December 2017 books, and 2017 roundup

This is the latest post in a series I started in late 2019, anticipating the twentieth anniversary of my bookblogging which will fall in 2023. Every six-ish days, I’ve been revisiting a month from my recent past, noting work and family developments as well as the books I read in that month. I’ve found it a pleasantly cathartic process, especially in recent circumstances. If you want to look back at previous entries, they are all tagged under bookblog nostalgia.

December 2017 started with a trip to Amsterdam, where I found the apartment where Anne Frank and her family had lived before going into hiding.

I went to London twice, the second time for the office party with a James Bond theme:

I also had a day trip to Milan.

H joined us for Christmas, as so often.

I also answered the classic question, which lines of latitude and longitude pass through the most countries?

I had spent nights away from home in 20 places in 11 countries, and tansited another four in the course of the year.

I read 22 books that month:

Non-fiction: 8 (2017 total 57)
Guided by the Beauty of Their Weapons: Notes on Science Fiction and Culture in the Year of Angry Dogs
, by Philip Sandifer
The Most Dangerous Book: The Battle for James Joyce’s Ulysses, by Kevin Birmingham
Alexander the Corrector: The Tormented Genius Whose Cruden’s Concordance Unwrote the Bible by Julia Keay
The World of Yesterday, by Stefan Zweig
A History of the Future: Prophets of Progress from H.G. Wells to Isaac Asimov, by Peter J. Bowler
Zola and his time; the history of his martial career in letters: With an account of his circle of friends, his remarkable enemies, cyclopean labors, public campaigns, trials and ultimate glorification by Matthew Josephson
Democracy and its Deficits: The path towards becoming European-style democracies in Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, by Ghia Nodia with Denis Cenușă and Mikhail Minakov
The Story of English in 100 Words, by David Crystal

Fiction (non-sf): 3 (2017 total 26)
The Lies Of Fair Ladies
, by Jonathan Gash
Men Against The Sea, by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall
Pitcairn’s Island, by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall

sf (non-Who): 3 (2017 total 68)
, by Nisi Shawl
Brave New Worlds: Dystopian Stories, ed. John Joseph Adams
The Power, by Naomi Alderman

Doctor Who, etc: 3 (2017 total 51)
Re: Collections
, ed. Xanna Eve Chown
Fear Itself, by Nick Wallace
A Life in Pieces, by Dave Stone, Paul Sutton & Joseph Lidster

Comics 5 (2017 total 29)
, by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
Aliénor: La Légende Noire, vol 3, by Arnaud Delalande and Simona Mogavino, art by Carlos Gomez
Het genootschap van Socrates by Yves Leclercq and Stéphanie Heurteau
The Autumnlands, Vol. 1: Tooth and Claw, by Kurt Busiek and Benjamin Dewey
Aliénor: La Légende Noire, vol 4, by Arnaud Delalande and Simona Mogavino, art by Carlos Gomez

6,900 pages (2017 total 60,500)
7/22 (2017 total 64/238) by women (Keay, Shawl, Alderman, Mogavino x 2, Heurteau)
1/22 (2017 total 17/238) by PoC (Shawl)

Top book of the month: Watchmen, by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (reread). Get it here.
Top new book of the month: The World of Yesterday, by Stefan Zweig. Get it here.
Nothing too awful.

2017 books roundup

Total books: 238, 11th highest of the years that I have counted.

Total page count: ~60,500, lowest of any year since 2005.

64/238, 27% by women, a bit below previous and subsequent years.
17/238, 7% by PoC, exceeded every years since.

Most books by a single author: Colin Brake and Leo, both with 5 (previous winners: Christopher Marlowe in 2016, Justin Richards in 2015 and 2014, Agatha Christie in 2013, Jonathan Gash in 2012, Arthur Conan Doyle in 2011, Ian Rankin in 2010, William Shakespeare in 2009 and 2008, Terrance Dicks in 2007, Ian Marter in 2006, Charles Stross in 2005).

Non-Whovian sff (68)

Back to the levels of pre-2014. (I was a Clarke Award judge in 2014-15, and then deliberately cast my sf reading net wider in 2016 as part of the anti-Puppy campaign.)

Best non-Who sff read in 2016: All The Birds In The Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders (review with other Hugo novels) – by a long way my top choice for the Hugos, a magical contemporary Bildungsroman.

Runner-up: The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead (review with other non-Hugo novels)) – fascinating steampunk alternate history of slavery in America.

The one you might not heard of: The Deepest Sea, by Charles Barnitz (review) – much better than usual Celtic fantasy, marred however by a dodgy map.

Welcome rereads: The Illustrated Man (review), The Colour of Magic (review), Dune (review).

The one to skip: The Red Leaguers, by Shan F. Bullock (review) – Irish war of independence in 1904 goes wrong, flawed and unpleasant protagonist.

Non-fiction (57)

This was my highest non-fiction total since 2011, and my highest percentage for non-fiction since I started tallying categories separately in 2009. I think this was partly birthday presents, which were biased towards non-fiction; partly that non-fiction books have been moving to the top of my various piles; and partly a genuine shift in my own reading tastes.

Best non-fiction read in 2017: Common People: The History of an English Family, by Alison Light (review) – lovely micro-history of four lines of ancestry in the recent history of England.

Runner-up: Thinking Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman (review)- great insight into how we think the way we do, and why we are wrong in what we think about it.

The one you might not heard of, if you’re not in the Dublin or Brussels bubbles: Brexit and Ireland: The Dangers, the Opportunities, and the Inside Story of the Irish Response, by Tony Connelly (review) – essential reading on both the behind the scenes diplomacy and the stakes for the country most affected by Brexit.

Welcome reread: In Xanadu (review)

The one to skip: 1434: The Year a Chinese Fleet Sailed to Italy and Ignited the Renaissance, by Gavin Menzies (review) – such a bad rewriting of history that I wondered what its purpose really was.

Doctor Who (and spinoff) fiction (51)

Picking up a bit from the dip of the last couple of years.

Best Who book read in 2016: The Pirate Planet, by Douglas Adams and James Goss (review) – Goss has ironed off the corners and made this a much smoother story, as usual a delight to read, and also includes bonus material on how Adams developed the plot.

Runner-up: Rip Tide, by Louise Cooper (review) – one of the good Telos novellas, taking the Eighth Doctor to a seaside resort to investigate mysterious goings on.

Worth flagging up for Whovians: Based On The Popular TV Serial, by Paul Smith (review) – a guide to the Target novelisations.

The ones you won’t have heard of: The three novels based on short-lived spin-off Class (review), by Guy AdamsA.K. Benedict and especially (again) James Goss.

Comics (29)

Best graphic story read in 2016: Antarès, by Leo – excellent futuristic yarn. I read it in the original French but it has been translated into English (123456)

Runner-up: The Vision vol 1: Little Worse Than A Man, by Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta (review) – I (somewhat reluctantly) really liked this story of an inhuman family trying to fit in.

Welcome reread: Watchmen (review).

The one you won’t have heard of: Re-#AnimateEurope: International Comics Competition 2017, ed. Hans H.Stein, by Jordana Globerman, Stefan “Schlorian” Haller, Štepánka Jislová, Noëlle Kröger, Magdalena Kaszuba, Davide Pascutti and Paul Rietzl (review) – nicely applying the medium of the graphic novel to the problems of Europe today.

Non-sfnal fiction (26)

A historic low for non-sf fiction reading, mainly I think because I had read almost all all the well-known books of that kind on my shelves, which were (and are) still heaving with unread sf and non-fiction.

Best non-sff fiction read in 2016: A Suitable Boy, by Vikram Seth (review) – brilliant huge story of India just after independence.

Runner-up: Children are Civilians Too, by Heinrich Böll (review) – gripping short stories from Germany of about the same period.

The one you might not heard of: Five Go On A Strategy Away Day, by Bruno Vincent (review) – quite a funny parody of the grownup Famous Five in competition with the Secret Seven.

Welcome reread: Robinson Crusoe (review).

The one to skip: The Angel Maker, by Stefan Brijs (review) – really horrible story set on the Belgian frontier with Germany.

Plays (5)

There were only five of these. The only one I’d really really like to see on the stage, having seen the film that was based on it, is Cavalcade, by Noël Coward (review including also the Oscar-winning film).

Poetry (2)

Just two. Catullus is better than Roald Dahl.

Book of the year

Common People: The History of an English Family, by Alison Light

Other Books of the Year:

2003 (2 months): The Separation, by Christopher Priest.
2004The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien (reread).
– Best new read: Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self, by Claire Tomalin
2005The Island at the Centre of the World, by Russell Shorto
2006Lost Lives: The stories of the men, women and children who died as a result of the Northern Ireland troubles, by David McKittrick, Seamus Kelters, Brian Feeney, Chris Thornton and David McVea
2007Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel
2008The Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition, by Anne Frank (reread)
– Best new read: Vanity Fair: A Novel without a Hero, by William Makepeace Thackeray
2009Hamlet, by William Shakespeare (had seen it on stage previously)
– Best new read: Persepolis 2: the Story of a Return, by Marjane Satrapi (first volume just pipped by Samuel Pepys in 2004)
2010The Bloody Sunday Report, by Lord Savile et al.
2011The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, by Edward Gibbon (started in 2009!)
2012The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, by Anne Brontë
2013A Room of One’s Own, by Virginia Woolf
2014Homage to Catalonia, by George Orwell
2015: collectively, the Arthur C. Clarke Award shortlist, in particular the winner, Station Eleven, by Emily St John Mandel. However I did not actually blog about these, being one of the judges at the time.
– Best book I actually blogged about: The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft, by Claire Tomalin
2016Alice in Sunderland, by Bryan Talbot
2017: See above
2018Factfulness, by Hans Rosling
2019Girl, Woman, Other, by Bernardine Evaristo
2020From A Clear Blue Sky: Surviving the Mountbatten Bomb, by Timothy Knatchbull
2021Carrying the Fire, by Michael Collins.

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