The 16th edition of Nuketown’s Sci-Fi and Fantasy Summer Reading List for 2023 features 13 books (12 novels, one non-fiction book), two novellas, and one graphic novel. While dominated by science fiction titles, it has a few horror and fantasy books too. There’s a self-help book dedicated to dealing with stress.
Looking Back at 2022
Last year, I planned to read 17 books (12 novels, 5 non-fiction books), 5 novellas, and 5 graphic novels.
I ended up reading eight of the 17 books on my list, one of the five novellas, and four of the five graphic novels. During the year that followed, I read another book on the list, getting my total up to nine, but the last graphic novel and the novellas lingered. The list is meant to be aspirational and fun – it’s nice to have goals and it’s nice to meet those goals, but I’m not going to beat myself up when I don’t meet them.
Well, not too much.
Looking back, there were four challenges with that list.
- Novellas: It included a bunch of novellas, which I don’t normally read. I’m not a big short fiction reader, and it’s hard for me to get into those books even if I enjoy the larger series (the sole exception being The Expanse tie-ins, which often provide important insights into the larger universe).
- Non-fiction: During most of the year, I read non-fiction with a smattering of speculative fiction books. My summer reading lists are typically popcorn-style, easy reads meant to take my brain off the hook for a while. Adding five non-fiction books to the list slowed my enthusiasm, even if they were books I really wanted to read for work. Lesson learned? Don’t include books that are for work.
- The Lord of Light: Roger Zelazny’s book of high-tech human gods ruling over a far-future colony planet is worth reading … but it was a hell of a slugfest to get through. It bogged down my entire June. In retrospect, it would have been better as a slow read in autumn or winter.
- Shifting Priorities: Without Philmont to motivate me for my morning hikes, I exercised less, which means I had less time to listen to books, which means … I read fewer books. I never got into my morning reading routine (coffee + book) – I don’t recall what I did during those mornings, but it was probably work-related (which is far less healthy than coffee + book)
This year, I’m looking to pull a few unread books from last year’s list. They’re good books, and worth returning to (and in one case – the third Thrawn Ascendency novel – I completely forgot it was on the list). I also want to focus more on those fun, popcorn-style books. A little philosophy and seriousness isn’t bad (and I will likely get it with Iain Bank’s eighth Culture) book, but for the most part, I need to relax.
I really need to relax.
Fortunately, I’ll have some time to do that. I’m spending a week backpacking on the Appalachian Trail in New Jersey, which means I’ll have time each evening to read. I’m also headed to scout camp one last time (my son turns 18 in June 2024, so this is his last scout camp … and thus mine). I never get as much reading done at scout camp as I’d like, but a geek can dream.
I also plan to refocus my priorities on making time to read. I’m getting back to my morning walk & listens as part of training for the aforementioned hike on the AT (I’m in decent shape, but I’m not in 7-days-worth-of-backpacking-on-the-AT shape). I also want to spend at least 15 minutes each morning reading a book while sipping my morning coffee. It’s a great way to start the day and helps settles my brain before heading off to work.
- Print is for books in paper or e-book format.
- Audio is for the novels I’ll listen to in audiobook format, rather than read the traditional way.
- Island is for books that I intend to read during my family’s annual summer vacation at Lake Champlain.
- Pulled Forward are books I wanted to read in 2022, but didn’t get to.
Nuketown’s Summer Reading List features 12 novels. Based on prior years, that number seems doable.
Dragons of Deceit by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman – (Amazon) – Audio – The Dragonlance novels were some of my favorite books in high school, but I haven’t picked them up in decades. With Dragons of Deceit, Weis and Hickman present the story of a young woman whose father died in the War of the Lance. She seeks to find the magical means to undo his death by traveling back in time. Time travel? Magic? I’m in.
Alien: Out of the Shadows by Tim Libbons – (Amazon) – Audio – Alien: Bug Hunt showed up on my 2021 Summer Reading list. It’s an anthology of Alien-inspired short stories set in that universe, and taking place throughout its timeline. I’ve read a few Alien tie-in books since then and enjoyed them (as they combine my love of military SF with my love of the Alien series). They seem like a logical addition to my summer reading list, easily clearing the popcorn-novel threshold. There are a bunch of books out for the series now, so this summer I’m headed back to the trilogy that kicked off the current run of Alien novels with Libbons’ Out of Shadows.
Dead Moon (Threshold Universe, Book 3) by Peter Clines – (Amazon) – Print – I stumbled across Peter Cline’s Threshold Universe with 14, a spooky, LOST meets Lovecraft meets Men in Black novel about the inhabitants of an apartment building investigating a very strange room within the building. The second book The Fold, shifts the action to a research facility where scientists are exploring dimensions humanity was not meant to know. I’d forgotten about the series until I started looking back through my old summer reading lists for inspiration and sure enough, there was a new book.
Dead Silence by S.A. Barnes – (Amazon) – Print, Island – This book is pitched as Titanic meets Event Horizon: A salvage crew finds a lost luxury starship and deals with the horrors within. Sounds like my kind of read.
Children of Memory (Children of Time Book 3) by Adrian Tchaikovsky – (Amazon) – Print – I devoured the first two books in this series Children of Time and Children of Ruin while I was at Philmont in 2021. Both of them were large-scale, world-building novels following human interactions with alien cultures across centuries. I’m eager to see what Tchaikovsky has in store with this latest book in the series.
Eversion by Alistair Reynolds – (Amazon) – Print – A time-loop novel by Alistair Reynolds sounds like a great summer reading list book. This was a surprise addition to the list – I forgot I asked for it for Christmas, so it was already sitting in my Kindle library.
Eyes of the Void (The Final Architecture Book 2) by Adrian Tchaikovsky – (Amazon) – Print – More space opera – the Architects are monstrous, planet-killing aliens who warped Earth into a bizarre space sculpture before disappearing into deep space. The first book features a hoax meant to trick the galaxy into believing the Architects had returned. Eyes of the Void picks up where the previous book left off; for fear of spoilers, I’ll leave it at that.
Implacable (The Lost Fleet: Outlands Book 3) – (Amazon) – Print, Island– (Release date: July 4, 2023) – Admiral John “Black Jack” Geary has taken his fleet beyond the frontier and is battling the dangerous and cryptic Enigma aliens. If only he weren’t also fighting Alliance politicians back home, who are concerned he’ll use his immense popularity to seize control of the government
Machine (White Space, Book 2) by Elizabeth Bear – (Amazon) – Print, Island, Pulled Forward – The follow-up to Ancestral Night, which I read as part of the 2021 Summer Reading List … and which I planned (and failed) to read in 2022. The first book revolved around Haimey, leader of a small crew of salvagers, and the discovery of an ancient secret. The follow-up continues in the same space opera vein, only this time it follows Dr. Jens, a doctor dedicated to healing sick aliens.
Matter (The Culture, Book 8) by Iain M. Banks – (Amazon) – Audio, Pulled Forward – My slow progression through Iain Bank’s The Culture series continues with Matter. The seventh book in the series deals with an agent of Special Circumstances and her complex family history. Special Circumstances is the intelligence arm of The Culture, a post-scarcity, galactic human utopia. The exact setup doesn’t matter; The Culture books have been consistently good, and I’m looking forward to reading the next novel in the series (even knowing that I only have two books left after this one)
Star Wars: Lesser Evil (Thrawn Ascendency, Book 3) by Timothy Zahn – (Amazon) – Print, Pulled Forward – Star Wars books are my go-to beach read, so it’s good that we’ve got a new Zahn novel out. The Thrawn Ascendency books are prequels taking place between the prequel trilogy and the original trilogy, and detail everyone’s favorite blue-skinned, red-eyed admiral’s rise to power.
Station Eternity by Mur Lafferty – (Amazon) – Print, Island – A murder mystery on a sentient space station; David, my co-host over at Lair of Secrets, described it as a cozy sci-fi murder mystery.
Nuketown’s Summer Reading List one non-fiction book. Technically, there are other non-fiction books that I may read this summer, but this is the one I’m focusing on getting done. As I learned last year, too many “un-fun” books on my list kills my enthusiasm.
Stress-Proof Your Life: High Performance Under Pressure by Eliz Greene – (Amazon) – Print – Author Eliz Greene suffered a heart attack while 7 months pregnant with twins. She lived and so did her daughters. The experience taught her that she needed to focus on her priorities – namely her own life and family – and figure out how to de-stress her life. She goes beyond the standard work/life balance issues and talks about the physical symptoms of stress and how to deal with them. She doesn’t advocate eliminating the stressors in your life, because stress can be good. It’s about quickly recovering from the stress you have, and managing your feelings of “overwhelm”.
I picked this book up as a giveaway after Greene keynoted HighEdWeb 2022 and it’s been in the back of my head to read it ever since.
The Sins of Our Fathers (The Expanse, #9.5) by Corey S.A. James – (Amazon) – Print, Island book – The final novella in The Expanse series. it’s going to be a bittersweet read; I really enjoyed The Expanse novels, which were a fixture
Rogue Protocol (The Murderbot Diaries, Book 3) by Martha Wells – (Amazon) – Print – The further adventures of a sentient killing machine who just wants to be left alone.
Hellboy: The Bones of Giants – (Amazon) – Print – The latest Hellboy graphic novel takes place in Sweden, and involves the legends and mythical creatures of that country. Given that my family’s from Sweden AND I love Hellboy, this one’s a no-brainer.
Previous Sci-fi and Fantasy Summer Reading Lists
- 2022: 17 books, 5 novellas, 5 graphic novels
- 2021: 14 books, 2 novellas, 8 graphic novels
- 2020: 10 books, 1 novella, 5 graphic novels
- 2019: 19 books, 5 graphic novels
- 2018: 15 books, 7 graphic novels
- 2017: 17 books, 1 novella, 8 graphic novels
- 2016: 16 books, 1 novella, 8 graphic novels
- 2015: 15 books, 9 graphic novels
- 2014: 13 books, 5 graphic novels
- 2013: 11 books, 5 graphic novels
- 2012: 11 books, 1 graphic novels
- 2011: 11 books, 0 graphic novels
- 2010: 7 books, 0 graphic novels
- 2009: 9 books, 0 graphic novels
- 2008: 8 books, 8 graphic novels
- 1993: 26 books