The History of the Life of the Late Mr. Jonathan Wild the Great by Henry Fielding, 2/5
This peculiarly depressing little satire flips traditional concepts of morality on its head by recasting infamous 18th-century thief Jonathan Wild as a “Great Man,” deriding all honest men as “that pitiful order of mortals who are in contempt called good-natured; being indeed sent into the world by nature with the same design with which men put little fish into a pike-pond in order to be devoured by that voracious water-hero” (73). There are a few hilarious moments but overall Fielding’s satirical style is a bit strained and tedious.
Why I read it: I can’t remember where I picked this book up from, but it probably ended up in the pile beside my bed because I really enjoyed Fielding’s Tom Jones.
Antonio Stradivari: His Life & Work (1644-1737) by W. Henry Hill, Arthur F. Hill and Alfred E. Hill, 3/5
This reprint of a 1902 book contains more information than the average person would ever want to know about Stradivari and his instruments. The writing style is very dry and technical–I wish there was a glossary and more pictures (especially in color) of the instruments they describe. I did enjoy witnessing the eye for detail and nuance that the authors displayed as they discussed specific instruments, pointing out tiny differences between violins that looked identical to me. All in all, a great reference book, but not a particularly enjoyable or memorable read.
Why I read it: Dover accidentally included it in a package of other books my mom ordered and said to just keep it.
Scary Close: Dropping the Act and Finding True Intimacy by Donald Miller, 3/5
Miller is an entertaining writer, but not a very convincing psychologist. While it is fun to read the story of how he developed a healthier approach to relationships and gradually found love at a relatively late age, I felt like he spent a lot of time answering easy questions I didn’t have while skirting around the most important, mysterious, confusing aspects of the topic. He claims to want to teach that “love is worth what it costs,” but the focus of the book is much more on how to pay the cost than the worth. For me, the real question isn’t what caused his previous relationships to fail and his current one to succeed (that is fairly obvious–turns out that authenticity and vulnerability make a better foundation than insecurity and manipulation), the big question is why did he suddenly feel compelled to make it work with someone in particular? Now that I’m thinking about it, this is the exact issue I had with the previous book on relationships I read. Perhaps one day, I’ll find a book that focuses on the why, not the how, but until then I guess I’ll just hope they are as entertaining as this one.
Why I read it: a family member recommended it to me.
In 2016 I read forty-two books, eighteen of which were nonfiction, twelve fiction, seven comic (or image-based) and five poetry.
I averaged 0.8 books a week, but the most books I read in a single month was nine (March).
I read 2 books written in the 11th century
1 book written in the 1700s
3 books written in the 1800s
4 books written between 1900-1949
17 books written between 1950-1999
15 books written between 2000-2016
Books that I rated 1 star: 3 (~7%)
2 stars: 5 (~12%)
3 stars: 7 (~17%)
4 stars: 14 (~33%)
5 stars: 13 (~31%)
So why did I read only half as many books as last year? Martial arts. I now spend about 14 hours a week doing kickboxing, Brazilian jiu-jitsu and MMA, which not only cuts down on my free time but also makes me too tired to read much in bed!
The Essential Spider-Man by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, 3/5
Reading this collection was a fun, new experience and I loved the artwork, but the writing is atrocious–so much of it consists of characters talking to themselves so that the reader can tell what is going on, e.g. “Good thing my spider powers enable me to jump out of the way as Doctor Wombat attacks with his furry, robotic claws of death.” Perhaps this is just inherent to the medium, but I do not remember encountering a similar problem in Watchmen (the only other comic series I’ve read). Still, the corny writing and unsophisticated plots do have an undeniable charm especially, I imagine, for people who grew up reading comic books.
Why I read it: I like trying new genres of literature and my sister’s boyfriend offered to lend me his well-worn, childhood copy.
Miracles: A Preliminary Study by C.S. Lewis, 5/5
It’s like no one told C.S. Lewis that you can’t prove the existence of God, so he just does. And that is merely to lay the foundation for his main topic, which I actually found much less interesting and convincing than the preliminary discussions–the man does not shirk an intellectual challenge. Though I have occasionally sensed some antagonism from him towards science, in this book he cheerfully tackles both the known and unknown with the grace, focus and rigorous logic that make me sometimes fear that I tend to put more faith in him than in God. Of course, no matter how hard one tries to be open-minded and logical, it cannot be too difficult a task to convince someone of something they already believe. With that in mind, I would love to know how this book is perceived by people with different backgrounds and beliefs than me.
Why I read it: C.S. Lewis is one of my favourite authors and thankfully, every time I think I’ve read all his books I come across a new one.
Film Directing Shot by Shot: Visualizing from Concept to Screen by Steven D. Katz, 4/5
This book offers a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes of the film director’s craft, laying out the many tools, visualisation strategies, camera angles, movements and stagings that are available to the person intent on transferring a story from script to film. The book format is obviously not ideal for the topic and it is up to the reader to imagine how a shot might flow between the still images that are provided, but the author is a clear communicator and most of the concepts are not difficult to understand.
Why I read it: I came across it while browsing through books at the thrift store and thought it looked interesting.