6 Months of Reading

The start of July. Halfway clear of the dystopian wastes of 2018, with the days threatening to get shorter again. A time to stop and think about all the things we thought we’d achieve back in January that we then got distracted from by US politics.  More importantly, a time to think about the books we’ve read.

At the end of last year, I posted a short list of the best books I’d read in 2017. That was from a total of some 45 books. As July loomed, it dawned on me that I’d already read some 34+ books in 2018. More than enough to discuss without waiting for the year to end. And being a writerly sort, I’d already made an annotated list of the books I’d finished. How very shareable.

I’ve abridged the list to ones I’d really recommend from what I’ve read so far this year. If you’re interested in the rest (many of which I did enjoy, but would have to cavaet), I’ve included the titles of the rest below. There’s little particularly current or newsworthy about these titles, just the random tract of reading that my mind and bookshelves have taken me on.

The books are listed in the order that I read them, nothing more. I’d have no idea how else to order them, truth be told. Except that Blood Meridian would be on top.

Top Reads of 2018 So Far

The State of the Art – Iain M Banks – sci-fi short stories; a solid collection of dark and humorous vignettes from the Culture series, with the titular tale seeing the Culture coming to Earth

Maskerade – Terry Pratchett – fantasy, humour; light read laced with Pratchett’s usual wittiness, as the witches solve an Opera mystery

The Demolished Man – Alfred Bester – sci-fi, dystopian; classic crime procedural packed with emotion and creativity – angry, raw and brilliant

Wired for Story – Lisa Cron – non-fiction, writing/psychology; excellent exploration of how people respond to stories, neurologically and psychology, shedding light on why stories work – and why they matter

Tishomingo Blues – Elmore Leonard – crime; criminal conspiracy against a background of high diving and Civil War re-enactment – slickly on par for Leonard

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell – Susanne Clarke – fantasy, historical; exceptionally stylised alternative history of magic (re)emerging during the Napoleonic wars – surprisingly readable considering the Victorian style adopted

Blood Meridian – Cormac Mccarthy – western, literary; described by a critic as a “nightmare odyssey”, no better way to say it – haunting, enthralling, stunning

C is for Corpse – Sue Grafton – crime; another perfectly enjoyable mystery for Kinsey Millhone

When God Was a Woman – Merlin Stone – non-fiction, religion/gender studies; survey of the history of gendered worship and patriarchal society – should be required reading

Pagan Babies – Elmore Leonard – crime; curious blend of Detroit mafia and the Rwandan genocide – Leonard’s usual stylish caper with an added touch of social conscience

Stardust – Neil Gaiman – fantasy; a great deal of imagination in a relatively short tale – efficient and charming

The Examined Life – Stephen Grosz – non-fiction, psychology; easily digestible anecdotes illuminating problems both unique and universal

Before They Are Hanged – Joe Abercrombie – fantasy; takes the distinctly unheroic heroes of the First Law series on a saga across the world – dark, humorous and immersive

Influence – Robert Ciadini – non-fiction, psychology/marketing; the first book in decades that I’ve read multiple times, a revealing study of the powers of persuasion

Last Argument of Kings – Joe Abercrombie – fantasy; the First Law trilogy comes to a neatly wrapped, violent close – a fitting end to a consistently engaging epic

Black Holes and Time Warps – Kip T. Thorne – non-fiction, relativity; surprisingly accessible approach to a difficult topic – will leave you questioning reality

Mona Lisa Overdrive – William Gibson – cyberpunk; the concluding chapter in the Sprawl trilogy, every bit as frenetic and inventive as the rest

Other titles that I’ve been inclined to read…

Of the rest, there’s a fair few I’d say were worth a read. Some I did not get on with but others might like. There’s about 3 here that I feel like I shouldn’t have bothered finishing.

  • Barricade – Jon Wallace – dystopian adventure
  • Angels of Darkness – Gav Thorpe – sci-fi, action
  • Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency – Douglas Adams – sci-fi, time travel
  • The Dog Listener – Jan Ferrell – non-fiction, dogs
  • The Clearing – Tim Gautreaux – historical, crime/drama
  • Mastering AMS Ads – Brian Meeks – non-fiction, marketing
  • Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card – sci-fi, military
  • Predator’s Gold – Philip Reeve – dystopian, steampunk
  • Death – Todd May – non-fiction, philosophy
  • Storm Front – Jim Butcher – urban fantasy, crime
  • The Death of Bunny Munro – Nick Cave – literary
  • Where the Wild Ferns Grow – William Rawles – literary, coming-of-age
  • The One – John Marrs – sci-fi, literary
  • Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel – post-apocalyptic, literary
  • Wilderness Tips – Margaret Atwood – literary short stories
  • The Wind Up Girl – Paolo Bacigalupi – dystopian, biopunk

And there’s one book, not on this list, which I actually gave up on (after reading a substantial amount – I expect there’s a handful I never got into). But we won’t go into that.

Onward to the next 40. I’ve already got my first book of July read, and especially look forward to exploring some indie fantasy in the coming months as I’m gazing with intrigue at the SPFBO list. More on that soon…

Got any recommendations, anything that’s particularly stood out for you in 2018? Let me know!

Where would you live in Ordshaw?

Following Under Ordshaw‘s release, I’m sharing an article to give you a more rounded idea of the city and its neighbourhoods. Whether you’re familiar with its stories or are yet to explore the UK’s worst-behaved city, I hope you’ll agree it’s an interesting place to explore…

Here’s Veronica Hulme’s advice for anyone thinking to venture into Ordshaw (click the image below for the full article):

A little snippet from the intro:

Where to Live in Ordshaw?

Experiencing the most popular locations in the UK’s fastest-growing city

Among the many name’s it has adopted, one of Ordhsaw’s more favourable monikers is the UK’s Second City. It’s a controversial title, given that the population of Ordshaw is arguably smaller than that of Manchester or Birmingham, but the impact of Ordshaw’s cultural identity it’s hard to discount. Locals, in fact, may place it before even London. With dozens of uniquely characterful districts to choose from and a burgeoning commercial sector, it’s no wonder that people are flocking there in droves.

A City With Every View

At times, it seems that every environment you can imagine is contained somewhere within Ordshaw’s seven boroughs. Most choose Ordshaw for its hectic centre and lively urban communities, yet there are also leafy suburbs, country estates and an oft-forgotten coastline. From the high life of glass skyscrapers to the humble quiet of a modest bungalow, the choice is yours. So where do you start?

Central Ordshaw

It’s said that no one really lives in Ordshaw. A nighttime walk through Central tells you why: where the River Gader meets the financial district, the glass towers are filled with offices, not apartments. Though Central is alive with museums, galleries and coffee houses by day, at night and you’ll find the bustle of businessmen and tourists replaced by an eerie quiet. Few choose to live there, which is just as well, because the homes that are available in the area are beyond the budgets of most mere mortals.

New Thornton

The more obvious place to settle in Ordshaw is amongst the narrow, erratically winding streets of New Thornton, where factory workers’ tenements have been repurposed to offer some of the most sought-after properties in the country. Space comes at a a premium, so don’t expect a garden, but New Thornton balances its claustrophobia with almost everything else. As home to the Opera House, a dozen museums and some of the best restaurants in the city, you barely have to set foot outside to soak up the culture. It’s also the site of two of the UK’s top-graded schools, and Great Farling Railway Station provides exceptional travel connections.

Continue Reading Here…

If you’d like to know about the city, see it through Pax’s eyes in the first book in the Ordshaw series, Under Ordshaw.