December 2018 books and 2018 books roundup

This is the latest post in a series I started in late 2019, anticipating the twentieth anniversary of my bookblogging at the end of October 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.

I started the month at SmofCon in Santa Rosa, California, as previously noted, and went to London twice for work purposes. In the world of politics, the Belgian government collapsed thanks to the dishonesty and opportunism of the N-VA, for whom I don’t think I will ever vote; and sadly, Paddy Ashdown died.

Christmas service in the chapel in the woods:

Decent photo of the whole family on Christmas Day:

I read only 14 books that month.

Non-fiction: 4 (2018 total 50)
Outside In: 160 New Perspectives on 160 Classic Doctor Who Stories by 160 Writers, ed. Robert Smith?
Freddie Mercury: An Illustrated Life, by Mark Blake
Factfulness, by Hans Rosling
The Fate of Rome, by Kyle Harper

Fiction (non-sf): 4 (2018 total 36)
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, by Michael Chabon
Delta of Venus, by Anaïs Nin
The Name of This Book Is Secret, by Pseudonymous Bosch
Finding Time Again, by Marcel Proust

sf (non-Who): 3 (2018 total 108)
Fools, by Pat Cadigan
Destination Moon and Shooting Destination Moon, by Robert A. Heinlein
Perilous Dreams, by Andre Norton

Comics: 3 (2018 total 28)
Saga, vol. 8, by Fiona Staples and Brian K. Vaughan
A Cold Day in Hell, ed. Tom Spilsbury
Ergens Waar Je Niet Wilt Zijn, by Brecht Evens

~4,200 pages (YTD ~71,600)
4/14 (YTD 102/262) by non-male writers (Nin, Cadigan, Norton, Staples)
1/14 (YTD 26/262) by PoC (Staples)

Hugely enjoyed rereading The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, which you can get here, and Finding Time Again, which you can get here.

Hugely enjoyed reading Factfulness for the first time; you can get it here.

Totally bounced off Perilous Dreams, which you can get here.

2018 roundup

I read 262 books in 2018, ninth highest of the eighteen years I have been keeping count, so in the middle.

Page count for the year: 71,600 – also ninth highest of the eighteen years I have been keeping count, again in the middle.

Books by non-male writers in 2017: 102/262, 39% – a record high, since exceeded in 2021.

Books by PoC in 2017: 26/262, 10% – another record high, since exceeded in 2019 and 2021.

Most books by a single author: Tove Jansson and Marcel Proust, both with 6.

Science Fiction and Fantasy (excluding Doctor Who)

108 (41%), a comparatively high total, thanks to two new Hugo categories and Retro Hugos as well.

Some very welcome re-reads (Gulliver’s TravelsSnow CrashJonathan Hoagthe Moomin books).

My three top sff new reads of 2018:

3) Provenance, by Anne Leckie – not directly connected to her previous books, but a convincing story of politics and truth. Finalist for both BSFA and Hugo Awards, and I voted for it both times, though it did not win either.
2) In Other Lands, by Sarah Rees Brennan – one of the Hugo YA finalists, I thought this was a brilliant look at young wizardry with a bisexual protagonist.
1) The Sudden Appearance of Hope, by Clare North – increasingly one of my favourite authors, here with another tale of someone whose interaction with our world is very different, combined with a sinister Facebook-meets-Social-Credit Big Tech conspiracy.

The one you might not have heard of: Anne Charnock’s novella The Enclave, another BSFA Award finalist, which I thought caught a lot of things about Brexit Britain very well.

The one to skip: Second-Stage Lensmen, by E.E. “Doc” Smith – turgid prose from the depths of the pulp era.

Non-fiction

50 (19%) – very slightly but I think not significantly below average.

Top three non-fiction books of 2018:

equal 2) After Europe by Ivan Krastev, and Europe Reset: New Directions for the EU, by Richard Youngs – two takes on the future of the continent, one more pessimistic, one more optimistic, both thorough and also digestible.
1) The last book I fnished this year, and the best book I read all year: Factfulness, by Hans Rosling – a fantastic guide to what is really going on in the world, and how we can think about it more usefully, based just on facts.

The one you haven’t heard of: Huawei Stories: Pioneers, ed. Tian Tao and Yin Zhifeng – fascinating stories of Chinese engineers encountering strange cultures, like Iceland, Italy and Africa.

The one to skip: Here’s My Card, by Bob Popyk, useless and outdated advice on networking.

Non-sfnal fiction

36 (14%) – lower than any year apart from the previous two and 2021.

Again, some welcome rereads (ProustKavalier and Clay). My three top new non-sf fiction books:

3) And The Mountains Echoed, by Khaled Hosseini – a generational tale of Afghanistan and other places which really worked for me.
2) Fingersmith, by Sarah Waters – Waters was my real discovery this year, and Iliked this most of the books by her which I read.
1) Moon Tiger, by Penelope Lively – really blown away by this twentieth-century life story, set mainly in England but with other excursions; I should probably read more by this author.

The one you haven’t heard of: Something Like Normal, by Trish Doller – author is my twin (born the same day and year); this was her first novel, about a young American soldier returning fro the wars and finding it very difficult to fit in.

The one to skip: Five Escape Brexit Island, by Bruno Vincent – not so much a one-joke book as a no-joke book.

Comics

28 (11%) – much the same as the last couple of years.

Top three comics of my year:

3) Saga vol 7, by Fiona Staples and Brian K. Vaughan – I’ve been following the series faithfully since the beginning, and I felt that this installment seemed to pick up a bit more dark energy.
2) My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, by Emil Ferris – was a Hugo finalist; I didn’t think it was actually sf, but I did think it was remarkably good – a story of a little girl in Chicago who discovers more than she really wanted to know about her upstairs neighbour.
1) Weapons of Mass Diplomacy / Quai d’Orsay, by “Abel Lanzac” (Antonin Baudry) and Christophe Blain – brilliant insight into the top levels of diplomacy, which I am recommending to everyone at work.

The one you may not heard of: Ergens Waar Je Niet Wil Zijn / The Wrong Place by Brecht Evens – vivid evocation of two Flemish chaps whose relationship is not exactly what either of them think it is, played out against a background of suburbia, disco and sex.

The one to skip: Dark Satanic Mills, by Marcus Sedgwick – confused near-future English dystopia trying to riff off William Blake and not really succeeding.

Doctor Who (and spinoff) fiction

21 (12%) – a historic low here, basically because I had now read almost all of the Doctor Who books that there are to read.

3) Outside In: 160 New Perspectives on 160 Classic Doctor Who Stories, by 160 Writers, ed. Robert Smith? – much more insightful than the average survey of Doctor Who stories written by a single person or team, includes my brother.
2) A History of the Universe in 100 Objects, by Steve Tribe and James Goss – a gorgeous book looking at internal Who mythology but also drawing linkes bwteen stories in Old and New Who.
1) The Day of the Doctor, by Steven Moffat – the climax of the Moffat era in novel form, telling the story of the anniversary special in an unusual way, incidentally canonicalising the Peter Cushing movies. I hope that future novelisations can aspire to be this good.

The one you may have forgotten about: Time Lord: Create your own adventures in time and space, by Ian Marsh and Peter Darvill-Evans – the 1991 Doctor Who role-playing game.

The one you can skip: The Doctor Who Quiz Book of Dinosaurs, by Michael Holt – an obscure Fifth Doctor era kids spinoff, which contains surprisingly little information about dinosaurs.

Plays

Only four this year. Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, is the best of course, but was not new. You Can’t Take It with You, by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman, is very entertaining. Everybody Comes to Rick’s, by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison, is not as bad as people say. Those three were all adapted to Oscar-winning films. I completely bounced off Le Mariage de Figaro, by Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais.

Poetry

Great to rediscover Virgil’s Æneid, in two different translations, plus Heaney’s Book VI. Unexpected discovery: Glory of Me, an epic poem by MacKinlay Kantor, about demobbed US servicemen from the second world war. (Note also: Now We Are Six Hundred, by James Goss with illustrations by Russell T. Davies.)

Book of the year 2018

One of the last books I read in December, in fact: Factfulness by Hans Rosling. Strongly recommended. You can get it here.

November 2018 books

This is the latest post in a series I started in late 2019, anticipating the twentieth anniversary of my bookblogging at the end of October 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.

This month started with one of the crazier trips I have done in recent years: a visit to the London office, followed by a Worldcon planning meeting in Heathrow, followed by the congress of the European People’s Party in Helsinki, followed by a conference on civil society in Belgrade, in the margins of which I visited the ancient roman imperial capital of Sremska Mitrovica (Sirmium). I then went to Paris to celebrate the centenary of the Armistice, had another trip to London, and finished the month at SMOFcon in Santa Rosa, California. (I have since discovered that I have distant cousins living there.) I went to not one but two exhibitions about the Peanuts cartoons and their creator, Charles M. Schulz.

People asked me what I was doing in Helsinki. I think it was fairly obvious.
Ready to speak in the Serbian parliament chamber
Roman ruins in Sremska Mitrovica
The Golden Gate Bridge
With David Gerrold at the Peanuts museum.

Despite all the travel, I read only 12 books that month.

Non-fiction: 1 (YTD 46)
52 Ways of Looking at a Poem, by Ruth Padel
0099429152.01._SX175_SY250_SCLZZZZZZZ_[1].jpg

Fiction (non-sf): 6 (YTD 32)
Baptism in Blood, by Jane Haddam
Burr, by Gore Vidal
The Stone Book Quartet, by Alan Garner
The Prisoner and The Fugitive, by Marcel Proust
And the Mountains Echoed, by Khaled Hosseini
All The King’s Men, by Robert Penn Warren
bd5176da8518e53597833505451437641506f41[1].jpg 92319db45ca6ff6593435746241437641506f41[1].jpg 9f14f1a793fdfcb593268675677437641506f41[1].jpg

Theatre: 1 (YTD 4)
Hamlet, by William Shakespeare
0521094747.01._SX175_SY250_SCLZZZZZZZ_[1].jpg

sf (non-Who): 2 (YTD 105)
Hybrid, by Shaun Hutson
Hardwired, by Walter Jon Williams
0316860751.01._SX175_SY250_SCLZZZZZZZ_[1].jpg B005O5VR3U.01._SX175_SY250_SCLZZZZZZZ_[1].jpg

Doctor Who, etc: 1 (YTD 32)
Doctor Who: Twelve Angels Weeping: Twelve Stories of the Villains from Doctor Who, by Dave Rudden
B07FF3SJ5R.01._SX175_SY250_SCLZZZZZZZ_[1].jpg

Comics: 1 (YTD 25)
Brüsel, by Benoît Peeters and François Schuiten

~5,100 pages (YTD ~67,400)
2/12 (YTD 98/248) by non-male writers (Padel, Haddam)
1/12 (YTD 25/248) by PoC (Hosseini)

The best of these was of course Hamlet, which you can get here; the best new reads were And the Mountains Echoed, by Khaled Hosseini, which you can get here, and The Stone Book Quartet, by Alan Garner, which you can get here. Nothing too awful.

October 2018 books

This is the latest post in a series I started in late 2019, anticipating the twentieth anniversary of my bookblogging at the end of October 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.

My travel this month was a work trip to London and a Worldcon planning trip to Dublin. At home, we had a nice excursion with the girls. It was impossible to get them both looking at the camera, but at least in this shot they are looking at each other.

My brother visited Brussels, and I persuaded F to come into the city for dinner. As far as I know, we are the only male-line descendants of our great-great-grandfather Nicholas Charles Whyte (1784-1844). He had two younger sons, our great-grandfather’s brothers. One of them never married; the other had four daughters and a son, but the son had no children. Our grandfather was one of nine brothers, but the other eight between them produced only one daughter. Our father had just the one sister. Apart from our own sister, who has kept her birth name, our closest Whyte relatives are descended from brothers of our great-great-grandfather and are therefore at least our fourth cousins.

On the last weekend of the month the local woods had a heitage day, including historical re-enactment of a local court session.

I read only 15 books that month.

Non-fiction: 3 (YTD 45)
Here’s My Card, by Bob Popyk
Seychelles: The Saga of a Small Nation Navigating the Cross-Currents of a Big World, by Sir James R. Mancham
Behind the Sofa: Celebrity Memories of Doctor Who, ed. Steve Berry

Fiction (non-sf): 2 (YTD 26)
Sodom and Gomorrah, by Marcel Proust
Gentleman’s Agreement, by Laura Z. Hobson

sf (non-Who): 6 (YTD 103)
Ringworld, by Larry Niven
The Sound of his Horn, by Sarban
Larque on the Wing, by Nancy Springer
The Cloud Roads, by Martha Wells
Words of Radiance, by Brandon Sanderson
Earth Girl, by Janet Edwards

Doctor Who, etc: 2 (YTD 31)
Doctor Who: The Women Who Lived – Tales for Future Time Lords, by Christel Dee and Simon Guerrier
The Vampire Curse, by Mags Halliday, Kelly Hale and Philip Purser-Hallard

Comics: 2 (YTD 24)
Doctor Who: The Widow’s Curse, ed. Tom Spilsbury
Retour sur Aldébaran, tome 1, by Leo

~5,000 pages (YTD ~62,300)
6/15 (YTD 96/236) by non-male writers (Hobson, Springer, Wells, Edwards, Dee, Halliday/Hale)
1/15 (YTD 24/236) by PoC (Mancham)

My favourite of these was Tiptree winning Larque on the Wing, now much better known for her Enola Homes series; you can get it here. Worst of the month, and I think probably worst of the whole year of 2018, was the vastly out-of-date Here’s My Card by Bob Popyk; you can get it here.

September 2018 books

This is the latest post in a series I started in late 2019, anticipating the twentieth anniversary of my bookblogging at the end of October 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.

The first weekend of the month saw the Oud-Heverlee dorpfeest, with this spirited rendition of “Billie Jean” by Mechelen band Selene’s Garden:

The following weekend saw the Open Monument Day, when F and I visited Tienen and met up with an old friend and her daughter at the ceremonial opening of the Three Tumuli of Grimde.

I had a work trip to Oxford and London, taking in the Asterix/Goscinny exhibition at the Jewish Museum:

Later in the month, I attended the dedication of Jo Cox Square in central Brussels, named after the murdered MP; both Jeremy Corbyn and his Brexit spokesman, who had been a close friend of Cox’s, were also there.

Finally, and much more happily, Anne and I ended the month with a trip to Riga to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.

I read 20 books that month.

Non-fiction: 5 (YTD 42)
Byzantium, by Judith Herrin
Who I Am, by Peter Townshend
About Time vol 8: 2007, Series 3, by Tat Wood and Dorothy Ail
Brewing Justice, by Daniel Jaffee
Riga: Berlitz Pocket Guide, by Martins Zaprauskis

Fiction (non-sf): 2 (YTD 24)
The Lost Weekend, by Charles L. Jackson
The Guermantes Way, by Marcel Proust

Poetry 1 (YTD 4)
Glory For Me, by MacKinlay Kantor

sf (non-Who): 9 (YTD 97)
Finn Family Moomintroll, by Tove Jansson
Moominland Midwinter, by Tove Jansson
Vurt, by Jeff Noon
Moominsummer Madness, by Tove Jansson
The Ginger Star, by Leigh Brackett
Moominpappa at Sea, by Tove Jansson
The Beast Master, by André Norton
Lord of Thunder, by André Norton

Putting Up Roots, by Charles Sheffield

Doctor Who, etc: 2 (YTD 29)
Doctor Who: The Visual Dictionary, by Neil Corry, Jacqueline Rayner, Andrew Darling, Kerrie Dougherty, David John and Simon Beecroft
Missing Adventures, ed. Rebecca Levene

Comics: 1 (YTD 22)
Dark Satanic Mills, by Marcus Sedgwick, Julian Sedgwick, John Higgins and Marc Olivent

~5,200 pages (YTD ~57,300)
11/20 (YTD 90/221) by non-male writers (Herrin, Ail, Jansson x 4, Brackett, Norton x 2, Rayner/Dougherty, Levene)
0/20 (YTD 23/221) by PoC

The best new read of these was About Time vol 8 (get it here); the best rereads were The Guermantes Way (get it here), Moominland Midwinter (get it here) and Finn Family Moomintroll (get it here). I was not impressed by Dark Satanic Mills (get it here).

August 2018 books

This is the latest post in a series I started in late 2019, anticipating the twentieth anniversary of my bookblogging at the end of October 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.

I spent most of the month on holiday in Northern Ireland. After the first day, the weather improved and we got around a fair bit. F and I visited Aras an Uachtaran.

Nicholas and his son standing in front of the Irish President's official residence

Anne is a fan of Helen Waddell, and we visited both her grave and her family home, hosted by her great-great-niece.

And caught up with relatives; here I am with the youngest of my first cousins, and watching my godson on the beach.

I had thoughts about walls in Belfast, and on the way home we visited Wroxeter.

With the holiday, I read 29 books that month.

Non-fiction: 7 (YTD 37)
The Politics of Climate Change, by Anthony Giddens
The Life of Our Lord, by Charles Dickens
Huawei Stories: Pioneers, ed. Tian Tao and Yin Zhifeng
Wroxeter Roman City, by Roger H. White
Fair Trade, by Laura T. Reynolds, Douglas L. Murray and John Wilkinson
Women and Power, by Mary Beard
Huawei Stories: Explorers, ed. Tian Tao and Yin Zhifeng

Fiction (non-sf): 3 (YTD 22)
In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower, by Marcel Proust
The Deer Hunter, by Eric Corder
Moon Tiger, by Penelope Lively

sf (non-Who): 12 (YTD 88)
High-Rise, by J. G. Ballard
“Ill Met in Lankhmar”, by Fritz Leiber
The Region Between, by Harlan Ellison

The Little Stranger, by Sarah Waters
The Way of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson
Anno Dracula – Dracula Cha Cha Cha, by Kim Newman
Missile Gap, by Charles Stross
Rare Unsigned Copy, by Simon Petrie
Welcome to Night Vale, by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor
The Laertian Gamble, by Robert Sheckley
Comet in Moominland, by Tove Jansson
Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson

Doctor Who, etc: 6 (YTD 27)
Now We Are Six Hundred, by James Goss, illustrated by Russell T. Davies
Doctor Who Files 7: The Daleks, by Justin Richards
Doctor Who Files 8: The Cybermen, by Justin Richards
Doctor Who Files 12: The TARDIS, by Justin Richards

Time Lord, by Ian Marsh and Peter Darvill-Evans
Nobody’s Children, by Kate Orman, Jonathan Blum and Philip Purser-Hallard

Comics: 1 (YTD 21)
Amoras deel 3: Krimson, by Marc Legendre and Charel Cambré

~5,000 pages (YTD ~52,100)
6/29 (YTD 79/201) by non-male writers (Reynolds, Beard, Lively, Waters, Jansson, Orman – as fas as I know Tian Tao and Yin Zhifeng are men)
2/29 (YTD 23/201) by PoC (Tian/Yin x2)

Three very good ones here, one of which was a reread:

You can skip the novelisation of The Deer Hunter, but if curious you can get it here.

July 2018 books

This is the latest post in a series I started in late 2019, anticipating the twentieth anniversary of my bookblogging at the end of October 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.

The month started with a trip to Sofia, rounding off my work with the Bulgarian EU Presidency; the photographer who was part of our group took a nice set of pictures. I like this one of me.

I got to the Tolkien exhibition in Oxford as well:

And we watched the World Cup Final in France, staying with my sister in Burgundy. France won, with the enthusiastic support of locals. Sometimes you do your best with what you’ve got.

At the start of our summer holiday, F and I went to Comic Con in London where I met with a large number of Doctors.

And finally, our stay in Northern Ireland got off to a typical start.

I read 31 books that month.

Non-fiction: 3 (YTD 30)
The Complete Ice Age, by Brian M. Fagan
The Man Within My Head, by Pico Iyer
The Time Traveller’s Guide to Elizabethan England, by Ian Mortimer

Fiction non-sf): 3 (YTD 19)
The Way By Swann’s, by Marcel Proust
Fingersmith, by Sarah Waters
Maigret Loses His Temper, by Georges Simenon

Poetry: 3 (YTD 3)
The Æneid, by Virgil, translated by John Dryden
The Æneid, by Virgil, translated by Robert Fagles
The Æneid Book VI, by Virgil, translated by Seamus Heaney

sf (non-Who): 15 (YTD 76)
Robot Visions, by Isaac Asimov
Discount Armageddon, by Seanan McGuire
Your Code Name is Jonah, by Edward Packard
Newry Bridge, or Ireland in 1887 (Anonymous)
The Bear and the Nightingale, by Katherine Arden
Anno Mortis, by Rebecca Levene
“Slow Sculpture”, by Theodore Sturgeon
A Natural History of Dragons, by Marie Brennan
An Unkindness of Ghosts, by Rivers Solomon
Under the Pendulum Sun, by Jeannette Ng (extract)
Up Jim River, by Michael Flynn (did not finish)
Wounded Heart, by S.W. Baird
Aztec Century, by Christopher Evans
The Supernatural Enhancements, by Edgar Cantero
The Martian Inca, by Ian Watson

Doctor Who, etc: 3 (YTD 21)
Doctor Who Quiz Book of Dinosaurs, by Michael Holt
Wit, Wisdom and Timey-Wimey Stuff, by Cavan Scott and Mark Wright
The Two Jasons, by Dave Stone

Comics: 4 (YTD 20)
Weapons of Mass Diplomacy, by Abel Lanzac and Christophe Blain
Aliénor, la Légende noire, tome 5, by Arnaud Delalande, Simona Mogavino and Carlos Gomez
Aliénor, la Légende noire, tome 6, by Arnaud Delalande, Simona Mogavino and Carlos Gomez
The Red Virgin and the Vision of Utopia, by Bryan Talbot and Mary Talbot

~7,900 pages (YTD ~47,100)
11/31 (YTD 73/172) by non-male writers (Waters, McGuire, Arden, Levene, Brennan, Solomon, Ng, Baird, Mogavino x2, Talbot)
3/31 (YTD 21/172) by PoC (Iyer, Ng, Solomon)

Top books this month were:

  • Fingersmith by Sarah Waters – get it here;
  • Weapons of Mass Diplomacy, by “Abel Lanzac” (Antoine Baudry) – get it here;
  • The Way by Swann’s, by Marcel Proust (reread) – get it here.

On the other hand I bounced off Up Jim River, by Michael Flynn; you can get it here.

June 2018 books

Blogging still a bit slow, after a couple of weekends away; look forward to catching up this weekend.

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.

Work trips to Dubrovnik, London, Paris, Berlin and Skopje this month. My Dubrovnik conference was enlivened by a Game of Thrones location walk:

Closer to home, I took B out to her neighbourhood just before her birthday:

On the last day of the month, an interesting conversation at the post office:

A nostalgic group shot from the Skopje trip (actually taken by T on the left):

Non-fiction: 2 (YTD 27)
Virgins, Weeders and Queens, by Twigs Way
Brexit and the Future of Ireland: Uniting Ireland & Its People in Peace & Prosperity, by Senator Mark Daly

Fiction non-sf): 2 (YTD 16)
Gemini, by Dorothy Dunnett
Ghana Must Go, by Taiye Selasi
<

Theatre: 2 (YTD 3)
Everybody Comes to Rick’s, by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison
Le Mariage de Figaro, by Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais

sf (non-Who): 12 (YTD 61)
The Collapsing Empire, by John Scalzi
Raven Stratagem, by Yoon Ha Lee
Penric’s Fox, by Lois McMaster Bujold
Stories of the Raksura vol. 2, by Martha Wells
Six Wakes, by Mur Lafferty
Introduction to the Stormlight Archive for Hugo Voters, by Brandon Sanderson
The Art of Starving, by Sam J. Miller
Dark Matter, by Blake Crouch
City of Stairs, by Robert Jackson Bennett
Politically Correct Bedtime Stories, by James Finn Garner
Moominvalley in November, by Tove Jansson
Heroine Complex, by Sarah Kuhn

Doctor Who, etc: 1 (YTD 18)
Old Friends, by Jonathan Clements, Marc Platt and Pete Kempshall

Comics: 1 (YTD 16)
Rose de Paris, by Gilles Schlesser and Eric Puech

~6,200 pages (YTD ~39,200)
9/20 (YTD 62/141) by non-male writers (Way, Dunnett, Selasi, Alison, Bujold, Wells, Lafferty, Jansson, Kuhn)
3/20 (YTD 18/141) by PoC (Selasi, Lee, Kuhn)
0/20 (YTD 6/141) reread

I gave no less than five of these top ranking for the month:

  • Virgins, Weeders and Queens, by my old friend Twigs Way – get it here;
  • Penric’s Fox, by Lois McMaster Bujold – get it here;
  • Gemini, by Dorothy Dunnett – get it here;
  • Six Wakes, by Mur Lafferty – get it here; and
  • City of Stairs, by Robert Jackson Bennett – get it here.

On the other hand I was thoroughly unimpressed by Senator Mark Daly’s report on Brexit and the Future of Ireland.

May 2018 books

A bit light on blogging in the last couple of days – a weekend on the road, plus reading award submissions has slowed down the number of books I can write up here. But anyway…

This is the latest post in a series I started in late 2019, anticipating the twentieth anniversary of my bookblogging at the end of October 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.

A fair bit of travel that month, going straight from Sofia…

…to Bratislava:

…with trips to London later in the month and the Netherlands earlier in the month.

Anne had a significant birthday and we swung from the trees in celebration:

Very sadly, we lost our dear friend Andy Carling, and the European Commission spokesman who is now himself a European Commissioner) paid tribute to him.

I read 27 books that month.

Non-fiction: 8 (YTD 25)
Luminescent Threads, edited by Alexandra Pierce and Mimi Mondal
The Road to Middlemarch, by Rebecca Mead
Crash Override: How Gamergate (Nearly) Destroyed My Life, and How We Can Win the Fight Against Online Hate, by Zoe Quinn
No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters, by Ursula K. Le Guin
Sleeping with Monsters: Readings and Reactions in Science Fiction and Fantasy, by Liz Bourke
The Cybersecurity Campaign Playbook, European Edition, by Harrison Monsky and the Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
The Case for a New WEU: European Defence After Brexit, by Charles Tannock MEP
A Lit Fuse: The Provocative Life of Harlan Ellison, by Nat Segaloff (extract)
125FFBAF-B0C3-4514-8E38-66F5F86417AA.jpeg 52B418FB-D0E9-4305-B3D6-FB249B3924FA.jpeg

Fiction (non-sf): 1 (YTD 14)
Looking For JJ, by Anne Cassidy

sf (non-Who): 14 (YTD 49)
River of Teeth, by Sarah Gailey
Darkness and the Light, by Olaf Stapledon
Donovan’s Brain, by Curt Siodmak
Akata Warrior, by Nnedi Okorafor
Down Among the Sticks and Bones, by Seanan McGuire
Ammonite, by Nicola Griffith
The Stone Sky, by N.K. Jemisin
The Black Tides of Heaven, by JY Yang
Summer in Orcus, by T. Kingfisher
A Skinful of Shadows, by Frances Hardinge
Beyond This Horizon, by Robert A. Heinlein
Mind Over Ship, by David Marusek
In Other Lands, by Sarah Rees Brennan
Second-Stage Lensmen, by E. E. “Doc” Smith (did not finish)

Doctor Who, etc: 3 (YTD 17)
The Day of the Doctor, by Steven Moffat
Twice Upon a Time, by Paul Cornell
Collected Works, ed. Nick Wallace

Comics: 1 (YTD 15)

P.I.G.S., by Cecilia Valagussa

1983EA83-B241-46E5-A0D6-8E2976F31DC0.jpeg

~7,100 pages (YTD ~33,000)
16/27 (YTD 53/121) by non-male writers (Pierce/Mondal, Mead, Quinn, Le Guin, Bourke, Cassidy, Gailey, Okorafor, McGuire, Griffith, Jemisin, Yang, “Kingfisher”, Hardinge, Brennan, Valagussa)
4/27 (YTD 15/121) by PoC (Mondal, Okorafor, Jemisin, Yang)
0/27 (YTD 6/121) reread

I liked most:

  • No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters, by Ursula K. Le Guin – get it here;
  • In Other Lands, by Sarah Rees Brennan – get it here;
  • The Road to Middlemarch, by Rebecca Mead – get it here; and
  • Crash Override: How Gamergate (Nearly) Destroyed My Life, and How We Can Win the Fight Against Online Hate, by Zoe Quinn – get it here.

On the other hand I completely bounced off Second-Stage Lensmen, by E. E. “Doc” Smith (as usual for that author), but you can get it here.

April 2018 books

This is the latest post in a series I started in late 2019, anticipating the twentieth anniversary of my bookblogging at the end of October 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.

We had a fantastic family trip to (North) Macedonia over Easter weekend:

There we saw the albino peacock of Sveti Naum.

It was a busy month. I also saw Gillian Anderson at FACTS in Gent:

I met Senator George Mitchell, the broker of the Nothern Ireland peace process, in Oxford:

Went to Albania again, with my colleague E:

And also went to Dublin for a Worldcon planning weekend, arriving on my birthday (oddly enough, I am doing exactly the same this coming weekend, but not arriving on my birthday which is in April).

I read 22 books that month.

Non-fiction: 1 (YTD 17)
The God Instinct, by Jesse Bering

Fiction (non-sf): 2 (YTD 13)
Mrs Miniver, by Jan Struther
Something Like Normal, by Trish Doller

sf (non-Who): 7 (YTD 35)
New York 2140, by Kim Stanley Robinson
La Belle Sauvage, by Philip Pullman
Spirit by Gwyneth Jones
The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag, by Robert A. Heinlein
All Systems Red, by Martha Wells
Islandia, by Austen Tappan Wright
Binti: Home, by Nnedi Okorafor

Doctor Who, etc: 4 (YTD 14)
Doctor Who: The Official Annual 2010
Genius Loci, by Ben Aaronovitch
Rose, by Russell T. Davies
The Christmas Invasion, by Jenny T. Colgan

Comics: 8 (YTD 14)
The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, by H.P. Lovecraft and Ian Culbard
Torchwood: Rift War, by Ian Edgington et al.
Black Bolt, Volume 1: Hard Time, written by Saladin Ahmed, illustrated by Christian Ward, lettered by Clayton Cowles
Monstress, Volume 2: The Blood, written by Marjorie M. Liu, illustrated by Sana Takeda
Saga, Volume 7, written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples
Bitch Planet, Volume 2: President Bitch, written by Kelly Sue DeConnick, illustrated by Valentine De Landro and Taki Soma, colored by Kelly Fitzpatrick, lettered by Clayton Cowles
Paper Girls, Volume 3, written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Cliff Chiang, colored by Matthew Wilson, lettered by Jared Fletcher
My Favorite Thing is Monsters, written and illustrated by Emil Ferris

~6,000 pages (YTD ~25,900)
10/22 (YTD 37/94) by women (Struther, Doller, Jones, Wells, Okorafor, Colgan, Liu/Takeda, Staples, DeConinck, Ferris))
5/22 (YTD 11/94) by PoC (Okorafor, Ahmed, Liu/Takeda, Staples, Chiang)

I read three great comics that month: Saga vol 7, which you can get here, Paper Girls vol 3, which you can get here, and My Favourite Thing is Monsters, which you can get here.

March 2018 books

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.

As usual a busy month, with two work trips to London and one to Albania; I finished the month in Skopje, on my first ever non-work trip to North Macedonia, dining with my family and my friend Stevo Pendarovski (who is in a different job now). To my delight, when boarding my plane home from Tirana, I saw the planet Mercury for the first time in my life.

They also have public art in Tirana, as my colleague M and I discovered.

I read 25 books that month.

Non-fiction: 8 (YTD 16)
An Outline of the History of Pharmacy in Ireland, by William D. Moore M.B.
A History of the Universe in 100 Objects, by Steve Tribe and James Goss
Iain M. Banks, by Paul Kincaid
So, Anyway…, by John Cleese
The Road to Somewhere, by David Goodhart
After Europe, by Ivan Krastev
Free Radical, by Vince Cable
No Going Back to Moldova, by Anna Robertson

Fiction (non-sf): 3 (YTD 11)
The Bean Trees, by Barbara Kingsolver
Julian, by Gore Vidal
How Green Was My Valley, by Richard Llewellyn

sf (non-Who): 9 (YTD 28)
Provenance, by Ann Leckie
Planesrunner by Ian McDonald
Uncanny Valley, by Greg Egan
The Enclave, by Anne Charnock
“Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones”, by Samuel R. Delany
The Murders of Molly Southbourne, by Tade Thompson
Gulliver’s Travels, by Jonathan Swift
The Man Who Spoke Snakish, by Andrus Kivirähk
Jade City, by Fonda Lee

Doctor Who, etc: 4 (YTD 10)
Doctor Who Storybook 2009, ed. Clayton Hickman
Something Changed, ed. Simon Guerrier
The Missy Chronicles, by James Goss, Cavan Scott, Paul Magrs, Peter Anghelides, Jacqueline Rayner and Richard Dinnick
The Legends of River Song, by Jenny T. Colgan, Jacqueline Rayner, Steve Lyons, Guy Adams and Andrew Lane

Comics: 1 (YTD 6)
Apostata 07: Niets meer dan een wolk by Ken Broeders

~6,400 pages (YTD ~19,900)
7/25 (YTD 27/72) by women (Robertson, Kingsolver, Leckie, Charnock, Lee, Rayner, Colgan/Rayner)
3/25 (YTD 6/72) by PoC (Delany, Thompson, Lee)

I gave five books five stars on LibraryThing that month, so I will report them and not the ones I didn’t like. They were:

February 2018 books

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.

I started the month with a trip to Istanbul to give a lecture on Brexit, and also had work trips to London and Sofia.

Istanbul
In Sofia

I read 21 books that month.

Non-fiction: 5 (YTD 8)
Europe Reset, by Richard Youngs
Who Is The Doctor, by Graeme Burk and Robert Smith?
A Preface to Paradise Lost, by C.S. Lewis
Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes, by Edith Hamilton (first 100 pages)
Seventeen Equations that Changed the World, by Ian Stewart

Fiction (non-sf): 2 (YTD 8)
Gone With The Wind, by Margaret Mitchell
Rebecca

sf (non-Who): 9 (YTD 19)
A Tangle Of Fates, by Leslie Ann Moore
The Universe Between, by Alan E Nourse
He, She and It, by Marge Piercy
The Sudden Appearance of Hope, by Claire North
The Uninvited, by Dorothy Macardle
Toast
Grand Canyon, by Vita Sackville-West
Dreams Before the Start of Time, by Anne Charnock
The Rift, by Nina Allan

Doctor Who, etc: 2 (YTD 6)
Parallel Lives, by Rebecca Levene, Stewart Sheargold, Dave Stone and Simon Guerrier
From Wildthyme with Love, by Paul Magrs

Comics: 3 (YTD 5)
Hoger dan de bergen en dieper dan de zee: kroniek van een migrant, by Laïla Koubaa and Laura Janssens
Four Doctors, by Paul Cornell and Neil Edwards
Outrageous Tales from the Old Testament, by Arthur Ranson, Donald Rooum, Dave Gibbons, Alan Moore, Hunt Emerson, Neil Gaiman, Mike Matthews, Julie Hollings, Carol Bennett, Peter Rigg and Dave McKean

~6,200 pages (YTD ~13,500)
13/21 (YTD 20/47) by women (Hamilton, Mitchell, du Maurier, Moore, Piercy, North, Macardle, Sackville-West, Charnock, Allan, Levene, Koubaa/Janssens, Hollings/Bennett)
2/21 (YTD 3/47) by PoC (Moore, Koubaa)

I’m going to be nice and just mention the three that I liked most here:

  • Claire North’s The Sudden Appearance of Hope is typically inventive and fascinating; you can get it here.
  • Richard Youngs’ Europe Reset: New Directions for the EU has some great analysis and ideas; you can get it here.
  • Nina Allan’s The Rift takes family dynamics and parallel worlds and adds innovative narrative style and good story-telling; you can get it here.

January 2018 books

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.

A very busy month. I went to Sofia twice to work with Bulgaria’s EU Presidency, and also to Strasbourg for the same reason; at the end of the month, Anne and I went to London to see Hamilton, and emerged to discover that Ursula Le Guin had died. I was also really captivated by the National Gallery portrait of Lord John Stuart and his Brother, Lord Bernard Stuart:

I read 26 books that month.

Non-fiction: 3
Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry, by Jane Hirshfield
Patrick Troughton: The Biography of the Second Doctor Who, by Michael Troughton
Watching the English, by Kate Fox

Fiction (non-sf): 6
L’Équation Africaine, by Yasmina Khadra
War and Turpentine, by Stefan Hermans
Quoth the Raven, by Jane Haddam
Rather Be The Devil, by Ian Rankin
Five Escape Brexit Island, by Bruno Vincent
The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield

Theatre: 1
You Can’t Take It With You, by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman

sf (non-Who): 10
It Can’t Happen Here, by Sinclair Lewis
Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders
The Fall of Hyperion, by Dan Simmons
Orlando, by Virginia Woolf
“Gonna Roll the Bones” by Fritz Leiber
An Old Captivity, by Nevil Shute
The Story of General Dann and Mara’s Daughter, Griot and the Snow Dog, by Doris Lessing
The Island Of Doctor Moreau, by H. G. Wells
Daystar and Shadow, by James B. Johnson
Woman on the Edge of Time, by Marge Piercy

Doctor Who, etc: 4
Who Killed Kennedy: The Shocking Secret Linking a Time Lord and a President, by “James Stevens” and David Bishop
The Talons of Weng-Chiang, script by Robert Holmes
The Tree of Life, by Mark Michalowski
Doctor Who and the Krikkitmen, by Douglas Adams and James Goss

Comics: 2
Ys de Legende: v 1 Verraad, by Jean-Luc Istin and Dejan Nenadov
Providence, Act 1, by Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows

~7,300 pages
7/26 by women (Hirshfield, Fox, Haddam, Setterfield, Woolf, Lessing, Piercy)
1/26 by PoC (Khadra)

Favourite book of the month: Watching the English, by Kate Fox; get it here.

Runner-up: Talons of Weng-Chiang, the script; get it here.

Worst: Five Escape Brexit Island, not so much a one-joke book as a no-joke book; get it here.

The Sudden Appearance of Hope, by Claire North

Second paragraph of third chapter:

As memory of me faded, so did a part of myself. Whoever that Hope Arden is who laughs with her friends, smiles with her family, flirts with her lover, resents her boss, triumphs with her colleagues – she ceased to exist, and it has been surprising for me to discover just how little of me is left behind, when all that is stripped away.

I really liked both North’s previous books, The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, whose protagonist is reborn again every time he dies and has the chance to re-live his life from the beginning, changing things he wishes he had changed, and Touch, whose central character can occupy the body of another simply by physical contact. In both books, a substantial part of the setting is that there is a whole sub-culture of individuals with the same trait, and the plot is driven in part by their internal dynamics.

Hope Arden, in The Sudden Appearance of Hope, is socially invisible; as soon as she finishes interacting with you, you forget her. If you meet her again, you think it’s the firt time. You won’t recognise her from her photographs. She grew into this alarming condition as a teenager; messages she writes endure, but the people she meets do not remember her. She exploits it to become a master thief; but her relationships can never last longer than a night with her lover of the moment.

At the same time, a new lifestyle app called Perfection is perniciously forcing its users to adopt its creators’ image of the perfectly fashionable human being. Hope and the makers of Perfection come into conflict – deliberately sought from both sides, even though neither has a clear idea of the other, leading to much conflict and confusion and excellent action. There is a lot of globe-trotting, which I see some readers objecting to, but I actually found the portrayal of Istanbul rather convincing (having been there myself recently) and felt she at least caught the spirit of the other locations. Really enjoyed it, as I did the previous two.

You can get it here.