2011 Book Review Part 4

And here it is, the final post on what I read this year.  I’m cheating just a bit because some of these I have reviewed more extensively, so why recreate my thoughts?  Just a word or two and a link will suffice.  I also hate to admit that I did not meet my goal of 28 books because I failed to finish Mr. Midshipman Hornblower prior to midnight.  You see, 2011 and I did NOT get along, and it saw fit to strike me will illness these last few days.  I’m glad to see the end of this year and am putting high hopes on 2012.  It will be different, at the very least.

The Cat Who Went to Heaven by Elizabeth Coatsworth was the shortest book I read this year.  It was the winner of the 1931 Newbery Medal and it deserved it.  Set in Japan, the story chronicles the work of an artist as he attempts to change his fortune by painting a work based on the life of the Buddha.  He attempts to put himself into the stories of the Buddha to understand how the Buddha related to the various animals.  And as he paints, his newly adopted cat grows more and more sad as cats are deemed to be evil for cats rejected the religious leader.  It is a beautiful story and has the feeling of a folk tale.

Another children’s book read this year was C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.  This wasn’t the first time I read it.  I must admit that each time I read it, I enjoy it less.  This isn’t to imply I think it bad.  Quite the contrary.  But I’ve always been more of a fan of Middle Earth than Narnia.  That said, the BBC versions of The Chronicles of Narnia will always hold a special place in my heart as they were my introduction to Narnia.  And Tom Baker will always be Puddleglum to me.

I have reviewed The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan elsewhere.  I had hoped for more from this story, especially as Richard Hannay is part of the adventurer genre of Britain.  Unfortunately, very little of these stories grabbed me.  It improved with the introduction of a villain, but until then it was somewhat forgettable.

About Time Vol. 1 is an in-depth analysis of the first three seasons of Doctor Who.  It is written by Tat Wood and Lawrence Miles and it is mind-boggling in its detail.  It was so much fun to read as I made my way through the Hartnell era last year.  It gave connections between episodes and real-life events or cultural phenomena that may have inspired stories.  This is the kind of analysis I enjoy, taking pop culture and analyzing how it is indicative of the culture and times that spawned them.  A great deal of fun if you are a fan of the classic era of Doctor Who and television history.

And while we are on the subject of Doctor Who, I re-read Doctor Who and the Unearthly Child.  A full review can be found here.  It was a decent read, and quick.  Both are positives.

I have also reviewed A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin elsewhere.  I was drawn to this book because of the HBO series which quickly became unwatchable due to the pornographic nature of the series.  Not that Martin shies away from the adult content in the novel, but it is easier to skim over those parts in prose than to skip past them on TV.  The book is an amazing story and was possibly the most fun I had reading this year.  Certainly my favorite new find, edging out China Mieville by a slight margin.

This brings me to the final book read this year, Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut.  This was the story of Billy Pilgrim whose consciousness travels back and forth through time.  We learn of his experiences as a civilian before and after World War II as well as his time in an alien zoo.  It is certainly an interesting and thought-provoking novel with many amusing moments.  My main problem with Vonnegut is that I intellectually understand his humor, but find it depressing at the same time.  I love his narrative voice, I love his style, but I come away from all his books wanting to cry.  I’m not sure why I keep reading his books.  Maybe it is similar to what compelled me to watch footage of the Japan earthquake over and over earlier this year.  It was hard not to watch this force of nature completely lay to waste human progress, despite knowing the death toll was very high.  So it goes.

I think that about wraps it up.  Having missed my goal by just one book, I feel somewhat satisfied.  For 2012, I will shoot for completing another 27.  I’ll probably be too busy for anything more than that.  I’ll continue working on Mr. Midshipman Hornblower and Don Quixote, but also hope to participate in the January Vintage Science Fiction read.  Here’s to another good year of books.

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