Tuesday, January 20, 2015

2014 Book Experiment: The Results Are In!

Welp, the results from my very-creatively-named 2014 Book Experiment*, in which I only read books written by women for the entire year, are in.

I'll start by sharing the books I read:

  • The Heart Goes Last: Positron, Episode Four - Margaret Atwood
  • Allegiant - Veronica Roth
  • Excluded: Making Feminist and Queer Movements More Inclusive: Julia Serrano
  • Paris Was a Woman: Portraits From the Left Bank - Andrea Weiss
  • Kushiel's Dart - Jacqueline Carey
  • Oryx and Crake - Margaret Atwood
  • Indexing - Seanan McGuire
  • You Feel So Mortal: Essays on the Body - Peggy Shinner
  • Bloodchild: And Other Stories - Octavia Butler
  • Feast of Souls: Book One - CS Friedman
  • Santa Olivia - Jacqueline Carey
  • The Kingdom of Gods - NK Jemisin
  • The Year of the Flood: A Novel - Margaret Atwood
  • Kushiel's Chosen - Jacqueline Carey
  • Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail - Cheryl Strayed
  • Spin State -  Chris Moriarty
  • The Blue Place - Nicola Griffith
  • Women, Culture, & Politics - Angela Davis
  • How to Suppress Women's Writing - Joanna Russ
  • Ash - Malinda Lo
  • Ammonite - Nicola Griffith
  • Brown Girl in the Ring - Nalo Hopkinson
  • MaddAddam: A Novel - Margaret Atwood
  • The Paying Guests - Sarah Waters
  • Becoming Odyssa: Adventures on the Appalachian Trail - Jennifer Pharr Davis
  • Unbroken - Laura Hillenbrand
1) I didn't feel that something was "lacking" from my reading experience.  Although, frankly my dears, I also didn't expect to find anything lacking in my reading experience when I set out on the Experiment.

2) I have re-learned that in addition to fantasy and science fiction, I also greatly enjoy both adventure books and (not sure how I feel about this term, so scare quote) "hard" science fiction books - especially when women are the subjects.  The latter two genres in particular are often coded as "male" genres, particularly when men are the subjects - but I wonder how that would change if women were more consistently portrayed as major characters with cool roles within adventure writing and "hard" science fiction. Chris Moriarty's Spin State series was the most thought-provoking book of the bunch, for me.

3) I'm a big fan of Margaret Atwood, obvs.  But, one of my favorite aspects of this Experiment was sharing updates here on the blog and, in turn, receiving great book recommendations from those of you who made them.  Jacqueline Carey, Nalo Hopkinson, and Nicola Griffith were all authors new to me and I will be reading more of their work in the future!  Thanks to all for participating!

4) I skewed heavily in science fiction and fantasy in 2014, particularly trilogies and sequels. Carey's Kushiel books are massive, so I wasn't able to get through as many books as I thought I would. No regrets though. The only series I've given up on is Friedman's Magister series - it just isn't working for me, for reasons I wrote about here.  

Relatedly, I was unsure how I would respond to Davis' Becoming Odyssa - as some of the reviews I had read of it noted annoyance at the author injecting her Christian beliefs into her account of hiking the Appalachian Trail.  I don't share the author's beliefs and couldn't relate to them - but I could relate to some of her experiences and the feeling of being called to nature without having a necessarily fleshed out articulation as to why. So, I didn't find her injection of her religion to be a detraction from the overall story (she also recounts going skinny dipping with a lesbian at one point, so!).  At the same time, Cheryl Strayed's account of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail was more raw and, to me, relatable, however. 
5) Queer fiction or fiction with queer characters- I really have missed reading it.  Griffith, Lo, Moriarty, Carey, and Waters reminded me that I want to read more of it. Suggestions?

5) Looking forward, I hope to continue writing occasional "what's everyone reading" posts, in hopes that people will continue sharing the great recommendations with one another. I'm currently reading Carey's Kushiel's Avatar.  I also have Dangerous Women, the anthology edited by George RR Martin and Gardner Dozois, in my queue so I suppose I'll likely read that at some point this year.

*The idea for this Experiment was borrowed from a post by Lilit Marcus - you can read what she has to say about her experience here.

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