by James Wallace Harris, Sunday, December 30, 2018
I read 44 books this year. More than the 36 I read in 2017, but less than the 55 I read in 2016. I aim for a book a week average, so I’m off my pace. See “Year in Reading” for links to my past summaries.
My reading goal for this year was to read less science fiction and more classic literary novels and nonfiction. I wanted to keep science fiction to just one book a month but failed. I ended up reading 29 science fiction books, including 12 anthologies. This was my year of reading science fiction short stories. I need to give up making reading goals.
Book of the Year
Educated is so dazzling that I still wonder if it’s true. Tara Westover has written a stunning memoir of growing up without any K-12 schooling, almost no homeschooling, and yet ends up getting a Ph.D. at Cambridge. Along the way she also goes to Harvard.
Runner-up is The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis who reports on Donald Trump’s impact on the Department of Energy, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Commerce. His book provides abundant evidence why conservative philosophy against big government is simple-minded insanity.
Favorite Novel I Read This Year
For years I’ve avoided reading Connie Willis’ 1992 Hugo Award-winning novel Doomsday Book because of its size. It’s about a young woman time traveler, Kivrin, who is sent back to research life in the Middle Ages, at a small hamlet near Oxford. The book is riveting, and I highly recommend the audiobook edition because the writing is beautiful to hear. This tale is slow, very slow, but I couldn’t stop listening. The story is not meant to be action-pack exciting. Time travel in science fiction usually involves big loud plots, but Connie Willis makes her story very quiet and personal with an abundance of significant tiny details.
Favorite 2018 Novel I Read This Year
I only read two 2018 novels this year, and the other Semiosis by Sue Burke was excellent too. The Feed is hard to describe without giving away too many plot points. It’s a literary post-apocalyptic SF novel like Station Eleven or The Road. And it’s somewhat deceptive. It starts out as a fantastic story about a future technology called the feed, which builds internet access right into everyone’s head. Our world becomes a very different place, and I would have loved to read a whole novel about the possibilities. However, Windo is only setting us up for another story, because the narrative quickly jumps six years in the future where civilization has collapsed because of the feed technology.
There were times in this novel I wanted to stop listening because the story got too slow and even weird. But I’m thankful now that I stuck with it. Before we get to the end of this book, Windo uses many science fictional themes in wonderful ways to tell a complex but very human story.
Again, I highly recommend the audiobook version. Nick Clark Windo is an actor, and the story is told in a dramatic fashion. The dialog is movie-like rather than book-like as if Windo pictured performing this story rather than writing it. Windo and Clare Corbett are the narrators, who switch between the male and female point of view characters. Both are perfect for this story.
Books Read 2018
|Robert Silverberg editor||The Science Fiction Hall of Fame Volume One||Audible||1970|
|Jules Verne||Journey to the Center of the Earth||Audible||1864|
|Mari/Brown||Ocean of Storms||Audible||2016|
|Asimov/Greenberg editors||The Great SF Stories #1 (1939)||Hardback||1979|
|Alfred Bester||The Demolished Man||Audible||1952|
|Asimov/Greenberg editors||The Great SF Stories #2 (1940)||1979|
|Ben Bova editor||The Science Fiction Hall of Fame Volume Two A||Audible||1973|
|Bart D. Ehrman||The Triumph of Christianity||Audible||2018|
|David Grann||Killers of the Flower Moon||Scribd Audiobook||2017|
|Jessica Bruder||Nomadland||Scribd Audiobook||2017|
|Asimov/Greenberg editors||The Great SF Stories #3 (1941)||1980|
|Elizabeth Stroud||Anything is Possible||Scribd Audiobook||2017|
|Jack McDevitt||The Long Sunset||Kindle ebook||2018|
|Ben Bova editor||The Science Fiction Hall of Fame Volume Two B||Audible||1970|
|Scott Kelly||Endurance||Scribd Audiobook||2017|
|Jonathan Strahan||The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the Year Volume Eleven||Audible||2017|
|Douglas Adams||The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy||Scribd Audiobook||1979|
|Nnedi Okorafor||Binti||Scribd Audiobook||2015|
|Robert L. Forward||Dragon’s Egg||Scribd Audiobook||1980|
|Robert Silverberg||Sailing to Byzantium||YouTube Audio||1985|
|Gene Wolfe||The Fifth Head of Cerberus||YouTube Audio||1972|
|Samantha Silva||Mr. Dickens and His Carol||Scribd Audiobook||2017|
|Asimov/Greenberg editors||The Great SF Stories #4 (1942)||1980|
|Asimov/Greenberg editors||The Great SF Stories #5 (1943)||1981|
|Nancy Kress||Beggars in Spain||Audible||1993|
|George Saunders||Lincoln in the Bardo||Audible||2017|
|Jonathan Strahan||The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the Year Volume Twelve||Audible||2018|
|Asimov/Greenberg editors||The Great SF Stories #6 (1944)||1981|
|Edgar Pangborn||A Mirror for Observers||Trade paper||1954|
|Elizabeth Moon||The Speed of Dark||Audible||2002|
|Rebecca Solnit||Men Explain Things To Me||Kindle ebook||2014|
|Connie Willis||Doomsday Book||Audible||1992|
|Zora Neale Hurston||Their Eyes Were Watching God||Audible||1937|
|Murray Leinster||The Forgotten Planet||Audible||1954|
|Nate Blakeslee||American Wolf||Scribd||2017|
|Adrian Tchaikovsky||Children of Time||Audible||2015|
|Robert A. Heinlein||Friday||Audible||1982|
|Michael Lewis||The Fifth Risk||Kindle ebook||2018|
|Asimov/Greenberg editors||The Great SF Stories #7 (1945)||Paperback||1982|
|Nick Clark Windo||The Feed||Scribd Audiobook||2018|
|Jeff Flake||Conscience of a Conservative||Scribd Audiobook||2017|
I assume I’ll continue reading science fiction anthologies next year. There are annual best-of-the-year anthologies for science fiction short stories starting with 1939. I began this year with reading 1939 stories and have read my way forward in time. I’m currently reading 1946 stories. I’d like to get to 1960 by the end of next year. However, starting with 1949 there are two anthologies for each year, and for a few years in the 1950s, three each year. I might only make it to the mid-1950s.
Other than gorging on short science fiction, I’ll make no promises for 2019.