2016 Reading List

Any good writer will tell you that you need to read more than you write. Yet, I have found that I sometimes get caught up into a single genre. I’m a big fan of Fantasy settings, so a huge amount of my reading is done there. Over the past six months in particular, though, I’ve really started to feel challenged on increasing my range of reading, and so going into 2016, I’ve looked at a few of the “reading challenge” ideas that go around at the beginning of each year, and have settled on this one.

2016 Reading Challenge

  • A book published this year (2016).
  • A book you can finish in a day.
  • A book you’ve been meaning to read.
  • A book recommended by your local librarian or bookseller.
  • A book you should have read in school.
  • A book chosen for you by your spouse, partner, sibling, child, or BFF.
  • A book published before you were born.
  • A book that was banned at some point.
  • A book you previously abandoned.
  • A book you own but have never read.
  • A book that intimidates you.
  • A book you’ve already read at least once.

 

This is certainly not meant to be the exhaustive list of everything I read in 2016, but it was a good starting point for something to get me a little out of my comfort zone. I’ve done a bit of looking around to come up with a collection of titles, and here’s the ones I’ve chosen.

A book published this year (2016)

The Queen of the Night - Alexander CheeThe Queen of the Night – Alexander Chee

This was actually the hardest of all of the categories for me to pick just one book from. I looked through a number of different lists of anticipated books of 2016 and there looks to be some amazing books coming out this year. Set in 19th century Paris, GoodReads tells me that the story follows an intriguing tale of the life of soprano Lilliet Berne.

A book you can finish in a day

The Sense of an Ending - Julian BarnesThe Sense of an Ending – Julian Barnes

This book won the “Mans Booker Prize” in 2011, and, according to Amazon, is “a novel so compelling that it begs to be read in a single sitting.” At 163 pages in length, I think that’s a pretty feasible expectation, so it made the list. A similar sounding base plot to The Queen of the Night, actually, as the protagonist is forced to come to terms with certain aspects of his past.

A book you’ve been meaning to read

A Game of Thrones - George R.R. MartinA Game of Thrones – George R.R. Martin

I know, right? Mr “I-usually-only-read-fantasy” is listing one of the biggest fantasy sagas of the 21st century as the book he’s been meaning to read? The problem is that with Tolkien, Eddings, Feist, etcetera, I just didn’t quite get up to Martin before Game of Thrones came out on TV, so then I was busy watching it instead. Now that the TV series and books are basically up to date with one another, though, I figured I might as well get started reading.

A book recommended by your local librarian or bookseller

A Death in Sweden - Kevin WignallA Death in Sweden – Kevin Wignall

Most of my life, these days, is online – therefore, I’m counting Amazon as my local bookseller. It’s kind of cheating, but Amazon’s been recommending this thriller to me since before it was released, and I’m keen to pick it up. I’m a purist reader at heart, but it’s a lot easier to carry a hundred e-books around on my iPad than it is to carry 100 books around.

A book you should have read in school

The Shipping News - E. Annie Proulx

The Shipping News – E. Annie Proulx

The problem with being a book geek, was that every book I should have read in school, I did read in school. However, when it came to The Shipping News, I just found the story so boring and annoying that I didn’t really enjoy it that much. This is a book that won both a Pulitzer prize and the U.S. National Book Award, and was turned into a screenplay. So I figured, let’s give it a second chance.

A book chosen for you by your sibling

Failure is Not an Option - Gene KranzFailure is Not an Option – Gene Kranz

Honestly, I tried to cheat here. I knew that last year, my brother read and enjoyed The Martian, and so was expecting that, in asking him which book he would recommend I read this year, that he’d say that one. Instead, he came at me with a memoir from NASA flight director Gene Kranz. I think he still did alright, though. I’m looking forward to reading this one.

A book published before you were born

The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre DumasThe Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas

There are so many classics that I still need to get through, but this one was easy, as The Count of Monte Cristo was always going to be next on my list of old classics to read. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie version of this with Jim Caviezel and Guy Pearce, and after reading The Three Musketeers, Dumas’ other classic was pretty much a requirement.

A book that was banned at some point

Ulysses - James JoyceUlysses – James Joyce

The toss-up here was between this and A Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, which will no doubt get read at some point as well. Apparently, Ulysses was banned in Australia from 1929 to 1937, and then again from 1941 until 1953, primarily, it seems, because there were so many copies in circulation that the ban was ineffectual anyway.

A book you previously abandoned

Irenicon - Aidan HarteIrenicon – Aidan Harte

Honestly, this is probably the biggest challenge in my list, from my perspective. Only because the reason I abandoned it previously over struggles to engage with the story itself. I’ve read other books, though, that were a struggle, and some of them have turned out to be worth the struggle in the end, so let’s see how this one goes second time around.

A book you own but have never read

The Skeleton Road - Val McDermidThe Skeleton Road – Val McDermid

I’m an obsessive book buyer. There’s actually a whole heap of books in my possession that I’ve bought and am yet to read, so this one was picked solely on the basis that it was the first one I saw. I have read, previously, The Mermaids Singing by McDermid, so reading more of her work has been on the cards for a while.

A book that intimidates you

Anna Karenina - Leo TolstoyAnna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy

I first tried to read War and Peace when I was about ten years old, because it was mentioned in a Peanuts comic strip. I kind of failed at that time, for obvious reasons. I was a good reader, but the language of that epic was still beyond my reach at the time. Tolstoy still intimidates me, but I’ve been meaning to read this for a while.

A book you’ve already read at least once

The Crimson Tapestry - Michael JoensThe Crimson Tapestry – Michael Joens

I read this book and its sequel, Shadows of Eden, in high school, borrowed from the library. A few years ago I was at a garage sale and found both of them in a box and figured I’d grab them and see if they were as good as I remembered. In the same vein as many other books that I buy, they’ve since sat on my shelf waiting for action.

 

Update – 11 October 2015

“It has been a good life.”

According to my new favourite Facebook feature, which allows me to go in and see what I posted on this date in the past, I wrote those words four years ago from a character who was settling themselves in to die.

This has me thinking about two things.

Firstly, it’s been four years since I wrote those words, and the novel is still not finished. To be fair to myself, I lost a massive amount of my motivation over this particular time period thanks to work, and just the way my life went. It’s only really been since leaving that particular job that I’ve found some of my heart for writing again, and been able to really get my passion and flow back for it.

It also makes me think, though, about letting go of characters. The things I was saying last week, about how characters really do tend to have a life of their own, also comes to play with their deaths as well.

This character, lying in their bed, aged and content, was almost easy to walk away from. Like in real life, it’s a lot easier to say goodbye to someone who has lived a long and happy life, than it is to say goodbye to someone taken well before his or her time.

This death contrasted with the first one I ever had to write. That one came upon me suddenly, honestly taking me by surprise. I still remember writing it, my fingers streaming across the keyboard, almost independently of the rest of my brain functions. I cried. I totally wept.

I think it’s one of the hardest things that we have to do, is kill off a character. Especially when it’s a major one. I don’t know how George R.R. Martin does it. I don’t think I could have written Game of Thrones. It would be torturous trying to write that stuff.

Speaking of, I’m finally getting into the book series of that. I’ve discovered that I prefer watching the TV show or movie before reading the book, if I can at all, because then I find that reading the book expands on what happened in the movie, rather than the movie being a disappointing shadow of what could have been.

That’s me for another week. Nothing major to report on the progress front – I managed a bit of work on Seven Peaks and a little on Prophecy Girl as well. Both are coming along pretty well now that I have started scheduling proper novel writing times.

Later.

Update: 4 October 2015

When I woke up on Monday last week, I was looking at my life and thinking how great it was that things were finally starting to come under control.

I’m pretty sure that whenever I think that, the universe turns into Barney Stinson.

Challenge Accepted

Last week started out pretty brilliantly. I got through a heap of work, felt motivated, and was starting to get plans into place to move forward in several different projects. It was great.

Then I nearly died.

That might be a bit of an exaggeration, and at the same time, it’s actually not. You see, because I was so well organized, I decided I could take some time out to help a mate with a renovation he’s working on. Which involved lifting a ridiculously heavy steel beam into the ceiling above his kitchen.

Except that, while we were trying to get it into the house, I slipped – and not just a little slip, either. We’re talking the full-on slip with feet coming out from under me, flying in the air, banana peel style slip like this guy.

Epic Slip Penguin

And while I’m horizontal, I happen to catch site of the beam just floating there, with my friend struggling to hold onto it. For a moment, my mind entertained the thought of I’d better catch that, before survival instinct kicked in and told me to get the hell out of the way. So I did. I hit the ground and commando rolled as far from where everything else was potentially going to collapse as possible. The whole movement was actually pretty epic.

I didn’t die, obviously, but that’s pretty much how the rest of my week turned out. Nothing went quite to plan, and pretty much everything just ended up taking longer than expected, meaning that hours went places I didn’t really want them to go, and sadly, time is one thing that, once you lose it, you can’t get it back.

I did, though, get some progress made on Seven Peaks! In that process, I discovered that Paige is a vegan – much to my chagrin – and once again asked the question that I think most authors probably ask pretty regularly. “Why do I let you people make your own decisions again?”

Why?

To be honest, I think God probably asks that question of us humans at times, too.

Characters are interesting. As an author, you come up with this concept of a person, but they basically end up deciding who they are independently of what you might want for them. It can be frustrating at times.

So yes, everything turned out unexpectedly last week, even my main character. Which is also why I’m writing this on Monday morning instead of Sunday when I was meant to – although that’s partly also because of the distraction caused by the NRL Grand Final last night.

Have a great week folks. I’ll do better this time. I just have to start working my way through the list of tasks that Asana is reminding me that I didn’t do yet.