My Readings of 2019

I saw a friend of mine share a post of all the books he read in 2018. He did it to encourage himself to read more, and I thought it was a great idea! I’ve decided to do it now. Of course, all of my casual reading will be via audiobooks. I’m sure there are some of you who may not consider that actually reading. I really don’t care. I’ll save the reading for my research.

My updates and book discussions are ordered from newest to oldest.

Monthly Updates

End of March Update

I am finding my 5hrs per week goal an easy target to meet. I am not keeping up with all my podcasts :-/, but I am enjoying what I am reading. I’ve begun reading short stories and essays. Although, I am doing it in my podcast app, jumping between stories, and that makes it more difficult to track my time. I am pretty sure I did at least, probably more, 24 hours of listening/reading. The goals are going well, but I like to set myself up to fail. I am going to bump my weekly reading to 6 hours. The summer is coming, so its doable.

I am enjoying the essays and short stories. They are an easy way to pick something interesting without needing to dedicate a huge amount of time to it. It also means I am reading a large diversity of things which I love. It may mess up my yearly goals just because they are large collections. Obviously, I can’t count them each as a book, but I am reading them individually and may not read the entire volumes.

With that in mind, I am trying to make sure I give myself some time dedicate to single book/story. To Say nothing of the Dog is my current read. See that section for more.

Update 3/11/2019

As I ended the first week, I found myself with ~.5 hr to go for my 5hr per week goal. I did that last night as I cooked and cleaned. Although, this is on the week of the book club where I rushed to finish to the Dry, so we will see how well I am able to stick to it. I still like the 5hr goal. It is a good motivator because I know how well I work with a clear quota and/or outline to follow. I am over an hour in this week which is a good start, but I think part of that has to do with how great the 15 lives of Harry August is.

End of February Update

February was not a great month for reading. I did a good bit towards the First 15 Lives of Harry August in the early parts, but I’ve since not gone back. I started the Dry only recently because I know the book club is coming up. The Dry, I’m pushing through it at 1.6 times the regular speed. That’s how little I like it. For a bit of context, I am listening to The 15 lives of Harry August (a book I am loving) at 1.3 times the regular speed, which I try to do to get through them more quickly.

As we get closer to April, my audiobook time is waning. In addition to my game of thrones rewatch, I am pushing through the several recap shows I listen to along with it. When it finally arrives, I will be listening to 4-5 different recap shows of GOT, so I am going to have to try extra hard not to forget about my reading time. That’s really my listen so far here; I need to be aware of how much I am reading and make a point to do it when I am going a long time without it.

Moving forward, I am going to set a 5 hour per week quota, with a ~24 hour monthly quota. I’ll adjust that as I start to get a better feel of how much I am currently listening (as I begin to track it quantitatively).

End of January Update

I’m nearly done with The Time Traveler’s Wife, and I finished Firestarter. That puts me well on track to finish 10, but not quite the 15 I’m hoping for. I may need to find more times to listen. The problem is I listen to a lot of podcasts, and I don’t really want to stop. I listened to a bit of Harry Potter too :-/ (guilty pleasure); that’s something I’m trying not to do. I could listen to something new. Plus, Harry Potter is a slippery slope. A chapter turns into a book, turns into a rewatch of the entire series. It’s a tough one for sure :-p.

Beginning Reading (January)

I really want to read at least 10 books. I’ve got a list of ~15 ready to tackle, but I often find my tastes change fairly quickly. Part of what keeps me from reading is that I listen to days worth of podcasting every month. I tend to alternate between podcast binging and audiobook binging, and sometimes a lot of music. My goal is to fit in a decent amount of books this year. Furthermore, my goals are to read more new books. There are a lot of books I love to reread. Harry Potter is the most common; I’m currently on book three again. While I read, I hope to make note of how I enjoyed (am enjoying it). I also really want to make sure I expose myself to a broad field of fun reads to books that make me think.

To do list (books I am currently hoping to read this year)

I have a list of ~15 books I am hoping to read this year, organized and ready to go. My goal is to read fun books, though provoking books, and educational books. I’ve tentatively ordered them to keep myself from growing tired of one.

  1. Firestarter ★★★☆☆
  2. God is not great, something I started and never finished
  3. Just after sunset, Stephen king novellas that I may have already read
  4. Time Travelers Wife ★★★★☆
  5. Religion and Science (started)
  6. To Say nothing of the dog (book two of Oxford time series; very long; highly regarded)
  7. Rocks of ages: Science and religion in the fullness of life
  8. The first 15 lives of Harry August ★★★★★
  9. Insomnia (another SK)
  10. Tommyknockers (another SK)
  11. The Mismeasure of man
  12. Poisonwood Bible
  13. The fabric of the cosmos
  14. Black out (book 3 oxford time series; also highly regarded)
  15. A short history of nearly everything
  16. All Clear (book 4 OTS)
  17. Just One Damned Thing After Another (another time travel)
  18. Pet Sematary  (SK)
  19. The Red Tent

Book Club, and others along the way.

  1. The Dry ★★☆☆☆
  2. Old Man by the Sea

You might ask, how does one come up with such a list and why. That is a good question. I think I have 200+ books marked as wanting to read on goodreads for a variety of reasons, and that can be intimidating. I just ask myself, which books do I 1) am intrigued by and 2) be uniquely thought provoking. My assessment is sufficiently hand wavey that it is very subject to change.

My attempt to work in some science books is already being undermined by my choice of The 15 lives of Harry August. Even Religion and science was a lazy choice being super short. I also don’t know if I’ll be able to manage several of this non SK fiction stories for the simple fact that I only have so much attention with an audiobook. I suppose that list is more than 15, but I throw in extra SK as something to fall back on in if I feel tired of books that make me thing :-p . Another common theme is my desire to finish the OTS. It was one of the highest regarded scifi stories, every book winning a nebula I think with Connie Willis being one of the top sci fi writers (and of the few major female scifi writers, see Octavia Butler as an even rarer black women scifi writer).

Book Reviews and Discussions (Ongoing)

To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis – READING

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Introductory thoughts 3/31/2019

I started this book around the 20th. I thought I had already written some initial thoughts here. This book is on my list. I am venturing into other territory with the book club, short stories, and essays, but I am trying to stick to the list the best I can.

Connie Willis is a well known Science fiction writer. She is known for her Oxford Time Travel Series which has continually won the Hugo award for each book in the series and won the Nebula 3/4 times, the other one being nominated as well as the Lucas award. There is clearly very high praise. It is one of those cases of how can I not read these series.

To Say Nothing of the Dog follows Doomsday. The books are pretty much stand alone even though they exist in the same universe. It is about a part of Oxford university in the future that uses time travel to study history. Her stories are good. They are very intricately told. I enjoyed Doomsday. I would probably give it 3/4. They are big books, and I think its one of those cases where I found it difficult to become engulfed right away by audiobook. I don’t think its as bad in the sequel.

I am 27% through the book. I think I am following along. The premise is the same (historians and all), but the scenario they are in is original. I say they, the characters are new, I think. I honestly don’t remember the main characters names in the first iteration or in the sequel so far. I am not entirely sure what the title is supposed to mean. In the first one, the black plague was at risk of returning. Here, its more to do with the laws of time and whether a naive student may have overstepped their bounds. Except, the dog really isn’t a crucial part of that (I think?). I googled it, both this and the first book are references to other stories. It also appears that only one of the characters in this book is in the first book. I am glad I am writing about it because I’m realizing there are bits I wasn’t getting, and this will help me follow individual characters a bit better.

The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Non -Believer  by Christopher Hitchens

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Introductory thoughts 3/31/2019

This is another collection of essays, this time its popular people through history discussing religion. Bertrand Russell, Lovecraft, Twain, etc. I’ve enjoyed a few of them (the ones I’ve listened to). Russell discusses his in length in Religion and Science, so that’s not new. They’re interesting, and I don’t have much to say about them yet. Nevertheless, it is another thing I am reading a bit.

At this point, I’m obviously on a Hitchen’s binge, but lucky for me I don’t have to commit to every essay.

The Time Traveler’s Almanac, edited by Ann and Jeff by Vandermeer – READING

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Introductory thoughts 3/19/2019

Here we have another case of scattered brains. I came across this anthology of short stories on time travel, and I really couldn’t help but decide to give it a shot.

Current thoughts 3/31/2019

I have listened to several of this. They are very good for the most part.

There was one titled “Fish Night” that was recently adapted into a short film on Netflix’s new anthology series Love Death and Robots. I love it because it was history of the earth type story. Out in the Arizona desert, where the sea once covered the terrain, ancient ocean life dominated the region. Much of the life is now extinct, but what if past life we’re ghosts like all the story’s of humans after life. It tells the story of ancient life haunting the desert nights. Not only was it artistically beautiful, it was a really fun story that peeked my interest.

There was another story about history (human history boo). It was told by an expert in linguistics of a character, also a linguist, who comes across a man whose dialect doesn’t match the times. From this, she deciphers he is a traveler of the past. The story touches on the problem of time traveling into the future, becoming a piece of history and leaving those you know and love.

Another story told the tale of a refugee who escaped his time to a world that was supposed to be free of the dangers of his time, but what he found was far less accepting. It is basically a story that mirrors the story of migrants today. It was particularly poignant with recent decisions by the Trump administration.

Another Fascinating story, the Weed of Time, was about a plant that gave the individuals the sight of all time in their life from conception to death. I don’t want to spoil the story, but it was much more of a tale of caution. Imagine knowing what was going to happen but trapped unable to change anything. I think a similar story, I think it was Life Trap, was about a temple of monks who sought truth found truth they wish they never had. Life, as the story put it, was a cycle of living dying and being reborn as your younger self. The terrifying reality of it all was that you’d have no knowledge and as such would be unable to do anything to change it. On the surface, they seem like the inverse, but the main idea of being trapped in a cycle is there.

The others don’t really stand out. I am reading this as individual stories, not consecutively through the book. To guesstimate on my progress, I’d say 10%, but that is over 8 hours of listening.

Arguably, Essays by Christopher Hitchens – READING

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Introductory thoughts 3/19/2019

Okay, I am officially scattered. This sometimes happens. When I start getting into various books, my attention flies every which way. This may mean I don’t finish some of these; we will see. I came across this book of essays. I like it because each essay is like an episode of a podcast–short and easy to consume. I’ve even gone so far as to import into my podcast player rather than my audiobook player (I know, scandalous). I am not committing to completing this book. However, there are several essays I am interested in reading/listening to. I will give my general thoughts as I go along, a but there are some essays I may want to respond to (well the following one at least). He had an interesting essay on the use of the word Fuck where it hasn’t been quite as obscene as it has become in America.

Women aren’t funny 3/19/2019

How could I not talk about this. The title is intentionally aggressive. That is something I have loved about Hitchens; he isn’t afraid to be bold and upfront about what he thinks. I don’t think its any surprise that I came into this disagreeing, but nevertheless I left it thinking. To summarize his argument, women can be funny he seems to think women are less inclined to be funny–understand it and make it. It felt akin to saying women athletes aren’t as good as male athletes; even the fools who say this still acknowledge there are great women athletes. My main problem with his argument was its reliance on stereotypes. Women tend not to be as funny, those that are are more male like–dikey, butch, heavy.  His logic was that it stemmed back to social evolution, where men need to impress women, while women don’t need to do anything. They are simply impressive already. It is remarkable how he can be so insulting while thinking he is being complementary (I think that was his intent).  I won’t even go into the overall hetero-normative nature of the argument.   As we know, stereotypes aren’t the same as facts. If anything, they are the type of biases that prevent us from reaching the facts. He fails to even address the effect of sexism in society on our expectations of women. He may be on to why some of these sexist biases might exist, but that doesn’t make women any less funny than men. Overall, I was exceedingly disappointed by a man I have sort of admired for his artful ability to make an argument,. but as we see, even the brightest are subject to fallacious thinking.

Current thoughts 3/31/2019

I’ve managed to listen to several of these essays. I was hoping to discuss them each, but if I waited to listen to every episode until I wrote about it I’d never get to reading them. Overall, his ability to craft an essay is amazing. It is enticing even when I don’t agree with him. Some of them are less interesting. I can’t feel like a lot of the ones I don’t enjoy are more to do with my own ignorance on the subject. I’ll talk briefly about those that did stand out. One on Harry Potter was praising for its ability to encourage a generation of readers, but it was also critical of it for its mediocrity so far as the type of story telling which wasn’t all that original by Hitchens’ estimation. Upton Sinclair was praised, but the Jungle was still too capitalist. I read this a while back. I still found the claim odd.

America and Religion – an overview

He talked about the founding father’s distaste for religion. That I already knew, but I still enjoyed that essay thoroughly. A discussion on Jefferson was overall positive. It didn’t sugar coat his owning of slaves. An essay discussed Atheists in the military and the overall religious nature of of the military. Long story short, the military is way too religious in everything it does. That goes back to the founding fathers and America’s secular nature (or what it is supposed to be). Another great one, he discussed the ten commandments. It begins with a history lesson then an overview of the quality of the ten commandments ending with a few that should have been included (e.g. don’t rape). To summarize, the commandments are either completely separated from morality (false idols) to obvious (don’t kill).

Words Matter (I seem to have a lot to say about this one)

There was a really great one on political rhetoric. Simply titled, Words Matter, works as a stunning rebuke of politicians recent propensity for buzz words that lack real content to energize mindless followers. It is hard not to appreciate this now, in the era of Trump. I think it’s a perfect example of why we should care about how people think as much as about what they think. I’m taking this to a different direction than was his point, but I think people are too quick to support bad actions with good intent or possibly even good results. Where good is defined as their preferred outcome or beliefs. You are only hurting yourself and your own cause when you resort to this approach, and I fear it is setting yourself up to fail. I think the best example here might be Congressperson Cortez’s Climate change bill. My point isn’t make you agree with me that it was a bad decision. It is to say that content matters (I think that’s an example of bad/empty content), and we have to hold ourselves to a certain standard of quality. Otherwise, we are only hurting ourselves in the greater scheme of things. Hopefully, you can get my point regardless of if you agree with my point.

Political Animals – animal rights and our responsibilities too them

Once again, Hitchens has constructed a well written argument. It felt ambiguous in its message with a leaning toward our right to use them–within reason. I don’t entirely disagree, but we cannot simply rely on evolutionary and instinctual arguments here because clearly there are things that animals do that we could do and agree is not right to do (e.g. rape). The point being, we can and should ask ourselves whether those traits we carried down have been and/or are necessary (still). We also need to be aware of what are participating in. I am very much in the reductionist mindset; do what you can to limit harm. I would argue there are ways of limited harm–which I myself strive to. At the same time, I am not going to argue (like some vegans) that much of what I fight to negate is on the same level of harm as more obvious things. If you wish to live a certain way, go ahead, so long as you don’t do so in ignorance.

Escew the Taboo – avoiding dirty words

An interesting article that both explains the inherent problems of a word while arguing the context should overcome the problems.

I would argue that sometimes the context is unavoidable. In the case of the n word, the common use is as a means to demean, dehumanize and remind of ownership. Speaking about it, even from an educational perspective doesn’t remove the engraved context around it. To utter it is to acknowledge just as saying a mass shooters name is to give them more fame then they deserve. Of course, we can easily make this about more than the n word. There are plenty of words from the C word to the term bitch which we could have a similar conversation about. What is appropriate and what is not? Obviously, I feel comfortable uttering the word bitch but not the c word while some comedians would be just fine with it. The usage of the term bitch has a lot of misogynistic baggage. I try and make an effort to avoid that. A person can as easily be called an asshole as they can a bitch. That said, I haven’t entirely thrown away the term bitch. Some people might call me hypocritical, but I suppose I would go back to context on this one. I am aware of the traditional connotation, but I think it can be re-purposed. Perhaps that is a fools errand. Perhaps I am trying to justify the use of a word that shouldn’t be used. Am I contributing to the problem? I don’t know; I welcome thoughts on it. That said, I do believe some terms are worse than others and that using the word bitch just isn’t the same as saying the c word or just calling a woman you don’t like the c word. 

Hitchen’s argues that to some, using a word is like reclaiming it. For example, the term suffragette was a slur they turned into their own signature names. The same can be said for queer. Some gay people say fag. I have a big problem with that. Is that another case of reclaiming the word? It feels too much like an insult. You are gay and it is something to be shamed for.

Concluding thoughts for today…

I had a bit more to say than I realized. Hitchen’s definitely makes you think.

Religion and Science by Bertrand Russell – READING

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Start 1/29/19

This is a short read, but as I am reading via audiobooks, I may end up rewinding it quite a bit. I have very strong beliefs about religion and the nature of science and skepticism. My favorite book on the subject being The Demon Haunted World, by Carl Sagan. I’m excited to start Religion and Science.

Update 3/6/2019

I have read about 40% of it. It isn’t long, I just haven’t returned to it. I just have to get back to it. It is interesting, but it’s one of those books that are hard to listen causally to. That is probably why I haven’t finished it yet.

Update 3/9/2019

I have been thinking about ways of discussing this book. It is short, so it should be easy to read. Realistically, it is short because the information is so consolidated. I am enjoying the book immensely, but I also want to discuss the content. As I listen, I will try and record my thoughts and/or notes on the topics at hand.

Allow me to begin with a preface. Many of this ideas do not feel new to me, but I think that speaks to the nature of science. We stand on the shoulders of Giants. As we move forward as a society, I like to think we improve ourselves socially, scientifically, and intellectually. The ideas expressed in this book have been reiterated by many others, the Demon Haunted World being a good example. I think it is advantageous to expose yourself to this type of material through multiple avenues because it helps you retain it. I may be projecting. You could also study a single material very closely, but I still think there is something to be said about hearing the same material from multiple perspectives.

Mysticism is a feeling. Russell describes it as a type of wisdom that comes from feelings, and on its own, science cannot touch it. When they ask an external viewer to accept their experience as fact, they extend mysticism out of their minds and into the real world of science. This is important for anything to do with the spiritual. It is one thing to make a spiritual claim and quite another to make a claim of the spiritual influencing nature (which include ourselves). I have for a long time held the view that it is at this point that the spiritual becomes testable. However, that is not exactly the point of this section, so let us get back to what Russell was saying.
Science does not ask an individual to accept something on face value. Mystics would argue that what they experience can be experienced by others under the right conditions. The key difference that Russell makes is that scientists ask others to use their own senses to interpret the world by providing by providing an external way of interpreting the world. The way Russell describes it is a little confusing. Scientists alter the world (e.g. make a microscope) then ask others to view it through this new approach. Alternatively, mystics ask the observer to change themselves. Some say drugs can elevate your conditions, but if a drunk man sees a snake we don’t put any credence into that. Altering your senses necessarily impairs them. Science relies on altering mechanisms independent of the observer.

Update 3/31/2019

No progress.

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway – READING

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Introductory thoughts 3/11/2019

I am wholeheartedly looking forward to this one. This was suggested as the next Book Club reading. This isn’t something on my long list of books I would like to read, but I know it is an important part of American literature. It is also very short, maybe a couple hours or so, so it shouldn’t be too time consuming.

In addition, I was able to find a copy read by Frank Muller. That is less relevant to the story, and it has more to do with audiobooks in general. A good audiobook hinges on the quality of the narrator, and Frank Muller is probably my favorite. Unfortunately, he died in 2008 in a motorcycle accident.

Update 3/31/2019

I haven’t started it. We will see if I actually start reading it.

4. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North –

3/12/19 ★★★★★

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Start 1/31/19

With the ending of one book, I am starting another. I have already explained my fixation with time travel, so maybe it is understandable why I would choose this as my next book. It was also nominated for a series of literary awards (e.g. Arthur C. Clarke Award).

Another reason that contributes to my decision to read this is that I became aware a couple years ago that I have a tendency to read more male authors than female (not including rereads of harry potter 😉 ). I would go on spending the next year only reading female authors to try counteract that bias. I ended up reading some of my all time favorite books (Kindred [another time travel story] and I know why the caged bird sings). I no longer restrict myself to that same rule. Although, I am acutely aware of this bias and try to overcome it. Let me be clear, this isn’t me saying equality demands I read both sexes equally. I do it because I might otherwise overlook an entire suite of potentially amazing books hitherto unknown to me.

I am about ~13% in, and I am enjoying it. It’s similar to ground hogs day. Another book I really enjoyed was Replay. It wasn’t an exception book, but it was a thrill to read. It told the story of a man who died, and woke up in his body ~25 years earlier. He gets to relive his life than he does it again. Another book this reminds me of is, Life after Death. I enjoyed that, but not as much. It was much more a story of a girl who lived through the world war (or one of them) who would die and start over, beginning to have vague recollections of her past life. I’m not a big fan of war stories, and I also love a book that leans in to the time travel. I think this book does that.
I came in expecting it to be a story of one life after the other. It’s not quite as direct in its storytelling which is interesting.

Update 3/6/2019

I am about 50% of the way through the book. I still feel the same way. It is a great book. It has a lot of similarities to other stories without being too derivative. Furthermore, it’s established clear rules and a clear end game. The overall structure has proven to be less linear than I expected, which is a pleasant surprise. I haven’t listened to it in a couple weeks. I just need to get back into it. So far, I would definitely recommend.

Update 3/11/2019

I’m 70% through the book, and writing that number makes it feel further along than I originally thought. The book is still amazing. The story has become very compelling, and it is a struggle to do work this Monday morning when I’d rather be listening to the book! I am very pleased with this book, not simply because I love time travel, but because it is wonderfully told and well thought out. When dealing with time travel, it require a clear understanding of the rules. Often, the story revolves around working toward the slow revelation of these rules. That is what makes this book so exciting. It is hard not to become immersed into the story. The story begins with an untraditional approach of telling the life story of the main character without divulging key plot points. That is to say, the story is not linear. However, it becomes more linear as we pivot from the origin of Harry August to the prevailing threat to him and his kind. The transition from one to the other is seamless, and it makes for a great story.

Update 3/12/2019

I’m 91% through the book. ~1hr to go, or 45 minutes with the 30% speed up I use. I’m sad to know it’s ending, but I’m eager to keep reading. It is so nice to be so easily engulfed by a good story following the atrocity that was “The Dry.” As I approach the end, I am nervous as to what might happen to the main character. I think I know, but the title suggest a certain finality which could prove catastrophic to his endeavors. Without spoiling it, the character is facing a certain force blind with ambition, unwilling to acknowledge the harm they are causing. If he fails, it could prove to be the end of the world. I love how the author is able to incorporate serious consequences, in some cases irreversible, even though we are dealing with a protagonist who seemingly starts his life brand new every time he dies. In some time travel stories, you can just undo everything and all is well. At which point, the story becomes void of any real consequences. This author sets clear rules for the story, and it makes for great suspense.

Update 3/12/2019

It is the end of the day, and I have finished the book. It was amazing. It is so sad to reach the end but also gratifying. This was a great book; it is by far the best one I have read this year. I highly recommend it (if that isn’t already obvious). The ending did not disappointed. The problem was pretty binary (the protagonist either win or you lose), so there wasn’t a lot of directions the author could go. Nevertheless, I felt like it was entirely possible that it could be either one. I won’t say what happens, even vaguely, on the off chance that someone is actually reading this post this in depth. I wouldn’t want to spoil it. I give it an easy 5/5 stars.

3. The Dry by Jane Harper – 3/8/2019 ★★☆☆☆

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Introductory thoughts

This is a thriller novel set in Australia. I don’t know a lot about it. I am reading it as a part of a book club some of us in my department are participating in. I’ll admit, I am hesitant. There are so many books I’d like to read either because they satisfy a certain niche of mine or because it seems to be receiving a lot of praise (i.e. awards) or both. I haven’t even heard this one.

Update 3/6/2019

I’m 64% through this book, and I am thoroughly disappointed. I fear it may have just been my attitude going in. Nevertheless, I see nothing special about this book. It is mildly interesting and easy enough to follow along, but even 2/3rds of the way through I’ve yet to feel the uncontrollable urge not to stop. At this point, I am only reading it for the book club. I am going to recommend a new way of suggesting books (like a poll where everyone votes like a ranking system). This book was suggested while we all sat around throwing out ideas. I really think we need to have a better idea of what it is we are signing up for, or I’ll just bow out.  Perhaps I am being pretentious, but I like to read two types of books. 1) There are books that satisfy a certain niche of interest (time travel being a big one, as well as horror and Stephen King in particular), and 2) then there are books that are recognized for their uniqueness, creativity, and/or their handling/addressing complicated issues. This book does neither. I’ve read Dan Brown and John Grisham (back in the day); those were at least compelling.

Update 3/11/2019

I finished it. I don’t like it. To be fair, I rushed through it. I forget a lot of the finer details, but in my defense, I don’t think it deserves that level of attention. I definitely would not recommend this book. It wasn’t terrible, but why waste your time with something so mediocre. There are better books–more compelling and interesting books. 2/5 Stars

2. The Time Travelers Wife by Audrey Niffenegger – 01/30/19 ★★★★☆

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Start late 2018

Considering my feelings toward Firestarter, it may not be that hard to understand why I decided to start the next book and flip between the two to change it up while I finish the first. I’m about 1/3rd of the way through The Time Travelers Wife, and I’ve got a lot to say, and not a lot of it is good.

I’m a huge time travel fan. I’ll read or watch the shittiest of stories just because of my love for time travel. Still, I was hoping for better with this one. The story isn’t dull. I don’t mean to suggest that. It’s fun and enjoyable. Maybe thats why so many lists suggest its the best time travel story, or maybe its merely popular because of the film by the same name. I think a saw it a long time ago. I don’t remember much, so I’m sure I will rewatch it when done.

However, my problem with the book so far is how the author handles several issues in the book. Let’s start with the basic premise: a time traveler falls in love with a girl, who first meets him at the age of 6, and who he first meets at ~28. This sort of estranged love story makes for a nice fantasy, but the author tries to lend it with a level of realism that leaves it feeling more like Woody Allen marrying his adopted daughter. This girl knew him from when she was a child. I get there are problems with him being moved around time, but if he really wanted a relationship with her you don’t begin it with her as a young child. Its creepy, and the book just ignores this. Some may call it a necessary problem, but I already said the easy way of avoiding this is by living afar, not exposing yourself to her. Even then, there are problems here, but it is a fantasy love story after all.

I wish I could say the problem ends there, but I think that is just the first way in which the author decides to avoid addressing any serious topics in any serious manner in this book. When Henry, the main character, hits puberty, there is a scene in the book where he at two different stages of the age 15, briefly contemplate exploring their bodies before his dad walks in and then storms off. His father won’t speak to him for 3 weeks. He and his father never seem to discuss it or his sexuality, nor does Henry really delve very deeply into it himself. Just before his dad walks in, Henry is describing the scene to the reader when he makes it very clear, “I’m not gay!” On its own the scene feels somewhat minimal, but then there are multiple times where his sexuality comes into question. One man calls him a fag because he time traveled without clothes and so was nude. Henry processed to go ballistic, beating the guy to a bloody pulp and sending him to the hospital. The book moves on without addressing this obvious insecurity with his sexuality or the underlying anger issues this speaks to.

I can see so many people reading this (assuming people actually read this) and think I am just being too sensitive. Books are a way of addressing difficult topics, and great science fiction does by interlacing that discussion with a fun and unique idea. This is a unique idea, but the story is superficial and lacks any real depth. In the end, it is just another mediocre story.

UPDATE – 1/29/19

I’m enjoying the book. I can still recognize the antiquated ideas of the author seeping through. That aside, it is a fun book, and the author isn’t afraid to put her characters into pretty bad situations. I’m about 2/3 of the way through.

Finished – 1/30/19

I finished the book, quicker than I was expecting. The first thing I would like to say was that I enjoyed the ending. The story is essentially the life of Henry, told from different perspectives of his self and his wife. While he may be a time a traveler, the story stuck to a standard outline. That being said, I don’t think it is a spoiler to say the ending revolves around his ultimate death, and it is a depressing death. Things get dark towards the end. I really enjoy it when a writer isn’t afraid to touch darker tones.

I won’t say anything more about the ending, so as not to spoil it. Going into it, I felt it deserved maybe 3.5 stars, rounding down to 3. I’m inclined to round up now because of the ending. My biggest issue with that is how poorly the author handles the various issues I’ve mentioned. They are not obvious throughout the entire book, but they are pervasive. Even to the end, I noticed questionable actions without really addressing it. For instance, Henry and his wife are going through a rough patch. Henry (at age ~40) meets 15 year old wife and becomes unfairly mean towards are. He feels rightfully bad about it, and kisses her to make up for it. To which she says, “you’ve never kissed me before.” His response is over his own recklessness of forgetting and much less about the oh I’m 40 and kissing a 15 year old. Fact is she may become your wife (Mr. Woody Allen) but she’s a child with a child mind. That mind is warped to be enamored with a man more mature than her, but that isn’t consent. A similar problem arise on her 18th birthday, where they have sex, for her first time. His thoughts are of course on the legality of the situation.

I’m saying all this a couple days after finishing, so my thoughts are a bit muddled. Nevertheless, I can’t separate the problems I have with their entire relationship from how I perceive the book. It is a fun book, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I still cringed in a lot of places. Nevertheless, I rate it 3.5/5, rounding up.

1. Firestarter by Stephen King – 1/29/19 – ★★★☆☆

firestarter-12

Start late 2018

I begin the year reading Firestarter in December 2018. I read a lot of Stephen King, including most of his major hits. I decided to try Firestarter on a whim. I’m about 2/3rds of the way through. Its enjoyable but nothing exceptional. At first it had me excited, so much so that I decided to watch the film staring Drew Barrymore. The film follows the book pretty closesly. It was an old film, but fun. My problem moving forward is I don’t think the book adds anything special. Some books are great, even greater than the film or greater in a different way, but I don’t think this is one of those books. It really speaks to the mediocrity of the book. I want to finish it because 2/3rds is pretty far not to finish, but its more a job now than something I really enjoy.

Finished 1/29/19

I’ve finished the book. I enjoyed it. It did have more than the movie. I think it had more room to tell what was essentially the same ending in a more logical manner. That said, this was not exceptional. Stephen King has so many great book; if I was going to be suggesting one, it wouldn’t be this one. 3/5

2 Replies to “My Readings of 2019”

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