Let’s talk about novels, books - fiction or non-fiction, or comics, or essays. What your reading, what you’ve read, what you loved, and what you hated?
Not long ago I finished up “Roadside Picnic” by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky - outstanding read, very different from the Tarkovsky film adaptation (Stalker) but equally as good.
Just finished with…
While reading I kept picturing Henry Fonda as Clay Blaisedell - most of the other actors in the movie adaptation, no, I had an entirely different image in mind with the other characters, but Fonda was there, in my head.
(Not that the casting was bad, DeForest Kelley was always great in Westerns)
In the novel, I liked the myth vs reality side of the things and found it irritatingly interesting how people shift opinions with the wind. I didn’t really see the humor, though I’ve heard it described as having some. It was mostly painful, with certain characters poisoned by hate or zeal of some sort.
This what I’m currently reading.
I’m also in readthroughs of the Doctor Who novels, the Doc Savage pulps, the Space: 1999 novelizations, Laurie King’s Russell / Holmes series, a personal list of sci-fi “classics”, and a myriad of “looks interesting” books from my local library.
A reader’s job is never done!
I am a reader as well as a writer, and I’m an avid participant in BookTok over on TikTok, so I might have lots to post about books I’m reading. So far this year the best book I’ve read is The House in the Cerulean Sea, a fantasy novel about children with magical powers living in an orphanage and the bureaucrat who visits to see how they’re doing. It’s lovely, gentle, optimistic, and in places very funny.
One writer I’ve recently come to adore is Brian Jay Jones. He does biographies, focusing on creative geniuses who forever changed what was considered possible in their chosen field. So far he’s done four books on Washington Irving, Jim Henson, George Lucas, and Dr. Seuss, and he recently announced his next one, branching out to tell the story of the US Capitol Building, where he used to work as a speechwriter.
He knows exactly what the people who’d be reading books like these want to learn about, and each one has fantastic insight into how their lives inspired the material they created, and the support team of family and friends they accumulated along the way. And to bring this back to MST3k, they’ve caused me to put a lot more thought into the movies that ended up on the show, and how there are actual people behind each one who often put genuine effort and love into their work, which should be admired even if the end product didn’t work out.
A couple of Japanese Light Novels (that aren’t so light!)
So I’m a Spider, So Whatt? volume 7 by Okina Baba: Love it one of my favorite series it gets better and better the further in you get and things unfold. Short version teenage girl dies and is reborn in a fantasy style world as a monster spider. Both funny and very dark at times. (For those who don’t know folks who are reborn in another world is a very popular genre in Japan known as isekai)
Overlord Volume 13 - The Paladin of the Sacred Kingdom Part II by Kugane Maruyama: Another one of my favorite series. And a long but excellent volume. Short version a game player finds himself in the world of his character an undead King (Overlord) heading a kingdom of monsters and chronicles how they are coming to rule the fantasy world they are in. The author has indicated that there won’t be any hero of justice stopping them. It’s also quite funny and alternately very dark.
The Mammoth Book of Black Magic edited by Mike Ashley: A collection of short stories. I’m only a couple of stories in. But so far it’s okay.
For non-fiction, I read this huge book during the pandemic - really exhaustive (maybe too detailed, as he does repeat himself at times). Some traditional lore was re-examined from various angles, altering what we thought we knew about their beginnings - and a small group of fans were upset by this, but Lewisohn’s only showing that the birth of the Beatles was far more complex than we knew - There were a lot of forgotten, unsung champions, who helped the band on their road to fame.
I really enjoyed the book, and can’t wait for volume II (it’s a trilogy, so I might be dead before it’s finished).
I loved his Henson biography. It was very comprehensive. He talked to basically everyone in Henson’s life who was still alive. The part about Henson’s funeral moved me so deeply, it put tears in my eyes. I still get choked up when I see that clip of Big Bird singing “It’s Not Easy Being Green” at Henson’s funeral on YouTube.
I’m reading two novels recently published by friends of mine… “Shadow of the Past” by J.E. Leak, which is a WW2-set espionage/romance story, and “Level Up and Die” by Russell Richardson about a video game whose characters escape into the real world. My lunchtime reading at work is “Deryni Rising” by Katherine Kurtz, the first volume in a well-known fantasy series that I somehow never read before. It’s OK so far, but the author spends a bit too much time on info-dumps, trying to world-build too quickly instead of showing-not-telling.
Ah, Deryni. I read it many, many years ago. Can’t say i remember much about it. I think it got better as it went along, but I don’t think it ever become of my favorites by any means. As i recall it it was very much as you say.
Oof. Reminds me I recently gave up on The Inhabited Island / Prisoners of Power by the Strugatsky’s.
I just … couldn’t … get past the… constant … ellipses. I swear every page had a minimum of five ellipses. Don’t know if they were originally intended, or artifacts of translation or censorship. If so, shame.
Now I’m deep into James Baldwin’s essays:
He’s got a very clear voice in writing, also fearless introspection, then uses both to describe a very specific and coherent picture of how America could be as seen from the 20th Century. That picture is very distinct from all others I have known, and beautiful, but the requirements are realistically high, and so it is hard for me to imagine plausible.
Also my kitty likes the built in book mark.
I think I hit upon Baldwin due to this debate, Baldwin debates Buckley. His position was novel to me, where Buckley’s was rote and not really worth the time to view, and I wondered if that new viewpoint would flower in text. So far it has. Actually this particular collection, because it is mostly chronological, depicts the birth of that point of view. And so clearly, with fears fled and faced, that I am compelled to keep reading, to hear his thoughts in my mind, and maybe get to see people with some of his clarity.
I have a few books that I’m reading because I keep jumping from chapter to chapter.
Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin (the discovery of the transitional form, the Tiktaalik)
Something Deeply Hidden by Sean Carroll (About dark energy and dark matter)
Mormonism and Early Christianity by Hugh Nibley
The History of the Telescope by Henry C. King
Next on my list:
1820: The Dawning of the Restoration by Richard E. Bennett
QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter by Richard Feynman
Oh, if you give The History of the Telescope a good review I will have as hard a time not getting the book as I did getting Feynman’s description of lighting hitting a pane of glass in QED!
I remember rereading that bit over and over, worried I wasn’t getting the text, until I think I came to the conclusion that it was really silly nature I wasn’t understanding. Best of luck!
I usually have one fiction and one non-fiction book going concurrently, plus a manga or graphic novel. Here’s what’s currently in the pipeline:
Fiction: Monday Starts On Saturday by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
Non-Fiction: The Magic of Rogues by Frank Klaassen & Sharon Hubbs Wright
Graphic: The Odyssey by Gareth Hinds
Fiction: The Execution of Justice by Friedrich Duerrenmatt
Non-Fiction: Hyphens & Hashtags by Claire Cock-Starkey
Graphic: My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! by Satoru Yamaguchi & Nami Hidaka
Ah the glorious Bakarina (My Next Life as a Villainess…) is fun. I think though I prefer the anime over the LNs and manga versions.
I’m enjoying how sweet it is. I’ve only experienced the manga so far, but will probably acquire the anime at some point.
RIP my hero Bill Hicks. I have so much of his material I use on a daily basis. Still embarrassing that happened in my home state, but a sadly accurate tale of anti-intellectualism that permeates where I live.