Sunday, January 1, 2017

My 2017 Reading List

This is the fourth year of doing this, keeping track of everything I read during the year. Don't ask me why. It makes me happy and gives me something to do with this blog, I guess. Anyway...

Although I'm probably going to keep doing this, I finally broke down and joined Goodreads. On my My Books page you can find all the books that I've read over the last three years and a few others.

1.  Blood's a Rover -- James Ellroy

Book Three of Ellroy's "Underworld USA" series. This book picks up after the events of The Cold Six Thousand (2016 list, #45), more of Ellroy's action-packed, hard-boiled, conspiracy-laden secret history of the United States.

2.  This Census-Taker -- China MiĆ©ville

An intriguing, compelling little novella. I'm interested in reading something a little more substantial from MiƩville in the near future.

3.  Acceptance -- Jeff VanderMeer

 Book Three of the Southern Reach Trilogy, a well-written, but bizarre sci-fi series. This is definitely not a standalone novel, you must read the others, Annihilation and Authority, to get any sense out of this one (and maybe not even then.)

4.  The Nest -- Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

I was hesitant about this book, not sure if it was just chick-lit or something a little deeper. It turned out to be a pretty decent family drama that moved along at a brisk pace. 

5.  April 1865 -- Jay Winik

Non-fiction. Subtitled The Month that Saved America, this is an engrossing account of the final days of the Civil War and the remaking of America.

6.  A Man Called Ove -- Fredrik Backman

A comical, touching, affecting tale of a Swedish curmudgeon. It's hard for me to imagine anyone who wouldn't love this book.

7. The Widow -- Fiona Barton

A page-turner of a crime thriller involving a missing child and the widow of the man who was the main suspect telling her side of things.

8. The Wrong Side of Goodbye -- Michael Connelly

It's not very often that I read the same type of book back-to-back, but here's another crime thriller. A typical Connelly book; not as good as most, but still pretty damned good.

9. Just After Sunset -- Stephen King

I've been re-reading this collection of short stories over a long period of time, throwing a story or two in from time to time between books. Not King's best short story collection, but some good stories in the mix.

10.  Terror in the City of Champions -- Tom Stanton

Non-fiction. Subtitled Murder, Baseball, and the Secret Society that Shocked Depression-era Detroit. This book explores the heyday of Detroit, the mid-1930s, when the city won championships in three sports, baseball, football and hockey, in the same season, and juxtaposes that with the activities of the Klan-like Black Legion terrorizing the region.

11.  A Feast for Crows -- George R. R. Martin

Book Four of  Martin's seven-part "A Song of Fire and Ice" series. This is my least favorite of the books so far and deviated the most from the HBO series, but still an exciting, action-packed ride.

12. The Moviegoer -- Walker Percy

Like most of the National Book Award winners I've read, this book failed to impress for quite a while. It seemed like a pale imitation of A Confederacy of Dunces. Gradually, I got into the rhythm and spirit of the story and was sorry to see it come to an end.

13. Kindred -- Octavia Butler

When I'm reading a book or watching a movie about strange phenomena like time travel or the like, I like to have some kind of explanation to work with -- Doc Brown invented a time-traveling DeLorean or there's a portal in the back of a diner, something. This book doesn't have that. It's just a modern (1976, when the book was written) black woman repeatedly traveling back in time to the antebellum South to save the life of one of her ancestors. No explanations, no control over the process. Other than that, it was an exceptional book; part slave memoir, part fantasy.

14. The Scarecrow -- Michael Connelly

Not one of Connelly's best, but still a page-turner.

15.  Last Night in Twisted River -- John Irving

This one kinda turned into a chore to read for a while, but shaped up to be a pretty decent novel.

16. Escape Clause -- John Sandford

A typical Sandford crime thriller with Virgil Flowers trying to find some Amur tigers stolen from the Minneapolis Zoo.

17. Plainsong -- Kent Haruf

Again, my pet peeve, no quotation marks, but that's about the only flaw of this stark, emotional novel about a select group of people in small-town Colorado. Like A Man Called Ove (#6), it's hard for me to imagine anyone who likes to read not loving this book.

 18. The Jealous Kind -- James Burke

Most of Burke's books are mystery/crime novels that are a cut above the norm. This one is a first love/coming of age/tangled up with mobbed up guys in 1950s Houston story.

19. White Trash -- Nancy Isenberg

Non-fiction. Subtitled The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America. It droned on repetitiously on some topics and skimmed over others that I wish Isenberg had gone into more depth on, but overall, an interesting telling of the history of America, focusing on the human waste, bogtrotters, scalawags, rascals, crackers, mudsills, hoosiers, tar heels, hillbillies, trailer trash, rednecks -- the poor white trash.

20. Darktown -- Thomas Mullen

An excellent mystery/crime story, but more than that, the story of the integration of the Atlanta Police Department in 1948.

21.  A Dance with Dragons -- George R. R. Martin

Book Five of the "A Song of Fire and Ice" mega-series. When the series started, the main characters were very young, just kids or teenagers. Martin said, I believe in the preface to Book Four, that he originally wanted to jump forward a few years to allow these characters to grow up a little, but changed his mind and wrote Books Four and Five to fill in the gap. Then he split it up, the two books cover the same period of time, focusing on different groups of characters in each book. Book Five is the more interesting of the two -- I guess because I was more interested in these characters than the others -- and is very action-packed, but didn't advance the overall plot very much. Now, like millions of others, I'll sit back and wait for Martin to eventually finish writing Books Six and Seven.

22. Stolen Prey -- John Sandford

Brutal murders, Mexican gangs, Federales, DEA, and Lucas Davenport in the middle of it all. Typical fast-paced Sandford.

23. The Associate -- John Grisham

Agent: The deadline is here. The publisher really needs your manuscript now.
Grisham: I've got a good story going, but I'm stuck on the ending.
Agent: They need what you've got. NOW!
Grisham: Alright, give me another day or two. I'll throw together a couple of chapters and wrap everything up.

24. Limitations -- Scott Turow

It's not very often that I read two of the same type of books back-to-back. I like to mix things up a bit, but two lawyer books? I needed something short to read while waiting to pick up some library books and this fit the bill. An interesting story, a little deeper than I was expecting.

Now reading:  I Am Legend -- Richard Matheson

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