2020: Best Books
I read a lot.
I used to just read my favourite books again and again, only buying new books by authors I like. However in an effort to get away from computer screens more, I bought a Kindle and tried buying only books on sale. Well, 200 books later I am reading so many different authors I forget who I’ve liked and who I’ve not finished the samples for. I realise GoodReads is just an advert for Amazon, but it’s reasonably useful for tracking this information. In an effort to own my own data though, I’m recording my new favourites here, so I remember what I like and why.
Unlike the best-of comics post, this one isn’t numbered.
- Flowers for Algernon - Daniel Keyes. I’d always heard of this one, and it’s genuinely excellent. The protagonist has reduced mental capacity, but is raised to genius level, and then discovers it’s only temporary. I’m not normally one for emotional books, but wow.
- The City of Brass - S. A. Chakraborty. Loving the standard fantasy tropes but from a totally different culture. I have the next book to read, although I’m a little nervous it’s going to become a bit more of a soap opera. 🤞
- A Little Hatred - Joe Abercrombie. More Abercrombie, more grimdark, now with 100% more women. Who are also grim. The Industrial Revolution has come to the Union, so: money for the rich, upheaval for the poor.
- The Bear and the Nightingale - Katherine Arden. Russian fairytale fantasy, like City of Brass, a very familiar story type, but not euro-fantasy that I’ve read many times before. Technically I guess this is a bildungsroman as you’re following a girl growing up and discovering she’s a witch. Also it’s cold all the time and great to read in the winter! 🥶
- The Shadow Saint - Gareth Hanrahan Sequel to Gutter Prayer, it has an empire of liches in it and how that would work. It’s great, again. Not-quite-as-grim-as-Abercrombie grimdark.
- The Goblin Emperor - Katherine Addison. This is much more cheerful, it’s a goblin who gets suddenly elevated to emperor of all the goblins. It reminds me of some Mercedes Lackey books where it’s difficult to make the book sound interesting or have much suspense, but it’s very enjoyable.
- Bands of Mourning - Brandon Sanderson. Like Abercrombie, this is more of the same. And I wanted more steampunk Mistborn.
- The Black Hawks - David Wragg. This was at the beginning of the year and I don’t remember it too well1. It’s not dissimilar to Black Company but things are generally not going as well.
- The Lies of Locke Lamora - Scott Lynch.
I liked this, although perhaps not quite as much as
r/Fantasygoes on about. But it’s pretty good, another anti-hero is a criminal but tries to stop considerably-worse people.
- Provenance - Ann Leckie. If you liked Ancillary Justice but found the others too slow, this is back in the Radsch empire and has picked up the pace a little again. Not as good as AJ though. I think I preferred Raven Tower which isn’t SF at all.
There’s a definite theme in this - authors I had already read from but really recoiled from the characters. In that sense “worst” is a misnomer, I just didn’t like them. But that’s less catchy.
- Hidden Angels - Richard Morgan. This was my second attempt to like an Altered Carbon book, but there’s just too much torture in the books. And I don’t particularly like the protagonist, or any of the other characters. Shame, as it’s an interesting universe.
- Walking to Aldebaran - Adrian Tchaikovsky. This novella was just too long for me, and like the next book, just unrelentingly miserable. The protagonist is trapped in a weird labyrinth that’s just not-quite-awful-enough to kill him and stop the book quicker. Given that it’s SF, the end of the book isn’t a surprise.
- Cage of Souls - Adrian Tchaikovsky. To be clear, I loved Dog of War and Children of Time, so I read more Tchaikovsky this year expecting to like them both. I’d still read his books in the future (there’s a sequel to Time after all). But in this one the protagonist is in a horrible prison having a horrible time, and has flashbacks to other horrible times. It’s all pretty horrible, and I never really cared for the characters, again.
- Devices and Desires - K. J. Parker. It’s similar to Fifteen Ways to Defend a Walled City but with none of the charm. I won’t read the rest of the series. I did like some of the characters in this, but not the protagonist, which appears to be intentional - it’s unclear if they’re hero or villain.
Maybe I should do this twice a year?? ↩︎