December 2018 books and 2018 books roundup

This is the latest post in a series I started in late 2019, anticipating the twentieth anniversary of my bookblogging which will fall in 2023. Every six-ish days, I’ve been revisiting a month from my recent past, noting work and family developments as well as the books I read in that month. I’ve found it a pleasantly cathartic process, especially in recent circumstances. If you want to look back at previous entries, they are all tagged under bookblog nostalgia.

I started the month at SmofCon in Santa Rosa, California, as previously noted, and went to London twice for work purposes. In the world of politics, the Belgian government collapsed thanks to the dishonesty and opportunism of the N-VA, for whom I don’t think I will ever vote; and sadly, Paddy Ashdown died.

Christmas service in the chapel in the woods:

Decent photo of the whole family on Christmas Day:

I read only 14 books that month.

Non-fiction: 4 (2018 total 50)
Outside In: 160 New Perspectives on 160 Classic Doctor Who Stories by 160 Writers, ed. Robert Smith?
Freddie Mercury: An Illustrated Life, by Mark Blake
Factfulness, by Hans Rosling
The Fate of Rome, by Kyle Harper

Fiction (non-sf): 4 (2018 total 36)
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, by Michael Chabon
Delta of Venus, by Anaïs Nin
The Name of This Book Is Secret, by Pseudonymous Bosch
Finding Time Again, by Marcel Proust

sf (non-Who): 3 (2018 total 108)
Fools, by Pat Cadigan
Destination Moon and Shooting Destination Moon, by Robert A. Heinlein
Perilous Dreams, by Andre Norton

Comics: 3 (2018 total 28)
Saga, vol. 8, by Fiona Staples and Brian K. Vaughan
A Cold Day in Hell, ed. Tom Spilsbury
Ergens Waar Je Niet Wilt Zijn, by Brecht Evens

~4,200 pages (YTD ~71,600)
4/14 (YTD 102/262) by non-male writers (Nin, Cadigan, Norton, Staples)
1/14 (YTD 26/262) by PoC (Staples)

Hugely enjoyed rereading The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, which you can get here, and Finding Time Again, which you can get here.

Hugely enjoyed reading Factfulness for the first time; you can get it here.

Totally bounced off Perilous Dreams, which you can get here.

2018 roundup

I read 262 books in 2018, ninth highest of the eighteen years I have been keeping count, so in the middle.

Page count for the year: 71,600 – also ninth highest of the eighteen years I have been keeping count, again in the middle.

Books by non-male writers in 2017: 102/262, 39% – a record high, since exceeded in 2021.

Books by PoC in 2017: 26/262, 10% – another record high, since exceeded in 2019 and 2021.

Most books by a single author: Tove Jansson and Marcel Proust, both with 6.

Science Fiction and Fantasy (excluding Doctor Who)

108 (41%), a comparatively high total, thanks to two new Hugo categories and Retro Hugos as well.

Some very welcome re-reads (Gulliver’s TravelsSnow CrashJonathan Hoagthe Moomin books).

My three top sff new reads of 2018:

3) Provenance, by Anne Leckie – not directly connected to her previous books, but a convincing story of politics and truth. Finalist for both BSFA and Hugo Awards, and I voted for it both times, though it did not win either.
2) In Other Lands, by Sarah Rees Brennan – one of the Hugo YA finalists, I thought this was a brilliant look at young wizardry with a bisexual protagonist.
1) The Sudden Appearance of Hope, by Clare North – increasingly one of my favourite authors, here with another tale of someone whose interaction with our world is very different, combined with a sinister Facebook-meets-Social-Credit Big Tech conspiracy.

The one you might not have heard of: Anne Charnock’s novella The Enclave, another BSFA Award finalist, which I thought caught a lot of things about Brexit Britain very well.

The one to skip: Second-Stage Lensmen, by E.E. “Doc” Smith – turgid prose from the depths of the pulp era.

Non-fiction

50 (19%) – very slightly but I think not significantly below average.

Top three non-fiction books of 2018:

equal 2) After Europe by Ivan Krastev, and Europe Reset: New Directions for the EU, by Richard Youngs – two takes on the future of the continent, one more pessimistic, one more optimistic, both thorough and also digestible.
1) The last book I fnished this year, and the best book I read all year: Factfulness, by Hans Rosling – a fantastic guide to what is really going on in the world, and how we can think about it more usefully, based just on facts.

The one you haven’t heard of: Huawei Stories: Pioneers, ed. Tian Tao and Yin Zhifeng – fascinating stories of Chinese engineers encountering strange cultures, like Iceland, Italy and Africa.

The one to skip: Here’s My Card, by Bob Popyk, useless and outdated advice on networking.

Non-sfnal fiction

36 (14%) – lower than any year apart from the previous two and 2021.

Again, some welcome rereads (ProustKavalier and Clay). My three top new non-sf fiction books:

3) And The Mountains Echoed, by Khaled Hosseini – a generational tale of Afghanistan and other places which really worked for me.
2) Fingersmith, by Sarah Waters – Waters was my real discovery this year, and Iliked this most of the books by her which I read.
1) Moon Tiger, by Penelope Lively – really blown away by this twentieth-century life story, set mainly in England but with other excursions; I should probably read more by this author.

The one you haven’t heard of: Something Like Normal, by Trish Doller – author is my twin (born the same day and year); this was her first novel, about a young American soldier returning fro the wars and finding it very difficult to fit in.

The one to skip: Five Escape Brexit Island, by Bruno Vincent – not so much a one-joke book as a no-joke book.

Comics

28 (11%) – much the same as the last couple of years.

Top three comics of my year:

3) Saga vol 7, by Fiona Staples and Brian K. Vaughan – I’ve been following the series faithfully since the beginning, and I felt that this installment seemed to pick up a bit more dark energy.
2) My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, by Emil Ferris – was a Hugo finalist; I didn’t think it was actually sf, but I did think it was remarkably good – a story of a little girl in Chicago who discovers more than she really wanted to know about her upstairs neighbour.
1) Weapons of Mass Diplomacy / Quai d’Orsay, by “Abel Lanzac” (Antonin Baudry) and Christophe Blain – brilliant insight into the top levels of diplomacy, which I am recommending to everyone at work.

The one you may not heard of: Ergens Waar Je Niet Wil Zijn / The Wrong Place by Brecht Evens – vivid evocation of two Flemish chaps whose relationship is not exactly what either of them think it is, played out against a background of suburbia, disco and sex.

The one to skip: Dark Satanic Mills, by Marcus Sedgwick – confused near-future English dystopia trying to riff off William Blake and not really succeeding.

Doctor Who (and spinoff) fiction

21 (12%) – a historic low here, basically because I had now read almost all of the Doctor Who books that there are to read.

3) Outside In: 160 New Perspectives on 160 Classic Doctor Who Stories, by 160 Writers, ed. Robert Smith? – much more insightful than the average survey of Doctor Who stories written by a single person or team, includes my brother.
2) A History of the Universe in 100 Objects, by Steve Tribe and James Goss – a gorgeous book looking at internal Who mythology but also drawing linkes bwteen stories in Old and New Who.
1) The Day of the Doctor, by Steven Moffat – the climax of the Moffat era in novel form, telling the story of the anniversary special in an unusual way, incidentally canonicalising the Peter Cushing movies. I hope that future novelisations can aspire to be this good.

The one you may have forgotten about: Time Lord: Create your own adventures in time and space, by Ian Marsh and Peter Darvill-Evans – the 1991 Doctor Who role-playing game.

The one you can skip: The Doctor Who Quiz Book of Dinosaurs, by Michael Holt – an obscure Fifth Doctor era kids spinoff, which contains surprisingly little information about dinosaurs.

Plays

Only four this year. Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, is the best of course, but was not new. You Can’t Take It with You, by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman, is very entertaining. Everybody Comes to Rick’s, by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison, is not as bad as people say. Those three were all adapted to Oscar-winning films. I completely bounced off Le Mariage de Figaro, by Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais.

Poetry

Great to rediscover Virgil’s Æneid, in two different translations, plus Heaney’s Book VI. Unexpected discovery: Glory of Me, an epic poem by MacKinlay Kantor, about demobbed US servicemen from the second world war. (Note also: Now We Are Six Hundred, by James Goss with illustrations by Russell T. Davies.)

Book of the year 2018

One of the last books I read in December, in fact: Factfulness by Hans Rosling. Strongly recommended. You can get it here.

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