The OF Blog: December 2016

Saturday, December 31, 2016

A brief overview of 2016 releases read

Although I read slightly more books in 2016 compared to 2015 (46 to 41), I only completed six books that were first printed in the US this year (I have a couple others, Ann and Jeff VanderMeer's The Big Book of Science Fiction anthology and Nick Mamatas's I am Providence, to finish reading in the coming months).  I spent the majority of the year, reading slowly at my leisure around work and exercise training time 30 Library of America volumes, most of them histories, collected letters of the American Founding Fathers, and science writings by Loren Eiseley.  I am beginning to suspect this will be the new normal for me in regards to reading for the next few years, as I'm rediscovering older, mostly-forgotten loves and devoting 2-3 hours/day to reading just would be getting in the way.

Yet this does not mean that the few books published here in the US in 2016 that aren't fully reprinted material which I read didn't have some great stories in them.  No, although I didn't write reviews for four of the six books, that was in part because I found the time necessary to write fitting reviews for some of them to be rather wanting and by the time I did have more time, weeks or months had passed and I kept wanting to read something else rather than write a full-fledged review rather than a quick mention on Facebook.

But since 2016 ends for me in roughly an hour (and I have to wake up in 7 hours to work 4 hours before traveling to run my first 5K of 2017), I thought I would give a provisional "ranking" of these books, with a brief description for those curious about them:

6.  R. Scott Bakker, The Great Ordeal - reviewed back in July.

5.  Jack Kerouac, The Unknown Kerouac:  Rare, Unpublished & Newly Translated Writings - reviewed back in November.

4.  Lawrence Rosenwald, War No More:  Three Centuries of American Antiwar & Peace Writing - this Library of America anthology published this spring collects in one volume a very good selection of historical protests against war, along with the various strands of cultural thought that helped shaped diverse movements united by a common opposition to war as a means and as an end itself.

3.  Max Porter, Grief is the Thing with Feathers - originally published in 2015 in the UK, this June US release is short (barely 100 pages) but it packs the power of several gut punches as it traces a family's dealing with loss.  The quasi-lyrical arrangement of scenes adds greatly to what is already a powerfully poignant tale.

2.  Carlos Ruiz Zafón, El laberinto de los espíritus - I only finished this two nights ago, so I plan on writing a full review in the coming week or two.  I just need to dwell some more on some of the revleations made in this concluding volume to his four-part series.  What I do know is that the story, despite occasional raggedness in a few places, tied the previous volumes together in both surprising and long-expected ways.  More in the review itself.

1.  Elizabeth McKenzie, The Portable Veblen - longlisted for the 2016 National Book Award, this story contains a very important squirrel, which being a squirrel, automatically makes the book much better.  Leaving aside this bit of facetiousness, McKenzie's use of the squirrel in the midst of a young couple's internal and external conflicts is done adroitly, creating a multi-layered text that I will likely re-read again in 2017 before writing a formal review.  It is certainly the most memorable tale that I completed this year that was published then.

Hopefully my 2017 end-of-year list will contain more entries, but I think there is something here in this short list for many readers who might have diverse literary tastes.
Add to Technorati Favorites