Books are one of the most important things in my life. People come and go, but a good story is forever. Reading cheers me up, calms me down, keeps me sane. So when I was looking back at the year just gone, thinking about a post to sum up the whole shindig, I wasn't terribly surprised when I noticed that a lot of the high points of my previous year were, in one way or another, book-related. And so, this post was born.
Firstly, I feel that I should explain to you that I have three major rules in my approach to reading:
- I never DNF. (Did Not Finish.) I nod wisely when people point out that life's too short to slog your way through a book that you're not enjoying. And in fact I totally agree. But it's a quirk of mine that I cannot stand to leave a book unfinished. Even if it's the worst piece of shite that ever disgraced a bookshelf. Even if it takes me years. I will finish it.
- I never read a good book only once. A lot of my friends and fellow readers are happy to read a good book once, and then send it on its merry way to another human who, hopefully, will enjoy it just as much. I don't do that. Average books? Mediocre books? Sure, they go to the charity shop. But my favourites? Oh no. Those I collect, curate, hoard like a mad dragon, and re-read sometimes several times a year.
- A story is a story; words are words. Comic books and graphic novels are 'real' books. Novellas are valid. Short stories are valid. Poetry and essays are valid. e-books are valid. Audio books are valid. And when not reading any of the above, it's a solid bet that I've got a fanfiction tab open on my phone's browser. I don't do book snobbery.
With that said, this was my 2015 in books:
Total books read (including re-reads): 144
I usually manage about 100-110 so this was obviously a good year. Mind you, I haven't tackled that many chunky books and I've been reading more comics, manga and novellas, so that's probably why.
I've been recording what I read in journals and notepads for the last three years or so (including re-reads), but this year I got GoodReads. I never thought that an app would actually enhance my enjoyment of reading, but it's great. The recommendations are on point. I can keep track of what I've read and - better yet - what I want to read. If I hit a weak point in a book, I can pop onto the reviews and see if others have noticed the same thing. I can see what my friends are reading, which has led to a whole load of new discoveries - for example, one friend noticed I was into comics, and lent me Saga. Now I'm hooked.
Speaking of which, another change in my reading habits this year was a swing away from traditional novels back towards comic books. I was nutso about comics when I was younger - my dad had a whole stack of old-school Marvel in his junk shop that I used to sit and read during the holidays - but had drifted away during my teens. Rediscovering the genre through friends' recommendations has been really exciting.
Lastly, this was the year I got a secondhand Kindle. I'm very cautious about what I put on there - free e-books and Kindle-exclusive novellas for the most part, because frankly if I can get something as a physical book, I will. I don't dislike e-readers, but I feel it supplements my paperback mountain rather than replacing it.
Of course, the biggest and most obvious low point for bookworms of 2015 was the death of Terry Pratchett. I'd love to say something poignant, but I've nothing to say that hasn't been said already, and better. Terry was an absolute genius writer; if you've never read anything of his I'd recommend my favourites, Reaper Man, Hogfather and Equal Rites.
On a less emotional note, I did read some books this year that were slightly disappointing. Of course this is only my personal opinion, and a professional critic I am not, but to name a few:
Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas. This one has been really popular and I wholeheartedly expected to like it... but I didn't. Celaena was such a stereotypical sexy female badass that she felt really 2D; I couldn't connect with her. Nevertheless I will give the rest of the series a go, because I really WANT to like it.
Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. I loved the concepts here but was disappointed by the execution; there was very little tension or atmosphere, awkward first-person narration and the characters were practically cardboard.
Neil Gaiman's Lady Justice. Not written by Neil Gaiman, but a concept of his. I actually would like to see a more Gaiman-y take on this idea by the man himself, because this one was disappointing. Gratutitous violence splattered over a simplistic plot does not a good comic make.
I also cried my eyes out reading The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. A great book but it broke my heart so badly I'm not sure I can continue with the series. Ouch. :(
Neuromancer by William Gibson. I read this before when I was much younger and found it a bit hard going - this year, I loved it. I've been trying to incorporate more sci-fi into my reading repertoire and this was a favourite, although it's now in the hands of my boyfriend, who likes a slice of gritty cyberpunk.
Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor. I have adored this series since picking up Daughter of Smoke and Bone on a whim, so finally reading the conclusion of the trilogy was fantastic. I did feel the conclusion was a little rushed after all the build-up, but it didn't diminish the overall awesomeness of this series for me.
Welcome to Night Vale, the novelisation of the brilliant podcast, was one of my most-anticipated books of the year, and it didn't disappoint.
This Book is Full of Spiders was one of my earliest reads of the year and I thought it was bloody brilliant, so of course, Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits, David Wong's first non-John and Dave book, was a source of much excitement for me. However, I noticed that I seemed to enjoy it more than a lot of reviewers, so make of that what you will.
One of my favourite moments of the whole year was sitting in a coffee-shop-slash-bookstore with my better half, drinking coffee, eating cake and reading Soppy by Philippa Rice together.
This was also the year I got my second book-related tattoo, quoted from Instructions by Neil Gaiman.
Other big hitters for me this year were: the Rat Queens comic, The Neon Court by Kate Griffin, Fairytales for Wilde Girls by Allyse Near, the aforementioned Saga, Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding, Someplace To Be Flying by Charles de Lint and Lips Touch by Laini Taylor.
|A corner of my room; that top shelf is where I keep my very favourite books.|
I have a massive to-read pile for 2016, but since I left my job in the secondhand shop I will no longer have quite the level of access to cheap books that I did, so it gives me chance to shift some of the heap. Top of the pile are The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, because I love me some Holly Black, and finally finishing The Lord of the Rings (I haven't read the last volume!) .
I'm looking forward to Gala Darling's Radical Self Love; I missed it when it was out briefly last year but it's coming back again in 2016.
So what about you guys? What did you read last year? Most-anticipated read? What did you love (or hate)? Best book-related moments? And what are you excited about for 2016? Hit me with your best shot.