January 8, 2017

2016 Books Wrap up

As I've mentioned before, one of the surprising developments for me this Sabbatical year is that visually reading is actually very hard to fit in.  In my dreams, I'd double or even triple my visual reading while traveling.  Now I wonder exactly when I thought I'd be doing this, and what I'd be missing out on while doing so.

Between making the most of the locations where we find ourselves, language study, geographical and infrastructure research and just general life management, I haven't really found much time to read much other than travel resources during the sabbatical.  The last couple of visually read books I haven't written about in 2016 were book 8 (Matter) and book 9 (Surface Detail) in the Culture Novel Series.  I enjoyed them both immensely, and now I'm making my way through book 10, which is the last.  It's a nice juxtaposition to consider how "foreign" our travel on earth is to us on a daily basis vs. how "foreign" the various worlds/Universes/situations the Culture novels describe would be.  When I'm back to a fixed location life, I'll likely seek out books 4-6 in the series, which weren't available on Kindle.  If you think you'd like the Culture Novels, here's a nice detailed overview.

In contrast to taking the time to look down and read, audiobooks have been much easier to consume while traveling.  On the US/Canada roadtrip, E & I often listened an hour or so on each long drive stretch.  While traveling internationally, I listen to my audiobooks when visiting the gym, running, or walking solo (particularly when back in the US on visits).

2016 totals are 22 visual books and 32 audiobooks, both down quite a bit from 2015 (29 visual books and 48 audiobooks) - so, if there's one thing I'm looking forward to about returning to my normal life, it's reading and enjoying more books than I do while traveling.  For those of you who are interested, all of my previous books posts can be found here, and the remaining 2016 audiobook reviews are below.

A Good Man is Hard to Find and other stories
Flannery O'Connor
Good road trip enjoyment.  Harsh character portrayals of southerners by this classic American author.  I would *never* want to be subject to her written description.  Her turns of phrase for physical descriptions as well as her command of dialect are entertainingly impressive.
The Crossing
Michael Connelly
A nice twist in the Lincoln Lawyer/Harry Bosch series -- Harry is on leave from LAPD and his brother convinces him to act as his investigator in a defense case trying to clear a convicted felon of murder.  Great LA background, legal theory, thriller material, etc.
The P.G. Wodehouse Collection
P.G. Wodehouse
We listened to these stories (many of them the classic "Jeeves" tales of the clever butler and his addled leisure-life British employer living in New York in the 1920s) on our roadtrip and found them very enjoyable.  The humor is super dry and ascerbic.
Still Life: Inspector Gamache, Book 1
Louise Penny
It started with a desire to find a new audiobook set in some of the places we'd be driving on our road trip and it developed into my newest mystery series obsession.  Ms. Penny has created the absolutely lovely imaginary village of 3 pines populated full of Anglos in Quebec near the US border.  Inspector Gamache and his team are the french-speaking murder team of the Surete de Quebec who come to town to investigate a suspicious death.  Simple but wonderful character development, scenery, and portrayal of the modern day tension between the Anglophone and Francophone communities in Quebec.  Some credit Ms. Penny with reviving the classic style of murder mystery originally popularized by Agatha Christie -- I see the parallels and agree, and I read almost if not all of Agatha Christie's works as a child, so I'm guessing I'll be doing the same with Ms. Penny.
The world's best classic short stories
Various: Poe, Wilde, Saki, Chopin, Hardy, Kipling, etc.
A great exposure to shorter works of some of the most well-known English/American authors, many of whom I've never read.  We made it about halfway through the collection before arriving in Atlanta, so we may revisit the remainder on our drive back to California next Summer, but who knows.
Fatal Grace: Inspector Gamache, Book 2
Louise Penny
More of 3 pines.  Great character expansion and continuity of background from the first book plus stereotypical puzzle-mystery unfolding.  Ruth Zado, the local poet is a composite wonderfully bitter curmudgeonly character whose lyrics contain influences from Atwood and no doubt other Canadian poets I am unacquainted with -- I do love me some poetry in my prose, even in my murder mysteries where possible. The Cruelest Month: Inspector Gamache, Book 3

The Cruelest Month: Inspector Gamache, Book 3
Louise Penny
Still more of 3 Pines and I can't still can't get enough.  Seances. Haunted Houses.  Easter.  And, of course, a murder mystery.
A Rule Against Murder: Inspector Gamache, Book 4
Louise Penny
Inspector Gamache and his wife are celebrating their anniversary at the Manoir Bellchance and a murder occurs.  An entirely new character set and scenery, for the most part, and yet, I still love this book and this series.  
The Brutal Telling: Inspector Gamache, Book 5
Louise Penny
Back to 3 Pines for some shocking revelations about characters you thought you knew and, of course, another murder mystery.  The townsfolk make some tongue-in-cheek comments regarding how unlikely it is that their tiny town should be the site of so many murders in such a short time, but other than that, the magical realism elements continue to preserve 3 pines as the wonderfully perfect location it has been thus far.  Continued character development for some of my favorites (including Gamache) as well as the introduction of some memorable new ones make continuing with this series an even better pleasure than the Agatha Christie tales to which Ms. Penny's works are compared.
Bury Your Dead: Inspector Gamache, Book 6
Louise Penny
A split tale, with Inspector Beauvoir back in 3 pines while Gamache is passing time in Old Quebec after an unfortunate accident.  Perhaps the most complex of the books in the series thus far, with 2 concurrent investigations and historical look-back tale-telling of the accident.  Very well executed with the lovely 3 pines attraction remaining strong while characters continue to grow and evolve.  

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