book porn

Blizzard reading, snowstorm Jonas edition

We are about to get hit by what is purportedly going to be the Snowstorm of the Century. Everybody in DC is in a tizzy, grocery store is a scene of carnage, snow predictions increase hourly, the workers are going home (see what I did there) at noon most places, and one of the images on the weather channel this morning simply said ‘MOISTURE’ in giant letters over the area. Last time something similar occurred was in 2010. We lived in Bethesda near the Beltway, and that night a car pulled up by our mailbox and sat there for a good while. Eventually we walked up to it to inquire, and found a woman who simply could not get back home to Virginia because there were no roads. She stayed with us overnight. Two years ago we also had a snowmageddon, albeit of smaller proportions. You may remember it from such blog posts as Bookselling in Extreme Conditions. There might be a repeat of that this weekend, stay tuned.

The important concerns of course are as follows: 1) do we have wine and 2) what am I going to read. Wine has been procured, along with other necessities like chocolate and Swedish fish, and here is your snowstorm Jonas reading list:

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It’s heavy on snow and weird: year’s best weird stories edited by Kathe Koja and Michael Kelly; Schubert’s Winter Journey by Ian Bostridge, which seems like the book written specifically for a snowstorm; ditto for Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen. And new Sjón!

Those of you living in places like Boston and Toronto are probably enjoying this ‘here’s our once-a-year snowstorm, batten down the hatches’ post (I used to live in Moscow, I have a heightened sense of my own snow mastery), so here’s a music video for you so this song can also get stuck in your head every time you turn on the weather channel:

 

 

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April reading tally, the blurry edition

No, the images are pretty sharp. April itself was kind of a blur. Two big projects at work, finally getting some of my personal stuff sorted out (hello, puberty 2.0), having to find a new housemate. Fun times. Still managed to read some great books, squeezed in a couple of unexpected readathons, and once again paded the numbers by reading through piles of graphic novels.

I’m afraid I kind of dropped the ball on taking photos of things acquired, so I only have a couple.

Books acquired:

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Hyper-realism! Depressing Scandinavian literature! Score!

Also, people essentially give me any books about ex- or currently totalitarian and Communist regimes (Dear Leader).

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Embarrassing Confession Time! In all my time on this Earth, I have somehow avoided reading The Stand. I do not know how this occurred. I don’t think I can even blame Soviet upbringing for this one.

And hey, new Nick Harkaway!

Finally, the photo from my recent weekend blog post (cheating, I know):

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If you are waiting for Embrassing Confession Time #2, where I confess I’ve never read Sherlock Holmes, give up now. I’ve read all of it. At the tender age of 12, I think. Probably reread some of them later. But I envisioned myself sitting down this weekend with a cup of coffee and just reading through them all again.

I have also read Locke & Key, but I want to reread the earlier volumes so I can get the full impact from the last one.

And now, books read:

1. Charles Yu, Third Class Superhero

2. Beatriz Preciado, Testo Junkie: Sex, Drugs, and Biopoitics in the Pharmacopornographic Era

3. Richard K. Morgan, The Steel Remains

4. Emma Donoghue, Frog Music

5. Peter Higgins, Wolfhound Century

6. Lauren Owen, The Quick

7. Warren Ellis, Darick Robertson, Transmetropolitan vol 5: Lonely City (reread)

8. Warren Ellis, Darick Robertson, Transmetropolitan vol 6: Gouge Away (reread)

9. Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples, Saga Vol 3.

10. Warren Ellis, Darick Robertson, Transmetropolitan vol 7: Spider’s Trash (reread)

11. Katherine Addison, The Goblin Emperor

12. Warren Ellis, Darick Robertson, Transmetropolitan vol 8: Dirge (reread)

13. Warren Ellis, Darick Robertson, Transmetropolitan vol 9: The Cure (reread)

14. Warren Ellis, Darick Robertson, Transmetropolitan vol 10: One More Time (reread)

Aaaand then I took three days off and have absolutely zero books to show for it. I did, however, rake and mow my entire backyard and go for a couple of runs.

The Best:

Saga, Volume 3. Continues to be an amazing graphic novel series. I’m not going to rate Transmet because it is on its own plane of awesomeness (and is also a reread).

The Worst:

Nothing was particularly awful. I think The Quick was not as shiny as it had been described to me. A blurb post is upcoming for that and for Yu. I frankly no longer even finish truly awful books, so they never make it on monthly tally lists (now I hope you have this mental image of piles of abandoned books, floating in space, jettisoned to make room for books I would actually enjoy).

March reading tally: the snowed in edition

March was hectic. Part of it was the new job (old place, but new things to do), which included learning a bunch of stuff and also a giant project. Nevertheless, the brain proceeded with the directive ‘read all the books’. Here’s your March tally.

Books acquired (mostly borrowed, received, stolen from coworkers, you know, the usual):

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I was pretty impressed with God’s War, so now I can move on to Infidel. More bug-based tech for everyone.

I know what you’re thinking. You are thinking: ‘Is that really something called Reagan at Reykjavik in that pile?’ Um, yes it is. I like my Cold War histories, shush. The one below it is about MacArthur in Japan. I’m an old man, I like my military histories too.

Testo Junkie is an intense gender studies volume. The way I can describe is that it’s really very readable while being nigh-incomprehensible in places.

James A. Corey and Gene Wolfe are long overdue for a read.

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Once again, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking: ‘Is that seriously Gray’s Anatomy there?’ Yes, yes it is.

Also, look, Rapture is there too, for when I’m done with Infidel. And also the best book of essays on trans* issues I’ve ever read.

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I do not have words to describe how good this is.

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Three Scenarios in Which Hana Sasaki Grows a Tail by Kelly Luce is published by a tiny publisher called A Strange Object. My friend and I are quite excited about them. Unfortunately, I will have read all their output when I finish this collection. They seem to have good taste in short stories and I hope they publish more stuff (plus, their books are pretty).

There is also Charles Yu’s collection of short stories that I have never seen before and an Asimov’s under it.

While all this book pr0n is great, let’s see the actual Books Read list:

1. Karl Ove Knausgaard, My Struggle: Book 2 (I finally found someone at work who shares my obsession with Knausgaard, so now we can have conversations like ‘what about that scene where he goes to the grocery store to buy some milk? That was amazing!’ Seriously though, the man is a master when it comes to psychological insights.)

2. Robert Jackson Bennett, American Elsewhere

3. Adam Sternbergh, Shovel Ready

4. Knut Hamsun, Growth of the Soil (this was about to become Depressing Scandinavian Literature Month for a moment)

5. Joe Abercrombie, Half a King

6. Kameron Hurley, God’s War

7. S. Bear Bergman, The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You

8. C. J. Cherryh, Downbelow Station

9. Nicholas Grider, Misadventure (this is the other book published by A Strange Object)

10. Warren Ellis, Darick Robertson, Rodney Ramos, Transmetropolitan Vol 3: Year of the Bastard (reread)

11. Warren Ellis, Darick Robertson, Rodney Ramos, Transmetropolitan Vol 4: The New Scum (reread)

12. Brian Vaughan, Fiona Staples, Saga Vol. 1

13. Brian Vaughan, Fiona Staples, Saga Vol. 2

14. Robert Jackson Bennett, City of Stairs. Review of this will be forthcoming, errr, some time in the summer. The book is not out till September, and publishers frown upon extremely early reviewing. All I am going to say is that I am really tempted to use all caps now to describe how damn good this book was. I sat down and read to the point when I was sick of words.

So yeah, never got to that Reagan book.

Agonizing reading decisions: book pr0n edition

I sometimes feel that book bloggers like posting reading updates and TBR pile pictures because it helps keep madness in check. Writing about what I’m reading allows my mind to see books as concrete units, rather than as an endless sea of pages that is my living room floor. So here’s what occupies my hours when I’m not sleeping or associating with other humans:

0311141232No, I did not find it abandoned on the bench on the National Mall. I brought it with me. It was 70 degrees outside, which means it was actually possible to sit outside with a book and a sandwich (not pictured). Bookgroup reading for this Thursday, classic, etc., etc. Great stuff.

0311141907Halfway through (see what I did there) Joe Abercrombie’s Half a King. People tell me it’s marketed as YA. I think in Abercrombie’s world that means everyone is still stabbing (or backstabbing, rather) each other with pointy ends, but without swearing quite as much.

0311141908New Jo Walton! New Daryl Gregory! Apologies to the third author, whose name on the cover is written in scattered points in tiny font and therefore not visible here. Her name is Claire North, and her book sounds good. The Shining Girls is mentioned on the back, as is Life After Life. Sign me up.

0311141908aI’ll be honest, I don’t really read poetry in English (though I read it in Russian, and it’s interesting to ponder reasons why it works for me in one language but not the other). But I dearly, dearly need to know what poems make the following people cry (from the table of contents): Stephen Fry, Patrick Stewart (!), Daniel Radcliffe, Andrew Solomon, J.J. Abrams, Colin Firth, and Tom Hiddleston (!!), among others.

January reading tally (with book pr0n)

Nick Hornby used to write a monthly column for the Believer magazine, where he would list books purchased, books read, and various notes and observations on that month’s reading. All those columns, by the way, are now available in one volume, Ten Years In the Tub. They are  funny and very honest about the author’s reading habits. One quick look at books bought and books read lists will tell you that those two are usually drastically different. I personally know (maybe) one person who reads books bought right away. To me, this seems amazing. I never do that. I mean, if I read everything I brought home immediately, I would have never created this Mt. Everest of advanced copies of stuff that is already out in paperback.

Anyway, below are the results of this month’s reading efforts.

Books acquired

These are divided into two categories: books borrowed (i.e. the ones I don’t get to keep), and books bought/received as gifts/wheedled out of gullible sales reps/etc (i.e. the ones I get to keep).

Borrowed this month:

If you think I only took 5 books out of the library this month, rest assured that this is not a complete stack. I excluded obscure non-fiction, depressing Scandinavian literature, odd Japanese literature, and other areas of my reading interest. I will be happy to include those in the future posts if you would like to see them.

Adopted this month (click to embiggen):

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It’s leaning ever so slightly, threatening to collapse and kill me as I walk by.

This actually does not look so bad, and that’s because it doesn’t include non-speculative books that also somehow ended up in my house.

And now, a list of books read (sans photos, since some of the books have gone on to bigger and better things), but with links if I reviewed or blurbed a particular book:

1. Jeff Smith, RASL

2. Robert Sibley, The Way of 88 Temples: Journeys on the Shikoku Pilgrimage (aka the book that allowed me to show my coworkers where I actually used to live)

3. Margaret Atwood, In Other Worlds

4. Jack Vance, The Dying Earth

5. Various, Buffy The Vampire Slayer Omnibus # 4

6. Nicola Griffith, Hild

7. Will McIntosh, Love Minus Eighty

8. Jo Walton, What Makes This Book So Great

9. Robert Pohl, Urban Legends and Historic Lore of Washington, DC

10. Wesley Chu, Lives of Tao

11. George Saunders, The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil

12. Elizabeth A. Lynn, A Different Light

13. Takashi Hiraide, The Guest Cat

14. Ray Jayawardhana, Neutrino Hunters: The Thrilling Chase for a Ghostly Particle to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe

15. Warren Ellis, Darick Robertson, Transmetropolitan, Vol 1: Back on the Street (re-read)

16. Lara Vapnyar, Scent of Pine

17. Chuck Wendig, The Blue Blazes

As is usually the case, the borrowed books got a quicker read than the ones bought. Reading of borrowed stuff is largely motivated by the fact that I have to return these volumes to avoid being chased by angry librarians and to allow some other person to have their history knowledge tested by something like Hild.

Unsurprisingly, I almost entirely failed to read from the bought pile, with Chu being the obvious exception. Well, there is always next month.

So, thoughts? Anything from my to-read stacks that I shouldn’t have put off till next month? Anything on my list you’ve read or want to read?

New pile of old books

Yesterday I had a few hours in NYC, and I chose to use them wisely, to wit, by taking the F train down to Brooklyn and buying some old sci-fi from Singularity and Co. January is Vintage Sci-fi month, after all. It is probably just as well I no longer live in New York. I used to work one subway stop away from their store, and I have a feeling every day would have been an opportunity to ‘stop by and browse’, meaning ‘spend a lot of money on books instead of groceries and rent’.

Here’s a picture of the haul for your book porn enjoyment:

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And here’s the list:

Harlan Ellison, Deathbird Stories
C. J. Cherryh, Foreigner
Gregory Benford, Timescape
Roger Zelazny, Creatures of Light And Darkness
Robert Silverberg, Dying Inside
Thomas M. Disch, Fundamental Disch

A few notes: my purchases were heavily influenced by my recent reread of Jo Walton’s Among Others (here’s my post about it and her work in general). It remains one of my favorite SF books, and, being meta-fictional, it comes with an added bonus of book lists (real books, mind you).  In fact, there is a list of all books mentioned in Among Others on Walton’s blog. Silverberg and Zelazny were bought expressly with that book list in mind.

Foreigner is also a Jo Walton-related purchase. I confess I read it about 10 years ago, and I did not like it. Looking back, however, I realize it was just the wrong book at the wrong time — I was in Japan, going on some silly school trip with a bus of teens to Kochi city, and I was quite starved for books in English (e-readers not being ubiquitous then). I grabbed the first book I saw on my boyfriend’s shelf and took it with me. I didn’t even have that much time to read in Kochi, and so my experience of Foreigner was very fragmented and haphazard. A few years later I read Walton’s review of it on tor.com. The review is by no means glowing, and it does confirm my own feelings about Foreigner, but it did make me want to read the series, which means giving the first book a second chance.

Disch has been on my to-read list for a while, and I grabbed the comfortably-titled Fundamental Disch. Besides, look at the cover, how could I not?

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The cherry on top here, however, is Ellison. It was entirely an impulse purchase based on title, cover, and the fact that it was on the staff picks shelf (based on personal experience, staff picks are the way to go when in doubt). It also turned out to be 1st edition and therefore more expensive, but hey, I’ll pay a bit more for Ellison. I’ll be honest: every time I read him, it disturbs and unsettles me to no end. I also feel slightly stupid and clueless, as if there is some hidden message in his stories that I am just not getting and unlikely to get. So we’ll see how this one goes. It does come with a disclaimer:

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Oh dear.

While not a review, this is a post for Vintage Science Fiction Month. Follow the link to the Little Red Reviewer’s blog for more vintage goodness.

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