There are still a few days left in this year, and I'm on holidays so I could conceivably read several more books, but in the interest of posting something on the blog before the end of the year, let's just review what I've read so far.
Top 100 Books
I did really really badly with my Top 100 books these this year, and I blame it all on Finnegans Wake. I reviewed all of them, though, so if you're wondering what I thought, help yourself to some links.
- A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway, 484 pages
- Finnegans Wake by James Joyce, 628 pages - WORST BOOK! :( :( :(
- The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark, 128 pages
- Scoop by Evelyn Waugh, 308 pages
I read a lot more random books this year, but I was pretty terrible at actually writing reviews for most of them. And I read another straight-up romance novel for the first time in quite a while. Once again, these are just the ones I reviewed. Enjoy, if you like. (There are a few that I've reviewed but haven't posted yet. I'm not going to "spoil" my reviews, though, so you'll just have to wait until they go up eventually.)
- The Long Walk by Richard Bachman, 370 pages - BEST BOOK! :) :) :)
- Hull Zero Three by Greg Bear, 307 pages
- World War Z by Max Brooks, 420 pages
- The Magician King by Lev Grossman, 400 pages
- Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James, 514 pages
- Out of Oz by Gregory Maguire, 568 pages
- Battle Royale by Koushun Takami, 608 pages
I'm not sure if this is actually the case, but I feel like I didn't read quite as many novels this year as I usually do (or rather, I read way more non-fiction than usual, but we'll get to that in a second).
- The Gates by John Connolly, 293 pages
A book that I might've liked if I'd read it when I was 13 or 15, this was a young adult novel that didn't read well for an adult reader. The humour just wasn't sharp enough. Basically, the story is about a young boy named Samuel Johnson, with a dog named Boswell (?? the book is full of name jokes like this that don't quite hit, e.g. Samuel's teacher being named Mr. Hume), who discovers that the gates of Hell are opening in his neighbourhood. But the characters don't really have any depth at all and I barely cared about them. This one was hard to finish.
- The Scapegoat by Daphne du Maurier, 329 pages
I'm not sure if I've mentioned before that I really like Daphne du Maurier, even though The Parasites was pretty weird. This book is a good one, though, about an Englishman who loves France and meets his doppelgänger while vacationing there. The other man knocks him out and they trade lives. Apparently there's a movie starring Alec Guinness that I'd like to find sometime.
- The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles, 467 pages
You may remember that I really liked The Magus, and I got this book out of the bargain section of the bookstore. While maybe not quite as high tension as The Magus, The French Lieutenant's Woman is more of Fowles' fascination with double-crossing, plus a layer of metatextual stuff that's pretty fun.
- Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler, 354 pages
I really really enjoyed this book, which is a hugely long letter from a girl named Min to a boy named Ed. It's a little conventional in its views, maybe, but I feel like it also really captures what it's like to be a teenage girl who is a bit strange and in love with a boy who isn't. (I can't say I went through anything quite like that as a teen, but I'm sure it would've played out a lot like this if I had.)
- Bag of Bones by Stephen King, 732 pages - LONGEST BOOK!
Latter day King, which is to say it's perfectly readable but also easily skippable. He gets into some iffy territory with the racial politics in this book, about a writer who loses his wife and retreats to their summer home, only to find that things there are not quite as they should be... (DUN DUN DUN).
- The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin, 323 pages
I feel like this book, about a man who goes to make contact with the people on a planet where everyone is basically sexless except when they're in their mating periods, is a little bit dated. I liked it a lot, but there was something missing that I couldn't quite put my finger on.
- A Lion Among Men by Gregory Maguire, 312 pages
Ugh, boring but unfortunately necessary reading for the Wicked Years series. You'll see more about this in my review of Out of Oz.
- I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett, 349 pages
The conclusion (probably?) of the very excellent Tiffany Aching branch of Pratchett's Discworld series. Basically it's an exploration of Tiffany's youth and vocation of witchcraft. I really wish this series was more popular, but I guess everyone right now has a taste for grim dystopia rather than humourous fantasy.
- The Android's Dream by John Scalzi, 394 pages
My first foray into the work of geek celebrity John Scalzi. I wasn't very impressed, unfortunately. The story is about relations between Earth and .. some aliens who are looking for a breed of sheep, and if they don't find it, it'll basically start interplanetary war. There were some good sf concepts but I thought the humour was weak overall, and for an author who's supposed to be all about diversity or whatever, there was a noticeable dearth of female characters in the book. I've heard his hard sf is better, though, so I'll probably give that a shot before I write him off.
So I kind of don't like short stories very much most of the time, mainly because I prefer the more thorough immersion of novels. But stories are cool, too. I read three collections of them this year.
- East and West by Pearl S. Buck, 202 pages
Asians and white people, in Asia and America. Some interesting stuff here about the way cultures clash.
- Speak of the Devil edited by Alfred Hitchcock, 235 pages
Mystery stories! I got this book out of my grandparents' basement, my grandma being a huge lover of mysteries. (My mom is, too. It's kind of strange that I never got into the genre at all.) The stories are old and historically interesting (mistaken identities and plane rides that would be literally impossible in the present day and age), but the book overall was meh. It's not staying in my library.
- Luminous Fish by Lynn Margulis, 180 pages
This is a book that I saw in a bookstore a long time ago and didn't buy, but it ended up stuck in my head, so I finally got it online. The stories are about science and love. It was decent but not what I'd been building it up as in my brain, unfortunately.
I'm trying to get into other media a bit more, specifically graphic novels, but maybe things like plays and stuff eventually too. Anyway I'm really bad at reading things with pictures because I don't look at pictures.
- Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton, 166 pages
But I love Kate Beaton. And my copy is signed by the author with a drawing. Yay!
Now that I'm done school, I'm trying to get more into non-fiction because it's basically the only way I'm going to learn anything anymore. Also I'm interested in basically everything and I wish that I could read everything about everything.
- A History of Marriage by Elizabeth Abbott, 404 pages
What it says on the tin. I loved this book, although it got a bit long at the end, where it gets into modern times. It only deals with "western" definitions of marriage, though, due to the topic being way too huge to cover for global definitions of the word.
- Gold Diggers by Charlotte Gray, 385 pages
The Klondike gold rush! A fun book and really interesting.
- Loving with a Vengeance by Tania Modleski, 114 pages
Academic exploration of romance novels and soap operas. There were interesting things in this book (e.g. how the predictability of the romance plot is the only way that the books can work, because otherwise the hero would be a cruel, terrifying creep), but there was also a lot of Freud. I'm hoping to read some more up to date discussions of the romance genre soonish.
- Future Shock by Alvin Toffler, 432 pages
An excellent discussion of the rapidity of change in the modern world and the unintended consequences for people. While I find technophobia a bit annoying, Toffler makes a really compelling argument for why all new technology shouldn't be immediately embraced.
- The Purity Myth by Jessica Valenti, 262 pages
A book about virginity and how silly it is. I liked it but found that it really only scratched the surface of things rather than thoroughly discussing them.
- Memories of the Future, Vol. I by Wil Wheaton, 135 pages
Wil Wheaton's recaps of the first half of the first season of Star Trek TNG episodes. I really wish he'd release Vol. II at some point. Anyway these are amusing and they're one of the reasons I became a fan of his in the first place.
- Sunken Treasure by Wil Wheaton, 84 pages - SHORTEST BOOK!
I had to buy this book at the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo last year because I forgot to bring Memories of the Future with me so that I could get it signed. But this is just a Wil Wheaton sampler, basically, and it's good, so that's alright.
- A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft, 133 pages
Oh. My. God. I was absolutely not prepared for how fiercely Wollstonecraft makes her point about giving women the same rights and opportunities as men (I'm misstating it a bit, but it's hard to summarize quickly). I think it's pretty safe to say that she's one of my new heroes.
And that's all, folks! Total pages read for all of these books is 11020, which means that, as of writing, I've read about 31 pages per day this year. That's about the same as what I did last year. I really need to up my game.
And what about you? Any standout books that you read this year? I'm always looking to add to my reading list.
And what about you? Any standout books that you read this year? I'm always looking to add to my reading list.
The three I would recommend -ReplyDelete
American Gods by Neil Gaiman - This kind of reinvigorated my love of reading. It's focused on America, but the premise fits Canada as well. Shadow, a mortal man, travels around America for various purposes, running into various gods that the settlers/immigrants brought with them as he goes. Quite clever.
Journal of the Plague Year - a historical fiction piece by Defoe set during the Great Plague of 1665, when 20% of London's population died. It can be a bit of a drag at some points, but fascinating in general, especially considering his extensive use of statistics and the curious role of the narrator as both bystander and participant.
The Corner by David Simon - just finished this the other day. A mix of personal narratives and critique of the system. Even if you haven't seen The Wire, a terribly compelling read. I found it both heartbreaking and inspiring.
Ooh, thanks for the comment!Delete
I read American Gods what feels like a thousands years ago and really enjoyed it. Now I'm just trying to decide which book of Gaiman's to read next.
The other two suggestions are going on my To Read list, though! (The Wire is on my To Watch list, too!)