My Year in Books: Looking Backward and Forward

…like a malfunctioning time machine.

2015 was the year of new and shiny shortlist reading and a bit of classic subversive fantasy reading.

For new SF, I finally found my genre comfort zone, which is situated somewhere between the British Science Fiction Association, the Clarke Award, and the Tiptree Award. All three put out fantastic shortlists in 2015, and (although I’m not especially encouraged by the majority of 2015’s output) I’m curious to see what they recognize in 2016. Let’s see what gets unearthed by those small groups of interesting readers.

In the fantasy realm, treasures like Peake and Harrison, and the magic realism of García Márquez and Rushdie, two writers I have always wanted to read, have studded my year. I wish I had picked up these books when I was nineteen and reading the 36th Shannara book with my eyes closed.

In the vintage camp, my attraction toward more incendiary authors like Joanna Russ, John Brunner, and Olaf Stapledon should be no surprise. I also wish I had known about them when I was nineteen and raging against the machine… and listening to them, too.

2015 Books Read

Goodreads says I read 88 fiction books in 2015 (including two books I will finish tonight), which is one book short of my 2014 total. That number is suspect, however, because it includes little inconsistencies like counting Vance’s Tales of the Dying Earth as four separate books and Harrison’s Viriconium as one.

Page numbers are more informative: I read nearly 31,000 pages in 2015, compared to just under 24,000 pages in 2014, which included quite a few novelettes and novellas. Still, my goal has always been to read one fiction book per week. I have no idea how I manage to fit in more than 52, and I’m always amazed by the end of the year to see I’ve nearly doubled my goal.

In terms of chronology, I’m still bouncing all over the past 70 years, which I will continue in 2016, but with emphasis on the 1960s and 1970s. More on that below.


The Best Books Read in 2015

I read so many good books, I can’t bring myself to sacrifice any to a top ten list. I updated My Favorite SF Novels list, instead.


2015 Readsolutions: Did I achieve them?

  • Read more women SF authors

I beat the Worlds Without End Women of Genre Fiction Reading Challenge by reading 24 women SF authors, vintage and current. I’ll be finishing up two more before midnight.

  • Read the shortlist for the Kitschies and/or the BSFAs

I went with my gut and read all 8 of the BSFA nominees for this year. Of course, it helped that I had already read 5 of them before the shortlist was even announced.

  • Read Spanish-language SF… en ESPAÑOL

I picked up Cien años de soledad in Spain last year, which I read this summer.

  • Read and review all of the Hugo ‘5s (except for 2015, ha ha)

I did. Oh, you Hugos…

New Readsolutions for 2016

I’m moving forward with basically the same goals:

  • Read more women of SF
  • Read the shortlist for the Kitschies, the BSFAs, the Clarkes, and/or the Tiptree Award
  • Read more Spanish-language SF – My husband just told me “You are going to be gringa forever” after I asked him if he wanted more “red salsa.” So… I better get to it.
  • Read the Hugo ‘6s (except for 2016, probably)– mostly done with this already

Adding some new goals:

…but here’s the big one:

  • Read the Nebula ‘6s. Specifically ’66 and ’76

I don’t know the history here, but what the hell is going on with the ’66 and ’76 “short”lists? (It’s especially weird because the ’67 list has only 3 nominees.) Anyway, not only is this a list-lover’s dream, but it includes some really intriguing, classic SF that I have been attracted to for a long time.






32 total books! Whether through short fiction or novels, I’m not new to most of these authors. I’ve already read Dune, The Female Man, and, ugh, The Mote, don’t remind me. Authors I’m really looking forward to reading again: Silverberg, Bester, Wilhelm, Delany, Simak, Bishop, and Zimmer Bradley (I know about the thing, but Mists of Avalon is a big part of my SF foundation and one of the few lucky stumbleupons in my teenage years). Authors I’ve been wanting to try for ages: Calvino, Doctorow, MacLean, Lee, Davidson, McIntyre, and Disch.

I’m very excited about this list! Anyone who wants to is welcome to join me!

On the Event Horizon: January 2016

Before I begin to make progress on those goals, there are few books I keep thinking I’ll squeeze into my regular reading list, but newer releases keep winning my spare time. January will be devoted to those poor, neglected classics:


  • Star Maker (1937) by Olaf Stapledon
  • Solaris (1961) by Stanislaw Lem
  • Gormenghast (1950) by Mervyn Peake
  • Titus Alone (1959) by Mervyn Peake

It’s about time! you say. I know, I know, I know…

Plus, the first 75 pages of Exegesis along with Ubik (1969) for the PKD book club support group I linked to above.

And, of course, I’ll be trying to work in some of the 2015 releases that catch my eye as Best of 2015 reading lists continue to roll out. But I’ll revisit that later… probably when Locus publicizes their Recommended Reading list.

My blog was hopping with a bunch of new posts in December, so I’m probably going to go quiet for a week or so. (I’ll still respond to comments.) See you next time with Star Maker! And happy new year!

33 thoughts on “My Year in Books: Looking Backward and Forward

  1. *correction* I had actually read Harrison before this blog, but I didn’t realize he did fantasy too. And Light was way too out there for me. Can’t wait to try it again now that I’ve got more space opera under my belt.


  2. Rabindranauth says:

    Looking forward to what you think about Dhalgren! Also, The Birthgrave. I started to read it but it was during my reading slump, it was very slow and seemed ready to dive headlong into the porno side of things, so I just put it aside. I’ll wait for your review to decide if I take a crack at it!

    All the best for the new year!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I’m nervous about Dhalgren. I’m tempted to read something Delany-lite before I tackle that one. We’ll see…

      mporcius covers Tanith Lee all the time, so I’ve wanted to read one of her novels for a while now. And then she passed away this year, which was so sad… I’ve read one or two of her short stories and I enjoyed them. She seemed like she was a really cool person. I’ve read so many graphic sex scenes lately (poorly done, and poorly done on purpose), that I doubt Lee’s scenes can shock me.

      All the best to you, too! Happy new year!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Rabindranauth says:

        It wasn’t directly sexual, but there was this weird relationship going on between the main character and this bandit leader . . . I’ll keep an eye out for your review, lol.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. wildbilbo says:

    Great list for 2016 – look forward to the reviews!

    Have a great New Year!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Warstub says:

    I’ve always looked it as though a “book” is what you hold in your hands, regardless of the compilation aspect – Tales of the Dying Earth is the book “Tales of the Dying Earth”. That’s it.

    I absolutely adore The Genocides by Disch. Another author (along with Lucious Shepard) I had some internet conversations with. That’s pretty important to me. I always lamented the fact that being a New Zealander I was so far away from ever meeting these “great” authors so it was nice to be able to chat across the internet.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Joachim Boaz says:

      Sometimes I feel really strange talking to authors. For example, (some might know this) Ellison came and got angry at one of my commentators (on a review I wrote of his work). And then, James Gunn visited a review and commented on the cover art for one of his books… Not sure what I would do if I were an author 😉

      Liked by 2 people

    • Joachim Boaz says:

      Some people like Ian Watson seem genuinely nice and wonderful — he was so happy that I enjoyed his work when I mentioned it on twitter…. That’s the other thing, is “twitter” actually talking to authors?


      • Warstub says:

        I think I read through that Ellison ‘incident’, but then knowing about his temperament wouldn’t phase me so much. Shepard was really nice and welcoming to anyone who engaged him in serious conversation – we had a good chat on LiveJournal about NZs ‘Dunedin’ sound which he liked, but being a younger NZer who’s had that sound shoved down his throat by the ruling music class, I found/find it pretty detestable (but then, I also hate punk, so there you go); and Shepard was a past rock musician as well, so that was nice to hear his stories.

        You’re talking to an author now you know? 😉


    • I normally approach book counting based on how it was originally published (excluding short fiction anthologies, of course), because time and growth can change an author so much, and I like to view each work as relative to one another, rather than as a whole. I think I just got lazy when I was logging Viriconium :-/


  5. You had an excellent 2015! And it’s always great to end a year to find you did even better on your challenges than you thought. Awesome job on your challenges as well, and I am a big fan of the WWEnd Women of Genre Reading challenge myself. Definitely doing it again next year, and going for 24 authors again!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! I love the Women of Genre challenge, too, and I hope they increase the cap options this year. There’s no reason to cap it at 24, especially for those people who are dedicating the entire year to reading ONLY women authors.


  6. Star maker and gormenghast are both in my top 5 of all time.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Anton says:

    My resolutions for 2016 is to read more spec fiction altogether, because 2015 was pretty sparse. My other resolution is to read more POC authors. We’ll see how that goes.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Joseph Nebus says:

    You’re right, those are some curious Nebula shortlists.

    The Computer Connection is, as I remember it, bad. But it’s an interesting sort of bad, with that Bester-ish world that’s got more stuff in it than it needs to have for the story.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve heard that before, which makes me so sad because I was looking forward to reading another Bester. But I guess you’re saying a bad Bester is better than bad other-stuff?


    • Joachim Boaz says:

      I think it’s a great Nebula shortlist — yeah, two or three are average but it was definitely an attempt to widen the award — hence the Doctorow. But of the lesser known works listed, the Malzberg, Bishop, and MacLean novels are all great!


  9. nikki says:

    I agree with Rabi…I can’t wait for you to read Dhalgren. That is going to be a review worth reading, I’m sure of it already. Then again all of yours are, so.

    Looks like it is going to be a good year. Do you ever not make your reading goals? Because you strike me as the type of person that doesn’t happen to. So organized,so good at following the list.

    Happy 2016!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Nephrolepis says:

    I hope you enjoy Halderman’s The Forever War. I don’t normally like things involving the military, but it was a good read.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Woo! 2015! 2016! At least someone hit most of their readsolutions, and did the Hugo ‘5s and BSFAs and all that…

    This year, the ‘6s list will be insane from ’66 and ’76 alone, but many of those are phenomenal books. Waiting, like Rab, to see your reaction to Dhalgren, and Birthgrave, plus Calvino and Malzberg and… Forever War I really liked when I first read it, and I still think it’s a good reaction to Heinlein’s hoo-rah, though the weird homophobia would probably bug the crap out of me today.

    Peake is fantastic, a pure delight of the English language, and aside from some flaws in the third volume (early printings suffer from a bad editor) I put it in my top-ten fantasies… I seem to remember you liking Hope Mirrless, so you may like Peake as well. Solaris I liked, but it’s very dry, since most versions are a French translation of a Polish translation… I recommend the new translation, as the audiobook version is very good and I know how much you like those.

    Well, overall it sounds like you had a pretty good year…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I read Titus Groan in the fall, so I love Peake (and Mirrlees, too!) and I figured I would finish the series “any day now” and got distracted with new stuff. Figured I would review the series all together.

      Thanks for the warning about dry Solaris. I’ve been cooking and being a busybody a lot lately, so it’ll come in handy as an audiobook.


  12. Ragtime was nominated for a Nebula? What the what.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. […] I have anything in common with them as a reader. And I never regret not reading the Nebulas. (The ’60s and ’70s Nebulas are a different story […]


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