First, confession time: I don't read anywhere near as much as I should. Part of that is because I tend to be a slow reader, unless I really get to sit away from All The Things and get into the book. Also, I'll also admit, I'm a tough fish to hook. I'll often read a couple of chapters of something, and while there's nothing wrong or bad about it, it doesn't really pull me in. So there are a lot of unfinished books on my shelves where it really is, "Hey, it's not you, it's me."
I did read several books, though, and here are the five that stuck with me:
Lock In: I've been a big fan of Scalzi's work, and Lock-In
is probably his best yet. He takes a single science-fictional concept,
and works crafts an engaging story with that concept as its engine.
While relatively light and propulsive, it still made me stop and think
about one's sense of identity as tied to one's own body. But I'll be
surprised if this one isn't on awards short lists this year.
READY PLAYER ONE:
Yeah, yeah, I'm late to the party, only having read this one this
year. This book... lived in a strange space where I was annoyed much of
the time I was reading it, but at the same time, I found it impossible
to put down. I mean, the book moved, but it was also little
more than name checking nostalgia, of which I was about 85% on board
with-- that nostalgia was mine as well. And maybe that was part of my
problem-- to me, the riddles were pretty easy, so the idea that all the
hunters would just be stuck for YEARS without figuring it out was
unbelievable. But it didn't quite feel like a story. That said, I
understand why it got a lot of notice.
The Art of Asking:
This is Amanda Palmer's memoir, and I found it fascinating. I mean, I
haven't had half the life experiences that she's had, but I did spend my
time toiling in the theatrical arts, which involved learning similar
hard lessons on scrounging and community and trust. So I got this book and where she was coming from.
The World Until Yesterday: Another book by Jared Diamond (of Guns, Germs and Steel),
where he talks about traditional societies and their commonalities and
differences, as well as the commonalities and differences with our own
WEIRD societies. (WEIRD: Western, Educated, Industrial, Regulated and
Democratic) Good worldbuilding sourcework.
On the Map:
An interesting work on the history of maps and mapping, which is just
the sort of thing a worldbuilding map geek like myself can get into.
realize this list is pretty useless if you're looking for "best SF/F
work on 2014" or something like that. Sorry. I'm not the guy who makes
those lists, unfortunately. I'm the guy who reads those lists to
figure out what to read next. As well as the "anticipated books of
2015" lists. Of course, I already know of two that I've been
anticipating for some time now.