Last week I talked about some great YA novels. Today I’m going to talk about my favorite nonfiction and SF/F titles I read this past year.
I read a lot more nonfiction than usual this year. I spent a month studying the memoir form, which contributed strongly to this change. In the novel category, outside of the YA genre, I read almost exclusively SF/F, which is also a bit unusual, but makes sense given that I spent so much more time reading nonfiction.
The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion
I’d never read Joan Didion before, and for me it was like being wrapped up in warm velvet. Interesting prose, emotional depth, and poignant subject matter (grief and uncertainty) all combined to make this my favorite memoir read of the year.
Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, by Brene Brown
I love Brene Brown’s work and have referenced it more than once in this blog. This book expands on some of the ideas she presents in her popular TED talks. I didn’t find the entire book equally relevant, but it was still an influential read.
Story, by Robert McKee
I finally got around to reading this tome on screenwriting in specific, and storytelling principles in general, and it definitely taught me some interesting concepts and gave me useful food for thought.
Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor E. Frankl
I think this book is so important, I wrote an entire blog post about it. This is a classic, and it deserves that distinction.
Favorite SF/F novels:
Elysium, by Jennifer Marie Brissett (SF)
I read this novel towards the beginning of the year, so my memory of it isn’t as sharp as with the other books on this list. The impression I have left is that I really liked this book because it was weird and different. It was a challenging read, with not much spoon-feeding and a complicated structure and premise, and it was fun to try to keep up with it.
Apex, by Ramez Naam (SF)
A satisfying and page-turning conclusion to the Nexus trilogy, all three books of which I’ve really enjoyed.
Persona, by Genevieve Valentine (SF)
This one is a science fiction thriller. Populated by some fascinating characters, it has a bunch of action and spy-like sequences, while also focusing on political intrigue and maneuvering. I hope there’s a sequel.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick (SF)
This was my first Dick novel, and I was so happy it lived up to the hype. I was particularly impressed by the world building, and how Dick seemed to pick just the perfect telling details to flesh out his future world. He is so efficient! And he implies so much that the reader has to think about to truly appreciate.
Ancillary Sword and Ancillary Mercy, by Ann Leckie (SF)
Following Ancillary Justice, these novels were a bit different in that they didn’t have the same structure of one narrative in the present and one in the past. I actually felt the plots were stronger in these two, though, although perhaps that’s because I enjoy reading about political maneuvering so very much. And I think my favorite of the three might be the middle one, Ancillary Sword, which is quite rare.
And my two favorite SF/F novels I read this year:
Uprooted, by Naomi Novik (Fantasy)
It was like this book was written specifically for me. It is exactly what I like in my fantasy: a fairy tale feeling but while feeling fresh and not too derivative, magic with rules but not rules that force you to wade through dense walls of text to understand them, well-drawn and psychologically interesting characters, and lots of terrible obstacles. I liked how this started feeling like it was going to be telling a somewhat familiar story, but then it branched out into doing its own thing, which was even better since I didn’t really expect it. I also really liked the way it dealt with one of its central friendships. This reminded me a lot of Robin McKinley’s Kingdom of Damar books but aimed at a slightly older (aka adult) audience.
Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel (SF)
It is a testament to the strength of this novel that even though I read it in—March?—this is still the book I think about when someone asks me what I’ve been reading lately and still the book I want to talk about. I loved this novel’s deft exploration and excavation of its characters. I loved the idea of a Shakespeare/music troupe wandering across a dangerous post-apocalyptic landscape. I loved the way the various strands of narrative interlaced through time and location and character. I loved this book so much.
Let me know if you found any new favorite books of your own this year!