2015 in books

I read 33 books in 2015, less than the 41 I read in 2014, but almost 2,000 more pages in total.

How I read

Reading changed for me this year; I went from borrowing books from the library, which I’d been doing for a few years in an effort to eliminate stuff, to getting a Kindle, which allowed me to read any book I wanted. I got Amazon Prime and have made a point of always choosing the no-rush delivery, meaning I get free or cheap books a lot of the time thanks to the credits.

The Kindle meant I could read while holding my daughter in the night (thankfully those days are over now!) or in bed without needing a light on. It means I can travel with a single, lightweight item instead of a pile of books, and if I finish what I’m reading the next book is only a tap away.

I have the Voyage. I’m almost completely happy with it. The only downsides are that sometimes I seem to open a menu or turn a page the wrong way, if there are any images in the books they are next to useless, and if there are reference sections (like maps or family trees) I find flipping between them and the text to be much more arduous than with a paper book. This has been much more pronounced for me because of the type of books I’ve been reading, which tend to feature a huge cast and lots of maps.

The year of fantasy

I’ve never been much into fantasy, if that’s even the right word for this genre. I’ve always been more of a science fiction reader.

In my mind science fiction refers to books where the technology is more advanced than when the book was written, and fantasy refers to books where the technology is behind, and often there’s a bit of magic or gods involved.

Based on my experiences this year, fantasy also seems to be long. I’ve read all of the Game of Thrones series and the two Stormlight Archives books, all of which were massive. They were all enjoyable but I couldn’t help wonder if they could have lost a few hundred pages without making much overall difference. Having said that, I’ve written precisely zero novels in any genre so I have no idea what I’m talking about.

Disappointments

When I read Embassytown by China Mieville it was easily the best science fiction, or fiction, I’d read for a long time. Unfortunately nothing of his I’ve read since has come close to it (The City and The City was great, but not in the same class). I found Kraken a real effort to finish and it will probably be the last of his I’ll bother with. Perhaps it was bad luck to start with his best?

I found David Mitchell‘s early work to be disjointed and over-stylish – I could see the roots of his future stuff but it didn’t work too well for me. I did read number9dream during an overnight flight back from Washington instead of sleeping, so that may have affected my judgement.

Highlights

Only four books got five-star ratings this year:

The Bone Clocks

The pinnacle of David Mitchell’s work so far, it did an incredible job of tying together every other book he’s written, and I find his end-of-civilisation projections convincing enough to fear for my children. Slade House was an interesting addendum.

Bad Science

Managed to be humorous and outraged at the same time. A great skewering of the nonsense that passes for most “scientific” debate and journalism that occurs in society.

The Martian

Haven’t seen the film but really enjoyed the book. I liked the feeling of dread you developed every time the story switched to the third person.

Words of Radiance

Sequel to The Way Of Kings. The world of Roshar and the thought that has gone into the biological, geographical and economic effects of the highstorms was unlike anything I’ve read. On top of that this book really moved the plot along and really fulfilled on the promise of the original. I’m looking forward to part three.

Plans for 2016

I’ll probably cut back on the fantasy epics, and continue my search for a sci-fi writer to fill the Iain M. Banks-shaped hole in my life.

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