A Reading Round-up of 2015
During the course of 2015 I’ve managed to complete around sixty or so books, though there are a good number (like possibly another 30) that are partly read. I’d guess from my list that almost half have been non fiction. I’ve read some crackers, and some damp squibs. I’ll start with a damp squib I read in January.
The Night Circus (Erin Morgenstein) was very popular and a lot of people raved about it; when I finally found a second-hand copy I read it quite quickly. You could even say I gobbled it up. The actual writing is sensual and rich, but oddly unsatisfying and sometimes troubling; for example, a character’s skin is said to smell of ginger and cream, which sounds initially rather wonderful until you start analysing what cream smells like and how off-putting that would be, something I don’t think was the intention! The book as a whole is like candy-floss – fluffy, delicious, attractive but has no substance or nutritional value whatsoever. I read to the end and felt disappointed.
A cracker of a book was Paul Trembling’s Can of Worms. I don’t really like police procedurals but I read three or four this year and of them, this was by far the best. Realistic, human, well written and well plotted. Unlike the two by Graham Masterton I also read, Trembling managed to write a female lead who is both believable and kick-ass. For another twist on police-but-not-really-police, do check out the Borders series of detective novels by Janet O’Kane; the main character is a GP whose involvement in the cases is well-woven, clever and well written.
I read quite a few books by C.G Jung himself but I also found some real treasures in the writings of Jungian Robert A Johnson, having read eight of his books this year. I hope to write more about what his book, We – The Psychology of Romantic Love, provided I can do so without basically incurring the wrath of everyone who reads or writes romantic fiction!
I’ve probably waxed lyrical many times about Philippa Rees’ Involution, but I also read her unpublished novel which is about the background to how Involution came to be written. I hope that in 2016, more people will find Involution and also that the novel will appear in some form.
A pair of solidly satisfying but not superb novels are the first two detective stories written by J.K Rowling under the pseudonym of Robert Galbraith. The first, The Cuckoo’s Calling, was somewhat clunkier than the second, The Silkworm, and without undermining my respect for the author herself, neither book is brilliant enough to justify the incredible sales that happened once the identity of the author leaked out. A better class of holiday read with excellent character development and plots that were not unduly convoluted, both made for agreeable page turners.
A slight disappointment was Anne Rice’s Prince Lestat. It lacked the bite of the earlier novels, though it did keep me flipping the pages. In other horror reads, I also read James Herbert’s Others, and three by Dennis Wheatley. Wheatley wrote rattling good yarns that have dated quite badly in some ways but are now old enough to be vintage rather than just out-of-date. The Haunting of Toby Jugg was the best of the three I read, and The Devil Rides Out, and To the Devil a Daughter were fun reads that reminded me of Ian Fleming’s early Bond books, but with black magic thrown in.
I read through six books by Dion Fortune and have two more partially read and a new one for Christmas. They’re of their era but still excellent reads, especially if you are doing research about the topics covered. Five of these were gifts from Jane Alexander, and I thank her once again for them.
Two books from Gev Sweeney found their way onto my Kindle and were read with great enjoyment; Beethoven’s Wife is a gentle and well-evoked imaginary exploration of a relationship between the great man and a damaged woman. The Prodigal’s Psalm treads on the delicate ground of the lost years between Jesus’s birth and the start of his ministry as the Messiah. Beautifully written, both books stayed with me long after I finished reading.
A Johnny-come-lately, read on Christmas Eve is Destiny and Dynasty by Nick White. This is quite an odd book, but I raced through it, and its exploration of the seamy under-belly of mega churches was very satisfying. There are some truly memorable characters, and some pretty nasty ones. The style of writing comes across as slightly naif, which mirrors the nature of the main character who reminds me of Voltaire’s Candide. Having read a short story by the author that uses an entirely different style, for me this enhanced the telling of the tale, but someone else might find the style off-putting. Think Elmer Gantry antics but in the English midlands.
The To-be-read lists and piles remain undiminished but that’s a good thing; if there’s always more to read, there’s always more to enjoy. I’ve mentioned only a very few of both the stinkers and the diamonds of the books I’ve read this year but I think that’s enough for now.