This week’s Top Ten Tuesday theme is books recently added to the TBR. Which is easy enough to do, since I love my lists and keep very careful track…
- Dark Sky, by Mike Brooks. Read the first book, picked this one up as soon as I could. Just the right level of light fun for me.
- How to Clone a Mammoth, by Beth Shapiro. Picked up somewhat on impulse, this looks at the science of de-extinction. Points for a sci-fi mention on the first page, even if it was Piers Anthony.
- The City of Dreaming Books, by Walter Moers. Technically, this isn’t new to my TBR, but it is new to my actual shelves. Even just the title does it for me…
- Behind the Throne, by K.B. Wagers. My sister loved it and devoured it in under a day, so there’s a good chance I’ll find it enjoyable.
- The Death of Caesar, by Barry Strauss. It’s been a while since I read anything by Strauss, but I remember enjoying his other books; I think I’ve read two or three now. This is on my Christmas list. Here’s hoping!
- I Contain Multitudes, by Ed Yong. Another non-fiction book, fairly predictably fascinating to me given the topic of microbes and the human body!
- The Wolf Road, by Beth Lewis. I don’t even remember what this one is about, but someone reviewed it and it sounded fascinating. So, onto the Christmas list it went.
- A Closed and Common Orbit, by Becky Chambers. I haven’t read the first book yet, but I hear such good things about it, I’m sure I’ll want to pick this one up. …When I’m in the UK, as Fnac do not stock it.
- Proust and the Squid, by Maryanne Wolf. I think the title makes it sound more generally exciting than it might otherwise be — it’s actually a book about the science of reading. I enjoyed Reading in the Brain, so I’m very hopeful about this one.
- The Book of Kells, by R.A. MacAvoy. Technically, this is not new to my list, but it’s another one which is relatively new to my shelves. It was a suggested read for a time travel theme at one of my bookclubs, I think!
So yeah, that’s a sampling of things that might (or might not, knowing me) be coming up to review sometime soon!
This week’s theme is Top Ten Books if your bookclub likes ____. Well, I’ll go with sci-fi (or spec-fic more generally), surprising no one. (Except anyone who half expected me to do non-fiction again.)
- The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell. Prepare to have your heart and soul ripped to shreds. It sounds like crack: Jesuits in space! It isn’t. It’s really serious and profound and an amazing exploration of faith and where it might take people.
- The Carpet Makers, by Andreas Eschbach. The translation is actually really good, and the structure of this book is fascinating. Plenty to sink your teeth into.
- Dark Run, by Mike Brooks. This is rather lighter fare: basically Firefly if it did more than nod at diversity. (Come on, I love Firefly, but Simon and River Tam should’ve been played by Chinese actors, following the logic of the world-building.)
- Stories of Your Life and Others, by Ted Chiang. You can even get a book club cinema trip out of this one in the near future, with Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner in a film adaptation of one of the stories. There’s some really clever stuff here.
- The Gate to Women’s Country, by Sheri S. Tepper. RIP to the author, who died on the 22nd October of this year. I found this book really fascinating, and it’s an interesting exploration of gender roles.
- Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie. I really love this whole trilogy (maybe a reread soon?), but it seems like it can be a bit like Marmite. Regardless, there should be plenty to dig your teeth into in a discussion.
- Annihilation, by Jeff Vandermeer. What’s going on in this book? Who knows, but there’s plenty to talk about and analyse. I’d read the whole trilogy, though, to get all the pieces of the puzzle…
- Remnant Population, by Elizabeth Moon. This book actually features an older protagonist, which is interesting, and it’s a fun exploration of two species meeting in a less-than-typical situation.
- The Broken Land, by Ian McDonald. I don’t know why other people didn’t enjoy this. Whether you see Israel and Palestine in it, or the Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland, it reflects reality and muses upon it in the best sort of way.
- Troika, by Alastair Reynolds. I stumbled across this novella in a library in Belgium, and hadn’t come across it before, despite enjoying the author’s work. It’s an interesting take on the Big Dumb Object trope. If your bookclub wanted to explore a major SF trope, this’d be a good pick, for my money.
Looking forward to seeing other people’s lists this week — though it’s not like I need more new books…
This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is a Halloween freebie. Horror and such isn’t my genre, so instead my list is focused on things that really scare me — and they should probably scare you too.
- The Lucifer Effect, by Philip Zimbardo. If the Stanford prison experiment doesn’t scare the pants off you, I don’t know what will. Stanley Milgram’s experiments are honestly less shocking to me, having read about the actual experimental design and the way it was reported. But the participants in the Stanford Prison Experiment knew exactly what was happening at all times, and yet they were still manipulated by the situation into acting like monsters, or enabling monsters. Even the guy nominally in charge of the experiment, Zimbardo himself, did not realise what was going on until an outsider asked him what the hell he was playing at.
- Brain on Fire, by Susannah Cahalan. The idea that inflammation in your brain can reproduce the symptoms of mental disorders and make your case seem entirely baffling and hopeless… Our brains are so ridiculously fragile, as Cahalan’s case proves.
- Panic Attacks, by Christine Ingham. This is actually a book about learning to cope with panic attacks, which I found somewhat helpful. But the fact remains that panic is terrifying, and hard to get a handle on, and just the idea of being as anxious as I was when I needed this book scares me rather a lot.
- The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins. First, on the superficial level, it’s Dawkins and I’m both terrified of his smug sense of superiority and that I might ever be like him. But also let this book stand for the fear of not knowing — of things, perhaps, being unknowable. And then worse, that people say, claim, believe that this could mean condemnation after death? Erk. Scary thought. I don’t even know where I stand on that.
- Spillover, by David Quammen. If you’re not terrified of the idea of a pandemic, you’re kidding yourself. We’re destroying habitats and bringing ourselves into closer and closer contact with reservoirs of disease like Ebola, AIDs, SARS, Hendra… We may be lucky. We’ve been lucky. Will that continue?
- A Mind of its Own, by Cordelia Fine. Or a number of other books on similar topics — the way our brains lie to us, as a result of the way they function. It’s actually alarming the things you can ignore, given the right combination of factors.
- Why Evolution is True, by Jerry A. Coyne. I find it a little frightening that the general public is often ignorant of evolution and the fact that it is completely proven, and in fact a mathematically necessary conclusion. So the fact that this book exists is half reassuring — because you can learn about evolution — and half terrifying, because oh, how we need it.
- The Moral Landscape, by Sam Harris. This is slightly tongue in cheek, but Harris’ views of morality are definitely not mine, and I find his way of thinking alien.
- The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot. The book is amazing. It also terrified me because, guys, there are immortal lines of cancer cells just propagating in labs right now. Right now. And also probably cells undergoing deleterious mutations in our own bodies. And also, the medical establishment is not infallibly moral. Everything about this is scary (though the latter part is, I admit, obvious — if you need this book to tell you that humans are fallible, well).
- Missing Microbes, by Martin J. Blaser. We are screwing up millennia of co-evolution by killing off microbes that have existed within the human body and adapted to us, and we don’t even really know what the consequences will be. And you know, that whole problem with antibiotic resistance. (Which in itself proves what I said in #7 about evolution, by the way. If evolution isn’t happening right now, why are microbes developing antibiotic resistance?)
So yeah, hope you’re all good and terrified now! I am. Just a little. Mostly healthy fear.
This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is about Characters I’d Name A Child/Dog/Cat/Car/Etc After! I’m going to depart from pure book-fandom for this…
- Hawkeye, from the MCU. My phone is Hawkeye, actually.
- EDI, from Mass Effect. My main computer.
- Jarvis, from the MCU. My last ereader.
- Friday, from the MCU. My current netbook.
- Glyph, from Mass Effect. My current ereader.
- Hulk, from the MCU. My bunny. Who is a girl, and was actually named by my wife.
- Sir, after John Winchester from Supernatural. I don’t know why, but… I give you, our washing machine.
- Paragon, from Robin Hobb’s Liveship Traders books. I figured I needed something that weathered storms and wasn’t trash at the first setback, so I had a computer called Paragon for a while. It was the longest-lasting machine I’ve had.
- Steve-bear and Tony-bear, named after Steve Rogers and Tony Stark from the MCU. These are my Build A Bears. And yes, they have the outfits, although I have misplaced Steve-bear’s shield.
- Helen Hippo, from the Spot books. This one is ancient history, comparatively — the teddy who has been with me since I was two days old is named after Helen! And is also a hippo.
I promise I’ll take the next list more seriously. Maybe.
This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is about recommendations — to be more precise, books you’ve read because of recommendations. Here goes!
- The Summer Tree, by Guy Gavriel Kay. I am no longer in touch with the person who sent me this, which is saddening because I love this series and everything I’ve read by Kay, and the same person also fostered my love of Ursula Le Guin and introduced me to the tv series Firefly. Friendship aside, it’s a loss in terms of not getting awesome book recommendations alone.
- Rosemary and Rue, by Seanan McGuire. This has been recommended to me by a lot of people, but I think my friend Tria was the first. I know she definitely loves McGuire’s work and has read some of the books several times!
- Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers. My mother gave me this one, and I think I’ve posted on numerous occasions about its importance to me.
- The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison. I think the first time I saw this recommended was by my friend Rachel; it is now one of my favourite books in the world, in case you hadn’t figured that out yet.
- Kushiel’s Dart, by Jacqueline Carey. I actually don’t know who bought this for me; they never admitted to it. But it arrived in the post one day and I proceeded to devour everything by Carey. Feel free to reveal yourself, anonymous benefactor.
- Rivers of London, by Ben Aaronovitch. First recommended by a friend I met while I was at university, Marc. I’m rereading the series now and it’s better than I remembered — and I’m about to get to the one that really pulls the heartstrings.
- The Vintner’s Luck, by Elizabeth Knox. Recommended by my second-year flatmate, this is just a gorgeous book.
- Sunshine, by Robin McKinley. A long-time favourite, this was recommended by my friend Sev. And I need to reread it soon. And oh look, my wife has a copy right there.
- The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell. I feel like this counts because I read it via a book club. I almost don’t dare revisit it, because it tore my heart into bits.
- Swordspoint, by Ellen Kushner. Way back when I was on Livejournal I was recommended this one. I still reread it occasionally, and I really should get round to reading Tremontaine…
And, you know, I’m always looking for more recommendations…
This week’s theme is villains! Instead of picking out favourite specific villains, I’m going for lists of things that make good villains (you know what I mean)! Or, if not good villains, then villains that I find interesting.
- They don’t just hate everyone. There are people and causes they care about; there are reasons for why they do what they do. Especially good is if they have people that care about them, who might not deserve the pain of losing them. Tasty conflict for all!
- They’re not just mentally ill. Half of the time it’s just a lazy way out anyway, and it’s also an excuse to stereotype mental illness, etc.
- They have a sense of humour. I’m sorry, I’m a sucker for a snarky bad guy.
- They have a cause, and it may even be a good one. Bring on the moral complexity! Someone going about something that’s worth doing, but doing it in the wrong way? Yeaaah, works for me.
- You can understand them. If they have a stupid grudge from a minor accident they had as a child, you can’t sympathise with that. The most powerful villains — to my mind, anyway — are the ones you can understand.
- You can’t understand them at all. On the flipside, a completely enigmatic villain can be amazing too. Especially in something with horror elements. It makes things more unpredictable.
- They have a sense of honour. They won’t strike a man while he’s down, etc. This goes hand in hand with a lot of the other stuff; they’re on the wrong side of the conflict, but you can’t help but wish they weren’t.
- They are redeemable. If they’re not, then you don’t have to worry if they’ll do the awful thing — you know they can and will. But if there’s hope of redemption, you can hope they won’t do the awful thing.
- They don’t reveal their own plans. I mean, really. If it needs saying…
- They do not have an evil laugh. That’d be a dead giveaway, right?
Okay, so tongue in cheek for some of those. I’m looking forward to seeing if anyone’s reccing some good villains!
It’s time for Top Ten Tuesday, and this week the theme is our fall TBRs! I’m about to come up with my list for October, so hopefully this shouldn’t be too hard. On the other hand, I know that I’m a fickle creature, and I might well still be listing these same books when it comes round to January…
- Magic Binds, by Ilona Andrews. I had the ARC and I haven’t got round to it?! What is wrong with me?
- The Family Plot, by Cherie Priest. I haven’t loved any of Priest’s books as much as Bloodshot and Hellbent, but I’m totally ready to try. And this is kind of thematically appropriate for October, with Halloween coming up…
- Certain Dark Things, by Sylvia Moreno-Garcia. Signal to Noise wasn’t 100% my thing, but imyril’s review sold me on this so much, if the vampires and that gorgeous cover hadn’t already.
- Kushiel’s Dart, by Jacqueline Carey. This is a reread, but it’s been so long since I read it, I can’t wait to dive back in. Here’s hoping I still love it just as much.
- The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien. For some reason I’ve been craving a reread, and I’m not going to argue. I’m just vacillating between listening to the audiobook (well, the BBC radioplay adaptation) or reading it. Or both.
- The Ghost Brigades, by John Scalzi. Again, a reread, but not the first book of the series, so if I want to read them as a series and keep them all fresh in my mind, I’d better get to it. I read Old Man’s War a while ago already.
- The Child Eater, by Rachel Pollack. I both own a copy (in the UK) and have a copy out of the library (in Belgium), so, you know, I should get round to it.
- The Impostor Queen, by Sarah Fine. I’ve had it a while and I’m still seeing good things about it, so why not?
- Deadline, by Mira Grant. I just got Blackout, so it’s definitely time to get on with this trilogy.
- Time and Again, by Jack Finney. I’m partway through it, so I need to pick it back up. It’s a bit slow, though.
What about everyone else? Any big plans?
This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is all about audiobooks! I haven’t actually listened to that many audiobooks, at least not by distinct authors, but I do have a couple of recommendations.
- The Dark is Rising, by Susan Cooper (BBC radioplay). I don’t know if there’s any way to actually get your hands on this if you don’t happen to have recorded it for yourself way back when, but I always found the casting perfect and the adaptation solid. It doesn’t keep every single feature of the original book, but it keeps to the spirit of it — unlike the movie version which, as far as I’m concerned, doesn’t exist.
- Strong Poison, by Dorothy L. Sayers (BBC radioplay). You’ll notice that I’m quite a big fan of the BBC’s radioplays in general, and that’s because they generally have really good production quality, their adaptations are solid if not absolutely faithful, and they’re usually well cast. This is no exception, with a perfect Lord Peter and a great supporting cast too.
- The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien (BBC radioplay). Yes, another! It’s really well cast, there’s some music, and it’s pretty faithful — and it skips some of the bits people usually find boring, like Tom Bombadil. I wasn’t 100% a fan of Aragorn’s voice at first, but it grew on me.
- Among Others, by Jo Walton (Katherine Kellgren). I was a little nervous when I started to listen to this, because the voice had to be just right. Fortunately, it is — and with a lovely Welsh accent as well.
- The Collectors, by Philip Pullman (Bill Nighy). A neat little mystery, and very bitesize too. Bill Nighy does a great job at the narration.
- Beowulf, by Seamus Heaney (Seamus Heaney). It might not be the most faithful or scholarly translation, but it’s one that feels very much alive.
- Stardust, by Neil Gaiman (Neil Gaiman). The same goes for pretty much any book written and read by Neil Gaiman — not all authors are good at reading their own work, but Gaiman has got it down. There’s a warmth to his voice that just works perfectly.
- Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman (Martin Jarvis). The book’s a hell of a lot of fun, and this narrator ‘does the voices’ and really brings across characterisation and delivers the jokes perfectly. My only complaint was that it doesn’t have many natural breaks.
- The Martian, by Andy Weir (R.C. Bray). I haven’t finished listening to this one yet, but so far the narrator does a pretty good job. He doesn’t always deliver all the lines with feelings, but the deadpan delivery of some bits of it is just perfect. And it’s a book worth reading just for itself.
- Busman’s Honeymoon, by Dorothy L. Sayers (BBC radioplay). I’ll sneak this in as number ten — Ian Carmichael remains perfect, and this one made me giggle a lot, dealing as it does with Harriet and Peter’s honeymoon… and all that goes wrong.
Any recommendations? I’m always looking for something to spend my Audible credits on!
I skipped last week’s Top Ten Tuesday because TV in general is not my thing (ask my wife how long I’ve been vaguely intending to watch all of NCIS…), and this week’s theme is so hard it makes me tempted to skip it too: “Top Ten ALL TIME Favorite Books Of X Genre”.
I mean, what genre do I even pick? (Well, fantasy, obviously.) And then how do I narrow it down? But here’s a bash at it…
- The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison. And absolutely no one is surprised. I just love the hopefulness in it, the mindfulness of the main character, the clever linguistic stuff, all the characters and their flaws… I saw someone describe a five star read as being the sort of book where you love it even for its flaws, and I think that’s a very apt description of how I feel about The Goblin Emperor.
- The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien. I like The Hobbit, but I don’t love it in the intellectual way I love unravelling LotR. I studied Tolkien’s work during my degree, I’ve read the source texts and inspirations, I’ve gone a full circle from loving to hating to accepting and appreciating Tolkien’s style… Again, a book I love with its flaws and all.
- The Grey King, by Susan Cooper. It’s difficult to choose a single book of this sequence, but I think The Grey King is my favourite, for Bran. I love the atmosphere, the background lore and mystery, and I appreciate that we see a few more shades of grey in this book than in the others.
- The Summer Tree, by Guy Gavriel Kay. The first book by GGK that I read, and one that has stuck with me more than the others, even when it isn’t stylistically, objectively the best. It’s a homage to previous fantasy, including Tolkien, and it includes characters whose loves and hates tear me apart. It’s another one I definitely love despite its flaws, and maybe even because of them.
- The Tombs of Atuan, by Ursula Le Guin. A Wizard of Earthsea probably means more to me, in that I connect with Ged’s self-discovery more than Tenar’s, but I’ve always loved the style of this one, the world it describes, the slow rituals of the Nameless ones, and the quiet moments of clarity Le Guin is so good at writing. I’m not sure I admit of any flaws possible in this book…
- Chalice, by Robin McKinley. This one snuck up on me, and I never expected to love it as much as I do. But something about the world McKinley created, the domestic aspects, the homeishness of the way it feels… This is one I wouldn’t necessarily recommend to someone else, but it found a corner of my heart to live in.
- Among Others, by Jo Walton. Needless to say, really. I connect so strongly with Mori, her love of reading and imagining, and with some of her difficulties of identity too.
- The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, by N.K. Jemisin. The first time I read this, I settled down to read a chapter — and promptly read the whole book. I love the world Jemisin created.
- In the Labyrinth of Drakes, by Marie Brennan. Or this whole series, really — I just found the latest installment so satisfying that it went immediately on my favourites shelf. The books have grown on me since the first time I read the first one, and now I think I’d happily devour them over and over.
- Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke. I hesitated about this one, because it’s not the same sort of love I have for the other books. Instead it’s a kind of appreciation of how it was put together, the cleverness and care of it — not a passionate caring about the characters or even the world. It was the experience of reading it that I loved, more than the book itself.
That was easier than I thought — whew. What would be on your list?
This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is a freebie around the theme “back to school”. I’m sure there’s plenty of YA novels out there people are recommending that involve schools, so I’m gonna take the other way and send y’all back to school — with some non-fiction books I think are awesome.
- A History of the World in 100 Objects, by Neil MacGregor. The objects are all in the British Museum, so there’s definitely some problems with a very Western viewpoint, but I found it all fascinating and MacGregor does acknowledge the issues. There’s a little bit of history from all over the world here, even if it is only a very little bit in some cases.
- Pompeii, by Mary Beard. Going from the general to the hyperfocused, Mary Beard’s book on Pompeii is a fascinating survey of what we know and can guess about Pompeii.
- The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot. If you haven’t read this, I definitely recommend it: it’s a fascinating look at the development of cancer research, and the debts incurred along the way. There’s a lot of issues about race and consent that are worth considering.
- Shaking Hands With Death, by Terry Pratchett. Or the longer book which contains that essay, A Slip of the Keyboard. I’m wholly supportive of the initiative to pass laws on assisted suicide, and Pratchett’s words are to the point and heartfelt.
- The Ancestor’s Tale, by Richard Dawkins. This book is really the best of Dawkins — mostly devoid of sniping at religious people, and concentrating on the science. The Ancestor’s Tale tells the tale of human ancestry, back through countless common ancestors. Provided you believe in evolution, this might be the least controversial Dawkins book, since as I recall it doesn’t propose any new theories either.
- Spillover, by David Quammen. Are you scared about the idea of a pandemic? We’re making them more likely all the time, and this book is a very good look at how and why.
- Behind the Shock Machine, by Gina Perry. Stanley Milgram’s shock experiments are so famous that the findings have spilled out of psychology and into general knowledge. But Gina Perry examines the evidence from the experiments and raises some serious questions about Milgram’s ethics, and even his results.
- Stonehenge, by Mike Parker Pearson. Pearson was part of a huge project at Stonehenge to reinterpret the evidence and expand what we know. His theories are pretty well supported by the archaeology, on which he did a lot of work.
- Brain on Fire, by Susannah Cahalan. Our brains are really, really weird. Like, turns out that there are autoimmune disorders of the brain which can mimic various psychological problems, and pass almost under the radar — instead, Cahalan’s condition was dismissed as borderline personality disorder, psychopathy, etc. And yet she was curable, with antibiotics. It just goes to prove we don’t know everything yet.
- DNA, by James Watson. Skip Watson’s admittedly historically important The Double Helix unless you want to be enraged. DNA has much the same information and a lot more, while being more accessible and less sexist.
Tahdah! I know it’s a rather eclectic mix; that’s how my brain works, I’m afraid. Any of these catch your eye?