Books Roundup 2011: 1-63

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Books Roundup 2011: 1-63

Post  Patguy on Thu Jan 19, 2012 1:02 am

1. The Man Who Fell to Earth: Walter Tevis
2. How’s Your Drink?—Cocktails, Culture, and the Art of Drinking Well: Eric Felten
3. Soldiers and Ghosts—A History of Battle in Classical Antiquity: J. E. Lendon
4. SPQR XIII—The Year of Confusion: John Maddox Roberts
5. Drood: Dan Simmons
6. The Voice, The Word, The Books—The Sacred Scriptures of the Jews, Christians, and Muslims: F. E. Peters
7. Follies of the Wise—Dissenting Essays: Frederick Crews
8. Far From the Madding Crowd: Thomas Hardy
9. The Black Jacobins—Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution: C. L. R. James
10. The Sound of the Kiss—Or, The Story That Must Never Be Told: Pingali Suranna, translated by Velcheru Narayana Rao and David Schulman
11. Knight’s Gambit: William Faulkner
12. Starship Troopers: Robert Heinlein
13. The Dark Labyrinth: Lawrence Durrell
14-15. Two by Neal Stephenson
Snow Crash
Cryptonomicon
16. The Godfather of Kathmandu: John Burdett
17. The Greatest Show on Earth—The Evidence for Evolution: Richard Dawkins
18. White Chappell, Scarlet Tracings: Iain Sinclair
19-20. Two by George R. R. Martin
A Feast for Crows
A Dance with Dragons
21-26. Six by Michael Moorcock
The Wrecks of Time
The Winds of Limbo
The Shores of Death
The Knight of the Swords
The Queen of the Swords
The King of the Swords
(I read the first three books in an omnibus edition called The Roads Between the Worlds and the second in the omnibus Corum: The Coming of Chaos.)
27-33. Many Greeks
The War that Killed Achilles: The True Story of Homer’s Iliad and the Trojan War: Caroline Alexander
The Clouds: Aristophanes
Collected Poems: C. P. Cavafy
The Greeks: Antony Andrewes
A Concise History of Greece: Richard Clogg
An Anthology of Travelers to Greece from Plutarch to the Present: various authors, compiled by Bill McDonald and Ed Wingenbach
The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony: Roberto Calasso
(I read The Clouds in the somewhat eccentric William Arrowsmith translation, and the Cavafy in the unassuming and standard Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard translation.)
34-35. Two by Kim Newman
Bad Dreams
Jago
36. Savages: Don Winslow
37-40. The second half of In Search of Lost Time: Marcel Proust
Sodom and Gomorrah
The Captive
The Fugitive
Time Regained
41-42. Two by George Macdonald Fraser
Flashman on the March
Flashman and the Tiger
43. A Confederacy of Dunces: John Kennedy Toole
44. Paintings in Proust: Eric Karpeles
45-46. Two By Thomas Mann
Doctor Faustus
The Story of a Novel—The Genesis of Doctor Faustus
47. Midnight Rising—John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil War: Tony Horwitz
48. Three Kingdoms: Luo Guanzhong
49-50. Two Cthulhu Mythos novels published by Fantasy Flight Games
Ghouls of the Miskatonic: Graham McNeill
Dance of the Damned: Alan Bligh
51. Three Stations: Martin Cruz Smith
52-54. Three introductory books about classical music
The kind of ridiculously-subtitled Who’s Afraid of Classical Music?—A highly arbitrary, thoroughly opinionated guide to listening to and enjoying Symphony, Opera & Chamber Music!: Michael Walsh
Opera 101—A Complete Guide to Learning and Loving Opera: Fred Plotkin
The Vintage Guide to Classical Music: Jan Swafford
55. Defenders of the Faith—Christianity and Islam Battle for the Soul of Europe, 1520-1536: James Reston, Jr.
56. Mogworld: Yahtzee Croshaw
57. American Oracle—The Civil War in the Civil Rights Era: David W. Blight
58-63. Six Martin Beck mysteries: Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö
Roseanna
The Man Who Went Up in Smoke
The Man on the Balcony
The Laughing Policeman
The Fire Engine that Disappeared
Murder at the Savoy

Well, I’ve certainly fallen behind on my book reviewing for 2011!

I kept a list of books read, but somehow never managed to find the time to jot down my thoughts on each. So, just for the sake of having something to say, let’s post this list and be done with it.

2011 was a year of big books, notably the second half of Proust, and the great Classical Chinese novel Three Kingdoms. Proust is just as great as everyone says, but I won’t lie, it’s a long slow read. I was fascinated, frustrated, bored and in love with it, usually simultaneously. Three Kingdoms is a completely different sort of thing, but the same reactions apply, more or less.

A few re-reads: Mann’s great dark novel Doctor Faustus, maybe my favorite of his books; and George R. R. Martin’s A Feast for Crows, to refresh my memory for the new volume A Dance with Dragons. As for the latter, I sympathize with people who find it slow and meandering, but I don’t agree, and not just because my metrics for slow and meandering have been permanently shifted after reading Proust. No, I enjoy Martin’s world-building and characters for what they are, and once I stopped wishing nostalgically for the propulsive momentum of A Storm of Swords, I was able to relax into Dragons and just enjoy. Having said that, I do hope he picks up the pace a bit for book six.

More books: The last of the Flashman series, which I will greatly miss. About half of Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö’s detective series, an excellent set of procedurals to which I look forward to returning. The latest Martin Cruz Smith, a sheer joy to read after two Cthulhu Mythos novels from Fantasy Flight Games, with their dead-on-arrival prose. A number of Classical Music 101 books, now that I’ve found myself with a renewed midlife interest in the subject.

Many books related to Greece and the Greeks, to coincide with a trip Carrie and I took to that country in June. I finally got around to John Kennedy Toole’s great comic novel A Confederacy of Dunces. Tony Horwitz’s book on John Brown, well-written but nothing I didn’t already know. A book of essays by Fredrick Crews that systematically destroyed the last of my lingering admiration for Freud. Minor works by Faulkner, Durrell, Heinlein and Richard Dawkins; also a masterpiece by Thomas Hardy.

In the end, 2011 seemed to be about tying up loose ends: finishing Proust and the last few books in certain series; finally filling holes in my literary education (Dunces, Far From the Madding Crowd); addressing necessary Greek reading. I trust that 2012 will be less eclectic.

Patguy
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