Wednesday, January 2, 2013

2012: My year of series fiction

[Me, reading a nonfiction book
 approved by my mother]
In 1997, faced with a daunting commute, I decided to devote train time to reading for pleasure. At the same time, I began keeping a list of books I'd read. My mind goes blank whenever anyone asks, "Read any good books lately?" The list helps me access my hard drive. Sometimes I consult it before going to parties, just in case.

At the end of each year, I tally the books I've read. First, out of curiosity, I count how many are fiction and how many nonfiction. When I was a child, my mother, who was a serious and responsible woman, tried to keep me from reading fiction. She soon learned that she could not take me to libraries and expect me to refrain from reading stories, so she relented - but for every fiction book, I had to read a nonfiction book as well. Mothers are powerful: for maybe 10 years, even without trying, I read about an equal amount of fiction and nonfiction.

And then I fell in love with several mystery series.

In 2011, I read great stacks of M.C. Beaton (creator of Agatha Raisin and Hamish Macbeth). They are very lightweight, predictable, funny, and excellent for people who are recovering from major surgery.

In 2012, nearly half the books I read were from one series or another:
Just one book each by Sue Grafton and Michael Connelly because they are two of my favorites and I had already read all 40-some of their previous books. Four books by Alexander McCall Smith and two by M.C. Beaton - I was caught up with them too, but that's how many they published last year. One each by Janet Evanovich (her Stephanie Plum series: I probably won't read the other 18) and the late Michael Dibdin (I may go back and pick up some I've missed), two out of five by Martin Walker, and three out of fifteen by Andrea Camilleri. If you want to see my reviews of some of these books, click here or click the Mysteries tab at the top of this page.

My discovery last year was British writer Peter Lovesey's series about Bath detective Peter Diamond. Books & Culture asked me to review his 12th book, Cop to Corpse, and I ended up compulsively reading the first 11, with increasing satisfaction.

The series I most enjoyed was the Venice-based Commissario Guido Brunetti series by Donna Leon, an American who has lived in Venice for 30 years and who, at least according to an American-Italian friend of mine who has lived in Florence for nearly 40 years, really gets Italy. I had read her first book, Death at la Fenice, in 2009 and was only moderately impressed. Friends urged me to keep going. Last year I read books 2 through 21, and I just put book 22, published last October, on hold at the library - along with the new Alexander McCall Smith and the new Sue Grafton.

Maybe I'll develop a more serious mind in 2013 and read more nonfiction. I'll let you know ...

For more series fiction recommendations, see "'Tis the season to read something relaxing."


Anne Buchanan said...

Hey, Lavonne, I don't apologize anymore for reading series fiction. Your Peter Lovesey rec made me wonder if you've read Morag Joss's Sara Selkirk series (Sara's a concert cellist who lives in Bath). I've also enjoyed reading Rhys Bowen's Her Royal Spyness series although, to be honest, the later novels don't grab me as much. The first three are first rate, though, and a great send-up of upper-class Brits in the 1930s. Hope you have a great 2013, no matter what you read...

LaVonne Neff said...

Didn't know about Joss and haven't read any Bowen - wheeee! Something to get next time I go to the library! Thanks, Anne.

brenda butka said...

Burdett's Bangkok series.

LaVonne Neff said...

I've just ordered Joss by interlibrary loan, and I see that Burdett (Bangkok 8) is on the shelf at my library. Lots to look forward to in 2013!

woolly1 said...

Have you read the Flavia DeLuce books by Alan Bradley? They're fun, quirky, light reading, along the lines of the Alexander McCall Smith books, if you ask me. And then there is the Ian Sansom Mobile Library books-- crass but laugh-out-loud funny!

LaVonne Neff said...

I'm now reading and enjoying Joss (Sara Selkirk) thanks to Anne Buchanan's recommendation above. Haven't read Bradley's Flavia DeLuce yet or the ISML books. My to-read stack is precariously high right now (this always happens when I take a break to write an actual review for a magazine, which I hope to finish today), but thanks for the recommendation, woolly1, which I will come back to later.