I stand by numbered goals being brain poison, reading X days per week or something is probably better for keeping on track, but just put me down for 10 so me being awkward doesn't fuck with your chart.
I'll knock 2 off now, since I finished one yesterday and one today, anyway.
1. Man-Eaters of Kumaon by Jim Corbett
I've had this one sitting on my shelf for just over a year now, and in someways I regret not getting to it sooner, but in others it's made for a great start to 2021.
I do enjoy this sort of memoir, and Corbett has been a major hole in my reading that I've been meaning to plug for a while, and even just reading this first volume of his work makes it clear why he has the reputation he does. He's a solid storyteller, which isn't a given in this type of thing (many similar memoirs are entertaining solely because the events themselves are so extraordinary rather than due to any skill on the writer's behalf) but, crucially, also comes across as a pretty decent guy.
His clear love for the part of India he made his home in and his respect for the animals he hunts there shine through every one of the accounts that make up this book. There's none of the sneering imperialism or callous disregard for animals as anything other than a trophy that sour so many similar works.
Each chapter is effectively a self contained story, with most of the longer ones dedicated to his hunts for man-eating tigers, with scatterings of shorter musings on other topics (including one chapter which is basically Corbett just gushing about how much he loves his dog, which is nice) throughout to ensure it stays fresh. The content is exciting, and no two hunts seem to go quite the same way, but this is one of those books where the passion of the author for the subject shines through in every sentence. The fact that his descriptions of a pretty big fish he caught once are just as entertaining as his coming face to face with tigers or fighting off charging king cobras is a testament to the quality of the writing.
If there's one criticism, it's that the fact the book's origin as an expanded version of something Corbett originally published privately and never intended for a mass readership does means it ocassionally assumes the reader is more familiar with life in early 20th century rural India than most modern readers are likely to be. He uses a number of terms I was unfamiliar with without explanation, but the few times it came up it was nothing a quick search online wasn't able to clear up for me, and didn't harm my enjoyment of the book as a whole.
A very solid start to the year, and I'll definitely be reading more his work in future.
2. The Roo by Alan Baxter
I'm a sucker for terrible old horror paperbacks, so when I saw one I didn't recognise, about a killer kangaroo no less, it definitely caught my attention. Finding out it wasn't actually some rediscovered hidden gem, but a modern attempt to recapture the spirit of the genre, took the shine off a little. Most of the appeal of those old books is how, at their core, they're a bit shit, and there's nothing worse than someone attempting to make something bad on purpose. If the author is in on the joke the magic is gone.
Still, I thought I'd give it a punt, and I'm glad I did. This is nothing like the books it claims to be attempting to recreate. There's no long, boring segments there to fill pages in between the action, no boringly clumsy attempts at human drama or delusions that the reader is here for anything other than the carnage. It's just a svelte 120 pages of a demonic kangaroo absolutely clowning on folk.
It's absurdly brutal. The kill scenes are frequent, creative and, outside of one or two which were so ridiculous they just made me laugh, pretty effective at selling a fucking kangaroo as an unstoppable killing machine. There's one towards the end, that I won't spoil, that might be up there with the greatest deaths ever put to page. If nothing else the book was worth it for that mental image alone, because I can already feel it's going to stick with me. An all-timer.
Extremely good fun from start to finish, and the perfect length for this sort of thing. Much longer and the novelty of a fire breathing kangaroo tearing off heads and kicking people into walls so hard they explode might start to wear thin, but Baxter trims all the fat and gives you exactly what you've come for. The sort of book you can knock off in one sitting and be completely satisfied with.