What I was reading in 2017
Every December 31st, I sit down to write out and look back over the books that I read during the last twelve months. In 2016 I only managed a risible twenty-five books in total, and was then also called-out by a friend over the lack of women and non-white writers in my end-of-year list. I set out to address both these shortcomings in 2017.
- A Wizard of Earthsea (Ursula Le Guin)
- The Tombs of Atuan (Ursula Le Guin)
- The Farthest Shore (Ursula Le Guin)
- Dawn (Octavia Butler)
- Adulthood Rites (Octavia Butler)
- Eight Worlds Of C.M. Kornbluth (CM Kornbluth)
- American Pastoral (Philip Roth)
- The New York Trilogy (Paul Auster)
- Imago (Octavia Butler)
- City of Glass (Paul Auster)
- If on a Winter's Night a Traveler (Italo Calvino)
- Room (Emma Donoghue)
- The Secret History (Donna Tartt)
- Lolita (Vladimir Nabokov)
- Underworld (Don DeLillo)
- The World According to Garp (John Irving)
- The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Becky Chambers)
- Beloved (Toni Morrison)
- Lake Wobegon Days (Garrison Keillor)
- The Magicians (Lev Grossman)
- The Magician King (Lev Grossman)
- The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
- A Closed and Common Orbit (Becky Chambers)
- Deep Secret (Diana Wynne Jones)
- Americanah (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie)
- The Magician's Land (Lev Grossman)
- Amsterdam (Ian McEwan)
- Microserfs (Douglas Coupland)
- Secret Water (Arthur Ransome)
- Arrival (Ted Chiang)
Out of a total of thirty novels that I read this year, 43% were written by women, while six (20%) were written by non-white authors. Not too bad (and would have been higher if I hadn't re-read a few old favourites towards the end of the year), but I can definitely do better.
I also revisited the first two of Lev Grossman's The Magicians series because watching the TV adaptation had made me forget what actually happened in the books; and finally finished Don DeLillo's Underworld on about my fifth attempt.
- Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do? (Michael J Sandel)
- Walden (Henry David Thoreau)
- Thinking with Type (Ellen Lupton)
- Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (Yuval Noah Harari)
- Atomic Design (Brad Frost)
- Far from the East End (Iris Jones Simantel)
- Story Genius (Lisa Cron)
- White Line Fever: The Autobiography (Lemmy Kilmister)
A couple of work-related books for once—I don't generally read much about UX these days, a habit I should probably change—some political philosophy, and a bit of Lemmy made for a nice mix. It never feels like I have been reading that much non-fiction during the year, so it's always a nice surprise to reach this point and realise that I actually managed to read a fair bit of it.
- Batman vs. Superman: The Greatest Battles (Frank Miller)
- Albion (Alan Moore)
I never buy comic books for myself, so these are usually Christmas presents. Albion was pretty bad, and that's speaking as a huge Alan Moore fan.
Looking back over these lists, it strikes me that I actually read quite a few putative 'classics' that I really didn't enjoy very much. Roth, Auster, Calvino, DeLillo, Morrison, Keillor, McEwan; all celebrated award-winning works that left me feeling that I must have missed something. Either that or my expectations were too high, perhaps.
The best books I read this year were the first two of Becky Chambers' Wayfarers series; The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and its sequel, A Closed and Common Orbit. Short, straightforward sci-fi with a conscience. I'm looking forward to whatever she produces next.