First, confession time: I don’t read anywhere near as much as I should. Part of that is because I tend to be a slow reader, unless I really get to sit away from All The Things and get into the book. Also, I’ll also admit, I’m a tough fish to hook. I’ll often read a couple of chapters of something, and while there’s nothing wrong or bad about it, it doesn’t really pull me in. So there are a lot of unfinished books on my shelves where it really is, “Hey, it’s not you, it’s me.”
I did read several books, though, and here are the five that stuck with me:
Lock In: I’ve been a big fan of Scalzi’s work, and Lock-In is probably his best yet. He takes a single science-fictional concept, and works crafts an engaging story with that concept as its engine. While relatively light and propulsive, it still made me stop and think about one’s sense of identity as tied to one’s own body. But I’ll be surprised if this one isn’t on awards short lists this year.
READY PLAYER ONE: Yeah, yeah, I’m late to the party, only having read this one this year. This book… lived in a strange space where I was annoyed much of the time I was reading it, but at the same time, I found it impossible to put down. I mean, the book moved, but it was also little more than name checking nostalgia, of which I was about 85% on board with– that nostalgia was mine as well. And maybe that was part of my problem– to me, the riddles were pretty easy, so the idea that all the hunters would just be stuck for YEARS without figuring it out was unbelievable. But it didn’t quite feel like a story. That said, I understand why it got a lot of notice.
The Art of Asking: This is Amanda Palmer’s memoir, and I found it fascinating. I mean, I haven’t had half the life experiences that she’s had, but I did spend my time toiling in the theatrical arts, which involved learning similar hard lessons on scrounging and community and trust. So I got this book and where she was coming from.
The World Until Yesterday: Another book by Jared Diamond (of Guns, Germs and Steel), where he talks about traditional societies and their commonalities and differences, as well as the commonalities and differences with our own WEIRD societies. (WEIRD: Western, Educated, Industrial, Regulated and Democratic) Good worldbuilding sourcework.
On the Map: An interesting work on the history of maps and mapping, which is just the sort of thing a worldbuilding map geek like myself can get into.
I realize this list is pretty useless if you’re looking for “best SF/F work on 2014” or something like that. Sorry. I’m not the guy who makes those lists, unfortunately. I’m the guy who reads those lists to figure out what to read next. As well as the “anticipated books of 2015” lists. Of course, I already know of two that I’ve been anticipating for some time now.