This is it: the last instalment of #AYearInBooks (in which I’ve been tracking the non-academic reading I do). Here’s why I decided to do this. After I report on my year’s last few books, I’ll wrap up with a few comments on the experience.
The Chrysalids (John Wyndham, 1955). There’s a certain feeling of dread when you pick up a book you loved 30 years ago and haven’t opened since. Will it hold up, or will you lose that happy memory? (Rewatching the first few seasons of M*A*S*H had this problem; as much as I loved the show, the early episodes, at least, didn’t age well.) I’m happy to say that The Chrysalids really is that good. It’s post-apocalyptic building-new-society science fiction, with a strong message of tolerance for the different – a message that hasn’t lost any importance in the 65 years since The Chrysalids was written.. I’m encouraged now to re-read Chocky, which was always my favourite of Wyndham’s books. One more thing. Usually I use the current book covers to illustrate – but check out the lurid cover of my Penguin edition! Remember when science-fiction book design boiled down to “paint me something alien, and if it’s totally unrelated to the book, that’s a bonus”? My Penguin edition does. Continue reading
It’s time for another instalment of #AYearInBooks, in which I track the non-academic reading I do. If you needed any further evidence that my reading habits are all over the map, this one should do it. Here’s why I’m doing this. Continue reading
Time now for the sixth installment of #AYearInBooks, in which I track the non-academic reading I do. Here’s why I’m doing this.
Who Fears Death (Nnedi Okorafor, 2010). Wow, this book is terrific. I guess I’d call it magical-realism-meets-urban-fantasy, set in (approximately) Sudan in an undefined but near future. It follows a young sorceress, Onyesonwu, who comes into her power while seeking revenge for her mother’s rape and resolution to a genocidal conflict (content warning, the scenes of rape and genocide can be difficult to read). Onyesonwu is a terrific character, both impressive and relatedly human, and the story is fascinating both for its plot and its setting. This is one of those books that takes you somewhere absolutely new, and gives you a bit of a shaking along the way. Continue reading
Time now for the fifth instalment of #AYearInBooks, in which I track the non-academic reading I do. Here’s why I’m doing this. This strange pandemic summer went by in a blur. Thank goodness for the books along the way.
Rotherweird (Andrew Caldecott, 2017). What a marvellously indescribable book – urban fantasy, I suppose. It’s the story of a strange town, in but not part of England, populated by eccentrics both evil and good (it takes a while to figure out which are which). There’s a portal to another world, a mysterious threat to that world and to the town, and a generous helping of other oddnesses (for instance, a scientist who pole-vaults across the town’s rooftops at night). There’s a strong flavour of Ghormenghast, somehow leavened with a little Ankh–Morpork, and… well, I did say indescribable, right? But hugely enjoyable, and the two sequels are absolutely on my reading list. Continue reading
Time now for the fourth instalment of #AYearInBooks, in which I track the non-academic reading I do. Here’s why I’m doing this. I’ve got eight books (or series) for you this time. When I started the first, there was snow on the ground; I finished the last on a hot summer day. And yet – a curiosity of Fredericton’s climate – it’s was only six weeks!
The Fionavar Tapestry (Guy Gavriel Kay, 1984-86). This is actually a trilogy: The Summer Tree, The Wandering Fire, and The Darkest Road. I’ve been re-reading old favourites a lot lately and these are very near the top of my list. They’re epic fantasy, à la Tolkien (Kay helped edit some of Tolkien’s posthumously published material) – but with much more humanity, more adult relationships, more lyrical writing, and many more surprises (revealed connections, along the lines of what made N.K. Jemesin’s Broken Earthso astonishing). Now, “better than Tolkien” would be fighting words for many fantasy buffs (a fight best undertaken with an elven sword, of course), but if anything qualifies, to me Fionavar is it. Continue reading
Time now for the second instalment of #AYearInBooks, in which I track the non-academic reading I do. Here’s why I’m doing this.
Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk (David Sedaris, 2010). Wow, this is a peculiar little book. It’s a set of 16 very short stories, each one a parable featuring some human quirk (usually, a detestable one) bestowed on a heavily anthropomorphized animal that gets an extremely unpleasant comeuppance. (I did say it was peculiar). It took me the first third of the book to decide that this was more than just sophomoric, but once I did I was amused – albeit in a sort of stiffly disapproving way. I’m not sure if the parables got progressively more clever, or if I just adapted to see more cleverness in them. By the last, I was chortling. That last parable, by the way, features a greased-up gerbil sent by an owl to evict leeches from the rectum of a hippopotamus. (I did say it was peculiar.) Continue reading
This year, I promised to log, and share with anyone who’s interested, the non-academic books I read. Wondering why I’d do such a thing? Click here for an explanation.
I’ve been tweeting these books as I finish them using the hashtag #AYearOfBooks, but tweets are constrained to be very short and are inconveniently impermanent. So, I’ll collect them here, with slightly less “mini” minireviews, as occasional blog posts. This is the beginning: seven books in January and early February.* Continue reading