Uncle Josh Pokes 2018 with a Stick (3/3): Words, Words, Words

According to Goodreads I read 62 out of 50 books I had challenged myself with this year and that’s probably not-quite fair. There are several graphic novels that may or may not be counted as one for the series or not at all. For example, I finally finished collecting Akira and read the whole thing, so that’s 6 books but really one story (or 50-some-odd if you look at the original publications).

Immediate highlights from new-to-me authors were the Murderbot series (again, four novellas that are now bound as a single book but I got credit for 4) by Martha Wells. I loved the attitude and the fact that each bit was its own story in a larger story so none of the four were filler episodes (I’m looking at you, FB2). The Quantum Magician by Derek Künsken was a new and fun, serialized in Analog so I’m counting it.  Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer wowed the ever-living — out of me. The length was enough to make me think I’d miss my challenge completely. I have purchased the rest but not read them yet.

I also read a lot of Tor.com novellas and that kind of feels like cheating, but I also read the Great Gatsby, so what the hell. In some ways the reading challenge is kind of like NaNoWriMo. Whatever makes the number go up works, right?

I pushed myself to read a couple of westerns because a) I’ve only read one in my life and b) I heard somewhere the great cowboy heroes were in the same vein as the hardboiled detectives I love to read. I saw a little bit of stoicism that was worth reading, but not the great love of horses I’d expect and I was shocked to see “injun” used as a verb.

One of my struggles is understanding non-binary or transgender folk so I turned to fiction to try to get some answers and frankly what I read was: boys are awful; there’s nothing good about being a boy; men are manipulative and cannot be trusted. I read to try to understand, and got yelled at by the author. I’ll keep trying, though.

I had my literary comfort food of John Scalzi and Devon Monk (and there’s a new Monk out today: Spark. I’m looking forward to being under a comforter in the Kindle-glow of a fun read).  Actually, those 4 plus Alan Dean Foster’s Force Awakens novelization may be the only things in the comfort-read category this year.

There were too many books that I read and don’t remember reading. Frankly, even one is too many in the category, and that’s frustrating. I don’t like thinking something made so little of an impression on me.

I also learned that when I read books, I usually mean fiction. Yes, I read non-fiction but it doesn’t feel like reading to me. It’s research or learning or just absorbing ideas, but it’s not reading. Reading is adventure and excitement and drama. I know in the end it doesn’t matter, but it was strange to realize I wasn’t counting the non-fiction nor do I reach for non-fiction when I just need a bit of words to pass time. The exception is the bathroom book of blog posts, which suit that purpose just fine.

Looking ahead I think I’ll bump my challenge to 80 books next year with a couple of knows boulders in the way: Ada Palmer and a feeling I should do more to review each work that I read, not just the highlights of the year. I know in Amazon/Goodreads world, a simple 4 or 5-star and “great read” or “lotsa fun” may be enough, but for someone who aspires to write (and get paid for it) I need to put a little more thinking into the endeavor, but not so much that I forget to actually read for enjoyment and adventure and really wild things.