My Year in Books, 2017
I never thought of doing this before – but this morning while just waking up and I had the idea to just sort of review everything I had read this year and keep a kind of log for it and I was so excited with the idea it got me out of a very warm and comfortable bed at 8 o’clock in the morning!
So thankfully I have Goodreads, which helps a lot for recall of this kind. I did remember everything I read, but not in the correct order that I read them in – and the stuff I disliked, I thought I had read a LONG time ago. Funny how my mind wanted to push those memories away.
So I began 2017 in a glorious way. I decided to pick up Gormenghast, which begins with Titus Groan. In fact, I bought the second book first because it had a great foreword by Tad Williams, a great favorite of mine. But discovering my error I quickly picked up Titus Groan and my life was forever changed.
Now, I know Peake isn’t for everyone. But he’s absolutely for me. The extremely dense and rich prose is *directly* up my alley and I enjoyed every single perfect second of this book. It was a delight to read, it was incredibly immersive, incredibly descriptive and I feel like I’ve been to Gormenghast and trawled its endless and infinite halls myself.
Because this is just a quick and dirty backstep into my previous year of reading, I cannot express my love *enough* for this book. But it launched itself RIGHT into my top 10 handily and I will love it forever.
I did some Non-Fiction reading after that, picking up and making notes from Katherine Briggs’ The Fairies in Tradition and Literature. The Middle Ages; Everyday Life in Medieval Europe and Everyday Life in Medieval England. This is for research purposes as well as just my own general interest. I’ve been in constant study since…. Well, forever.
The next fiction I read was The Heart of What Was Lost by Tad Williams a bridge novella between his Memory, Sorrow and Thorn trilogy and his new sequel series, The Last King of Osten Ard. I love everything Tad Williams writes and this was no exception.
Next was another bit of Non-Fiction. At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past. Hot damn this book is excellent. It describes what people and historians and basically *everyone* ignores. What did we do at night? What were our rituals, our traditions, what did we think of the night at large? I can promise you this book will open your eyes and teach you things you never thought of before and never realized. It was one of the best Non-Fic books I’ve ever read and I loved every single page.
Next I read Wylding Hall. Sounds cool – book cover even cooler. Flip to the back and it sounds very cool indeed. 1970s folk band needs to get away to write an album, they go to a dilapidated old Manor House in the English countryside to get away from everything and something mysterious happens… etc etc
It was good for ambiance, I’ll give it that much. +100 to the author for using a Neolithic Long Barrow as a Faerie mound, as is proper. But she had this amazing cool potential and just dropped the ball so hard. Really uninspiring ending. I’d almost love to rewrite the ending to this book and flesh out the creepiness and thrill. She gave it a good college try, but ultimately it felt lacking.
Next was the Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson. Erstwhile finisher of the Wheel of Time series. He can write adequately of course – typical fifth grade reading level kind of stuff. Nothing special in his prose. Here’s the thing; it’s baby fantasy. Meant for first timers to the genre. Basic Hero’s Journey kind of stuff, of which I have read hundreds of examples of. (I’m not exaggerating.)
So, while this series is insanely popular and beloved, it fell quite *meh* for me. It was just ok and it wasn’t even really that good because I didn’t finish it. I didn’t care about the characters enough. It felt too much like someone was just plugging in a bunch of expected tropes and pumping out expected fetishizing fantasy bits and bops. It just wasn’t special.
This is because I’ve read too much typical Fantasy, I do understand this. This book has a place in the genre – but for people newer to the genre. That’s the nicest thing I can say about it. I read books 1 and 2 and skimmed 3 before just rolling my eyes. Sorry folks, it’s just not great.
Next I read Seveneves by Neal Stephenson.
All I can say is this; holyfuckingshitIlovedthisbooksomuchitwasincrediblefuckfuckfuckgreatomgoneofthebestever. YES.
Everyone should read Seveneves. The physics might be tough for some people to muddle through, but all of it’s worth it.
Next I read The Witchwood Crown by Tad Williams – the new book in his new sequel trilogy The Last King of Osten Ard. I loved this book. He’s changed as a writer though – he’s dumbed down his prose quite a bit to widen his readerbase. This is fine, because he’s still a crackin perfect (and I mean PERFECT) storyteller. But oh, those early books of his… he can craft my fine fellows. He’s a wordsmith through and through. I’m a Tad Williams *devotee* and this was really quite excellent. Cannot wait for Empire of Grass.
Then I picked up some more Non-Fiction and absolutely devoured Life in a Medieval Village. I had read this 20 years ago, but without the intervening 20 years of study (and a buttload of travel to England) to back it up it was mostly lost on me. Why we have 20 year-old’s study in college and then quit studying is beyond me. Y’all should never stop. Your brain gets better at learning as you learn. So much delectable information in this book. Details and minutiae about everyday life in a medieval village abound. I loved it so much I read it twice. I’ll probably read it again about six times. Medieval life absolutely comes alive in this book, it is just fantastic.
Then, ruminating around with a kind of ennui with fantasy and having just finished The Witchwood Crown I was just like… nothing can compare to this…. What shall I do……………
So I decided to re-read (for the third time, but it’s been years) The Lord of the Rings.
People who know me will simply nod and “ahhh, yes.” But to those uninitiated, let me express to you the depth and lasting devotion to that most perfect and wonderful of stories.
…….. I’m expressing wordlessly because there are no words to describe.
And lastly, after about a week of not reading anything, which is UNREAL for me but I needed a little downtime after finishing The Lord of the Rings, I picked up The Gone Away World by Nick Harkaway.
Totally fun, different book. I must naturally key myself to British writers because I could tell he was British simply by his (excellent) prose and word usage and of course, once I read “bubble & squeak” the case was closed. At least, I think he mentioned that at some point. Hahah!
Anyway, terrific book. Would highly recommend, was great fun and I love a good post-apocalyptic book with a fair bit of humor and of course, Ninjas 😉
So that’s 16 books give or take, because I’m quite sure I’ve neglected to mention about 3 or 4 Non-Fiction books in there that aren’t on my Kindle or still on my desk and so I have regretfully forgotten them at present.
If you’re goggling at that amount of reading, firstly – let me just say that there will always be some pedantic asshole who will want to come in and say “I’ve read 30 books this year” and feel better about themselves. That’s fine. Their retention may vary. I only read at night, before going to sleep whilst laying in bed. So it can be done! So if you ever wish you read more, just know you can indeed read as much as you like, it’s possible! 😊