Tuesday, May 21, 2013

After Three Years, John Finally Goes Book Shopping Again



In April, I finally did it. After three years of reading as hard as my Little Engine of a brain could, I knocked my To-Read list down to double digits. Despite constantly piling up with gifts and loans from friends, and copies seemingly materializing out of boxes, I defeated the tide. Friends know I was banned from deliberately purchasing any more books until I was out of the hundreds, a rule I followed as best I possibly could. Thanks to my victory, I got to freely wander around a book store and grab whatever I wanted for the first time in three years. My girlfriend was so proud she even gave me a giftcard to help.

It didn’t take long for me to empty that giftcard, because my Hoped-For list is enormous. Sales definitely helped me pick most of what I grabbed, while two driven by desperate desires to see what they were like. It’s the first batch of books I’ve bought in over two years. I figured I'd share the things I came home with (or that are shipping from Amazon).

C.S. Friedman’s Black Sun Rising
Her Coldfire Trilogy has been popular in my college-circle of friends for years. Two of those friends say its one of their favorite trilogies of all time, and recently I’ve seen Friedman come up in more discussions about the great dark fantasists. Given that grimdark isn’t my thing, I’m tempted to push at it and see what spills out.

Tom Holt’s The Portable Door
Another legacy purchase. I discovered Holt’s wonderful Blonde Bombshell (easily the best novel that could ever be written with such a title), and enjoyed its humorous take on SciFi so much that I leapt to try his Fantasy. I’m told it’s about bureaucracy handling and perhaps marketing the impossible, which is a pregnant premise. High anticipation for more good humorous Fantasy.

Jeff Smith’s RASL
This is the next big work from the author and artist of Bone, which is one of my favorite comics I’ve ever read. RASL is obviously very different, as skimming it revealed graphic violence, booze and partial nudity. While those things don’t typically attract me, Smith has more than earned my interest for experimenting in something radically different than the amazing adventures out of Boneville. He was on my list so hard after Bone that I actually read his Monster Society of Evil by accident at a friend’s house. Seriously – slipped, fell and read four hundred pages.

Hiroaki Samura’s Blade of the Immortal Volumes 19, 20 and 21
Speaking of comics, and legacies. Samura’s Blade of the Immortal has its hooks into me like no other series in prose or sequential art. His art style, pulling seemingly frantic sketches into high detail, is both gorgeous to linger upon and easy to fly across to the end of the next volume. It’s incredibly violent, and in recent volumes has gone in a Frankenstein-like direction that even I’m uncomfortable with, but I knew I was going to pick up some more of it. I’ve been reading a few volumes of his series every year or two for a decade. It’s always one of the highlights of my reading year. Thank goodness for this sale.

Takako Shimura’s Wandering Son Volume 1
YA and I just don’t get along, and one reason is that most of my exposure to fiction written for teens avoids or goes very shallow into sensitive issues. I actually felt that way as a teen, which was why I leapt to Homer and Stephen King by 13. Yet there are YA authors who go face-first into controversial topics for the sake of empathy, and that is everything I’ve heard about Wandering Son. To make growing up transgender in Japan the premise is automatically a more difficult challenge than most books I know of outside of Literary fiction. I don’t know if Shimura depicts it so gently so as to avoid offense, but I’m rabidly curious to see how she’ll present the concept to a decidedly young audience. It's something that my country produces far too few works about.

David Foster Wallace’s The Infinite Jest
This will sit beside my much-neglected copies of War and Peace and Gravity’s Rainbow for a few years, I’m sure. It’s a best-intentions purpose, one of those modern monolithic classics, the hype for which fascinates me. It’s one of those books that’s drawn  me in based on how people talk about it. “My teacher said I write like Wallace. I’m not sure if that was a compliment.” “Nobody writes this complex. I hate it.” His mystique is like Pynchon’s for me, in that his work is allegedly so deep that no one can describe what the heck it’s about. That’s probably why I also have a copy of Gravity’s Rainbow intimidating me from the shelf.

Dave Eggers’s Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
So many friends were surprised to learn that I enjoyed Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love. I was pretty surprised, but happy to learn I was wrong. There was a time when Memoir seemed to really break out as a non-fiction genre, and at least for my consciousness at the time, the two big blockbusters exemplifying the breakout were Gilbert’s journey and Eggers’s absolutely ridiculous title. And honestly? I’ve heard it’s good. How do you manage to write a good book with that title? That seems like the greatest gall of all. Similar to my grimdark experiments, I want to see what spills out of this genre. I admit to already having enjoyed all of the A.J. Jacobs memoirs I’ve encountered.

Jennifer Egan's A Visit From the Goon Squad
The Pulitzer-winner that all those critics got mad at for beating Jonathan Franzen. I don't know Egan from Eve, but descriptions of her work are fascinating, a churning attempt to contextulize as a novel, a short story collection, a vignette collection with a climax, or a new form of prose entirely. The chapter expressed through PowerPoint slides is something I particularly want to experience for myself. While I won't get my hopes too high (demanding something be a new genre or medium is unfair), this is already waiting on top of my computer to read this afternoon.

Saladin Ahmed’s Throne of the Crescent Moon
This was on my list before I got nominations for both the Nebula and the Hugo. And God damn, what accolades for a debut novel! I’ve spoken to the author multiple times on Twitter, once at WorldCon, and have been eyeing his book for over a year. Ghoul-hunting in a Fantasy world more informed by a period of Persia than Medieval Europe, with one old man and one scrawny girl as our lead hunters. It’s also the only Fantasy novel I can remember reading a critic call “too short.” In a world of Fantasy novels that are too damned long, that’s about the best endorsement you can give. Sonia Lal has already tentatively agreed to read it along with me in June, what a sweet lady she is.

Roger Zelazny's Nine Princes in Amber
This last book is a cheat – it was actually a second-hand gift from a friend. I own another Zelazny book I haven’t yet read (This Immortal), and cherish most of his works (Lord of Light has stayed with me more strongly than anything else I read last year), yet as much as I think I’m consuming of his, it’s the Amber series his fans always talk about. I have no idea what this is actually about, only that it seems to be the Zelazny touchstone. Maybe I’ll get hooked and spend another two years jonesing to pick up the sequels. But given that Zelazny is the honorary guest of honor at this year’s ReaderCon, I want to try to blow through this before the convention. I’ll finally be able to partake in one of these Amber conversations. 

I'm negotiating right now, but I believe I won't buy any more books until my list drops to 90. Every book I bought here prolonged the next shot, though since I completely ran out of funding, I can't pretend it made that much of a restraint. It was a serious challenge not to break the bank on River of Stars and Orphan Master's Son as it was.

25 comments:

  1. Sounds like you had a fun time - happy reading! ^_^

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  2. I really admire your restraint. My un-read pile is huge and I still weaken from time to time. And several of these books look WONDERFUL. I will be fascinated to find out what you think of Wandering Son in particular. Can we have reviews as you finish?

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    1. I review every book I finish on Goodreads. I'm considering, though, running a new book review every Sunday, since I'd like a lit-focused corner on The Bathroom Monologues. How would you feel about that?

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    2. I would love it - and I would also curse (a little). I have no will power where books are concerned and reviews may weaken my already soggy resolve...

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  3. Some great stuff here--thanks for the tip on Wandering Son. I am now rereading Visit from the Goon Squad--anxious to hear your opinion.

    Looks like a lot of your choices stray into interesting structures. Peace...

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    1. I'm about 150 pages into Visit now. It's an ambitious structure, though I'm not sure how interesting it would be to non-writers. How are you feeling about it thus far?

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    2. I am actually rereading it now FOR structure. I have been reading lots of 'linked stories' novels, as I am in the thick of writing my own, and looking at how info is presented: linear, modular, erratic, thematic, etc. I think this book is brilliant.

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  4. My pile of unread books is into triple digits right now.
    Friedman's book was awesome.

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    1. Another vote for Friedman! What stood out to you about her books?

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  5. Congrats! And happy reading! My to be read pile is NOT that big... but that is mostly because with 2 rambunctious little ones to keep up with on a daily basis, I don't get a lot of reading time anymore and so my physical TBR pile has to be kept under control or I will go stark raving mad. I do have a mental TBR list that is a mile long, but it's easier to ignore.... :)

    And that's not even counting all the books on my shelf I want to REread...

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    1. Goodreads has definitely been invaluable in keeping me honest about what I'm reading and what I have. Annoying as it is, though, to be accountable and not allowed to wildly pick up new books. I can only imagine what it would be like if I owned a Kindle or Nook.

      What are you looking into re-reading?

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    2. Currently I'm re-reading The Icarus Hunt by Timothy Zahn.

      Then I want to re-read Ender's Game (at least a few months before the movie, because I know reading it too close to seeing the movie will probably ruin the movie for me. I need it to be semi-fresh in my mind, but not SO fresh that all the differences glare at me... :))

      I just finished A Memory of Light (Robert Jordan/Brandon Sanderson) and it created this ridiculous notion of re-reading the entire series... despite the length... the curse of being a very fast reader with only 15-30 minutes a day of reading time... I may hold off on this one for a bit, though.

      I also have a few books by fellow Indie authors I want to check out for the first time - when funds are available. On my actual bookshelf is "Auralia's Colors" by Jeffrey Overstreet (which comes highly recommended, but I just had a really bad experience with another Indie author's book, and it is giving me a psychological pause about starting another one).

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  6. As always your list intimidates me. But then again, I myself have a reading list of at least 30 or so without adding anything to it, and I'm a MUCH slower reader than you so I think we'll both be busy for some time.

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    1. If I may ask, what about my list intimidates you? Are there any grotesque choices?

      I'd also like to know what's on your list!

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  7. Hope you enjoy your new books, and good luck with getting down to 90.

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  8. Looks like you picked out a good haul, John.

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  9. I might have to pick up Throne of the Crescent Moon, looks good!

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    1. Saladin would certainly appreciate it!

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  10. My brain went in a zillion different directions while reading this:

    1) John has a girlfriend! Cool! Why has he not mentioned this before???

    2) Throne of the Crescent Moon is also on my mental TBR list. Podcastle recently ran a prequel about the old ghoul hunter and a stuffy Dervish who wanted to be his apprentice.

    3) A lit-oriented corner sounds just peachy!

    4) Yes, an eReader (especially a Kindle) is a turbocharged way to balloon your TBR pile. One of our mutual tweeps has like 9000+ books in his list. I've had to shun the free lists to keep the same from happening to me, although they do tend to find their way home anyway.

    5) I need to take some time off writing to read a few of the books in my own pile.

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    1. Shh, don't tell Danni!

      And downtime waiting for beta readers to turn things in is a great time to knock things off the list. I want to read 60 books total this year to properly clear out the brush. I'm around halfway...

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  11. Thanks for sharing. I can shop for hours upon hours for books or music. Anything else (clothes, food, etc.), I'm in and out asap.

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    1. I'm pretty quick in clothes shopping. It helps to not care much!

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  12. Very very cool selections! I know what you mean about being banned from bookstores. Do you review what you read anywhere? I do.

    xox jean

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    1. I review everything I read on Goodreads, and have a little sorter on the right side of the blog if you'd like to see what I've hit recently. I'm thinking of importing reviews here every Sunday, alternating with interviews and essays on literature. What would you think?

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  13. Looks like you're going to have a busy summer ahead with all these books!

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