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Halfway through the 50 book challenge!

At agentlerain 's prompting, I took up the 'read 50 books in a year' challenge in January.  Recently passed the halfway mark, so am nicely on schedule!  Here's the first 25 in a nutshell:

1. Storm Front by Jim Butcher
First book of the Dresden Files! After reading the Codex Alera by Jim Butcher (utterly amazing series in its own right), I sought out some of his other writings. I’d heard of the Dresden Files, of course, but had never paid much attention to it, since I thought it was just another X-files sort of TV show. Turns out it is pretty much the urban fantasy equivalent of an action detective movie. Highly recommended.

2. Fool Moon by Jim Butcher
Book #2 of the Dresden Files. This one is about werewolves. It was here I discovered that Jim Butcher repeats himself a lot in his earlier work, which can be a bit annoying, although would allow you to pick up any of his books out of sequence and follow along fairly easily. They’re fairly short reads, too, you can knock one over in a matter of hours.

3. How Music Works by John Powell
Non-fiction. This turned out surprisingly interesting. Delves into the science and history of music in a wonderfully readable fashion. Learnt quite a lot of new things, and had a good refresher on many others. Originally bought it thinking it was written by the composer John Powell (of Happy Feet and How To Train Your Dragon and Kung Fu Panda fame), but fortunately that mistake did not diminish the book's worth in the slightest.

4. Grave Peril by Jim Butcher
Book #3 of the Dresden Files. This one is about ghosts.

5. Summer Knight by Jim Butcher
Book #4 of the Dresden Files. This one is about a Faery war.

6. World War: Upsetting the Balance by Harry Turtledove
Book #3 of Harry Turtledove’s World War series – an alternate history that asks: What if aliens invaded at the height of World War II? Also, these aliens happened to first send scouts to Earth 800 years ago, saw spears and horses, and thought ‘easy pickings’. They’re a slow-moving race, so it took them 800 years to get around to sending their war fleet. But how much can a species advance in 800 years, after all? XD

7. World War: Striking the Balance by Harry Turtledove
Book #4 of World War. Reading this series, I don’t think each book was written as a standalone, considering each one just ends at a point that does not feel remotely like a conclusion and instead feels more like an awful cliffhanger. This is true even for this conclusion of the first series. By this point I’d also discovered that Harry Turtledove has a very annoying habit of repeating himself a lot (I know about ginger and lizards already), but you stick around for the plot.  It has also taught me more about WWII history than I ever expected to learn.

8. Counter-Clock World by Philip K Dick
A world where time runs backwards, and dead get reborn and have to be dug up from their coffins… and there are some dead that people don’t want to rise again. …It’s Philip K Dick, so of course it is mind-bending, the guy was certifiably psychotic for half of his career.

9. Pebble in the Sky by Isaac Asimov
Isaac Asimov time-travel! A retired tailor is the unfortunate victim of a time portal and winds up thousands of years in the future, where Earth has become a backwater radioactive planet on the edge of a gloriously expansive Galactic Empire. Then he becomes a test subject and gets super mental powers, due to his uniquely ancient physiology. …And somehow, that isn’t actually as interesting as it sounds.

10. Machine of Death by Ryan North
A collection of short stories about a world where a machine can tell you how you’re going to die – just how, not when – with nothing more than a blood sample. Only the machine tends to be a little vague. This was the brainchild of the Dinosaur Comics guy, and a long series of guest authors contributed pieces. They range from the morbidly hilarious to the genuinely tragically sad, with a couple of philosophical and heavily sci-fi ones thrown in for good measure. (A good deal more on the morbidly hilarious side, though).

11. White Cat by Holly Black
Fairly short modern fantasy novel, about an ordinary college student in a dysfunctional family of magic workers. Has a surprisingly mafia-story feel to it. Quite enjoyable, some good twists, if occasionally predictable.

12. Animal Farm by George Orwell
Finally actually read this story. About a revolution on a farm where the common animals take over and institute Communism. It was a very good read, but made me depressed because it was so true.

13. 1984 by George Orwell
Everyone knows what 1984 is about. I found it easier to read in terms of style than expected, though the last third of the book was unpleasant and trying. Incredibly unsatisfying ending, even if it was technically brilliant. :(

14. Time Out of Joint by Philip K Dick
Another reality-bender from Dick. I didn’t like this one as much as his others, though it certainly had some good moments. It’s um… it’s kind of hard to describe most of his work to other people.

15. Death Masks by Jim Butcher
Book #5 of the Dresden Files. This one is about a duel with the champion of the Red Vampire court, and the Shroud of Turin, and even some fairly ordinary mafia hitmen.

16. Crazy Like Us: The Globalisation of the American Psyche
Surprisingly fascinating read. It’s a book regarding the exportation of the North American understanding of mental health, and the influence this has had on the mental health industry in other countries, as well as examining different manifestations of mental distress according to different cultural values.

17. The Last Dragonslayer by Jason Fforde
Another fantasy comedy with a dash of modernity. A little too short and simple for my tastes (aimed at a younger audience I suspect), but highly entertaining and I was left wanting more. Felt a bit like what might happen if Terry Pratchett wrote fantasy in a reality other than Discworld.

18. Blood Rites by Jim Butcher
Book #6 of the Dresden Files. This one is about death curses on an adult movie set, and the White Vampire Court, and I think there’s a plant monster in this one too.

19. The Rise and Fall of Communism by Archie Brown
Tediously dry. Don’t believe the book blurbs. This is a thoroughly academic text chronicling the history of communism from pre WWI to the turn of the century. I am not sure if I absorbed any of it, as I would find myself spacing out every other page.  Easily the driest academic textbook I have read since the Ajax Chemical Reference Guide.  :|

20. Thief of Time by Terry Pratchett
Terry Pratchett. Terry Pratchett, writing about time compression.

21. The All Colour Book of Butterflies
This was basically a scientifically annotated book of butterfly photography. Contained some interesting facts and some truly lovely images, but for such a scientifically approached book, seemed much more interested in the aesthetic and repeating in description things already shown quite clearly in the photographs.

22. Sideshow by Lindsay Tanner
Written by the former Labour minister for Finance, this was a surprisingly compelling book regarding how the shift in news cycles chasing ratings has resulted in increasing shallowness and bad practice in journalism, and how this in turn is dumbing down democracy. It doesn’t particularly contain any startling revelations – anyone who follows the news with any depth would have noticed many of these trends – but it does an excellent job of connecting the dots and framing the relationship, while managing to restrain itself from playing any blame games or indulging in partisanship. Very readable style, and highly recommended to anybody who’s been feeling frustrated with state of modern journalism and political discourse.

23. Colonisation: Second Contact by Harry Turtledove
The first in the sequel trilogy to Harry Turtledove’s World War series. Follows seamlessly from the first series, with many of the same characters (some new ones, too) when the Colonisation fleet arrives as scheduled 20 years after the Conquering fleet, to an Earth only partially subdued and human technology racing ahead.

24. Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris
A thoroughly entertaining selection of amusing short stories with mildly anthropomorphized animals dealing with mundane life problems. Has an oddly morbid folktale feel to it. And by short stories, I mean short – most of them aren’t more than a few hundred words long. Highly recommended.

25. Colonisation: Down to Earth
Book two in the Colonisation trilogy. By this point the soap opera undertones had become overtones, but you forgive it pretty quickly, because let’s just say, who wants to play global thermonuclear war?



( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 29th, 2011 11:31 am (UTC)

Also isn't 20. Thief of Time?
Jul. 29th, 2011 11:32 am (UTC)
Also I think you mean time kompression.
Jul. 29th, 2011 11:38 am (UTC)

Also, yes, you are right about the title of 20, I caught that right after I hit post but LJ isn't letting me go back to edit right now. -___-
Jul. 29th, 2011 11:41 am (UTC)
Jul. 29th, 2011 01:02 pm (UTC)
:/ I figured it was something like that. It's kind of frustrating, because we can't get annoyed at LJ for it since it's not even their fault!
Jul. 29th, 2011 12:30 pm (UTC)
Grats on reading all those books! <3 You like David Sedaris? I absolutely adore his books, but I haven't read that one yet.

I've never even heard of any of the others....lol
Jul. 29th, 2011 01:07 pm (UTC)
Awesome! I'd not read any of his books before, but this one certainly has made me a fan. (Picked it up on sale at one of the Borders that were shutting down).

There are so many books in the world that even if we both read 100 books a year, any overlap would be an awesome coincidence.
Jul. 29th, 2011 02:34 pm (UTC)
I haven't read any of the books you mentioned except 1984 but this sounds like such a good idea.
Congrats on getting through 25 so far!
Jul. 30th, 2011 12:23 pm (UTC)
Heh, thanks.

Imagine if everybody took the challenge! It would be great for the publishing industry, never mind what it might do for the English language!
Jul. 29th, 2011 06:46 pm (UTC)
I'm at the halfway mark too, although I'm not sure if I want to just try and hit 40 instead of 50 this year as I want to catch up on my to-watch list, plus I've been doing the challenge for a couple of years already.
Jul. 30th, 2011 12:25 pm (UTC)
Awesome, hi-fives all around. Yes, I remember you doing it last year, haha, at this point it's less of a challenge for you than a habit, right? :) You could always try and catch up on your to-watch list first, and if you still have time... (Or you could pick ten really short books for the last few. ;))
Jul. 30th, 2011 06:43 pm (UTC)
Yup, also next year I'm thinking of doing a combination of reading challenges, one of which is the Chunkster Challenge, they've got different levels of challenge, the hardest of which is 8 books of 450 or more pages and at least 3 750 page ones... and I do have stuff I've been putting off reading because of the length, such as Memoirs of the Geisha and the complete Lord of the Rings. So I thought it'd be a good motivation =3
Jul. 30th, 2011 12:39 am (UTC)

I remember reading that book as a kid. I thought it was some kind of fairytale thing, like a longer version of Three Little Pigs or whatever. Needless to say, the ending left me really depressed. D:

I read a ton of angst fics after that, to justify that the book wasn't bad (I had a bad ending=bad book mentality those days). And it made me like angst. A lot.
Jul. 30th, 2011 12:26 pm (UTC)
...That sounds traumatic. o__o

Although it DID kind of start out like a fairytale, so I can definitely see where you're coming from. But by the ending... maybe more of a Brothers Grimm variety. XD

That's kind of awesome, though, that it had such a massive long-term impact on your fiction tastes!
Aug. 1st, 2011 05:45 am (UTC)
Holly Black! I'm quite sure I've read something of hers but I can't remember what it is exactly. And Storm Front! I read that some time last year, but never got around to finishing the rest of the series. But yes, I really enjoyed it, especially the voice of the main. It's rather refreshing to read something where magic isn't the all solving solution, and it sometimes goes drastically wrong. ♥ (Or maybe I haven't read enough of the genre.)

I never finished 1984... well, I'm sure you can guess why, after years of being spoilered and GENERAL ANGST FAIL ENDING. :| :| But I thoroughly enjoyed Animal Farm, but yes, ;; depressing. Glue factory. ;;
Aug. 1st, 2011 11:15 am (UTC)
I think she did the Spiderwick Chronicles? I have some vague memory of your talking about those books before?

XD Fantasy as a genre has magic go wrong a lot, but I know what you mean. ♥ I don't think enough of them make the magic feel like something you study and learn.

It really is a brilliant ending, but yes, you would hate it. :| (;___; Oh man, I had almost forgotten about the glue factory bit.)
Aug. 2nd, 2011 08:32 am (UTC)
I haven't actually read the books? Only watched the film, which wasn't bad. I should add it to my list! ♥

I guess that's why Harry Potter is such a huge hit, that people can learn magic, and those of us who have always wished we could have had that spark, well it just feeds into the dream. ♥ And now I'm sort of sad that HP is over again. ;;

I liked the horse and the crow and the dogs. Not really because of their personalities but because you really could see the ideas behind them, the different factors they made up. :D
Aug. 1st, 2011 03:52 pm (UTC)
So the rest of Turtledove's books are good? I picked up one because I love alternate history (How Few Remain, American Civil War ended with the US splitting into two?) and was going to grab some more when I went back to school. I LOVE MY USED BOOKSHOP.

I started reading the Dresden Files at one point, but stopped and now there's this pile of Jim Butcher books sitting on my bookshelf, begging to be read. And I will probably be buying the rest of the Dresden Files and Codex Alera series next time I go back to Borders. (Borders is devouring my bank account ;_____; )

Been trying to get back into book reading, but I keep watching TV shows instead. I've only read 6 books this year /sob
Aug. 1st, 2011 11:37 pm (UTC)
If you don't mind his style, they're quite good. You have to be willing to overlook some mistakes and repetition, I haven't read How Few Remain yet so I don't know if he has the same issues in that. (I take it that was good?) They're compelling, though - even with their flaws I've fairly raced through the series and have really enjoyed it.

The Codex Alera series is all kinds of brilliant, you really get the feeling that Jim Butcher progressed so much as a writer! *__* Let me know what you think when you read it. Heh, I'm in a similar position at the moment with the Dresden Files, as much as I enjoy them I find them a bit like Terry Pratchett books - I can't read too many of them in a row, it starts to feel like you're eating nothing but (admittedly delicious) dessert food.

XD Six books is more than most people! And at least you're caught up on TV shows? I haven't been watching hardly any this year...
Aug. 5th, 2011 06:12 am (UTC)
... Long time ago, I wouldn't mind being a come-and-go lurker... but you just had to mention Jim Butcher. I can't help it. I-I was so totally ENAMORED with his Codex Alera series! >O< I just finished it earlier this year, and it was pretty awesome! X3 I'd been wanting to read Dresden files, but I couldn't find the first book in my local bookstores. It's kinda sad. D;

On the side note, that's an interesting challenge you have there. X3 I'd love to take it to ignite my passion for reading again... Work and gaming takes up too much of my time.

And since I'm commenting... Um, hello! :3 I'm a reader of your works in FF.net. I reviewed quite a few times before, and think you'll know me as Erihppas. I don't usually use LJ unless I'm into a fandom, in which I'd use my account to hunt for icons. 'X3 So, er, looking forward to more of your works in the future!
Aug. 5th, 2011 11:02 am (UTC)
Ah, I recognise your ffnet handle! Hello!

It's an incredible series, isn't it? Tavi was all sorts of amazing. One of my absolute favourites, I blitzed through all the books in something like a month. The Dresden Files aren't quite to the same standard I don't think but are still worth a read.

Haha, you should take the challenge up! It's definitely a great way to get yourself back into reading.
( 21 comments — Leave a comment )