Author Archives: Silvernfire

CONvergence 2017

I haven’t blogged about CONvergence in a couple of years, even though I’ve been attending consistently. It’s still held around July 4—it was July 6-9 this year—but I’ve been easily distracted from writing it up.

This year, I was able to stay in the main con hotel, and it made a world of difference. In 2015 and 2016, I stayed in overflow hotels. CONvergence has outgrown the hotel it started in, but moving to the Minneapolis Convention Center has more drawbacks than advantages. So the con is based at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Bloomington and most of the programming is held there. The Dealers Room, Artists Alley, and some panels are at the Sheraton Bloomington across the street. While the programming fits in two hotels, the attendees do not. The con runs 24 hours a day once it gets going and finding a parking space is a major challenge, so there’s lots of incentive to stay in a hotel instead of commuting from home. But thanks to an inconveniently-placed pair of highways and the general sprawl of the suburbs, most of the overflow hotels are an unwalkable distance away. Given the circumstances, they’re doing a fine job of managing the situation—they run free shuttles between all the overflow hotels and the parking lots—but it’s just not the same as staying close to the con itself.

This year, though, I made it back into the DoubleTree.  I didn’t have to take shelter in the Sensory Break Room, because if things got to be too much, I could retreat to my room. I didn’t have to obsess over how much stuff I was carrying because if my bag was too heavy, I could run upstairs and drop stuff off in my room. If I left something behind in my room that I needed, it was an easy trip upstairs to retrieve it. Note the theme here of “my room” and “nearby.”

By the way, as an indication of…well, something: I was on the 18th floor, overlooking the pool/cabana area on the 1st and 2nd floors where the parties are held. At night, I could hear the general roar of the parties in my room—through my closed windows, through the roof of the pool/cabana area, with approximately fourteen floors of open space between us. Whoa.

I didn’t see a dominant fandom in the costumes this year. I bet there would’ve been a lot more Wonder Woman outfits if the movie hadn’t opened so close to the con. I was surprised to see as many Sailor Moon outfits as I did (yay!). Each year, I see more costumes I don’t recognize, and I don’t know if that’s because they come from shows I’m not familiar with or if more people are coming up with original outfits. I continue to be That Person Who Freezes While Everyone Else Is Comfortable or Too Hot. I was almost laughing at how I’d be bundled up in a capelet or sweatshirt, while the people around me were fanning themselves. If there’s a fresh air vent, I have an instinct for sitting directly under it.

Panels and programming are what I focus on when I’m at a con. This year’s panels were pretty good, and I regret not going to more of them. I missed several of them because there were so many good panels that if I’d gone to all of them, I’d never have had time to visit the Dealers Room or the Art Show, I wouldn’t have had much time to spend with friends, nor would I have had any down time except first thing in the morning. (To be a morning person at a con is to be a rarity.) Still, I made it to several, including:

  • “It’s Been Written Before” spelled out for me the difference between a trope and a cliché.
  • “From Fan Fiction to Professional Writing” was one of those panels where I sat back, knitted, and listened to writers talking about their real-life experiences.
  • “Creating a Story with Tarot Cards” was a good idea in the wrong room: without a projector, even those of us in the front row couldn’t see what the panelists were doing. They tried to describe it, but I was relying on my knowledge of tarot to carry me through and I don’t know how enjoyable the panel was to those who don’t know much about tarot.
  • “Aro/Ace Relationships”: somewhat informative, but mostly a great feeling of camaraderie.
  • “Of a Certain Age” explored the dearth of older protagonists in fantasy and science fiction and left me wanting a longer, deeper discussion of the topic.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: 20th Anniversary Panel”: I will merely mutter, “What do you mean it’s been 20 years?” and focus on my knitting.

I was restrained in the Dealers Room. I was happy to see my favorite dealers and left some money with them in exchange for Nice Things. Having the Dealers Room in another hotel did cut down on my casual visits. With some items, it was “Do I want this badly enough to hike all the way over there to get it?” and usually the answer was “No.” Which is probably not what the dealers want to hear. Yet the old situation, with the dealers all crammed into a room too tiny for people to move in freely—or breathe—wasn’t much fun either. It’s hard to buy something when you have to struggle to get anywhere near it.

Membership badge with pronoun sticker.

Pronoun sticker!

The con continues to emphasize diversity and openness. Each meeting room had space marked out on the floor for people in wheelchairs to use. Sign language interpretation was available. There were several panels with diversity-related themes, enough that some ended up scheduled at the same time and I had to choose (sob!). Like last year, there were pronoun stickers available for people to stick on their badges, both preprinted ones and blank ones for people who use less common pronouns. Panel moderators were encouraged to call on people without using gendered terms: “You in the back in the purple shirt” rather than “The woman in the back in the purple shirt.” The Sensory Break Room has finally been placed in a semi-quiet part of the hotel (total silence is probably impossible). I didn’t go to the parties, but I passed the party rooms frequently on my way to Consuite and was impressed that there was a sign outside each room that listed what partygoers might want to know before entering: alcohol? strobe lights? loud noise? gluten-free snacks? kid-friendly? And as in past years, there were designated safe spaces for people to go if they were being harassed.

Next year will be the 20th anniversary. I haven’t registered yet—no rush: the rates don’t go up until January. I’m curious to see how they’ll commemorate it. Ten years ago, the con went from three days to four. They’re definitely not going to five days, so what else might they try?

The Small Change trilogy

Short version: I recently read an alternative history trilogy by Jo Walton called Small Change. I think it’s good. Read it!

Long version:

The three books of Small Change are set in an alternate Britain that signed a peace treaty with Hitler in 1941. Farthing and Ha’penny take place in 1949; Half a Crown is set in 1960. I’d heard about Farthing years ago (it was published in 2006), but I was in no real hurry to read it. I’ve had an iffy success rate with Walton’s books. I may be the only SF/F reader in the world who didn’t become a passionate fan of Among Others after reading it. I enjoyed it, but it was a kind of middling enjoyment. It was a great trip down memory lane for the books of my teenagerhood, but I kept wishing I was reading the story of Morwenna’s original fight instead the story of her recovery from it. I might not have ever have gotten around to reading another one of Walton’s books after that, but then she came up with the Necessity trilogy, and I couldn’t resist the combination of Greek gods and philosophy, all wrapped up in fiction. I loved that series enough to buy all three books in hardcover (!), but then I read My Real Children and liked it except for feeling like I was missing something obvious about the ending that I was certain everyone else understood. So, some books clicked with me and some didn’t. Farthing sounded interesting, but not pressing, and there were lots of other books to read. And then, well, November came and went, and January came and went, and things are different now, and Farthing rose to the top of my to-read list. I’m guessing I wasn’t alone in this, because there was a wait list for every book in the trilogy at my library.

Small-Change

As with those other books I’ve mentioned, I enjoyed Small Change unevenly (my reviews of the individual books are linked at the end of this post). Farthing hooked me straightaway and I fell into the book until the end. It’s a classic British murder-at-the-family-estate mystery, but, well, fascism. I braced myself to be disappointed with Ha’penny for no better reason than that it was the second volume of a trilogy and middles are challenging. I ended up liking it almost as much as Farthing. Although Inspector Carmichael returns as one of the protagonists, Ha’penny is more of a political thriller than a murder mystery. It takes place a mere two weeks or so after the end of Farthing, but even in that short a period, there’s been a noticeable change in atmosphere. I was more frustrated with Half a Crown. So much of the tension in the first two books comes from the reader’s (my) knowledge that this history is “wrong” and that fascism is a threat, yet the characters are innocently—naturally, believably—dealing with their immediate concerns and not seeing this other danger. Ten years later, the characters have to deal with that threat directly. I missed the structure of a foreground story (the murder mystery, the political thriller) hinting at a bigger background story. But it was still a gripping story, whatever my disagreements with it, and I did want to know how the trilogy came out.

And the above is pretty much all I was going to say. Earlier, I’d avoided most reviews because I wanted to read the books without the filter of other people’s opinions. But afterwards, I started looking around the Internet to see what other people had to say, which is when I found this, by Jo Walton: 10th November 2016: How I feel when people reference Farthing.

(I’m assuming you’ve now read it. Beyond this point, there are spoilers for the trilogy. Assorted thoughts follow.)

If there’s any book I wrote that I wish was obsolete and that people would never be reminded of in any real world context, it’s Farthing. “Gosh, that’s dated,” I wish people would say about it. It wasn’t supposed to be a prediction. It wasn’t supposed to be an instruction manual. (The actual specifics of the post-Brexit shuffle and May etc really are scarily like what I have in the book.)

As I said, I was aware of Farthing before the 2016 Presidential election, but yes, that’s what motivated me to finally read it. For what it’s worth, I’m not recommending it to other people for that reason alone. Small Change is good and would be worth reading even if Brexit, May, Trump, etc. had never happened. But I found it impossible not to think of them while reading these books, and it wasn’t the experience I would’ve had if I’d read them back in 2006-2010.

People like the tragic ends of Farthing and Ha’Penny more than (spoilers!) the positive end of Half a Crown maybe because I didn’t do it as well, and maybe I didn’t because I was going uphill against the weight of narrative expectation and that’s hard. But it’s how fascism ended in Spain, King Juan Carlos did just what I had the Queen do in the book.

I remember this about Spain, and I’ve been holding on to this memory because there aren’t that many examples of dictatorships converting to democracies, and I need to have hope as well. But Juan Carlos had been laying the groundwork for the end of fascism for years. Nor was the world fascist in the 1970s and 1980s. At the end of Half a Crown, only Britain and a few other countries are democracies. Since we’re limited to Elvira and Carmichael’s points of view, it’s hard to tell if the Queen is as well prepared as Juan Carlos. Would Nazi Germany tolerate a Britain that was returning to democracy? Even if the Farthing Peace held, there’d be tension.

But learning this helps. Even though I’m still critical of this ending, I have more context for it now. Apparently what I need is The Annotated Small Change: With Author’s Commentary, Afterthoughts, and General Notes.

Did I mention Small Change was worth reading? Go on, try it.


My reviews of Small Change:

Reading 2016

And welcome to my summary of the previous year’s reading. In some respects, this is much the same as previous years. I read 92 books in 2016. Some books were easily forgotten, others stuck in my memory. But looking over what I’ve chosen, I see only one nonfiction book this year. I did read more than that, and it’s not like it was all forgettable, but these novels were even more memorable. Plus, it’s easier for me to describe fiction than nonfiction.

Book covers of Three Parts Dead, Carry On, Children of Earth and Sky

  • Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone (9/10; finished 1/12/2016): Okay, fine, you can’t judge a book by its cover (or I’d have disliked The Gospel of Loki (below)), but I really like this cover. And I really like the story inside this cover. (I’m not sure why it’s over a year later and I haven’t gotten around to reading the next book in the series. Note to self: do that.) The world intrigued me because of the combination of modern elements (necromancy bears an awfully close resemblance to contract law) with traditional fantasy elements like gods and vampires. But a fascinating world on its own is never enough. Good thing the plot had me turning the pages (well, tapping the e-reader screen) and the characters were realistic.
  • Carry On: The Rise and Fall of Simon Snow by Rainbow Rowell (10/10; finished 2/17/2016):  I learned about this book when I read Rowell’s Fangirl in 2015, and had a moment or two of disbelief: seriously, Rowell went on and wrote the fictional novel in Fangirl? Well, yes and no. Carry On stands on its own, and I liked it more than Fangirl. Yes, it makes a gazillion references to the Harry Potter books (and The Magicians? and Twilight?)—that’s the point. But it would also do just fine in a world where none of those other series had been written.
  • Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay (9/10; finished 5/25/2016): Every few years, my favorite fantasy author releases a new book. I automatically buy each one as they (slowly, so slowly) see the light of day. In this one, there is an alternate Renaissance Europe with many individual stories coming together to make a sweeping epic, made comprehensible by Kay’s skills of characterization.

Covers of Necessity, Roses and Rot, The Fifth Season

  • Necessity: A Novel by Jo Walton (9/10; finished 7/15/2016): Like I said last year, the Thessaly trilogy was due to wrap up, and I’d be getting that third book. It did and I did and this is it. The fantasy/philosophy novel became fantasy/philosophy/science fiction as the citizens of the Just City were moved to a new planet and a different time. (Greek gods and alien gods? Whee!) Definitely read the first two books (The Just City and The Philosopher Kings) before tackling this one.
  • Roses and Rot by Kat Howard (9/10; finished 8/22/2016): Back in college, I read Pamela Dean’s Tam Lin, and fell in love with it. And now I’ve found another retelling of the “Tam Lin” ballad, and love it as well, without losing any affection for Dean’s version. As Disney has (finally) realized, there is true love beyond the romantic; in Roses and Rot, it’s sororal.
  • The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin (10/10; finished 9/21/2016): I delayed reading this book because I knew it was the first book in a trilogy, and I wanted to minimize the wait between reading it and its sequel. Only now I’m delaying reading the sequel to minimize the time between it and the last book. Yes, plot descriptions for The Fifth Season are a bit sketchy, but they have to be, in order not to be spoilers. A woman is on the hunt for her husband who killed their young son and then vanished, taking their daughter with him. Meanwhile, their world is dying from an induced volcanic winter. Did I mention the characters are engaging? Or that the world is interesting? Really, read the book.

Covers of Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Gospel of Loki, Moral Politics

  • Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury (8/10; finished 10/27/2016): I’m cheating a bit here. I’m going to remember this book because it impressed the heck out of me when I was a teenager, enough that I bought it and reread it in my thirties (understand, until recently, I didn’t do much rereading), and then re-reread it this year. It has and has not held up well over the years. Still love the language—nobody writes like Bradbury—but it really hit me this time how invisible women are in his writing, even when they’re characters.
  • The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M. Harris (9/10; finished 11/1/2016): Generally, my heart belongs to Greek and Roman mythology. I don’t think I was exposed to Norse mythology early enough in my life to imprint on it. But I’m happy to try to forge a connection anyway, and I was pleasantly surprised to find out how much I liked this novel. Keeping in mind, of course, that Loki is the epitome of the unreliable narrator!
  • Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think [third edition] by George Lakoff (9/10, finished 12/13/2016): In 2012, I read the second edition of this book and it ended up on that year’s most memorable list. Another election year (and a reading challenge with a requirement to read a book on politics), and I read Lakoff’s freshly-released third edition, highlighting furiously. Moral Politics is a detailed, somewhat academic, description of two metaphors for viewing the world. Strict Father morality is hierarchical and authoritarian, and its adherents see the world as inherently dangerous; Nurturant Parent morality promotes empathy and responsibility, and Nurturant Parent types tend to see the world as basically good, even if there’s lots of room for improvement. Lakoff maintains that people transfer their preferred metaphor to how they see the role of government: is government primarily for enforcing the laws and promoting discipline and morality, or should it help the unfortunate and encourage cooperation?

 

 

 

The audiobook and I

I have never taken to the audiobook as a format. It’s a matter of personal preference. I know some people love them, that they’re the only good format for some people, and I cheer these people on. But they’re problematic if like me, you’re not great at retaining what you’ve only heard, not read.

Back in January, when I started the 2016 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge, I guessed at which tasks might be the hardest for me to fulfill. Horror and the dystopic/post-apocalyptic novel were obvious problems, I wasn’t all that enthusiastic about reading about politics, and then of course, there was the audiobook. As it turned out, I managed all of those without too much of a struggle, except the last. It couldn’t be just any audiobook, you see, but one that had won an Audie Award. So I kept putting this off and putting this off, and suddenly it was December and I had to decide if I was going to finish the challenge or not.

So there I was, floundering around, trying to figure out first what books had won Audies, and then cross-checking the winners against what was available at my library (audiobooks, it turns out, are noticeably more expensive than print books). But after less struggle than I probably deserved for all that procrastinating, I ended up with an audiobook that:

  1. had won an Audie Award,
  2. was owned by my library,
  3. hadn’t been checked out by some other procrastinating soul finishing up their own Read Harder challenge, and
  4. was something I thought I’d enjoy listening to.*

I am listening to Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson, the 2016 Audie winner for Humor. I suppose if I hadn’t put this off for most of the year, I wouldn’t have had the 2016 winners to choose from, so maybe procrastination was a good thing after all. (How am I supposed to learn from experience when experience keeps teaching me that my bad habits work out in the end?) Furiously Happy is ideal for my inexperience with audiobooks. It’s anecdotal and episodic. I don’t have to remember what the protagonist was doing when I shut the book off the night before—okay, I just said that I shut a book off, and that sounds so freaking weird—or what a key discovery from six chapters earlier was, or anything like that. The only constant “characters” are Lawson and her family. This, I can manage.

furiouslyhappycover

I found one! (And the cover art matches my mood really well.)

Many audiobooks are famed for their narrators. I hear some people will choose an audiobook more for its narrator than the book itself. Furiously Happy is narrated by Lawson herself. This means the narration is authentic as all get-out (+), but I’m missing the experience of listening to a professional narrator (-). Lawson doing a fine job; I’m just curious about what the difference might be, if any.

Even though this is going surprisingly well, I’m not sold on audiobooks yet. If my attention wanders, it’s a lot easier to reread a printed page—and that includes one printed in pixels—than relisten to narration. Also, I’m limited in what I can do while listening: I can’t do anything that involves language and words. (Like, say, writing blog posts. Although I’m getting lots of knitting done.) Plus, it’s frustrating that I could probably read this book in about 3 hours, but as an audiobook, it’s 8 hours and 20 minutes. Yes, I’m impatient. It took a while to figure out how to speed up the narration. I haven’t decided if I’m going to stick with that. It shortens the book and I can understand it just fine, but it makes Lawson’s voice unpleasantly shrill. And there are illustrations in the print book that I’m missing. I know, because Lawson talks about them. So far they haven’t been crucial to understanding what’s going on, but I feel like I’m missing out on something cool.

So will I listen to another audiobook once I’m done with this one? Maybe. I bet I’d enjoy the experience a lot more if I had no restrictions on what book I listened to and wasn’t listening to a deadline. Like I said, I haven’t yet heard a book with a professional narrator, and maybe I should try that. But at the same time, I note that there’s no audiobook-related task on the 2017 challenge. Guess how happy I am about that. 🙂

—-

* An unexpected bonus—at this point, I’d have taken a winner of Autobiography/Memoir even though the thought of a unenjoyed genre in an unenjoyed format is off-putting. Yes, you could argue that Furiously Happy is autobiographical. Don’t. I’m enjoying it.

Litsy

I was home with a cold, which means that I was mainly calculating how long my supplies of handkerchiefs and tea would hold out. So I may have been in a slightly vulnerable frame of mind when in a matter of hours, first a friend and then Book Riot mentioned a new(ish) social network/app called Litsy. And because I clearly don’t have enough book-related goodness in my life between Goodreads, LibraryThing, and this oft-neglected blog, I joined.

img_0118

One of my few posts. An entire post with picture is longer than will fit on the screen, but you get the idea.

Almost every description of Litsy I’ve read calls it a combination of Goodreads and Instagram, a description which I can’t improve on. I’d say it takes after Instagram more than Goodreads: a picture accompanied by a short bit of text, with the option for viewers to like and comment on it. You don’t have to take a picture of what you’re reading (or inspired by what you’re reading) to post, but it makes the post stand out better if you do. It was fun to play with in my time of illness. Even while sniffling, I could come up with pictures of the books I’d recently read and write short reviews of them. I couldn’t just copy my Goodreads/LibraryThing reviews over to Litsy: there’s a 300-character limit, slightly longer than two tweets. So of all the things I could say about a book, what was the one thing I really wanted to tell others?

Being in a social network in its early days is almost eerie. It’s…quiet. (But hey, I got my first choice for my username.)  A couple of friends joined as well, but my feed is mostly static because I’m not following anyone who posts frequently. I may have to follow some strangers just for variety, something I’m used to in Twitter, but rarely do in other networks. With so comparatively few members, posts on Litsy are skewed towards more popular types of books. I’ve had no trouble finding multiple posts on each YA book I looked up, but I’m the first person to post about the two philosophy/religion books I’d read.

Posts, by the way, are reviews, blurbs, or quotes. Reviews are pretty simple: the ratings are Pick, So-so, and Pan—or you can give up on the book partway through and say Bail. I’m fine with this; it’s a welcome change from wrangling stars and half-stars. Quotes are, well, quotes. 😉 And blurbs are everything else: the random comments you have about what you’re reading, what you want to say about the things that reading your book made you think of, and so on. But with everything limited to 300 characters, nuance is a challenge. Reading a bunch of super-short comments and reviews on the same book can give you a sense of how popular it is, but meaty discussion is elusive.

Oddly, given the subject matter, Litsy seems more for photographers who read than readers who take photographs. I’m primarily a word person, not an image person. I can come up with an occasional inspired idea of how to photograph a book cover, but that’s neither my strong point nor my main interest.How many pictures of the same book cover does anyone want to see, anyway? Reading e-books makes it easier to get a perfect shot of the cover, but it’s as generic as you can get, although I’ve seen some nice photos from people imaginatively staging their e-readers. So there’s this stress about making a good photo that I don’t have with either Goodreads or LibraryThing (and with Instagram, I don’t do anything until I have a good photo). Still, Litsy is only just getting going. There may be new features planned that I’ll adore, and maybe this will be the app that gets me to shed one of my other book networks. Or—realistically—maybe Litsy will close down, having never really found its niche. For now, I’m happy to hang in there and see what happens.

Another reading challenge

For several years now, I’ve participated in the Goodreads reading challenge. I’ve enjoyed it and it’s not complicated: declare how many books you think you’re going to read in the year to come and have at it. Read anything you want; all we’re after here is quantity, although if you can get quality as well, more power to you.

This year, I’m branching out. I’m still doing the Goodreads challenge, although I’ve dropped my goal by about 20%. I’d been reading thinner books in order to get more read (quantity) and I wanted to read thicker books this year without feeling like I was endangering my success rate. Besides the Goodreads challenge, though, I’m also participating in the 2016 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge. This only requires 24 books at most during the year; the challenge lies in getting you out of your reading comfort zone. Finishing it successfully will mean I’m going to have to read a horror novel (ick). And listen to an audiobook. You’re allowed to fit one book into as many categories as possible, so maybe I should listen to a horror audiobook because I’m bad at remembering what I’ve only heard, and I’m pretty sure I won’t want to remember the details of whatever horror novel I choose.

To space it all out, I only need to do two books a month. But somehow without really trying, I’ve gotten to the end of February and I’m already six books in.

  1. A nonfiction book about feminism or feminist themes: Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own by Kate Bolick. I had hoped this would be more of an analysis of spinsterhood; instead, it was mainly a memoir. Well, one is not required to love every book for the challenge; one must only find them and read them.
  2. A book that is by an author from Southeast Asia: Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho. This is a fantasy novel, so we’re squarely in my comfort zone here. In the 19th century, England’s first black Sorcerer Royal tries to both hold onto his position and find out why England is losing its magic. Although there were some rough spots, I liked the book enough to look forward to the promised sequels.
  3. Read a book out loud to someone else: Go the Fuck to Sleep by Adam Mansbach. I assure you, I read it only to consenting adults.
  4. A biography (not a memoir or autobiography): The Greatest Empire: A Life of Seneca by Emily Williams. I don’t usually read biographies, so I was wondering how I would find a good one, when Amazon made this one of their Kindle Daily Deals and I grabbed it.
  5. A book over 500 pages long: Carry On: The Rise and Fall of Simon Snow by Rainbow Rowell. More fantasy! I learned about this book after reading Rowell’s Fangirl last year. Sure, Carry On alludes heavily to the Harry Potter books, with a sprinkling of Twilight thrown in. But it would be a strong book in its own right if neither of those other series had ever been written, I liked it better than Fangirl, and I’m glad I tracked down a copy.
  6. A book under 100 pages: The Spook Who Spoke Again by Lindsey Davis. A novella set in the world of Davis’s Flavia Albia mysteries. The story is told by Albia’s brother Postumus, age 12 (or maybe 11¾), and after a while, I decided it was as if Flavia de Luce had been born a boy in 1st century CE Rome. I mostly enjoyed the story, but Postumus got annoying pretty quickly, and it’s just as well this wasn’t a full-sized novel.

March is imminent. I’m hoping to go read some non-challenge books for a while. Except that I have the challenge on the brain, and I can’t stop considering possibilities. Hey, maybe if I read a middle-grade horror novel, I won’t be traumatized for life…

Reading 2015

Last year, I set a reading goal for myself of 100 books and read 101. That was above and beyond the goal, but in reality, I barely made it, squeezing in a volume of manga and You Have to F**king Eat on December 31. This year, I want to feel less pressure to meet a quota, so I’ve dropped the goal to 80 books. I’m hoping I’ll be more inclined to read thicker books if I don’t have to push myself as hard.

But that’s the future. This is a post that looks back on the recent past and what I thought were the most memorable of those 101 books. Same old, same old, as far as the kinds of books go. Fantasy remains my favorite fiction genre, and over in nonfiction, I read plenty of writing, astrology, and divination books. I may be in a rut, but I like my rut, thank you.

And with that, the list:

  • Unequal Affections: A Pride and Prejudice Retelling by Lara S. Ormiston (9/10; finished 2/11/2015): Nothing deep and profound here, just an interesting alternative plot: what if Elizabeth accepted Darcy’s original proposal of marriage in order to secure her family’s financial future?
  • The Just City by Jo Walton (9/10; finished 2/20/2015):  Greek gods! Philosophy! Worked together into an interesting story! What’s not to love? The goddess Pallas Athene decides to create Plato’s Republic, populating it with people drawn from different cultures and different centuries. For reasons of his own, Apollo decides to live anonymously as a mortal in the Just City. And then Socrates himself is brought to the City… Followed by The Philosopher Kings, which I also enjoyed. The trilogy concludes with Necessity in 2016. Yes, I’ve already pre-ordered it. Why do you ask?
  • Status Anxiety by Alain de Botton (8/10; finished 2/27/2015): In which I finally got an an explanation as to why bashing the poor has become socially acceptable. Actually, as this is the world I grew up in, it’s more that I learned that it wasn’t always acceptable to dis them.

2015-1

  • Holistic Tarot: An Integrative Approach to Using Tarot for Personal Growth by Benebell Wen (9/10; finished 3/13/2015): The thickest book I read in 2015, coming in at 896 pages. It covers practically every aspect of tarot, with stuff for all levels of experience. Really needed a more durable binding, though.
  • The 12 Key Pillars of Novel Construction: Your Blueprint for Building a Solid Story by C. S. Lakin (8/10; finished 7/13/2015): This book and I got off to a bad start. The architecture analogy went on and on, and I got tired of the author’s efforts to sell me on her book when I’d already bought it. But then we finally got to those twelve pillars and it turned out she’d come up with some excellent questions to test the strength of your story against.
  • The Dark of the Soul: Psychopathology in the Horoscope by Liz Greene (9/10; finished 9/11/2015): Should anyone say that astrology is all newspaper predictions, vague personality descriptions, and matchmaking advice, I’m going to mention this book. Three seminars on psychopaths and genocidal national leaders. There’s nothing like analyzing the astrological chart of a serial killer to put a sparkle in your day.

2015-2

  • Do What You Love and Other Lies About Success and Happiness by Miya Tokumitsu (8/10; finished 9/29/2015): My tendency to read sobering, often gloomy, books in the fall continues. Admittedly, I don’t usually wander into the economics section to find them. Tokumitsu argues that the “do what you love” mantra encourages people to willingly work for less money and pressures them to be constantly passionate about their jobs, while unpaid internships multiply, formerly professional positions are “de-skilled,” and a two-tiered system of those who have desirable jobs and those who support them develops.
  • The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo (8/10; finished 10/18/2015): Given how much discussion of this there is in the world, this would probably be one of the most memorable books I encountered in 2015 even if I hadn’t read it.
  • Classical Philosophy: A History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps, Volume 1 by Peter Adamson (9/10; finished 11/17/2015): Transcriptions of podcasts, episodic, but well-connected. The book is a lot more readable than the title might lead you to believe, assuming you had any interest in the subject to begin with. I’m finally getting the hang of Socrates and Plato. And volume 2, Philosophy in the Hellenistic & Roman Worlds, awaits me on my bookshelf.

2015-3