Reading 200 Books in 2019

At the end of 2018 I set a goal for myself of reading all of the books on the Top 100 Fantasy and Top 100 Science Fiction book lists. It was ambitious, and I will not succeed by the end of 2019. I am closing the year at 75 fantasy and 75 sci fi books from the lists.

I just couldn’t not read other books! I read all of McCaffrey’s PERN books, Carey’s Kushiel trilogy, Cherryh’s Cyteen trilogy, Robinson’s StarDance trilogy, McDonald’s Fletch and Flynn series’, Hart’s Death on Demand series, Bishop’s Black Jewels series, May’s Pliocene and Galactic Milieu series’, MacLeod’s ‘Boston’ and Madoc & Janet Rhys series, innumerable cookbooks, travel guides, gardening books, and alternative spirituality books. With the books from these lists (not counting the ones I’d already read, of course) I’ve easily read 300 books over the course of the year. (Yes, I am a fast reader.)

Here is what I read, with a short note about what I thought, presented by genre and alpha by author.

Fantasy:

Watership Down Adams, Richard Anthropomorphized rabbits flee the destruction of their home to seek safety. Just thinking about the tale brings tears to my eyes. Have tissues handy.
Goblin Emperor Addison, Elizabeth This is a treasure and I’ve been telling everyone to read it. Achingly real and utterly fantastic, I fell in love with our protagonist and his plunge into a place he never thought he’d end up. The best book I’ve read yet.
The Book of Three Alexander, Lloyd The first book of the series which will enchant and enthrall you. Another one still on my shelves and in rotation.
The Bear and the Nightingale Arden, Katherine GLORIOUS. Rich and wonderful. Utterly avoids many terrible tropes regarding women and their role in ‘medieval’ times. Looking forward to reading more by this author!
The Last Unicorn Beagle, Peter S. Barely a fantasy novel, lacking backstory or much context, TLU is more about the tension between magic and reality and doing what needs to be done, no matter the cost.
The Mists of Avalon Bradley, M.Z. Many came to alternative spirituality because of the beauty and profundity of this tale . . . The author’s problematic (to put it politely) lifestyle prevents me from recommending her writing ever again.
Book of Jhereg Brust, Steven If you don’t know Brust and his protagonist Vlad, you must.
War for the Oaks Bull, Emma Captivating, delightful, surprising and absolutely one of the best books I’ve read all year.
Storm Front Butcher, Jim Imagine if Gandalf got dropped into a Marlowe novel — its not your typical fantasy novel.
Kindred Butler, Octavia E. One of the most unusual time travel stories I’ve ever encountered. Perhaps better for the SciFi list than fantasy, but in any case — HIGHLY recommended.
Kushiel’s Dart Carey, Jacqueline Lush world-building in a country populated by the descendants of angels and blush-inducing sex scenes make for a heady combination.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass Carroll, Lewis Weird. Wonderful. An absolute classic.
The Tree of Swords and Jewels Cherryh, CJ A classic tale done in a new way. Well worth reading. That said, I like other works by Ms. Cherryh.
Sorcerer to the Crown Cho, Zen Complicated racial dynamics are well-illustrated within this perfect novel. Extremely well-thought out and complex.
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell Clarke, Susanna I just could not get through this novel. I found the writing tortured and the plot unnerving.
The Black Company Cook, Glen Ugh. I really hated this book. Grown men giggling and committing atrocious acts of mayhem. If this is the best of grimdark fantasy then that’s a sub-genre I never want to explore again.
The Devourers Das, Indra Interesting premise in a world one does not usually see. I didn’t love it, but I see why it was chosen.
The Traitor Baru Cormorant Dickinson, Seth An excellently-written geopolitical tale of arrogance and deception.
Lord Foul’s Bane Donaldson, Stephen R. A problematic, whiny ‘protagonist’ caught up in his self-centered righteousness makes this a difficult read. Nonetheless, it’s a classic for a reason.
Half Magic Eager, Edward Charming YA story about choices and consequences.
The Belgariad Eddings, David A classic fantasy coming of age. First read in my late teens, this series in still in my library.
Magician: Apprentice Feist, Raymond E. A coming of age tale and the first in the RiftWar saga; this series is beloved for a reason. (Note: I prefer Feist’s Daughter of Empire trilogy.)
Outlander Gabaldon, Diana Nope. This was my 2rd attempt and I just don’t get it. It’s a romance in a fantasy framework and both genres suffer.
American Gods Gaiman, Neil Strange and thought-provoking.
Herland Gilman, Charlotte Perkins Wonderful premise, fascinating story. And incredible how relevant it still is after decades. (Perhaps depressing as well.)
The Princess Bride Goldman, William True Love. RoUS. Cliffs of Insanity. Playing games of death with a Sicilian. Better as a movie, but still an awesome novel.
The Magicians Grossman, Lev AWFUL. The fundamental problem is the utter lack of character growth. Wonderful things happens to Q, but he remains a  whiny, entitled, depressed child.
The Library at Mount Char Hawkins, Scott Like Jemsin’s Broken Earth books, this is a marvelously crafted world that I didn’t like, but think most everyone else I know will love.
Assassin’s Apprentice Hobb, Robin First of a series; 1 and 2 are good and then it goes off the rails and not in a good way.
Mythago Wood Holdstock, Robert Interesting premise, and I wish I liked it more than I did.
Bloody Crown of Conan Howard, Robert E. How can I describe a book so original it transcends classic? The writing is turgid, the characters nearly one-dimensional, but it’s still great.
Redwall Jacques, Brian A classic tale of courage and faith in hard times. Absolutely right to be on this list.
Fifth Season Jemisin, N.K. I’m alone in my social circle for not liking this book, but I agree that it is worthy of inclusion in the top 100.
The Queen of the Tearling Johansen, Erika Gorgeous, fantastic, brilliant. Well-rounded and interesting characters within a fascinating future Earth. Another one of the best books I’ve read all year.
Eye of the World Jordan, Robert The first in a (literally) epic span of books, this is a coming of age tale that touches on power, manipulation, finding oneself, and saving the world.
Tigana Kay, Guy Gavriel Nope. This was my 3rd attempt and I just don’t get what all the love is about.
Swordspoint Kushner, Ellen A ‘cult classic’ filled with remarkable plot twists and unexpected humor. Elegant writing and scintillating wit are bonuses.
Magic’s Pawn Lackey, Mercedes If you don’t know Lackey and her Valdemar then RUN to get this and start an adventure of a lifetime. These and their successors are on my regular reading pile.
Prince of Thorns Lawrence, Mark Amazing. Unlike the last ‘war’ book I read, PoT grabbed me immediately and I was hooked. (Sorry-not sorry.) This is one of the best books I’ve read all year.
A Wizard of Earthsea Le Guin, Ursula A classic of so-called children’s literature, this is a coming of age novel that will delight adults and deserves re-reading regularly.
Jade City Lee, Fonda Complicated politics and it felt a lot more like Sci Fi than Fantasy . . . But I didn’t love it.
Night’s Master Lee, Tanith Convoluted and absolutely ‘high fantasy.’ This is a complicated book with a number of extremely difficult scenes. Utterly macabre.
The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe Lewis, C.S. Our introduction to Narnia, and still the best story from the series. Adults may not see beyond the religious allegory, but children see only Aslan.
The Grace of Kings Liu, Ken Interesting culture and a new magick system made this book a better read than I expected. That said, the best part was a bit of a gimmick.
Redemption in Indigo Lord, Karen I wanted to like this story more than I did. I found the re-telling of Sengalese folktales wonderful.
The Lies of Locke Lamora Lynch, Scott A vividly realized world with richly imagined characters, this is a must read from the modern era, destined to become a classic for all time.
Wildwood Dancing Marillier, Juliet This is one of the best books I’ve read in a very long time. Transylvanian folklore is the basis for this perfect tale of finding oneself in unlikely places.
100 Years of Solitude Marquez, Gabriel Garcia I am intrigued that this is a ‘fantasy’ book. In any case, it’s great. “The story of the rise and fall, birth and death of the mythical town of Macondo through the history of the Buendia family. Inventive, amusing, magnetic, sad, and alive with unforgettable men and women.”
Game of Thrones Martin, George R.R. The first in the series and the best, to my mind. Frankly I loathed every book after the 2nd one, and I don’t care how wonderful the dragons are.
Dragonflight McCaffrey, Anne A classic for a reason (and on the list with Sci Fi to boot!); ingenious and wonderful.
Rosemary and Rue McGuire, Seanan First in a series and it feels like a ‘first novel.’ Set in San Francisco, which is fun, and I enjoyed the world created. Looking forward to reading the rest of the books eventually.
Riddle-Master McKillip, Patricia Woven from Celtic mythologies and full of glorious world-building this book (and its sequels) are superb.
The Blue Sword McKinley, Robin Clearly a Young Adult novel, and, IMHO, not the author’s best work. I found the protagonist strident and unapproachable.
Deed of Paksenarrion Moon, Elizabeth Superb characterization and world-building.
Elric: Stealer of Souls Moorcock, Michael A doomed anti-hero with a conscience, witness to the downfall of his culture, carrying a cursed sword. Glorious.
The Night Circus Morgenstern, Erin A luscious and fantastic world with a compelling plot. I am one of the few (it seems) who didn’t love it.
His Majesty’s Dragon Novik, Naomi I read through this book in just a few hours and loved the dragon and all of the people. But I intensely disliked the setting.
Akata Witch Okorafor, Nnedi Wonderful! A completely new magic system and a look into a  life so utterly different from how most of us live.
Lagoon Okorafor, Nnedi A first contact story of diversity and originality; but I was too often jarred by who was seeing/ doing what too many times.
The Rook O’Malley, Daniel Outstanding. Another one of the best books I’ve read all year, especially for it’s dry humor and unusual characterization.
Color of Magic Pratchett, Terry Not Pratchett’s best, so find another; that said Pratchett needs to be on this list.
Golden Compass Pullman, Phillip AWFUL. This book/trilogy is dark and horrid and I can’t stand what the author puts his characters through.
Interview with the Vampire Rice, Anne Once there was only Dracula, then Rice came along and blew our minds with an elegant and amoral character who captured our dark fantasies and brought them into the light.
The Name of the Wind Rothfuss, Patrick The first of a trilogy and a superb world-building event. Fall into the story and emerge waiting breathlessly for the end.
Harry Potter & the Sorceror’s Stone Rowling, J.K. The first in what has become a ‘must’ read for children of all ages.
A Stranger in Olondria Samatar, Sofia A deep immersion into a very different reality. I found the early scenes of child abuse overly horrific, even when making a point.
Crystal Cave Stewart, Mary One of my favorite Arthurian books ever.
Fellowship of the Ring Tolkien, J.R.R. A classic for a reason. FotR launched a genre that grows and evolves gloriously.
The Hobbit Tolkien, J.R.R. Before The Fellowship there was simply a hobbit and an adventure. Still my favorite Tolkien.
The Golem and the Jinni Wecker, Helen Quirky and delightful. That period of time is ripe for magical realism stories and this one fits right in.
Dragons of Autumn Twilight Weis & Hickman I’d forgotten I’d read these back in my youth . . . And they’ve held up so very well.
The Cloud Roads Wells, Martha A shapeshifter lives a lonely life and I found the story dreary and character motivations unclear.
The Broken Crown West, Michelle Perhaps this is a great book, even a great series, but being plucked down in the middle of a story arc full of complicated characters with no backstory made this utterly incomprehensible. I gave up after 15%.
The Once and Future King White, T.H, A childhood favorite. An exploration of totalitarianism and human nature when it comes to power and justice, all within the Arthurian mythos.
The Black Tides of Heaven Yang, JY Unexpectedly modern in many ways, particularly in its relationships. Suffers mostly from being very much the FIRST in a series, but without enough world-building. I was glad to have read it, but not interested in going further in the series.

Science Fiction:

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Adams, Douglas Goofy, funny, and full of valuable advice.
All the Birds in the Sky Anders, Charlie Jane I simply do not understand why this book was lauded and awarded as much as it was. Truly awful adults torment teenagers; the reality of how their schoolmates treated them made this a book that needs trigger warnings for anyone who felt like an outcast as a teen.
Foundation Asimov, Isaac A classic that holds up, decade after decade. I prefer Asimov’s ‘Robots’ series, but the Foundation arc is consistently fascinating.
The Handmaid’s Tale Atwood, Margaret Disturbing and prescient and a must-read that I intensely disliked — because it was a world I never wanted to see. The irony is traumatizing.
Oryx & Crake Atwood, Margaret Gorgeously developed world and hypnotically excellent writing, as always.
Ship Breaker Bacigalupi, Paolo Amazing story with one of the best character developments I’ve read in a long time. Loved it.
The Windup Girl Bacigalupi, Paolo Deeply disappointing given how much I liked Ship Breaker. Over-contrived world-building forced into the first paragraphs left me confused and uninterested.
Dust Bear, Elizabeth One of the best fantasy-on-Scifi template stories I have ever read. Convoluted politics, genetics, religion, and beauty all wrapped into a perfect novel. Technically the first of a series, its fine on its own.
Darwin’s Radio Bear, Greg I could not get through this book. Great premise: our ‘non-sense’ genes are activated and a new species evolves within years rather than generations. I just couldn’t get interested.
Fahrenheit 451 Bradbury, Ray It’s a classic for a reason. I didn’t remember until I started, but I did read this waaaaay back in high school. It was as profound now as then. If you haven’t read it.
The Martian Chronicles Bradbury, Ray I’d forgotten that I’d read these back in my teen years — and they are just as wonderful on a re-read. Problematic in some ways, but not nearly as bad as, say, Heinlein.
Shards of Honor Bujold, Lois Mcmaster Although initially dismayed by the obvious romance about to happen between the two leads, I was nonetheless captured by their individual and complementary strengths. A particularly well-done update of a story as old as Shakespeare.
A Clockwork Orange Burgess, Anthony Disturbing in many ways and on many levels.
Dawn Butler, Octavia E. Let me start by saying that I found the imagery of the other beings and the plotline so disturbing that I chose to ‘cleanse my palate’ by reading Anne Rice. All kudos to Butler for writing such a thoughtful and interesting story about race, origins, survival, and choice.
Ender’s Game Card, Orson Scott Perhaps because I read this as an adult, I found it horrifying and disturbing.
Downbelow Station Cherryh, C. J. I loved the Cyteen series which inhabits the same universe. This is a gigantic novel of independence and shifting alliances.
Arrival Chiang, Ted This short story is haunting, lyrical and very very weird. Like Bladerunner, the screenplay author took an interesting premise and made a much better movie.
The Hunger Games Collins, Suzanne Another world I never want to see; a book I really can’t recommend.
Jurassic Park Crichton, Michael A pulse-pounding story enfolds a cautionary tale about the limits of science, especially when there aren’t any.
Survival Czerneda, Julie Must survival require other’s extinction?  Well done, and interesting (although I like other books by the author more).
Dhalgren Delany, Samuel I can see why this novel is beloved, but it felt a great deal like reading Gravity’s Rainbow.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Dick, Philip Many of the elements of the movie are here, but this is not the movie. Why is it the screenplay writer isn’t celebrated as widely as Dick? This is a strange surreal novella that left an impression.
The Real Story Donaldson, Stephen R. No. No. No. The first in a series in which the archetypal roles of Hero, Villain, and Victim change roles. I think it was an excuse for the author to explore rape and abuse in a sci-fi context. I cannot recommend it on any level or for any person.
Neuromancer Gibson, William We are living in the times that Gibson envisioned, and if should terrify you.
Feed Grant, Mira A zombie apocalypse book, with knowledge of how zombies get made (nice touch),s et inside the ‘frame’ of a political campaign.
Ammonite Griffith, Nicola WOW. A tale of betrayal and loss within complicated politics and gendered realism. AMAZING.
The Forever War Haldeman, Joe Not what I expected. A tale of how modern warfare removes ones humanity. Frankly, others have done it better.
Pandora’s Star Hamilton, Peter The author was far too concerned with making his characters act like a-holes rather than let them develop and grow. Boring.
Stranger in a Strange Land Heinlein, Robert Heinlein’s female characters are problematic yet refreshing for the era in which they were written. That aside, it’s a rollicking good story.
Dune Herbet, Frank Many say just read this one, and it is the best of Herbert’s universe. I re-read it almost annually and find new details to savor each time.
Midnight Robber Hopkinson, Nalo Sadly, this was not a book for me. It reminded me of The Clockwork Orange in its impenetrable language.
Valor’s Choice Huff, Tanya Huff’s military background shines through in this fantastic story full of evolving characters and a kickass heroine.
Brave New World Huxley, Aldous This scathing criticism of capitalism holds up in many ways.
The Children of Men James, P.D. Dystopian to the max, I loathed the protagonist but found the story intriguing.
Fifth Season Jemisin, N.K. I wish I could love this novel as much as so many others have. Brilliantly well-written with a thoroughly envisioned world.
Illuminae Kaufman & Kristoff WONDERFUL. Some of the best dialogue I’ve read in a long time.
Flowers for Algernon Keyes, Daniel I see exactly why this is on a Top 100 list; the story is devastatingly still appropriate and sad.
The Stand King, Stephen King is a best-seller for a reason, and this  HUGE story is one reason. Terrible times reveal the truth buried inside each of us. Brilliant.
Probability Moon Kress, Nancy If you like physics, this is a great book for you as the plot sometimes feels like the device to introduce more science into your reading.
Six Wakes Lafftery, Mur Utterly surprising — a scifi version of a closed room mystery. Excellent!
The Dispossessed Le Guin, Ursula The story holds up after all of these years, even if it’s a bit subtle for new readers.
Ancillary Justice Leckie, Ann Fascinating premise, and I especially loved the beginning. Good world-building.
Exo Lee, Fonda Cool technology, but not great character development. I’m not quite sure why this novel was chosen.
Ninefox Gambit Lee, Yoon Ha Opens in the midst of a terrible war and I just could NOT get into the story. May be great, but not for me.
A Wrinkle in Time L’Engle, Madeleine Gorgeous, perfect, the ‘YA’ tale of the strength of the self against evil is timeless.
Shikasta Lessing, Doris Unreadable
Death’s End Liu, Cixin Should not be on this list because it is #3 of a series. Moreover, it’s a series of seemingly unrelated stories that are lovely, but take FOREVER to connect.
Legend Lu, Marie A tale of two teens, separated by class and status, but coming together in the midst of tragedy field by political machinations and betrayal.
Station Eleven Mandel, Emily St. john Opening with a major hook, this is a great novel that nonetheless lost me with its characters.
Dragonflight McCaffrey, Anne One of the few books that can be called both fantasy and sci fi accurately, it’s also a coming of age in a perfectly envisioned world we would recognize, and long for.
Cinder Meyer, Melissa Billed as a modern Cinderella tale, I did not like it much,
A Canticle for Leibowitz Miller, Walter Gorgeous writing and a terrifying future, this is the ‘grandfather’ of many a past and current authors’ musings. It has never been out of print for a reason.
Trading in Danger Moon, Elizabeth Moon’s work is excellent, always. This (first of a series) is no exception.
Watchmen Moore, Alan Set in an alternate universe in which superheroes exist, but are either outlawed or act as govt agents. Who watches the Watchmen? Moore’s excellence shines clearly.
Altered Carbon Morgan, Richard The story never gripped me, although I see why it makes for good TV.
Planetfall Newman, Emma A complicated story told in unfolding layers and encompassing themes of societal norms, love, madness, and god. Brilliant and disturbing with a dash of horrifying.
Ringworld Niven, Larry Another novel that does NOT hold up. The relationship with the woman is creepy beyond belief. I remember liking these when a teen, no longer. Besides, I think Varley did it better.
Binti Okorafor, Nnedi A charmingly simple premise is handled deftly in a new perspective of the world. Not enough world-building, and I found the author’s ability to ‘hand wave’ crucial events a bit annoying.
Infomocracy Older, Malka To dense for me. This was a novel that made me feel like I wasn’t smart enough to understand what was going on.
1984 Orwell, George It’s a classic for a reason, and all the more prescient in these times
Contact Sagan, Carl Supremely well done scifi world building here on Earth.
Redshirts Scalzi, John WAAAAAAY too ‘concept’ for my taste.
Everfair Shawl, Nisi I really truly wanted to like this steampunk re-imagining of the tragedy of the so-called colonization of the Congo. Sadly, the shifting perspectives muddied the narrative and kept me from *caring* about enough of the characters to make my way through the carnage. In the end, I found this to be another story about how awful humans are to one another.
Frankenstein Shelley, Mary Maybe the first sci fi novel of all time, the framing is a bit ponderous. The tale itself is heartbreaking.
Scythe Shusterman, Neal Brilliant premise and excellent character building — this is another one of the best books I’ve read all year.
Hyperion Simmons, Dan One of the best openings I have ever read. The ‘Canterbury Tales’ framework is effective. An amazing world and story.
Anathem Stephenson, Neal Love the writing, or hate it Stephenson’s books are intricate and well-plotted.
Roadside Picnic Strugatsky, Arkady & Boris A classic, but very slow going and at times impenetrable.
Amatka Tidbeck, Karin Very creepy. A simple premise that takes language into a new realm. Worth it for that (but you’ll need to give the fairly flat characters a pass)
Her Smoke Rose Up Forever Tiptree, James A pioneer in writing about gender and sexuality, this collection of stories is pessimistic, and gorgeous.
The War of the Worlds Wells, H.G. It’s a classic for a reason, but the prose is slow going and ponderous.
Otherland: City of Golden Shadow Williams, Tad Another book I just couldn’t get into, not only because its book 1 of 4 — so not right for this list.
The Chronoliths Wilson, Robert Charles I liked this far more than I expected (I’m not a fan of ‘end of days’ or post-apocalypse fiction.)
The Last Policeman Winters, Ben Why bother to solve a murder when the world is (literally) coming to an end? This is a well-written novel I recommend to others . . . But I didn’t love it.
How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe Yu, Charles Just couldn’t get into it because the protagonist is a major douchebag.

I’ll update with a final post when I’m done.

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