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williamjm

Favourite books read in 2017

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I think we've traditionally had this thread, and it's always interesting to see the variety of which books people enjoyed reading most in 2017. What did enjoy most during the year (not necessarily new books)?

The best 10 I read were:

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell

Starts off as a fascinating piece of historical fiction in a setting (a Dutch trading colony in 18th Century Japan) I knew little about, but it’s the introduction of a (relatively subtle) fantasy element in the second part of the book that really raises the stakes and makes this so compelling. Mitchell’s writing is great, there are memorable characters and it has a powerful ending.

The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin

Has a reputation as one of the masterpieces of 20th Century Science fiction and it lives up to it. The way Le Guin slowly unravels the contrasting strengths and weaknesses of the two societies  is thought-provoking, but this isn’t just about the ideas, Shevek is a great protagonist and the plot is compelling.

Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee

I can’t say I’ve ever read anything quite like this, the setting is utterly bizarre and alien with warfare being conducted using calendars. It may throw the reader in at the deep end but I think it reveals enough to be comprehensible. The phrase ‘grim dark future’ has been rather overused in recent years, this one definitely qualified but the characterisation offers just enough glimpses of humanity to stop it being entirely bleak. It also features a fascinating antihero in the form of Shuos Jedao.

La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman

A welcome return that is reminiscent of the best parts of “His Dark Materials”. Maybe this is still ostensibly a young adult book but Pullman has never talked down to his audience and there is plenty of depth here, as well as an entertaining adventure fable.

City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett

A good conclusion to the trilogy that manages to fit well with the rest of the series even if I suspect it wasn’t planned in advance. After the previous books had been a spy novel and a war novel in a fantasy setting this feels more like a Western, specifically one of those Westerns where an ageing gunslinger with plenty of regrets finds he can’t quite rest yet.

 The Algebraist by Iain M. Banks

Sadly this is the last time I’ll ever read one of Banks’ SF novels for the first time. This isn’t a Culture novel but it has all the ambition and wonder of that setting, the parts of the story spent in the gas giant inhabited by the Dwellers are excellent. However, some of the other subplots did fall a bit flat.

Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft

An audacious and playful concept of a man searching for his lost wife in the bizarre societies of the Tower of Babel. An enjoyable and unusual read, even if it perhaps started to lose momentum in the third act.

Raven Stratagem by Yoon Ha Lee

The sequel to Ninefox Gambit takes the plot in some interesting new directions and introduces some different perspectives on the story.

The Bear and the Serpent by Adrian Tchaikovsky

A high-concept epic fantasy set in a world where everyone can shape shift into the form of various animals. This makes for some distinctive action scenes, and the plot has a few surprising developments that I wasn’t expecting after the previous book in the trilogy. I’ve always enjoyed Tchaikovsky’s characterisation and this is no exception.

Luna : Wolf Moon by Ian McDonald

I found this a bit inconsistent, but at its best has some excellent writing – Lucasinho Corta monologuing about the importance of cake to his niece while fleeing for their lives across the lunar surface was particularly great.

Honourable mentions to Ian Esslemont's Dancer's Lament, the first five books in Max Gladstone's Craft Cycle, Neil McGarry and Daniel Ravipinto's The Ruling Mask and Jo Zebedee's Inish Carraig.

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thanks for the list williamjm. Several are on my to read list so good to know you've enjoyed them. I'll try and post a top 5 over xmas.

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This was a slow reading year for me. I only read 26 books apparently, almost all of them were bad. The best book was probably Perdido Street Station, which I don't think needs any introduction around here. Look to Windward is a distant second. 

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My top ten is largely a mixture of recent releases and things I'd been meaning to read for a while.  The only exception to that is, I think, the Mitchell book; I have a feeling that I picked that up after reading a few people here talking about it at the start of the year.

The list below is not really in order except that Too Like The Lightning is comfortably the best thing I read this year.  (I just got my copy of The Will To Battle today and I'm wondering whether or not to reread this again first.)

Too Like The Lightning by Ada Palmer (2016)

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell (2010)

Possession by A. S. Byatt (1990)

The Stone Sky by N. K. Jemisin (2017)

The Secret History by Donna Tartt (1992)

The Power by Naomi Alderman (2016)

Golden Hill by Francis Spufford (2016)

Always Coming Home by Ursula le Guin (1985)

Europe at Midnight by Dave Hutchinson (2015)

Autonomous by Annalee Newitz (2017)

Honourable mentions:  I read a good chunk of Adrian Tchaikovsky's Shadows of the Apt series over the first half of the year (of which Salute The Dark was probably the best) and I also read the first five books of Max Gladstone's Craft sequence (of which I most enjoyed Four Roads Cross and Full Fathom Five).

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I'm rubbish at listing my favourite books and, for that matter, remembering when I read them if it was more than a couple of weeks ago. I did really enjoy Senlin Ascends and The Bear and the Serpent though. I think I read The Obelisk Gate this year too which was excellent. 

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Don't mention Too Like The Lightning or lil valley will come in here and throw things at you :P

My copy of The Will To Battle is sitting here looking at my accusingly, but it's next.

Edited by Darth Richard II

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I don't believe I read any 2017 releases this year. I tend to let the hype die down around most novels to see how the reviews usually settle. That way I'm usually not disappointed in my reads. Only two of my reads disappointed me: Uprooted and The Stars are Legion. I gave up on Uprooted but slogged through The Stars are Legion. My favorite reads(sticking to fiction to keep the list manageable) in no particular order were:

The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera

The Bridge on the Drina, Ivo Andric

The Library at Mount Char, Scott Hawkins

Children of Time, Adrian Tchaikovsky

The Windup Girl, Paulo Bacigalupi

Three Parts Dead, Max Gladstone

Angle of Repose, Wallace Stegner

True Grit, Charles Portis

An Officer and a Spy, Robert Harris

The Time It Never Rained, Elmer Kelton

 

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I enjoyed reading these books the most this year:

Rad American Women A-Z, by Kate Schatz, illustrated by Miriam Klein Stahl

Off to Be the Wizard, by Scott Meyer

Three Parts Dead, by Max Gladstone

Inferior, by Peadar O Guilin

No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished, by Rachel Aaron

Old Man's War, by John Scalzi

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1. Grace of Kings by Ken Liu

2. Perdido Street Station by China Mieville

3. The  Unholy Consult by R. Scott Bakker

All three of those were strong enough to be my #1 in most years.  Even TUC which is admittedly uneven and possibly frustrating.

Edited by End of Disc One

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I always like to put together a Top 3 books I read each year, so that it's truly the best of the best.  For this year that was:

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel.  Delightful post apocalyptic story.  A disease wipes out most of humanity, and those that survive must decide how to hold on to their humanity.  Less depressing than most post-apocalyptic stories, and beautifully written.

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North.  A small subset of people live their lives over and over again, learning from their experiences and understandably amassing a great deal of power and wealth.  Trouble arises when one of them sets out on a reckless quest for knowledge at all costs. 

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt.  Unusual Western.  Recommended by the board as being "a bit Abercrombie-ish", I can see the similarities.  Charming dialogue and an unusual plot make this a fun, quick read. 

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1 hour ago, Maithanet said:

I always like to put together a Top 3 books I read each year, so that it's truly the best of the best.  For this year that was:

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel.  Delightful post apocalyptic story.  A disease wipes out most of humanity, and those that survive must decide how to hold on to their humanity.  Less depressing than most post-apocalyptic stories, and beautifully written.

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North.  A small subset of people live their lives over and over again, learning from their experiences and understandably amassing a great deal of power and wealth.  Trouble arises when one of them sets out on a reckless quest for knowledge at all costs.

I think those would both have been at the top of the lists of my favourite books in the years in which I read them.

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The Dark Tower (1-7) - Stephen King

1984 - George Orwell

The Casual Vacancy - JK Rowling

Misery - Stephen King

Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov

Lord of the Flies - William Goldling

It - Stephen King

The only books I didn't like were The Shack, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, A Crown of Swords, and Pirate Latitudes. I was overall indiferent towards The Book Thief.

Thats basically everything I read in 2017 :) 

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It wasn't particularly great year for me, reading wise. But here's my top ten:

1. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell - I really like his prose. All three Mitchell books I read this year easily make my top ten.

2. Seveneves by Neal Stephenson - Some of my friends, including big Stephenson's fans, simply hated this book. I couldn't stop reading it. I agree it loses some of momentum in the last part, but it's still a great piece of literature.

3. number9dream by David Mitchell - I can't believe I haven't read it earlier. As a matter of fact I started reading it few years ago and stopped after just 50 pages or so. So glad I decided to finish it this year.

4. Noc generała by Gabriel Meretik - First 24 hours of Martial Law in Poland in 1981 in the eyes of French journalist. Easily beats every political fiction I read.

5. Tatuaż z tryzubem by Ziemowit Szczerek - Journeys through today's Ukraine mixed with social and political thoughs of one of the most interesting Polish reporters.

6. Wiara by Anna Kańtoch - Fresh and original crime novel by a relatively young female author.

7. Slade House by David Mitchell - I rate it slightly lower than the other two Mitchell books I read, but it's still great.

8. Na ziemi niczyjej (Wielka wojna, #2) by Anna Brzezińska - A couple of novellas focusing on different wars with a grain of fantasy or paranormality. Surprisingly fresh mix.

9. Czterdzieści i cztery by Krzysztof Piskorski - Alternative version of Europe's history in early XIX century. Great setting, interesting story, I'd appreciate slightly more developed characters.

10. Jak zawsze by Zygmunt Miloszewski - Another piece of alternative history, this time about early sixties Poland that broke out of the Iron Curtain by forming a strong bond with De Gaulle's France.

So out of my 10 favourite books of the year half was written by Polish authors and two by women.

I'm finishing Rivers of London by Ben Aronovitch, it'll probably end up in the top ten as well.

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I didn't read as much as I wanted to this year, and spent a lot of time re-reading ASoiAF, which took longer than I expected... particularly once I got to AFFC and ADWD. But, the best and worst of what I read in fiction:

NK Jemisin- The Stone Sky. It's an excellent conclusion to a very strong trilogy. The climax is maybe a bit too pat, and it's not quite as good as The Fifth Season, but I'm impressed by the trilogy as a whole, Jemisin's prose and characterization, and her evolution as a writer from her debut trilogy (which I didn't like) to now.

Jeff Vandermeer- Borne. I love Vandermeer. I love his style of humour, his prose, his weird imagination, and the ecological horror and strangeness he can evoke. I was very happy to hear he was writing a book set in the same world as his short story The Situation, and it lived up to my expectations. As one reviewer put it, it's the best book about parenthood that involves a giant flying bear that you'll ever read.

Hillary Mantel- A Place of Greater Safety. It wasn't quite as strong as her Thomas Cromwell books, and could definitely stand to lose 100-200 pages, but I thought her depiction of the French revolution was interesting and unique, and I thought she did great work with the "characters" of Danton and Robespierre.

Philip K. Dick- A Scanner Darkly. I tend to enjoy Dick's works about mental illness and drug addiction more than his straight up sci-fi books, and this was no exception. It hasn't aged well in some ways, but is still a really poignant depiction of addiction and the fragmented self. I also enjoyed the movie version starring Keanu Reeves and Robert Downey Jr.

Ted Chiang- Stories of Your Life and Others. I read this after seeing Arrival; the short story version is just as beautiful and wonderful. Some of the other stories in this book maintained that level of quality (Hell is the Absence of God, The Tower of Babylon), some were very good (Liking What You See, Seventy-Two Letters) others... not so much (Understand, Division by Zero).

Rawi Hage- De Niro's Game.  It's a novel about two teenagers during the Lebanese civil war. It's poetic, gritty and brutally depicts how war can desensitize human beings. 

Other books I read and really enjoyed: Mort by Pratchett, The In-Between World of Vikram Lass by M.G. Vassanji, The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins, Lady of the Lake by Andrzej Sapkowsi, Deathless by Catherynne Valente. And then there were some "classics" I read that were of course excellent: Sense and Sensibility, Ficciones, L'Etranger.

The worst books I read in 2017 award goes to... The Unholy Consult (Bakker), Throne of the Crescent Moon (Ahmed) and A Darker Shade of Magic (Schwab). The last two were fun, inoffensive books that I found to be shallow, written very poorly, and which wasted great premises. Bakker's Unholy Consult, though,  was IMO a genuinely bad book. His prose has become even pretentious, purple, and unclear. He badly needs an editor. He's run out of interesting things to say. And although the ending had some cool parts, it overall made me feel like I'd wasted my time reading this overlong, not particularly enjoyable tetralogy. This'll be the last Bakker book I read.

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I read some great books in 2017 (53 in total). You can see the full list on Goodreads. It would be quicker to say which books I didn't think highly of than the reverse. I have two tiers and I don't want to put either of them in order.

 

Books I loved

The Devourers - Indra Das (if you love storytellers, you'll love this)

Gnomon - Nick Harkaway (a return to the form of his first novel)

Elmet - Fiona Mozley (my favourite of the Booker shortlist, tender and harsh at once)

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet - David Mitchell (my favourite of his books)

 

Books I really, really liked (ok, I loved them a little bit as well) 

The Power - Naomi Alderman

Fingersmith - Sarah Waters (a tale to get lost in)

The Land of Laughs - Jonathan Carroll (just brilliant, also hilarious in places)

Homegoing - Yaa Gyasi (a stunning book)

Amberlough (The Amberlough Dossier, #1) - Lara Elena Donnelly (takes a few different ingredients and blends them in a most pleasing way)

A Little Life - Hanya Yanagihara (both very easy and very difficult to read; long, trying, worthwhile)

Golden Hill - Francis Spufford (reminds me a little of the good bits of Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle)

 

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On 12/22/2017 at 8:15 AM, red snow said:

thanks for the list williamjm. Several are on my to read list so good to know you've enjoyed them. I'll try and post a top 5 over xmas.

Excuse me, where is this list? 

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I had a pretty rubbish year for books this year, only 3 i truly enjoyed -

La Belle Sauvage

Station Eleven

The Disaster Artist

Also with moving house, getting promoted/new job, impending fatherhood, i have seriously dipped in the number of books i read this year, looking at amazon orders from 2017 compared to 2016/15/14 etc i'm at about half my normal number.

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