I cannot remember the last time I read more than a handful of books in a year, but apparently Goodreads’ challenge proved irresistible and I managed a little over 20 in 2017.
This was actually the third target I’d set, as I breezed past 10 and 15 a little over halfway through the year.
Obviously we’re not talking especially weighty tomes here, in fact more than a few were graphic novels, but I’m very happy with reading so much this year.
It’s a shame that my progress came to a blistering halt in mid-September, as I tried in vain to tackle a 500+ page historical account of the Cold War. It started out very dry and academic, and made it difficult to get into. As has been the case before, I’ve put it down and intended to crack it eventually, without just skipping it and moving onto another book for the time being. But until a quick couple of additions this past two weeks, I didn’t actually read a proper book since.
But that’s fine. Here’s some of the stuff I’ve enjoyed reading most in 2017.
The Transmetropolitan series (Ellis/Robertson)
A horribly prescient and thrillingly entertaining comic series from Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson, Transmetropolitan follows drug-addled journalist Spider Jerusalem, as he dives headfirst into political and civil unrest in a futuristic big-city setting in search of the Truth. I’d got about halfway through the series a couple of years ago before picking up the rest this year, and can’t believe I’d left it that long to finish off. Without wishing to get too much into a comparison to current events, the way that the authorities in the comic show such disdain for facts and information in their dealings is a chilling parallel to how we’ve seen the real world operate in the past couple of years. It’s a highly recommended read if you’re in search of your own way of dealing with it.
Wiggaz With Attitude: My Life as a Failed White Rapper (Andrew Emery)
Some of my favourite memoirs aren’t afraid of choosing places to admit defeat rather than tout success. Unlike the Alan Partridge autobiogaphy – in which the author chooses to end an awful lot of his anecdotes with the phrase ‘needless to say, I had the last laugh’ – here in the title alone the writer has humanised his life in pursuit of success and acceptance in the hip-hop world. In Wiggaz With Attitude, Andrew Emery tells of his early life spent pursuing success in hip hop, and provides an eye-opening account of the geographical and cultural barriers which made life growing up in suburban England during the 1980s such a far cry from the epicentre of rap music across the pond. And if said 1980s middle-England references are your thing, as they are mine, you’ll get a kick out of reading this even if you don’t know your Wu Tang from your Wham.
Bowie In Berlin: A New Career In A New Town (Thomas Jerome Seabrook)
A very engaging account of David Bowie’s life during the time he recorded his famous Berlin trilogy – Low, Heroes and Lodger. The book begins with Bowie at his manic, coke-crazed high – locking himself away in a California home, paranoid and stricken by doubt. Although settling on Berlin to reinvent himself, his mood plays out beautifully on Low, before regrouping and delivering two more important albums, alongside stints as producer on other musicians’ albums and touring. Bowie in Berlin is a great write-up of this vital period in Bowie’s life.
Revolution 1989: The Fall of the Soviet Empire (Victor Sebestyen)
Having been partly inspired by Bowie’s story to visit Berlin earlier this year, another reason I wanted to see the city was to get a sense of the events which transformed Europe across the 1980s. This book by Victor Sebestyen was another brilliant contributor, dealing with the fall of Communism in Poland, Hungary and East Germany among others from the very beginning of the Cold War right up until the fall of the Berlin Wall. There’s a great mix of day-to-day anecdotes and overarching historical presentations, depicting the conflict between the inspirational figures who sought change, and the iron will of those in charge to keep things the way they were. Reading this book solidified my passion as a Cold War nerd, and it’s something I’m hoping to read a lot more of in 2018.