50 Book Challenge 2018 Part Eight(1000 Posts)
Welcome to the eighth (and probably final) thread of the 50 Book Challenge for this year.
The challenge is to read fifty books (or more!) in 2018, though reading fifty isn't mandatory. Any type of book can count, it’s not too late to and please try to let us all know your thoughts on what you've read.The lurkers among you are also very welcome to come out of the woodwork and share with us what you've read!
The first thread of the year is here, the second one here, the third one here, the fourth one here, the fifth one here, the sixth one here and the seventh one here.
How have you got on this year?
Indigo I've got The Lacuna on my bookcase waiting to be read. I need to psyche myself up to get started on it. I've read two BK novels - can't remember the name of the first but it's set in Colorado and is about a biologist who is tracking coyotes, and The Poisonwood Bible which is a tome and a half but absolutely fascinating. It would be one of my book choices if stranded on a desert island!
EmGee sounds like Prodigal Summer? Yes, I've been meaning to read The Lacuna for years, just needed to find the right time iyswim. You're right, you do have to pysche yourself up for her books, but they're worth it.
36. Landfall - Tales from the Flood/Ark Universe (Flood #3) by Stephen Baxter
This was a great end (?) to the trilogy. Flood was the story of waters rising everywhere on Earth, much more than would be accounted for by just the ice caps melting, and humanity fighting for survival. Ark continued the story from where there is hardly any dry land left, and the human race is gathering together its last resources to search for another habitable planet. Landfall visits the three planets humanity has continued on, including Earth, many generations later.
I loved loved LOVED this series and recommend it to all who enjoy the apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic genre.
37. Red Square (Arkady Renko #3) by Martin Cruz Smith
This is a sequel to Gorky Park which I read and enjoyed last year. It is another murder mystery that takes place in Moscow towards the end of the Soviet era, investigated by our anti-establishment investigator Arkady who is blocked and set up for failure from all sides.
These are pretty decent thrillers but I enjoy them mostly for the rich detail and the insight into life in the Soviet Union. I would recommend them to those of you who like reading murder mysteries and historical fiction.
38. *The Target (Will Robie #4) by David Baldacci
As you can perhaps tell, I've had a good run with this author's series They are decent thrillers, nothing too exceptional, marginally better than the Jack Reacher books. This one is about Will Robie, a CIA hit man.
Imho this book was not as good as the earlier books in the series. Towards the end, the story imploded to the point where it was so improbable that I had to wonder if the author was having a laugh.
I'm not recommending this one, in case that wasn't clear
Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror by Steve Alten
For those of you whose reading year is vaguely lacking in scenes comprising of desperate aquatic battles between nuclear submarines and gigantic albino Jurassic sharks then this book will comprehensively fill that void.
Jonas Taylor navy submarine pilot cum paleo botanist reluctantly agrees to join a mission to the bottom of the Mariana Trench to investigate the destruction of several unmanned exploration pods. Can he solve the mystery with the attractive but snarky lady-scientist Terry Tanaka? Will he be able to banish his demons from a similar disastrous expedition? What is waiting in the depths? Is it an absolutely massive shark? Will there be an improbable series of events leading to a scenario where a whopper evil many-toothed megladon manages to destroy a helicopter? Will the author discover any new descriptive words bar albino to illustrate said Carcharadon?
Utter adrenaline fuelled madness. The final scene is so utterly bonkers I woke the dog up with my laughter. If you think all monster sharks are ultimately destroyed by being blown up then think again. Jaws on meth.
The afterword contained an interesting anecdote that this book is (?was, it was published in 1997) often given to reluctant male teenage readers in US schools. I can see why.
I saw The Meg in the library the other day and was tempted to pick it up. My son saw the film posters and desperately wanted to see it but I thought he was too young. Is the book quite gory/adult themed?
New Stephen King coming at the end of the month, Elevation
Indigo I read The Lacuna last year and really loved it.
I just spurted my hot chocolate out at that review Scribbly. Funnily enough my reading has missed out crucial scenes of desperate aquatic battles this year and I was just thinking :Uh oh, I need something with Jurassic sharks" to fill this gap!
Also bringing my list over...
1. Zuckerman Unbound – Philip Roth
2. Our Man in Havana – Graham Greene
3. Women and Power – Mary Beard
4. Between the Acts – Virginia Wolf
5. The Gift of Rain – Tan Twan Eng
6. Inside the Wave – Helen Dunmore
7. Aaron’s Rod – D.H Lawrence
8. Edgelands – Paul Farley
9. A Song for Issy Bradley – Carys Bray
10. Everyone Brave is Forgiven – Chris Cleave
11. Zoology – Gillian Clarke
12. The Mezzanine – Nicholson Baker
13. Turtles All the Way Down – John Green
14. The Dark Flood Rises – Margaret Drabble
15. Midwinter – Fiona Melrose
16. The Stranger in the Woods – Michael Finkel
17. Reservoir 13 – Jon McGregor
18. Conversations with Friends – Sally Rooney
19. The History of Mr Polly – H.G Wells
20. Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng
21. Eleanor Oliphant – Gail Honeyman
22. Closely Watched Trains – Bohumil Hrabal
23. Winter Holiday – Arthur Ransome
24. Book of Clouds – Chloe Aridjis
25. Red Rising – Pierce Brown
26. Love, Hate and Other Filters – Samira Ahmed
27. The Cutting Season – Attica Locke
28. The Party – Elizabeth Day
29. The Melody – Jim Crace
30. The Opposite of Loneliness – Marina Keegan
31. The Dry – Jane Harper
32. Sight – Jessie Greengrass
33. Hillbilly Elegy – J.D Vance
34. Fugitive Pieces – Anne Michaels
35. Exit West – Moshin Hamid
36. Anything is Possible – Elizabeth Strout
37. Sweet Days of Discipline – Fleur Jaeggy
38. In the Blue Hour – Elizabeth Hall
39. The Aspern Papers & The Turn of the Screw – Henry James
40.Dis Mem Ber – Joyce Carol Oates
41.Anecdotal Evidence – Wendy Cope
42.The Heart’s Invisible Furies – John Boyne
43.The Idiot – Elif Batuman
44.The Word of Woman is Wilderness – Abi Andrews
45.Nightwalk – Chris Yates
46.The Argonauts – Maggie Nelson
47.Things That Are – Amy Leach
48.In Cold Blood – Truman Capote
49.A Line Made by Walking – Sara Baume
50.How to Get Into the Twin Palms – Karolina Waclawiak
51.The Go-Between – L.P Hartley
52.Orfeo – Richard Powers
53.Me Talk Pretty One Day – David Sedaris
54.Orange in the New Black – Piper Kerman
55.Kudos – Rachel Cusk
56.The Ice Palace – Targei Vesaas
57.Human Universe – Brian Cox
58.All Things Cease to Appear – Elizabeth Brundage
59.Circe – Madeline Miller
60.Madame Zero – Sarah Hall
61.The Salt Path – Raynor Winn
62.The Only Story – Julian Barnes
63.Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda – Becky Albertalli
64.House of Names – Colm Toibin
65.Authority – Jeff Vandermeer
66.Fen – Daisy Johnson
67.The Plague – Albert Camus
68.Notes on a Nervous Planet – Matt Haig
69.Solar Bones – Mike McCormack
70.The Unseen World – Liz Moore
71.Crudo – Olivia Laing
72.Neutral Ground – Helen Corke
73.Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People – Reni Eddo-Lodge
74.Things I Don’t Want to Know – Deborah Levy
75.Surely You’re Joking Mr Feynman – Richard Feynman
76.Snap – Belinder Bauer
77.Warlight – Michael Ondaatje
78.Child of All Nations – Irmgard Keun
79.The Mars Room – Rachel Kushner
80.Heartburn – Nora Ephron
81.Blood and Guts in High School – Cathy Acker
82.Everything Under – Daisy Johnson
83.The Trick to Time – Kit de Waal
84.Happiness – Aminatta Forna
85.Clock Dance – Anne Tyler
86.My Abandonment – Peter Rock
87.Normal People – Sally Rooney
88.Under the Banyan Tree – R.K Narayan
89.Pretend I’m Dead – Jen Beagin
90.Sunburn – Laura Lippman
91.Out of Africa – Karen Blixen
92.Transcription – Kate Atkinson
93.Life Among the Savages – Shirley Jackson
94.All Among the Barley – Melissa Harrison
95.Consolations of the Forest – Sylvain Tesson
96.Quartet in Autumn – Barbara Pym
Excellent review, Scribbly
123). The Blood Strand, Chris Ould
Crime fiction set in the Faroes. I'm currently auditioning crime fiction authors as I'd like a new series in my life. I wanted to like this one more than I did. I was prepared to like the setting, but the writing was fairly flat, I didn't find the plot very compelling, and while I'm vaguely interested in the main character's back story, it's clearly going to be strung out over quite a few books, and I don't care enough to keep going. I have a few other candidates lined up for my next series, so will move on to them.
124) Unnatural Causes, Richard Shepherd
Another non-fiction about a forensic pathologist. I didn't set out to read multiple books on the subject this year; it just seemed to happen. I liked this one. His observations about changes in the criminal justice system and the risks of penny-pinching echo what I recently read in The Secret Barrister. I work in a university and caught the tail-end of lamentations about the RAE/REF process (ie. universities having to prove their worthiness through research outputs) but I hadn't realised that this had effectively killed off universities financing forensic pathology departments - as the forensic pathologists were busy doing the work (alongside teaching), they weren't necessarily "research active", so universities closed down the departments. The service became privatised, with various negative consequences. He talks about the consequences of the work on himself (he ends up with PTSD) and his relationships. His career/reputation was jeopardised when his findings were challenged on the basis of poor quality photos taken during one post-mortem, which he clearly found very painful. An interesting insight into what the realities of the job are like (as opposed to fictional portrayals).
Just starting (125) More Dashing, The letters of Patrick Leigh Fermor He lived a dashing life, in more senses than one, having been deemed "unsuited to office life". I, who am all too suited to office life, plan to live vicariously through his letters.
The Lacuna is great, as is Flight Behavior. She's a great story teller.
86. The Outsiders, SE Hinton
I hadn't read this before and wanted to read it before I gave it to my son. For anyone else like me who has been living under a rock since forever, it's a book written by a teenager in the 1960s, about a working class group of boys and their involvement with gang culture. It's hard to tell whether she was an extremely clever writer, or just understood her subject, or a bit of both - she writes so cleverly about the ideas of escape, of loving the places and people that belong to you but wanting to get away from them, of having choices or no choice. Really movingly universal.
87. The Travelling Horn Player, Barbara Trapido
The first Trapido I have read for years. I read another in this series ages ago (20 years maybe) and remembered it, maybe wrongly, as a bit clever-clever and populated by unlikeable characters. There were elements of that in this one - certainly few of the characters were particularly likeable and many of them had a prickly, superior, show-offy kind of cleverness (and were awful snobs - self-admittedly so). However, I found the writing witty and the story well told, and the characters were supposed to be rather awful so I warmed to it. I saw a review which said that it is reminiscent of a Shakespeare comedy where the characters keep bumping into one another in a magical forest, and it is a bit like that - plus they are all in love with the wrong people and not quite sure who is who.
88. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Amy Chua
I'd been intrigued to read this since it was published and there was all the hoo-ha in the papers about her bullying the children into doing 7 hours of music practice a day etc etc. I believe that there have been some stories about her involvement in the Kavanaugh affair but I haven't really seen those so this review comes untainted by that.
I actually liked Amy a lot based on this book - yes, she is extremely driven but she's funny and ironic. I found her writing and her thinking thought-provoking - is it more loving to believe that your child can achieve anything they want to, or to let them give up if they are not making progress? Is it worth working hard at something which is not fun, to discover that wonderful moment when you finally "get it" and it becomes the most enjoyable thing you can imagine? Do American parenting techniques result in happier children/adults than Chinese ones?
I was a musician myself as a teenager and I know the experience of hours a week of practice, over years and years, feeling like drudgery and misery, and then the wonderful experience of actually being good at your instrument and the joy of being able to play. And, at the other end of the spectrum, I am now a very poor runner and I know that while I hate going out three times a week, and I especially hate doing speed drills and hills, I know that I enjoy running more when I am that bit fitter and more able than I do when I have been slacking off the training. So, while I am very much not a tiger mother, I am open to Amy's ideas about the need for un-enjoyable commitment and hard work to achieve something that makes it all worthwhile. Definitely a thought-provoking read for me.
I saw the Zadie Smith discussion come up on the last thread - I've just abandoned On Beauty finding the opening chapters almost unreadable, which is a shame as I really likedboth White Teeth and NW.
I' m now about half way through Alan Hollinghurst's The Sparsholt Affair and enjoying it very much.
42. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
This was an easy read but quite bleak really and I didn’t enjoy it as much as her second one. She is quite a plain writer and there is not much that is memorable, like phrasing to savour, and though the main conceit is original enough, I found myself feeling like certain images and scenes were too familiar. Where she does succeed though is in her insights into the interior lives and motivations of her characters, and how she uses these to make wider statements about family and community, race and sex. She is maybe for me not a great writer, but a very good one who is certainly compellingly readable which is what I needed.
Meg is sounding like a must read Scribbly
69. Circling the Sun by Paula McLain. Very enjoyable read of the life of Beryl Markham - growing up in colonial Kenya. Fabulous descriptions. Karen Blixon features as does Denys Finch-Hatton with fleeting encounters with the Happy Valley set.
Yes perhaps The Meg might become one of our thread approved books - all the lurkers May back slowly away instead of joining in though.
I have to say I do love the fact that the very few thread-approved books all seem to be very rugged and absolutely not what an outside would expect from a Mumsnet reading thread (more fool them).
Two books about adventures onboard ocean ships (one very bloody apparently though I haven't read), a mountaineering one where lots of people die, a mutant shark and a western. Any others?
Far cry from Night Waking :-D (or something with a pink shoe on the cover!)
Satsuki re adult themes in The Meg
Sex and nudity - zero, there might have been a brief reference to a tanned and oiled bosom (which later gets bitten in half)
Swearing - moderate
Gore - a gratuitous excess of severed limbs and gouts of spurting blood . Two of my favourite lines were
“As his existence is crushed into scarlet oblivion”
“Expelling a car sized burp of air and blood”
Probably not a suitable read for the under 10s. Would however be the best audiobook ever for a long car journey with teens in the back.
Thanks scribbly - I might have to read it on the down low for now then otherwise he’ll be trying to steal it. Just seen it’s 99p on Kindle.
Keith - have you seen The Outsiders film? One of my all-time favourites.
I've bought The Meg and am ready to dive. Suspect it won't be anywhere near as good as Scribbly's review though.
Biblio Let me know when you find a new crime series with a good back story. I’m re-reading a few old favourites at the moment becaus3 nothing’s grabbing me.
All Quiet on The Western Front is another thread approved book I think and adheres to your theme Keith.
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