Start of the Year Reading List

Well, it’s a new year and we are already a few weeks into it. Unfortunately, I spent the first week or so sick and recovering which gave me plenty of time to think about what I want to get accomplished this year. I am maintaining my 50 books per year reading challenge and have already finished three books so far which is a pretty good start. I am technically halfway through two books as well but I will talk about those in a bit.

I plan on getting some writing done this year (finally) as I was unofficially on a writing hiatus as I worked on my MBA. Now that the degree is finished, no more excuses. I’m really excited to attend a convention later this year which I have already registered for. It will be my first time attending WorldCon and I hope that the world is in a much better place and events like this stop being cancelled, postponed, and we are free and clear to actually spend time in groups. I would hate to cancel yet another outing, but safety first especially now that I have a little one that is always on my mind.

But this post is about a reading list for the beginning of the year. So far, I have read We Watch You by N.S. Ford which was a great mystery/thriller. I just finished Negotiating with the Dead by Margaret Atwood where she talks about the craft of writing and more. I am halfway through Blindness by Jose Saramago. I have to admit that this is the first time I’ve deliberately put a book down and taken time away from reading it. There was a scene that was really disturbing. I’ve not finished books before due to lack of interest or put it away to try again another time. This book I do plan on finishing but had to take time away because the disturbing scene in question just put me in a bad state and I needed to give myself time to recover before going back to it. The book is interesting and I think is good overall, and I may end up writing a recommendation for it if that turns out to be true.

The other book I’m technically halfway through is the Sandman comic series which I purchased last year in the Omnibus editions. There are three volumes, approximately 1000 pages each, that contain all the Sandman comics and extras. I am halfway through the second omnibus volume and will get back around to finishing the series. I think I paused this one because I came to the end of a story arc and life got busy and all that jazz. I compare it as the equivalent of pausing a show at the end of a season with the full intention of finishing the series. It was a good stopping point, but I plan to restart soon.

Pity The Reader CoverWith all that out of the way, I will now get to the few books I aim to read in the next few months. I just started Pity the Reader by Suzanne McConnell & Kurt Vonnegut. This book is primarily Kurt Vonnegut’s discussion of the craft of writing and more, but it was compiled and written by Suzanne McConnell who was a student, peer, and lifelong friend of Vonnegut’s. I look forward to digging into this one.

Kokoro book coverNext, I plan to read Kokoro by Natsume Soseki. I came across this book randomly and it caught my attention. It was first published in 1914, two years before Soseki passed away. Kokoro translates roughly to mean “the heart of things” and this book, at about 180 pages and told in three parts, is supposedly his most popular work. I had never heard of Soseki before stumbling across this book but I may explore more of his work if I enjoy this one.

Rendezvous with Rama book cover folio society editionI also want to read Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke. The only book of Clarke’s that I’ve read so far is 2001: A Space Odyssey and this one came on my radar when it was announced it would be adapted into a film by director Denis Villeneuve who directed the recent adaptation of Dune which I enjoyed. I’ve been meaning to read more of Clarke’s work and now this will prepare me for the film as well whenever it comes out.

So these three are what I aim to read in the next several weeks (I’ll probably finish Blindness as well). Of course life continues to be busy and trying to navigate our crazy world can distract from enjoying our hobbies. I hope you find some time for reading or whatever you enjoy doing. If you can’t find time, then make some time. You’ll likely thank yourself later for doing so.

Happy Reading.

We Watch You

We Watch You by NS Ford BannerMysteries within mysteries is what we get with N.S. Ford’s debut novel We Watch You. Everything is not quite what it seems in the small town of Becksley, and the strings begin to unravel when a woman disappears and her three best friends become targets.

The story is primarily told through the eyes of Lauren, one of the three best friends, as she tries to make sense of all that is happening and discover the truth behind the incidents that are more than mere accidents. All while trying to keep a secret of her own. A secret she believes is the reason her friend Tina is missing.

We Watch You is a page turner that has you wanting to know what happened, what is happening, and what will happen next.

It’s hard to talk about mysteries without potentially giving something away, so I’ll just leave you with this: It is always a great feeling to start out the new year with a good book.

Happy Reading.

Ryan’s Favorite Reads of 2021

2021 has been an interesting year for reading. I have been extremely busy which cut into my reading time, but you always have to make time for the things you enjoy and which help you recharge your batteries. I can still proudly say I met and passed my goal of 50 books per year. Here are my reading highlights for this past year.

Library at Mount Char book coverThe Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins

This one may be my favorite of the year and I definitely consider it a hidden gem. I’m just glad I jot the name down when I first heard of it. It is a difficult story to explain simply but it is a mystery riddled with science fiction and fantasy elements that leave you wondering at the true nature of the universe. I absolutely loved it.

Tokyo Ghoul Monster Edition Volume 1 CoverTokyo Ghoul by Sui Ishida

I was a fan of the show and I must admit the manga series is better (as is typically the case). I say this primarily because the show deviates from or does not include some critical information that would have made it that much better. Overall, this story is one that captures my interest so much I was tempted to write a few essays about the juxtaposition of ghouls and humans living in the same world. To put this one in an easier frame of reference, I would almost name it as a modern day classic of horror in the same vein as Dracula. I’m not even a horror fan but I love this series.

The Queen's Gambit Netflix BannerThe Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis

I read this one earlier this year after watching the Netflix adaptation. The show does a really great job of following the story in the book, and I greatly enjoyed the show. You can likely skip the book (sounds blasphemous, I know) if you have seen the show because it follows the story that well.

The Parable of the Sower book coverThe Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler

I read this one way back at the beginning of the year. I wanted to read something by Octavia Butler and this did not disappoint. I still want to read more of her work but it will be after I get through a few other books. This one takes place during the decline of civilization, which basically on the brink of entering a post-apocalyptic territory, so it does enter some darker territory. The writing and overall story is incredible though.

MythosMythos by Stephen Fry

Greek mythology is one of–if not–the most popular of world mythologies, and Stephen Fry does an excellent job with his retelling of these myths. He takes things from the very beginning and through to the more well-known stories. He reads the audiobook version which made it even more enjoyable.

Castle in the Air Book CoverCastle in the Air by Diana Wynne Jones

You an never go wrong with Diana Wynne Jones. This was the companion novel to her other book Howl’s Moving Castle which is a favorite of mine, and this one (though not a sequel and barely tied to the first book) was a magical journey well worth the read.

On Diana Wynne Jones

Diana Wynne JonesI first discovered Diana Wynne Jones through the adaptation of her book Howl’s Moving Castle by the well-known film company Studio Ghibli. I love the film and the book, and the two other books she wrote that tie into that world. Since finding her work, I’ve become more interested in her as an artist. Perhaps this may be partly influenced by stories told about her by other authors I like, such as Neil Gaiman who wrote about her and how he first met her. I don’t know why, but I’ll never forget that little story (if you want to know about it, you can read it in his book A View From the Cheap Seats).

I read her book Reflections: On the Magic of Writing which is almost more a memoir than a book about the craft, which suited me just fine. I learned more about her, which made me want to learn even more about her. One thing that really stuck out to me was that she had both C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien as professors when she attended Oxford. Her thoughts on both of them were amusing to be honest. She had an interesting childhood though tough at times. Her wonder for the world never diminished despite living through darker moments of human history (primarily referencing World War II here). Her stories are skillfully written but are often marketed to children. I think she wrote them for children, but I think they have something for everyone, especially for adults who have forgotten the wonder they once held for the world.

I hope to introduce or read her stories to my children. They are magical and wholesome. I’m curious how my reading habits would have been different had I discovered her books earlier. I was probably mid-twenties when I first found them. Now that I have, I can return to them when needed so as to (hopefully) never lose my own sense of wonder in the whirlwind of adult responsibilities. I am grateful to have the opportunity. I am grateful she wrote her stories and let them out into the world. I’m sure she has impacted more lives than she could have dreamed possible. Diana Wynne Jones passed away in 2011 at the age of 77. Her works will likely live on for a long time. Much longer than my own lifetime at least, because once you discover a book that nestles its way into your heart, it will remain there forever to bring you comfort and joy. My hope is that you give her work a chance if you have not done so already. Of course, I suggest starting with Howl’s Moving Castle. 

Coraline

Coraline Book CoverCoraline by Neil Gaiman is a quick read that I think has been, and remains, a source of inspiration and bravery for many readers. I have not yet seen the movie adaptation, having just read the book for the first time, but I know that the movie has expanded this story’s audience and influence. All this being said, I believe Coraline is a great story with a great effect. Though I didn’t love the story and felt a little old for it, which may just mean I’m in need of a rediscovery, I did like the story and believe it can be an very important book for those who need it or find it while younger or at the right time. It can easily be influential for younger minds, and I hope to read this story to my daughter when she is a bit older.

The premise of Coraline is that Coraline likes to explore. While exploring, she find finds a door that opens to a brick wall, except sometimes it opens to another place. This place is occupied by her “other mother” who very much wants Coraline to stay with her forever.

When I first saw images of the movie adaptation, I was a bit confused as to how the story would be for younger children. I saw the black button eyes and promptly thought it was a scary story. To be fair, it is a bit scary, but the story is more about bravery. Taking action despite being scared in order to set things right. I think this book has a lot in common with another of Neil’s works titled The Ocean at the End of the Lane, which could arguably be a “Coraline-themed book for adults” but instead of arguing about it let’s just take that as a secondary recommendation and enjoy reading both of them.

I understand why so many readers love this story. I was not as enamored with it though which may partly have been influenced by knowing about the story before reading it, knowing how popular it was thus having (unconsciously) higher expectations, or simply being/feeling old while reading it. Honestly, it might not have been one I would have loved either way. I think I am more excited to read it to my daughter, and perhaps my two nieces, than I was when reading it alone, which may be the biggest reason I am recommending this book.

Perhaps you will find this book more to your liking, or you may find it at the right time like many others and have it be a source of bravery for you. I hope so. Either way, I hope you enjoy reading it or sharing it yourself.

Happy Reading.