Booking Through Thursday: The books I carry, or the books that carry me

Here is this week’s Booking Through Thursday:

Do you carry books with you when you’re out and about in the world?

And, do you ever try to hide the covers?

Yes, I carry books when I’m out and about. Of late, when I go to substitute teach, along with my lunch in my backpack, I carry Year’s Best SF 12 to read on my breaks.

It’s a short story anthology from 2006 and includes Nancy Kress, Joe Haldeman, and Ian MacLeod.

Short stories are really good for the hour or so of planning period time I usually have available for myself. Much better than reading the same copy of Wired or Time or Newsweek found in the teacher’s lounge.

No, I don’t hide the covers of books I carry around, unless it’s a big stack in the shopping bag from the bookstore I’ve bought them from.


Booking Through Thursday: Will Deep Space Be My Dwelling Place?

Here is this week’s Booking Through Thursday (a little late):

What are you reading now?

Would you recommend it?

And what’s next?

I’m reading Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl. So far I would recommend it. It’s sort of a post-apocalyptic steampunk/cyberpunk blend set in a near future Thailand, in a world where food and calories are assets and genetic modification has run amok. So far very readable. And Bacigalupi’s world is well-imagined.

The next read will probably be a reread of Alfred Bester’s The Stars My Destination.

Gully Foyle is my name

And Terra is my nation.

Deep space is my dwelling place,

The stars my destination.

Booking Through Thursday: Reading history

Here is this week’s Booking Through Thursday:

Sometimes I feel like the only person I know who finds reading history fascinating. It’s so full of amazing-yet-true stories of people driven to the edge and how they reacted to it. I keep telling friends that a good history book (as opposed to some of those textbooks in school that are all lists and dates) does everything a good novel does–it grips you with real characters doing amazing things.

Am I REALLY the only person who feels this way? When is the last time you read a history book? Historical biography? You know, something that took place in the past but was REAL.

A long time ago, I was a history major, intent on teaching history. I have a degree in history. But since then I have not read many history books, nor have I taken up teaching history.

I haven’t, however, completely disowned my past. I have read some excellent histories over this decade and will probably read some again in the future.

When I covered religion as a newspaper reporter and editor, I would dip into my history textbooks, especially Richard S. Dunn’s The Age of Religious Wars: 1559-1715,  which covers much of the Reformation, to add depth to my stories. At that time I also read Thomas Cahill’s Desire of the Everlasting Hills, a historical biography of  Jesus. From time to time I would also dip into Paul Johnson’s A History of Christianity, though I haven’t read the book all the way through.

Another historical biography I’ve read within the past five or six years is Karen Armstrong’s Buddha, one of the series of short, immensely readable, biographies put out by Penguin several years back.

Of late my reading has diverged toward possible future history, reading science fiction. After all, sans air cars and FTL travel, we living in a somewhat science-fictional universe. Of course here’s hoping our future history doesn’t include Morlocks.

Re: Rereading

This week’s Booking Through Thursday:

What’s the first book that you ever read more than once? (I’m assuming there’s at least one.)

What book have you read the most times? And–how many?

Maybe, subconsciously, early in our lives we’re all re-readers. We want the same story read to us over and over because we somehow know we can’t read the same river twice.

And I’m sure the first rereading I did was probably a children’s book or books and certainly comic books which I ravenously reread. As I think about this topic,  images fill my mind of panels vaguely recalled of Disney’s version of Robin Hood (Robin and Maid Marian were foxes and the Prince was a fey lion) and in particular a story of Robin evading King Churl, a warthog. I liked Churl’s warthog minion, specifically because they carried crossbows and I have a fascination with crossbows even though I’ve never used one.

And I recall rereading Alan Dean Foster’s adaptation of Star Wars, because like so many in my generation, Star Wars was/is an obsession. (Foster’s byline was later usurped by George Lucas.)

As far as most reread: that honorific would probably not go to a specific book, but to Hemingway’s short story “Hills Like White Elephants;”  it’s the first “literary” story I loved and led me to my lifelong obsession with Hemingway.

Of his novels I would have to say I’ve read and reread The Sun Also Rises the most. And then I’ve completely abused Kenneth Lynn’s biography of Hemingway, trying, at first embarrassingly enough, to seek out clues about how to be a writer, how to live like a writer.

Another favorite reread — and sometimes it’s just passages I reread — is Michael Chabon’s Wonder Boys. I reread a few passages last night when I got stuck in my own writing. Chabon can make a hangover and throwing up from too much drinking seem elegant and morally revealing.

Of course, again, I think the pleasure of rereading is rediscovering a book or story, and realizing it’s never the same old story.

Booking Through Thursday: Books, Books, and More Books

OK, it’s been a long time since I rock-and-rolled with Booking Through Thursday, so here it goes again:

What’s the largest your personal library has ever been? What’s the greatest number of books you’ve ever owned at one time? (Estimates are fine.)

Is your collection NOW the biggest it’s ever been? Or have you down-sized?

What’s the fewest number of books you’ve ever owned (not counting your pre-reading years)?

My estimate is that my library, at its largest, probably hit 400 books — I’ve never counted.

My best estimate now is that it ranges around 300 books, maybe  more, maybe less. I’ve sold and traded some during recent moves, although I’ve also bought some, too.

I’d probably have to say, oddly enough, I had the fewest books when I was in college. Textbooks, of course, I didn’t keep. And sometimes I sold back stuff I liked for necessities like beer.

Then again, maybe I had a pretty decent library then, too. Perhaps it only seemed small because most of the books I had were paperbacks, and they don’t take up as much room.



Booking Through Thursday: What I’m reading now

Here is this week’s Booking Through Thursday:

What are you reading right now? What made you choose it? Are you enjoying it? Would you recommend it? (And, by all means, discuss everything, if you’re reading more than one thing!)

Two books. The first is China Mieville’s The City & The City, which tied for best novel in this year’s Hugo Awards.

You may or may not know that I’m trying my hand at  writing science fiction, and I’ve been reading and rereading in that genre extensively for the past several months. My first attempts as a fledgling writer were in science fiction and fantasy, and I kind of abandoned these nurturing forms in grad school — a bad case of becoming a snobby reader — and tried to pass myself off as a “literary” writer, whatever that is, even though my published — and recently submitted —short fiction has  fantastic elements in it.

Anyhow, I decided to read Mieville’s novel to see what some of the currents of the genre are. I’m not far into the novel enough to give it an evaluation, although it’s clear from this novel, and from others I’ve recently read, that there is no reason to sneer at the actual writing. Stylistically, Mieville’s talented. He’s writing in the voice of a detective investigating a murder in a fictional Balkans city. I haven’t hit on the elements that make the novel science fiction, yet. Although, I understand there’s some hidden mystery within the mystery of an unsolved crime.

The second book, also science fiction, is Nancy Kress’s short story collection Nano Comes to Clifford Falls. Again initial interest comes in getting in touch with currents in a particular genre. That said, I recently read Kress’s novel Steal Across the Sky, a comic look at what might happen if the aliens really did meddle in our lives and then came here to make amends for meddling. I had read her columns in Writer’s Digest for years, but had not read any of her fiction.

What I’ve read of her short stories so far, I’ve liked. The title story portrays what might happen if nanotechnology were to invade a small Midwestern town, without the town fully understanding this cutting edge technology. The second story in the collection is a humor piece dealing with an argument over who owns genes donated to a pharmaceutical company to develop a flu vaccine.

Again, I’m not far enough into the story collection to give it a full evaluation, but I like what I’m reading so far.

I can say that both books are giving me a wide perspective into a open-ended genre. It’s clear science fiction isn’t just about blasting through the stars—but has it ever really been just about that?

Booking Through Thursday: Movies and books

Here is this week’s Booking Through Thursday:

Even though it’s usually a mistake (grin) … do movies made out of books make you want to read the original?

Several movies from books have made me want to read the book. In fact, I’ve discovered writers like Michael Chabon after I’ve seen movies made from their books. I saw the film version of Wonder Boys before I read the novel. Both are equally good, and neither disappoints. On the other hand, Sideways — another novel I read after seeing the film — disappointed me. The novel isn’t horrible, but gets derailed by some contrived plot points that are rehashed or deleted in the film, making the film an excellent adaptation.