Thursday, 30 December 2021

A Literary High - 2021 Round-Up


Here we are again, another year of reading against the dark background of the pandemic, failing democracies and world leaders fiddling while the world burns, oh, and an engagement (my own). Reading is a fine way of grounding oneself while such events come and go, perhaps the best way. It's been a year of either starting or finishing off trilogies. I completed the Remembrance of Earth's Past trilogy, finally reading Cixin Liu's Death's End (2010), which proved to be not only the best book of the year, but also one of the greatest science fiction novels I have ever read. I read two novels of Jack Vance's Lyonesse trilogy - Suldrun's Garden (1983) and The Green Pearl (1986), both were excellent and also made me want to read more fantasy. I began Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy with Red Mars (1992), which I also rated as Sublime, joining Colm Toibin's The Magician (2021) and Don DeLillos' Zero K (2016) as among the best books I've read this year. 

In hindsight it was quite a good year for reading, with other notable books being Walter Tevis' brilliant novel The Queen's Gambit (1983) and Curtis Sittenfeld's alternate history novel, Rodham (2020). It was also great to read two Iain M. Banks books, with the short story collection The State of the Art (1991) compelling me to read The Culture novel The Hydrogen Sonata (2012), which was both excellent and a lot of fun. There's always a book that doesn't measure up, and although regular readers will know that I am not a harsh critic, the Alfred Bester novel, Tiger Tiger (1956) was absurd and bloated science fiction, and a very disappointing read. As for the year ahead? I look forward to completing the trilogies I began and my aim will be to read more classics. Reading The Magician about Thomas Mann has reminded me that there's a whole range of classics I've never read, Mann himself and also the Russian greats. I just need to prepare myself for all of the extremely long names and intense existential themes, which shouldn't be a problem, as it will be light reading compared to the daily news...

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