December 2016 books, and 2016 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 with a trip to SMOFCon in Chicago (flying out via Stockholm and back via Copenhagen), in the wake of which I saw the stage show of Hamilton, and then before Christmas went to Belfast and Frankfurt, with a side order of Strasbourg for the final European Parliament plenary of the year. My boss bought us all festive T-shirts.

F and I finished the year by visiting the Tintin exhibition at Trainworld.

2016 was and I think remains my record year for travelling, overnighting in 29 places away from home, in 22 different countries.

Books read this month:

Non-fiction: 4 (2016 total 37/212, 17%)
Alexander the Great: The Hunt for a New Past, by Paul Cartledge
Tolstoy, by Henri Troyat
Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships, by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethà
What Makes This Book So Great: Re-Reading the Classics of Fantasy and SF, by Jo Walton

Fiction (non-sf): 2 (2016 total 28/212, 13%)
The Listener, by Tove Jansson
The Case of the Missing Books, by Ian Sansom

sf (non-Who): 6 (2016 total 80/212, 38%)
Kings of the North, by Cecelia Holland
AfroSF: Science Fiction by African Writers, ed. Ivor Hartmann
Angels & Visitations: A Miscellany, by Neil Gaiman
The Star Rover, by Jack London
Last Exit to Babylon – Volume 4: The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny
Christmas Days, by Jeanette Winterson

Doctor Who, etc: 3 (2016 total 39/212, 18%)
Short Trips: The History of Christmas, ed. Simon Guerrier
Bullet Time, by David A. McIntee
Twilight of the Gods, by Mark Clapham and John de Burgh Miller

Comics: 4 (2016 total 27/212, 13%)
Apostata, Bundel I, by Ken Broeders
Apostata, Bundel II, by Ken Broeders
Apostata, Bundel III, by Ken Broeders

Brain Fetish, by Kinga Korska

Page count for December: 6200 (2016 total 62,300)
Books by women in December: 6/19 (Jethà, Walton, Jansson, Holland, Winterson, Korska), 2016 total 65/212
Books by PoC in December: 2/19 (Cacilda Jethà, the AfroSF anthology), total 14/212

Top book of the month: Christmas Days, by Jeanette Winterson; get it here

Worst book of the month: The Case of the Missing Books, by Ian Sansom; get it here

2016 books roundup

Total books: 212, the lowest since 2009, surpassed every year since.

Total page count: ~62,300, fifth lowest of the years I have been counting, lower than any year since except 2017.

Diversity:
65 (31%) by women, the highest % to date, though exceeded several times since.
14 (7%) by PoC, exceeded most years since.

Most books by a single author: Christopher Marlowe (previous winners: Justin Richards in 2015 and 2014, Agatha Christie in 2013, Jonathan Gash in 2012, Arthur Conan Doyle in 2011, Ian Rankin in 2010, William Shakespeare in 2009 and 2008, Terrance Dicks in 2007, Ian Marter in 2006, Charles Stross in 2005)

Non-Whovian sff (80)

Best non-Who sff read in 2016: Cuckoo Song, by Frances Hardinge – creepy doppleganger story set in England just after the first world war; get it here.

Runner-up: Wylding Hall, by Elizabeth Hand – I never wrote this up properly, but it’s an excellent fantasy/horror story, again set in England; get it here.

Welcome re-reads: Watership Down, by Richard Adamsget it here; the Alice books by Lewis Carrollget them here.

The one you might not heard of: Time Bangers #1: One Does Not Simply Walk Into Tudor, by Luna Teague and Ivery Kirk – OK, this is not exactly great art, but the authors clearly had a lot of fun writing it; get it here.

The one to avoid: Nethereal, by Brian Niemeier; get it here.

Doctor Who (and spinoff) fiction (39)

Best Who book read in 2016: The Legends of Ashildr, by James Goss, David Llewellyn, Jenny T. Colgan & Justin Richards – all good stories, some really good; get it here.

Runner-up: The Mike Tucker (and Robert Perry) Seventh Doctor/Ace novels, Illegal Alien, Prime Time and Loving the Alien – great examples of respect for continuity and also bringing more; get them here, here and here.

Worth flagging up for Whovians: Drama and Delight: The Life of Verity Lambert, by Richard Marson – excellent biography of the show’s first producer; get it here.

The one to avoid: Heritage, by Dale Smith; get it here.

Non-fiction (37)

Best non-fiction read in 2016: Between the world and me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates -tremendous (and short) polemic about racism and violence in the United States; get it here.

Runner-up: SPQR, by Mary Beard – great account of the history of Rome; get it here.

The one you might not heard of: Baptism of Fire: The Birth of the Modern British Fantastic in World War I, ed. Janet Brennan Croft – fascinating essays on at the influence of the global conflict on the origins of the fantasy genre; get it here.

The one to really avoid: SJWs Always Lie: Taking Down the Thought Police, by Vox Day.

Non-sfnal fiction (28)

Best non-sff fiction read in 2016: Alice Munro’s short story collections, The Love of a Good Woman, Selected Stories, and The Beggar Maid: Stories of Flo and Rose – all fantastic vignettes of Canada; get them here, here and here.

Runner-up: Nemesis, by Philip Roth – the effects of polio on middle-class America in the 1950s; get it here.

Welcome rereads: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, by James Joyceget it here; Walking on Glass, by Iain Banksget it here; The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumasget it here.

The one you might not heard of: Dark Horse, by Fletcher Knebel – the Republican candidate dies just before the Presidential election; his swiftly conscripted replacement is an obscure New Jersey politician who starts shaking the political system; get it here.

The one to avoid: The Case of the Missing Books, by Ian Sansom; get it here

Comics (27)

Best graphic story read in 2016: Alice in Sunderland, by Bryan Talbot – brilliant exploration of the town and its links to literature in general and Alice in particular; get it here.

Runner-up: The Sandman: Overture, by Neil Gaiman, J.H. Williams III, Dave Stewart, Todd Klein – very satisfying prequel/sequel to the classic story, which won the Hugo; get it here.

The one you might not have heard of: Toch Een Geluk, by Barbara Stok – fun Dutch comics writer, sadly not translated into English yet; get it here.

The one to avoid: Chooz, by Santi-Bucquoy.

Plays

One is slightly comparing chalk and cheese here. I was lucky enough to see Hamilton in Chicago this month, but had also read the Hamiltome which has loads of information and is a must-have for any fan; get it here.

However I also read the complete Christopher Marlowe, and particularly enjoyed Edward II and The Jew of Malta; get it here.

Worst books of the year

To be found on the Best Related Work ballot for the Hugo Awards.

Book of the year

Alice in Sunderland, by Bryan Talbot

Other Books of the Year:

2003 (2 months): The Separation, by Christopher Priest.
2004The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien (reread).
– Best new read: Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self, by Claire Tomalin
2005The Island at the Centre of the World, by Russell Shorto
2006Lost Lives: The stories of the men, women and children who died as a result of the Northern Ireland troubles, by David McKittrick, Seamus Kelters, Brian Feeney, Chris Thornton and David McVea
2007Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel
2008The Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition, by Anne Frank (reread)
– Best new read: Vanity Fair: A Novel without a Hero, by William Makepeace Thackeray
2009Hamlet, by William Shakespeare (had seen it on stage previously)
– Best new read: Persepolis 2: the Story of a Return, by Marjane Satrapi (first volume just pipped by Samuel Pepys in 2004)
2010The Bloody Sunday Report, by Lord Savile et al.
2011The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, by Edward Gibbon (started in 2009!)
2012The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, by Anne Brontë
2013A Room of One’s Own, by Virginia Woolf
2014Homage to Catalonia, by George Orwell
2015: collectively, the Arthur C. Clarke Award shortlist, in particular the winner, Station Eleven, by Emily St John Mandel. However I did not actually blog about these, being one of the judges at the time.
– Best book I actually blogged about: The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft, by Claire Tomalin
2016: See above
2017Common People: The History of an English Family, by Alison Light
2018Factfulness, by Hans Rosling
2019Girl, Woman, Other, by Bernardine Evaristo
2020From A Clear Blue Sky: Surviving the Mountbatten Bomb, by Timothy Knatchbull
2021Carrying the Fire, by Michael Collins.

November 2016 books

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 a work conference in darkest Kent, and on the day of the US election I was in Dublin, again for work, and spent the night in London for the sake of a rather brief TV interview. The next weekend it was off to Helsinki for my first Worldcon 75 meeting as Hugo Administrator. Colette Fozard was then my deputy, but in fact one of the Chairs of the convention resigned a week after the meeting, and Colette was appointed Vice-Chair in the subsequent reshuffle.

The Messukeskus was hosting an pet fair at the time. Check out the show-jumping rabbit:

I then went back to Dublin again for another work trip, and also visited the World Health Organisation in Geneva. At home in Leuven, the M Museum was hosting an exhibition to mark the 500th anniversary of the publication of Thomas More’s Utopia:

But I must say that the election of Donald Trump caused me to do so much doomscrolling that I read only three books in the whole of that month, the lowest tally since I started keeping count (and probably the lowest since I learned to read). They were:

Fiction (non-sf): 1 (YTD 28)
Kramer’s War, by Derek Robinson; get it here.

sf (non-Who): 1 (YTD 74)
Prime Minister Corbyn: and other things that never happened, eds. Duncan Brack and Iain Dale; get it here.

Comics: 1 (YTD 23)
Antarès, Épisode 1, by Leo; get it here in French and here in English.

800 pages (YTD 56,100 pages)
0/3 (YTD 59/193) by women
0/3 (YTD 12/193) by PoC

With only three books, I won’t choose a best or worst of the month.

October 2016 books

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.

A fair bit of travel that month, with an unsuccessful work trip to Berlin followed by a more successful work trip to London. My (second) godson’s christening helpfully coincided with a convention in Dublin.

I also had a Whovian encounter in Gent.

And the month ended with a reunion in Cambridge. Little did we know…

I read only eight books that month.

Non-fiction: 1 (YTD 33)
SPQR, by Mary Beard

Fiction (non-sf): 2 (YTD 27)
Seventeen, by Booth Tarkington
Valley of the Dolls, by Jacqueline Susann

sf (non-Who): 2 (YTD 73)
Winter Song, by Colin Harvey
Songs of the Dying Earth: Stories in honour of Jack Vance, eds. George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois

Doctor Who, etc: 3 (YTD 36)
Short Trips: The Solar System, ed. Gary Russell
Companion Piece, by Robert Perry and Mike Tucker
The Joy Device, by Justin Richards

2,500 pages (YTD 55,600 pages)
2/8 (YTD 59/191) by women (Beard, Susann)
0/8 (YTD 12/191) by PoC

Liked SPQR, which you can get here, and Songs of the Dying Earth, which you can get here; didn’t care for Companion Piece, which you can get here, or The Joy Device, which you can get here.

August 2016 books

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.

We spent the first half of the month in Loughbrickland as usual, and saw the Red Arrows fly over Tyrella Beach:

We met the Tandragee Man.

My cousin L asked me to be godfather to her baby E, and I accepted.

Taking a winding way back to Belgium, we encountered dead King John, live Chris Priest and Nina Allan, and Stone’enge.

I read 26 books that month.

Non-fiction: 2 (YTD 31)
Drama and Delight: The Life of Verity Lambert, by Richard Marson
Ghastly Beyond Belief, eds. Neil Gaiman and Kim Newman

Fiction (non-sf): 1 (YTD 20)
The Beggar Maid, by Alice Munro

Play scripts: 7
Dido, Queen of Carthage, by Christopher Marlowe and Thomas Nashe
The First Part of Tamburlaine the Great, by Christopher Marlowe
The Second Part of Tamburlaine the Great, by Christopher Marlowe
The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus, by Christopher Marlowe
The Jew of Malta, by Christopher Marlowe
Edward the Second, by Christopher Marlowe
The Massacre At Paris, by Christopher Marlowe

sf (non-Who): 11 (YTD 67)
The Host, by Peter Emshwiller
Merchanter’s Luck, by C.J. Cherryh
The Last Theorem, by Arthur C. Clarke and Frederik Pohl
Oracle, by Ian Watson
A Voyage to Arcturus, by David Lindsay
Robot Dreams, by Isaac Asimov
The Sea and Summer, by George Turner
Planet of Judgement, by Joe Haldeman
The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny, Vol 3: This Mortal Mountain
Cuckoo Song, by Frances Hardinge
Watership Down, by Richard Adams

Doctor Who, etc: 3 (YTD 29)
Short Trips: Seven Deadly Sins, ed. David Bailey
Atom Bomb Blues, by Andrew Cartmel
Tears of the Oracle, by Justin Richards

Comics: 2 (YTD 19)
Alice in Sunderland: An Entertainment, by Bryan Talbot
Les Lumières de l’Amalou, by Christophe Gibelin and Claire Wendling

6,600 pages (YTD 46,900 pages)
4/26 (YTD 51/165) by women (Munro, Cherryh, Hardinge, Wendling)
0/26 (YTD 10/165) by PoC

I hugely enjoyed returning to Watership Down, which you can get here, and discovering Edward II and The Jew of Malta, which are included here, and Alice in Sunderland, which you can get here. On the other hand, as usual for that author, I bounced off Merchanter’s Luck by C.J. Cherryh; you can get it here.

July 2016 books

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.

July started with my personal Brexit bonuses as I gave talks on the subject in Birmingham and, more exotically, Portland, Oregon. Pleased with this picture of one of the Cascades, probably Mount Rainier, from the plane.

On the Portland trip I started off with a couple of days in Washington, taking in a Chinese TV interview on the issues of the day.

I also had work trips to Belgrade (not as enjoyable as usual) and to Dublin (more fun), and we finished the month in Loughbrickland at the start of our holiday.

Thanks to various daytime travels, I read 30 books that month.

Non-fiction: 9 (YTD 29)
Fanny Kemble and the Lovely Land, by Constance Wright
The Cuckoo’s Egg: Tracking a Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage, by Cliff Stoll
Hamilton: The Revolution, by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter
Boy, by Roald Dahl
Empire of Mud, by J.D. Dickey
Between structure and No-thing: An annotated reader in Social and Cultural Anthropology, ed. Patrick J. Devlieger
Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster, by Svetlana Alexievich
Tove Jansson: Work and Love, by Tuula Karjalainen
Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Fiction (non-sf): 5 (YTD 19)
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: A Novel in Cartoons, by Jeff Kinney
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules, by Jeff Kinney
Tales from the Secret Annexe, by Anne Frank
A Delicate Truth, by John le Carré
Holes, by Louis Sachar

sf (non-Who): 9 (YTD 56)
The Stars My Destination, by Alfred Bester
The Secret History of Science Fiction, ed. James Patrick Kelly & John Kessel
Gráinne, by Keith Roberts
Corona, by Greg Bear
Islands in the Sky, by Arthur C. Clarke
The Sands of Mars, by Arthur C. Clarke
Earthlight, by Arthur C Clarke
Galileo’s Dream, by Kim Stanley Robinson
Doctor Dolittle in the Moon, by Hugh Lofting

Doctor Who, etc: 4 (YTD 26)
Short Trips: A Christmas Treasury, ed. Paul Cornell
The Algebra of Ice, by Lloyd Rose
Dead Romance, by Lawrence Miles
Lethbridge-Stewart: Beast of Fang Rock, by Andy Frankham-Allan

Comics: 3 (YTD 17)
The Divine, by Boaz Lavie, Asaf Hanuka and Tomer Hanuka
Invisible Republic, Vol 1, by Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman
Bétélgeuse v.5: L’Autre, by Leo

7,500 pages (YTD 40,100 pages)
6/30 (YTD 47/139) by women (Wright, Alexievich, Karjalainen, Frank, Rose, Bechko)
2/30 (YTD 10/139) by PoC (Miranda, Coates)

The two best of these were about race and America, the Hamiltome, which you can get here, and Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and me, which you can get here. I bounced off the Diary of a Wimpy Kid, but you can get it here.

June 2016 books

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.

The major development of June 2016 was the Brexit referendum, which of course went the wrong way. I wrote to over a thousand British friends in the days immediately before, pleading with them to vote Remain; I led with the likely impact of Brexit on Northern Ireland, which really was not too hard to foresee. Shell-shocked the day after, I wrote this reaction with a colleague, most of which turned out to be right. I am still resentful and angry about Brexit, though I am also pretty clear that it will not be reversed any time soon. What a shame.

My major trip of June 2016 was to Northern Ireland for my great-aunt’s 100th birthday. She is still going strong and will turn 106 next month. (Sadly her oldest daughter, on the left here, has since passed away.)

I had two work-related trips as well, one at the start of the month in London, where I took in a Comics Museum exhibition of the work of Doctor Who illustrator Chris Achilleos:

And one at the end of the month to Barcelona.

It was also the month of the Belgium/Ireland match in the European Championships; out local pub allowed space for our Irish neighbours and us despite the general Belgitude.

Despite everything I read 22 books that month.

Non-fiction: 3 (YTD 20)
Between Light and Shadow: An Exploration of the Fiction of Gene Wolfe, 1951 to 1986, by Marc Aramini (not finished)
SJWs Always Lie: Taking Down the Thought Police, by Vox Day (not finished)

The 4-Hour Workweek, by Timothy Ferriss

Fiction (non-sf): 5 (YTD 14)
Selected Stories, by Alice Munro
The Unicorn Hunt, by Dorothy Dunnett
The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas
Dark Horse, by Fletcher Knebel
The Commissioner, by Stanley Johnson

sf (non-Who): 10 (YTD 47)
Space Raptor Butt Invasion, by Chuck Tingle
The Builders, by Daniel Polanski
Perfect State, by Brandon Sanderson
Slow Bullets, by Alastair Reynolds
Seveneves, by Neal Stephenson
Nethereal, by Brian Niemeyer (did not finish)
Traitor’s Blade, by Sebastien de Castell

The Hidden War, by Michael Armstrong (did not finish)
Frankenstein Unbound, by Brian W. Aldiss
Peter & Max, by Bill Willingham

Doctor Who, etc: 3 (YTD 22)
Short Trips: 2040, ed. John Binns
Loving the Alien, by Mike Tucker and Robert Perry
The Mary-Sue Extrusion, by Dave Stone

Comics: 1 (YTD 14)
The Unwritten Vol. 6: Tommy Taylor and the War of Words, by Mike Carey

6,200 pages (YTD 32,600 pages)
2/22 (YTD 41/109) by women (Munro, Dunnett)
1/22 (YTD 10/109) by PoC (Dumas)

Enjoyed re-reading The Count of Monte Cristo, which you can get here, and Dark Horse, which you can get here; best new read was the Selected Stories of Alice Munro, which you can get here. Several awful books in the Hugo packet, thanks to Puppy infestation; no names, no publicity.

May 2016 books

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 had a lot of fun travel in that month. It started with a trip to Northern Ireland for the 2016 Assembly election, which was actually not all that exciting as only seven seats out of 108 changed hands; we did not know what was about to hit us. (Funny to come back to this memory after last week.)

Though the studio experience had its dramatic moments.

Anne, F and I had a lovely cultural trip to the Netherlands for her birthday, including the Escher museum in The Hague.

And I also visited Georgia for a Liberal International conference, with country excursions.

Back home, I managed to persuade B to come out for a walk in the centre of her town.

I read 23 books that month.

Non-fiction: 3 (YTD 17)
How Loud Can You Burp?, by Glenn Murphy
A History of Anthropology, by Thomas Hylland Eriksen and Finn Sievert Nielsen
Not the Chilcot Report, by Peter Oborne
How Loud Can You Burp? History of Anthropology Chilcot

Fiction (non-sf): 5 (YTD 9)
Lila, by Marilynne Robinson
The Quarry, by Iain Banks
Walking on Glass, aby Iain Banks

Cyprus Avenue, by David Ireland (theatre script)
Mister Pip, by Lloyd Jones
Lila Quarry Walking on Glass Cyprus Avenue Mister Pip

SF (non-Who): 7 (YTD 37)
Banewreaker, by Jacqueline Carey
George’s Cosmic Treasure Hunt, by Lucy Hawking
George and the Big Bang, by Lucy Hawking

Godslayer, by Jacqueline Carey
The Ragged Astronauts, by Bob Shaw
Quantico by Greg Bear
The Last Man, by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
Banewreaker Cosmic Treasure Hunt Big Bang Godslayer Ragged Astronauts Quantico Last Man

Doctor Who, etc: 4 (YTD 19)
Short Trips: Monsters, ed. Ian Farrington
Heritage, by Dale Smith
Where Angels Fear, by Rebecca Levene and Simon Winstone
Lethbridge-Stewart: Mutually Assured Domination, by Nick Walters
Monsters Heritage Angels MAD"

Comics: 4 (YTD 13)
Bételgeuse v.4: Les Cavernes, by Leo
Adolf, An Exile In Japan, by Osamu Tezuka
De maagd en de neger, by Judith Vanistendael
Chroniques de Fin de Siècle 3: Chooz, by Santi-Bucquoy
Cavernes Adolf Maagd en Neger Chooz

6,300 pages (YTD 26,400 pages)
8/23 (YTD 39/97) by women (Robinson, Carey x2, Hawking x2, Shelley, Levene, Vanistendael)
1/23 (YTD 9/97) by PoC (Tezuka)

The best of these was a reread, Walking on Glass by Iain Banks, which you can get here; followed by Mister Pip, which you can get here. The worst were Santi-Bucquoy’s disappointing Chooz, which you can get here, and Shaw’s Ragged Astronauts, which you can get here.

April 2016 books

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.

As previously noted, I started the month at my sister’s in Cluny, visiting a nearby castle where her daughter dressed up.

I had two business trips to London, on the second of which I met up with one of my favourite Moldovan politicians, who I had last seen when she was Foreign Minister; meantime she had been acting prime minister for six weeks in 2015.

Back home, little U got confirmed.

With the ongoing Brexit doomscrolling, I read only 15 books that month.

Non-fiction: 3 (YTD 14)
Legacy: A Collection of Personal Testimonies from People Affected by the Troubles in Northern Ireland, by BBC Northern Ireland
JN-T: The Life and Scandalous Times of John Nathan-Turner, by Richard Marson
1491, by Charles C. Mann
  

Fiction (non-sf): 1 (YTD 4)
The Folding Star, by Alan Hollinghurst

SF (non-Who): 5 (YTD 30)
The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, by Becky Chambers
Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis
A Princess of Roumania, by Paul Park
Whispers Under Ground, by Ben Aaronovitch
Gorgon Child, by Steven Barnes
    

Doctor Who, etc: 4 (YTD 15)
Short Trips: Life Science, ed John Binns
Prime Time, by Mike Tucker
Beige Planet Mars, by Lance Parkin and Mark Clapham
Lethbridge-Stewart: The Schizoid Earth, by David McIntee
   

Comics: 2 (YTD 9)
Thing Explainer, by Randall Munroe
Het Spaanse Spook, by Willy Vandersteen
 

6,000 pages (YTD 20,100 pages)
1/15 (YTD 31/74) by women (Chambers)
1/15 (YTD 8/74) by PoC (Barnes)

The best of these were Legacy, which you can get here, and 1491, which you can get here. I bounced right off A Princess of Roumania, which you can get here, and Bitter Seeds, which you can get here.

March 2016 books

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.

As I have previously written, on 22 March 2016, I set off from home in slightly unusual circumstances; I had the car, because Anne was in England at a family funeral, and my phone was broken so I had no means of contacting the outside world as I drove to work. When I hit the tunnel that takes you from the motorway to Avenue de Cortenbergh at around 0850, there was the usual tailback of traffic. But it became clear by the time I reached Rond Point Schuman that this was no ordinary traffic jam; the Rue de la Loi, along which I would normally coast before taking a left turn down Rue de la Science for my office (the green line on my map), was being closed off by serious-looking police, and I ended up taking a very serpentine route indeed, not helped by thinking at one point that it might be smart to double back and then changing my mind. 

I finally made it to the office at 1022, those last two kilometres having taken me 90 minutes to drive, to find most of my colleagues gathered ashen-faced in the lobby, greeting me tearfully – I was the only person who was unaccounted for, due to my phone being out of order, and people were beginning to assume the worst. They informed me that two terrorist attacks, one at the airport and one at the Maalbeek/Maelbeek metro station (marked with the four-pointed star on my map), had killed dozens of people – 35 including the perpetrators themselves, as it later turned out. I had massive numbers of messages on every possible platform asking if I was all right, which is very reassuring.

Losers

The horror hit very close to home. I had flown out of Brussels airport in the morning five times already in 2016, and was originally due to do so again three days later to go to Eastercon in Manchester (in fact my plans had already changed and I took the Eurostar to London for work and travelled on up by train). Anne’s flight home from England was cancelled and she returned by Eurostar the next day. Maelbeek metro station is in the heart of the EU quarter, and I go past it most days and through it several times a month; a former colleague was actually on the train that was bombed, but fortunately escaped without injury.

Apart from that, Mrs Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play? I had two trips to London, one of which extended into Eastercon in Manchester (Mancunicon) and also went to Barcelona. I don’t seem to have taken any photographs on any of those trips. We finished the month at my sister’s in Burgundy.

For the centenary of the Easter Rising, I wrote a blog post for the Dublin Worldcon bid, though later had to make corrections.

What with one thing and another, it was a slow month for reading.

Non-fiction: 2 (YTD 11)
The Road to Ruin: how Tony Abbott and Peta Credlin destroyed their own government, by Niki Savva
Easter 1916: selected archive pieces from the New Statesman

SF (non-Who): 8 (YTD 25)
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll
Mother of Eden, by Chris Beckett
Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll
Wings of Sorrow and of Bone, by Beth Cato
Witches of Lychford, by Paul Cornell
Binti, by Nnedi Okorafor

Glorious Angels, by Justina Robson – did not finish
Naamah’s Curse, by Jacqueline Carey

Doctor Who, etc: 3 (YTD 11)
Short Trips: Steel Skies, ed. John Binns
Illegal Alien by Mike Tucker and Robert Perry
Another Girl, Another Planet by Martin Day and Len Beech

Comics: 2 (YTD 7)
The Sandman: Overture, by Neil Gaiman et al
House Party, by Rachael Smith

3,500 pages (YTD 14,100 pages)
5/12 (YTD 30/59) by women (Savva, Cato, Okorafor, Carey, Smith)
1/12 (YTD 7/59) by PoC (Okorafor)

Top book of course was Carroll’s Alice, which you can get here, followed by Paul Cornell’s Witches of Lychford, which you can get here, and The Sandman: Overture, which you can get here.

I bounced off both Glorious Angels, which you can get here, and Another Girl, Another Planet, which you can get here.

February 2016 books

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.

In the real world, this was the month of Ireland’s 2016 parliamentary election, in which Fianna Fáil did not quite regain the top spot that they had previously had, and ended up supporting a minority Fine Gael government.

I had three trips that month – one to Belgrade again, where I don’t seem to have taken pictures, and two to London, in both of which I nipped out to see exhibitions: one about John Dee, at the Royal College of Physicians, with Shana and Alison, and one about the Soviet space programme, at the Science Museum. (Some will remember a very pleasant dinner at Mele e Pere in London.) I followed up on John Dee by analysing a hand-written horoscope that he had done. Back in Belgium, I explored the sculptures of Woluwe Saint-Pierre. Here’s St Martin-in-the-Fields, at dusk.

I read rather fewer books than usual this month – the consequence of several trips where I wasn’t able to read much either in transit or when I got there. Also to be honest the accelerating Brexit debate was developing the bad habit of doomscrolling.

Non-fiction: 3 (YTD 9)
A People’s Peace for Cyprus, by Alexander Lordos, Erol Kaymak and Nathalie Tocci
The Sinn Féin Rebellion As I Saw It, by Mrs Hamilton Norway
The Insurrection in Dublin, by James Stephens

  7f56220328dc9945979354155674346414c3441.jpg 1523638702.01._SX133_SY190_SCLZZZZZZZ_.jpg 1438504330.01._SX133_SY190_SCLZZZZZZZ_.jpg

Fiction (non-sf): 1 (YTD 3)
Prodigal Summer, by Barbara Kingsolver
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SF (non-Who): 5 (YTD 17)
Tik-Tok by John Sladek
Europe at Midnight, by Dave Hutchinson
The Fifth Season, by N.K. Jemisin
Alif the Unseen, by G. Willow Wilson
The Magic Cup, by Andrew Greeley
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Doctor Who, etc: 4 (YTD 8)
Short Trips: The Muses, ed. Jacqueline Rayner
Citadel of Dreams by Dave Stone
The Sword of Forever, by Jim Mortimore
The Legends of Ashildr, by James Goss, David Llewellyn, Jenny T. Colgan and Justin Richards
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3,300 pages (YTD 10,600)
7/15 (YTD 25/44) by women (Tocci, Hamilton Norway, Kingsolver, Jemisin, Wilson, Rayner, Colgan)
1/15 (YTD 6/44) by PoC (Jemisin)

The best of these was Europe at Midnight, which you can get here, followed by Prodigal Summer, which you can get here. The Magic Cup has not aged well, but you can get it here.

January 2016 books

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 year with a trip to London (for some reason I flew to Heathrow rather than taking the Chunnel, no idea why). Mid month I attempted to fly to Serbia, but the weather was against me and I only got as far as Munich. Later in the month I successfully got to Skopje and then Dubrovnik on the same trip. Dubrovnik as always was spectacular.

At home, I started my very enjoyable rewatch of Here Come the Double Deckers!

I read 29 books that month.

Non-fiction: 6
Lois McMaster Bujold, by Edward James
Perilous and Fair: Women in the Works and Life of J. R. R. Tolkien, eds. Janet Brennan Croft and Leslie A. Donovan
Baptism of Fire: The Birth of the Modern British Fantastic in World War I, ed. Janet Brennan Croft

The Story of Ireland by Brendan O’Brien
No Official Umbrella, by Glyn Jones
On The Way To Diplomacy, by Costas Constantinou
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Fiction (non-sf): 2
Travelling Light, by Tove Jansson
The Love of a Good Woman by Alice Munro
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SF (non-Who): 12
Jews vs Aliens, eds Lavie Tidhar and Rebecca Levene
A Day In Deep Freeze, by Lisa Shapter
Rupert Wong: Cannibal Chef, by Cassandra Khaw
The Philosopher Kings, by Jo Walton
Wylding Hall, by Elizabeth Hand
Uprooted, by Naomi Novik
Touch, by Claire North
Streetlethal, by Steven Barnes
Sorcerer to the Crown, by Zen Cho
House of Shattered Wings, by Aliette de Bodard
Flatland by Edwin A. Abbott
Ancillary Mercy, by Ann Leckie
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Doctor Who, etc: 4
Zodiac ed Jacqueline Rayner
Relative Dementias, by Mark Michalowski
Dry Pilgrimage, by Paul Leonard and Nick Walters
Royal Blood, by Una McCormack
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Comics: 5
Saga vol 5, by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Ms. Marvel Volume 2: Generation Why, by G. Willow Wilson
Sex Criminals, Vol. 2: Two Worlds, One Cop, by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky
Bételgeuse, tome 3 : L’Expédition by Leo
Thor Volume 1: Goddess of Thunder, by Jason Aaron
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7,300 pages
18/29 by women (Brennan Croft, Donovan Janssen, Monro, Levene, Shapter, Khaw, Walton, Hand, Novik, North, Cho, de Bordard, Leckie, Rayner, McCormack, Staples, Wilson)
5/29 by PoC (Barnes, Khaw, Cho, de Bodard, Staples)

I’m going to give you five good books and no bad ones this month:

  • Ancillary Mercy, by Ann Leckie (get it here)
  • The Love of a Good Woman, by Alice Munro (get it here)
  • Wylding Hall, by Elizabeth Hand (get it here)
  • Travelling Light, by Tove Jansson (get it here) and
  • Baptism of Fire: The Birth of the Modern British Fantastic in World War I, by Janet Brennan Croft (get it here)

Lethbridge-Stewart: Mutually Assured Domination, by Nick Walters

Second paragraph of third chapter:

The next day, Chorley rose at his usual hour of 7:30am and, fuelled by three cups of percolated coffee (an extravagance he could never forsake), he began his investigation into Dominex.

Another in the very enjoyable series of books about the career of Alastair Lethbridge-Stewart between the events of The Invasion and Spearhead from Space, this actually manages to tell a good story about the Dominators taking over part of Dartmoor for their own nefarious purposes, bringing in Harold Chorley and other figures from the relevant era of Doctor Who. I realise to my annoyance that I’m now out of sequence – I should have read Beast of Fang Rock before this – but it’s great fun, Lethbridge-Stewart forced to go rogue and ally with hippies at one point, and sinister insights into what the Estabishment is Really Up To. It doesn’t especially break new ground, but it’s another nice block in the secret history of how UNIT came to be.

MAD"

Touch, by Claire North

I greatly enjoyed last year’s The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August. Harry August has an unusual experience of consciousness: every time he dies, he is reborn again and has the chance to re-live his life from the beginning. It really blew me away, with its alternate histories intersecting with some harsh questions of how much difference one person could make to the development of science and society in the twentieth century, and whether that would be a good thing. I thought it very well handled, and told with a strong emotional voice. I didn’t blog about it here when I read it (in December 2014) because I was one of the Clarke judges and was maintaining radio silence on submissions; but we shortlisted it, it also made the BSFA shortlist, and won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award.

Touch also features a narrator who experiences consciousness differently, through having the ability to take possession of someone else’s body simply through skin contact. Set in our contemporary world, there is a whole sub-culture and underground economy of people renting out their bodies to such “ghosts”, along with “estate agents” who broker those arrangements. But there are also those who want to stamp out the ghosts – or at least our narrator – whatever the collateral damage, and unravelling the conspiracy while staying alive is the key driver of the plot. The book begins with an assassination in Istanbul, and climaxes at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, taking in various parts of Europe en route, all well sketched with a good sense of location and culture. I really liked it and I suspect it will be on my Hugo nomination list and my BSFA second round vote.

Dry Pilgrimage, by Paul Leonard and Nick Walters

Next in sequence of the Virgin Bernice Summerfield novels, this time featuring a voyage by sea with an alien species whose life cycle and religious beliefs are worked out in interesting detail, of course largely driving the plot. I thought this was an above average book in this series, with convincing characters among both the humans and non-humans and a compassionate take on the conflict between them.

I am struck, though, that the standard mode of a Bernice Sumemrfield novel seems to involve her being sent on mission rather than staying at home. My memory of the audios is that a lot more of them have her dealing with problems at home base. (Though of course she has been on mission for the last few of those as well.)

Next up: Jim Mortimore’s Sword of Forever.