I Read 100 Books in 2017

Okay, so, I read 102 books in 2017.

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

Books I read in 2016

In 2016, I only read 31 books.

Sadly, for a second year in a row, I missed my mark of reading 40+ books.

Of that 32, many were for research and study. For the rest, well I gotta be honest, I went for a lot of novellas to pad in the numbers when I noticed I was dipping behind.

In light of having just read four books this past week, it looks particularly bad. Maybe I was trying to overcompensate.

Oh well, here’s the list:

Crichton – Jurassic Park
Crichton – Rising Sun
Crichton – Lost World
Benchley – Jaws
Wolf – Envisioning Power
Manciejko – The Mixed Multitude
Hoover – Does God make the Man?
Guy – Becket: Warrior, Rebel, Martyr
Martin – Feast for Crows
Martin – Unsound Variations
Martin – A song for Lya
Martin – Game of Thrones
Hess – Magister Ludi
Orsi – History and Presence
Mankell – Return of the Dancing Master
Bishop – Beneath the Shattered Moons
Brunner – Give Warning to the World
Brunner – The Super Barbarians
Brunner – The Squares of the City
Heinlein – All you Zombies
Druon – The Strangled Queen
Druon – The Poisoned Crown
Dubuc – Frere Andre
Masterton – Tengu
Patanaik – Jaya
Mercer – Alexander the Great
Campbell – Who Goes There?
Plate – Key Terms in Material religion
McGrath – Christianity’s Dangerous Idea
Mitchell – Cloning Terror
Craig – The Fall of Japan
Hill – The Fireman

Some observations:
I rediscovered how easy it is to burn through a Michael Cricton novel on the bus / metro. More than once.

Joe Hill’s prose is roughly as addictive as the early work of his father (Steven King).

Amazon lets publishers charge WAY too much for some Kindle releases ($14.99 for an Ebook vs $4.99 for a Paperback… really Harper-Collins?)

Some confessions:
I reread a number of Martin’s crack-addictions that pass for novels, which I always seem to end up doing in the downtime between seasons of the show and the eventual (hopeful) release of his books.

John Brunner’s pulpy-science-fiction novels never disappoint. Fast-paced, imaginative and resolutely tacky yet awesome.

Some highs and lows (mostly lows):
Tengu was undeniably the trashiest book I read all year – but not without some enjoyment.

The premise: A possibly psychic, bed-ridden Japanese evil mastermind creates and army of demonic supersoldiers to invade the USA in retribution for Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Yup.

Crichton’s Rising Sun really comes in a distant second thanks to that one.

Magister Ludi was, in spite of all its ambitions, probably the most disappointing read of the year.

Yes, I know it won a Nobel Prize for literature, and it was masterfully written as a prose piece. I honestly can’t shame it for being beautifully told.

BUT in terms of story — of weaving together a meaningful narrative and characters — well…

I suppose there’s only so much time I want to spend with listless characters who bloviate for pages on end. This is not how humans speak to one another.

Perhaps at the time it was released, the premise and setup would have come across as more innovative and meaningful. However, it’s not my first time at the speculative lit-fic rodeo.

Within the first forty pages of a somewhat meandering setup I realized there was only one trajectory the novel could follow and one way it could end.

And then I spent the next couple hundred pages following that exact trajectory to that exact ending.

Anyways, enough shitting on the classics. Time for highlights.

Apart from the consistently excellent Henning Mankell mysteries, returning to Druon’s Cursed Kings series was a delight.

I’ve always been a buff for history and well-written non-fiction, and these generally fact-based historical fictions are addictive and engaging even if we know where they are leading us. Down the gutter for France.

I read four books this week.

I read four books in a week.
 
I suppose there’s a first for everything.
 
In a way, I wonder if I could have done more. I was slowed down thanks to my regular part-time work, lecturing and course preparation, and the publication slate for the JRC, and all that jazz. Could I have gone through another 4 with those 40 hours reclaimed?
 
I’m not so sure. Being pressed for time — that is, knowing you don’t have enough time — can really do wonders for keeping you focused.
 
Part of me suspects I would have read less if I had more time, and spend the difference putzing about.
 
Anyways, before I go off sounding like some speed-reading hero, the devil is in the details.
 
The longest book was 210 pages, and the briefest 80 — making the whole ordeal roughly as long as a decent length Steven King book; albeit, decidedly more difficult to read (non-fiction, academic publications inevitably require more concentration).
 
Still, it’s a bit of a wonder that preparing for a composite exam can do so much to your free time — especially in light of a deadline.
 
Read 20 books in three months and then write an exam? Still daunting, but at least I’m off to a promising start.