52 Books in 52 Weeks

In Books, Improbable Mutterings on May 30, 2014 at 9:26 am
Hopefully I will not need a time machine in order to complete my reading challenge.

Hopefully I will not need a time machine to complete my reading challenge.

*taps mic*

Hello? Testing?

Hi! Um. It’s been a while.

What prompted my blogging hiatus, I can’t fully say. Probably starting and working two new jobs in the space of as many years, and wanting to perform well in each of them. That’s a reasonable excuse, but it’s not as fulsome as I want it to be. The more likely explanation is that reading and writing had lost some of their lustre when held up next to flashier and more accessible hobbies (I’m looking at you, video games), which alleviated some of the pressure and stress of working in a lead role in new environments.

Now that I’m a bit more settled, I’ve started to rediscover my poor, neglected, esoteric paramours.

To that end, I will be embarking on a personal project I am sharing with my partner Alice. We are planning on reading one book a week for 52 weeks, and blogging about each one (even if it is only a gasping “I finished it!”). We’ll do this on our own respective sites, but will be linking to each other’s work, and hopefully having some fun conversations about the experience.

Alice actually has a head start on me in book count totals in recent years. In 2011, she completed a personal challenge of reading 100 books in a year. You can find her list here:

I do have some experience with intensive, scheduled book reading. When completing my Comprehensive Exams and Special Fields Exams requirements for my PhD, I was easily reading 100-150 books a year. But those happened in 2004 and 2006, respectively – and the discipline has rather bled out in the intervening years. I probably average about 2 books a month these days, which isn’t terrible, but leaves me feeling like I’m doing myself an intellectual disservice.

Our new project isn’t anything so ambitious as our previous endeavours. We’re both much busier now than we were back then. But 52 books in a year is nothing to scoff at, and I have no doubt it will require some discipline and more than one instance of last-minute scrambling.

But I have a request for you, dear readers:


Help me build my reading list!


As many of you know, I’m a huge fan of science fiction, and a budding neophyte fan of horror. I’ve read a substantial number of the former and not so many of the latter. I’m also very curious about mystery/crime fiction, which is a genre dense with classics, but one I am almost entirely unacquainted with.

I’m looking for suggestions in these areas! I’ll be excited to hear your suggestions, and will mention the person who suggested the book when I complete it and blog about it.

Being a literature nerd, though, I do have some preferences. So in the interests of not wasting your time, I have some “Yes/No” appeals. (None of these are imperatives…just guidelines.)


  • For Science Fiction: Newer works – 10-ish years or less. I’m pretty well-versed in works of prior years, but have slowed down a fair bit in the last decade or so.
  • Works which you know are available through the Toronto Public Library online collections! (I’m under strict orders to not bring any more books into the house…its structural integrity is currently “indeterminate” as a result of my library.)
  • Scary! (Applies to all three genres.)
  • Historical fiction: Thinking specifically of mystery/crime fiction here, but others are welcome as well. (Think Dan Simmons’ The Terror.)
  • Works by women. (Not exclusively, but where possible.)
  • Canadian works. (Not exclusively, but where possible.)
  •  For Science Fiction: “Classics”. I’ve read a LOT of science fiction. As much as I’d like to re-read The Left Hand of Darkness or Stranger in a Strange Land, I’m looking to broaden my horizons a bit.
  • For Horror: Anything by Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Peter Straub, or Clive Barker. I like all of these fellas, but I’ve read a substantial amount by all of them, and am looking for something different.
  • Trilogies or anything with serial/continuing stories. Nothing against these, but I’m trying to cover a lot of ground! (Non-serial sequels are OK, especially in crime fiction.)
  • Super-lengthy works. I appreciate Neal Stephenson, but I simply won’t be able to plow through any of his 1,000-page opuses if I hope to accomplish my goal.
  • Novelizations of TV shows, movies, or video games.
  • Co-authored books. (Personal pet peeve of mine. Sorry, I’m built that way.)
  • For crime fiction: no “true crime” please.



  1. The plural of “opus” is “opera.”


    I knew you’d appreciate the nerdiness of such a commetn.

  2. Have you read “The Alienist” by Caleb Carr? Fits in the historical crime/mystery category, and is a good, fast read for a one-book-a-week plan. Pretty sure I have it somewhere in my bookshelves if you need a loaner–let me know if you want me to conduct hunt.

  3. Okay! Now that I know your taste in books. I feel bad leaving Icy Sparks for you. Alice might like it better.

    For you, I would reccomend the Victorian era macabre novel “The Ghost Writer” by Australian writer John Harris. I actually has to stop reading it before bed.

    Let me know what you think!


  4. Charles Stross, Elizabeth Bear and Mira Grant are all doing exciting stuff right now. For Stross and Bear, if you don’t like the first book you read by them, try at least one more – they both sub-genre hop, and if Lovecrafian spy It nerds doesn’t work for you, posthuman apace robots might. If you haven’t read local Sci fi author Peter Watts’ Blindsight, you’re missing out. Local Madeline Ashby’s vN and iD are also good. If you want to dip into fantasy as well, Saladin Ahmed’s Throne of the Crescent Moon is worth a read.

    • Ogod all those things sound great. Esp Lovecraftian mystery. I was hoping someone would suggest something along those lines. I’ve read the Watts — really liked it. I have a soft spot for “understanding the truly alien” fiction, and Watts’ spin on it fits in with the best of those. (He even does it in the Starfish books…)

  5. Alex! My limited googling skills have finally permitted me to find a forum on which I can leave you a message! Bird Box, by Josh Malerman. Go read it! I spent the weekend devouring it. My house is dirty and my kid is hungry, but damn what a read! I’m off the social media grid for the moment- apologies if this book is old news to you. cheers :D

    • Thanks G! You’ve got a good track recommending horror, so this sounds like a solid bet. Now go feed your kid! (Maybe not birds though…)

  6. Various suggestions for various reasons:

    Ben Lerner, Leaving the Atocha Station
    Charles Yu, How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe
    Hannu Rajaniemi, The Quantum Thief
    Adam Roberts, New Model Army
    Lev Grossman, The Magicians
    Junot Diaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
    Richard Russo, The Straight Man
    Mark Danielewski, The Fifty Year Sword
    Felix Gilman, The Half-Made World

    And guaranteed to give you nightmares:
    Mike Davis, Buda’s Wagon: A Brief History of the Car Bomb

    • Thanks Piers, I knew I could count on you. So I’ve read both On and Swiftly by Roberts, and I’m not sure what to think about him. There’s a whiff of Gene Wolfe about him, and I like his general willingness to offend the reader with weird science concepts that border on the mystical. But he’s also emotionally intangible, and I find his works hard to grasp on to. How does New Model Army stack up against his others?

  7. Generally agree about Roberts. I find his books interesting, but there is that sense of abstraction to them, so I only grab them from time to time. But he continues to do entertaining things: the main character in New Model Army is more personable and the near-future setting of this one is intriguing. You might also like Jack Glass, which does some play SF mystery stuff. Give him another go: I think he’s getting better.

    Oh, and more things that I meant to mention:
    Francis Spufford, Red Plenty
    n+1, What was the Hipster? A Sociological Investigation

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