Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,
Nicholas
nwhyte

My 2020 books

I read 266 books in 2020, the seventh highest of the seventeen years that I have been keeping track, so a nudge above the average.

(Full numbers: 234 in 2019, 262 in 2018, 238 in 2017, 212 in 2016, 290 in 2015, 291 in 2014, 237 in 2013, 259 in 2012, 301 in 2011, 278 in 2010, 342 in 2009, 371 in 2008, 236 in 2007, 207 in 2006, 144 in 2005, 149 in 2004)

Page count for the year:

70,400, ninth highest of the seventeen years I have recorded, bang in the middle.

(64,600 in 2019, 71,600 in 2018, 60,500 in 2017; 62,300 in 2016; 80,100 in 2015; 97,100 in 2014; 67,000 in 2013; 77,800 in 2012; 88,200 in 2011; 91,000 in 2010; 100,000 in 2009; 89,400 in 2008; 69,900 in 2007; 61,600 in 2006; 46,400 in 2005; 46,800 in 2004)

Books by non-male writers in 2020: 77/266, 29% - third highest absolute number, sixth highest percentage, less than the last couple of years as I dig into my archives of unread books.

(88/234 [38%] in 2019, 102/262 [39%] in 2018, 64/238 [27%] in 2017, 65 [31%] in 2016, 86 [30%] in 2015, 81 [28%] in 2014, 71 [30%] in 2013, 65 [25%] in 2012, 65 [22%] in 2011, 65 [23%] in 2010, 68 [20%] in 2009, 49 [13%] in 2008, 53 [22%] in 2007, 34 [16%] in 2006, 30 [21%] in 2005, 33 [22%] in 2004)

Books by PoC in 2020: - 25/266, 9% - third highest in both absolute numbers and percentages, higher than any year before 2018.

(34/234 [15%], in 2019, 26/262 [10%] in 2018, 17/238 [7%] in 2017, 14 [7%] in 2016, 20 [7%] in 2015, 11 [5%] in 2014, 12 [5%] in 2013, 15 [5%] in 2011, 24 [9%] in 2010, 16 [5%] in 2009, 6 [2%] in 2008, 5 [2%] in 2007, 8 [4%] in 2006, 4 [3%] in 2005, 2 [1%] in 2004)

Most-read author this year: Kieron Gillen, as I read all nine volumes of The Wicked + The Divine.

(previous winners: Brian K. Vaughan in 2019, Tove Jansson and Marcel Proust in 2018, Colin Brake and Leo in 2017, Christopher Marlowe in 2016, Justin Richards in 2015 and 2014, Agatha Christie in 2013, Jonathan Gash in 2012, Arthur Conan Doyle in 2011, Ian Rankin in 2010, William Shakespeare in 2009 and 2008, Terrance Dicks in 2007, Ian Marter in 2006, Charles Stross in 2005, Neil Gaiman and Catherine Asaro in 2004).

1) Science Fiction and Fantasy (excluding Doctor Who)

\2020/ \2019/ \2018/ \2017/ \2016/ \2015/ \2014/ \2013/ \2012/ \2011/ \2010/ \2009/ \2008/ \2007/ \2006/ \2005/ \2004/
114 77 108 68 80 130 124 65 62 78 73 78 54 75 68 79 76
43% 33% 41% 29% 38% 45% 43% 27% 24% 26% 26% 23% 15% 32% 33% 55% 51%

Third highest total, fourth highest percentage, as I work into my backlog from earlier years.

Top SF book of the year:

The first book I read in 2020 was Ted Chiang's collection Exhalation, which included some old favouites and a couple of brilliant new stories, both of which got on the Hugo final ballot. You can get it here.

Honourable mentions to:

Tade Thompson's The Rosewater Insurrection, a BSFA finalist, in which near-future Nigeria (like other parts of the world) has been subject to an alien intrusion; this plays out on the ground in micropolitics, including sexual politics, for an interesting and intelligent exploration of what it actually means to be human in an unforgiving and rapidly changing world. You can get it here.

Naomi Kritzer's Catfishing on CatNet, a Lodestar finalist, a cracking good read, with conscious AI, dysfunctional family, a courageous road trip across the northeastern USA, and a hilarious robot sex education scene. You can get it here.

The ones you haven't heard of:

The BSFA long-list included several stories from two anthologies which I consequently sought out and enjoyed, Distaff: A Science Fiction Anthology by Female Authors, eds. Rosie Oliver & Sam Primeau, which you can get here, and Once Upon A Parsec: the Book of Alien Fairy Tales, ed. David Gullen, which you can get here. Sadly none of them made it to the short-list.

The one to avoid:

The worst book I read all year, with some stiff competition, was A Woman in Space, by Sara Cavanaugh (probably a pseudonym). Our heroine is twenty-six, and already a spaceflight veteran. The entire plot lacks any credibility even in its own terms. The sexual politics is awful, and the sex is pretty badly written as well. It's so bad you have to finish it once you've started. (It's only 192 pages.) You can get it here.


2) Non-fiction

\2020/ \2019/ \2018/ \2017/ \2016/ \2015/ \2014/ \2013/ \2012/ \2011/ \2010/ \2009/ \2008/ \2007/ \2006/ \2005/ \2004/
50 49 50 57 37 47 48 46 53 69 66 88 70 78 70 42 42
19% 21% 19% 24% 17% 16% 16% 19% 20% 23% 24% 26% 19% 33% 34% 29% 28%

Bang in the middle of the historical range.

Top non-fiction book of the year:

From A Clear Blue Sky: Surviving the Mountbatten Bomb, by Timothy Knatchbull. More on this below.

Honourable mentions to:

Two biographies of women. The first is Felicitas Corrigan's biography of the Ulster writer and historian Helen Waddell, looking at how her star rose and fell - she was invited to lunch at 10 Downing Street with J.M. Barrie and Queen Mary, but died in obscurity. You can get it here.

The other is a finalist for the Hugo for Best Related Work, Mallory O'Meara's biography of Milicent Patrick, a Hollywood designer who rose and fell much more quickly than Helen Waddell; after the triumph of creating the Creature from the Black Lagoon, she was basically fired for not being invisible enough. You can get it here.

The one you haven't heard of:

Philip Winter's personal account of co-ordinating the internal peace process within the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2000-2002, a fascinating view of implementation of peace agreements at the sharp end with many lovely glimpses of detail and a real sense of time and place. You can get it here.

The one to avoid:

A Popular History of Ireland, by Thomas D’Arcy McGee - chloroform in print (as Mark Twain said of the Book of Mormon). You can get it here.



3) Comics

\2020/ \2019/ \2018/ \2017/ \2016/ \2015/ \2014/ \2013/ \2012/ \2011/ \2010/ \2009/ \2008/ \2007/ \2006/ \2005/ \2004/
45 31 28 29 27 18 19 30 21 27 18 28 6 20 6 8 8
17% 13% 11% 12% 13% 6% 7% 13% 8% 9% 6% 8% 2% 8% 3% 6% 5%

Surpassing last year's all-time high, again due to Hugos and Retro Hugos, and because of more Doctor Who comics coming through the system.

Top comics of the year:

Two of the Hugo finalists which were standalones, LaGuardia, written by Nnedi Okorafor, art by Tana Ford, colours by James Devlin, which you can get here, and Mooncakes, by Wendy Xu and Suzanne Walker, letters by Joamette Gil, which you can get here.

Honourable mention:

The second half of Leo's Survivants series, continuing the Aldebaran cycle. You can get them in English translation here, here and here.

The one you haven't heard of:

Rick Lundeen's glorious adaptation of The Daleks' Master Plan, not on sale anywhere but you can find it in the darker corners of the internet.

The ones to avoid:

The ending of Marc Legendre's Amoras, an adult reworking of classic Belgian kids' comic heroes Suske en Wiske, fell pretty flat for me. You can get the last two volumes here and here.



4) Non-genre fiction

\2020/ \2019/ \2018/ \2017/ \2016/ \2015/ \2014/ \2013/ \2012/ \2011/ \2010/ \2009/ \2008/ \2007/ \2006/ \2005/ \2004/
40 45 36 26 28 42 41 44 48 48 50 57 24 33 35 9 19
15% 19% 14% 11% 13% 14% 14% 19% 19% 16% 18% 18% 6% 14% 17% 6% 13%

In the middle of the historical range.

Top non-genre fiction of the year:

The triumphant conclusion to Hilary Mantel's Cromwell trilogy, The Mirror and the Light. We've always known where this wasa going to end up, but the journey is a tremendous achievement. You can get it here.

Honourable mentions:

I found myself enjoying Larry McMurtry's Terms of Endearment, on which the film was based, much more than I expected - funny and also humane. You can get it here.

Michael Morpurgo's Listen to the Moon is a sensitive and effective story about wartime in the Scilly Isles for young adult readers. You can get it here.

The one you haven't heard of:

A wee jewel from a family member, Muddy Lane by Andrew Cheffings, about men loving each other in a lost corner of England. You can get it here.

The one to avoid:

Bruges-la-Morte by George Rodenbach. Very silly and over-written. Ends with the protagonist strangling his lover with a lock of his dead wife's hair. There, I've saved you the bother, but if you still want to, you can get it here.




5) Doctor Who
Novels, collections of shorter fiction, etc excluding comics
\2020/ \2019/ \2018/ \2017/ \2016/ \2015/ \2014/ \2013/ \2012/ \2011/ \2010/ \2009/ \2008/ \2007/ \2006/ \2005/ \2004/
18 32 32 51 39 43 59 72 75 80 71 70 179 27 28 5 1
7% 14% 12% 21% 18% 15% 20% 30% 29% 27% 26% 19% 48% 11% 14% 3% 1%

All Who books including comics and non-fiction
\2020/ \2019/ \2018/ \2017/ \2016/ \2015/ \2014/ \2013/ \2012/ \2011/ \2010/ \2009/ \2008/ \2007/ \2006/ \2005/ \2004/
25 43 42 55 42 54 68 81 75 87 78 80 180 49 32 5 1
9% 18% 16% 23% 20% 19% 23% 34% 29% 29% 28% 23% 49% 21% 15% 3% 1%

I took a bit of a sabbatical from Who reading this year, but am planning to read more next year, particularly comics and the Erimem and Lethbridge-Stewart spinoffs.

Top Doctor Who books of the year:

I've been enjoying the Time Lord Victorious sequence, and the two best bits so far are Una McCormack's novel All Flesh Is Grass, featuring the Eighth, Ninth and Tenth Doctors, which you can get here, and Jody Houser's graphic novel Defender of the Daleks with the Tenth and Thirteenth (marketed for some reason with a very similar cover to Una McCormack's novel, showing Eight, Nine and Ten, rather than Ten and Thirteen), which you can get here. I haven't yet blogged about either of them.

Honourable mention:

Paul Cornell's Third Doctor story Heralds of Destruction is true to the spriti of early 70s Who and takes it a little further. You can get it here.

The one you haven't heard of:

Already mentioned under comics: Rick Lundeen's graphic novel adaptation of The Daleks' Master Plan.

The one to avoid:

The 2020 Official Annual, is a poor piece of work. You can get it here. Glad to say that the 2021 version is better.



My Book of the Year

No hesitation at all in naming my Top Book of 2020 as From A Clear Blue Sky: Surviving the Mountbatten Bomb, by Timothy Knatchbull, the account of a life punctuated by the 1979 bomb which killed his 14-year-old twin brother, along with their grandfather Lord Mountbatten, their other grandmother and another boy. As one might expect, Knatchbull's relationship with Ireland is very complex. It was a magical place of childhood holiday memories, which turned to horror in an instant. He has found a way of making sense of the terrible thing that was done to his family, and it is a truly compelling read. I'd had it on the shelves for years but only now got around to it, and I should not have waited. You can get it here.

Previous Books of the Year:

2003 (2 months): The Separation, by Christopher Priest.
2004: The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien (reread).
- Best new read: Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self, by Claire Tomalin
2005: The Island at the Centre of the World, by Russell Shorto
2006: Lost Lives: The stories of the men, women and children who died as a result of the Northern Ireland troubles, by David McKittrick, Seamus Kelters, Brian Feeney, Chris Thornton and David McVea
2007: Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel
2008: The Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition, by Anne Frank (reread)
- Best new read: Vanity Fair: A Novel without a Hero, by William Makepeace Thackeray
2009: Hamlet, by William Shakespeare (had seen it on stage previously)
- Best new read: Persepolis 2: the Story of a Return, by Marjane Satrapi (first volume just pipped by Samuel Pepys in 2004)
2010: The Bloody Sunday Report, by Lord Savile et al.
2011: The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, by Edward Gibbon (started in 2009!)
2012: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, by Anne Brontë
2013: A Room of One's Own, by Virginia Woolf
2014: Homage to Catalonia, by George Orwell
2015: collectively, the Arthur C. Clarke Award shortlist, in particular the winner, Station Eleven, by Emily St John Mandel. However I did not actually blog about these, being one of the judges at the time.
- Best book I actually blogged about: The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft, by Claire Tomalin
2016: Alice in Sunderland, by Bryan Talbot
2017: Common People: The History of an English Family, by Alison Light
2018: Factfulness, by Hans Rosling
2019: Girl, Woman, Other, by Bernardine Evaristo


Poll

Since nobody much is on LJ these days, I've outsourced my 2020 book poll to Listchallenges. How many have you read?
Tags: bookblog 2020
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