Last Spring, I wrote a blog post outlining what I planned to read over the summer. So, how’d I do?
Let’s start by confessing what I didn’t get around to:
1. Anything by Jane Austen. Or anything about Jane Austen. Nope.
2. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. “But Mr. Gette,” I hear you say, “you have a copy in the library!” Why yes. Yes we do. And it stayed in the library.
3. Ready Player One. Some day, book. Some day.
4. Scott Pilgrim. I watched the movie again…
Alright, that’s enough public wringing of hands. Now, what did I read?
1. A whole lot of fantasy. I took a class over the summer on fantasy literature, which had a lot of required reading: Lewis Carroll, C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Phillip Pullman, and J. K. Rowling. I’d read everything accept The Amber Spyglass before, so I won’t review anything in depth here. But I will say that you have not lived until you have seen 10 teachers and librarians fight over whether Harry Potter is or will be a classic.
Also, given that I read 12 books for this, I feel like I get a pass on some of the stuff above.
2. The Black Count. Probably my favorite of the books I read this summer. Popular nonfiction at its finest, this book chronicles the life of Alexander Dumas the eldest, which bears some similarity to his son’s novels – in particular, The Count of Monte Cristo (which I started reading the second I finished The Black Count). Part biography, part story of the rise and fall of French abolitionism and civil rights. Coming soon to a Calarco library shelf near you!
3. Watergate. I’m a huge fan of All the President’s Men, and I’ve read it multiple times. I decided I wanted to read a more comprehensive view of Watergate – one that covered more than Woodward and Bernstein’s points of view. This one took me a while to get through, mostly because of how exhaustive it is, but it covers a lot that I’d never heard about. If you want a quick read, go with All the President’s Men. If you want a thorough one, go with this.
4. The Diviners. Not as good as Beauty Queens, but better than Going Bovine. A supernatural tale set in the Roaring 20’s. with plenty of mystery, romance, and dead villains. The characters were solid, even if I wished that Evie would stop using slang in every single sentence. Plenty of questions are raised that don’t get answered – obvious hooks for the sequel. I should be used to such tricks by now, but it’s still disappointing.
5. A Simple Murder. A weaver goes to a Shaker commune to find his son and is enlisted to solve a murder. A solid mystery, with plenty of red herrings. I had to keep reminding myself that William Rees’ awful misogyny was period appropriate (the book is set in the late 1700’s). Only the fact that I was in England and had no space for books kept me from immediately getting the sequel.
6. Five Flavors of Dumb. A deaf teenager becomes the manager for a band. Do you really need more of a hook than that? Smart YA, with teenagers acting like teenagers, and not adults with a layer of hair dye and math homework.
7. Midnight Riot. I don’t like urban fantasy – unless it involves a government agent or private detective and some ghosts or demons or other things that go bump in the night (please see Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim and Charlie Stross’s Laundry Files series). In this case, it’s a police officer who can speak to ghosts, which comes in handy when a spectre is the only witness to a murder.
8. Murder on the Orient Express. A classic mystery, which I had never read before. Perfect for a day when it would. not. stop. raining. Since it’s a part of the common culture, I was pretty sure I knew what happened, but it was still a good read – which should be the test of any mystery.
And some other books that I can’t remember right now. Not a bad list, if I do say so myself. Not enough epidemiology, though.
-Signing off, Kit Gette (who is already planning his list for Thanksgiving break. Is that wrong?)