November reading update

I read 15 books for this month.  It was also an ebook-only month, which is pretty unusual for me.  It usually means I’m mentally overexerted and want easier stuff to read.  So almost everything was fluff, esoteric, or esoteric fluff.

I read seven short novella-length ebooks about spies and true crime.  I also read Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle’s love letter to fandom and when nerds *really* loved science, Fallen Angels.  That one is cute and parts of it remain terrifyingly plausible.

I also continued reading a light D&D-ish series, as the third book was just sent to the mailing list and was a happy surprise.  In similar vein, I read the wrap-up book of a pretty good zombie series, also a surprise release earlier than the author said.

I tried out Kindle Unlimited, and I’ll probably keep it for a couple months.  I used that to read a truly fascinating biography of Cordwainer Smith, a collection of Clifford Simak shorts that reminded me of why I am just not that into his work, a very silly but cool-concept sci-fi book about magic being introduced into the world when humanity is banned from using space technology by evil aliens, and a very cute Tanith Lee novella.

I also used Kindle Unlimited to read the very funny, very sharp, but also very “written by a Boomer” satire “The Narrative.”  It’s by Deplora Boule and quite spot-on.

Anyway, 87 books down, 13 to go.



September reading update

I read 8 books for this month.

I finished the last two books in the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy.  It was pop cheese, but there was also a lot of emotional resonance with the wartime love that was a major subtext of the trilogy and a major plot point in the last book.  On an ACU scale, the series was quite authentic and universal but not all that great on craft.

I continued with Alt-Hero, there’s a dozen or so planned in the initial crowdfunded set, so I’ll be reading at least that far with this alternate history comic book world.

I read an amazing book by Margaret Kennedy and it is a rare instance of reading without spoilers being absolutely appropriate.  It is called The Feast and even reading the book jacket is not recommended, because for some weird reason the publishers spoiled the entire book there.  It’s a tour de force.  I look forward to continuing to read her work, she is a most astonishing and excellent writer who is unjustly consigned to dustbins even among people who like old books.

I also read four Kate Wilhelm books.  She is known for her “clone wars” book Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang, and I finally read that and a bunch of her short stories in various collections.  She is a better writer than her husband Damon Knight, but that’s not high praise.  She mostly writes deeply authentic character fiction about people in her area, but with sci-fi sprinkles.  Her clone novel is full of 70s ideas, with all the bad that entails and little of the good.

So, 72  books down, 28 to go.


August reading update

I read 13 books for this month.

I read two Frank Herbert books that touched upon elements expanded and explored in Dune (selection pressure, genetic experimentation in pursuit of immortality, nasty side effects of messing with nature for personal gain) and I will probably continue reading more Frank Herbert some time in the future, though probably not this year or even next.

I read more Alt-Hero, which now reads and looks like an above-average comic.  It’s a comic book, turns out it doesn’t take long to get decent when you start with experienced comic book artists.  I finished Stalky and Co., a Kipling boarding school book that is absolutely fascinating and charming, but also a bit shocking.  I read a reprint that was done in the 1960s explicitly as “We are reprinting this book about young boys subverting authority FOR SCHOOL ASSIGNMENTS”.  The irony, very much lost.  I also finished Sheila Jeffries’ groundbreaking and extremely useful book about Victorian-era and WW1-era spinsters and their work trying to protect women and children from a rampant climate of abuse and exploitation, including excessively youthful prostitution.  Radical feminists have their own major biases, but they tend to be where I have to go for useful historical background on women, particularly when looking at the last 200 years or so, but sometimes they’re the best game in town further back than that, too.

I finally read the Space trilogy by Lewis and it’s still banging around my head, shocking me with its prescience but shocking me even more with how even Lewis could not predict or suspect the sheer eagerness of people to go much further than his own characters.  It was a more innocent time, or at least he was more innocent in some real and very beautiful ways.

I also read a book by Janice Holt Giles, an astonishingly depthful and accurate historical fiction writer who did a little memoir-work as well and who has apparently disappeared down the memoryhole, despite being extremely prolific and high-selling in the 1960s and 1970s.  There are a bunch of American women writers like this, they were popular essentially until 1980s trash romance took over women’s pop fiction.  And they competed ok through a fair bit of the 1980s in some cases.

I read a simply awful Alfred Bester novel he wrote late in life after 20 or so years out of the sci-fi game.  It was dated sounding, trashy and weird, missing all the charm he had in his 1940s and 1950s stories.

I read some MFK Fisher, in particular her book about how to get along deliciously during wartime or other instances of rationing.  It is a cool little book and many of her tips for how to cook well and enjoy food under extreme deprivation conditions hold up.  She had no animus towards things in boxes if it was what you could get.

I read Crazy Rich Asians.  It was an extremely useful read, but golly, some of the foreign-language profanity was much more graphic than I was expecting somehow.  Since I’ve heard quite a few of those words, having spent much of my life in Asian diasporas or neighborhoods, knowing what they mean will now be…interesting going forward.

And at long last I finished Hippies of the Religious Right.  I didn’t think I could get any more militant and radicalized, and then I finished reading this, including the lengthy notes section.  Welp.

Anyway, 64 books down, 36 to go.


July Reading Update

I finished one book this month.  It was Burton’s Arabian Nights translation, which I’d started on a long while back.  I decided to just focus on finishing it.  It had its ups and downs after a pretty spicy start.  The ending was a little unexpected.  Someday I’ll try another translation of the complete text, but not anytime soon.  I spent the time not reading other books figuring out what I was hoping to knock out for the next three years.  It’s maybe 300 books, but I didn’t do an exact count.

The current count is 51 down, 49 to go.

June reading update

I read 10 books for this month.

I finished books 2-5 of the John Carter/Barsoom series and I’m done with Burroughs-Mars, not going to check any more of it out.  Unlike Tarzan, which was noblebright, and very pure, Barsoom has a lot more camel’s nose under the tent to it.  Everyone is naked, the imagery (particularly of the various creatures John Carter and various other Martians have to battle) is striking and powerful and influenced quite a few sci-fi writers I read back in the day, but it’s frequently revolting and depraved.  John Carter himself grows increasingly vain and bloodthirsty as the series progresses.  I suspect that’s part of why it’s not as evergreen as Tarzan.  It’s “fetish fuel” and would be hard to film even under current mores as a mainstream series of movies.  The Barsoomian world is sciencey and secular, but also incoherent in its sexual and social morality.

Anyway that was four books down.  I finally read Journey to the Center of the Earth, which was epic and featured one of the most realistically terrifying moments I’ve seen in a book.  I also read Kidnapped, Robert Louis Stevenson’s adventure story of one of his ancestors.

I was working on and continue to work on some other books, but I got distracted by some new e-releases and read those.  They were the second Alt-Hero comic (which is vastly improved in both storyline and art over the first one) and book 2 in the Saga of the Iron Dragon.  I also started reading Dune and finished it.  I read it once 20+ years ago and I’m counting it as a new read because I’d forgotten most of the characters and plot(s). I also read The Reluctant Dragon which literally just turned up and I realized I’d never read, only seen a cartoon of.  It’s cute.

The current count is 50 down, 50 to go.

May reading update

I read 10 books for this month.

I read the entire Dark is Rising series.  It’s a Narnia-response series, probably.  Explicitly anti-Christian, not what I was expecting at all.  Once you take that into account, the Celtic and Arthurian mythos and the take on magic are pretty good.  It’s five books, that was half my reading for the month.  The rest was the Alt-Hero comic (cheesy, but I expected nothing less from a kickstarter superhero comic), Pinocchio (the original), Wind in the Willows (a very lyrical book), the first John Carter book and Larry Correia’s short story collection.

The first John Carter book (some call it “A Princess of Mars”) was not very interesting.  It was always easy to get to a stopping point with it until the last 1/4, when it picked up.  Larry’s short stories were mostly only ok, due to being heavily licensed fiction stuff of games and such I’m not familiar with.

The current count is 40 down, 60 to go.   I made progress with Hippies of the Religious Right, but not enough to write the rest up until a fortnight from now.

April reading update

I read 8 books for this month.  I read the first three Tarzan books, a 30 year old YA book about a boy surviving in the woods, finished the last Avery Hall book, finished a book of usenet-funny work anecdotes, finished an ebook-only assortment of fantasy stories and finally read the Velveteen Rabbit.  I saw it as a kid, but never read the book.  It’s a very sweet story.

The current count is 30 down, 70 to go.   I am mired in the Burton Arabian Nights translation, which is a very spicy meatball.  I didn’t know that before jumping in.  The first 100 or so pages are pretty q-rated and the KJV stylistic approach makes it even denser of a read.  Will probably finish Hippies of the Religious Right this month.  Not really sure about how I’m going to read the remaining 70 books planned for the year.  T.W.O. unpacked a bunch of to-read history and fiction that I was working on before the move and I’ve been in analysis paralysis on where to start or resume.

I feel like my oldest child.  “I’m allowed to check out two more from the library, but I’m already reading nine books, and I wouldn’t finish them before the return date.”