Whitehurst’s Top Reads of 2016

From tripping out with Tarzan and the Ant Men, to starting Marie Kondo’s book on tidying up, it’s been a year of diversity and perhaps a bit of quirky inclusion. My print book collection grew in 2016, which came as a surprise due to my Kindle attachment issues, and the number of books started and not finished (sorry, Kondo) grew as well. This means 2017 will be the year of finishing things I started. Fingers crossed.  I did, however, manage to finish 14 books. Below are the top five books I couldn’t stop thinking about after reading the last page.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

There’s a little book shop off Alvarado Street in downtown Monterey, California, that reminds me of this book whenever I walk by the place. With a splash of fantasy, a squirt of Da Vinci Code, and a bit too much techy talk, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore features a mysterious society, the depths of Google, and the wonder of musty old books stacked high to the ceiling. Set in San Francisco, but with a trip to the Big Apple thrown in, former techie Clay gets an adventure of a lifetime when he leaves his web design gig for a job at a dusty old book shop found next to a skanky strip club. I looked forward to this book every time I sat down to read. You might too.

Find the book here.

Mentats of Dune by Kevin J. Anderson and Brian Herbert

The second book in their “Schools of Dune” trilogy continues the spicy space opera adventure begun by Brian’s father, Frank Herbert. While the writing style in the new Dune books (and there are a lot of them) differs from Frank’s style, I look forward to each and every one. So much so I read them in doses, so not to run out of material. Anderson and Herbert have penned a number of standalone novels and trilogy novels that fill out the intensely vibrant cosmos found in the Dune universe. With the conclusion of the Schools of Dune trilogy, their work in the universe will end. At least for now. I, for one, am already looking forward to their return. Mentats of Dune features the story of Vorian Atreides, who works to make peace with his family’s sworn enemies in House Harkonnen. Characters from the other trilogy novels also make appearances, such as the villainous Erasmus and zealous Manford Torondo, as do the Fremen of Arrakis, not to mention sandworms. It wouldn’t be awesome without a sandworm or two of course. If you like Dune as I do, then get into these books.

Find the book here.

Inferno by Dan Brown

Just in time, since I missed the movie in theaters and still had a few weeks in 2016, I snatched the latest Robert Langdon (number four in the series, number three in the movie series) from my book shelf and set to work before the movie hit the digital rental service. It wasn’t hard to devour this one. Like Da Vinci Code (number two in the series, number one in the movie series), I had a hard time putting this book down. Langdon is back in killer nerdy, confused form in this one, only getting the clues but not the bullets and action smacking the walls around him. He’s knee deep in Dante lore, in Florence, in Venice, in death masks, and in plagues. This equated to a page turner in my book. I ended by Googling when Brown planned to pen the next in the series (number five in the series, maybe number four in the movie series, depending whether or not Howard gets around to doing The Lost Symbol), so that means it was good.

Find the book here.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts One and Two by John Tiffany, Jack Thorne, and J.K. Rowling

I wasn’t sure I was ready for a new Harry Potter story (popularly called HP, right?), especially not one that would read weird. I was sure it would too, being that it was a play and not a novel at all, but after finding the rhythm of the story, I totally fell in love with it. I was back in the world of magic and Muggles in a flash. Being that I was already an adult when the series began, reading the Cursed Child made me feel like a younger adult. The story itself, with time travel and Harry’s kids, kept me enthralled until the end, definitely a worthy addition to the HP canon. I have to add, however, that I would love to see this made into a film. The fanboy in me, though I understand Rowling’s motivations and wishes, prays she will pen another novel in the series, because I would flip out.

Find the book here.

The Irish Bride Series: The Innocents Book 1 by Jaime Lorie Goza

Say hello to Grace, a young and innocent Irish lass (not to mention a new face to add to the grand tradition of Irish literature), whose life is rough, but also quirky and amiable at times. While not one who devours everything Irish, being Irish myself has led me to more than my fair share of books set in the Emerald Isle. This book fits into that collection quite well.  This book served as a fun distraction for reading time and makes for a good addition to anyone’s shelves, whether or not they’ve touched that goofy Blarney Stone thing.

Find the book here.

How to avoid spoilers (in curmudgeon)

Like blondes, spoiler alerts have more fun. They’re also stupid.

PS –blondes aren’t really dumb, but I don’t feel like scrounging up a different analogy. And the opening sentence slipped deep inside my head while I was driving, so I wrapped my brain around it. Why waste a good driving thought?

Being an American nerd is easy. These days it’s practically synonymous with just being an American. There are movies, television shows, Youtubers, video games, card games, print books, comic books, t-shirts, mugs, USB drives, bloggers, dumb window decals, letter openers, “collectible” toys, underwear, lunch boxes, trade paperback comic collections, television shows, Netflix shows and much more. Being a jock, which used to be easy, is probably the new “geek,” but nerds are still easier targets for bullying because of their lack of muscles. And these days the jocks wear Star Wars shirts, which to this day stirs up a weird gag reflex in me.

And being an American nerd is big business, as the merchandise description above indicates. So of course people with an inclination to write are tripping over each other’s wireless keyboards to produce millennial-friendly content we will all want to click. That race can mean more demanding, sexier content too. Roughly translated: “Let’s ruin the plot of every film and TV show months before you actually see it.” Let’s overkill it all in the shallowest way possible. Let’s make a big deal of something that’s not a big deal (much like this post).

Salivating as we do for every fresh nugget from the set of the new Avengers, Star Wars, or Game of Thrones; we click on it, thinking it won’t salt the wound. But it does. It hurts. If the film is fresh air, spoilers are pollution. And these days, spoilers are everywhere. In the rush to make us click their article over someone else’s, those spoilers are starting to surface in the headlines – often mere hours after the film or television show has gone public. And we read them because we love the nerd stuff.

I devoured those articles, thinking it wouldn’t kill my thrill, but I learned the opposite occurs. I watched Game of Thrones and Captain America: Civil War, as well as others, and came away hardly amused. They were okay, I thought. Then I realized I would have gotten way more excited had I not known everything that was going to happen before it happened. I’m such an idiot.

Rather than me saying, “Please take it easy on spilling big reveals when you write about things. Write like you work for Starlog or something,” and getting nothing but trolled as a response, I figured out a better way. I simply don’t read the articles anymore.

Stay off social media until you’ve seen it, hide or unfriend the entertainment sites you once frequented, and you may find you’ll enjoy the experience of the nerd much more. It’s an easy fix and may cause writers and entertainment sites to rethink how they deliver the goods, rather like training an algorithm.

Being like a blonde, it took me WAY too long to figure that out.

And maybe, but not likely, I’ll read more New York Times instead of Cinema Blend.