Sunday, January 01, 2012

About That Favorites List . . .

In looking over yesterday's post after it went up, I realized that none of the twenty books I listed as my favorites from 2011 were by women. Before somebody calls me on that, I figured I'd better bring it up myself. But it gets worse. I checked my list of all books read, and only seven of the 168 were authored or co-authored by women. I assure you, this was not intentional. In past years Christa Faust and Megan Abbott have appeared on my favorites list, and I'm sure they will again when I get around to reading something else by them. I also have a number of books by female authors on my Kindle, ranging from Patti Abbott's MONKEY JUSTICE and Anonymous-9's HARD BITE to classic SF and mysteries by Andre Norton and Leigh Brackett. I wouldn't go so far as to say that I'm making a vow to read more by female authors, but I think that's likely to happen in the natural course of things. You have to remember, though, when it comes to reading I'm like a puppy: easily distracted.

A couple of other interesting notes about my reading list, interesting to me, anyway: out of the 168 books, 44 were e-books. Actually, I thought that number would be higher, since it seemed like sometimes everything I read in a long stretch was on the Kindle. The 44 included books I bought on Amazon, books that were sent to me to review or provide a blurb, and manuscripts that were sent to me as Word documents or PDFs that I converted to Kindle. Speaking of review copies, in all the different formats I read a total of 46. I tried to get to everything that was sent to me, but inevitably I failed. If you sent me a book and I didn't blog about it, either I didn't like it (very, very rare) or I just didn't get to it (much more likely, and some of those will still crop up).

If you've read this far, what the hell. You already know I obviously don't have enough to do. So here's how the reading breaks down by genre:

59 Graphic Novels
44 Mystery/Suspense
23 Westerns
14 Horror
11 Science Fiction
11 General Fiction (a catch-all category that include pulp adventure and Sixties erotica that doesn't fall into the crime and suspense category)
4 Non-fiction
2 War Novels

If I did the math right, that jibes with my total of 168. If it doesn't, it would probably be better if you didn't tell me. I'd obsess with digging out the discrepancy.

I could do some other breakdowns, like how many pulp reprints there were, or how many books I checked out from the library, but you get the idea. Like I said, easily distracted, and I don't like to read too many of the same genre in a row. This comes, I think, from growing up in the Sixties before fiction became as balkanized as it is today and people who were big readers read a little bit of everything and never found it the least bit unusual. That's still the way I am, and I don't expect I'll change any time soon.


Prashant C. Trikannad said...

That's a hell of a lot of reading and writing, Mr. Reasoner. Absolutely inspirational! A Very Happy New Year to you and all at home!!

Charles Gramlich said...

I read more on my kindle this year than ever before too. Enjoyed a bunch of indie releases that way.

D.M. McGowan said...

You could still read "Partners" and "Homesteader" and put them on next years list. And they're available for Kindle, eBook, and Nook. They're on Amazon of course, but you can also find them at

Rittster said...

Hi James,

I'm interested in your use of the word "balkanization" in regards to the current state of book publishing. Can you elaborate?

James Reasoner said...

I think it started with the readers, but over the past 20 years publishers, in their desire to have every book fit in its own little niche, have made the situation worse. In the Sixties, I was a "mystery" fan. Not a cozy fan, not a thriller fan, not a noir fan. Of course, all those genres existed back then, but I don't think people thought much about the distinctions. I could read Agatha Christie and Mickey Spillane back to back and not think anything about it. They were both mystery writers. Then I'd move on to Ellery Queen and Richard S. Prather.

Now it seems to me (and this is only my impression, I have no evidence to back it up), mystery readers have divided themselves by their choice of reading matter. You have people who read only cat mysteries, and you have people who read only the bleakest noir. You have readers like the woman who came up to a friend of mine at a book signing, sneered at him, and announced that she only read books by female authors. (And since what prompted this post was my realization that I didn't have any books by female authors on my favorites list, I have to turn that finger around and point it at myself a little bit.)

Of course this isn't limited to mystery fiction, because you have people who read only hard SF or only high fantasy or only literary SF. Over in the Western field, I had a fellow tell me once that he only read Louis L'Amour books, in the order in which they were published. Then he said, "When I get to the end, I go back to the first and start over."

Now, I'm sure some of my opinions on this subject are colored by the fact that I'm a reactionary old geezer who thinks that everything was better when he was younger. I'm sure there are people who still read just as wide a variety of genres and sub-genres as we ever did in the Sixties. I suspect quite a few people who read this blog fit that description. But I know the attitude is out there that causes people to think, "Oh, if I like this kind of book, I can't possibly like this other kind of book," and the publishers will reinforce that with their cover art and copy. Not saying there's anything wrong with that. I'm content, though, to remain a mystery fan, a Western fan, a science fiction fan, etc.

And this has to be the longest comment I've ever written.

James Reasoner said...

One more thing. I don't want to "only" read anything.

I want to read it all.

Anonymous said...

Well said, James. I enjoyed reading your blog post and subsequent comments. Thanks. Happy new year!

Ed Lynskey