Tag Archives: best books

PW Names the Best Books of 2012

We still have no work email. Our office is still dark. But a weekly magazine is a weekly magazine, and my tremendously dedicated colleagues have found a way to get our Best Books issue live on time. I am so proud to be part of this team.

I will let the selections speak for themselves:

Those of you who follow me on Twitter may recall my agony as I tried to whittle the SF/F/H list down to five. It couldn’t be done, so I petitioned for an extra two titles. I really could not have left any of those books off, not in good conscience. This genre is big! We need the big-six novels and the small-press collections, the SF thrillers and the ethereal fantastic. I’m pleased as punch to be able to give these books their due.

As soon as I get back to the office I’ll post my personal, unofficial “honorable mentions”. In the meantime, I’m off to start reading 2013 starred books in hopes of getting a head start on next year’s list!

Bienvenue aux Francophones!

Today’s traffic stats showed me a pleasant surprise: a couple of links from French websites (ici et ici). J’ai certainement oublié plus de français que je me souviens, mais je suis très heureuse à decouvrir que j’ai une petite audience francophone. Si vous voulez, me parlez des livres fantastiques en français; peut-être je puis les trouver en les Êtats-Unis et recouvrer mon aptitude à votre belle langue.

(Yes, I wrote that mostly without recourse to Google Translate. Ten years of study, from age 6 to age 16, does not easily leave one’s brain.)

(And now I miss France. *sigh* Maybe one of these years I’ll be able to get out to Les Imaginales d’Epinal.)

The stats also showed me 10,000 hits on the Best Books post. Thank you all very much for stopping by! I hope you’ll give those books a chance; for small presses, even a fraction of 10,000 sales is huge.

The Best Books of 2011

Here they are!

First of all, I am so entirely thrilled that Maureen McHugh’s collection After the Apocalypse made it onto the top 10 list. It’s become almost a running joke that every year, I have book #11 of the top 10. This year, I pushed hard for Maureen’s book to be considered, and to my shock and delight, the other editors read it and agreed that it deserved top billing. Well done, Maureen!

The list for SF/F/H:

Zoo City by Lauren Beukes — I have been waiting to list this for something like a year and a half, since it was originally slated to come out in the U.S. in October 2010. It has continued to astonish and delight me since then.

Triptych by J.M. Frey — This book has aliens, time travel, queer polyamorous romance that feels absolutely real, loss and grief and soldiering on, languages, family… in short, it was written for me. I haven’t felt this loved and acknowledged by a book in a very long time.

Unpossible by Daryl Gregory — Discussed here. In very brief, this collection blew my head off and then dumped cold water down the bleeding stump of my neck. Fortunately that’s how I like it.

Two Worlds and In Between: The Best of Caitlín R. Kiernan, Vol. 1 by Caitlín R. Kiernan — Yes, that makes three collections out of these six books, but there was no way I was going to pass this one up. Kiernan is one of the most consistently powerful, surprising authors writing today, and this collection is a must for anyone who likes exploring the dark interstices between genres with only a half-dead flashlight and some matches to light the way.

Erekos by A.M. Tuomala — Plenty of people have tried to combine zombies and romance, but Tuomala combines zombies with sororal love and love of country in a meditation on just how far we’re willing to go to preserve the things we care about, even if it means we’re really not preserving them at all.

Those paying attention will note that six out of six of these titles were put out by ambitious, daring small outfits. I hope a lot of people are paying attention. Congratulations and heartfelt thanks to Small Beer, Angry Robot, Dragon Moon, Fairwood, Subterranean, and Candlemark & Gleam for taking chances on these extraordinary books.

Honorable mentions: The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie, Broken by Susan Jane Bigelow, The Dragon’s Path by Daniel Abraham, Dead Iron by Devon Monk.

Onward to 2012!

Best Books 2011 Preview

As promised, here’s my post on Daryl Gregory’s Unpossible, which I unhesitatingly label one of the best books of 2011. You have ten agonizing days to speculate before the rest of the list is announced. It would be cruel and unkind of me to drop hints, of course, so I’ll just say that it was particularly difficult to make my selections this year–as those of you who follow me on Twitter may have noticed–and I’m really looking forward to posting the shortlists and longlists on November 7.

What Are Your Favorite Books of 2011?

PW lives three months ahead of everyone else, so we’re starting to think about our Best Books of the Year lists. I’m finding it surprisingly tricky going this year. For example, there hasn’t been much epic fantasy that really wowed me; I liked The Dragon’s Path a lot, but it didn’t bowl me over like Abraham’s Seasons of War books did (though admittedly that is a really high bar), and A Dance with Dragons and The Wise Man’s Fear were pretty decent but don’t make sense outside of the series context. A lot of the people who had breakout books in 2009 and 2010 are likewise writing strong series books that don’t stand alone, possibly with the exception of Cherie Priest’s Ganymede.

The big mindblowing debut I’ve seen this year has been J.M. Frey’s Triptych, and it’s from such a small press that I doubt it will get the attention it deserves. (Leviathan’s Wake is only half a debut, so I don’t count it, though it is pretty mindblowing.) Likewise, Maureen McHugh’s collection After the Apocalypse is stunning and I will be stunned if anyone outside the skifferati even knows that it’s coming out, and I’m hearing good things about Andrea Hairston’s Redwood & Wildfire but I have no idea how many readers it’s going to reach. Lauren Beukes’s Zoo City and Jo Walton’s Among Others are the only 2011 books that are getting anything like the buzz that Feed and The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and Who Fears Death got in 2010, and both of them came out very early this year. Since then… there hasn’t been much, at least that I can recall.

So please, help jog my memory. What have your favorite SF/F/H books of 2011 been so far, and what are you looking forward to in the next few months?

The Best, and Next-Best, of 2010

By now you’ve probably all seen PW‘s list of the 100 best books of 2010. I had five spots each for romance and SF/F/H, and I had to make some very hard decisions. The books that made the final cut for SF/F/H:

  • The Bone Palace by Amanda Downum
  • Feed by Mira Grant
  • The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and The Broken Kingdoms (yes, I cheated a bit and squeezed two books into one listing) by N.K. Jemisin
  • Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor
  • A Special Place: The Heart of a Dark Matter by Peter Straub

All these books received starred reviews from PW, and if you’ve talked to me at any point over the past year, you’ve probably heard me squee about them. Every book on that list made me sit up and go “WOW”, a rare and treasured thing for a jaded old reviewer like me.

I also want to list some honorable mentions here. It’s been an especially strong year for fantasy, and numerous books deserve acclaim:

  • Hard Magic, Laura Anne Gilman: “CSI with magic” in a really neat little package.
  • The Poison Throne et seq., Celine Kiernan: An improbably terrific epic fantasy trilogy.
  • Game of Cages, Harry Connolly: The powerful sequel to rural urban fantasy Child of Fire, which was on last year’s mass market Best Books list.
  • The Third Bear, Jeff VanderMeer: A delicious selection of deeply surreal short stories.

This was not such a great year for hard SF, I’m sorry to say, but a few titles are definitely noteworthy:

  • Hull Zero Three, Greg Bear: A strange, video game–like cross between Elizabeth Bear’s Dust and the movie Groundhog Day. No, weirder than that.
  • Zendegi, Greg Egan, and Omnitopia Dawn, Diane Duane: Two very different novels about MMORPGs and how the game world can affect the real world.
  • The Wesleyan Anthology of Science Fiction: A must-have for any scholarly library.

Finally, on the horror front–where I am perhaps the pickiest–I want to give a shout-out to Mr. Shivers by Robert Jackson Bennett, which vividly brought out the scariest parts of the Great Depression.

I don’t usually talk much about romance on Genreville, since I don’t want to tread on the toes of the brilliant Barbara Vey, but since I put together the romance list, I figure I can get away with it just this once. Here’s our top five:

  • The Forbidden Rose, Joanna Bourne
  • The Iron Duke, Meljean Brook
  • The Heir, Grace Burrowes
  • Barely a Lady, Eileen Dreyer
  • Trial by Desire, Courtney Milan

For the honorable mentions, I’ll start with historical romance:

  • Proof by Seduction, Courtney Milan: A stunning debut Victorian that very nearly made the top list, outclassed only by its sequel.
  • Whisper of Scandal, Nicola Cornick: An adventure story wrapped around a heartbreaking tale of a woman rendered barren by her husband’s beatings.
  • Last Night’s Scandal, Loretta Chase: The hilarious and adorable story of two rapscallions renovating a haunted Scottish castle.
  • Marry Me, Jo Goodman: A moving 19th century American romance with tons of interesting period medical detail.

On the paranormal front, a big crowd-pleaser is Zoë Archer’s Warrior/Scoundrel/Rebel trilogy, which cranks up the Indiana Jones–style adventure to 11 and then piles on the sexy heat. Jodi Thomas’s contemporary Western Welcome to Harmony is a really lovely meditation on what it means to be family. And Christy Reece’s series kickoff No Chance is an exemplary romantic suspense novel with a fabulous self-saving heroine.

Congratulations to these authors and their publishers on some very impressive achievements. I look forward to seeing where you all go next!

(An administrative note: Honorable mentions are just that, and cannot be billed as being on PW‘s best books list. If you want to quote anything I’ve said here, feel free, but the quote should be attributed to “Rose Fox on PW‘s Genreville blog” and not to PW. My opinions as stated here should not be treated as equivalent to PW reviews–and PW gave all these books very positive reviews, so go quote those instead!)

Best Books of 2009

PW‘s list of 2009′s top 10 books doesn’t include any genre titles and has been discussed quite a lot elsewhere, so I’m going to skip down to the SF/F/H and mass market top fives, which were compiled by yours truly. I considered only books that PW had reviewed, which means no tie-ins, no e-books, and no self-published books. Beyond that, these are pretty much the books I enjoyed the most this year, to the best of my recollection and with some caveats I’ll mention below.


The Windup Girl
Paolo Bacigalupi (Night Shade)
Bacigalupi’s powerful debut warns of dire ecological collapse and the evils of colonialism in an eerily plausible near future Thailand.

Lovecraft Unbound
Edited by Ellen Datlow (Dark Horse)
Editor extraordinaire Datlow assembles a phenomenal anthology of homages to pulp horror great H.P. Lovecraft, penned by an impressive slate of big-name horror authors.

The Devil’s
Daryl Gregory (Del Rey)
This subtle, eerie present-day horror novel mercilessly dissects and reassembles the classic narrative of a man returning to his smalltown birthplace, where the familiar folks have become strange creatures.

The City & the City

China Miéville (Del Rey)
Putting a quasi-fantastical twist on a classic police procedural story, Miéville delves deep into the psyches of city dwellers and the ways people blind themselves to reality.


Cherie Priest (Tor)
The dramatic first novel in Priest’s Clockwork Century universe sends a determined 35-year-old single mom into a ruined city full of zombies and poison gas, where she must save her son from a mad inventor.

My longlist includes Catherynne M. Valente’s Palimpsest, Peter Straub’s American Fantastic Tales set, Robert Charles Wilson’s Julian Comstock, and story collections by David Nickle and Lewis Shiner. I didn’t consider series books because it’s so difficult to judge them as single entities; for example, I quite enjoyed Daniel Abraham’s The Price of Spring, but a) it doesn’t stand well on its own and b) An Autumn War was better. I’m personally kind of stunned that there aren’t more anthologies on that list; that is definitely a reflection of my reading habits this year, and not of the market.

Mass market:

Captive of Sin
Anna Campbell (Avon)
Campbell pulls out all the stops with this heart-wrenching historical romance. A hastily wed heiress must help her husband, a war hero, recover from post-traumatic stress that leaves him unable to bear human touch.


Gail Carriger (Orbit)
Carriger combines Victorian romance, supernatural creatures, steampunk sensibilities and a healthy dose of the bizarre in her hilarious debut.

A Dark Love

Margaret Carroll (Avon)
Carroll develops what could be a stock story of an abusive marriage into a pulse-pounding romantic thriller with a strong, inspiring heroine determined to save herself.

Child of Fire

Harry Connolly (Del Rey)
Connolly’s intense first novel heralds the next generation of urban fantasy (city not required) with a nearly powerless hero who must rely on his smarts and threadbare ethics to survive.

Hunt at the Well of Eternity
Gabriel Hunt, as told to James Reasoner (Hard Case Crime)
Reasoner launches the Gabriel Hunt series with a fast-paced tale of purely entertaining Indiana Jones–like adventure, smartly updated for modern sensibilities.

Longlist: Tessa Dare’s Goddess of the Hunt, C.C. Finlay’s The Patriot Witch. For mass market I really can’t discount series books or I wouldn’t have enough titles to make a top five list, but I do lean towards series starters or conclusions because starters usually stand on their own and conclusions can be looked at in light of the entire series. I’m delighted that there happened to be so many debuts; it’s been a really good year for new authors.

There’s plenty to debate in any list, of course. I’m sure mine would have looked different had I read different books; a couple of titles squeaked onto the list at the last minute after my reviewers urged me to speed-read them so I could give them full consideration. Amazon’s top ten SF & F list is quite different from mine. PW‘s top ten list has come in for its fair share of criticism, and I’ve already seen one blog post mercilessly dissecting my choices for SF/F/H (I would link, but it was in a private forum). Picking five or ten books out of hundreds or thousands is a tough task and everyone goes about it differently; there are plenty of ways to find and gauge that elusive concept known as quality. In a broad field like speculative fiction, it’s impossible to be representative of the glorious diversity of authors, presses, styles, and subgenres, though I did my best. If you like different types of books than I do, then you might even want to take this as a “don’t read” list! I personally really had fun reading all these books, though, and I am happy to recommend them to the world. Congratulations to all these authors and publishers for doing a wonderful job.

Best Books of 2009

It’s that time of year when PW‘s editors choose their favorite books of 2009. I’m allowed five slots for SF/F/H trade titles, and five more for mass market titles of any genre. I think I’ve pretty much got my list compiled, though it was very hard to narrow it down, and I will probably be posting a “longlist” here once the shortlist is published in the magazine.

In the meantime, what have your favorite SF/F/H books of 2009 been? If you expect a forthcoming October, November, or December title to make your shortlist, feel free to mention that too.