Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A year of reading

Twenty years ago, in January 1994, I started keeping a record of every book I read. Only complete books, not articles or essays, not books I started but never finished. Only complete books. Most years, I've read 60 or 70; this year I seem to have finished 91: about one book every four days. I guess that tells you what life is like for a book and antique dealer. A lot of waiting around for something to sell.

But in terms of the reading I did, it was a big year for series. I wrapped up the year reading both starting to reread Terry Pratchett's Discworld series and reading nine of Dorothy Sayers's Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane mysteries, leaving a few to try to track down in 2014.

Wimsey is an interesting detective figure, and not only because he is a collector of incunabula. He cheerfully leaves all the dull leg-work of detection to Inspector Parker, his friend at Scotland Yard (and eventually his brother-in-law). As a wealthy aristocrat, he plays the role of foolish dilettante almost to the point of being annoying to the reader, but he is nevertheless constantly troubled by the clash between the delight he feels in the solving of puzzles, and the  troublesome reality that solving his cases will probably send someone to the gallows.

For most of the year, I was finishing up the long series of Patricia Wentworth's Miss Silver mysteries, of which I read twenty-one between February and October.

For those who haven't heard of Miss Silver, she's an ageless former governess in the Edwardian mode, and she spends the 1940s and 50s working as a private enquiry agent, called in to sort things out in the aftermath of various English village and country house murders. She knits and she listens, and people tell her things they would never tell the police, and any slip of propriety is corrected with her signature cough.

The highlight of the year, though, was probably working through C J Cherryh's Foreigner series between August 17 and September 22. It's a science fiction series that I've followed since reading the first volume when it was new (it shows up in my book on February 2, 1994), and the most recent volume (Protector) is number fourteen in the series.

The series follows Bren Cameron, lone human from an island enclave serving as diplomat to the atevi government ruling upon the mainland of the atevi planet. There's virtually always shooting, human-alien interaction, and (perhaps most surprising of all) huge amounts of dialogue and description involving the protocols of atevi culture.

But the characters have become, over the years, very familiar indeed (to Cherryh as well, one suspects), and it's only the second time in twenty years I've made the effort to read all of the series in order to read the newest one. It was like a month spent with old friends, revisiting events well known and well remembered. The fifteenth volume, I think, will probably be out before too long.

Other smaller series and individual books were, of course, also read during the year. And I am almost half-way through the blank book where I've been recording my reading. Here's to the next twenty years!

1 comment:

George said...

While I still have my book, it is no longer up to date. Well, maybe it is; I rarely read full books any longer. --george