2013 Year In Review

As we’re nearing the end of the year it’s time to go back and review some of my reading from the past year.  This was a bad year reading for me, especially compared to the past 2 or 3 years where I had been averaging well over 80-90 books a year.  But while the quantity of books that I read this year was down, I have to say that overall the quality of books that I read this year was very high.

So here we go with the disappointing numbers, as of writing this post I’ve finished 30 books this year.  To be fair, I’m about 3/4 of the way through The Ambassador’s Mission by Trudi Canavan, and it’s very likely that I’ll be able to finish both this book and the second book in the trilogy before the end of the year, but at this point I’ll just include those books for next years year in review.

The past couple of years that I’ve done this I’ve gone through and listed both my favorite books of the year as well as my favorite new author that I read in the past year.  But looking through my list of books that I read this past year, I actually only read 4 or 5 new authors this past year, and everything else was either a continuation of a series by an author I’d read before (i.e. The Wheel of Time) or a new series by an author I’d read before (Jim C. Hines Princess series for example).  So it’s kind of unfair to list a favorite new author, because of the very small pool of candidates, so we skip it for this year, and make a resolution to read more new authors in the coming year.

Favorite book however, that is an infinitely more difficult question.  There are three books this year that are up for consideration here.  Two of the books I gave a 10/10 rating (the only two books that got a 10/10 from me this year) and the third book was unrated because it was the final book of The Wheel of Time, and I didn’t give individual book ratings to any of the books in that series.  The three books that I’m talking about of course are A Memory of Light, Flowers for Algernon, and The Willow Tree.

Ultimately here’s the problem with trying to choose any of those books over the other two.  I love all three of the books, but I love them all for different reasons.  A Memory of Light was a perfect conclusion to a fantastic series that I’ve been reading for over 10 years now.  Flowers for Algernon was a book I loved because of the way that it analyzed several different aspects of our culture, and how it does an excellent job of showing what out culture thinks is important.  Lastly, The Willow Tree is a testament to the strength of the human spirit, and how easy it can be to change another persons life.  Often times all you have to do is be there for the other person.

Alas, I once again cheat and say that I won’t decide between the three books, and I’ll simply suggest all three of the books.

So having crapped out on the first two categories, time to go through some of the quick questions that I’ve asked the past two years.

  • Longest book – A Memory of Light – 909 pages
  • Shortest book – The shortest actual novel that I read was The Island of Dr. Moreau at 140 pages, but Legion (which is a novella) was shorter at only 86 pages
  • Best series – I finished The Wheel of Time this year, so that automatically wins here, for another pick I would probably say The Black Magician trilogy by Trudi Canavan

As always, I’ll take any other questions about books that I read this year, anything from characters, to the authors, to whatever else you can think of.  As always my one caveat is that I would prefer to avoid any negative questions, so no questions about the worst book of the year please.

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  1. My numbers were down this year too, mostly due to reading so much short fiction for SF Signal reviews, but like you I felt the quality was excellent and am in no way disappointed. I’m so happy for WoT fans that Sanderson was able to take Jordan’s notes/outlines and do justice to the series in its conclusion. I hope more series authors take a note from Jordan and do what they can to get their seemingly unending series wrapped up before someone else has to take over.

    • I think the most obvious author that you’re referring to is George RR Martin with his Song of Ice and Fire series (the Game of Thrones series). While I’ve read those books and enjoyed the series, I think they’re in a very similar place to where the Wheel of Time was around books 9 and 10, with books 4 and 5 in Martin’s series being very slow with not much going on. Jordan did get back on track with book 11 of the WoT, which definitely started to drive towards the ending of the series, but he died before he was able to finish the series. I remember reading a post somewhere (probably tor.com) where they talked about how Martin didn’t want someone else to finish the series if he can’t. In that article they said that Martin had outlined where he saw the series ending so the writers of the TV show can finish the series, but not the books. I wish Martin all the best in his life and I hope that he keeps writing, but personally I’m not too optimistic about seeing the end of the series anytime soon (if ever).

      • Yes, he is certainly the most obvious given his age and the fact that he does not appear to be a person overly concerned with physical fitness. But I’m also thinking of younger people like Sanderson, who is only two books into his 10 book Stormlight Archive. Series can be a wonderful thing but I tend to prefer something more brief, like a trilogy, as it offers some hope that the author will finish it (I’m looking at you Patrick Rothfuss).

      • I’m not as worried about Sanderson simply because of how consistent he is as a writer. Yes it’s going to take a while for him to finish the Stormlight Archive, but I don’t think he’ll run into a 5 to 6 year break between books in the series like Martin did. Martin’s break was especially frustrating because of the letter he included at the end of A Feast for Crows where he said he split book 4 into two parts and that he was mostly done with what would become book 5 and that fans should expect the book to come out within a year or two after book 4. But there ended up being a 6 year wait between the books, and book 5 was not nearly as good as the rest of the series had been.

        While I enjoy the big Fantasy series, I definitely agree with you that shorter series can in many ways be better. I’m even a proponent for shorter books in general in the Fantasy genre. I think that there are some authors who feel the need to pad their books so that they’ll be over 600 pages because that’s what Fantasy books are “supposed” to be anymore. I’ve read a couple of authors recently (Scott Lynch and Peter V Brett) whose books suffer because they’re simply too long. I’ve never read a great book and said that I wish the book was 200 pages longer, but I’ve read quite a few books that I thought were ok that could have been much stronger had they been 200 pages shorter. Pat Rothfuss is an example of that, I think that if he had cut out a large section of the first half of The Wise Man’s Fear (specifically the parts where Kvothe is struggling to afford to stay in school) the book would have been a quicker read and stronger because of it.

      • LOL, I’ve never complained of that either. Having grown up reading science fiction books that were anywhere between 120 and 200 pages and never failed to satisfy as far as telling a complete story, these giant tomes are not my favorite. Even when I end up loving the book, as I did with The Way of Kings, for example, I much prefer something shorter and am more likely to pick up and give a shorter book a chance.

        I do think Sanderson has good writing habits and do expect him to put out books more regularly, but even at a one-every-two-years pace we are talking two decades between start and finish. Sadly a lot can happen during that span of time, including a drop off of productivity. I’m hoping that doesn’t happen.

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