Twenty Six

At the start of the year, I set out to read at least 26 books. In someways this was an easy target given that I managed to get through 61 books last year, but with impending parenthood I figured that I’d match last year’s pace for the first half of the year and then be lucky to get through a handful more. What I hadn’t counted on was my reading pace picking up and getting through, on average, two books a week.

So here we are coming towards the end of March, and, with Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves finished, I’ve already read all the books I thought I would for the year.

Seveneves – a story of humanity trying to survive the destruction of the moon by escaping into space and what happens afterwards – was great by the way. I have yet to read all of Neal Stephenson’s back catalogue, but all the ones I have read have left me very happy that I invested the time in reading 800+ pages. Normally, when I come away from reading a good book I get a little emotional and creative surge. With Stephenson’s books I also get to come away feeling a little better informed about how the world around me works and what may be possible, scientifically and technologically, within it.

I discovered Neal Stephenson’s novels in the early days of developing what would become The Silver Mask. I was discussing the ideas with a friend and, given the presence of alchemy and the 17th/18th century influences on the setting, he suggested I try Stephenson’s The Baroque Cycle. I’m not sure how much they influenced or benefited The Silver Mask, but I did get to start reading Neal Stephenson’s novels, which I count as a win.

Seveneves was also a pleasant relief from a short string of books that didn’t quite work for me. After indulging my nostalgia for the Dragonlance series with Dragons of Summer Flame, I thought I’d try Tanis – The Shadow Years – a prelude story for Tanis, one of the main protagonist from the Dragonlance Chronicles trilogy I’d enjoyed in my teens. After Dragons of Summer Flame it was somewhat of a disappointment. For me it didn’t really embody the setting of the Dragonlance novels nor the character of Tanis. There were even moments that seemed to unnecessarily contradict established elements of the setting – moments that weren’t essential to the story and didn’t seem to care that they went against established canon. In the end, it was a somewhat frustrating read.

It probably wasn’t helped that the previous book I’d read was Julian Barnes’s Love etc, a book I found difficult to enjoy because I didn’t want to spend time with a number of its characters. It was kind of similar to the experience I’d had reading his novel The Sense of an Ending, so it seems like he might just write about people I don’t have much sympathy for nor want to spend time reading about.

Overall though, the remainder of the 26 have proven to be enjoyable. Saga, the graphic novel series, has been a particularly good find over the past year, and I’m looking forward to getting Volume 7 when it appears in April. I’m not sure whether it’s, in part, down to it resonating for me with my impending parenthood.

One other book to note. I’ve finally read my copy of Macbeth, the book that has been sat on my shelves waiting to read the longest. I bought my copy when I was about 11, after watching Blackadder torture two actors by repeatedly mentioning the play by name in Black Adder the Third*.  It’s followed me to at least five different homes since then, patiently waiting. I’ve dipped into it over the years, but now I’ve finally read it from beginning to end. It’s not bad.

What has reading 26 books done to my backlog? Not a lot to be honest. It would have amounted to a little under 9% of my backlog as it stood last year. However, that was before receiving presents and buying more books. Of the 26  I’ve read, only six books had been on my bookshelves longer than two years.

D’oh.

Anyway, with my first reading target hit, I suppose I should set myself a new one. Based on my current rate, it would be tempting to say 104, which would mean keeping up with two books a week. I think that would be a little too ambitious, so I’m going to say 46. That’s roughly one every two weeks, which is probably more sensible as it allows for things to slow down later in the year. You can keep track of how well I’m doing on my Goodreads page.

* Apparently the alleged curse that comes with speaking of Macbeth by name isn’t really a thing. Back in the day, when a repertory theatre’s latest production wasn’t drawing the crowds they’d end the run and put on Macbeth (certain to bring in an audience) instead.

Hot potato, off his drawers, pluck to make amends! *squeezes nose*

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