Books I Read: 2021

Well this is bizarre. Looking back at my post from 2020 not a hell of a lot has changed. Practically nothing is different. We had another full year of staying at home on a locked down, minimized life. The only substantial difference is that I went back to work in June after one full year of bullshit maternity leave that was ruined by covid. But, as I mentioned last year, at least I still have books. What was it that ol’ Willy Wallace said? You can take my ability to comfortably navigate society and see the people I love without severe pandemic paranoia but you can’t take my books? Sounds right. It went something like that, I’m fairly certain.

Reading has always been my ultimate escape and I have needed it these past two years more than ever before. From January – May 2021 I was still on maternity leave so I did a lot of reading. When I went back to work in June, reading took a small hit, understandably. But overall I still managed to read a respectable 45 books this past year.

Here is the official visual of my list:

Followed of course by the official “easier on your eyes” typed list:

  1. The Deer Park by Norman Mailer (January 4th)
  2. Pizza Girl by Jean Kyoung Frazier (January 7th)
  3. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (January 8th)
  4. City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg (January 21st)
  5. Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett (January 29th)
  6. My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell (February 2nd)
  7. Afterland by Lauren Beukes (February 12th)
  8. Vicious by V.E. Schwab (February 19th)
  9. The Chain by Adrian McKinty (February 23rd)
  10. If It Bleeds by Stephen King (March 1st)
  11. Elevator Pitch by Linwood Barclay (March 4th)
  12. Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah (March 9th)
  13. The Other People by C.J. Tudor (March 14th)
  14. Whisper Network by Chandler Baker (March 18th)
  15. Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough (March 26th)
  16. High Fidelity by Nick Hornby (April 6th)
  17. Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore (April 11th)
  18. Thinner by Stephen King (April 18th)
  19. The Only Child by Andrew Pyper (April 28th)
  20. You Love Me by Caroline Kepnes (May 2nd)
  21. When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole (May 15th)
  22. Daring Greatly by Brené Brown (May 25th)
  23. A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby (June 13th)
  24. The Dirt by Mötley Crüe (June 20th)
  25. Accelerate: Building and Scaling High Performing Technology Organizations by Nicole Forsgren, Ph.D, Jez Humble, and Gene Kim (June 27th)
  26. Inspection by Josh Malerman (July 4th)
  27. Bossypants by Tina Fey (July 7th)
  28. The Power by Naomi Alderman (July 24th)
  29. Later by Stephen King (July 26th)
  30. The Girls Are All So Nice Here by L.E. Flynn (August 5th)
  31. I Know You Know by Gilly MacMillan (August 10th)
  32. Made for Love by Alissa Nutting (August 17th)
  33. Sunburn by Laura Lippman August 21st)
  34. The Other Woman by Sandie Jones (August 23rd)
  35. The Arrangement by Robyn Harding (August 26th)
  36. The Store by Bentley Little (September 12th)
  37. Looking for Alaska by John Green (September 17th)
  38. She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb (September 24th)
  39. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck (September 26th)
  40. Believe Me by J.P. Delaney (October 14th)
  41. It’s Kind of a Cheesy Love Story by Lauren Morrill (October 29th)
  42. The Death of Bees by Lisa O’Donnell (November 16th)
  43. The Switch by Elmore Leonard (November 27th)
  44. Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty (December 25th)
  45. The Storyteller by Dave Grohl (December 28th)

My reading patterns are very similar to last year, lots of “pop fiction”. You know, the psychological thrillers about murder with dubious heroines that have completely dominated the market since Gone Girl sparked the craze of unreliable narration and “shocking” plot twists. It seems like every book now is marketed as having some shocking twist you won’t see coming that you can actually see coming from a mile away. Although I will say, a few of the books I read this year did wind up genuinely surprising me, so shocking readers isn’t impossible, but it has gotten harder to do well. Behind Her Eyes and The Other Woman did have genuinely shocking plot twists at the end that I did not see coming, so worth a look for anyone who still wants to read those pop fiction shock twist kind of tales.

Stephen King made three appearances on the list again, so good for you, Steve! I really liked Later but Thinner was a total chore. It hasn’t aged well, what with the gypsy vilification and all.

I read two books specifically to get myself back into the right mindset for my return to work after a year off: Daring Greatly and Accelerate. Both excellent books, but not exactly pleasure reading. I finally got around to reading Bossypants by Tina Fey. It was good, but didn’t really live up to all the hype.

I read some classic American authors, Norman Mailer and John Steinbeck. Shoutout to Elmore Leonard too, the O.G. of tongue-in-cheek mystery capers. The Deer Park was horribly misogynistic and lacked any purpose for me. But what else would you expect from someone who stabbed their wife at a party? Re-reading Of Mice and Men highlighted for me the difference between an author and a writer. Steinbeck is a fucking AUTHOR. So much of the trashy pop murder fiction I read is just entertainment, written by writers. Steinbeck is levels and levels above everyone else on this list. He’s in a class all his own, a true craftsman and wordsmith. A prolific, respected author of incredible American fiction. He fucking rules!

I’m going to mix things up this year and award superlatives to the books that need individual callouts for good or bad reasons.

  • Heaviest Book on the ListCity on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg
    This book was physically enormous. Coming in at just over 900 pages, it had some heft. I strained my neck and arms reading it, it was just such a bulky book. And kind of a letdown to be honest. I was excited about spending time with characters who were part of the punk scene in 1970’s New York, but it just got so tiresome as it went on. For all the space Hallberg was given to tell his story, he didn’t do a hell of a lot with it.
  • Most Improved Protagonist – She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb
    Oh Dolores Price, my heart went out to you so many times while reading! This poor woman, what an odyssey her life was. I loved it when she told her doctor to eat shit because of his fat-shaming. This was my first time reading Wally Lamb and it reminded me a lot of John Irving. The characters are just put through the wringer and you should never expect a happy, Hollywood ending for anyone. Just pain and the endurance of pain.
  • Book Most Likely to Get Under Your SkinThe Chain by Adrian McKinty & The Store by Bentley Little
    It’s a tie! The Chain was an intense, thrilling read but not for the feint of heart. It’s about this fucked up ring of blackmailers who make regular every day parents abduct children in a horrible chain letter way. Your child gets taken, you’re told to pay the ransom and then abduct another child or you won’t get yours back. Only when the parents of the child you’ve taken have gone on to abduct the next child on the chain will yours be released. As a parent, the premise alone is unthinkable. But it was unputdownable, so if you think you can hack it, give it a try! The Store was a good creepy read too, it’s a slow build to the end. It’s upsetting just because of the disgusting, stomach-churning ending that I’m not going to spoil.
  • Wildest RideThe Dirt by Mötley Crüe
    These guys don’t hold back, they share every fucked up intimate detail of their journey as one of the hardest partying bands of the 80’s. I’m honestly amazed that they’re all still alive based on the sheer volume of drugs and booze they’ve pumped through their systems. There were so many memorable stories and outlandish antics. Sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll is an understatement, you’ll get more than your share of all that and then some! A must-read for anyone who loves Mötley Crüe, or just wants to spend some time living that rock star life.
  • Most Likely to be Thrown in the TrashThe Only Child by Andrew Pyper
    I’ve really had it with this guy. I heard about him for the first time a few years ago when I picked up a copy of The Damned at the used bookstore, which was an awesome read. I was so excited that I’d found a great new person to read, but every other book of his has sucked major balls. And this was the worst one yet! The most laughable moment was when the main character got on a flight to Europe and claimed to have read all of Dracula, Frankenstein, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde while on their flight. Fuck right off, there’s no way in hell any one person could do that. Or would even want to! This is a book about an immortal vampire trying to reconnect with his child, but I lost the ability to suspend my disbelief over someone reading three old timey books back to back on a plane. Utter nonsense.
  • Darkest Reality – The Power by Naomi Alderman
    In theory I love the idea of women having a sudden and terrifying power that they can use to subjugate the male population and give them a taste of their own oppression. But there were some truly terrifying moments of societal uproar, terrorism, and war in this book that caused this beautiful utopian reality to lose its lustre real quick.
  • Class ClownGood Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
    By far the funniest, silliest book I read this year. A lot of the great wry humour and quirky wit I expect from Gaiman. Never been a Pratchett reader, but safe to assume all the portions of this book that used humorous footnotes can be attributed to him. Though I’ve never read him, I do know that Pratchett liked him some footnotes! Lighthearted apocalyptic fun, if you’re into that, then give this book a try.
  • Life of the PartyThe Storyteller by Dave Grohl
    The last book I read this year, and what a way to finish my list! You get a lot of great stories about Dave’s life from the early days right through to the current Foo life. I couldn’t put this one down, I blazed through it in three days. One thing I will say, just as a general observation not a criticism, is that while I found the stories Dave told to be entertaining and amusing sometimes it did feel just a little bit name-drop-y and like it didn’t give me anything deeply personal that I could empathize with. The part where Dave talks about Kurt’s passing is the closest it gets to cracking through Dave’s chill easy-going dude vibe. He never tells you anything meaningful about his relationships, how he met his wife, failed marriages, etc. And the prose does start to feel too formulaic by the end of the book. Here’s how almost every chapter goes: start with a gotcha sentence, something sudden or shocking to hook the reader and then detour by starting the story at the beginning eventually making your way back to initial setup. Every chapter was like that. It’s the book equivalent of that filmmaking technique that uses narration and the whole record scratch/pause video “Hold Up” moment. “You might be wondering how I ended up in this crazy scenario. Well let’s go back to the start and I’ll tell you.” Very that, you know what I mean?
  • Major Oddball / Misfit EnergyMade For Love by Alissa Nutting
    Did not know this was a book until after I’d already watched the show. D and I really liked the show, it was a bonkers watch. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s about a billionaire tech company founder whose newest invention is a chip that can be implanted into your partner’s brain so you can achieve a truly intimate connection based on biological and neurological data. But it’s actually much more nefarious than even that sounds. It’s really about the obsessive level of control you can have over another person and how you can use that data to keep innovating. Sound like anyone you might know? It felt very on the nose having this megalomanic tech mogul trying to push his insane ideas onto society with no regard for their actual desire for it. Considering the headlines we see nowadays about companies like Facebook and Amazon it felt entirely too believable as a premise. We particularly enjoyed Ray Romano’s role as the crass, bereaved father engaged in a new relationship with his “companion”, a sex doll named Diane. The source material though? Way more fucked up than the show ever got at its most unbelievable plot points. I’m really glad the people who adapted the show decided to drop the whole dolphin fucking sub-story. That shit was completely unreadable. I almost gave up on this book several times. I don’t recommend it unless you like to get weird. Reeeeeal weird.
  • Most Likely to Disappoint – My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell
    This is a book I’d seen lots of people recommending online, mostly women. So I thought I’d check it out and see what all the hype was about. It’s just a gross, creepy, sad read. The main character never grows or learns from her experiences being groomed and raped by her english teacher who she fancies herself in love with. The whole thing is just shock value rapist apologist crap. I hated it and I don’t recommend it. It let me down the most out of everything I read this year.
  • Most Likely to Succeed – Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
    Classic. And classic for a reason. It’s a simple, tragic tale of friendship told beautifully and everyone should read it. It’s been challenged and put on banned lists for numerous reasons, but that’s just typical Whiny McWhiners trying to censor art. If you were never made to read it as required school reading, or you just pretended you did to get through English class, you should give it a genuine chance.
  • Most Enjoyable Read of the YearOona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore
    A chick lit romp through time, I live for it! This is a new take on the time travel story and I was so into it. Premise: on the night of her 18th birthday, Oona faints and wakes up suddenly thrust years into the future in her 50’s in the year 2015. There’s a letter from herself to read when she gets there that explains from the age 18 onwards she’ll be living every year of her life out of order. So instead of living life in a linear timeframe like the rest of us, 1982, 1983, 1984, etc. her life becomes 1982, 2015, 1991, etc. All the while she’s still the same age spiritually. So even though she just turned 19 she’s 19 in a 51 year old body and life. I thought it was such a cool twist on time-travel stories and I loved it.

Of the 45 books I read those are the ones that stand out the most and are worthy of callouts, for good or bad reasons. Maybe you’ll want to check some out? If I can get someone to read at least one book because of this post I’ll feel just fine about that.

It’s been a slow start to the 2022 reading list. I’ve got some decent things waiting on the shelf for me to pick up, but I’ve been feeling a bit of that “reader’s block” I get sometimes. You know what I’m talking about. That feeling when the crushing amount of work it takes just to exist saps your will to do anything other than lay on the couch with Netflix and Doritos at the end of a long day? That’s the one. Because all the days are so long and exhausting. So very long and exhausting. But it’s wicked to wish the time away so I just focus on getting by instead.

I’m sure I’ll feel a bit more like reading again when the snow melts, when work stops being a total pressure cooker every day, when Woody goes to college. I’m nothing if not hopeful. Until then, take ‘er easy pals! I’ll see you next year when I recap the 2022 list, if not sooner.

Books I Read: 2018

I decided to continue this habit I started in 2017 of keeping a record of all the books I read throughout the year. And for 2018 I decided to up the ante, considerably. I saw this article promoted on LinkedIn about how most CEOs read 50 books a year that piqued my interest. Did you know that Bill Gates reads anywhere from 50-60 books a year? Damn, son! That’s some impressive numbers. Afterwards I thought to myself that I’m a bad boss bitch myself, there’s no reason I can’t go toe-to-toe with ol’ Gatesy on this. I love to read! And I’ve heard that the more you read the better you write. (That’s some wisdom from Stephen King, who also reportedly reads anywhere from 50-70 books a year!)

The math on this checks out. There are 52 weeks in a year, so 50 books is an attainable goal. Those extra 2 weeks would give me the same supportive comfort I’ve come to expect from the finest pair Costco stretch pants money can buy. I decided that 2018 would be the year I read a minimum of 50 books.

And you know what? I fucking did it! I did it so hard. I read a whopping 63 books in 2018. And I loved every minute of it. In 2017 I only read 18 books, which I feel is a totally respectable number as well. I was questing for the Dark Tower during the last half of the year and truly savouring those stories.

But knowing that I was able to triple my reading made me feel good too. I read so many books I needed 3 pages in my notebook to list them! I also have this darling 12-pack of multi-coloured fine point pens that I used to spruce up my list. Because, yay pretty! I also started recording the date that I finished the book, which I hadn’t done the year prior. It allowed me to better track my trajectory.

Check it out dudes, here’s my reading list!

Here’s the complete and comprehensive list of all the books I read in 2018 so you don’t have to squint read it from the photos:

  1. The Fireman — Joe Hill (January 6th)
  2. Fahrenheit 451 — Ray Bradbury (January 10th)
  3. The Bat — Jo Nesbo (January 17th)
  4. Heart-Shaped Box — Joe Hill (January 23rd)
  5. Oryx and Crake — Margaret Atwood (January 30th)
  6. The Year of the Flood — Margaret Atwood (February 12th)
  7. MaddAddam — Margaret Atwood (February 17th)
  8. Love is a Mixed Tape — Rob Sheffield (February 18th)
  9. The Chalk Man — C.J. Tudor (February 19th)
  10. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest — Ken Kesey (February 26th)
  11. Lord of the Flies — William Golding (March 2nd)
  12. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children — Ransom Riggs (March 13th)
  13. The Damned — Andrew Pyper (March 16th)
  14. The Man in the High Castle — Philip K. Dick (March 29th)
  15. The Rosie Project — Graeme Simsion (April 4th)
  16. The Killing Circle — Andrew Pyper (April 10th)
  17. Marathon Man — William Goldman (April 15th)
  18. Sharp Objects — Gillian Flynn (April 22nd)
  19. The Westing Game — Ellen Raskin (April 24th)
  20. The Executioner’s Song — Norman Mailer (May 13th)
  21. The Couple Next Door — Shari Lapena (May 14th)
  22. In a Dark, Dark Wood — Ruth Ware (May 19th)
  23. Luckiest Girl Alive — Jessica Knoll (May 27th)
  24. The Road — Cormac McCarthy (May 30th)
  25. Lost Girls — Andrew Pyper (June 10th)
  26. The Woman in Cabin 10 — Ruth Ware (June 17th)
  27. Neuromancer — William Gibson (June 30th)
  28. The Silent Wife — A.S.A. Harrison (July 2nd)
  29. Slaughterhouse Five — Kurt Vonnegut (July 3rd)
  30. Misery — Stephen King (July 6th)
  31. The Bell Jar — Sylvia Plath (July 9th)
  32. The Heart Goes Last — Margaret Atwood (July 18th)
  33. The Demonologist — Andrew Pyper (July 25th)
  34. The Great Gatsby — F. Scott Fitzgerald (July 28th)
  35. The Girl Before — J.P. Delaney (July 29th)
  36. Roadwork — Stephen King writing as Richard Bachman (August 3rd)
  37. The Running Man — Stephen King writing as Richard Bachman (August 9th)
  38. Truly Madly Guiltily — Liane Moriarty (August 19th)
  39. Anasi Boys — Neil Gaiman (August 26th)
  40. Dying Scream — Mary Burton (August 31st)
  41. Inherent Vice — Thomas Pynchon (September 6th)
  42. On Writing — Stephen King (September 9th)
  43. We Were the Mulvaneys — Joyce Carol Oates (September 17th)
  44. A Stir of Echoes — Richard Matheson (September 19th)
  45. Gerald’s Game — Stephen King (September 25th)
  46. My Best Friend’s Exorcism — Grady Hendrix (September 30th)
  47. Duma Key — Stephen King (October 12th)
  48. Coraline — Neil Gaiman (October 13th)
  49. The Other — Thomas Tryon (October 22nd)
  50. Gwendy’s Button Box — Stephen King and Richard Chizmar (October 22nd)
  51. The Shining Girls — Lauren Beukes (October 30th)
  52. Broken Monsters — Lauren Beukes (November 5th)
  53. Strange Weather — Joe Hill (November 10th)
  54. Something Wicked this Way Comes — Ray Bradbury (November 12th)
  55. The Girl Next Door — Jack Ketchum (November 14th)
  56. Bird Box — Josh Malerman (November 18th)
  57. Rosemary’s Baby — Ira Levin (November 21st)
  58. The Haunting of Hill House — Shirley Jackson (December 10th)
  59. Hell House — Richard Matheson (December 14th)
  60. Audition — Ryu Murakami (December 16th)
  61. The Devil in Silver — Victor LaValle (December 24th)
  62. The Woman in Black — Susan Hill (December 27th)
  63. The Summer is Ended and We Are Not Yet Saved — Joey Comeau (December 29th)

So first off, I’m obviously not reading a bunch of business or tech books like Bill Gates probably is. My tastes are apparently quite murderous. Funny story actually, I was walking to the library in the fall and I had Lauren Beukes’s The Shining Girls in my hand. While I was waiting at the cross walk the woman next to me noticed my book and asked what it was about. I told her it was about a serial killer who stalks women through time and the one woman who survived his attack trying to hunt him down. She looked horrified and said to me “You must not read these kinds of things! The mind is so sensitive and these terrible things make such an impression on it. You don’t want to take all that nastiness with you into the next life.” I was genuinely taken aback by that response. It was so unexpected and unnerving. At that point in the year I’d already read my fair share of gory murders and heinous crimes to be solved by plucky heroines that I was starting to think this was the beginning of my very own real-life story! An ominous warning from a stranger is a classic horror trope and the people who buck those warnings are always in for trouble. I brushed it off though and continued on, next reading Lauren Beukes’s Broken Monsters which was even more fucked up than The Shining Girls. But I loved both books. Both are well-written and riveting, I would recommend them to anyone who doesn’t mind having terrible things imprinted on their brain.

There are a few books here that I’d read before but wanted to reread like Fahrenheit 451, The Great Gatsby, and Lord of the Flies. All three are excellent reads that I would also recommend. Looking back I see that I had quite a few little binges throughout the year where I just gobbled books up. There was a long weekend in February that was horribly cold and snowy so I literally read all weekend long, finishing up three books in three days. It was so lovely, and so needed. There’s nothing I needed more this year than solitude and books. It was good for my soul.

It’s amazing how much time there really is for reading if you make the effort. I was reading in bed late at night, on the subway when commuting, in waiting rooms at appointments, on my lunch break even. In the summertime I was reading in the park and it was absolutely delightful. I hit my goal of 50 books on October 22nd at 11:47pm EST when I finished Gwendy’s Button Box. October 22nd is special because I finished two books that day. I finished Thomas Tryon’s The Other on my Monday commute, then started Gwendy’s Button Box around 9pm as my nighttime read before bed. It was a quick read, and totally engrossing so those 171 pages were easily devoured.

Of everything I read this year there was only one real dud. It was Dying Scream by Mary Burton. What a shitty fucking book that was. I bought it off the 2 for $15 paperback rack at Indigo because I assumed it was another basic serial killer, crime solving caper. Buyer beware, amiright? I didn’t notice the “Romantic Suspense” label on the spine when I bought it. D’oh! It was also apparently the second book in a trilogy, and not having read the first book made it that much worse. But I powered through nonetheless and checked the rest of my book spines thoroughly to mitigate risk of another stinker like that one.

I would also say that The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum is a psychologically traumatic read, so please don’t read it. As someone who regularly faces down spooky, gory, and macabre stories without issue, this one genuinely unsettled me. It’s in a class all its own of awfulness. Any time I tried to convince myself that the situation couldn’t get any worse, it always did and went to levels of depravity that I couldn’t even fathom. It hurt my heart reading this book, truly.

Overall though, this is a list of awesome reads and I’m proud of myself. If I had to pare this list down to the Top 5 Best of the Best, it would be:

  1. Marathon Man — William Goldman
    Such an exciting read! I loved every minute of it. This is pure entertainment.
  2. On Writing — Stephen King
    The only non-fiction I read this year and frankly, long overdue. You know how much I respect and admire Mr. King, so learning about his approach was endlessly fascinating. Truly, this is a must read for anyone who writes. Any genre, any kind of writing, you have to read this book.
  3. The Fireman — Joe Hill
    First book of the year and it set the bar. A post-apocalyptic type of story with well-rounded characters that you care about and hope survive.
  4. Inherent Vice — Thomas Pynchon
    So many laughs! This is the wittiest writing I’ve ever encountered and I actually laughed out loud while reading, numerous times. Pychon is devious and masterful. Nobody writes like this, he’s divine.
  5. The Shining Girls — Lauren Beukes
    This one is a slam-dunk. It’s got a fresh, interesting concept, a perfectly vile villain, and is so fast-paced you can hardly stand to put it down. It’s fantastic.

Boss bitch status achieved! 2018 was one for the books alright, heh heh, pun intended. I proved that I could continue to live my normal life as a career obsessed woman who wants it all while reading just as much as the average CEO reportedly does. For 2019 I’m already underway tackling Paste Magazine’s 50 Best Horror Novels of All Time and I can’t wait to tell you all about it next year.

I leave you with this final thought: READ.

Reading is good for you. Do it. Make time for yourself, for stories, and for adventures or learning. Whatever it is you like to read, make time for it and do it.

Books I Read: Inaugural Year 2017

Sometime in April 2017 I decided to start keeping a list of all the books I’ve read since the start of 2017. I can’t remember why, but I did. It was easy enough to remember everything I’d read as of January because I’ve long run out of upright storage space on my bookcase and started keeping two distinct piles stacked on the shelves: books I’ve just read and books in line to be read. I got the list up to speed based on the books I’ve just read pile and then from there, whenever I finished a book, I wrote an entry for it in the list aptly titled Books I’ve Read This Year. 

Riveting stuff, surely.

And now I present to you, my readers, said list:

  1. What Alice ForgotLiane Moriarty
  2. End of Watch—Stephen King
  3. All the Missing Girls—Megan Miranda
  4. Ready Player One—Ernest Cline
  5. Never Knowing—Chevy Stephens
  6. God-Shaped Hole—Tiffanie DeBartolo
  7. N0S4A2—Joe Hill
  8. The Good Girl—Mary Kubica
  9. The Perfect Stranger—Megan Miranda
  10. Horns—Joe Hill
  11. The Dark Tower 1: The Gunslinger—Stephen King
  12. The Dark Tower 2: The Drawing of the Three—Stephen King
  13. The Dark Tower 3: The Waste Lands—Stephen King
  14. The Dark Tower 4: Wizard and Glass—Stephen King
  15. The Dark Tower 4.5: The Wind Through the Keyhole—Stephen King
  16. The Dark Tower 5: Wolves of the Calla—Stephen King
  17. The Dark Tower 6: Song of Susannah—Stephen King
  18. The Dark Tower 7: The Dark Tower—Stephen King

I was hoping to get the list to 19 before the year was out, it’s a Dark Tower thing, but alas, my quest for the Tower took me right through to December 30th and I didn’t feel up to starting a new book so soon after that epic and heart-wrenching journey was done just for the sake of 19.

So 18 it is, not too shabby. That’s exactly 1.5 books per month. For someone who worked a very demanding job and has a lot of other varied hobbies, I’m glad I managed to find time for some good stories.

The year started out relatively light, with some Liane Moriarty. I like her. You might know her best as the author behind Big Little Lies, the book that the Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman HBO mini-series was adapted from. What Alice Forgot gave us a woman experiencing a Dickensian epiphany of sorts. She loses sight of what matters in life and a bonk on the head resulting in amnesia helps her revert to a decades younger version of herself, reliving the past decade secondhand, learning how she stumbled and gradually grew into an abhorrent version of herself. Then of course lessons are learned and Alice gains perspective. At least Ebenezer Scrooge only lost one night of sleep. Poor Alice lost a whole decade!

End of Watch was awesome, the final instalment in Stephen King’s Bill Hodges Trilogy. I liked the second story of that series best, Finders Keepers, but this one gave us a fitting end to the trilogy.

I got sucked into the Megan Miranda books by the Indigo hot-sellers displays and they were okay. Quick, entertaining summer reads. All the Missing Girls is the better of the two, with The Perfect Stranger feeling like a repetitive, watered-down contractual obligation by comparison.

Ready Player One seriously kicked ass! Man, that book was so cool and endlessly entertaining. From the very first page right through to the last I was hooked. Classic nerd sci-fi/80’s nostalgia mashup fun galore! I was excited to hear that it would be a movie in 2018, but then I saw the trailer and well… BOOOO! Just based on the trailer alone, there’s no way that movie is going to capture any of the awesomeness of the book. Read the book, get wrapped up in it, enjoy it. Afterwards, let’s all agree to pretend that a movie version doesn’t even exist.

Never Knowing is officially the worst fucking piece of garbage I’ve ever read. It is the current leader in the “How the fuck did this even get published???” championship bowl. For real. Whoever wrote the summary on the book jacket deserves a prize for being able to polish that humongous turd just enough to make someone like me, who has an exceptionally honed eye for bullshit, purchase it. I want my $6 back Indigo value bin. The concept was intriguing, it could have been good. A woman who was adopted goes looking for her biological parents and finds out that her mother was the only survivor of a violent serial killing rapist, who is still at large. Sounds like it could be really good, right? Unfortunately, all of that potential was spun into shit, not gold, by the most hackneyed excuse for a writer since E.L. James. Does this woman even understand how people actually talk to each other in long-term relationships? Here’s some free insight for you, Chevy Stevens: men and women in their fucking 30’s in a committed long-term relationship don’t call each other “baby” every single fucking sentence they speak to each other. Unless they’ve been lobotomized. And if you interact this way with your partner, you need to stop. Like, right now, because I guarantee you are annoying the absolute fuck out of everyone in your lives.

God-Shaped Hole was an emotionally draining read, but in the best possible way. I got deeply invested in Beatrice and Jacob’s relationship and loved that Tiffanie DeBartolo provided a recommended playlist for this book. My love for Jeff Buckley was reignited and I spent most of May and June listening to his album Grace on loop as a result of reading this book.

The Good Girl was another inconsequential thriller with a hyped up “you-can’t-see-it-coming-plot-twist” that was easily predicted within the first quarter of the book. Meh.

This year I discovered how fucking awesome Joe Hill is, and so much like his dad, Stephen King. Even if I had no idea who he was, his writing would immediately feel eerily familiar to me, having read as much King as I have. N0S4A2 is dark, creepy, thrilling, and exciting. Charlie Manx is as vile a villain as there ever was and the imaginative plot is immediately enthralling. Loved it, would highly recommend to anyone who wants a good spooky, action-packed adventure. Horns was stellar too, I read it the week we were in the Dominican, and while it might not be the general population’s idea of a “vacation read” I couldn’t put it down. I relished every minute spent with Ig while his newly sprouted horns compelled everyone around him to express and enact their innermost fucked up thoughts and desires on his path to uncover his beloved Merrin’s true killer. Read Joe Hill, he rules!

Then, towards the end of July, I felt compelled to finally start my quest for The Dark Tower. I bought the first four books a long time ago and they sat on my shelf, idling. I don’t think my heart or my mindset were in the right place to start an epic journey until the second half of 2017. The movie was coming out in August and I stupidly assumed it would be an adaptation of the first book, that it was going to be a Harry Potter kind of deal, 7 books = 7 movies, give or take. So I finished The Gunslinger, and I was halfway through book two, The Drawing of the Three, when D and I went to see the movie. Imagine my complete disappointment when I left the theatre after a 90-minute oversimplified, boiled down glimpse of the entire series.

That fucking sucked. As a standalone movie for D, who was never going to read the books and just wanted to watch it with me, it was fine. There were cool scenes, and good action. But there was no heart. There was no time to even get a sense of who Roland Deschain is, one of the greatest tragic anti-heroes I’ve ever come to know and love. That sucks, man. Most sacrilegious of all there was no ka-tet! No Eddie Dean, no Odetta Holmes/Detta Walker/Susannah Dean, and no Oy! We didn’t get to gear up for an epic quest at all. Shows over folks, make sure you put your garbage in the bins on your way out.

I carried on with my quest to read the rest of the series by the end of 2017 and I succeeded. I loved and cherished every single second of it. I know it gets a lot of flack from fans who read the series in painstaking real-time, waiting years between books for another instalment, but I especially loved book 4 Wizard and Glass. That was my favourite book of the series. People who complain about how it didn’t advance the quest because it was all Roland’s backstory disappoint me. Roland is our dinh and we get to experience a deeply insightful, formative period of his early life firsthand. We get to know his first ka mates, Alain Johns and Cuthbert Allgood personally! We get to experience his first love with Susan Delgado, and his first heartbreak. We get to learn more about how Roland strategizes, how he plans, how he outsmarts his opponents. What an absolute privilege to have a writer give you that rich backstory. If you’re not going to enjoy the journey, why are you even questing in the first place? That’s the reason guys like Stephen King take on these epic storytelling endeavours, because they have rapt readers who want to get immersed in the story right alongside them. We don’t care how long it takes, hell they can make it last even longer if they want and we’ll gladly savour every delicious morsel of tale they can provide. If you’re just reading something to know how it ends, I don’t think you understand the point of reading to begin with.

So there you have it, the list of books I read in 2017. I didn’t really start the year with a plan or a direction, I just read what appealed to me and added it to the list when I was done.

I’m going to start a list for 2018 as well and see how it goes. I think this year I’ll add a note for the date I finished each book, just to see how that looks. I love reading and doing this allows me to look back on a year of reading and appreciate all the adventures I had.