Friday, December 30, 2011

Reading: A wrap-up for 2011

It's time to wrap up my year in reading.

I didn't read nearly as many books as I had hoped to this year. Part of that had to do with the fact that I started reading a lot more books than I actually finished, some because I only intended to read part of them for things I was researching and some because I just couldn't get into them. I started out the year trying to keep track of the ones I started and just couldn't make myself finish, but it got entirely too depressing.

Just two books this year were re-reads, My Name is Asher Lev, by Chaim Potok, and The Palace, by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. I enjoyed both of them just as much as, and possibly more than, the first time I read them.

I reversed my usual trend and read more fiction than nonfiction this year. This could very well be due to the fact that it hasn't been that great a year for me, and so I was using my reading as a way to escape the real world that I wasn't that thrilled with. By actual count, I read 15 novels, 12 non-fiction books, and 4 volumes of manga. Thirty-one books total. However, I would definitely say that I read parts of more non-fiction books by far than I started but did not finish novels. My major disappointment among the novels I did not finish was not being able to get into Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon when I tried to re-read it, since I loved it so much the first time through. It's a really, really (really,really) long book, though, and I just couldn't stick with it this time around. Maybe another time.

Although I had hoped to read more books this year, I didn't actually set a goal this year. Over on Ravelry, the fiber arts website and forum I spend entirely too much time at, there is a group that invites readers to set a goal for the number of books read during the year and then keep a list detailing that reading. Some people read enormous numbers of books during the year. I did not. However, I think I'll be setting a goal for next year. Since I read 31 books this year, I think I'll attempt to reach a goal of reading 40 books in 2012. Not quite a book a week, but close, at a book every 1.3 weeks. If my math is correct. We'll see how that goes.

I did read at least one book each month, although in June and again in July I only managed one per month. I don't know why those months were the ones during which I read the least. Well, June I can understand. It was a busy month. But I was home alone for the entire month of July and had no transportation except the bus and rides from friends to a few events, mostly Tuesday knit nights and to an evening at Shakespeare in the Park here locally. I had plenty of time to read, and there are plenty of books in the house.

Aside from the manga, I read 9,547 pages in the books I completed. And, with that little statistic, here is the list of books I read in 2011. As I said, I hope to read more in 2012, and I plan to write more often here, both about the complete books I'm reading and about the other things I will read as part of my ongoing research for writing projects I'm working on.

(1) American Conspiracies, by Jesse Ventura (228 pages)
(2) Trilobite!: Eyewitness to Evolution, by Richard Fortey (284 pages)
(3) The Miracle Detective, by Randall Sullivan (450 pages)
(4) Sight Unseen, by Budd Hopkins and Carol Rainey (406 pages)
(5) Exile on Main St.: A Season in Hell With The Rolling Stones, by Robert Greenfield (258 pages)
(6) Dexter is Delicious, by Jeff Lindsay (350 pages)
(7) The Reversal, by Michael Connelly (389 pages)
(8) The Lost Symbol, by Dan Brown (509 pages)
(9) The Devil’s Triangle, by Mark Robson (391 pages)
(10) The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures, by Anne Fadiman (341 pages)
(11) Digital Fortress, by Dan Brown (431 pages)
(12) Mystery, by Jonathan Kellerman (320 pages)
(13) LEGO: A Love Story, by Jonathan Bender (270 pages)
(14) 9 Dragons, by Michael Connelly (377 pages)
(15) Java Man, by Carl Swisher, Garniss Curtis and Roger Lewin (256 pages)
(16) Library Wars 1, by Kiiro Yumi (manga)
(17) Library Wars 2, by Kiiro Yumi (manga)
(18) Library Wars 3, by Kiiro Yumi (manga)
(19) Library Wars 4, by Kiiro Yumi (manga)
(20) Break No Bones, by Kathy Reichs (339 pages)
(21) Weird Hollywood, by Joe Oesterle (237 pages)
(22) My Name is Asher Lev, by Chaim Potok (369 pages)
(23) The Scarpetta Factor, by Patricia Cornwell (572 pages)
(24) Treasure Box, by Orson Scott Card (372 pages)
(25) Weird California, by Greg Bishop, Joe Oesterle, and Mike Marinacci (299 pages)
(26) The Palace, by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro (376 pages)
(27) The Man Who Found Time: James Hutton and the Discovery of the Earth’s Antiquity, by Jack Repcheck (246 pages)
(28) Flash and Bones, by Kathy Reichs (278 pages)
(29) Area 51: An Uncensored History of America’s Top Secret Military Base, by Annie Jacobsen (521 pages)
(30) Impact, by Douglas Preston (364 pages)
(31) Blasphemy, by Douglas Preston (414 pages)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Catching up...

In the past couple of weeks, I've read two novels by Douglas Preston, Impact (2010, Forge Books; 368 pages) and Blasphemy (2008, Forge Books; 416 pages).

Impact starts out following three apparently separate stories, a meteor (or is it meteorite? I never can remember which is before it hits and which is after it impacts the earth) impact off the coast of Maine and a young woman's search for the remnants of the space rock because she knows how much it is worth; the search in Cambodia for the source of some radioactive gems; and the murder of a space scientist and his protege's investigation of what the scientist had been working on, the source of gamma rays that seemed to be coming from Mars, somewhere they should not have been originating. As it turns out, all three situations are part of the same story, and getting to the bottom of it all includes a boat chase in a storm, an encounter with a former Khmer Rouge leader, and the possibility of an alien threat to Earth. If it all sounds sort of silly stated this way, the story is interesting and it certainly kept me turning the pages, and I would recommend it to someone who is looking for a good adventure to read on a cold winter's night.

Blasphemy is a techno-thriller, in which a team of scientists have constructed a super-computer in a cavern on a mesa on the Navajo reservation in Arizona. But they're having trouble getting the computer up and running, and the president's science advisor has sent Wyman Ford, who was looking for radioactive gems in Impact, out to find out why it is taking so long to get the project on track. Meanwhile, one of the scientists on the team leaves the project mysteriously and then kills himself out in the desert, and some fundamentalist Christians have decided that the leader of the project is the Antichrist and must be stopped at all costs. The Navajo aren't happy with the project either, after many of the promises made to them in return for building the computer on their land have not been honored.

There is a lot more substance to Blasphemy than there is to Impact, as Blasphemy raises some tough issues about things like the nature of religion and of science, when does religious devotion cross the line into terrorism, and did god create the universe, or did humans create both god and religion? I wouldn't recommend Blasphemy to anyone who is offended by the portrayal of a certain wing of fundamentalist Christianity as fanaticism that could easily devolve into mob violence. Nonetheless, I would recommend it as an exciting story that takes some surprising turns.