I had originally intended this list for the end of December or early January – some time in the vicinity of my particular observed New Year – but it's a bit late for that. It is, at least, less late for Lunar New Year...
I plan to put together a summary, with brief descriptions verging on review snippets, of the books that I've read the previous year around this time every year. Since this is the first time that I'm doing this, and I didn't have this newsletter/blog going in prior years, this year's post will include everything from 2020 through the end of 2022. We could call it 'pandemic time', but of course that hasn't really ended. One or two books from 2019 may have snuck in as well, particularly in the non-fiction list, as I didn't actually keep a list going and put this one together retroactively.
These are particularly short summaries since there are so many entries. Next year's list should contain more in-depth summaries.
Elatsoe (Darcy Little Badger) – An alternate world where pretty much everything mythological is real, following a girl who speaks with animal spirits, including her own dog, as she solves a mystery.
The House of Shattered Wings, The House of Binding Thorns, and The House of Sundering Flames (Aliette de Bodard) – A trilogy of books set in an alternate world Paris with fallen angels and dragons and other supernatural elements. Despite the fact that there were more medical elements than I'm usually comfortable with, I really liked these. Enough that I read the two small sequels, next.
Of Dragons, Feasts, and Murders and Of Charms, Ghosts, and Grievances (Aliette de Bodard) – Novellas featuring two of the characters from the previous trilogy, both of these are more of mysteries. The romance elements didn't get in the way of the story. (This is to say, they didn't bother me and often they do.)
The Killing Moon and The Shadowed Sun (N.K. Jemisin) – In a setting where dreams are an important source of magic and peace is the law kept by an order of assassin-priests, a disastrous conspiracy is unveiled. The second book is set in the aftermath of the first when a plague of deadly nightmares sweeps over the city. I liked these a lot.
Catfishing on CatNet and Chaos on CatNet (Naomi Kritzer) – An AI running an internet site to gain access to more cat pictures ends up caring about the people on that site and helps one of them through a series of adventures that also reveals the creator of the AI. In the second book they confront that person and another, less pleasant AI that's causing chaos.
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, the Broken Kingdoms, and the Kingdom of Gods (N.K. Jemisin) – Starting with a kingdom that was built largely by the gods they enslaved, the series follows what happens when those gods are freed. I was a little uncertain about this one because reviews kept talking about the romance elements, but the story is interesting.
The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps (Kai Ashante Wilson) – A novella following a demigod on an expedition into an extremely dangerous magical area. Well-written and with an interesting setting and characters, but with somewhat of a downer ending.
Witchmark, Stormsong, and Soulstar (C.L. Polk) – The trilogy I most recently finished, set in a kingdom at roughly early 1900s level technology with magic and magical beings. Every book has one mystery or another at the heart of it, and the overall conclusion is a satisfying hard-fought change to how things work.
Conspirator, Deceiver, Betrayer, Intruder, Protecter, and Peacemaker (C.J. Cherryh) – In other words, I continue to make my way through the Foreigner series. I haven't yet acquired the last few books that are out, but I may do so before my next long train trip, because I've kind of got into the habit of reading these on the train now.
Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars (Kim Stanley Robinson) – These had been on my shelf for decades, possibly since they actually came out, but I finally actually read them! I probably would have given up when I was a teengar (far too much relationship stuff intruding into the interesting bits), but now I'm able to put that aside and find the trilogy fascinating.
Gideon the Ninth, Harrow the Ninth, Nona the Ninth (Tamsyn Muir) – A kind of dystopian sci-fi future with magic, mostly necromancy, and some fairly convoluted plots, I've been enjoying these. There does tend to be a bit more medical side stuff than I'm always comfortable with, but so far nothing I couldn't handle.
Ancillary Justice, Ancillary Sword, and Ancillary Mercy (Ann Leckie) – A former war ship ends up taking on the galactic empire she was built to fight for, along with one of her captains, albeit not in an all-out fashion. These ended up being some of my favorites.
Hermetica (Alan Lea) – A novella about a possible future, but also about how fragmented and polarized society is becoming. Uncomfortable, but interesting.
Binti Trilogy (Nnedi Okorafor) – On her way to an off-planet university to study, everyone else aboard the ship is killed by a sudden alien attack, and she ends up bridging a diplomatic gap with those aliens.
The Black Tides of Heaven, the Red Threads of Fortune, the Descent of Monsters, and the Ascent to Godhood (Neon Yang) – Magical politics on the realm level, the first two books following one of two twins who might succeed to the throne but both of whom make their own way, and the third one ties it together. The fourth is a backstory which I personally didn't end up enjoying as much, but does provide context.
Dinosaurs Rediscovered (Michael J. Benson) – The most recent science at the time of publication on dinosaurs, including how we can now somewhat figure out coloration and the latest on how dinosaurs might have moved. This was an excellent way to get back up to speed on the subject after not having read much on it for a decade or more.
The World of Dinosaurs (Mark A. Norell) – Similar to the first here but released by a museum and going into detail on specific dinosaur fossils and what we've learned from them.
The Paleo Art of Julius Csotonyi and Dinosaur Art (edited by Steve White) – The first is on the paleo art of a particular artist and includes multiple interviews with him about his process, and the second is an overview of the great paleo artists, with shorter interviews at the end of each section. I'm sure I'll come back to these again.
Dinosaur: Facts and Figures: the Therapods and Dinsoaur: Facts and Figures: the Sauropods (Molina-Perez and Larramendi) – All the facts that you could want about each specific dinosaur that's been discovered so far, and all the facts that I could want about dinosaurs are rather a lot. They're also well-organized and one could easily look up a specific dinosuar, which I might to later for reference, but so far I read them cover-to-cover. Also quality dinosaur art.
Astrophysics for People in a Hurry (Neil de Grasse Tyson) – I wanted an introductory sort of book to get back into reading about astrophysics, and as it turned out, this was a little more introductory than I was hoping for. That's probably on me, though; if you have never read about this stuff before I'm sure that would be different.
The End of Everything, Astrophysically Speaking (Katie Mack) – Detailed and interesting discussions of the most likely ways that our universe might end. I suppose one could see that as depressing, but mostly I thought it was really neat.
The Disordered Cosmos (Chanda Prescod-Weinstein) – Half discussion of astrophysics, half discussion of the problems and prejudices within science and academia, it was all interesting... if occasionally upsetting with regards to the second half of that.
How Steam Locomotives Really Work (Semmens and Goldfinch) – It's exactly what it says, a detailed description of how steam locomotives work, from the boiler to the wheels and more. I found it very interesting. People might call it dry. I've never been sure what that means precisely in the context of books.
Non-binary: Memoirs of Gender and Identity (edited by Rajunov and Duane) – This was definitely started in 2019, although I think I took a pause and finished it in 2020 (or maybe re-read a section or two). Also what it says on the tin; a collection of short memoirs from various non-binary people. Reading it helped me actually gather the guts to come out.
Stage Combat: Swordplay From Shakespeare to the Present and Combat Theory: The Foundations of the Fight (John Lennox) – The first is a history of the evolution of stage combat beginning in the earliest period in which we really have good evidence still, and ending in the modern area. The second concerns the underpinnings of fighting, which is mostly a handy refresher for me since I've studied that.
Ghosting the News (Margaret Sullivan) – A discussion of the still-growing news problem in the United States and much of the rest of the world. Not the most comfortable thing to read, but important.
The Bright Ages (Matthew Gabriele and David M. Perry) – Medieval history from a more positive angle. There wasn't a lot of entirely new information for me, being someone who has read and researched a fair amount on the period, but there was some, and it was well presented.
In Emergency, Break Glass (Nate Anderson) – Interesting largely for the historical insights into Nietzsche's life, but also showing how common frustrations with many aspects of the modern world are.
Learn How to Master the Art of Kart Driving (Terence Dove) – Contains a great deal of practical advice about karting, and was very useful to me. I don't think it's a coincidence at all that I started qualifying better and winning after I successfully worked my way through the lessons in this book.