Books Read 2021
END OF YEAR SUMMARY
46 books read this year, which down on last year. I always aim for 50 but couldnt manage it this year mostly just burnt out at work, covid pressures etc which caused a drag. Compared to past years I also really went nuts on the graphic novels! I should have indulged in more books in retrospect. I’ll try to go for a more even split for 2022 and touch the 50 mark again. There were a lot of poor books this year, the most disappointing being the vampire shlock The Passage, and the final Powers graphic novel. Real let downs. The highlights included; Project: Hail Mary, The Drive In part 1, and Japanese graphic novel The Man Without Talent.
- “Onward toward our noble deaths” – S. Mizuki.
Mizuki’s 1970s manga story detailing the antics of a troop of soldiers stationed in a pacific island. Based clearly on personal experience its interesting but not as good as his previous History of Japan series which was a bit more personal (and funny!) and followed similar stories. Also this one is a lot darker and the plot is somewhat disjointed. 5/10
- “The Phantom Tollbooth” -N.Juster.
I probably last read this as an 11 year old and didnt understand it much but reading as an adult I can see the message its trying to send and I wish my younger self had taken more of it on board. Its very akin to Alice in Wonderland but really tries to convey the sense that knowledge and learning is a beautiful thing and there are many obstacles that can stop one from attaining it. A beautiful and surreal story. 7/10
- “Unix. A history and memoir” -B.Kernighan.
A brief write up of the memories of Dr.Kernighan looking back on how he along with his team developed the Unix operating system from its very early conceptual days and various ground breaking add-ons over the years. Its interesting and an odd curio that will only be appreciated by Unix nerds! 5/10
- “The Savage Season” -J.R. Lansdale.
A thriller set in the 80s featuring Hap and Leonard. Its okayyy but compared to previous works I really prefer Mr Lansdale more one off novels (Freezer Burn being his best IMHO), this story comprising of a couple of likeable characters across a series of books, not one I would care to read again however. 4/10
- “The Coward” -S.Aryan.
A surprisingly good fantasy! One of the best I’ve read in a very long time, if fantasy is your bag, then this is worth buying and spending your time in, its a very good story. 8/10
- “Wicked Cool Shell Scripts” -D.Taylor.
Various scripts in bash shell to cover a range of topics, however, mostly are internet/web based so wasnt particularly useful for me. Nevertheless, if you cant be bothered to search in Github, there might be some code samples here that you can adapt to fit into whatever it is you are after. Its okay, but not anything great. 5/10
- “The Time Machine Did It” -J.Swarzwelder.
A goofy story about a detective and a time machine, it starts out well but the comedy runs out pretty rapidly and the last 80 pages are a drag. Nothing special. 2/10
- “History of a Drowning Boy” -D.Nilsen.
The autobiography of serial killer Nilsen. He’s no writer and its amateurish stuff, written slightly as a mea culpa and an attempt to spin himself in a more positive light. Most of the book is about his life is prison which as you can imagine is pretty monotonous stuff. Gruesome and boring in parts, nothing here worth spending time on. 4/10
- “Helgoland” -C.Rovelli.
More quantum strangeness from the most articulate theoretical physicist out there. I was expecting good stuff as his last two books are near masterworks, but sadly this one falls a little flat. Its okay, but the theories are so abstract its hard to grok it all so it ends up feeling like a particularly hard math lessons that you have to attend while suffering from a cold. 5/10
- “Comic story of Video Games” – J.Hennessey, J.McGowan.
A graphic novel about the history of video games. A good idea but the execution is poor. Rather than spend time unfolding some unique stories its all done as the speed of sound and the noise of it all just messes it all up. A shame. One to avoid! 1/10
- “The Ghosts of Atlantis” -J.D.Kenyon.
New age mystical mumbo jumbo. The author keeps mentioning Wikipedia as his citations which says it all! All fantastical claims without a shred of evidence beyond what other people have said, not good, however it is good if you want to write a Cthulhu based module and base it on some sort of pseudo fact and chatter on the web, which is why I purchased this in the first place, so did what I wanted it to. 2/10
- “In” – W.McPhail.
A really excellent graphic novel. It’s well written and the simplistic artwork really complements the story. A really good story also, especially for people who have suffered the loss of a parent or close loved one. 8/10
- “Batman: Earth one” – G.Jones, C.Frank.
A fantastic need imaging of Batmans early years. Its very exciting and a very interesting new twist on some canonical stories. Really enjoyed this one. This is what Tom Kings run should have been like! 8/10
- “The Frood: History of Douglas Adams” -J.Roberts.
A biography of the Hitchhikers Guide author. Its interesting and illuminating but would only appeal to hardcore fans I think. (I dont see myself as one!) nevertheless it was an enjoyable read. 6/10
- “The Passage” -J.Cronin.
A best seller apparently. How it was published at all is beyond me. I wasted a lot of my life reading this very awful novel. It’s such a nonsense and badly written to boot! I literally threw my finished copy into the bin so as to save someone else the misfortune to read it. 1/10
- “The Sunken Land Begins to Rise Again” -MJ Harrison.
Re-read this one from last year as I kept thinking about it. It was, I felt then, one of the best starts to a novel I had ever read and then it fell apart with its inherent oddness and lack of direction. I had given it 5/10 then, but upon re-read and a more open mind, I’m upping it to a 7/10. So much potential if it had just stuck to the vague direction of the opening about people feeling uneasy, used up, undercurrents of conspiracy etc instead of the vaguely anti-Brexit stuff.
- “Project: Hail Mary” -A.Weir.
A fantastic sci-fi novel about first contact. Best thing I’ve read this year (i think). 10/10
- “Conan: The Songs of the Dead” – Various.
A not bad collection of Conan stories from various writers and artists. Its okay but nothing special. For true fans only. 6/10
- “Quantum Physics made simple” -D.Grey.
Not very good. At all. One would learn more from articles on Wikipedia. 1/10
- “Chronicle of the Narvaez expedition” -A.De Vaca .
A fairly thin chronicle of a conquistadors journey from the east coast of America to the west coast during his wandering with the natives and the trials he suffered there in the 16th century. It’s a lot less exciting than it sounds. 3/10
- “The Drive In part 1” -J.R.Lansdale.
A great funny/horror book by one of my favourite authors. Its humorous, witty, but also dark and menacing. Its very much written in the style of a B-movie, think Evil Dead style. Best thing I’ve read this year. 9/10
- “Showa: A History of Japan” Vol 1+2 – S. Mizuki.
Mr Mizuki documents the history of japan from the 1920s to the late 1980’s which also covers his own existence and memories. Its a fantastic achievement and is both funny and tragic as you witness his efforts during World War 2. You also get to learn more about the complexities about the Japanese political system during that era and the inevitable and destructive march to war. 9/10
- “The Drive In part 2” -J.R.Lansdale.
The follow-up to the book I read earlier in the month, sadly it’s not a snip on its predecessor, it’s actually a bit rubbish so I was very disappointed, I guess great books are a hard act to follow. 2/10
- “Showa: A History of Japan” Vol 3+4 – S. Mizuki.
The last x2 volumes of Mr Mizuki’ history of Japan. Fantastic stuff this, really enjoyed them . 9/10
- “Batman Vol 12+13” -T.King.
Well, the end of the series and Mr Kings run, and sadly it ended with a huge whimper. Utter rubbish that made me regret purchasing the series. Seriously, its best if you just don’t read any of Kings stuff, just avoid the entire 3 years or so of his tenure and you’ll be better off for it. Glad he’s gone and hoping the new guy does a better job (its hard for him to do a worse one!) 1/10
- “The A-Z of Curious London” -G.Pickup.
Interesting but very sloppy. It looks like pages taken from a webpage. 2/10
- “Batman Vol8” -T.King.
Tom King just pulled a fast one on me with this one! Great little twist mid-way through the volume (no spoilers here). He’s really forged a totally different Batman, his Batman is more ruined, disturbed, unstable and unclear to the point where you start thinking “He’s no different to the Joker, he’s unhinged”. Good stuff 7/10
- “Naked Trader” -R.Burns.
Mr Burns has a column in a newspaper where he discusses which stock to buy etc. This is his book in which he goes over the basics of buying and selling shares and strategic hints and tips to avoid the many pitfalls. Its very much an entry level book. It didn’t really gift me anything I didnt already know. Mostly its “don’t trade while drunk/tired”, “do your research”, “don’t get emotionally attached to a particular stock”, “ignore online tipsters” and “don’t buy stock from a heavily indebted company”, Honestly, that’s pretty much it! I’ve decided that once I retire (and I only have approx 10 years left for that event to trigger!) I’m going to invest everything into a SIPP and self manage it. If nothing else, that alone will give me a daily hobby in my final twilight years. 6/10
- “Jonah Hex: Shadows West” -J.R.Lansdale.
Mr Lansdale is a fantastic author with a vast volume of work (mostly short stories) behind him. He’s a real gem and sadly not exposed to the sort of fame and fortune he should be. This is his stint on a Jonah Hex run and it’s rootin’ tootin’ cowboy joy ride! Its hilarious, brilliant and weaves in stories of cowboys and Cthulhu with great verve. A fantastic read. 9/10
- “Batman Vol7” -T.King.
Tom King is surreal and really pushing his Batman stories into the realm of the odd! He has a time travel story here featuring Booster Gold (a very ridiculous superhero) who goes back in time to save Bruce Waynes parents being shot in Crime Alley but it weaves it in such a way thats its one of the darkest endings ever I’d ever read. Its weird but very different, which is good in my books! 7/10
- “Batman Vol6” -T.King.
I stopped reading Tom Kings Batman run last year or so (probably later!) after reading volume 5, which was dire. Mr King’s run on Batman has now come to an end and I thought I wouldnt judge him on the basis of just 1 really bad work (alongside a couple of average works), and I’m glad I turned around and came back because this was is really good! 7/10
- “Live to tell the tale” -K.Ammann.
A book simply about D&D and which strategies to employ with which classes. Its a surprisingly interesting and enjoyable read (if you’re into this sort of stuff!) and it really opened my eyes in terms of how to best play to get the utmost from a D&D party. For true nerds only. 8/10
- “Mr Punch” -N.Gaiman.
I last read this in perhaps 2005 or so and I wasn’t impressed. Having a re-read now I can pick up more on the magical and the subtlety of the story, however, it’s still not great. It’s okay, and interesting, but it’s not something that resonates with me . 5/10
- “Groo: Friends and Foes” -S.Aragones.
I was first introduced to Groo back in 1988, while attending college in my 1st year at Southgate Technical College, Enfield. Back then I into the usual array of comic books, although I loved Spiderman, Batman etc, my main interest was the EC comics, and Weird fiction type titles featuring Cthulhu type mythos and short stories. I had seen Groo in the stands but never picked it up, and there was a guy called Michael in my class who raved about it endlessly. So I read the ones be borrowed me and while it was cute and ironic and slightly funny, it didnt really grab me the way that other titles had. Nostalgia, more than anything, made me pick this one up and read it and, yup, I was right the first time back in 1988. So it’s okayyy, but there is nothing stand out here, still kinda cute, but nothing I will remember nor want to remember.3/10
- “The man without talent” -Y.Tsuge.
I’d never knew that there were Japanese comics that weren’t manga! The stories contained within are the everyday sort of life stories that people like Tomime and Ware capture. I find them far more rewarding than say the superhero type stories, being grounded in reality and semi-autobiographical it makes for fantastic reading and general reflection. I really enjoyed this one and I intend on reading more of this stuff. 8/10
- “Trash Market” -T.Tsuge.
Apparently this author is the brother of the man who wrote “Man Without Talent”. Its similar in style and prose, but sadly, just doesn’t have the same depth. Quite surreal and forgettable stories really. 2/10
- “The Push Man” -Y.Tatsumi.
Very short little snippets that go for a punch ending, and while I am sure that back in 1960s these stories were ground breaking, 60 years on they come across a tad pastiche. It’s not bad, and some of the stories reworked would be highly effective however as it currently stands I don’t think I’d be revisiting them again . 4/10
- “The Pits of hell” -E.YoshikazuTatsumi.
Very amateurish! It was apparently ground breaking in the 1970s (no doubt due to the ultra violence depicted within) but it both looks and reads like something a teen in a his bedroom would produce. Pretty poor stuff . 1/10
- “The Book of Unexplained mysteries” -W.Pearson.
A nice little entry level book regarding various interesting stories and events from the past, it’s not spookily or seriously written, more in a post-modern internet savvy style. Lacks depth, but I guess that was the whole point, it’s just a little quick in and out dip. Easy reading and maybe a good launching point into other more deeper works. 6/10
- “Tales from the Black Meadow” -C.Lambert.
A short book of poems and stories about folk horror. Sadly, its clearly written by an amateur and not very good. 2/10
- “Powers: The Best Ever” -B.Bendis.
Squeeze the story until it’s dry! Bendis returns with a Powers story like 10 years after the last one. I’ts the final final one because, spoiler, he kills of the main dude. I guess he got bored of it all in the end and just wanted the whole thing wrapped. It shows in this story however, its rushed with a hint of I-dont-care-anymore about it. A sad end to a great series! I wish this one wasn’t created but I can see the merit in finally killing your darlings off . 1/10
- “Mysteries of the unknown” -various.
The biggest mystery here is why I purchased this tripe! This book is akin to a 1990s geocities website with a paragraph on each subject areas that is very very poorly research. Utter rubbish 1/10
- “Cursed Objects” -JW Ocker.
Another book lacking depth! It seems as if its written either by someone who has an attention deficit or its pitched at readers who have an attention deficit! Pretty much x2 page write ups on topics that should really have a chapter. Dilettante reading at its best. 2/10