The Year in Books: 2020

I am very late in writing this post. 2020 isn’t a year I’m eager commemorate. In that view before I get into my usual tally of books read and highlights here are a few charities I supported last year. Being able to help even just by giving money was one of the few things that made the worst times bearable.

Feeding America

The Lake Street Council

OutFront Minnesota

Campaign Zero

National Nurses United

There were a few personal highlights. To begin with, on January 1st of 2020 Cossmass Infinites launched, featuring my story Deadbeat in the first Issue. If a story about the illegitimate daughter of a deceased superhero set in Chicago appeals to you it’s available to purchase here.

September saw my story Ten Secret Things You Don’t Know about Closet Monster published by Daily Science Fiction. It can be read here.

It’s always thrilling to see my writing out in the world. Watch this space as a at least two more will be coming out this year.

2020 is also the year I qualified for and joined the SFWA.

My creative output has been fairly consistent. I’ve been writing about the same amount as normal and continue to draw and embroider. I started an Instagram to feature my various craft projects. https://www.instagram.com/susantaitel/

Baby Grogu inspired several pieces.

Okay on to the numbers:

Last year I read a total of 83 books. That includes print, audio, and graphic novels. But doesn’t include short stories read on their own instead of as part of an anthology and single issues of comic runs read on a month to month basis and the many short story length or novel length or epic novel length fan fiction I read last year.

Ebooks: 28

Audiobooks: 17 That number is a lot lower than normal because most of my audio listening happens on my work commute which for most of last year my work commute has been from my bedroom to my living room.

Graphic Novels: 48 That is number is a little higher than normal since I got a subscription to Marvel Unlimited.

Library books: 5

Borrowed from friends: 4

Short Story Collections: 2

Novellas &novelettes: 5

Nonfiction, memoir, essays: 4

YA: 18

Favorites:

Solutions and Other Problems by Allie Brosh. Brosh is a master storyteller. I don’t think I laughed harder at a book all year. It also made me cry.

Young Avengers by Keiron Gillen. I’m only linking to the first volume but the whole run is fantastic.

Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby. I lied, I laughed just as hard at this book. Maybe more. Samantha Irby is a gem.

Rogue and Gambit by Kelly Thompson. I’d read some of Thompson’s Hawkeye run and enjoyed it. Having read more of her work I now count her as one of my favorite comics writers.

Docile by K.M Szpara. Docile went places I wasn’t expecting and treated the difficult subject matter with respect and nuance. I was so invested in Elisha’s safety and wellbeing.

Catfishing on Catnet by Naomi Kritzer. Catnet shares the place in my heart with Murderbot for pop culture loving, social awkward, heroic AI.

Jessica Jones by Kelly Thompson. Another Thompson entry. Jessica Jones had previously only been written by her creator I was a little worried to see her in the hands of another writer but Thompson got Jessica, one of my all-time favorites, exactly right. I really hope to see more of this character and writer pairing.

The Library of the Unwritten by A.J. Hackwith. A.J. has created one of the most compelling metafictional worlds I’ve ever read. I’m saving the sequel for when I need a real treat.

Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater. I was champing at the bit for the first book of the Dreamer Trilogy that centers on Ronan from the Raven Cycle. It did not disappoint and now I’m waiting anxiously for book two.

Special shout out to Rainbow Rowell’s Runaways that I have been reading month to month. It is just phenomenal.

I read a lot of good stuff last year but probably best to stop here.

The Year in Books: 2019

Welcome to the Twenties! How weird does that sound? I had an extra busy final week of the year so my yearly wrap up post is just a touch late.

2019 saw me primarily occupied with getting up to speed in my new job. But I also wrote more this year than I have in a very long time. I sold two stories and saw one of them published in 2019. If you haven’t already you can listen to my take on Beauty and the Beast, the Rose Sisterhood, on Cast of Wonders. Leigh Wallace’s narration is excellent.

Most of my writing-related activities in 2019 centered on my monthly meetings with my awesome critique partners. In addition I attended Fourth Street Fantasy again and have every attention to go again in 2020. I also hosted another 2-Page Workshop for MinnSpec.

Okay Enough about me, time to gush about my friends. Two of my Viable Paradise 20 classmates published novels this year. I got to read the opening chapters of Valerie Valdes’s Chilling Effect at VP and fell in love with it. I was thrilled when the rest of the book was as funny and irreverent and heartfelt as those first chapters. I highly recommend it! I also read the first chapter of AJ Hackwith’s Library of the Unwritten. And while I have not yet read the full novel (though I will be soon) I have no doubt it will be as good as the amazing sample I read on the Island.

Several other of my VP classmates had good years, publishing stories and poems and putting out Hugo nominated podcasts. So if you are looking for even more reading material check out Wren Wallis, Karen Osborne, Jo Miles, and Jennifer Mace.

On to the book talk!

My favorite reads were, in no particular order:

Chilling Effect by Valerie Valdes

Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente

Wayward Sons by Rainbow Rowell

Pumpkinheads also by Rainbow Rowell.

The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas

Puddin‘ by Julie Murphy

Wintersmith, I Shall Wear Midnight, and The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett

The Calculating Stars and The Fated Sky by Mary Robinette Kowal

What can I say? I read a lot of good stuff in 2019.

By the Numbers

76 books read in total

Formats:
43 print books. 33 audiobooks. 4 ebooks. 32 comics/graphic novels.

16 library books. 6 borrowed.

31 YA. 7 MG.

Favorite Authors:
3 Rainbow Rowell. 2 Seanan Maguire. 2 Catherynne M Valente. 3 Terry Pratchett. 1 Julie Murphy. 3 Holly Black. 1 Maggie Stiefvater

2019 also saw adaptations of two of my favorite albeit very different books. BBC and Amazon’s Good Omens miniseries was a highlight of the year.

And Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of Little Women was a surprisingly fresh take on a 150-year-old classic.

And though it wasn’t based on a book Rian Johnson’s murder mystery, Knives Out, was a treat for this book lover and made me covet the house it was set in.

Another highlight was Moving Theater Company’s Cabal a play/escape room event. IT was immersive and inventive. https://www.walkingshadow.org/cabal

So that was the year in Books. Let’s see what 2020 will bring.

The Year in Books : 2018

I’m not going to lie, 2018 felt endless. But it’s finally over and that means it’s time to do my yearly wrap up. By mostly talking about books!

Last year I read 95 books in total. Not quite as many as I have in past years but I ended up with almost twice the amount of contenders for my favorites list.

By category:

34 audiobooks

45 graphic novels

6 ebooks

11 borrowed

29 library books

28 young adult

10 short story collections

Favorite Reads

In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan

I have not read anything by this author but I ‘m going to start now because I just loved this book. It was so unexpected and fun. On its surface, it’s a run of the mill YA fantasy. A young man from the “real world” is recruited by a magic school in a fantasy world. But it has a lot to say about training teenagers to be soldiers and diplomacy over violence. However what really drew me in was its characters. I got so invested. The main character Eliott is so marvelously flawed. He is a bit awful but in a very relatable and entertaining way and his two best friends, Luke Sunborn and Serene Heart in the Chaos of Battle are fully realized and also have their own distinct and satisfying story arcs. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Plus there’s mermaids and unicorns and elves and so much LGBTQ awesomeness. Also, it’s just plain hilarious.

The Murderbot Diaries Vol. 1 through 4 by Martha Wells.

Another author I was not familiar with until this year. This series of novellas is narrated by an AI created to be a hirable security unit with no free will. But the AI has hacked their own programming and can make decisions for themselves. They dub themself Murderbot for several reasons, not the least being because self-aware robots are almost always portrayed as killing machines. I absolutely adore Murderbot. They are not very trusting of humanity and mostly want to be left alone to watch TV. As an introvert with anxiety, I can relate. The novellas follow Murderbot as they investigate an incident in their past from just before they became self-aware. They run afoul of an evil corporation and often find themself feeling responsible for the safety of different groups of humans despite not really wanting to be. All four books are great but the second is my favorite.

Honorable Mentions

The Wayfarers Series by Becky Chambers

We Are Never Meeting In Real Life by Samatha Irby

Cat Pictures Please and Other Stories by Naomi Kritzer

Opal: A Raven Cycle Story by Maggie Stiefvater

Favorite Authors by the numbers:

Neil Gamin – 5

Martha Wells – 4

Bryan K. Vaughan – 3

Becky Chambers – 3

Seanan Maguire – 2

Maggie Stiefvater – 1

Naomi Kritzer – 1

Samantha Irby – 1

Marissa Meyer – 1

George R.R. Martin – 1

Connie Willis – 1

Holly Black -1

John Scalzi – 1

David Sedaris – 1

Nnedi Okorafor – 1

Other Highlights

Three of my stories were published this year, including my first professional sale. Read them here: Seeded, Amenities, Cat Lady.

Fourth Street Fantasy Convention was another big highlight this year. I got to meet up with several Viable Paradise friends and made several new ones. I’m looking forward to attending again next June.

I completed my revision on my superhero novella and have begun submitting it to publishers.

I’m working on a long-form WIP that I’m not sure what I’ll be doing with once it’s done and a few more ideas percolating.

And here is the current state of my to read shelves.

It’s still completely out of control. Maybe by next year, I will have conquered the piles on the floor. Hahahahahahahahahahahahsob.

The Year in Books 2017

Happy New Year, everybody! I can’t say I’m sorry to see the back of 2017. Natural disasters and human disasters seemed to be the theme. Nevertheless we persisted; we made it to 2018! (except those who didn’t).

Before I get to my book statistics I’ll share a few writing highlights. I wrote at least three new stories and majorly revised several more.

Here is a screenshot of my submission stats from 2017.

I doubled my story submissions from 2016 and received nearly 6 times as many personal rejections. (Personal rejections are gold when you’re in the submission trenches.) This is a tangible reminder that I’m making progress.

My story Wandering Eye was published on the Lorelei Signal in January of last year. I recently sold another story that should be going live in the next few months. I’ll post a link here when it does.

Over the last year I’ve become a part of a critique group of local authors. We’ve been meeting once a month. The advice I’ve gotten from Marcia, Anika, Jennie, and Tim has been invaluable and my writing continues to improve. It’s also a great motivator to have something written in time for our meetings.

I’m still in touch with most of my classmates from Viable Paradise 2016 and connect with them nearly every day. It is an incredibly supportive community. They’ve been doing great over the last year too. Several have made pro sales, signed with agents, and attended incredible workshops. I’m thrilled and grateful for my little writing family.

I entered Podcastle’s Flash Fiction contest and made the top ten out of 200 stories. I think I ultimately placed 5th.

In June I attended 4th Street Fantasy, a very small local fantasy convention with such guests as Holly Black, Elizabeth Bear, John Chu, and Max Gladstone. It’s limited to only about 250 attendees and socializing is encouraged but not mandatory. Which suits me perfectly. It also attracts a lot of Viable Paradise graduates and ended up being a mini reunion for VP20, with 16 of our class of 24 in attendence.

In September I ran a meeting of MinSpec where we did Sherwood Smith’s 2-Page exercise. It was huge success and we’ll be doing it again this spring.

 

On to the books part of the Year in Books!

Every year since 2010 I’ve kept a running list of the books I’ve read over the course of the year. It functions sort of as a diary of my reading habits.

By the Numbers

Grand total: 103 books read

67 print

36 audiobooks

5 ebooks

52 comics and graphic novels (not including singles issues read month to month)

22 borrowed from the library

17 borrowed from friends

11 short story collections or novellas

Favorites!

Every Heart a Doorway and Down Among the Sticks and Bones – Seanan McGuire

Room – Emma Donoghue

The Wee Free Men and A Hat Full of Sky – Terry Pratchett

O Human Star Volumes 1 and 2 – Blue Delliquanti

The Girl Who Drank the Moon – Kelly Barnhill

The Refrigerator Monologues – Catherynne M. Valente

Lots of favorites this year!

Favorite Author stats

Neil Gaiman 4

Gail Simone 3

David Mack 2

Charlie Jane Anders 1

Holly Black 2

Carrie Fisher 1

Seanan McGuire 2

Rainbow Rowell 1

John Scalzi 2

Terry Pratchett 2

George R.R. Martin 1

Marissa Meyer 1

Kelly Barnhill 1

Ursula Vernon 2

Catherynne M. Valente 1

Connie Willis 1

Nnedi Okorafor 2

So that was 2017 in books.

Here is the current state of of my to read shelves.

I hope that by next year the piles in front of the shelves will have been read. But that would mean I stopped adding to them and that is not as easy as it sounds.

 

A few other highlights from 2017.

I saw Hamilton in Chicago!

All the Hugo Award fiction categories were won by women!

Hidden Figures! Wonder Woman! Thor Ragnarok! The Last Jedi!

Brienne and Arya’s sparring match!

Black Panther and the Thirteenth Doctor to look forward to!

Extreme weirdness on tv in the form of Legion, American Gods, and Twin Peaks the Return.

The Big Sick! Ladybird! Master of None! The Good Place! Steven Universe!

The Women’s March! Trumpcare defeated! Roy Moore defeated! Resisters everywhere!

The Year In Books: 2016

2016. That was a year. A year of a few personal highs and so many communal lows.

b82bb280b9ba3c646dfd5ea03eacc40d

Anyway as I’ve done for several years now, I kept a list of all the books, audiobooks, comics and so on that I read over the year. It’s my way of keeping a record of the year, based on the stories I’ve consumed.

Now on to the numbers.

I read:

111 books in total

63 print books

48 audiobooks

10 Ebooks

39 comic books (I count trade paperback collections and single issues read as a full arc together, but not single issues read month to month as they’re released)

11 short story collections or novellas (don’t count single short stories read outside of collections)

16 borrowed from the library

25 borrowed from friends

1 read for critique

37 YA

15 Middle Grade

2d12beebc26718b61b2479c35686347d

Favorite reads:

Nimona, Noelle Stevenson

The Raven Cycle books 2 through 4, Maggie Stiefvater (I read book 1 in a previous year)

Kindred Spirits, Rainbow Rowell

The Girl With All the Gifts, M.R. Carey

1bb40e18b2d8708cd48c7c1480b85468

Honorable mentions:

The New Moon’s Arms by Nalo Hopkinson

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

Rose Under Fire, Elizabeth Wein

Black Out and All Clear, Connie Willis

The Lunar Chronicles Books 2 through 4.5, Marissa Meyer

The Paradox Trilogy, Rachel Bach

Favorite author numbers:

Suzanna Clarke 1

Noelle Stevenson 5

Neil Gaiman 2

Jasper Fforde 1

Maggie Stiefvater 3

Gene Luen Yang 2

Rainbow Rowell 1

J.K Rowling 1

G. Willow Wilson 5

Marissa Meyer 5

Jonathan Carroll 1

Connie Willis 2

Sarah Vowell 2

Lish McBride 1

Carrie Fisher 2 (I’m still processing her loss)

Holly Black 2

78302437

Book related highlights:

Viable Paradise 20 was undoubtedly the best thing I did all year. It was incredible. I wish I could do it all over again. Thank you thank you to the instructors, staff, and fellow students for the amazing week.

There was also Wiscon. I participated in their one-day critique workshop. Went to panels, readings, and signings from the likes of Nalo Hopkinson, Charlie Jane Anders, and John Scalzi (who made a surprise appearance at the sign out). I ate breakfast for dinner with the Geek Girl Brunch Crew and geeked out about The Force Awakens.

Sadly I missed what was probably the last Nerdcon Stories because it conflicted with VP.

I read a story at the annual MinnSpec Reading.

And in March I went to London and Ireland for two weeks. It was a lovely trip. The book related highlights of the trip were taking a tour of the Globe Theatre, and the Harry Potter Studio tour. Though there were plenty of times where just walking the streets and riding the tube brought up associations with books. Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere and Connie Willis’s Oxford time Travel series in particular.

img_3199

Hey look it’s the Sorting Hat!

img_3245

Hey look it’s a phoenix.

img_3178

Hey look it’s Shakespeare’s Globe.

img_3170

Hey look it’s Saint Paul’s Cathedral. Mr. Dunworthy’s team must have figured out how to save it after all!

Finally, I’ll leave you with a picture of my to-read shelves. It’s kind of out of hand and doesn’t even include the audiobooks, ebooks, and comics.

img_2512

So many books.

These are the ones I plan to read first.

img_2513

2017 please be gentle with us.

The Year in Books: 2015

As I’ve done for the past five years, I kept a list of all the books I read in the past year. Each year the list has gotten longer.

Total Books Read: 102

IMG_2081

Of those:
46 print books
56 audiobooks

Of those:
24 graphic novels
8 ebooks
4 read for critique
16 borrowed from the library
13 short story collections or novellas
30 young adult
9 Middle Grade

IMG_2084

Favorite author numbers:

3 Neil Gaiman
3 Rainbow Rowell
2 George RR Martin
4 Holly Black
1 Jo Walton
1 Jonathan Carroll
1 Jim Butcher
1 Connie Willis

IMG_2087

Favorite Reads:
Eleanor and Park and Carry On both by Rainbow Rowell
The Darkest Part of the Forrest by Holly Black

Honorable Mentions:
The Girl Who Ruled Fairyland For a Little While and The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making both by Catherynne M Valente
The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
The Martian by Andy Weir
Hold Me Closer Necromancer and Necromancing the Stone both by Lish McBride
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Cinder by Marissa Meyer
The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman
Ballroom Blitz by Veronica Schanoes

Lots of great books this year! I could add another fifteen or so honorable mentions, but I don’t want this post to go on forever. I didn’t even list any comics! Comics are the best!

IMG_2089

Book related highlights:

I did some writing. And am still query agents. It’s a long process. A story I wrote a while back was published in the MinnSpec anthology By Polaris Bright. And a Game of Thrones parody I wrote was published on McSweeney’s here.

I attended Wiscon and saw the Tiptree Award ceremony. I’ve already read one of the shared winners, My Real Children, which was wonderful. I’m really looking forward to reading the other, The Girl in the Road by Monica Byrne. I went to readings or panels with Alaya Dawn Johnson, Eleanor Arnason, Ellen Kushner, N.K Jemisin, and many many others. I came home with lots of new books and haven’t begun to dig into then yet. Chances are high a few of them will make it onto the next few years’ lists.

While the convention itself was pretty awesome, my favorite part of the trip was listening to the audiobook of the Martian with my sister and brother-in-law on the drive there and back. It’s just a super entertaining and suspenseful book and listening with a few people added to the experience as we speculated about how the hero going to get out of the current life-threatening jam. I haven’t seen the movie yet, and I’m not sure it can top that.

I also attended Nerdcon Stories right here in Minneapolis. I got books signed by Rainbow Rowell, Holly Black, and Maggie Stiefvater. And got to see many other authors speak including John Green, Maureen Johnson, John Scalzi, Stephanie Perkins, Patrick Rothfuss, Matt De LA Pena, Lev Grossman, and a zillion others. Other notable guests included Hank Green, Paul and Storm, and Dessa Darling. Of course, I brought back another pile of books.

My favorite part of this convention was the daily mainstage shows. Many of the guests got to make thoughtful or funny or both fifteen-minute speeches, and then there were games and deconstructionist puppet shows and mock debates. They’ve released a couple of the speeches and games on YouTube. I’m really hoping they’ll post the moment where the entire auditorium sang “Bye Bye Lil Sebastion” it was glorious.

This year I got addicted to the web series Nothing Much To Do, an adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing. And the sequel Lovely Little Losers, adapted from Love’s Labors Lost. Both can be found on their creator’s channel. They will soon be releasing an adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but it won’t be a continuation of this series. I will miss these characters. Beadick and Pedrazar forever!

The BBC adaptation of one of my favorite books, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, was very good.

So that was the year in books! I’m currently reading The Ladies of Grace Adieu by Susanna Clarke and The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen. So how was everyone else’s 2015?

 

The Year In Books: 2014

Since 2010 I’ve kept a running list of the books I read each year. And since 2012 I’ve made a year-end post with some stats from the previous year. Unfortunately, I can’t claim to have written any new books this year, but I did do major revisions on at least three and have written a few new short stories. My total list includes all the novels, graphic novels, novellas, and novelettes. As well as nonfiction books and short story collections. All age ranges are far game though I don’t count short picture books, individual short stories, or single issues of comics. However, I have started counting it if I read a run of issues of a comic book that would be equal to a graphic novel if I read them all at once but not if I read them a month to month as they were published. Without further ado, I give you 2014 in books.

 

88 read in total
42 print books
46 audiobooks

imageBreaking it down by category
25 Young Adult
6 Middle Grade
19 Graphic Novels
5 Short story collections
8 Nonfiction
11 Digital booksimage
11 Borrowed from the library
8 Borrowed from friends
11 Reread
4 Read for critique

 

Favorite Reads
The Perks Of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky
Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell

image

Honorable Mentions
The Mothers of Voorhisville – Mary Rickert
Locke & Key Volume 2 – Joe Hill
Veronica Mars the Thousand Dollar Tan Line – Rob Thomas
A Song of Ice and Fire 1 through 5 – George RR Martin
The Raven Boys – Maggie Stiefvater
Forgive Me Leonard Peacock – Matthew Quick

Favorite Author Numbers
Neil Gaiman – 4
Rainbow Rowell – 1
GRR Martin – 6
Maud Hart Lovelace – 5
Jim Butcher – 1
Bill Willingham – 1
David Sedaris – 1
Jane Austen – 1
Jo Walton – 1

Other book-related highlights from 2014
In no particular order

The MinnSpec reading where I read one of my stories to a largish crowd for the first time and met several other local authors.

Going to a signing by Jo Walton at Uncle Hugo’s.

Meg Cabot tweeted about my Betsy-Tacy reviews.

My critique partners continuing to be ridiculously awesome.

Reading the Betsy-Tacy Companion and realizing I now live mere blocks from my childhood favorite author, Maud Hart Lovelace’s first Minneapolis apartment.

So that was 2014 bookwise. Jo Walton’s My Real Children is going to be the inaugural book of 2015. Anyone else wants to share book highlights from last year?

image