Robert Reads 2022 Edition

TalkClub Read 2022

Join LibraryThing to post.

Robert Reads 2022 Edition

Jan 4, 2022, 4:51 pm

Hi everyone. I have been on LT for over 15 years and have participated in the Club Read groups a few times, the last time being 2019. My goal is to read 52 books in a year and my highest is 50. Last year had a few off-months so I ended up with 45. I read a few books a year to my younger daughter. I count them in my list as she is 11 now and the titles have enough weight significance that I do not feel bad counting them.

In addition to solo reading, I am in the r/ayearofwarandpeace subreddit to read War and Peace again this year, and I am doing a buddy-read of Middlemarch. I started plowing through the Agatha Christie books and find those are both enjoyable and a nice change of pace after reading something meatier. I have too many Books on My Bookshelf (BOMB) and recently discovered the StandardEbooks dot org edition of the Gutenberg ebooks and that has filled up my Kobo with Conan Doyle, Tolstoy, and Dickens.

If I actually read a few BOMB from previous SantaThing years, I will participate in that again this year.

Wish me luck and hold me accountable (please!) but most importantly let's have fun comparing notes this year.

Edited: Apr 2, 2022, 12:18 pm

Jan 4, 2022, 4:54 pm





Jan 4, 2022, 4:54 pm





Jan 4, 2022, 7:48 pm

Welcome back Robert. Happy 2022

Jan 4, 2022, 8:21 pm

>6 dchaikin: Thanks! :-)

Jan 4, 2022, 8:35 pm

Welcome back to Club Read, Robert! I was AWOL from LT/Club Read in 2019 and 2020, but got active again last year. Your mention of Conan Doyle is timely as I am watching the BBC/PBS Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch currently. It is fantastic and makes me want to go back and read the books. You might check the Victorian Tavern thread, if you haven't already, as Middlemarch was one of the proposed reads.

Jan 4, 2022, 9:06 pm

>8 labfs39: Thanks for the welcome and the suggestion!

Jan 7, 2022, 10:45 am

Book #1 for 2022 was Joyland by Stephen King. I picked this up on my Kobo a few years back on sale and never got around to reading it. TBH, I bought it because the story of King choosing the small publisher Hard Case Crime for Joyland and how it made them a serious player was really neat.

Joyland was a great read, and I enjoyed it as much as any novel I have read from King. Touching, sad, engaging, with a protagonist with enough angst and emotion to be interesting without becoming an emo trope, and enough mystery and drama to pull the story along.

(3.5 / 5)

Edited: Jan 7, 2022, 11:33 am

>10 robertwmartin: Yeah, I liked that one when I read it as well. For some reason a lot of King fans hate it (or dislike it) but I found its subtleness and tone to be appropriate for the book and to work just fine. Ha. Apparently I even wrote a review back then:

Welcome back to Club Read!

Jan 7, 2022, 1:13 pm

>10 robertwmartin: The story about the publisher sounds interesting. Leaves me curious on what his reasoning were and what the possibilities are. Imagine you can select a publisher, and by selecting them, they become a major publisher - not that this happened or could, but what if - what would you look for in a potential publisher…

Jan 7, 2022, 1:30 pm

>12 dchaikin: The novel is a departure from King's usual style in some ways so that was probably part of the reason - but it fits with what Hard Case had been publishing.

I would disagree a bit that this is what propelled them into being a major publisher though - they may not have had the mainstream recognition before that but they were already a known entity in the noir/crime readers consciousness - King just made them more visible to other groups.

Jan 8, 2022, 11:09 am

>13 AnnieMod: I based my comment on a story like this one (might not have been this actual one, but this was redone by many outlets).

The comment I remembered was that Hard Case were "launching a line of books" and asked King for a blurb, but instead he wrote a book for them. (Note that it was The Colorado Kid, and not Joyland as I recalled.) The article said that King is part of the "founding story" of Hard Case. Now they might have already been in place, but this made me think that Hard Case would not be what they are today without King's book.

Jan 26, 2022, 12:25 pm

Book #2 for 2022 was Our Man Weston by Gordon Korman. This was a book I read as a teen (back in the early 80's!) and then again to my older daughter in 2019. My younger daughter and I needed a lighthearted story after finishing the last book in the Harry Potter series so we decided to dig into this. I am glad we did.

For those of you that are familiar with Korman's books, this is true to his formula of zany yet mostly-believable antics and writing that flips between multiple characters and perspectives. Some of Korman's novels form the eighties are still available, such as This can't be happening at MacDonald Hall, but Our Man Weston is no longer in print. That's a shame since this is a really funny story. If you are looking for a funny read, or a nostalgic re-read, or for a book to recommend to a young reader, hopefully you can find a copy of this book.

Jan 26, 2022, 12:53 pm

Book #3 for 2022 was Babylon's Ashes by James S. A. Corey. This is one of the latter books in the Expanse series. The series has a quote on the covers saying, "Interplanetary adventure the way it out to be written." I will say the series overall lives up to this quote, but I was not a fan of this book. I found it long and draggy without the ratcheting tension found in the other novels. I suppose ups-and-downs can be expected in any series though, and to be fair, it was not terrible but just disappointing. I will probably read at least one more book from this series this year. Hopefully the next one is better.

Jan 27, 2022, 10:51 am

>16 robertwmartin: This is probably the weakest instalment of the series. The next one is definitely better.

Jan 27, 2022, 12:24 pm

>17 rhian_of_oz: Good to hear!

Jan 30, 2022, 10:25 pm

Book #4 for 2022 was The Secret to Superhuman Strength by Alison Bechdel. This was definitely something out of my wheelhouse, which probably made it more special than it would have been if I came to it with some background and preconceived idea of who Bechdel was.

I heard of this book via Maria Popova's newsletter, The Marginalian (fka Brain Pickings). I do not often pick up a book from Popova's newsletter, but every time I have it has been a great experience. At the most mundane, Bechdel's book added three books to my TBR list (by Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and Shunryu Suzuki - three more individuals completely out of my wheelhouse), but it also helped me understand many things a bit better, such as the death of a parent, the decline of the body, and mortality. I only just (as in 30 minutes ago) finished reading this book, but I know it will stick with me.

I am interested in learning what others thought of this book.

Jan 31, 2022, 11:23 am

>19 robertwmartin: I haven't read anything by Bechdel yet, but this is on my wish list.

Jan 31, 2022, 11:44 am

>20 labfs39: I definitely recommend it. There was a lot to think about as I read it.

Feb 1, 2022, 8:54 am

Welcome back, Robert! Will be stopping by from time to time to see what you are reading.

>16 robertwmartin: While we watch and enjoy "The Expanse," it's not the SF lit my hubby and I read.

Feb 1, 2022, 11:52 am

>22 avaland: Thanks for the welcome. :-) There is a lot of SF I want to read, but I do get caught up with Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) when things become really popular, which is why I am reading Expanse. I watched the first two episodes of the show and decided the books would be more enjoyable, but that is more about my lack of ability to commit to a television series these days. I find I get very anxious even thinking about starting to watch a series.

Feb 2, 2022, 12:24 pm

Book #5 for 2022 was Mortality by Christopher Hitchens. This is a collection of Hitchens's essays on his last year-and-a-half after being diagnosed with esophageal cancer. This was on my radar for the last year or so and showed up as a library hold from our public library's "recommend me a book" suggestion program. A waif of a book, more like a really long article from Atlantic or Foreign Policy and quite easy to read. My father died last February from esophageal cancer as well so I thought the commentary about his experiences as a patient would hit me harder. Knowing a bit more about Hitchens now from reading this book, it makes sense that his essays would not be overly emotional and would make me think and reflect. However, the afterword from his wife did hit me harder than expected. A good book, and worth reading.

Edited: Feb 10, 2022, 6:19 pm

Book #6 for 2022 was Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice. There was a quote on the front cover that said, "Chilling in the best possible way" or something to that effect. I am not a huge fan of thrillers and I do not like knowing that something bad is about to happen. That is probably why I do not like horror films.

Anyway, back to this book. It was an interesting story and the buildup of suspense was much less hard for me to read through than I feared. Once I picked it up in earnest, I read most of it in one evening. The bad guy was obvious, and the resolution was mostly satisfactory. I have one unanswered question but that is not a result of poor writing. I will refrain from posting the question here as it deals with the closing chapter and is a big spoiler. (If I ever meet Waubgeshig Rice, I am totally asking him my question!).

While I have read more eloquent writing, I am still glad I read this book. The best part (is best the correct word to use in this situation?) was the conversation with the Elder who explained how the end of the world is subjective depending on your perspective.

Happy to recommend it, glad I read it, would love to hear your comments.

Feb 10, 2022, 8:16 pm

>25 robertwmartin: I read Moon of the Crusted Snow last year and really enjoyed it. I'm from rural Maine so the setting resonated. I also liked the Anishinaabe aspects. Rice is supposedly working on a sequel, so perhaps your questions about the ending will be answered.

Feb 10, 2022, 9:02 pm

>26 labfs39: That's good to know about the sequel. Thanks.

Feb 11, 2022, 9:22 am

>25 robertwmartin: I also read this last year (BB from Joyce/Nickelini) and enjoyed it. I'm dying to know what your question is! You could always spoiler tag it which would stop people inadvertently reading it.

Feb 11, 2022, 9:25 am

>25 robertwmartin: I've had that on my list for a while, thanks to folks here. Nudging it up a few rungs.

Feb 11, 2022, 10:21 pm

>28 rhian_of_oz: Okay. I didn't realize I could do spoiler tags. Now I just need to figure out how to do them.
Figured it out. :-)

Now on to the question.
During the confrontation around the boiling pot, Scott pulls a gun and fires at Evan, and Evan crumples to the ground. After Meaghan takes care of Scott, Evan's friends rush to him and he grunts, but there is nothing more said. There is a scene cut to the next chapter with Evan's friends dumping Scott's body, and the word "Evan" is not used again in the book.

Gunshot wounds are bad news at the best of times, and this is definitely not the best of times, meaning that it is very likely he would die from the injuries. In the epilogue, Nicole is the focus, and it said she would not be able to use the wedding dress. That could be because society collapsed, or it could have a more dire meaning such as not having anyone to marry.

So, my question is, did Evan die? If he is alive, why didn't he come to the house to help out? Is he still injured? Is he alive but paralyzed? Or does Nicole's words "Daddy's waiting for us" have some other more mystical meaning?

Thanks in advance!

Feb 12, 2022, 7:30 am

>30 robertwmartin: Hmm, I didn't think so but I've rechecked and I still don't think so.

My reason is because in chapter 27 we find out that Evan has been developing a secret shelter. My assumption is that he was at the shelter completing the preparations for the family's relocation. I took "Daddy's waiting for us" literally. Then I looked on the internet and found this which I'd say is definitive.

Feb 12, 2022, 11:31 am

>31 rhian_of_oz: Excellent. That is good news!

Feb 20, 2022, 3:33 pm

Book #7 of 2022 was Hollow City by Ransom Riggs, the second book in the "Miss Peregrine's" series. This is another book I read to / with my younger daughter. It was fairly good with some genuinely interesting emotional moments. There was a bit too much teen angst in parts, but the characters were decent, and the premise was novel. We both really liked the ending, which of course means we will read the third novel in the series. So all in all, 3.5 / 5.

Feb 27, 2022, 5:52 pm

Book #8 for 2022 was Keep Sharp by Sanjay Gupta. This was a book I started a couple of times and could not get enough momentum to finish. I finally had a road trip to visit my mom and plowed through the second half on an audiobook version from the library.

To use an analogy from my career and work experience, many (all?) self-help or self-improvement books have enough good information for a memo or an agenda item in a meeting but get stretched to cover the entire time for a full-day retreat. Keep Sharp fit this analogy perfectly. Give me an overview of the science and I will be happy: Plaque on the brain is bad? Got it. Inflammation anywhere in the body is bad for the body AND the brain? Makes sense and I can use that to change habits. My diet affects my brain? Understood, thanks for the heads-up (pun intended). Definitely enough information for a memo or an item on the agenda for a larger meeting.

But instead of that, we get the full-day retreat version. Ten hours of information, anecdotes, and here-is-what-I-experienced-when-I-visited-this-famous-person stories. Ten. Hours. Thankfully, audiobooks are still listenable at 1.25x speed. Sigh.

2.5 / 5

Mar 10, 2022, 10:04 pm

Book #9 for 2022 was Strange New Worlds by Ray Jayawardhana. My reading really slowed down in the last two weeks because of this book. It was extremely hard to get into and was not very interesting. This book used the oft-used formula of many non-fiction science books of opening open each chapter or section with a historical anecdote. Some of the anecdotes were okay, but I found the transition from anecdote to the contemporary science to be clunky in many of the sections.

I do not often have books that I Did Not Finish, and I did finish *most* of this book, but I did skip over a lot of the last two chapters. Given how much time I invested in it, and given that I did finish most of it, I will count it for my reading list.

On a different note, I borrowed both the book and audiobook from the library. The audiobook was narrated by Bronson Pinchot. I often listen to books at 1.2 or 1.25 times, but Pinchot spoke so slow I listened at 1.5!

Mar 11, 2022, 7:44 am

Sorry your last couple of books have been less than stellar, Robert.

Mar 11, 2022, 10:34 pm

>36 labfs39: Thank you. That was very nice. On top of those two, I am about a third of the way through Utopia Avenue and, well, it ain't The Bone Clocks or Cloud Atlas. I am going to switch gears and read Last First Snow to see if that sparks me at all.

Mar 12, 2022, 10:37 am

>37 robertwmartin: I read and very much enjoyed Cloud Atlas but was much less impressed with The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet and didn't read any more of his works. I checked my (virtual) shelves and was surprised to see that I own The Bone Clocks, as well as Number9Dream. I should give him another try at some point.

Mar 12, 2022, 4:30 pm

>38 labfs39: I actually liked The Bone Clocks more than Cloud Atlas, but that might have been because I saw the movie of Cloud Atlas first.

Mar 19, 2022, 11:10 am

Book #10 for 2022 was Last First Snow by Max Gladstone. This is the first book in the Craft Sequence, chronologically speaking, but not the first book published. Gladstone published an interesting article about the chronology and how he decided to name the books based on where they fit on the timeline. Search for that on the Tor website. But I disgress.

I very much enjoyed Last First Snow by Max Gladstone because it was just so different. Judging book via cover which screams TESTOSTERONE!!1!, I would never have picked it up, but the story is great. Without spoiling anything, the dust jacket has a quote that explains the book as "fantasy as a metaphor for the full metastatic flower of late-stage capitalism" with "ancient necromancers in charge of corporations and liches running litigation." With apologies to my entrepreneur and lawyer friends, sounds about right.

Gladstone's own website says the book is a "tale of zoning politics, human sacrifice, dead gods, and the hazards of parenting. Plus that guy with the knife." What's not to love about that combination?

So the concept and the world Gladstone created is unique, but is the book any good? Yes, it was good. Nothing cringeworthy, nothing to induce eye rolls or yawns. The emotionally impactful plot elements could have been stronger but they were not bad, per se. It was good enough that I will read at least one other book in the series, and I suspect that now that I understand the world better, I will get more out of the next one.

(4.0 / 5)

Mar 19, 2022, 9:23 pm

Book #11 for 2022 was Eric by Terry Pratchett. The cover shows the word "Faust" crossed-out and replaced with "eric", so I naturally read up on Faust to make sure I knew the background. If you take the concept of Faust, i.e. the deal with the devil, and run it through a blender with Pratchett's Discworld, I suppose I can see how you end up with "Eric" but it is a tenuous connection, in my opinion. Faust seduced a beautiful woman; Eric wants a succubus. That sort of thing is as close as the story gets as far as I can tell.

It was a very quick read and it had some enjoyable moments. Rincewind and Luggage starred in it. There was a cameo with the Librarian. Both of those bode well for a story. But Eric was a non-character after the first twenty pages and the bad guys fell a bit flat.

But hey! Book #11 is done, and I am moving on to the next one.

2.5 / 5

Mar 19, 2022, 10:43 pm

I love discworld, even as they don't all work. I haven't read Eric yet (there is a copy around here though). Going up a bit, I apologize for being a little entertained by your non-fiction audiobook troubles. Sometimes these books are like potholes, lots of good ones, if you can just dodge the bad ones. I am sorry though that the books didn't work out. The one by Jayawardhana sounds interesting by title.

Mar 20, 2022, 4:58 pm

>42 dchaikin: I agree the Jayawardhana book sounded interesting. I was hopeful but I could not get into it. I find that a lot of non-fiction books are padded out, maybe to justify charging full price for the book or maybe because they are afraid a slim volume will not be taken seriously. Both of those recent non-fiction audiobooks I read seemed to suffer from that issue.

Your summary of Discworld and my experience are similar. It is great, except when one story isn't, and even then the overall experience is worth it.

And no worries about being entertained! :-)

Mar 21, 2022, 5:48 pm

>43 robertwmartin: I call these the "article turned book" books. In a lot of cases, if you dig a little bit, you can even find the original article that was then expanded into the book (although in some cases the article never got published... so you are kinda screwed if you want to read the short version of that book.

Mar 23, 2022, 10:34 pm

Book #12 for 2022 was a young adult book I read with my younger daughter, Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend. This was a wholly enjoyable book with a memorable cast of characters and a fun story. Morrigan is a stereotypical YA protagonist in that she is "different" and "special" and while she does not have the third leg of the YA Trope Stool of being orphaned, she is estranged. But as trope-y as that is, it is done well and did not induce eyerolls.

The plot is intriguing and the pacing moves forward nicely without the painful lurching urgency in other YA books, so that is a plus.

I figure I have another year to 18 months of reading books with her before she grows up like her older sister and doesn't want to do read with me anymore. I will happily spend part of that time reading the next book in this series, and that's about as good of a recommendation as I can make.

3.5 / 5

Apr 2, 2022, 12:17 pm

Book #13 for 2022 was When She Woke by Hillary Jordan. My local library has a service where you give them some keywords and they put five books on hold for you. This was one of the books in the recent batch they served up for me, and I am super glad they did.

I do not know how to comment on this book without spoiling it. When I explained it to my wife, she said it sounded like The Scarlet Letter and The Handmaid's Tale, which is how the book cover and some reviews characterize the book. So take those two, add in a near-future, post-plague, far-right, and probably other-hyphenated phrase, and you will have this book.

This book will stick with me for a while. I am interested to find out if others have the same thoughts.

4.0 / 5

Apr 2, 2022, 12:20 pm

So with that book behind me, I finished thirteen books in the first quarter of the year which puts me on pace for fifty-two books this year, plus the two I am reading for the Reddit "A Year of War and Peace" book club (War and Peace and Calendar of Wisdom). Getting over fifty books in a year would be a record for me, so I am pretty happy with my progress so far.

Apr 2, 2022, 12:24 pm

Congrats on your strong start to the reading year!

Apr 2, 2022, 2:32 pm

>48 labfs39: Thanks! The encouragement does help. :-)

Apr 2, 2022, 9:04 pm

>46 robertwmartin: what were the 5 words you gave them?

Apr 2, 2022, 10:12 pm

Dystopia, Death, Space and Morality were four of the five. I had one that was Women or Feminist or something along those lines but I cannot remember exactly what it was. That list got me Mortality and Strange New Worlds which I noted above, along with The Arrest which I will probably keep on my TBR list and How to be good, or, How to be moral and virtuous in a wicked world which seemed like a university text so I returned it right away.

Apr 3, 2022, 12:41 am

>51 robertwmartin: that’s very interesting. I can’t imagine what I’d pick given those words.

Apr 3, 2022, 10:11 am

Apr 3, 2022, 10:41 am

>53 labfs39: Good rec. I'd also add Emily St. John Mandel's Sea of Tranquility, which publishes this week.

Apr 3, 2022, 4:06 pm

>54 lisapeet: So many books, so little time!

Apr 9, 2022, 9:59 am

Book #14 for 2022 was Far From the Light of Heaven by Tade Thompson. I have read the first two books of the Rosewater trilogy from Thompson so I was eager to pick up this new release. It was quite good, with a really strong start but a bit of a slow ending. I really liked his concept of "alien" and how he brought his "Afro-spiritualist leanings" (his phrase from the Afterword) into the world. It is definitely worth a read even if it is not going to be the best book you read this year.

3.5 / 5

Apr 26, 2022, 9:05 am

Been a bit of a dry spell of late, but I have finished one book and should finish a couple others by the end of the month.

Book #15 for 2022 was Vital Signals: Virtual Futures, Near-Future Fictions by Dan O'Hara. This anthology of speculative fiction was a giveaway in a recent LT Early Bird that I was happy to pick up. In return for the copy, I agreed to do an honest review. You can find that review here.

Apr 26, 2022, 10:38 pm

Book #16 for 2022 was The End of Everything (Astrophysically Speaking) by Katie Mack. It was nice to read a non-fiction science book that was enjoyable after the previous two forays noted above. This book deals with the science around the end of the universe. Spoiler alert: Save the planet, then worry about the universe. Mack is a bit of a Twitter star, or at least was when I was active on Twitter three years ago, and her communication style is very engaging. The book title was a bit hyperbolic, or in the vernacular of the Internet, clickbait-y, given the time frames addressed in the topic, but Mack explains just enough of the detail and the sticky math to bring a layperson through.

This was a good read with enough technical detail to make me feel like I learned something, and with appropriately timed hand-waving to not get bogged down in details.

3.5 / 5

Apr 27, 2022, 8:40 am

>58 robertwmartin: Fun review! Glad you finally had a good read.

Apr 27, 2022, 2:59 pm

>58 robertwmartin: I’m intrigued.

Going back a bit, first, congrats on your pace and your reading year so far. And second, that library option is really cool. I hope the librarians have fun with that kind of request.

Edited: May 17, 2022, 9:25 am

>53 labfs39:. That looks interesting. I put a hold on that one and should get it in a few weeks.

>59 labfs39: Thanks. :-) It was nice to enjoy a non-fiction book after those duds.

>60 dchaikin: We are blessed with a great public library. I take advantage of it as much as possible and support is as best I can. With the success I had, I am contemplating another submission. Maybe something with space and transhumanism this time.

Edited: May 16, 2022, 10:24 pm

Book #17 for 2022 was Enola Holmes by Nancy Springer. This was a book I read with my younger daughter, and we both really liked it. We were drawn to this by the trailer for the series on Netflix starring Millie Bobbie Brown and while the book and trailer appear to be only loosely connected, I'm sure the Netflix series will be equally enjoyable.

I have read that reading builds empathy as it is the best (easist? only?) way to really understand the perspective of someone else. There are certainly countless other books that will better explain how hard women have it (especially non-white, non-rich women, unlike this book's protagonist), but this was an easy-to-read-yet-still-eye-opening view into how women were (and still are in a lot of ways) viewed. Hopefully the empathy from reading and a more connected world can help us move to where it is only "were" and not "are".

3.5 / 5

Edited: May 16, 2022, 10:24 pm

Book #18 for 2022 was Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie. This is the first in the series of the Miss Marple books and the first Miss Marple book I have read. I found it enjoyable but I was disappointed in how little the book actually featured Miss Marple. Hopefully the other books are written from her perspective or at least feature her more prominently.

Reading this and Enola Holmes simultaneously was interesting as it showed how the "lower class" was viewed. The Holmes era was 1888 and the Marple era was 1930, but aside from the addition of technology such as motor vehicles and telephones, the worlds were not that different. In both cases there were servants and the main characters talked down to them. The "lower class" could not be trusted, good help was hard to find, people below your station did not deserve consideration, et cetera.

I am positive that Springer deliberately wrote these relationships into her story to be historically accurate, but I wonder if Christie wrote from a state of observing the world around her or from a justified perspective. Curious if anyone has thoughts on this.

3.0 / 5

May 17, 2022, 3:45 am

>63 robertwmartin: I think the thirties may have been a time when middle-class people like Christie were more inclined than ever to assert their superiority, because it was getting more precarious. Wages for servants were rising faster than the income of the professional classes, and not many young women wanted to submit themselves to the humiliating working conditions and long hours any more when there were jobs going in offices and factories. There’s a nice summary in E S Turner’s What the butler saw, but you can see the same sort of desperate defence of a vanishing middle-class lifestyle between the lines in a lot of other writers of the period, e.g. Angela Thirkell and P G Wodehouse. (Thirkell thought it was the end of the world, Wodehouse was more relaxed about it.)

May 21, 2022, 9:34 am

>64 thorold: Thanks. That is really helpful, but unfortunately you just added another book to my TBR list with the reference to What The Butler Saw. :-)

May 21, 2022, 9:50 am

Book #19 for 2022 was Expo 58 by Jonathan Coe. This was a "rando", one of those pick-ups from the "hey, check this out" section near the entrance to my local library. I did not know anything about Coe and after some research I am definitely going to read more from him. This book had its ups and down, starting out really well, slowing down and getting muddled, and then finishing strong. The last chapter does a wonderful job of tying the story together in a sad but heartwarming way.

Thomas Foley is the protagonist. He is dissatisfied, self-absorbed, and struggling to be less misogynistic while clinging to a male dominated view of the world. He is also capable of joy and love and has desires and dreams that will never come true. He is, in other words, a sad human.

As a general observation about life, we spend so much of our energy being what we "should be" instead of what we "need to be". Thomas could have been happy, but he kept making decisions and assumptions that stopped that from happening. At the end of his life, I think he finally realized that. That is what I meant by the final chapter being sad but heartwarming - heartwarming for us if we can learn the lesson, if not for Thomas himself.

So lots of words about a book that was good but not great. It is an easy read and getting through it to read the last chapter makes it worth the effort. That said, I don't recommend it that highly.

3.0 / 5

May 21, 2022, 10:06 am

Book #20 for 2022 was Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner. This was a book that I read with my younger daughter, one that I kept promising her would turn around and have a happy ending. Nope.

Imagine the Axis powers or maybe just the Nazis won World War II. Now imagine the UK is an occupied territory. Add on the terror of living in a territory of political prisoners who end up getting disappeared with neighbors that are rewarded as informants to the gestapo. And on top of all this, imagine a book written in this world narrated by an intelligent, highly imaginative teenaged boy with a learning disorder whose family is among the disappeared.

The story is 100 short chapters, with the story coming together through flashbacks over the first sixty. Once the background comes together, the final forty are linear. The narrator understands what he must do and what is going to happen. And it happens. (See spoiler text above.)

I quite liked this book and the way it was presented. It is not an easy read, but then being challenged is one of the greatest gifts one can get from reading. Just don't promise anyone that it turns out well in the end.

4.0 / 5

May 22, 2022, 10:06 am

Edited: May 23, 2022, 12:56 pm

Book #21 for 2022 was Moving Pictures by Terry Pratchett. This is the tenth Discworld book by Pratchett and was the most absurd (absurdest?) of the ten. The absurdity provided several moments of LLOL (literally laughing out loud) near the end of the book, and one touching but really sad scene.

The Discworld books continue to be a nice way to get an easy read in and provide a nice change from darker reads. While I am enjoying the series for those reasons and the LLOL opportunities, I struggle to find anyone to recommend them to. That seems weird to me. If you like a book, shouldn't you want to tell your friends about it?

3.5 / 5

May 29, 2022, 3:10 pm

Book #22 for 2022 was This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone. This is far and away my favorite book of the year so far. I borrowed it from the library and before I finished it, I went to my favorite bookstore ( and bought a copy as I knew I wanted a copy for myself.

The format is an epistolary (which I had to look up and now I am using it here to help me remember what it means! (it means a story in the form of letters, in case you didn't know either)) and the letters are interspersed with short chapters written in the third-person alternating between the protagonists. The two protagonists are enemies that are drawn closer together over the course of the story.

I really cannot say anything else at risk of spoiling the book. I do know that this book is polarizing - people seem to love it or hate it without many indifferent reactions. If you read the first third of the book and do not hate it, keep going as it will be worth it.

5.0 / 5

May 29, 2022, 8:44 pm

>70 robertwmartin: I’m curious to learn but don’t want you to spoil it.

>69 robertwmartin: i have Guards Guards lined up for next time I’m ready to revisit Discworld. I haven’t gotten to this one yet. The world would be a better place if more people spent time in Discworld.

May 29, 2022, 9:50 pm

>71 dchaikin: Guards! Guards! is really good. My Discworld notes show that the City Guard appear in many other books in the series, and that makes me quite happy.

Edited: May 29, 2022, 10:03 pm

>72 robertwmartin: There is a whole Subseries about them :) Not that they don’t pop up elsewhere occasionally but there are 8 where the City Guard are the main characters. Still my favorite part of the world. :)

Jun 6, 2022, 1:49 pm

It was a busy weekend. I am at a particular age and stage that means medications are a bigger part of my life than before. I started some medication that completely messed with my sleeping patterns for four days while my body adjusted. A positive outcome of that is the three books I read! Who needs sleep?!

Book #23 for 2022 was Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman. I picked this up on the "new and noteworthy" shelf at my local library thinking it an extension of Getting Things Done which I read fifteen years ago and have lived by since. GTD was mentioned but only in passing and with a reference to how many people, including myself for several years, missed the point with GTD. Getting to "Inbox Zero" is not the point if all that means is you generate more busy work for yourself. You really should focus on what really matters to you.

That is where the title of the book comes in. Life expectancy is 80 years at 50 weeks per year, for easy numbers, which means we have 4000 weeks in our lives. The deliberate and conscious choices we make, or that we SHOULD make, are what will make our 4000 weeks worthwhile.

I realized this in 2014 when I read an article in Harvard Business Review that asked what you were going to do with your three hours each day. The premise is after sleep, eating, commuting, working, shuttling kids around, friends, exercise, errands, cooking, cleaning, etc., etc., etc., the "average" person has burned through 147 hours each week. Since a week only has 168 hours, that means there are only 21 hours a week left for "me time", or "self-improvement" or "writing my novel" or whatever it is you really want to do. But if you can average that out over the week, you have three hours each day to do what you want to do. When I realized that, I stopped watching hockey and most television shows. There is nothing wrong with either and I have spent many enjoyable hours doing both, but at the end of my 4000 weeks, I doubt I will be laying on my deathbed muttering "I wish I watched more hockey" or "I should have watched the third season of that show".

To bring this back to the review, Burkeman's book was a great refresher on focusing on what is important and how to focus. There were sections on serial focus instead of multitasking, using single purpose technology to avoid distraction, and recognizing your limits instead of trying to do everything. However, it was also a life philosophy book written during the pandemic, so it also included warnings about social media, and the dangers of focusing on too many areas of charity or activism. Getting further into the philosophical areas, there were sections on practiced boredom, generosity, curiosity, and relaxation.

I really like this book and will come back to it again. I will end up buying a copy to sit on my shelf besides GTD and other touchstone books.

5.0 / 5

Jun 6, 2022, 2:01 pm

Book #24 for 2022 was The Narrows by Michael Connelly.

Do you ever get that feeling of not knowing what you want to read and then seeing a book and instantly realizing that is exactly what you are looking for? This was how I felt about "The Narrows". I like Connelly's books, but I am eighteen years behind in his output, and he puts them out faster than I read them so I am getting farther behind. This is how I feel about Ian Rankin as well - I'm not often in the mood for one of his books, but when I am, I really enjoy it.

I read "The Narrows" over twelve elapsed hours and a lot of that was after the rest of the family went to bed. See reference to difficulty sleeping in >74 robertwmartin: above. There has been more intensity (usually accompanied by more gore) in other books from Connelly, and a number of his books have been scarier, but the plot and the characters from Connelly's various books came together really nicely. The "audible gasp of plot recognition" at 02:00 made me glad I chose to read downstairs and not in the bedroom.

If you have read a few of the earlier books in Connelly's Bosch series, spending the time to catch up to "The Narrows", plus The Poet and Blood Work will give you a satisfying story line.

4.0 / 5

Jun 6, 2022, 2:09 pm

Book #25 for 2022 was Turing and the Universal Machine by Jon Agar. This was less a book and more of a long essay. The format of the book was like a trade paperback, but there were only 152 pages, the paper was thick, and the font was large.

I really wanted to learn about Alan Turing. I wanted to get more information on him and his thoughts. I wanted to understand the "Imitation Game", aka The Turing Test. What I got instead was a reasonable history on the development of mechanical and electronic calculators, and how that evolved into the world's first "computer". References to Turing were extremely limited. I felt like the author did a bait-and-switch: "If I put 'Turing' in the title, they will buy my history essay-turned-book."

So yeah, a bit of a letdown after plowing through two really enjoyable books.

2.5 / 5

Jun 6, 2022, 5:44 pm

>74 robertwmartin: It sounds like you make great use of those hours you spent not sleeping. I liked your review of Four Thousand Weeks. Interesting.

>76 robertwmartin: Like you, I wanted to learn more about Turing after seeing The Imitation Game. I read the first half of Alan Turing: The Enigma, but got bogged down in the math. I liked the first 300 pages or so that I read though and have always thought I would like to finish it.

Jun 13, 2022, 10:25 am

>77 labfs39: I wish we could find a good book about Turing as a person. It might be that a detailed account of his life will never be written because he didn't leave behind much in the way of correspondence since he was so secretive due to fear of persecution. Just a guess. There seems to be much more written about other WWII scientists, like Oppenheimer and the Manhattan Project cohort.

Jun 13, 2022, 10:58 am

Book #26 for 2022 was Wanderers by Chuck Wendig. This was my second read from Wendig, and there is a definite pattern emerging. His writing has an informal style, and his books bounce between characters with long internal monologues that involve a fair bit of swearing. His grasp of technology is decent, and his plot lines come together so the reads are enjoyable, but something is off. Maybe they need just a bit of polish.

If writing this book was a stew or casserole you were cooking, imagine taking The Stand as a starting recipe, both topically and as inspiration for size. Add in equal parts The Matrix, Fear, and Romantic Violence. Add healthy doses of love, loss, and family drama. The analogy I have in my head is a large beef chuck roast to make a pot roast, adding in sweet and sour pork, a paella, and then chocolate, vanilla, and marshmallows. All great things on their own, but together? Put another way, if that faux recipe sounds like there are too many ideas thrown together to be truly enjoyable, I would agree.

I enjoyed this enough to finish it, but I thought multiple times that it was too long. Wanderers was an 800-page behemoth and it didn't need to be much more than half that long, in my opinion.

2.5 / 5

Jun 14, 2022, 4:03 pm

>79 robertwmartin: Entertaining review!