2017: The Books What I Done Read This Year

2017, by the numbers

    Total books: 150
    Nov­els: 100
    Sto­ry col­lec­tions: 22
    Antholo­gies: 8
    Poet­ry: 8
    Non-fic­tion: 9
    Rereads: 12
    1800s: 2
    1900s: 25
    2000s: 123
    2017: 28
Another year, anoth­er 150 books. From a quan­ti­ty per­spec­tive it’s a per­son­al best for me, even if you dis­count the few that were rereads. I don’t, by the way.

Nev­er­the­less, I’ve hard­ly made a dent in my library of unread tomes. At last approx­i­ma­tion, I have over 200 books just…sit­ting there, wait­ing to have their spines cracked spines, their pages creased, their sen­tences under­lined. My book­ish obses­sive-com­pul­sive dis­or­der means I won’t be doing any of that, but I will read them and (hope­ful­ly) enjoy them.

As I am eas­i­ly amused/satisfied, I enjoyed the major­i­ty of my 2017 read­ing. Admit­ted­ly, some books did make me pro­found­ly angry they ever found a pub­lish­er look­ing to pun­ish the world, but I won’t be slam­ming them here. As I get old­er, I find myself less than inclined to trash the work of inde­pen­dent authors/publishers.

Rest assured, if I hat­ed a book by a rec­og­niz­able author, I’d let you know. Although, frankly, Stephen King’s Doc­tor Sleep was kind of dis­ap­point­ing. Hard­ly hor­ri­ble, but far from his best work.

But while the vast major­i­ty of my reads were good, there are a num­ber I’d revis­it with­out hes­i­ta­tion. Here, then, are my favourite reads of 2017 (although not all pub­lished in 2017), pre­sent­ed alpha­bet­i­cal­ly, with a few notes on each. (Click on the indi­vid­ual titles for more info).

Barren Cove, Ariel S. Winter

Winter’s tale of lone­ly robots find­ing mean­ing in their exis­tence is a love­ly treat. It’s a thor­ough­ly enjoy­able hybrid of Philip K. Dick and Made­line Ash­by that treats its elec­tri­cal char­ac­ters with love and com­pas­sion.

Beforelife, Randal Graham

Fair warn­ing: I blurbed Graham’s book. Gra­ham proves him­self a Canuck­ian heir to the mag­nif­i­cent­ly pun-hap­py mer­ri­ment of lit­er­ary pranksters Dou­glas Adams, Ter­ry Pratch­ett, and Jasper Fforde. At once a rau­cous com­e­dy, thrilling adven­ture, and meta-com­men­tary on the nature of sto­ry­telling, Before­life is an after­life to die for.

Borne, Jeff Vandermeer

Every new Van­der­meer nov­el is a gift. This one, a dystopi­an adven­ture epic fea­tur­ing giant bears, sen­tient blobs, and echoes (for me, any­way) of the Adven­ture Time car­toon (the mal­leable Borne some­how reminds me of Jake the dog), is as bizarre and beau­ti­ful as you could ever hope for.

Brother, David Chariandy

After Mala­gash (below), the nov­el that broke my heart the hard­est. Chariandy’s exam­i­na­tion of gen­der, race, and fam­i­ly in 1990s’ Scar­bor­ough is a ten­der Cana­di­an mas­ter­piece.

D’Arc, Robert Repino

Anoth­er warn­ing: I also blurbed Repino’s book. Think The Fan­tas­tic Mr.Fox, with advanced weapon­ry. Charlotte’s Web, with armed com­bat. The Wind in the Wil­lows, with machetes. Weav­ing togeth­er threads from dozens of ideas, Robert Repino tops his bril­liant Mort(e) with an epic ani­mal alle­go­ry at once strange, fright­en­ing, fun­ny, and alto­geth­er remark­able.

The Devil’s Detective/The Devil’s Evidence, Simon Kurt Unsworth

A detec­tive in lit­er­al Hell. Being as I am a weird fan of para­nor­mal detec­tive sto­ries, how could I but love this series? Luck­i­ly, Unsworth brings great hard­boiled style and a noir sen­si­bil­i­ty to his nether­world mys­tery, as well as a ter­rif­ic hero in Thomas Fool. I crave more!

Entropic, R.W. Gray

Gray’s short sto­ries are won­der­ful­ly sur­re­al lit­tle glimpses of Can­Lit per­fec­tion. Gray is one of Canada’s best short sto­ry writ­ers, bar none. His sto­ry “Blink” may be one of my all-time favourites, by any author.

Has the World Ended Yet?, Peter Darbyshire

An off-kil­ter, phan­tas­magor­i­cal treat. Dar­byshire delights in mash­ing pop-cul­ture gen­res togeth­er, expos­ing pro­found truths beneath clas­sic tropes in ways at once hilar­i­ous, weird, and heart-break­ing. Any col­lec­tion that has H.P. Lovecraft’s leg­endary god Cthul­hu work­ing for a temp agency gets an auto­mat­ic pass from me.

The Last Neanderthal, Claire Cameron

I usu­al­ly find nov­els that play the his­toric past against events in the present to be some­what ham-fist­ed, but Cameron’s stark tale nev­er falls into that trap. This tale of an archae­ol­o­gist and the Nean­derthal she is exca­vat­ing is inci­sive and mov­ing with­out becom­ing obvi­ous.

Malagash, Joey Comeau

The book that broke my heart the most this year. This slim novel­la, fol­low­ing a young woman record­ing her con­ver­sa­tions with her dying father to keep his mem­o­ry alive via a com­put­er virus, mas­ter­ful­ly expose the trau­ma, heart­break, and humour of an event we all must even­tu­al­ly brave.

Mammoth, Larissa Andrusyshyn

I’m not a big poet­ry guy, although I real­ly should be. But Mam­moth stuck with me. Andrusyshyn’s work is fun­ny, odd, and mem­o­rable.

A Perfect Machine, Brett Savory

As I said in my blog review, “A Per­fect Machine is one weird engine. This world is a sur­re­al, bul­let-rid­den night­mare that obeys no laws save its own. Like the best of mind­job lit, this glo­ri­ous­ly odd mon­ster mash prac­ti­cal­ly remands a revis­it.”

Venera Dreams: A Weird Entertainment, Claude Lalumière

More strange sto­ries by a mas­ter of the form. Lalumière’s linked narratives—all based around the mag­i­cal city-state of Venera­—are full of gor­geous imagery, lush dia­logue, and deeply sex­u­al sce­nar­ios. It is a daz­zling read.

Volk, David Nickel

In his sequel to Eutopia, Nick­el evokes the clas­sic goth­ic hor­rors of Bram Stok­er and Mary Shel­ley, push­ing Eutopia’s heroes into an insid­i­ous scheme involv­ing Ger­man leg­ends, a mys­ti­cal being called the Juke, and Hitler’s plans to cre­ate “Über­men­schen.” Volk is chal­leng­ing, but stick with it: it’s a remark­able hor­ror nov­el unafraid to ask ques­tions and leave ques­tions unan­swered.

The Voodoo Killings, Kristi Charish

As I said in my blog review, “I love zom­bies. I love detec­tives. Ergo, I love zombie/detective mashups. And thus, I love The Voodoo Killings, the first in what I hope will be a long-run­ning series of detec­tive thrillers involv­ing befud­dled zom­bies, angry pol­ter­geists, and brain slurpees.” Plus, the pro­tag­o­nist is named Kin­caid Strange, which is fantas­tic.

Wild Fell, Michael Rowe

A goth­ic night­mare, poten­tial­ly the clos­est a Cana­di­an haunt­ed house nov­el has come to equal­ing Shirley Jackson’s The Haunt­ing of Hill House. With this and his pre­vi­ous Enter, Night, Rowe proves him­self one of the country’s pre­mier fantacists.

And since I love you, more nota­bles I high­ly rec­om­mend:

So, for 2018…
Look, I’m not going to both­er top­ping 150. I’ve got too many intim­i­dat­ing­ly large books to get through (most by Neal Stephen­son and Stephen King). I’m just going to read for enjoy­ment, and whit­tle my mer­ry way through my TBR pile. I’ll have to like­ly take on a few new books, for review­ing and such, but by and large I’ll be liv­ing in the past.

I want to broad­en my read­ing habits, read more PoC books, but this may not be fea­si­ble if my inten­tion is to get through books I already own. How­ev­er, I am plan­ning to alter­nate between autho­r­i­al gen­ders per book. I’m also going to read alpha­bet­i­cal­ly by author, which should give me a wide range of lit­er­ary expe­ri­ences.

I’m cur­rent­ly read­ing a few books for an out­side project, but once done, if I fol­low this plan—alphabetically and female-male—my first five reads of 2018 will be:

  1. Eliz­a­beth Hay’s Late Nights on Air
  2. Lau­rence Klaven’s The Fam­i­ly Unit and Oth­er Fan­tasies
  3. Debra Komar’s The Bal­lad of Jacob Peck
  4. William Kotzwinkle’s Ele­phant Bangs Train
  5. Kathryn Kuitenbrouer’s All the Bro­ken Things
And also…
I will try and post more in the way of reviews and such (and, if applic­a­ble, to var­i­ous review sites to increase a book’s over­all Inter­net cov­er­age), but truth be told, I ain’t the blog­ger I used to be. Peo­ple do change over time, and nowa­days the act of sit­ting down and writ­ing some­thing not relat­ed to the projects I’m work­ing feels some­what oner­ous. Nev­er­the­less, I shall per­sist, and try to come up with orig­i­nal con­tent a few times a month or so.

I also would like to get a new site going. I’m kind of sick of my design. Any tak­ers on who’d like to design it for free? No? Even if I name a char­ac­ter after you? Darn.

And writ­ing? I plan to do a lot more. I’ve already sub­mit­ted a short sto­ry, and if all goes well I will be through with an incred­i­bly rough first draft of a new book over the next few months. Then, we’ll see what hap­pens.

And so…
A belat­ed too­dle-oo to you, 2017. Read­ing-wise, you were a pret­ty darn good year.

On every oth­er lev­el, you were kind of a dump­ster fire.

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