Wednesday, January 27, 2010

On rereading books

I did something 2 weeks ago that I very rarely do. I reread a book. In fact, I reread THE book, Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, that I've been talking up to pretty much everyone I know. I just recently shelled out a ton of cash on a signed first edition copy of the book for Rothfuss' "Worldbuilders" fundraiser, but I realized I hadn't actually read it for over 2 years and I couldn't even remember details well enough to explain why it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. So I figured, what the hey, why not read it again and see if I still like it. Yep, it was still completely and totally awesome. Picked up on even more awesomeness this time around. I'm not going to review it now, really because I can't quite put my finger on why I like it so much. I mean, the story itself is kind of the traditional kid learns magic, pisses off people, and eventually becomes a hero, except that it's not. Kvothe is not Harry Potter, Kvothe isn't even Ged, though Earthsea is what people tend to compare it to what with the naming of things and all. The book is at once familiar and at the same time completely original. Look, a magical school! Look a rich student who is a complete tool for no apparent reason! Look a quirky, yet all knowing professor! What makes Name of the Wind special is the language, the writing. The words are elegant, yet simple, but not in a bad way. But I digress... This isn't a posting about Name of the Wind specifically. Rather, its about the pleasure of rereading books.

I don't reread very often. I mean, I know the story right? I know what happens in the end (Or in the case of Name of the Wind, I don't because the second book hasn't come out yet so I'm free to use my nerdy little imagination). There are definitely a lot of TV episodes and movies I've seen at least 10 times. There is a comfort in watching, say, The Simpsons or Indiana Jones, because you know how the characters are going to act. It's the thrill of anticipation for that great scene or line you know is coming up. I can literally quote Princess Bride almost from start to finish along with the movie, but I still watch it almost every time its on TNT. Sometimes, you can even predict the way the story is going to end on new shows, which is especially true with comfortable mysteries. So I guess that's reason why people enjoy reading book series that go on forever. Its like a TV show. You can go back and visit with old imaginary friends and neighbors, excited about what might happen, but at the same time reassured that your hero will live for the next installment (usually). But really, the only series I've ever felt this way about has been Harry Potter. Anything else longer than a trilogy usually fails to hold my interest.

For some reason the same pleasure I get from watching an old episode of Star Trek doesn't translate itself into a need to reread a book again. Maybe its because it just takes so much longer (though not all that long, knowing me). Probably it is because I have such a long "to be read" list that I feel like rereading would take time away from "more important things." But its kind of depressing as a librarian that there are so many books I give to people that I give my stamp of approval to that I can't even remember that well. And the number of books I have read more than once is really small: all the Harry Potters, To Kill a Mockingbird, Prydain Chronicles, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Stardust, The Odyssey, Charlotte's Web, Lord of the Rings, Much Ado About Nothing, Island of the Blue Dolphins, A Wrinkle in Time, Inkheart, and... hm...that's about all that I can think of off the top of my head. Mouse and the Motorcycle definitely, um... Fahrenheit 451 I'm pretty sure. As you can see, they are mostly children's books. Many I reread because I wanted to recommend them to kids. Others because I'm a fangirl. Sue me. But there are a lot of books that I often count among my favorites that I have never read more than once. Or, if I read them more than once, I can't actually remember all that much about them except that they were good and for some reason I decided they were my most favorite ever. Seriously, I can't remember the actual plot details of 60% of things I read 6 months after reading them so this shouldn't come as a huge surprise.

So, with that being said, I've decided to reread a bunch of books and evaluate whether or not I still like them as much as I did before. Some I read as a kid or in high school, some I read just a few years ago but still can't remember them to save my life, some have been made into movies and I can't remember which details were also in the novel, a bunch are from the same handful of authors I was crazy for in college. Ongoing challenge, I have no expectations of finishing all these this year on top of all the other reading I'm doing. Just putting it out there. I don't really feel like rereading books that I didn't really enjoy that much the first time, as educational as that might be. Instead this challenge is to reread books that at some point in my life I have considered to be among my "favorites" or have actively recommended to friends/ library patrons, regardless of whether or not I actual remember them. I'm going to stick with those books that have left really strong impressions on me, but I couldn't booktalk or write a book report on today. I am, however, going to reread Dune for an upcoming post, despite the fact that I remember the book pretty well, because I was really, really obsessed with it in 7th grade for some reason and I'm trying to figure out why.

Possible rereads:
Dune - Frank Herbert - REREAD on Audio - completed 6/10

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell - Susanna Clarke

Neverwhere - Neil Gaiman

American Gods - Neil Gaiman

Sandman series - Neil Gaiman

Sirens of Titan - Kurt Vonnegut

Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut

Breakfast of Champions - Kurt Vonnegut

Mysteries of Pittsburgh - Michael Chabon

Motherless Brooklyn - Jonathan Lethem

Brothers Karamazov - Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Catch 22 - by Joseph Heller

Little House on the Prairie - Laura Ingles Wilder

Walden - Henry David Thoreau

Martian Chronicles - Ray Bradbury

Devil's Arithmetic - Jane Yolen

Number the Stars - Lois Lowry

Ramona the Pest - Beverly Cleary

Egypt Game - Zilpha Keatley Snyder

Harriet the Spy - Louise Fitzhugh

Are You There God, It's Me Margaret - Judy Blume

Siddhartha - Herman Hesse

Candide - Voltaire

White Fang - Jack London

On the Road - Jack Keruoac

The Spy Who Came In From the Cold - John LeCarre

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Things That I Read

This week (or rather last week): The Gates - by John Connolly

Rated: E for End of the world-hilarity

This review is going to be a quick one since I actually finished it over a week ago and the specifics have started to crawl away from my brain like [insert witty simile here]. Yep, I'm that lazy. Anyway, this book tells the story of Samuel Johnson, a little boy living in a tidy English village, who becomes unfortunately involved with demons and all the end of the world type things that they do. It turns out that his unassuming neighbors accidentally assisted in the opening of a portal to Hell, or rather, a particularly hell-like dimension which bears a strong resemblance to the Hell depicted in Christian mythology. The whole "gateway to Hell" business has been done before, but what I found interesting about this work was how Connolly attempted to explain the phenomenon by connecting the the "magical" creation of the portal to a malfunction of the Large Hadron Collider, and the formation of a sort of black hole/Einstein-Rosen bridge hybrid thingy. At this point you can tell that this girl has never actually taken a physics class in her life. Moving on. The book actually spends a remarkable amount of time on real hard science, which is not really expected in a fantasy novel. Should we then reclassify this thing as science fiction instead? Eh, I mean there are still dragon-like beasties and undead hordes and such, not to mention the semi-magical elements, so I'm going to say no. Still, its pretty different stuff, and I wouldn't mind seeing more science things that I don't understand in fantasy books so I can sound smarter. Science aside, what you have is a pretty straightforward lets-stop-the-end-of-the-world tale written with a lot of tongue in cheek humor and extremely snarky footnotes. If you were looking for a book to compare it too, the easiest would be Good Omens by Terry Pratchet and Neil Gaiman; if you were looking for a movie, then definitely Shaun of the Dead. Except, ya know, with kids. Comparisons to Shaun are particularly apt in the bit where Samuel and his friends fend off these flying demon things with a cricket bat, and of course the part with the actual zombies. I also felt some notes of Hot Fuzz when the semi inept police force is trying to combat the hellspawn. Great stuff that. I particularly liked the character of Nurd, a demon who isn't very good at being terrifying and only sort of good at being good, who gets mixed up in the whole business. I recommend this book to just about everyone. Hard scifi fans are going to like the bits of semi-factual science, fantasy and horror buffs are going to enjoy the magical/ demon stuff, and anybody who likes the absurd will enjoy the ripping good writing. The only other Connolly book I read was "The Book of Lost Things." This book is very different from that, but shows the same talent for storytelling. I wonder whether his hard-boiled crime fiction is as well written. Maybe I'll check it out some day.

Final Word: Definitely the best book I've read this year. Ok, so it's the first book I read this year. Sue me.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Books Read in 2009: A Complete List
or...holy crap! that's a lot of books

Grand Total: 113 books.

Broke this down by Adult, Juvie/YA, Audiobooks and Graphic Novels. Not included on this list are the hundreds of picture books I read for storytime or when they come in new to the library.

Adult Books

1. Already Dead
2. Assassin’s Apprentice
3. Assassin’s Quest
4. Beat the Reaper
5. Beyond the shadows
6. Crooked Little Vein
7. Dearly Devoted Dexter
8. Ender’s Game
9. Fool’s Errand
10. Good Thief
11. Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean
12. Lamentation
13. Last Unicorn
14. Little Country
15. Lost City of Z
16. Lost Horizon
17. Magicians
18. Mistborn
19. Old Man’s War
20. Professor and the Madman
21. Red Wolf Conspiracy
22. Red Seas Under Red Skies
23. Royal Assassin
24. Sandman Slim
25. Shadow’s Edge
26. Sign of the four
27. Street Gang
28. The Strain
29. The Stranger - Frei
30. Warbreaker
31. Warded Man
32. Way of Shadows
33. Wishful Drinking


1. 39 Clues: One False Note
2. Anything but typical
3. Castle in the Attic
4. Catching Fire
5. Curse of the Night Wolf
6. Diary of a wimpy kid dog days
7. Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks
8. Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell out of a tree
9. Every Soul a Star
10. Farwalker’s Quest
11. Forest of Hands and Teeth
12. Found
13. Frankie Pickle
14. Geek Chic: The Zoey Zone
15. Great and Only Barnum
16. Herbert’s Wormhole
17. Just Grace
18. Knucklehead
19. Last Invisible Boy
20. Leviathan
21. Magicians elephant
22. Monster Blood Tattoo: Foundling
23. Monstrumologist
24. Mousehunters
25. My Haunted House
26. Nation
27. No girls allowed, dogs ok
28. Odd and the Frost Giants
29. Phineas L MacGuire Erupts
30. Savage
31. Shooting the Moon
32. Suddenly Supernatural: Scaredy Kat
33. Tales from outer suburbia
34. When you reach me


1. Anne of Green Gables
2. Prince Caspian
3. Swiss Family Robinson
4. Vanity Fair
5. Peter Pan
6. Sabriel
7. Mr Monday
8. Redwall
9. Curse of Chalion
10. No Dominion
11. Hound of the Baskervilles

Graphic Novels

1. Angel after the fall v1
2. Buffy season 8v1
3. Chiggers
4. Cowboys vs aliens
5. Eternal Smile
6. Fables - legends in exile
7. Fables: Animal farm
8. Good Neighbors: Kin
9. Hellboy V1
10. Hellboy v2
11. Invincible Iron Man: 5 Nightmares
12. Iron Man extremis
13. Jellaby in the City
14. Marvel 1602
15. Marvels
16. Pride of Baghdad
17. Punisher Omnibus v1
18. Tiny Titans 1
19. Transmetropolitan 1 - back on the street
20. Transmetropolitan 2 - lust for life
21. Transmetropolitan 3 - year of the bastard
22. Transmetropolitan v4 - new scum
23. Transmetropolitan v5 - lonely city
24. Transmetropolitan - spider’s thrash
25. Transmetropolitan - the cure
26. Transmetropolitan v6 - gouge away
27. Transmetropolitan: Dirge
28. Transmetropolitan: one more time
29. Ultimates
30. Ultimates: gods and monsters
31. Umbrella academy
32. We3
33. Wolverine origin
34. Xmen - gifted
35. Y the last man: unmanned

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

A Short Story by Joanne

So, this week, I'm reading The Gates by John Connolly (review forthcoming). I am enjoying it a lot, particularly because it reminds me of a short short story I wrote a few years ago. I thought, in the spirit of giving and as a sort of preface to that review, I would share my story with all of you. I very rarely share things that I write with other people, so you should consider this an special treat. No, really. Please to enjoy...

Subject: Fw: Fw: Fwd: End of the World

When the end of the world comes, at least they can’t blame me. I was the guy who sent the mass email. Now maybe you think, “Hey, mass email isn’t exactly the best way to get across something as massively important as the end of the world.” I guess that’s true. But what would you have me do, huh? Go right up to the police or the FBI and tell them, “Hi, my name is Gary, and my next door neighbor is the Antichrist.” That would just be silly. Besides I’ve seen all those movies. You know the ones with the huge budgets and bad acting where this scientist guy discovers meteors/ aliens/ dinosaurs and nobody believes him, especially this evil general looking dude who says he doesn’t believe in meteors/ aliens/ dinosaurs. Like half the movie is spent with this poor bastard going around trying to tell people to run and hide and nobody does and he gets all frustrated and the meteors/ aliens/ dinosaurs crash/ destroy/ eat people anyway. So basically what I did was cut out all that running around time. Not that I’m lazy or anything, just practical. Besides, this one time I got a chain letter from a friend of mine that started in Pakistan or Paraguay or Papua New Guineaor one of those other ‘P’ countries… maybe Peru. But anyway, it started pretty far away and must have gone to a lot of other people. That’s what gave me this mass email idea. What, you have a better idea?

I mean what is a guy like me supposed to do when he discovers he’s living next to the guy who is going to destroy the world. I mean, ok… so maybe if it was one of these terrorist types it might be easier because people are so jumpy about the whole crazy-guys-blowing-up-stuff thing. But this dude doesn’t even look Arab. He’s like this normal white guy. Ok, well at least he looks like a normal white guy. In reality he is the Antichrist, but I think I already mentioned that. But anyway, there isn’t exactly any point in telling people he’s the Antichrist anyway. I mean what are they going to do, huh, lock him up? I’ve seen this guy kill people with his mind all Darth Vader style. Like locking him up would do any good. Hell, I’ve read enough books and seen enough movies to know that the best thing to do is just chill out, get drunk... on second thought, get REALLY drunk and basically wait around for the inevitable. When archaeologists discover my body, if there are archaeologists, or even people, in the future, do I really want it to look like those sick Pompeii guys with their mouths all open and reaching out all petrified and shit? Hell no I don’t. I want to be found sitting in front of the TV, maybe with a Playstation controller in my hand, just calm as can be. I think that’s really very Buddhist of me actually.

Anyway, so I figured, I have my situation all figured out (couch, booze, Playstation) but I thought I might as well give everybody else an opportunity to do what they really want to before the time comes. I thought that was the least I could do you know. Like the first person I told was my friend Dave and he was like “Yo, I am totally going to BASE jump off of my office building during lunchtime tomorrow.” Something like that would never have even occurred to me (I’m not exactly sporty) but you know that was always his dream to do that so, like, hey, by all means he should. So yeah, Dave saying that got me thinking about all the other people in the world and stuff. Like maybe there is some dude who has always wanted to ask out this girl but he was too afraid or whatever and him knowing that the world is about to end might like give him the confidence and junk… or some chick who has like never gotten laid… or some guy who has always wanted to see Paris but has been saving up for his daughter’s college education but since nobody will be alive by the time she gets to college he might as well go on a trip or whatever.

So yeah, when the end of the world comes you all can’t blame me for not telling you. At least I sent the mass email.Which, like, I totally didn’t have to do.