2015: My year in books

2015 was the year that Marty McFly went back to the future. It was also the year when I travelled back in time as far as the Bronze Age (The Gift of Stones by Jim Crace), forward as far as 7000 AD (Seveneves by Neal Stephenson), and to locations as diverse as France, China, and Outer Space. Yes, it’s time for my annual review of my year in books.

A few statistics

What can I say? I like statistics and charts, and Goodreads and Excel make them so easy!

According to Goodreads, in 2015 I read 60 books:

year_in_books

  • 8 books rated 5 stars, “It was amazing” in Goodreads classification
  • 20 rated 4 stars “really liked it”
  • 23 rated 3 stars, “liked it”
  • 8 rated 2 stars, “it was ok”
  • 1 rated 1 star, “did not like it”

This seems to have been the year when Kindle books (44) overtook paper ones (16). I still love the feel of a real paper book, but the Kindle is so handy for keeping in my handbag:

format

The oldest book was Letters Written During a Short Residence in Sweden, Norway and Denmark by Mary Wollstonecraft (published 1796). The newest was Winter by Marissa Meyer (published November 2015). Overall, a slight majority (33 books) were published in the current century:

pub_date

And fiction (48 books) was definitely dominant over non-fiction (12):

fiction_or_non

Non-fiction

non_fiction_genreSome books fall into more than one genre and so the numbers add up to more than 12. Unsurprisingly, history was my most popular topic, followed by biography and travel.

Recommendations and disappointments

Most exciting non-fiction book this year was Passionate Minds by David Bodanis, the love story of the philosopher Voltaire and the scientist Emile du Chatelet.

emilie

Most disappointing was Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss. Pedantry wrapped up in snootiness is not appealing.

Fiction

fiction_genreAgain, some books fall into more than one genre; for example, The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson is both historical fiction and fantasy. Historical fiction, as usual, was my most read genre. My science fiction reads were almost entirely by two authors: Marissa Meyer and Neal Stephenson.

Here’s a further look at the setting for these stories:

geographical_setting time_settingLooking at these figures, the most typical 2015 book for me would be a historical novel set in the 20th century in the English-speaking world. In other words, my most typical book was Live by Night by Dennis Lehane, set in Prohibition-era America. Although most of the 20th century books were written in that century.

I’m a bit embarrassed that I only read one book based in Africa (the alternate history Fires of Alexandria by Thomas K Carpenter) and three set in Asia, and all of these were written by Western writers. Must include more diverse settings next year.

Recommendations and disappointments

If you like a well-researched and absorbing work of historical fiction, I’d recommend The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Penman. I don’t know if Richard III really was innocent, but she had me believing it by the end. Although at over 900 pages, The Sunne in Splendour is a good argument for ebooks.

For a fast-paced and imaginative series, I’d recommend Marissa Meyer’s science-fiction fairytale retellings, The Lunar Chronicles. Each book in the series introduces a new heroine: a cyborg mechanic in Cinder (Cinderella), a farm girl in a red hoodie in Scarlet (Red Riding Hood), an isolated hacker on a satellite in Cress (Rapunzel), and a “not as crazy as she seems” princess in Winter (Snow White).

lunar_chronicles

My “should have read this years ago” book is The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas Pere, yet another doorstopper that’s worth the time. I’d love to see a TV series of this classic (a movie can’t possibly do it justice).

Biggest disappointment was She Who Remembers by Linda Lay Shuler, a Clan-of-the-Cave-Bear wannabe and recipient of my only 1-star rating this year. There were also two novels that I quit reading: The Dirty Streets of Heaven by Tad Williams and Devoted Ladies by Molly Keane. I said those “eight deadly words” and decided life was too short.

The Year Ahead

aeronaut

The fourth volume of Scott Lynch’s Gentleman Bastard series, The Thorn of Emberlain, is due to be released in 2016. Marissa Meyer is publishing a series of short stories for the Lunar Chronicles as well as a standalone book based on Alice in Wonderland. My “to-read” shelf includes The Aeronaut’s Windlass, the first in a new series by Jim Butcher, and A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon (author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime). 

I’m planning to expand my scope of settings beyond Europe and North America; there is a world of literature from Asia and Africa waiting for me. And who knows what else 2016 holds in store.

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