Nice, I still have to get the sequel to The Prefect too.
Currently trying to finish up a short story collection edited by George R.R. Martin called Rogues. It’s got stories by Gillian Flynn and Neil Gaiman and Paul Cornell and Joe Lansdale and Connie Willis, among other; and GRRM contributes a story featuring Daemon Targaryen. Haven’t gotten to that one yet, but my favorites so far have been the ones by Gaiman and Willis.
The Germanic Languages
Here is a list of all the books I read in 2018, in order from favorite to least favorite. Not a ton this year.
Graham Greene, The Power and the Glory (1940) - The only book I read that made me feel like the best books should, like a forest that grows over you.
Michael Diamond and Adam Horowitz, Beastie Boys Book (2018) - Basically a mixtape in book form. If more bands approached their bios like this, I would not be opposed to it.
Clive Barker, The Books of Blood Volume 1 (1984) - Not sure how I didn’t read Barker when I was a kid but reading these stories now made me feel like a kid again.
Nate Chinen, Playing Changes: Jazz for the New Century (2018) - A fascinating read even if you don’t like contemporary jazz; if you do, then it’s a treasure map.
Kaitlyn Greenidge, We Love You, Charlie Freeman (2016) - The title may tip this off, but it’s an African American woman doing Kurt Vonnegut, only without some of the jokes.
Ryan H. Walsh, Astral Weeks: A Secret History of 1968 (2018) - The psychedelic history of Boston’s 1960s music scene, filtered through Van Morrison’s time there and presented as a terrific yarn.
Charles Portis, True Grit (1968) - The charm of this book is its voice, truly singular even in Portis’ catalogue.
Kim Gordon, Girl in a Band (2015) - Unique among rock bios in how Gordon effortlessly combines how she felt then and how she feels now, mostly because it’s tied inextricably with looking back on a marriage that was a lie, but it also feels like the way we talk has evolved in 30 years, too.
Jesse Jarnow, Wasn’t That a Time: The Weavers, the Blacklist, and Battle for the Soul of America (2018) - I didn’t know much about the Weavers headed into this book, and it feels a bit info-dumpy at times, but it’s a marvelous record of an early time when the alternative and mainstream began intertwining, creating a tributary that so much still flows from.
William Sloane, To Walk the Night (1937) - A bit on the dry side but coalesces a lot of the noir and cosmic horror tropes in a way I hadn’t quite seen before.
Colson Whitehead, The Underground Railroad (2016) - I generally don’t like American slavery as a backdrop for thriller (I hated “12 Years a Slave”) but it’s hard to deny that this is a page turner.
Lucia Berlin, Where I Live Now, Stories 1993-1998 (1999) - Exceptionally well written, incisive, and dark, but often too brief to be my kind of thing; I need a bigger meal.
Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep (1939) - It delivered exactly what I expected.
Lizzy Goodman, Meet Me in the Bathroom: Rebirth and Rock and Roll in New York City 2001-2011 (2017) - I guess the general 1999-2004 era was my early 20s in NYC, and I lived adjacent to this scene, but everyone I know thought all of these people and bands were full of shit and still do, so this book was not for me.
Jeff VanderMeer, Annihilation (2014) - The movie was better.
Gary Pomerantz, The Last Pass: Cousy, Russell, the Celtics, and What Matters in the End (2018) - I love any stories about the early NBA and the Celtics in particular, but the central idea here (Cooz apologizing to Russ for not doing more to help with his discrimination) never quite worked, in part because Russ had the last laugh over everyone.
William Sloane, The Edge of Running Water (1939) - In some ways, this book is better than “To Walk the Night” in relaying the fear of the vast unknown beyond our consciousness, but I read this book second and couldn’t help thinking “oh, this guy has a thing with women.”
John Shaw, This Land That I Love: Irving Berlin, Woody Guthrie, and the Story of Two American Anthems (2013) - There’s a fascinating relationship between “God Bless America” and “This Land is Your Land” and the book serves it well, but some of the research could have been left out.
Present Tense: Rock & Roll and Culture edited by Anthony DeCurtis (1992) - A bunch of essays from roughly when rock started being treated academically in mainstream culture, which I guess was successful as by now most of their points are widely known.
Neil Young and Broken Arrow: On a Journey Through the Past edited by Alan Jenkins (1994) - Lots of essays from a Neil Young fanzine from (mostly) the 70s, which was more illuminating with regards to 70s rock fandom than Neil.
Tove Jansson, The Summer Book (1972) - I love me some Moomin but this was not for me; I’m not sure who this was for.
Bruce Handy, Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children’s Literature as an Adult (2017) -There are some interesting details, particularly in how late in life many iconic children’s authors start, but this should have been a magazine series.
Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist (1988) - I’m not sure why I read this book; I despise stories as parables, much less when it has a spiritual, self-help bent.
My goal this year was to read more books than I did last year (44), which was below my norm as I usually average in the 50s, and I succeeded with 66.
Off the top of my head without checking I’d say my favorite was probably What The Hell Did I just Read? by David Wong, the third book in the JDATE series.
I liked this one a lot. Not quite as much as the first one, but more than This Book Is Full of Spiders (which I also liked, mind you). What the Hell Did I Just Read? also has a more serious and ambitious vibe to it, especially when it comes to themes like David’s insecurities and anxieties about his relationship and ultimately the fact that he is fighting a losing battle against depression.
It was for me – I thought it was great. But then again, I read it in Swedish. Maybe something was lost in the translation.
Yeah the depression stuff I thought was really powerful.
I managed to finish 37 books in 2018 (in reading order below; NF means non-fiction, all others are fiction):
- The Arabian Nights – Muhsin J. Al-Musawi, ed.
- Outerborough Blues: A Brooklyn Mystery – Andrew Cotto
- The Sheltering Sky – Paul Bowles
- Tales of the City – Armistead Maupin
- The Girl Who Takes an Eye For an Eye—David Lagercrantz
- Grim Death and Bill the Electrocuted Criminal – Mike Mignola & Tom Sniegoski
- Too Big To Fail – Andrew Ross Sorkin NF
- The Story of Edgar Sawtelle – David Wroblewski
- House of Fear – Jonathan Oliver, ed.
- A Brief History of Vice – Robert Evans NF
- A Death in the Family – James Agee
- Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
- Blindness – Jose Saramago
- The Wind Through the Keyhole – Stephen King
- Before the Fall – Noah Hawley
- How the States Got Their Shapes – Mark Stein NF
- A Test of Wills – Charles Todd
- The Breath of God – Jeffrey Small
- Cat’s Cradle – Kurt Vonnegut
- Meet Me in the Bathroom – Lizzie Goodman NF
- Every Heart a Doorway – Seanan McGuire
- Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances – Neil Gaiman
- The Voyage Out – Virginia Woolf
- Shadow of the Lions – Christopher Swann
- We Are Called To Rise – Laura McBride
- NOS4A2 – Joe Hill
- Killer Island – Anna Jansson
- Tigerheart – Peter David
- The Best of Robert E. Howard, Volume 1: Crimson Shadows – Robert E. Howard
- A Colony in a Nation – Chris Hayes NF
- Dark as Night – Mark T. Conrad
- The Man From the Train – Bill James NF
- Bloodline – James Rollins
- Want Not – Jonathan Miles
- Swan Song – Robert McCammon
- Killers of the Flower Moon – David Grann NF
- Rogues – George RR Martin, editor
The bold ones are my Top Five for the year, because they all still resonate with me long after I finished reading them.
Looking over goodreads I think they miscalculated the number I read, it’s a little lower but not much thankfully.
- The Drowning God by James Kendley
- The Devouring God by James Kendley
- Kill All Angels by Robert Brockway
- Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff
- The Last Days of Jack Sparks by Jason Arnopp
- Deadman’s Cross by Joe R. Lansdale
- My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix
- Last Year by Robert Charles Wilson
- House of Hanging Jade by Amy M. Reade
- Gideon by Alex Gordon
- Persepolis Rising by James S. A. Corey
- Jericho by Alex Gordon
- Beasts Made of Night by Tochi Onyebuchi
- Into the drowning deep by Mira Grant
- The Lonely by Andrew Michael Hurley
- The Ghost Notebooks by Ben Dolnick
- Gunpowder Moon by David Pedreira
- The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins
- Little Sister Death by William Gay
- FantasticLand by Mike Bockoven
- The Coincidence Makers by Yoav Blum
- No one gets out alive by Adam Nevill
- Bad Things by Tamara Thorne
- Red Winter by Dan Smith
- Cage of Bones by Tania Carver
- The Twilight Pariah by Jeffery Ford
- The Fold by Peter Cline
- If you could see me now by Peter Straub
- The Ritual by Adam Nevill
- Black Helicopters by Caitlin R. Kiernan
- Medusa Uploaded by Emily Davenport
- All Systems Red by Martha Wells
- The Silent Girls by Eric Rickstad
- Summerland by Hannu Rajaniemi
- The Cabin at the end of the world by Paul Tremblay
- Nightflyers by George R R Martin
- Awakened by James S. Murray
- Competence by Gail Carriger
- Kill the farm boy by Delilah S. Dawson
- Book of M by Peng Shepard
- Black Dog by Caitlin Kittredge
- Bad Man By Dathan Auerbach
- Dreams and Shadows by C. Robert Cargill
- Noir by Christopher Moore.
- Embers of War by Gareth L. Powell
- Artificial Conditions by Martha Wells
- Blood Standard by Laird Barron
- Hope Never Dies by Andrew Shaffer
- Homey Don’t Play That!: The story of In Living Color by David Peisner
- Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson
- The Memory of Trees by F. G. Cottam
- Ararat by Christopher Golden
- We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix
- Snakes! Guillotines! Electric Chairs!: my adventure in the Alice Cooper Band by Dennis Dunaway
- Bedfellows by Jeremy C. Shipp
- Rogue Protocols by Martha Wells
- Thin Air by Richard K. Morgan
- Beastie Boys Book by Michael Diamond & Adam Horowitz.
I’m almost done Lovecraft. But what should I read afterwords? I want to return to reading Russian Literature, but am not sure whether to read Gogol’s Dead Souls or Turgenyev’s Fathers and Sons first.
Gogol is great, and I can’t stand Turgenyev.
Have you read Chekhov? My second favorite Russian writer after Dostoyevsky.
All I’ve read is Lady with the Lapdog, which I don’t like.
EDIT: My Russian Lit professor did recommend Gogol, but to transition from Dostoevsky to him via the Latter’s works like The Devils, which I read as an extra-curricular activity during the semester, and the introduction to the specific translation I got was very helpful in my essay on Dostoevsky’s short story The Meek Woman.
Clive Barker is awesome. I’ve read almost everything he’s written. I think Weavworld is my favourite. I want to read it again, but I have a signed first edition and so don’t feel safe reading it around my kids.
There was a list tabulating the best fiction of the 21st century to date, and Helen DeWitt’s The Last Samurai was chosen as the best of the best. So I tracked it down, and am currently in the midst of reading what is certainly one of the best works of fiction of the 21st century to date. So that was good to confirm.
Other than the Thief of always I could never get into Barkers fantasy books. I always preferred his straight Horror stories. Damnation Game is still one of my favorite horror novels.
Same here. My personal favourite next to Weaveworld is sprobably Imajica.
If he would just finish Abarat…
I read a bunch of Chekhov’s short stories, can’t remember the names, just that I just loved them.
Other Russian favorites are Lermontov’s A Hero of our Time and Goncharov’s Oblomov.
More Discworld re-read:
Guards! Guards!: One of my favourite-ever books, and it holds up very well. The plot of the book, with people’s false nostalgia for life to be like it was when Ankh-Morpork had kings being exploited, feels all too relevant.
All the stuff with Lady Sybil works well for me too; I love her relationship with Vimes.
I’d forgotten that most of Lord Vetinari’s character is established here too; all the scenes of him in his prison with Vimes are excellent.
It is yet another book about trying to install a king though.
One small problem is that the whodunit aspect doesn’t really work. Wonse is pretty much the only suspect who ever makes sense, despite his attempts ot implicate Vetinari.
Eric: This was a fun little one. The whole jumping through time and space aspect feels very H2G2, especially the scene where Rincewind and Eric travel back to the start of the universe.
I thought this might be the novel to break the streak of novels about installing kings, but right at the end they throw in a subplot about a coup to take over hell.
Definitely funnier than the other Rincewind books, even though it doesn’t feel very Discworld-y.
Moving Pictures: I wasn’t a fan of this one. The movie parody stuff starts decently enough, but it’s the same jokes over-and-over of them doing something that’s like a film from this world but slightly off. It gets old very quickly, and then just keeps going.
The lead character, Victor, is a bit too much of a cypher. There’s nothing that memorable about him, and the whole almost-a-wizard stuff never comes to anything much. I did like Gaspode the Wonder Dog though.
I love Dibbler, but I think he’s better in small doses. He’s one of the main characters here, and it feels like a bit much.
The big positive for the book is as a course-correction for the wizard characters. The non-Rincewind wizards in all the previous books have felt both unlikable and interchangeable. Ridcully is a great character, who moves the wizards in a more enjoyable, comedic direction.
I do like the final showdown, with the characters coming through the screen, Purple Rose of Cairo-style, but it’s still one of the weaker books.
Reaper Man: This is a weird one. The storylines with Death on the farm, and with Windle Poons and the undead of Ankh-Morpork, are great, and would usually make this one of my favourite Discworld books.
There is, however, a really awful subplot about an invading supermarket that doesn’t work at all, and especially doesn’t fit with the more subdued stuff in the main plotlines.
Also, was the idea of supermarkets hating swearing some weird early-90s satire? I had no idea what was going on there.
It’s not a huge part of the book, so it doesn’t drag it down too much for me, but it’s a weird misfire.
On the positive side, I was happy to get more Ridcully. I know Brian Blessed often came up in fan-casting for Ridcully, but was the character actually based on him? A lot of the anecdotes mentioned about his past feel like parodies of things Blessed is claimed to have done.