Fifty reading recommendations from 2018

Ending 2018/starting 2019 on a productive note, with a rant about resolutions and a long list of good books.

(The latter was inspired by an even better list of reading recommendations from Kirsty Logan.

But, here we go...

Crime and Thriller

  • *Give Me Your Hand (Megan Abbott)
  • Red Harvest and The Glass Key (Dashiell Hammett)
  • East of Hounslow (Khurrum Rahman)
  • *Something in the Water (Catherine Steadman)
  • All Her Father's Guns (James Warner)

SF and Fantasy

  • Age of Assassins (RJ Barker)
  • The Drowning City (Amanda Downum)
  • The Crystal Cave (Mary Stewart)
  • *Paris Adrift (EJ Swift)
  • *The Stars Now Unclaimed (Drew Williams)

Romance

  • Miss Wonderful (Loretta Chase)
  • *A Princess in Theory (Alyssa Cole)
  • A Lady's Code of Misconduct (Meredith Duran)
  • The Masqueraders and The Reluctant Widow and all the other Heyers (Georgette Heyer)
  • Once Upon a Marquess (Courtney Milan)

Young Adult

  • Overheard in a Tower Block (Joseph Coelho)
  • *Slay (Kim Curran) (BOY BAND VS DEMONS)
  • The Way You Make Me Feel (Maurene Goo)
  • Ghost (Jason Reynolds)
  • This Lullaby (Sarah Dessen)

Gold Medal (that's a publisher, not a genre, but they're my comfort reading and deserve the recognition - plus, my rules!)

  • The Turrett Room (Charlotte Armstrong)
  • The Expendables (Richard Avery)
  • Castle Ugly (Mary Ellin Barrett)
  • Meet Morocco Jones (Jack Baynes)
  • The Magnolia Murder (Wyatt Bell)
  • The Hideaway (Nikki Content)
  • Smoky Valley (Donald Hamilton)
  • Guns Along the Brazos (Day Keene)
  • Sinner Take All (Wade Miller)
  • Steal Big (Lionel White)

Genre categories are self-defeating and diminishing and, more importantly, I don't know how to categorise these

  • "Dr Frankenstein" (Selma Dimitrijevic)
  • *There's a Witch in the Word Machine (Jenni Fagan)
  • The Talisman Ring (Georgette Heyer)
  • *And the Ocean Was Our Sky (Patrick Ness / Rovina Cai)
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Mark Twain) 
Graphic novels
  • Afterlife with Archie (Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa / Francesco Francavilla)
  • Josie and the Pussycats (Marguerite Bennett / Cameron DeOrdio)
  • Mockingbird (Chelsea Cain / Kate Niemcyzk)
  • In the Pines (Erik Kriek)
  • Goldie Vance (Hope Larson / Brittney Williams)
Nonfiction
  • Made in Bradford (M.Y. Alam)
  • Hold Everything Dear (John Berger)
  • Community (Peter Bloch)
  • The Nasty Bits (Anthony Bourdain)
  • The Age of Jihad (Patrick Cockburn)
  • Poverty Safari (Darren McGarvey)
  • State of Insecurity (Isabell Lorey)
  • The Mosaic of Islam (Suleiman Mourad)
  • Bloody Nasty People (Daniel Trilling)

*: published in 2018

For more recommendations (and rants), subscribe to my weekly(ish) newsletter.

And for some recommendations for 2019, check out this massive list at Tor.com. I chimed in with a few.


The final frontier

A couple of pieces (somehow) -

Review of AfroSFv3, edited by Ivor Hartmann:

“Discovery” implies an element of challenge; a hint that these stories might be a bit too far out on the edge, or potentially unpalatable. Nothing could be further from the truth.

A bit on Stormzy, publishing and the importance of evaluation metrics:

Hype alone isn't going to convince an entrenched industry that they need to change everything about their audience/marketing/recruitment/sales/retail approach. There will be a lot of people ready and willing to talk about how Merky 'fails', based on the traditional metrics. "I didn't see a single copy at Hay!"

And, for the hell of it - a new website for www.bestbritishfantasy.co.uk


On Stormzy...

Bet you weren't expecting that, huh?

The publishing industry has spent a generation - if not longer - relentlessly milking one particular demographic, with 'innovative' 'outreach' campaigns based around the occasional field trip to Harrogate and #civilisedsaturday

This week's newsletter also features the meaning of life (and the methodology for evaluating it).

Book updates:


'Under Neon and Starlight'

Mahvesh and I share a bit about the editorial process - and the full author/story list for The Outcast Hours  - over on Tor.com:

As with any anthology, not every story will be for everyone. The dark side (excuse the pun) of our shtick is that our approach is especially high-risk / high-reward. There’s no sameness; no certainty. In The Outcast Hours, we have gambled on the unexpected: there are no cozy evenings inside. Instead, we want every reader to find a story or two that they can be deeply passionately about—to experience the night of their lives.

 


Staying on message

Mahvesh and I reveal the full table of contents for The Outcast Hours over on Tor.com

It also includes a little guff about our editing approach, because everything starts with a brief.

The key message that we're trying to land in our all our, uh, PR, is that we've gone 'high risk/high reward':

In The Outcast Hours, we have gambled on the unexpected: there are no cozy evenings inside. Instead, we want every reader to find a story or two that they can be deeply passionately about—to experience the night of their lives.

Perhaps leading with 'you probably won't like every story in this book, but, hey - you might love one of them' is definitely a marketing gamble. But it is also true, so let's see where that takes it.

Buy it.


The Outcast Hours on Resonance FM

Recorded live at the Museum of London's Join the Night London Council event on Friday 26th October 2018, curated by Flying Object and inspired by the museum's photography exhibition London Nights (on until 11th November). Episode 1 features artist Amelia Barratt, sound collector Ian Rawes, authors Karen Onojaife and Will Hill and the Museum of London's Curator of Photographs Anna Sparham. Music by ROMAN. Presenter: Zakia Sewell. Produced by Jo Barratt, Jessie Lawson and Michael Umney. Night bus interviews produced by Jessie Lawson. (Listen here)

 

 


All My Children

Updates upon updates:

The Outcast Hours, edited by Mahvesh Murad and myself, is not shipping. Far from it - it ain't out until February. THAT SAID. Advance Reading Copies are in the wild. As with all ARCs, they aren't the finished finished copies, but they're darn close, and it is fun/terrifying seeing how the early readers are responding. If you're a Netgalley reviewer, you can grab one yourself. Or if you're a non-Netgalley reviewer (or bookshop person, or blogger, or vlogger, or whatever), you can simply email the publicist

Those at the 'Night London Council' event at the Museum of London last Friday got a sneak preview, with short readings by Karen "Tilt" Onojaife and Will "It Was a Different Time" Hill. DJ Zakia Sewell has an AMAZING voice, and it was fantastic hearing her read the Outcast 'blurb'. 'Hearing a DJ read the spiel over the radio' is way up on the list. Highlights from the evening will be rebroadcast on Resonance FM next weekend.

There's not a ton that Mahvesh and I can do at this point - which is, as you can imagine, makes me a little twitchy. We're posting copies, squashing a few typos, but mostly just trying not to look at early responses. Even when they're, you know, good. Or very good. Or great. We're trying to scheme up a few more events like the above, but it may be closer to the launch before we see it all come together. Exciting/tense/etc.

...and The Djinn Falls in Love keeps ticking along. There were copies at ComicCon last weekend - which felt very cool - courtesy of Forbidden Planet - now signed by Claire North (and defaced by me). Mahvesh keeps getting photos of Djinn sightings all over the world: the latest, I think was Italy. I'm delighted that it keeps finding readers (and vice versa).

Literary Landscapes, edited by John Sutherland, is now shipping! A lovely gift book, with very interesting essays from very interesting people. I'm in there with strongly worded opinions about Lyme Regis (The French Lieutenant's Woman) and the Mississippi River (Huckleberry Finn). Here's the book at Waterstones, Amazon, and Blackwell's.

The Best of British Fantasy is at 175ish submissions, which excludes my own non-submitted reading. More about the progress of this particular tome - and what I'm learning from it - in this week's newsletter.

Speaking of which - recent newsletters have been about world-building and side-hustles.

Next event is the Self-Publishing Exchange on Saturday. After that, a couple of lectures, and... maybe that's it? Famous last words. Or not last words.


The Outcast Hours

An announcement - The Outcast Hours has been revealed to the world. An anthology of new stories about 'life after dark', coming next February, edited by Mahvesh Murad and myself. Some details over at Barnes & Noble, a full contributor list on Goodreads, and more to come. 

Sometimes I worry that my newsletter isn't esoteric enough. Then I go off on a tear about Talmudic scholars and the Kickstarter economy, so, you know. There's that.


Kitchen & Events

More on middling, this time in the kitchen:

Recipes work because they can be tailored to an audience need. You analyse the audience requirement (money, time, ingredients, servings, diets, etc) and provide the output: a meal that solves that problem. A meal that feeds six. A meal that costs a fiver. A meal that contains exactly 350 calories, or doesn't use dairy, or builds muscle, or adds, I dunno, mindfulness. Recipes are about working towards exact results - and the key word there is "results". Recipes don't middle.

Elsewhere - an appropriately short post on Short Stops, sharing the call for submissions for The Best of British Fantasy.

Upcoming events:

Fun!