Goodreads is always a little eager to put the tally on a year’s worth of reading. This year, however, since I’ve been engaged in some larger books, they may be on target. According to their count I’ve read 71 books this year. (I re-read two, so my personal count is 73.) New Year’s Eve, for me, is a time to reflect about what I’ve learned in the past year. Much of that involves books I’ve read. A good deal of my reading has been for Nightmares with the Bible. To write a book you need to read books. Frequently it means taking them on regardless of your mood—and I tend to be a mood-driven reader. So what books stand out from 2019? (They all have individual posts on this blog, in case you missed them.)
My first nonfiction book of the year was Christopher Skaife’s The Ravenmaster. Animal intelligence always makes for good reading and this was reprised in Jennifer Ackerman’s The Genius of Birds. I’ve fallen behind in my Frans de Waal reading, though. Of the many research books on the Devil and demons, Jeffrey Burton Russell’s Mephistopheles stands out. Russell’s clear thinking and wide view make him a pleasure to read even on unpleasant subjects. Other books in that category didn’t quite rise to his level. Monster books, on the other hand, rocked. I loved James Neibaur’s Monster Movies of Universal Studios, Mallory O’Meara’s Lady from the Black Lagoon, and Kröger and Anderson’s Monster, She Wrote. These were all excellent. Tipping toward the unusual, Guy Playfair’s This House Is Haunted and Jeffrey Kripal’s The Flip gave me pause for thought.
Perhaps because I was reading longer books, this year didn’t have fiction in the numbers I usually strive for. Most of it was quite good, though. David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas was memorable and Italo Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller (strangely similar to Mitchell) became an instant favorite. My young adult fix came through Christy Lenzi’s Stonefield and Lois Lowry’s The Giver. Victor Gischler scored with Vampire a Go-Go and Cherie Priest made a fine impression with The Toll. I mentioned Neal Stephenson’s Fall yesterday, but it will stay with me into 2020.
A couple of memories/biographies also made deep marks on my mind. Anne Serling’s As I Knew Him brought me close to Rod Serling and Barbara Taylor Brown’s Learning to Walk in the Dark found me where I live. America’s Dark Theologian by Douglas E. Cowan isn’t really biography, but it was thought-provoking (as his books always are) and increased my resolve to read some more Stephen King. The books I read make me more myself. At the end of each year I think back over it all. And this year I pondered what got me through a difficult 2019. I have ended the year more myself than ever, I suspect, and I looking forward to a reading through the new decade.