Reading is something I used to do constantly. And then somewhere, I stopped making the time for it, and have been determined in recent years to make an effort to make it my default habit again. To that end, last year I decided to try and track the books I read, and periodically discuss them.
Unfortunately, after just one post, in January, I fell behind on writing about the books, and then in May I got very busy and ended up both not reading as much as I’d planned and also stopped tracking the books. After which, I never picked up logging again.
So I’ve reconstructed what I can from my memory, but my memory being what it is, I can’t be sure what I’ve missed. So that puts my total at 48. That includes quite a few comic book collections. 1
The following highlights are taken from a series of prompts from my friend Jessica F. Hebert.2
First book of 2017: “Winter’s Tale” by Mark Helpin
This is my favourite novel, and an annual re-read. This would mark the 30th or so time I’ve read it, and it was magical as always. I was once asked, after listing it as my favourite novel, what it was about, and I summed it thusly:
“It’s a story about love. It’s a story about the love of passion, the love of seasons, the love of family, and the love of place. It’s a story about justice, and transcendence, and redemption. It’s a story about seeking, and wanting, and needing. It’s a story about what changes, and what never changes, and the bridge between the two. It’s a story about magic, and reality, and about the wall of clouds that separate one from the other and then weave them together as tightly as the threads in a tapestry.
But more than anything, it’s the story of a city, and the story of a girl, and the story of a man, and the story of a horse.”
Last book of 2017: “The Design Of Everyday Things” by Donald A Norman
This is a classic text that dissects the elements of design that factor into every single thing we touch and interact with, and the psychology behind how that design works, or in many cases, entirely fails to work. I’ve heard of this book for years, but never got around to reading it, and when i came across a reference to it I ordered it on a whim. Terrific read.3
Book I couldn’t shut up about: “A Colony In A Nation” by Chris Hayes
This is the book I’ve most recommended over the course of the year. It’s an examination of race relations in the US, and I think it’s very much worth the time to sit and digest it. Chris Hayes is one of the smarter people working in journalism right now, and I’ve been a big fan of his work since back when he was still writing for The Nation.
Most devastating book: “Crash Override” by Zoe Quinn
In many ways, GamerGate was the canary in the coal mine of our national discourse that warned us all that something very ugly was not just brewing but bubbling over. Quinn’s account of her experience as the original target of the harassment campaign is chilling to read, and it made me angry all over again at the entire fiasco. It does include some constructive thoughts towards the end, where Quinn details the activism she’s been working on to help others who have been targeted, and some suggestions towards making the Internet a better, safer place for everyone.
Book my friends all liked that I finally read and…didn’t: No entry.
The only book I read that I’d had hanging around my to-do list for ages was “Ready Player One”, by Earnest Cline, but I quite liked it. While it does have some problematic elements, it’s a popcorn book, and I consumed it as such.
Book my friends didn’t like that I finally read and…did: “Aftermath” by Chuck Wendig
The Aftermath trilogy was one of the first major Star Wars novels to come out after Disney announced they were rebranding the old Expanded Universe as “Legends” and that all future Star Wars novels and comics would be considered part of the “canon” of the Star Wars universe.4 And the response to them was largely negative, so I didn’t really drop everything I was doing to read them. But while on a cruise to Alaska this summer, I found a copy of the first book in the trilogy in the ships library, and lacking for something breezy and fun to read, I took it back to my room and started on it. And quite honestly, I enjoyed them thoroughly. The first book is a bit slow to start, and Wendig’s present-tense prose style takes some getting used to. 5 But the characters are wonderful, and there’s some terrific stories there filling out what was going on immediately after the destruction of the Second Death Star.
From here, I went on to read several more recent Star Wars novels, all of which I’ve enjoyed, and a couple of which6 were superb.
Most read author: Ryan North and Erica Henderson
North and Henderson are the writer and artist responsible for the Marvel comic “The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl”, of which I read five volumes all in a row while spending a lovely weekend of isolation and natural splendor at Lake Crescent. I am an unabashed fan of Squirrel Girl, who never fails to delight me.
Best surprise: “Tove Jansson: Work and Love” by Tuula Karjalainen
I’ve been a fan of Tove Jansson’s Moomin books since I was a child, and I first read “The Adventures of Moominpapa”.7 They are books I continually return to and reread, and the whimsy and magic of those stories are something I always want to make room for in my life. But despite this, I really didn’t know a lot about Jansson herself, and when I saw a notice of this biography, I ordered it. It was a tremendous read, and I learned a lot about an author I already greatly admired.
Works I’m Looking Forward to in 2018:
I haven’t really looked ahead to see what’s on the horizon. On the comics front, I’m greatly looking forward to the first collection Gail Simone and Cat Stagg’s “Crosswind”, which is coming out in March. And I have the short story collection “Star Wars: From A Certain Point of View” sitting on the top of my to-read pile, waiting for me to finish what I’m currently reading, which is “Mad Men: Carousel”, which is a series of critical essays by Matt Zoller Seitz about the TV series “Mad Men” that I’ve been meaning to get around to since it came out.
In any event, I’m looking to keep better track this year, and to make more periodic updates like I planned to do last year. Onward and upward.