What I Read Last Year

Happy belated New Year, everyone!

In 2012, I apparently had my act together sufficiently well to summarize my reading for the year in a post that actually was posted when other people are doing their summaries of things that happened over the course of the year. (If that sentence made no sense, what I mean is that I posted this post before the end of December 2012.)  For 2013, I didn't keep track of my reading so well, leaving me scrambling to get this posted in a reasonable amount of time. But, here it is!

Top 100 Books

I did a bit better with the Top 100 books in 2013, mostly at the beginning of the year, after which I'm not sure what happened. In 2014, I'm going to try to read at least ten, because if I don't pick up the pace a bit, this project is never going to end. And by the way, my curiosity and need for completeness have gotten the better of me, and I probably will read the rest of The Alexandria Quartet.

Random/Romance Books

I suppose there's a good chance that the reason I didn't read many of the books I was supposed to be reading was that roughly a third of the pages I did read were from Stephen King's Dark Tower series. My intention is to eventually review these books under the "Random" category, so I'll list them all here. I also read some other random stuff, which I then reviewed. I assure you that these reviews will show up here in the fullness of time. I even read another romnov! Oh, and I should also mention that I've decided that I'm going to make more of an effort to include only 20th century books as randoms. Not for any particular reason, just because I think that's neater. God knows I read very few brand new books.
  • The Gunslinger by Stephen King, 300 pages
  • The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King, 463 pages
  • The Waste Lands by Stephen King, 588 pages
  • Wizard and Glass by Stephen King, 699 pages
  • Wolves of the Calla by Stephen King, 925 pages
  • Song of Susannah by Stephen King, 542 pages
  • The Dark Tower by Stephen King, 1031 pages - LONGEST BOOK!
  • The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough, 530 pages
  • The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi, 330 pages
  • The Tin Flute by Gabrielle Roy, 274 pages

Everything Else


I do a terrible job of reviewing everything I read, and anyway I'm way ahead on my random reviews, so my list of unreviewed novels is fairly long again.

The Fifty Year Sword by Mark Z. Danielewski, 285 pages

House of Leaves is still my favourite of Danielewski's books, but I like his schtick, and I will be all over The Familiar when it's finally released. As for The Fifty Year Sword, it's a great spooky story about group of children and a strange visitor who tells them a tale about a journey. I'd hate to give away the ending. The coloured quotation marks are inessential and superfluous, the embroidered art is not. I think I'll make a habit of reading this on future Halloween nights (the book is 285 pages long but none of those pages are really covered in text).

The Rapture of the Nerds by Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross, 349 pages

I think it's almost time for me to admit to myself that while I might love Charles Stross's blog like crazy, I might not like his actual writing very much at all. He has numerous series that I'd like to dip into before I make that decision final, but this book did nothing to convince me to stick with him. (As for Cory Doctorow, I'm way less familiar with him and so won't dispense any comments either way.) It's not that the book is bad. It's about, um, the great uploaded hive mind trying to upload the rest of humanity who still exists in "meatspace"--if you'll pardon the sf parlance. I liked it well enough but it made very little impression other than surprise about the fact that the main character switches sex halfway through the book and is mostly untroubled by it. If I'm rambling and failing at sentence structure it's because this book was confusing and scattered in a similar way.

The Book of Names by Jill Gregory and Karen Tintori, 304 pages

The cover of this book should've been the only clue I needed that it was a The Da Vinci Code code wannabe. I enjoyed the Jewish twist on that concept/genre/whatever, but found the characters pretty flat and the whole book just generally perfunctory.

The White Plague by Frank Herbert, 445 pages

My first foray into the non-Dune work of Frank Herbert. (Just so we're clear, I love Dune but Herbert seems to come out of the Tolkien school of genre-defining writers whose prose isn't all that great.) This book is about a brilliant geneticist whose wife and children are killed by Irish terrorists, and then takes revenge on the entire world by creating a sickness that will kill all of the women in it. The first half of the novel is really exciting, then it comes to a crashing halt and doesn't really pick up again until maybe the very end, which is mostly interesting because of the implications of what a world transformed in this way would be like. Herbert doesn't really get into that, it's more up to the reader to reflect in horror after the final pages.

To Be or Not To Be by Ryan North, William Shakespeare, and YOU, 740 pages

I didn't really read this whole book, and despite the present vogue for Choose Your Own Adventure books, this is the last one I'll ever buy. It's Ryan North's Hamlet, and he did a pretty good job with it. I'm a big enough fan that I am happy to just hand him money so that he can keep making awesome, funny things. But the fact is that I am way too lazy to read these kinds of books. I read through the actual Shakespeare version of Hamlet portion of this book, knew that there was no way I'd go back to all the different branches, looked upon his works, and despaired. I also found the conversational style a little bit out of place. Although it doesn't incorporate a great work of English literature, North's B to the F project involving the Back to the Future novelization is much more worthy of everyone's time. Seriously. Go read it now.

Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson, 916 pages

I don't know what I was expecting from Stephenson's Baroque Trilogy, but it certainly wasn't meandering historical fiction set in the Age of Enlightenment. And, I mean, it's just straightforward historical fiction, other than the inclusion of Enoch Root, who apparently appears in Cryptonomicon as well. I haven't read that book, but I guess the implication is that he actually did find some fountain of youth. Anyway, Eliza is a fairly typical anachronistic Strong Female Character, but her adventures are fun to read about, and likewise for Daniel and Jack, the other two main characters. The book is slow but interesting and just sufficiently funny. I'll definitely pick up the next in the trilogy sometime next year.

Short Stories

I've been thinking lately that I might subscribe to Asimov's again. I miss short sf.

Different Seasons by Stephen King, 507 pages

These are the novellas that have had some of the most successful adaptations of any of Stephen King's work, except for the last, which would make a great episode of The X-Files. I think they all suffered a little in the reading thanks to my familiarity with the adaptations. Stand By Me is probably better than "The Body," whereas Apt Pupil just spoils some of the shocks in the novella of the same name. But now one of these days I'll need to watch Shawshank Redemption all the way through.

Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town by Stephen Leacock, 186 pages

Possibly the first instance of CanLit to make it onto my blog, a neat little collection of stories, many of which interconnect. Sweet and funny and explicitly nostalgic, I thought the collection was fine but a little dull. I'm not sure whether a place like Mariposa, the fictional little Ontario town in which the stories are set, ever existed in Saskatchewan, where the living is harder and the modern world much slower to arrive. Not that that particularly matters, just a thought.

Graphic Thingies

Most of the Locke and Key series by Joe Hill

  • Welcome to Lovecraft (Volume 1), 158 pages
  • Head Games (Volume 2), 144 pages
  • Crown of Shadows (Volume 3), 140 pages - SHORTEST BOOK!
  • Keys to the Kingdom (Volume 4), 147 pages
  • Clockworks (Volume 5), 153 pages
At some point in 2012 I found out that Joe Hill is Stephen King's son, and although that ultimately doesn't mean much, around the same time I also started hearing things about how good Locke and Key is. I decided to give it a shot. Obviously based on the fact that I kept reading after the first volume, I really enjoyed this comic. It's about three kids whose father is murdered, resulting in their relocation to a creepy mansion in the town of Lovecraft (probably in Maine but I don't remember exactly).  There are a number of magic keys hidden throughout the mansion, and these keys lead them on a series of adventures related to creepy stuff. The final volume, Alpha and Omega, is scheduled for release mid-February of this year, and I'll be buying it from my local comic store like I did the rest of the books.  I think I'll also try to read Horns before the Daniel Radcliffe-starring movie is released in the fall.


This year wasn't exactly a bad year for me and non-fiction, but it definitely was a bad year for finishing non-fiction books, which you'll see below.

But Do Blondes Prefer Gentlemen? by Anthony Burgess, 589 pages

I've mentioned this collection before. It took me forever to read, mainly because I got mired in reviews of strange books and essays about things I didn't care very much about (e.g. a particularly long one on the subject of Barcelona and Catalan in general).  The collection is dated, is what I'm trying to say. Burgess seemed to know things about everything, although some of his attitudes were maybe a bit less than enlightened. I can't quite recommend this, although I am a huge fan of Burgess and can't wait to read A Clockwork Orange again, maybe very soon! Oh, and the response to the question posed by the title is that gentlemen prefer gentlemen.

The Sun and the Moon by Matthew Goodman, 300 pages

I bought this in the discount section at the bookstore because I have terrible impulse control in bookstores.  It's about an 1830s New York newspaper hoax, and while it's got a lot of interesting detail in it, the main story about the hoax isn't enough to carry the entire book. I feel like this would have been information better learned via a Wikipedia rabbit hole, not least because the information was presented in fragmented parts when it would have been better off in bigger chunks. In fact I'll even give you the first few links if you'd like to learn about this yourself.  Start with The Great Moon Hoax, follow that to Edgar Allan PoeSir John Herschel (whose page reveals a Saskatchewan connection, of course!), and The Sun (sadly the book is silent on the "Yes, Virginia" connection). You'll have to make your way to P. T. Barnum somehow, too. Of course I'm not going to pretend that this will give you all the information in the book, which has lots of fully cited background information. But for the amount of interest I had in the actual hoax, I didn't really need to read the whole book.

That is All by John Hodgman, 357 pages

Maybe next year/at the end of this year I should make a comedy section, but whatever. This is John Hodgman's third book of fake trivia, and sadly I haven't read the others. After reading this one, and falling gradually more and more in love with him over the course of this year, I'm going to have to read the others for sure. I'm not sure if I ever actually laughed out loud, but I was certainly VERY AMUSED. He also imitates Cormac McCarthy in a couple of small bits and it was excellent.

Zombie Spaceship Wasteland by Patton Oswalt, 191 pages

This is why I say I need to a comedy section. Two whole books!  Alas Oswalt's wasn't as funny as Hodgman's. I don't think it was supposed to be, and the book (just some personal reflections, mostly) was nicely written and thoughtful, but if I'm going to read a book written by a comedian, I guess I'm expecting a few more laughs? I dunno.

The Disaster Artist by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell, 268 pages

THIS IS A BOOK ABOUT The Room. It will not answer a single one of your questions about Tommy Wiseau, who he is, or what happened to him to make him into the person he is, but it gets you behind the scenes of the movie and it is funny and bewildering and I loved it.

Books I Didn't Finish

I dunno if this is the year that I finally come to grips with my own mortality and the hopelessness of my aspirations to read all the books, but this business of finishing most of the books I start might not be true anymore. Mostly I didn't finish these books because I had to bring them back to the library before I finished them, but usually in that case I'll just pay late fees because I'm a crazy person. This is a bizarre departure. The first was just not very much fun, the second one had a smug narrator, and the third really did just need to get back to the library.
  • Love in the Ruins by Walker Percy
  • The Beginning of Infinity by David Deutsch
  • Liberty by Lucy Moore
Total pages in 2013 besides books I read over my holidays and was too lazy to include: 13 635
Total pages per day: 37 (woo! thanks comics!)

Did you read any really great books in 2013? What's on your list for this year?

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