My 2015 books read list is embarrassingly short, in part because I reread quite a few things, in part because I tanked out of a lot of things. This does mean that if it’s on here, it was quite a good book. I also read a stonking pile of short fiction but was miserable at capturing the individual stories. Here’s the list of novels:
1. Hilary Davidson, The Damage Done
2. Hilary Mantel, Bring Up the Bodies
3. Melanie Tem, The Yellow Wood
4. Ian Fleming, Casino Royale
5. Barbara Tuchman, The Guns of August (reread)
6. L.R. Lam, False Hearts (advance copy)
7. Hilary Mantel, Beyond Black
8. Tana French, Faithful Place (reread)
9. Eric Larsen, Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania
10. Robert Wiersema, Black Feathers
11. Tana French, The Secret Place (reread)
12. Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall (reread)
13. Hilary Mantel, Bring up the Bodies (reread)
14. S.M. Stirling, The Desert and the Blade: A Novel of the Change
15. Fran Wilde, Updraft
16. Daisy Hay, Young Romantics: The Shelleys, Byron, and Other Tangled Lives
17. Amberlough, by Lara Elena Donnelly (advance copy)
18. Minette Walters, The Shape of Snakes (reread)
19. The Last Witness, by K. J. Parker
20. The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves The World Again, by A.C. Wise
21. Experimental Film, by Gemma Files
22. The Flame in the Maze, by Caitlin Sweet
23. Imaginarium 4: The Best Canadian Speculative Fiction, edited by Sandra Kasturi and Jerome Stuart
There are a lot of things about Experimental Film that are gaspworthy, horrifying, disturbing and exciting, and I hope to talk more about this book as time spools, but right now I just want to give you five reasons to read the living hell out of this awesome new horror novel from Gemma Files.
- Lois Cairns is not your standard protagonist – Lois is a woman in the midst of a profound midlife crisis. Her career has evaporated out from under her, her son’s autistic and difficult, and she can’t shake a nagging idea that it’s all her fault. She’s not twenty, or adorable, or on the cusp of love. But she’s smart and determined and fearless, and she knows more about movies than most of us could learn if we spent the next fifty years studying up.
2. The bad stuff isn’t lurking in the shadows. You know how vampires and spooks wait for it to get dark and dreary, and then creep up on you? You know that idea that you can barricade yourself in somewhere safe, and at dawn it’ll all be over for awhile? Not in this story. The dread thing in Experimental Film comes at you in the full light of a summer’s day, in all its searing heat and blinding glare.
3. I heart Haunted Toronto. This book is another piece in the creepy patchwork universe Files has created, and I love it with a love that’s true. Her characters have lunch down the street from my house. They get into full-on confrontations with monsters at the Kensington Market. And there’s always an expedition out to the backroads of cabin country, a part of the province I really haven’t seen yet, where the skin between worlds is thin and permeable and something far more disturbing than a Hellmouth is on the bubble.
4. Victorian Creep Factor, Canada Styles. The mystery at the heart of this book is about an early auteur filmmaker working in the days of silver nitrate and no rules. Iris Whitcomb made the same movie over and over, with the aid of spiritualists, as she tried to discover why her son Hyatt vanished in 1908. Then she vanished too, from a moving train whose passenger compartment apparently caught on fire en route to the city.
5. Crunchy family stuff rounds out the dark notes. This brings us back, in a way, to the idea of an atypical hero. Lois is no lone wolf. She may want to be at times; she may be unconvinced she’s got much worthwhile going on as a wife and mother. But as she wrangles with the missing Iris and her incandescent producer, she also has to deal with her child, her marriage, her in-laws, and her own often-problematic mom. It’s not always easy to read–plenty of folks will find their own family-of-origin nerves twanging as things play out–but it’s very believable. And what good is a horror novel if you don’t feel, on some level, as if this could have happened to someone like you?
Gemma did a Heroine Question interview here back in June, by the way, so if you’re curious about who she liked to read about as a kid, check it out.
This year’s reading. If I finished it, it was at least good. If it has an asterisk after it, it was great.
1. Echopraxia, by Peter Watts*
2. Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America by Gilbert King
3. The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2013, edited by Tim Folger and Siddhartha Mukherjee
4. All Heads Turn when the Hunt Goes By, John Farris
- Touchstone, by Laurie R. King
- The Madonna and the Starship, by James Morrow
- Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell
- Horns: A Novel, by Joe Hill*
- The Door in the Mountain, by Caitlin Sweet*
- A Taste Fur Murder, by Dixie Lyle
- The Golden Princess: A Novel of the Change, by S.M. Stirling*
- The Secret Place, by Tana French*
- The Lesser Dead, by Christopher Buehlman*
- Last Plane to Heaven by Jay Lake*
- Last Song Before Night, by Ilana C. Myer
16. N0S4A2, by Joe Hill
17. The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of those who survived the Great American Dustbowl, by Timothy Egan*
18. The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2014, edited by Tim Folger and Deborah Blum*
19. The Great Influenza, by John M. Barry*
20. Nobody’s Home, by Tim Powers
21. We Will All Go Down Together, by Gemma Files (As of this morning, I’m two stories away from being finished with this.)*
Plus some, but not all, of the stories
“Hard Stars,” by Brendan DuBois
“Something going Around,” by Harry Turtledove
“Solstice Cakes,” by Nina Kiriki Hoffman,
“The Faery Handbag,” by Kelly Link
“Strange Attractors” by S.B. Divya
Here’s the annual list of everything I read last year. It’s a new low, numerically–between the move and a couple other things, I wasn’t in the right headspace. I did read a fair number of short stories, but I often forgot to record them. A few made it to their own list, though, at the bottom. Of those, my favorite was the John Chu story
The best novel for me, this year, was Hild, by Nicola Griffith. You probably remember that I reviewed it, here.
1. Best American Science and Nature Writing, edited by Dan Ariely and Tim Folger
2. Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed
3. The Cat’s Table, by Michael Ondatje
4. The Daughter of Time, by Josephine Tey
5. Suspect Identities: A history of fingerprinting and criminal identification by Simon A. Cole
6. The Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime that Scandalized a City and Sparked the Tabloid Wars, by Paul Collins
7. Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World, by Matthew Goodman
8. The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg
9. Black Rubber Dress, by Lauren Henderson
10. The Given Sacrifice, by S.M. Stirling
11. The Summer of Dead Toys, by Antonio Hill
12. Hild, by Nicola Griffith
13. The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History, by John M. Barry
14. The Voices In-Between, by Charlene Challenger
15. Dark Places, by Gillian Flynn
16. The Shining Girls, by Lauren Beukes
17. Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel
2 student novels, plus partials
“About Fairies,” Pat Murphy
“The Water that Falls on You from Nowhere,” John Chu
“Running of the Bulls” by Harry Turtledove
“Brimstone and Marmalade,” by Aaron Corwin,
“Dormanna,” by Gene Wolfe
“House of Dreams“, by Michael Swanwick
I am currently more than halfway through Suspect Identities: A History of Fingerprinting and Criminal Identification, by Simon A. Cole. The title’s pretty self-explanatory, I think.
This is research for the trilogy set on Stormwrack, the same world where “Among the Silvering Herd” takes place, and
I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned that early uses of fingerprinting tended to center around colonizing nations trying to tell their individual subjects apart (they thought all those non-white folks they were dominating looked alike!) I also learned how much of the early development of this technology was less about gathering fingerprints–either directly from individuals or in the form of latent prints on crime scenes–and more about generating a reliable filing system so that you could match the things.
I’d been craving a good non-fiction read and this has definitely delivered.
Here’s a short quote…
J. Edgar Hoover would reminisce fondly about the days when “too many law-enforcement officers were men of low intelligence, some of low morals, and, indeed, of a low opinion for anyone who sought to make science his aid and his standby in the pursuit of a criminal.”
Other books, so far this year –
1. The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2012, edited by Dan Ariely and Tim Folger
2. Throne of the Crescent Moon, by Saladin Ahmed
3. The Cat’s Table, by Michael Ondaatje
4. The Daughter of Time, by Josephine Tey (I read this partly because of the discovery of Richard the III’s bones and partly because of the Jo Walton essay “How can this be so gripping?”
“About Fairies,” Pat Murphy