At the end of September I reached that point in the year when I could shake off all my various book club obligatory reading and get down to the serious business of reading the books I bought for myself all year long. Not every year gives me a break where I can read what I want. I often have to squeeze in my ‘must read’ books between the two to three other books I read per month for various discussion groups and book clubs. Don’t get me wrong. I very much enjoy reading outside my comfort zone and would not give up the wonderful discussions and cherished friendships I’ve nurtured through a shared love of reading.
Most years, I read between 75 and 100 books; last year I read 88 and as of today I’ve read 99 thus far in 2017. And only about ten percent make it onto my ‘loved-it’ shelf (the equivalent of a five-star rating). This year had a few more than normal and will probably end with two to three more on the shelf before year’s end (because I’m now reading what I’ve had on hold for most of the year).
In fact, one if not two of the books I’m currently reading will end up on this shelf:
The whole point behind this post is to decide which one of these books to recommend to my local and most beloved book club next month. For November, we’re supposed to bring a book we loved and could recommend to the group, instead of reading a book together as a group and discussing it.
Many of the books I read and loved this year were in fact re-reads, but still reinforced my original love for them with a return to their pages. When I do decide to re-read a book, I always choose a different format.
For example, I bought the trade paperback of The Children of Húrin when it was released in 2007 and I bought it again a couple of years later when there was a sale on the ebook edition. So for my third re-read, I listened to Christopher Lee relate the beautiful and tragic tale of The Children of Húrin.
- The Children of Húrin by Tolkien, read by Christopher Lee (#1 recommendation)
- The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick, read by Jeff Cummings
- Dragonsong by Anne McAffrey, read by Sally Darling
- Ben-Hur by Lew Wallace, read by Lloyd James (a very close second)
Once Summer arrived, I had to drop everything and read the Hugo nominees and finalists, which includes quite a bit of short fiction – novellas, novelettes, short stories, etc. And, I often buy, hot off the press from Tor.com Publishing, novellas by established and up-and-coming authors. My highest recommendation for this subcategory goes to Martha Wells and I can’t wait for the next Murderbot Diaries release (May 2018).
- The Women Men Don’t See by James Tiptree, Jr.
- Penric and the Shaman by Lois McMaster Bujold
- Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies by Brooke Bolander
- That Game We Played During the War by Carrie Vaughn (this was a close second)
- All Systems Read by Martha Wells (#1 recommendation in short fiction)
Surprising Book Club Reads
Most books I read for my clubs and groups I can honestly say I enjoyed reading and liked them. Very rarely there’s a book I can’t finish or choose not to waste time reading because, well, life is too short and there are so many books to read. The following books ended up on my ‘loved-it’ shelf despite being thrust upon my by the hive mind.
- A Little Princes by Frances Hodgson Burnett
- A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman
Most of the non-fiction I read I consume through audiobooks, but only the longest one, Alexander Hamilton, did I listen to for nearly two months of daily commuting.
- Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow
- Making Sense of It All: Pascal and the Meaning of Life by Thomas V. Morris
- Traveler of Worlds: Conversations with Robert Silverberg by Alvar Zinos-Amaro
- J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography by Humphrey Carpenter
- The Music of the Lord of the Rings Films: A Comprehensive Account of Howard Shore’s Scores by Doug Adams
There’s only two books left from my original graphic at the top of this post that encapsulated all the books I read and loved year-to-date. One of them is a book of short stories by Tolkien called Tree and Leaf. If you’ve been paying attention, you probably noticed that I read (or reread) a lot of Tolkien this year. I have the local chapter of the Tolkien Society to thank for that. I officially joined the International Tolkien Society on Hobbit Day (September 22nd) and plan to continue my deep-dive into Tolkiendom for many years to come.
- Tree and Leaf by J.R.R. Tolkien
- Traitor’s Blade by Sebastion de Castell (#1 recommendation for non-SFF readers)
- Destiny’s Conflict by Janny Wurts (#1 recommendation for epic fantasy readers)
Of the three recommendations above, the one I will submit to my beloved book club is Traitor’s Blade because I believe it will be the most enjoyable for my friends who may not feel as comfortable as I do stepping beyond reality and into the fantastical Because Traitor’s Blade is more adventure than sorcery, and does remind me of both Dumas and Brust, I hope my friends will give it a read.
But you don’t have to take my word on this book. Check out Jason Heller’s review at NPR Books when Traitor’s Blade was first released back in the Summer of 2014: “En Garde! ‘Traitor’s Blade’ Delivers Adventure At Swordpoint.”