Monday, February 9, 2015

Some Great Books Read in 2014

The following are books that I really enjoyed reading during the past year, and, if granted time, there's a good chance I will read them again. 

Anthony Powell: A Dance to the Music of Time, Movements 1 and 2.
--We start with Nick Jenkins as a school boy just after WWI and follow him and his friends and acquaintances up to just before the outbreak of WWII.  A fascinating look at English life between the two world wars.
--Movements 3 and 4 will probably cover WWII and after.  I've got them and they're just waiting for some free time. 
--Link to post

 Adrian McKinty:  The Cold Cold Ground and I Hear the Sirens in the Streets
--the first two of McKinty's four mysteries set in the Time of the Troubles in Belfast, Northern Ireland.  Books 3 and 4 are on my TBR list.  It's 1981, and Sean Duffy is one of the few Roman Catholics in the predominantly Protestant police force in Belfast and is viewed with suspicion by both Catholics and Protestants.  Complex plots and local color set against a background of a city at war with itself in an undeclared civil war make this a must read series.

M John Harrison:  Light, Nova Swing, and Empty Space: A Haunting,  the Kefahuchi trilogy
--a space adventure that ranges from the late 20th century to the 25th century.  Strange things happen, and some of them never get explained, especially those involving aliens.
--The three novels  are relatively independent of each other, but I would recommend reading them in the published order.
--Humans in space, in Harrison's trilogy (in fact in most of his novels), encounter aliens that are truly alien, not just humans in Halloween costumes, as are so many in other works involving aliens.  Some are harmless, some helpful, some dangerous (some deliberately and some ??), and many inexplicable.
If you're looking for something different, try this series.

Michael Stanley:  Death of the Mantis and Deadly Harvest.
--Books 3 and 4 of the cases of Detective "Kubu" of the Botswana Police. Good mysteries, good plots, interesting characters, and fascinating lore about the people of Botswana and southern Africa in general.  Waiting now for Book 5.  The novels are independent of each other, so they can be read out of order.  If you can read only one, then choose Death of the Mantis

Shirley Jackson: The Haunting of Hill House
--the best haunted house novel I have ever read.  
--see post on Oct. 31, 2010, made the first time I read it.  The post also contains some comments about the 1963 film.

Gregory Benford: Anomalies
--a great collection of short stories, covering a wide variety of topics: adventures involving time travel, black holes, cryogenics, high tech warfare, a mix of science and religion, and several cosmological theories.
Link to a number of posts about the stories.

David Brin:  Existence
--Brin's most recent novel.  A new look at the First Contact theme and its possible threats.
--he uses multiple narrators to provide a variety of viewpoints responding to the first contact.
--link to post

Loren Eiseley:  The Night Country
--I joined the Time Reading Program after seeing an ad about the program which featured one paragraph from another of his books.  After reading that one, The Immense Journey, I searched for everything and anything written by him.
--See link to various posts about this work.

Kobo Abe':  The Face of Another
--a man whose face is terribly scarred from an industrial accident creates a lifelike mask, that seems to take on a life of its own when he wears it.
The following link leads to posts about the novel and the film

Franz Werfel:  Star of the Unborn
--little known and mostly ignored SF novel about a man who dies and is resurrected 100.000 years in the future and presented as a wedding gift.
--fascinating picture of future humans and their culture
--stuffy and somewhat pompous narrator adds to the fun.  He reminds me of the narrator in Thomas Mann's Dr. Faustus.
--link to posts about the novel


  1. Fred, I have not forgotten your previous comments about Powell's novels; they remain firmly included in my TBR list. I very much look forward to comparing notes.

  2. R.T.,

    I'm looking forward to your comments.

  3. Yikes, if a student had written the kind of sentence that I included in my earlier posting -- with the pronoun-antecedent confusion -- I would be wielding the red pen in bold, ugly strokes. Shame on me!

  4. R.T.,

    Once an English teacher. . .

  5. Fred and R.T., I'd like to hear your thoughts on this:

    1. Di, I never gave a thought to the possibility of such a dispute. I could respond with the colloquial expression, "There are different strokes for different folks," but that sounds a bit flippant. I will give more thought to the "argument," but at the same time I think a more interesting question that I deal with often is the one posed by students who are not English majors: "Why do I have to take this literature course?" That question is harder to answer honestly, clearly, and persuasively than the one posed by your linked posting.

  6. Di,

    I suppose there are those who do look down on non-readers, and probably just as many non-readers who look down at readers.

    To look down on those who are different is a human trait and not the result of reading or not reading books.

  7. I generally don't look down on non-readers (because, after all, there are things I know nothing about, such as jazz- I've been trying to listen to jazz and don't get it). But:
    - I have some prejudice against people who are not interested in any form of art, whether it's literature, music, cinema, visual arts, or whatever. I know some such People and they tend to be dry, tedious, limited, inflexible, narrow-minded or simply not perceptive.
    - I do think there are different types of readers, and though it's not right to criticise people for liking a certain book, I don't think it's wrong to attack a certain way of reading, or of approaching a work of art (e.g some people don't like a book if they don't like the main characters).
    - I do have a low opinion of people who openly despise art, think fiction is dead, call literature useless. Having no interest in 1 thing, that attitude is intolerable. Philistines.

    1. Should be "Having no interest is 1 thing"
      And the computer I used automatically capitalised some words, I missed the word "People" and failed to correct it.

    2. Di,

      I don't either, unless the non-readers indicate that they look down upon readers. They are unable to understand that their lifestyle is not the only way to go.

  8. Another topic :D

    1. Di,

      Right now I can't think of anything that I've read that was published in the last fifteen years that I would think might become a classic. If an idea does emerge, I'll post it.

  9. Di,

    You might want to check this out.