Reading Oscars 2020


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Reading Oscars 2020

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 27, 2020, 5:25 am

For my 2020 reading I managed only 22 books.

non - fiction

The weirdest People in the World by Joseph Henrich.
Interesting book with topics on race differences, education, social strata. Interesting stuff but balancing on the edge of what the right - thinking citizen of modern society will accept. Interesting but like always with these subjects: Controversial.

Wagnerism: How a Composer Shaped the Modern World by Alex Ross.
The impact of Wagner on every cultural aspect of the late 19th and early 20th century is impressive and not widely known. That is until one reads Ross. Another brilliant book by this music critic.

Trieste by Jan Morris
It is about has a dreamy feeling and it is about nowhere.

Signatures: Literary encounters of a lifetime by David Pryce-Jones. A collection of very entertaining reminiscences of the bibliophile who met them all: Bowles, Auden, Huxley

A short walk in the Hindu Kush by Eric Newby.
Funniest book of the year, hugely entertaining! It deserves a reread and a review.

The decline of the novel by Joseph Bottum.
Can’t remember what it was about…

How to read water: Clues and Patterns from Puddles to the Sea by Tristan Gooley.
The book describes exactly what is said in the title. Occasionally very interesting stuff for sailors and walkers.

A.N. Wilson: Dante in Love. Fascinating book about the world in which Dante wrote his comedy. Good enough to start an immediate rereading.

The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen.
Travel lit. from the seventies. Not bad, but not wildly exciting either. Again, Chatwin was right. Tortuga is Matthiessen’s better book.

WINNER: ERIC NEWBY with his Afghan travelogue


La gloire de mon père by Marcel Pagnol.
A fine read that triggered remembrances of things past: my adolescent years in a French collège.

Hav and lettres fom Hav by Jan Morris.
A travel guide for an unexistent city. Not bad but Jan Morris presence in the book is a bit too much.

La neige était sale by George Simenon.
Very believable naturalistic written "fait-divers” against a second war back-ground. Impressive tight writing and a scisseled dark atmosphere.

Silk by Alessandro Baricco.
A dreamy story of travels to the far East and a mysterious women.

Gabriele, girofle et canelle by Jorge Amado.
A Love story playing out in the city of Bahia. Ah the voluptuous “Brésiliennes".

WINNER? No real favorite. No price discerned this year.


Topaz by Marcel Pagnol.
From Rags to Riches by scheming and dealing. Life as it is. At may be a comedy, but it describes the things like they bloody well are.

Knock ou le triomphe de la médecine by Jules Romains.
Funny modern take on the money - making business of being a doctor.

Both books are good reads!

WINNER? A tie between Pagnol and Romains


Cathay: A critical edition by Ezra Pound. Interesting book if and only if you are interested in Pound’s writing method and techniques. So, only for the interested academician and the amateur delecting in the eclectic.


Marcel Proust, a biography by George Painter.
Very good bio of Proust. Enjoyed every page of it. Why did I stop reading?

Le Port des brumes by George Simenon.
Again, the genius of Simenon in sketching in a few words tons of atmosphere and drama. Again, why did I stop reading?

Stalingrad by Vassily Grossman. Fighting in Stalingrad.
Can you imagine that this book bored me to death? Stopped reading when the first bombs start falling.

The enchanted hour: The Miraculous Power of reading aloud in the age of distraction by Meghan Cox Gurdon.
I ordered a wrong book.

WINNER: Best unfinished book: Marcel Proust by George Painter

OVERALL WINNER: A short walk in the Hindu Kush by Eric Newby.

joulukuu 28, 2020, 8:55 am

I have never encounted that particular Newby, and I had a period of reading him, loved his work...Is it newly found, posthumous, you have the only copy, I have a bad memory...?

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 28, 2020, 9:34 am

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 29, 2020, 4:23 pm

Here's the last year's list:

1. The Writer’s Desk by Jill Krementz (NF)
2. Where You Once Belonged by Kent Haruf
3. The Palace Thief by Ethan Canin
4. Indemnity Only by Sara Paretsky
5. Black Tide by Peter Temple
6. Oranges and Sunshine by Margaret Humphries (NF)
7. Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O’Nan
8. Climbing the Mango Trees by Madhur Jaffrey (NF)
9. The Reading Life by C. S. Lewis (NF)
10. The Secret Place by Tana French
11. The Stories of Breece D’J Pancake by Breece D’J Pancake
12. Firstlight by Sue Monk Kidd (NF)
13. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
14. Serial Murder: Pathways for Investigations by National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NF)
15. Serial Murder: Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives for Investigators by National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NF)
16. Lilith by J. R. Salamanca
17. Montana 1948 by Larry Watson
18. Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann (NF)
19. Navaho Folk Tales by Franc Johnson Newcomb (NF)
20. Faith: A Journey for All by Jimmy Carter (NF)
21. Lilla’s Feast by Frances Osborne (NF)
22. The Gunslinger by Stephen King
23. The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King
24. The Waste Lands by Stephen King
25. Wizard and Glass by Stephen King
26. The Wolves of the Calla by Stephen King
27. Song of Susannah by Stephen King
28. The Dark Tower by Stephen King
29. The Coffee Bean by Jon Gordon and Damon West (NF)
30. Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing by Margaret Atwood (NF)
31. The Whispering Room by Dean Koontz
32. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
33. Black Evening by David Morrell
34. Dead Point by Peter Temple
35. White Dog by Peter Temple
36. The Trespasser by Tana French
37. Spy of the First Person by Sam Shepard
38. No Woods So Dark as These by Randall Silvis
39. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
40. The Crooked Staircase by Dean Koontz
41. Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke
42. If It Bleeds by Stephen King
43. The Drowned World by J.G. Ballard
44. Merton and Waugh: A Monk, a Crusty Old Man, and The Seven Storey Mountain by Mary Frances Cody (NF)
45. The High Ground by Melinda Snodgrass
46. A Higher Loyalty by James Comey (NF)
47. Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King
48. The Institute by Stephen King
49. Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler
50. Testament by David Morrell
51. The Moonflower Vine by Jetta Carleton
52. Hardship, Greed, and Sorrow: An Officer’s Photo Album of 1866 New Mexico Territory by Devorah Romanek (NF)
53. Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott (NF)

Additionally, I started but abandoned the following:

Dancing After Hours by Andre Dubus (50 pgs)
Five Skies by Ron Carlson (50 pgs)
The Gallup 14 by Gary L. Stuart (

joulukuu 29, 2020, 4:22 pm

A private group I'm in does New Year recommendations as a challenge to read something new and too see how well we know each others' reading preferences. Of the three recommendations I received, one turned out to be a revelation - Lilith by J.R. Salamanca - I'd highly recommend this one to all of you who sniff around my thread. Don't pay any attention to the salacious blurbs about the book - it is far less shocking than they make it out to be and it's an incredibly well written book, and far too little known.

You'll notice a lot of King and other favorites, which were necessary to make it through the dumpster fire of a year we had. So, I caught up on all the titles I was lagging on through the year and read through my favorite series of all time The Dark Tower.

I tried to keep up the previous year's pace on NF titles and managed quite a few - about 1/3 of all my reading this year - easily, my favorite was A Higher Loyalty which was a breath of fresh air in a time when a strong moral and ethical center is so quickly cast off in people's living. But a close second would be Hardship, Greed, and Sorrow: An Officer’s Photo Album of 1866 New Mexico Territory by Devorah Romanek (NF), which is so rich in forgotten New Mexico History - the 60-some pages are dense with information and culture.

Writing was hard this year - I finished up a Old West ghost story, which has yet to be picked up for publication, though it's out to several journals. And I had another short story picked up for publication in The McNeese Review:

joulukuu 30, 2020, 4:14 pm

>4 blackdogbooks: Thats a lot of Stephen King, then I realised that you had read the Dark Tower series.

joulukuu 30, 2020, 6:27 pm

I have read 98 books this year and today I thought maybe I could make that a round 100 especially as I was over halfway through my current novel and had nearly finished a poetry collection. Then I thought whats so special about 100, why spend the whole of the last day of 2020 trying to finish two books to meet some stupid self imposed deadline. Relax - don't do it, so I didn't and my total of books read this year will be 98 or perhaps 99 if I finish that poetry collection.

First category is Shakespeare's plays - I read 8 and watched the BBC productions of seven of them.

King Henry VI part 2
King Henry VI part 3
A Comedy of Errors
King Edward III
King Henry VI part 1
The Two Gentlemen Of Verona
King Richard III
Titus Andronicus.

I enjoyed them all, but there were joint Oscars for King Henry VI part 3 and Richard III. The BBC play I enjoyed the most was Comedy of Errors starring Roger Daltry of the WHO (rock group). My wife keeps talking about the WHO (W.H.O.) this year and I always have to do a double take. The worst of the plays was King Edward III, but then that probably wasn't written by Shakespeare.

I read other plays but only Christopher Marlowe's Edward II came close to the Shakespeare (the ones that were written by him). Honourable mentions for Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay by Robert Greene, The old Wives Tale by George Peele and Love's Metamorphosis by John Lyly.

Another category in the Elizabethan section was Poetry and this meant by and large Elizabethan Love sonnets. Following on from reading the very good collection by Sir Philip Sidney the previous year nothing came close this year. The best was Samuel Daniel's Delia.

Science Fiction and three categories here:

Science fiction published in 1951
Limiting myself to one year in a genre not noted for it's great literature was never going to unearth any classics, but I was surprised to find a few good reads

John Wyndham - The Day of the Triffids
Philip Wylie - The Disappearance

H P Lovecraft - The haunter of the Dark and other Tales of Terror

The H P Lovecraft and the John Wyndham were both five star reads, but as the Lovecraft short stories were written prior to 1951, then The Day of the Triffids gets the Oscar.
By far the worst of the ten books I read was Isaac Asimov's The stars like dust and if you think that science fiction is full of books with cardboard-like characters, clunky dialogue and plotting that suspends belief then this is a good example.

Science Fiction Master Works series
Master works so the they should all be five star read, but this was not the case, just two were very good:
Richard Mathieson - The Shrinking Man
Robert A Heinlein - The Door into Summer.
Robert A Heinlein who manages to keep much of his sexism under wraps wins the Oscar

Proto Science Fiction or books now considered science fiction
I expected some real clunkers here and I was not disappointed. The only book worth a look was After London or Wild England by Richard Jeffries.

Books published in 1951
This proved to be an excellent year for literature and five stars for:
Julio Cortazar - Bestiary
Jean Giono - Le Hussard sur le toit
M Klein - The second scroll
Simone de Beauvoir - The Mandarins
And the following books all came close:
Morley Callaghan - The loved and the Lost
Howard Fast - Spartacus
Rachel Carson - The Sea around us
Shirley Jackson - Hangsaman

The Oscar goes to Simone de Beauvoir because she is French and female

The penultimate category was unread books on my shelf and for the most part I realised why they had remained unread, because only two were five stars and they were both non fiction

Ian Watt - The rise and fall of the novel
James Lincoln Collier - The Making of Jazz
Honourable mentions for:
Iain Banks - The Bridge
A S Byatt - Angels and insects
Caroline Moorhead - Village of Secrets
Shirley Jackson - The haunting of Hill house

The winner is James Lincoln Collier because I love jazz.

The final sectio is Hors-categorie
Only one book here - a five star read and book of the year:
The Manifold Destiny of Eddie Vegas - Rick Harsch

Addendum - going through my list of books to find my favourite reads unearthed two more novels and so Yes I Have Read 100 books this year (can I go to bed now)

tammikuu 2, 2021, 2:06 pm

you can ! Impressive reading Bas. You set a high bar.