Project 2015 Wrap up: Things I learned

As my first yearly project draws to a close, here’s what I learned about my reading habits, in no particular order.

  1. I like science fiction much better than I thought I did, though mostly if it’s written by women. I’ve always gravitated to fantasy in the past, but I found myself really enjoying the science fiction selections I read (see: Melissa Scott, CJ Cherryh, C.S. Friedman).
  2. …and I think part of that is because I really, really love some good political intrigue (see: Finder, Foreigner, In Conquest Born).
  3. I would like crime fiction and noir to stay far, far from my specfic. I think I gave it a good shot, but it’s just not my thing. This crosses over into my other media consumption, actually, because the best way to turn me off from a SFF premise is to make it a crime procedural. (I’m looking at you, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) (See: short stories from Dangerous Women.)
  4. It turns out I was right – I don’t particularly care for short fiction. Even the best short stories I read were slightly unsatisfying. All remaining anthologies in my TBR were sold to Half Price Books, and now I know not to buy anymore.
  5. A lot of what I (tried) to read was very, very problematic, in ways that I wouldn’t have recognized if I’d read it when it was published. I think this is a combination of both the world moving on and my own evolving understanding. In this case, the Suck Fairy visited preemptively.
  6. I hate writing reviews. Early on in the project, I was pushing myself to write a cogent, useful review for every book I read. This was perhaps the hardest part of the project. In the end, I dropped that “requirement,” and never missed it. I definitely do not have a future as a book reviewer.
  7. I’m still not a particularly critical reader, and I think I’m okay with that. There are a lot of critical reviewers and theorists out there, and I adore reading their dissection of what I’ve read – once I’m done with it. But I prefer to read through for enjoyment first. This may be a character failing, but I’ve come to accept it.

This was definitely a good outing for my first yearly project, and I’m glad I did it. I learned a lot about my reading preferences that will hopefully guide me in future purchases. As an added benefit, I now have a dedicated bookshelf for my TBR – and it miraculously fits all my books. (Though there’s also my unread ebooks … and unlistened to audiobooks …)

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Six Months In

It’s been about six months since I began the first year of my “Grand Life Plan” by reading as many books on my TBR as I can. Here are my thoughts so far, in no particular order:

  • I’m not going to make it. I always knew I wouldn’t make it to all 122 books read in a year, but I thought I would get a little closer than I am. In six months, I’ve read 36 books (33 of them from my TBR). If I keep it up, I’ll have read roughly half of what I have sitting around.
  • I’m really impatient about getting to read new books. While I mostly love (or at least enjoy) what I’m reading, it’s hard to be reading books from several years or decades ago. All my friends are talking about hot new books – I want to read them too!
  • I like a good helping of political intrigue in my fantasy and science fiction. One of the biggest surprises for me so far was In Conquest Born, which I flatly adored. I knew that I liked politics, as shown by my love for Kate Elliot and Jacqueline Carey, among others, but this really drove it home. It’s something I’m going to start looking for as an indication that I’d probably enjoy a book.
  • There’s a subgenre of “female-penned science fiction of the 80’s and 90’s”. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but consider: C.S. Friedman, Melissa Scott, Emma Bull, C.J. Cherryh. They all “taste” the same to me. It’s a sub-genre I really like.
  • I’m probably not going to read all those Book 2’s. Other works by Tanya Huff. The trilogy after Obsidian Mountain. Book 2 of Lord of the Isles. I often buy Book 1 of a series that I want to see if I enjoy, thinking I’ll go get Book 2 if I do. Sometimes it works (Kushiel’s Dart, Daughter of the Blood). But with books this old that have sat unread for so long, I’m just not motivated to keep reading if they tie up well. Strongly related to wanting to move on to new books, I suspect.
  • I’m finally old enough to stop reading books I don’t like. There was a time I couldn’t not finish a series, much less an individual book. But with 122 books lined up, I’ve learned to be a bit more discriminating. DNF’ed so far this year: The Power of Myth, Aphrodite’s Daughters, and A Heart for Freedom. All for, in some way, values that I find outdated and offensive. I just realized typing this up that those are all non-fiction, so I may still have trouble letting fiction go.
  • I’ve given 1 book a 5-star rating: The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap. However, I’ve rated 12 books 4 stars. I apparently really hesitate to give out that “superlative” rating.
  • I’m actually “reading” audiobooks. I don’t know that I’d enjoy reading fiction audiobooks, because the voices really bug me. However, I really enjoyed listening to A Heart For Freedom, and I’m now listening to Whose Bible Is It? Of course, this have lead to another “TBR” pile.
  • One of the reasons for my slow pace is that I need breathing space after completing a book. I can’t just finish a book and immediately pick another one up. I do usually pick it out, and put it on my smaller pile of what I’m actively reading, but many books leave me with a “mental aftertaste” I want to savor.
  • I kind of suck at writing reviews. I wish I didn’t, but I never really know what to say in reviews. A lot of people seem to start theirs with a summary of the plot or theme, but that seems like a waste of time to me. Did you read the blurb? Okay, then. The only time I really highlight what the book is actually about is when I think the cover/summary information leaves out a key point or is otherwise misleading. Other than that, I tend to pick out the bits I particularly liked (or disliked). Writing spoiler-free reviews sometimes means these are incredibly short.
  • I may not actually like short fiction. Dangerous Women was the first anthology I picked out to read. According to GoodReads, I started it on March 15, and I’ve yet to finish it. On the other hand, I quite liked Bone and Jewel Creatures and Portrait of Lisane de Patagnia, so perhaps the fault is not in the format…

Looking ahead

I’m still buried more than neck deep in my TBR pile(s) right now, but I know someday, I’ll be buying books again. When I’m putting together my wishlist, I generally keep an ear on the buzz I’m hearing around me. Partially because people talk about the books that grab them, and partially because I believe that reading the books (or consuming the other media) that are the touchstones of your fandom is a good idea.

Awards can (sometimes) do that. I’m not going to turn this into an awards meta-post, as I believe there are quite enough of those. Suffice to say, briefly, that I’m displeased with the state of the Hugos this year, and more inclined to other sources. Moving on to more pleasant things, the Locus Awards Finalists for 2015 came out recently, and I see a number of interesting things that seem likely to appeal to me.

I’m mostly jotting my thoughts down here as a matter of reference later, but tell me: have you read any of these? What did you think of them?

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TBR Index 2015

books
1. The Outstretched Shadow – Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory
2. Naked Economics – Charles Wheelan
3. Rise of the Spider Goddess – Jim C. Hines
4. Quiet – Susan Cain
5. To Light a Candle – Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory
6. When Darkness Falls – Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory
7. Rabbi Jesus – Bruce Chilton
8. Portrait of Lisane de Patagania – Rachel Swirsky
9. Night Sky Mine – Melissa Scott
10. The Power of Myth – Joseph Campbell
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My Grand Life Plan, 2015 edition

Remember the Great TBR project? The one I started a scant few months before I went back to school, in 2013? Oof. Now that school is over, I’m back to pursuing my Grand Life Plan to learn, create, or do one new thing every year. For 2015, I’m revisiting that TBR project.

TBR2015

I’ve changed my methodology a few times while anticipating the project. For a while, I thought it would be entertaining to use a random number generator to determine which fiction, nonfiction, and anthologies I read each week. Then I remembered that RNG hates me. Now that all my books are piled up in one spot, I’ve decided to just pull something off the top of the stack that looks interesting. I’ll also be reading one book on my Kindle a week, so that I don’t end up having to read a whole lot of books on Kindle all at once.

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