I meant to write this blog, analysing the books I read in 2018, at the turn of the year, but as I’ve been chasing a January 14 deadline, it’s arrived a little later than planned.
I read 89 books in 2018 – four more than I read in 2017 – of which 46 were by male writers (compared to 49 the year before), 30 were by female writers (compared to 28 in 2017), and 13 were anthologies (a jump from 8 the previous year), containing stories by writers of both sexes.
60 of the 89 books were novels, 4 were novellas, 10 were single author collections, and only 2 were non-fiction books – numbers which pan out pretty similarly to the year before, give or take a couple of books here and there.
As in 2017, 7 of the 89 books I read were tie-ins, and they even correlate pretty exactly to the previous year, with 4 of the 7 being DOCTOR WHO books (novelisations of recent TV stories, which even used the long-defunct Target logo – a real nostalgia rush!), and the other 3 being original GRANGE HILL novels.
My intention in 2017 was to read tie-in novels/novelisations of either/both THE SWEENEY or/and THE PROFESSIONALS in 2018, but in the event I didn’t get round to either. I do have the same intention for 2019, though I’m not sure I’ll get round to both, as my priority is to make more of a dent in my ever-growing backlog of DOCTOR WHO books this year. If I had to choose between THE SWEENEY and THE PROFESSIONALS, I’d almost certainly favour THE SWEENEY, as the tie-in books produced from that series were original novels, whereas each book in the 15-strong THE PROFESSIONALS series contain a novelisation of a TV story I’ve previously seen. I think it’s more likely I’ll start reading THE PROFESSIONALS once I’ve worked my way through all the GRANGE HILL books in two or three years time.
Of the 89 books read in 2018, 69 were by writers I’d read before (20 of which I’d read books by the previous year), and 20 were completely new to me. Of these latter 20, some were long-established names that I’d been meaning to read for years but had only just got around to, such as Leslie Charteris, Kathe Koja, Patricia Highsmith, Margaret Atwood and Val McDermid, and others were authors celebrating the release of their first novel or collection, such as Emma Cline, Nick Setchfield, Priya Sharma, Jac Jemc, C.J. Tudor and Jane Harper (whose first novel, The Dry, I enjoyed so much that I read her second, Force of Nature, a few months later, as soon as it was released in paperback).
As ever, as well as stand-alone novels, I also read novels that continued various series’ of books I’m working my way through – although in the case of Agatha Christie, I’m reading her books haphazardly, veering between her POIROT, MISS MARPLE and stand-alone novels at the rate of four a year (she wrote around 80 books in all, so my aim, fate willing, is to get through her entire output in twenty years; and having started this venture in mid-2015, I’m currently 15 books to the good). Aside from Agatha Christie, I also read books numbers 27, 28 and 29 of the Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators series, and book number 8 (Burning Angel) of the DAVE ROBICHEAUX series by James Lee Burke. I read book 2 in Dennis Lehane’s KENZIE and GENNARO series (Darkness, Take My Hand), book 2 in Angela Slatter’s VERITY FASSBINDER series (Corpselight), and the 2ndbooks of a pair of trilogies I started in 2017 – Tim Lebbon’s The Folded Land (from his Relics trilogy) and Ramsey Campbell’s Born to the Dark (from his Brichester Mythos trilogy). Despite not finding time in 2018 for the next books in several other series I’m working my way through (John Connolly’s CHARLIE PARKER books, Paul Finch’s HECK novels, Ruth Rendell’s WEXFORD series and John D. MacDonald’s TRAVIS McGEE books), I (perhaps foolishly) started two new series in 2018. As previously mentioned, I read Jane Harper’s first two books, The Dry and Force of Nature, featuring her character AARON FALK, and I also read the first of Val McDermid’s TONY HILL and CAROL JORDAN novels, The Mermaids Singing.
Having read only one collection by a female writer in 2017, I vowed to read more in 2018, but doubling that number from one to two (of 10 collections read in total) is admittedly rather less than I had in mind. I’m confident, however, that that number will increase in 2019, as I already have several collections by female writers on my TBR list that I’m really looking forward to – by the likes of Thana Niveau, Mariana Enriquez, Emma Donoghue, Tracey Fahey and Patricia Highsmith.
Having read only 8 anthologies in 2017, I was determined to read more in 2018, and achieved that by pushing the number up to 13. Of those, 5 contained mostly reprint fiction – Best New Horror 27,Best Horror of the Year 10,The Valancourt Book of Horror Stories 2, The 6thFontana Book of Great Horror Stories and The 6thFontana Book of Great Ghost Stories – but the other 8 contained all-original stories.
I only read 2 non-fiction books in 2018 (half of what I read in 2017), one of which was Mark Chadbourn’s Testimony, aninvestigation into an allegedly haunted Welsh farmhouse, and the other of which was Scarred For Life, a massive nostalgia-packed tome of pretty much everything that scared the generation of kids (myself included) who grew up in the 70s, from movies and TV series, to potential nuclear attack, the threat of rabies, and a wide variety of everyday hazards catalogued in numerous Public Information Films. At 740 large pages, most of which were packed with dense type, this was the longest book I read in 2018 and took me almost three weeks to get through. Needless to say, I can’t wait for Scarred For Life Volume Two: The 1980s, which is due out later this year.
So what’s on the agenda for 2019? More of the same, I hope. More novels, novellas and collections by writers old and new; more anthologies; more continuing series; more tie-ins; more non-fiction. For the past few years I’ve been intending to read more graphic novels, and so that’s something I want to add to my 2019 reading list. I have Marvel’s four-volume Essential Tomb of Dracula on my TBR list for 2019, plus Joe Hill’s six-volume Locke & Key series. I also have a hankering to re-read my old Tintin books in series order, so don’t be surprised if a few of those also make an appearance on my Books Read list in 2019.
As always, have a great year – and happy reading!