Posted by Sari
I continued with the idea of setting myself the target of 52 books a year. It worked well last year and did so again this year. I have ended up with 62 finished books outside work literature. The fact that I binge read post-apocalyptic novels for NeNoReMo helped to drive the figure up.
That was a very good thing, because I used the beginning of the year re-reading Dorothy Dunnett’s House of Niccolo -series: eight denser than dense historical novels about trade and power in 15th-century Europe, Africa and Near-East. It took some time. It has wickedly convoluted plot and a cast of hundreds, but the best thing about it is how Dunnett is able to transport you to Trebizond, Timbuktu, Iceland or Venice. I am not quite sure if I even now wholly get all the twists and turns of the plot, but that just means I have a reason to do another re-read in near future. There really is nothing like Dorothy Dunnett in historical fiction.
The most interesting SF I read this year were Dave Hutchinson’s Europe in Winter and Yoon Ha Lee’s Ninefox Gambit. Europe in Winter is the third part of Hutchinson’s fractured Europe -series and like its predecessors it is excellent and – with Brexit and Catalonia – really uncanny. He really should have won every possible award with this series. Ninefox Gambit was shortlisted for Hugo and would not have been a bad winner. Its science fiction is high-concept and uncompromising and the book works on every level.
I read surpisingly litte fantasy this year, the best of the lot were Lois McMaster Bujold’s Penric-novellas (Penric’s Mission, Mira’s Last Dance and Prisoner of Limnos), and Megan Whalen Turner’s King of Attolia, which I re-read again. It still is among my absolute favourite fantasies.
I did read more non-fiction this year than previously. Quite a lot of it was about Great Siege of Malta as we were on Malta on a holiday. Of that lot, Roger Crawley’s narrative history of the Mediterranean warfare in the 16th-century The Empires of the Sea, is a good introduction to the subject, and has a little more perspective than books concentrating just on the siege. Other non-fiction I found interesting were China Miéville’s unapologetically Marxist but riveting retelling of the October Revolution in Russia and Bill Hayes’ touchingly beautiful tribute to New York and Oliver Sacks, The Insomniac City.
This year, there were no books I bounced off as hard as I did last year with Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend. I was kind of “meh” with Charlie Jane Andrews’ All the Birds in the Sky, which I found predictable and surprisingly stereotypical in its gender roles.
So there you are. I’ll continue with setting the target at 52 books next year, lets hope I make it!