Thursday, January 7, 2010

Reading in '09

Well, thank goodness THAT'S over.
2009 was probably a rough year for everyone, the economy being what it is, blah blah blah. Keep your fingers crossed that '10 will be better.
But on the bright side (cuz I'm such a proponent of looking at the bright side...) '09 was an excellent reading year for me. Over 60 books read, most of them quite enjoyed. The obsession with crime fiction that began towards the end of '08 continued unabated throughout the year. I also read a record number of non-fiction books (that's my wife's influence rubbing off on me), and toward the end of the year some more speculative fiction made it into the mix.
I was able to catch up on a great deal of "classic" noir, some of which I'd read before but most of it quite new to me. My world was particularly rocked by Cornell Woolrich, Harry Whittington, Day Keene, Charles Williams, and the old stand-by John D. MacDonald.
Horace McCoy's novel They Shoot Horses, Don't They? was especially noteworthy for its mercilessness, and Ira Levin's A Kiss Before Dying is one of the finest noirs I've ever read.
A more modern take on the genre was Andrew Vachss' The Getaway Man-- a book I can't recommend highly enough. In the top five for the whole year, that one.
Quite by accident, I stumbled upon the first three Barker & Llewlyn series of Victorian adventure-mysteries by Will Thomas-- Some Danger Involved, To Kingdom Come, and The Limehouse Text, and was blown away. Huge fun.
Two short story collections made my life a happier place this year-- Neil Gaiman's Smoke & Mirrors, and Stephen King's Just After Sunset.
In non-fiction, I found myself obsessing over philosophy, particularly questions of existence and reality. Two books by Simon Blackburn, Think and Truth, fueled the fire, and Jim Baggott's A Beginner's Guide to Reality kept my spirit warm for some time.
The major discover for me of '09 was the awesome work of Richard Stark. On a whim, I picked up Slayground and Plunder Squad from the library and was absolutely blown away. After that, thanks to the recent reprints from University of Chicago Press, I devoured the first two books in the uncanny Parker series, The Hunter and The Man With the Getaway Face.
So that's the reading year. Immensely satisfying, even if almost everything else about that 365 days was a drag.
We're a few days into 2010 now... I didn't make any New Year resolutions, but I'll make a few now: continue to read, enjoy as diverse a selection of material as possible, write like crazy, don't ignore the rest of the world, and try to relax and have fun.
Happy New Year.