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What books did you read in 2021?


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Happy New Year, all!

 

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Once you've read a book, post it in here along with your thoughts and hopefully this will be a way of generating some intellectually-stimulating literary discussion and allowing others to pick up some reading recommendations. Each time you read a new book, post the list of the books you've read so far this year in spoiler tags to keep things tidy. If you still want to set yourself a reading challenge number, like in previous years, then of course that's fine too (if you use the Goodreads app then it can keep track of your progress for you, which is what I'll be doing).

 

2020 was my worst year for reading ever (or at least since I started keeping track), so I don't really feel qualified to start this thread seeing as I contributed so little to the last one, but there we are. I got a Kindle Oasis for Christmas, which is lovely, so maybe that will inspire me to get through some more books. I've got over 40 Kindle books unread, too, so it's not like I haven't got anything to read...

 

Anyway, what books have you read this year, rllmuk?

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I'm aiming for 30 books this year as last year was frankly pathetic. There was a time a couple of years ago I'd read at any opportunity, even if it was a few pages on the loo or during lunchtime breaks at work, and consequently got though miles more books. Last year though it was pretty much either audiobooks in the bath or a few pages before falling asleep.

 

Without wanting to get too maudlin I'm at the age now where I think am I ever going to read all the books stacked up next to the bed. So I'm going to try and not buy books this year, concentrate on what I have. No plans as on what to read, I do like to read trash, supermarket thrillers, non-fiction, the occasional literary novel. It's purely for my pleasure. And if a book isn't doing it then I'm going against my usual thing and binning it, moving on.

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Finished Piranesi which was excellent, I loved the world it visited and how the mystery slowly revealed itself. A brilliant book to start 2021.   Might tackle Shuggie Bain next which won the Booker prize but is supposed to be very dark and grim.

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Best Served Cold- Joe Abercrombie , World of the 1st Law

 

I loved the original 1st Law trilogy which I  read in the latter 3 months of 2020 and thought I'd continue on, unfortunately as well as this starts out it ran out of steam for me- maybe I've overexposed myself  but I found the 2nd half of this dragging, despite it being pretty eventful. Maybe it was the change in character/motivation of the avatar of  you know who in the original trilogy but it just felt a bit mean and petty. Going to leave off the rest  in " the world" for the moment- on to Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie.

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22 hours ago, little che said:

Finished Piranesi which was excellent, I loved the world it visited and how the mystery slowly revealed itself. A brilliant book to start 2021.   Might tackle Shuggie Bain next which won the Booker prize but is supposed to be very dark and grim.

 

Just finished too - I also loved it. 

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8 hours ago, lolly said:

Best Served Cold- Joe Abercrombie , World of the 1st Law

 

I loved the original 1st Law trilogy which I  read in the latter 3 months of 2020 and thought I'd continue on, unfortunately as well as this starts out it ran out of steam for me- maybe I've overexposed myself  but I found the 2nd half of this dragging, despite it being pretty eventful. Maybe it was the change in character/motivation of the avatar of  you know who in the original trilogy but it just felt a bit mean and petty. Going to leave off the rest  in " the world" for the moment- on to Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie.

 

I found this one a bit schematic as well. The next one, The Heroes, is better, but then the final one, whose name I can't recall, is also disappointing after the brilliance of the initial trilogy.

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Last year I read 34 books, of which 10 were graphic novels, so just under one "proper" book a fortnight, which is good going for me. It would have been more but my reading slowed right down in the last couple of months as another time-sink distraction turned up (Xbox with Game Pass!)

 

My Kindle is stuffed with unread books I've bought in 99p sales so this year I'd like to reduce that pile of shame by about 30, and not add quite so much to it this time round. And I'm off to a good start...

 

1. Circe - Madeline Miller

 

I read the first half of this quite slowly over the last few months, and the last half over the weekend. Having previously read and enjoyed the author's Song of Achilles I was expecting to enjoy this, but it was even better than I anticipated. I know virtually nothing about the Greek myths this is based on so to me it was basically brand new and I have no idea how much is a retelling/reinterpretation of those myths and how much is Miller's own creation, but regardless, it's a brilliantly told story of a very minor goddess finding her way through her eternal but often painful and tragic life, ultimately learning some very human lessons. Some of the writing in this book is almost poetic, it's so beautiful and evocative. Book of the year so far!

 

Spoiler

1. Circe - Madeline Miller

2. Star Wars: The Destiny Path - Charles Soule & Jesus Saiz (graphic novel)

3. Darth Vader: Dark Heart of the Sith - Greg Pak & Raffaele Ienco (graphic novel)

 

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Never joined one of these before, so let's see if I can  actually update regularly.

 

1. Ravenor - Dan Abnett (started Dec 13th, finished January 4th)

- I'd originally planned a re-read of this series after reading Abnett's Eisenhorn trilogy last May (of which the Ravenor trilogy is a spin-off series), except my physical copy is in another country and so I ended up waiting until December for the Kindle omnibus to go on sale, all of which is completely unnecessary background. This is the first book in a new trilogy set in the Warhammer 40K universe (set during the 41st Millennium where the facist Imperium of Mankind has spread out amongst the stars and is at a constant state of war against aliens, heretics, traitors and Chaos gods, using ancient technology that no one understands any more). and quickly introduces us to Gideon Ravenor, an Inquisitor who hunts down heretics and traitors for the Imperium but confined to a mobile life-support machine due to horrific injuries suffered during a terrorist attack, along with his team of agents who do the physical work that he is no longer able to do. In this opening story, Ravenor and team investigate a kind of highly illegal recreational substance smuggling operation and get wrapped up in a conspiracy with far-reaching consequences.

 

It's gloriously pulpy SF with daft naming conventions (rockcrete etc etc) but the characters are distinctive, the action comes thick and fast and the plot draws you in effectively. Thinking back, the only character who gets an arc of sort is the drug-addict Zael, who gets recruited in Ravenor's group due to having latent psychic powers which come to the fore when most needed at the book's thrilling climax. The others are a bit more thinly drawn, but I seem to recall that things get filled out in later books. Anyway, on to second book Ravenor Returned.

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20 hours ago, Darren said:

Book of the year so far!

 

This has been on my to-read list for ages (I'm fairly sure I own it) so will aim to read this after finishing my current trilogy. :)

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1. Perfect Sound Whatever, James Acaster

 

image.png.11caa6cd32d881114134f0882c824bb9.png

 

Acaster is one of my favourite comedians. Unlike his first book, which is just a collection of very funny anecdotes, this is more focused and autobiographical, centered on a year in his life (2017) where he was going through a lot and used music as a way to escape, specifically by obsessively researching and then buying 366 different albums, all from 2016. The book takes the form of an autobiographical account of 2017, where Acaster goes, quite intimately, into how he was feeling at the time and what was going through his mind, including the suicidal thoughts that he was grappling with. This is interspersed with passionate and largely insightful reviews of the various albums he listened to, many of which are extremely obscure and were only unearthed from the hours Acaster spent digging through the internet to find them.

 

I enjoyed it, but not as much as his first book and I liked the autobiographical stuff more than the music reviews, which got a bit tiring after a while. Still, I'd recommend it if you enjoy the author and/or the music of 2016.

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Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stewart .  It won the Brooker prize and it’s a fantastically well written book but goodness it’s grim. Shuggie is a young boy trying to protect his mother from the alcoholism that is slowly consuming her.   I could only read it a bit at a time because it’s so unrelentingly sad .  I loved poor young Shuggie but I’m glad I’ve finished it .

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2. Surprising Down to Earth, and Very Funny, Limmy

 

image.png.31e9ac8a477b8a7cfa050f1129daf693.png

 

Two books read in a week?! Imagine that.

 

Anyway. I'm not the biggest fan of Limmy. I don't mean that I don't like his stuff, it's just that, barring the odd clip from Youtube or the occasional highlight reel from one of his streams, I've never really engaged with what he's done, so I'm not entirely sure why I bought this, to be honest. Thankfully, however, I enjoyed it a lot. It's probably the most...intimate autobiography I've ever read and includes chapters with titles like 'My first wank' and 'Becoming an alky'. Like his TV shows, it's funny, but never funny in a way that makes you actually laugh aloud, and a lot of it is truly, desperately sad. The chapter where he talks about his mother's death was heart-wrenching, though not necessarily for the reasons you'd expect, and the ending is somewhat ambiguous. I hope he's doing ok.

 

Highly recommended, even for people who, like me, aren't diehard fans.

 

Next up: I'm done with autobiographical writing from British comedians for the time being, so I'm going to read The Green Mile by Stephen King instead, which is one of his more famous novels that I've never read before.

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On 03/01/2021 at 10:07, Jamie John said:

 

I found this one a bit schematic as well. The next one, The Heroes, is better, but then the final one, whose name I can't recall, is also disappointing after the brilliance of the initial trilogy.

Bring negs back please. ;)
 

I don’t think I’ve ever hated a character in a book more than Cosca in Red Country. And I thought he was decentish in Before they are hanged.

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8 minutes ago, Jamie John said:

2. Surprising Down to Earth, and Very Funny, Limmy

 

image.png.31e9ac8a477b8a7cfa050f1129daf693.png

 

Two books read in a week?! Imagine that.

 

Anyway. I'm not the biggest fan of Limmy. I don't mean that I don't like his stuff, it's just that, barring the odd clip from Youtube or the occasional highlight reel from one of his streams, I've never really engaged with what he's done, so I'm not entirely sure why I bought this, to be honest. Thankfully, however, I enjoyed it a lot. It's probably the most...intimate autobiography I've ever read and includes chapters with titles like 'My first wank' and 'Becoming an alky'. Like his TV shows, it's funny, but never funny in a way that makes you actually laugh aloud, and a lot of it is truly, desperately sad. The chapter where he talks about his mother's death was heart-wrenching, though not necessarily for the reasons you'd expect, and the ending is somewhat ambiguous. I hope he's doing ok.

 

Highly recommended, even for people who, like me, aren't diehard fans.

 

Next up: I'm done with autobiographical writing from British comedians for the time being, so I'm going to read The Green Mile by Stephen King instead, which is one of his more famous novels that I've never read before.

I haven’t read anything but Sequential art for about 2 years now. But I’m sorely tempted to read this.  

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19 minutes ago, cassidy said:

I haven’t read anything but Sequential art for about 2 years now. But I’m sorely tempted to read this.  

 

It's a £3 on Kindle at the moment, if you've got one, or the app, and it's only about 150 pages long.

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1. Piranesi by Susanna Clarke. As briefly posted above, I loved this. Great book to start the year.

 

2. The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton. I really enjoyed Evelyn Hardcastle, but sadly didn't think this was particularly good. The story is pretty intriguing and generally entertaining enough, but I found the writing continually jarring, with really clunky dialogue. I personally always find this kind of thing really distracting, and it definitely significantly impacted my enjoyment.

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2. Ravenor Returned - Dan Abnett

The second book of the Warhammer 40K Ravenor trilogy, where Ravenor and company return to Eustis Majoris in secret (due to having supposedly died at the end of the previous book) to see exactly what the Imperial administration there could possibly be doing with warp-tainted cogitators and how far up the conspiracy reaches. To complicate matters, Ravenor has received warning that he or someone close to him will bring about the realisation of an existential threat that could lead to the deaths of untold billions of lives. No pressure eh.

 

For a middle book, Abnett does a good job of telling a relatively self-contained story whilst still upping the ante for the final book, something that many genre authors fail at on a seemingly constant basis. There's also a greater degree of character development for Zael, Kara Swole and Patience Kys (who later is the focus of a short story that was written in between the second and third books, but chronologically takes place before the events of the first book) , as well as Carl Thonius's ongoing descent into addition and the its horrifying consequences. The only downside being that there is a fair bit of redundancy in terms of explaining Ravenor's physical situation, how he "wares" members of his team as well as a summary of the previous book's major events, but that is a minor irritation at best.  On to Ravenor Rogue

 

Previously:

Spoiler

1. Ravenor - Dan Abnett

 

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3. I Love the Bones of You by Christopher Eccleston. I think this is only the second autobiography I've ever read (the previous was Andre Agassi's). I can't remember why I bought it, as I'm not a massive fan or anything (though The Leftovers is one of my favourite shows, and I was surprised to note just how many things he's been in that I've seen). It was, though, a really good read: the central narrative covering his relationship with his Dad is moving and made me reflect on mine with both my son and my own father.

 

4. Feral by George Monbiot. I like Monbiot and unsurprisingly enjoyed this, even if the topic of lost wildlife is pretty depressing.

 

Previously:

 

Spoiler

1. Piranesi

2. The Devil and the Dark Water

3. I Love the Bones of You

4. Feral

 

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1. Timescape by Gregory Benford

Got to say I didn't enjoy this. The premise is really intriguing but most of the book is about the lives of the scientists involved, their home lives, dealing with their peers or hitches in their experiments. In the future (1998) the planet is in the throes of ecological disaster, so some scientists try and send a message back in time to 1962/1963. It's only really in the last quarter of the book things really actually happen. Also the future feels really undercooked, apart from hints at things falling apart there's little to no feeling of progress, new technology, scientific advancement. I guess this would be difficult to do without confusing the timeline but still. It won a ton of awards when it was published in 1980 so who am I to judge? By the end I couldn't care less about the characters and just wanted to know what happened.


 

Spoiler

 

1. Timescape by Gregory Benford

 

 

 

 

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1. The Guest List by Lucy Foley

 

I enjoyed Lucy's previous book "The Hunting Party" despite all of the characters being hateful and not caring which one of them died. This book is almost a carbon copy - another event in a remote location where somebody is killed. Thankfully the characters are more balanced and it is much more evenly paced. I guessed the murderer pretty early on but another easy to read thriller.

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On 18/01/2021 at 11:49, Miner Willy said:

3. I Love the Bones of You by Christopher Eccleston. I think this is only the second autobiography I've ever read (the previous was Andre Agassi's). I can't remember why I bought it, as I'm not a massive fan or anything (though The Leftovers is one of my favourite shows, and I was surprised to note just how many things he's been in that I've seen). It was, though, a really good read: the central narrative covering his relationship with his Dad is moving and made me reflect on mine with both my son and my own father.

 

4. Feral by George Monbiot. I like Monbiot and unsurprisingly enjoyed this, even if the topic of lost wildlife is pretty depressing.

 

Previously:

 

  Reveal hidden contents

1. Piranesi

2. The Devil and the Dark Water

3. I Love the Bones of You

4. Feral

 

Does he talk about his time on Who much? Or even mention the second coming. Cos I thought that was one of the best things he did 

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17 minutes ago, cassidy said:

Does he talk about his time on Who much? Or even mention the second coming. Cos I thought that was one of the best things he did 

 

Dr Who comes up a fair bit. The Second Coming only a little. (I've never seen either of them!)

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Ancillary Justice- Ann Leckie

 I said Ancillary Sword in my last post  but it's the 1st on in the Radch space trilogy that i actually read. Widely lauded and has won multiple awards its basically a love story / essay on a futuristic society which is a lot like an old society  with  class divides, multiple gods, good dose of colonial control etc all going on. It's told in two timelines initially and then reverts to the one" present" towards the end.  I didn't like it myself, found it dull , disjointed and an interesting premise was wasted by getting into the vagaries  of the class system and morals of colonial expansion , all felt very heavy handed and a bit clumsy. It's only 400 odd pages and took me 3 weeks to read and has put me off reading anything else as it reviewed so well and was such a disappointment, my 1st two books out of the gate this year have been underwhelming.

 

 2/5

 

Next up - To Kill a Mockingbird- Harper Lee.

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5. Melmoth by Sarah Perry: Not sure what to say about this. It's very well written, but I didn't find the story or characters particularly engaging.

 

6. The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christi Lefteri: Very different to the above. This is simply written, but its fictionalised story of refugees escaping to Britain, and the emotional trauma they carry, is frequently heartbreaking. It's the kind of fiction that haunts you because you feel sure the experiences described are real on some level. Feel like I need something light after this.

 

Previously:

 

Spoiler

1. Piranesi

2. The Devil and the Dark Water

3. I Love the Bones of You

4. Feral

5. Melmoth

6. The Beekeeper of Aleppo

 

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1. Piranesi by Susanna Clarke - not much to add than everyone else but yes loved this book read it immediately

 

2. The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern - quite Neverwhere in it's subject matter, however after a slow 50 -100 pages it becomes quite addictive. Beautifully written with dozens of literature reference Easter eggs. Also the author credited Dragon Age: Inquisition  as an inspiration so it's very much a nerds delight.

 

3. Roadside Picnic  by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky - read based in recommendations here, and yes while I did like it it didn't grab me in the same way as others have described. It's a short read though an if you are in to your sci fi worth it.

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