2015 in Review

2015 was another very busy year, but one of stabilization, rebuilding, and recovery. I got through the ramp-up period with my new job, found a better role inside the company for my personal talents and preferences, and ended the year on a professional high note. I also moved, to a place I like much better. It was a year for taking things as they come, focusing on priorities, letting other things slip, and being realistic about how much I can do.

All of that, plus quite a lot of company, a business trip, and a few other unexpected distractions, meant less reading than I would have preferred. However, I did catch up completely on review writing, which is another happy sign of stabilization. Reviews came in spotty bursts, but they did come.

The only explicit reading goal I'm making for 2016 is to read more than I did in 2015. I'm still working out the best priorities and schedule for me, and finding the best work/life balance points, so a predictable reading schedule will have to wait a while longer.

The below statistics are confined to the books I reviewed in 2015, but thanks to significant catch-up work, I've only read one book that I have not yet reviewed (and I finished that one on December 31st). That book will be counted in 2016.

Once again, the year saw two 10 out of 10 books, and once again, my favorite book of the year was written by Ann Leckie. The conclusion of the Imperial Radch trilogy, Ancillary Mercy, is as good or better than the start. The second book of the trilogy, Ancillary Sword, was also among my 2015 reviews and got 9 out of 10. I highly recommend the entire trilogy, beginning with Ancillary Justice (my book of the year in 2014), to anyone who hasn't read it.

The second 10 out of 10 was non-fiction: Randall Munroe's What If? collection, featuring some material from the web site feature that accompanies xkcd and some original material. These are longer essays exploring interesting bits of science, math, and guesswork in the context of hypothetical questions that usually become surprisingly destructive. As the review says, try a few samples from the web site and see if this is your thing. I loved it.

Despite my continuing low reading totals, this was a year full of fiction stand-outs. Becky Chambers's The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet was the surprise of the year for me: a heart-warming, delightful story of chosen family. Jo Walton's My Real Children was less of a surprise because I already knew she is an excellent writer, but it was probably the best-written book I read all year. In turns sad, thoughtful, and determined, it's slice-of-life fiction so good that it overcame my normal dislike of that subject matter. Other fiction highlights are part of series: the first two Steerswomen books by Rosemary Kirstein (The Steerswoman and The Outskirter's Secret), which dance between fantasy and scientific discovery, and Seanan McGuire's One Salt Sea, the best entry of all the October Daye books I've read.

In non-fiction, the other book that stands out is Jenny Lawson's Let's Pretend This Never Happened. This combination of memoir and stand-up comedy in book form is one of the funniest things I've read, and it mixes that humor with self-awareness and generous openness. It's a book about being a little crazy and a lot anxious, finding ways to cope by laughing at yourself, and inviting the rest of the world to join in.

Finally, Sydney Padua's The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage straddles the line between fiction and non-fiction, but certainly deserves a place in the year-end round-up. Full of great art, humor, steampunk, footnotes galore, and numerous forms of geekery, it's a collection I've been waiting for since Padua's very occasional comic got its moment of Internet fame.

Below are some additional personal reading statistics, probably only of interest to me.

In 2015, I read and reviewed 39 books. This is historically on the low side, but it's 15 more books than 2014 and almost as many as 2013, which I consider a triumph and a positive sign for the year. Overall statistics, with the change from last year:

Books read 39 (+15)
Total pages 14,064 (+6273)
Average rating 7.29 (+0.04)
Pages per day 38.5 (+17.2)
Days per book 9.36 (-5.85)

Once again, these statistics are a bit off, this time because I gave up on one book last year as unfinishable. That means the page count is probably about 300 to 400 pages too high, since I didn't read the rest of that book. The average rating does not include that book at all. It would be about 0.1 lower if it were included as a zero.

Breakdown by genre:

SF and fantasy 26 67%
Mainstream 1 3%
Non-fiction 11 28%
Graphic novels 1 3%
RPGs 0 0%

The balance shifted much more towards SFF this year, partly because I was picking out comfort reading or picking out books I'd been particularly looking forward to for vacation. Still very low on mainstream fiction, mostly because I haven't been in the mood for it.

Of the SF and fantasy novels, here's a rough breakdown of the books by reason for seeking them out:

Award winners 4 15%
Award series 0 0%
Re-reads 5 19%
Genre classics 0 0%
Favorite authors 8 31%
Current SF&F 0 0%
Recommendations 9 35%
Random 0 0%

Once again, I read the Hugo nominees (at least the ones that weren't put on the ballot by slate voting), but all of them won some award or another, so they're all in the award winners category. I've been doing a slow re-read of Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar series, which counts for all of the re-reads. I've only been reading fairly recent stuff apart from one old award winner, so didn't make much progress in fleshing out my knowledge of classic SF.

Last modified and spun 2016-01-02