2015 Reading Challenge Roundup

For historical purposes you can find the 2013 Reading Challenge Roundup here and 2014 Reading Challenge Roundup over here. Screen Shot 2015-12-29 at 3.06.54 PM

2015 is easily a high-water mark for me in terms of books read, and I was consuming titles left and right with nary a break in between. As with last year, I set my Goodreads Reading Challenge goal to 50 books and hit that mark near the end of June. If you want a really quick overview of my 2015, you can check out My Year In Books over at Goodreads. However, I have a few discrepancies with Goodreads bookkeeping for My Year In Books - IT was an audiobook and I take exception with its page-count being levied toward my longest book. Rather, I've taken data from my Goodreads Stats for 2015 to compile the below, which I believe is more accurate (although I suspect there are page count tallies missing from a number of titles).

The Stats

  • Number of books read: 117
  • Number of pages read: 23, 574
  • Longest book read: Apex by Ramez Naam (608 pages)
  • Shortest book read: The Naughty List by Edward Lorn (10 pages)
  • Audiobooks listened to: 11

The Ratings

  • 5-star reads: 39 books
  • 4-star reads: 56 books
  • 3-star reads: 13 books
  • 2-star reads: 9 books
  • 1-star reads: 0 books

The Trends

2015 saw a lot of books read, and a handful of titles listened to. This accounts for the 100+ books consumed this year. Although there was a significant increase in books read over 2014's 86 books, there were actually less pages read. I can think of two reasons for this. First, I started listening to audiobooks, which, obviously, don't have pages but rather hours. I may have to calculate listening time next year, but will pass on doing the legwork this time around. Second, I read a large number of shorter novels and novellas, most of them from DarkFuse.

As usual, horror was my go-to genre for the year. In previous years, I parsed out the details a bit more, crunching the numbers to figure out how many titles came from what genres. I'm not doing that this year, simply because so many titles were cross-genre affairs. This makes breaking down genre details a bit difficult, as books like the now-defunct Apocalypse Weird series straddle the horror and science-fiction border, as does Nicholas Sansbury Smith's Extinction Cycle series.

Things like non-fiction are easier to classify, if not just as broad, but sadly I only made time for two such titles this years (something I need to correct in 2016, a lament I seem to make every year...).  There were only a handful of mystery/thriller titles, but even some of those broached into horror. If we're looking at pure mystery/thriller stuff, I read only a couple of those.

Science-fiction was a fairly big draw for me this year, though, and was my second most widely read genre of 2015. One of these titles, Ramez Naam's Apex was this year's longest book, and a number of the authors I read in this field were new to me. The big standout was Linda Nagata's The Red trilogy. I managed to listen to the first two in audiobook format and was blown away. In short, I absolutely loved that series thus far and will be giving the third book a listen in 2016.

Speaking of audiobooks, I finally hopped on the earbud bandwagon in the back-half of 2015! I'll discuss this in more depth below, but it didn't take me too long to become a big fan of Audible. While I only listened to 11 audiobooks this year, I fully expect this number to increase in 2016.

In terms of authors, this past year introduced me to a number of writers I had not read previously. After having previously vowed to read Clive Barker's works, I finally listened to The Hellbound Heart. Myke Cole had been on my to-read list as well, and I was really enraptured with his Gemini Cell book earlier this year. I also read Margaret Atwood for the first time this year, along with Nick Cole, Michael Bunker, and a number of indies like Christopher Pourteau, Jennifer Ellis, E.E. Giorgi, David Bruns, and several more.

Keith Deininger was my most-read author of 2015 with five titles, three of which came from his new self-published The Godgame series, while the other two (The Hallow and Within) were DarkFuse releases. Within even made it on my Top 10 list! Chuck Wendig came in second, but it was a close call and given how prolific the man is it's not much of a surprise to see his name here. I read four titles by him (Atlanta Burns, Star Wars: Aftermath, The Harvest, and Zer0es), and bought a fifth book, The Hellsblood Bride, that I wasn't able to squeeze in before year's end. Ania Ahlborn also had a very productive year with three new releases. Craig Saunders, Daniel Arthur Smith, Hunter Shea, Linda Nagata, Nicholas Sansbury Smith, Tim Curran, and William Meikle were also widely read with three books each.

Since buying a Kindle in the tail-end of 2013, ebooks have been my go-to staple for reading material, and with audiobooks now pinging very loudly on my radar, 2015 was very much a year for digital books. I honestly don't see this changing too much in 2016, but one can never tell. And although I consumed only digital materials this year, that didn't stop me from buying physical books after having bought zero dead tree stories in 2014.

New in 2015

Print Returns

One big change from last year is my return to obtaining physical books, albeit in very select, very limited fashion. I was kind of proud of not buying any print books at all in 2014, but there were a few enticing items to cross my radar this year, particularly as I look ahead to redoing my home office and getting some respectable book shelving set up (a project that may actually still be a few years off from happening...). I wanted a few good display pieces. So, although my actual reading was done entirely via Kindle, I snagged a few dead trees editions mostly through giveaways and the rare purchase. The biggest of these buys was IDW's deluxe signed edition of Joe Hill's NOS4A2/Wraith, which I ordered through Dark Regions Press and is expected to ship in Jan/Feb 2016. I loved NOS4A2 when I read it upon its release in 2013, and in keeping an eye toward display potential this one was too cool to pass up.

NOS4A2_Wraith_Slipcase_with_Book2I also sprung for the UK edition of Clive Barker's latest release, The Scarlet Gospels, just because that cover art is freaking amazing! This one will definitely get some front-facing treatment in the future.

scarlet-gospels-uk-cover1Also purchased was Jeff VanderMeer's Area X: The Southern Reach Trilogy collected into a single hardcover volume. I also picked up the recent Stephen King hardcover releases, Joyland (Illustrated Edition), Mr. Mercedes, Finders Keepers, Revival, and The Bazaar of Bad Dreams. I was a member of the Stephen King Library way back when and built up a solid collection of hardcover titles (possibly all of his hardcover releases, but I'd need to double check...), and it seemed like a shame to not have his recent output after having so many decades worth of his work. I'd guess that from this point forward, he'll be one of the few authors that I will routinely buy in print rather than digital (or both simply to have the Kindle copy for reading, and the hardcover version for the physical library).

I also bought the latest Mitch Rapp novel, The Survivor, penned by Kyle Mills, who takes over for Vince Flynn in the wake of Flynn's death in 2013. Honestly, the only reason I bought this one in hardcover was because the pricing was virtually - and stupidly - identical between the Kindle copy and the hardcover edition at the time of its release. I guess the Big Publishers haven't learned much in the wake of being hit by an antitrust suit, whereas I've learned not to pay exorbitant amounts for an ebook and to wait for a good sale instead. But, I digress. Speaking of a good sale, though, I was able to snag a copy of Dennis Lehane's latest, A World Gone By, along with George Pelecanos' The Tunraround, both in hardcover, from my local library for a whopping total of three dollars.

On the giveaway's front, I was able to get a signed copy of Nick Cole's Soda Pop Soldier, a copy of Aniah Ahlborn's Brother, and Tim Lebbon's The Silence, all in paperback. I also won an advanced copy of The Gods of H.P. Lovecraft anthology, which has a nice silky smooth matte finish. On the hardcover front, I won copies of R.S. Belcher's Nightwise and Simon Toyne's The Searcher. And as a member of the DarkFuse Book Club, I was rewarded with two hardcovers, William Meikle's The Exiled, and Lee Thompson's A Beautiful Madness.

So, not too shabby all in all, I don't think.

Audiobooks

While buying books certainly was not new to me by any means, listening to audiobooks certainly was!

For many years, perhaps foolishly or perhaps stubbornly, I considered myself a bit of a purist and a book snob. I shunned ebooks for quite a while, before being won over by their more practical aspects and portability, and have even grown to prefer digital over physical. I eschewed audio because the whole point of reading a book was to read a book, not listen to it. When I read, I can give voice to the characters in my own head instead of being trapped by a narrator's voice and style. Also, I never particularly liked being read to, which is likely the fault of too many boring English instructors that riddled my public education.

Audiobooks won my favor this year, though, primarily thanks to word of mouth from a few friends. Writer bud Lucas Bale began chatting up audiobooks to me, as he was listening to a few during his daily walks while immersing himself in his own audiobook production of The Heretic. A few others recommended me a few audiobooks, but the news that really sealed the deal was the then-forthcoming release of Audible's production of Joe Hill's graphic novel series, Locke & Key. Being a big fan of Hill and his father, Stephen King, along with a few recommendations in my pocket, I decided to give Audible a shot and got the narrated edition of IT. And jumping Jupiter, that is one glorious audiobook production. Actor Steven Weber freaking knocks it out of the park, turning King's book into a 44 hour long one-man show. The dude fucking performs on this one, big time. Simply put, it's an amazing listen.

I'll note here that this is also the second time in my life that Stephen King has really turned me around. After too many stuffy English lit courses nearly killed my love of books, IT saved me and showed me wonder. After doubting the power of narrated books, IT  and Steven Weber proved me wrong. So very, very wrong. I was riveted by Weber's performance for weeks, listening as this story that I adored became something even more special. I was officially a believer in audiobooks and have listened to a number since then, including Locke & Key, which was freaking fantastic and stocked to the brim with 50-plus voice actors.

It's safe to say I am now fully on the audiobook bandwagon.

On to 2016!

Will 2016 be the year I finally read The Martian (hey, at least I managed to see the movie! [which was excellent, by the way]), or The Expanse series now that it's a TV show (which I haven't seen any of yet)? Who knows. I've blithely, and wrongly, predicted the titles that were sure to capture my time in the coming new year and it's getting a bit ridiculous to be so wrong. Yes, these are all on my Kindle, and no, I have no idea when I'll get to them. As I do every year, I'll at least try to approach them, but it all depends on my moods and interests.

One thing that I do need to make a concerted effort toward is reading more non-fiction. That's one of my big goals for 2016 (I'll discuss a few more in another blog post soon), and I have plenty of non-fiction titles to pick from, including a few review copies from NetGalley.

The plan is to not make any real plans for 2016. I'll focus on getting through my NetGalley review queue, try and make a dent in my TBR pile, and focus on reading what I want when I want. And the first book up will be The Survivor (A Mitch Rapp Novel) by Kyle Mills!

The Survivor

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Michael Hicks

Michael Patrick Hicks is the author of the science fiction novels Convergence, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist, and Emergence. His work has appeared in several anthologies, and he has written for the websites Graphic Novel Reporter and Audiobook Reviewer. In between compulsively buying books and adding titles that he does not have time for to his Netflix queue, he is hard at work on his next story.


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