Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 - My Year in Books

Way back at the start of the year, probably in February or March, I happened upon the “reading challenge” hosted by Goodreads. I’d been using the site before, sporadically, to catalogue my books (it turns out I have too many books, and especially, too many comics), but it was only with the reading challenge that I started to get really into it. I set myself a target: fifty-two books for the year, so in other words, one new book per week.

I was a bit arbitrary with what would count and what wouldn’t. For starters, it had to be a “new” book, one that I hadn’t read before, so re-reading the first two Mass Effect novels didn’t count, but my first time through the third did. On the other hand, I cut myself some slack when it came to Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels. Although I’ve read all but the most recent ones from the last few years, I read many of them when I was very, very young and when it came to re-reading The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic, amongst others, I found I could barely recall them. So, rediscovering those early Discworld novels counted as “new”. I neglected to count individual comics or trade paperback collections thereof, except in the case of maxi-series like Batman’s The Long Halloween, Dark Victory, and Hush (two of which I read in their stupendous Absolute format). I also didn’t, and couldn’t, count all the stories I read in the digital pages of Analog and Asimov’s, since I could only add things contained within Goodreads’ database – even though I did count a couple of shorter stories elsewhere, like Phillip K. Dick’s Minority Report and Will Wheaton’s Hunter.

So, how did I do? In the end I fell short by five ‘books’. I’m currently reading Natsuo Kirino’s Grotesque and finding it quite the uphill battle, partly due to the length (somewhat dwarfing the shorter novels I’d been consuming recently) and partly due to the content (another multi-perspective venture into the Japanese psyche, as is her oeuvre). I don’t think I did too badly all things considered, taking into account the many stories I read, even full length serialised novels, in the SF magazines I subscribe to. I’d also have been a couple of books up if I’d counted some re-reads, though on the other hand if I subtracted anything I’d read before, able to recollect it or not, I’d have been some ten or twelve books further behind.

As for what I actually read...? In more-or-less the order consumed, since Goodreads is a little inconsistent in portraying that:

The Colour of Magic – Terry Pratchett
The Light Fantastic – Terry Pratchett
Hunter – Wil Wheaton
The Last Wish – Andrzej Sapkowski
Equal Rites – Terry Pratchett
Mort – Terry Pratchett
Deus Ex: Icarus Effect – James Swallow
Sourcery – Terry Pratchett
Snow Crash – Neal Stephenson
Minority Report – Phillip K. Dick
Neuromancer – William Gibson
Burning Chrome – William Gibson
Count Zero – William Gibson
Wyrd Sisters – Terry Pratchett
Halo: Contact Harvest – Joseph Staten
Pyramids – Terry Pratchett
Guards! Guards! – Terry Pratchett
Eric – Terry Pratchett
Moving Pictures – Terry Pratchett
Reaper Man – Terry Pratchett
Adrian Mole: From Minor to Major,
Adrian Mole: The Wilderness Years,
Adrian Mole: The Cappucino Years,
Adrian Mole: The Lost Diaries 1999 – 2002,
Adrian Mole and the Weapons of Mass Destruction, &
Adrian Mole: The Prostrate Years – Sue Townsend
A Scanner Darkly – Phillip K. Dick
Icehenge – Kim Stanley Robinson
Mona Lisa Overdrive – William Gibson
Real World – Natsuo Kirino
Witches Abroad – Terry Pratchett
Dead Space: Martyr – B. K. Evenson
Batman: Dark Victory – Jeph Loeb et al
All Tomorrow’s Parties – William Gibson
Absolute Batman: Hush – Jeph Loeb et al.


Robert Reed's "A Billion Eves" was one of my favourites from this year...
I find it interesting looking back on that list and being surprised, seeing titles on there that I’d completely forgotten about. I saw a tweet, recently, from someone noting that the books they’d read on Kindle had stayed with them less than the books they’d read physically, and I was wondering how that added up for me. Unfortunately I’ve rather skewed the results, as I got back from Japan in the middle of the year and promptly switched back to reading far more physical books than digital, meaning the more recent books are the physical ones and thus fresher in my mind anyway. To confuse matters even more, I read far more books earlier in the year, devouring them during my commutes or during downtime at work, and so a few have inevitably been lost in the glut of all that reading. Having said that, I think what’s interesting, looking back, is that many of the stories that have stuck with me the most are short stories. This is the year that I ‘discovered’ William Gibson, amongst others, but it was his short story collection Burning Chrome that I think I enjoyed the most out of everything of his that I read. Similarly, a few stories from Asimov’s and Analog – and that Asimov’s collection, ­Enter a Future – are amongst my favourites for the year as a whole. The thing that links them all, Gibson and magazines alike? I read them all on my Kindle.

Incidentally, if some of the best stories I read this year were shorter things from collections and elsewhere, then undoubtedly the worst was the frankly embarrassing Dead Space: Martyr – but I’ve already said as much elsewhere.
... as was Gibson's unnerving "Hinterlands"

Next year, I think I’m going to set myself a more reasonable goal. Perhaps twenty-six books, or one every two weeks. I think I managed to strike a good balance this year, encouraging myself to read more without reading for the sake of the challenge alone. Certainly it made good use of my free time when I was living in Japan and seemed to spend endless amounts of time on the train, going back and forth. Now that I’m in the UK and any commute I have is in the car, I have a lot less downtime where I could just read – instead I’m most likely at home, where my consoles or television demand equal attention. As a goal, it also acknowledges the amount of time I spend reading my subscriptions, which I’m currently a little behind on having been focusing on finishing Gibson’s Bridge trilogy and slogging my way through a second Kirino.

So, 2012. Twenty-six books. Go!

(P.S. When I finally finish it, I’m already planning on counting Grotesque for 2012. Twenty-five books. Go!)

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