It’s the end of the year, and now that the reminiscing and navel-gazing is over it’s time for the most important year-end festivity, looking at how many books I read. In 2018 I read thirty-six, compared to 2017’s forty-two. This year, I have twenty-nine books recorded in LibraryThing, but this excludes eight volumes of Toriyama Akira’s DragonballZ because they’re part of a box set and so, from LibraryThing’s perspective, are only one book. There’s also The Bowl of Tears and Solace, which isn’t in their catalogue at all last I checked. That brings us up to a more typical thirty-eight, two more than last year.
Since I’ve already mentioned DBZ, that, Ito Juni’s Frankenstein, and the second omnibus volume of Go Nagai’s Devilman make up all nine graphic novels I read this year.
I only read three books of poetry, all by Dante: Rime, La Vita Nuova (my second time reading this one), and a collection called Dante’s Lyric Poetry: Poems of Youth and of the ‘Vita Nuova’. Of those, La Vita Nuova is the best and I can recommend Mark Musa’s translation, but Dante’s Lyric Poetry is nice because it includes ample commentary. Speaking of Dante, I also read Marco Santagata’s fine biography Dante: The Story of his Life and Dante’s prose work on vernacular poetry, De Vulgari Eloquentia, which was more tedious and less interesting, and less focused on poetry, than I’d hoped. Another great poet, Homer, was represented in The Printed Homer: A 3,000 Year Publishing and Translation History of the Iliad and the Odyssey, by Philip Young. One last work of serious literature worth mentioning was Fables françaises du Moyen-Age.
This was the year I started getting into Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels. I actually read Casino Royale a few years ago, but in 2019 added Diamonds are Forever, Live and Let Die, and Moonraker. Those who haven’t read them may not realise what that Fleming is a very skilled writer and though the Bond novels aren’t serious literature are well-crafted and very entertaining. We can also add a couple books about wrestling, Mick Foley’s excellent Have a Nice Day and Jimmy Korderas’s The Three Count: My Life in Stripes as a WWE Referee, which is a bit meandering but has several interesting anecdotes. Another hobby I spent a lot of time reading up on was mahjong, including Tong Seng Tjoa’s Mah Jong Fun, David H. Li’s The Happy Game of Mah-Jong, David Pritchard’s Teach Yourself Mah Jong, and Chung Wu’s An Advanced System for Playing Mah Jong. I briefly covered all of those in my post about the game.
Religion featured prominently this year, especially in the context of courtship and marriage. I read Frederick Marks’s short but helpful A Catholic Handbook for Engaged and Newly Married Couples, Ven. Fulton Sheen’s must-read Three to Get Married, Fr. Dwight Longenecker’s Catholicism Pure and Simple, which is perhaps too simple but may work for the intended audience of people totally new to the Faith, Edward Healy Thompson’s The Life and Glories of St. Joseph, Lawrence Lovasik’s Clean Love in Courtship, Rev. Fructosius Hockenmaier’s long but helpful Confession Made Easy, and St. Louis de Montfort’s classic Secret of the Rosary.
That leaves a few odds and ends, Dale Carnegie’s always relevant How to Win Friends and Influence People, eBay Business All-in-One for Dummies (I was trying to make some spare cash selling books online), Norman Vincent Peale’s fine but less classic than Carnegie The Power of Positive Thinking, and Benny Lewis’s Fluent in 3 Months.
It’s always tough to choose a book of the year, but excluding those I’ve read before (just La Vita Nuova this year) the award goes to… Three to Get Married. This was the first of Sheen’s books I’ve ever read, and his explanation of marriage is both profound and practical. I read it together with my girlfriend and would recommend other couples consider doing likewise. Honourable mentions go to Have a Nice Day, The Printed Homer, Frankenstein, and Confession Made Easy. Ian Fleming is my author of the year.
Unlike in 2018, there’ll be no award for worst of the year. A few of these books aren’t very good, but none were outright bad so calling special attention to any of them is unnecessary.
Well, friends, that’s the end of 2019.