2015: A year in books

I started keeping a ‘commonplace’ book as one of my new year’s resolutions for 2015, a way to capture some interesting snippets for my own writing, plus stop myself instantly forgetting everything I read ! This blog followed in June, adding more of a review slant to my notes. Over the full 12 months, Goodreads tells me I managed to read 65 books – bang on my chosen target.

Beginnings

I started the year very well, with the wonderful Golden Fool (followed by Fool’s Fate) by Robin Hobb. The Farseer (or Assassins) series remains one of my all-time favourite fantasy series, although I was slightly disappointed by the change in viewpoint in the follow-up series, The Liveship Traders. However, The Tawny Man trilogy was back with Fitz, and back on form for me – I was enthralled.

Endings

My final book of the year was from another fantasy series – Rise of a Merchant Prince, book 2 of the Serpentwar saga by Raymond E Feist. I bought this series back in 2000, and that I’m just getting around to reading it perhaps tells you all you need to know!

Novelty

I’m quite pleased with my more experimental reads this year – I sampled (fiction) works from 15 new-to-me authors. These included classics (Dying Earth, Gateway), award winners (Life After Life, How to be Both), books with big buzz behind them (The Martian, The Goblin Emperor, Ready Player One), and random finds (The Invisible Library). Biggest ‘find’ though, was probably Victoria Schwab, who I was lucky enough to meet in person – just after I’d read and loved A Darker Shade of Magic, the review of which kicked off this blog.

Rereads

With the Goodreads challenge only counting new reads, I had very few rereads in 2015 – which can be something of a shame, I feel. I last read Generation X when I was a teenager, so I was curious to see how it had changed – or rather, how I had. I picked up Garth Nix’s Sabriel again to read along with a few people in my writing group (what happened to the follow up, guys?!), and the best bit was the casting game we played, trying to slot a random list of people and places into the book’s narrative. And finally, I picked up Jim Butcher’s Cold Days to remind myself where we’d left Harry Dresden ahead of the new volume, Skin Game.

Metrics

Talking of Goodreads, I’m not going to do a number-of-books-read challenge this year – it’s a poor metric for me. Instead, my ‘goal’ is going to be tackling some of that TBR mountain of unread books already on my shelf/kindle. In 2015, I read just 16 books from my own shelves, compared with 37 borrowed from friends or library – should be easy to beat this year!

For other stats, 13 books were from 2015 (and one from 2016!), 13 from 2014, and 13 from 2010-13 – spooky, eh?! 😉 Two were older than me, the oldest only from 1950. Gender split, 19 were by women plus one co-written and one I assumed was female (KJ Parker) but turned out otherwise. Only 2 were by non-British or -American writers, which I hadn’t realised until I went to research this post.

Lows

Biggest disappointments of the year were Tales from Dying Earth – a classic of the sci-fi genre that just left me cold – and Land of the Headless, another sci-fi offering that really didn’t do justice to the great idea. I was also thoroughly under-awed with the much-hyped Wicked, the ‘re-telling’ of The Wizard of Oz from the witch’s point of view. And I became much more wary of the nonsense people can and do post as freebies on Amazon these days!

Highs

And finally… favourite book of the year! Drum roll please – I’m going to go for… hah hah, as if I could pick just one!

  • Fantasy: joint A Darker Shade of Magic (V.E. Schwab) and Sharps (K.J. Parker) – very different kinds of fantasy
  • Urban fantasy: Skin Game (Jim Butcher)
  • Sci-fi: Seveneves (Neal Stephenson) just edges out Gateway (Frederick Pohl)
  • Fiction/other: Life After Life (Kate Atkinson)
  • Non-fiction: joint Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives (Gretchen Rubin) and Plot & Structure (Jamie Bell)
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