My 52 book challenge

As a personal challenge, I set myself a New Year’s resolution to read 52 books this year.  Time to check in with my January haul!

1 The Battle of Hastings by Harriet Harvey Wood.

A great piece of historical research. Generally historians like to side with either the Celts (as anachronistic, nature-loving hippies) or the Normans (because people like to side with the victors). Wood’s work is one which has a great deal of sympathy for the Anglo-Saxons, and which forcefully makes the case that they had greater personal freedoms, and more individual wealth, before the Conquest than for centuries after.

2 – 7 Crocodile on the sandbank, The curse of the pharaoh, The mummy case, Lion in the valley, Deeds of the Disturber, and The last camel died at noon by Elizabeth Peters.

There’s a lot to like in these detective novels, with their opinionated bluestocking narrator and her gruff husband pottering about in Egypt during the early phase of modern archaeology. Their precocious son is tiresome. Strangely, the lead character also seems to find him a chore and a bore. When you need a tiny genius to drop hints to get your plot to the conclusion, then there is something wrong with your plot (unless you are Eoin Colfer, in which case, welcome to the blog and carry on.)

8 – 9 Sahara and Around the world in 80 days by Michael Palin

Brilliant travel writing, which stands up even if you have not seen the related TV series.

10 The cradle and the crescent by Niall Christie, Erik Dahl, Lachie Hayes and Mark Shirley

One of the best books in the Ars Magica game line.  The section on playing Islamic characters is a jewel of concise writing. Of most use to experienced players comfortable with the mechanics from several of the previous books in the series.

11 Trans-Saharan Africa in world history by Richard A Austen

A good book with a serious-sounding title. Rather more folklore than you’d imagine.

12 -13  Moroccan folktales by Jilali El Koudia and The last stoytellers by Richard Hamilton

These are collections of folktales from North Africa. Each is good, although the earlier one contains many Arabic versions of well-known European tales, while the second has a lot of material that felt novel, to me at least.

So, my tally thus far is 13, although I’ve already finished Starship troopers for February.

I also read The gold trade of the Moors, by E. A. Bovil, but didn’t finish it: I was hunting for a particular bit of folklore and stopped when I’d found it.

There’s a bit of a Saharan theme to my reading this month.  On the off-chance one of my Ars Magica readers drops by: no, I’m not writing a book on the trans-Saharan gold trade.  It’s really interesting stuff and I may use it for an online game I keep threatening to run in Google Hangouts, but no, there’s no sub-Saharan book in the works.