Monday, January 1, 2007

2006 - My year in reading

In 2006 I read 112 books, 34 of which were published in '06. That's new-to-me books, read cover to cover. I don't count re-reads or books I don't finish. The genre breakdown was as follows:

14 historical fiction
14 historical romance
11 contemporary romance
3 paranormal romance
5 YA (includes fantasy, romance, etc. if written for a YA audience)
7 fantasy
4 mystery
1 other fiction
24 nonfiction - history
29 nonfiction - other

It was a good year for me, largely because a few months in I stopped worrying about market research (reading recently published historical romances to get a feel for where my work might fit in) and started reading whatever happened to appeal to me, regardless of whether it was popular, recently published, or something I could picture myself writing someday. Not that understanding the market isn't important, but reading books you don't particularly enjoy is a real muse-killer, and just makes you angry that they're published and you aren't.

Anyway, just for fun, two top ten lists--my favorite books published in 2006, and earlier. I'm only doing one book per author. Otherwise, Naomi Novik would dominate the first list and Bernard Cornwell and Jennifer Crusie the second. They're in no particular order, except as noted:

My favorite 2006 books
1. HIS MAJESTY'S DRAGON, by Naomi Novik. Hands down my favorite read of the year. It's like Aubrey/Maturin with dragons, and SO well done.

2. MAIDENSONG, by Diana Groe. A Viking romance by a debut author, well-researched and not at all cheesey.

3. KUSHIEL'S SCION, by Jacqueline Carey. First in a new trilogy in an established alternate-Europe setting. 700 pages, and I read it in a day while recuperating from strep this summer.

4. MAJOR CRUSH, by Jennifer Echols. Debut YA romance set in a small-town Alabama marching band--in other words, the world of my adolescence.

5. FARTHING, by Jo Walton. A chilling mystery set in an alternate 1940's where England made peace with Nazi Germany early in WWII.

6. THE OMNIVORE'S DILEMMA, by Michael Pollan. All about how our food makes it to our tables, and it made me vow to buy more local and organic from now on.

7. THE AUDACITY OF HOPE, by Barack Obama. Normally I try to keep my politics out of this blog, but suffice it to say I've caught Obama-mania, and I think he's the real deal.

8. EYES OF CROW, by Jeri Smith-Ready. A romantic fantasy with (IMHO) solid world-building.

9. THE ROGUE'S RETURN, by Jo Beverley. Solid Regency historical romance, largely set in Canada.

10. IN MILADY'S CHAMBER, by Sheri Cobb South. Murder mystery set in Regency London, with hints of romance that I hope get a chance to be developed in sequels.

Favorite pre-2006 books read in 2006
1. DEDICATION, by Janet Mullany (2005). One of the last of Signet's traditional Regencies, but not a typical trad--hero and heroine were older, and the book was very sexy and different. Happily, Mullany is under contract again and IIRC will have a historical novel out from HarperCollins in '07 or '08.

2. SHARPE'S TRIUMPH, by Bernard Cornwell (1998). I had a hard time choosing between TRIUMPH, TRAFALGAR, and GOLD, but this one won out because it's sort of the "origin story"--we see Sharpe save the future Duke of Wellington's life and win his officer's commission.

3. WE WISH TO INFORM YOU THAT TOMORROW WE WILL BE KILLED WITH OUR FAMILIES, by Philip Gourevitch (1998). A history of the Rwandan genocide, and an extremely harrowing book to read, but I'm glad I did.

4. PERSIAN FIRE, by Tom Holland (2005). A narrative history of the Greco-Persian wars, which for some reason have always fascinated me. One of these days I want to write about Marathon, Thermopylae, Salamis, etc. myself.

5. THE SHATTERED ROSE, by Jo Beverley (1996). A rather dark medieval romance, and possibly my all-time favorite Beverley.

6. THE TRUTH-TELLER'S TALE, by Sharon Shinn (2005). YA romantic fantasy, very well done.

7. PERSEPOLIS, by Marjane Satrapi (2003). Memoir of the author's childhood in revolutionary Iran, in graphic novel format.

8. THE OLD BUZZARD HAD IT COMING, by Donis Casey (2005). Mystery set in rural Oklahoma in the early 20th century. Wonderful voice.

9. FAST WOMEN, by Jennifer Crusie (2001). Romance with a lot of mystery and comedy, with Crusie's usual mastery of character and dialogue.

10. A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING, by Bill Bryson (2003). History of science made accessible.

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