It’s now 2020, and my last “My Reads” update was for 2017. Figured I’d catch up and log my 2018 selections for posterity. And now, Goodreads makes it super easy to see a recap of each year’s stats, including number of books, number of pages, longest and shortest book, your average rating, etc.
At any rate, in 2018 I slowed down quite a bit from the previous year, where I completed eleven books. I’m sure there were a lot of factors at play, not least of which was my entry into the wide world of woodworking. I did manage to complete eight books, which I guess isn’t too bad.
Here’s the list, in order of completion:
At The Mountains of Madness: HP Lovecraft
Artemis: Andy Weir
The Canterville Ghost: Oscar Wilde
Jacob T. Marley: William Bennett
Making Time: Bob Clagett
The Terror: Dan Simmons
The Strain: Guillermo del Toro & Chuck Hogan
Handcrafted, A Woodworker’s Story: Clint Harp
Several titles are my usual fare, ghosts and the supernatural, while a rare sci-fi snuck in, accompanied by a couple woodworkers. A few random notes follow, in no particular order.
I started off the year’s reading with a (mercifully) short book by H.P. Lovecraft, whom I’d never read before but always wanted to try. I’m not sure if “At the Mountains of Madness” is indicative of his style, but I found it extremely difficult to get through. The writing is so incredibly dense, with run-on sentences that I had to re-read in multiple passes to fully piece together. I may try something else by him at some point, but I’ll need to do some research on what might best suit me.
A couple years back I read “The Martian” by Andy Weir. Or rather, I partially listened to it on my commute and then at night picked it up on my Kindle where I left off. I really loved it. For as technical as it was, and rooted in real science, it didn’t feel like a chore to read and was also actually very funny. So I tried his followup, “Artemis”, about a city on the moon, and while I did like it (rated it 3 stars), it didn’t blow me away like his debut. I’m surprised, though, it hasn’t been adapted to television yet.
“The Canterville Ghost” is another short one I’d been meaning to read for a while. I love a good Victorian ghost story, and this was a fun, light read.
Speaking of, I often mention my love for Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”, one of my favorite books of all time, of any genre, and I try to read it every year. There is a line in it that’s always fascinated me. Upon Scrooge’s visitation by his old partner, Jacob Marley, he’s told, “I am here tonight to warn you that you have yet a chance and hope of escaping my fate. A chance and hope of my procuring, Ebenezer.”
And yet, Marley never elaborates. I always wondered, what did it mean? I’d imagined him having to make a case to all three Christmas ghosts, to enlist their services to save his old friend. I’d even considered writing a short story about it, but could never reason it out.
Then I heard of a book called “Jacob T. Marley”, and the premise was exactly that. I grabbed the audiobook (and later the hardcover edition) and was not disappointed. It truly reads like Dickens, to the point where you’d hardly guess it wasn’t Dickens’ own sequel. Along with the narration performance of the audiobook, it’s a powerful and moving story that, as a huge fan of the source material, I was thoroughly satisfied with. I highly recommend this one.
I’d had “The Strain” on my shelf for quite some time, and though I’m a huge fan of Guillermo del Toro’s work, I just hadn’t cracked into it until now. I’d tried watching the TV series, but didn’t keep up with it. Generally speaking, vampires just aren’t my thing. That said, I did enjoy the book and its interesting spin on vampire lore. That said, I don’t know if it captured enough of my interest to read the other two books in the series.
I mentioned before my foray into the world of woodworking. I’d been somewhat interested in different forms of “making” all my life. My grandpa encouraged that kind of thing and would have lots of scrap wood available in his basement for us kids to make all manner of homemade toys. But one day, I watched a couple videos by Bob Clagett on his Youtube channel “I Like To Make Stuff” and something just sparked in my brain. I had to start making stuff. Out of wood.
Shortly after, I picked up his eBook called “Making Time”, in which he details how he got started with his immensely popular channel. This later led to my picking up “Handcrafted” by Clint Harp, the resident carpenter of Joanna Gaines of HGTV’s “Fixer Upper” fame. Both decent books, if you’re interested in the subject.
But now, above all, my favorite book of 2018 was “The Terror”. I had just watched the AMC limited series of the same name and had become utterly obsessed by it. It was loosely based on the real events of an 1800’s arctic expedition to find the fabled “Northwest Passage” in which two ships and their crews set out to find the passage and were never seen again.
I started reading a bit on the subject and decided to read the book the series was based on. I was a little unsure at first, as the book is almost 800 pages, a length I would normally never dare tackle. But once I got into it, I could barely put it down. Shortly into it, I also bought the eBook, so I could continue to read it anywhere.
The TV series actually does follow the book pretty closely, with some notable differences that don’t affect the quality of the story. What I found so interesting was how the author, Dan Simmons, was able to keep as many things that were known about the expedition fairly accurate, while filling in the gaps with, well… terror. And while there is some level of supernatural at work, it never felt so outlandish as to take you out of the story.
“The Terror” is now very high on my list of all-time favorite reads. I believe its length may be the only thing that would keep me from re-reading it every couple years. And since then, I’ve read and watched all I can about the expedition, including reading a non-fiction account that I’ll be listing in My Reads of 2019.
Well that’s it. Not a record-breaking year, as far as quantity, but a great year for finding some new favorites. Of this list, I most highly recommend both “The Terror” and “Jacob T Marley”. Ping me on Twitter if you’ve read either one!