September 2023 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 is the second last post in this series. Six days from now is the last day of this month, and the end of a four-year project to re-chronicle twenty years of reading. When I started, I was dredging up memories of sixteen years before; now it’s only a couple of weeks. It’s good to have a project with a defined end.

So what did I do and read last month? I had two trips to the UK, one for a Worldcon planning meeting at Heathrow, and one combining a family party in Northern Ireland with work meetings in London.

I wrote about the Post-industrial Pagodas, and about the consequences of the decline of X, formerly Twitter.

I managed to read 21 books:

Non-fiction 6 (YTD 64)
Dawn of the New Everything: A Journey Through Virtual Reality, by Jaron Lanier
The Night of the Doctor, by James Cooray Smith
Fanny Kemble’s Civil Wars, by Catherine Clinton
The Day of the Doctor, by Alasdair Stuart
Dispatches from Chengdu, by Abdel LeRoy
Charmed in Chengdu, by Michael O’Neal (did not finish)

Non-genre 4 (YTD 21)
Demon Copperhead, by Barbara Kingsolver
Keats and Chapman Wryed Again, by Steven A. Jent
Letters from Klara, by Tove Jansson
Death Notice, by Zhou Haohui

SF 7 (YTD 146)
The Bruising of Qilwa, by Naseem Jamnia
Ocean’s Echo, by Everina Maxwell
The Cartographers, by Peng Shepherd
Foundryside, by Robert Jackson Bennett
Rupetta, by N.A. Sulway
Shorefall, by Robert Jackson Bennett
What Not: A Prophetic Comedy, by Rose Macaulay

Doctor Who 2 (YTD 27)
Extraction Point, by MG Harris
Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor, by Steven Moffat

Comics 2 (YTD 23)
War of the Gods, by Nick Abadzis et al
A Doctor in the House?, by Jody Houser et al

5,600 pages (YTD 70,500)
11/21 (YTD 126/288) by non-male writers  (Clinton, Kingsolver, Jansson, Jamnia, Maxwell, Shepherd, Sulway, Macaulay, Harris, illustrators of War of the Gods, author and illustrators of A Doctor in the House?)
3/21 (YTD 39/288) by a non-white writer (Zhou, Jamnia, Shepherd)

August 2023 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.

For the first time in four years, we made our family trip to Northern Ireland, this time by the direct ferry to Rosslare from Dunkirk.

We did many things on holiday, including local megaliths, Derry and nearby attractions, a quick trip to London for me to the Clarke Award ceremony, and an early wedding anniversary celebration.

And I finally put together my photos of the stucco ceilings of Jan Christiaan Hansche.

Unwinding from an intense period, I read 45 books that month.

Non-fiction 10 (YTD 58)
Representatives of the People?: Parliamentarians and Constituents in Modern Democracies, ed. Vernon Bogdanor
Falling to Earth, by Al Worden
Gifted Amateurs and Other Essays, by David Bratman
Autism Spectrum Disorders Through the Lifespan, by Digby Tantam 
The Stones of Blood, by Katrin Thier 
Arachnids in the UK, by Sam Maleski
Blood, Sweat & Chrome: The Wild and True Story of Mad Max: Fury Road, by Kyle Buchanan (did not finish)
Will We Ever Speak Dolphin?, ed. Mick O’Hare
Still Just a Geek: An Annotated Memoir, by Wil Wheaton
The Return of Eva Perón with the Killings in Trinidad, by V. S. Naipaul

Non-genre 4 (YTD 18)
Love and Mr Lewisham, by H.G. Wells
The Man Who Died Twice, by Richard Osman
The Various Lives of Keats and Chapman: Including the Brother, by Flann O’Brien
Demon Copperhead, by Barbara Kingsolver

SF 17 (YTD 139)
A Wind in the Door, by Madeleine L’Engle
Akata Woman, by Nnedi Okorafor
The Outcast, by Louise Cooper
Bloodmarked, by Tracy Deonn (did not finish)
Dreams Bigger Than Heartbreak, by Charlie Jane Anders
Collision Course, by Robert Silverberg / Nemesis from Terra, by Leigh Brackett
Nettle and Bone, by “T. Kingfisher”
Osmo Unknown and the Eightpenny Woods, by Catherynne M. Valente
What Moves the Dead, by “T. Kingfisher”
A Mirror Mended, by Alix E. Harrow
A Rumor of Angels, by Dale Bailey
Into the Riverlands, by Nghi Vo
Even Though I Knew the End, by C.L. Polk
Where the Drowned Girls Go, by Seanan McGuire
“Beggars in Spain”, by Nancy Kress
Nona the Ninth, by Tamsyn Muir

Doctor Who 4 (YTD 25)
The Shadow Man, by Sharon Bidwell
Doctor Who: The Zygon Invasion, by Peter Harness
Doctor Who and the Stones of Blood, by Terrance Dicks
Doctor Who – The Stones of Blood, by David Fisher

Comics 7 (YTD 21)
Sins of the Father, by Nick Abadzis et al
Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow, by Tom King, Bilquis Evely and Matheus Lopes
Cyberpunk 2077: Big City Dreams, by Bartosz Sztybor, Filipe Andrade, Alessio Fioriniello, Roman Titov, and Krzysztof Ostrowski
Monstress vol. 7: Devourer, by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda
Major Matt Mason: Moon Mission, by George S. Elrick
DUNE: The Official Movie Graphic Novel, by Lilah Sturges, Drew Johnson, and Zid
Daleks, ed. Marcus Hearn

10,000 pages (YTD 64,900)
21/42 (YTD 115/267) by non-male writers 
6/42 (YTD 36/267) by a non-white writer 

Several great books here. From the Hugo ballot, the two novellas Even Though I Knew the End by C.L. Polk, which you can get here, and What Moves the Dead, by “T. Kingfisher”, which you can get here; and the graphic novel Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow, by Tom King, Bilquis Evely and Matheus Lopes, which you can get here. Also, newly published Gifted Amateurs and Other Essays, by David Bratman, which you can get here.

On the other hand, I found nothing to like about Hugo finalist Cyberpunk 2077: Big City Dreams, by Bartosz Sztybor, Filipe Andrade, Alessio Fioriniello, Roman Titov, and Krzysztof Ostrowski; you can get it here.

July 2023 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.

One of the rare months (apart from pandemic times) when I did not leave Belgium, or even venture far from my normal Brussels-home-Tienen axis. I wrote about Kurt Vonnegut’s muse, and the top and bottom rated Doctor Who episodes on IMDB.

I did not write it up properly at the time, but Anne and I went to the Musée Fin-de-Siècle in Brussels and were really impressed by a couple of the pieces on display:

Emigrants, by Eugène Laermans
Promenade, by Theo van Rysselberghe
Marketplace, by James Ensor
The Dragonfly, by Isidore Verheyden

Crucially, this was the month that I stopped shaving. Ten days in, it was looking promising, though one or two of my colleagues were more advanced than me.

I read 35 books that month.

Non-fiction 9 (YTD 48)
Amy Dillwyn, by David Painting
After the War: How to Keep Europe Safe, by Paul Taylor
The Popes and Sixty Years of European Integration
How to End Russia’s War on Ukraine, by Timothy Ash et al
Blackpool Remembered, by John Collier
Drawing Boundaries, eds John C. Courtney, Peter MacKinnon and David E. Smith (did not finish)
The Deadly Assassin, by Andrew Orton
The Awakening, by David Evans-Powell
One Bible, Many Voices: Different Approaches to Biblical Studies, by S.E. Gillingham

Non-genre 7 (YTD 14)
The Cider House Rules, by John Irving
A Burglary, or, Unconscious Influence, by Amy Dillwyn
Jill, by Amy Dillwyn
Jill and Jack, by Amy Dillwyn
Nant Olchfa, by Amy Dillwyn
The Murder on the Links, by Agatha Christie
Whose Body?, by Dorothy L. Sayers

Poetry 1 (YTD 4)
The Prophet, by Khalil Gibran

SF 12 (YTD 122)
The Memory Librarian, ed. Janelle Monáe
Atlantis Fallen, by C.E. Murphy
In the Serpent’s Wake, by Rachel Hartman
Ancient, Ancient, by Kiini Ibura Salaam
Mermaids and Other Mysteries of the Deep, ed. Paula Guran
The Drowning Girl, by Caitlin R. Kiernan
Legends & Lattes, by Travis Baldree
Tofu Brains: Life on Zeeta 21, by Lars Koch
There Will Be War Volume X, ed. Jerry Pournelle (did not finish)
Breakfast of Champions, by Kurt Vonnegut
Knights of God, by Richard Cooper
The Golden Enclaves, by Naomi Novik

Doctor Who 2 (YTD 21)
Doctor Who and the Deadly Assassin, by Terrance Dicks
Doctor Who – The Awakening, by Eric Pringle

Comics 4 (YTD 14)
Arena of Fear, by Nick Abadzis et al
Saga, Vol. 10,  by Fiona Staples and Brian K. Vaughan
Partitions irlandaises, by Vincent Baily and Kris
Once & Future Vol 4: Monarchies in the UK, by Kieron Gillen, Dan Mora and Tamara Bonvillain

8,200 pages (YTD 54,900)
17/35 (YTD 94/225) by non-male writers (Gillingham, Dillwyn x 4, Christie, Sayers, Monáe, Murphy, Hartman, Salaam, Guran, Kiernan, Novik, illustrators of Arena of Fear, Staples, Bonvillain)
2/35 (YTD 30/225) by a non-white writer (Gibran, Salaam)

The best of these was The Cider House Rules by John Irving; you can get it here.

June 2023 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 had three trips outside Brussels this month, the first to Zagreb for a conference commemorating the tenth anniversary of their EU membership:

https://twitter.com/nwbrux/status/1668253687326679043

The middle of the month saw B’s birthday:

I then had a business trip to Paris, and a combined business / Clarke tip to London, taking the day in between to catch up with my cousin in Dover.

We ended the month with a work outing swinging from trees in Wavre, which I had done a couple of times before. My actual swinging was not so effective but I am good at waiting for my turn on an elevated platform.

Non-fiction 8 (YTD 40)
A Brief History of Stonehenge, by Aubrey Burl
Twelve Caesars: Images of Power from the Ancient World to the Modern, by Mary Beard
The Shape of Irish History, by A.T.Q. Stewart
The Robots of Death, by Fiona Moore
City of Soldiers, by Kate Fearon
The Pandorica Opens / The Big Bang, by Philip Bates
Franco-Irish Relations, 1500-1610: Politics, Migration and Trade, by Mary Ann Lyons
Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century, by Jessica Bruder 

Non-genre 3 (YTD 7)
Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, by Gabrielle Zevin
The Rebecca Rioter, by Amy Dillwyn
Chloe Arguelle, by Amy Dillwyn

SF 10 (YTD 110)
The Revolution Trade, by Charles Stross
Plutoshine, by Lucy Kissick
Metronome, by Tom Watson
Venomous Lumpsucker, by Ned Beauman
The Red Scholar’s Wake, by Aliette de Bodard
The Anomaly, by Hervé le Tellier
World’s Fair 1992, by Robert Silverberg
“Bears Discover Fire”, by Terry Bisson
Aurora: Beyond Equality, eds Vonda N. McIntyre and Susan Anderson
The Hemingway Hoax, by Joe Haldeman

Doctor Who 3 (YTD 19)
K9 Megabytes, by Bob Baker
Doctor Who and the Robots of Death, by Terrance Dicks
Corpse Marker, by Chris Boucher

Comics 1 (YTD 10)
The Endless Song, by Nick Abadzis et al

7,200 pages (YTD 46,900)
12/26 (YTD 78/191) by non-male writers (Beard, Moore, Fearon, Lyons, Bruder, Zevin, Dillwyn x2, Kissick, de Bodard, McIntyre / Anderson, Endless Song illustrators)
2/26 (YTD 28/191) by a non-white writer (Zevin, de Bodard)

I really liked all five of the Clarke shortlistees that I reread this month – Plutoshine, by Lucy Kissick (get it here); Metronome, by Tom Watson (get it here); Venomous Lumpsucker, by Ned Beauman (get it here); The Red Scholar’s Wake, by Aliette de Bodard (get it here); and The Anomaly, by Hervé le Tellier (get it here).

I also really liked Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, by Gabrielle Zevin, which was a Clarke submission but not actually sf (get it here); and Nomadland, by Jessica Bruder, on which the Oscar-winning film was based (get it here).

However you can skip World’s Fair 1992, by Robert Silverberg. (Or get it here.)

May 2023 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 started the month in France, for a lovely 24-hour trip to a neglected corner across the border for my birthday. We found many things there including the grave of Wilfred Owen.

I found myself at the British Ambassador’s residence twice in a week, once for the Coronation reception and once for Eurovision.

Closer to home, our mayor commemorated the RAF men killed in a wartime crash in the next village to ours, eighty years before.

Back home in Northern Ireland, the local government elections took place and for the first time Nationalist parties got more votes than Unionist parties; I managed to get this data out before anyone else did.

https://twitter.com/nwbrux/status/1659946274487955456

Anne and I had another trip at the end of the month, to Amsterdam:

And I blogged about the age of the Meuse valley, and my grandmother’s reading habits.

I read 23 books that month, relaxing a bit after the Clarke frenzy.

Non-fiction 5 (YTD 32)
Johnson at 10: the Inside Story, by Anthony Seldon and Raymond Newell
The John Nathan-Turner Doctor Who Production Diary, 1979-90, by Richard Molesworth
American Gridlock, eds. James Thurber and Antoine Yoshinaka
Vengeance on Varos, by Jonathan Dennis
The Rings of Akhaten, by William Shaw

Poetry 1 (YTD 3)
Deep Wheel Orcadia, by Harry Josephine Giles

SF 13 (YTD 100)
Creation Machine, by Andrew Bannister
Love And Other Human Errors, by Bethany Clift
The Hunt – For Allies, by David Geoffrey Adams (did not finish)
Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett
The Violence, by Delilah S. Dawson (did not finish)
Where it Rains in Color, by Denise Crittendon
The Race, by Nina Allan
A Marvellous Light, by Freya Marske
The Shape of Sex to Come, ed. Douglas Hill
The Old Drift, by Namwali Serpell
The Animals in That Country, by Laura Jean McKay
The Coral Bones, by E.J. Swift
The Second ‘If’ Reader, ed. Fredrik Pohl

Doctor Who 3 (YTD 16)
Home Fires Burn, by Gareth Madgwick
Doctor Who – Vengeance on Varos, by Philip Martin
Sil and the Devil Seeds of Arodor, by Philip Martin

Comics 1 (YTD 9)
The Fountains of Forever, by Nick Abadzis et al

7,000 pages (YTD 39,700)
9/23 (YTD 66/165) by non-male writers (Giles, Clift, Dawson, Crittenden, Allan, Marske, Serpell, McKay, Swift, Casagrande/Florean)
3/23 (YTD 26/165) by a non-white writer (Yoshinaka, Crittenden, Serpell)

I had not previously read the three most recent Clarke Award winners, but I thought they were all fantastic: The Old Drift, by Namwali Serpell, which you can get here, The Animals in That Country, by Laura Jean McKay, which you can get here, and Deep Wheel Orcadia, by Harry Josephine Giles, which you can get here. As homework for this year’s award I also reread The Coral Bones, by E.J. Swift, which you can get here.

Even completist Doctor Who fans can skip Sil and the Devil Seeds of Arodor, by Philip Martin, but you can get it here.

April 2023 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.

Only a few more of these posts to go; I’ll need to find another topic for regular non-book-blogging, but it’s been fun.

Quite a lot of travel this month, starting with a work trip to Geneva along with my colleague R:

Then Eastercon in Birmingham with Anne, Cambridge for a couple of days, and the a WorldCon planning meeting in Glasgow. I have not mentioned it previously, but on the last night of Eastercon I was struck by a bad IBS attack, I think triggered by the very creamy risotto that I had for dinner at Zizzi, and was incapacitated for the whole of the Monday. The rest of the week was fine, though, with a glimpse of the elusive planet Mercury as I cross Clare Bridge in Cambridge:

And a great picture of the Armadillo that I’m very pleased with.

In Brussels the following weekend, the normally closed Pavilion of the Human Passions was opened up for a couple of days:

I also attended a conference at the Economy Ministry in Paris.

And Anne and I finished the month elsewhere in France, but more on that anon.

My most significant blog post was on a 1933 aeroplane bombing, but I also read 32 books, many of them at the tail end of the Clarke submissions pile and which I therefore didn’t persevere with I felt that they were not science fiction, or just not very good.

Non-fiction 5 (YTD 27)
The Cyprus Crisis and the Cold War, by Makarios Drousiotis
My Family And Other Animals, by Gerald Durrell
The Silurians, by Robert Smith?
When Christians Were Jews: The First Generation, by Paula Fredriksen
The Underwater Menace, by James Cooray Smith

SF 23 (YTD 87)
Scary Monsters, by Michelle de Kretser
Galactic Girl, by Fiona Richmond
Stars and Bones, by Gareth L. Powell
City of Last Chances, by Adrian Tchaikovsky (did not finish)
The Shadow Glass, by Josh Winning (did not finish)
Redwood and Wildfire, by Andrea Hairston
The Ends, by James Smythe
The Coral Bones, by E.J. Swift
The Mars Migration, by Wayne M. Bailey (did not finish)
New Brighton, by Helen Trevorrow (did not finish)
Beyond the Burn Line, by Paul McAuley
The Last Storm, by Tim Lebbon
The Quickening, by Talulah Riley (did not finish)
Hangdog Souls, by Marc Joan (did not finish)
A Fractured Infinity, by Nathan Tavares (did not finish)
Equinox, by David Towsey (did not finish)
Outcast, by Louise Carey (did not finish)
Stringers, by Chris Panatier (did not finish)
The Thousand Earths, by Stephen Baxter
36 Streets, by T.R. Napper (did not finish)
HellSans, by Ever Dundas (did not finish)
A Sh*tload of Crazy Powers, by Jackson Ford (did not finish)
Plutoshine, by Lucy Kissick

Doctor Who 3 (YTD 13)
Erasing Sherlock, by Kelly Hale
Doctor Who and the Cave-Monsters, by Malcolm Hulke
Doctor Who: The Underwater Menace, by Nigel Robinson

Comics 1 (YTD 8)
The Weeping Angels of Mons, by Robbie Morrison, Daniel Indro and Eleonora Carlini

6,500 pages (YTD 32,700)
11/32 (YTD 57/142) by non-male writers (Fredriksen, de Kretser, Richmond, Hairston, Swift, Trevorrow, Riley, Carey, Hale, Dundas, χ4)
2/32 (YTD 23/142) by a non-white writer (de Kretser, Hairston)

In among the less impressive Clarke submissions were two of the six excellent books that we ended up shortlisting, The Coral Bones by E.J. Swift, which you can get here, and Plutoshine by Lucy Kissick, which you can get here. I also particularly enjoyed Makarios Drousiotis’ book on Cyprus, which you can get here. I’ll draw a veil over the less good…

March 2023 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 had two nights away from Belgium that month, a Clarke meeting in London and a work meeting in The Hague. I also enjoyed a massive St Patrick’s Day whammy of Irish Embassy Reception on the evening of the 16th, Northern Ireland representation breakfast on the 17th and the Irish College in Leuven, where it all started, on the evening of the 17th. A couple of days later I attended the screening of a film about Lyra McKee.

Here are two journalists, both with the same first name, at the Irish embassy reception.

With the Clarke deadline closing in, I read 37 books that month, though again I did not finish those that seemed insufficiently science fictional (or insufficiently good) to have a chance of winning.

Non-fiction 9 (YTD 22)
Madam Secretary, by Madeleine Albright
Management Lessons from Game of Thrones: Organization Theory and Strategy in Westeros, by Fiona Moore
Terry Pratchett: A Life with Footnotes, by Rob Wilkins
Wordsworth’s French Daughter, by George McLean Harper
Kerblam!, by Naomi Jacobs and Thomas L. Rodebaugh
William Wordsworth and Annette Vallon, by Émile Legouis
The Sound of Drums / Last of the Time Lords, by James Mortimer
The Kosova Liberation Army, by James Pettifer
The Face of Britain, by Simon Schama

Non-genre 1 (YTD 4)
Ratlines, by Stuart Neville

SF 23 (YTD 64)
The Key to Fury, by Kristin Cast (did not finish)
Lost In Time, by A.G. Riddle (did not finish)
The Visitors, by Owen W Knight (did not finish)
Thrust, by Lidia Yuknavitch
Sea of Tranquility, by Emily St. John Mandel
Neom, by Lavie Tidhar
The Cartographers, by Peng Shepherd (did not finish)
Luca, by Or Luca
Of Charms, Ghosts and Grievances, by Aliette de Bodard
Sea of Tranquility, by Emily St. John Mandel
Ogres, by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Pod by Laline Paull
The Best of Ian McDonald
Trouble the Waters: Tales from the Deep Blue, eds. Sheree Renée Thomas, Pan Morigan and Troy L. Wiggins
The Anomaly, by Hervé le Tellier
Glitterati, by Oliver K. Langmead
The Candy House, by Jennifer Egan
Off-Target, by Eve Smith
Children of Memory, by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Venomous Lumpsucker, by Ned Beauman
Last Exit, by Max Gladstone (did not finish)
Speaking Bones, by Ken Liu (did not finish)
Ricky’s Hand, by David Quantick
The Moonday Letters, by Emmi Itäranta

Doctor Who 2 (YTD 10)
Warring States, by Mags Halliday
The HAVOC Files: The Laughing Gnome, ed ???

Comics 2 (YTD 7)
Revolutions of Terror, by Nick Abadzis, Elena Casagrande and Arianna Florean
The Secret to Superhuman Strength, by Alison Bechdel

10,100 pages (YTD 26,200)
17/37 (YTD 46/110) by non-male writers (Albright, Moore, Jacobs, Cast, Yuknavitch, St. John Mandel, Shepherd, Luca, de Bodard, Paull, Thomas/Morigan, Egan, Smith, Itäranta, Halliday, Casagrande/Florean, Bechdel)
7/37 (YTD 21/110) by a non-white writer (Cast, Shepherd, Luca, de Bodard, Paull, Thomas/Wiggins, Liu)

Some really good books this month. From the Clarke submissions, Venomous Lumpsucker (get it here), The Anomaly (get it here), Off Target (get it here) and Children of Memory (get it here) were all excellent. Several good biographies too: Rob Wilkins on Terry Pratchett (get it here), Madeleine Albright on herself (get it here), Alison Bechdel on herself in graphic format (get it here). See also Simon Schama on British portraits (get it here) and the Best of Ian McDonald‘s short fiction (get it here). I don’t need to cover the less good ones, I think.

January 2022 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.

Only one trip outside Belgium at the start of this year, to London where unexpectedly I saw Noises Off. Within Belgium, F and I had a great excursion to the Cubes of Herne:

I blogged about my cousins the Seavers, the Oberkassel puppy, and science fiction’s predictions for 2023.

I managed a colossal 45 books that month:

Non-fiction 9
God is No Thing: Coherent Christianity, by Rupert Shortt
Diary of a Witchcraft Shop 2, by Trevor Jones and Liz Williams
Final Report of the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol
Horror of Fang Rock, by Matthew Guerrieri
Battlefield, by Philip Purser-Hallard
The Karmic Curve, by Mary I. Williams
Juggle and Hide, by Sharon van Ivan
Representing Europeans, by Richard Rose
Complexity: A Very Short Introduction, by John H. Holland

Non-genre 2
The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, by Gabrielle Zevin (did not finish)

Plays 1
Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme, by Frank McGuinness

Poetry 2
Metamorphoses, by Ovid tr. Stephanie McCarter
Tales from Ovid, by Ted Hughes

SF 22
The Circus Infinite, by Khan Wong
Fugue for a Darkening Island, by Christopher Priest
All the Names They Used for God, by Anjali Sachdeva
“The Mountains of Mourning” by Lois McMaster Bujold
Full Immersion, by Gemma Amor
The Stars Undying, by Emery Robin (did not finish)
The Chosen Twelve, by James Breakwell
Our Share of Night, by Mariana Enriquez (did not finish)
Mercury Rising, by R.W.W. Greene (did not finish)
The Chosen and the Beautiful, by Nghi Vo
At The Edge Of The World, by Lord Dunsany
The Immortality Thief, by Taran Hunt
Wormhole, by Keith Brooke and Eric Brown
Death Draws Five, by John J. Miller
Appliance, by J.O. Morgan
The Kaiju Preservation Society, by John Scalzi
The Transfer Problem, by Adam Saint (did not finish)
Baba Yaga Laid an Egg, by Dubravka Ugrešić
Upgrade, by Blake Crouch
The Perfect Assassin, by K.A. Doore
Stray Pilot, by Douglas Thompson (did not finish)
The World Set Free: A Fantasia of the Future, by H.G. Wells

Doctor Who 5
Doctor Who: Galaxy Four, by William Emms
Doctor Who: The Fires of Pompeii, by James Moran
Rise of the Dominator, by Robert Mammone
Doctor Who and the Horror of Fang Rock, by Terrance Dicks
Doctor Who: Battlefield, by Marc Platt

Comics 4
Alternating Current, by Jody Houser et al.
Sin Eaters, by Cavan Scott, Adriana Melo, Cris Bolson and Marco Lesko
Neptune – Épisode 1 by Leo
Neptune – Épisode 2 by Leo

9,900 pages
17/45 by non-male writers (Williams, Cheney/Lofgren/Murphy/Luria, “Williams”, van Ivan, Zevin, McCarter, Sachdeva, Bujold, Amor, Robin, Enriquez, Vo, Hunt, Ugrešić, Doore, Houser et al, Melo)
5/45 by a non-white writer (Thompson/Aguilar/Murphy, Zevin, Wong, Sachdeva, Vo)

With 45 books this month, there were some very good ones to mention and I will skip over the less good. From this month’s Clarke submissions, I really liked Appliance, which you can get here, and The Immortality Thief, which you can get here. Otherwise, I was blown away by Anjali Sachdeva’s short stories, which you can get here, and by Nghi Vo’s retelling of Gatsby, which you can get here; I hugely enjoyed Ovid, who you can get here and here; and I was duly appalled by the report of the 6 January Commission, which you can get here. And Matthew Guerreri’s analysis of Horror of Fang Rock is an excellent entry in a good series; you can get it here.

December 2022 books and 2022 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.

Two trips out of Belgium that month, one to London where I also took in the Science Museum’s (somewhat disappointing) exhibit about science fiction, and a spontaneous excursion to Amsterdam with F to meet up with my brother and his daughter just before Christmas. Meanwhile I got in the moo for the office Christmas party, which had a “jungle” theme:

I read 30 books that month.

December 2022 books

Non-fiction 5 (YTD 97)
Warriors’ Gate, by Frank Collins
Zink, by David Van Reybrouck
The Romans, by Jacob Edwards
The Ahtisaari Legacy, ed. Nina Suomalainen and Jyrki Karvinen
What If? by Randall Munroe

Non-genre 3 (YTD 18)
A Darker Shade, ed. John-Henri Holmberg
A Ship is Dying, by Brian Callison
On Black Sisters’ Street, by Chika Unigwe

SF 17 (YTD 122)
The Spare Man, by Mary Robinette Kowal
Titan Blue, by M.B. Fox
Filter House, by Nisi Shawl
The Splendid City, by Karen Heuler
Looking Further Backward, by Arthur Dudley Vinton
Ion Curtain, by Anya Ow
Barsk: The Elephant’s Graveyard, by Lawrence M. Schoen
Bluebird, by Ciel Pierlot
“Schrödinger’s Kitten”, by George Alec Effinger
The Turing Option, by Harry Harrison with Marvin Minsky
The Knife of Never Letting Go, by Patrick Ness
“The Last of the Winnebagos”, by Connie Willis
Shadows of Amber, by John Betancourt
The Red Scholar’s Wake, by Aliette de Bodard
Killing Time, by Caleb Carr
The Free Lunch, by Spider Robinson
Sewer, Gas and Electric, by Matt Ruff

Doctor Who 3 (YTD 34)
Doctor Who: Origin Stories (ed. ?Dave Rudden?)
Doctor Who and Warriors’ Gate, by John Lydecker
Doctor Who: The Romans, by Donald Cotton

Comics 2 (YTD 20)
Official Secrets, by Cavan Scott, Adriana Melo, Cris Bolson and Marco Lesko
The Carnival of Immortals, by Enki Bilal

7,100 pages (YTD 66,500)
9/30 (YTD 109/298) by non-male writers (Suomalainen, Unigwe, Kowal, Shawl, Heuler, Ow, Pierlot, Willis, de Bodard, Melo)
4/30 (YTD 39/298) by a non-white writer (Unigwe, Shawl, Ow, de Bodard)

The best of these were the essay collection The Ahtisaari Legacy, which is out of print, and The Red Scholar’s Wake, which you can get here; the worst was Titan Blue, which you can get here.

2022 books roundup

I read 298 books in 2022, two more than in 2021, the fourth highest of the nineteen years that I have been keeping track, and the highest since 2011. 

Page count for the year: 76,500, ninth highest of the nineteen years I have recorded, almost in the middle; there are some very short books in there.

Books by non-male writers in 2022: 109 (37%), second highest tally and fourth highest percentage of the years I have been counting.

Books by PoC in 2021: 39 (13%), second highest tally and third highest percentage since I started counting.

Most-read author: a tie between two previous winners, Terrance Dicks and Kieron Gillen, with five each. The Dicks novelisations were all re-reads.

1) Science Fiction and Fantasy (excluding Doctor Who)

122 books (41%) – 4th highest total, 8th highest percentage.

Top SF books of the year:

When I first wrote up my books of the year I didn’t name any of the Clarke submissions. I will now say that the three I enjoyed most which I read in 2022 were:

  • Tell Me An Ending, by Jo Harkin; get it here
  • The Flight of the Aphrodite, by S.J. Morden; get it here;
  • The Red Scholar’s Wake, by Aliette de Bodard; get it here.

Add to that two Hugo packet entries:

Honourable mentions to:

Welcome rereads:

The one you don’t have:

The one to avoid: 

2) Non-fiction

95 books (32%) – highest ever number, third highest percentage. I think this has been driven upwards by the excellent Black Archive series of short books about Doctor Who stories, but that’s not the only factor.

Top non-fiction book of the year:

Honourable mentions to:

The one you haven’t heard of:

The one to avoid:

  • Duran Duran: The First Four Years of the Fab Five, by Neil Gaiman, early stufffrom a writer who went on to much better things; out of print.

3) Doctor Who

Fiction other than comics: 39 books (13%), 10th highest total (dead in the middle) of the last nineteen years and highest since 2017, 13th highest percentage

Including non-fiction and comics: 72 (24%), 7th highest total and 6th highest percentage, both highest since 2013

Top Doctor Who book of the year:

Honorable mentions to:

The one you haven’t heard of:

The one to avoid:

4) Comics

20 (7%), 11th highest total and 12th highest percentage, both lowest since 2015.

Top comic of the year:

Honourable mentions:

  • Snotgirl Volume 1: Green Hair Don’t Care, by Bryan Lee O’Malley and Lesley Hung, an encouraging start to a new series; get it here
  • Once and Future vol 3: The Parliament of Magpies and vol 4: Monarchies in the UK, by Kieron Gillen, Dan Mora and Tamra Bonvillain, continues to delightfully and brutally subvert Arthuriana; get them here and here

The one you haven’t heard of:

The one to avoid:

5) Non-genre fiction

18 (6%); second lowest tally and lowest ever percentage of the nineteen years that I have been keeping track.

Top non-genre fiction of the year – joint honours to two very different books:

Honourable mention:

The one you haven’t heard of:

  • A Ship is Dying, by Brian Callison, gripping account of a maritime accident in the North Sea; get it here

Nothing that was so awful that I would recommend avoidance.

6) Others: poetry and scripts

I read two excellent poetry collections by Northern Irish writers, Death of a Naturalist by Seamus Heaney (get it here) and The Sun Is Open by Gail McConnell (get it here). I also read a very odd play, Juicy and Delicious by Lucy Alibar (get it here), which was the basis for the much better film Beasts of the Southern Wild.

My Book of the Year 2022

The 2022 winner of the Christopher Ewart-Biggs Memorial Prize was, for the first time, a book of poetry, The Sun is Open, by QUB-based writer Gail McConnell. In fact the 119 pages of text are one long poem broken into chunks, playing with text and with font colour, processing the writer’s reaction to going through a box of her father’s things, long after he died in 1984 at 35, shot dead by the IRA while checking under his car for bombs, in front of his wife and his then three-year-old daughter.

Gail McConnell barely remembers her father and has no memory of that awful day, but of course it has affected her whole life, and the poetry captures that disruption and the effect of engaging with her father through a box of personal souvenirs, most notably a diary and a Students Union handbook from his own time at QUB. There is some imaginative playing with structure – quotations from the box are in grey text, documents are quoted in fragments to let us fill in the blanks, at one point the page fills with vertical bars to symbolise the prison where her father worked. It’s provocative and unsettling, and meant to be. 

I thought it was incredible and it’s my book of the year for 2022. You can get it here.

Previous Books of the Year:

2003 (2 months): The Separation, by Christopher Priest (reviewget it here)
2004: (reread) The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien (reviewget it here)
– Best new read: Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self, by Claire Tomalin (reviewget it here)
2005: The Island at the Centre of the World, by Russell Shorto (reviewget it here)
2006: Lost 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 (reviewget it here)
2007: Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, by Alison Bechdel (reviewget it here)
2008: (reread) The Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition, by Anne Frank (reviewget it here)
– Best new read: Vanity Fair: A Novel without a Hero, by William Makepeace Thackeray (reviewget it here)
2009: (had seen it on stage previously) Hamlet, by William Shakespeare (reviewget it here)
– Best new read: Persepolis 2: the Story of a Return, by Marjane Satrapi (first volume just pipped by Samuel Pepys in 2004) (reviewget it here)
2010: The Bloody Sunday Report, by Lord Savile et al. (review of vol Iget it here)
2011: The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, by Edward Gibbon (started in 2009!) (reviewget it here)
2012: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, by Anne Brontë (reviewget it here)
2013: A Room of One’s Own, by Virginia Woolf (reviewget it here)
2014: Homage to Catalonia, by George Orwell (reviewget it here)
2015: collectively, the Arthur C. Clarke Award shortlist, in particular the winner, Station Eleven, by Emily St John Mandel (get it here). 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 (reviewget it here)
2016: Alice in Sunderland, by Bryan Talbot (reviewget it here)
2017: Common People: The History of an English Family, by Alison Light (reviewget it here)
2018: Factfulness, by Hans Rosling (reviewget it here)
2019: Girl, Woman, Other, by Bernardine Evaristo (reviewget it here)
2020: From A Clear Blue Sky: Surviving the Mountbatten Bomb, by Timothy Knatchbull (reviewget it here)
2021: Carrying the Fire, by Michael Collins (reviewget it here)

November 2022 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 is the twelfth last of these posts; the last will be the October 2023 update.

My only trip outside Belgium in November 2022 was a work outing to London, which I have not otherwise recorded, but I had two interesting day trips; one with F to the sculptures at Borgloon:

And one with U to the Picasso exhibition in Brussels.

At work, I was honoured to greet a courageous woman:

I read 32 books that month.

Non-fiction 9 (YTD 92)
The First World War Diary of Noël Drury, 6th Royal Dublin Fusiliers: Gallipoli, Salonika, The Middle East and the Western Front, ed. Richard Grayson
An Eloquent Soldier: The Peninsular War Journals of Lieutenant Charles Crowe of the Inniskillings, 1812-14, ed. Gareth Glover
Rauf Denktaş, a Private Portrait, by Yvonne Çerkez
Moon Boots and Dinner Suits, by Jon Pertwee
The Caucasus: an Introduction, by Thomas de Waal
The Impossible Astronaut / Day of the Moon, by John Toon
The Dalek Invasion of Earth, by Jonathan Morris
Faith in Politics, by John Bruton
The Road To Kosovo: A Balkan Diary, by Greg Campbell

Non-genre 1 (YTD 15)
Disobedience, by Naomi Alderman

Poetry 1 (YTD 2)
Death of a Naturalist, by Seamus Heaney

SF 16 (YTD 105)
The End of the Day, by Claire North
The Harem of Aman Akbar, by Elizabeth Scarborough
Hyperspace Demons, by Jonathan Moeller
The Men, by Sandra Newman
The World We Make, by N. K. Jemisin
To Rule in Amber, by John Betancourt
The Flight of the Aphrodite, by S J Morden
August Kitko and the Mechas from Space, by Alex White (did not finish)
Momenticon, by Andrew Caldecott (did not finish)
Azura Ghost, by Essa Hansen (did not finish)
Prophets of the Red Night, by Sophie McKeand (did not finish)
Mickey⁷, by Edward Ashton
Revelations of the Dead-alive aka London and Its Eccentricities in the Year 2023, by John Banim
Deep Dive, by Ron Walters
The Lost Child of Lychford, by Paul Cornell
Song of Time, by Ian R. MacLeod

Doctor Who 3 (YTD 31)
The Danger Men, by Nick Walter
Doctor Who and the Dalek Invasion of Earth, by Terrance Dicks
Dr Who: Dalek Invasion Earth 2150AD, by “Alan Smithee”

Comics 2 (YTD 18)
Doctormania, by Cavan Scott et al
The Clockwise War, by Scott Gray

7,400 pages (YTD 69,400)
9/32 (YTD 100/268) by non-male writers (Çerkez, Alderman, North, Scarborough, Newman, Jemisin, White, Hansen, McKeand)
2/32 (YTD 35/268) by a non-white writer (Jemisin, Hansen)

Four books that I really enjoyed this month:

  • Death of a Naturalist, the classic poetry collection by Seamus Heaney; you can get it here.
  • The Caucasus: An Introduction, by Tom de Waal, unfortunately out of date since the recent war but fantastic to understand the region; you can get it here.
  • Disobedience, by Naomi Alderman, a gripping study of an isolated culture in London. You can get it here.
  • The Flight of the Aphrodite, a hard sf Clarke submission that really grabbed me; you can get it here.

Several of the other Clarke submissions this month were frankly unreadable; specifically Momenticon, Azura Ghost and Prophets of the Red Night. You can get them here, here and here.

October 2022 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 started October last year in London at a Glasgow 2024 Worldcon planning meeting; I don’t know who took this photograph but it catches the spirit well.

The next weekend we celebrated our 29th wedding anniversary with a weekend in Trier, Germany, stopping off in Luxembourg on the way back.

The most hilarious news story of the month was the resignation of Liz Truss as UK Prime Minister less than two months into the job. I can reveal now that on the morning it happened, I texted a member of her team who I knew that I hoped he might have a better day at the office than the previous day (which saw the chaotic House of Commons vote that sealed her fate). My friend, who must have already known that she had decided to resign overnight, replied “Doubt it but thanks for the thought!”

I read 24 books that month:

Non-fiction 7 (YTD 83)
Doctor Who: A British Alien?
, by Danny Nicol
The Bad Christian’s Manifesto, by Dave Tomlinson (did not finish)
Twelve Years a Slave, by Solomon Northrup
The Face of Evil, by Thomas L Rodebaugh
Love and Monsters, by Niki Haringsma
Welcome to the Doomsphere: Sad Puppies, Hugos, and Politics, by Matthew M. Foster
The Bordley and Belt Families, Based on Letters Written by Family Members, assembled and annotated by Edward Wickersham Hoffman
      

Plays 1
Juicy and Delicious
, by Lucy Alibar

SF 12 (YTD 89)
Lambda
, by David Musgrave
Empire Of Sand
, by Tasha Suri
Complete Short Stories: the 1950s, by Brian Aldiss
Tell Me an Ending, by Jo Harkin
Expect Me Tomorrow
, by Christopher Priest
La Femme
, ed. Ian Whates
Eversion, by Alastair Reynolds
Goliath
, by Tochi Onyebuchi
The This, by Adam Roberts
Mindwalker
, by Kate Dylan
Scattered All Over the Earth
, by Yōko Tawada, tr. Margaret Mitsutani
Life Ceremony
, by Sayaka Murata (did not finish)
   

Doctor Who 2 (YTD 28)
Lineage
, ed. Shaun Russell
Doctor Who and the Face of Evil, by Terrance Dicks
 

Comics 2 (YTD 16)
Voorbij de grenzen van de ernst
, by Kamagurka
Weapons of Past Destruction, by Cavan Scott, Blair Shedd, Rachel Stott and Anand Setyawan
 

6,500 pages (YTD 62,000)
7/24 (YTD 91/236) by non-male writers (Alibar, Suri, Harkin, Dylan, Tawada, Murata, Stott)
6/24 (YTD 33/236) by a non-white writer (Northrup, Suri, Onyebuchi, Tawada, Murata, Setyawan)

I’m going to be nice and celebrate three very good books I read that month, and refrain from calling out any bad ones.

September 2022 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 started the month in Chicago, where the Chicago River was reverse-engineered in the 19th century to flow out of Lake Michigan rather than into it. (Lake Michigan is roughly twice the surface area of Belgium.)

I was there of course for the 2022 Worldcon, at which I was once again part of the Hugo team.

The major point of drama surrounded the Hugo Awards Study Committee, which had been founded on my proposal in 2017, but which had unfortunately become dominated by a small self-appointed clique in 2021 and 2022 to the point that I successfully called for it to be abolished at the Chicago WSFS Business Meeting. This had been brewing for months, culminating when the people running the committee submitted constitutional amendments to the Business Meeting in the committee’s name, despite a previous consensus that they would not. There seemed to be no desire for course correction on the part of those concerned, and they certainly failed to persuade the Business Meeting to let them have another go. A shame; I had thought it was a good idea in principle, but it turned out not to work in practice.

The next week, Liz Truss became Prime Minister, and Queen Elizabeth II died.

The week after that, Anne graduated summa cum laude from her theology degree in Leuven.

We then went to a reunion in Clare College Cambridge, where we had met and married thirty years and more ago.

On the day of the Queen’s funeral, I went on my own quest to find my grandmother’s grave:

That evening I met up with three old friends from grammar school in Belfast who all now work in London.

I ended the month in England again, at a Glasgow 2024 Worldcon planning meeting; photos in the October update.

I read twenty books that month. When I first posted this list I disguised the Arthur C. Clarke Award submissions with Greek letters; the shortlist is now out and the winner will be announced next week, so there is no longer any need to be coy about what books I read when.

Non-fiction 6 (YTD 76)
Political Animals, by Bev Laing
Matt Smith: The Biography, by Emily Herbert
Doctor Who (1996), by Paul Driscoll
The Dæmons, by Matt Barber
Richard of Cornwall: The English King of Germany, by Darren Baker
Argo: How the Cia and Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue in History, by Antonio J. Mendez and Matt Baglio 

Non-genre 1 (YTD 14)
Mr Britling Sees It Through, by H.G. Wells

SF 8 (YTD 77)
The Traders’ War, by Charles Stross
Brasyl, by Ian McDonald
Jocasta, by Brian Aldiss
Black Man, by Richard Morgan
Braking Day, by Adam Oyebanji
The Fish, by Joanne Stubbs
Speaker for the Dead, by Orson Scott Card
Poster Girl, by Veronica Roth

Doctor Who 3 (YTD 26)
Fear of the Web, by Alyson Leeds
Doctor Who – The Movie, by Gary Russell
Doctor Who and the Dæmons, by Barry Letts

Comics 1 (YTD 14)
A Matter of Life and Death, by George Mann, Emma Vieceli and Hi Fi

5,700 pages (YTD 55,500)
6/19 (YTD 84/211) by non-male writers (Laing, Herbert, Stubbs, Roth, Leeds, Vieceli)
2/19 (YTD 27/211) by a non-white writer (Mendez, Oyebanji)

Mr Britling Sees It Through was a real revelation for me, hugely enjoyed it. You can get it here.

The new biography of Richard of Cornwall was very disappointing, but you can get it here.

August 2022 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.

A decent amount of travel this month, with ten days in Northern Ireland including a family gathering.

I also had a work trip to Belgrade, and finished the month at Worldcon in Chicago having spent a few days first at my brother’s near Boston where I did some further research:

A lot of Worldcon-related drama happened in August, but I’ll save recounting it to my September write-up.

I read 25 books that month:

Non-fiction 8 (YTD 70)
Lenin the Dictator, by Victor Sebestyen
Manifesto, by Bernardine Evaristo
The Life of Col. Samuel M. Wickersham, ed. Edward Wickersham Hoffman
The Curse of Fenric, by Una McCormack
The Time Warrior, by Matthew Kilburn
That Damn’d Thing Called “Honour”: Duelling in Ireland, 1570-1860, by James Kelly
The Kosovo Indictment, by Michael O’Reilly
Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets, by Svetlana Alexievich

Non-genre 2 (YTD 13)
Alaska Sampler 2014: Ten Authors from the Great Land, eds Deb Vanasse and David Marusek
The Light Years, by Elizabeth Jane Howard

SF 9 (YTD 69)
Swordheart, by T. Kingfisher
The Initiate, by Louise Cooper
Sprawl, ed. Cat Sparks
The Massacre of Mankind, by Stephen Baxter
Roger Zelazny’s Chaos and Amber, by John Betancourt
The Harp and the Blade, by John Myers Myers
“Tangents”, by Greg Bear
The Light Fantastic, by Terry Pratchett
The Carhullan Army, by Sarah Hall

Doctor Who 5 (YTD 23)
Dalek Combat Training Manual, by Richard Atkinson and Mike Tucker
The Lost Skin, by Andy Frankham-Allen
Scary Monsters, by Simon A. Forward
Doctor Who: The Curse of Fenric, by Ian Briggs
Doctor Who and the Time Warrior, by Terrance Dicks

Comics 1 (YTD 13)
Doctor Who: The Seventh Doctor: Operation Volcano, by Ben Aaronovitch and Andrew Cartmel

6,100 pages (YTD 49,800)
9/25 (YTD 78/192) by non-male writers (Evaristo, McCormack, Alexievich, Vanasse, Howard, “Kingfisher”, Cooper, Sparks, Hall)
1/25 (YTD 25/192) by a non-white writer (Evaristo)

I enjoyed revisiting The Light Fantastic, which you can get here, and reading Bernardine Evaristo’s Manifesto, which you can get here, T. Kingfisher’s Swordheart, which you can get here, and the Dalek Combat Manual, which you can get here. I’ll draw a veil over those I liked less.

October 2021 books (out of sequence)

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.

Checking back, I realised that a few months ago I skipped directly from September 2021 to November 2021 in this sequence, so here’s the post I should have made on 9 June!

It’s an especially silly omission because we had a really fun post-pandemic trip to The Hague for our wedding anniversary, starting with a rijsttafel and doing various cultural things. (While poor F was isolating with our household’s first COVID-19 diagnosis.)

As soon as we got back I had a London trip where I also visited Eltham Palace:

And the site of Parnell’s love affair with Catherine O’Shea:

I was still keeping up my ten-day plague posts.

At the end of the month my sister and her daughter visited, just in time for a significant birthday.

I read 31 books that month.

Non-fiction 8 (YTD 38)
John Quincy Adams: American Visionary, by Fred Kaplan
Groetjes uit Vlaanderen, by Mohamed Ouaamari
The Ambassadors of Death, by L.M. Myles
Dark Water / Death in Heaven, by Philip Purser-Hallard
Free Speeches, by Denis Kitchen, Nadine Strossen, Dave Sim, Neil Gaiman and Frank Miller
The Ryans of Inch and Their World: A Catholic Gentry Family from Dispossession to Integration, c.1650-1831, by Richard John Fitzpatrick (PhD thesis)
Those About to Die, by Daniel P. Mannix
Discipline or Corruption, by Konstantin Stanislavsky

John Quincy Adams cover Groetjes uit Vlaanderen cover Ambassadors of Death cover Dark Water / Death in Heaven cover Free Speeches cover Those About to Die cover Discipline or Corruption cover

Non-genre 2 (YTD 24)
The Wych Elm, by Tana French
Time Must Have a Stop, by Aldous Huxley
Wych Elm cover Time Must Have a Stop cover

Scripts 1 (YTD 4)
Day of the Dead, by Neil Gaiman
Day of the Dead cover

SF 15 (YTD 109)
Quicksilver, by Neal Stephenson
“Fire Watch”, by Connie Willis
Little Free Library, by Naomi Kritzer
The Empire of Time, by David Wingrove – did not finish
Crashland, by Sean Williams – did not finish
City of Miracles, by Robert Jackson Bennett
Silver in the Wood, by Emily Tesh
The Space Between Worlds, by Micaiah Johnson
Splinters and the Impolite President, by William Whyte
Axiom’s End, by Lindsay Ellis
Splinters and the Wolves of Winter, by William Whyte
Shadowboxer, by Tricia Sullivan
The Vanished Birds, by Simon Jimenez
The Unspoken Name, by A.K. Larkwood
Blake’s 7 Annual 1982, eds Grahame Robertson and Carole Ramsay
41wcwtI+eNL[1].jpg Fire Watch cover Little Free Library coverEmpire of Time cover Crashland cover City of Miracles coverSilver in the Wood cover Space Between Worlds cover Splinters and the Impolite President coverAxiom Splinters and the Wolves of Winter cover Shadowboxer coverThe Vanished Birds cover The Unspoken Name cover B7 1982 cover

Doctor Who 5 (YTD 18, 24 inc comics and non-fiction)
Prime Imperative, by Julianne Todd
The Xmas Files, ed. Shaun Russell
Mind of Stone, by Iain McLaughlin
The Crimson Horror, by Mark Gatiss
Doctor Who: The Ambassadors of Death, by Terrance Dicks
Prime Imperative cover Xmas Files cover Mind of Stone coverCrimson Horror cover Ambassadors of Death cover

7,600 pages (YTD 60,600)
13/31 (YTD 99/231) by non-male writers (Myles, Strossen, Darl/Cooper/Harris/Harris, French, Willis, Kritzer, Tesh, Johnson, Ellis, Sullivan, Larkwood, Ramsay, Todd)
3/31 (YTD 37/231) by PoC (Ouaamari, Johnson, Jimenez)

Two particularly good books this month (and several that weren’t, but let’s focus on the positive).

Back to the normal sequence next week.

July 2022 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’re up to only a year ago now, a month which started for me in Sofia, Bulgaria:

At work we celebrated the resignation of Boris Johnson with a kayak trip (well, actually the trip was already planned):

I found myself in Paris on the hottest day of the year, and one of 1000 people in the Gare du Nord at 40 degree temperatures.

We finished the month with a lovely trip to the Kröller-Müller Museum in the Netherlands.

And voting finished in the Hugo awards.

I read only 20 books that month:

Non-fiction 8 (YTD 62)
The Darwin Awards, by Wendy Northcutt
A Short History of Kosovo, by Noel Malcolm
Stability Operations in Kosovo 1999-2000: A Case Study, by Jason Fritz
The Smell of War, by Roland Bartetzko
Presidential Election, by John Danforth et al
Make Your Brain Work, by Amy Brann
Heaven Sent, by Kara Dennison
Hell Bent, by Alyssa Franke

SF 10 (YTD 60)
Guy Erma and the Son of Empire, by Sally Ann Melia (did not finish)
Victories Greater than Death, by Charlie Jane Anders
The Orphan’s Tales: In the Night Garden, by Catherynne M. Valente
The Last Graduate, by Naomi Novik
Moon Zero Two, by John Burke
Redemptor, by Jordan Ifueko
A Snake Falls to Earth, by Darcie Little Badger
Winter’s Orbit, by Everina Maxwell
Soulstar, by C.L. Polk (did not finish)
Midnight’s Children, by Salman Rushdie

Doctor Who 2 (YTD 18)
The Unofficial Master Annual, ed. Mark Worgan
The New Unusual, by Adrian Sherlock and Andy Frankham-Allen

It was great to revisit Midnight’s Children, which you can get here, and Noel Malcolm’s Kosovo, which you can get here. Also good to encounter the two Black Archives on Heaven Sent and Hell Bent, which you can get here and here. But I bounced off the leaden prose of Guy Erma and the Sons of Empire; you can get it here.

June 2022 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 started the month with a couple of days of enforced silence after my throat oepration, but have made a full recovery. (Well, almost – I don’t think I’ll ever hit the high notes again.) I had three work trips, one to Berlin, where I visited the site of Rosa Luxemburg’s murder:

and London where I relived one of my favourite urban walks, from Tottenham Court Road to Westminster.

I ended the month in Sofia where I met (among others) Finnish politician Astrid Thors.

And I discovered that my great-great-grandmother’s biological father was not her mother’s husband, but a distant cousin of President Grover Cleveland (also of Shirley Temple and Fritz Leiber).

I read 28 books that month.

Non-fiction 9 (YTD 54)
Dangerous Visions and New Worlds: Radical Science Fiction, 1950 to 1985, eds. Andrew Nette and Iain McIntyre
The Right to Sex: Feminism in the Twenty-First Century, by Amia Srinivasan
True Believer: The Rise and Fall of Stan Lee, by Abraham Riesman
Directed by Douglas Camfield, by Michael Seely
Being Seen: One Deafblind Woman’s Fight to End Ableism, by Elsa Sjunneson
The Eleventh Hour, by Jon Arnold
Face the Raven, by Sarah Groenewegen
No-Nonsense Guide to Global Media, by Peter Steven
The King of Almayne: a 13th century Englishman in Europe, by T.W.E. Roche

Non-genre 2 (YTD 11)
Intimacy, by Jean Paul Sartre
Q&A, by Vikas Swarup

SF 7 (YTD 50)
Half Life, by Shelley Jackson
The Happier Dead, by Ivo Stourton
Queen of the States, by Josephine Saxton
End of the World Blues, by Jon Courtenay Grimwood
The Monk, by Matthew Lewis
Nova Swing, by M. John Harrison
Killdozer!, by Theodore Sturgeon

Doctor Who 1 (YTD 16)
The HAVOC Files, Volume 4, ed. Shaun Russell

Comics 9 (YTD 12)
Monstress, Volume 6: The Vow, by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda
Far Sector, by N.K. Jemisin and Jamal Campbell
Lore Olympus, by Rachael Smythe
Die, vol.3: The Great Game, by Kieron Gillen, Stephanie Hans and Clayton Cowles 
Die, vol 4: Bleed, by Kieron Gillen, Stephanie Hans and Clayton Cowles 
Once & Future, vol. 3: The Parliament of Magpies, by Kieron Gillen, Dan Mora and Tamra Bonvillain
Once & Future, vol. 4: Monarchies in the UK, by Kieron Gillen, Dan Mora and Tamra Bon-villain
Junker: een Pruisische blues, by Simon Spruyt
Strange Adventures, by Tom King, Mitch Gerads and Evan “Doc” Shane

7,100 pages (YTD 38,600)
12/28 (YTD 58/147) by non-male writers (Srinavasan, Sjunneson, Groenewegen, Jackson, Saxton, Liu/Takeda, Jemisin, Smythe, 2x Hans, 2x Bonvillain)
4/28 (YTD 20/147) by non-white writers (Srinavasan, Swarup, Liu/Takeda, Jemisin)

Three outstanding books this month:

  • Half Life, by Shelley Jackson – I can’t believe that nobody recommended this to me before; you can get it here.
  • The King of Almayne: a 13th century Englishman in Europe, by T.W.E. Roche – ho many of you knew about the thirteenth-century English prince who captured Jerusalem and got elected Holy Roman Emperor? You can get it here.
  • The Right to Sex: Feminism in the Twenty-First Century, by Amia Srinivasan – difficult but important reading; you can get it here.

On the other hand, as usual for this author, I bounced off Nova Swing by M. John Harrison. You can get it here.

May 2022 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.

As the pandemic finally receded, I had two very interesting trips in May 2022: at the beginning of the month, to Northern Ireland for the coverage of the election to the Northern Ireland Assembly (which at time of writing has yet to resume sitting):

And a couple of weeks later to Geneva, Switzerland and Podgorica, Montenegro for work. The end of the month had me under the surgeon’s knife for a (benign) lump in my larynx.

I also posted on the brief cinematic career of my third cousin, Sally Seaver (who died aged 35 two years before I was born)

I blogged on the Northern Ireland Protocol, correctly speculating that Liz Truss was using it as part of her plan to become prime minister.

And went to a lovely display of acoustic sculptures in Leuven.

With all the travel, I managed to read 35 books that month.

Non-fiction 16 (YTD 45)
Carnival of Monsters, by Ian Potter
Thursday’s Child, by Maralyn Rittenour
Pigs Might Fly: The Inside Story of Pink Floyd, by Mark Blake
Queens of the Crusades, by Alison Weir
A Norman Legacy, by Sally Harpur O’Dowd
Tower, by Nigel Jones
The Pilgrimage of S. Silvia of Aquitania to the Holy Places (circa 385 A.D.), trans. John H. Bernard, with an appendix by Sir Charles William Wilson.
The Pilgrimage of Etheria, trans. M. L. McClure and C. L. Feltoe
Signs and Symbols Around the World, by Elizabeth S. Helfman
The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit, by Simon Bucher-Jones
The Pilgrimage of Egeria: A New Translation, by Anne McGowan and Paul F. Bradshaw
Terrorism In Asymmetric Conflict: Ideological and Structural Aspects, by Ekaterina A. Stepanova
Marco Polo, by Dene October
The Halls of Narrow Water, by Bill Hall
Never Say You Can’t Survive, by Charlie Jane Anders
CBT Workbook, by Stephanie Fitzgerald

Poetry 1
The Sun is Open, by Gail McConnell

Non-genre 1 (YTD 9)
The Island of Missing Trees, by Elif Shafak

SF 11 (YTD 43)
The Galaxy, and the Ground Within, by Becky Chambers
Light from Uncommon Stars, by Ryka Aoki
A Master of Djinn, by P. Djélì Clark
Flicker, by Theodore Roszak
Stardust, by Neil Gaiman
Demons and Dreams: Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror v. 1, eds. Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling
She Who Became the Sun, by Shelly Parker-Chan
Mort, by Terry Pratchett
Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card
A Modern Utopia, by H. G. Wells
Mythos, by Stephen Fry

Doctor Who 3 (YTD 18)
Unofficial Doctor Who Annual 1987, ed. Mark Worgan
I am the Master, by Peter Anghelides et al
Doctor Who – Marco Polo, by John Lucarotti

9,700 pages (YTD 31,500)
15/32 (YTD 47/120) by non-male writers (Rittenour, Weir, Harpur O’Dowd, 3x Egeria and commentators, Helfman, Stepanova, Anders, Fitzgerald, Shafak, Aoki, Datlow/Windling, Parker-Chan)
4/32 (YTD 16/120) by non-white writers (Shafak, Aoki, Clark, Parker-Chan)

Several good books this month, and none that were too awful:

  • Mort, by Terry Pratchett, a welcome reread (get it here)
  • The Galaxy, and the Ground Within, by Becky Chambers, a great Hugo finalist (get it here)
  • Anne McGowan’s translation of The Pilgrimage of Egeria (get it here)
  • Dene October’s analysis of the Doctor Who story Marco Polo (get it here)
  • Gail McConnell’s The Sun is Open, my book of the year (get it here)

April 2022 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 highlight of the month for me was Reclamation, the 2022 Eastercon, at which I was one of the Guests of Honour.

We got the Hugo ballot out; I celebrated my 55th birthday in a pub on Place Lux (the same place where I had celebrated my 50th, five years before); and I took little U to the Magritte Museum in Brussels.

I ticked off the last ceilings of Jan Christiaen Hansche:

And I posted the single post that has generated most views since I moved this blog to WordPress.

I read 25 books that month.

Non-fiction read in April 8 (YTD 29)
Human Nature / Family of Blood, by Naomi Jacobs and Philip Purser-Hallard
Diverse Futures: Science Fiction and Authors of Colour, by Joy Sanchez-Taylor
The Ultimate Foe, by James Cooray Smith
Worlds Apart: Worldbuilding in Fantasy and Science Fiction, ed. Francesca T Barbini
Hergé, Son of Tintin, by Benoît Peeters
Stucwerk, Hechtwerk van het Kasteel te Boxmeer, by W.V.J. Freling
The Limbless Landlord, by Brian Igoe
Full Circle, by John Toon

Non-genre fiction read in April 1 (YTD 8)
No Country for Old Men, by Cormac MacCarthy

SF (non-Who) read in April: 11 (YTD 32)
Blackthorn Winter, by Liz Williams
Purgatory Mount, by Adam Roberts
Air, by Geoff Ryman
Hive Monkey, by Gareth L. Powell
L’Esprit de L’Escalier, by Catherynne M. Valente
Valley of Lights, by Steve Gallagher
Elder Race, by Adian Tchaikovsky
Across the Green Grass Fields, by Seanan McGuire
A Psalm for the Wild-Built, by Becky Chambers
The Past is Red, by Cat Valente
A Spindle Splintered, by Alix E. Harrow
Air Hive Monkey Valley of Lights

Doctor Who books read in April: 4 (YTD 15)
Doctor Who: The Ultimate Foe, by Pip and Jane Baker
Legends of Camelot, by Jacqueline Rayner
The Man from Yesterday, by Nick Walters
Doctor Who: Full Circle, by Andrew Smith

5200 pages (YTD 21,800)
11/25 (YTD 32/88) by non-male writers (Jacobs, Sanchez-Taylor, Williams, Valente, McGuire, Chambers, Valente, Harrow, J Baker, Rayner)
2/25 (YTD 12/88) by non-white writers (Sanchez-Taylor, Cooray Smith)

The best of these were two BSFA finalists, Blackthorn Winter, which you can get here, and the Diverse Futures anthology of essays, which you can get here; and a Hugo finalist, A Psalm for the Wild-Built, which you can get here. I will never warm to either The Ultimate Foe or its novelisation, but you can get the latter here.

March 2022 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 was another month when I did not leave Belgium, though such months are again becoming increasingly rare. I compensated with a couple more trips to see Hansche stuccos:

And I brought B to meet with her secret boyfriend, a statue of the late King Baudouin.

I had planned to travel to Belfast to give a lecture at the end of the month, but pressure of work in Brussels compelled me to do it virtually. Here is the preview interview I gave with Alan Meban.

The big excitement at home was the installation of a bee hotel at the end of our drive.

I mourned Erhard Busek, and did the last of my ten-day plague posts as life returned to normal.

And this humble blog moved from Livejournal to WordPress; probably not before time.

We were also busily working on the 2023 Hugo Awards, my sixth time of overseeing the process, so I read only 15 books (and was still getting to grips with WordPress).

Non-fiction 5 (YTD 21)
The Twinkling of an Eye, by Brian Aldiss
The Anthropocene Unconscious: Climate Catastrophe in Contemporary Culture, by Mark Bould
Cyberpunk Culture and Psychology: Seeing Through the Mirrorshades, by Anna McFarlane
Elles font l’abstraction/Women in Abstraction, by Christine Macel and Laure Chavelot
Nine Lives, by Aimen Dean

SF 6 (YTD 21)
The Green Man’s Challenge, by Juliet McKenna
Skyward Inn, by Aliya Whiteley
Light Chaser, by Peter F. Hamilton and Gareth L. Powell
The Space Machine, by Christopher Priest 
Iron Widow, by Xiran Jay Zhao
Shards of Earth, by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Doctor Who 3 (YTD 11)
The Unofficial Doctor Who Annual 1972, ed. Mark Worgan
A Very Private Haunting, by Sharon Bidwell
Human Nature, by Paul Cornell

Comics 1 (YTD 3)
Snotgirl Volume 1: Green Hair Don’t Care, by Brian Lee O’Malley and Leslie Hung

4,300 pages (YTD 16,600)
7/15 (YTD 21/63) not by men (McFarlane, Macel/Chavelot, McKenna, Whiteley, Zhao, Bidwell, Hung)
3/15 (YTD 10/63) by PoC (Dean, Zhao, Lee O’Malley/Hung)

Greatly enjoyed rereading Brian Aldiss’ autobiography The Twinkling of an Eye, which you can get here; greatly enjoyed first acquaintance with The Space Machine, which you can get here, and volume 1 of Snotgirl, which you can get here. I will draw a veil over the ones I didn’t like so much.

February 2022 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.

With pandemic numbers decreasing, I had my first post-COVID trip to the United States, visiting Gallifrey One again in Los Angeles, as I had done just before the plague struck two years before, and staying with one of my oldest friends in Seattle; also doing tourism and catching up with various cousins, some of whom I had never met before.

In the wider world, Russia brutally invaded Ukraine, and I started the necessary steps to transfer this humble blog from Russian-owned Livejournal to its present home.

I also visited Gent with F to see two more stucco ceilings, though I now think that one of them is not after all by Jan Christiaan Hansche (and I was not allowed to photograph the other):

And I explored the religious views of my great-great-grandfather.

And for the time being, I kept up my ten-day plague posts.

I read 20 books that month.

Non-fiction 5 (YTD 16)
Roger Zelazny, by F. Brett Cox
Duran Duran: The First Four Years of the Fab Five by Neil Gaiman
The Evil of the Daleks, by Simon Guerrier
Pyramids of Mars, by Kate Orman
Lost in Translation, by Ella Frances Sanders

Non-genre 1 (YTD 7)
The Postmistress, by Sarah Blake

SF 8 (YTD 15)
Howl’s Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne Jones
Indigo, by Clemens J. Setz
The War in the Air, by H. G. Wells
Chaos on CatNet, by Naomi Kritzer
Project Hail Mary, by Andy Weir
Fireheart Tiger, by Aliette de Bodard
After Atlas, by Emma Newman
84K, by Claire North

Doctor Who 5 (YTD 8)
The [Unofficial] Dr Who Annual [1965], by David May
The Flaming Soldier, by Christopher Bryant
The Dreamer’s Lament, by Benjamin Burford-Jones
Doctor Who: The Evil of the Daleks, by John Peel
Doctor Who and the Pyramids of Mars, by Terrance Dicks
DW64.jpg

Comics 1 (YTD 2)
Scherven, by Erik de Graaf

5,000 pages (YTD 12,300 pages)
8/20 (YTD 14/48) by women (Orman, Sanders, Blake, Jones, Kritzer, de Bodard, Newman, North)
1/20 (YTD 7/48) by PoC (de Bodard)

To be brief: I loved Aliette de Bodard’s Fireheart Tiger, which you can get here; I found The Dreamer’s Lament the worst so far of the Lethbridge-Stewart books, but you can get it here.

January 2022 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.

On 27 January 2002 I turned 20,000 days old (54 years, nine months and a day). We were still in the uneasy post-COVID restrictions, so I had no special commemoration apart from a blog post.

Another month when I did not leave Belgium, but I toured two more of the stucco ceilings of Jan Christiaan Hansche, a rather modest one near Namur and a much more ornate one in Antwerp.

I kept up my ten-day plague posts, though I was getting near the end.

And I got my COVID booster.

Non-fiction 11
A Radical Romance, by Alison Light
Where Was the Room Where It Happened?: The Unofficial Hamilton – An American Musical Location Guide by BdotBarr [Bryan Barreras]
Calvin, by F. Bruce Gordon
Twice a Stranger: How Mass Expulsion Forged Modern Greece and Turkey, by Bruce Clark
The Wandering Scholars, by Helen Waddell
The Doctor – his Life and Times, by James Goss and Steve Tribe
Neither Unionist nor Nationalist: The 10th (Irish) Division in the Great War by Stephen Sandford
The God Complex, by Paul Driscoll
Why I Write, by George Orwell
Scream of the Shalka, by Jon Arnold
The Complete Debarkle, by Camestros Felapton

Non-genre 6
Animal Dreams, by Barbara Kingsolver
The Gift of Rain, by Tan Twan Eng
Embers, by Sándor Márai
Million Dollar Baby, by F.X. Toole
Breasts and Eggs, by Mieko Kawakami
High Fidelity, by Nick Hornby

SF 7
Peter Davison’s Book of Alien Monsters
Peter Davison’s Book of Alien Planets
The Three Body Problem, by Cixin Liu
“Bloodchild”, by Octavia E. Butler
“Press Enter ◼️”, by John Varley
The Dark Forest, by Cixin Liu
Neuromancer, by William Gibson

Doctor Who 3
Of the City of the Saved…, by Philip Purser-Hallard (did not finish)
The Daughters of Earth, by Sarah Groenewegen
Scream of the Shalka, by Paul Cornell

Comics 1
Carbone & Silicium, by Mathieu Bablet

7,300 pages
6/28 by women (Light, Waddell, Kingsolver, Kawakami, Butler, Groenwegen)
6/28 by PoC (Barreras, Tan, Kawakami, Liu x2, Butler)

A lot of good books this month – I see that I have given five out of five to six of them, only one of which was a reread; the other five were all non-fiction. They were:

  • A Radical Romance, by Alison Light (get it here)
  • Where Was the Room Where It Happened?: The Unofficial Hamilton – An American Musical Location Guide by BdotBarr [Bryan Barreras] (get it here)
  • The Doctor – his Life and Times, by James Goss and Steve Tribe (get it here)
  • Why I Write, by George Orwell (get it here)
  • The Complete Debarkle, by Camestros Felapton (get it here)
  • “Bloodchild”, by Octavia E. Butler (get it here)

On the other hand, I really bounced off Of the City of the Saved, which you can get here.

December 2021 books and 2021 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 still recovering from COVID, and did not venture far, except for exploring another of Jan Christiaan Hansche’s ceilings, at Perk, and also an expedition to find the Goddess Nehalennia in Brussels. (This was the famous occasion when the guard asked if little U really needed her spoon in the museum.)

U and Nehalennia

I reviewed sf novels and films set in 2022. The DC Worldcon finally happened, with massive controversy over the site selection process which nonetheless ended with the bid that got the most votes being declared the winner. And I continued my ten-day plague posts.

I read 34 books that month.

Non-fiction 9 (2021 total 53)
The Republic: The Fight for Irish Independence, 1918-1923, by Charles Townshend
The Mind Robber, by Andrew Hickey
An Introduction to the Gospel of John, by Raymond E. Brown
Black Orchid, by Ian Millsted
The Idiot Brain: A Neuroscientist Explains What Your Head is Really Up To, by Dean Burnett
A Little Gold Book of Ghastly Stuff, by Neil Gaiman (more non-fiction than sf content)
The 48 Laws Of Power, by Robert Greene (Did not finish)
Northern Ireland a Generation after Good Friday, by Colin Coulter, Niall Gilmartin, Katy Hayward and Peter Shirlow
The Young H.G. Wells: Changing the World, by Claire Tomalin

Non-genre 3 (2021 total 30)
Staring At The Sun, by Julian Barnes
Ann Veronica, by H. G. Wells
Lying Under the Apple Tree, by Alice Munro

SF 9 (2021 total 131)
A Desolation Called Peace, by Arkady Martine
The Secret, by Eva Hoffman
“Blood Music”, by Greg Bear
Black Oxen, by Elizabeth Knox
The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
Startide Rising, by David Brin
An Excess Male, by Maggie Shen King
The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury
Jani and the Greater Game, by Eric Brown

Doctor Who 7 (2021 total 30, 40 inc non-fiction and comics)
Doctor Who Annual 2022, by Paul Lang
This Town Will Never Let Us Go, by Lawrence Miles
The Life of Evans, by John Peel
Night of the Intelligence, by Andy Frankham-Allan
The Wonderful Doctor of Oz, by Jacqueline Rayner
Doctor Who – The Mind Robber, by Peter Ling
Doctor Who – Black Orchid, by Terence Dudley

Comics 6 (2021 total 48)
Seven Deadly Sins, by Roz Kaveney, Graham Higgins, Tym Manley, Hunt Emerson, Neil Gaiman, Bryan Talbot, Dave Gibbons, Lew Stringer, Mark Rodgers, Steve Gibson, Davy Francis, Jeremy Banks, Alan Moore and Mike Matthews
Les Mondes d’Aldébaran: L’Encyclopédie Illustrée, by Christophe Quillien
Barbarella vol 1, by Jean-Claude Forest, tr Kelly Sue DeConnick
Barbarella vol 2: The Wrath of the Minute-Eater, by Jean-Claude Forest, tr Kelly Sue DeConnick
Once & Future Vol. 1: The King is Undead, by Kieron Gillen, Dan Mora and Tamra Bonvilain
Once & Future Vol. 2: Old English, by Kieron Gillen, Dan Mora and Tamra Bonvilain

9,300 pages (2021 total 77,200)
13/34 (2021 total 124/296) by non-male writers (Hayward, Tomalin, Munro, Martine, Hoffman, Knox, King, Rayner, Kaveney, DeConnick x2, Bonvilain x2)

Two very good non-fiction books this month, The Republic, by Charles Townshend, which you can get here, and The Young H.G. Wells, by Claire Tomalin, which you can get here. It was also great to return to The Martian Chronicles, which you can get here, and The Lord of the Rings, which you can get here.

On the other hand The 48 Laws of Power is fascist incel rubbish; you can get it here but please don’t.

2021 roundup

I read 296 books in 2021, the fifth highest of the nineteen years that I have been keeping track, and the highest since 2011 (though exceeded again last year).

Page count for the year: 77,200, eighth highest of the nineteen years I have recorded, closer to the middle.

Books by non-male writers in 2020: 124/296, 42% – a new record in both absolute numbers and percentages.

Books by PoC in 2020: – 42/296 (14%) – highest absolute number, second highest percentage.

Most-read author this year: Neil Gaiman.

1) Science Fiction and Fantasy (excluding Doctor Who)

131 (44%): highest total ever, fourth highest percentage.

Top SF book of the year:

I was really impressed by Set This House in Order: A Romance of Souls, by Matt Ruff, winner of the James Tiptree Jr Award in 2003, a story of multiple personalities and strange things in Seattle; the author went on to write Lovecraft Country, now a TV series. (get it here)

Honourable mentions to:

My votes for the BSFA Award for Best Novel and the Hugo for Best Novel went to, respectively:
(BSFA) Comet Weather, by Liz Williams, a great English fantasy (get it here)
(Hugo) The City We Became, by N.K. Jemisin, a great New York fantasy (get it here)

Welcome rereads:

Favourite classics:
The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien (get it here)
The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury (get it here)

BSFA Award winners:
River of Gods, by Ian McDonald (get it here)
The Separation, by Christopher Priest (get it here)

Short fiction which won both Hugo and Nebula:
“Sandkings”, by George R.R. Martin (get it here)
“Stories for Men”, by John Kessel (get it here)

The one you haven’t heard of:

A collection by new-ish British writer Priya Sharma, All the Fabulous Beasts – not sure why she is not better known, I think her writing is great (get it here)

The one to avoid:

The 2002 collection of Roger Zelazny’s short stories with the title The Last Defender of Camelot – not because of the content, but because of the lazy and incompetent formatting; the 1980 collection of the same name is much better (get it here)

2) Non-fiction

53 (18%): joint ninth highest total of nineteen years, so squarely in the middle; only 16th highest percentage, near the bottom.

Top non-fiction book of the year:

Carrying the Fire, by Michael Collins; more on that below.

Honourable mentions to:

Goodbye To All That, by Robert Graves, mainly about the First World War but also about his privileged background and family (get it here)
A Woman in Berlin, a first-person account of the collapse of the Third Reich, particularly the attendant sexual violence (get it here)

The one you haven’t heard of:

I was very sorry that The Unstable Realities of Christopher Priest, by Paul Kincaid, did not win the BSFA Award for Non-Fiction. I like both author and subject, as writers and also as people, but even without that I think it’s a great insight into a great writer. (get it here)

The one to avoid:

Exploding School to Pieces: Growing Up With Pop Culture In the 1970s, by Mick Deal – sloppy and contributes very little to our knowledge of a well-researched era. (get it here)

3) Comics (and picture books)

48 (16%): highest total ever, second highest percentage. I’ve padded a little (but only a little) by including a photo book and an art book here, but that wouldn’t change the rankings.

Top comic of the year:

Wake: The Hidden History of Women-Led Slave Revolts, by Rebecca Hall – brilliant and timely historical exploration of slavery in places where we don’t often think of it as having happened (get it here)

Honourable mentions:

Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower: A Graphic Novel Adaptation, by Damian Duffy and John Jennings – the only thing I voted for that actually won a Hugo; great treatment of a classic story (get it here)
Le dernier Atlas, tome 1, by Fabien Vehlmann, Gwen de Booneval, Hervé Tranquerelle and Frédéric Blanchard – a great start to a counterfactual series; I felt the other two volumes didn’t quite live up to the promise of the first, but still worth reading (get it here)
My Father’s Things, by Wendy Aldiss – lovely lovely book about dealing with grief (get it here)

The one you haven’t heard of:

Mijn straat: een wereld van verschil, by Ann De Bode – beautiful portrayal of a diverse Antwerp street (get it here)

The one to avoid:

Kaamelott: Het Raadsel Van de Kluis, by Alexandre Astier and Steven Dupre – based on a TV series, does nothing new (get it here in Dutch and here in French)

4) Doctor Who

30 (10%), 40 (14%) counting non-fiction and comics. I ended my sabbatical from DW reading late in the year. 14th highest total, 16th highest percentage for DW fiction; 15th highest total and again 16th highest percentage for all DW books.

Top Doctor Who book of the year:

(Black Archive) The Massacre, by James Cooray Smith – second and best so far of the Black Archive analyses of past Doctor Who stories. (get it here)

Honourable mentions:

(Comics) Old Friends, by Jody Houser et al – the Doctor meets the Corsair (get it here)
(Novelisation) The Crimson Horror, by Mark Gatiss – adds a lot to the TV story (get it here)
(Official BBC spinoff) Adventures in Lockdown – somewhat random collection but it works (get it here)

The one you haven’t heard of:

(Non-BBC spinoff: Lethbridge-Stewart) Night of the Intelligence, by Andy Frankham-Allen – pulls together a lot of threads in this excellent series (get it here)

The one to avoid:

(Non-BBC spinoff: Erimem) Angel of Mercy, by Julianne Todd, Claire Bartlett and Iain McLaughlin – you know what’s going to happen really very early in the book (get it here)

5) Non-genre fiction

30 (10%): 13th highest total, 16th highest percentage, so pretty far down; not quite sure why that is.

Top non-genre fiction of the year:

Joint honours to two novels which were both the basis for Oscar-winning films:
The Silence of the Lambs, by Thomas Harris – chilling story of a mass murderer (get it here) and
Schindler’s List, by Thomas Keneally – chilling story of mass murder (get it here)

Honourable mention:

Jack, by Marilynne Robinson – another look at the same events she has told us about before, from a new perspective (get it here)

Welcome reread:

Middlemarch, by George Eliot – one of my favourite books ever (reviewget it here)

The one you haven’t heard of:

The Ice Cream Army, by Jessica Gregson – ethnic tensions in WW1 Australia (get it here)

The one to avoid:

Forrest Gump, by Winston Groom – also the basis of an Oscar-winning film; awful film, worse book (get it here)

6) Others: poetry and scripts

I read four works of poetry, of which the best new read was Maria Dahvana Headley’s Hugo-winning translation of Beowulf (get it here); and four script books, of which the best were the first two Welcome to Night Vale volumes, Mostly Void, Partially Stars (get it here) and Great Glowing Coils of the Universe (get it here)

My Book of the Year for 2021

My Top Book of 2021 is Carrying the Fire, by astronaut Michael Collins. Funny, moving, gripping, who would have thought that the best account of the first Moon landing would be written by the guy who wasn’t there? (And died aged 90 earlier this year.) Absolutely worth reading, not just for space exploration fans but for anyone interested in the human side of one of the most famous events of the twentieth century. You can get it here.

Other Books of the Year:

2003 (2 months): The Separation, by Christopher Priest (reviewget it here)
2004: (reread) The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien (reviewget it here)
– Best new read: Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self, by Claire Tomalin (reviewget it here)
2005: The Island at the Centre of the World, by Russell Shorto (reviewget it here)
2006: Lost 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 (reviewget it here)
2007: Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, by Alison Bechdel (reviewget it here)
2008: (reread) The Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition, by Anne Frank (reviewget it here)
– Best new read: Vanity Fair: A Novel without a Hero, by William Makepeace Thackeray (reviewget it here)
2009: (had seen it on stage previously) Hamlet, by William Shakespeare (reviewget it here)
– Best new read: Persepolis 2: the Story of a Return, by Marjane Satrapi (first volume just pipped by Samuel Pepys in 2004) (reviewget it here)
2010: The Bloody Sunday Report, by Lord Savile et al. (review of vol Iget it here)
2011: The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, by Edward Gibbon (started in 2009!) (reviewget it here)
2012: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, by Anne Brontë (reviewget it here)
2013: A Room of One’s Own, by Virginia Woolf (reviewget it here)
2014: Homage to Catalonia, by George Orwell (reviewget it here)
2015: collectively, the Arthur C. Clarke Award shortlist, in particular the winner, Station Eleven, by Emily St John Mandel (get it here). 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 (reviewget it here)
2016: Alice in Sunderland, by Bryan Talbot (reviewget it here)
2017: Common People: The History of an English Family, by Alison Light (reviewget it here)
2018: Factfulness, by Hans Rosling (reviewget it here)
2019: Girl, Woman, Other, by Bernardine Evaristo (reviewget it here)
2020: From A Clear Blue Sky: Surviving the Mountbatten Bomb, by Timothy Knatchbull (reviewget it here)
2021: Carrying the Fire, by Michael Collins (reviewget it here)
2022: The Sun is Open, by Gail McConnell (reviewget it here)

November 2021 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.

So, the first half of November 2021 wasa pretty good to me. We started with a family expedition to Modave, to see more of the ceilings of Jan Christiaan Hansche:

On my way to Novacon, I visited the Imperial War Museum North in Manchester, and was blown away by the art collection:

And Novacon itself was a lot of fun.

But I paid a price; in the corridors at Novacon, after twenty months of pandemic, I picked up a dose of COVID that put me in bed for sixteen days, as chronicled here. I don’t remember much about the rest of the month.

But I did read 31 books.

Non-fiction 6 (YTD 44)
Paul: A Biography, by Tom Wright
Building Healthy Boundaries: An Over-giver’s Guide to Knowing When to Say ‘Yes’ and How to Say ‘No’ in Relationships, by Helen Snape
Image of the Fendahl, by Simon Bucher-Jones
Ghost Light, by Jonathan Dennis
A Beautiful Mind, by Sylvia Nasar
Exploding School to Pieces: Growing Up With Pop Culture In the 1970s, by Mick Deal – did not finish

Non-genre 3 (YTD 27)
The Ice Cream Army, by Jessica Gregson
Summer, by Ali Smith
Beautiful World, Where Are You, by Sally Rooney

Poetry 1 (YTD 5)
The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun, by J R R Tolkien, ed. Verlyn Flieger

SF 13 (YTD 122)
Not Before Sundown, by Johanna Sinisalo
The Empire of Gold, by S.A. Chakraborty – did not finish
The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde
The Burning God, by R.F. Kuang
Camouflage, by Joe Haldeman
Mortal Engines, by Philip Reeve
River of Gods, by Ian McDonald
Waste Tide, by Qiufan Chen
Iron Council, by China Miéville – did not finish
One Bright Star to Guide Them, by John C. Wright
The Last Witness, by K.J. Parker [Tom Holt]
The Last Defender of Camelot, by Roger Zelazny (2002) – did not finish
Shanghai Sparrow, by Gaie Sebold

Doctor Who 5 (YTD 23, 31 inc comics and non-fiction)
The Book of the War, ed. Lawrence Miles
The HAVOC Files 3, ed. Andy Frankham-Allen
The Witchfinders, by Joy Wilkinson
Doctor Who and the Image of the Fendahl, by Terrance Dicks
Doctor Who – Ghost Light, by Marc Platt

Comics 3 (YTD 37)
Sweeney Todd & Other Stories, by Neil Gaiman
The Story of Sex: From Apes to Robots, by Philippe Brenot and Laetitia Coryn
Le dernier Atlas, Tome 3, by Fabien Vehlmann and Gwen de Bonneval

7,300 pages (YTD 67,900)
12/31 (YTD 111/262) by non-male writers (Snape, Nasar, Gregson, Smith, Rooney, Flieger, Sinisalo, Chakraborty, Kuang, Sebold, Wilkinson, Coryn; Gwen de Bonneval is male)
4/31 (YTD 41/262) by PoC (Nasar, Chakraborty, Kuang, Chen)

The best of these were two translated sf novels, Waste Tide by Qiufan Chen, which you can get here, and Not Before Sundown by Johanna Sinisalo, which you can get here; and Helen Snape’s very brief self-help book with a long title, Building Healthy Boundaries: An Over-giver’s Guide to Knowing When to Say ‘Yes’ and How to Say ‘No’ in Relationships, which you can get for free here.

I’m feeling a bit uncharitable so I’m going to call out three particularly poor books. The iBooks collection of Zelazny stories, The Last Defender of Camelot, insults the writer and the stories with appalling production values, at least for the ebook; you can get it here. Mick Deal’s Exploding School to Pieces, on 1970s TV, is superficial and poorly researched; you can get it here. And John C. Wright’s One Bright Star to Guide Them is derivative and disjointed, and not exactly subtle in its ideology; you can get it here.

September 2021 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 two major excitements were the dorpfeest at the start of the month (described in the “540 days of plague” post below), and a Saturday excursion to Roman re-enactment sites in Belgium and the Netherlands.

I started reading the Black Archive books about Doctor Who, and also kept up my ten-day posts:

The month ended with F getting pinged for COVID, but I’m glad to say that he had no symptoms and the rest of us escaped, on that occasion at least.

I read 29 books that month.

Non-fiction 3 (YTD 30)
Rose, by Jon Arnold
The Massacre, by James Cooray Smith
Gods and Tulips, by Neil Gaiman
book cover

Non-genre 3 (YTD 22)
Jack, by Marilynne Robinson
Kipps, by H. G. Wells
4.50 from Paddington, by Agatha Christie
book cover

Scripts 1 (YTD 3)
Great Glowing Coils of the Universe
, by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor

Poetry (mostly) 1 (YTD 4)
Love, Fishie, by Maddy Gaiman

SF 11 (YTD 94)
Zodiac Station, by Tom Harper
The Return of the Discontinued Man, by Mark Hodder – did not finish
Hurricane Fever, by Tobias S. Buckell
The Man Who Walked Through Walls, by Marcel Aymé
Felaheen, by Jon Courtenay Grimwood
The Bloodline Feud, by Charles Stross
“The Saturn Game”, by Poul Anderson
Dominion: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction from Africa and the African Diaspora, eds. Zelda Knight & Ekpeki Oghenechovwe Donald
Set This House in Order: A Romance of Souls, by Matt Ruff
The Rain-Soaked Bride, by Guy Adams
Mama Bruise, by Jonathan Carroll
book cover book cover book cover book cover book cover

Doctor Who 5 (YTD 13, 17 inc non-fiction and comics)
Angel of Mercy, by Julianne Todd, Claire Bartlett and Iain McLaughlin
Blood of Atlantis, by Simon Forward
The Ruby’s Curse, by Alex Kingston
Doctor Who: Rose, by Russell T. Davies
Doctor Who: The Massacre, by John Lucarotti
book cover book cover book cover

Comics and art books 5 (YTD 34)
Wake: The Hidden History of Women-Led Slave Revolts, by Rebecca Hall and Hugo Martínez
Retour sur Aldébaran, Épisode 2, by Leo
Retour sur Aldébaran, Épisode 3, by Leo
De Walvisbibliotheek, by Judith Vanistendael and Zidrou
Reflected, ed. Peter de Rijcke
book cover

6,600 pages (YTD 53,000)
8/29 (YTD 86/200) by non-male writers (Robinson, Christie, Gaiman, Knight, Todd/Bartlett, Kingston/Rayner, Hall, Vanistendael)
3/29 (YTD 34/200) by PoC (Buckell, Donald, Hall)

The best of these were Tiptree-winning Set This House in Order, which you can get here, graphic historical account Wake: The Hidden History of Women-Led Slave Revolts, which you can get here, and Night Vale scripts Great Glowing Coils of the Universe, which you can get here.

On the other hand, I totally bounced off The Return of the Discontinued Man, which you can get here.

August 2021 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 big trip for this month was a return to Northern Ireland for the first time in two years, to celebrate my mother’s 80th birthday with a family party, and a specially commissioned birdbath by Eleanor Wheeler.

It was a great break and we were very happy to reconnect with friends and relatives on both sides of the border.

I also kept up my ten-day posts about the pandemic.

I read 28 books that month; though some of them were very short.

Non-fiction 3 (YTD 27)
The Secret of Kit Cavenaugh, by Anne Holland (has fictional elements)
A Woman in Berlin
Humankind, by Rutger Bregman

Non-genre 2 (YTD 19)
Thirteen, by Steve Cavanagh
The Wonder, by Emma Donoghue

SF 9 (YTD 83)
Contact, by Carl Sagan
Strange Bedfellows: An Anthology of Political Science Fiction, ed. Hayden Trenholm
Two Truths and a Lie, by Sarah Pinsker
Fish Tails, by Sheri S. Tepper
The Place of the Lion, by Charles Williams
A Hero Born, by Jin Yong
Cryptozoic!, by Brian Aldiss
The Primal Urge, by Brian Aldiss
The Mists of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley

Doctor Who 3 (YTD 8, 11 inc comics)
The Beast of Stalingrad, by Iain McLaughlin
The HAVOC Files 2, ed. Shaun Russell
Dalek, by Robert Shearman

Comics 10 (YTD 29)
In de tuin, by Noëlle Smit
Hr. Alting, by Bente Olesen Nyström
Trocoscópio, by Bernardo P. Carvalho
Meidän piti lähteä, by Sanna Pelliccioni
Mijn straat: een wereld van verschil, by Ann De Bode
Fridolin Franse frisiert, by Michael Roher
Otthon, by Kinga Rofusz
La Ciudad, by Roser Capdevila
Sortie de nuit, by Laurie Agusti
A Tale of Two Time Lords, by Jodie Houser et al

6,300 pages (YTD 46,400)
13/27 (YTD 78/171) by non-male writers (Holland, the woman in Berlin, Donoghue, Pinsker, Tepper, Bradley, Smit, Pelliccioni, De Boda, Rofusz, Capdevilar, Augusti, Houser et al)
1/27 (YTD 31/171) by PoC (Jin Yong)

The best of these were the traumatic A Woman in Berlin, which you can get here, and the charming Mijn straat: een wereld van verschil, which you can get here. I was underwhelmed by The Place of the Lion, which you can get here, The Secret of Kit Cavenaugh, which you can get here, and The Beast of Stalingrad, which you can get here.

July 2021 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.

With things opening up again, I had two significant excursions in July 2021. The first was to nearby Park Abbey just south of Leuven, where for the first time I saw the astonishing work of Jean Christiaan Hansche in the ceilings of the library and the refectory. This became a bit of an obsession for me over the next few months.

Later in the month, F and I went to Paris before his 22nd birthday.

And I kept up my ten-day posts about the pandemic.

I read 21 books that month.

Non-fiction 2 (YTD 24)
Too Innocent Abroad: Letters Home from Europe 1949, by Joan Hibbard Fleming
The Life and Adventures of Mrs. Christian Davies, Commonly Called Mother Ross on Campaign with the Duke of Marlborough (incorrectly attributed to Daniel Defoe)

Non-genre 4 (YTD 17)
Middlemarch, by George Eliot
Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick, by Zora Neale Hurston
Martin Lukes: Who Moved My Blackberry, by Lucy Kellaway
The History of Mr Polly, by H.G. Wells

SF 11 (YTD 74)
Raybearer, by Jordan Ifueko
Riding the Unicorn, by Paul Kearney
Black Sun, by Rebecca Roanhorse
The Separation, by Christopher Priest
Harrow the Ninth, by Tamsyn Muir
The House of Shattered Wings, by Aliette de Bodard
A Deadly Education, by Naomi Novik
Empire Games, by Charles Stross
“Grotto of the Dancing Deer”, by Clifford D Simak
The Kingdom of Copper, by S. A Chakraborty
The Dragon Republic, by R.F. Kuang

Doctor Who 3 (YTD 5, 7 inc comics)
The Last Pharaoh, by Iain McLaughlin and Claire Bartlett
Times Squared, by Rick Cross
Star Tales, ed. Steve Cole

Comics 1 (YTD 19)
Le dernier Atlas, tome 2, by Fabien Vehlmann, Gwen De Bonneval and Fred Blanchard

7,400 pages (YTD 40,100)
13/21 (YTD 65/144) by non-male writers (Hibbard Fleming, Davies/Ross, Eliot, Hurston, Kellaway, Ifueko, Roanhorse, Muir, de Bodard, Novik, Chakraborty, Kuang, Bartlett)
6/21 (YTD 30/144) by PoC (Hurston, Ifueko, Roanhorse, de Bodard, Chakraborty, Kuang)

Unusually I’m going to call out two excellent rereads -normally in these posts I concentrate on books read for the first time. But Middlemarch, which you can get here, is one of the best books I have ever read, and The Separation, which you can get here, is one of Christopher Priest’s best books.

June 2021 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.

Another month when I did not leave Belgium, though I started going to the office regularly again. F, U and I had a particularly interesting excursion to just the other side of the Dijle valley where there are not one but two eleventh-century churches.

I kept up my ten-day updates.

And crucially I got my second vaccination at the end of the month.

My research into family history and genealogy continued: my great-great-uncle who died in the Johnstown Flood, my first cousin three times removed who acrimoniously split up with her boyfriend in 1842, and the baby in the park, my second cousin once removed.

This was also the month that my involvement with the 2021 Worldcon came to an abrupt end, after weeks in which the internal difficulties became ever more apparent. I resigned along with my entire team on 22 June; the Chair of the convention resigned in turn three days later.

I read 25 books that month.

Non-fiction 6 (YTD 22)
China’s Civilian Army: The Making of Wolf Warrior Diplomacy, by Peter Martin
A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky: The World of Octavia E. Butler, by Lynell George
Don’t Be Evil: The Case Against Big Tech, by Rana Foroohar
Carrying the Fire, by Michael Collins
Boys in Zinc, by Svetlana Alexievich
The Johnstown Flood, by David McCullagh
     

Non-genre 3 (YTD 13)
Bridget Jones’s Diary, by Helen Fielding
All Among the Barley, by Melissa Harrison
The English Patient, by Michael Ondaatje
  

Poetry 3
Blind Harry’s Wallace, translated by William Hamilton of Gilbertfield
Beowulf: A New Translation, by Maria Dahvana Headley
Beowulf: A New Translation, by Seamus Heaney

SF 9 (YTD 63)
Upright Women Wanted, by Sarah Gailey
Comic Inferno, by Brian W. Aldiss
The Mammoth Book of SF Stories by Women, ed. Alex Dally MacFarlane
Roger Zelazny’s The Dawn of Amber: Book 1, by John Gregory Betancourt
“Stories For Men”, by John Kessel
Come Tumbling Down, by Seanan McGuire
Cemetery Boys, by Aiden Thomas
The Monster’s Wife, by Kate Horsley
Light, by M. John Harrison
       

Comics 4 (YTD 18)
Monstress, vol. 5: Warchild, by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda
Once & Future vol. 1: The King Is Undead, by Kieron Gillen, Dan Mora, Tamra Bonvillain, and Ed Dukeshire
Wonder Woman: The Golden Age, Vol. 2 by William Moulton Marston
Parable of the Sower, written by Octavia Butler, adapted by Damian Duffy and John Jennings
   

6,800 pages (YTD 32,700)
13/25 (YTD 52/123) by non-male writers (George, Foroohar, Alexievich, Fielding, Harrison,Headley, Gailey, MacFarlane, McGuire, Thomas, Horsley, Liu/Takeda, Butler)
6/25 (YTD 24/123) by PoC (George, Foroohar, Ondaatje, Thomas, Liu/Takeda, Butler)

Michael Collins’ Carrying the Fire was tremendously enjoyable and ended up being my book of the year; you can get it here. Also good were David McCullough on the Johnstown Flood, which you can get here, and Heaney’s Beowulf, which you can get here. I tried Light by M. John Harrison again, and bounced off it again; you can get it here.

May 2021 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 most important news of the month was getting my first COVID injection. Weird to think that the pandemic had been going on for fourteen months at this stage. I also seemt o have started going back to the office at this stage, and we were holding office parties in the nearby parks.

With the public holidays, I had two excursions southwards: to Mons on my own, and with two colleagues to see Merovingian metalwork at Mariemont near Mons.

I met up with long-lost cousins in Belgium, and helped solve another genealogy case in the USA.

And I kept up my ten-day blogging about the pandemic.

I read 16 books that month.

Non-fiction 2 (YTD 16)
Doctor Who: The Pandorica Opens: Exploring the Worlds of the Eleventh Doctor, by Frank Collins
Statement and Correspondence Consequent on the Ill-Treatment of Lady de la Beche by Colonel Henry Wyndham, edited by Ann Auriol

Non-genre 3 (YTD 10)
Schindler’s List, by Thomas Keneally
The Complete Short Stories of Guy de Maupassant
Forrest Gump, by Winston Groom
 

SF 7 (YTD 54)
The Evidence, by Christopher Priest
In the Days of the Comet, by H. G. Wells
Cloud on Silver by John Christopher
All the Fabulous Beasts, by Priya Sharma
Jurassic Park, by Michael Crichton
Finna, by Nino Cipri
City of Blades, by Robert Jackson Bennett
      

Comics 4 (YTD 14)
DIE, Volume 2: Split the Party, by Kieron Gillen, Stephanie Hans and Clayton Cowles
The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist, by Adrian Tomine
Ghost-Spider vol. 1: Dog Days Are Over, by Seanan McGuire, Takeshi Miyazawa and Rosie Kämpe
Invisible Kingdom, vol 2: Edge of Everything, by G. Willow Wilson and Christian Ward

4,600 pages (YTD 25,900)
6/16 (YTD 39/98) by non-male writers (de la Beche/Auriol, Sharma, Cipri, Hans, McGuire/Kämpe, Wilson)
3/16 (YTD 18/98) by PoC (Sharma, Tomine, Miyazawa)

All the Fabulous Beasts, by Priya Sharma, is really fantastic. You can get it here.

Forrest Gump, by Winston Groom, really sucks. You can get it here.

April 2021 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.

Another month when I mainly stayed at home, apart from a birthday excursion to the east of Belgium for more megaliths.

And I went to a museum with little U.

We were devastated by the death of our old friend Liz Marley.

I kept up my ten-day posts.

I also wrote about my American ancestors featuring in art.

Worldcon continued to provide drama, with the publication of the final ballot arousing much controversy, and the entire convention being postponed until December (giving rise to further arguments about the rules). More positively, it was announced that I would be a Guest of Honour at the next year’s Eastercon.

Non-fiction 1 (YTD 14)
Kathedralen uit de steentijd, by Herman Clerinx

Non-genre 2 (YTD 7)
The Silence of the Lambs, by Thomas Harris
Foucault’s Pendulum, by Umberto Eco

SF 12 (YTD 47)
Worlds Apart, by Richard Cowper
Network Effect, by Martha Wells
Kaleidoscope: diverse YA science fiction and fantasy stories, eds Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios
Riot Baby, by Tochi Onyebuchi
The Empress of Salt and Fortune, by Nghi Vo
The Gameshouse, by Claire North
Legendborn, by Tracy Deonn (did not finish)
The Relentless Moon, by Mary Robinette Kowal
The Serpent Sea, by Martha Wells
The Orphans of Raspay, by Lois McMaster Bujold
Two Truths and a Lie, by Sarah Pinsker
The Consuming Fire, by John Scalzi
Doctor Who 1 (YTD 2, 4 inc comics)
Adventures in Lockdown, ed. Steve Cole
Comics 5 (YTD 10)
Muse vol 1: Celia, by Terry Dodson & Denis-Pierre Filippi
Muse vol 2: Coraline, by Terry Dodson & Denis-Pierre Filippi
Le dernier Atlas, tome 1, by Fabien Vehlmann, Gwen De Bonneval and Fred Blanchard
Feeders & Eaters & other stories, by Neil Gaiman, art by Mark Buckingham
Sculpture Stories, by Neil Gaiman with Lisa Snellings

4,800 pages (YTD 21,300)
9/21 (YTD 33/82) by women (Wells x2, Krasnostein/Rios, Vo, North, Deonn, Kowal, Bujold, Pinsker)
3/21 (YTD 15/82) by PoC (Onyebuchi, Vo, Deonn)

There were a couple of these that I did not like, but you know what, let’s celebrate half a dozen that I liked very much.

Kathedralen uit de steentijd: hunebedden, dolmens en menhirs in de Lage Landen, by Herman Clerinx (get it here)
The Silence of the Lambs, by Thomas Harris (get it here)
Kaleidoscope: diverse YA science fiction and fantasy stories, eds Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios (get it here)
Riot Baby, by Tochi Onyebuchi (get it here)
The Empress of Salt and Fortune, by Nghi Vo (get it here)
Two Truths and a Lie, by Sarah Pinsker (get it here)

March 2021 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.

Another month when due to COVID restrictions I did not leave Belgium, and indeed I appear to have gone to the office only twice. It was a year since the first lockdown. Apart from diplomatic walks in Brussels parks, my two excursions were to the Dolmen of Duisburg and the video games museum at Tours et Taxis.

I kept up my ten-day posts:

I also researched the parenthood of the baby in the park, but came to the wrong conclusion.

Hugo Award nominations closed, and it became clear that we had some potentially controversial finalists, including a blog post whose title gave a very direct instruction to a well-known author. From the technical point of view it was relatively smooth; we had one nominated editor decline nomination, one artist inform us that they were not eligible and one TV series that we disqualified from the Long Form category because it also had two episodes in Short Form. (Some felt that we should have disqualified others too, but we did not.)

I read 20 books that month.

Non-fiction 5 (YTD 13)
The Unstable Realities of Christopher Priest, by Paul Kincaid
Inside Out: A Personal History of Pink Floyd, by Nick Mason
It’s the End of the World: But What Are We Really Afraid Of?, by Adam Roberts
Romeinse sporen: het relaas van de Romeinen in de Benelux met 309 vindplaatsen om te bezoeken, by Herman Clerinx
Scottish independence: EU membership and the Anglo–Scottish border, by Akash Paun, Jess Sargeant, James Kane, Maddy Thimont Jack and Kelly Shuttleworth

Non-genre 1 (YTD 5)
Dances With Wolves, by Michael Blake

Scripts 2
Driving Miss Daisy, by Alfred Uhry
Mostly Void, Partially Stars, by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor

SF 12 (YTD 35)
The Ministry for the Future, by Kim Stanley Robinson
Comet Weather, by Liz Williams
“Sandkings”, by George R.R. Martin
Chasm City, by Alastair Reynolds
Enemy Mine, by Barry B. Longyear
The Doors of Eden, Adrian Tchaikovsky
Threading the Labyrinth, by Tiffani Angus
The Fountains of Paradise, by Arthur C. Clarke
Titus Alone, by Mervyn Peake
Light of Impossible Stars, by Gareth Powell
Water Must Fall, by Nick Wood
The Sunken Land Begins To Rise Again, by M. John Harrison

5,600 pages (YTD 16,500)
3/20 (YTD 24/61) by women (Williams, Angus, Sargeant/Thimont Jack/Shuttleworth)
1/20 (YTD 12/61) by PoC (Paun)

A lot of these were very good, and I’m going to recommend three by friends which were also shortlisted for the BSFA Award:

The Unstable Realities of Christopher Priest, by Paul Kincaid (review; get it here)
Comet Weather, by Liz Williams (review; get it here)
Threading the Labyrinth, by Tiffani Angus (review; get it here)

On the other hand, Titus Alone by Mervyn Peake is a dismally poor ending to the Gormenghast trilogy. Stick to the first two books, folks. You can get it here.