It was a very good year for reading. (Cue in Frank Sinatra) But I’m
not quite sure it was a vintage
wine, year, sweet
and clear, though I read some very good books.
Just for the record, I have three ring binder in my possession that lists the 100 books I read in 1966, the 56 in 1967, 53 in 1970, and the 25 I read from Jan to April in 1971. After that, the record gets sparse until I started recording the books I read again in 2021, with a total of 18. This year I have more than doubled that to 40 books. Or to be more precise, I started reading 40 books. It, however, has never been my policy to waste my time reading books I don’t like just because I started them. So looking down my list I find that I finished 25 of them, DNF’n 15 of them. Not a bad ratio, at least for me.
For new books, Michael Graeme’s A Lone Tree Falls, earned an A- from me. I had a lot of fun writing a tongue in cheek review of it in something like his style. He writes something like your grouchy, the-world-is-going-to-hell-in-a-handcart grandpa, but there was an interesting secret service story running through all his grouching that made it enjoyable. John Hadfield’s Love on a Branch Line was a much more lighthearted story that I discovered via a BBC production that is available on YouTube. I had order this book from England, via Abe books, as it is out of print. (And got a very nice hardcover copy as well.) I rated it a B+. A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine earned a B, but I find I’ve no desire to read the next book in the series. Sadly, the rest of my more recently written books did not fare as well.
I read two W. Somerset Maugham stories, Cakes and Ale, and The Moon and Sixpence that I enjoyed, Cakes and Ale more than The Moon and Sixpences as it involved writers and had a lot to say about writing that is still relevant today. I also read two Compton Mackenzie books, Monarch of the Glen and Whisky Galore and am reading The Rival Monster, all of which I enjoyed. I am going to continue to look for books from the first half of the last century which seems my spiritual home for reading.
I made an effort to discover good fantasy books, sampling books from the best writers in the genre. I tried two Guy Gavriel Key books, Children of Earth and Sky, and River of Stars, DFN'ed both mainly for the fact that I need a central character to follow though a story. Stories with multiple points of view, especially with so-so characters do not work for me. I then tried Robin Hobb’s Ship of Magic, which also had multiple point of view characters, all who seemed to drone on and on about the trivial details of their life, which was I suppose her way of world building, but I didn’t find a character that I cared about. DNF’ed it as well some 43% into it. (I tried...) I did read two Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn novels that TOR offered for free, Alloy of Law and Shadows of Self that I rated C & D. I had been told that one of the characters that I liked played a larger part in the second book, which is why I continued reading it long after I would’ve DNF’ed it, but sadly this wasn’t the case. I downloaded the third book in the series, but won’t be reading it. Early in the year, I read Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch and rated it a B- but once again, I won’t be reading on with the series. Indeed, I’m not likely to read any more fantasy books.
I read 13 books in the science fiction genre, I finished 7 of them. The worst book I attempted to read was Gene Wolfe’s The Shadow of the Torturer. Wolfe may be a f**k’n genius, but not in my opinion. I sometimes wonder if you make something incoherent enough people people think you’re just too brilliant and after several readings discover their own meanings in it. I also tried a Peter F Hamilton book. I felt that it had way too many points of view and a slog to read, even as far as I did, which was 10%, but it was a long book. I made it all the way through James S A Corey’s Leviathan Wakes, but won’t be continuing on with that series either. Plus I read a few other older SF books, none of which sparked my old love of SF. Long story short, except for an author I know I like, I won’t be reading much if any SF anymore either.
Looking ahead, There is one book I am looking forward to, and that is Redside Story by Jasper Fforde, a sequel to perhaps my favorite SF story Shades of Grey. There were supposed to be two sequels, but they were never written because sales of Shades of Grey disappointed the publisher. However, a year ago I discovered that he planned to wrap up the story in one volume. It was supposed to be released last August, but that was pushed back to now July 2023. Fforde has a history of struggling to finish books, so we’ll see if he can finish it in time for a July release. Other than this book, I’ll probably to continue to explore more old time writers hoping to discover more lighthearted novels from 1900 – 1950’s, which seems to be my cup of tea.