So I read a lot of books in 2014. A lot of books for me, anyway, care of setting myself a challenge on GoodReads. Originally I was aiming for 24 books read, but ended up hitting that about mid-year thanks to a combination of comics and artbooks ending up on the list, which I felt was cheating. So I upped my ceiling to 50. I also had one rule, which was that 2014 was the year of reading boradly, not deeply. Which meant that, before I read a book by an author I’d already read in 2014, I had to read all the rest of the books in my queue by authors I hadn’t yet read that year. So no barrelling through an entire series. I broke this rule a couple of times–notably for new releases by Jordan L. Hawk and KJ Charles–but otherwise was pretty good. Which also meant I read a lot of the backlog of “I’ve always wanted to read this” books I’ve, well, wanted to read for a long time.
Rule-breaking or not, I completed my challenge, but 50 is a lot of books. I read pretty slowly, so sometimes it felt I was doing nothing but reading, to the exclusion of the work I was supposed to be doing. Which is one of those nice problems to have, but still.
For 2015, I’ve set my challenge number back to 24. We’ll see how we go from there.
And, without further introduction, here’s my list:
- A Natural History of Dragons, Marie Brennan: Non-Earth Victorian-esque story about a lady naturalist pioneering the study of dragons in A Man’s World. Bonus points: Awesome cover and interior illustrations. Of dragons! Dragons!
- A Case of Possession, KJ Charles: Very, very different in tone and texture to the first book, almost to the point of feeling like it from a different series. Where the first was claustrophobic, rural and gothic, this one is pulpy, urban, and rolling great fun.
- Non-Stop Till Tokyo, KJ Charles: A really tight, really brutal thriller, featuring an unconventional but entirely sweet romance. Charles also has some incredibly clever uses of the differences between English and Japanese, which made my inner language geek squee.
- Remnant, KJ Charles and Jordan L. Hawk: A short story crossover from two of my favourite m/m authors? Oh yes. Do want!
- City of Bones, Cassandra Clare: A book I really wish I’d read fifteen years ago…
- Gun Machine, Warren Ellis: I tore through this book amazingly quickly, but it still felt very “safe” compared to Ellis’ comic work (ref. Fell in particular).
- Liesmith, Alis Franklin: I mean. Obviously. And multiple times…
- Feed, Mira Grant: Zombies, blogging, and the President of the United States. This is the book I wanted to’ve been reading when I was actually reading World War Z. Which I hated. Read this instead.
- Soon I Will be Invincible, Austin Grossman: I bought this when it first came out, read 90% of it, then forgot about it for nearly a decade. So I really only read the last little bit in 2014. Still, this is a deconstruction of superhero stories, and I remember really enjoying it back in ’06 or so.
- Eidolon, Necropolis, and Bloodline, Jordan L. Hawk: If you haven’t been reading this series, then why the hell not?
- SPECTR: Volume 1 and SPECTR: Volume 2, Jordan L. Hawk: Cool m/m story set in a world where paranormal entities are real, known, and monitored by the government. This one uses one of my OMG Most Favourite Tropes Of All Time, so it is purse delicious tasty idfic for me. ❤
- Horrorstör, Grady Hendrix: But what if IKEA were haunted? I admit I bought this book because of the presentation of it–it looks like an IKEA catalogue–and was a little bit disappointed it was actually a novel rather than an artbook-y type thing. Oh well.
- Horns, Joe Hill: Loser anti-hero protagonists with horns are My Bag Baby, so I loved almost all of this. Almost. Unfortunately, the plot is a bit too centered around the Obligatory Rape and Murder of the Female Love Interest. This is really a book about the evils men allow other men to get away with, and it would’ve been a lot stronger if it’d actually realized that.
- Libriomancer, Jim C. Hines: Dude who can reach into books and pull things out of them. Talk about the ultimate nerd fantasy!
- God’s War, Kameron Hurley: Kind of like a gender-swapped Muslim Mad Max… IN SPA-AA-AA-ACE.
- The Lottery and Other Stories, Shirley Jackson: My dose of Culture for the year, I ended up enjoying this a lot more than I thought I would. Atmospheric and unsettling, and a refreshing break from the grimdark, macho torture porn that passes for “horror” nowadays. (Also, FWIW, I think “The Lottery” itself is the weakest story in this collection. So if that’s your only exposure to Jackson, I’d encourage a second look.) ❤
- The Killing Moon, N.K. Jemisin: Recommended by a friend, but unfortunately buying into the plot is… difficult for atheists like yours truly, which renders the main characters incredibly unsympathetic. People of a more theistic bent may not have the same issue.
- Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie: Mandatory reading for anyone who thinks it’s okay to either, a) have an all-male casts in media, and/or b) use “he” as a generic universal pronoun.
- We Are Here, Michael Marshall: This is the same author as Michael Marshall Smith, discussed below. I would suggest, if you’re not familiar with his work, that this not be the place you start…
- His Majesty’s Dragon, Naomi Novik: Hornblower with dragons!
- Maplecroft, Cherie Priest: Lizzie Borden took an axe, and gave Cthulhu forty whacks. Not strict-mythos–so no prior knowledge of the setting is required–but definitely Lovecraft-inspired.
- Raising Steam, Terry Pratchett: This is the fortieth Discworld book? Holy shit.
- The Illuminatus! Trilogy, Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson: Don’t. Fucking. Bother.
- What You Make It, Michael Marshall Smith: Smith is one of my One True Author Loves from way back when I was a teenager. His work is mostly defined by snarky, male first-person narrators and blind-siding plot twists. He’s also a master short story writer, as evidenced by this collection.
- Shield and Crocus, Michael R. Underwood: This is non-Earth “New Weird” meets superheroes, with “New Weird” being what Urban Fantasy is called when it’s written by men (to distinguish it from that icky girly stuff girls write for girls). A very cool book filled with very cool ideas. And punching. Can’t have superheroics without punching!
- Future Lovecraft, various: A collection of sci-fi mythos short stories. This collection is a bit… patchy,1 but it has a surprising amount of diversity in its contributors and contributions. Which is refreshing, for a canon that’s so notoriously racist, sexist, and so on.
- Blackbirds, Chuck Wendig: Another book I really wish I’d read about fifteen years ago…
- John Dies at the End, David Wong: Surrealist horror with a very human heart. I’ve always enjoyed Wong’s writing for Cracked, but I was still surprised at exactly how much I enjoyed this novel. The sequel is definitely on the reading list for 2015. ❤
- Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson: Long, flawed, and fascinating look at the life of the man who very likely had a bigger influence on you than you think, even if you’ve never used an Apple product.
- A Field Guide to Mesozoic Birds and Other Winged Dinosaurs, Matthew P. Martyniuk: Illustrated like a birdwatchers guide, but with dinosaurs. Martyniuk makes the dinosaur/bird visual link so clear, you’ll never be able to look at either animal the same way again. ❤
- The Happy Atheist, PZ Myers: Atheism 101.
- Unspeakable Things: Sex, Lies and Revolution, Laurie Penny: Feminism 101. Give it to your teenage relatives.
- Flying Dinosaurs: How Fearsome Reptiles Became Birds, John Pickrell: Popular science book describing the latest evidence linking birds to dinosaurs. As the book notes, there’s been more progress in paleontology in the last twenty years since Jurassic Park than in the entire time preceding it.
- The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, Steven Pinker: As written on the tin, expanded to 800 pages. A book everyone should read, and a book that will piss everyone off (at least in some parts). ❤
- The Elements of Style, William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White: My husband got me this as a present for signing my first publishing contract. D’aww.
- Invisible: Personal Essays on Representation in SF/F, various: Compiled by Jim C. Hines, an excellent ebook on the topic at hand. ❤
- And Then I Thought I Was a Fish, Peter Welch: Really interesting firsthand account of a psychotic episode. ❤
- Captain Marvel, Vol. 1: In Pursuit of Flight and Captain Marvel, Vol. 2: Down, Kelly Sue Deconnick: Along with Fracton’s Hawkeye, Deconnick’s Captain Marvel was the superhero title to read in 2014.
- Captain Marvel, Vol. 1: Higher, Further, Faster, More, Kelly Sue Deconnick: This is… a reboot of the reboot, I guess? Or… something? IDK superhero comics still confuse me a bit. Anyway, this is Captain Marvel… IN SPA-AA-AA-ACE, with obligatory Guardians of the Galaxy tie-in.
- Hawkeye, Vol. 1: My Life as a Weapon and Hawkeye, Vol. 2: Little Hits, Matt Fraction: This is what comics are made of!
- Hawkeye, Vol. 3: L.A. Woman, Matt Fraction: As much as I love Fraction’s Hawkeye, I thought this instalment was… perhaps not as strong as the others. Kate goes from being a badass to Clint-level useless, and some of the time-skipping and compression issues–something I always struggle with in mainstream superhero comics–seem worse than usual.
- Sex Criminals, Vol. 1: One Weird Trick, Matt Fraction: The adventures of people who stop time post-orgasm. Should be mandatory in all high-school libraries.
- Evil Ernie, Vol. 1: Origin of Evil, Jesse Snyder: Oh Evil, what did they do to you?
- Saga, Vol. 1, Brian K. Vaughan: Romeo & Juliet… IN SPA-AA-AA-ACE.
Other random stuff
- Principia Discordia, Gregory Hill: 1970s-era hippie wankery. Maybe once upon a time someone thought this was radical, but nowadays it looks very dated and uncomfortably racist.
- The Worlds of Sam Kieth, Vol. 1, Sam Kieth: The Big Book of Art from one of my favourite artists. This one covers The Early Years, right up until Keith first phonecall from one Neil Gaiman…
- Dracopedia and Dracopedia The Great Dragons, William O’Connor: This series–there’s a third I read in 2013 so haven’t included–has some of my very favourite dragon and monster artwork. ❤
- The D&D 5th ed Monster Manual, various: Fully! Clothed! Female! Monsters!
- What Does the Fox Say?, Ylvis: Yes, really. It was a present from a Norwegian friend, and the artwork in it is amazing.
- I’d also recommend checking out the contributing authors, because there are some in here I know are on some do-not-read lists due to certain, um, Issues. [↩]