It was at some time in November I finally set my reading goal for the year.
Two hundred books.
It just sounds a cool number, right? I might never have the time to hit that again, so it’d be nice to it once. As things stand I’m at 169, so that pretty much means a book a day. Doable with full length books, but a little demanding so I thought let’s ask people for some novella recs. I stick up a simple tweet and the next thing I know is I have a 100 recs.
And I thought was worth talking about.
It’s interesting – to me at least – to see which authors and books got a lot of attention.
Aliette de Bodard, KJ Parker, Premee Mohamed, and P Djeli Clark ruled the roost with three or more recs each (technically Aliette wins as some people just went “all of them”. Adrian Tchaikovsky, Becky Chambers, Bradley Beaulieu, Nghi Vo, Nino Cipri, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Emily Tesh, and Catherynne M Valente also all got two each. I’m fairly sure Kai Ashante Wilson should also e here and I failed to count one of his.
If we’re looking at which books got the most attention – four of De Bodard’s novellas got nominated thrice, as did both Tchaikovskys mentioned (One Day All This Will Be Yours and Elder Race (I’ve a sneaking suspicion I missed a Tchaikovsky rec). Chambers’ A Psalm for the Wild Born, These Lifeless Things by Premee Mohamed, The Murders of Molly Southborne by Tade Thompson and Murderbot by Martha Wells were also in that club.
There’s an obvious common thread to me in that most of those authors are of ethnicities that wouldn’t really have attracted mainstream fantasy (or Sci Fi, lot of Sci in there) attention twenty years ago. Now I can’t tell you whether my list of respondents is representative of anything but it feels like novellas are a category in which they really stand out. I don’t know whether that’s a case of easier to get published, or a different novella crowd to the long form crowd, or whether the chances for experimentation appeal more to authors of colour/non-Anglosphere authors who perhaps don’t identify as strongly with pre-set genres as white authors from the Anglosphere do. Or maybe it’s something else, or a mix, or total coincidence. Either way, it’s enough of a pattern to make me curious.
I’ve not yet had time to do a genre breakdown, but I feel like it tilts Sci-Fi esque from first glance which is a mild surprise as generally my online book friendship tilts Fantasy. Am I wrong? Just the way the dice bounced this time? Or is Sci-Fi going through a better novella period than Fantasy and if so, why? Similarly I haven’t had time to break things down by publication type but it very much reads more trad published than self-published, more so than I was expecting.
Anyway, enough amateur analysis. How the hell do I pick what to read from 100 books?
Well, it’s going to involve a lot of visits to Sample Mountain, that’s for sure.
I’m probably going to do them in tranches of nine. The first tranches will be sorta hand-picked, opting for books I’ve heard a bit about before and which have a bit of hype going for them. After that – well, it might reach randomising. Books I’ve already taken samples of are likely to fall lower down, as are those where I cannot readily get samples – Subterrenean’s refusal/inability to stick kindle on Amazon.co.uk is the immediate standout one here. The books I’ve read here will not appear at all, although I really really encourage you all to read Saad Hossain’s The Gurkha and the Lord of Tuesday as I full expect it to be my favourite book read this year.
So my first nine. Yaroslav Barukov’s Tower of Mud and Straw jumps straight to mind after seeing an interview with the author Jonny did ages ago and having him on the shortlist ever since. I’ve heard a lot of good things about Tchaikovsky’s Elder Race so that too will make the list, and any excuse to read De Bodard is a good one I will take the Xuya starting point (to be worked out later). Martha Wells’ Murderbot is a classic so I should give it a try, and while I’m not sure I’ll like Premee Mohamed’s work she seems great on twitter and she comes highly recommended here, so These Lifeless Things is in. Minerva Ceridwen’s Dragon of Ynys is also in because that’s my sort of title. The final three… The Sunset Mantle by Alter S Reiss is a great name and was recced as Epic Fantasy by the wisest of bookwyrms, so in it goes. Also recced from the same source is The Drowning Eyes by Emily Foster, a maritime fantasy on a Caribbean-esque island. Jolly good. And to go back to the highly recommended list, I’ve always felt like I should try Nghi Vo, so one of her books goes in – but I don’t know which yet.
EDIT: No kindle for Tower of Mud and Straw, so Emily Tesh goes into the first tranche instead.
Anyway, thank you all for your recs, I look forwards to telling you all about novellas.