I’m taking a page from Ken Newquist‘s book (or rather, his blog and podcast) to present my Summer Reading List. As we’re well into the season, the list includes books I’ve read since late June, those I am currently reading, and those I intend to read before summer comes to a close. The last of these three lists is—to put it lightly—mutable, as which book I pick up next is subject more to whim than design.
- Shambling Towards Hiroshima by James Morrow. During World War II, a B-movie actor is hired to play the part of a giant, fire-breathing lizard in order to convince the Japanese to surrender or have a trio of Godzilla-like creatures unleashed on their cities.
- The Touch by F. Paul Wilson. The third installment of The Adversary Cycle tells the tale of a doctor who suddenly gains the ability to heal with a touch. It wouldn’t be a medical thriller if there weren’t a terrible price to pay. This isn’t my preferred genre, but I enjoyed The Keep and The Tomb, so I thought I’d continue the cycle; The Touch isn’t anywhere near as creepy as its predecessors, but it’s a pretty entertaining tale.
- Glasshouse by Charles Stross. In a far-flung future where technology makes changing your gender, race, and even species as commonplace as changing your shirt, and humanity has been through a great Censorship War, Robin wakes with no memory of his past and a killer on his tail. How much of what makes you you is determined by your physical being, your memories, and your relationships with other people? This was really a fascinating read.
- His Majesty’s Dragon (Temeraire · Book 1) by Naomi Novik. During the Napoleonic Wars, the H.M.S. Reliant, a British naval vessel, captures a French ship and siezes a most unusual cargo: a dragon’s egg. When the dragon hatches and bonds to Will Laurence, the Reliant’s captain must leave the Navy behind for His Majesty’s Air Corps. I love Novik’s writing style and the relationship that forms between the dragon, Temeraire, and Laurence is beautifully executed. This is definitely my favorite book of the summer so far.
- Anathem (Audio) by Neal Stephenson. The audio version of this lengthy tome consists of twenty-eight compact discs and took me eleven weeks to complete. As Chris Miller pointed out to me, Neal Stephenson doesn’t so much write novels as essays stitched together with bits of story. Much time is spent explaining how the world in which Anathem takes place is different from our own, complete with excerpts from The Dictionary (4th Edition, A.R. 3000) that mark the beginning of each of the eleventy-three thousillion chapters. Anathem follows Fraa Erasmas of the concent of Saunt Edhar as he ventures out into the sæcular world during (and after) Apert. And to explain every term in that sentence would require more space than I’m willing to devote to a single bullet point right now.
- Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore. The Bible doesn’t go into a whole lot of detail where the first thirty years of Christ’s life are concerned, and now Levi (who is called Biff) has been resurrected by the angel Raziel to fill in the gaps. Chris Miller and I will be discussing this somewhat-apocryphal gospel on a future episode of The Secret Lair.
- The Strain (Audio) by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan. Vampires!
- Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (Audio) by Susanna Clarke. Magicians!
- The Way of Shadows (Book 1 of The Night Angel Trilogy) by Brent Weeks. Assassins! (Sorry: wetboys.)
Finally, here is a fourth list, which may be considered a bonus by some and entirely excessive by others. I have been using GoodReads to track my ever-expanding library and hummingbirdlike reading habits, but there are a number of similar sites and as I become aware of one I can’t help but set up an account and import at least a portion of my books, just to see how it compares to the others. Here is a list of said sites (I don’t claim it is comprehensive, and if you know of another please leave a comment with a link to it.) that I’ve been using recently, in the order I joined:
- GoodReads. Very well put together. The interface is generally very intuitive, though management of group “shelves” could be enhanced. GoodReads is, unfortunately, ad-supported.
- Readernaut. My favorite of the bunch so far. Pages aren’t as “busy” as those on GoodReads or LibraryThing and there’s a lot of flexibility around tweaking books (I especially like that I can upload my own cover images). Pages tend to render poorly on some installations of Internet Explorer. Readernaut is not currently ad-supported.
- Shelfari. My least favorite by quite a large margin. I’m not a fan of the default “shelf” layout and though the add/edit book interface is nice and streamlined, it is also rather limited. Shelfari is ad-supported.
- LibraryThing. I haven’t played with this one very much, but I do like that there is space for BookCrossing IDs (though it’s been months since I last logged in to BookCrossing) and they seem to pack in a lot of information about individual titles. LibraryThing is not ad-supported, but offers both free and subscription-based models, so I can only assume that the size of my library (as a free user) has a limit.
I’m back in good graces with my local library, so I’ve been a multimedia fiend for the past couple of weeks. Here’s a list of the audio, video and printified goodness that I’ve enjoyed recently or will be enjoying shortly:
- Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman. Read by Lenny Henry. Gaiman’s follow up to American Gods focuses on African and West Indian deities. Anansi Boys has a much more sympathetic main character (Fat Charlie), and the world felt much more fleshed out than the stark landscapes of American Gods. Top-notch narration by British comedian Lenny Henry adds even more flavor to the rich story.
- Nature Girl by Carl Hiaasen. Read by Lee Adams. I’m a little over halfway through this quirky tale of lust, revenge and the general decline of basic civility, but I’m enjoying it quite a lot. The main character is a bit of a nutjob, which makes her difficult to sympathize with at times.
- Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. Read by Simon Prebble. This will take a good chunk of time to get through, and it doesn’t help that it was Laura, not me, who checked it out of the library. I haven’t started listening to Jonathan Strange just yet; I’ll begin as soon as I finish Nature Girl, if Laura will let me.
- M:I:III, also known as Mission: Impossible III, starring the actor formerly known as Mr. Nicole Kidman. I heard rumors that Tom’s talkshow antics really hurt this movie’s box office performance. I’d dismiss those rumors as whiny excuse-making, except for one thing: M:I:III is the best of the series. It’s got tons of over-the-top action, lots of super-cool spy gadgetry, and Philip Seymour Hoffman makes a damn good villain. I only wish I’d had the option to get a widescreen copy, as the pan-and-scan on the fullscreen version is practically painful at times.
- The first season of Sledge Hammer! starring David Rasche. Sometimes the things that we thought were funny and cool two decades ago should be relegated to fond memories and not revisited on DVD. Sledge Hammer! doesn’t seem anywhere near as funny today as I remember it being. I got a few chuckles out of it, but the show feels incredibly dated today.
- Date Movie starring Alyson Hannigan. Date Movie — along with its even more inane cousin, Epic Movie — are proof-positive that the writers (or some subset of the writers) of Scary Movie have shot their collective wad. Alyson Hannigan barely (and I do mean barely) makes this unfunny parody worth watching.
- Smokin’ Aces starring a whole bunch of folks.
- Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman. The only ink-and-paper title on the list. I’m only a few pages into this tale of heroes and villains of the super variety. I like what I’ve read so far.