Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Light reading catch-up

I hate it when I leave it too long between logging one tranche of reading and the next, it becomes a nuisance rather than a pleasure to write it up here. But since I am now genuinely enjoying a quiet day in Cayman, I thought I would get a grip on it and clear the backlog....

Kiese Laymon's essay "My Vassar Faculty ID Makes Everything OK" caught my attention for obvious reasons, and I immediately got hold of his two books (I've been hearing great things about his YA novel from Sara Ryan and others for a while): How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America and Long Division. Both are superb, and I am buying copies for my mother and several others for Xmas; the essays are reminiscent of James Baldwin, in the best possible way (it is a strain I miss from the neurasthenic subdivision of contemporary essay-writing: I want to hear much stronger and more widespread crypto-preacherly rage!), and the novel is absolutely a delight.

Probably my other favorites were another pair of books that (BECAUSE I AM AN IDIOT) I read in the wrong order: however, third installment in trilogy will come soon and I expect I will read again from the start at that point, I liked 'em that much. I blame Adam Roberts, whose best SF round-up was where I got the recommendation and which didn't mention the fact of the book in question being a sequel; BUT I also blame my own voracious and forgetful nature as a reader - I could tell something wasn't quite right about the opening, but wasn't willing to put the book down to figure it out. When I finished and went to find whether there was yet a sequel (it's coming in May 2015), I realized that in fact I had already bought volume one the year before, only it wasn't on my current Kindle - it must have been on the one I left in the pocket of a plane that took me to Portland, ME when I was travelling for The Magic Circle. Anyway, these books are PERFECT - it's massive Soviet-era alternate history of a fantastical stamp, more on the Ballard-Pynchon axis in terms of style than the Pullman-Aiken-Explosionist one but still pretty much exactly the sort of thing I most enjoy reading. Hungry for vol. 3! Here's the author's site; the books are by Peter Higgins and are titled Wolfhound Century and Truth and Fear.

Many novels by Patricia Briggs, very convenient for purposes of travel (I wish she was still writing fantasy as opposed to werewolf, but I suspect market pressures drive one pretty strongly towards the latter), some Eva Ibbotson rereading for comfort, Michael Connelly's new novel (these are always readable but increasingly thin, confirming my sad conviction that 90% of bestselling fiction will be much less good than the 5% of genuinely brilliant genre fiction that is too violent or troubling to be enjoyed by all); a couple other good recommendations from the Adam Roberts piece (other pet peeve: when will we have a world of simultaneous publication in all English-language markets?!?), Dave Hutchinson's rather delightful Europe in Autumn and Joe Abercrombie's Half a King.

Oh, and one other one I really loved, though I can't remember now where I got the recommendation: Terry Hayes' I am Pilgrim.

I have a bit of a breather this week at B.'s, then home Sunday for a few days of maniacal end-of-semester grading, brief holiday interlude and then three weeks of INSANE WORK AND FITS OF EXERCISE! I am excited about the latter - I have two different book proposals I want to work on, and two talks I need to get some kind of a handle on (one for a general audience at a liberal arts college, one for a plenary address at a conference I really want to have something good for). Various other things churning around at the back of my mind, but time is finite, I must reconcile myself to that in advance.

I ran a 10K on Saturday and got back to hot yoga today for the first time since August, both of which bode well for exercise prospects in upcoming weeks, but it is certainly still possible that I have one more major respiratory ailment in me for 2014, so I'm trying not to count my chickens....


  1. confirming my sad conviction that 90% of bestselling fiction will be much less good than the 5% of genuinely brilliant genre fiction that is too violent or troubling to be enjoyed by all

    I'm looking for something to read right now and having trouble finding anything that catches me. How about a list of the 5% of brilliant genre books too violent or disturbed to be enjoyed by all?

    I'll start with two suggestions:

    Blindsight by Peter Watts.

    Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn, which I wrote about the link and only discovered via Gone Girl.

    I ordered Pilgrim.

    1. Sorry not to get back on this sooner! Have read Flynn already but will pursue Blindsight. Violent and brilliant genre recommendations: Charlie Williams' Deadfolk and subsequent installments (very funny as well as very violent); Anthony Neil Smith, All the Young Warriors; anything by Heath Lowrance. Happy new year!