Year's end is at our door, and as every year now's the chance to reminisce about what we're read in the past twelve months...
My own list is pretty short, as work has interfered with a lot of my other activities. Plus I appear to be reading more and more slowly as years go by (a bad eyesight will do that, on top of general geriatric decay!!!)
Cuba libre, by Yoani Sanchez
It's a journal of sorts, based on Ms. Sanchez's blog. Now holding a blog in Cuba is no simple feat in itself, and the author displayed a lot of courage in braving her government and describing life in Cuba as it is lived by ordinary Cubans. I was quite saddened to see how tough it is on that lovely island, because all Cubans I met (in Cuba) were wonderfully warm and interesting people. (Well, the cops and other officials weren't all that warm. Not at all, in fact. But they weren't any worse than Canadian ones). I can't say I enjoyed the book because the reality it describes is pretty bleak, but it is one that needed to be written.
Lords of the instrumentality, book 1, by Cordwainer Smith
The first two novelettes in this cool space opera cycle. Smith and Heinlein have a lot in common.
The march of the barbarians, by Harold Lamb
The history of the people of the steppes, Mongols, Turks and other horseback riding conquerors, as they built empires out of the wind-blown wastes. Lamb is one amazing storyteller, and as apt at describing history as when he's telling tall tales.
Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson
The biography of a larger than life individual, warts and all. Really interesting stuff.
Secrets de guerre, by Jean-Michel Lienhardt.
A teenage fiction book my younger son had to read for school, about Nazi-occupied Alsace and how young bullies betrayed a young Jew who was living hidden. Not bad, although unequal.
Sword woman by Robert E. Howard, the final Del Rey book in their REH series. Lots of Crusader stories, with the original Red Sonya tale (Shadow of the vulture) and
all the Dark Agnes stories. Agnes is a strong female lead, and one that may have been inspired by Howard's ladyfriend Novalyne Price. I read these stories time and time again, but some of them still felt brand new.
A rising thunder, by David Weber. More Honor Harrington adventures, far less padded than the previous few books in the series. This is a set-up episode as Manticore and Earth are moving toward what may or may not be open war, but it didn't feel restrained. My favorite since, oh... probably the ones from the late 90s.
A clash of kings, by George R. R. Martin. What can I say? I love A Song Of Ice And Fire.
La malle ą malices, by Henri Vernes. A Bob Morane novel I owned a long time ago, that my parents lent to some friends' kids, and that got lost. I really, really wanted to get a copy back (in precisely that edition), and managed to find one on Ebay.fr for something like 20 bucks, shipping included. Worth it for the memories and the cool Henri Lievens cover.
Julian Comstock, by Robert Charles Wilson. Hey, I had forgotten about that one! A great little book about a possible near-future, post-catastrophe. The neo-colonial America was an interesting place to visit.
Iron men and saints, by Harold Lamb. The first book on the crusades by that very enjoyable writer. I believe this book was not only a popular hit, but an important early book on the subject. It thankfully avoided presenting the conflict as a good guys vs bad guys affair, and used many primary sources in Arabic. This book describes how the first crusade led to the conquest of Jerusalem.
Replay, by Ken Grimaud. A man dies and finds himself back in his body as a child... but with his memory intact. He proceeds to re-live his life, taking advantage of this knowledge. Then it happens again, only with his "reincarnation" occuring a little later in life". Then again. Then again. Then he meets another person in the same predicament... A great little mystery, highly recommended!
The saga of Sigurd the Jerusalem-farer, by Snorri Strurlusson. Viking sagas!!! Need I say more? Skulls will be split! Walls be be stormed! Deeds will be exaggerated!
The arabian nights, translated by Richard Francis Burton. Surprisingly modern tales of the wonderful and the magical!
La charničre du temps, by Jimmy Guieu. French space opera by a competent writer, but I've already forgotten what it was about. Meh, it was meant to briefly amuse anyway.
Debout les morts (the three evangelists), by Fred Vargas. A strange, strange whodunit with three fascinating protagonists who are as odd as they are interesting. Homeless fellows with prestigious academic backgrounds who decide to live together in an old house to make ends meet and who solve a disappearance/murder case involving the lady next door, an ex-opera singer. Amusing and habit-forming!!!
Operation chaos, by Poul Anderson (not by Rush Limbaugh!!!). A witch and a werewolf as special agents in a parallel world where the Earth's countries use spells as well as cannons when they go to war. Fun!
History of the kings of Britain, by Geoffrey of Monmouth. Okay, I read that mostly to get the conncetion between Aeneas and King Arthur, but the rest was interesting too 9if a bit repetitive).
Lord of the instrumentality, book 2, by Cordwainer Smith. See above.
The violonist's thumb, by Sam Kean. One of the best popular science books I ever had the joy to read, on the subject of genetics. Plenty of humorous anecdotes that I had to include in my classes!
Lest darkness falls, by L. Sprague de Camp. A modern man is whisked back in time to the late Roman empire, and who after managing not to get killed, burned as a witch of imprisoned, proceeds to prevent the collapse of civilization.
The flame of Islam, by Harold Lamb. The second part of Lamb's book about the crusades, this time focusing on how the Arabs kicked the second and third-generation European invaders out of the near east.
The name of the rose, by Umberto Eco. I waited a long time to read this, because the movie was still present in my mind... but apart from knowing the story's punch, I needn't have bothered. The fun was more about the description of a medieval monastery and about old books than about a mystery.
La jungle d'Aramon, by Peter Randa. French space opera again, quickly read and quickly forgotten as the one above! (Same collection, too).
The disappearing spoon, by Sam Kean; a book on the chemical elements and all the quirky stories than can be told about them! This is Kean's first book, and it has a few faults (factual, first, and many sophomoric opinions on this or that character) but is nevertheless very enjoyable.
Rogue starship, By A. E. Van Vogt. Space opera from the golden age, back when we'd get to the stars using rockets! A bit dated, but not all in a bad way. It remains charming.
Perdido Street station, by China Miļæ½ville. Wow! Was that a surprise! Miļæ½ville is one heck of a world-builder! Definitely not the last work from him that I'll read!