2019 Book Fuel
January’s come. The month of Janus, the one God who needs not crane his neck to both look back and ahead. (a physiological oddity made possible by a medical condition called two-headedness. Think Voldemort on the back of Quirrel’s head.) A month in which we tend to look back, either critically or nostalgically, on the year gone by, and to look ahead at what’s to come. In that spirit, TheWritingWouter will publish two blogs this month: the first a review of 2019 by books read, and the second a look at the author’s projects in the year to come.
So… the books. If you’ve read my Book Fuel Blog from last year, you know which goals I set for myself for 2019: more literature, more Dutch books, more out-of-the-ordinary novels next to the traditional, safe and comfortable fantasy picks I usually gravitate towards. And, of course, a quotum of at least 30 novels to meet. I managed with that last one, with a total of exactly 30 books read. But did I meet the brief when it comes to my other resolutions?
Lo, my 2019 book fuel!
Literature first. Keeping me company this last year were Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (and other stories, one of which, Markheim, rather stuck with me). But The War of the Worlds, The Wind in the Willows and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn turned out fine companions on the literary trail as well, with the last two offering a (utopical/nostalgic) view on the British and American countryside of the late 19th century, respectively. Couperus’ De Stille Kracht served both as a source of inspiration (more on this in my second blog later this month) and an excuse to go and read some Dutch literature again.
Ambitions most novel
Aside from all this classic literary mumbo-jumbo, last year had me diving into books that offered a uniqu hook. Books, maybe even projected series, that offered something more than the done and trite route of standard-three-hundred-pages-narrative. The interesting bestiaries Faeries of the Faultlines by Iris Compiet, for instance, or De Wolffs Bestiarium by Martijn Adelmund. And what of the ambitious space program De Zwijgende Aarde from publishing house Quasis? I read its first three novels, Revolte, Roest and Titanium.
Horror, possibly Cosmic
I can’t remember when I last read as much horror as I did last year. Possibly during elementary school, when I discovered and devoured all Paul van Loons Griezelbus-books. It’s a genre I tend to steer clear of, mostly, but 2019 has shown me how enjoyable it can be. Take Lovecraft in de Polder, an anthology of Dutch authors bringing Ctulhu and his many-limbed friends into the Dutch Lowlands (hijinks ensue). Or Echo, Oldeheuvelts follow-up on Hex and a superiorly written book. Or The Terror, a bizar and epic mix of horror and historical fiction. And Kraken. Mieville’s urban nightmare may not be horror, technically, but it does tick the box of Cosmic, as he gives an eldritch look on the London ‘underworld’. All in all, a good year for reacquanting myself with the genre of horror.
Tales from the Comfort Zone
Of course, it wasn’t all pioneering and exploration. How fared the tried and tested authors that represent most of my bookshelves? Cornwell’s War of the Wolf, Sharpe’s Trafalgar and Sharpe’s Prey. Pratchett’s Jingo and Gaiman’s Anansi Boys. Hmm… only five ‘safe’ choices on 30 books. What restraint I’ve shown.
Well, what else? Rianne Werring’s De Toverfluit, a fresh mash-up of historical fiction and a well known opera. Sprankels, an anthology of short stories by Marieke Frankema. Legenden uit de Liemers, Historische Verhalen III and EdgeZero 2018, collections of short stories I contributed to. And then there were newly discovered authors, like previously mentioned Miéville, like K.J. Parker and his Sixteen ways to defend a walled city and the first instalment in the Devices & Desires-series. Tim Powers and his Pirates-source-material On Stranger Tides. In a rare display of wisdom I listened to my wife and read The Other Hand by Chris Cleave and The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Duly recommended.
Oh, and then I read het Babybrein, just to get a clue as to what’s going on with that little literator crawling around our living room.
And that, my friends, concludes 2019’s book fuel.
Of course I’m setting goals for myself in 2020. Quantitatively (30 books or more) and qualitatively (more literature, some of which must hail from outside English-speaking countries). And of course I want to finish what I started, by reading instalment four and five of De Zwijgende Aarde: Tweeleed and IJsbrekers. I also want to get my hands on the Fables-deluxe editions volumes 14 and 15, to finally finish this great meta-adventure of mythopoiesis. Aside from all that… I guess I could stomach some more Pratchett, Cornwell, Gaiman, Parker and Miéville. And leave room for the occasional gem to stumble across, of course 🙂
Oh, and right now I’m reading The Wanderers, Spinner’s soldier. Because, you know, writing plans and stuff. Just wait for my next blog to find out 😉