At the beginning of each year, I set a goal for how many books I hope to read. For 2019, the goal was 24, and as of this writing, I completed 13. Not as close as I had hoped. Triple that for the number of books I bought/downloaded, though. Only problem is, what one buys to read doesn’t count as what is actually read. As time’s gone on, I’ve realized that reading books and buying books are two distinct hobbies – which is something every avid reader can relate to.
With no further ado, here’s what I read in 2019, from first to most recently completed.
Mistborn: The Final Empire, #1 (Brian Sanderson)
First of a series, Sanderson creates a world where few individuals possess the power of allomancy – the ability to manipulate metal properties to achieve seemingly magical effects. Original and well-developed concept. Sanderson packs a lot into his novels (I’m currently reading Elantris and The Way of Kings, and his exposition and character development is remarkably consistent and thorough), with robust, three dimensional characters. The plot sounds boilerplate – oppressed people plotting to overthrow a ruthless tyrant – but Sanderson tweaks it enough to make it fresh. Looking forward to the rest of the series.
Very Truly Run After: A Novel of Squirrels and Romance (Will Duquette)
Written by fellow Catholic blogger Will Duquette, this is the sequel to his debut novel Vikings at Dino’s, a funny, inventive time-traveling romp, catapulting diminuitive Michael Henderson into an adventure he was hardly prepared for. In the sequel, he sidesteps into a parallel regency steampunk world, where everybody packs heat – primarily because of the squirrels (yes, really!). This is a clever, witty story, complimenting the first novel in its differences as well as in its similarities. Clean and profanity-free, too.
Alternate Routes (Tim Powers)
I’ve been a Tim Powers fan since a friend suggested I read Declare several years ago. In that time, I’ve read nearly everything he’s written (The Stress of Her Regard is my favorite), and with rare exception, I haven’t been disappointed. His imagination seems inexhaustible, combining history and fiction in dizzying, terrifying, and supernatural ways. Alternate Routes is no exception, merging our reality with that of Greek mythology via Los Angeles freeways, ghosts, physics, covert government agencies, and communicating with the dead. I listened to the Audible recording, narrated by Bronson Pinchot. Meh.
God or Nothing (Robert Cardinal Sarah)
I can summarize this biographical series of interviews in one word: Whoa. We are blessed to have this man as a Cardinal. I’m inspired to read his other published works.
Farmer Giles of Ham (JRR Tolkien)
First of three Tolkien novels (or those based on his notes) I read during the year. A delightful satirical tale.
Pietr the Latvian (Georges Simenon)
I hadn’t heard of Inspector Maigret, until watching a four part series on BritBox earlier this year, in which Rowan Aktinson played the titular role of the commissaire of the Paris Brigade Criminelle. I mainly wanted to see how Atkinson pulled off a serious dramatic role (he did so admirably), and the stories’ intricacies enticed me to download the Audible recording of the inaugural Inspector Maigret novel. I intend to read more.
The Three Body Problem (Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu)
Sci-fi has always been a favorite genre, but this one…I don’t know how it won a Hugo. Characters were flat and one-dimensional, and too much passive voice (though that might have been due to translation). The thought that physicists were committing suicide because the “settled science” of physics actually wasn’t – unbelievable to me. I was unimpressed. There are much better alien contact novels out there.
The Everlasting Man (GK Chesterton)
A second goal of mine in 2019 was to read more Chesterton. I’ve always admired his turn of phrase and common sense approach to theological and social issues. Everlasting Man is deep yet understandable, complex yet simple. It deserves a re-reading.
The Children of Hurin (Tolkien)
The second of three Tolkien books. I listened to the Audible recording narrated by Sir Christopher Lee. Let me tell you – there is nothing quite like hearing him speak in Elvish! Magnificent! The story is as dramatic and full of pathos than any Greek tragedy. I believe there will never be another Tolkien, in anyone’s lifetime, present or future; and while that saddens me a bit, I’m grateful his works have endured throughout my lifetime.
The Power and the Glory (Graham Greene)
A third goal of mine for 2019 was to read more Catholic fiction. Greene’s story of a priest running from the authorities during the Mexican persecution in the 1920’s is gripping and tragic, yet full of redemption and grace. He portrayed perfectly the sinful human condition which only grace can cleanse, without the heavy hammer of prosyletism.
The Diary of a Country Priest (Georges Bernaros)
Another Catholic classic. Sad and poignant in many places, yet one can see how God’s grace slowly unfolds and grows within the priest through his own words, who fails to recognize it as it happens. A beautiful story.
The Silmarillion (Tolkien)
The third Tolkien book, narrated by Martin Shaw (excellent, by the way). I had read this as a teenager, and failed to appreciate its scope, vision, and Catholicity. From the dawn of creation to the end of the Third Age, this mythology of Middle Earth – a place so many of us are familiar with – is magical and inspiring.
The Saint Monica Club (Maggie Green)
This book is so opportune, as younger Catholics are leaving the Church. Written for parents whose children no longer practice the faith, the author draws upon the example of St Monica praying for the conversion of her son, St Augustine. I’ll have a fuller review in the coming days. Highly recommended.
My goal in 2020 is the same: 24 books. Next year’s list includes two Charles Todd mysteries, the second Mistborn novel, A Conflict of Visions by Thomas Sowell, the biography of Alexander Hamilton, and the complete stories of Flannery O’Connor.
Plus, you can find me on Goodreads at LarryD.
Any recommendations? What did you read in 2019 that moved you? I’d love to hear about them!
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