I’m a bit late to the party of best of the year posts but here it is, and be warned: It’s quite long.
I almost can’t believe I’m still here. I expected I’d grow tired of blogging about books. Like a hobby you think you want to start but grow bored of after a few months. Well… it’s been almost two years (that’s not so bad, in internet time) and I’m still enjoying it.
It’s taught me a lot of things about myself and my reading habits, but the best side effect is that as soon as you’re passionate about something, like-minded people start coming your way. And it is these people that have helped me find the best books ever. I did use the internet before I began posting my two cents about books, but only since I’ve started talking to other bloggers, readers, and SFF fans, have I discovered books that overwhelm me, authors that I will love forever, and learned to be more critical with what I buy and read.
This is my big thank you to everybody who has recommended a book to me specifically, and to the amazing bloggers out there who write about books that might otherwise fall under the radar. You are wonderful and I send a big internet hug your way! (I’m adding a list of the biggest culprits at the bottom, so you know who you are.)
This year, in addition to the inevitable Top Ten List, I gathered some data on the books I read. Because statistics! With all the talk about gender bias in SFF publishing, and events like the Worlds Without End Women of Genre Fiction Challenge, I’ve been watching myself more closely and I’d like to see how I did. More on that below.
Now on to the list making. This was probably my best reading year yet. EVER. I hardly read any bad books. I did read so many great ones, however, that they’re having a fight about who gets to be in my “top ten”. So yes: Cheating ahead…
MY FAVORITE READS OF 2013
- Catherynne M. Valente – Deathless
- Terry Pratchett – The Tiffany Aching Series
- Caitlín R. Kiernan – The Drowning Girl
- Ann Leckie – Ancillary Justice
- Terry Pratchett – Nation
- Catherynne M. Valente – The Orphan’s Tales
- Catherynne M. Valente – The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two
- Margo Lanagan – Tender Morsels
- Nalo Hopkinson – Midnight Robber
- Brian K. Vaughn & Fiona Staples – Saga Volume 1 and Volume 2
- China Miéville – Railsea
- Jaida Jones & Danielle Bennett – Havemercy
- Léo – The Aldebaran Series
- Margaret Atwood – The Handmaid’s Tale
- Octavia E. Butler – Wild Seed
- Lauren Beukes – The Shining Girls
- Sarah Pinborough – Tales from the Kingdoms
Soooo, I was convinced I’d read more female authors this year than male ones but then I remembered how Terry Pratchett totally hijacked my reading time…
I read 97 books this year, including comics, which is a tiny step down from last year’s 104. That number splits up into 56% male authors and 44 % authors. Although it’s not a perfect balance, these are the numbers counting single books, not single authors. If I count single authors, I have read 34 female authors, 20 male authors, and two anthologies with mixed authors. So my gut feeling wasn’t complete wrong.
My author highlights this year will be obvious to anyone who’s been following me throughout the year. I read 6 Catherynne M. Valente books and an amazing 15 Terry Pratchett novels. Leo‘s Aldebaran and Betelgeuze comics make up 10 issues, which I counted as single books (they are all shiny hardcovers, so that makes each of them a book in my eyes).
Strange as this seems to me, it happens a lot that February, though the shortest month, is my strongest reading month. September and October dragged me down because work was taking up all of my time. Here’s how many books I read each month:
- January: 11
- February: 13
- March: 8
- April: 10
- May: 5
- June: 9
- July: 6
- August: 8
- September: 5
- October: 5
- November: 7
- December: 10
Other favorite things
Favorite book bloggers
Ever since I’ve discovered them, The Book Smugglers have been responsible for the fact that I still believe in young adult fiction. After many, many disappointments, after reading the same things rehashed over and over again, I almost lost faith. But Ana and Thea read a lot more in the field than I do – almost every book I’ve picked up because of them turned out to be just as wonderful as they promised. Apart from that, their blog is also extremely well-written and they often feature author guest posts, givaways, and what have you. If you’re not following them yet, you should.
Another shout out must go to Carl of Stainless Steel Droppings. He keeps reminding me that science fiction is wonderful and that I want to read more of it. He writes great reviews, not just of books, but movies and short stories as well. I also love the challenges and not-challenges he hosts on his blog. At the moment, the 2014 Sci-Fi Experience is still going on, so jump right in. I missed this year’s R.I.P. challenge and the Once Upon a Time challenge, but even without participating, it’s great fun to see what other people are reading and watching. Here’s a resolution for next year: Don’t miss Carl’s challenges!
Ladybusiness may not post a review every week, but I love their link collections which point you to reviews by other great people. The ladies at Lady Business talk about books, movies, fanfiction, internet articles, blogging, and feminism. I particularly recommend their podcast Ladybusiness+. The mid-year breakdown episode (recorded with The Book Smugglers‘ Ana) is one of my favorites.
Alix from The Other Side of the Rain has just started her blog this year, but my gods, does she post great stuff! The first review of hers that I read was of a Cat Valente book. Then she went on to send some love Susanna Clarke’s way (of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell fame) and I knew I would gobble up the next book she loved that I hadn’t read yet. Her reviews are insightful and detailed and just make you want to go and pick up books and eat them up. And she loves the same books I do. In book blogger language that’s like an invitation to be my best friend.
Of course, what would the SF world be without SF Signal? It feels ridiculous to even mention them but, hey, this is a list of my favorite stuff, so they need to be included. SF Signal is where I go for most of my sci-fi and fantasy news, but I do have a special kind of love for some of their features. Their monthly book cover gallery of upcoming titles is both a blessing and a curse (all of the books you may want next month in one post! Yay! When the hell are you going to read them all? Uhm…). The SF Signal Podcast is hit or miss for me. I love the panel discussions, especially when authors and bloggers talk about their favorite books of some kind (the year/subgenre/etc.), but I usually zone out in the one-on-one interviews. Their new-ish column Special Needs in Strange Worlds is always interesting and well-written, their SF/F/H Link posts give me endless reading material for my daily commute, and let’s face it, the site totally deserves the two Hugo Awards it now has under its belt.
After winning two Hugos, the SF Squeecast decided to withdraw from consideration for upcoming Hugo Awards, but if I had my way, they’d continue getting one every year. I have endless amounts of love for the cast and the books they talk about. Their podcasts are always funny, always positive, and they have great guests.
My second-favorite podcast is The Writer and the Critic with the two most charming (and filthy-mouthed) Australians you can imagine. Kirstyn McDermott and Ian Mond never disappoint me. Word of warning: They do spoil the books they talk about so it pays to have read them first. But once they got a discussion going, hilarity is guaranteed. They are also insightful and balance each other beautifully with Kirstyn being the voice of reason when Ian’s imagination runs away with him.
Finally, I discovered the charming Emma Newman’s podcast Tea and Jeopardy. She interviews authors but with a twist. Every episode “takes place” in a different setting. Emma sets it up beautifully, invites her guests for tea and cake, and then chats eloquently and charmingly about books and tea and whatever else comes to mind. This podcast is the reason I picked up one of Emma Newman’s books (guess what, it was as much fun as her podcast!).
I have a whole rant inside of me for this section but, in the end, I’d rather tell you about the few (very few!) SF/F movies I did enjoy this year instead of talking about why the others were so bad.
Pacific Rim needs to be on this list for obvious reasons. Yeah, it was stupid and full of plot holes. And yes, the dialogue was bad, and the plot weak, but it’s GIANT ROBOTS FIGHTING GIANT MONSTERS! Sure, they tried to push Raleigh’s story line what with him getting to terms with his brother being dead, but to me, this was Mako Mori’s movie and I don’t care what anybody says.
If this isn’t everyone’s favorite guilty pleasure of the year, I’ll be very surprised.
This is the End was a complete surprise. I didn’t expect to like it. My boyfriend and I ended up laughing so hard we could barely breathe. Look at the line-up of actors and you know exactly what you’re getting. These guys play wacky versions of themselves while the apocalypse rages outside James Franco’s house. I couldn’t pick out a favorite scene if you held a gun to my head. Then again, I couldn’t pick out a scene that didn’t have me laughing stitches, so there you go. Just writing about this makes me want to watch it again.
There are some movies from 2013 I still want to watch:
- The Conjuring
- Catching Fire (maybe…)
- Thor: The Dark World
- Ender’s Game
Favorite TV Shows
This year saw the end of Matt Smith as the Doctor and, like many others, I weep at the thought. Let’s say goodbye to bow ties and the fez, and see what this Capaldi fellow brings to the Doctor Who table.
Luther was a total surprise. It’s not science fiction or fantasy but, damn, was that a good show. Idris Elba was brilliant and I couldn’t help but grin when I saw “Jane Eyre” by his side, playing a genius killer.
I started watcing Orphan Black and, yeah, it’s good. Some episodes were even great but I never had that feeling of can’t-possibly-stop-watching-now.
Adventure Time has rocked my world for the last year and I’d gladly watch any random episode over and over again. The Ice King writes in-story fanfiction about himself, for crying out loud. You can’t get much more meta. Favorite character: Marceline, the Vampire Queen.
A Young Doctor’s Notebook has gone mostly unnoticed but I love it so much. Daniel Radcliffe proves once and for all that he’s more than Harry Potter, and with John Hamm by his side, this show had me alternate between laughing and staring at the screen, completely shocked. Plus, it’s based on a short story collection by Mikhail Bulgakov (whose Master and Margarita I still desperately want to read).
Orange Is The New Black is amazing, The Newsroom may just be the show that leaves me most emotional every week, Parks and Recreation is still hilarious, Community will come back next year with some good writers (I hope) and Modern Family still makes me chuckle every week. I didn’t really warm to Almost Human, but I might just start watching Sleepy Hollow. The interwebs have copious amounts of love for that show so why not give it a try?
New Year’s Resolutions
My reading resolutions are pretty much the same every year. I’d like to get close to reading 100 books this year, I’d like to make that about 50% of books by women. Last year’s debates and discussions also made me excited to read more fiction featuring POC and LGBT character, characters with disabilities, etc.
As far as reading challenges go, I’m doing the TBR challenge again (in the German book forum Literaturschock), I eagerly await to see what the Worlds Without End people have up their sleeve for 2014, and I’ll probably join in a bunch of reading challenges throughout the year.
That’s it. My monster end-of-the-year post is done. 2013 has been an excellent reading year and I hope 2014 continues in that vein. Happy New Year, everybody!