The first book that I read for this year’s reading challenge was Killing Floor by Lee Childs. It was the first of his Jack Reacher novels. It was first published in 1987, and will count as a book written in that decade. I had never read any of this series of books, and it isn’t likely that I’ll read another. The book began with an unlikely coincidence, had negligible depth of characters, and had a definite lack of suspense. I’m glad that I read the novel, just so I can say that I didn’t ignore the series of books completely. I purchased the book using a gift card that I received at Christmas, so I don’t feel that I wasted any of my own money.
The second book that I read for the challenge this year was The House of Velvet and Glass by Katherine Howe. I’m not sure what genre this book falls into. The U.S. Library of Congress catalogued it as Fathers and daughters – Fiction, and Mediums – Fiction, as well as Boston (Mass.) – Fiction. It is all of those and a lot more. I have to admit that I wouldn’t normally pick up a book like this one, but I was looking for something different to read for the challenge; and I was drawn to the book by the cover art. The book is set in the early 1900’s with flashbacks to the 1860’s. I suppose I would describe the book, succinctly, as being about people dealing with loss and discovery. I enjoyed the book and will look for others by Katherine Howe.
Last year I mentioned that I had trouble finding a western when I went to B&N. It turns out that I didn’t search well enough, because they have a section devoted to western novels. This year I walked to that section and picked up Zane Grey’s Riders of the Purple Sage. It is without a doubt his best known novel. I admit that while I have heard of Zane Grey since I was but a lad, I had never read one of his books before this year. I was surprised, when I read it, that it was so anti-Mormon. He almost seems to go out of his way to run down the church. The book was written about a time, but not during the time, when polygamy was practiced in the church. In the book, Mormons are also depicted as a closed, intolerant group. I can’t imagine that the novel would be as well received today as it was when first published in 1912. If you can get past the severe anti-Mormon speeches you will find the book to be a good tale.
I went back and read The Secret Life of Words: How English Became English as the book I had started but not finished. This was my third attempt, and this time I succeeded in finishing the book. It was worth the effort. To be honest, I’m not sure why I couldn’t finish it the first two times that I started it. It is an interesting book for anyone who enjoys reading about the history of languages. Count me among that group. A large part of the book recounts how various words from other languages have become part of the English vocabulary. I believe it was T.S. Eliot who said that the only languages that don’t change are dead languages. I could be wrong about that since I’m relying on my memories from graduate school. At any rate, English is alive and well.
From the 1970’s I chose to read The Retaliators by Donald Hamilton. I chose this book in a reaction to the first book in this post. I wanted a reminder that Donald Hamilton had conceived of a tougher, more intelligent, less sentimental character than Jack Reacher decades before the Lee Child books. I’m talking, of course, about Matt Helm (not the very bad movie or television versions of this character). This book was the seventeenth in a series of twenty-seven novels, and was first published in 1976. Some of the latter books in the series have recently been republished. If you haven’t read any of the novels you may enjoy reading about a government agent who is primarily an assassin. Not very likable? Perhaps, but I eagerly read my way through most of the series in the 1960’s and into the 1980’s. I haven’t read all of the books, but plan to if they become available.