As every year, here's the list of books I went through in the past 365 days. If you keep such a list too, please feel free to add it below! (As I recall, some of you read something like five times what I do)!!!
The bloody crown of Conan, by R. E. Howard, the second book in a series re-presenting the original Howard material, without the pastiches, editorial changes and partial re-writes that other writers added in previous editions. (I can't say that I really saw much of a difference between the edited material and the originals, but I guess it's always better to read what the writer originally intended). This book also makes me realize that I'm probably getting older than I'd like: more and more, I tend to re-read stories that I liked as a youngster instead of trying new things... It's scary.
Death and restoration, by Iain Pears, a very entertaining mystery about a murder in a monastery where a painting attributed to Caravaggio has disappeared. Rich in unpretentious but genuine historical and artistic references, this is the kind of book that the culture-seeking general public should read instead of the Da Vinci Code crap.
The shadow of the torturer, by Gene Wolfe. That one came highly recommended, and I liked Wolfe's world building, which reminded me of my beloved Jack Vance. I can't say that I thrilled at the exploits of the protagonist, though, and still have to start book II of the series.
The conquering sword of Conan, by R. E. Howard, third and final book in the original Howard Conan stories. Yes, not only am I old but I'm also a completist. (That's, what, almost three sets of Conan books, now? But I wouldn'T like to part with any of them, especially the French translations with the Philippe Druillet covers).
Short tales by Nicolas Gogol, including the Nevsky prospekt, the nose, and the overcoat. One of my grad students, a Russian literature fan, talked me into it. Good stuff, too; Gogol can be an excellent satirist.
Taras Bulba, by Nicolas Gogol. Rousing and humorous adventures on the plains of Ukraine; I am convinced that part of Taras Bulba made its way into Howard's imagination when he created Conan.
The hound of death and other stories, by R. E. Howard; short tales written to pay the rent but that are nevertheless a lot of fun. Great adventure stuff.
The Peshawar lancers, by J.M. Stirling; an alternate reality story where the British empire still rules a large part of the world and has to face devil-worshipping Russians. Great fantasy fare! It reminded me of the adventures of Luther Arkwright.
Le gorille blanc, by Henri Vernes; a Bob Morane novel I found in a second-hand bookstore. Bob Morane is a classic adventure character in France, and his tales from the 50s and 60s are still sought by collectors. In retrospect most of the stories are pretty naive, and this one about a white gorilla makes no exception; but the exotism of the 1950s Africa still works and the hero's decision not to go through with his plan of shipping the captured albino primate to a European zoo would agree with today's ecological conscience.
1633 by Eric Flint, another alternate history novel in which a modern-day West Virginia town ends up in the 17th century. No nonsense adventure with lots of guns, the best of American values, guns, bravery and ingenuity, guns, likeable characters, and guns.
I read that one on my computer, and I must say that real paper books are in no danger of going away.
The Grantville gazette, edited b y Eric Flint; where many authors tell stories set in the 1632 universe. Entertaining for the most part.
The Normans in European history, by C. H. Haskins. A history book from the 1920s that Barnes and Noble reedited and sells for basically nothing. Pretty good.
The narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, by E. A. Poe. What I loved the most about this book is that it was written before we knew much about Antarctica; accordingly, the geography that Poe relies on is totally wrong! Talk about exotic places.
Hard as nails, by Dan Simmons. Another Joe Kurtz thriller, which reads like a Sin City novel. Always right on the edge of being a parody of the noir genre.
The saga of the confederates, author unknown. That's where I restarted my Icelandic saga addiction.
A place of darkness, by Lauren Haney. A mystery set in ancient Egypt, in which an officer tries to solve a problem of tomb plundering. Not that interesting, I'm afraid.
L'Égypte des pharaons, by J.-M. Brissaud. If nothing else, the Haney book sent me back to re-read this brief history book about ancient Egypt. Nice chapters on the ancient Egyptian religions, where we see how most cities had their independent pantheons and how what we view today as "Egypt's religion" was pretty disconnected back then.
Pastiches et postiches, a collection of funny texts by Umberto Eco.
My gun is quick, by Mickey Spillane. Mike Hammer. Better than Joe Kurtz.
The ancestor's tale, by Richard Dawkins. My favorite book of the year (and one of my favorite books, period). The remarkably knowledgeable Dr Dawkins takes us on a Canterbury tales-type journey back through the ages, stopping at all the points where our species branched from a previous one. Along the way, we cover the history of pretty much all life on Earth. It's a truly fascinating journey (even for a tarined biologist)!
The mysterious flame of Queen Loana, by Umberto Eco. The disappointment of the year. One of my favorite writers tells us about a man who has a kind of stroke, remembers lots of not-that-interesting details about his life as a kid in Italy, and dies. Arrrrgh!!!
The Cassini division, by Ken MacLeod; a SF novel that was... okay. I guess.
Primal waters, by Steve Alten. A third novel about giant albino megalodons! Thrills! Chills! Gruesome kills! But also a lot of good-hearted, mindless fun.
A matter of gravity, by Hal Clement. Beautiful alien world-building; a truly intelligent science-fiction novel. I loved it.
Aniu, by Bernard Voyer. Voyer is a polar explorer from my hometown. In this coffee-table book, he writes about... Ice. All sorts of ice. Polar ice. Sea ice. Glacier ice. Poetic and refreshing (pun intended).
The savage tales of Solomon Kane, by R. E. Howard. A Solomon Kane book was the first one I forced myself to read in English. This was for the memories. More adventures in faraway places.
A canticle for leibowitz, by W.M. Miller. A classic of science-fiction, of course.
The saga of Gisli Sursson, author unknow. More of my saga fix.
The saga of Gunnlaug Serpent-tongue, author unknow. I'm addicted.
The saga of ref the sly, author unknown. I may have to see a doctor.
The Vinland sagas, authors unknown. The Greenlanders, Erik the Red... that visit to America is now legendary.
Bran Mak Morn, by R. E. Howard. More stuff from my youth, which failed to rekindle the excitement of yore. But I've read these stories so many times now...
The tale of Thorstein Staff-struck, author unknown. More Iceland! More brawling farmers!
Olympos, by Dan Simmons. Great SF, incorporating characters from the Illiad and The Tempest. Brilliant stuff, if a bit confusing at times.
The Brendan voyage, by Tim Severin, describing the crossing of the Atlantic on a big curragh, with the intention of showing that St. Brendan's voyages might be a romanticized account of a real journey. A gripping true story!
The God delusion, by Richard Dawkins. In which the authors vents against the evils of religion, blind faith and belief in unproven (and unproveable) things in the tone one would adopt when having a few beers with friends who do not share one's opinions. Very entertaining if you're an atheist, and probably offensive if you're a believer.
Njal's saga, author unknown. Arguably the most famous of generational sagas. Lovely, classic stuff.
Alice's adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll. I still hadn't read that one! Now it's done.
L'escale des dieux, by Peter Randa, a French SF novel I got for fifty cents at a charity sale. Peter Randa (a pseudonym for André Duquesne) was a remarkably prolific writer of popular novels who delved in many genres, from police to horror, science-fiction to thrillers. He wrote very good space operas. (A nice anecdote is that his son, who also became an author, likewise adopted the surname "Randa" in his pseudonym).
The book of Ptath, by A.E. van Vogt. Golden age SF goodness, with more brains than violence.
The Si Fan mysteries, by Sax Rohmer. Okay, the Fu Manchu series can't be taken seriously... but it remains entertaining in small doses.
The history of Middle Earth, book 5, by J.R.R. Tolkien and his son Christopher. This one has a long fragment by Tolkien, "The lost road", presenting something not seen before in another form.
The book of lost tales, part 2, by J.R.R. Tolkien and his son Christopher. (Also known as "the history of Middle Earth, book 2"). Early versions of stories that are found in the Silmarillion. Interesting for completists, but I'm nearing my Tolkien overdose, here.
À quoi songent les psyborgs? by Pierre Barbet. A space explorer investigates a planet where disembodied intelligences rebuilt a destroyed world in the image of Charlemagne's Europe. A little bit SF, alittle bit fantasy, and an altogether enjoyable story without any evil character.
The Iliad, by Homer. Nuff said!
Aaaaaaand that's it for this year.