On Tuesday I finished my 100th book of the year. (!) (Cue balloons and party horns.)
(I kept thinking I would get there sooner, so I kept not posting, waiting for this, and then I had no time until now. Sorry to keep all of my beloved devoted readers hanging.)
One thing about blogging the books (and even just keeping the spreadsheet of them) is that I do have a better recall on them - even the ones I don't write about. So whatever you beloved devoted readers are getting out of reading me (and thanks for reading!), I'm very happy to have been doing this for the past few months. I love to read just to read, but I also relish the firmer grip I have on the books that entrance me as I go.
And oh, I've been enchanted lately. The 100th book was Deborah Harkness's A Discovery of Witches. Three cheers for this one, seriously, y'all. Not Harry Potter, not Twilight, not The Passage - an entirely different, delightful, devotee-making world of witches, vampires, and humans. (Hey, I just looked at Harkness's bio on her website - she loves libraries and librarians. No wonder I feel such kinship with her work and admiration for the world she created. Oh, and a huge amount of the novel is set in the Bodleian, so....) The basics: Diana is a witch with a strong pedigree, but she tries to turn her back on her personal history while pursuing her human-adjacent career as a historian. While working at Oxford, she runs into Matthew the scientist / compelling vampire. And some other witches and demons and vampires. But you know what? Forget all of that - the creature element is intriguing and adds depth, but this is really about history, and history repeating itself, and secrets and politics, and traditions and the breaking of them, and love - family love, forbidden love, love of books and wine and passion. It is beautifully constructed and beautifully paced and beautifully voiced and a great novel to act as the marker of my 100-book moment. More, Harkness, more! Write faster!
The 99th book was about 1/5 the size, but it packed its own punch. Alain de Botton's A Week at the Airport is, as it says, his account of spending a week living at Heathrow's Terminal 5, as their Writer in Residence. (It was sponsored by BA, so this is promotional material, but de Botton is so wry and wide-ranging that seeing the airport through his eyes is, well, eye-opening. It doesn't feel manipulative, just fascinated.) As I said, it's a slim slim volume, and has lovely full-color photos on every page, so it's a quick read. But de Botton clearly enjoys getting to talk to the head of the security team and touring the runways and sitting up late in the airport hotel bar with weary travellers and conference-goers. His vignettes are as much about the nature of coming and going, the history of transport and exploration, as they are about that divorced dad meeting his young son at Arrivals. Next time I'm in an airport, I'll be viewing it differently (and with more sympathy for the TSA dudes, too.)
I also recently finished the first in a YA trilogy by Kristin Cashore - Graceling. (And Fire, too, actually, but that was after the 100-book mark.) It is a very other-world world she's created, where some in the Seven Kingdoms are born with Graces, which give them super-human powers that the kings love to control. So there are great chefs, or horse-tamers, or, in this case, fighters. And as you can imagine, giving an absolute monarch control over someone who, even as a little girl, can kill or maim dissenters doesn't always work out well for dissenters - or the Graced girl. So, there are allegiances and travels and moral quandaries and love and intrigues galore. It's all very well done, and if you or your teenage daughter like fantasy, this is well worth a look. I hope the next one is out before too long.