Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Looking back at my year in reading...

I'm proud of myself, and I'm not ashamed to admit it.

I set a goal to read 40 books in 2013, and I not only reached that goal, but exceeded it by one book. I also read in excess of 15,000 pages in completed books this year, which was also over my goal. I really read a lot more than that, but I did a lot of partial reading of books that had information I wanted for research purposes without having to read the full book.

Now it's the last day of the year, which means it's time for my reading year in review. It was a good year, if only because there is not one book on the list this year that I would have to recommend against reading it. Certainly, I liked some more than others, but I don't regret the time I spent on any of them.

I read more non-fiction than I do fiction, and this year was no exception, although I only read three more non-fiction than fiction books. This was kind of a surprise to me, since it seemed like I was always reading things as research for the book I'm writing. I stuck mostly to favorite authors for my fiction reading this year. I did discover Lee Child's Jack Reacher series, and liked the first one I read enough to read another. I continued my love/hate relationship with Patricia Cornwell's writing - I don't know what it is, other than probably her penchant for experimenting with person and tense. First person present, which she uses in some of her Kay Scarpetta novels, makes me want to scream. I spent a lot of time reading the Kellermans, both Faye and Jonathan, because their books are comfort reading for me. I found a Michael Connelly Harry Bosch novel that I hadn't read, and that was a good thing, as was finding that Faye Kellerman had a new Decker/Lazarus novel out (that was "The Beast").

I only read a couple of science fiction novels this year, "Redshirts" by John Scalzi and "Inception", by W. A. Harbinson. The Harbinson book, though, is really only tangentially science fiction, postulating that UFO sightings can be explained by advanced aeronautics design by Nazi scientists and engineers during World War II. It's not a bad book, really (although the end of it seemed to be a little bit of cheat), but it isn't really science fiction, either. On the other hand, "Redshirts" was superior science fiction (and won the Hugo Award this year for Best Novel), not to mention funny and a kick to read. It was my favorite fiction read all year.

I've just started reading through the Harry Potter series. I'd read the first book years ago, and reread it at the end of this year. I'm reading the second one, which I had started right after reading the first volume the first time but got sidetracked from, now, and I intend to get through the series this time. Yeah, they're for a YA audience, but like many other adults, I really like the story Rowling tells (I've seen all the movies) and want to get an insight into the characters that isn't available in the films. So, look for more of these on my fiction list next year.

So here is the list of fiction I read this year:

Grievous Sin, by Faye Kellerman
Scarpetta, by Patricia Cornwell
Cross Bones, by Kathy Reichs
Bones, by Jonathan Kellerman
The Conspiracy Club, by Jonathan Kellerman
Private Eyes, by Jonathan Kellerman
The Hard Way, by Lee Child
Terminal Freeze, by Lincoln Child
Bare Bones, by Kathy Reichs
A Wanted Man, by Lee Child
Deception, by Jonathan Kellerman
The Drop, by Michael Connelly
Redshirts, by John Scalzi
The Beast, by Faye Kellerman
Inception, by W. A. Harbinson
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, by J. K. Rowling

And now for the non-fiction.

A lot of the non-fiction I read this year had something to do with the book I'm writing about the Baby Boom generation and the world we live in (being a Baby Boomer myself and all). The rest of my non-fiction reading was either stuff I found at the library that just looked interesting - the Cavett book; the book about the art thefts after the fall of Baghdad; "Anarchy Evolution" which was written by Greg Graffin, who is a punk rock musician and college professor in zoology, with special interest in evolutionary theory; "Hands Through Stone", which is about some local crimes here where I live; and the book about Scientology - or were things that I'm particularly interested in. These included the Coelacanth book, the books on religion and religious belief, and the UFO book. I've been reading about UFOs since I was about 8 or 9 years old, and I find the subject fascinating although I'm certainly not a "true believer". The UFO book was also part of my research for the book I'm writing, since the modern era of UFO sightings began not long after the Baby Boom started.

One of the biggest surprises in my non-fiction reading this year was "Life With Mother Superior", by Jane Trahey. It's the book that inspired the film "The Trouble with Angels" (1966), which stars Rosalind Russell and Hayley Mills, and was directed by Ida Lupino - and is one of my favorite movies of all time. The thing that surprised me about the book, a memoir which takes place in the 1930s and was published in 1962, is that the movie was so true to the book, and that some of the adventures in the movie were actually toned down from the events that inspired them.

Seven of the non-fiction books were re-reads: The O'Neill book about the Sixties; both books about the Manson Family (the Sanders and Bugliosi books); "Kingdom Coming"; the Al Franken book; the Stephen Book, which is one of the best books on both writing and on the horror genre that I've ever read; and "Leaving the Saints", which is a very controversial book both among Mormons and ex-Mormons, but a good book worth re-reading nevertheless.

I can't say I have a favorite among the non-fiction I've read this year. Each of the books was good and worthwhile in one way or another, or I wouldn't have finished them. There are too many good books in the world to spend time finishing the ones that aren't good or aren't interesting or don't have valuable information in them - and even those in the last category can be mined for the information I need sometimes without having to be read straight through.


Talk Show: Confrontations, Pointed Commentary, and Off-Screen Secrets, by Dick Cavett
Thieves of Baghdad, by Matthew Bogdanos with William Patrick
Julie & Julia, by Julie Powell
What They Didn't Teach You About the 60s, by Mike Wright
Boom!: Voices of the Sixties, by Tom Brokaw
When F. D. R. Died, by Bernard Asbell
On the Trail of the Assassins, by Jim Garrison
Coming Apart: An Informal History of America in the 1960s, by William L. O'Neill
The Family, by Ed Sanders
Helter Skelter, by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry
Kingdom Coming, by Michelle Goldberg
Anarchy Evolution, by Greg Graffin and Steve Olson
Lies (And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them), by Al Franken
Danse Macabre, by Stephen King
Living Fossil: The Story of the Coelacanth, by Keith Steward Thompson
Prophet's Prey, by Sam Brower
UFO Hunters, by William J. Birnes
Life With Mother Superior, by Jane Trahey
Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, & the Prison of Belief, by Lawrence Wright
Hands Through Stone, by James A. Ardaiz
Leaving the Saints, by Martha Beck
Weird Arizona, by Wesley Treat
Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, by Mary Roach

So, there you have it...41 books read over the course of the year, some of them long (the longest was "Boom! Voices of the Sixties", at 662 pages) and some of them much shorter (the two shortest were "Life With Mother Superior" at 210 pages and "When F. D. R. Died" at 211 pages). Some of them easy reads, others not so much. But all of them, depending on what you're interested in, worth the time and effort to sit down and do the reading.

As I've said before around here, go read a book. Does one of the books on my list this year sound interesting? Go find that and read it. Or go to the library or your local bookstore and browse the shelves until you find something that sounds like you'd like it. Or, put something new on your Nook or Kindle or whatever newfangled thing you've got to read on. Me? I'm old fashioned and I like paper books, but whatever format you prefer is fine.

And if you find something you really like? Come back and tell us all about it, so we can enjoy it too.

Happy New Year.

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