Richard Lutz thumbs through his reading list for the past year.
New Year’s Day is a big moment in my fast-narrowing calendar. It’s the day I go through the list of books I’ve finished, knocked off, endured, devoured.
I have no plan, no goal (as in read all of Dickens or Terry Prachett). I just pick ‘em up if they seem half interesting or if I get waylaid – happily- by a writer who can deliver the goods and keep my eyelids open. This past year, 2017, has been the twentieth anniversary of this small obsession. The self-imposed rules are simple:
- Never look at the list until the first day of the new year.
- Count’em up
- See what fraction is fiction and what is non-fiction.
For 2017, I read 49 books, though there is an umpire’s replay because I am sure I left one out in December. Thirteen were fiction and the rest either biography, history, general political rants and, my go-to weakness, Hollywood bios.
I add a star or two for the book that entertains, energies or hypnotises me. This year the outstanding stuff has been: Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene, On the Move by Oliver Sachs, Going Clear (creepy expose about Scientology), and Noise of Time by novelist Julian Barnes.
Surpise book was the story of movie star Rock Hudson, called amazingly, Rock Hudson. I thought it would be a summertime knockoff. But it was a bitter indictment, posthumously, about how Hollywood manipulated its actors to make a profit.
For instance, Rock had to marry his agent’s secretary to deliver a public heterosexual persona. He was never permitted to allude to his long term gay partners. Nor did he ever admit, as he lay dying, that it was AIDS that was to kill him. His public face was that of a breezy, affable 1950’s A-lister. In real life he was angry and bitter. A sad profile of movie making in an industry that is till laden with problems.
Worst book? It just wouldn’t be fair to say though I completed some real clunkers. Usually, they are novels that are too long or political books that don’t know when to shut up and stick to the point.
I have found that over the years, I have read, unintentionally, some books twice. And, yes, books that are never finished, that are just too tiresome, too badly written or just plain boring are dropped, unlisted, quickly forgotten.
So, what does January 2018 bring? There’s an expose by Luke Harding about the links between Trump and Putin called Collusion that was left under the Christmas tree. There’s an autobiography of TV hack Jon Snow that looks readable. And, an annual rite, more Graham Greene. And, of course, as I ramble along the realms of gold of the charity shops, more Hollywood stories, more movieland gossip.