What I Read Last Year

2016 was an insanely good reading year for me, and so 2017 was bound to not quite measure up. I did manage to read over fifty books in 2017, but I had some ambitious goals that I didn't exactly achieve. One was to increase the percentage of books I read by women, and I failed on that front (only 25% by number of books/26% by number of pages; as usual I blame The List). The other was my Canada150 reading project. I really would've loved to have read another ten non-fiction books about Canada at least (and spent more time and effort on the reviews as the year progressed). I also feel like the number of books that I read in 2017 that I really loved is a lot lower than some previous years. That's something I definitely hope to change next year.

Top 100

For most of 2017, I took a slow and steady approach to reading List books, with what I consider good results. I kept up a more rapid pace in the earlier part of the year, so I'm doubtful that the next few years of the project will see this kind of progress, but of course you never know. I am pleased to report that while I didn't love every single one of the Top 100 books I read this year, none of them was as actively unpleasant as what I've experienced in previous years.


This is the first year since I started these summary posts that I only read/reviewed Random novels and no Romance. That's not necessarily a good thing: I've been feeling a bit lackadaisical about these reviews lately, and I may just need a good rant about a romance novel to kick start things back up again.

  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, 278 pages
  • Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, 209 pages
  • East of Eden by John Steinbeck, 601 pages
  • The Hour of the Star by Clarice Lispector, 81 pages
  • Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese, 221 pages
  • Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton, 292 pages
  • Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie, 254 pages
  • Green Grass, Running Water by Thomas King, 431 pages
  • Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor, 236 pages

Other Novels

I've been making a sincere effort to be more diligent about reviewing books and not getting sidetracked with books that I'm not going to review. Of course "sincere effort" often falters. As usual when it comes to "classifying" my reading, the category with the most entries is "novels I read and didn't bother to review."

Roadwork by Richard Bachman, 274 pages

I bought a collection of the first four Bachman books so that I could read Rage (a disappointment), and Roadwork was the last book remaining in the collection that I hadn't read, and I probably could've skipped it. This is Stephen King's awkward stab at an angry literary white guy novel and it's terribly boring and dumb. A man's home is on the route of a new freeway and he doesn't want to move. Shit happens.

Fire, Bed and Bone by Henrietta Branford, 116 pages

I read Branford's novel The Fated Sky roughly a million years ago during a brief period when I was really intrigued by Vikings (I am still intrigued by Vikings but have yet to read another book about them). At some point I found out that she'd also written this book and it had won an award or two, so I decided to give it a shot. This is a children's book narrated by a hunting dog about the 1381 peasants' revolt, and is thus a strange marriage of Jack London and Karen Cushman. It was quite good, but is definitely aimed at young readers. If you know one and can guide them through some dark material, this book would be a great choice.

Lilith's Brood by Octavia E. Butler

  • Dawn, 248 pages
  • Adulthood Rites, 269 pages
  • Imago, 227 pages
Hahaha oh man, how to describe this. Lilith's Brood is an sf trilogy that begins when Lilith, a human woman, wakes up in a featureless room, having perished in some apocalyptic event on Earth. She eventually discovers that she's been "rescued" by an alien race called the Oankali, traders who want to help to rebuild the planet. Sort of. The trilogy explores themes of slavery, the definition of humanity, sexuality, and a lot more, occasionally veering into "exhaustive" territory, but more often into the deeply weird or awkwardly erotic. The books aren't exactly fast paced, but they are entertaining and extremely thought-provoking. This will not be the last time I read Butler's work.

Double Indemnity by James M. Cain, 115 pages

For a brief moment I considered reading through a bunch of the shortest books on my Goodreads to-read list, and got this from the library. I also wanted to try out some more James M. Cain. I ended up reading it between two other books, because it is very short, not to mention hard to put down. This is another story of murder and adultery with an insurance salesman protagonist who's less charming than the lead of The Postman Always Rings Twice but an ending that packs just as much of a punch.

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen, 435 pages

The most bizarre thing I read all year, and I would love to be able to discuss this novel with someone. On her 19th birthday, Princess Kelsea Raleigh Glynn leaves the cottage where she grew up in hiding to ascend to the throne as the Queen of the Tearling. This sounds straightforward except for the part where everything about this book is perplexing, especially the worldbuilding. It's set in our future but is quasi-medieval and also includes magic. Please someone read this and then we can talk.

Dolores Claiborne by Stephen King, 372 pages

If you were paying any attention whatsoever, you'll know that there was a total solar eclipse that traced a path across the lower 48 US states in August. To celebrate, I read this book, which is Stephen King's revenge book that also happens to feature a total eclipse. Dolores Claiborne is a woman who has a terrible husband. The book is presented as her confession to police. While the narrative voice isn't as strong as some other first person narrators I've read (One Hand Clapping in particular), it's a good novel.

His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik, 356 pages

Did I just start another series that I'll say I really want to read more of and then won't pick up again for like five years? Yes, probably. This is the first book in Naomi Novik's Temeraire series, essentially her answer to Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin books: the Napoleonic Wars with dragons. Once you get past the issue that longterm use of dragons in human military efforts of the sort depicted in this book would result in a vastly different world history up to the point of said Napoleonic Wars, this book is great. Temeraire is the main dragon character and Navy Captain William Laurence is his rider. I had a lot of fun reading this book and there were a lot of unexpectedly great character moments. I hope to pick up the next one soon. *cough*

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett, 322 pages

A family saga of sorts, about a blended family that arises out of two of the parents' adulterous actions. It's told non-chronologically, which I enjoyed a fair bit, and each individual part was pretty good. Unfortunately I didn't enjoy the whole as much as many others seem to have done. I especially didn't care for the depiction of allergies in this book.

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell, 510 pages

I chose this book for my book club to read and I planned to also review it for the blog but then there was literally too much to write about so I left it for this round up instead. This is the story of an interstellar mission arranged by the Society of Jesus to meet the aliens who are the source of the first extra-terrestrial transmission detected by humans. The expedition is multi-faith and well-intentioned, but things go wrong very quickly. This is a really interesting exploration of ideas about cultural relativism, colonialism, faith, family, and a whole lot else.

The Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer

  • Annihilation, 128 pages
  • Authority, 228 pages
  • Acceptance, 233 pages
Kind of funny that I managed to read two very different but very mind-bending trilogies over the course of the year. This one is about Area X, a mysterious, anomalous place/event located in the south of some continent (the trilogy goes out of its way not to mention any government or country but I got the impression that the place in question was Florida). Annihilation is the strongest entry, dealing with the twelfth expedition into Area X. The biologist narrator of the book is a fascinating character and the creeping dread of the situation practically drips off of every page. Each subsequent entry is quite different and they're enjoyable in different ways. If you go in expecting to leave with more questions than answers, you can't go wrong. (I read VanderMeer's City of Saints and Madmen in 2014 and was initially frustrated by it because I wanted just a little more detail from him and I had a similar experience with this trilogy. However as time went by I found myself thinking about that book more and more, almost certainly because of those missing details, and I suspect that I'll experience the same thing with this trilogy.)

The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect by Roger Williams, 176 pages

I didn't expect that anything could top Lilith's Brood for weird sex stuff, but my reading of this book late in the year blew that right out of the water. This is a book about the singularity as initiated by an artificial intelligence programmed with Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics. Lawrence is the AI's creator and Caroline is the first woman it saved from dying. You'll have to read it yourself for the weird sex stuff, but basically like a lot of other singularity fiction this deals with the fact that in a world where anything is possible and nothing requires any effort people get bored and do a lot of crazy things. The ending of this book is one of the most unexpected I can ever recall encountering.

Malice by Chris Wooding, 379 pages

This is the first of a YA duology that's told in both novel and comic form. Malice is the world where Tall Jake takes his victims, and their grisly deaths are depicted in a comic of the same name. The comic sections are not illustrated all that well (although I flipped through the sequel a bit and things appear to improve there). The protagonists are a bit paint-by-numbers, but I was interested enough that I decided I'll read the second book.

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, 487 pages

An amazingly and amusingly convoluted story about a boy who discovers a book in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books and proceeds to become very involved in a search for the book's author, Julián Carax. Everything takes place in 1945 Barcelona, with the exception of all the flashbacks. Things get pretty layered with plot twists and different character relationships popping up in different ways. The female characters don't fare very well. This book reminded me of The Historian and The Thirteenth Tale, which I think do aspects of this kind of story better, although I did enjoy the book overall.

Graphic Thingies

This may be the year that I end my experiment with reading comics. So often I find myself wanting so much more from them and still really failing to understand the medium. On the other hand, it's not like they take much effort to read.

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll, 208 pages

A collection of five spooky stories. In general they were more about atmosphere than gore (the story "The Nesting Place" has some pretty terrifying imagery, though) and like all good ghost stories they were open-ended, however as usual I wanted something more. Carroll's art and her colour palette are very, very good. You can read some of her comics (not these five) on her website. I love her take on "The Three Snake Leaves."

Fairy Tale Comics edited by Chris Duffy, 125 pages

This collection of fairy and folk tales is illustrated by several different artists, and I got along better with some of their work than others. Most of the tales are from the Grimms, but there are a few more "international" ones as well. It definitely has a younger audience in mind and some of the darker elements of the tales are toned down for that reason. If you have a young reader in your life, pass this along to them along with Fire, Bed and Bone.

Attack on Titan by Hajime Isayama

  • Vol. 3, 208 pages
  • Vol. 4, 192 pages
  • Vol. 5, 192 pages
  • Vol. 6, 208 pages
  • Vol. 7, 192 pages
  • Vol. 8, 192 pages
  • Vol. 9, 192 pages
I started reading this manga while waiting for new anime episodes and I got 12 new ones beginning in April. There will be more coming in July 2018. I prefer the anime because the action is extremely dynamic in this story and it's boring to see in pictures but very exciting in animation. Volume 9 is actually the last book I finished reading in 2017, and it depicts the Beast Titan that was introduced in season 2 of the anime, so I'm still excited to keep reading. P.S. the Beast Titan is super gross.

Hilda and the Midnight Giant by Luke Pearson, 40 pages

Hilda encounters both giants and tiny people. Hildafolk was one of my favourite reads of 2016 but this expanded sequel didn't quite match up. Where Hildafolk was just a bit bizarre and completely adorable, with a restrained colour palette and thoroughly charming art, Hilda and the Midnight Giant is more expansive and less delightful. Again, I'm not really the target audience for this, and I think young readers would have a great time with it.

Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang

  • Boxers, 325 pages
  • Saints, 170 pages
A duology that features the same story from the points of view of a member of the Boxer rebellion and a Chinese Catholic. The Boxers book is stronger. I enjoyed the depiction of the Boxers' beliefs and the moral ambiguity of their actions. The Saints book relies heavily on the main character's interaction with her visions of St Joan of Arc, a figure who I've always had some misgivings about in a theological sense, although she does fit well in this narrative. It's clear that this is a side of the story that Yang feels is important but isn't as invested in, but I'll take it. Reinforced my desire to learn more Chinese history.

Flotsam and Jetsam

Usually I have more miscellaneous items to report from the year, but this time around there are only two: a collection of short stories (sort of) and a play.

Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm by Philip Pullman, 406 pages

Philip Pullman is best known for His Dark Materials and this is a horse of a different colour: his interpretation of 50 of the Grimms' fairy tales, with his commentary on each tale after the stories, as well as a listing of similar stories from other folk tale collections. Pullman isn't, as far as I know, revising any of the stories to any great extent, he's simply telling them in his own words. If that makes sense.

Richard III by William Shakespeare, 200 pages (estimated)

I continued my project of reading one Shakespeare play per year with Richard III, which I skipped in 2016 in favour of Julius Caesar. If not for the novel The Sunne in Splendour (which you may recall I didn't really care for), I would've had zero idea of what was actually going on in this play, besides Richard III being a cartoon villain. I have no idea how it's performed (i.e. how do you know who any of the characters are and how they're related to one another?!). Of course, Richard III is actually more accurately The War of the Roses: Episode VIII so perhaps it's all made clear by the other plays. Not sure yet which play I'll choose for 2018, but there's a local production of The Merry Wives of Windsor so maybe I'll leave the sad stuff behind and give that a shot.


My main goal with my non-fiction reading in 2017 was to learn more about Canada as a celebration of Canada150. I didn't read quite as many non-fiction books as I would've liked, but as usual the more non-fiction I read, the more new things I want to learn. I have over 200 non-fiction books on my Goodreads to-read list (and under 75 on my have-read list)! I've linked to my original review of each of these but still provide a brief summary/thoughts.

And We Go On by Will R. Bird, 231 pages

Possibly the book that made the biggest emotional impact on me all year: a WWI Canadian soldier's memoir.

Her Daughter the Engineer by Richard I. Bourgeois-Doyle, 269 pages

A biography of Elsie Gregory MacGill, one of Canada's first female engineering graduates and possibly the world's first female aeronautical engineer. A brave woman who worked hard for everything she had and then eventually worked hard for all the women in Canada. I wish she was more well-known. This biography is a bit inert, but as far as I'm aware it's the only one that exists, and it's a good basic presentation of the facts at least.

Clearing the Plains by James Daschuk, 186 pages

Where And We Go On had a serious emotional impact, Clearing the Plains had an equally serious intellectual impact on me. It's one thing to know abstractly that indigenous people on the Canadian plains were displaced by European settlers, it's completely another to see clearly presented on paper the complete devastation of those same indigenous people by small pox and Canadian government policies that denied them the essentials of life. Every Canadian should read this book, especially those in the west.

Why I Hate Canadians by Will Ferguson, 305 pages

A collection of humourous essays about the state of Canadian patriotism and some other related things circa 1997. It's aged surprisingly well but I admit that there are a few essays that haven't held up. This is an old favourite and I read it while in Ottawa celebrating Canada Day, and it was pretty perfect.

Discounted Labour by Ruth Frager and Carmela Patrias, 157 pages

A book for stoking your feminist rage, Discounted Labour is about women's labour issues in Canada from Confederation to WWII. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

The Morning After by Chantal Hébert with Jean Lapierre, 299 pages

A thoroughly amusing account of what happened with the 1995 Quebec Referendum and even more so, what might have happened in the event of a YES vote, via interviews with many of the key individuals, including Lucien Bouchard, Jacques Parizeau, and Jean Chretien. The only thing I wish I could've had from this book was a bilingual version because I would've liked to hear from the francophone interviewees in their own words.

Lucy Maud Montgomery: The Gift of Wings by Mary Henley Rubio, 597 pages

This is the abysmal biography of one of Canada's greatest novelists. L. M. Montgomery's life took many sad turns, however Rubio's concentration on the exhaustive detail of those turns was entirely unnecessary. Many other readers enjoyed this, based on its Goodreads rating, so your mileage may vary. I wish my lack of enjoyment of the biography hadn't entirely overshadowed its content, but here we are.

Managing Without Growth by Peter A. Victor, 224 pages

This is the only non-fiction book I read over the past year that I didn't end up reviewing. It is Canadian but deals more with potential future economic models than history. It was a tough read because Victor presents his case very convincingly, and I'm completely unconvinced that any developed world economy will bother to heed any sort of warning of this kind before it's too late.

And on that positive note, here's the summary of my 2017 reading:

Number of books read: 61
Total pages in 2017: 16553
Total pages per day: 45 (39 excluding graphic thingies)

If you've read any of these books or have any recommendations for me, I would love to hear from you! How was your 2017 reading?


  1. Wow I don't know how you read 61 books... that's more than 1 per week. I thought my 40 books was good.

    1. If you consider that 12 of them were comics it's less impressive. :)
      40 books in a year is nothing to sneeze at!