The Year of Horses and Porn


It’s time for my 2016 year in review in terms of books I read. There are a lot of Westerns on the list. There’s also a lot of erotica. I swear, though, that stuff was for market research purposes. Honestly!

I read 55 books last year. I don’t know if this is a personal record or not, considering I’m ancient and can’t remember a time I didn’t love to read. But it’s certainly a high point since I started keeping my stats on Goodreads. Because there are over 50 titles, I’m not going to go over all of them. Most of the reviews were published here and you can find them if you care. Here are the highlights and maybe a couple of lowlights.

The highest highlight for me this year was David R. Lewis’s Trail series of Western novels. I read the first seven books one right after another and had to stop myself from going back to the beginning and immediately starting over when I finished the seventh one. I love Lewis’s characterization, his use of dialect, his mix of action and character development … just everything. I only gave each book 4 out of 5 stars because they are not complex plots, don’t rely on symbolism or other literary devices. Yes, I did it because as an AP English teacher I’m something of a snob. I regret it now. They deserve five stars for the entertainment they gave me. I read several other Westerns, but didn’t enjoy any of them as much as this series.

The single book I enjoyed the most was probably Derek B. Miller’s Norwegian by Night, and this was a surprise to me because, as a thriller, it’s pretty much outside my normal reading area. But this story about an elderly Vietnam veteran helping a young boy despite all their differences was just a fascinating story.

I reread some John Steinbeck, and added a couple of his books I had not yet read. Of those, I really liked To a God Unknown, an early work that showed the master coming into his own. This is a book about a family and their relationship to the land. I also reread The Pearl, Of Mice and Men, and read The Pastures of Heaven for the first time.

Some other books I reread were The Book Thief, which I still think is one of the best books I’ve read in the last five years, but it did lose a little magic rereading it so soon after the first time, and Salem’s Lot, one of the first horror novels I ever read. It had been at least 20 or 25 years since I read it last, and it reminded me why Stephen King’s early work was such an influence on me.

One of my regrets is that I didn’t finish Richard Adams’ Shardik. I really tried, but I lost interest. Then the great man died.

In nonfiction, I read Eric Weiner’s Man Seeks God, a book I really enjoyed, but found difficult to use in the classroom. I liked David R. Lewis’s Endless Journey better. I also read Conversations with John Steinbeck, a collection of media interviews, and Wolf, a nice biography of Jack London. Oh, and a short piece in which William Peter Blatty talked about his career.

Erotica. Most of that stuff is poorly written, not copy edited, and frankly, pretty boring.

I finished 2016 with three books going, which is one more than typical. I’m currently reading Willa Cather’s My Antonia, David R. Lewis’s Glory Trail, and Richard Bach’s Illusions.

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