2020 FAVORITES

The pandemic freed up time, so I read 40 titles in 2020, 14 more than last year. I won’t make too much promises about what I’ll read in the coming months, but I will continue my reread of the Dune series – God Emperor should be the next review I post. I’ll also continue to explore Greg Egan’s work, and the work of Antwerp author J.M.H. Berckmans.

As for art books, I’m still reading on Picasso & Rembrandt – we’ll see if that gets translated into posts. I’ll try to squeeze in some of the Becher, Turrell and Twombly I promised last year, but I also want to read books on Jean Fouquet and Hockney. I’ll continue to read other non-fiction too, I’m currently tackling Contingency and Convergence – Toward a Cosmic Biology of Body and Mind by Russel Powell, a joy so far. Should be of interest to any hard SF authors imagining alien life.


A bit of blog stats for those of you who might be interested in such a thing. I’ve had a significant increase of traffic, with 22.971 views in 2020, and 13.032 visitors – about 8.000 and 4.300 more than in 2019.

The most successful post of 2020 was about Dune Messiah, garnering 675 views. Children of Dune comes in second with 501 views. The Ministry for the Future – posted only 2 months ago – closes the top 3 with 363 views.

Most read reviews so far are those for Recursion (2.124 views since published), The Dosadi Experiment (1.212 views) and New York 2140 (1.097 views). Also still going strong (+800 views) are posts on The Wandering Earth, Green Earth, The Algebraist and Uprooted. There are 23 posts with over 500 views in total now, 6 of which are about Frank Herbert books.

A big thank you to everyone who has read, liked, commented or linked. All the best to you and yours for 2021.


As for the actual favorite book list: below are the titles I’ve given a 5-star rating on Goodreads in 2020, 6 in total. If I had to pick one, I’d go for Radiance by Carter Scholz.

Honorable mentions for The Day of the Triffids, Solaris, The Sunken Land Begins to Rise Again and How History Gets Things Wrong: The Neuroscience of Our Addiction to Stories, all more than excellent reads, well worth your time.



FAVORITE READS

Click on the covers for the review.

The Ministry for the FutureThe Ministry of The Future – Kim Stanley Robinson (2020)
Both Barack Obama and The Economist picked this as one of the best books of 2020. It will not change the fate of the planet, but there is no harm in trying. Robinson feels a strong ethical appeal about what he writes, and the result is a heartfelt & daring book, not some escapist drivel. Somehow KSR managed to finally make info drops entertaining, in what will be his final long form story for the foreseeable future. I’m very curious about what he’ll write next, but I’m also a bit sad this might very well be his last novel – even though his 2 previous ones were let downs.


Piranesi Piranesi – Susanna Clarke (2020)
Just as in Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell disenchantment is one of this story’s pillars. That and other parallels notwithstanding, Piranesi is very much its own thing. A puzzle at first glance, a moving character portrait when examined further.

Elegant and simple, polished and carefully constructed, this short book touches upon a lot, and keeps on surprising throughout. Don’t expect fireworks though, nor grand spectacle – the rococo setting aside, it is a subdued, mature work that takes one long, hard look at innocence.


RadianceRadiance – Carter Scholz (2002)
A book that consumed quite a lot of my energy, in very rewarding kind of way. Its mimetic qualities are unparalleled, and as such Radiance is a pinnacle of one kind of art: realism. Trying to capture reality is obviously not just writing down what one hears or sees – any representation is built on tricks and illusions. Scholz has managed to write prose & dialogue that feels as real as it can on paper.

Add to that a similarly realistic account of how big organizations work, how science & politics & the military are interwoven in the real, adult world – none of the baloney one encounters so often when lesser writers try their hand at realism, and usually only end up with a simplified Hollywood mirage of the military or a science lab – as if real people never outgrow the Boy Scouts or G.I. Joe.

The best book I read this year.


Picasso and the Art of DrawingSchild’s Ladder – Greg Egan (2002)
I wish I’d discovered the reclusive Greg Egan sooner. What a mind, what an imagination. This book serves hardcore transhumanism, truly alien aliens and a protagonist only a few millimeters high. Hard space opera, so you wish. Not for the fainthearted, Schild’s Ladder is no walk in the park, but at least as invigorating.

The fact that there aren’t any photographs of Egan online says something about his rigorous persona. Based on this book, he can take on any contemporary science fiction writer in style and substance. No bubblegum, no bullshit, great fun.


Becoming HumanBecoming Human: A Theory of Human Ontogeny – Michael Tomasello (2019)
In my original review I wrote: “Truly a tour de force, and the first theory I’ve come across that convincingly brings cognition, evolution and ethics together – not in a normative way, but by describing the pathways of how these things arise, starting with newborn babies.” This is a very thorough book, and important to linguists and educationalists and primatologists and psychologists too.

Tomasello shows shared and collective intentionality play a key role in the development of a uniquely human form of self-control in order to adhere to cultural norms.


Jean-Michel BasquiatHans Werner Holzwarth – Jean-Michel Basquiat and the Art of Storytelling (2020)
For only 20 euros this might very well be the art book with the most bang for your buck. 500+ pages filled to the brim with Basquiat’s genius. There’s an important political angle in lots of his works, and as such this is a timely publication in the year of BLM.

There’s also an XXL version available for 150 euros. The often intricate detail of Basquiat’s paintings will shine all the more in that edition, but they are powerful enough to convey awe and wonder in this regular sized book too. Great production value all around: informative text, excellent printing, sturdy binding. An absolute no-brainer for any serious lover of contemporary painting.



Most disappointing read this year was Greg Bear’s Eon: weak characterization, unrealistic behavior, a bloated concept, lackluster prose, bullshit science with a serious veneer and NO jokes. I really need my big canvas sci fi itch scratched from time to time, but it seems I’ll have to turn to that other Greg instead.


2020 was also the year I’ve written my 2 longest posts yet: 7.200 words on Lord of the Rings, amongst other things on the conflict between Tolkien’s ideas about free will and what is written in the story itself, and 10.600 words of analysis of Children of Dune. I’ve made an index of my longer texts, with a short description for each.


To end the book section, a shot of most of my current TBR – art books are not pictured. There are 132 titles in the photo, that’s 7 more than last year – mainly due to a Herbert & Egan buying spree. The increase is not that bad considering the effect of two lockdowns on my psychology & late night online shopping. Next year I hope to present you a picture with less than 130 titles. If you click on this, you’ll get a high resolution image.

TBR december 2020



NON-BOOK FAVORITES

albums of the year

I hardly bought new music in 2020. Not that I didn’t check things out, but it seems that most new stuff can’t hold my interest. Maybe I’ve reached a saturation point for reiterations of reiterations. Maybe I don’t give things an honest chance anymore? Anyhow, this year Erstwhile put out three albums, all prime stuff. Not groundbreaking either, but fresh and engaging – I have to go back 2 or 3 years to find experimental albums I enjoyed so much.


Not Fire

Dean Roberts – Not Fire (ErstPop)
In the way this record sounds I hear echoes of Smog, Tortoise and Godspeed You! Black Emperor, but that might just be me. I also don’t feel this album is “harrowing” or “ugly” or “bleak”, like Joshua Minsoo Kim of Tone Glow lovingly wrote for Pitchfork. I also don’t hear “self-destructive nihilism” – rather warmth & confidence.

This just goes to show how rich this quiet, well-considered record is, not easily pigeonholed. There’s some experimentation and wee bits of dissonance, sure, but nothing any fan of Mark Hollis’ solo record can’t handle. Click here to hear two songs, and check for yourself.


Hole in My Head

Choi Joonyong & Jin Sangtae – Hole In My Head (Erstwhile Records)
This will be a whole lot more difficult for the average reader of this blog. On the other hand, if you just leave all you preconceptions about what music should be aside – and that shouldn’t be too hard for the lover of imaginative science fiction – you will find a fresh, sparkling, playful ride through sound, filled with detail, yet breathing and open. If you’re interested how musique concrète might sound in the 21st century, look no further. You can again sample two tracks here. The better your speakers, the better your result.


Wovenland 2

Toshiya Tsunoda & Taku Unami  – Wovenland 2 (Erstwhile Records)
More of the philosophical bent, this double album’s concept has to do with the nature of perception. “What we see and hear in this world is not transmitted to the brain as an optical or acoustic image. Signals that enter the sensory organs are deconstructed into peripheral units in the nervous system, which  are then combined in the nervous system into a series of events. There is no ‘reality’ in there.” I was pleased to read that in the liner notes, as I enjoyed Alex Rosenberg’s book on representation in the brain so much: the already mentioned How History Gets Things Wrong: The Neuroscience of Our Addiction to Stories, a book that confirms Tsunoda & Unami’s conceptual starting point.

“Reality is like an ephemeral window through which we face the world”, and Wovenland 2 manages to summon something of that with this remarkable album. Tsunoda & Unami take field recordings as a starting point, and processes those with all of the above in mind. That results into something that might seem simple or dry or monotonous, but it is evoking and extremely powerful. It is not unlike what I wrote about Radiance above: obviously artificial and yet uncannily realistic.


I also have to mention GF SUC by Keith Rowe, a 9-minute meditation on what happened to George Floyd by means of Shostakovitch and audio collage. It was part of AMPLIFY 2020: quarantine, a massive online festival of experimental music that released more than 230 pieces of music during the pandemic. It can be explored for free here or here.


older music discovered this year: highlights

This year I discovered a few artists of who I was very much aware or even possessed albums, but only in 2020 their true genius sank in. I’ll name Albert Ayler (especially Live in Greenwich Village – The Complete Impulse Recordings, but also all the reissues on Hat Hut, some of them very recently), The Wu-Tang Clan and affiliates (let me mention Ghostface Killah’s Supreme Clientele, Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s debut, and Wu-Tang Forever), Leonard Cohen (somehow his debut Songs of Leonard Cohen had escaped me, but while dining at Chambre Séparée in Ghent, Kobe Desramaults was so kind to put that record on, while the sun was setting and the kitchen fires smoking – maybe the best, most happy 41 minutes of the year), Polish metal band Graveland (Thunderbolts of the Gods, Thousand Swords, Following the Voice of Blood) and Van Morrison’s stellar Astral Weeks.

Newly discovered this year is Masahiko Togashi, who recorded the best solo drum record I own, 1976’s Rings. It popped up in the AMPLIFY Facebook group.

I’ve also delved a bit deeper in the Ocora back catalogue – a French label specializing in ethnic music. These are the brightest gems I found: An Anthology of South Indian Classical Music by L. Subramaniam, a diverse 4-cd set, essential I’d dare say; The Art of the Qin by Li Xiangting – a kind of Chinese Pablo Cassals playing music that’s way older than Bach; and Kinshi Tsuruta‘s Satsuma – Biwa, a star of the Japanse lute, accompanying herself with a dramatic, harrowing voice. In the same vein is a release by Kineya Ensemble, Nagauta Kabuki: sparse but dramatic Japanese theater music dating back to the 17th century.

On a similar label, World Music Library, I found two treasures thanks to Brian Olewnick’s pointer to the first. One with hypnotic Javanese music: Court Music of Kraton Surakarta, and the other the sparsely titled Chinese Music of The Han People.

To end, I need to mention Brussels’ Zwangere Guy‘s 2019 album Wie is Guy? Much hyped in Belgium last year, but I was late to the party. It has been on constant rotation the last 2 months. There’s something to the sparse groove and restrained aggression that works really well. His 2020 upgrade of his other 2019 album – BrutXXL – is very much worth it too. Check out an 18 minute YouTube video of him live in the studio if hiphop is your thing – but as it is such a text based genre, I have no idea how this sounds to anybody who doesn’t speak Dutch.

Most watched on YouTube last year was Danny Carey of Tool drumming in a video made by Vic Firth – wait for about 7 minutes for his skill to fully sink in.


television

I haven’t seen that much this year, but both Bojack Horseman and of Rick and Morty continued to be excellent, among the best shows of the century, both rich and layered. Season 5 of Better Call Saul also continued doing what it does well  – slow tragedy – although I’d love more black & white segments on Jimmy in hiding. Season 2 of Ricky Gervais’ After Life deserves a mention as well. Most important discovery this year were the first 2 seasons of HBO’s much lauded satirical dark comedy drama Succession, from 2018 and 2019.


theater

I was absolutely blown away by CONVERSATIONS (at the end of the world) by Kris Verdonck, A Two Dogs Company & Het Zuidelijk Toneel. I saw it on the 14th of January in De Warande in Turnhout, only a few weeks before the pandemic hit. It’s based on texts by Daniil Kharms, an early 20th century Russian avant-garde absurdist.

A few shots from the play seem to be fitting at the end of this post about 2020.

Conversations-Het-Zuidelijk-Toneel-fotograaf-KurtvanderElsConversations Daniil KharmsConversations VerdonckConversations - kvrancken



If you’re interested in my other favorite lists, they’re here.
Here‘s the index of all reviews, alphabetically by author.

Or click here for an index of my non-fiction or art book reviews only, and here for an index of my longer fiction reviews of a more scholarly / philosophical nature.

67 responses to “2020 FAVORITES

  1. It’s a dangerous thing, confusing the Gregs of science fiction.

    Lots of interesting books in your Mount Readmore. I wonder what you think of Viriconium, Dying Earth and I wonder what that stray Erikson is doing there. I am seriously pondering to try to read Malazan again. Last time I read up to book 6 before I fell out.

    For me, the most significant thing in terms of blogging in 2020 is that I started again in the first place. Only 4 months ago it took me a month to read a 200 page novel, and after 1.5 years I was finally able to finish The Bone Clocks. Since then, my mental recovery started to accelerate and I’m able to read like I used to do. One big difference is that I stopped writing whole reviews for movies.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Jeroen, I’d recommend staying away from Malazan if you dropped out that early last time. Only go into it if you REALLY want to finish the series. Erikson gets preachier and preachier by the end and just dumps on the reader and expects them to like it.

      Liked by 2 people

    • As for Harrison, not sure what to read next of him, I liked everything I’ve read of him a lot so far. To get some historical perspective, I might just read Centaury Device before continuing the Kefahuchi Tract trilogy or dive into Viriconium.

      I actually started Dying Art a few weeks ago, and read the first story. Somehow it didn’t seem the right time/mood for this, and I’m not sure if I like his prose either. My plan was to skip the first book for now, and start with the 2nd book somewhere next year.

      That stray Erikson isn’t a stray, there’s 2 of them on the pile, 3 and 4. I’ve read the first 2 Mazalan books, and thought the first was spectacular. I think you told me the 3rd is the best. It’s been 2 years though, 1000 page books spook me since I have kids.

      I hope you’ll continue to do well, and continue to read & blog too – you always offer an interesting perspective. Reminds me to read Cloud Atlas soon – I enjoyed Bone Clocks so much.

      Liked by 3 people

      • I actually think Cloud Atlas is better than Bone Clocks! Do read it.

        A good booktuber, Mike’s Book reviews, started a Malazan readalong, tackling a Malazan Book once every 2 months, starting today. I might join in, but there are so many other new series that I could read instead.

        Skipping the first Dying earth book is a good idea. The second one, The Eyes of the Overworld, was written like 30 years later and is more polished. I love it. 10/10. Top 5 best ever.

        I’ve got the third Kefahuchi tract novel lined up. After that I will give Harrison a rest for a while. I still want to finish the Asimov novels too.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Ah, good that you confirm the book 1 skip.

          As for Mazalan, I’ll have to be in the mood to start it. I do want to finish at least the third book someday, we’ll see.

          What made Bone Clocks a favorite book of mine instead of just a really good one was the final chapter. Curious how Cloud Atlas will compare.

          Foundation 1-5 will be my next reread after I finish the Dune series for the second time. I’ll probably finish that this year with only 2.5 books left, so Asimov will be for 2022. An Anathem reread after that, and some of Banks after that. At least, that’s the plan atm.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Cloud atlas has a different structure. You’ll see what I mean. Instead of Anathem, give Cryptonomicon a try 🙂 Anathem is good, I know, but they both are.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Yes, I will read Cryptonomicon first before I’ll reread Anathem. If there won’t be a new Stephenson somewhere in the next 6 or 7 months, chances are big I’ll read Cryptonomicon in the first half of this year. Initially I planned to finish Baroque Cycle first, but that simply isn’t realistic atm.

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        • By the way, have you seen Tenet? Bookstooge wanted a review a few comments down.

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          • Ah no, not yet. It is on my list though. I have about 8 or 10 movies left to watch to get all caught up with 2019 and 2020, and tenet is on that list. I’ll probably write a few lines on it within a month. Lucky for me that 2020 was a bad year for movies.

            Liked by 1 person

      • It took me half a year to read Viriconium, I really liked the mood, but the prose was difficult. I need to think more about it before I’m ready for any kind of review…

        Liked by 1 person

      • Cloud Atlas is my favourite of Mitchell’s books – in fact I think it may remain my favourite book of all time, only edged out in recent years by a few Peter Carey titles* – but if you’ve only read The Bone Clocks I would really recommend reading Jacob de Zoet next. Possibly this doesn’t work as well in reverse, but there’s a bunch of Horologist/Anchorite stuff going on in the background of de Zoet which never rises to the foreground the way it does in the penultimate chapter of Bone Clocks; most it went over my head (and I suppose most readers’ heads) in 2010, but reading it after Bone Clocks adds another enjoyable layer to the story. Cloud Atlas and his other pre-de Zoet books don’t have that. (Though some would argue they’re the better for it…)

        *(One of the reasons a lot of people love Mitchell is that his books are good literature, but also fun. There’s that cohort of critics who think literature isn’t supposed to be fun and I’ve probably internalised some of that, and maybe noticed certain tics and quirks in Mitchell’s writing style that I’m no longer quite as enamoured with as I was when I was a teenager. But I think I like Carey for much the same reasons: he’s a very respected and excellent writer of great literature, most of whose books also happen to be great *fun*.)

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thanks for the suggestion. It will depend on mood what my next Mitchell will be – your remark that CA is your favorite book ever doesn’t make it easier. Peter Carey is a name new to me, I’ll look into him, thanks.

          That no fun idea is stupid for sure. I have no idea how it originated – old literature can have quite fun elements too. It would be a great topic to write a PhD about: where and when and why did our collective expectations of Literature become so serious?

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          • I mean, when it comes to Mitchell I can see it. He’s very fun but there are also aspects of his writing – which I most recently felt in Utopia Avenue – that I do find eye-rolling, most notably the fact that he has two types of characters: main characters, who all think and talk the way that he writes (dropping colourful metaphors into their dialogue and narration) and straw man villains, who exist to be slapped down in a bit of witty Sorkinesque repartee by the main characters. There are certainly shades of grey in the worlds that he writes (there’s an excellent, awful moral choice faced by a midwife in de Zoet) but not so much in the breadth of his cast. But I also find it impossible to tell whether he’s always been that way and I’ve just changed my taste, or whether he’s really started to run in a groove over the past five years or so. But – having said that – there’s no reason why “fun,” which for Mitchell I would describe as his beautiful, colourful, zestful writing style, is incompatible with being serious. Long story short, I guess: read both Cloud Atlas and Jaccob de Zoet, they’re both excellent 10/10 novels. 🙂

            Peter Carey is a real favourite of mine because at his best he has a really loveable, whimsical, garrulous narrative voice. He has plenty of clunkers, but his best books are the kind that I can pluck off the shelf and read a single chapter or paragraph of and genuinely just admire the writing. If you want to check him out I’d recommend either Illywhacker or Oscar and Lucinda; the latter won the Booker, and while he has another Booker winner, True History of the Kelly Gang, it’s specifically written in the clipped and stunted semi-illiterate style of Ned Kelly (similar, in a sense, to the novel Riddley Walker) and therefore doesn’t demonstrate Carey’s truly unique authorial voice. (Though it is a bloody excellent book.)

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  2. Great stats! Do you get a lot of traffic from search engines?
    I‘m happy to have found your blog, and really like to read your reviews – even if we don’t always have the same opinions, eg with Piranesi, it‘s always great to see a valid review broadening the horizon.
    As for your TBR: Red Mars and Antarctica are great. Those Le Guin books need to be read. And what about that Great Hunt, have you read the first book?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, much appreciated!

      As for the traffic, let me check, I’m curious myself for this year, didn’t look at it yet. So: about 10.000 views come from search engines, about 600 from the reader, 600 via Facebook, 400 via internal clicks, 400 via Goodreads, 200 via Twitter, 200 via the WP Android app, 50 via Reddit, 40 via LibraryThing, and the rest is other sites that linked to me over the years.

      I guess I’ll like all the KSR books still on my pile, I’ll savor them slowly, as it seems this will be it for novels. 2 or 3 of his books this next year will do. I plan on reading the Mars trilogy last.

      The Eye of the World is right above The Great Hunt, I haven’t read either of them. Found both for a couple of euros in a second hand store, and as they are so well know decided to take my chances and bought both. We’ll see if I get to the first one this year, they’ve been on that pile for years.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Oh, you‘re Reddit active? I was so frustrated with all the posting regulations there that I stopped posting review links.
        Do you consider the crossposting on Twitter, Facebook and the likes worth the hustle? I‘m too lazy for that 🤣
        Wheel of Time: I started a slow burn buddy read just today, that’s why I was curious. Never thought to reread it, but here we are 😁

        Liked by 1 person

        • I’m not really active on Reddit. I only post the Dune and LOTR reviews there, in the specific groups.

          Posting on Twitter & Facebook is very easy, not a lot of work. Facebook is definitely worth it, but it’s mainly for my friends there. I don’t think the #s give me a lot of extra traffic. Twitter is just a habit from the early days of my blog, I used that the enhance visibility, but it doesn’t generate a lot of direct traffic.

          Goodreads is worth it for sure, and there’s also some social interaction there with people who don’t own a WP account, I like that. LibraryThing less so.

          The main thing is that I think that crossposting enhances the visibility in the search engines, but I’m not very sure about that.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for sharing your stat numbers. Looks like you had a great year. And several posts iwth over 500 views? I can only dream, hahahaaa 😀

    But considering my average word count for posts is about 670, well, I think I see the issue already 😀

    Looking forward to what you think on God Emperor while already knowing I’ll probably disagree with you on at least half of it. Hahahhaa, isn’t blogging fun?!?

    Liked by 2 people

    • My pleasure. It seems most bloggers that published their stats had a significant increase this year. I think it has to do with momentum build up over the years rather than the pandemic, even though posting more gets more traffic too obviously. My new posts in 2020 had about 100 views on average, that makes 4000 views + lets say 1000 views for the two Dunes, that still leaves about 17.000 views for the pre-2020 posts.

      Judging my view/visitor ratio, most visitors also seem to stick around for one other view, but that’s a crude metric, I guess it’s more that some stick around and read 10 or 20 reviews, at least, that’s how it looks in the daily stats.

      As for God Emperor, it’s a slow read. I like it, but it’s also a bit of a slog. I remember the emotional levels got higher towards the end, but at the moment (about 180 pages in) I’m not to thrilled either way. But writing this 2020 post has distracted me, as did watching Tenet and the general stuff of the holiday season. So I hope to give it my full attention again soon.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Most of my traffic came from the WP reader, which means all those following me. I think I had about a 20% search engine hit? I was definitely a quantity (290 posts over the year) over quality. But I like writing short posts every day or so, so I’m completely ok with it 😀

        Do you think you’ll be reviewing Tenet?

        Liked by 1 person

        • Ha, reviewing Tenet! Not in a million years. I’ll do a short one here though, for your eyes only.

          I liked it a lot as an action movie, truly spectacular, great soundtrack, good acting, great photography, good stuntwork, great locations, etc. etc. Truly an arrogant, megalomaniac movie.

          As for the content, I’m not sure. I saw it twice on the same day, because I wanted to get it, and I think I do for the most part, but I still think there’s significant plotholes in the time travel stuff. E.g. I don’t get how people can simultaneously enter and exit the time machine. It doesn’t seem to make sense. There’s a few other things too.

          But at the same time, the plot logic doesn’t really matter, it’s Hollywood, and it scratched the itches I wanted to have scratched, thoroughly.

          Liked by 2 people

    • Also, look at my reply on Andreas for the breakdown for the referrers.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Very nice stats! It seems they went up all around, pandemic make people read more, definitely.

    I’m enjoying “Ministry for The Future” right now, thanks for the review, it’s my second book by Robinson, and “Shaman” I read also because of your recommendation.

    “Piranes” is on my buying list, and I’ll likely make the order soon – I’ll probably try German Amazon, as the Amazon.uk is getting expensive for me. For Tomasello I’ll probably wait until he’s translated, scientific books are a bit expensive.

    I’ll dedicate some time to try the music, but the best we can hope for is it being added to my background playlists, I’m not too sophisticated a listener 😉

    Great photo of your wall of shame! A few ot these are also waiting on my shelves, but I scatter them around in between already read books…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Try Bookdepository, I’ve had very good experiences with that the last year. Usually the cheapest, and no postage fees, also internationally. I wish I had discovered that sooner. We’ll see how Brexit will effect it, not sure.

      As for KSR, I think he’s truly one of the greats. I’m actually waiting for Ola’s review of Aurora – my favorite book of his.

      A seperate pile is handy. I try to alternate between the older part of TBR, the new additions to the TBR (usually a seperate pile), and my regular book shelves (for rereads and some of the JMH Berckmans I haven’t read and that aren’t in the TBR but on the shelves already).

      Liked by 1 person

      • I buy from Book Depository, more and more often – but it’s not ideal, they still have to make money and so they hide shipping costs in book price. It’s still usually cheaper then Amazon.co.uk + shipping fee, but that’s part of my problem, shipping to Poland used to be cheaper. For a few years, long ago, orders above 25 GBP shipped for free… beautiful times.

        Amazon wants Polish customers to buy from Amazon.de, but the prices aren’t as good, and the selection of books in English is, understandably, worse. I can’t afford to source my English books ethically, boycotting Amazon is out of the question…

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        • BTW, here’s the latest from Book Depository: “We can’t ship to that country. Unfortunately we are currently unable to ship to the country you have selected.”
          I wonder, if it’s only Poland…

          Liked by 1 person

          • Belgium too. Looks like it’s mostly only Commonwealth countries that are listed now. I hope they’ll sort it out.

            I mainly use bol.com otherwise for English books, a Dutch webshop started way back in 1999. They are the number one online store in Belgium & The Netherlands, and have been active managed to keep Amazon from gaining a foothold here. Really remarkable.

            But yeah, ethical shopping for English books, a pipe dream.

            Liked by 1 person

            • I used to have a favorite UK seller at AbeBooks, called Reuseabook – very reasonable shipping costs within the EU. I’m afraid the money won’t be as reasonable the next time I search for a second-hand book:-(

              Also: For me, working from home, having a kid and succumbing to general attention-span erosion that seems endemic nowadays, along with other factors, has lead to an awful decline in reading, and music or movies seem like a distant memory. So: stay strong and please continue providing an exemple that it doesn’t have to stay that way.

              Liked by 1 person

              • We’ll see how things go for shipping, from what I can gather there’s slight hope still for small packets etc, things will need some time to settle, but either way the entire Brexit is a debacle. Yet another proof of idiocy all around. I buy a fair bit of cds in the UK, but chances are – just US small record companies did because the US Post had to increase its international tarifs because Republicans pushed their future pension costs on the company today, basically to destroy it because it is not yet privatized – they will loose customers. I guess it will save me money.

                I spend too much time on my phone too, it significantly lengthens the time I need to finish a book for sure. I’m wondering when all that will get to the point I’ll need to remedy it.

                Kids halved my reading time, but it seems I’ll be able to uphoald 30 titles a year, even if the covid bug is fixed. I hope that when they get older, a bit of time might return, but I guess that’s a pipe dream too. Oh well, I wouldn’t want it otherwise, I’m not complaining. The real question is when I’ll find the energy to get back at elaborate cooking…

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  5. Congratulations on such a successful year of reading, writing and blogging! 🙂 Those are fantastic stats and well deserved. And your tbr mountain is filled with some mouth-watering gems. So many books and so little time 😉 Plus, your highlighted reviews have made me want to buy them all!

    Looking forward to reading more of your content this year and chatting in the comments section. Best wishes ☃️

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  6. I gotta grab a copy of Piranesi. I’ve been hearing good things and I’ve always wanted to try the author.

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  7. Well, that’s one *impressive* TBR indeed! And it might look like big mountain, but it’s one that will certainly offer an interesting and varied “climb” :-). Happy reading!

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  8. Congrats on a great year, Bart! Amazing stats, and I’m glad to be a part of them 😉

    That TBR pile is jaw-dropping – I’m a bit jealous, actually 😉

    The new KSR is on my TBR, as well as Tomasello’s Becoming Human and I’ll bow to the collective pressure of you, Jeroen and Chris and read Piranesi at some point 😉 And obviously I already promised to try out something by Scholz and Egan, LOL! Damn, I should stop reading your recommendations, I don’t know if my TBR can handle any more of those! 😉

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    • Try the Gypsy novella from Scholz first, it’s not as big an investment. I’m pretty sure you’ll like all the other things you mention, but the Tomasello can by dry/repetitive/detailed, but that’s not unlike other thorough non-fiction.

      As for the TBR, I really should need to get it in check. As I’ve commented before here, I’ve done the math, and I buy about 1 book every two weeks I don’t read. That’s too much money, even if a significant part of those buys are second hand. I really need to get the pile down, or at least, keep it level. It is nice that I can chose what to read depending mood, I can spend half an hour in front of it deciding what to read next. So maybe only buy as much as as I read is the way to go.

      It’s also crucial that I don’t have an English public library available. My local library does have a wee bit of English titles, but not enough, and hardly any speculative fiction. So I’m more or less obliged to buy my books. I could switch to an eReader to save a bit of money, but I’m anal enough that I don’t like to have a mixed media personal library.

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  9. One more thing has occured to me eying your TBR pile: different editions of Viriconium put the novels/novellas/short stories in different order. The one I read collected the individual books in order of publication (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viriconium#Works), which I consider the most logical option, because it progressively undermines the assumptions of classical fantasy. The Masterworks editions you have choses a different order and puts short stories from Viriconium Nights in between the longer texts, which, I think, gives the whole game away too soon. That said, it seems to be the author’s preferred order; also, some stories were published individually well before being collected in Viriconium Nights, so that would do for another, different chronological order. Go figure.

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    • Thanks for the remark – I was planing on reading it in the omnibus order, but what you write makes me want to reconsider. I will look into it a bit more when I’ll actually start. I guess publication order might be best indeed. That’s usually the safest bet, and closest to author’ original intention. I’ll have to track down the order of the Nights stories in that case – would be ironic if that turns out to be the Masterworks edition order.

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  10. Some pretty great books you read last year and congratulations on those stats. A 7200 word post is quite lengthy! I struggle to get to 1000 at the best of times…

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