As a follow up to my rant entitled “Thankfulness,” in which I say goodbye to 2020 with a kick in its ass and no remorse, I thought I would take a somewhat more introspective look at the impact 2020 had on me.
As you may or may not know, I am an inveterate and voracious reader. I will read just about anything about anything other than Gothic Romances, Self-Improvement books that indicate how many days to improvement, and pure fantasy books with princessess and princes. With the pandemic severely curtailing activities with other people and my desire to watch less mindless television, I turned to reading. As of this date (almost mid-December), I have read at over 165 books. So, being a data geek…..
Some of it was good, productive, informative reading. In the Fiction category, I read more Paulette Jiles, James McBride (must read “The Good Lord Bird” and “Deacon King Kong”), Jeanine Cummins (“American Dirt”) and Mary Doria Russell among the 20 odd fiction novels I read. I read about 20 History books, including “Anne Boleyn: 500 years of Lies”, Simon Winchester’s “The Professor and The Madman”, “1066 and All That”, “Babylon: Mesopotamia and the Birth of Civilization, and “How Chance and Stupidity Have Changed History”. The last one seemed entirely appropriate and in step with the times.
A bunch of memoirs worth reading, including Deborah Feldman’s “Unorthodox” (upon which the mini-series was based), “The Women of Copper County” by Mary Doria Russell about a unionization effort led by women in a north country mine, “In Hoffa’s Shadow” by Jack Goldsmith, the adopted son of the man the FBI for years believed was the hit man on Hoffa. Terrific. And George MacDonald Fraser (of the hilarious Flashman series) wrote an equally terrific memoir of WWII in Burma. Of the 18 or so, not a lemon among them.
Perhaps the best Historical Fiction novel I read was James McBride’s 2013 published “The Good Lord Bird.” It is the story of John Brown’s crusade told through the eyes and ears of the fictional 12-year-old slave Henry “Onion” Shackleford. Starting in ‘Bloody Kansas’ and ending with his hanging in Charles Town, Virginia this beautifully written, totally irreverent, and heart-string-pulling fictional account is terrific. Annie Proulx’s “Barkskins” was also interesting, particularly the first half of the book, but overall, I found it somewhat depressing. Spoiler alert: everyone dies, colonists and then capitalists rape the environment and abuse the Native Americans.
I read some incredibly impactful non-fiction, notable among that were Isabel Wilkerson’s “A Warmth from Other Suns”, Richard Dawkins’ “The Blind Watchmaker” (an incredibly erudite explanation of what Darwinism really means) and “How the South Won the War” by Heather Cox Richardson which explains a lot about how the current political mess happened.
Throw in some Jack Reacher mysteries and the various spin-offs from those and some of the Richard B. Parker imitators for my mystery/who dunnit reading.
The eye-opening surprise was the science fiction category Sure, some of it was by highly regarded authors like Octavia E. Butler, George R.R. Martin, John Scalzi, Jack McDevitt, and Kathryn Rusch. Along the way, a couple of new offerings from one of my favorite SciFi authors, Nathan Lowell. Anything he writes is good to read. And, if you want to laugh out loud (and, like, who among us does not both want to and need to?), you should read all of Jodi Taylor’s The Chronicles of St Mary’s. There are some 28 books in the series including short story anthologies.
So, even dismissing the really good ones (did I forget Andy Weir….fabulous) it leaves a shit-ton full of total escapist, some good, many forgettable space opera, military space adventures, post-apocalyptic worlds, technical hard scifi, the latest in the 30 odd installments of the father/son Dune franchise, SciFi mysteries and SciFi detectives, sentient robots, robot killers, sex with aliens, and overall, aliens doing weird shit, books. I have read (according to my Kindle/Goodreads record) well over 110 scifi novels in the past 11 months. Most of it the stuff that used to be called pulp.
And that, my friends, is what characterizes my 2020. I just wanted to be somewhere else. And my reading, particularly my “junk” reading took me there.
I have tired of writing vituperative screeds about Trump and the Trumpettes. There is nothing new there – Trump is what he is, and the Republicans are what they are and have folded their tent and kissed his backside and the whole thing is disgusting. So, I quit reading all that shit and instead read escapist trash along with some good stuff. Why am I telling you this? I have nary a clue. I just found it interesting. As Ricky Nelson sang, “You see, ya can’t please everyone, so ya got to please yourself.”
Happy belated Thanksgiving to all, a merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Joyous Kwanza, Delightful Diwali, a Soulful Solstice, and/or a wonderful experience celebrating whatever deity you believe in or simply have a great time dancing around an oak tree painted blue. Just be good to yourselves and your family and friends.