57 books read this year, so up 12 on last year. And, as usual, some stats:
Graphic novels: 22 (otherwise excluded from here-on)
‘Proper’ books: 35
Of which were on the Kindle: 14
Of which were read on my new Kindle since September: 10
So, almost half the books I read this year were ebooks, almost exactly the same proportion as last year. Also this year there were 6 non-fiction books (with 2 more still sitting half read by my bed), again the same proportion as last year. I am nothing if not consistent.
So, books of the year. This was surprisingly easy, as book number 57 wins – How I Escaped My Certain Fate, by Stewart Lee. If you like comedy and especially if you like Stewart Lee then you must buy this now. It’s about £6 on the Kindle and Waterstones are currently doing it half price at £6.50 (as usually it’s a very expensive paperback at £12.99). It’s part autobiography and part dissection of three of his most recent shows, all accompanied by footnotes that probably are over half of the text.
Here’s the list:
How I Escaped My Certain Fate – Stewart Lee
Buy it. Do it now.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Hitchhiker’s Guide, #1) – Douglas Adams
Elidor – Alan Garner
Rereads. The first I know almost off by heart but I haven’t read any Alan Garner in a while. It’s still very good.
A Week in December – Sebastian Faulks
The Lacuna – Barbara Kingsolver
Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro
Eating Animals – Jonathan Safran Foer
One Day – David Nicholls
One Good Turn – Kate Atkinson
The Owl Killers – Karen Maitland
We now have a monthly book club at work, and these are the first 7 months of it. A bunch of bookstore-front-table stuff that I wouldn’t have touched in general, varying from the light (well, lighter) One Day and Week in December to The Lacuna, which I thought was excellent, if slightly dense. If you’ve read the above then you know that somehow we managed to choose books that aren’t all that happy, going from the persecution of religions in the middle ages through to a dinner party of deliberately awful people via a discussion of the morals of eating meat. Happy times.
Kraken – China Miéville
Like The City and The City this is full of excellent ideas. However, unlike TC&TC it backs those up with a much better story. It may well be that I don’t know the occult thriller as well as the detective novel and thus aren’t as harsh on this as I was on the previous novel, but either way I enjoyed it, and can see why it one this year’s Clarke award. I got it and Neverwhere for my Dad for Christmas – they go together very well, almost as if Miéville wanted to do his version.
Surface Detail – Iain M. Banks
A return to form, in my opinion, with big space opera, ships being ships and people sat around in the middle getting squished.
Solar – Ian McEwan
A book about a thoroughly unlikeable guy who does the wrong thing at every turn. It does talk about Imperial College and science a lot, but it ade me cringe enough that it was painful to read.
Yellow Blue Tibia: A Novel – Adam Roberts
Another entirely different book from Mr Roberts. I enjoyed it more than Swiftly, but less than his earlier more spacey and surreal stuff. This has his traditional interesting idea pulled out into a book and was a good read.
The Evolutionary Void – Peter F. Hamilton
The third part of the series that has generated my favourite book of the year for the last two years. As expected, it didn’t live up to expectation – the Waterwalker segment ended with a small bang quite early on, leaving the real space stuff to fill in the gap. It did quite well, ramping up the action, but things got a bit too big and confused and the whole lot eventually ended a bit anticlimactically with hints of the Night’s Dawn trilogy.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson
Got it because it was £2.50 on the Kindle. I won’t be getting the rest – okay, middle of the road thriller. Reading opinions about how the entire series is all just wish fulfilment fantasy by Larsson, with the everyman journalist lusted after by every woman he meets as he solves complicated puzzles to show his vast intellect, made it collapse even further in my estimation.
Nova War – Gary Gibson
Part 2 of 3 and I’d forgotten most of part 1. Interesting universe and this time bringing in some new races and getting a bit confused along the way. Not bad, but I’ve not rushed out to get the final part.
Sandworms of Dune – Brian Herbert & Kevin J Anderson
It was robots what done it. Thanks guys. Avoid.
The Fuller Memorandum – Charles Stross
More fun with The Laundry. This one didn’t grab me as much as the previous ones, which means it’s only very good.
Nights of Villjamur – Mark Charan Newton
I started out liking this one, with the city beautifully realised, but over time I got more and more bored and ended up not caring by the end. I hear that the next book isn’t as good, and that was from someone who loved the first one.
Orbus – Neal Asher
Another one that I don’t remember much – all of Asher’s books have started to blend together in my head. I still enjoy them while I’m reading, but quickly forget what they’re about. More Spatterjay stuff here, which is good, and more old captain v Prador. Other than that, I can’t say.
Shadow of the Scorpion – Neal Asher
I remember a bit more about this one, with the origins of Asher’s agent Cormac coming through. It was a quick read, not particularly challenging and tied in stuff that appeared after Cormac’s genesis which I suspect will appear in future books. Asher can bang these out at a scary rate while maintaining a fairly high level of quality. I think he’s up to 2 a year…
God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater – Kurt Vonnegut
I’ve yet to read a bad Vonnegut. This didn’t break the cycle. Whimsy and pseudo-philosophical examination of the world via a surreal and fun story. I think I need to ration his remaining books.
Retribution Falls – Chris Wooding
Firefly, the unofficial novel. Pretty much. Nominated for a Clarke award, to my surprise after reading it, but it’s more of a fun romp of a book than the average more serious Clarke nominee. Good fun and worth a read especially if you liked Firefly.
Secret Harmonies – Paul J. McAuley
This one took me a bit of a run up to read and in the end I found it a bit confusing as I didn’t remember much from the first book, which I didn’t particularly enjoy. Once that’s on the ‘go back and try again’ list.
Pasquale’s Angel – Paul J. McAuley
I liked this one. Alternative history with intrigue amongst the artists of medieval Florence.
The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ – Philip Pullman
Interesting, but not as interesting as it wanted to be. This is shown out by the fact it’s pretty much disappeared from the radar now. I bought a shiny interactive iPhone version with Phil Pullman talking about the book and other bits and pieces. I suspect I should have waited for the Kindle edition.
God of Clocks – Alan Campbell
Book 3 of 3 – not as good as book 2. Reminded me a bit of the Matrix sequels – portentous setup that fell flat at the end.
The Adamantine Palace – Stephen Deas
I don’t like books about dragons, but enjoyed this. I don’t know if I’ll grab the next load in the series, but it’s a well written fantasy novel with a take on dragons that’s different enough that I endured it happily.
At All Costs (Honor Harrington, #11) – David Weber
War of Honor (Honor Harrington, #10) – David Weber
This brought me up to date with the Honor Harrington series, but I’ve just noticed that there is a book 12 that I will be downloading shortly. There are diminishing returns with every book, but it’s still good fun military space opera. I’m just wondering how much powerful Honor can become without becoming queen of the known universe…
The Craftsman – Richard Sennett
Picked up due to a recommendation by John Glaser of Compass Box Whisky during a ‘How to Blend Whisky’ session that I’d forgotten about until seeing him talk about similar things again this year. An interesting pulling apart of the concept of craftsmanship that I’ve highlighted a bunch of stuff in (yay Kindle!) to push at managers at work. Lots of interesting stuff but the occasional jarring note when talking about areas of craft that I know about (mainly software engineering).
A History of Iran: Empire of the Mind – Michael Axworthy:
Part of my mission to learn a lot more about the middle east and a good introduction. It covers from prehistoric through to the present day and shows the incredible array of cultures and people who have wandered through Iran, and how the current regime is rather different to the past. Features a picture of Churchill, FDR and Stalin sitting on a podium together.
In Search of the Blues: Black Voices, White Visions – Marybeth Hamilton:
One that’s been sitting for a while after I got it for my birthday one year. My original read of the introduction made me think that it might have slightly worrying opinions with racist overtones, but after I pushed on I realised that I was wrong. It’s more a dissection of popularisation of music by white researchers in search of a mythical ‘pure black voice’ while the voices in question were more interested in making their own new music than reiterating the past. An interesting look at how the observer can influence the observed.
This Sentence Is False: An Introduction to Philosophical Paradoxes – Peter Cave
My first book of the year, courtesy of Christmas. A great introduction to philosophical paradoxes, twisting your brain a bit as Peter Cave walks through seemingly obvious statements to show how they aren’t what they seem.
Ignition City – Warren Ellis
Yuri Gagarin as the town drunk in the shanty town surrounding the last spaceship launchpad. With rayguns, intrigue and Warren Ellis’y dialogue. I loved it.
The Unwritten, Vol. 1: Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity – Mike Carey
I’ve heard that this is one of the best things that Carey has written, and while I quite liked it I’ve not been back to grab the rest of the series. I think I need to have a reread and see what the fuss was about again.
Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour – Bryan Lee O’Malley
The final book in the Scott Pilgrim series and one that despite not ever being able to get up to the levels of expectation still left me with a tear in my eye. Marvellous.
Concrete Volume 3: Fragile Creature (Concrete (Graphic Novels)) – Paul Chadwick
Concrete Volume 2: Heights (Concrete (Graphic Novels)) – Paul Chadwick
Concrete Volume 1: Depths (Concrete) – Paul Chadwick
Rereads and still brilliant. Poignant and strangely philosophical examinations of life from the view of a senatorial speechwriter who wakes to find himself embedded into a giant concrete body by aliens. I’ve got all of the rereleased volumes (apart from the recent one about views on human birth rates, which I have the issues of) and I work through them from time to time.
Incognito, Vol. 1 – Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips
More quality superhero/criminal crossover that reminds me that I need to reread Sleeper.
Pluto: Urasawa x Tezuka, Volume 1 – Naoki Urasawa
Pluto: Urasawa X Tezuka, Volume 2 – Naoki Urasawa
Pluto: Urasawa x Tezuka, Volume 3 – Naoki Urasawa
Pluto: Urasawa X Tezuka, Volume 4 – Naoki Urasawa
Pluto: Urasawa x Tezuka, Volume 5 – Naoki Urasawa
Pluto: Urasawa x Tezuka, Volume 6 – Naoki Urasawa
Pluto: Urasawa X Tezuka, Volume 7 – Naoki Urasawa
Pluto: Urasawa x Tezuka, Volume 8 – Naoki Urasawa
My favourite comic series of the year – a reworking of the Osamu Tezuka Astroboy ‘The Greatest Robot on Earth’ series from the 1960s by Naoki Urasawa, the guy behind 20th Century Boys and Monster. It’s beautifully draw, wonderfully written and a really interesting story that touches on modern conflict as well as being true to the story it came from. It makes me want to read Astroboy, and with my dislike of Tezuka’s work that I have read that’s impressive.
20th Century Boys, Volume 10 – Naoki Urasawa
20th Century Boys, Volume 9 – Naoki Urasawa
20th Century Boys, Volume 8 – Naoki Urasawa
20th Century Boys, Volume 7 – Naoki Urasawa
20th Century Boys, Volume 6 – Naoki Urasawa
20th Century Boys, Volume 5 – Naoki Urasawa
One every two months, only 14 more to go. And maybe 2 prologue volumes. I like this still – the action has continued to hot up and I think we’ve only got a couple more years of story to go…
Monster, Vol. 2: Surprise Party – Naoki Urasawa
Bought because I needed an Urasawa fix and 20th Century Boys hadn’t been delivered. I think I need to continue with this series, as the idea of a doctor trying to catch the serial killer who is a child he saved before his career collapsed, with the serial killer taunting him as being the one who unleashed him on the world is interesting. That was a very long sentence.
Anyways, I’m currently reading Iain Banks’s Transition for the work book club (my suggestion was chosen from the lunchbag/hat this month) and I’ve got The Men Who Stare At Goats, a book about concrete and other materials (thankyou RI Christmas lectures), and another Honor Harrington book on the horizon, along with the various history books that stare at me from the bedside table…
And now I must be away – I’m off to see Stewart Lee’s new show this afternoon…