Tuesday, December 15, 2015

My Year in Reading 2015

Each year the web site The Millions asks a long list of people to contribute their year of reading and I've done something of the same thing on this site over the years.  Nothing recent however as PND has been in a stasis for several years.   Each year I tend to read between 25 and 30 books which is happily well above the average: I'm always looking to support the industry.   This year I will probably reach 30 again which has as much to do with the huge amounts of travel time I've experienced over the past 30 months as it does the fun in reading itself.

Most of my reading is fiction and given I was looking for escape in my reading this year, I only read three non-fiction books during year.  One, How the Music Died, was an account of the way the old line music industry was essentially destroyed by a very small number of hackers and criminals who stole music CD's and placed the music on file sharing sites.  A fascinating aspect of the sub-culture that developed in this environment was the competition between hacker groups for the largest list of titles and the fastest access to new releases.

Several years ago I decided to add some classic titles to the list of books on my 'to be read' pile and this year I probably read more than I anticipated from Catch-22 to 1984 to Catcher in the Rye.  I keep a separate list of classics I want to read and some of these are books I read in high school or college but most are books I've never read.  1984 is a scary reminder given the extent of our current surveillance 'culture' and where it might get to.   Reading Catch-22 you don't know whether to laugh or cry.

All the books I read I am generally happy with but naturally some are always better than others.  This year I read the Ibis trilogy by Amitrav Ghosh (Sea of Poppies, River of Smoke and Flood of Fire).  These books are set in India and China during the Opium trade in the mid 1800s.  It's some of the best writing I've experienced and I hope we see a TV mini-series based on the books.

I bought The Luminaries for Mrs PND a few years ago but she hasn't cracked it so I did.  This book was excellent and at over 800 pages it may seem daunting but it reads much faster and I really enjoyed it.  The book follows the experiences of a prospector named Walter Moody in gold rush New Zealand during the 1860s who is exposed to a series of mysterious unsolved crimes.  The book won The Booker prize in 2013.

Here is my complete reading list for 2015:

A Week in the Airport - Alain de Botton:      Too close to my recent travel experiences
The Redeemers - Ace Atkins:           Good story, excellent writer
Red Harvest - Dash Hammett:      Violent and bloody
The Dain Curse - Dash Hammett:      Ditto
The Girl in the Spider's Web - David Lagercrantz:   I really enjoyed this one.
A Distant Mirror - Barbara Tuchman:    I now know a lot about the 13th century
The Devil's Star - Jo Nesbo:      Violent but good storytelling
How the Music Died - Stephan Witt:  Very good review of how disaster happened.
Flood of Fire - Amitav Ghosh:  Excellent highly recommended.
The Cartel - Don Winslow:    Excellent storytelling.
Bangkok Asset - John Burdett:    Highly enjoyable cop/crime novel set in Bangkok
Catch-22 - Joe Heller:   It's quite a catch.  One of the best.
The Law of Simplicity - John Maeda:  Kinda obvious.
Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger:    Classic
River of Smoke - Amitav Ghost:  Ditto
The Girl on the Train - Paula Hawkins:   All looney.
Children of the Revolution - Peter Robinson:   Excellent story telling.
Gallows View - Peter Robinson:  Excellent storytelling
Burmese Days - George Orwell:   Depressing colonial
1984 - George Orwell:  Scary not quite prescient
Animal Farm - George Orwell:   Keep the pigs locked up
The Lady from Zagreb - Philip Kerr:  One of my favorite characters, Bernie Gunther.
The Luminaries - Eleanor Cotton:  Excellent, highly recommended
Elmore Leonard - Freaky Deaky:  EL is the master of the genre.  Never tired of his books
Sea of Poppies - Amitav Ghost:  Modern classic
Epitaph for a Spy - Eric Ambler: Good
Prayers for Rain - Dennis Lahane: Good storytelling

I've a few more books to complete by year end and to kick off 2016 I am taking Mary Beard's SPQR which has received some good reviews on holiday with me.  I think it will be a good way to kick off another year of reading.

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