2016 — my year in books

Liam reads an Elephant & Piggie book to Kellan

I made a New Years’ resolution in 2016 to diversify my reading — not by genre, but by author. I had realized that in 2015, of 26 books that I read, 22 were written by white men — an astounding 85%. So I had a goal to flip that percentage in 2016. Here’s how I did, in a quick summary of books:

  1. Golden Fool (The Tawny Man Trilogy #2), by Robin Hobb
    I love everything by Robin Hobb, and have loved every page of now 8 Fitz books by her. They’re true page-turners in the best meaning of that.
  2. Brooklyn, by Colm Toíbín
    I hated this book. I read it because of reviews and the movie (which I also hated) … and I should’ve stopped about 20 pages in, but I just kept reading, alternately to see whether it would redeem itself (no) or what it felt like to hate-read an entire book (not good).
  3. Fool’s Assassin (Fitz & the Fool #1), by Robin Hobb
    This new series, set when Fitz is much older, is heart-breaking for fans of the series and so, so good.
  4. Fool’s Quest (Fitz & the Fool #2), by Robin Hobb
    See above.
  5. A Man In Love (My Struggle #2), by Karl Ove Knausgård
    If my darkest inner voices were given public attention, perhaps they might sound like this. It is brutal honesty (although fictional? maybe? I hope? A devastating book.
  6. A Darker Shade of Magic, by V.E. Schwab
    So! Much! Fun! I don’t know why I didn’t immediately get the next one in the series, except that I wanted to let Kell ruminate in my mind for a while, this was such a lovely tale.
  7. The Hidden Oracle (Trials of Apollo #1), by Rick Riordan
    So, I’ve read all of the various Percy Jackson-related books to, and with the kids, so I got this one too — and the magic is gone, and Liam didn’t care and I regret reading this.
  8. Ancillary Sword (Imperial Radch #2), by Ann Leckie
    Onto book two, where the gender-fuck of the first book has become normalized and the characters, story and setting can truly shine. This is my favourite of the series.
  9. The Fifth Season (Broken Earth #1), by N. K. Jemisin
    An amazing, different take on magic in a dystopian (future?) society. Possibly my favourite book of the entire year.
  10. The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead
    The buzziest book I read all year (an Oprah bookclub selection!) that totally held up despite the hype. I loved the magic-realism of the device of a real underground railroad, and it was heartbreaking and hard and beautiful. Contains the most gut-wrenching sentence I read all year (which, for spoiler reasons, I won’t share).
  11. The Obelisk Gate (Broken Earth #2), by N. K. Jemisin
    Not quite as good as The Fifth Season as it normalizes into a fairly standard fantasy/odyssey book, but still well-worth the journey if you love the characters as I do.
  12. Ancillary Mercy (Imperial Radch #3), by Ann Leckie
    Read this as a meditation on the a nature of identity and empathy and, well, yeah. There’s so much going on in this book, in this series. It should probably be the subject of several academic think-pieces.
  13. The View from the Cheap Seats, by Neil Gaiman
    I needed a Neil fix, and was getting on a plane, and this did the trick (It’s a solid habit to read one book by Neil Gaiman every single year, IMO). It’s all over the place. The best thing though is his unabashed love of Books, in all their forms, and the humans who write them. I added a dozen books, by a dozen authors, to my wishlist from reading this (NB: I’m still reading this. I have read a few sections between each of the rest of the books this year).
  14. A Heart so White, by Javier Marías (Translated by Margaret Jull Costa)
    I struggled mightily with this book — It came highly recommended by my mum, who rarely is wrong about these things, and, much like reading Shakespeare, it takes a while to wrap your head around the language and format, but once I did, wow! I read it nearly twice over.
  15. Charmed Life (Chrestomanci #1), by Dianna Wynne Jones
    Silly, simple fun. Ends before I was ready for it, but also definitely felt a little dated.
  16. Babylon’s Ashes (The Expanse #6), by James S. A. Corey
    The best entry in the series since book 3. Either you love The Expanse, or you haven’t read it yet.
  17. The Grace of Kings (Dandelion Dynasty #1), by Ken Liu
    I learned of Ken Liu through reading Cixin Liu, and, am so much the richer for it. This book deserves all the accolades it received, but, it took me a while to get through it, as I didn’t get fully into until about 100 pages in.
  18. The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers #1), by Becky Chambers
    This book is sci-fi equivalent of a Belle & Sebastian album. It is lovely and twee, and not quite what I hoped it was. That being said, I immediately started reading the follow-up, so there you go.
  19. A Closed and Common Orbit (Wayfarers #2), by Becky Chambers
    The first book in the series was self-published — I don’t know if this one was, but it feels so much tighter that I wonder if it at least a new, better editor was found. A similar feel to the first one, only moreso, in all the right ways.

I fell way short of my goal for reading this year — I was aiming for 40 books, and didn’t even crack 20. Of 19, 6 were written by men, or 32% — which also fell way short of my goal of reading only 10% white men. But, a definite improvement over my previous habits. Noticeably, when browsing the Kobo store, the recommended books are much more diverse in authorship than they were prior to this.
I’m hoping for follow-ups from Robin Hobb, V. E. Schwab, N. K. Jemisin & Ken Liu this year, and will continue to try and diversify who I’m reading.

Looking back/Looking forward

Looking Back

Last year, in the scheme of thing, was pretty damn awesome. It started off ridiculously busy, as us Pencilneckers worked furiously to launch MyPypeline.com, a fitness-focussed Social network, that took nearly 8 months from conception to launch. It was a tough slog, and contributed directly to the complete lack of posts on this site for the first quarter of the year, but I’m well-pleased with the results – my team and I wrote some kick-ass code behind the curtains there to have it all running.

In April, Liam and I took a trip to England, and got to see my Grandmother, Mum, my brother Stuart and even my Aunt & Uncles – a rare treat for me, and hopefully a good trip for Liam too – I’m sure he won’t remember too much of the trip, although it was clear that he really loves his uncle Stuart – he took to him right away! Coming back from England, Liam then started at his new daycare – at Langara College, which has lead to such rapid development that we can barely keep up.

The summer was swallowed up by a combination of my foray into politics – I ran for a nomination for Vision Vancouver’s Park Board slate – I failed, but learned so much, met some amazing people along the way. In ways I never really expected going in, this exercise was transformational for me, and will continue to affect how I lead my life going forward. Not one to slack off, Leah and I also bought a house this summer, which, while an incredibly scary proposition, particularly given what happened to the economy a couple of months later, has been fantastic – we all love our house out here in South Van.

My friends Brahm and Laura also got married this summer, and I can’t say just how happy I am for them both!

It’s been a quiet fall around here, mostly due to a crushingly large amount of work (and the elections!), but Leah did finish her last-but-one year of school and went to Vegas with some friends to party after school, while Liam and I hung out here.

Looking Forward

I’m not really one for making resolutions, but there are a few things I’m pretty stoked about this coming year.

  1. I’ve joined the board of ThinkCity, the same group with which I helped organize the DreamVancouver conference back in 2007. I’m going to be focussing on neighborhoods – how and what that will entail, I’m not entirely sure, but my interest lies in devolving some civic decision making to neighborhood groups, and so I’ll be exploring that, along with how schools, community centres, neighborhood houses, residents’ associations & business improvement associations can all play a role and come together in letting communities have more say in what happens to them. I’ll probably use this site as a place to think out loud on this topic, so please feel free to let me know of people & groups doing interesting things in this arena, and I’d love to sit down with them and learn & exchange ideas.
  2. Leah’s going to graduate in 2009! December 2009 will mark the end of Leah’s time as a nursing student, and I am so excited & proud for her to finish!
  3. I’ve made a goal that I want to run this year’s Sun Run, and I’ve set myself a time goal of 50 minutes. That means some serious training between now and then, so that should probably lead to all sorts of good things that comes with being fit.
  4. Learning with Liam. Liam will be four this year, and is really becoming an awesome little boy. I can’t tell you how excited I am that he’s getting old enough to skate, go for a (short) hike, ride a bike, go skiing & snowboarding, play video games with me, start reading stories to me (rather than just listen to me read them to him), discover nature, and anything else that we can figure out to do together.
  5. Get my weekends back! Since Leah started nursing school 3 years ago, I’ve been working Sunday-Thursday, so that I spend a day with Liam at home. But that meant that we only got one day in common as a family, which inevitably meant that we spent all day running errands, rather than truly getting to get out and do fun things. I’m really hopeful that two family days a week will mean that even if one day is errand-filled, the other can be used to hiking, biking, watching football, reading, seeing movies and whatever else strikes us. Family time FTW!
  6. Posting more. I’ve made a goal of posting at least once a week on here. Back a few years ago, I used to write here more regularly, and I really enjoyed it. So while I don’t think I’ll manage hundreds of posts, I think a modest goal of 52 posts this year is doable, and will hopefully re-ignite the creative fires in all sorts of areas.