2016 Locus Recommended Reading List Is Out

The 2016 Locus Recommended Reading List from the magazine’s February issue has been posted by Locus Online.

The list is… is a consensus by Locus editors, reviewers, and other professionals — editor-in-chief Liza Groen Trombi; reviews editor Jonathan Strahan; reviewers Liz Bourke, Carolyn Cushman, Paul Di Filippo, Gardner Dozois, Amy Goldschlager, Paula Guran, Rich Horton, John Langan, Russell Letson, Adrienne Martini, Faren Miller, Colleen Mondor, Tim Pratt, Rachel Swirsky, Tom Whitmore, and Gary K. Wolfe; Bob Blough; Mark R. Kelly; Paul Kincaid; Cheryl Morgan; and Graham Sleight.

The young-adult list compiling group wrapped in Laurel Amberdine, Gwenda Bond, Barry Goldblatt, Justina Ireland, Justine Larbalestier, Eric Smith, and Tiffany Trent.

The art book section had help from Arnie Fenner, Karen Haber, and Francesca Myman.

The short fiction categories were compiled by Strahan with input from Dozois, Guran, Horton, Langan, Miller, Swirsky, and Wolfe; and editors and reviewers John Joseph Adams, Charles Payseur, Nisi Shawl, and A.C. Wise.

On the list are —

  • 23 SF novels, 30 fantasy novels, 12 horror novels, 24 YA books, 13 first novels;
  • 28 collections, 13 original anthologies, 8 reprint/year’s best anthologies;
  • 15 nonfiction books, 15 art books
  • 11 novellas
  • 33 novelettes
  • 78 short stories

The horror novel category is a fresh addition — last year’s list did not include it.

Only one self-published work made this year’s list, an art book – last year’s list had three.

Baen did slightly better than indie, with two books on the 2017 list, a fantasy novel and a story collection. The publisher often attracts little notice from Locus, placing only one work on last year’s list (2015), and zero in 2013 and 2014.

The Locus Poll & Survey will soon open for online voting. When it does, the form can be found here.

34 thoughts on “2016 Locus Recommended Reading List Is Out

  1. Peter J: I wonder how long it will be before somebody is calling this list of 102 novels a slate?

    It’s been tried in the past. And it wasn’t said as a joke, that time.

  2. I kind of wonder what reading lists like this really do. I’m sure they make authors/editors happy (except those few who don’t make the list – I kid, I kid) but are they really helpful to readers for finding the essential fiction of the past year? I mean, I’m not necessarily advocating truncating them but they could at least be split into a “highly recommended” and “recommended” list, it seems. A short list and a long list. But I guess the actual Locus awards could be seen as that short list.

    I dunno, maybe it’s just me. Anyone going to read everything on this list?

  3. @Jason

    I’ve bookmarked it, along with other similar pages, to go through as I get my nominations together. I’ve been trying to read a few stories each night. But I still suspect I’ll run out of time.

  4. Jason: I kind of wonder what reading lists like this really do.

    This particular list is Locus’ way of seeding their annual Readers’ Poll with what they consider to be the most likely suspects — so it serves more purpose than just “here’s what we thought was good”: it helps them prevent their final ballot results from having lots of books with few nominations each by reducing the long tail of many, many books with only 1 or 2 nominations each. In other words, they skew the results of their awards based on their staff’s preferences (which is perfectly fine, it’s their award).

    As far as what this list does for me personally? So far I’ve read 10 of their suggested novels, and would consider only 2 of them award-worthy. There are a couple I intend to read soon, which I expect I may indeed find award-worthy. I will check this list against my own To Read/To Possibly Read lists, to see if I am missing anything, in which case it will probably go on the TPR list.

     
    What’s the point of rec lists? Once I’ve gotten a feel for how the various sources of lists track with my tastes, I use that to decide how much weight to give to their recommendations as to how to select books to read. My personal experience is that Locus’ tastes track about 50/50 against my tastes; Nebula is about 35/65. Certain reviewers, like Liz Bourke, track very closely with my tastes.

  5. I definitely use it along with other sources to help prioritize what else I might want to take a look at for nominating. It’s good for helping me remember things I have read and liked too.

  6. What’s the point of rec lists? Once I’ve gotten a feel for how the various sources of lists track with my tastes, I use that to decide how much weight to give to their recommendations as to how to select books to read. My personal experience is that Locus’ tastes track about 50/50 against my tastes; Nebula is about 35/65. Certain reviewers, like Liz Bourke, track very closely with my tastes.

    Same here. I look at the various recommendation lists to see if there are any works I ought to check out before the nomination deadline. If I notice that a recommendation list aligns fairly closely with my own tastes, unread works on that list get higher priority. Coincidentally, the Locus recommended reading list rarely aligns with my tastes to the point that when I vote for the Locus Awards, I often have more write-ins than picks from the list. The Nebula list aligns somewhat more with my tastes, while certain reviewers align very closely.

  7. I dunno, maybe it’s just me. Anyone going to read everything on this list?

    I’ve read about a third of them already, some where already in the to be read pile and I usually look up some to see if it interests me.

    Glad to see Liberation on there, ending felt a bit rushed but the trilogy was a lot of fun to read.

  8. JJ and others: thanks for those responses. I’m sorry but I wrote my post terribly. I meant to ask what really big long unitary lists were for rather than rec lists in general, so the first couple of paragraphs were more what I was wondering about. What it did for folks and why Locus (in this case) did it, mainly in terms of length. And, if it is the “pre-fill” ballot list then it makes sense that it would be pretty long and not further subdivided.

    But. no, I’m all for recommendations and lists and the like. 🙂

  9. I got curious, so:

    SF: 1 read, 2 already plan to read, several on my “look into these” list already
    Fantasy: 2 read, 1 already plan to read, several on my “look into these” list already
    Horror: 1 read, 1 already plan to read, several on my “look into these” list already
    YA: 1 already plan to read
    First: 1 already plan to read
    Novellas: 4 read, 2 already plan to read
    Novelettes: 1 read
    Short Stories: 1 read, plus the title of “The Mutants Men Don’t See” amuses and slightly intrigues me

    ETA: I may have missed stuff on the longer short fiction lists by skimming. Also, “on my ‘look into these’ list” could be anywhere from “I bookmarked it” to “I’ll probably get this but don’t know when.”

    ETA #2: Some books on their list are definitely not of interest to me; some, I haven’t heard of but should probably take a quick peek at, in my voluminous spare time. 😛

  10. @Jason:

    Anyone going to read everything on this list?

    No. But I’m going to check out at least all the first novels and all the novels by authors I haven’t read before. Not going to read or buy all of them but likely several.

  11. This list does not include Ada Palmer’s Too Like The Lightning; it is clearly invalid.

    Yes, yes, Standback. You don’t get to write the lists. We know. 😛

    As can be expected, some choices I’m please with; some less. A lot of my favorite short stories are there. Others are fairly baffling to me, and I’d just really like to hear somebody actually explain what they find in them (e.g., my comments onf Mika Model and Dead Djinn in Cairo).

    And, in a completely different direction, it’s cool to see Fred Chappell got his Falco/Shadow stories out as a book! I really enjoyed those stories in F&SF — they were a great combination of scoundrel-ish action and intrigue, with a very cool speculative fantasy element — the idea that people’s shadows can be bought (or stolen) and bottled. He gets damn good mileage out of it.

  12. It seems to me that this list shows that most of the interesting stuff this year has been in fantasy (though several of the ‘Fantasy’ titles – Walton, Anders and Jemisin, at least – are edge cases).

    Is there now to be a Locus award for Horror?

  13. Yeah, I am also disappointed by lack of Ada Palmer (I nominated her both to best novel Hugo and to Campbell Award). Otherwise, no big surprises, except perhaps putting Revenger in YA category. I don’t think it really fits there, even if the protagonist is quite yong.

  14. Regarding Palmer, as I understand it the book simply stops mid-story: I wonder if they were thinking it isn’t really a novel.

    The habit of assigning things to age-categories purely on the basis of the protagonist’s age seems widespread nowadays; publishers do it, as well as award-givers. There was some doubt whether last year’s winner was YA as well, if I remember rightly. (I’d be interested to hear what people who know the YA band better think of this list. Are any others of them really old adult books? Are any of them really children’s?)

  15. Lfex: no big surprises, except perhaps putting Revenger in YA category. I don’t think it really fits there, even if the protagonist is quite yong.

    That one really surprised me. Yes, the two main characters are 17 and 18 years old at the start of the book — but it’s a very dark version of The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, and I would definitely not consider it a “Young Adult” book. I really enjoyed that book. I hope that Locus slapping the YA label on it will not put off the people who (like me) normally don’t read much YA.

  16. Andrew M: Regarding Palmer, as I understand it the book simply stops mid-story: I wonder if they were thinking it isn’t really a novel.

    That one really pissed me off. I found the book a muddled slog, and kept falling asleep trying to read it (which never happens to me when reading a SFF book). But I forced myself to stick with it because I had read other people raving about it. Then I got to the end, and it basically says, “Okay, we’re stopping here, and you’ll have to read the second book when it comes out in a year, if you want to know the rest of the story.”

    I don’t think that I have any goodwill left for reading the conclusion of that series. 😐

  17. I take no exception to readers who disliked Too Like The Lightning; it’s very clearly not going to be everybody’s cup of tea. (And I’ve learned, oh how I’ve learned, that “other people LOVED this” is (a) no guarantee of anything, and (b) NO reason to slog through a book I’m not enjoying.)

    On the other hand, judging it not even worthy of note (not an individual reader, but the Locus list, as a collaboration of contributors) feels to me like missing out on a lot.

    I felt it had remarkable extrapolations of modern culture and individualism, re-imagining them in intriguing ways. I loved the voice, and the playfulness of the narration. And it had my on the edge of my seat the entire book – promising revolutions, and delivering on them. And, while the book certainly ends abruptly, I also feel that there’s so much that is resolved, or shifting into a new, alarming configuration. I think it ends at a better stopping point than it may seem (if, like me, you listened on audiobook, which suddenly runs out :P).

    Again, totally not for everyone. But also really inventive and unusual, and so heavily invested in SF-nal speculation about culture and society. 🙂

  18. I recall hearing that Revenger was technically considered a YA title before now. It’s still on Mount tbr so I can’t judge for myself, but from what others are saying it’s very much a technicality if so.
    Last year some YA enthusiasts were unhappy that Abercrombie’s “technically YA” series did so well in the face of what they felt was stronger competition in the category from dedicated YA writers. I wonder if Reynolds will cause the same issue.

  19. Standback: I take no exception to readers who disliked Too Like The Lightning; it’s very clearly not going to be everybody’s cup of tea.

    I think it pissed me off for the same reasons Christopher Priest’s books piss me off: the author coming up with some really cool SFFnal ideas, but not bothering to do the worldbuilding to make those ideas believable (and I’m an incredibly generous reader when it comes to willing suspension of disbelief). I guess that’s why it’s called “literary SF”.

    For example, all the main clades each have a “special” person who periodically releases their list of the most influential people in the society. And these lists have credibility… why, exactly? The story never shows why anyone would — or should — consider them meaningful, or how they actually affect the society, or why the people who draw up those lists should have any special credibility.

  20. I was surprised not to see Borderline by Mishell Baker. I’ve seen it on several other best of and rec lists.

  21. Well, nothing is for everybody – in RL I recommended Too Lie a Lightning to two persons and got opposite reactions – but it did make some splash and also managed to make Goodreads longlist in spite of not being very accessible, so, yes, I was somewhat surprised, But – as mentioned above – I don’t get to make those lists.

  22. >Does Locus ever include self-published books on these lists?

    The Locus reviewers won’t review self-published books, so no, they will not appear on this list.

    >Peter J: I wonder how long it will be before somebody is calling this list of 102 novels a slate?

    It’s either a good predictor or else influential. Chaos Horizon notes that works which appear on this list have a 92.3% likelihood of receiving a Nebula Award. About this same time last year, Natalie Luhrs did an analysis of the list and noted that she was troubled by some of the gender breakdowns and the recurrence of certain names.

  23. @JJ, an essay entitled Far too much thought put into a bunch of imaginary lists, by Standback:

    So, the way I read it, the crucial thing here is the social structure and dynamics. In a world with no limits on citizenship and affiliation, with no war, with no borders, the lists are important because what they are is a pulse-taking. They are highly flawed — but, they’re what’s in the spotlight; they’re what’s hyped up, they’re what people are paying attention to. That has its own circular power (just as modern media does for us) — what people think is important, becomes important, because anything it does will affect the worldview of the public at large. If something in the annual, spotlighted pulse-taking goes awry, that’s something that can have serious repercussions.

    So the importance here isn’t any one particular article or one particular list. The threat here is (ROT13 for spoilers): Fbzrobql vf zrffvat jvgu bhe zrqvn.

    Fbzrobql, jub nccneragyl unf uvtu npprff gb n jubyr *ohapu* bs pehpvny, frafvgvir cbfvgvbaf, vf gelvat gb vasyhrapr gur choyvp ng ynetr, naq gb vagebqhpr srne naq punbf vagb gur flfgrz. Vg’f n flfgrz gur ehyref ner jbexvat *irel* uneq gb xrrc fgnoyr naq fgrnql, naq fbzrobql’f jbexvat gb hcfrg gur onynapr.

    (I also don’t feel very troubled by the credibility issue. It’s not that people assume any one list is impeccable or authoritative. Rather, (a) it’s the gestalt of multiple lists, the idea that you’re getting The Best and The Brightest giving you their current estimation. Kind of like SF/F award and notability lists — no one list is “authoritative” or “credible,” but having lots of them come out together is hugely significant for discussion at large. And (b) given that the Lists are an important social institution, there will naturally be a pull towards the Lists being written by people with prestige and position (of various types), and for people to exaggerate the importance of them, just because they are a respected institution.)

    Now, I’ll readily agree this wasn’t very clearly spelled out, and there was a lot of “Oh no the LISTS” hand-wringing. Palmer does the sleight-of-hand where she first solemnly goes “My friends. There is a problem. With… the List,” implying that later we’ll find out why it’s so important — but by the time we actually get a proper definition, that’s no longer the source of the tension. So the reader is never at the point of “Oh no! Not the LISTS noooooooo!”

    It’s definitely a somewhat exaggerated, and mostly condensed, idea of media influence, serving as a macguffin for parts of the story.

    But I also think the setup and worldbuilding are clear enough for this to be, if not intuitive and self-evident, at least plausible. If we are told “The Lists are super-important to the members of this society,” I don’t really have any trouble accepting that.

    I think it’s also very important to remember the lists in light of the discoveries near the end of the book: gung NYY gur inevbhf yrnqref ner npghnyyl pbbcrengvat vagvzngryl naq vaprfghbhfyl (naq ehguyrffyl ryvzvangvat guerngf).

    Gurer’f n fgngrzrag urer, be n jbeyqivrj, nobhg gur vqrn bs onynapr naq pbrkvfgrapr. Va Cnyzre’f jbeyq, gur hgbcvna ivfvba vf bs crbcyr ohvyqvat qvirefr pbzzhavgvrf, serr sebz obhaqnevrf naq erfgevpgvbaf — ohg gung hgbcvn vf haqre pbafgnag, haeryragvat grafvbaf naq cerffherf, naq jung hygvzngryl haqrecvaf vg, nyybjf vg gb rkvfg, vf veba-svfgrq pbageby, ol nal ryvgr jub ner *vzcbffvoyl* cbjreshy, jryy-pbbeqvangrq, naq, jryy, vaprfghbhf. Nalguvat yrff guna gung, fnlf Cnyzre, naq gur ragver guvat jbhyq pbzr penfuvat qbja.

    Naq gur Yvfgf ner ncvrpr jvgu gung. Gurl’er cneg bs jung gur terng, hajnfurq choyvp frrf; n zvfqverpgvba; na vyyhfvba bs haqrefgnaqvat. Gurl’er abg ubj cbjre *ernyyl* jbexf. Gung’f cneg bs gur cbvag. Ng yrnfg nf V haqrefgnaq vg 🙂

  24. Standback, thank you so much for taking the time and effort to write up your thoughts for me. I really appreciate that.

    While the Lists were one of the things that made it hard for me to be thrilled about the worldbuilding in the book, there were other issues as well, such as the way the Hives were organized not seeming to me to be organically a stable structure. I felt that WARNING: SPOILERY SPOILTY SPOILERS!  Paul Kincaid over at Strange Horizons was able to articulate some of those things much better than me (and I see that you’ve read that review as well).

    Ultimately, it sounds as though you were able to “just roll with” things in this book better than I could in order to buy into the world (and I managed to “just roll with” the psychics in Kowal’s Ghost Talkers — which was pretty huge for me, in that psychics with no other SFFnal aspects generally trip my “nope” button). The fact that I honestly did not care about any of the characters other than Bridger (in fact, I mostly just found them all to be tedious) probably played a big part in that, too.

    Again, thanks for being so generous with your time and your thoughts. 🙂

  25. @JJ: Absolute pleasure. And likewise 🙂

    The honest truth is that there are some very particular things about Too Like The Lightning that really grabbed me — and, as you say, those things make me much more forgiving of flaws than I’d be otherwise. There are some things that just made the book for me — and I’m quick to recognize that for people who didn’t find those particular elements as intriguing as I do, the book just won’t work in the same way at all.

    (Just a really brief example — I was sold completely from the moment Mycroft explains the sen-sayers. That’s a twist on the very concept of religion, that feels deeply significant to me — as both a religious person, and a staunch believer in individualism. This squares the circle in a very weird way. That’s pure magic to me.)

    I guess I should bear that in mind in the future — it’s not that I want to argue with criticisms, which are generally 100% spot-on, but that I want to highlight the parts that I appreciated. 🙂

    And, well. One of the things I love about Too Like The Lightning is that I feel like it gives me so very much to talk about…

  26. Oh, it looks like you put in the wrong link for Paul Kincaid’s review.

    Here’s the correct link. (Repeating JJ’s cautionary note: SPOILERY SPOILTY SPOILERS!)

    @JJ, you’ve got interesting fiction discussions open in your other browser windows too! 😀

  27. Lela Buis writes:

    Chaos Horizon notes that works which appear on this list have a 92.3% likelihood of receiving a Nebula Award.

    There are more than a hundred novels on the list. If each of them has a 92.3% chance of receiving a Nebula, it follows then that there are more than 90 Best Novel awards given in a year. How’s that again?

    What is actually noted, of course, is that the novel that gets the Best Novel Nebula has better than a 90% chance of being one that appeared on the list: but that’s not at ALL the same thing. This kind of sloppiness is quite characteristic of Puppy rhetoric, of course.

    And, as previously noted, there are more than a hundred novels on the list, from all over the field. That the eventual Nebula winner is likely to appear on it is neither surprising, nor evidence of any kind of log-rolling.

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