I must confess- putting together my annual book mosaic has been one of the biggest reasons I’ve been looking forward to the New Year. What started as a whim in 2013 is now in its fourth and (possibly) best to date year! You can check the earlier editions for 2013,2014 and 2015 on my blog.
I started this year with a target of reading 52 books equaling a book a week. It was scaled down from my more ambitious 100 and 75 books a year target which I never came close to achieving. Last year I read 20 books against my target of 75 books and at the start of the year even 52 seemed steep and unreachable. So I’m frankly quite amazed that I got through a total of 42 books this year- my best ever since I started maintaining records in 2013 (and quite possibly the best ever in my life).
Earlier this year I changed jobs and moved cities. This uprooting of my life and the disruption that ensued all but ensured that my blogging habits died but what I lost in blogging I gained in book reading. At least that’s what it seems like- in the time between May and December 2016 I posted exactly 16 blog posts but in the same time I read 33 books. It also helped massively that I stumbled across a good library and the fact that I have a 2 hour commute every day in the metro.
Without much further ado, here’s this year’s mosaic.
If there was a dominant theme to this year’s books, it was science fiction followed by fantasy. I spent 9 months looking forward to Cixin Liu’s ‘Death’s End’ – the last in the three body problem series. It was a good read but if I had to pick a favourite I would pick the second book – the Dark Forest. The pace, plot (Wallfacer and Wallbreaker- genius!) and characterisation (Da Shi, Luo Ji, Zhang Beihai..) made it a classic. Death’s End also had to struggle with a weak protagonist- it often felt like the only thing she did was to go into hibernation and wake up. But as I said before still a good weekend read if you liked the first two books.
The surprise find of the year was ‘Paper Menagerie’ by Ken Liu. I had earlier in the year read his ‘Grace of Kings’ (Ken Liu translated Cixin Liu’s books into English from Chinese) but was fairly unimpressed- it was a good book but there seemed to be nothing remarkable about it (completely subjective of course). So I had actually put off reading ‘Paper Menagerie’ for quite sometime. After having read Liu’s spectacular collection of short stories I feel Ken Liu’s strength is more the short story medium.
New author discovery- China Mieville. I’ve been glimpsing at reviews of Mieville’s books for years now without ever having gathered sufficient momentum to acquire his books. I first read City & the City in May/ June 2016. Mieville’s 3 (out of 4) books I read this year (City, Perdido Street Station and Embassy Town) are all a bit hard to get into. To a certain extent you have to let the text flow over you without stopping to beat every pulp of prose for an analysis and after a while it all starts to make sense. Perdido Street Station was especially monumental- something about it that haunts you long after you’ve put it down.
And of course there were the usual suspects- Murakami, Atwood, Higashino. You never run out of books written by some authors (though I think I’m getting close to exhausting the well of Murakami’s works).
Here’s a few recommendations from this list if you’re looking for interesting reads.
Quick Reads– Fiction (within a day): Conclave by Robert Harris, Nutshell by Ian McEwan
Fantasy– River of Stars by Guy Kay (Patrick Rothfuss’ books are also great but if you haven’t read them yet then I’ll recommend you wait until the third book in the series is published).
Short stories: Paper Menagerie– Ken Liu
Travel: The Old Ways by Robert MacFarlane
Science Fiction– If you have the time and patience- Three Body Problem series by Cixin Liu. If you just want a quick (partly hilarious) read try Red Shirts by John Scalzi.
Offbeat: Biogenesis by Tatsuaki Ishiguro- I have trouble classifying this into a box but I guess Japanese (as a genre rather than the language) might fit well. A mysterious, evocative and haunting set of short stories written the way only Japanese authors can write