Friday, 20 November 2015

Bookmark Four

Year Four. Who’d a thunk it etc etc. Anyway, it’s Contrarily Early Annual Reading Round-Up Time!

The implacable decline of anything resembling “free time” continued apace this year. If I counted academic articles and chapters I’ve probably read as much as I ever have, but that’s really cut into the amount of reading for pleasure I’ve been able to do. The arrival of several hundred trade paperback comics courtesy of Mr Salaryman has also reduced the purely text-based reading; when you know you could be interrupted at any second by the need to dislodge a plastic dinosaur from a toddler, you tend to favour stuff that doesn’t need to be so immersive (or can establish immersion very quickly, through the use of pictures, say). I think I’ve read only two books longer than 400 pages in the last twelve months (which is why the Culture reread got suspended so close to the end; I just didn’t have the inclination to wade through a lengthy book that I’d read comparatively recently.)

Enough whining. Time for numbers. I’ve excluded comics, because frankly I’ve lost count of the specifics. We’re looking at a few dozen at least. Actual non-picture books come in at 47, which is a continuation of the downward trend of the last couple of years. Hey ho. Better news is that I’ve finally achieved gender parity (of a sort): 22 books by women, and 24 by men*. If we fudge it slightly and call The Southern Reach a single book (which I at least did at the time) then it all comes out nice and equal. In terms of authors read we don’t even have to do that, as it’s 22 each (and one anthology)

Yeah I know. It’s pretty weak sauce framing it like that, but the consistently surprising thing is how much actual effort I’ve had to put in to reaching that slightly suspect balance. By which I mean that I’ve had to put in any effort at all, both as a result of the historical skew of my TBR pile and the more general bias of promotions and the like in the wider world. Other, smarter people have noted the overwhelming distortion in the ‘canon’, and it’s reflected everywhere. I’m planning a rather arbitrary theme reading month for the new year, and, given my limited tolerance for Urban Fantasy, it’s been genuinely difficult to get anywhere near a 50/50 split and has meant ignoring a lot of ‘classics’ because, of course, they’re mostly written by men. In the meantime, I'm doing better regarding the White Patriarchy Count, at least: 17/29 in favour of people who don’t look or talk like me. Five (non-linguistics) non-fiction books and 8 in translation. It really has been a slow year.

On to awards, such as they are. Book of the Year goes to:

Outstanding, with perhaps the single finest last page I’ve ever read.

Various honorable mentions also for:

At this point I’ve traditionally pointed you towards some of the book posts I’ve most enjoyed writing, but they’re a little light on the ground this time around. It’s not that I haven’t enjoyed writing them, but that they’ve tended towards the perfunctory, so I’m not really sure it’s worth your time. I managed to pull my finger out on a few occasions, however, most enjoyably for the Mirror Empire/City of Stairs Dance Battle with Pep of Two Dudes, but these bits on Vermilion by Molly Tanzer, The Cage of Zeus by Sayuri Ueda, and Memory of Water by Emmi Itäranta might also not be complete wastes of your attention. Plus there’s the fact that I started writing for Strange Horizons this year, so if you want to head over there you can marvel at how much better my writing looks when it’s actually been edited by people who know what they’re doing.

*As far as I’m aware, I’ve not read anything by non-binary writers.

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations on the Strange Horizons gig. That is awesome. My year of reading has been largely interrupted by other life things. Mostly all good, but has cut into my 'free' time as has happened to you. Also my blogging time, as witnessed by how seldom I've been on there for the last many months. Since things are slowing down, I'm hoping to have a more active December and January, at least, on the blog, which means I anticipate reading more. Fingers crossed.

    I thought Annihilation was great when I read it last year. Have not managed to read the other two, however.