150 books

I started using this livejournal as a booklog almost a year ago. In that year I have read 150 books:

63 genre (sf or fantasy or borderline horror) novels
15 collections of genre stories (4 by single authors, 11 anthologies)
4 other short story collections (two of which included one or two stories with sfnal elements)
3 detective/mystery novels
6 “mainstream” novels
1 collection of short stories for children

(these categories do shade into each other a bit. I’ve put “Around the World in Eighty Days” as non-genre, and “The Confusion” as genre, but arguments could be made either way in both cases)

13 graphic novels (of which 9 by Neil Gaiman)

7 books about sf and fantasy literature
1 book about writing it

25 books in the biography/autobiography/history/politics area, roughly splitting as follows:
– 4 biographical or autobiographical monographs (Haradinaj, Parris, Pepys, Saki)
– 1 collection of biographical essays by different authors about the same person (Eleanor of Aquitaine)
– 1 collection of biographical essays about different people (Daily Telegraph Book of Military Obituaries)
– 2 collections of biographical trivia about US presidents
– 11 history books, of which 5 on Balkans/Caucasus, 3 on Ireland, 1 on the British Empire, plus 1 collection by Macaulay and 1 set of counterfactual essays
– 6 books on contemporary politics, 2 on 21st century US, 1 on 18th-century US (but written in 1790s so contemporary for the writer), 1 on Belgium, 1 on Britain, 1 on globalisation

(a particularly fluid category, that last; Dirk-Jan Eppink’s book on Belgium contains a lot of autobiography, and the Abbé Raynal’s reflections on the American revolution perhaps belong more to the history category, while several of the history books have such strong contemporary resonance that they would be counted as politics by some)

4 popular science or history of science, 2 maths, one physics and 1 biology

2 books on the English language

2 comedy books (one set of scripts for a stage show, and Molvania)

2 travel (not counting Molvania)
1 self-help
1 collection of random essays and fiction by Douglas Adams.

The best in each of the major categories:

Sf novels: Much enjoyed Felaheen by Jon Courtenay Grimwood and Kushiel’s Avatar by Jacqueline Carey, both third books in enjoyable series. Lois McMaster Bujold’s Paladin of Souls, as second book of two, and Dan Simmons’ Ilium, as first of two, also very impressive. Difficult to choose between those four and ‘s Singularity Sky.

Short story collections: No competition here – the Locus Awards collection is simply fantastic.

All three mystery novels I read were a bit disappointing.

In mainstream literature, I greatly enjoyed Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Seddon

All the graphic novels I read were excellent. Apart from Sandman, special mention for Persepolis and Maus.

The best book about sf I read was Tom Shippey’s J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century, though I also enjoyed the Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction and Hy Bender’s Sandman Companion.

The Pepys biography by Claire Tomalin stands out in a strong field. In general history, Niall Ferguson’s Empire is excellent and provocative, and I found McKittrick and McVea’s Making Sense of the Troubles pretty gut-wrenching.

All six of the general politics books I read were interesting and thought-provoking. The prize perhaps goes to Anatol Lieven’s America Right or Wrong. The others were Dirk-Jan Eppink’s Avonturen van een Nederbelg, George Monbiot’s Manifesto for a New World Order, The 9/11 Commission Report, Paxman’s The Political Animal and Raynal’s The Revolution of America.

Of the science-y books, none is especially memorable with The Measure of All Things perhaps the most engaging.

For the rest, Molvania: A Land Untouched by Modern Dentistry really does stand out.

In conclusion, I have to say that twelve months of keeping track of every book I read has been a very good self-discipline. I think there are fewer half-finished books hanging around the bedside table now; I think I’m reading books more carefully, with a view to saying something here about them afterwards. I doubt very much if it’s had an impact on anyone else reading this and thinking, “Gosh, liked that, I must rush out and buy it”; but at the same time I hope it’s an interesting contribution to the dialogue between author and reader that is part of what literature is about.

One thought on “150 books

  1. I can’t believe there is someone that dislikes the same books that I dislike. Although I have to admit after reading the Da Vinci Code I didn’t bother with Angels and Demons. I would add Wuthering Heights and Gone With the Wind to the list as well. I have never been able to figure out why Catcher and the Rye is considered a classic.

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