Every year I tell myself I will try to read 52 books in a year. I fall short by a great deal every year, and then the next year tell myself the same thing again. Since we’re halfway through 2015, it’s time to take stock.
1. George R. R. Martin – A Clash of Kings: I’m trying to read these before I watch the show, which means that I’ve been dodging spoilers as much as possible but haven’t been entirely successful. As the second book this builds up on what the first laid down very well, but since everyone and their mother has read these things I’m not going to invest much time in a review. The worldbuilding has gotten more interesting, which is something I may have to come back to in a later post.
2. Melissa Scott - Point of Hopes: Another series book. This is the first, and is a sort of mystery in a weird alternate fantasy world that has the trappings of some Elizabethan steampunk era but not quite. It’s okay, but not something I’d recommend. The plot is stagnant, the worldbuilding has some novel elements but doesn’t think them through, and the characters are dull.
3. Graeber David – Debt, the first 5000 Years: My favorite book so far. An anthropology of debt that challenges the myth of the barter society evolving into fiat finance. This was written in the context of the Occupy Wall Street movement and has a clear political bias, but even so I thought the angle the book takes in fascinating, and there is a lot that can be pulled from it, not just for people interested in how our economy has become the thing it is, but for those interested in alternatives.
4. Hiromi Goto – Kappa Child: Hated it. Limp magical realism that never really satisfies, low level domestic abuse that serves as a constant frustration, weird quirks of character that makes everyone feel surreal without balancing them out with humanity, and so on. Least favorite of the year.
5. Johanna Sinisalo – Troll, a Love Story: Weirdest of the year by far. A guy finds a baby troll and brings it home. Disaster ensues. The narrative format was a constant bounce between POV characters interspersed with “excerpts” from non-existent sources on trolls, and even though there were bits that seemed meaningless or drifting, the book as a whole succeeded in building up a lot of suspense.
6. Sam van Schaik- Tibet, A History: The book I’m on now. So far an engaging attempt at a succinct history from beginning to now. It’s main flaw is that it has to sacrifice a lot of nuance and depth in order to cover so much history in a single book, and things start to blend together somewhat. But as an introduction I think it’s great.
7. Maurice Olender - The Language of Paradise: A fascinating book about something that I didn’t really know anything about before reading it. The beginnings of Philology were rooted in certain notions of race, history, and truth, and those foundations had an important effect on modern history. Reading it brings to light the development of ideas that many people probably assume came out of common sense without really interrogating it.
It appears I’ve been reading 1 book a month instead of four. Ah well. I am ever the optimist.