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The Year in Reading

So this time around, I set goals at the beginning of the year. I wanted to be more picky about what I read–read more good stuff, not just what I feel obligated to. Less long books, less mediocre books, more newer books, more “try before you buy”, and learning when to walk away. So how did I do? 

Favorites

Of course you’re going to see John Scalzi and John Green on this list, so let’s get The Collapsing Empire and Turtles All the Way Down out of the way off the bat. We can add Eliza and Her Monsters in that list because it seems to be cut from the same cloth.

Except for Scalzi, no science fiction books flipped my cookie this year. But for fantasy, I discovered Ella Enchanted and The Shamer’s Daughter. They weren’t super-fantastic life-changing “now I know what it’s all for”, but it’s always nice to find high fantasy “swords and sorcery” that’s not imitating J.R.R. Tolkien or full of jargon or needs the twelve other books to be read first.

Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal was by far the funniest book I read, and maybe the most meaningful. If you’re going to make me understand Christ and Christian mythology, you’re going to have to put that dog medicine in some peanut butter. And Lamb is both chunky and creamy. … this got weird.

Buffering: Unshared Tales of a Life Fully Loaded by Hannah Hart gave me the same good memoir feelings that Lindsey Stirling and Felicia Day gave me. And she’s had a rougher life (although I’m not trying to rank anyone’s pain). I’m amazed she writes with the same panache and positivity in her videos. 

The Hatorade 

These are the books at which I whip my hair back and forth. (“No, sir, I do not whip my hair back and forth at you, sir, but I whip my hair, sir.”) I looked through my list and noted the ones that gave me a pit in my stomach.

I was not a fan of Scrappy Little Nobody. Anna Kendrick promoted the shit out of it on Twitter, and while we all love this pixie-like sass-master, there just wasn’t anything inside to care about. I still resent her for pushing out a book when nothing’s happened in her life. It’s not an age thing: Hannah Hart and Lindsey Stirling put out memoirs of way more substance and gravity. Lesson: don’t write a life story if your life isn’t that interesting.

Wizard’s Bane was just badly written. Good concept, poorly executed, probably written by a neckbeard raffling off some wish fulfillment. Kingdom Keepers was the same way–the literary version of those Disney direct-to-video sequels. It felt like some putz churned out 80,000 words of garbage so it could connect with a bunch of Disney Parks merchandising.

The rest were female-oriented YA–like All the Bright Places, 13 Treasures, This is Where It Ends, and The Selection. Their biggest flaws were the teenage cliches and bad takes on “issues”, capitalizing on keywords for the back cover copy. Hot take junk like suicide, gothic mansions, and “how do I know if I’m in love?” 

Other

I think Geek Love was the longest book I finished in 2017, but I read most of it in 2016. The same thing happened to The Elven. Technically I finished it in 2018, but it was January 3rd. Officially I can’t count it as a 2017 book, but I read 97% of it in that year, and it took about 18-19 hours. Since I had to stare at it on my “currently reading” widget for three months, I think of it as a 2017 book. Fata Morgana was pretty long too.

This year I left twelve books in the dust. I consider that an accomplishment. I’m a bit of a completionist and have a bad habit of finishing things I start, even if they’re not good or it’s not fun. That’s a habit I need to break. I need to bring joy back into my life, both in reading and writing. And if it’s a drudge, then why am I doing it?

And of all the books I left unfinished, I don’t regret a single one. I’ve got plenty of stuff on my to-read, I’m not going to waste my time on books that don’t deliver on their promise. 

Conclusion

This year I want to read shorter books. I need to be more discerning about the length of things I read. I hate saying that about books–because something’s long doesn’t make it bad. But I want to read more books this year–different and varied authors. And that’s hard to do when you’re stuck in one book for three weeks. I need to learn how to tell good stories quickly and sharply. I think that’s the way the industry is going, giving shrinking attention spans.

I completed 36 books in 2017. This year, I set a reading goal, my first one, for 40. Quite doable, I’ve done it before, but my “totals” are declining each year. Can’t keep letting that happen.

All the 2017 Reviews
January – February
March – April
May – June
July – August
September – October
November – December

Eric Juneau is a software engineer and novelist on his lunch breaks. In 2016, his first novel, Merm-8, was published by eTreasures. He lives in, was born in, and refuses to leave, Minnesota. You can find him talking about movies, video games, and Disney princesses at http://www.ericjuneaubooks.com where he details his journey to become a capital A Author.

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