Top 100For most of 2017, I took a slow and steady approach to reading List books, with what I consider good results. I kept up a more rapid pace in the earlier part of the year, so I'm doubtful that the next few years of the project will see this kind of progress, but of course you never know. I am pleased to report that while I didn't love every single one of the Top 100 books I read this year, none of them was as actively unpleasant as what I've experienced in previous years.
- The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad, 269 pages
- The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway, 198 pages
- Point Counter Point by Aldous Huxley, 432 pages
- A Dance to the Music of Time: A Question of Upbringing by Anthony Powell, 230 pages
- A Dance to the Music of Time: A Buyer's Market by Anthony Powell, 274 pages
- Deliverance by James Dickey, 284 pages
- Lord of the Flies by William Golding, 248 pages
- The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene, 255 pages
- Go Tell It On the Mountain by James Baldwin, 263 pages
- Howards End by E. M. Forster, 343 pages
- The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder, 235 pages
- All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren, 661 pages
- As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner, 265 pages
Random/RomanceThis is the first year since I started these summary posts that I only read/reviewed Random novels and no Romance. That's not necessarily a good thing: I've been feeling a bit lackadaisical about these reviews lately, and I may just need a good rant about a romance novel to kick start things back up again.
- The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, 278 pages
- Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, 209 pages
- East of Eden by John Steinbeck, 601 pages
- The Hour of the Star by Clarice Lispector, 81 pages
- Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese, 221 pages
- Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton, 292 pages
- Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie, 254 pages
- Green Grass, Running Water by Thomas King, 431 pages
- Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor, 236 pages
Other NovelsI've been making a sincere effort to be more diligent about reviewing books and not getting sidetracked with books that I'm not going to review. Of course "sincere effort" often falters. As usual when it comes to "classifying" my reading, the category with the most entries is "novels I read and didn't bother to review."
Roadwork by Richard Bachman, 274 pagesI bought a collection of the first four Bachman books so that I could read Rage (a disappointment), and Roadwork was the last book remaining in the collection that I hadn't read, and I probably could've skipped it. This is Stephen King's awkward stab at an angry literary white guy novel and it's terribly boring and dumb. A man's home is on the route of a new freeway and he doesn't want to move. Shit happens.
Fire, Bed and Bone by Henrietta Branford, 116 pagesI read Branford's novel The Fated Sky roughly a million years ago during a brief period when I was really intrigued by Vikings (I am still intrigued by Vikings but have yet to read another book about them). At some point I found out that she'd also written this book and it had won an award or two, so I decided to give it a shot. This is a children's book narrated by a hunting dog about the 1381 peasants' revolt, and is thus a strange marriage of Jack London and Karen Cushman. It was quite good, but is definitely aimed at young readers. If you know one and can guide them through some dark material, this book would be a great choice.
Lilith's Brood by Octavia E. Butler
- Dawn, 248 pages
- Adulthood Rites, 269 pages
- Imago, 227 pages
Double Indemnity by James M. Cain, 115 pagesFor a brief moment I considered reading through a bunch of the shortest books on my Goodreads to-read list, and got this from the library. I also wanted to try out some more James M. Cain. I ended up reading it between two other books, because it is very short, not to mention hard to put down. This is another story of murder and adultery with an insurance salesman protagonist who's less charming than the lead of The Postman Always Rings Twice but an ending that packs just as much of a punch.
The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen, 435 pagesThe most bizarre thing I read all year, and I would love to be able to discuss this novel with someone. On her 19th birthday, Princess Kelsea Raleigh Glynn leaves the cottage where she grew up in hiding to ascend to the throne as the Queen of the Tearling. This sounds straightforward except for the part where everything about this book is perplexing, especially the worldbuilding. It's set in our future but is quasi-medieval and also includes magic. Please someone read this and then we can talk.
Dolores Claiborne by Stephen King, 372 pagesIf you were paying any attention whatsoever, you'll know that there was a total solar eclipse that traced a path across the lower 48 US states in August. To celebrate, I read this book, which is Stephen King's revenge book that also happens to feature a total eclipse. Dolores Claiborne is a woman who has a terrible husband. The book is presented as her confession to police. While the narrative voice isn't as strong as some other first person narrators I've read (One Hand Clapping in particular), it's a good novel.
His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik, 356 pagesDid I just start another series that I'll say I really want to read more of and then won't pick up again for like five years? Yes, probably. This is the first book in Naomi Novik's Temeraire series, essentially her answer to Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin books: the Napoleonic Wars with dragons. Once you get past the issue that longterm use of dragons in human military efforts of the sort depicted in this book would result in a vastly different world history up to the point of said Napoleonic Wars, this book is great. Temeraire is the main dragon character and Navy Captain William Laurence is his rider. I had a lot of fun reading this book and there were a lot of unexpectedly great character moments. I hope to pick up the next one soon. *cough*
Commonwealth by Ann Patchett, 322 pagesA family saga of sorts, about a blended family that arises out of two of the parents' adulterous actions. It's told non-chronologically, which I enjoyed a fair bit, and each individual part was pretty good. Unfortunately I didn't enjoy the whole as much as many others seem to have done. I especially didn't care for the depiction of allergies in this book.
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell, 510 pagesI chose this book for my book club to read and I planned to also review it for the blog but then there was literally too much to write about so I left it for this round up instead. This is the story of an interstellar mission arranged by the Society of Jesus to meet the aliens who are the source of the first extra-terrestrial transmission detected by humans. The expedition is multi-faith and well-intentioned, but things go wrong very quickly. This is a really interesting exploration of ideas about cultural relativism, colonialism, faith, family, and a whole lot else.
The Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer
- Annihilation, 128 pages
- Authority, 228 pages
- Acceptance, 233 pages
The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect by Roger Williams, 176 pagesI didn't expect that anything could top Lilith's Brood for weird sex stuff, but my reading of this book late in the year blew that right out of the water. This is a book about the singularity as initiated by an artificial intelligence programmed with Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics. Lawrence is the AI's creator and Caroline is the first woman it saved from dying. You'll have to read it yourself for the weird sex stuff, but basically like a lot of other singularity fiction this deals with the fact that in a world where anything is possible and nothing requires any effort people get bored and do a lot of crazy things. The ending of this book is one of the most unexpected I can ever recall encountering.
Malice by Chris Wooding, 379 pagesThis is the first of a YA duology that's told in both novel and comic form. Malice is the world where Tall Jake takes his victims, and their grisly deaths are depicted in a comic of the same name. The comic sections are not illustrated all that well (although I flipped through the sequel a bit and things appear to improve there). The protagonists are a bit paint-by-numbers, but I was interested enough that I decided I'll read the second book.
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, 487 pagesAn amazingly and amusingly convoluted story about a boy who discovers a book in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books and proceeds to become very involved in a search for the book's author, Julián Carax. Everything takes place in 1945 Barcelona, with the exception of all the flashbacks. Things get pretty layered with plot twists and different character relationships popping up in different ways. The female characters don't fare very well. This book reminded me of The Historian and The Thirteenth Tale, which I think do aspects of this kind of story better, although I did enjoy the book overall.
Graphic ThingiesThis may be the year that I end my experiment with reading comics. So often I find myself wanting so much more from them and still really failing to understand the medium. On the other hand, it's not like they take much effort to read.
Through the Woods by Emily Carroll, 208 pagesA collection of five spooky stories. In general they were more about atmosphere than gore (the story "The Nesting Place" has some pretty terrifying imagery, though) and like all good ghost stories they were open-ended, however as usual I wanted something more. Carroll's art and her colour palette are very, very good. You can read some of her comics (not these five) on her website. I love her take on "The Three Snake Leaves."
Fairy Tale Comics edited by Chris Duffy, 125 pagesThis collection of fairy and folk tales is illustrated by several different artists, and I got along better with some of their work than others. Most of the tales are from the Grimms, but there are a few more "international" ones as well. It definitely has a younger audience in mind and some of the darker elements of the tales are toned down for that reason. If you have a young reader in your life, pass this along to them along with Fire, Bed and Bone.
Attack on Titan by Hajime Isayama
- Vol. 3, 208 pages
- Vol. 4, 192 pages
- Vol. 5, 192 pages
- Vol. 6, 208 pages
- Vol. 7, 192 pages
- Vol. 8, 192 pages
- Vol. 9, 192 pages
Hilda and the Midnight Giant by Luke Pearson, 40 pagesHilda encounters both giants and tiny people. Hildafolk was one of my favourite reads of 2016 but this expanded sequel didn't quite match up. Where Hildafolk was just a bit bizarre and completely adorable, with a restrained colour palette and thoroughly charming art, Hilda and the Midnight Giant is more expansive and less delightful. Again, I'm not really the target audience for this, and I think young readers would have a great time with it.
Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang
- Boxers, 325 pages
- Saints, 170 pages
Flotsam and JetsamUsually I have more miscellaneous items to report from the year, but this time around there are only two: a collection of short stories (sort of) and a play.
Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm by Philip Pullman, 406 pagesPhilip Pullman is best known for His Dark Materials and this is a horse of a different colour: his interpretation of 50 of the Grimms' fairy tales, with his commentary on each tale after the stories, as well as a listing of similar stories from other folk tale collections. Pullman isn't, as far as I know, revising any of the stories to any great extent, he's simply telling them in his own words. If that makes sense.
Richard III by William Shakespeare, 200 pages (estimated)I continued my project of reading one Shakespeare play per year with Richard III, which I skipped in 2016 in favour of Julius Caesar. If not for the novel The Sunne in Splendour (which you may recall I didn't really care for), I would've had zero idea of what was actually going on in this play, besides Richard III being a cartoon villain. I have no idea how it's performed (i.e. how do you know who any of the characters are and how they're related to one another?!). Of course, Richard III is actually more accurately The War of the Roses: Episode VIII so perhaps it's all made clear by the other plays. Not sure yet which play I'll choose for 2018, but there's a local production of The Merry Wives of Windsor so maybe I'll leave the sad stuff behind and give that a shot.
Non-FictionMy main goal with my non-fiction reading in 2017 was to learn more about Canada as a celebration of Canada150. I didn't read quite as many non-fiction books as I would've liked, but as usual the more non-fiction I read, the more new things I want to learn. I have over 200 non-fiction books on my Goodreads to-read list (and under 75 on my have-read list)! I've linked to my original review of each of these but still provide a brief summary/thoughts.
And We Go On by Will R. Bird, 231 pagesPossibly the book that made the biggest emotional impact on me all year: a WWI Canadian soldier's memoir.
Clearing the Plains by James Daschuk, 186 pagesWhere And We Go On had a serious emotional impact, Clearing the Plains had an equally serious intellectual impact on me. It's one thing to know abstractly that indigenous people on the Canadian plains were displaced by European settlers, it's completely another to see clearly presented on paper the complete devastation of those same indigenous people by small pox and Canadian government policies that denied them the essentials of life. Every Canadian should read this book, especially those in the west.
Why I Hate Canadians by Will Ferguson, 305 pagesA collection of humourous essays about the state of Canadian patriotism and some other related things circa 1997. It's aged surprisingly well but I admit that there are a few essays that haven't held up. This is an old favourite and I read it while in Ottawa celebrating Canada Day, and it was pretty perfect.
Managing Without Growth by Peter A. Victor, 224 pagesThis is the only non-fiction book I read over the past year that I didn't end up reviewing. It is Canadian but deals more with potential future economic models than history. It was a tough read because Victor presents his case very convincingly, and I'm completely unconvinced that any developed world economy will bother to heed any sort of warning of this kind before it's too late.
And on that positive note, here's the summary of my 2017 reading:
Number of books read: 61
Total pages in 2017: 16553
Total pages per day: 45 (39 excluding graphic thingies)
If you've read any of these books or have any recommendations for me, I would love to hear from you! How was your 2017 reading?