2017 in Review

So much of my reading energy this year went into endlessly reloading political web sites and reading essays and poll analysis. This was not a very good use of that energy, but I did it anyway, and I'm not sure I could have stopped. It was a very 2017 problem, and I know I'm not alone — it was an anxious, anger-inducing year for a lot of us. I think that's also why I read shorter books (although more of them) than in 2016. Most of the year's reading happened in a couple of bursts during vacations.

My reading goal for last year was to get back to reading award nominees and previous award winners. The overall quality of my reading rose towards the end of the year, and I think several books I read in 2017 are likely to be award nominees or winners in 2018, but I still fell short of that goal. I'm carrying it over to 2018, coupling it with a goal to read more non-fiction, and calling that a goal to make time and energy for deeper, more demanding, and more rewarding reading. I want to sustain that over the year, rather than concentrating all my reading energy in vacations.

There were no 10 out of 10 books this year, but there were 6 books with a 9 rating. On the fiction side, two of them were the second and third books of Julie E. Czerneda's Species Imperative series: Migration and Regeneration. I recommend the entire series, starting with Survival, as excellent SF focusing on practicing scientists and on biology and ecology rather than physics. Czerneda has a slightly cartoony style that can take a bit to get used to, and I found the romance subplot unfortunate, but the protagonist was a delight and the last two books of the series were excellent.

The other fiction books with 9 out of 10 ratings were Becky Chambers's A Closed and Common Orbit, a sequel to The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet that I thought was even better than the original, and Melina Marchetta's The Piper's Son. Many thanks to Light for the recommendation of the latter; it's the sort of mainstream literary fiction that I wouldn't have found without recommendations. It's a satisfying story about untangling past emotional mistakes and finding ways to move forward, but all the subtle work done by friendship networks was what made it special to me.

The two non-fiction books I gave 9 out of 10 ratings this year were Algorithms to Live By by Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths, and Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker. The first was a well-structured look at how we apply computer science algorithms to everyday life: short on actionable insight, but long on thoughtful analogies (email and social media as buffer bloat!) and new ways to view everyday decisions. The second is a passionate attempt to convince everyone to get more sleep. Like many projects dear to the author's heart, it should be taken with a grain of salt, but I found the summary of current sleep research fascinating.

The last book that I think deserves special mention is The Tiger's Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera. It lacks the polish of some of the other books I read, and at times could be a sprawling mess, but of all the books I read this year, it's the one that most reliably puts a smile on my face when I remember it. It is completely unabashed about its emotions and completely in love with its characters and dares the world to do something about it, and I needed a book like that in 2017.

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

In 2017, I read and reviewed 39 books, up 7 books from 2016 and the same number as 2015. They were shorter books on average, though, so the total page count is down a bit. This is not quite up to where I want to be, but it's closer at least in number of books. Average rating was also down a bit, but still above 7. Overall statistics, with the change from last year:

Books read 39 (+7)
Total pages 12,952 (-289)
Average rating 7.10 (-0.31)
Pages per day 35.5 (-0.7)
Days per book 9.36 (-2.08)

Breakdown by genre:

SF and fantasy 30 77%
Mainstream 2 5%
Non-fiction 7 18%
Graphic novels 0 0%
RPGs 0 0%

No graphic novels or RPGs at all this year, and all the additional books I read compared to last year were SF or fantasy. A lot of the non-fiction I read was for the work book club, which is hopefully continuing in 2018 (but that's not yet clear). I want to be reading more non-fiction than this, but it requires more time and focused attention. That, in turn, requires carving out more space in life for reading.

Of the SF and fantasy novels, here's a rough breakdown of the books by reason for seeking them out. (As always, each book is only counted once, and reasons higher on the list override reasons lower on the list if both reasons apply.)

Award winners 3 10%
Award series 0 0%
Re-reads 3 10%
Genre classics 2 7%
Favorite authors 14 47%
Current SF&F 2 7%
Recommendations 5 17%
Random 1 3%

(Percentages do not sum to 100% due to rounding.) Nowhere near as much re-reading this year, and a little bit more award reading, but still not the type of award reading that I did in previous years or intended to do this year. (Nominees for the Hugo do count in that category, not only winners.) I once again didn't really try to read all of the Hugo nominees; I have four left to read from 2017, and two from 2016.

This year was heavy on the latest books by favorite authors, some of which I expect to see show up in award nominations in 2018.

Last modified and spun 2018-01-01