Last year was a desert for my reading; I didn’t read much at all, too busy at work. I made up for that in December, hitting a total reading jackpot of books I loved. If you’re anything like me, and enjoy adding books to your To Be Read pile, here are some books you must check out.
Nonfiction reading: The Lost City of Z (now a movie)
If you adore stories of high adventure which teach you something, check out The Lost City of Z: A Legendary British Explorer’s Deadly Quest to Uncover the Secrets of the Amazon. It’s by David Grann, a wonderful writer. The book tells the story of the British explorer Percy Fawcett, who vanished in the Amazon with his son and his son’s best friend in 1925. The explorers were looking for the ancient city of El Dorado.
Here’s a taste of the book:
Once, after leaping over a pit viper, he wrote in his journal, “What amazed me more than anything was the warning of my subconscious mind, and the instant muscular response . . . I had not seen it till it flashed between my legs, but the ‘inner man’ — if I can call it — not only saw it in time, but judged its striking height and distance exactly, and issued commands to the body accordingly!”
I’ll be reading this book again, because I stormed through it; it’s a real page-turner.
If you haven’t discovered David Grann, he’s also the author of Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, another amazing book, which I intend rereading. It’s completely horrific and makes uncomfortable reading. As you learn more and more about what’s going on, you can’t believe that such evil exists.
Fiction reading: Sansom’s Shardlake novels (all six)
Yes, I read the entire series: six novels, one after another, starting with Dissolution. Here’s the series’ page on the author’s site. Although I didn’t mean to read them all — I wanted to enjoy them over a few months — the Kindle makes it too easy to gulp down book after book.
If you’re not au fait with Shardlake, he’s a hunchbacked lawyer in the age of the Tudors. The books are historical mysteries, with lots of bloodshed, but not gratuitously — I’m a squeamish reader, generally.
In Dissolution, Shardlake solves a murder at the monastery of Scarnsea. Ostensibly there to discover the murderer, Shardlake’s primary aim is to shut down the monastery for Lord Cromwell.
Later in the series, Shardlake breaks with Cromwell, disillusioned.
From Hearthstone, the fifth novel in the Shardlake series:
It shows how all the wealth of the monasteries has gone to the King or his courtiers. The monastic schools and hospitals closed down, the sick left to fend for themselves. The monks’ care was niggardly enough, but now the poor have nothing…
“Perhaps they saw clearer than I that talk of reform would lead to the destruction of the monasteries. And of so much else. And for what?” he asked bitterly. “A reign of greed and terror.”
Sansom does a wonderful job with Shardlake. He’s an appealing character, as are the secondary characters. Once you start reading, you have to know what happens to them. I can’t wait for the seventh novel; fingers crossed that Sansom is busily writing.
Other reading: hilarious Rumpole, and P.G. Wodehouse
In other reading over December and January, I got through John Mortimer’s two Rumpole omnibuses on the Kindle at high speed, as well as P.G. Wodehouse’s Inimitable Jeeves (again.)
The Inimitable Jeeves contains “The Great Sermon Handicap”, which has to be one of the funniest, if not the funniest story, ever.