Thursday, December 31, 2015

Best of 2015: Books and Comics

So to finish off our trilogy of 2015 reviews, we come to the written word. This year I've managed to read 30 books, which I think is a record for recent years, and I'm quietly pleased about it. It's been skewed in some strange ways (more on that for a minute) but its also broadly diverse in others. I've rolled comics into this post as there has been a more "steady as she goes" feel to my comics reading, but even there I think I've done alright. Lets get to it.

To start with the books list, it has felt dominated by Crime and History. For the former, I've been steadily reading Jim Butchers Dresden Files series as filler - I like them well enough but they somehow never seem to really soar, and continue to have serious flaws that occasionally push me away from them. On the more positive side, I've read a bunch of Ian Rankin, who I'm growing to really like, and I've read all of the Robert Galbraith books too. Even better, a new James Ellroy novel - Perfidia - felt like a real return to form after the end of the Underworld Trilogy. Hooray for crime! 

Over in history I feel like I've been stuck in the late 18th century for much of the year, reading around the French Revolution (and it's aftermath). Thank god for my Kindle, I guess, as some of these were long and involved; but I've steadily filled in a gap in my period knowledge which is all to the good. I'm finishing off the year with a Dissecting Worlds Friendly book on the Romans, so watch out for more Rome-centric anecdotes as 2016 gets rolling. I've also got three new History books for Xmas, so this trend will likely continue, although we're back to the 20th century for most of them. 

So comics then. 2014 felt like a big year for me, comics-wise, as I got deeper into Comixology as a platform and resubscribed to 2000AD. It's meant that this year little has changed in my habits; issues via comixology and the odd collection here and there, finishing off with a binge at Thought Bubble. What I have found myself doing is picking up a lot of the lighter, dafter titles for at least a couple of issues; as my taste in superheros especially is moving towards the more self-aware and knowingly a little daft. Turns out after 20 years of reading serious superhero comics you really can get slightly sick of it. 

I suspect its not a coincidence, but a factor in changing market demographic, that so many of these seem female led. Squirrel Girl, Ms Marvel, Lumberjanes, all feel fresh at least in part because their leads are different characters, even if some of the story beats are familiar. It seems to be working for new readers, which is great for the industry, but also for jaded old 40-somethings like me too. And for that itch for more mature content, there is still Saga and Sex Criminals, and more. I've even been suckered into Marvel's relaunch of the Star Wars line, which is surprisingly decent, if a little lightweight.

So, the final top 5s are:

Top 5 Books
1. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet (David Mitchell)
2. The Martian (Andy Weir)
3. Perfidia (James Ellroy)
4. Napoleon the Great (Andrew Davies)
5. SPQR (Mary Beard)

Top 5 Comics
1. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl
2. Sex Criminals
3. Porcelain: Bone China
4. Black Widow
5. Saga