Books 2016 #1, January

As announced here, I have started to keep a books-read spreadsheet (without giving up scrawling returned library books in my little notebook). So I can say with assurance that I read 26 books in January (see as previously noted “too much time on hands”). Twelve of these were mysteries, due to a combination of a mood unaccepting of difficulty and anxiety with the focus provided by my mystery-blog reading and Challenge participation. Of the rest, one was a memoir, two history, ten “literature” (novels, stories, essays, and literary history), and one a cookbook. Two were translations, from Russian and from French, though both with Soviet Russian settings at least in part.

I gave quite a few books either four or five stars (including Martin Edwards’ history of the Detection Club and Sarah Vowell’s book about Lafayette), but I think my number one for the month must be Sasha Sokolov’s A SCHOOL FOR FOOLS, translated by Alexander Boguslawski and published by the wonderful New York Review Books.

CHALLENGES:

Vintage Mystery Scavenger Hunts

Golden Age (1959 and before): Ross MacDonald’s BLUE CITY, 1947, and Agatha Christie’s N OR M?, 1941. Sorry, puzzle-mystery fans, while there were entertaining moments, I still find AC an annoying writer overall. Even the puzzle structure was irritating in this one, maybe owing to wartime jingoism. But! I can use the sandcastle on the cover to check off a spot on my Scavenger Hunt list. BLUE CITY I enjoyed, it seemed a skillful and moody noir (though I felt that the hero ought to have been older for some of his reactions). I did not like it as well as MacDonald’s MEET ME AT THE MORGUE, which I read in the last days of 2015 and which is a more complex, more mature novel. BLUE CITY earned me another checkmark, for a telephone handset.

Silver Age: John Ball’s IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT, 50th anniversary edition. Very tight, smart little book. How about checking off MORE THAN TWO PEOPLE on my Silver checklist?

Classic (before 1966); Three books, BLUE CITY, IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT, N or M? Thus triply covering the Classic Mystery category and also fulfilling the Woman Author category and the 20th Century category; we shall see later on where each title is needed.

Translations: One French (Andrei Makine’s A WOMAN LOVED, translated by Geoffrey Strachan), one Russian, A SCHOOL FOR FOOLS.

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