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MIND MELD: Tackling the 2015 To-Be-Read Pile: Hittin’ the Backlist

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We all have some books on our shelves that we’ve been meaning to read forever, so with that in mind, I asked our panelists this question:

Q: There are, of course, a ton of great new books coming out this year, but what books on your shelf have been crying out for a read forever, and what do you plan to tackle this year?

Here’s what they had to say…

Andrew Pyper
Andrew Pyper is the author of the International Thriller Writers Award for The Demonologist, and the The Damned (published in February by Simon & Schuster).

Reading is a pleasure, of course. But sometimes, if we allow ourselves to be tyrannized by the Attack of the Lists (the 30, 40, 50, 100 Book Challenges!) and keeping up with the Hottest Anticipated Titles, the pleasure can give way to fatigue, resentment or, quite often, total failure. So it is that this year I’m planning on reading two long overlooked classics of their fields, both avoided because certain people have shouldered me away from them over the years. But now I’m ready to make up my own damn mind. So, in addition to the race to keep up with the new, I’m going to tackle:

  • MOBY-DICK by Herman Melville
  • THE DUNWICH HORROR by H.P Lovecraft

Wish me luck (as I wish luck to you all).

Leanna Renee Hieber
Actress, playwright and author Leanna Renee Hieber is the award-winning, bestselling author of Gothic Victorian Fantasy novels for adults and teens such as the Strangely Beautiful saga, the Magic Most Foul saga, and the new Eterna Files saga from Tor. Her short fiction has appeared on Tor.com and in anthologies such as Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells, Willful Impropriety and in multiple “Mammoth Book” anthologies. Her fiction has been translated into numerous languages and selected for national book club editions. A perky Goth girl and proud member of performer unions Actors Equity and SAG-AFTRA, she works often in film and television on shows like Boardwalk Empire.

My TBR list is a complete nightmare, and I confess that if I’m trying to read for any kind of retention, I’m a slow reader who gets heavily invested in whatever I’m reading and so my own book deadlines get delayed, so I’m one of those authors who reads more research material than I feel I can afford for pleasure. So besides a bunch of research material that will need to be pored over, I feel a burning need to attend to absolutely everything Madeline L’Engle ever wrote. A Wrinkle In Time was vitally formative for me as a reader, writer and person of spirit. I know that I would benefit from and be invigorated by an adult in-depth read of her entire body of work. And then I’d rush to get back to writing again, freshly inspired.

MJ Scott
MJ Scott is an unrepentant bookworm. Luckily she grew up in a family that fed her a properly varied diet of books and these days is surrounded by people who are understanding of her story addiction. When not wrestling one of her own stories to the ground, she can generally be found reading someone else’s. Her other distractions include yarn, paint, cat butlering, dark chocolate and taking pictures. She lives in Melbourne, Australia. Her website is www.mjscott.net.

There’s a tough question. Gives massive TBR pile the side eye. But top of the “must read soon list” are River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay, Steles of the Sky by Elizabeth Bear and Glamour in Glass by Mary Robinette Kowal.

Ferrett Steinmetz
After being bitten by a radioactive writing bug at the 2008 Clarion Writer’s Workshop, Ferrett Steinmetz’s debut urban fantasy FLEX, described as “A desperate father will do anything to heal his daughter in a novel where Breaking Bad meets Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files,” is coming out to bookstores on 3/3/15. It features a bureaucracy-obsessed magician who is in love with the DMV, a goth videogamemancer who tries not to go all Grand Theft Auto on people, and one of the weirder magic systems yet devised. He Tweeters at @ferretthimself, and blogs entirely too much about puns, politics, and polyamory at www.theferrett.com.

I have two shelves on my bookcase dedicated to books I am going to read. The top shelf is my “Books I Want To Read” shelf, where I go to look for my newest book once I’ve polished off the old ones.

But the trick is this: if a book has remained on the “Books I Want To Read” shelf for several months, stubbornly remaining while I pluck off the other books surrounding it, then I must not actually want to read this book. So I move it one shelf down, to the “Books I Want To Have Read” shelf, which is a sadder place consisting of books written by authors I feel I ought to enjoy and series I feel that I should read the next book in. And that shelf is the Beyond Thunderdome of bookshelves; to move a new book onto it means that I must admit that I am highly unlikely to ever read a book currently resting on my “Books I Want To Have Read” shelf, and so I kick one book off to go downstairs to the Wasting Netherlands of Books Ferrett Will Read When He Is Trapped In His Basement Like Burgess Meredith In That Old Twilight Zone episode.

That said, there’s three books sitting on my “Books I Want To Read Shelf” that have been there for a while, each for entirely different reasons.

I’ve bounced off of Kameron Hurley’s God’s War twice now, getting about twenty pages in before my attention wanders. But it has that dense, chewy Dune-like flavor to it, and I bounced five times off of Dune before it finally caught. So I keep returning to God’s War, circling it warily like a punch-drunk fighter, because I’m pretty sure eventually I’m going to internalize the rhythm of its prose and just plow through it in a day.

I’ve got Catherynne Valente’s The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making sitting there, its bright red cover luring me in, but I confess to feeling trepidation. My friends adore this book, saying it’s a great take on an Oz-like adventure, and it’s been a wonderful seller for Cat. But I am a huge Oz fan – I’ve read at least sixty of the Oz series (YES THERE ARE THAT MANY), and have read the “core” fourteen L. Frank Baum Oz books at least half a dozen times each. And what I love about the Oz books is their relentless optimism and joy, a great whoop of lust for life that makes me want to get off the couch and go exploring. I’m told it’s very similar, but… Cat’s books have been very depressing in the past, so filled with a keenly expressed sadness that I often appreciated them far more than I enjoyed them. And I so badly want to fall in love with this series that I’m like a teenaged boy breathlessly not wanting to spoil the perfection of my imagination – Cat’s such a great prose stylist and so crazy-inventive that if this only isn’t a angst-a-thon, I’ll have found the book of my dreams. But what if it’s like Oz, but stripped of fun? Oh, I don’t want to know! Not yet. But I’ll crack that seal eventually.

And finally, there’s Robert Jackson Bennett’s The Troupe, stashed there for a very bad day. Robert Jackson Bennett is one of my very favorite authors, carrying this weird 1950s Ray Bradbury vibe with him – but he somehow manages to make everything modern and edgy as well. When I had triple-bypass surgery to clear my clogged arteries, I couldn’t read for six weeks afterwards because I was tranqued to the gills – having your chest spatchcocked’ll do that to ya. And I could not read fiction, because narcotics jangle my concentration. Then I picked up American Elsewhere and I just rode that puppy home, following his words like they were a rope tossed to me personally to guide me back to reading. That’s how good he is; his words can literally heal the sick.

The Troupe is the only book of his that I haven’t read, so I’m saving that for a rainy day. Maybe my debut novel will flop. Maybe I’ll have another heart attack. Maybe my dog will attack me in the bath and eat my toes – I don’t know, the future is a very uncertain place. But I do know that on that day, I’ll pick up The Troupe and read the last RJB book that I have hoarded away for this fine moment, and life will be a little better.

Assuming my dog didn’t eat my eyes, of course. That scamp.

Stephanie Diaz
Stephanie Diaz wrote her first novel, Extraction, while studying film production at San Diego State University. The sequel, Rebellion, hits shelves February 10, 2015. When she isn’t lost in worlds, she can be found singing, marveling at the night sky, or fangirling over TV shows. Visit her online at http://www.stephaniediazbooks.com/.

As with every year, I have a giant TBR list I’m hoping to tackle. There a few sequels that came out in the last year I have yet to get around to reading – among them, The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey, In a Handful of Dust by Mindy McGinnis, and Let the Storm Break by Shannon Messenger.

I’m looking forward to checking out a lot of books releasing in the next few months. I’m hoping Polaris by Mindee Arnett, Tracked by Jenny Martin, and and will satisfy my craving for YA sci-fi (though I don’t think I’ll ever get enough). I’m also dying for Deceptive by Emily Lloyd-Jones (Illusive, her debut novel, was fantastic) and We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach.

In the YA contemporary genre, there are SO many books I’m looking forward to. Some stand outs include The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord, More Happy than Not by Adam Silvera, andAll the Rage by Courtney Summers.

I’ve also set my eye on reading more older, classic sci-fi novels that’ve been on my TBR list for ages. Books like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, because I feel like a bit of a failure for having never picked it up yet.

Kieran J. Shea
Kieran Shea’s fiction has appeared in dozens of venues including Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Thuglit, Dogmatika, Word Riot, Plots with Guns, Beat to a Pulp, Crimefactory, and Needle: A Magazine of Noir …as well as in some beefy-looking anthologies most of which will make you question the tether of his shiny, red balloon. To his self-deprecating astonishment he’s also been nominated for the Story South’s Million Writers Award twice without sending the judges so much as a thank you note. He co-edited the satiric transgressive fiction collection D*CKED: DARK FICTION INSPIRED BY DICK CHENEY and his debut novel KOKO TAKES A HOLIDAY is out now from Titan Books. Kieran divides his time between 38°58’22.6?N- 76°30’4.17?W and 39.2775° N, 74.5750° W.

To balance out assorted fictions, occasionally I wade into the more somber stacks. Very grown-up of me, I know, and more or less an exercise in depressive, mental colonics. Several months back I picked up Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History and This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate by Naomi Klein. Given the atrocious run of environmental news of late, I may need to push off tackling these suckers until sunnier days.

Living near Annapolis, Maryland, I’ve a neighbor who keeps taunting me about going toe-to-toe and knocking off those works’ on the St. John’s College ‘Great Books’ reading list that, regrettably, neither of us ever got around to when we were callow, shiftless potomaniacs back in school. I mean, a little Hobbes some Heidegger and Spinoza—what’s not to like, right? That said, on the science fiction/fantasy front I am looking forward to reading Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Water Knife, The Conformity (the conclusion to John Hornor Jacobs to the acclaimed Twelve-Fingered Boy Trilogy), and Victor Gischler’s Gestapo Mars in 2015.

Alex Gordon
Alex Gordon, the author of the supernatural thriller GIDEON, was born in the Northeast, grew up in the South, and now resides in Illinois. She is currently working on JERICHO, the follow-up to GIDEON, and is having too much fun doing research. When she isn’t working, she enjoys watching sports and old movies, hiking, and the company of her dog. She dreams of someday adding the Pacific Northwest to the list of regions where she has lived. And maybe the south of France. She is not the Alex Gordon who has written several books about English footballers. She also has never played for the Kansas City Royals.

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (Susanna Clarke)–It’s been out forever, won all the awards, made all the Best Of lists, and is now being made into a BBC miniseries. The hardback has been sitting on my shelf for several years–I think the length scares me a bit because given how little time I have to read for pleasure these days, I’m afraid it may be the only book I read this year. But I want to give it a shot anyway.

Anything by Georgette Heyer–friends rave about these books, especially friends who share my affection for Lois Bujold’s Miles Vorkosigan series. I confess that I didn’t have any sitting on my shelves until recently, but I finally bought several and am going to try to read at least one.

Modesty Blaise (Peter O’Donnell)–the covers always put me off these books–sexy spy romps/no thanks–but people whose judgment I trust have told me ‘they’re not what you think–read these books’. I found the first one on eBay years ago–a 60-cent Fawcett Crest mmpb–but still haven’t taken the plunge. This year….

Lavie Tidhar
Lavie Tidhar is the World Fantasy Award winning author of Osama (2011), and of The Violent Century (2013) and A Man Lies Dreaming (2014), in addition to many other works and several awards. He works across genres, combining detective and thriller modes with poetry, science fiction and historical and autobiographical material. His work has been compared to that of Philip K. Dick by the Guardian and the Financial Times, and to Kurt Vonnegut’s by Locus.

I am hopelessly behind when it comes to reading. On my desk at the moment I have a proof copy of Sarah Pinborough’s The Death House, which is just coming out, but looking at my shelves I have books waiting to be read that go back years. From last year, I have The Beauty by Aliya Whiteley, a weird fiction novella from Unsung Stories. I think she’s a fantastic writer, so I’m looking forward to that.

Going back further, I still have Nick Mamatas’s Love is the Law to read – I picked it up a while back to go with my copy of his earlier Sensation. You can see I’m mostly attracted to short books! And when I was in Toronto in 2012 I picked up People Live Still in Cashtown Corners by Tony Burgess (author of Pontypool Changes Everything, the basis for an excellent indie zombie film), and Westlake Soul by Rio Youers, both of which are still patiently waiting on my shelf. On the same trip I picked up a copy of Kaaron Warren’s Through Splintered Walls from Twelfth Planet Press.

More recently again, I have Rebecca Levene’s ambitious epic fantasy debut, Smiler’s Fair, to dig into, and I’m working my way through the stories in the anthology Tel Aviv Noir – I have a story in it, but I think the whole thing is fantastic, and it’s a very genre-friendly anthology – less noir and more weird fiction, really. I also have Ned Beauman’s Glow on my shelves – really, I’m kind of saving it, as I absolutely adored his last novel, The Teleportation Accident.

Finally, a couple of Hebrew books – Shimon Adaf’s latest, The Wedding Gifts – Shimon is by far one of my favourite writers, but his style is becoming so dense that it’s certainly not an easy book – though more than worthwhile, and I did read a part of it in an earlier draft form. And not genre, but with exceptional writing, How The World Turned White, by Dalia Betolin-Sherman, about the experience of the Ethiopian immigrants to Israel.

Adam Christopher
Adam Christopher is a novelist and comic writer. The author of Empire State and The Burning Dark, Adam is co-writer (with Chuck Wendig) of The Shield for Archie’s Dark Circle Comics, as well as writer of the official Elementary tie-in novels for Titan Books—the first of which, The Ghost Line, is out on February 24th. The first volume in Adam’s new series about a robot hit man in 1960s Hollywood, Made to Kill, is out from Tor Books in November. You can find Adam online at  or on Twitter.

Oh boy. This is going to be… embarrassing. You guys are my support group, right? Because I have that particular problem that is all too common to bibliophiles. My house is full of books—in fact, it has more books in it than I have read—and yet I still keep buying them. I can’t help it. I like books. Books are good.

Each year I try to set myself a little read challenge, because, as Stephen King said, if you’re an author, then reading is just as important as writing. The secret to sitting down and getting your words down is to cut the excuses and sit down and write, and that applies to reading. I’ve got reading in my daily work schedule. Reading is that important.

So this year I’m going for that much-vaunted reading target of 52 books. To add a little spice, I’m also adding in 52 graphic novels/comic trade collections. Partially because counting them towards books read feels a little like cheating, but mostly because I am a sucker for self-inflicted punishment.

Fifty-two books means I can tackle some that have sat on my shelves for ages and that I really, really need to read. I’m working my way through the aforementioned Stephen King’s back catalogue, most of it for the first time, and next up on that list is Christine. I’m also working through the works of Douglas Adams, and have reached one book of his I’ve never tackled: Mostly Harmless, the fifth and final installment in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy trilogy (sorry, the “new” book doesn’t count). Also on my list is Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke (hopefully I can get that in before the BBC TV adaptation airs). As a huge fan of Cherie Priest, I’m embarrassed to admit I haven’t read her Eden Moore trilogy (Four and Twenty Blackbirds, Wings to the Kingdom, Not Flesh Nor Feathers), so that’s a high priority.

Finally, a real classic: The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle. Yes, I know, I know.

I’ve got a few others to knock off outside of SFF, including Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry and The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. Both classics in their respective genres… although together I’m looking at nearly 2000 pages of text to get through. Eeep!

Laura Bickle

Laura Bickle grew up in rural Ohio, reading entirely too many comic books out loud to her favorite Wonder Woman doll. After graduating with an MA in Sociology – Criminology from Ohio State University and an MLIS in Library Science from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, she patrolled the stacks at the public library and worked with data systems in criminal justice. She now dreams up stories about the monsters under the stairs, also writing contemporary fantasy novels under the name Alayna Williams.

Her work has been included in the ALA’s Amelia Bloomer Project 2013 reading list and the State Library of Ohio’s Choose to Read Ohio reading list for 2015-2016. THE HALLOWED ONES and THE OUTSIDE are her latest young adult novels.

My TBR stack is threatening to take over my desk, so I need to get caught up! Among the books in my pile are:

THE CLOCKWORK DAGGER by Beth Cato. I really enjoy some good steampunk, and this story about a healer caught in murderous intrigue aboard an airship with assassins is definitely on my list.

THE DIABOLICAL MISS HYDE by Viola Carr. More steampunk! A Victorian crime scene investigator tracks killers and wars with her magical second self.

SEVEN KINDS OF HELL by Dana Cameron. This urban fantasy was suggested to me by one of my favorite book bloggers, Sullivan McPig. The cover caught my eye initially, and a recommendation by McPig always seals the deal for me.

SODA POP SOLDIER by Nick Cole. The tagline – “Call of Duty meets Diablo” sold it to me immediately.

THE SECRET HISTORY OF WONDER WOMAN by Jill Lepore. This was a gift from my husband last year. I’ve always been a huge Wonder Woman fan, and I’m eager for another peek into her creator’s headspace.

BOUND BY INK by Marcella Burnard. The second installment in Burnard’s Living Ink series. I love the concept of mythical beasts tattooed on skin getting loose and wreaking havoc. Fingers crossed that somebody has some Godzilla ink.

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE’S STAR WARS by Ian Doescher. Star Wars in iambic pentameter. ‘Nuff said.

THE X-FILES SEASON 10, VOLS. 1 – 3. IDW is continuing The X-Files in graphic novel format, and I can’t wait to see what Mulder and Scully are up to now. I’ve been trying to avoid spoilers, but I’ve heard that the Smoking Man and Krycek are back. How did that happen?

DRAGONHAVEN by Robin McKinley. Because, dragons. And because, Robin McKinley. Instant buy.

Judd Trichter
Judd Trichter is an alumnus of Yale University and the Horace Mann School in the Bronx. Born and raised in New York City, he was a child actor who continued his career into adulthood before transitioning into a writer. Judd currently lives in Los Angeles where he enjoys drinking scotch, listening to the blues, and watching every prizefight he possibly can. Love in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction is his first novel.

I want to read John Scalzi’s Lock In. I’m ashamed to say I’ve never read any Octavia E. Butler novels, and I think it’s time for that to change. I also haven’t read Asimov’s Foundation series. So there’s lots of stuff to catch up on.

Rachel Cordasco
Rachel Cordasco has been reading at the dinner table, under the bedcovers, and during classes since she was in elementary school. She got her Ph.D in literary studies just so she could win arguments about the classics and wear patches on her jackets (neither of which has happened). Currently, Rachel is a Book Riot and SF Signal contributor and writes reviews and bookish commentary for her blog Bookishly Witty. You can find her on facebook at and her snarky tweets @Rcordas.

Because I hadn’t read much contemporary sci-fi/speculative fiction before last year (I was hanging out with Clarke and Asimov and Wells and Verne!), I now have a TON of books to catch up on. A few of them have been sitting on my TBR shelf screaming at me every day to read them, and I absolutely, totally, and definitely WILL read them this year. They are: DUNE, BONESHAKER, and THE CITY AND THE CITY. Currently, I’m reading Bradbury’s THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES, because I’m a bad person and for some reason I’d never read it before.

Now, I’ll admit here that I haven’t yet read anything by Herbert or Priest (*ducks as rotten vegetables are thrown*), but I have read two of Mieville’s books already (PERDIDO STREET STATION and EMBASSYTOWN), so I know I’ll love THE CITY AND THE CITY. I’ve read a lot *about* DUNE and BONESHAKER, so I know I’ll enjoy them, as well. Perhaps DUNE’s length has put me off lately, since I’ve been trying to plow through a bunch of other novels screaming for my attention.

And speaking of really really REALLY long books I want to read, there’s always Neal Stephenson’s BAROQUE CYCLE, which my husband is currently adoring. I’ve already read CRYPTONOMICON, and those sprawling, many-layered, richly-detailed, historical works are right up my alley.

So it’s you and me this year, TBR shelf. YOU AND ME.

Michael Logan
Michael Logan is a Scottish author and journalist, whose writing career has taken him across the globe. His first novel, Apocalypse Cow, won Terry Pratchett’s Anywhere But Here, Anywhen But Now Prize. World War Moo, the sequel, will be released by St. Martin’s Press in June 2015. He currently lives in Nairobi, Kenya. More information can be found on his website: www.freelancelogan.com.

I suspect I may not be alone in this one, but the biggest beast lurking on my shelf is Infinite Jest. It’s been there for so long that the wood underneath is beginning to sag from the sheer weight of the tome. I’m just not ready yet, however, so I’m going to turn to other works first. Gareth Powell’s Ack-Ack Macaque books have been on my to-read list for some time—they appear to have the right combination of silliness and big ideas to ring my bell—and I will definitely get stuck in shortly. First, though, I’m going to delve further into Joe Hill’s work. I finally got around to reading NOS4A2 and Horns in December and thoroughly enjoyed them, so it’s Heart-Shaped Box next. Another weighty book that has been floating around for years is Wizard of the Crow, by Ngugi wa Thiong’o. I actually started it, but was halted by my sudden difficulties in reading small print. Now that I have varifocals, heralding my full entry into middle age, I will return. That aside, I’m looking at finally reading Zoo City by Lauren Beukes, Kurt Vonnegut’s Player Piano (which I started two years ago, but found I just wasn’t in the mood for), The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (again, begun and abandoned) and The World According to Garp by John Irving. These will all need to be woven in through all the new books I bought over the last month, so I’m cancelling all social events and turning off my phone.

About Kristin Centorcelli (842 Articles)
Kristin Centorcelli is the Associate Editor at SF Signal, proprietor of My Bookish Ways, a reviewer for Library Journal and Publisher’s Weekly, and has also written for Crime Fiction Lover, Criminal Element, and Mystery Scene Magazine. She has been reviewing books since late 2010, in an effort to get through a rather immense personal library, while also discussing it with whoever will willingly sit still (and some that won’t).

1 Comment on MIND MELD: Tackling the 2015 To-Be-Read Pile: Hittin’ the Backlist

  1. I’m hoping to finally get to Davis Brin’s Existence. Also the last two Expanse novels by Corey.

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