Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Few Notes on Books at Year's End

On this last day of 2013 (and good riddance to you, may I say), I thought I'd ruminate a bit about one of my favorite topics: books.

I've read (and re-read) quite a few books this year. Here are some of my favorite reads from the last 12 months ...

A Song of Ice and Fire (series) by George R. R. Martin. This is the fantasy series on which the HBO series Game of Thrones is based. So far, I've read the first two books of the series (Game of Thrones and Clash of Kings) and am about a third of the way through the third book (Storm of Swords). These are really good stories - intricately plotted, full of realistic (often gut-churning) detail, and totally engrossing. Strongly recommended if you like that sort of thing. Oh, and I'm totally in lust with Emilia Clarke, who plays Danerys Targeryan in the TV adaptation. Just sayin'.

One Summer: America, 1927, by Bill Bryson. A great social history of one summer in the history of America. Where Fredrick Lewis Allen's classic Only Yesterday looked at the entire decade of the 1920s, Mr Bryson's book focuses on a single summer and the amazing characters that populated it: Babe Ruth, Charles Lindbergh, Al Capone, and Calvin Coolidge, and the anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti, among others. It's entertaining and engrossing history for people who don't usually like to read history. Very strongly recommended.

I'm a Stranger Here Myself, by Bill Bryson. My old high school friend Mary Lou sent me a copy of this book earlier this summer, suggesting that I'd enjoy it ... which I did. Mr Bryson lived in England for many years before returning to live in the US. This book is a collection of thought-provoking and often hysterically funny essays documenting his observations on life in these United States. Easy reading and very entertaining.

Marina, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Unfortunately, this novel by Zafon is available only in German, but it's a fantastic story you should read when it finally gets published in English translation. It's part ghost story, part adventure, and part love story, set in the city of Barcelona. A wonderful read.

Night Film, by Marisha Pessl. A weird, intricate, haunting story of a journalist obsessed by a reclusive filmmaker. Comes complete with a website that extends the story. One of the year's best.

Dark City, by F. Paul Wilson. The second volume documenting the early years of the character who became "Repairman Jack." If you can imagine the A-Team and MacGyver meeting in a horror story, you'll enjoy this.

Bolivar: American Liberator, by Marie Arana. A wonderful, readable biography of the hero of Latin American independence. If you want to know about the man behind the rhetoric of people like Hugo Chavez, you won't find a better biography. Oh, and he loved to dance! Very strongly recommended.

There were a lot of other books I read this year, but these were the standouts. What did you read this year that I ought to look into? Leave a comment.

Have a good day. If you go out partying tonight, please do it safely ... I need you back tomorrow to learn who won the Ass Clown of the Year voting*. More thoughts then.


Voting update ... the current standings, following a sudden burst of voting yesterday, are as follows:

First Place: The Democratic Party, with 41 votes;

Second Place: The GOP, with 40 votes;

Third Place: Edward Snowdon, with 30 votes;

Fourth Place: The Tea Party, with 22 votes.

There are also varying, but lesser numbers of votes for Casey James Fury, Phil Robertson, Congress (as a whole), Eric Cantor, John Boehner, both Kims (Kardashian and Jong Un), and many others.

There's still time to vote ... the ballot box closes at 11:59 tonight!


Anonymous said...

Fyi, Marina was published in english in the UK months ago by weidenfeld and nicolson. Enjoy! Great blog, by the way. Congrats!

eViL pOp TaRt said...

Those sound like great reads. I'm into the Virgil books by John Sandford, and the Hunger Games.

Duckbutt said...

Heavy reading, but Thomas Pinker's book "The Gentle Angels of Our Nature" is rewarding. Michael Connelly's books are welcome by both of us.

I'll try those you recommended.

Kristen Drittsekkdatter said...

I'm in accord. Bill Bryson is a great author!

Mike said...

Tea party - 20 votes.

There will be a book about these lunatics someday.

KathyA said...

Heading to the library to get I'M A STRANGER HERE MYSELF...You've piqued my interest.

This year had some trials for us as well. It was better than some, though!