Reading 2017

2017 was my Year of Lowered Expectations. I’m hoping it retains that title so that I don’t have to pass it on to 2018 or some other future year. I read about 25% fewer books last year than usual. And I know it isn’t a competition, and I know you don’t get demerits for dying with a huge stack of unread books, but it was frustrating. Especially since I can’t figure out what I was doing that ate into my reading time (and my knitting time: not many finished projects last year either) so noticeably.

I did more rereading this year than usual—”usual” for me being “not at all.” I hold onto a lot of books, utterly convinced that I will reread them, and then get distracted by all the other interesting books I haven’t yet read. This year, though, I was trying to streamline my personal library, and I reread a number of books to see if I really wanted to keep them. (Often the answer was “no.” Not all once-beloved books age well.) In a couple of cases, I reread books because they worked for the 2017 Read Harder Challenge. At least that was economical. No reread books are in the following list, although I was sorely tempted to put Three Parts Dead in again, just for the amusement of including it for two years in a row.

This was a year of memorable series as well as memorable books, namely the Small Change trilogy and the Craft Sequence. I’d been intending to read the Small Change trilogy for the better part of a decade. When I finally got around to it, I devoured it as fast as the library could provide copies. It’s probably a good sign about the quality of a title (or three) if you have to get on a wait list for them even when they’ve been around for years. As for the Craft Sequence, all I can say is that I’d gotten distracted in 2016 with other books. I fixed that in 2017.

Covers of Farthing, Ha'penny, Half a Crown

  • The Small Change trilogy by Jo Walton: Farthing (9/10; finished 4/5/2017), Ha’penny (9/10; finished 4/24/2017), Half a Crown (6/10; finished 5/18/2017): Three linked novels set between 1949 and 1960 in an alternate England that made peace with Hitler and turned fascist. Unfortunately more timely than the author ever intended. I say more about it here.

Covers of Eleanor & Park, Plato at the Googleplex

  • Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (9/10; finished 8/15/2017): So, how many books by Rainbow Rowell have I read without getting around to her possibly best-known one? Yes, it’s quite good. It also gave me flashbacks galore to being in high school (I’m a few years older than the characters). I was reading it on the Megabus, and the woman sitting next to me—who was definitely not old enough to remember 1986 personally—recognized it and assured me that it was great.
  • Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won’t Go Away by Rebecca Newberger Goldstein (10/10; finished 9/15/2017): It’s always good to hear about a book, track down a copy, read it, and like it. There’s a special thrill, though, to going into a book with no real idea of what it’s about, and discover that it wasn’t what you thought it might be and still like it. I have no memory of putting this on my library wish list, and I decided to read it because everything else on the list was checked out. I thought it would be some earnest essay about philosophy in today’s world. Instead, Goldstein has written a series of short pieces, starting with the premise that Plato is alive and well and on a book tour in the modern United States. Each chapter consists of an essay on a theme in Plato’s work, followed by a fictional dialogue (lunch at the Googleplex, a debate at a Y in New York, and so on) that expands on that theme. Partway through, I returned the ebook to the library—the footnotes were badly linked, and they’re vital—and bought a print copy, already knowing I wanted to keep it.

Covers of Four Roads Cross and Last First Snow

  • Four Roads Cross by Max Gladstone (10/10; finished 9/23/2017): This is the more-or-less direct sequel to Three Parts Dead, although if you read the series in order, there are three books between them. (Including Last First Snow, but I got mixed up and read it afterwards.) As sequels often do, it deals with the fallout from its predecessor; even triumphant endings have repercussions. And I went through the entire book happy to see Tara Abernathy and other characters again, plus getting all in suspense about the legal battle that builds during the story.
  • Last First Snow by Max Gladstone (10/10; finished 11/1/2017): This is fully part of the Craft Sequence (#4), but as the first novel chronologically, it has the feeling of a prequel, and I’m not always that fond of prequels. Sometimes they leave me feeling like I’ve just read the same story twice. Not so in this case: I came to the end of this book feeling like I had a much better grasp of the history of Dresediel Lex and several of the characters I’d already met. Featuring one of my favorite characters from Three Parts Dead: Elayne Kevarian (can I just say how wonderful it is to read a book where the “older woman protagonist” is over thirty?).

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