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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Liviu's Top Books of 2009

I did a two parter post with contributions from Cindy, Robert and Fabio for the notable books of the first half of 2009 (Part I + Part II), a continuously updated list of anticipated 2010 books, as well as commented on the 36 books from my 2009 anticipated list, but for this end of the year I decided to keep it simpler.

It is very, very hard for me to rank books as well as whittle down to a manageable number considering that I read over 160 2009 releases out of the roughly 280 total books read in 09, as my Goodreads records show, with an overwhelming majority being sff or mainstream "fantastic". So I will do a top 20 "core sff" list and a top 10 "mainstream" novel list for 2010.

My Top 10 sff novels list of 2009 is:

1. Transition by Iain M Banks
2 The Rats and the Ruling Sea by Robert Redick
3. Wildfire by Sarah Micklem
4. Naamah's Kiss by Jacqueline Carey
5. Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie
6. In the Courts of the Sun by Brian D'Amato
7. Gears of the City by Felix Gilman
8. Heart of Veridon by Tim Akers
9. Nights of Villjamur by Mark C. Newton
10. The Adamantine Palace by Stephen Deas

The "runner up" sff novel list is:

11. Mirror Space by Marianne de Pierres
12. Gardens of the Sun by Paul McAuley
13. Nova War by Gary Gibson
14. Land of the Dead by Thomas Harlan
15. Dragonfly Falling by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding
Yellow Blue Tibia by Adam Roberts
Consorts of Heaven by Jaine Fenn
The Osiris Ritual by George Mann
Avempartha by Michael Sullivan

My Top 10 "mainstream" novels of 2010 are:

1. The Children's Book by AS Byatt
2. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
3. Stone's Fall by Iain Pears
4. How to Paint a Dead Man by Sarah Hall
5. The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
6. White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi
7. Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
Twelve by Jasper Kent
9. Father of Locks by Andrew Killeen
Wonderful World by Javier Calvo

Top 2009 Anthologies, Novellas, Collections, SFF Magazines

1.The Babylonian Trilogy by Sebastien Doubinsky
2. Escape From Byzantium by Mark Mellon

3. Purple & Black by KJ Parker

4. Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro
5. The New Space Opera 2 ed Dozois/Strahan
6. Other Earths ed Gevers/Lake

7. Solaris SF 3 ed G. Mann
8. GUD (Greatest Uncommon Denominator) Magazine

As Anathem was the most impressive novel for 2008 in all categories, The Children's Book by AS Byatt has been the most impressive one for me overall this year.


1) There are two 2009 first English language publication novels that I disqualified from my rankings since I wanted to list only novels read by me for the first time in 2009 (and of course 2009 arcs read towards the end of 08). I read
The Angel's Game/CR Zafon in Spanish in 2008 and The Kindly Ones/Littell (my top novel of the 00's) in French in 2006.

2) For people who keep count of this - while I generally could not care less about gender, race, political views or sexual orientation of an author, it's good to reflect on this once in a while - from the 20 sff novels listed above 16 have been written by men and 4 (#3, #5, #11, #18) by women, but from the 10 mainstream novels listed above, 6 including the top 2 have been written by women.

3) My top 10 sff list is skewed towards fantasy 8-2 though #1 is sf, #4 takes place in an alt-history Earth, and #8/#9 are "sf in disguise" to a large extent, but the 11-20 list is heavily sfnal with 7 outright sf titles and one (#16) that is a blend of sf and f so it could be classified as either.

4) My top 10 mainstream list contains 5 novels with no "fantastic elements" and 5 with some or a lot of such, but I think that in each the world of the respective novel is much closer to a biographical snapshot of our Earth at various points in history or even near future, rather than to a true fictional one hence the inclusions here.

5) I read comparatively little short fiction this year mainly because I read lots of novels but also because I tend to favor original anthologies and standalone or interlocked novellas more and more. However the Doubinsky almost perfect trilogy of interlocked novellas and the superb Mellon/Parker/Ishiguro offerings listed above needed to be mentioned; the three anthologies here were also excellent, while GUD has established itself as the only "must read" for me in the sff magazine arena.


Peta said...

Great list! I only wish I'd managed to read 280 books this year! Congratulations. Two really interesting lists there and I look forward to reading several of these next year when they're in paperback. Especially your two number ones...

Carl V. Anderson said...

280 books! Holy crap, do you sleep? ;)

The wonderful thing about these lists is that they always add to my list of potential reads, and as I've read very little of what is in your top 10 lists that just means my tbr pile just grows and grows.

Yellow Blue Tibia was one I hoped to get to this year, after seeing it on Best Of lists last year, but I just didn't manage to do so, which is a shame.

I hope 2010 is an equally productive and satisfying reading year for you.

Anonymous said...

How in the hell do you read 280 books/year ?!

Liviu said...

Thank you for your kind words; of the people I interact with online, Larry at Of Blog of the Fallen reads considerably more books than me and I am sure there are many others out there...

Generally the secret to reading lots of books is *consistent reading* (eg I cannot say I have watched a movie end to end this year, I just sped forward through several I tried but bored me quickly, I have no clue what's on TV except from online headlines and gaming is something I help my son with once in a while with but never play for myself - so if you think of all the TV/gaming/movie time translated into book reading time and you will see that 2-4 hours of reading daily is achievable and consistent with family, work...) and good book selection/mix so you always have books that fit your mood, you do not get burned out on one genre...

For me the only puzzling thing I see from people's comments about their book reading habits is why they persist reading "meh" books for them; life is short, time is at a premium, one book read means another unread so why waste that time...

There are libraries, you can browse in bookstore, there are tons of excerpts, nowadays many books have at least one chapter available online at least here in the US and if they are on the Kindle - you just need to install the Amazon Kindle for PC free software and download any sample you care on your PC - so it's not that hard to avoid "meh" books

Reviews help but first and foremost I think samples are crucial since if a book has "magic" for you, you will see it quickly, if it looks meh for a while, the chances are it will stay that way unless you have compelling reasons to believe otherwise...

Anonymous said...

And I am so proud of the 45 I read this year LOL. I still am but that's quite the accomplishment Liviu Gratz. I aim for a book a week every year and usually come up a little short.

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TV/gaming/movie time translated into book reading time and you will see that 2-4 hours of reading daily is achievable and consistent with family, work...) and good book selection/mix so you always have books that fit your mood, you do not get burned out on one genre...


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