We’re a week and a half into 2016–are you still keeping up with your resolutions? I have to confess: December whizzed by so quickly that I hadn’t gotten around to making any. But when I was compiling our Best Books of 2015 list, looking at the books I’d read and the titles submitted by some of the other GeekDad writers, I felt that perhaps my books consumption in 2015 wasn’t ambitious enough.
I’ll clarify that: I read a lot of books, but I stayed within some fairly narrow categories, perhaps even more than previous years. As always, my non-fiction reading was quite sparse. Much of what I read was pretty easy reading, the sort of thing I can zip through: comics, young adult fiction. The adult fiction I read was, for the most part, enjoyable but not the sort that really challenges me intellectually.
I love the idea of fellow GeekDad Robin Brooks’ literary sci-fi reading investigation, and I even have several of the same books sitting on my shelves. I just spoke to Gene Luen Yang last week (expect the podcast this week), who was named National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, and his platform is “Reading Without Walls.” He’s trying to encourage kids to read outside of their usual comfort zones, whether that’s a new subject matter, new genre, or a new format. That sounds like a great idea for adults, too.
But I keep telling myself: “This year I’m going to read more non-fiction” or something like that and then at the end of the year I find that I haven’t. I think part of the problem is that it’s too nebulous. So, instead, this year I’m going to make a slightly different resolution. I’m picking 5 specific books from my stack of review copies that I resolve to read in 2016. I know that’s not much, but it’s a start. Maybe by making my choices public, it’ll help hold me accountable.
I don’t read a ton of science fiction, but I know that the bulk of the science fiction I’ve read was written by white males. And while I’m not ready to make a “I’m reading nothing by white males for a year” resolution, I do think it’s a good idea to broaden my experience a bit. It’s a bit embarrassing to admit that I’ve read almost nothing by Margaret Atwood. This book is actually non-fiction–it’s essays and lectures about science fiction–and it’s been sitting on my shelf for far too long. This year, I’m going to read it.
While we’re at it, I’ve heard some great things about this sci-fi book, translated from Chinese. Despite being Chinese myself, I have no idea what Chinese sci-fi is like. What makes it different? What sort of issues do Asian writers think about as opposed to American or European authors? I don’t know, but I’m going to give it a shot. (And I already have the second book in the series, The Dark Forest, so I can continue the trilogy if I enjoy it.)
I’m including one parenting book on my list. As you can imagine, I have a whole stack of books that relate to parenting in one way or another–and I haven’t read most of them. But this one actually seems relevant. My girls love playing on the iPad, sometimes to the exclusion of other things, and so far my primary approach has been simply limiting total screen time. I bet there’s a better way to do that, and I’m curious to see what this book suggests.
Years ago, I reviewed Hallinan’s book Why We Make Mistakes. I actually really enjoy books about how our brains work, so I don’t have any good excuse for why I never got around to reading this one. Every time I see this title on my shelf, I look at all the piles of books that I say I’m going to read, and think: “Yep. That sounds about right.”
Once upon a time, I got a math degree. It’s been years since I’ve used anything more complex than algebra on a regular basis, but there’s a part of me that still finds mathematics fascinating. I’ve got several math-based books on my non-fiction shelf, and this one had the most entertaining title. So it’s on my list.
Robin Brooks’ Reading Resolutions
2015 was an unsatisfactory reading year for me. Until the latter part of the year, I struggled to find books that pulled me in and held me captive. I found it difficult to focus on what I was reading, and, for the first time in over 20 years, I read fewer than 50 books.
This made me peculiarly melancholy, so my overreaching reading resolution for this year is to dedicate more quality time to book consumption. Rather than reading in the gaps between the cogs of the daily grind, I’m hoping to make windows of opportunity where I can savor what I’m reading.
But which books I’m hoping to read?
I want to forge on with my literary SFF exploration; I’ve enjoyed the three books I’ve read so far. Viper Wine by Hermione Eyre and Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant are on the list for the first part of the year. I also hope to include a Margaret Atwood, probably her latest, The Heart Goes Last, to the list of books explored.
Fall of Man in Wilmslow by David Lagercrantz is a book that has been sitting on my shelves for a while. I’m interested to try it a) because Lagercrantz has written the continuation of Steig Larsson’s Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series and b) it’s about the death of Alan Turing, murdered by a poisoned apple. An intriguing premise if ever there was one.
I’m looking forward to completing Pierce Brown’s YA Mars-based, dystopian Red Rising trilogy, with Morning Star. Later in the year, the third book in Cassandra Clare and Holly Black’s Magisterium series arrives. Cat Valente returns with Radiance, a novel which according to the blurb is a “decopunk pulp SF alt-history space opera mystery set in a Hollywood, and solar system, very different from our own.” I like a novel with ambition!
Further ahead, a new book by Gavin Extence, author of the remarkable The Universe Versus Alex Woods is always exciting, so I can’t wait for The Empathy Problem. The end of 2016 will see publication of A Closed and Common Orbit, Becky Chamber’s follow-up to my book of 2015, The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, an extract of which has just been published here.
And perhaps, maybe, possibly, 2016 will finally see me pick up read Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, a book I’ve been running away from for years.