Category: General


Discussion: Shelving

Posted 17 September, 2018 by Nikki in General / 8 Comments

So I’m in the new flat and getting everything sorted, and of course the big question arises: how should I categorise my books?! I know some people who don’t bother, or even weirder to me, sort them via totally arbitrary criteria like spine colour, or the size of the book.

To me, the whole point of the shelves is to make the books accessible, so it needs to be useful as well. My books get roughly separated by genre and then alphabetised by the author’s surname — and within an author, I tend to go by publication order if I’m feeling really obsessive. Series definitely need to be together and sorted in order! Size and colour don’t matter to me, unless they don’t fit on the shelf, in which case taller books do go on a separate, taller shelf.

The breakdown for my books is pretty unsurprising: there’s four bookcases in the living room full to the brim with fantasy and sci-fi…

There’s a half-size bookcase in my office which is two thirds full of pop history books…

Comics go on the unit above, and I do have a separate section for library books as well…

Then the full size bookcase behind me is a bit of a miscellanea: a few shelves of crime fiction, some historical fiction, some romance, and then two shelves of pop science.

So how do you categorise your books? Please tell me it’s not by colour… (I mean, I kid. Do what you like. But what earthly use is that?!)

 

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Weekly Roundup

Posted 15 September, 2018 by Nikki in General / 10 Comments

Slowly, slowly, we’re coming to the end of the moving nightmare. I’m writing this from my new office space, and all my books are on shelves… if not quite the shelves they will finally be on (and the comic books aren’t unpacked at all). Here’s a sneaky shelfie… (and a bun checking his email).

 

So much left to do, but we’re here and the bunnies are here and everything’s gonna be good.

Books read this week:

Cover of Genghis Khan by John Man Cover of The Paper Trail by Alexander Monro

They were both pretty fascinating — learned a lot more about the impact of Buddhist sutras on the history of paper than I ever expected to.

Reviews posted this week:

The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler. Nobody writes quite like Chandler, though some of his views on women and people of colour are sickening. I wouldn’t recommend him to anyone without caveats, but boy oh boy he could write. 4/5 stars

Other posts:

Discussion: Too many books at once? Is there such a thing?
WWW Wednesday. The latest update on exactly what I’m reading right now.

Out and about:

NEAT science: Vive la Pluto. My entry into the debate over whether Pluto’s a planet or not. (Spoiler: yes. As my sister says, with an appalling lack of concern for whether it’s actually correct French, “vive la Pluto”.)

So how’re you all doing? I miss checking out other people’s blogs — I have a list of posts to check out as long as my leg (we overflowed my arm a couple of weeks ago)!

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WWW Wednesday

Posted 12 September, 2018 by Nikki in General / 2 Comments

The three ‘W’s are what are you reading now, what have you recently finished reading, and what are you going to read next, and you can find this week’s post at the host’s blog here if you want to check out other posts.

Cover of The Paper Trail by Alexander MonroWhat are you currently reading?

Mostly non-fiction, as is my habit during stressful times. So at the moment it’s John Man’s book on Genghis Khan, and Alexander Monro’s The Paper Trail, about the invention and spread of paper as a technology. The latter surprised me in how very heavy it was on the linkages between the origins of paper and the popularisation by Daoism and Buddhism, through its use for sutras. Did not know anything about that before, despite knowing that China was the origin of paper made from mulberry trees.

Cover of Seeds of Science by Mark LynasWhat have you recently finished reading?

The last thing I finished was Mark Lynas’ Seeds of Science. It’s pro-genetic modification, pointing out that there’s no reputable science to suggest there’s any harm being caused by the production of GM crops. He was once a major critic and protestor of GMOs, so it’s interesting from that perspective as well. Sadly, I doubt he’ll change anyone’s mind, but it was interesting to read up on it from the point of view of someone who was once a sceptic.

(I’m pro GMOs, obviously; science says they’re safe, I don’t believe that science should be guided by religious taboos, and I think — as Lynas points out — they can help ameliorate food insecurity.)

Cover of River of Stars by Guy Gavriel KayWhat will you be reading next?

I have a massive craving to reread Guy Gavriel Kay’s Under Heaven — and finally get round to River of Stars! — probably due to the Genghis Khan book and The Paper Trail. So maybe I’ll pick those up — I just got them out of their boxes today! The unpacking has begun, and nearly all the bookcases are in place.

How about you? What are you reading?

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Discussion: Too Many Books At Once

Posted 10 September, 2018 by Nikki in General / 14 Comments

Too many books spoil the broth? Hmm… not quite right. Well, I mean, they would, but it’s not quite in the spirit of the proverb.

…Anyway, this week’s discussion post is about reading multiple books simultaneously. I know a lot of people hate doing that, feeling that they lose the thread of the plot or there’s just too much to pay attention to, and I get it. I just can’t sit still for long enough — I’m very much a mood reader, and that means if a book is taking me ages and isn’t something I’m super in the mood to read, I’ll pick up something else to fill in the gaps. The problem occurs when I then pick up another book to supplement that, and… on and on it goes.

Personally, I think you all know my Golden Rule of Reading: have fun, and don’t ever let it become a chore. I did try to reduce the number of books I had on the go at once, because sometimes it is a little stressful or I end up not making progress on a book for ages even though I was enjoying it… but overall, I prefer to give myself the flexibility to just put a book down and come back later, because I don’t ever want to feel resentful about reading or annoyed that I’m dying to pick up Book X but I’m stuck on Book Y. I don’t think it’d work if I read books all in the same genre — they might blur into each other — but maybe it helps that I’m all over the reading map.

So yeah, I refuse to have shame about my currently-reading pile. Vive la stack!

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Weekly Roundup

Posted 8 September, 2018 by Nikki in General / 4 Comments

Good morning, folks! I keep thinking that the moving stuff is going to slacken off and I’m going to have time to reply to all my comments and posts that I’m saving up for when I have some spare time. So far… it’s not happening. The stuff keeps on a-comin’. But we have now successfully got a washing machine and a fridge/freezer, and later today we get the car, so that’s nice.

New books:

Cover of The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate MasCarenhas Cover of City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab Cover of The Edge of Memory by Patrick Nunn

Read this week:

Cover of The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler Cover of The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs Cover of Gods, Graves and Scholars by C.W. Ceram

Reviews posted:

Farthing, by Jo Walton. Quite uncomfortable to read in many ways at this point in political history, but so worth it to my mind. 5/5 stars
A History of Ancient Egypt Volume 2, John Romer. So much information, and so much of it fascinating. 4/5 stars

Other posts:

Discussion: Buying a Series. Do you buy the first book of a series as soon as it comes out? Or wait, to make sure you don’t get lumped with a cliffhanger?

Out and about:

NEAT science: The toughest creature on Earth. Have a guess!

How’s everyone doing?

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WWW Wednesday

Posted 5 September, 2018 by Nikki in General / 2 Comments

The three ‘W’s are what are you reading now, what have you recently finished reading, and what are you going to read next, and you can find this week’s post at the host’s blog here if you want to check out other posts.

Cover of The Rise and Fall of the DinosaursWhat are you currently reading?

The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs by Steve Brusatte. Nothing incredibly new to me so far, but it’s kind of soothing just to read about dinosaurs and not, you know, obsessively check the dimensions of the washing machine I’ve ordered to make sure it fits in the space, which is my other chief occupation at the moment.

(Fingers crossed. It’s arriving tomorrow.)

Cover of The Big Sleep by Raymond ChandlerWhat have you recently finished reading?

Ugh, you know, I don’t even know anymore. It might’ve been my reread of The Big Sleep; hideously racist and sexist (though not as bad on the racism front as the second book, ye gods) but so very well written. Chandler knew how to pick up a metaphor, show it a good time and leave it wanting more, for sure.

Cover of Provenance by Ann LeckieWhat will you be reading next?

Well, me and one of my buddies from Habitica are talking about rereading Ann Leckie’s Provenance, so there’s a good chance it’ll be that. Or I have a whole bunch of books from the library, including Conway Morris’ book on the Burgess Shale, for a change of pace.

What are you reading?

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Discussion: Buying a Series

Posted 3 September, 2018 by Nikki in General / 6 Comments

As with a lot of my discussion posts, this is basically prompted by authors posting on Twitter. In this case, authors are often to be found urging you not to wait for a series to be over before buying their books. There’s solid reasons for that, of course — if people don’t buy the first book in a series, publishers are probably not going to bother taking the risk of publishing the second book — let alone commit to an extended series in hopes that in ten years or so, once it’s complete, people will finally flock to buy the thing.

As a reader, though, I find authorial reproach on this topic… ugh, irritating isn’t the word, because it sounds unfair. But to me, it’s also unfair to expect readers to make an investment in a series right out of the gate, without it even being clear when the next books will come out, how long it’s going to take, how long the series might be, whether things are planned in advance… I would never bother to read the first book of a fantasy trilogy when it’s just the debut novel, for certain: I don’t want to be stuck in Scott Lynch-esque limbo. (I’m with Neil Gaiman — [author name] is not your bitch — but it’s been disappointing as a fan. And in that case, it wasn’t even after the debut novel that things slowed down. There were two books out in reasonably quick succession; it looked like a good bet!)

And of course, I don’t want to buy a book that I’m not going to read until I know when the next one is out. I have a backlog of over a thousand books; if nothing else, I don’t want to purchase something in order to have it sit there for five years inflating my counts and clogging my shelves.

Putting up a discussion post might imply I have an answer, but I really don’t. I don’t have a solid policy: I’ll buy a debut novel if it looks interesting, and I might even read it and risk spending five years waiting for the next book. But it’s something I really would like to balance out somehow: authors’ need for an audience, my desire to feel that I’m not gambling on the next book ever existing…

So hey, what do you guys do? Buy the first book and not read it? Buy the first book and read it and hope to goodness the next comes soon? Stubbornly hold out for the series’ end?

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Weekly Roundup

Posted 1 September, 2018 by Nikki in General / 4 Comments

Good morning, folks! It’s been a quiet week here for the most part, unless you count the bunnies learning that they can make a big noise by dropping their hay ball down the stairs in their hutch when they want me to refill it. New home goes on apace, new car likewise, but I’ve gotta anti-recommend Virgin Media as an internet provider.

(But so many hearts in my eyes for Bulb, who do green energy and a completely hassle-free set up, as well as good rates. If you switch and use that link, you get £50 credit and so do I, just as full disclosure. For me that’s most of a month’s electricity and gas, so it’s a big deal!)

Books received to review:

Cover of Legion by Brandon Sanderson Cover of Ask Me No Questions by Shelley Noble

Tor actually sent me the hardback of Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds — I’ve only ever read the first novella, so I’m pretty excited.

Books read this week:

Cover of Verdict of Twelve by Raymond Postgate Cover of Farthing, by Jo Walton

Reviews posted this week:

Ancestral Journies, by Jean Manco. A fascinating topic — the migrations and colonisations of Europe, as far as they can be traced. There are some slightly more tedious bits, but for the most part it pulls together a lot of evidence and is very worth the read if the topic is interesting to you. 4/5 stars
The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, by Becky Chambers. A reread, and I possibly loved this even more the second time. 5/5 stars
The Burning Page, by Genevieve Cogman. I liked this more on a reread, I think because I really placed it in the context of the other books properly. Before, it felt like an ending, but a weak one; I think that was just me focusing too much on Alberich’s arc. 4/5 stars
Murder of a Lady, by Anthony Wynne. Atmospheric as heck, though perhaps leaning too hard on some tropes I dislike. 3/5 stars
Death of a Busybody, by George Bellairs. Very typical Golden Age stuff, but there’s something about it that makes it a really fun casual read. 3/5 stars
Moral Tribes, by Joshua Greene. A surprisingly (to me) good case for utilitarianism! 4/5 stars

Other posts:

Discussion: A Fast Read. Discussing whether a book being a quick read is a good thing or, as some authors on Twitter think, an insult.
WWW Wednesday. The weekly update on what I’m reading (and what I’m thinking about it!).

Out and about:

NEAT science: ‘STEVE in the sky. Ever seen the northern lights? This post is about a little-understood phenomenon that is a little bit similar in appearance, but so far only superficially understood.

So that’s that for this week! By next week, I’ll have turned my dissertation in and finished everything I can do for my degree. Which means I’ll have plenty of time to catch up on those comments I’m running behind on…

How’re you guys?

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WWW Wednesday

Posted 29 August, 2018 by Nikki in General / 2 Comments

The three ‘W’s are what are you reading now, what have you recently finished reading, and what are you going to read next, and you can find this week’s post at the host’s blog here if you want to check out other posts.

Cover of Gods, Graves and Scholars by C.W. CeramWhat are you currently reading?

Too much at once, as ever, but most actively I’m reading Gods, Graves and Scholars, by C.W. Ceram. It’s out of date now — definitely in terms of Egyptology, at least — but there’s still a fascination and grandeur about the finds Ceram describes and the broad history of archaeology mapped out here. And knowing some of the more recent material, it’s doubly fascinating to see what we used to think. I’m glad I picked this up, even though I had doubts because of the age of it.

Cover of Verdict of Twelve by Raymond PostgateWhat have you recently finished?

I just finished Verdict of Twelve, by Raymond Postgate. It’s one of the British Library Crime Classics, and it’s definitely an interesting one. I had the weirdest sense of deja vu reading the ending, even though I know I haven’t read the book before, and don’t remember peeking at the end! It’s a sort of character study in many ways of the court and how a jury works. It’s less about the actual mystery and more about how people interact..

Cover of Blackout by Mira GrantWhat will you be reading next? 

No idea. Me being me, it could be anything. I’m strongly tempted to pick up Provenance by Ann Leckie again already and give it a reread — I just seem to be in the mood for Leckie’s writing. Or I might settle down to reading some more of Seanan McGuire’s Toby Daye books, and finishing up Blackout

Who knows. The ways of the Nikki are strange.

What are you reading?

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Discussion: A Fast Read

Posted 27 August, 2018 by Nikki in General / 4 Comments

I can’t remember which author it is, but there’s someone on Twitter who gets deeply offended whenever someone says, “Hey, I found your book a really fast read, totally unputdownable!” They completely take it as an insult, because they don’t want to be the kind of author who writes books that might be classed as easy to read.

Authors: please don’t do this. If I read your book fast, it is a compliment, and you’re just willfully taking offence if you decide that it isn’t. I’m a fast reader anyway, and it doesn’t mean that I don’t take in what I’m reading or appreciate your subtleties. How fast I read a book is much less important than how long it stays with me afterwards: there are books which take me months to read and feel like a total chore — do you really want to be one of those?! Because if your book is one of those, I can almost guarantee you… I don’t like it that much.

(There are some exceptions, mood reading and such. But in general…)

Now, there is a time and a place for close-reading. 1) A literature degree, 2) understanding how something is put together because it’s just that fascinating, and 3) you enjoy doing it. I’ve done close-reading for all three reasons — it’s not an impossible thing to hope that someone might do at some point — but most readers aren’t interested in doing that, and most of us just read at our own speed, and savour the book (or not) in our own way.

It’s a compliment, I swear. Chill.

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