Mid-Year Book Recap: 50 Books from Comics to Neurology

Mid-Year Book Recap: 50 Books from Comics to Neurology

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Thanks to a low-key social life and the NYPL, I have been reading a ton this year and (almost) enjoyed everything I have come across. While I do post monthly recaps, I wanted to do a mid-year collection because I fear writing this at the end of the year will be quite overwhelming.

However, since you can read a summary and my rating on the other posts, I’m going to discuss some of my favorites so far this year in more of a narrative than concise form. There may be spoilers (you’ve been warned!).

50 books from comics to neurology

First, let’s do some stats:

Fiction: 27
Non-Fiction: 14
Comics/Graphic Novels: 9

Total Pages: 16,692
Total Spent: $164
Total Books Taken out from Library: 27
Total Saved by using the Library: $455 (at retail price)


Top Five

  1. Watership Down by Richard Adams
  2. Perdido Street Station by China Mieville
  3. Preacher by writer Garth Ennis & artist Steve Dillon
  4. On The Map by Simon Garfield
  5. Stoner by John Williams

Comics/Graphics Novels

Enjoyed Nonnonba, Preacher, Dirt Candy

I loved Nonnonba because of it’s combination of whimsy + memoir as it explores Shigeru Mizuki’s childhood experiences with yokai, spirit monsters part of japanese folklore. The illustrations were great and the story was fun to read. I had read his war memoir Onward Toward Our Noble Deaths last year and loved it. His storytelling is wonderful and the art really matches up.

Also a fun read is the comic series Preacher. Typically I read graphic novels more so than comics but after hearing so many good things about this series and finding some copies left behind for free, I couldn’t resist. No regrets because the story (so far) is fantastic! I have read up to Vol. 3 then needed a break – some of the scenes can take an emotional toll on you.

The story and characters are complex, fun, interesting and likable (even when they do bad things). This is an anti-hero exploration into religion as one of the plot lines involves God running scared and taking a break from his worldly duties.

Blasphemy, gore, sex, gunslingers, vampires, and other fun things are used well to move the story along and provides artist Steve Dillon plenty of material for his fantastic illustrations that, without, the story would likely feel stale.

Loathed Fun Home

I never purchased Fun Home because I did not think I would like it but when a friend offered me to borrow it, after seeing it on so many “must read graphic novels” lists, I took it home. It turns out that I was right in my original assessment. Nothing about the book is interesting but, worse, the storytelling quickly becomes pretentious mush.

About mid-way through it turns into a college literary criticism paper and the memoir-aspect was lost me due to the over-analysis of, well, everything. There are many better graphic novel memoirs out there – shock value alone can’t save a bad story.

Non-Fiction

Enjoyed On The Map, Longitude, Zen and the Art of Writing, Visual Display of Quantitative Communication

My fascination with maps has existed for a long time now so it is little surprise that On the Map was very interesting to me. The book touches upon many aspects of maps including how early cartographers mapped the world during explorations, mapping errors, and other uses (such as to map a crime scene or disease).

Writing reference books are another interest of mine as it seems effective to learn directly from the authors you personally read. Zen and the Art of Writing, a collection of essays on writing, by Ray Bradbury is one of the best reference books I’ve read (Bird by Bird is up there too). Each essay hits upon a different topic with references to his own publications making the advice feel particularly sound.

Loathed Going Solo, War Trash

I had heard about Going Solo on an episode of Dan Savage’s podcast and was looking forward to reading about the topic (as it is one I can relate to). Unfortunately, there was very little real research documented and instead was a bunch of lame quotes from random 20/30-somethings living in NYC. Too much of what I read felt anecdotal and the presentation was so informal I was turned off midway through. I can enjoy light non-fiction from time to time but this didn’t seem to have a solid foundation at all.

Fiction

I enjoyed Ender’s Shadow, The Prestige, True Grit, Perdido Street Station, Watership Down, Stoner

Ender’s Shadow is unique in that the story line is simultaneous to Ender’s Game although it was actually written following. Orson Scott Card pulls this off very well. Even if you haven’t read Ender’s Game, you would be able to understand Ender’s Shadow without a problem. Learning more about the character Bean actually adds a lot to the story and I suggest not reading one without the other.

The only thing I want to say about True Grit is: the novel was really fun to read; but the movie was a complete drag.

After starting but not finishing Watership Down several years ago, I decided to start it again from scratch. I really can’t remember why I stopped because the entire book is wonderful. Robert Adams’ writing and insight into a fictional society of rabbits is far more complex and adult than you would expect. Including folklore and accurate descriptions of animal-life adds so much to the story.

The plot itself, a small group of rabbits flea from danger and journey to find their new home, does not feel tired at all with Adams’ prose and some unexpected adventures. An adventure story at heart, I recommend this novel for everyone.

John Williams’ (not that John Williams!) Stoner is one of the best fictional biographies I have read. The main character, William Stoner, leads a simple, typical American life in the early 1900’s.

He leaves his family farm to attend college then becomes a teacher, he has a loveless marriage and his wife slowly becomes crazy, he has an affair, there is a minor villain… there are no adventures. No excitement. No car chases or dragons or cowboys but the minimalism of the story and character is pulled off flawlessly. Williams’ writing is fluid without convoluting the simplicity of the story.

I know recommending what seems like a blase story is a tough sell but it is such a great example at how a story doesn’t need to be flashy to be interesting.

I loathed Ready Player One, A Visit from the Goon Squad, Good Omens.

First and foremost, here is my public apology for not liking Neil Gaiman. I’m sorry world. I tried, really tried, to read a variety of Gaiman’s works but… I just can’t. Good Omens included.

The least enjoyable book I’ve read so far this year is Ready Player One. Admittedly, I didn’t finish it because the teenager writing and tired world-setting was boring me to death. The story was predictable, over-done, and the superfluous 80’s references added absolutely nothing. I know a lot of nerds and 30-somethings like it but there are too many similar books that are, just, so much better.


I don’t keep a list of books to read and just pick things up as I see them. So I’m always looking for recommendations. What books have you read this year that you loved?

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12 Replies to “Mid-Year Book Recap: 50 Books from Comics to Neurology”

    1. Every time I told someone I didn’t like American Gods, they would recommend me another book of his that surely I would like better. After trying two novels, 1 comic, and 1 graphic novel… I think I’ve given him a fair chance.

  1. Watership Down has been on my to-read list for ages.

    Finished “The Dinner” a few days ago and “The Restaurant At The End of the Universe” yesterday. Both were just ok.

    I’ve read 30 books so far this year (and currently 2 on the go).

    Nice list!

    1. I agree with you on those, especially The Dinner which was such an interesting premise but fell flat at the end. You must read Watership Down this year, really too good to pass up.

  2. I can’t answer properly without checking my goodreads account. I just finished the Night Circus and it was quite fun, very different from anything else I’ve read lately. I liked Delivering Happiness, too, it had some fun tidbits tucked inside. I need to keep up my reading streak because I have more books coming in the mail. Spouse doesn’t care for my “one for you, two for me” system of buying them, when I end up with a backlog!

  3. But… But… *cries* Admittedly, I haven’t read any of the Gaiman books you’ve read with the exception of Good Omens. I enjoyed it. It wasn’t wonderful, but I didn’t loathe it either. (When I would complain about it to David, he insisted the parts I didn’t like were all contributions of the other author, Terry Pratchett, haha). BUT – and I know you’re not going to try anything else but maybe someone reading through comments will – I loved, loved, loved Neverwhere. I couldn’t put it down.

    1. Neverwhere was the only Gaiman I actually enjoyed but I still loathe his writing style, which made the book “just okay” for me. Terry Pratchet is also “just okay” for me so Good Omens probably wasn’t a good idea for me to start anyway. I definitely recommend Perdido Street Station by China Mieville though – has that urban fantasy aspect to it plus fun adventure – I think you’d like it.

  4. This year I reread all of the Harry Potter books. I love them.

    I’ve also gotten into Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. They’re really Lord of the Rings meets The Good The Bad and the Ugly. Totally cool.

    I read and hated The Alchemist a few weeks ago. And right now I’m 80% through A Game of Thrones and even though the writing is lacking sometimes the complexity of the feuding houses is amazing.

    1. I read the first five Dark Tower books but have been lazing about on the last two. I own the books and everything, but guess I just don’t care enough about the story. Someday I’ll finish reading the life of Roland.

      I also hated The Alchemist so high five to that.

  5. Wow you have done so well! When I’m not in school I read way more so maybe next year I’ll get through 50! I’m through 30 of my 35 for the year but I might get one or two read from September to December.

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