Yeah, I’ve heard him referred to as The Explainer in Chief because of this.
I mean honestly “Some Remarks” is probably his most easy-to-recommend book because it’s just a collection of random stuff like the story about building data cables that he wrote for Wired (Mother Earth, Mother Board) which he later repurposed for some stuff in Cryptonomicon. Taken on its own, it’s a really interesting story, and it’s way easier for people to read that than when the same info is crammed into the middle of an adventure story about dotcom startups trying to find Nazi gold in the Philippines.
Oh boy, yes, yes I would! Generally speaking are you more inclined to novels or do you like short stories? If short stories are okay, I think The Wind’s Twelve Quarters is a very nice sampling of her range. Otherwise, if you like fantasy, the Earthsea trilogy is wonderful beginning with A Wizard of Earthsea. If you are happy sticking with science fiction, I would recommend The Dispossessed.
If you are looking for something similar to Left Hand but not by Le Guin, I would recommend Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice.
The End of Eternity by Issac Asimov. First of all, some wild covers were made for this, couldnt resist posting some, the top is the most recent edition.
The story is about a group of humans who have mastered time travel and live outside of time, manipulating reality to produce the best popular outcomes. They call themselves the Eternals.
Part of the premise of this book is that Eternals can only be men, and not allowed to marry or have children. The only woman in the story is a love interest who seduces one of the Eternals. There’s even reference to how the main character feels time periods with matriarchies are disturbing and should be wiped from reality.
The sexism here is blatent and disturbing…tempered by being written in 1955, and the eventual realization of the true nature of the Eternals and their effect on human development. The woman does turn out to have hidden layers and turns the tables (reminiscent of female characters in the Foundation series). But…ultimately it’s the male protagonist who gets to make the critical decisions …
On the low end of the books I’ve read by Asimov, some ideas like stability vs the drive to evolve that were interesting though.
Very cool! I will definitely check out The Dispossessed. I also really enjoy short stories. I keep telling myself that I am going to dedicate an entire year (or at least a summer) to just reading short story collections. If I ever do, I’ll be sure to add The Wind’s Twelve Quarters to the list.
Is this a good place to talk about books in other languages?
Since moving to Japan I’ve been exclusively reading novels in Japanese, both for practice and because I’m interested in them.
I’ve read close to 20 books this year, up from a fat 0 in the last decade. I used to read a lot as a kid but around the time I entered high school I Just Stopped.
Right now I’m reading this one, called ミッキーマウスの憂鬱 (The Melancholy of Mickey Mouse)
It’s about a 20-something-year-old uni graduate who gets a job at Tokyo Disney Land, and the secret goings on behind the scenes in the park. It’s really light and a lot of fun so far. I’m about 100 pages in.
Some favourites I’ve read so far include:
古典部シリーズ (the ‘classic literature club’ series), the basis for the anime Hyouka
Penguin Highway, which recently got an anime movie
キッチン (Kitchen), a very famous “I” novel by Yoshimoto Banana about coping with death
コンビニ人間 (Convenience Store Woman, recently translated into English!)
風の歌を聴け (Hear the Wind Sing), the debut novel by Murakami.
I strongly recommend reading in your second language if you have one. The sense of accomplishment is immensely satisfying, and you kill two birds with one stone by enjoying learning more words and grammar.
Any JP readers around?
Reading Calvin and Hobbes.
Kolyma Tales by Varlan Shalanov. The first of two volume short stories from a author who spent 17 years in the gulag in north east Siberia, initially working the mines and later as a paramedic. I read about 400 of the 700 pages which is 2 of the 4 books, the first is focused on people working in mines and clearing forest, the second on those working in the hospital as paramedics. The biggest differene between the two being the chances of surviving which play a part in how people behave. In the former everyone is out for themselves and the “gangsters”, a sub group of prisoners who rob and kill anyone who gets in their way rule the roost. Working in the hospital allows for a level of human decency cause the prisoners aren’t on the edge of death. There is line about when you have nothing left physically all that you have little left emotionally or at least emotions beyond fear and hate.
Some of them are heavy going, reading about how desperate and beaten down people are especially when they get 50-15 years added onto their sentence which in the mines is a death sentence.
The Albigensian Crusade by Jonathan Sumption. A short, dense and informative book on the crusade against the dualist Christian group known as the Cathars in Southern France in the 1200s. One of the the most interesting aspect was Sumption’s focus on how this crusade led to the King of France gaining greater control in a region that up till then was more in name than in fact. Also the contrast in the political system between North and South France with the South having far stronger urban centres with elected consuls and an urban knights had no equivalent north of the Pyrenees. As as result of this crusade the power of both was greatly reduced.
Viriconium by M John Harrison. A collection of novels and short stories covering an indeterminate period of time in and around the city of Viricomium. Genre wise it would be dying earth, et in the far future where most of the world is a wasteland with random pieces of old technology scattered around. The time period is the called the “Evening culture” following the more technological advanced “Afternoon culture”, in which words were emblazoned on stars and the Earth was ruined. My main take away from it is a feeling of decay and instability with some of the stories, somewhat similar to the book of the new sun by Gene Wolfe but very different in other ways. Here in some of the stories there is a greater focus on art and those who create it as main characters.
Looking back I see this elements of this series in both China Mievilles and Steph Swainston novels.
Reading The Tombs of Atuan, somehow I missed Le Guin in all my years of fantasy fiction reading. It was a bit slow to start for me but a third of the way in and it has its hooks in now.
I haven’t touched it in a while, but I was reading Count Zero after finishing Neuromancer.
I miss the dreamy atmosphere you got with Case’s story in Neuromancer, and none of the perspective characters, with perhaps maybe Turner, have that quality.
Playing through RDR2 reminds me I have Blood Meridian, that I’ve always wanted to read. Might give that a shot after I finish Count Zero.
Blood Meridian, is a worthy, if stomach churning read. I find Cormac McCarthy a complex read, because on one hand he’s undermining the toxic myths of the west and violent masculinity. On the other hand, there’s a wistfulness in his work for elements of the same, and a lack of counter-example. As a word-smith, though, he’s really hard to match, sitting powerfully in a dreamlike middle between poetry and prose.
I’m reading Nick Harkaway’s Gnomon. CW’s for violence, sexual harassment, and torture (so far). About halfway through. Without spoiling anything (because this book is structured in layers of Canterbury Tales like narratives leading ever closer to some sort of revelation – I’m not sure I’m capable of spoiling anything), it sets out as a sort of detective story in a future Britain where privacy – down to your very thoughts – has been eliminated, and government has been replaced with a collection of AI agents that guide tasks such as direct democracy and criminal investigations carried out by humans. This is a very difficult setting for any sort of mystery to exist, and that sets the stage for this exploration of the idea of identity.
The “Tales” have been hit and miss for me (particularly the one that meanders into ancient rome) but the hits have been pretty solid. It puts me in the peculiar position of wanting to know where it ends, while knowing that the journey is probably going to be the best part.
The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition by Ursula Le Guin, illustrated by Charles Vess
The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle
(see waypoint discussion of book here
Amazing collection of Le Guin’s Earthsea stories. I had previously only read the first trilogy, so getting to read her follow up stories was an unexpected pleasure, plus the afterwords included that she wrote in 2012 were very interesting. Like how she saw the original Wizard of Earthsea written in ‘68 as being comforming (it’s a young man’s hero journey) and subversive (none of the main characters are white - something most of the cover illustrators at the time chose to change).
Warning - book is massive, it’s def one of those books you have to put down a table or something to read.
Ballad of Black Tom I don’t have much to say that hasn’t already been covered…it’s successful as a horror story and a subversion of The Horror at Red Hook, reccomended and it’s very short read (149 pages).
WOW, the illustration on the cover of that book is incredible. i already have all the earthsea books but it would be nice to get this edition someday, thanks for posting it here
You’re welcome, it’s an incredible book.
The illustrations are black and white for the most part, color ones at the beginning of each story in the series.
I just finished reading Bloody Rose by Nicholas Eames and really, really loved it. It’s got a fantastic cast of characters who are a lot of fun and have a lot of depth to them. It strikes a great balance of having a lot of silly moments but also dealing with some serious stuff really well. It’s wonderful and queer and has easily become one of my favorite books ever. I read it while travelling for the holiday and when I got home I felt the urge to immediately re-read it because I loved it that much.
I am rereading Earthsea right now! I hope your journey goes well.
Just finished Emily Carroll’s “Through the Woods”. The art is great and the stories are interesting. She did the art (and I think wrote) for the game “The Yawhg”.
Wouldn’t mind reading more graphic novels. Have never really had an interest in them before, but this was good, and recently read “Killing and Dying” by Adrian Tomine, which really exceeded my expectations as well. Killing and Dying is a series of short stories that talk about growing up, trauma, and friendships and relationships. Recommend both!
Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
Killing and Dying by Adrian Tomine
I read Tomine’s Shortcomings in an undergrad graphic novel course and really loved it. My girlfriend got me a collection of his New Yorker covers and it’s really great to thumb through all the time. I love his art and perspective all the time. I’ll need to check this out from the library!