I’m taking a break from the writing to do
a little a lot of reading. Although I fell behind earlier this year, what with the demands of production, I’m pleased to report I’m back on track to well exceed my goal of 100 books in 2016. I read anything and everything – genre, graphic novels, non-fiction, bestsellers – and typically put together a “Best Of” list at year’s end. 2014, for instance, was a fantastic reading year –
with a slew of recommended reads.
2015, sadly, was not.
When selecting books, I try to cast wide net, relying on everything from book shop recommendations to impulse buys to award nominees. This year, I’ve really tried to focus on 2016 releases, short fiction and novels, so that, when I offer up my list of the year’s best reads, I can honestly do so from a well-informed position. Ultimately, I end up recommending works in various categories that, perhaps not surprisingly, fail to make the short lists for many of the big name awards.
Check out my 2015 favorites here:
There’s nothing better than a really great book. And, quite frankly, I don’t even mind the occasional bad book. It’s true and let me explain why. Given the choice, I’d prefer a truly terrible book to a mediocre book because, in the case of the former, I can quickly identify it as a crap read and immediately set it aside. Books in the latter category, however, are big unmemorable time-wasters. And, unfortunately, the majority of the titles out there fall into this category – which is why good recommendations are so important.
Nothing makes me angrier than shitty reading recommendations. I’m the guy who will walk into chain bookstores so that I can peruse the staff picks and subsequently track down the individual staff members to call them on their crap picks. Once subjected to a little scrutiny, they invariably crack, often declaring they never actually read their picks but insisting the reviews were “great!”, or shamefully admitting they were simply following marching orders from head office. It really depends on the bookstore I suppose.
Earlier this season, I walked onto set one morning to discover actress Melanie Liburd reading a book that had been nominated for a prestigious Canadian literary award. I immediately recognized the book because, a month earlier, I’d been foolish enough to check it out based on the fact that it had been nominated for a prestigious Canadian literary award.
“How’re you enjoying the book?”I asked.
Not all that much as it turned out. And I wasn’t surprised. Apparently, she’d gone into one of Toronto’s local hipster douchebag bookshops and had someone there recommend it to her because, well, it had been nominated for a prestigious Canadian literary award. I was so annoyed that I left set to go back to my office, retrieved my emergency copy of Jeanette Walls’ The Glass Castle (one of several titles I keep stocked for just such emergency situations. Other “In Case of Shit Reading Break Glass” titles include: Camp Concentration, The First Law Series, The Empire of Ice Cream, Old Man’s War, Saga vol. 1, The Man Who Ate Everything, City of Thieves, Fool, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, The Rosie Project, The Princess Bride, Me Talk Pretty One Day, A Series of Unfortunate Events, The Speed of Dark, Afterlife with Archie, the first three books in the Ice and Fire series, The Player of Games, The Lies of Locke Lamorra, The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, Misery, Flowers for Algernon, This is Where I Leave You, Stories of Your Life and Others, Childhood’s End, and The Psychopath Test) and gave it to her. She loved it. I don’t recall what happened to that other book. I think I might have tossed it.
Just as bad as big box bookstore
head office staff recommendations are “Best Of” picks that suspiciously include novels written by editors or fellow writers from the site hosting said “Best Of” article. Sure. Maybe they are deserving, but it looks sketchy as shit and, unfortunately, undermines the credibility of your selections.
Instead, I’ve been increasingly relying on the following as proven sources of solid recommendations:
Rocket Stack Rank: This site offers up monthly aggregate ratings of stories (short, novelettes, and novellas) with short synopses and estimated reading times for each along with links to online reading copies.
So, how has YOUR summer reading been coming along? Any books YOU’D recommend?