something that’s structured in the same way – that slow build-up that manages to be enthralling all the while.
31. Writing the Other, Nisi Shawl & Cynthia Ward
 – I really want to go to a Writing the Other Workshop one day, but in the meantime, this (small) book is a fantastic resource.
32. Coin Locker Babies, Ryu Murakami
 – If you can’t stand violence against dogs, you might need to skim a few sections of the first couple of chapters. At one point I said to myself “One more instance of dog violence and I’m out.” Thankfully there was no more, because this book is bizarre and wonderous and violent and unpredictable and well worth your time.
33. The Ballad of Black Tom, Victor LaValle
– An incredible novella. LaValle does otherworldly horror as well as anyone, but more than that, the horror of this world is present and real, and ultimately makes this book so much more than a Lovecraft homage.
34. A Town Called Dust, Justin Woolley
35. The Dream Quest of Vellit Boe, Kij Johnson
 – Another novella from that reimagines Lovecraft’s vision, and a fantastic read. To me it felt less like Lovecraftian horror and more like fantasy in the vein of Le Guin’s Earthsea books, and considering how much I loved the Earthsea books when I read them last year, that is high praise. It takes a little while to build momentum, but once it does it’s a great story, told with language that is beautiful and unique.
36. Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delaney
 – I wouldn’t give Dhalgren a blanket recommendation because of how dense and bizarre it is, but it is an incredible book. Its prose is literary, beautiful, and occassionally hard to decipher, and it contains just as many elements of magical realism as it does science fiction. Most impressive though are the images of its constantly shifting (and dying?) city, deftly etched into my mind, and the cast of misfits, perverts, and lookie-lous that populate it.
37. Binti, Nnedi Okorafor
38. The Taqwacores, Michael Muhammad Knight
39. Runtime, S.B. Divya
40. Heat and Light, Ellen van Neervan
41. The Eye in the Pyramid (Illuminatus! Trilogy, #1), Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson
42. Hammers on Bone, Cassandra Khaw
 – Absolutely brilliant Lovecraftian noir, hardboiled Cthulhu. Plenty of fantastic description and great turns of phrase.
43. The Golden Apple (Illuminatus! Trilogy, #2), Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson
44. Everything Belongs to the Future, Laurie Penny
45. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
46. The Book of Phoenix, Nnedi Okorafor
 – Phenomenal book with an occassionally breakneck pace and characters who are both brilliant and broken. I also see some similarities between The Book of Phoenix and Killing Gravity – both are the story of a woman who seeks freedom from the people that created her to be a weapon, and (far more minor) they both feature a character named Seven. It’s almost a superhero story, but where morality might stay a mainstream superhero’s hand, Phoenix burns with rage and kills with impunity.
47. Leviathan (Illuminatus! Trilogy, #3), Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson

1. Phonogram, Volume 1, Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie
2. Material, Volume 1, Ales Kot, Will Tempest
3. Eden: It’s An Endless World!, Volume 1, Hiroki Endo
4. Sullivan’s Slugger, Mark Andrew Smith, James Stokoe
5. Phonogram, Volume 2, Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie
6. Metabarons, Volume 1, Alexandro Jodorowsky, Juan Giminez
7. All You Need Is Kill (Manga), Takeshi Obata
8. Private Eye, Volume 1, Brian K. Vaughan, Marcos Martin and Muntsa Vicente
9. Beast, Marian Churchland
10. Morning Glories, Volume 1, Nick Spencer, Joe Eisma
11. Sunstone, Volume 1, Stjepan Šejić
12. Wytches, Scott Snyder, Jock
13. Invincible, Volume 1, Robert Kirkman, Bill Crabtree, Cory Walker
14. Wolf, Volume 1, Ales Kot, Matt Taylor
15. Manhattan Projects, Volume 1, Jonathan Hickman, Nick Pitarra
16. New X-Men, Vol 1 (of 3), Grant Morrison, Various.
17. New X-Men, Vol 2 (of 3), Grant Morrison, Various.
18. New X-Men, Vol 3 (of 3), Grant Morrison, Various.
19. No Mercy, Alex De Campi, Carla Speed McNeil
20. Virgil, Steve Orlando, J.D. Faith
21. Metabarons, Volume 2, Alexandro Jodorowsky, Juan Giminez
22. Lazarus, Volume 1, Greg Rucka, Michael Lark
23. Bitch Planet, Volume 1, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Valentine De Landro, Robert Wilson IV
24. The Surface, Ales Kot, Langdon Foss, Jordie Bellaire
25. The Wrenchies, Farel Dalrymple
26. Kaptara, Volume 1, Chip Zdarsky, Kagan Mcleod
27. Fatale, Volume 1, Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips
28. Preacher, Volume 1, Garth Ennis, Steve Dillon
29. Metabarons, Volume 3, Alexandro Jodorowsky, Juan Giminez