2020 Reading non-challenge

Read Chart 1

I enjoyed my non-challenge so much last year that I decided to do it again. Rather than trying to read books of specific genres, I’m just reading what interests me at the moment, mainly from my to-be-read bookcase. 

Now for the disappointing news. At this time last year I had already read 22 books; while this year I have only finished 10. I can give you reasons why there are so few. Many of my waking hours were spent following Presidential politics, which turned to almost non-stop coverage of COVID-19 updates. Plus, I had a few false starts, starting books that looked interesting, but couldn’t hold my attention. I may go back to them later in the year. 

Since I am a retiree and am hunkering-down-in-place, I’m finding more time to read, so I hope to get a few more books under my belt read. But who knows. Yard work will soon be calling.

My 2019 Reading non-Challenge Final Update

I quite liked this year of reading without specific goals as to type of content. While I drought periods of reading this year, I was still able to read 65 books. Below are the final fifteen that I read this year. You’ll probably notice the typo in the title of number 64. It should read Song of Blood & Stone.

51 through 65

If you are interested in the entire list, you can find the first 25 here and the second 25 here.

Included in my complete list are two excellent works of non-fiction, The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels by Jon Meacham, and Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World by Anand Giridharadas. There are a few graphic novels and many spy thrillers. I also re-read the first two novels of Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandrian Quartet, Justine and Balthazar. I plan on reading the final two this year. There were only a few books that I was disappointed in. They have already been donated to our county library.

If you read my first post (see the link above) you remember that I called this a non-challenge because in past years I limited myself to specific categories of books and had trouble meeting the challenge. This year I read what appealed to me when I felt like it.  As a result I read about three times the number I read last year; enjoying the experience more and clearing room on my TBR bookcase. I plan on doing the same this year.

Oh, and among the books I read in 2019 were enough to meet the challenge if I had gone ahead with it.

If I had challenged myself

Happy reading in 2020!

My 2019 Reading non-Challenge Update #2

The second 25

As you can see, the pace of my reading has slowed down. That happens every July and August. Blame it on the occasional good weather we have had.

In this group of books I read a non-fiction book which is the best I’ve read in a very long time, Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World by Anand Giridharadas. I highly recommend this book.

I also re-read Justine by Lawrence Durrell. It is the first book in his Alexandrian Quartet. I first read the quartet in the early 1970’s, shortly after I was released by the army. Each time I re-read it I once again fall in love with the language. I hope to read at least one more of theQuartet before the end of the year.

I had the biography of Thelonius Monk on my bookshelf for a number of years. Finally other things didn’t get in my way, and I read it. I wish I could have gotten to it earlier. I caused me to go on to a listening binge of his music. If you are one of those people who disparage jazz, I can only shrug my shoulders in wonderment.

I hope you’ve had a good summer. Now on to my autumn reading.

My 2019 Reading non-Challenge Update #1

I am not doing a reading challenge this year. Instead I’m reading for pleasure, in an attempt to reduce the number of books that I have bought over the last few years, but never got around to reading. I’m also going back and rereading books by some of my favorite authors. As you can see by the chart above, it is going well so far.

2019 Reading non-Challenge Update #1

As you can see, I’ve read three of Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Tales books, three of Len Deighton’s spy novels featuring Bernard Samson, the final two books in Michael J. Sullivan’s fantasy trilogy, and  a variety of other fiction and non-fiction books. I have plenty more on my TBR bookcase to choose from.

So far this year we have had cold weather that is conducive to relaxing with a good book. However, spring is finally coming to my corner of the world. That means that I’ll be spending more time outside in the sun. Grass will need to be cut on a regular basis; the pool will need to be opened and maintained; and short road trips will need to be made. I won’t be reading books at the same pace as I have in the past three and a half months, but I will be reading.

I hope you can find the time to read a few good books this year. If you have any suggestions for books to add to my TBR case, feel free to let me know.

2018 Reading Challenge – Update #4

This year’s reading challenge turned out to be a bigger challenge than I had expected. I always experience a reading drought during the summer months; but then I usually come back with a burst of reading energy late in the year. In 2018 however, I only completed one book since my most recent update.

The Little Sister

I read The Little Sister by Raymond Chandler as my book first published in the 1940’s. It is a Philip Marlowe mystery, and since it is by Chandler, it is well written with many passages that you want to quote to your friends. I have all of the Marlowe mysteries in paperback. I bought them many years ago. They haven’t fallen apart yet, though the acid in the paper is slowly yellowing the pages. I was lucky they survived our flooded basement which destroyed all of my Michael Moorcock and Philip Jose Farmer paperbacks. That was like losing old friends, but at least I still have Chandler and some others that I can revisit.

I shan’t try to fit in any more books this year even though I started three other. They are good books, and I have enjoyed what I have read, but I don’t have a burning desire to finish any of them this year.

And that brings me to 2019. I have decided to not attempt my reading challenge next year. Instead I plan to spend a year getting caught up on books that I have bought over the past few years but which have not fit within the boundaries of the challenge. I have three Saxon Tales novels by Bernard Cornwell on my TBR bookcase along with various fantasy/sword and sorcery novels, spy thrillers, mysteries, biographies and other genres that I have been putting off. Next year is for fun. Heck, I may even start today.

If some of those books happen to fall within challenge categories I’ll keep track of them. That might be worth a post or two along the way.

This is probably my last post of 2018, so have a happy and safe New Year!

2018 Reading Challenge – Update #3

As usual, my reading slowed down during the summer. In fact, it almost stopped completely. And as the year progressed, so many devilish things happened in our nation that many of the books that I planned to read seemed to foretell what we were experiencing. I started a few of them, and I was enjoying them, but the echoes I saw on our TV screen and read in our paper, ruined the experience for me. So instead of a certain biography, a certain novel written in the 1940s, and a certain book on a historical subject among others, I went to more lighthearted fare.

The Pupil

I read The Pupil by Caro Fraser as a book by an author I had never read before. Because the protagonist of the novel is a barrister I assumed the book was a mystery or a courtroom thriller. It was neither, but rather a novel whose main characters happen to work in law firms. It is a good read, and the start of a series of novels. I’ll probably read more of them.

 

 

 

The Warrior Heir

Next I read The Warrior Heir by Cindy Williams Chima. This a YA fantasy novel by an author I had never read before, but I slotted it as a book first published in the 2000s. The clerk who checked me out at the bookstore where I purchased it praised the series. She volunteered how much she enjoyed reading the books. As is the case of a few YA books of this sort, the protagonist discovers that he has spectacular powers when he reaches a certain age. He battles and overcomes evil forces by the end of the book. Don’t you love happy endings? I liked it, and plan to read more in the series.

 

 

Lemons Never Lie

From the 1970s I chose Lemons Never Lie by Richard Stark, a pseudonym of Donald E. Westlake. Westlake used the name of Richard Stark primarily when writing novels about the thief Parker. A number of movies based on the Parker novels have been made, beginning with the 1967 film Point Blank starring Lee Marvin. I don’t know why they changed Parker’s name to Walker in the movie. But that has nothing to do with Lemons Never Lie except that the main character, Alan Grofield, appears in some of the Parker novels. Like Parker, Grofield is a thief; and like Parker, the heist goes wrong. I haven’t read one of these novels in many years. It was good to read another Richard Stark book.

 

Simple Dreams: A Musical Memoir

From my original choice of biographies I moved on to Simple Dreams: A Musical Memoir by Linda Ronstadt. I have been planning to read this since it was published in 2013, but never seemed to get around to it. When I found it on a sales table I snatched it up to read for the challenge. Linda Ronstadt has been one of my favorite artists since I first saw her on The Woody Woodbury Show on television performing with The Stone Ponies. In the memoir she covers her life from childhood to her retirement. Unlike some other autobiographies I’ve read by performing artists, she exhibits humility and kindness. I don’t believe she said an unkind thing about any of the many people she wrote about. The closest she came was describing an artistic difference she had with a record producer. I miss hearing new music by her, but I have hundreds of recorded songs that I can go back to.

 

Villages

I chose to read Villages by John Updike as a book by a favorite (favored?) author. One of he reasons I love to read Updike is the ability he had to write convincing dialogue. He was also able to take ordinary people and events and make them so interesting that we want to know more. Many people, including me, swear that we hate having drama in our lives, and don’t understand people who seem to thrive on it. But we all seem to enjoy reading about it or seeing it on TV or in the movies. Also, it is the stuff that keeps gossip alive. Perhaps Updike was the fictional version of a gossip monger whom everyone decries but loves to hear. I love his books.

 

Berlin Game

Finally, for this update, I went back to the 1980s and reread  Berlin Game by Len Deighton. It was the first of a series with Bernard Sampson as the protagonist. I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I love Deighton’s spy thrillers. They stand up there along with LeCarré’s, plus they have humor that others who write in that genre lack.  This was my first rereading of the novel since the 1990s. I don’t know why I waited so long to return to it. I’ll soon be going back to the next in the series, Mexico Set.

2018 Reading Challenge – Update #2

If you aren’t aware of what my person reading challenge encompasses, you can read about it here.

I posted recently that I am currently in a writing slump. I also went through a reading slump, but have climbed out of it somewhat. Here is what I have been reading recently.

The American

The American by Martin Booth was my choice for the “From page to screen” book. The book was originally titled A Very Private Gentleman, but appears to have been changed to match the movie title. I can only assume that the American in the title refers to George Clooney’s character in the movie. The book centers around a person who is nearing the end of his chosen, illegal career. He is proud of the work that he has done, but realizes that he as reached a point where he wants to settle in somewhere. There is a lot of interior dialogue which offers insights to his personal history. I enjoyed the book. If you come to this book after having seen the movie, as I did, or vice versa, be prepared to accept that there are major plot changes, new characters, removed characters, and other differences. For instance, the very private gentleman is not an American.

Tarzan: The Beckoning

Next I chose to read, and view, the graphic novel, Tarzan: The Beckoning by Thomas Yeates. This book finds Tarzan and Jane in a more modern-day environment, fighting illegal ivory trade. If you’re wondering how a man born before WWI can still be alive and kicking, Tarzan fans know that he has become immortal, but they may not know that Jane is also immortal. At any rate, some familiar Tarzan tropes are present, such as a plane crash and amnesia. It is an interesting graphic novel, and the art is very good. My only complaint is that the final chapter seems to come to a rushed conclusion.

 

 

The Elements of Eloquence

I have a category called “A book of any kind,” that I think of a as my miscellaneous category. This year I chose The Elements of Eloquence: Secrets of the Perfect Turn of Phrase, by Mark Forsythe. I bought a copy of th book as a gift to a friend, and thought it looked interesting enough to purchase a copy for myself. The book explains, with examples, thirty-some figures of rhetoric. Don’t let that turn you off, because Mr. Forsythe’s writing is engaging. Once you read the book you’ll find yourself noticing examples in the things you read and hear. I notice them especially in television commercials. I have been noticing them a lot on the morning political talk shows, most noticeably Morning Joe. The namesake of the show, Joe Scarborough, has the annoying habit, while on a diatribe, of stringing together a group of complaints and starting each sentence with the same words. This is called anaphora. I’m happy to know the term for what he does. It doesn’t make it any less annoying, but now I have the name of what he does.

The Last Gunfighter: Slaughter

The western I chose this year is The Last Gunfighter: Slaughter by William W. Johnstone & J.A. Johnstone. This is a collaboration between a dead man and his living nephew. It is hard for me to say how much William contributed to the book since I’ve never read anything that he wrote while living. I understand that William was dead for three years before his reading public was informed of his demise. But that is just tittle-tattle, let me say a few things about the book. To me, it read like a the pitch for a western movie made in the 1930s or 40s. The drifting cowboy comes to town and stops a war between the ranchers and the oil drillers. With him he brought his faithful horse who comes to him when he whistles, and his dog who is very intelligent. The dog understands everything he is told, saves his owner from being shot, and could probably throw down the rope and pull Timmy from the well without going for help. He is that good! One thing different from the movies is that the hero got neither of the attractive female characters.

Walking With Grandfather

Next I read Walking With Grandfather: The Wisdom of Lakota Elders by Joseph M. Marshall III. This was the book recommended by a friend. My friend was Cindy, who bought it while on vacation a couple of years ago, and passed it on for me to read. It offers a perspective on life based upon the lessons the author learned from his grandfather, while growing up on a Sioux reservation. It is an interesting, informative book that doesn’t preach. I enjoyed it.