I read an eye-popping 32 books this year, with only six of them being rereads (5 of those were so I could read the 6th in a series I hadn’t read in a while). That is the most I’ve ever read in a year, particularly when you consider that 5 of the books alone were a combined ~4000 pages and I have two kids. It was a very divided year literarily with some very good books and a few clunkers. So let’s start with the bad. And some of these were pretty bad. Bear in mind, these are books that I have FINISHED. So let’s start with #0, a book I disliked so much I finally gave up and gave it back to the bookstore.
0) Red Prophet – Orson Scott Card: I had tried twice to slog through this book and only got a few chapters in each time. It’s the second in a series, and the first, The Seventh Son, wasn’t amazing but decent enough to warrant moving on in the series. The problems I had in this book were only two, but they were big. 1) It’s racist. Racism is part of the story, in fact, but the descriptions of Indians are downright upsetting. It’s like he couldn’t go a single passage without mentioning they were lazy or drunk. Now, I can get by racism, particularly if it’s integral to the story (which I’m inclined to think here it wasn’t), but 2) the book was skull-crushingly boring. I got maybe 50 pages in and I was waiting for anything to happen. Sequels shouldn’t be boring as much of the exposition is already established. Anyway, good riddance to this one. Now onto the list proper.
6. First Meetings in Ender’s World – Orson Scott Card: Ouch, the 2nd OSC to appear on my bad list. This one isn’t truly that bad, and really I only got it to have the original short story version of Ender’s Game. It was pretty cool to see how that had evolved (and more surprisingly how little changed). But the other three stories were pretty meh. In fact, one thing that bothered me about it was how hard OSC tried to make every single decision have significance. The story about Ender’s parents meeting was WAY too prophetic for me to swallow it for even a second.
5. Why We Suck – Denis Leary: If the entire book were written like the first chapter I’d probably like it more (random snippets of thought about various topics, something at which Leary excels). But then the rest of the book takes a meandering look at various things, lodging itself somewhere between an autobiography, a comedy book, and a vanity piece. It certainly had its chuckle moments, but not enough to support it.
4. Airframe – Michael Chrichton: One of my all-time favorite Dash definitions was Corey’s definition for “skimmington”: a talking stuffed bear that never made it on the market due to the fact that young British children couldn’t give two shits about yard work. It’s a great concept. Unfortunately, I feel the same way about this “thriller” Airframe. It’s not a bad story, per se, and there’s a charming whodunnit appeal to it, but really, I just find myself not giving a shit about airplane building and maintenance. It’s like he wrote this for a convention of plane mechanics or something.
3. The Motley Fool Investment Guide – David & Tom Gardner: I will start by saying that I bought this right as I was starting to do research about retirement and stocks. It was very cheap (it was an old edition, maybe from the mid-90s?). After finishing it, I was all revved up to follow their suggestions – it was a good sales pitch. However, I did something smart – I went online to see how their recommendations did historically. Well, lousy – worse than market average. What’s more, their “genius secret plan” was debunked shortly after writing this and they quickly stopped preaching what was written in these pages. So this is factually a bust, but I only ranked it 3rd because I found out quite early that it was all bollocks.
2. And Another Thing – Eoin Colfer: I wanted to like this story. I really really did. Hell, I wanted to go against the mainstream opinion that this book was borderline blasphemous. I didn’t care that he was a ‘young adult’ author – if you read HHGTTG again with a critical eye, you’d find out that it isn’t at a much higher level than young adult. But man, it just isn’t a good book. The best parallel I could say is this – let’s say The Simpsons hired a guest writer to write a season. And that guy was Seth McFarlane (Family Guy). Family Guy took a few ELEMENTS of The Simpsons and catered the show around that. That’s what Colfer did. He took things Adams did (the random guide entries that were only tangentially related) and the silly names and expanded just them – what resulted was so non-sequitur and disjointed as to be unenjoyable reading (the 260 pages took me longer than several of the 500+ pages). There were other negatives: a) it was no longer Arthur’s story, b) he totally copped out in terms of plot just SO he could get “the old gang” back together, c) the Guide entries were distracting and often unfunny, and WAY too frequent and d) some of the characters behaved/spoke in ways that I thought were completely uncharacteristic of them. Highly disappointing.
1. Killing Yourself to Live – Chuck Klosterman: I’ll say it now, I don’t like Chuck Klosterman, and I wish I had realized that after the 1st book I read of his. He’s pretentious, he’s not at all charming, and I want to just smack him in the face. He loves putting words like “paradigm” in each chapter when it really doesn’t belong (even if it is *technically* the correct word). He begins with an interesting idea – touring famous hotspots for rock stars’ deaths and trying to find tying elements between death and music – and turns it into this bitchy, self-centered diatribe about himself and the couple of girls he hasn’t manage to repel with his conceited personality. This book did have one fortunate bonus – it taught me not to buy any more Chuck Klosterman.