You know those square flappy things made out of trees. Well I've been reading a lot of them over the last 12+ months. Mostly sci-fi, but also some 20th century classics, and the odd autobiography / non-fiction work.
I used to only read while travelling or visiting my parents' house but for some time now I've got into the routine of reading before bed, during work breaks, and also reading outside if it's sunny, which is great.
Some people will pick up books at random and see how it goes, but I always try to aim for books which I know I'm going to enjoy, either because I'm familiar with the author, or because the book itself is just one of those which you keep on seeing mentioned here and there. Also, there are few books I acquired because the book earned some prestigious awards, or in some cases simply because the combination of the title and cover art convinced me that it would be a good read. When possible, I try to avoid even reading the blurb on the back. The less I know about the contents, the better.
Out of the lot, there have only been a couple of books which I had high hopes for but which ultimately disappointed me terribly, the first one being Neal Stephenson's "Snow Crash", which I picked up because I wanted to check Neal Stephenson out and because there is an ESR user who adopted "Snow Crash" for his/her nick.
I forced myself to finish it, and then just put in on the table and frowned at it for a minute. Then I noticed the front cover's promotional critic quote... "Fast-forward free-style mall mythology for the twenty-first century". Yeah, that's an accurate description all right :/ Still, I have Anathem and Cryptonomicon on my shelf, and having checked the first few pages of both it seems that Neal Stephenson is actually really good, and I'm definitely looking forward to reading both of them.
The other disappointment was Hemingway's "The Old Man and the Sea" which I found to be rather indigestible... but still worth reading once, and thankfully not very long.
As for the rest, they were all either great reads, or fantastic reads. Out of these great books, there have been a handful which, shortly after reading them, gave me the urge to start this year's ESR book thread, and with all the nonsense going on I finally thought it would make a bit of a refreshing change. Innit.
I can wholeheartedly recommend the following:
"Ilium" / "Olympos"
by Dan Simmons
- Only a god-tier sci-fi writer like Simmons, who is perhaps better known for his Hyperion trilogy, could pull something like this off. All 1461 pages of it.
"Matter", "Use of Weapons", "Surface Detail" and "Inversions"
by Iain M. Banks
- Banks is possibly my favourite sci-fi author, his universes feel so enormous and original, and his story-telling is so detailed. I've devoured all his sci-fi novels in a semi-random order, casually leaving "Inversions" for last. Not only did I leave it for last (you must), but I also dedicated an entire weekend to immersing myself in it completely and reading it from front to back in 2 days... what a fucking experience that was.
I love all his books, but "Use of Weapons", "Surface Detail" and especially "Matter" are worth mentioning in this journal as they impacted me marginally more than his other works, and I'd recommend checking out "Matter" as a starting point if you're new to Banks (or you can start with "Consider Phlebas" and read them chronologically, which is probably better in the long run amirite).
by Larry Niven
- Really good sci-fi, wish it was 5 times longer.
"The Gods Themselves"
by Isaac Asimov
- I've never read anything quite like this.
by Philip K. Dick
- Powerful drama in a sci-fi world.
by Ann Leckie
- Fresh sci-fi. Some critic said she's the new Banks. Well, I wouldn't say that just yet, but this is a damn fine story for a debut novel and the sequel "Ancillary Sword" is the next book I intend to read.
"Lord of the Flies"
by William Golding
- One of the classics, brutal, must be absorbed.
by Joseph Heller
- Yes, that famous one all the pseudo-intellectuals ramble on about... well I can assure you it lives up to, and surpasses, all the hype. Hands down one of the most entertaining books I ever read.
by H.P. Lovecraft
- I'd known about Lovecraft since I can first remember, as he is a household name which everyone is familiar with, and who's influence has reached every corner of modern fiction (music, games, films, books, you name it), but only recently did I actually start reading his works after deciding to buy a very nice three-volume collection of his shorty stories published by Wordsworth.
Holy shit... the guy's sheer dominance of the English language, how he conveys his characters' feelings and surroundings... it's fucking amazing. I always had an aversion to short stories in general, considering that they just didn't feel conclusive or immersive enough... but I've come to realize short stories are perfect for taking a lunch-break from work. Especially Lovecraft.
I guess I'll stop now.
tl;dr - u guise read anything decent this year?