Monday, December 26, 2016

The Year in Review: Reading

I read sixty-five books in 2016, weighted heavily towards fiction this time (49 novels to 16 nonfiction books).  I was in the mood for mostly lightweight fiction, reading a lot of "cozy" mysteries (amateur sleuth, small-town settings, not a lot of violence), some middle-grade children's books, and a lot of P.G. Wodehouse.

My reading choices went well with my desire to spend my first year of retirement relaxing as much as I could!

My Favorite Nonfiction Books

The Road to Little Dribbling (Bill Bryson).  Bryson jaunts around his adopted home of England in his typical humorous fashion -- a master of the wryly observed travel memoir.

A Kentish Lad (Frank Muir).  Good luck finding this autobiography -- I snapped it up at a used book sale.  Frank Muir was a British radio and TV icon from the 1940s - 1970s specializing in comedy writing and acting, and he tells rollicking good stories about his life and times.

Super Sushi Ramen Express (Michael Booth).  Booth, who is mainly a food writer, takes his wife and young sons on a two-month exploration of Japan's food culture with highly entertaining and often amusing results.

Caring for Nature:  100 Years of Seattle Audubon (Edited by Constance Sidles).  Well, okay, I'm heavily biased about this book, since I did research for it.  Impressively told history and stories of people who made a difference for the preservation of birds and nature.

The Boys in the Boat (Daniel Brown).  Absolutely riveting account of the young men on the UW rowing crew who won Olympic gold in 1936.  Amazing story about amazing people.

My Favorite Fiction Books

The Cat Who Came In Off the Roof  (Annie Schmidt).  Quirky and charming children's book about a cat who turns into a young woman.

Pretty much everything I read this year by P.G. Wodehouse.  What can one say?  Jeeves and Wooster.  Blandings Castle and Galahad Threepwood.  Aunt Agatha...Monty Bodkin...Stilton Cheesewright....of course the plots are all the same, full of thwarted young love, miscommunication and mishaps galore, with Bertie Wooster continually under threat of unwanted marriage and the Empress of Blandings always in danger of pig-napping...with everything turning out right in the end.  One does not read Wodehouse for his plots -- one reads him for his wit, his amusing turns of phrase, and his delightful dialogue.   I'd read most of these books at least once before, and won't mind reading them again a few years hence.

Titles enjoyed this year:  Summer Lightning, The Luck of the Bodkins, Heavy Weather, Cocktail Time, The Mating Season, Thank You Jeeves, Joy in the Morning, Full Moon, Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit, Galahad at Blandings, Pigs Have Wings, Right Ho, Jeeves.

Artists in Crime (Ngaio Marsh).  Another re-read of a favorite mystery, where artist Agatha Troy meets Inspector Roderick Alleyn while he investigates a murder at her studio.

Absolutely Truly (Heather Frederick).  Middle-grade novel about a young girl dealing with a move to a new town where she makes new friends while solving a literary mystery uncovered at her family's bookstore.

The Transcendental Murder and The Memorial Hall Murder (Jane Langton).  While I enjoyed these early entries in Langton's series featuring amateur sleuth Homer Kelly and his wife Mary, who are both English Literature teachers, and I enjoyed their New England settings, I was disappointed in later books in the series that I tried to read and gave up on.  These two feature  Homer and Mary more prominently, while the later ones focused on other characters to their detriment.

The End of the Road (Sue Henry).  While the plot of this mystery is barely there, and the solution comes out of left field in an unsatisfying fashion, and despite the heroine, amateur sleuth Maxie McNabb, committing a couple of dumb moves, I still enjoyed this book overall for its portrayal of Homer, Alaska and its quirky residents.  And possibly the fact that Maxie owns a dachshund named Stretch had a little something to do with it.  Also read two earlier book in the series, The Serpents Tooth, which takes Maxie and Stretch on the road to Colorado, and The Tooth of Time, set in New Mexico, where the plots were definitely better.

Good stuff!


  1. Hurrah for end of year book reports. I don't so much find anything here I'm eager to read but I always enjoy your pocket reviews. Maybe I should try rereading some Ngaio Marsh . . .

    Also, I *love* this year's calendar; thank you! I have yet to put *my* calendar together for 2017 and yours is so lovely I'm tempted to skip it. One of these days I swear I'll get your Christmas stuff to you; it's hell *not* being retired.

    1. I like the Ngaio Marsh ones that heavily feature Agatha Troy.

      So glad you like the calendar! I'm sure yours will also be splendid because it always is. And yes, someday we MUST find a way to get together. You won't have more time to do stuff when you're retired, though -- it's just as busy, I'm afraid!