Here’s a roundup of the books that my Goodreads account tells me I finished during 2015.
Young Babylon by Lu Nei was really good. It’s great books like this that make me think I should venture out of my genre ghetto more frequently and read more literary fiction!
Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Glamourist Histories series is part Regency drama part magic-wielding fantasy. Unlike most fantasy works the magic in this world is more of a fine art than a practical or learned concern and more the domain of accomplished young ladies than swashbuckling adventurers or wise elders. It’s this departure from the norm that makes the series so interesting. I’ve only read the first book Shades of Milk and Honey but the rest of the volumes are on my to-read list.
I re-read the first two books of Naomi Novik’s Temeraire His Majesty’s Dragon and Throne of Jade. I quite like these two books but the series wears on me as it goes on and I don’t think I’ve ever managed to finish the third book. Maybe it’s something about Napoleonic naval books because I had the same thing happen reading the Hornblower books too.
Speaking of re-reading I read The Seeress of Kell, the fifth and final book in David (and Leigh) Eddings’ Mallorean series. These books (the 12 novels proper and 1 of background material) have been favourites of mine for around 20 years.
I read two of Katherine Kerr’s story collections – Dark Magicks: Two Tales and Deverry: Three Tales – which were both good, but I’ll read pretty much anything set in her Deverry world. I also tried one of her newer ‘urban fantasy’-ish series with Sorcerer’s Luck. Set in some contemporary North American city but with Nordic magic-y stuff, it was better than the “sexy vampires” urban fantasy slop that’s so popular the last few years (thanks for that Laurell K. Hamilton) but not my cup of tea.
I read and reread a bunch of Mercedes Lackey books toward the end of the year.
I reread the Owl Mage Trilogy (or Darien’s Tale): Owlflight, Owlsight, and Owlknight; and The Mage Storms: Storm Warning, Storm Rising, and Storm Breaking (though I read them in The Mage Storms Omnibus).
I quite enjoyed a newer series The Collegium Chronicles: Foundation, Intrigues, Changes, Redoubt, Bastion. The two books in the follow-on series The Herald Spy Trilogy have been not quite as good so far: Closer to Home and Closer to the Heart.
Leaving Valdemar, I find Lackey’s Elemental Masters series a bit hit and miss but I quite enjoyed Blood Red. Think Red Riding Hood hunts werewolves, vampires, and other rogue magicians.
The Noticeably Stouter Book of General Ignorance by John Lloyd was entertaining, as is the No such thing as a fish podcast produced by the QI elves which I mentioned in my recent recommended podcasts post.
The Shochu Handbook by Christopher Pellegrini was an interesting introduction to shochu (a form of distilled spirit from Japan). It induced me to try the little bottles of shochu I’ve had since I visited Japan in 2011.
The Wall Street Journal Guide to Information Graphics by Dona Wong is an introduction to real infographics – charts, diagrams, etc. – for journalists and the like. If you need to produce real infographics and are not a designer you’ll likely find this useful.
Philosophical Letters by Voltaire was by turns interesting and tedious. I don’t think I’ll bother reading any more Voltaire.
On Rumours by Cass Sunstein describes the way in which rumours arise and are spread. I think it would have been improved with more discussion of empirical results but it was interesting nonetheless.
I managed a few of Black Inc.’s series of essays Short Black mostly as a late-December attempt to reach my target of 50 books. Alas, I haven’t made it but the three Short Blacks I read were pretty good No Fixed Address by Robyn Davidson, The Australian Disease by Richard Flanagan, and especially Fat City by Karen Hitchcock, Booze Territory by Anna Krien, and The Brave Ones: East Timor, 1999 by John Birmingham.
Gods of Metal by Eric Schlosser describes the remarkable success of the Plowshares movement at breaking into various military bases, storage facilities, missile silos, ships, hangers, and other parts of the US nuclear weapons military-industrial complex. I’d ordinarily have skipped this – expecting a breathless accounting of megatons and MIRVs and death-tolls – but the focus was very much on the activists and it was a great read.
I quite liked A Cup of Sake Beneath the Cherry Trees by Kenko and The Life of a Stupid Man by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa from Penguin’s Little Black Classics series but found the Goethe and Sappho volumes tedious.