Mike’s Prattle

Miscellaneous

What I’m Reading

Posted by Mike on February 11, 2006

Now that I’ve made it obvious I like to read (which doesn’t always add up to actually reading or finding time to read unfortunately), I thought I’d list the books I’m in the middle of. I like to finish everything I start for the most part unless it’s truly bad, so a couple of these have been sitting on a shelf with a bookmark for years:

  • Isaac Asimov ed. – The Hugo Winners, Vol. 2  This is the “bigger half” of the SFBC omnibus. It’s taken a while to get through because of it’s size and on occasion to catch up with a particular series, but it’s all remarkable writing. Overall, for both volumes, my favorites are the two Vance novellas and Brian Aldiss’ The Saliva Tree. I’m probably forgetting something.
  • Kage Baker – Black Projects, White Knights  This is Baker’s collection of stories revolving around her Company universe, which I started reading when I subscribed to Asimov’s for a couple years. Apparently she’s turned some of the stories into the latest book in the series which is going to make that a confusing read. But worth it.
  • James P. Blaylock – The Elfin Ship  Only read a chapter of this one so far because I’ve needed to start on a Blaylock, especially after reading Tim Powers a lot. Looks like it will be good fun.
  • Marion Zimmer Bradley – The Planet Savers  I’m going to attempt to start the Darkover series chronologically and this is the first one, which I believe was used for a revamp later on. I don’t imagine this will be a brilliant book, but I’ll get to see the progression of the writer, provided I make it that far.
  • Susanna Clarke – Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell  I was lured in by a boxed trade paperback set of this book divided in thirds with a neat thaumaturgic circle design. It’s proved to be a good purchase as I can divide my reading time in thirds as well. I’ve finished the first so far. I love the language although it strikes me as a little dry at times.
  • The Avram Davidson Treasury  One of the best books in this group, a collection of a master of short fiction. This one I’m going through slow as it’s extremely rich. An incredible writer who would probably be more popular in the mainstream if he was better known. Lots of neat little intros and essays by all kinds of admirers too.
  • Stephen R. Donaldson – The Illearth War  I’m not much in the mood for high fantasy these days so this was one I haven’t gotten to in a while, although I started it right after Lord Foul’s Bane. Count me in the camp the protagonist grates.
  • Kate Elliott – Prince of Dogs  Probably the book I’ve been in the middle the longest, I can’t seem to motivate myself to read something this big. Kind of a leftover relic from when I was more interested in larger series.
  • James Joyce – Ulysses  Another one I’m reading intentionally slow. I started this years ago and couldn’t parse it, but I’m finding it well up to its reputation now on my second try.
  • Gareth Knight – A Practical Guide to Qabalistic Symbolism  I tend to rip through books written about the western mystery traditions, but this follow-up of sorts to Dion Fortune’s brilliant The Mystical Qabalah is very repetitive in the first part of the book that covers the same territory. I suspect it will get more interesting when it gets into the paths and territory Fortune didn’t cover in tMQ.
  • Haruki Murakami – Hard Boiled Wonder and the End of the World  This is my lead book at the moment and one I’m enjoying quite a bit. An unusual combination of elements and typical of the mainstream in that it’s a speculative fiction book dressed as something else.
  • Tim Powers – Earthquake Weather  Another one that’s taking me a long time to get in the mood for, I’m fairly hot and cold with Powers, and this second of two vaguely linked “sequels” to Last Call is striking me about the same way the first, Expiration Date did: not very compelling.
  • Robert M. Price ed. – The Necronomicon  Chaosium collection of mythos stories related to the Necronomicon. A few gems, but I’m unsurprisingly slogging through Lin Carter’s Dee translation of the book, it’s apallingly written and has all of the cliches you’d expect from the poor end of the genre.
  • Dan Simmons – Fires of Eden  Another one that’s up to the front some, this is another part of the universe linked through character to Summer of Night. It’s not one of his most praised books, but I’m finding I’ve enjoyed just about all the Simmons I’ve read.
  • Neal Stephenson – Quicksilver  200 pages into this monster and it still doesn’t seem to have any sense of direction. I loved Cryptonomicon, but this seems langorous in its pace. Stephenson is pretty compelling at times, so it hasn’t been too difficult to read.
  • S. M. Stirling – Against the Tide of Years  Adventure novel and second in the series about a Nantucket island thrown back into history. The first one was pretty fun and although I haven’t read much, this one seems to be setting up the progress of the island fairly well.
  • Arthur Edward Waite – The Pictorial Key to the Tarot  Waite is one of the most widely criticized writers of the occult due to his very overbearing style. However, his deck is one of the classics, so it’s been worth a read, although this demonstrates well the difficult issues with secrecy I alluded to in the second post of this blog.
  • Marlene Winell – Leaving the Fold  A handbook to help those leaving fundamentalist religions. She’s a licensed psychologist and has a fairly typical strategy for dealing with it through the inner child. It’s a bit new agey in that way for me, particularly so as it goes, so my interest has waned as I’ve read. But I’m not too far from finishing.
  • Gene Wolfe – The Citadel of the Autarch  The fourth Book of the New Sun which is a series you feel like you’re going to need another go at some day as it’s a masterpiece of prose and subtlety. Not very far into it as of yet.
  • The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats  One of the greatest, if not the greatest of 20th century poets and one of the most influential members of the Golden Dawn. You need this.
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4 Responses to “What I’m Reading”

  1. jB said

    Mike, “Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell” is what I’m reading currently – I’ve been enjoying it thoroughly. A little cheeky at points, but very imaginitive, and I love the language too. Not to mention great character development – actually, even characters that get no more than a sketch are memorable. Started it at the beginning of this month and it’s been taking a while: I’m a fairly slow reader, and it’s a 700+ page monster. Don’t mind, though, it’s so good.

  2. Mike said

    I know what you mean by slow reading, my reading interests far outweigh the time I have to read. Jonathan Strange reminds me a little of Benjamin Wooley’s biography of Elizabethen scientist/magician John Dee (The Queen’s Conjurer), which is a more nonfictional account of the English government’s continual interest in the occult (and “what it could do for them”). I love to see it paired with a somewhat Wodehousian conversational style, which was also a big influence on Jack Vance who is a favorite. I’m hoping to pick up the second third of it once I get some of these others accomplished.

    Yeah, I think I can juggle that sixth ball….

  3. jB said

    Hm, I’m not familiar with either Vance or Wodehouse. Any recommendations?

  4. Mike said

    Hey James, I swear I posted a reply to this but I guess it did not take. Re: Wodehouse, all I have is a Barnes and Noble omnibus, so I’m not sure I’m qualified as to what to start with, although it’s the Jeeves stories you want to check out. No idea if there’s a consensus on which are the best.

    Vance I’m better qualified to recommend I guess, but I’d probably start with the Dragon Masters pb, which should have that novella and The Last Castle, his two Hugo winning stories. After that I’d try either The Dying Earth or Demon Princes omnibi. I read recently where someone said that Vance’s overall canon is more impressive than any individual book, which I definitely agree with to some extent.

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