Books Read in 2017

When I come to put together my “books read” list at the beginning of a new year, I always spend way to much time organizing and structuring and finagling so it looks right in a post, when I should’ve been doing something else all along.

This year I’m electing to just provide a link to my Goodreads account that shows you all the glorious covers the books I read last year in one great layout, with minimal work involved.

And here you have it . . .

“Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore” by Robin Sloan (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2012)

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore
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For any fan of books and reading, it sounds like a dream come true: a twenty-four hour bookstore, where you can show up anytime and be willingly accepted to browse the stacks and be surrounded by thousands of books and breathe in the literary scents.  But then there are some weird things going on at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore during the early hours of the morning, as well as some very strange characters coming in.

Clay Jannon is unemployed and looking for anything that will bring in some money, after being dumped out of the web-design world with the tough recession; and it ain’t cheap living in San Francisco.  And then one day he sees the help wanted sign at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore.  After having the interview and experimenting with going up the ladders that stretch high up the stacks of the three-story tall bookstore, he gets the job.  He works the nightshift from 10PM until 6AM, where Mr. Penumbra greets him in the early morning.  It seems like an easy job for okay pay, since there are hardly ever any customers.  At the front of the store is a small selection of regular selling books, but most of the store is taken up by unique and strange books all written in code.  Occasionally Clay gets customers coming into the story in the early hours of the morning, returning a book and borrowing a new one.  His job is to record the details and condition of these strange people in the great bookstore log.

As the story progresses, the curiosity grows and grows, for both Clay and the reader, wanting to know who these people are, what these coded books are all about, and what exactly it all means.  Clay wonders how a bookstore like this even stays in business.  And as he begins to dig deeper and deeper, he opens up the mystery and learns answers that lead to more questions and more curiosity.  The bookstore appears to be just the tip of the iceberg.

Robin Sloan’s debut novel plays well on the enjoyment of the reader, as well as slowly unraveling the mystery, in addition to taking the reader around San Francisco and into the heart of the Googleplex, and then across the country and back in time through a hidden history, all on the subject of books and their meaning.  Readers will be hooked with Sloan’s easy reading style and curious tale until the very end.

Originally written on November 10, 2012 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Libriomancer” by Jim C. Hines (DAW, 2012)

Libriomancer
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Libriomancer is one of those books that feels like it should’ve been written a lot sooner, given its subject matter, and yet when one is done reading it, one is left wishing they could read it over again for the first time.  From the author of The Princess novels, Libriomancer is the first in the Magic Ex Libris series that will hopefully make Jim C. Hines the well-respected and appreciated author that he already is.

In a unique world that blends books with magic and fantasy, Isaac Vainio is a libriomancer, a unique person with unique powers to be able to reach into books and draw out objects of power (so long as they can fit through the pages); as a libriomancer he is part of a clandestine group that has existed for half a millennium beginning with the great Johannes Gutenberg.  Only now there are vampires that have leaked out of books attacking people, particularly other libriomancers, and the great Gutenberg has been kidnapped.  Vainio thought he was done as a libriomancer, but when his friends start getting killed, he knows it’s up to him to find out who’s behind it all.

Libriomancer is simply a fun book, featuring a great story and some fantastic characters.  Hines has plenty of fun throwing in many nerdy book references, as well as the books libriomancers choose to use to gain special objects.  With a diverse cast of interesting people, Libriomancer is an addicting read that will leave readers impatiently wanting more.

Originally written on November 10, 2012 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Libriomancer from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

GUEST POST: How Are You Reading? by Olivia Lennox

Olivia Lennox

How Are You Reading?

Books

You must have been traveling in outer space if you don’t know about the changes in reading books across the globe during 2011. Even then, you probably read about it on your tablet computer if you could pick up a good Wi-Fi signal. The way people read has been steadily altering the last few years, but in 2011 reading really changed hands. What does this hold for 2012 and onwards?

2011 was the year the Kindle took over. For every person that purchased from Barnes & Noble or Sony, many more went online to Amazon and ordered the latest ebook reader. At the start of the 2011, 5% of all book sales were in digital format. By October, Amazon claimed to be selling 143 ebooks for every 100 print copies. With a further 5 million new Kindle and Kindle Fire purchases in the six weeks before Christmas, that ratio is surely altering even faster.

From May 2010 to April 2011 ebook sales had risen 146%. Once the 2011-2012 figures are in you can expect the increase to be closer to 500%.

Books Haven’t Died – Yet

The old way of reading a book isn’t on its way out, but the number of times you will buy a book in print form, in the future, will reduce considerably. Even if you do not own a Kindle yet (many real book readers were the first to buy Kindles) the chances of a purchase in the next year or so are much higher since Amazon introduced the lend-a-book facility. That means if your wife bought a copy, you can borrow it for a short time with no further charge – just like you would have done with your paperback purchase.

As a result, book stores are closing on every main street. You have to wonder how long the independent book stores can continue if they don’t sell thousands of children’s books, which is the only print book market that still has traction. The rent for a bookstore and the non-availability of discounts to match the online retailers prevents any real growth.

If you read a book from cover to cover, and delight in looking over the copyright page and seeing if you agree with the short reviews of the author’s other books, then an ebook just won’t feel the same. The trend is for those pages to be skipped on ebook readers and tablet computers.

Authors Can Go It Alone

With the six main publishers almost refusing to take on new writers as it’s easier to maintain print sales with top line authors, novelists are self publishing as advance payments from publishers have almost disappeared. Many authors believe it’s better to take 70% of a $3 sale than spend two years searching for an agent/publisher to get a dollar a copy at most from paperback sales.

Wal-Mart and Kmart and similar chains sold paperbacks for $8 when the local independent still needed to ask $15. Amazon and its similar competitors also sought to bring down the cost of books which is why a quarter of the planet bought its books online in 2011.

Downloaded the App?

All the main ebook suppliers have developed applications for tablet and laptop computers and almost every variety of smart phone. If Android is your thing, then there will be an app out there for you now. The readability of a book on the smallest of screens isn’t great, but it shows how the market is moving. After all, you didn’t expect to play computer games on 3 inch screens ten years ago.

Color is the New Black

As the public buys more and more newspapers and magazines to read on their mobile devices, the need for color is increasing to enhance the user’s experience. Books may become more interactive for the reader.

What else for 2012?

In 2012, it’s doubtful that you will be reading the latest novel on your internet driven 52 inch television screen, but the possibilities are there with downloads becoming a feature for television and internet based screens. Whether you’re looking at an ebook reader or watching your book on TV, you’ll still be sitting on the best reading couch you can find to indulge your favorite passion.

There is also talk of giving books various different endings so the reader can choose which route to follow. Whatever next?

When to Quit on a Book

It was interesting to discover that Nancy Pearl and I have something in common: we both know when to quit on a book.  In a recent article she wrote for The Globe and Mail, Pearl discussed her “Rule of 50,” which is one she has always employed when reading a book.  It is essentially that when she gets to page 50 she stops and decides whether she is still enjoying the book or not: if she is, she keeps reading; if she isn’t, she stops and gives up on the book and goes on to another.

I’ve developed pretty much the same rule over my years of reading and reviewing books.  It didn’t take me long to realize, and each year this “philosophy” is confirmed all the more: there are simply too many books in this world that I want to read, and more of them being published each and every month; also it’s not going to stop.  So over the years I’ve developed my own rule for starting a book: I’ll give it fifty pages to hook me and make me interested; if I’m not engrossed by that fiftieth page, I’ve got plenty more books to read, and in my opinion the author didn’t do their job, at least for what I was hoping to get out of the book.  Sometimes, if I’m mildly interested, I’ll give it a hundred pages and then decide.

I believe this is definitely a good practice to acquire and use when reading, and I encourage others to do it.  That way you’ll be wasting less time on reading something you’re not enjoying — just like wasting time on something else you don’t enjoy and don’t have to keep doing — and spending lots more time on reading books you want to read, and perhaps feel a little less like all this reading is hopeless, as you’ll never get to read everything you want.  This way at least, you stand a shot at it.

Flesh by Richard Laymon

I’m currently reading Richard Laymon’s Flesh.  I’ve read a number of Laymon’s books before and enjoy him for his classic horror writing style of slowly giving out details of whatever horror the particular book is about and not holding back on anything really grisly or disturbing.

Though one big thing I’m noticing with Flesh is I have to constantly remind myself is that it was originally published in 1987, which is quite some time ago now.  So the book certainly feels dated in the unusual clothes people are wearing (like a jumpsuit), the language they’re using (like “far out”), and I need to remember the different technology in existence: no cellphones, MP3 players, decent computers, and a whole number of other items that just haven’t occurred to me.

It’s almost like reading some archaic, historical text from a bygone time, since with how quickly technology changes and society easily adapts, I guess in some ways it is exactly that.  So not only is it a fun, enjoyable horror novel, but it’s also an insight into a now long past way of life that many people have likely forgotten about (or chosen to forcefully, and permanently ignore).

Goal Achieved

Some people think that I have a problem: I’m addicted to reading.  This would be completely true and I do read, every day, all the time.  I was a c-average kid until I was about 12 when my teacher introduced me to Willard Price, and I began reading, going on to lots of different kids books — including Christopher Pike — then on to Stephen King, and then onto everything else.  I’m 30 now, and since then there hasn’t been a single day where I wasn’t reading a book.

Nowadays I tend to read about 3-4 books at the same time: there’s the audiobook I’m reading (at the moment Rollback by Robert J. Sawyer), when I’m traveling, or walking to and from work, or when I’m doing something simple where I can listen to the book at the same time (this even includes cooking!); the book I’m reading at home (at the moment Flesh by Richard Laymon), usually whenever I have a free moment, or when I’m in bed; the book I’m reading at work (at the moment Canticle by Ken Scholes), which I read on breaks and lunch breaks.  Sometimes for my “home reading,” I’ll do a fiction book and a nonfiction book; it really depends on the particular books and what I have to read.

For the last couple of years I’ve been keeping track of how many books I read and what exactly I’m reading.  Here’s the 2007 list.  And the list for 2008 can be found here and here (it’s in multiple parts as it’s pretty long).  At the end of 2008 I ended up getting 91 books read, which I had a chance to brag about in an interview.  I knew it was a pretty impressive goal, but I subconsciously planned to beat it for 2009, and now I’ve thankfully more than done this by recently finishing my 100th book for the year, with lots more time to go (and this includes the 1000+ page Under the Dome book by Stephen King).

And if you’d like to get an idea of what I’ve exactly been reading, you can check out the book reviews on BookBanter and see which reviews are up for 2009, and you can also check out my Good Reads page for 2009 to see some of the books I’ve read but didn’t end up reviewing.