December 2022 books read

  • Darkness at Pemberley – T. H. White, 1932. I love White (Once and Future King is one of my all-time favorites) but I had never read this, and I kept getting it confused with Death Comes to Pemberley (P.D. James, have also never read), not realizing it was a different book and not about Elizabeth Bennet solving mysteries. (My reaction to that is ugh, but I was thinking I should give James a chance due to her reputation, until I saw this well-written takedown – culminating in “this is EXACTLY the kind of Austen pastiche enjoyed by people who don’t actually read Austen, and who believe that all period fiction just needs some velvet and horses and servants to thrill us to our middlebrow Masterpiece Theatre marrows.” Burn. I was almost going to check it out but it really sounds terrible! But back to the book at hand…) Darkness is very weird, a how-done-it that’s almost more horror than mystery, but it held my interest and had some witty bits.
  • The Good Soldier – Ford Madox Ford, 1915. Quotes marked, TBD
  • The Death and Life of the Great Lakes – Dan Egan, 2017. Quotes marked, TBD.
  • The Mote in God’s Eye – Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, 1974. Many times re-read, this time because I was thinking about the ways humans are failing at dealing with climate change, and it reminded me of the fatal flaw of the Moties (it’s the crux of the plot so I won’t spoil it).
  • The Day the Guinea Pig Talked – Paul Gallico, 1963. I went through a Gallico phase as a kid because my grandmother loved him; she had at least The Snow Goose and one of the Mrs. ‘Arris books, maybe more. I also have a vivid memory of picking up Manxmouse at the library – I should revisit that one. This book I don’t think I had ever heard of, and I had pet guinea pigs! Alas, I didn’t care for it at all. Apparently it was his first book for children and to me it shows (but on Goodreads at least it has many fans!)
  • The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter – Carson McCullers, 1940. Quotes marked, TBD.
  • The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag – Robert Heinlein, 1942. Re-read because Job (last month) reminded me of it, and it’s one of my favorite Heinleins – especially because it’s from when he wrote short (it’s a novella) or had good editing. The idea of mirrors as portals was a good segue to:
  • The Annotated Alice: 150th Anniversary Deluxe Edition: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking-Glass (1871) by Lewis Carroll, edited by Martin Gardner, expanded and updated by Mark Burstein, 2015. Quotes marked, TBD.
  • Sodom et Gomorrhe – Marcel Proust, 1922. Quotes marked, TBD.
  • The Annotated Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens (1843), edited by Michael Patrick Hearn, 2004. Quotes marked, TBD.
  • Silver on the Tree – Susan Cooper, 1977. Read for Annabookbel’s #TDiRS22.
  • The End of Your Life Book Club – Will Schwalbe, 2012. Oops, I already read this but had absolutely no memory of it! The books the mother and son read are just touched on; it’s really more of a memoir, nice but nothing new, so I think that’s why it evaporated out of my mind the first time, and will again.
  • Your Best Year Ever: A 5-Step Plan for Achieving Your Most Important Goals – Michael Hyatt, 2018. OK self-help, but I’m cooling on the genre as a whole. I’m doing pretty well with my goals so this didn’t light any fires in me. The only tidbit that stuck out to me was one of the reasons Hyatt gives for writing down your goals: it filters new opportunities (i.e., can hold you back from chasing the new shiny object if it’s not part of your existing list).
  • Superman, Last Son of Krypton (1978) and Miracle Monday (1981) – Eliot S! Maggin. I was one of many fans of Superman: The Movie who bought Last Son of Krypton because they thought it was either the source or the novelization of the movie. The cover was a still from the movie, and moreover, there was a sections of photographs from the movie inset. It does have the Superman origin story, but otherwise the plot is very different. But I’m glad for the mistake, because I loved these books as a teenager and they still hold up. In Maggin’s universe, Clark Kent is Superman’s one real love: he wishes he were human, so he’s enchanted with Clark’s life, wants to protect him, daydreams about him… it’s fascinating and plausible. Maggin also gives you sympathy for Lex Luthor, provides Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen with inner lives, and overall renders the superhero story into a real novel. They are not perfect books by any means, but they are surprisingly delightful.

And a quote I enjoyed from from “Talking Movies” by Adam Gopnik, New Yorker 12/5/2022:

We’re used to seeing the steady, pained smile and middle-distance gaze of a moviemaker being told by a movie lover how movies are made: we praise the dazzling dialogue of the screenwriter (whose draft was never used, but who won the credit through arbitration, while all the good lines were written the night before by the director’s pet script doctor) and the mastery of the film editor (though the scene of the helicopter swooping down the canyon of buildings was storyboarded by the second-unit art director, while the editor’s real work was managing to excise the cough of the leading man without damaging continuity) and how sensitive the director was with the women leads (whom he could barely stand to be in the same room with).

Notable this month, three books abandoned! I think these were all in a row and the “I’m just not enjoying this” was cumulative. I often put down books and don’t come back to them, but these were all active decisions to stop reading forever.

  • Strangers on a Train (Patricia Highsmith, 1950) – too creepy. I got almost half-way through, but the kind of tension she excels at is just not my thing. The Talented Mr. Ripley was plenty.
  • Billy Summers (Stephen King, 2021) I got on a bit of a King kick and hadn’t tried this new one, but a) it was dull and b) the assassin protagonist’s cover is that he’s writing a book, and I’m tired of that as a King subplot. I could see it heading in the “Rat” direction.
  • So I went on to try The Wind Through the Keyhole (Stephen King, 2012), which is part of the Dark Tower series but short. I finally read the first two in 2016 but wasn’t very motivated to continue. This I abandoned about a quarter of the way through when I hit this bit of dialogue: “There’s the dit-dah wire, and even a jing-jang.” He has such a tin ear for fantasy names. A ding-dong too far!

Year in review

Goodreads shows 130 books read and a total of 44,050 pages – it’s been going up year over year (I’ve added more book groups and read-alongs so that helps explain it). Shortest was the graphic novel of A l’ombre, 47 pages, and longest was (ugh) The Ink Black Heart at a whopping 1408. More than 6 million people also read Pride and Prejudice, but only 47 read The Day the Guinea Pig Talked.

Blogwise I’ve kept up with the monthly lists and have finally started publishing some of the drafts of the quote dumps, which I’ve now identified as such. I have a goal of five published blog posts per month this year, but we’ll see how that goes!