Way back in July, I did a mid-year book tag which was a lot of fun, so I thought I’d do something similar to cover the whole of last year! I took some questions from the Mid-Year Freak Out Tag and made up some of my own. Brace yourself for pie charts!
How much have you read?
I call that pretty good, what with the pandemic and my health issues this year! My record, since I started keeping notes, is 313 books in one year, but that was back before I was working full-time; since I started working my private goal has been 200 a year.
211 is up from 205 books in 2019. I’d have liked to have had a bigger increase, but with everything that went on this year, I’m pleased I managed even just six more than I did in 2019.
What did you read?
AND HERE COME THE PIE CHARTS!
Fantasy made up just under 80% of my reading this year, which should surprise absolutely no one. What is surprising is that 10% of what I read this year was Not Spec-Fic (aka Other). 21 books is a lot of not spec-fic for me. Weird.
(Less weird is that Science Fantasy was my least-read genre. It’s not like there’s a whole lot of books to choose from there; it’s a teeny-tiny sub-genre.)
These numbers are just to the best of my knowledge; I can’t swear it’s completely accurate, especially because I’m not very comfortable scouring the internet for someone’s gender identity. But I started keeping track of author gender back when everyone was telling me women didn’t write fantasy. That baffled me, since I read women almost exclusively, and not because I go looking for them – they just happen to write what I read, seems like.
‘Mix’ here refers to books that had more than one author, for the record.
Honestly the biggest surprise here is that I read so many cis guys this year. Perhaps male authors are stepping up their game???
I’m pretty quick to DNF books these days (to think that once upon a time I considered not finishing a book blasphemy!) so it’s not surprising that most of my reads this year got five or four stars. Mostly I’m surprised that there are 19 three-stars; that seems like a lot for me.
Two of the books that got 0 stars were books I refused to rate, because something about them made me hugely uncomfortable even though, objectively, the writing was pretty good; Troll by Johanna Sinisalo, which had really creepy sex themes, and Tiger’s Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera, which has been accused of racism and cultural appropriation and yeah, even I, the whitest of white not-girls, can see it.)
Next year I think I should start tracking the ethnicities of the authors I read. I’m sure THAT pie chart is going to be embarrassingly white…
Best Debuts You Read in 2020
Raybearer, Scapegracers, Dark Tide and Hench are all books I reviewed, and the other two I will review, damn it. But it is simply jaw-dropping to me that all six of these are debuts?! I know the first book you publish is often not the first book you write – if I’m ever published it certainly won’t be the novel I wrote at 11 about the multi-coloured unicorns! But still, all six of these books read like…like their writers are at the pinnacle of their careers; they’re polished and perfect. I am in awe.
I’m reminded of how no one was able to view the Greek gods in their true forms, which was why they always appeared as animals and such. Because if a mortal viewed a god in their true form, the mortal died.
I mention this because, given that most people get better at a thing when they practice at it… I suspect all six of these authors may end up killing me down the line. I mean, if their debuts nearly made me expire, what are their future books going to do to me?!
Best Sequels You Read in 2020
The Tyrant Baru Cormorant was exactly what the Masquerade series needed! After all the darkness in the first two books – well, I can’t say that Tyrant is all light and fluffy, because it isn’t, but it is about unlearning internalised prejudices and assumptions, and it is, overall, a manifesto on how the connections between people, and fighting to be a good person and treat other people well even when it’s hard, can overcome anything. Even magic.
The Faithless Hawk rocked, both on its own merits and as a sequel to Merciless Crow. So many of the subtle themes from the first book got expanded upon in Hawk, and the arguments made were followed through to their logical conclusions. And thinking of it in terms of a sequel, I loved that the ending we got wasn’t the generic happy ending most authors would have written. Instead it’s an ending that tears apart the whole infrastructure of the book’s world, because hey, it needs tearing apart. (Not because Owen is bad at worldbuilding – far from it! – but because it had flaws a lot like ours does, and those flaws needed addressing just like ours do.) Very few sequels/conclusions do that, and I loved that Owen went there, especially with this story.
Queen’s Bargain is an interesting one, firstly because the previous book in the series – Twilight’s Dawn – was intended to be the last. Bargain is pretty special in context, then, because it’s simultaneously a ‘what happens once the story’s over’ book, and what feels like the start of a whole new arc. Kind of slice-of-life but with the groundwork being laid for something potentially epic in scope. It was fascinating seeing Bishop pull that off, and although it’s very different from any other book in the series, I loved it. And I’m really interested in seeing where Bishop goes with this new start…
I was massively looking forward to both of these, but I ended up DNF-ing them both. Profound Weaves had a wonderful story but writing I couldn’t deal with (which is weird, because I read all of Lemberg’s other Birdverse stories and loved them), whereas Star Daughter had gorgeous writing, and a wonderful concept, but the story itself felt really weak. I’m hoping to come back to them both eventually, but it probably won’t be any time soon.
In Veritas and Lovequake were both indie books I bought on impulse, and they stunned me with how incredibly good they both were (although they’re very different!) Boyfriend Material is the kind of thing I usually don’t enjoy at all, but after someone I followed was raving about it I gave it a go – and I’m so glad I did!
Midnight Bargain was probably the biggest surprise, because I’m the only person on the planet who really didn’t enjoy Witchmark and wasn’t planning on reading any of Polk’s other books. I don’t remember what made me request an ARC, but once I got it I was hooked. I’m still not a Witchmark fan, but I’m definitely going to keep an eye on what Polk writes after the Kingston Cycle is done!
New (To You) Favourite Author/s
Everybody from my Best Debuts answer. Every last one of them instantly went onto my auto-buy list. I will read their grocery lists.
Usually it’s the James Asher series of Barbara Hambly’s that I reread every year, but this year it was Benjamin January, in preparation for the new book.
Rivers of London was another I had to reread because I’d fallen two books (and gods knows how many novellas) behind! It’s always a chore slogging through book one, though, since despite the introduction of magic it’s the one I find most boring. I’m always so happy when I get to move to book two!
And Wayward Children is a series I reread every year. Can you blame me?
Books You Didn’t Quite Get To
Cute Mutants and Into the Real both have really interesting premises – Cute Mutants in particular was pitched to me as ‘queer X-Men’ – but somehow I didn’t get around to them. Dying With Her Cheer Pants On I did start – sort of – because it’s Seanan McGuire and I will read absolutely anything she writes, but I got distracted and put it aside after just a few pages.
All three of these are books I’ll have to make a priority this year!
Books That Got You Through 2020
Lovequake appeared when I was suffering the worst fibromyalgia flare in I’ve had in years, and it made me smile and laugh so much, and Humankind helped me fight off all my pessimism about the human race using Science, so. Definitely gotta give the credit for getting me through to these two!
Your Favourite Reads This Year
Nothing really surprising here; I’ve raved about all of these already, here or in other posts!
2021 Releases That Make You Do Grabby-Hands
…I am very excited for this year’s books, okay? Okay.
Which 2020 Release Would You Make Everyone Read If You Could?
Humankind. No question. This is such a convincingly inspiring analysis of humanity, with all the #GivesMeHope feels. Given how dark 2020 was, I think a book that’s all about proving that humans are Pretty Good, Actually – and proving it with science and history – is something I’d like to make mandatory reading for everybody. No matter how awful things get and how miserable the news is, remember: people are Pretty Good, Actually.
Well, that’s the last business I had with 2020! Here’s to an infinitely better 2021!