December 30

Rounding out 2015

In the final two months of 2015, my reading slowed down a lot, but I still managed to get through several remarkable books.

(101) The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde.

Book club questions published earlier.

(102) Wild Wales: its people language and scenery by George Borrow

This is a Librivox recording of a travelogue made by an English admirer of the Welsh culture and language in 1854. I enjoyed the work most when it discussed places where I’d been, or knew some other, associated story. The work is admired by some as a snapshot of Welsh society at the time, but I found the author a bit too overbearing in his conversations with the Welsh.

(103-104) The Thing on the Doorstep, The Call of Cthulhu and The Horror of Red Hook by HP Lovecraft.

Interesting, bur not particularly remarkable.  I mean, it’s Lovecraft doing Lovecraft.  Moody, decaying seaside towns filled with existential horrors.

(105) A Wrinkle in Time (Graphic Novel) by Madeleine L’Engle

I’m usually a proselytizer for the graphic novel format, but in this case, I thought the story flat, and so simple in its treatment of good and evil that it was uninteresting. Looking at other reviews, it is apparent that I’m well outside the core demographic of the readership, and that the graphic novel seems to have kept me from experiencing the rich inner life of the main character, which is one of the principal sources of the story’s appeal.

(106) Contagious: why things catch on by Jonah Berger

This was an excellent book about why people share ideas on social media. The audio version suffers slightly, in that the writer’s style is to tell a story, then unpack what it means. If you are already familiar with the story, that element becomes dull. More broadly, though, the book makes an argument, and works hard to back it with research, which makes it stand towering above the many, many other works on how to produce online content.

(107) Gossip in the First Decade of Victoria’s Reign by John Ashton

This is a Librivox recording.  I enjoyed it, as a sort of folk history, but perhaps not as much as Becoming Queen by Kate Williams, which treads similar territory.

(108) The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

I expected to love this book. It’s about a gang of young men, pulling a long con, in a city reminiscent of Renaissance Venice. It has witty dialogue and a well-structured plot. I couldn’t fully enjoy it. I never believed that the hero was under threat, and yet couldn’t enjoy it as competence porn, because the author kills characters like George R.R. Martin on an angry day. I listened to it in audiobook, which made the historical asides unskimmable and disruptive. Broadly recommended for fans of caper stories.

(109) The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah

Reviewed earlier.

(110) Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal

Imagine Pride and Prejudice, but in a world where people can make illusions with relatively little effort. It’s an interesting piece, but the two appeal factors don’t really congeal until the final chapter. I enjoyed it, but I’m not rushing out to get the next in the series. Recommended for those who like mannered fiction.