The Wordslinger – Blog

I Read 100 Books in 2017

In 2017 I read 102 books.

To be fair, only 99 different ones (I read two, twice this year – had to revisit them for separate exams, and basically pick out different things in each).

Copied below is the rough and tumble list of the monographs I slew over the past 52 weeks.

“Wait a minute!” Some of you might be thinking, “Some of these barely qualify as books!” Athanasius’ Life of Anthony and Jodorowski’s L’Incal in particular jump out – the former being a sermon masquerading as a narrative, the latter a French graphic novel or bande dessinée.

So let me explain:

For items to appear on this list, they had to appear in the form of a book (either electronic or printed). That is, as something I could file on my shelf or read from start to finish in a complete form.

By this definition, a smattering of books on here that were under 100 pages (but made up by those above 1000 pages – the average length, I would guess, being around 300-350 pages).

This also meant I couldn’t include any of the hundreds of academic or non-fiction articles I read this year (including some that surpassed 60 pages – though the average was 20-30 each).

In the end, the definition of book is a bit tenuous here, but I figure it evens out considering the mountains of reading I left out (which, if stapled together, would be a couple dozen books worth).

I mean honestly, give me a break.  I was working full time for the first four month, and then part time (20 hours a week) the last eight months. Look at how many fucking books I put away. Just look!

Some observations about the experience:

The bulk of the books on this list were academic monographs and annotated volumes that I read in preparation for my three separate composite exams, or that I assigned to my classes and read along the way.

Despite the heavy requirements for my exams, I still managed to sneak in about 30 novels this year – which comes pretty damn close to that pathetic 35 books TOTAL I put away last year. I guess it’s true that when we have very little time, we tend to do a lot MORE with it.

I read on average 2 books a week. Though, realistically, it was probably a couple of months of 4-5 books per week and then some slack times where I literally had to take a break and read a measly 1 or 1.5 books per week. Notably, right at the end in December and when I was on vacation in May.

Boy are my eyes tired. That last book of the year (Dan Simmon’s Hyperion) took me 8 days to read. Basically walking the marathon right there.

By comparison, there were 2 or 3 days where I read more than one book in a single day. You know how it goes. You get up at 7, read until noon. Have lunch and say “hey, why don’t I get started on number 2?” And you finish the bastard by suppertime.

Some noteworthy (and not so much) reads:

Blake Crouch’s books are addictive. I read Wayward in one sitting on a flight.

Lars Kepler’s books are also addictive. I read 90% of Sandman on a train ride. I would have read the rest in one shot, but we arrived in Toronto and had to catch a bus.

Joe Hill reads like a slightly past the peek Stephen King (his father). Not as engaging as King was during his prime, but worlds ahead of his dad’s latter work (especially the downward spiral that was King in the nineties). I still have at least 2 of his books on the shelf or Kindle that got pushed in 2018.

Swedish crime thrillers continue to be my favourite genre. Having read everything Henning Mankell wrote (as far as I know) and most of Lars Kepler, I suppose Jo Nesbo is the next obvious target on my reading list. His Snowman was decent, but I can’t help but wonder if the translation was a little… off. More than once, I’d read a page and have no idea how the characters got from point A to point B – it’s as if they left out some transitional lines here and there.

Vishnu Dreams was sorely disappointing. Strong premise, interesting ideas, but too literary and muddling for its own good. I know well-written prose is all the rage, but it never hurts to have a story with HOOKs to pull a reader in.

Crichton has the uncanny ability to make literally ANYTHING gripping and tense. Take Air Frame for example: it’s the only suspense novel I’ve ever heard about that makes reading about airplane schematics edge of your seat intense. Even State of Fear, his mostly crock-of-shit book about global warming fraudsters, managed to pull it off when discussing charts and graphs.

Dan Simmons knows his religious history and philosophy. Not only can he talk about Kolkata and Shaktism in a manner than rivals some scholars, but he’s also no slouch when it comes to Catholicism. Nice (and rare) to read fiction where the author doesn’t bungle things or rely on cheesy stock stereotypes about religion (*cough cough sorry Crouch, Abandon could have done more with the preacher character).

Murakami is wonderful as always, and you definitely get different things out of his books the second time you read them. Not only was rereading South of the Border, West of the Sun it like sliding back into an old, comfortable pair of jeans, but I now have a completely different opinion about what it’s actually about.

Daytripper was probably the most thought-provoking graphic novel I’ve read in a while, and it manages to do it with so little – and without being heavy-handed. Tells a good story at the same time!

Everyone interested in Cinema, the Reagan years, or American history should read Susan Jeffords Hard Bodies. Pretty wonderful read.

The List

Williams – Saints Alive (x2)
Athanasius – Life of Athony
Brown – The Cult of the Saints
Orsi – Between Heaven and Earth
Orsi – Thank you St Jude (x2)
Bell & Mazzoni – Voices of Gemma Galgani
Freeman – Holy Bones, Holy Dust
Weinstein & Bell – Saints and Society
Kleinberg – Flesh Made Word
Bartlett – Why Can the Dead do such Great Things?
Multiple Authors – Hagiography and Religious Truth (annotated Volume)
Greer – Colonial Saints
Pearson – Becoming Holy in Early Canada
Moore – Women in Christian Traditions
Boisvert – Sanctity and Male Desire
Kitchen – Saints Lives and the Rhetoric of Gender
Burrus – Sex Lives of the Saints
Multiple Authors – Catholic Women Speak (annotated Volume)
Wilson – Saints and their Cults
Matzeko – Sharing God’s Company
Farrelly – Papist Patriots
Ellis – American Catholicism
Cuneo – The Smoke of Satan
Curran – Shaping American Catholicism
McDonnough – The Catholic Labrynth
Scribber – A Partisan Church
Massa – Catholics and American Culture
Vasquez – Globalzing the Sacred
Tweed – America’s Church
Tweed – Our Lady of the Exile
Kennedy – Reimagining American Catholicism
McGreevy – Catholicism and American Freedom
McGreevy – Parish Boundaries
Anderson – Death and Rebirth of the North American Martyrs
Hamburger – The Separation of Church and State
Zubrzycki – Beheading the Saint
Koehlinger – The New Nuns
Cummings – Catholics in the American Century
Cummings – New Women of the Old Faith
Hendrickson – Border Medicine
Byrne – The Other Catholics
Kane – Sister Thorn
Kane – Gender Identity in American Catholicism
Matovina – Presente!
Tentler – Catholics and Contraceptives
Arnold and Brady – What is Masculinity?
Connell – Masculinities
Synnott – Rethinking Men
Roediger – Wages of Whiteness
Hill – Whiteness: A Critical Reader
Bronner – Male Traditions
Gilber – Men in the Middle
Watson and Shaw – Performing Masculinities
Jeffords – Hard Bodies
Horrocks – Male Myths and Icons
Morrison – Playing in the Dark
Keith – Contemporary American Culture
Moss – Media and Modes of Masculinity
Rotundo – American Manhood
Carroll -American Masculinity: A Historical Encyclopedia
Cuordeleone – Manhood and American Political Culture in the Cold War
Kimmel – Manhood in America
Meyer – Manhood on the Line
Rosin – The End of Men
Oxtoby – World Religions: Eastern Traditions
Stephens-Davidovitz – Everybody Lies
Bader, Baker and Mencken – Paranormal America
Morreau – The French Revolution
Jacobs – Beethoven
Gibson – Idoru
Bengamudra – Vishnu Dream
Crichton – State of Fear
Crichton – Air Frame
Landsdale – The Night Runners
Landsdale – Act of Love
Harrison – Technicolor Time Machine
Murakami – South of the Border, West of the Sun
Murakami – Sputnik Sweetheart
Crouch – Pines
Crouch – Wayward
Crouch – The Last Town
Crouch – Good Behaviour
Crouch – Abandon
Mankell – Depths
Mankell – The Man from Beijing
Hill – Horns
Hill – N0S4A2
Kepler – The Hypnotist
Kepler – The Fire Witness
Kepler – The Nightmare
Kepler – The Sandman
Kepler – Stalker
Jodorowski – L’Incal
Shah – Sorcerer’s Apprentice
Moon & Ba – DayTripper
Matur – The Inscrutible Americans
Simmons – Song of Kali
Simmons – Hyperion
Nesbo – The Snowman

Payette Gate

Canadian politics are boring. So boring in fact, that we turn anything we can into scandals, just to have scandals to talk about.

See last year’s “elbow gate” or as it is also known: “how a person bumping into another person in a crowded room became a cause for uproar.” (Those people shouting over bumping elbows have clearly never been on Montreal’s Metro during rush hour, but that is neither here nor there.)

Our latest non-scandal/scandal was everywhere in today’s news.

This morning, commentators were denouncing Governor General Julie Payette. Across the internet, commentators (including at the CBC) were crawling out of the woodwork to condemn her for “criticizing” religions and that she somehow “mocked” and disrespected millions of Canadians in the process all because of a speech she made at a scientific conference.

Let’s review what happened.

Payette appeared as the keynote speaker at the Canadian Science Policy Conference in Ottawa. One assumes her career as an astronaut (I.E. scientist) had something to do with this.

During her address, she observed (with some incredulity) that “we are still debating and still questioning whether life was a divine intervention or whether it was coming out of a natural process let alone, oh my goodness, a random process.”

Despite her tone, one should probaby assume that Payette wasn’t taking the pulpit to be offensive, but to address the general state of things concerning the scientific community.

Let’s recall that Payette wasn’t invited to speak at the pulpit of a Church or to give a sermon. She was speaking at a conference for scientists, as a scientist, about “science stuff.”

In such a context, it would seem that arguing that religious beliefs and astrology have no place in science is somewhat matter-of-fact and not out of place.

Why?

In case there was ever any confusion, science and religion are not in competition. Nor are they interchangeable. As processes, they are both concerned with exploring fundamentally different things.

Science is a critical pursuit, a form of investigation – whether it be the natural world, the laws that govern it, or the ways in which humans interact on a sociological level. You start with a hypothesis, review the data, and draw your conclusions based on the evidence at hand.

Science is impersonal and kinda boring.

Religion, on the other hand, is a different sort of pursuit. Religion investigates personal truth, the meaning of this world, and our place in it. The process doesn’t begin with a hypothesis, but a conclusion (see opening verses of the Bible… it does not begin with an investigation whether God did or did not create the world in seven days, but a statement). These conclusions then inform people how to live their lives.

Religion is personal and dynamic.

It is also has nothing to do with science.

So, saying that divine intervention has no place in a scientific inquiry should be as matter-of-fact as pointing out that scientists have no place storming into a church and telling people how they should be praying or singing.

Wouldn’t that be fun? I didn’t think so either.

Let’s try keep each to their own. If we can’t, then at least not lose our collective minds every time something we disagree with happens to drip all over the news.

New and upcoming publications

It’s been a busy (but very good) Fall so far.

Thanks to my insatiable urge to keep writing even when it hurts / haven’t slept / keep feeling I probably have better things I should be doing with my life, I’ve been churning out a few (halfway) decent stories that got picked up.

My horror story “Old Mamgu!” about a terrifying house and the things that live inside it (set in rural New Brunswick) was picked up by Aphotic Realm for their upcoming “Banished!” volume (slated for november 2017)

My horror flash fiction “Say My Name” which I wrote for The Haberdasher Monster Mash Slash Fiction contest was one of the three winners, and published on their website. (Along with a piece from Jocelyn Baxter – making it the second time this Fall where our pieces are appearing alongside in a horror publication – the other being in Banished!)

An older piece of sci-fi that I wrote last year and then recently work-shopped, “Out with the Old, in with the New” was picked up by Australia’s longstanding Antipodean SF. It should be appearing in issue 235 (they’re currently at 232). It will also be published in podcast format whereby this author does his best shot at narrating the tale.

My prose poetry / micro story “With Extra Toppings, Please” has also just appeared in the always wonderful Right Hand Pointing (volume 116). It’s the second micro piece they picked up, previously having taken “Mephistopheles” back in March for volume 108.

The yearly total, so far, is looking like 10 publications since Jan 2017. Wonder if I can hit that magical 12 or roughly “a story a month.” Though sleep and binge watching all the television I’ve missed both have a certain appeal at this point.