Ranking All The Books I Read This Year

I read quite a number of books this year. Here they are, ranked by how many stars I gave them. In each sub-group, the titles are listed in reverse chronological order, meaning books I read more recently are at the top, while less recently are at the bottom.

When I ‘grade’ a book I try to meet the book on it’s own terms: I try to judge adventure fantasy in terms of adventure fantasy, and likewise I try to judge mystery stories in terms of mysteries. As a result, high-brow literature can potentially be placed side-by-side with good ol’ sword-and-board stories.


5 Stars- 6 out of 45 books, or 13% of books I read this year were 5 stars

  • The Forgotten Beasts of Eld (Re-Read)
    • The author of this book is one of my favorites. She died this year. I re-read this as an act of nostalgia.
  • Elder Race
    • The second novella by Tchaikovsky I’ve read. I thought it was genius, the way the author contrasted a sci-fi story about a future anthropologist who’s performing a study upon a medieval era native population, with a fantasy story about the medieval society. I liked how the anthropologist has to overcome his prejudices and learn to cooperate, and also gain control of his depression.
  • Mira’s Last Dance (Re-read)
    • I read/re-read the Penric series this year. I think this is the best of the series due to how silly and fun it is.
  • The Emperor’s Soul (Re-read)
    • I personally think this is Sanderson’s best work. I wish he’d focus on short-form work more.
  • One Day All this Shall be Yours
    • The first novella I read by Tchaikovsky. A love story about two time travelling murderers. Very fun.
  • Guns of the Dawn
    • The first novel by Tchaikovsky I read. A great combo of Austenian comedy of manners, combined with Napoleonic war story a la something like Temeraire.
  • Gunmetal Gods
    • An unexpected surprise. Ottoman turks vs European christians, fighting over the fate of Constantinople… only the war is secretly a cold war between two factions of eldritch horrors.
  • Vespertine
    • A stellar example of the Heroine’s Journey. Also had ‘The Old Kingdom’ vibes, a la Garth Nix.
  • The Angel of Khan el-Khalili
    • My favorite P. Djeli Clark novella. The protagonist must bargain with an angel of dubious morality, to save her sister’s life.

4 Stars – 13 out of 45 books, or 29%


3 Stars – 17 out of 45 books, or 38%

  • The Lost Metal/Mistborn Era 2
    • Bit of a disappointment. Mistborn Era 2 was my favorite Sanderson series. I don’t know how else to succinctly say this, but this felt a bit phoned in. For my actual feelings, read my actual review.
  • The Two Faced Queen
  • Of Blood and Fire
    • I started Ryan Cahill’s ‘Bound and the Broken’ series. This series was some good clean Quest fantasy, about a group of plucky rebels fighting against an Evil Overlord. Features an order of magical knights who ride dragons. I’m looking forward to book 3.
  • Of Darkness and Light
  • Amongst Our Weapons
    • Rivers of London. This was a very ‘monster of the week’ urban fantasy story. I enjoyed it, but didn’t love it. The antagonist needed more virve.
  • In the Shadow of Lightning
    • A solid start to a new series. Looking forward to book 2.
  • The Thousand Names (Re-Read)
  • Prosper’s Demon
  • Servant Mage
    • Imagine if the French Revolution happened, resulting in all the mages in a society being guillotined. All newborn mages are kept as an oppressed undercast. The mage protagonist is unwillingly forced to join a coup to restore the Mage Monarchy, a fact which she feels very dubious about. This one I think could have been 4 stars, I’m still on the line.
  • Rivers of London: The Fey and the Furious
  • Never Die
    • A fun wuxia revenge story. A little boy is sent on a quest to kill a godlike emperor. To succeed, he must recruit famous heroes. If you like something like Unsouled but want a slightly different story, check this out.
  • Prisoner of Limnos (Re-read)
  • The Assassins of Thasalon
  • Penric’s Demon (Re-read)
  • Penric and the Shaman (Re-read)
  • Penric’s Fox (Re-read)
  • In a Garden Burning Gold
    • I got an ARC for this one. I enjoyed the setting, and the magic system was delightfully unique. The prose was arguably the best I read this year. I’ll be reading book 2.
  • Bloodhound (Re-read)
  • Absynthe
    • Another ARC. A deco-punk mystery story involving clockwork robots, mind-altering parasites, and strange magics in a fascistic 1920’s USA.
  • The King’s Gambit
    • A Roman Republic era mystery story.
  • A Dead Djinn in Cairo
  • Black God’s Drums
  • Far Sector
    • N. K. Jemisen’s Graphic novel. It’s a Green Lantern story about a solar system where three intelligent species are forced to cooperate. The species are cannibalistic tree people, flying pterodactyl people, and meme-addicted artificial intelligence people. It was a fun story.

This is my ‘average’ bracket. I automatically assume all books are 3 stars before I read them. I like reading ‘average’ books; as you can see, there are plenty of re-reads here, and I wouldn’t re-read them if I didn’t like them. These are good books, and I heartily recommend them.


2 Stars – 10 out of 45 books, or 22%

  • Inheritance, Eragon book 4
    • After 20 odd years, I finally finished this series. It wasn’t a literary masterpiece, but my childhood nostalgia was strong in this one.
  • A Taste of Gold and Iron
    • Another ARC. This was a M/M romance, about two dudes trying to solve a currency crisis. It was not my vibe
  • Eragon (Re-Read)
  • What Abigail Did That Summer
  • The Goblin Emperor
    • I understand why people love this book, but it was not for me. I thought it was a bit dull. I needed more fight scenes or something.
  • White Sand Vol. 3
    • Probably the roughest thing by Sanderson I’ve read. It was a graphic novel set in the Cosmere. If you’re not a Cosmerenaut, this is a safe avoid. If you do like the Cosmere, give it a spin, you’ll probably like it.
  • Elric of Melnibone
    • Genre classic. GREAT prose. It felt like the author was try-harding in the prose style department. The plot and characters were a bit meh.
  • Soulsmith
  • The Burning God
    • This ambitious series was like Icarus for me. Flew too high and the wings melted. I respect the author for going in guns blazing, even if it never quite came together for me.
  • The Lost War
    • I understand why this did so well in the SPFBO. A Grimdark quest fantasy novel about trying to fix a curse on a demon-haunted kingdom. The twist ending was fun and made the entire book worth reading. I didn’t vibe with it before that twist.
    • At the time, I gave this an excoriating review. In retrospect, I’ve grown fonder of the story. I think I’ll read the sequel.
  • Rebel’s Creed

Hot take: TWO STAR BOOKS ARE GOOD.

Two stars is my qualification for ‘books which are worth reading, but I don’t fully vibe with.’

As an example of a 2 star book, ‘The Goblin Emperor’ is a beautifully written story with an innovative concept and a great protagonist… which bored me to tears. Don’t get me wrong- I’m happy I read it. But I don’t like it. I acknowledge that I am not it’s target audience. Net total, ‘The Goblin Emperor’ is 2 stars for me, but 5 stars for someone else.

Another example, ‘Eragon.’ I’ve read it 6+ times over the years. I acknowledge it’s not refined storytelling. However, it’s what got me into the genre in the first place. I can acknowledge it’s not fantastic and still wholeheartedly love it for what it is.


1 Star

  • None

1 star is my ‘not recommended’ qualification. Generally speaking, if I’m not going to recommend a book, I’m going to DNF it (did not finish it). Hence, why I have none of them reviewed.


MY TOP 10 FAVORITE BOOKS OF THE YEAR

Some qualifications first: no re-reads on this list, and any author who’d have more than one book place on this list has all their work folded into one rank.

  1. The Burning God
    1. Yeah, that’s right. I’m giving a 2 star series my favorite of the year. As the months have gone on since writing this review, I can’t help but keep thinking again and again about this series, about what message it was trying to say, about it’s virtues and flaws. Kudos to the author for writing a series which really made me think. I feel like this series helped me improve as an author and a reviewer.
  2. Gunmetal Gods
    1. Now onto my actually favorite of the year. I enjoyed this out-of-left-field book. This is about a culture clash between Christendom and Ottoman Turks, but with a background of ‘Lovecraftian Cold War/Lovecraftian Proxy War,’ where different factions of eldritch horrors have picked sides and are trying to use the Christians and Turks to win a broader-scale interdimensional war. As a history buff, and a Lovecraftian fan, this was neat.
  3. Adrian Tchaikovsky
    1. I read a ton by this author this year. I liked everything of his I read, in particular ‘Elder Race’ and ‘One Day All This Shall Be Yours.’ I also enjoyed ‘Guns of the Dawn,’ but I felt that it fumbled one of it’s side plots. If it didn’t fumble that plot, Tchaikovsky would be ranking higher than ‘Poppy War’ this year.
  4. Legends and Lattes
    1. A wholesome good time.
  5. Vespertine
    1. A VERY solid example of the Heroine Journey storytelling format. A book more about emotions and character growth than combat.
  6. Legacy of the Mercenary King
    • This is a trilogy, starting with ‘The Kingdom of Liars,’ which I read a few years ago. This year I read ‘The Two Faced Queen’ and ‘The Voyage of the Forgotten.’ If I were to describe this series, I’d say that it was a plot focused narrative with tons of twists and turns, with a storytelling style reminding me of a mixture of Brandon Sanderson and Will Wight. This was not a literary masterpiece, but I nonetheless loved every moment, and the ending was fantastic.
  7. Rachel Aaron
    1. I read the last two books in her her ‘Detroit Free Zone’ series and started ‘The Last Stand of Mary Goodcrow.’ I enjoyed them.
  8. Penric and Desdemona Saga
    1. I read the Penric and Desdemona Saga in it’s entirety this year. I enjoyed it quite a bit. Not perfect books, but reading them was a crunchy good time.
  9. Goblin Emperor
    1. Another 2 star read for me. While I didn’t personally vibe with this one, I respect it. It’s well written.
  10. Eragon
    1. Again, 2 stars. Some books aren’t *good* when you examine them with literary skills, but a person can nonetheless unapologetically love them. Upon this year’s re-read of this novel, my hypercritical editor/reviewer brain went into overdrive, eviscerating it’s flaws. But still, nostalgia won out. Based on the metric of joy felt, I enjoyed reading it more than I enjoyed reading some 5 star books this year.


NONFICTION

This year I read almost 60 nonfiction books of various lengths.

  • Living the French Revolution (Re-read)
  • A Very Short Introduction: Druids
  • The Late Middle Ages
  • The High Middle Ages
  • Skepticism and Religious Relativism
  • World War 1
  • World War 2
  • Mere Christianity
  • Great World Religions: Christianity
  • A Very Short Introduction: Catholicism
  • A Very Short Introduction: The French Revolution
  • The French Revolution, from Enlightenment to Tyranny
  • The Jacobin Republic
  • The Spiritual Brain
  • Comparative Religion
  • The History of Politics and Race in America
  • The Terror of History
  • The Bronze Lie
  • Faith and the Founding Fathers
  • Common Sense
  • Strange Rites
  • An introduction to the study of religion
  • Death, Dying and the Afterlife
  • The Art of Living
  • Gallipoli
  • No Mud, No Lotus
  • Buddhism
  • Thinking about Religion and Violence
  • The History of Christianity II
  • Living the French Revolution
  • Orthodox Christianity
  • Practicing Mindfulness
  • Orthodox and Roman Catholic Christianity
  • Shinto and Japanese New Religions
  • Happiness
  • The Art of Mindful Living
  • Tolkien’s Ordinary Virtues
  • Real Zen for Real Life
  • The Energy of Prayer
  • Buddhism for Beginners
  • Buddhism
  • Tolkien’s Ordinary Virtues
  • The Art of Mindful Living
  • Shinto and Japanese New Religions
  • Orthodox and Roman Catholic Christianity
  • Orthodox Christianity: A Very Short Introduction
  • The Rise and Fall of the British Empire
  • 2k to 10k (Re-read)
  • The Pagan World
  • The Fall of the Pagans and the Origin of Medieval Christianity
  • The Life and Legacy of Muhammad
  • Rise and Fall of the Borgias
  • This Kind of War
  • Buddhism: Beginner’s Guide
  • The Living Machine
  • The Vegan Bodybuilder’s Cookbook
  • The History of Christianity
  • Medieval Myths and Mysteries
  • Introduction to the Study of Religion

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