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/ Books of 2017

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SuperstarDJ - on 01 Jan 2018
Did we do a 'Books of 2017' thread and I missed it? Books read in 2017, not necessarily published in 2017. In case not...

The Art of Freedom - Bernadette McDonald
The Magician's Glass - Ed Douglas
The Bond - Simon McCartney

Before the Fall - Noah Hawley
Vera Stanhope series - Anne Cleeves
Gods without Men - Hari Kunzru
The Trespasser - Tana French
Seveneves - Neal Stephenson
Red Sister - Mark Lawrence
Gnomon - Nick Harkaway
Golden Hill - Francis Spufford

Looking back, a fine year for mountaineering books but a disappointing one more generally. I didn't love the big award winners that I read (Days without End, Lincoln in the Bardo, Underground Railroad, East West Street) and most of my favourite writers didn't have books out this year. Still have way too much to read on my Kindle though.

Anyone got any recommendations?

David
Mike Highbury - on 01 Jan 2018
In reply to SuperstarDJ:
> I didn't love the big award winners that I read ... East West Street

Absolutely agree on EWS. Read like a poor first draft and no matter how many academic and practicing lawyers I got on to the case, none could make sense of his rendering of the key argument.
Post edited at 08:40
BnB - on 01 Jan 2018
In reply to Mike Highbury:

> Absolutely agree on EWS. Read like a poor first draft and no matter how many academic and practicing lawyers I got on to the case, none could make sense of his rendering of the key argument.

All my lawyer and historian pals rave about EWS. I think I'm going to get it for a late Xmas present next weekend so I'll find out for myself soon.
SuperstarDJ - on 01 Jan 2018
In reply to Mike Highbury:

I'd had my expectations built up by all the praise and the subject matter should have made for a powerful and stimulating book with a lot of modern resonances but it seemed to be less than the sum of its parts.
Tom V - on 01 Jan 2018
In reply to SuperstarDJ:

Agree with Before the Fall. Have you read Hawley's "The Good Father"? Similar quality, similarly unsettling.
SuperstarDJ - on 01 Jan 2018
In reply to Tom V:

Will add it to the list. I do like an intelligent thriller.
Andy Clarke - on 01 Jan 2018
In reply to SuperstarDJ:

I'm a massive fan of Will Self. For me, Phone was the book of 2017. It completes the trilogy of Umbrella and Shark and overall I think that's the closest you're going to get to genius from a contemporary British novelist. Of course, Self somewhat divides opinion but for me he's one of the few writers who've genuinely taken on the challenges of modernism, and deserves to rank with the US greats like Pynchon. If you haven't read any of the trilogy then I would certainly recommend giving it a whirl.
Tom Last - on 01 Jan 2018
In reply to SuperstarDJ:

Not read a huge amount last year but for me best climbing book was The Tower by Kelly Cordes about Cerro Torre and for fiction I'd go with the massively creepy sci-fi, Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer, though maybe it doesn't count as haven't quite finished it yet.
daftdazza - on 01 Jan 2018

My favourite book of the year was The sixteen trees of the somme by Lars Nutting.

Also enjoyed nightmare in Berlin by Hans fallada, and Munich by Robert Harris
Tall Clare - on 01 Jan 2018
In reply to SuperstarDJ:
I really enjoyed 'A Little Life' by Hanya Yanagihara but was left feeling somewhat wrung out by it. I also enjoyed 'His Bloody Project' by Graeme Macrae Burnet, set on the Applecross peninsula in the nineteenth century and read following a tip off by my husband's Celtman running partner, who lives in the village where it's set.

I've enjoyed quite a few of the recent books about swimming (and am looking forward to 'Swell' by Jenny Landreth, which I got for Christmas); I read 'Floating' by Joe Minihane earlier this year, which is the author's attempt to follow in Roger Deakin's footsteps in 'Waterlog' as a way of managing his anxiety. Whilst as a fellow sufferer I'm sympathetic to his anxiety diagnosis, he came across as so irritating that I spent most of the book wishing that he'd start swimming and disappear into the distance, not stopping until all thoughts of writing any more had been conclusively washed away.

OP, I've got 'The Magician's Glass' on my Christmas present pile, so I'm looking forward to getting stuck into that.
Post edited at 16:15
Pursued by a bear - on 01 Jan 2018
In reply to Tall Clare:

I really didn't get on with His Bloody Project; for whatever reason, the characters didn't engage me and the plot was, for me, unconvincing.

However, I thought it did one thing extremely well which was to recreate what it would have been like to live in that place in the latter part of the nineteenth century, and by extension many other places across the highlands and indeed elsewhere. That was food for the imagination and that will make me look again at the villages and small towns I pass through in the highlands, and also the lonely shielings and other bare ruins that now lie abandoned to the grass and the weather; and it's that which has made me recommend the book to others.

So a book I didn't like which I heartily recommend. That hasn't happened often.

T.
Minneconjou Sioux on 01 Jan 2018
In reply to SuperstarDJ:

I think the book of the year for me was "The Orenda" by Joseph Boyden. Set in the early 17th century it tells the story of the advance of the Iroquois over the Huron from the eyes of a Jesuit Priest, a Huron warrior and a young Iroquois girl.

I think it is historically correct and gives a fascinating insight into life in those times. Its not for the feint hearted though as the descriptions of Huron and Iroquois treatment of prisoners is very graphic and not pleasant.
Minneconjou Sioux on 01 Jan 2018
In reply to SuperstarDJ:

On the non-fiction side I've read quite a few.

The Golden Spruce by John Vaillant is a remarkable story of a remarkable individual's lone, and somewhat misguided, stance against commercial logging on the West Coast of Canada. Well worth the read.

Klondike by Pierre Berton was a tough slog as it isn't that well written but also extremely interesting from an information perspective. The whole Klondike gold rush story beggars belief but I was up in the area this summer so it had an added dimension for me personally.

Walking Home by Lynn Schooler is the story of a lone hike along a very remote part of the Alaskan pan handle. It is a very personal story of a broken relationship but there are some really informative sections on the local history of the region. For some strange reason this book costs a fortune in hardback but I got a second hand copy off Amazon for a reasonable price.

The one I've just put down is River of Fire by Hap Wilson. Its his reflections on a canoe expedition that took place over 20 years ago to a remote river (the Seal) in northern Manitoba. It is well written but might be a little embellished. This story deals with the conflict between an expedition leader and his rogue helper and certainly makes those of us who have been in the position reflect on how those situations can unfold.
Stichtplate on 01 Jan 2018
In reply to SuperstarDJ:

The twin necessities of having to wade through heavy tomes and save money this year, has lead me to re-read some of the lighter of my old favourites. Three that really stood out; The Blade Itself, Before They Are Hanged and The Last Argument Of Kings, making up a trilogy by Joe Abercrombie.
The nearest thing they have to a traditional hero is an amoral, crippled, doubly incontinent, professional torturer. The moral centre is a repentant killer, trying to be a better man, who never the less, manages to kill men, women, children and close friends over the course of the books.
The Guardian's quote on the cover neatly sums them up "Delightfully twisted and evil".
womblingfree on 01 Jan 2018
In reply to SuperstarDJ:

Really enjoyed God's without Men, something about it that just grabbed me

On a fiction front enjoyed Naomi Aldermans -
Power, Garth Risk Hallberg's City on Fire, Michael Houellebecq's Submission, oh, and Kate Tempests novel was a page turner.

On a non fiction front enjoyed Ben Judah's This is London & Norman Ohlers Blitzed
Minneconjou Sioux on 01 Jan 2018
In reply to SuperstarDJ:

I always try to get at least one "classic" in that I haven't yet read. So I've just started Jack London's "Call of the wild" although it was a toss up between this and "Moby Dick".

I was also very tempted by "Lord of the flies". Anyone got any thoughts on this?
Pursued by a bear - on 01 Jan 2018
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

I cannot recommend strongly enough avoiding reading Lord of the Flies, though my view may be coloured by having had to study it for English Literature O level.

I suspect what did it was the importance the plot places on using a short-sighted lad's glasses for starting fires. After that, I just couldn't take it seriously, no matter how well it portrays the reversion to primitive behaviour in a dystopian future.

T.
Minneconjou Sioux on 01 Jan 2018
In reply to Pursued by a bear:

Thanks. I will likely heed your warning however I do need to attempt to understand what all the fuss is about. I read "The catcher in the rye" last year and I'm still wondering how to get that time back.
Minneconjou Sioux on 01 Jan 2018
In reply to Pursued by a bear:

> I cannot recommend strongly enough avoiding reading Lord of the Flies, though my view may be coloured by having had to study it for English Literature O level.

You could have had it worse, of course. We had "the woman in white" by Wilkie Collins for our English O level
Tom V - on 03 Jan 2018
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

You could have had it worse.

My last ten years in teaching involved doing "Of Mice and Men" with 16 year olds.
Nothing wrong with the book, but Steinbeck's efforts at rendering speech onto paper mean that generations of people would now write my opening sentence as ...

You could of had it worse.

Very difficult to explain that what is said within inverted commas is not always the correct version, especially when authors like McCarthy decide to exclude "speech marks" altogether.
Minneconjou Sioux on 03 Jan 2018
In reply to Tom V:


> Very difficult to explain that what is said within inverted commas is not always the correct version, especially when authors like McCarthy decide to exclude "speech marks" altogether.

McCarthy is my favorite author, though, so I can forgive him his idiosyncrasies.
SuperstarDJ - on 03 Jan 2018
In reply to womblingfree:

I was a bit put off by the premise of 'Power' and the Margaret Atwood comparisons as I really didn't get on with Oryx and Crake (love some of her non-sf stuff) but I have heard good things from people I like so I will give it a go.

Not familiar with the others so will look them up.
SuperstarDJ - on 03 Jan 2018
In reply to Tall Clare:

I read 'His Bloody Project' and liked it. I read 'Waterlog' but haven't really read any other wild swimming books. I have heard good things about '21st Century Yokel' by Tom Cox as a sort of nature/landscape book - "A hybrid of nature writing, memoir, and social history, it rambles, leisurely, through the English countryside, often pausing to ponder the relationship between people and place" (Observer). That'll probably be my next nature book.

Really enjoyed 'The Magicians Glass'. He's a terrific, thoughtful and insightful writer. I wish it had been longer.
SuperstarDJ - on 03 Jan 2018
In reply to Stichtplate:

I love Joe Abercrombie! He's working on another trilogy that follows up the three you mention. Not sure when they'll be out but I'll be in the queue for them.

Mark Lawrence is another 'grimdark' author who's worth a read. Most of this stuff is currently £2.99 on Kindle. Bargain.
SuperstarDJ - on 03 Jan 2018
In reply to SuperstarDJ:

Thanks everyone for the recommendations. That should get 2018 off to a good start!
Richard Napier - on 03 Jan 2018
In reply to SuperstarDJ:

As this is a climbing website, I'll stick to climbing books.

Got the superb coffee table book "The Climbers" by Jim Herrington for Christmas. Absolutely brilliant. The photos are good, though selective given the point of Herrington's project - to photograph well known climbers of the 20th century's 'Golden Age' of climbing c1930s-11970s etc - seeing as many other greats have died in the last 30-40 years, but the real gem of the book is Greg Child's essay which documents the book's subject period. A must for any climbing history buff or climbing book enthusiast. Many great climbers missing from the book, as I said, but when you read the brief cvs of those included you have to admire what they have achieved in
It's the sort of book which the late Ken Wilson should probably have done as a follow-up to the excellent Hard Rock/Classic Rock etc series.

Also got Chris Bonington's latest book, "Ascent", an autobiography of his life in climbing. An excellent book, very well written. Although most of the stories in it are covered in other books and articles etc, this is a very personal and moving account of his climbing adventures and his reasons for and reflections on what he has done. They certainly are adventures. This book shows what a great deal he has done in climbing and expeditions. There some tones of guilt coming through some of the passages, things you sense he was not proud of, but as far as I am concerned he has nothing to be guilty of. Like Marmite, whether you like him or not (and I do like him) you have to accept he is a legend, you have to acknowledge the breadth and depth of his mountaineering achievements, and you have to chuckle at the anecdotes about his fellow climbers. He is very lucky to be alive, given the antics and near misses he describes. And he is lucky and talented for having achieved what he did. Even if you think you know all about Bonington and the people he climbed with and the places he's been, you probably don't, so read this book.
Hat Dude on 03 Jan 2018
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

> You could have had it worse, of course. We had "the woman in white" by Wilkie Collins for our English O level

I can top that easily with "Guy Mannering" by Sir Walter Scott
Tall Clare - on 03 Jan 2018
In reply to SuperstarDJ:

In a pleasing coincidence, I ordered 21st Century Yokel last night. I'm a big fan of Tom's books about his cats, and have been following his journey towards more naturalist musings. Looking forward to reading it.
Stichtplate on 03 Jan 2018
In reply to SuperstarDJ:

Currently re-reading Best Served Cold. Loved Lawrence's Thorns and Red Queen books but just couldn't get into Red Sister. Another good series in a similar vein, Paul Hoffman's Left Hand Of God trilogy.
SuperstarDJ - on 04 Jan 2018
In reply to Tall Clare:

I hope it's good as I gave two copies of it for Christmas!
SuperstarDJ - on 04 Jan 2018
In reply to Stichtplate:

I also liked the Richard Morgan 'A Land fit for Heroes' books. Not as funny as the Joe Abercrombie books but plenty grimdark.
Stichtplate on 04 Jan 2018
In reply to SuperstarDJ:

Agreed on the Morgan books. Though "Altered Carbon", his stab at Si-Fi Neo Noir, was superb.
SuperstarDJ - on 04 Jan 2018
In reply to Stichtplate:

You know there's a big budget Netflix version coming in the next couple of months?
Gordon Stainforth - on 05 Jan 2018
In reply to SuperstarDJ:
Just in last few weeks (can't possibly go back over last year) enjoying Jenny Uglow's latest biog, on Edward Lear. Also Tom Hanks' 'Common Type' .. a bit weird, very earnest, quite extreme social realism ... Also, Philip Pullman's essays on storytelling, 'Daemon Voices', entertaining and stimulating.
Post edited at 01:06
Minneconjou Sioux on 05 Jan 2018
In reply to SuperstarDJ:

And on a lighter note and returning to my original post; is Moby Dick any good?
Stichtplate on 05 Jan 2018
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

> And on a lighter note and returning to my original post; is Moby Dick any good?

It's good. Lots of memorable lines apart from the famous opener but, IIRC, middle couple of hundred pages is basically non-fiction, how to hunt, kill, and process whales in the 19th century .
Stichtplate on 05 Jan 2018
In reply to SuperstarDJ:
> You know there's a big budget Netflix version coming in the next couple of months?

I didn't Know. Far too old to get genuinely excited about this..... but I'm genuinely excited about this, though it's always a double edged sword when a favourite book makes the jump to screen. Saying that, I'd love to see The First Law series get the Game Of Thrones treatment. The characters!

Edit: just watched the behind the scenes teaser for AC on Netflix; They've messed with Kovacs's back story. Hate that. Instead of a disgruntled, ex-special forces, ex-revolutionary, criminal, he's now an ex freedom fighter who's been on ice for 250 years. Looks like they've just changed the entire nature of the main character.
Post edited at 10:20
nastyned - on 05 Jan 2018
In reply to Stichtplate:

Oh dear. I looking forward to seeing it on the telly but have had a worry they're going to ruin it and this isn't a good sign. They'll probably change Quellcrist Falconer from Lucy Parsons to Caroline Lucas too.
Stichtplate on 05 Jan 2018
In reply to nastyned:

Ha, Lucy Parsons, good analogy. For what it’s worth, trailer still looks good.
Minneconjou Sioux on 05 Jan 2018
In reply to Stichtplate:

> It's good. Lots of memorable lines apart from the famous opener but, IIRC, middle couple of hundred pages is basically non-fiction, how to hunt, kill, and process whales in the 19th century .

Thanks
mav - on 05 Jan 2018
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:
> And on a lighter note and returning to my original post; is Moby Dick any good?

Yes. I try to do at lease one classic a year and it was my 2016 effort. It's spectacular. I read it with little preconceptions, (it's about a whale, right?) and was blown away. Humanity, history, dignity. Brilliant. But massive, a huge book that makes Lord of the Flies look like a pamphlet.

Best for me in 2017 was the Sellout, making it two years running the Booker picked a top book (usually I read 2 or 3 from the shortlist and find the winner the worst). But this was fabulous, clever, funny. Almost as good as a brief history of seven killings (the 2016 winner), or indeed Moby Dick. Nonfiction highlights included All Out War, Kissinger by Niall Ferguson and One summer in 1927 by Bill Bryson. The Bryson one was interesting because a lot of it was about Lindbergh, and I followed it a few books later with one of my fiction highlights, the Plot against America by Philip Roth, a counterfactual account where Lindbergh ( a Hitler apologist in 1939) becomes US President. I'm trying to avoid parallels with current real life. One of my other classics was Fahrenheit 451, btw, and that's a good 'un. Someone mentioned a Little Life - I read that in Christmas 2016 and thought it 700 pages of unrelenting misery. His Bloody Project? As someone said, it does the historical imagining of life back then very well, but the story I found slight.
Post edited at 14:09
mbh - on 05 Jan 2018
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

Unless you are an aficionado of whale hunting, it sounds like the way to read it could be the way I got through The Brothers Karamazov when I got to the chapters on The Russian Monk: skip them.
Minneconjou Sioux on 05 Jan 2018
In reply to mbh:

> Unless you are an aficionado of whale hunting, it sounds like the way to read it could be the way I got through The Brothers Karamazov when I got to the chapters on The Russian Monk: skip them.

But that's cheating!

Interesting aside, my old man has this incredibly irritating habit of reading the last page of the book first so's he knows how it ends. I mean FFS!
mbh - on 05 Jan 2018
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

I would not be as averse to whale hunting as I was, twenty years ago and probably even more so now, to yet more spiritualism and/or drunken shouting on the landing, which seemed to be a recurring feature of Dostoyevsky. I found Crime and Punishment spellbinding, I just about got through BK and couldn't finish The Idiot. Tolstoy was another world...I still recall thinking of W&P and AK, as I finished them, as the Best Books I Had Ever Read, along, but not quite up there, with Middlemarch. That title was often, once, my answer to one of those annoying security questions you get from time to time. It's last page has the most inspiring paragraph in all of fiction, IMHO, but, your old man aside, you'll have to read the other 900 odd pages to get there It's worth it.
Minneconjou Sioux on 05 Jan 2018
In reply to mbh:

> It's last page has the most inspiring paragraph in all of fiction, IMHO, but, your old man aside, you'll have to read the other 900 odd pages to get there It's worth it.

So, are you talking about Middlemarch or Moby Dick?
mbh - on 05 Jan 2018
In reply to Minneconjou Sioux:

Middlemarch
Minneconjou Sioux on 05 Jan 2018
In reply to mbh:

Thanks
eroica64 - on 07 Jan 2018
In reply to SuperstarDJ:

Just finished reading 'The Magician's Glass' and found it a seriously good read. Well done Ed D.

Timmd on 07 Jan 2018
In reply to SuperstarDJ:
I really enjoyed Freedom Climbers by Bernadette McDonald, I found it slightly harrowing, in reading about the death toll suffered by Polish mountaineers during their 'golden age', but very inspiring too, in reading about their motivation and willingness to endure being cold and uncomfortable on the mountain, and the grit they needed to live in Communist Poland. In fact liked it so much I read it in 2 days.

Following Tall Clare's summation, I probably won't read 'Floating' by Joe Minihane, though it's strangely temping to see if one feels the same.

For anybody who can find themselves plague by anxiety at times, I've not found a better approach than questioning one's thoughts, and repeated exposure to situations which can trigger them. Eventually, one can start to notice a pattern. It got me from being house bound to pretty much sorted, after repeating the process a number of times.

Wishing all a happy new year and a quiet mind too.
Post edited at 16:58
Bob Aitken - on 03 Feb 2018
In reply to SuperstarDJ:

Many thanks to all contributors to this thread.  Skirting around my sense of guilt at how little time I find I can give to solid reading these days, there are all sorts of stimulating new suggestions there - as well as encouraging nudges to revisit old classics to see how I react to them 40 or 50 years on.

Rock The Lobster - on 03 Feb 2018
In reply to SuperstarDJ:

The WH Smiths 2017 Diary and the 2017 Plymouth White Pages were both fascinating reads!

Seriously though, I had a bit of a thing for the "Four Horsemen" last year and particularly enjoyed:

"The End of Faith" by Sam Harris

"The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins

"The Selfish Gene" by Richard Dawkins

"Arguably" A collection of Christopher Hitchens pieces.

In fiction:

"The Book of Dave" by Will Self

"The Double" by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Steve Perry - on 03 Feb 2018
In reply to SuperstarDJ:

Kill the Father by Sandstone Dazieri

I saw it in the top 10 all year while passing through airports so finally gave in and tried it. The book is translated from Italian which works ok and dishes out exactly what you'd expect from a No.1 thriller.

 

 

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