Andrew Jones and the Blog of Doom

My Reads of 2019

Finally catching up the “My Reads” posts with this entry for 2019. We had a lot going on this year, not least of all buying and selling a house. Between all that craziness and the demands of the “day job”, it was hard to squeeze in reading time, but I managed a few.

Here’s the list, in order of completion:

  1. Make Something Good Today: Ben and Erin Napier

  2. The Dead Sea: Tim Curran

  3. Every Tool’s A Hammer: Adam Savage

  4. The Outsider: Stephen King

  5. The Turn of the Screw: Henry James

  6. The Haunting of Ashburn House: Darcy Coates

  7. Frozen in Time: The Fate of the Franklin Expedition: Owen Beattie

First up is a book by Ben and Erin Napier, the husband and wife team behind the HGTV show “Home Town”. We really love the show, my wife for the interior design, and me for the woodworking. In the book, they recount their early days pre-marriage and business partnership, through the inner workings of their show. Overall, a quick, feel-good read, especially if you’re a fan.

I’m not sure how I came to “The Dead Sea”. I’d never heard of, nor read Tim Curran, but I must’ve come across a synopsis somewhere and decided to give it a shot. The basic premise is that of a large merchant ship that gets caught in an inexplicable fog, out of which comes some truly horrific creatures. Think of it as Stephen King’s “The Mist”, but on the ocean. While I felt like this book dragged on a little too long, I did enjoy it. It’s one of those stories where just when you think things can’t get worse…they do. And then get even worse still.

“Every Tool’s A Hammer” is written by Mythbuster Adam Savage, who is one of my maker idols. I bought the book as soon as it came out and enjoyed it a lot. Adam tells stories of his early days in theatre prop making, special effects and then the ridiculously popular show “Mythbusters”. It’s full of great advice for makers and creatives, both practical and philosophical. If you love to make things, or just like Adam Savage, I recommend picking it up.

I’d bought “The Outsider” shortly after it was released, but it kind of sat around for a while, the way very long books tend to do on my shelves. But one day I picked it up and dove in, and I’m surprised how fast I went through it. It’s not often I read something I “can’t put down”, but this definitely fit that description. Like “The Terror”, yes it has its fair amount of the supernatural, but it’s also a great crime story and murder mystery. If you’re a King fan, it’s a no-brainer read. We also just finished the series on HBO, and while things obviously had to change for TV, I was happy with the adaptation. So many King stories lose their essence on the screen, but they did a great job with it.

Now onto “The Turn of the Screw”. I’d tried to read this a couple years ago and had to stop. I’ve heard it referenced so many times as a classic, I really wanted to see what the hubbub was about. But I found the writing really, really hard to process. Maybe more so than my previous attempts to read Lovecraft. Nevertheless, I picked it up again. And friends, it didn’t get any easier. I can’t put my finger on it, but I just could not get into a rhythm with the prose or dialogue. When I’d finally made it to the end, I couldn’t tell you what the thing was really about. Ghosts or something? Bratty college-fund kids? It left me totally scratching my head. And exhausted. A few years ago, we watched an older movie called “The Innocents” which was an adaptation. It wasn’t bad, but also sort of cryptic. It’s a very short read, though. So don’t take my advice on whether to give it a go.

On a positive note, the creators behind the amazing “The Haunting of Hill House” on Netflix are in production on a followup called “The Haunting of Bly Manor” and sounds to be at least loosely based on “Turn of the Screw”. Let’s hope it makes more sense than the book.

We’ve adopted a new tradition the last couple years of everyone starting a brand new book on Christmas Eve. This year, mine was “The Haunting of Ashburn House”. Again, I’d never read this author, but had heard good things about her. And a good haunted house story is one of my favorite things. A little over 300 pages long, I blew through it pretty fast. While not nearly at the level of “The Haunting of Hill House” or “The Woman in Black”, I quite enjoyed it. It had some genuinely creepy moments, and I’m looking forward to trying another title from this author.

For the last read of the year, I chose “Frozen in Time: The Fate of the Franklin Expedition”. I wrote about my obsession with “The Terror” and the doomed Franklin Expedition of 1845 in my 2018 “My Reads” entry. “Frozen in Time” is a non-fiction account of not only the expedition itself, but of multiple searches for clues as to what happened to the men and their ships, the HMS Terror and Erebus. I’m not always held by non-fiction books; they’re hit or miss for me. But since I was already so obsessed with the subject matter, this one swallowed me whole. If you’re at all interested in the subject matter, or just wanted to learn more about the story behind “The Terror”, by all means pick this up. Lots of great history and science.

That’s it. Just seven titles in 2019, but I’m just glad I had time to log some reading time in an otherwise stressful, hectic year. As I write this, it’s mid-March 2020 and I’ve only finished two books, so I’d better get cracking!