Every year, I set myself a goal of reading at least 52 books over the course of the year — an average of one a week. This year I made it to 60 (plus getting started on what will be my first book of 2019). Here’s a quick overview…
Non-fiction: Very little. Just one, in fact, though it was a good one (my only five-star rating): So You Want to Talk About Race, by Ijeoma Oluo. Excellent, and highly recommended. No matter how good you think you are at being aware of your privilege (or lack thereof) in modern society, this book is likely to give you some very worthwhile, if often uncomfortable, things to think about.
Non-genre-fiction (where “genre” is shorthand — though, not very short, if you include this parenthetical — for science-fiction, fantasy, and horror): Once again, not much, and at least one of these could be considered genre fiction. Chuck Palahniuk’s Make Something Up: Stories You Can’t Unread, an anthology of short pieces, while often somewhat disturbing, as is often the case with Palahniuk’s work, definitely isn’t SF/F/horror. Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories are certainly fantastical, but I don’t think of them as part of the fantasy genre. Crossplay by Niki Smith is graphic novel erotica which is straightforward (though not entirely straight) real-world fiction, though it is set at an anime convention. Steven King’s Elevation could probably be categorized as SF, F, or horror, as it’s the story of a man who keeps losing weight (not physical substance, however, he just keeps weighing less and less)…but tonally, it’s really not any of the three. All three were quite good, though.
Quality genre fiction: A good amount. This year’s Philip K. Dick Award nominees were, as usual, a strong selection of works. The Book of Etta by Meg Elison is a very worthy successor to The Book of the Unnamed Midwife; Tim Pratt’s The Wrong Stars is fun and frequently funny; and Revenger by Alastair Reynolds is high-seas adventure in deep space. Mur Lafferty’s Six Wakes is an excellent locked-room murder mystery with clones; All Systems Red by Martha Wells has a wonderfully dangerous “murderbot” protagonist, After the Flare by Deji Bryce Olukotun does a fascinating job crafting SF inspired by African cultures and settings rather than the American/European sensibilities that I’m used to, and Carrie Vaughn’s Bannerless is a welcome shift into optimistic post-apocalyptic fiction, rather than the pessimistic doom-and-gloom that such settings usually employ. Outside of the PK Dick awards, I enjoyed Mira Grant’s killer mermaids in Into the Drowning Deep, the decline of galactic civilization in John Scalzi’s The Collapsing Empire, and the political and planetary maneuvering in Moving Mars by Greg Bear.
Fluff genre fiction: The rest. I have no qualms or reservations about my ability to enjoy a lot of science fiction (and some fantasy) that, objectively, really isn’t very good, but is enjoyable, non-taxing, and generally just fun easy reading. Often these take the form of cheesy old 30s/40s/50s/60s SF or 80s movie novelizations, but chief among these are the many Star Trek novels that I read. While there are some that are definitely good (and, yes, there are some that are definitely bad), for the most part, they’re simply an enjoyable escape into my “home” fandom, to an optimistic universe where we as a species (and in collaboration with other species) are better than we used to be, and actively working towards continuing that process to do and be better than before. It’s not a bad way to spend my down time.