Continued chewing – books April – June

Continuing last year’s reading:

April 4th – SPQR, Mary Beard: A very strong contender for non-fiction book of the year, this is a beautifully written history of Rome that is soaked in detail and characterisation.

April 21st – City Stained Red, Sam Sykes: This is a great fantasy story revolving around a team of adventurers who mostly can’t stand each other, with hilarious/blood-stained consequences

April 25th – The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, Becky Chambers: I absolutely fell in love with the characters, the setting and the story. Maybe the best fiction of the year.

May 15th – The Blue Blazes, Chuck Wendig: A solid noir urban fantasy.

Also May 15th – Born to Run, Christopher McDougall: In any other year this would have run away as the best non-fiction book, and if my spine still let me run I’d call it life-changing.

June 2nd – Hyperion, Dan Simmons: I started this thinking it looked like a possibly-overlong, needlessly complicated book. Oh, cover blurb, you lied to me so! Hyperion is delightful, a genuinely surprising pilgrim’s tale that twists a hundred strands intimate and stellar into a delicious whole, and wraps it up with a strong contender for the best final page in all of fiction.

June 17th – Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain: Yes, I read this after his death, but god, what a story! The absolute passion here is breathtaking, and even with a question mark over whether it’s true or not it’s a great read.

June 21st – Savage Season, Joe Lansdale: Short and sweet, a punchy thriller that starts a little awkwardly but finds it’s feet for a strong finish.

Reading: January – March

I went on a reading frenzy last year, chasing up recommendations from Warren Ellis and various authors I follow on twitter – most of whom I hadn’t read before, and that’s the big joyous thing about booktwitter – and generally burning a serious groove in my library card. This is also the first year I’ve tried keeping a diary, so I have some recommendations I’m going to throw at you in four handy instalments. Part one in a slow series:

Jan 3rd: An Instance of the Fingerpost, Iain Pears. An English Rashomon, says my diary, and it should know, right? Murky goings-on where no-one is what they seem in 1663 England. I don’t usually go for historical fiction, but this was definitely worth making an exception for.

Jan 28th: Angelmaker, Nick Harkaway. I read his debut, The Gone-away World, last year, and oh can he tell a story. Inventive and fun, with solid, heartfelt characters, it’s an unembarrassed escapade of the very best kind.

Jan 31st: You, Grossman. An RPG as a game novel. I don’t know if it’s one for the ages, but a good read that does a lot with the party-of-four mechanic.

Feb 5th: Artemis, Mark Watney. Not as well-received as The Martian, because how the hell would anyone top that, but there’s enough in here that works for it to be a solid read.

Feb 19th: Zoo City, Lauren Beukes. Great dystopian sci-fi.

Feb 21st: Traffic, Vanderbilt. One of my particular pleasures is non-fiction that shows you a new way of looking at something mundane – this here takes us through a carefully-researched look at traffic, where it comes from and different ways to manage it, which sounds entirely wrong as subject matter until Vanderbilt describes the entirely counter-intuitive ways you can speed people up and slow them down.

March 3rd: Stormy Weather, Carl Hiaasen. Hiaasen is what I might have called a guilty pleasure back when I gave a damn – effortless to read, but with a surprising amount going on under the hood. I have a suspicion that Hiaasen and Elmore Leonard are the same person, depending on what mood he wakes up in…

March 10th: Bad Monkey, Carl Hiaasen. I also suspect that Hiaasen has roughly the same plot in each book. I have a stronger suspicion that when it’s this good I don’t care.

March 16th: Tigerman, Nick Harkaway. Back to Harkaway, this time with a superhero and the last dribbled-out days of empire in the mix.

March 21st: Annihilation, Jeff Vandermeer. I read this just before I watched the year’s most beautiful film, I would say the two complement each other very nicely.

March 24th: Razor Girl, Carl Hiaasen. More Hiaasen – I read it in two days and loved every page.