Time for another year-end book list. Here’s my summary from Goodreads. Probably my biggest theme of the year was finishing off Robin Hobb‘s 16-book “Realm of the Elderlings” world (about 11 books this year, the others in 2020). The whole series is good, some of it great. Probably my favorite thing about the books, aside from the many interesting characters, is the way the separate stories relate and tie together, sometimes with the payoff or a-ha moment not coming for another 6 or 8 books; she obviously thought through the world she was constructing before writing any of it, and there are some beautiful moments of realization scattered throughout the series. My least favorite thing about Robin Hobb is her penchant for layering misery after misery onto her poor protagonists; sometimes it feels like too much. I did some rereading this year, returning to the Douglas Adams books I first read long ago and the N.K. Jemisin books I first read 5-6 years ago. Those were both good. Jemisin, in particular, held up well on a second reading; I forgot just enough to enjoy it all over again. Other than that, I’ll call out Sayaka Murata for the most disturbing book I read this year, Earthlings, and Yoko Ogawa for The Memory Police, which inspired me to write my longest review [spoiler alert] of the year.
– Robin Hobb – All the assassin and liveship things
– N.K. Jemisin – The Fifth Season, and the rest of that series, and The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, and so on
– Jane Austen – Mansfield Park (yes, another reread)
– Martha Wells – The Element of Fire
– T. Kingfisher – A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking
– JRRT – The Hobbit (another reread that holds up well)
– Austin Channing Brown – I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness
– Susanna Clarke – Piranesi
– Deonn Tracy – Legendborn
– Tamsyn Muir – Gideon the Ninth
For fun let’s also talk about the 1/2-stars and DNFs. First, there’s The Wheel of Time. I read the first three books and that’s as much as I can manage. I didn’t think they were terrible, but the characters’ immaturity (have you ever spoken to an actual girl or boy?) and nonsensical thinking (why do you all hate the woman who keeps saving your lives and is nothing but decent to you?), as well as all the gender essentialism, were just too much for me to feel like trudging through another 11ish books with them.
– Robert Jordan – The Wheel of Time I could have spent reading something else
– Shannon Messenger – Keeper of the Lost Cities. Every YA cliche made as dumb as possible.
– Deborah Tannen – You Just Don’t Understand. A reread that did not hold up (DNF).
– Elizabeth Knox – The Absolute Book
– Fuminori Nakamura – Cult X. I started this, then read the reviews and decided it was not for me (DNF).
– Robin Hobb – Forest Mage. Sorry, Robin. This did not start great, and then I read reviews and realized it would get much worse (DNF).
– Tamsyn Muir – Harrow the Ninth. Remove everything that made Gideon the Ninth fun, add a bunch of meh, and then try to save it with an exciting finish. No.
If there was a theme to the music I listened to this year, it was getting music ideas from the 12/13-year-old set rather than from the radio or stuff I’ve been listening to for decades. Almost all the songs on this year’s list are current or recent; it’s fun learning about music from your teenager. As usual, I saved anything I heard that sounded interesting in my Stuff I Heard 2021 list and reduced it down to the stuff I really liked in The Sound of 2021.
Here are my Best of 2021:
– ESG – You Make No Sense
– Billie Eilish – you should see me in a crown
– Dua Lipa – Levitating
– Olivia Rodrigo – jealousy, jealousy
– SAULT – Stop Dem
– LUMP – Animal
– Bronski Beat – Smalltown Boy
– Arlo Parks – Hurt
– Marie Davidson – Work It (Soulwax Remix)
– Lorde – Solar Power
– St. Vincent – Los Ageless
– Two Sheds – You Get to Me
– Clairo – Sofia
– The Beatles – Don’t Let Me Down
– MARINA – Venus Fly Trap
Another year, another summary from GoodReads. I thought this might be a banner year for reading, what with being at home 24/7 for most of the year, but it was pretty in line with the last few years. Some themes for this year: finishing the Expanse series (so far) and the Steerswoman series; reading the entire Murderbot series (so far), which is delightful; the Children of Time books (evolved intelligent spiders, and then evolved intelligent squids); starting on Discworld (about 14 books this year, and there are many more); starting in on Robin Hobb with the Farseer and Liveship Traders series; and a handful of random YA books, some great and some awful.
– Martha Wells – The Murderbot Diaries
– Robin Hobb – Assassin’s Apprentice, Royal Assassin, Assassin’s Quest, Ship of Magic
– Adrian Tchaikovsky – Children of Time, Children of Ruin
– Ellis Avery – The Teahouse Fire
– Becky Chambers – To Be Taught, if Fortunate
– Dexter Palmer – Version Control
â€“ Rosemary Kirstein â€“ The Lost Steersman, The Language of Power
â€“ James S.A. Corey â€“ Books 7-8 of the Expanse series
– Terry Pratchett – Going Postal, The Light Fantastic, Small Gods, etc
Once again, here I am with the songs I listened to this year. Usually I can identify some themes, but the only real theme for the year, musically, is that, without a daily commute for most of the year, I listened to the radio a lot less and encountered less new (to me) music. My Stuff I Heard 2020 list is about half as long as usual, as is my Sound of 2020 list. Highlights for me are the topical “Lockdown” and “Killing in the Name”, the greatness of “Boys” and “bury a friend”, and classics from The Animals and Herb Alpert.
Here’s my Top 12 of 2020:
– The Animals – House of the Rising Sun
– Lizzo – Boys
– Billie Eilish – bury a friend
– Herb Alpert – Rise
– SAULT – Free
– St. Vincent – Digital Witness
– Rage Against The Machine – Killing in the Name
– Wax Tailor – How I Feel
– Bill Withers – Who Is He (And What Is He To You)?
– Yves V, Afrojack, Icona Pop – We Got That Cool
– Eagles – Journey of the Sorcerer (aka Hitchhiker’s Guide theme)
– Anderson .Paak – Lockdown
Another year, another top songs post. As I’ve been doing each year since 2013, I kept a playlist of stuff I listened to this year, whenever it was released, and I’ve distilled it down to my favorites (12 this year) and the ones that define the sound of the year for me. One strong theme for the year was particularly cheezy 80s music, of either the high-NRG or synths in space variety, though it turns out that some of that stuff was actually retro faux 80s cheeze. Another theme was that I had to do physical therapy every morning for more than half the year, and I desperately needed some good 120 BPM-ish music to help me wake up and count off my stretches; I had definite favorites.
Here are my 12 best songs of 2019:
– Janet Jackson – What Have You Done for Me Lately
– Janelle MonÃ¡e – Tightrope
– The White Stripes – Seven Nation Army
– of Montreal – Gronlandic Edit
– Chromatics – Time Rider
– The Specials – Ghost Town
– The True Loves – Mary Pop Poppins
– Gary Numan – My Dying Machine (Instrumental)
– Patrice BÃ¤umel – Roar (Adana Twins Remix)
– Paul Parker – Baby You Can Have My Lovin’ Anytime
– Magazine 60 – Don Quichotte – No Estan Aqui
– Grover Washington Jr. & Bill Withers – Just the Two of Us
Thanks to GoodReads for keeping track of what I read in 2019. This year I apparently read a book every 4.3 days, and 93 pages a day, slightly less than 2018. My favorite book of the year had to be Le Guin’s The Other Wind. The whole Earthsea hexology is fantastic, but I hadn’t read books 4-6 before and they’re all great. The Farthest Shore was also a great reread; I didn’t appreciate it as much when I was younger. I know everyone is aware of the Expanse books, which I’m working my way through, but a lesser-known epic series I’ve also been enjoying is Miles Cameron’s “Red Knight” books. They’re sort of the fantasy equivalent of those SF books that focus closely on details of engineering and technology; here, there’s a lot about armor, logistics, the economy, and firing rates of various kinds of archers, and it’s surprisingly engaging. A couple more suggestions some may have missed: Rosemary Kirstein’s Steerswoman books, where the hero is a sort of adventurer/scientist/librarian; and Minae Mizumura’s “A True Novel”, generally billed as a sort of Japanese “Wuthering Heights”.
– Ursula Le Guin – The Other Wind, read/reread Earthsea and a bunch of her other books
– Miles Cameron – The Red Knight & most of its sequels
– James S.A. Corey – Books 2-6 of the Expanse series
– Becky Chambers – A Closed and Common Orbit, my favorite of that trilogy
– Rosemary Kirstein – The Steerswoman, The Outskirter’s Secret
– Ann Leckie – The Raven Tower
– Sayaka Murata – Convenience Store Woman
– Minae Mizumura – A True Novel
– Sylvain Neuvel – Sleeping Giants & sequels
– Jessica Amanda Salmonson – Tomoe Gozen
– Iain M. Banks – Look to Windward
– Ellen Kushner – read/reread the Riverside books
And what I read in 2018. It was a very good year for reading, and I read a bunch of books I really enjoyed. I mostly continued my recent trend of reading writers who are not white dudes, and enjoying a lot of new perspectives (like fantasy/sf grounded in African rather than European mythology); then again, I read a ridiculous number of Alastair Reynolds books this year and liked (almost) all of them. Weirdest books of the year have to be Yoon Ha Lee’s “Ninefox Gambit” and sequels. After the first book, I thought a lot of the technobabble was meaningless (albeit poetic), but deeper connections are made by the third book. At any rate, the books are very strange, with a basic concept that is more fantasy than science fiction in some ways (in short: a civilization can warp reality if it can get all of its citizens to believe in the same things). The words and the concepts sort of flow past the reader without entirely making sense, but working on a poetic level.
– Tamora Pierce – all the books
– Nnedi Okorafor – Akata Witch, Akata Warrior, and the Binti books
– Alastair Reynolds – Revelation Space, and a bunch of other books set in that universe
– Yoon Ha Lee – Ninefox Gambit, Raven Stratagem, Revenant Gun
– Ursula K. Le Guin – A Wizard Of Earthsea, The Tombs Of Atuan
– Malka Ann Older – Infomacracy, Null States
– Min Jin Lee – Pachinko
– Nalo Hopkinson – Midnight Robber
– S.A. Chakraborty – The City Of Brass
– Issui Ogawa – The Next Continent
– Robert Jackson Bennett – City Of Stairs (and its not-quite-as-good sequels)
– Seth Dickinson – The Traitor Baru Cormorant
– Naomi Novik – Spinning Silver
– Pierce Brown – Red Rising, Golden Sun, Morning Star
Totally forgot to do this last year, so here’s what I read in 2017.
I can’t really say there was much of a theme to 2017. It was kind of a mishmash of me trying to find new writers to follow, after exhausting Cixin Liu and N.K. Jemisin in 2016. When I look back over the list, I can’t remember what half of these books were about, or whether I liked them. The one I hit on is Tamora Pierce; I read her “Alanna” series in 2017 and have read most of her other stuff since, sharing some of it with Nora (though she’s not ready for all of the books). I read and enjoyed Naomi Novik’s “Uprooted” and then, hungry for more Novik, slogged my way through several of her Temeraire books (thing Hornblower or Aubrey/Maturin but there are dragons) before giving up. They’re not terrible, but they’re not great either.
But here are some favorites:
– Tamora Pierce – Song of the Lioness quartet (Alanna)
– N.K. Jemisin – Stone Sky
– Kazu Kibuishi – Amulet graphic novels
– Mary Doria Russell – Children of God
– Naomi Novik – Uprooted
– Hiroshi Yamamoto – The Stories Of Ibis
– Ada Palmer – Too Like The Lightning, Seven Surrenders
– Lian Hearn – The Tale Of Shikanoko quartet
– Neal Stephenson – Seveneves (the first part anyway)
Another year, another top songs post. As I’ve been doing each year since 2013, I kept a playlist of stuff I listened to this year, whenever it was released, and I’ve distilled it down to my favorites (13 this year) and the ones that define the sound of the year for me. There weren’t really any strong themes this year; there was the usual retro-80s and techno, a brief foray into surf guitar, Janelle MonÃ¡e, and an unusual number of non-techno/non-retro pop in the favorites.
Here are my 13 best songs of 2018:
– Janelle MonÃ¡e – Make Me Feel
– DKMD – I’m Watching You
– James Curd, Annabel Weston – Think You Know
– Yoshinori Sunahara – Clipper’s Discoteque Break
– Dirtylover – Feel The Right
– Shocking Blue – Love Buzz
– Oliver Koletzki, HVOB – Bones
– Charlotte Gainsbourg – Deadly Valentine
– Salt-N-Pepa – Shoop
– Robots with Rayguns – Sweat It Out
– Telex – Second Hand
– New Order – Tutti Frutti (Takkyu Ishino Remix)
– Janelle MonÃ¡e, Grimes – Pynk
As I’ve done since 2013, I’ve made a top songs list for 2017. And as usual, it’s stuff I listened to this year, whenever it was released, and it’s 12 songs because why not. During the year, I keep a playlist of songs I hear, and at the end of the year I distill it down to the ones that define the sound of the year for me and my absolute favorites.
This year’s themes were deep, minimal techno and house, old-timey hip hop, and dub. I couldn’t get enough of several of these tracks and listened to them over and over, when I wasn’t obsessing over the Beatles’ songwriting. This year was all over the map.
Here are my 12 best songs of 2017:
– Marie Davidson: Naive To The Bone
– Maya Jane Coles: What They Say
– Eric B. & Rakim: Let The Rhythm Hit ‘Em
– Kriss Kross: Warm It Up
– The Frightnrs: All My Tears
– Jah Shaka & Mad Professor: Wig Wam
– The Beatles: I Saw Her Standing There
– Mr. Flagio: Take A Chance (ItaloConnection Rework Vocal)
– Anthony Rother: My Name Is Telekraft
– Boris Brejcha: Dark Planet
– Digital Underground: The Humpty Dance
– Dead Can Dance: Song For Sophia