Favorites from 2016

In 2016, I tried something I’d never done before, though I’m not sure why I never thought of it. As middle age sets in hard, so goes the memory. I decided that in keeping with lifelong learning goals, I’d start keeping a reading journal of everything I read. For a while, I was able to read a short story a day, either at lunch or before bed, though that tapered off toward the end of the year.

Still…keeping a reading journal really did give me a chance to think about and cherish stories I might have forgotten I even read.

I also started two book clubs, one with former colleagues in the English Department at Virginia Tech. These ladies have become my wise women, and I was very sad to lose one of them, Sue Hagedorn, in September. Sue had a keen intellect, a fine wit, and was an endless repository of science fictional knowledge. She was gone far too soon, but I’m so glad I had the chance to share the love of books with her last year. I’m placing her on my eternal favorite list. 🙂

The other book club at the institute where I work has been lots of fun—a good way to bond with colleagues and read things I might otherwise not have made time for.

So, thanks to both—I look forward to many more book adventures with you!

Novels:

I couldn’t keep up with everything published (who could?), and truthfully, many of my favorite things I read this year were drafts of works-in-progress from colleagues. Well done to all! I look forward to more great books in 2017!

 

The Fifth Season, N.K. Jemisin – Probably my favorite book of 2016, to be honest. I struggled at first because the opening was difficult for me to get through as a mother of young children, but by the middle I was solidly hooked. Am looking forward to the next installment when I have the chance.

The Lie Tree, Frances Hardinge – I have loved Hardinge madly since someone compared me to her and I went to read Fly By Night to understand the compliment. If I had a pantheon of patron authors, she would be among them. Maybe I’m fangirling too hard, but every sentence is so carefully wrought and exquisite in this book, so heartrending at times, too. So glad it took awards by a landslide—utterly deserved.

The Queen of the Blood, Sarah Beth Durst – Got my hands on this at Dragon*Con, and very nearly missed much of the con for reading it! Reminded me very much of some of the adult fantasy I loved as a kid. Looking forward to where Sarah Beth takes this next!

The Mirror Empire, Kameron Hurley – Discovered Hurley this year and have loved everything I’ve read, though occasionally some of it hit almost too hard. Also really loved her no-nonsense blogs and Twitter stream. Am looking forward to Geek Feminist Revolution and the rest of her oeuvre soon.

The Color of Magic, Terry Pratchett – Mea culpa, but I had never quite found my way into Pratchett before, though I’d tried numerous times. This book club read was fast and fun, and I’m quite sure I’ll visit Discworld again.

The Birthgrave, Tanith Lee – When I was a kid, Quest for the White Witch impressed me so deeply. I went back and read Vazkor, Son of Vazkhor, and Stormlord, but somehow never managed to read The Birthgrave, her debut. Reading it now is so eye-opening. Again, the exceptional crafting of every line fills me both with admiration and envy.

 

Movies:

I spend lots of time with movies for younger kids, but I was doing that before motherhood; my love of animated movies and series is nothing new.

Kubo and the Two Strings – Got this as a belated Christmas present to myself. It ranks right up there with 9, which is my all-time fave movie. Glorious stop-motion animation, fabulous story. I could have wished for Japanese actors to voice the main characters, but that’s an ongoing quibble regarding representation. Still, the fact that this movie made it to the big screen to such acclaim—I’m so glad.

Moana – Hands-down my favorite Disney movie to date. So much to love—stellar music, great story, lovely family bonds and excellent girl power. Stupid chicken antics also for the win! It was also very nice to see a nearly all-brown cast for a change.

Star Trek Beyond – This was just plain fun. It felt like the actors were finally hitting their stride together, though I was sad about the loss of Anton Yelchin. I could have wished for a more well-developed villain; Idris Elba was far under-used for his potential.

(I have many thoughts about Rogue One, as well, but perhaps that’s a post all its own. Suffice to say that Donnie Yen made the movie for me).

 

Short Stories:

As I said, I read many stories, but these stood out as favorites for me this year.

 

“Pocosin,” Apex Magazine, Ursula Vernon – Hands down, my favorite story I read this year. Truly lovely turns of phrase. Gloriously familiar Appalachian humor. A reminder that stories don’t have to be grandiose to be important. (The small move is often far more important and poignant than the grand gesture). This story also led me to Vernon’s Twitter feed, which is an absolute delight of heirloom gardening and insect observation—two of my favorite things.

“The Red Piano,” Delia Sherman – From Sherman’s collection Young Woman in a Garden. I was missing Delia at one point when I wasn’t feeling well and picked up her collection just to be able to hear her voice. “The Red Piano” was a satisfyingly good-humored homage to the Gothic, and soothed my yearning for my friend, as well. The entire collection is well worth it—many lovely stories there.

“Paper Menagerie,” io9, Ken Liu – This story honestly made me cry. Another story in which small moves mean everything. (Perhaps that’s the secret to the greatest stories, eh?) This, about a boy who rejects his heritage until too late, about what it’s like being Chinese-American in the America we now have, is heart-rending. I love Ken’s work, and was honored to appear in After the Fall alongside him early in the year.

“Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies,” Uncanny Magazine, Bo Bolander – Brilliant, sharp story. I did not know one could achieve a story in bullets, but I should have. Looking forward to more from this talented author!

“Fire in the Haze,” Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Mishell Baker. Interesting mediations on love and gender, with some awesome worldbuilding. The invention of this really snagged me, and I definitely will seek out more of Baker’s work this year.

I also re-read “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,” and as always, Le Guin just blew my mind.

 

Music:

Sia. All Sia all the time pretty much.

And…The Transformers soundtracks, oddly enough.

It occurs to me I need to broaden my musical spectrum. 😉

 

Those were my favorites–what about yours?

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  1. YourRobotWife

    Ooh ooh. I want to hear all the thoughts about The Fifth Season! I just read it and loved it/was scarred by it.

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