Friday, January 1, 2016

2015 In Review

2015 is dead. Long live 2016!

I shall ring in the new year in the usual fashion; ie, with a list of my best books of 2015, followed by a slew of stats and suchlike.

As always, these are the best books I read in 2015. Few of them were published last year. They’re listed in the order I encountered them rather than my order of preference. You will oblige me if you won’t ask me to rank them, because that’s sort of impossible and I’ll probably just end up scowling at you through my computer screen while I mutter profanities.

Neither of us wants that.

Onward, then! Here are my top seven books of 2015!

Except for how there’s actually forty-four of them.

A fuzzy grey poodle, Murchie, lies on a sheep-shaped pillow with a white Kobo propped in front of him. The Kobo's screen has the cover of Saga Volume Four on its, featuring a brown-skinned woman in a fantastical green superhero costume and a massive white wig.
Saga Volume Four and Volume Five by Fiona Staples and Brian K. Vaughan - 5 stars and 4.5 stars

That's right, folks. We're doing Murchie Plus Books pictures instead of straight cover art this year.

SAGA is the comic of my heart. It’s rich and allusive and full of truths, and Hazel ranks among my favourite narrators in all of fiction.

I’ll leave it at that because I’m liable to spew out thousands of words if I start talking about why it’s so wonderful. I’m bad like that, as evidenced by my review of volumes one through four.

I asked myself whether Volume Five belonged on here, since it only made me cry about three times, but then I realized that was absolutely the wrong question. Of course it belongs here. IT IS THE COMIC OF MY FUCKING HEART.

Murchie lays on his sheep pillow with a hardcover copy of The Girls at the Kingfisher Club next to him. Its cover features a white woman in 1920s clothes, her face obscured.
The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine - 5 stars

I cried my way through this book because it was too damned beautiful to read quietly.

It checks so many of my favourite fictional boxes. It’s about siblings. There’s an enormous emphasis on women looking out for other women. It’s the 1920s. We aren’t asked to empathize with the girls’ father because he’s a terrible human being, plain and simple, and this is their story not his. There are queer folks, POC, and people who rethink gender presentation.

It’s basically perfect.

Murchie curls up in a fuzzy-sided dog bed. Behind him is a CD case holding the audio edition of The Martian. Its cover features a person in a white spacesuit floating through a red landscape.
The Martian by Andy Weir - 5 stars

I never reviewed THE MARTIAN, mostly because I wanted to tell y’all I kept forgetting to breathe during the tense bits and leave it at that.

I am the common YA line made flesh.

Further to this insightful nugget of criticism, I must tell you I almost started bawling in the street at the end. (I listened to the audiobook and reached the end while I strode along a sidewalk, having just eaten three Doritos Locos tacos that were far tastier than they had any right to be.)

And I’m still bummed they took all the fucks out of the film adaptation. We people who say fuck a lot lost an important screen icon when Hollywood stole Mark Watney from us.

Shame, Hollywood. Shame.

Murchie sniffs a bush planted on green grass. He wears a red t-shirt with green trim. In front of him is a trade paperback copy of the first Skip Beat omnibus. Its cover features a Japanese girl with short chestnut hair. She wears a frilly pink outfit and punches towards the viewer.
Skip Beat! Vols 1-35 by Yoshiki Nakamura - 4 to 5 stars

I love SKIP BEAT! even more than I love SAGA, and I didn’t think that was possible. It’s about people healing, and becoming their best selves, and reaching a point where they can love one another without losing hold of who they are.

Here, too, I can’t say any more in case I fall down the rabbit hole and slam you with another seven thousand words about its perfection.

(Yeah. Seven thousand. I LOVE IT MORE THAN SAGA IT IS VERY IMPORTANT TO ME AND KYOKO MOGAMI PROBABLY HUNG THE MOON SHE IS THAT GREAT.)

And apparently I’m super into storylines where two people who’re in requited but undisclosed love with one another have to pretend to be siblings for extended periods of time? I’ll take this as a sign I need to hunker down and finally read some fanfic.

Murchie lies on a concrete step. He wears an orange t-shirt with dark brown trim. Beside him, propped upright, is a paperback copy of The Gathering Storm. Its ghastly cover features a man in a red jacket raising his hand to the sky. The equally awful background features a bashed up wooden building and a red-haired woman in a long brown skirt.
The Gathering Storm, Towers of Midnight, and A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson - 5 stars, 4.5 stars, and 5 stars

Twelve-year-old me isn’t even slightly surprised the last three books of the Wheel of Time emerged among my clear favourites for last year.

Thirty-one-year-old me never saw this one coming.

I’ll probably reread these a few years down the line, notice all their flaws, and wonder what the hell I was thinking. For now, though, I’m SO FUCKING HAPPY with them. I came to love Egwene very, very much, and I managed to care about Rand again, and I shouted helpful suggestions at Mat (who completely ignored me), and will freely admit that even Perrin did some seriously cool shit.

(Perrin and I never got along when I was a kid, though we came to sort of an understanding during this reread/catch-up. I recognize this makes me a total weirdo because Perrin is everyone's favourite.)

Of all the books I read this year, I think these three were the most satisfying. I waited nineteen years for them, and they were worth it.

Murchie lies on a fuzzy red and white blanket with his face close to the camera. In front of him is a white iPod with Station Eleven's cover on its screen. The cover features a group of white canvas tents brightly lit from within. A dark blue sky studded with stars stretches above them.
Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel - 4.5 stars

Every year, there’s one book that refuses to let me leave it off my Best Of list. "What the hell are you doing?" it demands. "I need to be on there. I deserve to be on there."

And I relent and add it, because there’s no arguing with a stroppy book.

STATION ELEVEN is a thousand little questions the reader has to answer for herself. There’s a comic, and some actors, and a brutal post-apocalyptic world that refuses to remain devoid of beauty despite the things it steals from its characters and the lengths it drives them to. I love it deep in my soul.

Murchie lies curled up against a white Kobo, his head titled away from the viewer so his ear shows but his face doesn't. The Kobo's screen contains the cover of The Sandman: Overture, featuring a dark-clad figure standing in a burning field beneath a dark sky mostly taken up by a brilliant orange planet.
The Sandman: Overture by Neil Gaiman, J.H. Williams III, and Dave Stewart et al - 5 stars

I can’t accurately say I waited fifteen years for this comic because I never properly knew I wanted it, but as soon as I learned it was in the works it was like someone’d wandered up and handed me my heart’s desire (or promised I could have it in a year or two, as the case may be). When I at last sat down to read it, it fulfilled its initial promise in ways I never even thought were possible.

I keep telling people it was a religious experience, and I don’t even care if you’re gonna scoff at me for feeling that way because it’s entirely accurate. Gaiman's script is perfect. Williams's pencils are perfect. Stewart's colours are FUCKING TRANSCENDENT. I can't wait to experience it all again.

The second I finished it, I knew it was my best book of 2015.

That's it for the absolute bestest of the best. If you are so inclined, you can check out my Long List for more awesome books.

And now, stats

I kept two sets of stats this year: one with comics, one without. We’ll tackle the set of stats with comics first, since it’s considerably larger.

Please note there’s a certain amount of number overlap so far as genres and sources go, and I kept track via a paper tally sheet so I messed up my count at a couple of verifiable points that I'm too lazy to go back and check over. This is all terribly slapdash.

Also, I decided I couldn’t be bothered tallying up a total page count without the help of Nicki’s super-awesome spreadsheet, which my awful, free spreadsheet program keeps wiping because it’s an asshole. Maybe I’ll get around to it over the next couple of days. Maybe I won’t.

Probably I won’t.

Anyway...

Stats, With Comics

I read 436 books last year.

Before you start spluttering at me, be aware that 263 were comics. Comics take no time at all to read. Especially manga, of which I read rather a lot.

I read 293 books by non-American authors and 222 by POC.

I kept 14 physical books, sold (or gave away, or traded) 18 physical books, and borrowed 169 books of all formats from my library and from Scribd. Private individuals lent me 3 books, too.

I read 259 ebooks, including digital audiobooks. Next year I should probably separate out audiobooks if I decide to keep stats, which I might not because I really am feeling terribly slapdash over this whole schtick. I mean, what do numbers even mean?

I reread 52 books and I read 53 chunksters; ie, books with at least 450 pages. I counted a couple of 448-pagers in there, too, because I have common sense.

I abandoned 10 past the 100-page mark. I abandoned a hell of a lot more than that prior to 100 pages in, but they aren’t part of my final 2015 reading list because that’d be cheating.

I read 185 books with POC protagonists and 122 with significant queer content.

My final list includes 248 books by women. (If a book had both female and male contributers, I counted it as female-authored in accordance with my beloved, lamented spreadsheet’s system). It also holds 177 books by men.

These numbers don’t add up to 435 because I missed something and I can’t be bothered to check all 435 books to see where I went wrong.

(Holy fuck, do I ever miss my spreadsheet. Damn you, free spreadsheet software.)

I loved 239 books last year. Good job on the being-lovable front, books.

Finally, I read 82 books in translation. Thanks, manga.

Okay. That takes care of the broad stuff. Let’s get down to genres and marketing categories, by rote.

Fantasy: 204

Science Fiction: 178

Children’s and Young Adult Fiction: 139

General Fiction: 62

Horror: 28

Historical: 22

Crime Fiction: 16

Nonfiction: 16

Short Fiction: 18

Romance/Erotica: 5

Poetry: 1

Stats, Without Comics

I endured a massive reading slump from July to the end of September. Hard as I tried, I could not sit down and read. If I hadn’t had comics and audiobooks to see me through, I’d have up and died from lack of story.

Even with audios in the mix, I still finished far fewer novels last year than I’m accustomed to. (I did read a teensy bit more nonfiction than usual.) This vexes me. Bloody reading slump.

But anyway; stats.

Sans comics, I read 173 books. 61 were by non-American authors and 43 were by POC.

Which is dismal, and pretty damned surprising on the non-American front. Clearly I need to seek out more prose fiction and nonfiction by POC alongside all these comics.

I kept 13 physical books, sold (or gave away, or traded) 16 physical books, borrowed 57 books of all formats from my library and from Scribd, and bummed 1 book from a private individual.

I read 98 ebooks, including digital audiobooks.

I reread 18 books. Here, too, comics accounted for a large jump in my overall numbers because I’ll often reread my faves two or three times per year.

I abandoned 10 past the 100-page mark.

I read 50 chunksters. Note how few comics are long enough to join this category.

I read 38 books with POC protagonists and 50 with significant queer content.

My list includes 116 books by women and 40 by men.

Again, the numbers don’t add up. I halfway wish I were curious enough to go through my whole reading list and see who I missed tallying.

I loved 92 books last year.

Without manga in the mix, I read 3 books in translation.

Moving along to genres and marketing categories, now...

Fantasy: 81

Science Fiction: 47

Children’s and Young Adult Fiction: 32

General Fiction: 21

Historical: 17

Nonfiction: 14

Short Fiction: 18

Romance/Erotica: 5

Crime Fiction: 5

Horror: 3

Poetry: 1

Goals and Stuff

At the beginning of 2015, I resolved to read lots of awesome stuff and ignore anything that wasn’t awesome. I mostly accomplished this.

I also wanted POC to account for at least 35% of my reading list. Goal: met.

I did read some frickin’ crime fiction, as planned, but I still could’ve squeezed in more of it.

Finally, and most importantly, I wanted to get rid of la TBR so I could read whatever the hell I wanted. While I didn’t quite quash the damned thing thanks that bloody reading slump, I did purge it of all but thirteen titles (some of which are admittedly omnibi I ought to reenter as separate volumes), and I’m okay with that. I’ll get to them when I get to them.

This year’s goal, then, is simple: I want to read whatever the fuck I want. I won’t deprioritize something that interests me simply because it’s not on la TBR. I’ll keep reading lots of comics. I’ll get to the novels by POC that I shied away from late in the year because I was so focused on reading my own damned books. I’ll read some frickin’ crime fiction. I’ll reread books I’ve been longing to reread for ages.

I think that’ll make for a mighty satisfying reading year.

20 comments:

  1. You DO that, madam! You SHOULD read exactly what you damn want! Good for you! I am leaning slightly in the other direction; I really do feel that some of these books that have been lying around on my bookshelves for ages and ages need to either get read or be gotten rid of. IT IS HAPPENING. (she said optimistically)

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    1. This was me last year. May you be as successful as I was!

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  2. I will hold off on the "long live" idea until I know what kind of year this will be. Haha. Both The Girls at the Kingfisher Club and Station Eleven are books I would really like to read.

    I love your attitude for next year. :-) I hope you have a wonderful New Year!

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  3. Thank god you were kidding about that 44 book thing...

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    1. It's 44 if you count each volume individually, but I figured there was no point in talking up the selling points of every installment of SKIP BEAT!, and the Wheel of Time books were meant to be one volume anyways. :)

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  4. Wow. Just...wow.

    You go on doing you cause daaaaamn, you're rocking it.

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    1. I will read ALL THE BOOKS. Or at least ALL THE COMICS.

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  5. You got the TBR down to 13? VERY NICE, LADY.

    What free spreadsheet program are you using that's being such a jerk and wiping your docs?

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    1. Apache OpenOffice. It's fine for smaller documents, but I guess the reading spreadsheet contains too much AWESOME PROCESSING POWER for it to handle. Sigh. I'm gonna try again this year, but I'll still keep my paper reading list as backup.

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  6. Station Eleven landed on my last year favorite list. I am currently listening to The Martin and I know it will land on this year's favorite list I agree, read what you want!

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    1. Hurray for amazing science fiction!

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  7. You had a great 2015 for books and I must say that your pup is adorable.

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    1. He's a real cutie-puff, my Murchie.

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  8. Great resolution! I made some, but they are pretty broad and manageable, I think.
    I started to compile my stats, but multi-creator comics teams did me in.

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    1. With multi-creator teams, I google everyone involved as soon as I log the comic on LibraryThing, then tally them for stats purposes according to the creator who's most often marginalized. So, a team with a woman on it counts as a female-authored title in my stats, even if there were also men involved. Same with POC and non-American creators.

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  9. I love your reading goal! I'm thinking along the same line this year. Rather than trying to make a dent in the TBR or read specific kinds of books, this year my goal is to read whatever I want to read whenever I want to read it.

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    1. Good luck! I've really been enjoying it so far.

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  10. Those are some very impressive stats! At the moment, I can only aspire to read that many in a year.

    Also, I'm super pleased (but unsurprised) to see Skip Beat made your favourites for the year. Kyoko is the best.

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