Tuesday, December 29, 2020

My year in books

I started keeping track of the books I was reading when we were living in Vancouver last January. There might be a couple missing from the first days of the year, and of course I might have forgotten to include one or two. The oldest ones are at the bottom of the list.  Right now we have 64 on the list, and I bet I'll finish number 65 before the end of the year. 

This was the year of Black Lives Matter, and there are several books on this list that I discovered from articles or library blogs about black authors. I especially enjoyed Nairobi Heat by Mũkoma wa Ngũgĩ, about an American cop who follows a lead to Nairobi and teams up with another officer to solve a multinational crime. The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead was as stunning as his previous book, The Underground Railroad. 

In January we were (blissfully) living in Vancouver, in a retired professor's apartment, so some of the books at the bottom of the list were ones that were lying around. We had no public library card, so relied on his bookshelves and Little Free Libraries. Highlights from this group were My Nepenthe: Bohemian tales of food, family, and Big Sur by Romney Steele, Kaffe Fassett's niece, and Syria's Secret Library: Reading and redemption in a town under siege by Mike Thomson.

I read lots of non-fiction this year, I think because it's nice to have the facts about something, an anchor of reality in this wacky and "unreal" 2020. Recently I got riled up about public toilets and the lack thereof, especially in this pandemic, and read No Place to Go: How public toilets fail our private needs by Lezlie Lowe and then for historical context Dirty Old London: the Victorian fight against filth by Lee Jackson. After reading the first one, which was written by a woman who was first outraged about public toilets when she would go to parks with her young children, I had a book in my pile about Auschwitz. I found that I could handle outrage about toilets but I was not ready to deal with that, so back it went to the library. 

A lot of the fiction I read this year was "comfort" reading: a few Harry Potters, a few Ian Rankins, On the Road, Anne Tyler, even Nevil Shute! 

I used to volunteer at the local documentary cinema and would see probably 40 or 50 docs a year (I will keep a list when next I am able). I now find that although I have access to many movies online, I don't watch many documentaries, but I'll rewatch the Crown or some British cop show instead. It's just not the same sitting here alone in my living room watching on a laptop. 

Did you have a favourite book of the past year? 

Books read since Jan. 1, 2020
  • The Pine Islands, Marion Poschmann
  • Dirty Old London: the Victorian fight against filth, Lee Jackson
  • Pastoral, Nevil Shute
  • Sweater Quest: My year of living dangerously, Adrienne Martini

  • The Five: the untold lives of the women killed by Jack the Ripper, Hallie Rubenhold
  • No Place to Go: How public toilets fail our private needs, Lezlie Lowe
  • Love Enough, Dionne Brand
  • Crap: a history of cheap stuff in America, Wendy A Woloson
  • Little Fish, Casey Plett

  • Aubrey McKee, Alex Pugsley
  • A Song for the Dark Times, Ian Rankin
  • Redhead by the side of the road, Anne Tyler
  • Vancouver After Dark: The Wild History of a City's Nightlife, Aaron Chapman
  • Girl, Woman, Other, Bernardine Evaristo

  • The Bohemians: The lovers who led Germany's resistance against the Nazis, Norman Ohler
  • Cemetery Boys, Heather Brewer
  • They said this would be fun: race, campus life, and growing up, Eternity Martis
  • The Last Gang in Town: The epic story of the Vancouver police vs. the Clark Park gang, Aaron Chapman
  • Black Star Nairobi, Mukoma Wa Ngugi

  • 1536: The year that changed Henry VIII, Suzannah Lipscomb
  • Versailles, Colin Jones
  • Blacktop Wasteland, S A Cosby
  • Blonde, Joyce Carol Oates
  • Black Docker, Ousmane Sembène

  • You look like a thing and I love you: How artificial intelligence works and why it's making the world a weirder place
  • Somebody's Gotta Do It: Why cursing at the news won't save the nation, but your name on a local ballot can, Adrienne Martini
  • The Nickel Boys, Colson Whitehead
  • Rule Britannia, Daphne du Maurier
  • 1619: Jamestown and the Forging of American Democracy, James P P Horn

  • Nairobi Heat, Mũkoma wa Ngũgĩ
  • Heat: an amateur's adventures as kitchen slave, line cook, pasta-maker, and apprentice to a Dante-quoting butcher in Tuscany, Bill Buford
  • On the Road, Jack Kerouac
  • Dark Age Ahead, Jane Jacobs
  • N is for Noose, Sue Grafton

  • No Crystal Stair: a novel, Mairuth Sarsfield
  • Maigret at the Crossroads, Georges Simenon
  • The Mirror and the Light, Hilary Mantel
  • Bring up the Bodies, Hilary Mantel
  • George, Alex Gino

  • In a House of Lies, Ian Rankin
  • Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel
  • The Thin Man, Dashiell Hammett
  • The Falls, Ian Rankin
  • The Return of the Native, Thomas Hardy

  • Gumboot Girls: adventure, love & survival on British Columbia's north coast, a collection of memoirs compiled by Jane Wilde & edited by Lou Allison
  • Scurvy: how a surgeon, a mariner and a gentleman solved the greatest medical mystery of the age of sail
  • Exit Music, Ian Rankin
  • Far from the Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling

  • Sahara, Michael Palin
  • The Last Duel: a true story of crime, scandal, and trial by combat in medieval France, Eric Jager
  • Brighton Rock, Graham Greene
  • Syria's Secret Library: Reading and redemption in a town under siege, Mike Thomson
  • Anil's Ghost, Michael Ondaatje

  • The Complaints, Ian Rankin
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, J.K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J.K. Rowling
  • Lieutenant Hornblower, C.S. Forester
  • Earth and High Heaven, Gwethalyn Graham

  • My Nepenthe: Bohemian tales of food, family, and Big Sur, Romney Steele
  • The Fire Engine that Disappeared, Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö
  • Mr Midshipman Hornblower, C.S. Forester
  • The Woman in Blue, Elly Griffiths
  • The Silk Train Murder: A mystery of the Klondike, Sharon Rowse

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