A month has passed since this challenge ended, and I’m just now getting around to finishing the round up. Oops. First of all, congratulations to everyone who picked up a book, read it, and posted a review in the last 12 months. I’m willing to bet that if you finished even one book in that time frame, you’re ahead of many Americans. So pat yourself on the back – you deserve it.
Several of our members didn’t finish the challenge, but wrote thoughtful posts summarizing their reading and their experience. Anj finished 8 of her 13, but read an astonishing 96 books total. Mark finished 10 of 13, with 33 read in the last year. And I finished 4 books and 2 half books.
Amber finished 6 of 12 books, including her last read, Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, which recounts Didion’s experience in the first year after losing her husband. Amber, totally in love with HER husband, found it honest and challenging, and said that while she enjoyed it, she doesn’t recommend reading it while one’s husband is out of town. [review] Edit: Amber reports that she also finished A Scanner Darkly, which was “pretty good and a little trippy.”
Although Jill didn’t finish all 12 of her books, she did read One Day and enjoyed the device of a story told in one day increments over several years. At the same time, she found aspects of the story problematic, especially the use of maudlin tropes. She wrote that “it’s gotten to the point where if I see a character has a bicycle in a book or movie, I wince b/c I know something bad is going to happen” and goes on to observe that all too often, women have to die to make a point in romantic fiction. “Women write these types of stories, but they have happy endings and are called romance novels. Men write these types of stories and the woman always ends up dead or horribly unhappy and they’re called ‘love stories.’ It’s not a complaint, just an observation.” [review]
Meghan really didn’t like her last book, The Hypochondriacs: Nine Tormented Lives. Her Goodreads review is brief and pointed enough that I’ll quote it in its entirety: “The author tried to link these historical figures together through their shared symptoms of hypochondria, but then chose to focus and explain every symptom of psychological disorder except for hypochondria. The book was instead a showcase for depression and anxiety.”
Shane finished two books, one in the first month, and one in the last. I can attest to the fact that he spent most of the last year working on The Corrections , which, despite receiving all kinds of accolades has remained a fairly polarizing book. Shane suggests that this is because “it’s too damn real.” The characters and their relationships are unpleasant, and Franzen is unflinching in his portrayal of these awful people. At the same time, the book “does everything fiction is supposed to do. It is frequently amusing, brutally honest, deeply insightful, and ultimately discouraging. It is expertly and cleverly written. It’s captivating and emotionally moving. It’s, objectively, a Great Work. “ Just one that perhaps cuts a bit too close to home. [review]
But to end on a pleasant note – Angel succeeded in finishing the challenge! Since we last rounded up, he read six books:
- The Surrogates, a graphic novel featuring “a nice blend of a police procedural/mystery and science fiction,” portrays a world where humans can opt to live their lives through mechanical surrogates, but where a terrorist is killing off these surrogates in an attempt to force the world back to real life. [review]
- Killer Stuff and Tons of Money: Seeking History and Hidden Gems in Flea-Market America explores the world of antique dealers and flea markets and dispels the myth that anything old is valuable – while also discussing why we have the urge to collect. [review]
- The Lost World and Other Stories, which he recalled liking when he read as a teenager, though it didn’t seem as satisfying a read as an adult. The book collects the Professor Challenger stories into an enjoyable volume of adventures and “science romance.” [review]
- The series authors and artists may be changing in Conan Volume 4: The Halls of the Dead and Other Stories, but volume 4 still represents “a good place to look and get a feel for the real character” of Conan before watching the movies. [review]
- The Compleat Boucher: the Complete Short Science Fiction and Fantasy of Anthony Boucher felt like “reading science fiction as it was written when it was in the heyday of the mid-20th century.” He particularly enjoyed “The Compleat Werewolf,” the story of “a professor with a bit of a lycanthropy problem and a femme fatale more than willing to exploit that little problem.” [review]
- The Ultramarines Omnibus is well-written “all out escapist military science fiction.” It made up Angel’s bedtime reading for several months, and seems like it was both engaging and worth savoring. [review]
Thanks, friends, for an interesting year of reading!