Sunday, January 10, 2016

2015 in Books


A bit belatedly, a round-up!  I think I read 'round about fifty books this year; I can't be bothered to count.  Goodreads always wants me to set a "challenge" for myself, that I'll read X number of books in the coming year, but that seems like a terrible idea.  If anything, it would just encourage me to read only short/easy books to game the system.  Though more likely it wouldn't "encourage" me to do anything; I'd just forget about it.  Might be useful it you need a li'l encouragement to keep on keeping on, though.

I didn't split “best character” into two categories this year, but I made up for it by adding several new ones.

Biggest Disappointment

Winner

Guess what? This award goes, collectively, to Anthony Trollope's Chronicles of Barsetshire. The Warden was a promising enough start, and then Barsetshire Towers upped the ante by being fucking delightful. So I was ALL READY to just strap in and enjoy the rest of the series, only to be met by a barrage of disappointment. There were moments in each of them (even the deeply disappointing Last Chronicle) that made me remember why I had been so excited about the series at first, but I don't know that I can think of any other book(s) that so signally failed to deliver on such sky-high promises.

Runner-Up

Foucault's Pendulum, by Umberto Eco. It seems like it ought to be the sort of book I'd like—it has a fantastic premise—and a lot of people seem to love it, so maybe I'm at fault here, but in spite of a few good moments, on the whole, boy I found this tedious and self-indulgent to an extreme.

Pleasantest Surprise

An easy one: it's Beasts by John Crowley, a really fucking top-notch science fiction novel that, coming after the woeful The Deep, is as surprising as it is great.

Runner-Up

This may be cheating a little, but I'm going to give it to the Discworld books that I reread this year. Not that I was surprised that they were good—I was expecting that—but while I've always liked the series, I don't think that in the past I ever really appreciated the sophistication of the craft and art that went into them—how good Pratchett really was when he was on.

Best Character

Um...I believe I will give this to Simon Lynxx in Take Five. As I believe I noted when talking about the book, he's pretty schticky, but he really does get into your head. Memorable.

Runner-Up

It's Antony Lamont from Mulligan Stew, a hilariously despicable, self-justifying, but alarmingly real character if ever there were one.

Largest Percentage Read While in Morocco's Disputed Western Sahara Region

It's Travel Light, by Naomi Mitchison, of which I read one hundred percent while there, allegedly working. I didn't write about it here, because I finished it so quickly and then moved on, but it's a short fantasy novel that one would perhaps call “young adult” if using today's gibberish marketing categories (though maybe it's insufficiently dystopian for that). I probably would've liked it more if I fell in the relevant demographic, but it was good; I enjoyed it. I recommend reading it to your kids, especially if they're girls. It features the famous Strong Female Protagonist (but I should warn you that it does feature a few implied threats of sexual violence, though nothing ever comes of them).

Runner-Up

Um, I think I read a big chunk of both Small Gods and Soul Music while down there. Couldn't tell you which I read more of, though.

Most Inscrutable

The prize here goes to Evan Dara's Easy Chain. The Lost Scrapbook may be a more radical departure from standard novel form, but The Easy Chain is a lot more baffling.

Runner-Up

I'll give it to John Crowley's Engine Summer. I liked it, but BOY HOWDY was it frequently impenetrable, mainly due to the free mixture of science fiction things and defamiliarized present-day things and the difficulty of telling which is which.

Runner-Up

Worst Novel

Sorry! But it's The Last Chronicle of Barset, and it's not really particularly close! It's not just that Trollope apparently has one (1) novel-writing formula, which yields diminishing returns, it's that he also introduces a lot of useless or maddening aspects that—you would think!—were not necessary. Totally unforced errors. BAH.

Runner-Up

As much as I didn't love The Vicar of Wakefield, it's gotta be The Worm Ouroboros. I feel tired just thinking about it. Incredibly leaden, lumbering, and dull, with a really fucked-up ending.

Best Novel

I kept reading books and thinking “aha! Here's a shoe-in for best novel!” And then I would read something else, and think, oh ho! The king has been dethroned! It's comforting, really. I have this occasional idea that, shit, someday I'm going to read all the good books, and then there won't be anything left to excite me! That doesn't seem too plausible at this point, however. Well, I'm going to stick with The Third Policeman in this category.

Runner-Up

It's Life: A User's Manual and it's actually a real toss-up between this and O'Brien—they could easily be reversed. Sorry, Evan Dara! I wanted to recognize you, but you were just crowded out! Besides, you got the coveted “most inscrutable” prize; don't be greedy.

3 Comments:

Blogger Pan Miluś pontificated to the effect that...

WOA! This is just like the Oscars!

11:14 AM  
Blogger Regular GeoX pontificated to the effect that...

...only more momentous!

8:58 PM  
Blogger Unknown pontificated to the effect that...

I'm hunting down your Evan Dara reviews, but if you wanna send me links, it's not like we'll fight about it.

2:46 PM  

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