Posts Tagged ‘What to Read’


Emma by Jane Austen Bevy of Books

 

 

 

Emma – Jane Austen  RR

I love that the year started with Jane Austen.

 

Jack of Kinrowan – Charles de Lint  RR

I read this because I was talking to my son about books – he recently started reading for pleasure at the ripe old age of 24. This was one of the few (non-school, non-Harry Potter) books he’d ever read.

Dreams Underfoot – Charles de Lint  RR

Debt: the first 5000 years – David Graeber NF

This is a mind-altering book. It’s not a finance book, it’s an anthropology book about the human process of money and how we’ve used debt or money or whatever to share goods and services between ourselves. Completely changed how I relate to things like economic news and saving money. I read this for a book club I was in briefly – it lasted 3 months after I joined, coincidence?

Anil’s Ghost – Michael Ondaatje  RR
Speaker for the Dead – Orson Scott Card (audio)

I liked Ender’s Game, but I loved this sequel. Much more about communities of people rather than individuals.

Telegraph Avenue – Michael Chabon

New Chabon!  Does not disappoint. It was a great year for new books from some of my uber-favorite authors

The Last Colony – John Scalzi
Zoe’s Tale – John Scalzi
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou (audio) NF MM

Ms. Angelou’s first memoir. I liked the second one more, maybe because she’s my age rather than a young girl, as she is in this one. Still a great read.

Towers of Midnight – Brandon Sanderson/Robert Jordan RR
Memory of Light – Brandon Sanderson/Robert Jordan

Finally! The conclusion of the Wheel of Time. Did not disappoint, but I was sad to see it end.

My Life in France – Julia Child RR NF MM

This woman was living the life I’m looking for – traveling while working on something she was passionate about. Learning about herself while she learned about new places and new skills.

Kicking and Dreaming – Ann & Nancy Wilson NF

Their autobiography! Was wonderful, read more than half of it while sitting in the jury duty room in Portland.

Xenocide – Orson Scott Card (audio)

Also, good, but didn’t knock Speaker for the Dead out of first place.

Tapping the Dream Tree – Charles de Lint  RR
The Rules of Inheritance – Claire Bidwell Smith NF MM

Memoirs are my new thing – I blame Lidia Yuknavitch & Cheryl Strayed. This one is the story of an only child experiencing the loss of her mother as a young woman, and then her father a few years later.

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver Bevy of BooksFlight Behavior – Barbara Kingsolver
The Round House – Louise Erdrich

Seriously – new Kingsolver followed by new Erdrich – does NOT get any better. And these two are quite possibly the best that either has written. Incredible.

Fault of our Stars – John Green (audio)
Blue Desert – Charles Bowden RR NF

I had to re-read this because I was headed to Arizona with my sister. Just as powerful and well-written as I remember.

Z : A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald – Therese Anne Fowler

This book made me hate Ernest Hemingway, and colored my opinion of F. Scott Fitzgerald forever.  The fictionalized account of Zelda Fitzgerald’s life (based on the real facts, with the empty spaces extrapolated). Now I see things like Midnight in Paris (a great flick) and think NO!! She was robbed! I was sitting by the pool in Arizona and PISSED at the way she was treated.

Traveling Mercies – Anne Lamott NF MM
Wizard Abroad – Diane Duane RR
So You Want to be a Wizard – Diane Duane RR
Deep Wizardry – Diane Duane RR
High Wizardry – Diane Duane RR
Wizard’s Holiday – Diane Duane RR
Eat Pray Love – Elizabeth Gilbert RR NF MM
Children of the Mind – Orson Scott Card (audio)

Didn’t finish this one… just seemed to go on and on.

Reading Lolita in Tehran – Azar Nafisi NF MM
The Power of Habit – Charles Duhigg (audio) NF

Another life-shaking book. How we develop habits, how we can substitute new ones for old ones. How data mining is allowing big business to use our habits to send business their way. Fascinating for anyone who likes psychology or wants to revamp their life.

Girlchild – Tupelo Hassman

This one read like a fantastic memoir. The writing was impressive.

Redshirts – John Scalzi (audio)

Redshirst by John Scalzi Bevy of Books

Every sci-fi geek seriously needs to read this. The ‘extras’ on a surprisingly-similar-to-the-Enterprise spaceship start to question why (for instance) the Captain goes on almost every away mission, but the only people who die are those wearing red shirts. Smart and funny.

Why Be Happy When You Could be Normal?  – Jeanette Winterson NF MM
Outliers – Malcolm Gladwell (audio) RR NF

Somehow, his analysis never gets boring.

Un Lun Dun – China Miéville RR
The Summer Prince – Alaya Dawn Johnson

The first book of hers I’ve read – powerful writing and fantastic feminist speculative fiction.

Panopticon blog – Franklin Habit NF

Okay, it’s not a book – but it’s hella long and I read every post. 892 posts going back to 2005. A knitting blog written by a gay man in Chicago – I don’t knit, nor am I a man, or gay – but it is wonderful. I always seem to find awesome blogs just as their taking off and the bloggers are too busy to post any longer.

Chronology of Water – Lidia Yuknavitch RR NF MM
The Scar – China Miéville RR
The Magician – Lev Grossman (audio) RR
Yes, Chef – Marcus Samuelsson NF MM
Without a Summer – Mary Robinette Kowal

Jane Austen + magic. Seriously.

Kraken – China Miéville RR
Finding Your Way in a Wild New World – Martha Beck NF
Zoo City – Lauren Beukes RR
Manhood for Amateur – Michael Chabon (audio) RR NF MM
Shades of Milk & Honey – Mary Robinette Kowal
Glamour in Glass – Mary Robinette Kowal
Sleight – Kristen Kaschock

Another book that sucked you into a world you wanted to move to. Sad, powerful, a little trippy.

Wonder Boys – Michael Chabon RR
The Big Meow – Diane Duane
Beatrice & Virgil – Yann Martel
Eliza’s Daughter – Joan Aiken
Broken for You – Stephanie Kallos

Oh, oh yeah. My friend at work recommended this one – not knowing I had a thing for mosaics. Really great novel about healing what is broken without hiding the scars.

The Human Division – John Scalzi
Cooked – Michael Pollan (audio) NF

More Pollan goodness.

Sense & Sensibility – Jane Austen RR
Fearless: One Woman One Kayak One Continent – Joe Glickman NF

Fearless by Joe Glickman Bevy of Books

Impressive story of a woman who circumnavigated the continent of Australia in a kayak. Alone. With almost no support team. And broke the record.

A Visit to Highbury – Joan Austen – Leigh
Persuasion – Jane Austen RR
Death Comes to Pemberley – PD James RR
Among Others – Jo Walton RR
The God Engines – John Scalzi

Possibly my favorite Scalzi. Most of his are good sci-fi, this one is more trippy and mess-with-your head. I like that.

Love Medicine – Louse Erdrich RR
Later Days in Highbury – Joan Austen-Leigh
A Wizard Alone – Diane Duane
Beet Queen – Louise Erdrich RR
Pilgrimage – Annie Leibovitz NF

Had to read this because of something Lidia Yuknavitch said on Facebook. A book of amazing photos and essays.

Last Report of Miracles at Little No Horse – Louise Erdrich RR
Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again – David Foster Wallace NF

His reputation is not hyperbole, no one writes like this guy could.

My Foreign Cities – Elizabeth Scarboro NF
Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn

I picked this up in a fowl mood and headed for bed – read half of it before I could put it down.

A Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger

Hated it. Only finished it so I could say that with no equivocation. Didn’t like it one bit.

Idoru – William Gibson RR
All Tomorrow’s Parties – William Gibson RR
Graphic Canon pt 1 – Russ Kick
Dirt Work – Christine Byl NF MM

Memoir of a woman who worked for the Park Service in Glacier National Park in Montana (just down the road from my sister’s house) and Denali National Park in AK. Woman working in a man’s world and kicking ass.

Beautiful Ruins – Jess Walter (audio)
Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman

Ocean at the end of the Lane Neil Gaiman Bevy of BooksNEW GAIMAN. And possibly better than American Gods, though very different. Loved this muchly.

A Dance of Dragons – George RR Martin RR
Growing up Female in America: Ten Lives – Ed. Eve Merriam NF MM
The Beautiful Struggle – Ta-Nehisi Coates NF MM

Again a book where the language transports you into this man’s world. He’s a columnist at The Atlantic and knocks me out with his analysis and his writing.

The Dragon Reborn – Robert Jordan
Eye of the World – Robert Jordan
Knife of Dreams – Robert Jordan
Tower of Midnight – Brandon Sanderson/ Robert Jordan

Had this idea for a blog comparing the rampant sexism in the Song of Ice & Fire to the much more progressive Wheel of Time – got lost in the research and never finished it. Have three or four drafts somewhere that maybe I’ll get back to one day.

Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantel

Another book I picked up and couldn’t put back down. Was really glad Bringing up the Bodies was waiting for me when I got home. Read this in Alaska while I was there in August.

The Shining Girls – Lauren Beukes

Trippy time-travel horror fiction. I liked Zoo City better, but this was a great read.

King Rat – China Miéville

Early Mieville. Didn’t like it, didn’t finish it. Or maybe I was just in a hurry to get to Bringing up the Bodies.

Bringing Up the Bodies – Hilary Mantel

Just as compelling as Wolf Hall.

The Shelter Cycle – Peter Rich

An interesting little book about two kids who grew up in a weird cult and their very different experiences as adults after it falls apart.

Memory of Light – Brandon Sanderson/ Robert Jordan

Gathering Storm – Brandon Sanderson/ Robert Jordan

Population 485 – Michael Perry NF MM RR
Truck: A Love Story – Michael Perry NF MM RR

This is the first book of Perry’s I read, and I fell in love. He came to Powell’s, signed my books and he was great. He’s the perfect blend of the blue-collar people I come from and the high-falutin’ lit people I call my own.

Warbreaker – Brandon Sanderson

As the writer who did such a good job of finishing Robert Jordan’s masterpiece, I wanted to check out his own stuff. Loved this book a lot.

Coop: A Family, a Farm, and the Pursuit of One Good EggMichael Perry NF MM RR
Tracks – Louise Erdrich RR
Bingo Palace – Louise Erdrich RR
Dial H for Hero – China Miéville
Pattern Recognition – William Gibson RR
Spook County – William Gibson RR
Drowned Cities – Paolo Bacigalupi
A Year in the World Bevy of Books
A Year in the World – Frances Mayes NF MM

This book might be the reason I quit my job and run away. She spends a month in different countries – a small-boat guided tour of Greek islands, Portugal, Spain, Fez, more I can’t remember. She has a thing for tile & mosaics like I do, and she likes to experience her locations through food. Want.

The Rice Room – Ben Fong-Torres NF

The autobiography (not really a memoir) of the editor of Rolling Stone. I mostly picked it up because he’s portrayed in the movie Almost Famous and I loved his name. The story of a second-generation Chinese immigrant made good (with lots of info on San Francisco in the 60s and 70s).

Omnivore’s Dilemma – Michael Pollan RR NF
Thud – Terry Pratchett RR
Yiddish Policeman’s Union – Michael Chabon RR
Benediction – Kent Haruf
Persuasion – Jane Austen RR
Sandition & Other Stories – Jane Austen

My last unread Austen. And now there is no more.

Possessing the Secret of Joy – Alice Walker RR
Grass – Sheri  S. Tepper
Vicious – Victoria Schwab
Singer From the Sea – Sheri  S. Tepper
Tales of the City – Armistead Maupin
The Water Rising – Sheri  S. Tepper
David & Goliath – Malcolm Gladwell NF

New Gladwell! Not my favorite, but still all kinds of interesting things to think on.

Gate to Women’s Country – Sheri  S. Tepper
The Companions – Sheri  S. Tepper
The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood RR
Serenity comic series – Joss Whedon
Little Country – Charles de Lint RR
Beauty – Sheri  S. Tepper
The Memory Palace – Mira Bartok NF MM

Another gut-wrenching and powerful memoir a la Yuknavitch and Strayed. A woman who must hide from her bi-polar mother to protect herself.

Up Against It – MJ Locke
The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway

Because I’d never read it. Got more than halfway through before I started liking it, turned out to be a pretty good book. Still have issues with him.

Mythago Wood – Robert Holdstock

Picked it up because William Gibson recommended it on Twitter. Liked it a lot.

Diving into the Wreck – Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Paint it Black – Janet Fitch

I bought this for $4 at least five years ago (based on loving White Oleander). Don’t know what took me so long to read it, but it was great.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay – Michael Chabon RR
Fuzzy Nation – John Scalzi
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronté RR

Was jonesing for Austen but read them all recently, so I went with Bronte.

Uglies – Scott Westerfeld

I was at my sister’s in Montana and didn’t like any of the books I’d brought with me, so I was trolling the house for something to read and my niece handed me this. I stayed up until 2am on Christmas night finishing it in one go. YA post-apocalyptic fiction. Just finished book four, Extras, last night.

Tough Customer – Sandra Brown
Rise & Shine – Anne Quindlen
Moxyland – Lauren  Beukes

139 books
RR – re-read  47
NF – Non-fiction 32
MM – Memoir 18
Audio – 12

I’ve read some really great books lately and have been keeping them mostly to myself.  Today, the selfishness ends!

The Girl with No Shadow by Joanne Harris (whom I’ve slathered much love on here and here) is the next chapter of the story of Vianne and Anouk Rocher from Chocolat (the book, of course, not the film, though the stories are close enough that film-goers would enjoy it, I think).   It is every bit as wonderful as Harris’s best stuff.

It’s five years since we’ve been in Lansquenet and things are very different for Vianne. She’s given birth to a second child (Rosette) and has consented to marry a man she does not love.  She’s hiding from the world instead of trying to bring magic to it. Anouk is entering puberty afraid of herself, the magic inside her and the world around her, and wishes her mother was the woman she used to be.  Enter Zozie.

Zozie is everything Vianne used to be, but without the compassion and kindness. She is cool and interesting and not afraid to attract attention. She sees the potential in Anouk and wants it for her own selfish reasons. But in truth, she’s hiding even more than Vianne is – from herself more than anyone.

Harris’s writing is stellar, as always. The copy I have is the P.S. version, with interviews and background material, and I read every bit so I could live with the book and characters a little longer. I was visiting my sister and her family in the wilds of Northwest Montana and read it by flashlight in my tent, surrounded by the sounds of horses grazing around (and sometimes underneath) my tent late at night. The strange surroundings only added to the feeling that I was really in another world, living with Anouk and the others in Paris.

I’m not sure I can articulate what it is I love about Harris. It’s the same thing I love about a lot of authors, who write a lot of different stuff (Miéville, Chabon, De Lint, Shields, Kingsolver). Her works speaks of truths I knew but hadn’t recognized. Her characters are people I’ve been, or met, or would like to meet. I feel as if I know myself better at the end of the book than I did at the beginning. Her writing has a beauty apart from the meaning of the words. Her work helps me feel more strongly connected to the world.

It’s hard to turn the last page, sometimes, and let that go.

 

True Story: The first in-depth article I read regarding China Miéville was a NY Times article about The Kraken, his latest novel (2010).  I found this article because (of course) Neil Gaiman linked it in his blog. (Or maybe on twitter, since I can’t seem to find it on the blog.)  It was this article, along w/Neil’s recommendation, that got him on my list of authors to check out. After The Scar, I knew I’d be keeping track of his work. But I just finally read The Kraken, after four other books by Miéville.  And I’d forgotten that the article was about this one until I went looking for a pic for this blog.

Art by Vincent Chong

The Kraken is my favorite so far, though I’ve loved everything I’ve read. Here are today’s reasons why I am in love with China Miéville:

 

 

1) I don’t always understand what the heck he’s talking about.  This is rare, especially in a work of fiction.

2) Even when I don’t understand exactly he’s talking about, I’m not irritated by it. It’s not bad writing, it’s fantastic writing that comes across as reality – we don’t always know what the heck is going on!  I’m right there with the rest of the characters. Most of them manage to muddle through somehow, like we all do.

3) He loves to play with words. He makes up words for concepts that don’t currently exist (in mainstream culture, at least) and plays with the language while labeling them.

4) He’s not ashamed of his geek flag, and slips his pop culture references in with originality and tons of humor.

5) I’ve yet to guess more than 50% of any story (of his) that I’ve read (4 novels & one short story collection), and never been disappointed. Many of his plot twist are not just surprising, but truly mind-blowing. As in: I have to put the book down and marvel at the new place he’s taken me in my brain. He doesn’t take things to the next level – he skips 100 steps and lands somewhere much more shocking, and rearranges everything you just read into something new and even more impressive. All without breaking the tension.

Go. Read.

 

I’m sure I’ve mentioned China Miéville before – here, in fact – a new speculative fiction love for me. Since picking up The Scar, I’ve read Perdido Street Station, Looking for Jake (short stories) and now Un Lun Dun. And The Kraken is sitting on my shelf, waiting for me to finish Middlemarch.

Un Lun Dun (UnLondon) is an ‘other-London’ in the tradition of Alice in Wonderland,  Neverwhere (and various other stories, none of which I can recall right now) where there’s a whole other city/place below/between/just-out-of-reach of the real city, where freaks or aliens or whatever live, and everything is just a bit different than the city most people live in.

Miéville grabs with glee this license to mess with the world.  He is a meticulous world-builder, and never misses an opportunity to add a bit of crazy fun to every situation the intrepid heroes are faced with. He gives us things like upside down cars that are used as boats (which are called ‘car’ but with the word upside-down on the page, it sounds something like ‘rack,’ but the best way to pronounce is ‘turn your head upside-down, then say car’), trash is alive (and can be pets), librarians are explorers, houses are made from defunct technology, and giraffes are the scariest animals.  And – my personal favorite – the binjas.  Seriously. Trash cans (bins in the UK) which are actually ninjas. They keep their weapons inside their cans and have the perfect camouflage. Binjas. Freaking. Awesome. The illustrations are also done by Miéville, quite the talented guy.

Miéville wrote this book aimed at a YA audience, so – at least in the beginning – it doesn’t have much depth. But stick with it, it will be worth your while. There’s  a video interview (which you can see here, sexy & smart – woohoo) where he talks about the book -why and how and stuff.  This book interrogates the quest model so common in sci-fi books (whether for kids or adults) and pokes some fun at it as well. The best thing about this book? It’s fun.  He’s clearly having a blast writing it, and it is fun to read it.

If you love sci-fi/fantasy books, and you’re looking for a light read that isn’t boring and lame – or you’re looking for a way to ease into the dark craziness of Miéville – read this next.

Yes, I know. It’s July – practically August – and I’m just getting to What I Read in May. But it is still July, and I intend to get June done before August as well. And maybe if I just do a little blurb on each of these books, I can stop feeling so behind (or not).

I’ve broken May into two parts – Neil Gaiman and Not Neil Gaiman. I’ll give you the Not while I’m finishing up the other.  Even a short blurb on 16 books was getting a bit long, and some turned out to be not-so-short.

The Summer We Fell Apart by Robin Antalek. Discussed here. Loved it.

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. Discussed here. Liked it a lot. Can’t really see Julia Roberts playing her, but that’s cool. Glad I read it already.

The Candy Shop War by Brandon Mull. I like to encourage kids to read, so when my friend’s son was excited about this book and wanted me to read it, I gave it a shot. Unfortunately, some children’s books are great books that happen to be read by children (Harry Potter, Chronicles of Narnia) and some are just children’s books. I got bored pretty quickly, so I didn’t finish it. Turns out, the boy didn’t finish it either! Guess he was more excited talking about it that actually reading it.

Chocolat by Joanne Harris. I read this one because a) I loved the movie and b) I have since liked everything else I’ve read by Harris and c) I wanted to be able to speak intelligently about the book, not just the film. The book is a little different in tone and detail from the film (the romance is less prominent in the book, the Comte and Vienne both more nuanced) but I felt like the film was a faithful representation of the story here.  Love Harris.

Alas, Poor Darwin: Arguments Against Evolutionary Psychology, ed. Hilary & Steven Rose. I read an article/editorial in the New York Times (I think) by Hilary Rose, and that’s where I heard about this book. It is really aimed at scientists in the fields of Psychology, Sociology and Biology, so it was a big of a slog at times. Their purpose was to refute the recent trend to discuss evolutionary psychology as a science, when really what’s being talked about most is more of a simplistic metaphor to help explain behavior. What is useful as a heuristic is being presented as scientifically-based – and the scientists in this book would like those people to knock it off. Much of it was interesting, but I didn’t retain much.

Alabaster by Caitlan R Kiernan. Discussed here. Loved this one.

Cemetery Road by Gar Anthony Haywood. This is a book I picked up at the PLA convention (same source as The Lonely Polygamist). I’ll confess – I mostly picked it up because I met the author briefly, and he was nice and very attractive. The book is a suspense/detective kind of thing. I started off not terribly impressed – and then realized it was 5am and I’d finished it. A short, fast read, in which the main character knows more than he’s telling us as he tries to figure out the strange death of a childhood friend. I was never bored, and I bore easily. In my notes, I called it ‘deceptively seductive.’

Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America by Barbara Ehrenreich. A great book about how ignoring painful truths is (duh) counter-productive. This one will get its own post. No really, I’m not just saying that.

Father of the Rain by Lily King. I reviewed this book for BookBrowse, loved it. Similar to The Summer We Fell Apart, it is the story of a charismatic, alcoholic father from the viewpoint of his 11-year-old daughter. It follows her until she’s an adult with a family of her own, as she tries to rid herself of the pain and learn new ways to trust people. The writing is fabulous, the details ring true, and I just wanted to reach into the book and give that girl a hug.

The Girl Who Stopped Swimming and Between, Georgia, both by Joshilyn Jackson. Both of these I listened to as audiobooks.  I found Jackson last year at my sister’s house – she had gods of Alabama, and then I found Between, Georgia on a sale rack. Jackson has a clear voice and a talent for description that makes her characters vibrant, interesting and convincingly human. I listened to The Girl Who Stopped Swimming, on a road trip a few months ago and was even more impressed with this third novel – and the audiobooks are read by the author, who is a great reader. All three books take place in modern-day southern United States, with a female protagonist that feels like a neighbor you’d like to be friends with. All three focus on the pains and joys of families with skeletons in the closet that just won’t stop rattling. I’ve got her new one, Backseat Saints, on hold at the library.

There was much to love this month – which is probably why I got through 16 (well, 15 ¼)  books, some of them pretty long. Up next, Neil Gaiman in May, then What I Read in June. Stay tuned.