Wed, Jan. 10th, 2007, 12:57 pm || 2006 books write up

add to memories

I'm blogging books and manga separately this year, just because I read so much manga. I feel like I've read remarkably few books this year; last year my reading had gone down in total, but I didn't separate the books and manga out, so I'm not sure if I read more books this year or last year. I definitely read way more manga this year, which is why the book count is only at 90. It's really weird; not reading many actual books makes me feel like a slacker, particularly since much of what I did read was YA.

Again, this is not to say that manga or YA aren't worthwhile, because I love them and think they are. But I read considerably less non-fiction and anything that looked very dense, largely because my brain just couldn't take it.

Just like the past two years, I am picking my top ten out of the books I read this year, not the books published this year. I'm not quite sure how I define "top ten." It has something to do with scanning over the list of books read and seeing which ones stick out the most in my mind. Sometimes I rave about books right after I read them, and then they gradually slip away into the depths of my memories; other times, they stick around, poking me every so often to remind me to think about them. Usually it's the latter that make the list, though really, this entire thing is completely capricious.

As mentioned, I read a lot of YA and manga this year. Apart from that, I found myself reading more about race and trying to read more works by people of color, thanks to the influence of the Great Cultural Appropriation Debate and Intl. Blog Against Racism Week. My reading veered wildly from books that I read to comfort myself (YA) and books that I read to make me think (books on race and racism). And I'm sure no one is surprised that 8 out of the 10 authors represented on the top ten are female.

I also feel like I read much less fantasy and nearly no romance this year; I've just not been as excited about fantasy in general, and I haven't been getting many romance recs at all after exhausting the backlists of my favorite authors and being too lazy to find more authors I like.

I've blogged nearly all of these previously; the ones that haven't been written up yet are asterisked. You should be able to find everything via tags or LJ memories, and if you're curious about one of the unblogged ones, leave a comment and I shall expound upon it.

And now, without further ado, my top ten books of 2006:

  1. Gillian Bradshaw, The Sand-Reckoner, The Beacon at Alexandria, Island of Ghosts: Bradshaw writes strong historical novels set around Rome. In these three books, she doesn't go much into the grander imperial history of Rome, but focuses more on people within the empire -- mathematicians, doctors, soldiers. My particular favorite is The Sand-Reckoner, but that's because I enjoy watching Archimedes work. All three books have strong, quiet characters who slowly grow and learn through the years, and as an added bonus, they're about the work people do and how it shapes and affects them, be it engineering, medicine or governing.

  2. Sarah Dessen, Just Listen: This book made me cry, not out of grief, but out of catharsis. The title is about listening, but the book is about Annabel finally learning to speak, to voice her opinions, to make herself heard. She's fighting how other people perceieve her, and she gradually comes to realize that the only way she can counter her own projected image is to act against it. I love not only the story of Annabel finding her voice, but also of her getting to know her sisters and her mother. In the end, it's about a girl growing into her own and finally making her own choices.

  3. Scott McCloud, Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga, and Graphic Novels: Scott McCloud explains comics like no one else, and in comic format as well! This is a great look at what tools and techniques comic writers and artists can use to make their story more effective. McCloud touches on common writing tools, but always makes sure that he relates it back to comics in particular.

  4. Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua, eds., This Bridge Called My Back: Some of the essays and poems in this book didn't resonate with me, but the ones that did—they threw me a lifeline. I didn't realize how much I needed this book until I read it, how excluded I felt in talks of racism because of being female, how excluded I felt in talks of feminism because of being Chinese. Like the women in this book, I feel like I'm caught in the middle, and just having that acknowledged made such a difference. Also, even if I hadn't gotten anything else of use from the book, it would have been worth reading for Mitsuye Yamada's essays alone.

  5. Joanna Russ, How to Suppress Women's Writing: This tongue-in-cheek satire of a how-to book is also a scathing indictment of how women's writing has been ignored or put down for centuries. This is a seminal feminist work on literature, and quite probably a seminal feminist work in general (I haven't read enough to say). Russ is bitter and biting, and I've seen the exact techniques she's outlined used time and time again. To make this even better, in a later edition, Russ talks about how she had to apply the book to her own experience of reading black women writers.

  6. Dorothy L. Sayers, Gaudy Night: I bounced hard off of Sayers' other books, but this one, oh, this one. I love its commentary on intellectual life, on feminism, on the difficulties of combining an intellectual life with a personal life if you're a woman. But most of all, I love Harriet Vane. I feel like I should love Peter Wimsey more, and I do love him, but I love Harriet best, and I'm glad she gets to come into her own in this book.

  7. Beverley Daniel Tatum, "Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?" and Other Conversations about Race: If I had only read one book this year, I would have wished for this one. I would have missed all the excellent fiction I read, but I think I needed this book this year. Tatum gives a crash course in Racism 101 and manages not only to synthesize large amounts of information and complex ideas, she manages to do so without losing her sense of compassion. I can tell that she cares, despite everything, and that matters a lot to me.

  8. Megan Whalen Turner, The Queen of Attolia and The King of Attolia: I should probably list The Thief as well, seeing as how it's the first book in the series and these two spoil it, but it wasn't my favorite book and it underwhelmed me. But it is worth reading just to get to these two. I can't squee about these enough; there's intrigue and politics and strong female characters and enough Lymond-esque scenes to make me happy. I particularly enjoy seeing Gen grow into his own throughout the books, and I love getting to know all the other characters as well.

  9. Jo Walton, Farthing: Wow, this really was a year for political books for me, wasn't it? Farthing uses the format of a country-house murder mystery to comment on the slide into totalitarianism; thankfully, you don't have to be well-versed in the genre to enjoy this book (I know nothing about mysteries). The political commentary is sharp and depressing, as is the alternate history of an increasingly-fascist 1950s Britain that Walton creates. But one of my favorite things is actually the first-person narration; Lucy's voice is delightfully fun and frothy, and seeing her wake up to the world around her and seeing her sharpness beneath the mannerisms gave me something to hang on to outside of the political allegory.

  10. Scott Westerfeld, Succession: Space opera at its best! Westerfeld takes a traditional space opera; includes zombies, Borg-like aliens, nanotechnology, space battles and the requisite galactic empire; completely turns all the elements upside-down; and gives them all a good shake. I love the space battles in particular, how everything that happens has logical consequences, how things keep spiralling out of control. Westerfeld remembers that ships have engineers and technicians along with first mates and captains, and he uses this to add to the suspense. The best part is, the shiny bits (which are awesome) never end up taking over the very touching love stories, and the love stories never slow down the shiny bits. And me, I get great characters and cool battles at the same time.

Also recommended: Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre; Christina Chiu, Troublemaker and Other Saints; Sarah Dessen, Dreamland; Emma Donoghue, Life Mask; Mary Roach, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers; Susan Vaught, Stormwitch; Cornel West, Race Matters; Frank H. Wu, Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White; Gene Luen Yang, American Born Chinese

Total read: 90 (3 rereads)

1. Emma Donoghue, Life Mask Jan 17
2. Gillian Bradshaw, Island of Ghosts Jan 20
3. C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe Jan 25
4. C.S. Lewis, Prince Caspian Jan 26
5. C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader Jan 27
6. Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre Jan 31
7. David Sedaris, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim Feb 3
8. Jus Neuce, Nocturne Feb 8
9. Megan Whalen Turner, The Thief Feb 11
10. Scott Westerfeld, Midnighters: Touching Darkness Feb 18
11. Megan Whalen Turner, The Queen of Attolia Feb 19
12. Megan Whalen Turner, The King of Attolia Feb 20
13. Bill Willingham, Fables: The Mean Seasons Feb 25
14. Jane Emerson, City of Diamond Feb 26
15. Sharon Shinn, The Safe-Keeper's Secret Feb 26
16. Scott Westerfeld, The Risen Empire Mar 2
17. Scott Westerfeld, The Killing of Worlds Mar 3
18. Justine Larbalestier, Magic or Madness Mar 17
19. Dorothy L. Sayers, Have His Carcase Mar 25
20. Jakob Nielsen, Designing Web Usability Mar 27
21. Dorothy L. Sayers, Gaudy Night Mar 28
22. Sarah Dessen, Keeping the Moon Mar 29
23. Scott Westerfeld, Midnighters: Blue Noon Apr 1
24. Sarah Dessen, Someone Like You Apr 6
25. Cynthia Voigt, On Fortune's Wheel Apr 11 (reread)
26. Gillian Bradshaw, The Beacon at Alexandria Apr 18
27. Mary Roach, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers Apr 19
28. Gillian Bradshaw, The Sand-Reckoner Apr 20
29. Naomi Novik, His Majesty's Dragon Apr 22
30. Paul Gravett, Manga: Sixty Years of Japanese Comics Apr 25
31. Sarah Dessen, That Summer Apr 28
32. George R.R. Martin, A Feast for Crows May 9
33. Maria Snyder, Poison Study May 16
34. Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explains the Hidden Side of Everything May 19
35. Scott Westerfeld, Specials May 25
36. Naomi Novik, Throne of Jade May 31
37. CJ Cherryh, Gate of Ivrel Jun 1
38. Joanna Russ, How to Suppress Women's Writing Jun 8
39. Ursula K. Le Guin, Gifts Jun 12
40. CJ Cherryh, Fires of Azeroth Jun 16
41. Lyda Morehouse, Archangel Protocol Jun 17
42. Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little House on the Prairie Jun 18 (reread)
43. Arial Levy, Female Chauvanist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture Jun 20
44. Donald A. Norman, The Design of Everyday Things Jun 22
45. Lyda Morehouse, Fallen Host Jun 23
46. Alexander Potter and Martin H. Greenberg, eds., Assassin Fantastic Jun 24
47. Susan Vaught, Stormwitch Jun 25
48. Justine Larbalestier, Magic Lessons Jun 26
49. Sarah Dessen, Just Listen Jun 27
50. Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra, Y: The Last Man -- Girl on Girl Jul 3 *
51. Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra, Y: The Last Man -- Paper Dolls Jul 3 *
52. Eloisa James, Your Wicked Ways Jul 4
53. Beverley Daniel Tatum, "Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?" and Other Conversations about Race Jul 8
54. Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly Jul 9
55. Marilyn Halter, Shopping for Identity: The Marketing of Ethnicity Jul 9
56. Frank H. Wu, Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White Jul 17
57. Pearl Cleage, I Wish I Had a Red Dress Jul 22
58. Simon Singh, Fermat's Enigma Jul 31
59. Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua, eds., This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color Aug 19
60. Kit Reed, The Baby Merchant Aug 20 *
61. Cameron Dokey, The Storyteller's Daughter Aug 22
62. Christina Chiu, Troublemaker and Other Saints Aug 25
63. Morris N. Kertzner and Lawrence A. Hoffman, What Is a Jew?: New and Completely Revised Ed. Aug 27
64. Cornel West, Race Matters Sep 1
65. Herbie Brennan, Faerie Wars Sep 4
66. Tate Hallaway, Tall, Dark and Dead Sep 5
67. Jo Walton, Farthing Sep 9
68. Ellen Kushner, The Privilege of the Sword Sep 19
69. Emma Donoghue, Slammerkin Sep 26
70. Ellen Kushner, Swordspoint Oct 2
71. Scott Westerfeld, The Last Days Oct 2
72. Elizabeth Bear, Blood and Iron Oct 11
73. Olivia Judson, Dr. Tatiana's Sex Advice to All Creation Oct 15
74. Sarah Dessen, Dreamland Oct 28
75. Anne Stuart, Moonrise Oct 28
76. Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Spirits That Walk in Shadow Nov 5
77. Lindsey Davis, Silver Pigs Nov 12
78. Penn Jillette and Teller, Penn & Teller's How to Play in Traffic Nov 17
79. Jim Steinmeyer, Hiding the Elephant: How Magicians Invented the Impossible and Learned to Disappear Nov 19
80. Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu, Zahrah the Windseeker Nov 22 *
81. Scott McCloud, Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga, and Graphic Novels Nov 30
82. Kit Whitfield, Bareback Nov 30 *
83. Sherwood Smith, Inda Dec 11
84. Gene Luen Yang, American Born Chinese Dec 12
85. Megan Whalen Turner, The King of Attolia Dec 13 (reread)
86. Diana Wynne Jones, Deep Secret Dec 17
87. Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer, The Mislaid Magician, or Ten Years Later Dec 19
88. Peter Dickinson, Sleep and His Brother Dec 20
89. Bryan Talbot, The Tale of One Bad Rat Dec 20
90. Julie Hearn, The Minister's Daughter Dec 22