2022 Reading in Review

I finished reading 101 books in 2022, and depending on whether I manage to finish Chuck Wendig’s 700+ page Wayfarers in the next two days or so I might make it to 102, but beyond that seems highly unlikely. I’m currently planning on writing the top 10 list later today. Some statistics, because I’m a nerd and roll like that:

  • That’s going to end up just north of 43,000 pages, which is about 118 pages a day; the average book was around 425 pages. This was considerably off my pace from the last few years, which were all in the 130s; I blame reading longer books (I read a lot of epic fantasy doorstops this year) and the YouTube channel, which ate up some of my leisure reading and writing time.
  • Those 102 books were written by 81 different authors, 45 of which were new to me this year;
  • I read four books each by Adrian Tchaikovsky and Sarah J. Maas, three by Junji Ito and J.R.R. Tolkien (and I really should have gotten to the Silmarillion this year, and didn’t) and two each by Rin Chupeco, Nicholas Eames, John Gwynne, James Islington, Kara Jorgensen, Cassandra Khaw, Elizabeth Lim, Christopher Ruocchio, Anthony Ryan and Evan Winter.
  • While this was the first year in a while I wasn’t doing anything to track diversity in my authors, of the 81, 37 were women or nonbinary. At least 31 were people of color. That’s not bad, considering that I wasn’t tracking, but I’d prefer both of those numbers to be higher. 33 were white men.
  • The shortest book I read was Christopher Rowe’s novella These Prisoning Hills, at 112 pages, and the longest was Ken Liu’s Speaking Bones, at 1047 pages.

If you have any questions, obviously, feel free to ask. Here’s the entire list; the blank space at the top is John J. SanGiovanni’s Productive Math Struggle, which Goodreads doesn’t have a cover image for.

Some new music I liked in 2022

This isn’t a “best of” list and it’s not going to be in any particular order, except maybe for the first two, which probably are the best new albums I listened to this year. Most of these are 2022 releases, although they’re all from this year or last year and one of the 2021 releases is from someone you’ve never heard of so it doesn’t matter what year it came out anyway. Before I talk about those, though, I should point out that this was probably the year of Counting Crows. Pearl Jam is still my favorite band and have been for long enough that it’s probably reasonable to say that they always will be, but Adam Duritz spent the year feeding my soul and chances are if you randomly sampled what I was listening to at any given moment it was more likely to be the Crows than anything else. But they didn’t release anything new this year, so I don’t have a particular album to talk about.

Also, music reviews are essentially gibberish to me and I don’t understand them when I read them and I sure as hell can’t write them, so expect this to be several different minor variations on “This was good and you should check it out.” Y’all got Spotify and shit, it’s not like it’s going to cost you any money.

Also also, you’re going to notice a theme, and I swear it’s not something I did intentionally, either in the writing of this piece or the actual collection of the music.

At any rate, in no particular order, again, except the first two:

Delilah Bon, by Delilah Bon, a British radical lesbian feminist screamy guitarist whose music is punk rap, and I can’t stop listening to this Goddamned album. I think I caught a literal minute of a live concert on TikTok and immediately ran to spend money. This is her only full-length record at the moment although I hit up her website for the cover image and there’s something she’s calling a “horror EP” out too? I haven’t listened to that yet but this is some really amazing music and if you want something angry you can headbang to you won’t regret picking it up.

2022 was Lizzo’s year, right? I have Cuz I Love You, which wasn’t her debut but was definitely her breakthrough, and Special just … towers over it, in every way. There isn’t a single weak track on the album, and while they’re not all the dance-poppy stuff she’s become known for she’s at the point where she can basically do whatever she wants musically and it’s going to come off great. She claims in a spoken word outro at the end that she wrote over a hundred songs and these were the twelve that made the cut, and I don’t have trouble believing that. There’s just no damn filler at all. I almost don’t want her next album because after this I don’t see how it won’t be a letdown.

Look at Miley Cyrus’ white girl ass look at it.

This was the year where I transitioned; I fucking love Miley Cyrus’ music and I don’t care who knows it, and it took her deciding at the ripe old age of holy shit Miley Cyrus is 30 to decide that she wanted to be Janis Joplin when she grew up and I am one hundred percent here for it. She’s developed this raspy cigarette-smoke growl to her voice that I absolutely fucking love, and it turns out that she’s awesome live? She didn’t release an album of new music this year that I’m aware of but she did drop this one, along with a ton of cover songs from pretty much any 1970’s rock and roll artist you can name and it’s all fantastic. She’s at the point where she’s shed her skin so many times that she clearly feels free to do whatever she wants, and while we probably won’t get to keep Growly Rock Goddess Miley Cyrus forever, I’m here for as long as the ride lasts.

I would be an entirely different person– I can’t even tell you how, I just wouldn’t be me– if I hadn’t encountered KRS-One’s music in fifth grade. This guy, no shit and no exaggeration, probably had more influence on my life than anyone outside my actual family except maybe J.R.R. Tolkien, and he’s dead. He is still releasing music on a fairly prolific schedule, although he tends to work with smaller labels so I find myself missing stuff all the time. That said, I managed to cop the ridiculously named I M A M C R U 1 2 (“I am a MC, are you one too?”) right after release, and it’s one of his strongest efforts since the nineties. Which were long enough ago that I don’t want to think about how long ago they were. He’s had a string of mostly forgettable records for the last several years which I keep buying out of pure loyalty but this one reminded me of why I’m still doing it.

One of the problems with listening to nearly all of my music digitally nowadays (the rest is on the radio) is that it’s harder to appreciate cover art if all you get is a little .jpg of the cover; to wit, I didn’t realize the woman on the cover of Halsey’s If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power had a boob out until just now when I was looking for a copy of the cover at a decent resolution. Halsey snuck up on me; this thing happened where a couple of times a week I would realize I liked a song (or part of one) on the radio or something and I’d think I wonder who that is and either look the song up or ask my wife, and I noticed that Halsey’s name was coming up an awful lot in those types of questions. I like her music a hell of a lot but I bought three of her albums this year and I don’t think I can name more than one or two songs, because for whatever reason I don’t process her music or her voice that way. But you could pick any song from any of her albums and play it and ask me Hey, Luther, do you like this song? and I’d listen at it for a minute or two as if I’d never heard it before and then tell you yeah, that’s a great song, and probably ask you who it was.

I know that doesn’t sound like a recommendation, but I’m going to call myself a fan anyway.

We’ll call that a top (ish) five (limited to new stuff) and offer this series of .jpgs so that you can see what else I bought this year. Anything that shows up twice is because Apple Music is stupid and I haven’t been able to fix it.

2021 in music, sorta

I bought about an album a week this year, which is roughly on par with previous years, although this year my music purchases seem to have been focused on filling holes in my collection– I spent a lot of time listening to Outkast and REM and Black Crowes and Jane’s Addiction and Alice In Chains, and it turns out that I didn’t have everything they released. Prince had a new release and that got me to go back and pick up a few of his records that I didn’t have before. A lot of the new stuff (as in 2020-21 releases) was kind of experimental and a lot of it didn’t work out. But this article from Albumism, full of shiny new music mostly by artists I’ve never heard of, popped up on my radar today and that got me thinking about the new, or at least newer, music that I bought this year that made an impact, so I figured since I always write a ton of end-of-the-year pieces during the week between Christmas and New Year’s I may as well start with this. Other than one album I’m not going to be ranking anything, but here are six albums that I bought this year (mostly; we’ll get to the exception) and that I think are worth you checking out.

Mazbou Q, The Future Was. I actually encountered this guy through his TikTok feed, believe it or not, where he talks about the musical theory behind hiphop, and does so at great length and in incredible detail in a way that is incredibly interesting and illuminating, especially to someone like me who doesn’t have much technical knowledge about music and frequently struggles to talk about it in a way that is compelling. The guy’s smart as hell and his lyrics are complex and fascinating and I’m pretty sure I’m the only person I know who has heard of him, so let’s see if we can’t bring that number up a little bit.

Counting Crows, Butter Miracle Suite One. Technically an EP– this includes four new songs and four single edits of those four songs, but that didn’t stop me from keeping it on repeat for quite a while after it came on. Adam Duritz is one of my favorite singers, and while the Counting Crows aren’t nearly as big as they were in the nineties everything they release is directly up my alley.

Lil Nas X, Montero. A confession! I’m not actually that big of a fan of Old Town Road, the song that made sure that everybody on the Goddamned planet knew who Lil Nas X was, mostly because we all had our own guest spots on the remixes. That said, this album is fucking brilliant, and the fact that I still think it’s brilliant despite the fact that I can’t turn on the radio without hearing three songs from it is damned impressive. The guy’s got an incredible amount of talent, both as a musician and a visual artist (my jaw was hanging open for the entirety of my first couple of viewings of the music video for Call Me By My Name) and I hope he has a really, really long and prolific career.

Billie Eilish, Happier than Ever. This was probably my single most eagerly anticipated album of the year, as I was looking forward to Billie Eilish’s follow-up to When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? pretty much from the moment I first listened to it. I’m not sure this is quite the triumph that Asleep was (and I have utterly no idea at all what the relative sales were like) but it’s a damned impressive record. I also bought her brother Finneas’ debut, Optimist, and while I enjoyed it I think his skills are probably more on the production end of things. That sounds like an insult. It’s not. I had this whole metaphor here about playing tennis against LeBron James but I don’t think it quite makes sense so I’m just going to assume you know what I’m talking about and move on.

Taylor Fuckin’ Swift, Evermore. Yes okay technically this came out in December of 2020 but it’s close fucking enough, and I only bought this because I wanted to see if my enjoying Folklore was a fluke, and then I found out the reasons behind her re-releasing Fearless and Red and I ended up buying both of those on release date too, just out of, like, solidarity, and Jesus Christ have I turned into a fucking Swiftie?

Okay: Evermore and Folklore are both really good. I couldn’t tell you which one I like more because they tend to blur together in my head. And I found myself really enjoying Fearless’ re-release, but Red is kind of the perfect example of Why I’ve Never Really Liked Taylor Swift, because I wasn’t even remotely a fan of hers until this year and yet somehow I can tell you every dude she’s ever dated and that’s kinda fucked up. And I am absolutely on Team Conspiracy Theory about the ten-minute version of All Too Well, because no song written back when that was supposed to have been written would have had the words fuck the patriarchy in it. But fuck it; I’ve always been very clear that Taylor is phenomenally talented if for no other reason than that I have half of her catalog memorized without ever deliberately listening to the songs, and I like the idea that she’s re-releasing all of her old music so that she can screw over this asshole record executive dude, so I’m going to keep buying the re-releases even though I’m going to sigh a lot and roll my eyes while listening to some of the songs.

(I also, and this is related, bought Olivia Rodrigo’s debut Sour this year. I have nothing to say about it until Olivia Rodrigo is no longer a minor.)

(I have just discovered that Olivia Rodrigo is 18.)

(Someone needs to give this kid a hug and a therapist.)

Anyway.

Willow, lately I Feel EVERYTHING. I am not sure that Willow Smith really deserves to be a single-name person yet, but picking this album up was another one of those impulse, what-the-hell-it’s-$9 purchases this year, and I actually haven’t dug into her backlist but whatever the hell era of her music she’s in right now I want a lot more of it. lately I feel EVERYTHING is only 26 minutes long and all but one of the tracks don’t even make it to three minutes, which makes it even more ridiculous that I love it as much as I do. I said I wasn’t going to be doing any ranking, but this is still hands-down and far away the best new music I bought this year; the only thing close to it would have been Montero, which is also full of short-ass songs. If like me you’re an old person and you haven’t given Willow Smith a single thought since back in her Whip My Hair days, you owe it to yourself to check this out, especially if you’re an old 90s head like me. Her music weirdly blends together everything I love about rock and roll, alternative music and hiphop, and it’s just great.

In which I provide examples

I had the distinct displeasure of encountering this ignorant piece of pigshit earlier today:

If you find naming five women you admire a “challenge,” you need to not only have the fucking sense to not say that on the internet where God and fuckin’ everybody can see it, you need to re-evaluate literally every single aspect of your life, because, and I cannot emphasize this enough, you done fucked up. You done fucked up and you are fucked up, and fuck you double for putting this ignant shit where I’m gonna find it during a week where I’ve got enough bullshit weighing me down already without your dumb ass.

You can’t come up with five women you admire? Here, motherfucker, have a list of a hundred women I admire, drawn almost entirely from living women (a few forced their way onto the list anyway; you’ll know them when you see them) and exclusively from women you should have heard of. It took me maybe fifteen minutes. If I included people I know who aren’t famous, I could easily fucking double this. If I took a few hours to do it and think about it carefully rather than creating it quickly, I could triple it.

Stupid fucking bastard. I hate men.

One hundred women I, Luther M. Siler, personally admire, sorted by first name. If you don’t know who they are, look them the fuck up.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Alfre Woodard
Alicia Keys
Alyssa Milano
Amanda Marcotte
Angela Bassett
Angela Davis
Anita Sarkeesian
April Daniels
Aretha Franklin
Ava DuVernay
Ayanna Pressley
bell hooks
Betty White
Beyoncé
Bonnie Raitt
Bree Newsome
Brooke Bolander
Cardi B
Carrie Fisher
Charlize Theron
Cherie Priest
Chloë Grace Moretz
Chrissy Teigen
Christa McAuliffe
Cicely Tyson
Claudette Colvin
Claudia Gray
Daisy Ridley
Danai Gurira
Elena Kagan
Elizabeth Warren
Emma Gonzalez
Emma Watson
Erykah Badu
Eve Ewing
G. Willow Wilson
Gail Simone
Hannah Gadsby
Hillary Clinton
Ijeoma Oluo
Ilhan Omar
Imani Gandy
J. K. Rowling
Janeane Garofalo
Janelle Monáe
Janis Joplin
Jodie Foster
Joy Reid
Judi Dench
Kamala Harris
Kameron Hurley
Kate McKinnon
Kathy Bates
Katie Bouman
Kelly Sue DeConnick
Kyrsten Sinema
Lauryn Hill
Laverne Cox
Leslie Jones
Linda Tirado
Lupita Nyong’o
Macy Gray
Mae Jemison
Maisie Williams
Malala Yousafzai
Maxine Waters
Mazie Hirono
Michelle Obama
Millie Bobby Brown
Ming-Na Wen
Missy Elliott
Mother Jones
N.K. Jemisin
Nancy Pelosi
Nnedi Okorafor
Noelle Stevenson
Oprah Winfrey
Patricia Okoumou
Queen Latifah
Rachel Caine
Rachel Maddow
Rashida Tlaib
Rivers Solomon
Ruth Bader Ginsberg
Sally Ride
Sandra Cisneros
Sandra Day O’Connor
Serena Williams
Sigourney Weaver
Sonia Sotomayor
Stevie Nicks
Tammy Duckworth
Tatiana Maslany
Toni Morrison
Uma Thurman
Uzoamaka Aduba
Viola Davis
Wanda Sykes
Zoe Saldana

The Top 10 New(*) Books I Read in 2018

WE’RE BACK! I have a few posts that I generally do at the end of the year, or at least at the end of most years, but this post is the only one that I’ve written every year the blog was in operation. I’m reading my 105th book of the year right now, and will probably be at 106 by the end of the night tomorrow, but as both of those books are Walter Mosley mysteries they won’t affect the rankings any. That said, check out the Honorable Mention section at the end.

As always, “new” in this context means “new to me,” not “came out this year,” although for the first time almost all of the books on this list actually did come out in 2018. Also as always, don’t pay a huge amount of attention to where something shows up on the list– the top 5 in particular are really tight, although I’ve had a good idea what #1 would be for months now. Also also as always, you should be my friend on Goodreads, where this list gets constructed as I read throughout the year.

Previous years’ lists:

And off we go:

10. DOOMSDAY BOOK, by Connie Willis. This is the oldest book on the list, originally written in 1992. I went back and forth between it and another book several times before realizing that I could describe the plot of this book quite a bit more clearly than the other one, which is what tossed it the win– I read so many books every year that “I remember what this was about” is actually a pretty goddamn clear indicator of quality. At any rate: this is about the end of the world, which is gonna sort of be a theme today, only it’s about the end of the world in the fourteenth century at the beginning of the Black Death. It’s a time travel book, and the main character is a researcher sent from 2048 back to the fourteenth century, and then all sorts of things go wrong in the modern day, making it difficult for her team to pull her back out. I had some gripes about it when I initially read it, but the gripes all make the book more charming somehow; the author did not very well anticipate future technological advances from her lofty perch in 1992, and this is one of the most British books ever written. Let’s use the word “quirky.” You should read it.

9. THE ARMORED SAINT and THE QUEEN OF CROWS, by Myke Cole. The first of the Sacred Throne books is what got this book on the list, but I read them both this year, so I’m including both here. These are extraordinarily well-crafted, tight little books– both, I think, are technically novella-length, clocking in at barely over 200 pages, but Tor was confident enough in them that I own both of them in hardcover, and honestly I think it was worth it. The books are set in what initially feels like a more-or-less standard European fantasy setting, only with an Inquisition-style religious government in charge of everything, prosecuting the use of magic to the extent of scouring entire villages when they find a mage, and a decent chunk of steampunk elements– as you can probably see from the cover, the titular “Armored Saint” is wearing a suit of medieval power armor. She’s also a queer teenage girl, and she didn’t exactly mean to become, uh, sanctified, or lead a rebellion, or any of the other stuff she kinda tumbles bass-ackwards into over the course of, in particular, the first book. There’s a heavy “What if Joan of Arc …” thing going on here, but it’s well-told; again, Cole’s craftwork is what makes the series shine. I shoulda been taking notes while reading these.

8. THE ENDS OF THE WORLD: VOLCANIC APOCALYPSES, LETHAL OCEANS, AND OUR QUEST TO UNDERSTAND EARTH’S PAST MASS EXTINCTIONS, by Peter Brannen.

Hell of a title, innit? I didn’t read a ton of nonfiction (again) this year, but what I did was well-chosen, and you basically know what this book is about from reading the title: it’s a history of Earth’s multiple mass extinctions, with detours into both the geology behind figuring out how and when those extinctions happened and the social history around the science. Despite the title, it’s not really one of those “here’s a bunch of ways the planet is going to kill us!” books that leaves you convinced that everything is hopeless because the Yellowstone Caldera is gonna erupt any second now and we’re all gonna die. It’s mostly a book that’s going to leave you terrified of carbon by the end of it. Carbon sucks, guys.

At any rate, despite talking about sciences and eras of deep history that most folks don’t really have a lot of experience with, this book does a great job of presenting extraordinarily complicated shit in a clear and understandable fashion; this is science journalism at its best.

7. BECOMING, by Michelle Obama. I just wrote a full review of this a couple of weeks ago, so in the interest of not repeating myself too terribly much (it’s good! Michelle is awesome! Buy it in hardcover, because this book is weirdly fun to touch!) I’ll talk about how I’m an idiot, which is always a fun theme around here: I always make sure to caution folks to not take the actual rankings too seriously as they’re reading through this list, right? This book is exactly why. It’s one of only two nonfiction books on the list, the other one being the #8 book. And I swear to you, just now, as I was resizing the cover image so that it was roughly the same size as the others on the list, I thought “I can’t have this at #7! That puts the two nonfiction books right next to each other!”

Which … what? Stop that. Quit being stupid.

6. EMPIRE OF SAND, by Tasha Suri. This is the most recent of the books on the list; I just finished it on the 23rd and I read it in a day, which you’re going to notice will be a theme for most of the rest of the books on the list. The main character is Mehr, the daughter of a governor in a Mughal India-inspired fantasy world. Mehr’s mother is a member of a prosecuted and occasionally magic-wielding minority and she quickly finds herself in an arranged marriage and shipped off use her abilities to keep the Emperor alive and in power and his empire thriving early in the book. This isn’t a YA book despite the very YA-heavy themes, or if it is it skirts the edge of adult fiction enough that I barely noticed; the star here is Suri’s writing, which I couldn’t get enough of. The reviews of this one are surprisingly mixed and the main knock against it is that it’s slow to unfold; turns out you don’t notice that if you only put the book down once so that you can sleep while you’re reading it. The magic system is fascinating and the way the servitude to the Emperor is dealt with is also a highlight. This coulda been a top 3 book for me any other year; pretty much everything after this is absolutely stellar work.

5. FOUNDRYSIDE, by Robert Jackson Bennett. I have, I think, all of Robert Jackson Bennett’s books, and I’ve enjoyed his previous work quite a bit, but Foundryside is quite simply a massive level-up on his part; this book blew me away. The main character is a young woman by the name of Sancia Grado, a thief in a setting that is, to coin a word, magicpunk– sorta steampunky, but with magic instead of steam, if that makes any sense, and in this world magic actually imbues objects with a (mostly) limited form of sentience. Brandon Sanderson blurbs it and is the top review of it on Goodreads, and while I’ve soured on his work a little bit this book really does have a touch of a “What if Robert Jackson Bennett wrote a Brandon Sanderson book?” thing going on, and the answer to that question is awesome things happen. The characters are the highlight of this book, particularly Sancia herself and Gregor Dandolo, a city constable who starts off as an antagonist and is something else entirely by the end of the book. I can’t wait to see where this series goes next.

Also, you should follow Bennett on Twitter; he’s hilarious.

4. INTO THE DROWNING DEEP, by Mira Grant. Mira Grant, pen name of the ridiculously prolific Seanan McGuire, has shown up on these end-of-year lists before. She writes something like 97 books a year and I read as many of them as I can get to (That’s not a joke. I have, on more than one occasion, thought I was caught up on her new releases and then discovered she had more than one new book out that I was unaware of– and once it was an entire new series that I’d never heard of previously) but Drowning Deep is my absolute favorite of all of her books under either name. Cryptids are a favored theme of hers, and one of her series is explicitly about a family of cryptid hunters, but this one takes a tighter focus, following a boatful of oceanographers who are hunting for mermaids.

Mermaids are fucking terrifying, as it turns out. The book starts off with a ghost-ship mystery, basically, and there’s a lot of “Wait, really? Everyone was eaten by mermaids?” going on at first, and there’s a lot of very satisfying cryptid science going on– all of the characters in this book are very bright people with a wide array of academic specialties, and I’d love to know how Grant found the time to research all of this shit– and when the book turns into a slasher film for the last 40% or so (with an especially cool late-book twist) the momentum just builds and builds and builds and oh GOD would this make a great movie. I want a sequel to this book, bad, but I want to see it on the big screen first. Go read it.

3. THE POPPY WAR, by R.F. Kuang. This is another book that sort of starts off feeling like a YA book; I described it early on to my wife with something along the lines of “Harry Potter, only Hogwarts is a Chinese military academy and Hermione is the main character.”

And then Hermione deliberately burns out her own uterus because menstruation distracts her from her studies, and then everybody goes to war and it turns out that the Rape of Nanking is a big part of the inspiration for this fantasy series, and yeah when it goes adult it goes adult hard and it goes adult fast. In fact, this book really needs a bit of a content warning– R. F. Kuang does not fuck around, guys, and while I loved the book and can’t wait for the sequel there are some of you out there who aren’t going to be able to finish it because of the events of the story– genocide is absolutely a theme, and if you don’t know what the Rape of Nanking was you might want to click on that link and read a bit before you decide to get into this one. It’s a Goddamned brilliant book, but more than anything else on the list, it’s not gonna be for everybody.

2. TRAIL OF LIGHTNING, by Rebecca Roanhorse. The genre of this book is Navajo post-apocalyptic urban fantasy.

Navajo. Post-apocalyptic. Urban. Fantasy.

There’s no point to writing any more, because you already should have stopped reading this and headed off to Amazon or a local bookstore to buy the goddamn book, because that ought to be all you need. And, okay, it’s fair to say that a book needs to be more than its genre, but I get the feeling that Rebecca Roanhorse could write an 800-page book about the life cycle of a specific breed of orchid or some shit like that and she’d still produce something I wanted to read. I loved this book, I loved the setting, I loved the characters– Maggie, the main character, is a great example of a character who is an asshole but she’s a compelling and interesting asshole and she’s fascinating to read about; I had a couple of books this year killed by unlikeable main characters and this is a masterclass on how to do that right. You should probably brace yourself for Roanhorse’s general disregard for anyone’s discomfort with Diné orthography; if seeing words like yá’át’ééh sprinkled through a text is going to bother you … well, you need to get over that and go read the book anyway. This is yet another debut book of a series (GOD, was 2018 a great year for fantasy series debuts!) and I can’t wait for the next one.

1.JADE CITY, by Fonda Lee. Let me be clear about something: this 2018 list is the strongest top 10 I’ve had since I started doing this. 2018, for all its faults, was an absolutely phenomenal year for books, and I finished reading JADE CITY on February 2 and knew immediately that it was going to be top 3 if not one of my favorite books of the year. JADE CITY is a family epic; imagine The Godfather, set in Japan, written by George R. R. Martin and with jade-enhanced superhumans in it, and you have a decent idea of what’s going on here, only in this scenario the Five Families are also the government and the scope of the book starts getting aggressively multinational in scope by the end, to the point where if the second book in the series doesn’t have significant spy novel elements I will be really surprised. And the best thing about it was that I bought it effectively at random because I had a gift card burning a hole in my pocket. Everything about this book is great: the writing pops, the setting is refreshing and fascinating, the characters are all interesting people with understandable and well-drawn motivations; it’s great it’s great it’s great. It is the best book I read in 2018, and again: this was an outstanding year, so that’s higher praise than usual. Go read it right now.

(RANDOM NOTE, BECAUSE IT’S ANNOYING ME: That missing space after the period and the 1 up there is not a typo. It’s there because if I leave it out WordPress tries to convert the block to a fucking numbered list and indents everything, and if I then change it back to a paragraph it deletes the number. Rinse and repeat. I love that Gutenberg is still finding new ways to be Goddamned obnoxious.)

HONORABLE MENTION, in NO PARTICULAR ORDER: The Easy Rawlins mysteries, by Walter Mosely, which I’m blowing through at high speed but some of which are rereads and others new, thus making them ineligible for this list, AN UNKINDNESS OF GHOSTS by Rivers Solomon, DREAD NATION by Justina Ireland, CROOKED GOD MACHINE by Autumn Christian, THE OUTSIDER by Stephen King, BLACK WOLVES by Kate Elliott, VOID BLACK SHADOW and STATIC RUIN by Corey J. White, A STUDY IN HONOR by Claire O’Dell and THE CHANGELING by Victor LaValle.

WORST BOOK OF THE YEAR: SWAN SONG, by Robert McCammon. No competition.