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On the book migration lanes

Many evenings, sometime after ten, a skein of geese fly over our house, on their way home from their daylight feeding grounds. I've never seen them clearly - too high, too dark - but I hear them, calling out to each other as they fly their regular route. And then, my other half (his name is Phil) insists that our bedroom is also on the migratory path of a herd of medium size wildebeest, who, it seems, pass through between 1 and 3 a.m., on they way (I can only imagine) from one side to the other of the Serengeti. (This pattern has, you must understand, nothing whatsoever to do with the nocturnal habits of cats, and in particular nothing whatsoever to do with our two rambunctious neutered male cats and their habit of holding play fights on the bed.)

It often seems to me that the house - and my desk in particular - is on the migratory route of thousands and thousands of schools of books. At any given time, alongside all those who regularly make their homes on shelves, my desk-top and bedside table hold several who are, I can only imagine, resting in transit. There's a cartoon doing the rounds at present on facebook about the dangers of inviting books into your homes (they breed, they annoy the neighbours and they can never, ever, be persuaded to leave). It reminds me of my life. Right now, there are something in the order of ten books transiting past me. I can count 14 scattered on my desk. Most of these are books that have been lent to me, and are waiting to be returned. But in addition to these, there's a biography of Dumas, which I'm using for an article I'm writing on him, a Welsh grammar, a slim and entirely bogus volume on Celtic magic (research for the novel-in-progress, which riffs off various fake theories) and a novel I'm supposed to be reviewing. I'm not exactly reading any of these - they're more for dipping into (apart from the review copy) but they're currently in use.

The bedside table is a lot worse. I have developed, it seems, the habit of reading more than one book at once. I'm really not sure how this happened. It just crept up on me, I swear. The books made me do it. I am not, not, not, incurably butterfly-minded. Right now, that table holds a book on anarchism (research for Worldcon programme), a book on the psychology of creative writing, a book on the novels of Chinese writer Jin Yong (Louis Cha), a book on the origins of the scientific revolution, a book about grimoires, a how-to-write book, a book on the history of British cinema, and my e-book reader. Oh, and Dion Fortune's book on training in ritual magic.

I'm part-way through all of them. The books on magic and on the scientific revolution are research, again for that novel-in-progress. (It's not steampunk. It's also not urban fantasy, or gaslight romance, though it may in some ways turn out to be Gothick. It does have a spaceship. And aether. And a cat who isn't. As a writer, I am hopeless at fixing on a subgenre and staying within it. This is probably a character flaw. That dilettante tendency, yet again. ) They are all fascinating: well-written, detailed, well-researched, thoughtful. The past, as ever, is filled with extraordinary corners, with depths and twists and ideas that never cease to amaze and inspire and awe me. The two writing books are the fringes of a long-standing habit I have of reading about writing. The how-to one was recommended to me by someone as a useful and supportive books for mid-career writers, but I am clearly the Wrong Writer for it, as I'm finding it very annoying, and prescriptive and full of Campbellian clichés. (I am not a fan of Joseph Campbell. I studied social anthropology as part of my first degree, and, well... If I want to read about myth, I can think of better places to start.) The one on psychology is varied: it's a collection of papers and some of them are interesting, but my overall word for it would probably be naïve. There's a lot of counting and assumptions, but the samples are small and, to my mind, anomalous, and it has told me anything that doesn't seem obvious. I think, for how writer-brain functions, I'm still sticking with Jung and Dennis Palumbo. The other two - the book on Jin Yong and the book on cinema - are there because I just want to read them. I've loved the works of Jin Yong since I first met them via the lens of film adaptation, and I've sought and read all of them that are available in translation (which is only three, which is unsatisfactory). He writes what looks on the surface to be adventure novels - tales of wandering swordsmen and martial artists, political manoeuvrings and strange abilities, of mysteries and escapes and plots and revenge. He has a lot in common with Alexandre Dumas, in some ways. And like Dumas, there is far more under the surface, a deep engagement with social order and the nature of power, with ethics and human ambitions, with the use and abuse we make of legend and ability, history and expectation. I recommend him highly. I recommend the book on him, too (Paper Swordsman, John Christopher Hamm), though it's very frustrating, because most of the works it discusses by Jin Yong have not been translated.) And the cinema book - Mark Sweet, Shepperton Babylon? I don't know, except that my mother brought me up with a love of film, and I have been watching them and reading about them as long as I can remember. And this book looks at those we have forgotten, those writers and directors, producers and actors who works are lost or forgotten, to whose faces we can seldom now put names, but who were once lionised. It's an interesting book, and, despite its title, more elegiac than scandalous. I'm enjoying it.

So: what are you all reading, today, and why? What do you think of it?

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My reading for today consists of lots and lots of fanfiction (I have a serious text addiction. Fanfic is cheap, easy to source[1] and tends to supply enough variety that I don't feel the need to spend huge amounts on published work, which is a Good Thing when I'm on a very low[2] income). At the moment I'm reading Avengers fanfic because that's what interests me at present, yesterday I was going back through a couple of favourites in the Final Fantasy VIII fandom, and the day before it was revisiting a few from Final Fantasy VII[3].

The book I'm re-reading (see previous notes about why I'm not reading new novels at present) is currently "The Atrocity Archives". My large-format paperback copy formally gave up the ghost yesterday and split into two pieces (must get to and find the packaging tape to run repairs) but this hasn't stopped the re-read. I've just got to "Concrete Jungle" and I was reading that while waiting in the parking lot at the train station for himself to arrive home from work.

When I've finally finished wandering through whichever bits of fanfic catch my interest tonight, I'll head off to bed and read whatever it is I'm up to on the e-reader (mostly more fanfic, although I may get carried away and try continuing reading through Sherlock Holmes again) until my brain starts conking out. If I'm really not interested in what's on the e-reader, I'll leave the light on, and pick up one of the poetry anthologies which is currently being used to prop my bedroom door open and read something from that.

Really, this internet thingie is a godsend for text addicts like me. Loads and loads of written stuff, and it's all pretty much free once you get onboard.

[1] Go to AO3, pick a fandom, and start browsing.
[2] Pronounced "nonexistant". [3] Yes, I have a thing for pretty men. Feel free to sue me.


It's Friday, so the "friday reads" tradition dovetails nicelty into your question, Kari.

I've only just started it, so I have no firm opinions of it yet, but I am currently reading Douglas Hulick's Among Thieves: A Tale of the Kin. Secondary world fantasy looking at the criminal side of an city.


I'm re-reading Richard Morgan's "The Steel Remains" following someone pointing out some rather blatant links with the "Kovacs" stories that I completely missed, while all along I felt a nagging suggestion that the "fantasy" world was very much within a "sci fi" setting.


I like the image of book migration lanes, with the big lakes of libraries sheltering many of them at various times, and schools acting as small forests and so on.

Mind you I can't let go of books very easily once I have them, so I guess I'm more of a stuff them and put them on the wall sort of person. I do try and lend them out but not everyone wants as much information as I do.

I'm currently slowly reading "Lords and men in Scotland: bonds of manrent 1442-1603" by Jenny Wormald. It's a bit slow, obviously, and subtle in places as you would expect when it's about a topic 500 years ago that isn't so well documented and there are opinions.

Also slowly reading bits of the "Scala Philosophorum" by Guido de Montanor. He's easier to read than many alchemical authors.

I feel the need to read some SF to balance that out, but am not sure what to read/ re-read.


I am currently reading:

1) Jerusalem: the Biography, because I have found a new love for history and am bouncing back and forth between eras and locations;

2) The History of Middle-earth/Lord of the Rings (Vol 6); because I am finding it fascinating.

Both are excellent, and I am learning a lot, albeit different things, from both.


I am currently reading:

1) Jerusalem: the Biography, because I have found a new love for history and am bouncing back and forth between eras and locations;

2) The History of Middle-earth/Lord of the Rings (Vol 6); because I am finding it fascinating.

Both are excellent, and I am learning a lot, albeit different things, from both.


Megpie @1: on the ebook reader, I own, I am presently reading a Blake's 7 novella. I've been rewatching the show, and, well... :-)

Guthrie @4: we have a similar tendency. I do, in fact, cull my books from time to time and set batches of them free to roam the wilds (well, the local charity bookshop) but Phil cannot bear to part with a book.

Simon @6: those further Tolkien volumes fascinate me, too. It's rare to get to see an author in progress on a work, and these provide such detail about his writing process.


I don't think that books are migratory. My observations of the species is that they are sessile: on finding a good home they tend to stay there and are right hard to eradicate. After having done a vicious purge on The Stack (it's down to five piles), the visible layer is; "Russian Fairy Tales" (yay Prince Ivan!), Ken McLeod's "Engine City", not one but two Greg Egans "Incandescence" and "Zendegi", and Leonard Susskind's "The Black Hole War". Yes, I'm reading each of them bit by bit - Incandescence for the fourth (fifth?) time.


fvngs @8: there may be variant subspecies. I do suspect they bud: three more have appeared in this house since I wrote my post this morning.


I'm reading 'Possible Side Effects' a collection of essays by Augustan Burroughs. A birthday present from a friend who knows me too well, they are supposed to be funny. I am finding it ineffably sad and a bitter commentary on modern urban life in America.


Some Remarks: Essays and Other Writing by Neal Stephenson

How to Teach Physics to Your Dog by Chad Orzel

But starting Monday those are going to stay on the stack and collect dust. I have to start cramming tech manuals on industrial lasers for a new job.


Having grown up with books (my mother was a bookseller) I tend to alternate between two to four books, always on the lookout for diamonds among the pebbles. At the moment the bookcases cover three of the four walls of my living room, with the overflow in further shelves in my study. @guthrie: Stanislav Lem for SF - he didn't write SF per se, he created future worlds and populated them. Next on the agenda is translating a crime novel...


I read very few fiction books these day (I used to read one a day). The only one this year is Charles' "Apocalypse Codex", mainly for the rather interesting ideas which emerge from notions of the multiverse and "indistinguishable from magic". As for non-fiction... nothing at all. Any info I need I get from the Net.


I just put a bunch of novels by Tim Zahn onto my "recetly-read" pile.

Also Kalevala and The Prose Edda next to my bed.

There's The Barbarian Conversion by Richard Fitcher(history), Good Calories, Bad Calories by Dr. Gary Taubes(diet/health), Liars and Outliars by Bruce Schneier(sociology by a crypto-geek), The Thomas Sowell Reader by Mr. Sowell (collected publications by an economist).

Among my might-move-to-the-bedstand pile are Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas Hofstadter. Also a copy of Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson that was a gift to me. I read it years ago from the library, and have little desire to re-read it now.

Somewhere in the pile-by-my-bedstand is The Apocalypse Codex by some guy named Charles something...


...and on my Kindle app is Campfire Tales from Hell, edited by Rory Miller.

Kind of a compilation of stories that Miller a group of martial-arts-nuts, Policemen, bouncers, former-convicts, and assorted ne'er-do-wells gathered together.


Blue Remembered Earth by Al Reynolds, Masters of Atlantis by Charles Portis, In the First Circle by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, The Lucifer Effect by Philip Zimbardo, River Out of Eden by Richard Dawkins, Random Acts of Senseless Violence by Jack Womack, Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell, and The Corner by David Simons & Ed Burns.

I'm not sure that there's a common theme there.


Your description of migratory books roosting on your desk reminds me of an aside of Terry Pratchett's which described his office having books being used as bookmarks in other books (here). I know how I got the habit of reading multiple books at once: being found reading at some godawful hour at night as a child and having the book confiscated to encourage me to sleep... at which point I would reach under the bed to the emergency cache and start something new.

Currently: just finished test-reading a new play, have "The Hour I First Believed" looming over me insisting I start it next or return it to the lender and confess, and I'm trying to plough through last month's Nature issues. The e-reader is full of technical works, too; I'm in a less-fiction mode at the moment.


Unlike quite a few people on the list, I'm a strictly one-book-at-a-time girl. Well, unless I'm doing research although that's always been more journal based than book based.

My recently read books include Queen of Trades by some guy that lives in Scotland, Fair Game by Patricia Briggs and I've just started on The Crippled God by Steven Erikson. There's some new Neal Asher to buy and read when I swing back to more SF than fantasy.


I've just finished (this morning, at around 7am, a bit of late-onset insomnia) Red Plenty, which is an interesting hybrid of fact and fiction, telling the story of that point in history when the economic growth rate of the Soviet Union was racing ahead at 10% and they (and to some extent the west) believed that the planned economy might lead to untold riches and, at the very least, would easily surpass the inefficiencies of the capitalist market economy.

I'm about a third of the way into Clive James' Beautiful Creatures, which is wittily written, as you'd expect, but lacks much of a plot. There are points when I can hear the characters speaking in James' characteristic drawl.

I started on David Peace's GB84, but can't summon up the enthusiasm for it just now, so its sitting largely unread by my bed, as is a 'not quite abandoned' book on Victorian attitudes to crime called 'The Invention of Murder'.


I'm in the middle of, almost completely, transitioned over to ebooks now;

Currently I'm reading or starting to read;

Sharps by K J Parker Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick Manufacturing Consent by E S Herman & N Chomsky

For some reason it take me 10 time longer to read a non fiction over a fiction book, as I tend to read the former in a handful of sittings, whilst the latter get picked at for a while until I move on to newer pastures. It makes actually learning or understanding anything new really difficult.


The Peloponnesian War by Donald Kagan, and Cain at Gettysburg by Ralph Peters.

I’m also slowly working my way through My 60 Memorable Games by Bobby Fischer. Good lord, but that guy was good at chess. Too bad he was a paranoid schizophrenic.


LOL - I'm fairly sure that books are sessile, and, when they reach a critical mass, start reproducing by binary fission!

For myself, I'm reading Freda Warrington's Elfland, Girl Genius V. 11, "The Year China Discovered the World", a biography of Leonardo da Vinci, a Lovecraft anthology, and 3 magazines!


Ok, replying to myself, but I'm also reading "Live Fire Testing of the F-22".


I've resisted Ebooks because of the squint factor and the inconvenience of random access but I may be ready to convert. In the next year I'll be spending many weeks away from home with minimal personal baggage. It makes sense to consolidate books into a device that I already have to carry with me. Rather than a dedicated Ebook reader I'll have to use a laptop because that's required tech for my job. Not really looking forward to that, as I'm fond of the light weight and high rez of ink on paper. I get that you can store a whole library on one compact electronic device but I typically read one book at a time so a laptop or a reader is a step backward for me.


Books check in here, but almost never leave... every available wall is paneled in bookshelves. Then books started taking over any available space. There are about ten of then in the bathroom, and each car has several.

I recently finished George C. Chesbro's odd series of detective novels featuring Robert Frederickson, alias "Mongo the Magnificent." They cross genres from "PI" to "techno-thriller" to "urban fantasy" to "horror."

In process: several books on GTK programming. I'm not sure I can say I'm "reading" them, at least not sequentially. Tech stuff like this I generally skim, then go back over the parts that are relevant to the information I want. It's probably a bad habit.

On paper: "Cemetary Dance" by Preston & Child. Another genre-breaker series, it seems. I never used to read two books at once, but I now have one going on paper and one on the e-reader. I read when I eat, so when I go out to lunch or dinner, I always have a book. I find eating and swiping at the e-reader to be awkward; paper is better in this situation.

On the e-reader: a bunch of A. Bertram Chandler. I'd read some of the "Commodore Grimes" reprints while growing up, and some of the craptastic later Grimes books later. Chandler's early stuff varies widely in quality, but some of it is very good. And a Chandler story always has a protagonist, an identifiable plot, and a resolution. Without this triad, I'm prone to consider sending the author a bill for wasting my time. All too often I've read stories that meander pointlessly and then stop so suddenly I examine the binding to see if any pages might have fallen out...

In the paper queue: either William Shirer's "Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" or John Robinson's "Dungeon, Fire, & Sword." It has been... uh... a really long time since I read Shirer's book, and I've learned enough about that part history since that a bunch of stuff I skipped over will probably make sense now. It has only been 18 years since I read Robinson's book, and I've learned a lot more about that era since then, too. (It's a history of the Knights Templar.) There's plenty of new stuff to read, but these two have been creeping up the list for quite a while. History books are odd that way; they all interlock, and every now and then when you go back to something you read long ago, what you've learned in the meantime can give you a whole different take on things, so you have the same experience as reading an entirely new book. Since I first read "Dungeon, Fire, & Sword" I've learned that when the authors of some of the books I read later referred to "the Church", they were lumping the Catholic Church and the Greek Orthodox Church together, and at least some of the policies and orders they implied came from Rome actually came from Byzantium. Knowing that now, "what" doesn't change, but "why" sometimes starts making more sense...


The main advantages I find to ebooks are the ability to ctrl-F, and to grep collections. Of course, I have to spend some time with calibre first, turning the books into a useful format.

I moved house recently, involving several three hour train journeys, and had to leave all my books behind. I miss them but it was rather refreshing (but still furious I forgot my copy of Peitgen & Richter's The Beauty of Fractals, William Burroughs Jnr's Speed and some Asa Briggs. Now I don't buy print books unless I'm mad keen on reading them before the ebook comes out, if I want something I can pass to a friend afterwards - or if I see something in a charity shop I really want. There is one exception - me and my dad are trying to assemble a complete collection of Green Penguin paperbacks in good condition, but that's stored at his house, not mine.

At the moment I have several thousand ebooks, but only six books. Pre ebooks, having only six books would have really depressed me.


I am in brain death mode, due to over-work, burn-out, and a long flight. During the flight I finished reading "Vn" by Madeleine Ashby (promising first SF novel), then re-read "The Stainless Steel Rat" (in memoriam Harry; a great guy, although that particular novel has dated somewhat in the past 50 years).

And now ... now I'm reading "Bedlam" by Christopher Brookmyre. His first full-on SF novel. And you are not reading it because it's not due to be published until the middle of next year :)


Gardening tool vocabularies, in French:

The fr.wikipedia one (or I should say the articles it leads to) is one of the best among half a dozen good ones o the Web. I don't need the English ones, just the French ones by the way.

My last attempt at reading a science fiction novel was Steven Brust's .-- Cowboy Feng's Space Bar and Grille.

I made it half way through and I am quite disgusted with it. I am not sure that I will ever finish it. It has one of the most deceptive SF book covers I have ever seen.

Your own covers seem very honest, by the way. I have not read .-- Living With Ghosts.

Nor have I read .--The Grass King's Concubine.

But both covers seem to reflect pretty accurately the summaries I have read on Goodreads and on that book selling site with the river name.

I must admit though that I am more interested in covers like the ones on the story collections to which you have contributed, like .-- The Feathered Edge.

Or like .--After Hours: Tales from Ur-Bar .

...none of which I have read. But I could never complain about their covers being deceptive since they are anthologies.


Apropos "Red Plenty", you really need to read, as a follow-on, the Crooked Timber online seminar on "Red Plenty" -- which can be found as a free ebook here. Essential commentary with additional responses by Spufford.


It's Madeline, not Madeleine. Madeline Ashby.


The stack of books I'm 'officially' reading is only four high at the moment, and mostly is reading of the ploughing sort: two anthropological/historical works on Republican era China, 'Guilty of Indigence' (kind of a Chinese 'Discipline and Punish'), and 'Keeping the Nation's House: Domestic Management and the Making of Modern China'; one on early Communist era, 'The Gender of Memory — Rural Women in China's Collective Past'; and then the delightful (really) 'Poetry of the Taliban'.

Just finished 'Debt — The First 5000 Years', and pondering whether I should be a more conscious anarchist, and for toilet reading I have the beautifully illustrated 'Pareys Book der Bäume'.

On order is Hannu Rajaniemi's new one, and your first one (and hoping to find the necessary euros for Cohen's 'How Modern Science Came into the World' …), followed by a long wishlist that only gets longer.

All these on paper because I stare at screens for far too much of my day, and love the weight, feel, and smell of books, as well as the visual pleasure of them all lining shelves.


Currently reading "The Anvil of the World" by the late lamented Kage Baker. I still have her last company book on my shelves which I'm leaving there because when I've read it there's no more to come.

Unusually I"ve not got any library books on the go as I decided I needed to clear the backlog, but I've just ordered the newest Christopher Fowler/Bryant & May.

NB very excited to hear re the Brookmyre

33: 29 Para 2 - You torturing us about your own forthcoming books is bad enough; torturing us about Chris's as well is just unnecessary!! ;-0

Oh, my lanes are clogged with books. I've just finished Atrocity Archives and Blood Meridian - thankfully the flat horror and the funny horror balance each other out nicely.

I'm reading Quantum Thief and enjoying it's bewildering beginning. Also, just started Angelmaker by Harkaway and it feels like comfortable slippers.

On the nonfiction front I've been slowly drifting through Religion for Atheists by Alain de Botton and Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.
Religion for Atheists is a wonder. Thought provoking about what should you do with all these cathedrals once you've evicted the gods, monsters, and priests. Thinking Fast and Slow is a great insight into how the meat upstairs makes decisions.


Although I talk about books, I'm part way through the migration process to reading on the iPad. New series, new authors, if possible I read that way. There are some where that's a nuisance because they're not all available in eBook format if I come to an author late.

I don't see any difference between reading on my iPad (3) and paper to be honest, save the latter requires me to turn a light on. I have my iPad set really dark though so there's not a lot of light coming out. Your mileage may well vary - it seems to be very, very idiosyncratic.

The biggest plus for me of the eBook is the ability to resize fonts as I go, so it's comfortable to read however tired I may be, and the packing weight. One iPad and my next few books are there, previous books by the same author are there if I want to go back and read details and so on. But converting the nearly 3k books to eBook format is a daunting financial task.


Font resizing on ereaders is brilliant. I have a bad habit of reading in the bath. How to do so safely with an e-reader? Simple: put it on a book stand on an adjacent (dry) piece of furniture such as a stool or the toilet seat-lid, and increase the font size until I can read it comfortably at a distance! Then jack it back down to normal when I get out.

As for the backlist of previously read books -- if they're available in ebook form, I simply don't buy them unless and until I want to re-read them. As I re-read less than 10% of what I read once, this makes for a somewhat more relaxed approach. We get into the habit, thanks to the scarcity/limited availability of dead tree books, of grabbing them on sight; with ebooks, it's necessary to break this habit because you can have anything you want at a moment's notice, when you decide you want it, unless (for example) you're on an airliner or some other situation with limited internet access.


I'd forgotten that piece by Pratchett: thank you for reminding me. I enjoyed revisiting it.


Ah, I need to read that one (How to Teach Physics to your Dog). It sounds like it might be about my level (languages, yes. Physics.... I need a run up and to ask a lot of questions). Thank you!


Oh, First Circle! That is a wonderful book. I haven't read it in years, but it's never left me.


Wow: you're a pretty eclectic lot here. I'm impressed. And taking notes

Pawsforthot@ 24: I was lucky enough to get to beta read the third of Freda Warrington's books in that series. She is up to something very complicated there. Oh, yes.

Ross @26: I resisted ebooks for a long time. What finally converted me was the matter of weight when travelling. I'm carrying a 20-year-old shoulder injury and the amount I can lug around with me is declining. Books are heavy. The ebook reader lets me take as many as I need without the associated pain. But I do still love the shape and feel of a paper book.

Alain @30 While I'm, in general, a Brust fan, I have never much liked that one, and I think it's by far his weakest. Covers... I've been fairly lucky with most of mine (the exception is the one on my most recent Welsh history book, which also has a publisher-imposed title that I dislike). But sometimes I wish we could go back to the days of plain jackets. So many covers mislead or just don't make sense, and most of the time the authors have no input.

Charlie @29. I hope the flights were well-behaved. And that I am taking proper care of your space.


I love the bit where they're talking about which historical period they'd like to live in, entirely framed around the quality of the prisons at the time.


Networks of the Brain - Olaf Sporns Reading in the Brain - Stanilas Dehaene The Human Use of Human Beings - Norbert Wiener

2312 - Kim Stanley Robinson River of Dust - Alexander Jablokov (good recommendation by Athena Andreadis from her Starship Reckless blog)

Next up is that Accelerando chappie's The Apocalypse Codex.

Of course "reading" includes a host of blogs and other online material. Whilst my walls host a library of books, online ephemera will probably consume an ever greater amount of my attention in the future.


Current: Year Zero by Robert Reid, funny SF with a pop music theme; 2. Paradox: The Nine Greatest Enigmas in Physics by Jim Al-Khalili, both these are for review. Three or four others at slower speeds, including a big fat social history of the Roman republic, and Dangerous Weapons: The French, by John Watson -- picked up cheap at my local bookstore that's going out of business. The title probably makes more sense when you realize it's a chess book.

Since I'm a regular reviewer for a couple of different outfits, I get a lot of books in the mail, and as my son once noted, it's hard to find a horizontal surface in my home without books on it. In fact, I have books not only in my home, but in storage, a fair number in a different state.


Just finished Some Remarks by Neal Stephenson. Just started Memoirs of a Midget by Walter de la Mare. Bedside reading is the appropriately named Sleep No More by LTC Rolt and on the e-reader am currently in the middle of One Hundred Lyrics by Sappho, Eric Brighteyes by Rider Haggard and periodically making my way through the back catalogues of Mark Twain and Lovecraft and Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy as the mood takes me.


All of which will be dropped when Alan garner's Boneland is released


In the process of reading the final draft of Book 2 of The Merlin Protocol. This is the action part of 6 parts.

While I read that, I'm also finishing a re-read of the Joe Grey mystery series by Shirley Rousseau Murphy because I miss California so much that the series helps my homesickness.

Finished the Apocalypse Codex - and am about to re-read the Laundry series.

And now, I need to find your work because you have piqued my interest.


Probably doesn't add much to the discussion that I'm currently reading something called Rule 34. Hrm.

I do read rather a lot of comic books. I'm thoroughly enjoying Dial H, by China Mieville and Mateus Santolouco (a superhero book about a schlubby guy who gets a different power every time he uses an old phone dial), Snarked! by Roger Langridge (a Lewis Carroll pastiche), Conan by Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan, and the anthology Dark Horse Presents, to name a handful. Also recently picked up a rather gorgeous hardcover called The Art of Ditko at my local used bookseller; haven't had time to do much more than leaf through it but it's pretty neat. (Ditko's best known as the co-creator of Spider-Man but has a huge list of credits, which have become more and more weird and fringey as the years have gone by. He's something of a recluse -- doesn't give interviews, hasn't been photographed since the 1960's, did not actually participate in this book -- and something of a loony Ayn Rand devotee. A great artist and an interesting character himself.)

Talking of Mieville, I haven't actually gotten around to any of his novels yet, though I've got a copy of Perdido Street Station next on my to-read list.


(I am not a fan of Joseph Campbell. I studied social anthropology as part of my first degree, and, well... If I want to read about myth, I can think of better places to start.)

Can you suggest some titles for us recovering Campbellians?

Currently reading: The Scar, by China Mieville Red Plenty, by Francis Spufford St. Lucy's Home For Girls Raised By Wolves, by Karen Russell

I also have Theodore Rosendorf's The Typographic Desk Reference and the Complete Books of Charles Fort sitting on my writing table, and dip into both of them on a regular basis.


Currently devouring Ben Aaaronovich's Moon Over Soho. Read the first one a couple of weeks ago and loved it.

Also read Karen Mills(whatever the name is) Witches Inc . Have started Ghosts of War by George Mann, and have 3 Modesty Blaise Novels in waiting , alongside Ken McLeod's latest, but not quite in the mood for that yet.

Also working through The Dresden Files , in a fairly random order.

Hmm seem to be in a "magic is real" phase at the moment.


paws4thot @ 24 Yes - sessile & reproducing! (Over 6000 & losing track) Currently just finishing re-reading "The Greatest SHow on Esrth" by Dawkins - waiting for various SF titles to appear, esp the new Banks, and Bujold volumes. Another one in the "to be read" pile is the latest "Collins NN" (Published by whover took Collins over) "Grsshoppers & Crickets".

Matt Katz @ 35 I MIGHT try re-reading "Quantum Thief" - since I haven't clue what (if anything) is really happening.


My reading list iincludes or has recently included a bunch of books on Korean history, a book on Korean shamanism, a bunch of books on the CIA and the OSS, some books on the Great Game, HP Lovecraft's Dream Cycle, and Tim Powers' Declare. Oh, and Rudyard Kipling's Kim, which I hadn't read until I started researching this, shame on me.

I'll let you figure out how these all tie together...


Yes, and the framing of the hospital as a kind of slow-effect hell.


I think there will be a mass silence across great swathes of Britain the morning Boneland is released, as we all settle down with it.


That is very kind of you. (And I hope you get to go to California soon and relieve the homesickness.)


Keith @52. Well, I'm out-of-date, but we were set to read Claude Levi-Strauss, Structural Anthropolgy, and Myth and Meaning, and also works by Mircea Eliade,and Georges Dumezil. But this was a long time ago and the field with have moved on. What I took from them, though, was a deep discomfort with the synthesising, reductive methods of Campbell and his denial of the many different ways that myth and story can be coded, of the huge and important differences between cultures (which he ignores) and of the intellectual arrogance of his position as expert outsider.


Hmm, I suspect spies and monsters...


I would dearly love the titles of the bogus book on Celtic magic - since my serious studies in the northern cultures were Anglo-Saxon-focused, and the prof who dipped into the Celtic mythology was more opinion than scholar -

And the Dion Fortune book on training in ritual magic. I thought I had a complete collection of her works, but that one doesn't ring a bell.

Pat (yes, I am a witch, why do you ask, heh-heh)


In one of the " Rat " stories ..that do owe much to Leslie Charteris's 'Saint 'stories .. Harry has his Hero leap out of his vehicle and drag a victim to one side before driving on. Oh, all right My memory aint all that reliable these days but I swear that its true!

Harry wasn't a pacifist as such but he did believe in minimum use of Lethal Force.

People/fans that he met over the years would be fixated on the GUN Detail in "Death World " ..that NEAT Motorised Sleeve Holster, COOL !! All about Guns!! His Fan would cry in Variations on a theme of the Romance of GUNS and miss the context of the story of futility of lethal force as a handy solution to All of The Galaxies Empires/Americas Problems .. at which point in recollection Harry used to sigh wearily, no matter how many times he did recount the story.

I do sometimes think that the US of A's Bush family of Hereditary Emperors must have been Made to Listen to " Deathworld " being read aloud by their nurses and to have utterly miss-understood Harry's intention.


I'm reading Daniel Abraham and Ty Frank's Caliban's War. It's good stuff - pretty much pure Rocketpunk/Interplanetary Space Opera.



Steven Brust's .-- Cowboy Feng's Space Bar and Grille

I put that one down a couple of times before grinding on through. After that, I enjoyed re-reading it a couple of times. Brust's wrap-up of the story wasn't completely satisfactory in my opinion, but it managed to snap most of the WTFs earlier in the story together. I was never sure if the book suffered from too much avant-garde or too little editing.

As for the cover... just another example of how cover art can annoy the reader. It helps to know what "pain" means in French, though...



"The Stainless Steel Rat" (in memoriam Harry; a great guy, although that particular novel has dated somewhat in the past 50 years).

Some of the later books seem to have been written long before the "first" one came out. In one, DiGriz distracts a bad guy by throwing a "sander" at him, then mentions that a sander was a device to spread powder onto a freshly-written page to dry the ink.

I was grateful for the explanation; growing up in 1960s America, fountain pens were mostly oddities you found in the back of desk drawers. I thought it was odd that they didn't have ball-point pens, or at least quick-drying ink, in the ???th century.

Either way, even then it seemed like a particularly clumsy bit of writing; obviously Harrison or hit editor felt it was an unusual enough object to require explanation, but I wondered why he had it at all. Something like having a 2012 author having a character change the cassette tape in his smartphone, and then explaining what a cassette tape was...


Part of the Stainless Steel Rat background is isolated worlds that have slipped back in history to a greater or lesser degree before being recontacted, and which galactic society in general attempts to accelerate into modernity, rather than dump a consumer society on and run away. So completely schizophrenic tech levels come baked in - the steam-powered robots in The Stainless Steel Rat, for instance. ",)


" What I took from them, though, was a deep discomfort with the synthesising, reductive methods of Campbell and his denial of the many different ways that myth and story can be coded, of the huge and important differences between cultures (which he ignores) and of the intellectual arrogance of his position as expert outsider. "

GOOD GRIEF!! I do appreciate that, as an Academic of no mean Renown, you do have Certain Standards to Maintain ..but, as Light relief from, The Meaning Of It All in Literature of History might I suggest that you try Kate Griffins urban mythologies? I'm re-reading the latest in the Matthew Swift series which has LOTS of History of London and the Magic thereof, oh and Magically related Drugs Pushers. I think highly of the series and, in my opinion, anyone who likes our hosts ' Laundry ' Series will like the Swift stories ..

" Matthew Swift, sorcerer, Midnight Mayor, is in charge. Or so he'd like to think. And London, being London, is having its issues. Drug use is rampant. Teenage vandalism is driving away business. Violent crimes are on the rise. Once upon a time, Matthew Swift wouldn't have given a toss. Now it's his mess to clean up.

Especially when the new drug on the market is fairy dust and the production process involves turning humans into walking drug labs. And when the teenage vandals are being hunted by a mystical creature. And when the petty criminals of London start dying by magical means. "

Kate has a Blog and you will never belive what she does for a living! Beyond writing that is and who can make a living by writing these days? ..

Oh, and on Charles Ogier de Batz de Castelmore, Comte d'Artagnan ? Why do novelists of History, and their filmed derivatives dwell upon the Swordplay rather than the MUSKETRY? d'Artagnan and his mates were musketeers after all.

Phooey! as Rex Stouts Nero Wolfe was wont to say ..Stout had a Murderer by Cull De Mort in one of his Novels ...

"You see, the épée is blunt for the sport. But one time in Paris, a man wanted to kill another man, so he made a little sharp thing to fit on the end, and... "Thrust in quarte." It strikes the heart, but only theoretically. But that time in Paris, it was not theory." - Nikola Miltan "

I was never caught up in the romance of d'Artagnan and his mates saving the French royal family from their fate. What I wanted was a document that said ..

"It is by my order and for the good of the state that the bearer of this note has done what he has done. 3rd December, 1827 Richeliu.

As was much later quoted in Anthony Prices " For The Good Of The State "

If you haven't read Prices Books then you are in for a treat .. all Espionage, and all history based 'why in hell is this happening and what is the Enemy up to ? ' Rather than 'who done it 'detective fiction it is Why is it Being Done ? ' fiction.

Oh, and ..did I mention that I once 'Ran Someone Through ' with a Sword? All right it was only with a foil and it was an accident but how many people do you know who have Run " im through .." eh?

That alone should make you pay heed to my recommendations for wot to read in your Hols.

So: what are you all reading, today, and why? What do you think of it?

Mostly Sci-Fi. Iain M. Banks, Stross, and of course Pratchett. When I've had a few (which you'll pay for...) I'll argue that "Small Gods" is the most moral novel ever written... Mind you I'll also argue that any standard Christian de-facto consents to the idea that the unending torture of some people is perfectly fine...

That said these days I'm mostly into audiobooks mostly because of a lack of time. And really pissed off that Charlies' Laundry aren't easily available from the UK as audiobooks.

Though the one I loved/love was/is Connie Willis with her "Doomsday Book". It was so depressing I thought suicide was the best option after reading it. But on reflection suicide looked like too positive an action (in context!)which is presumably why I'm able to write this.

And so it goes. Which tells you about another important book!

Unimportant books that I enjoy are the Elric of Melnibone and indeed the whole Eternal Champion series. I am in some way that reading these when I was about 13 might have influenced my life in an entirely not and precisely good way.

Mind you, as fact books go The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer isn't bad in so far as I can tell.

All the best, CEM.


Agree with Small Gods. The most telling line as regards my view of humanity is the one of the inquisitors mug having 'to the worlds greatest dad on it.'

Elric of Melnibone and indeed the whole Eternal Champion series. I am in some way that reading these when I was about 13 might have influenced my life in an entirely not and precisely good way.


Oh well, that's the time based grammatical trouble you have in these circumstances...


I've cut back on my multi-book reading (a few years my reading pile graduated to a shelf, then an entire bookshelf... which was silly).

After some pain I've managed to train myself into only reading two or three at once - and not buying any books that I'm not going to read straight away (well - unless I really want it :-) Amazon wish lists act as my pseudo to-read pile (both my work and play ones are now several hundred books long :-).

So - currently reading:

  • The Stainless Steel Rat Returns. The thin silver lining around the dark cloud of discovering Harry Harrison died last week was discovering there was a Rat book I hadn't read. Slippery Jim - I'll miss ya.

  • The Lean Startup, by Eric Ries. A re-read for some work related stuff and a couple of talks I have scheduled.

  • Rizzo's War by Lou Manfredo. Only just started it, but my partner recommended it as a nice police procedural.

First two ebooks, the last paper (from the library). Cutting down on paper book purchases. Firstly because ebook buying is just plain easier for me (no decent books shops nearby + instant gratification). Secondly due to lack of space. We added about 25m of extra shelf space a few months back - which made no real dent in piles of books and comics in various corners of the house and garage.


I'm working my way through " the craftsman" richard sennett and "how to change the world" eric hobsbawm. and some WorldPress texts shush… sennett is making me cross ( but I haven't read enough to work out just why yet) and hobsbawm is making my sad.

Recent additions to the to read pile include james gleick's "the information", e. f. schumacher's " small is beautiful: a study of economics as if people mattered" and totally coincidently e. walton's 'the mabinogion tetralogy". the read pile is never caught up.

This excludes of course the shelves at arms length for re-reads; which include almost all of delany, le guin and a number of authors currently resident in southern scotland previously mentioned in this thread. I recommend cordwainer smith for those looking for new (old) writers

I find it quite challenging to read books without a good narative and a highly readable layout. so some books get put back on the shop shelf regardless of content. i've recently had to store half of my library; that was an interesting challenge.


My dad still writes with a fountain pen. I'm not sure he has a sander, but he still has a big blotter pad on his desk, and I have memories of a sander on his desk when he officially off work sick after an operation but getting back into some admin. That would be 30 years ago though. It wouldn't surprise me to hear he has a sander somewhere, although not necessarily as an instantly available distraction device on a desk.

Those "urban legends" about secretaries printing emails out, taking dictation replies and then typing up the reply and sending the email - I know he used to do that, I've seen him and his secretary doing it with my own eyes. Last I heard he's replying to his own emails now, but he still prints them off to keep a record, drafts his reply on paper and then types it (slowly) into the computer to send it.

Culture shock abounded last time he was here - he wanted to know how to get somewhere and dug out his atlas. I hit up my iPad and had a route in seconds... I still think he thought it was witchcraft.


I have no idea what Kari is reading, but I'd suggest diving into modern druidry, especially Bonewit's book on druids (but avoid the 21 Lessons of Merlyn. Anyone who seriously thinks the ancient Celts ate pumpkins belongs in a wicker man...).

To be fair to the modern druids, they acknowledge that what they're practicing isn't the same as what the original druids practiced. One nice way of explaining it (from OBOD) is that the inspiration for druidry is a spring, and if history paves it over, like water, it will flow through the cracks and well up somewhere else, in some other form. Some people like it, some people would rather strip naked, paint themselves blue, and fight. Whatever suits your fancy.


I am reading Margaret Miller's "Athens and Persia in the Fifth Century BCE" (Cambridge University Press, 1997) in English, Kay's "A Song for Arbonne" in English, an opinionated scholarly article in German, Xenophon's Cyropaedia in Attic, and Sallustius' Bellum Iugurthinum in Latin.


I just killed bitter seeds , and started on apocalypse codex, again


George C. Chesbro seems to be forgotten. Not long ago I read a Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan fic with "Mongo the Magnificent in it.


There are waterproof cases for e-readers.

It's an established tech. Think beaches, and the people who can never be without their phone.


Thanks - while I'd seen the Crooked Timber seminars on your books (and on Susannah Clarke) I hadn't realised they'd done one on Red Plenty.


typo horrors! Me @ 54 Aplogies (yes THAT was deliberate!)

To which I may add - just finished Cory's "Little Brother" Sorry, but seriously unimpressed - won't keep it.

OH SHIT! A sequel to "Wierdstone" ? ADD TO LIST: New Culture from Banks, new Bujold, "RaptureotNerds" ...

TRX @ 64 NOT as good as "Callaghan's Crosstime Saloon" ...also Poul Anderson, the Old Pheonix as a venue?

maggie @ 71 Hobsbawm was a marxist. Therefore, his world-view, like a christian's is/was, err, "deeply flawed"/"wrong"/"batshit insane" (select one) .....

hetromeles @ 73 I heard of someone, a few years ago, who went to the original Olympia. Now the pythonic spring is dried up - it's earthquake country, so these things move. But she found another one nearby, and err - paddled in it, & drank a little. It took her several years to "recover" if that's the correct word. (?)


Greg @79 i'm well away of Hobsbawm's position. I was wondering if anyone had views on Richard Sennett? Diametrical opposites? After all he is an American Pragmatist…


I pick books up, start them and put them down for a long time, so the 'reading' pile is a lot bigger than the 'actively reading' pile. And there's the 'reading in the bathroom' pile (pretty small because I don't want them ruined by steam and condensation) and then there's the 'I'm going to start reading it soon, honest' pile. And there's the books started but not continued on the e-reader.

What I'm (re-)reading right now is A Wild Light by Marjorie M Liu, which is swords-and-demons urban fantasy. Her paranormal romances are not really my thing although the one I've read (Tiger's Eye) is very good, but I love these.

I'm currently also actively reading Some Kind of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce, which I'm reviewing, Zero History by William Gibson, and How to Teach Relativity to your Dog by Chad Orzel, all of which are marvellous in different ways. Also The Low Whistle Book and the Essential Guide to Irish Flute and Irish Tin Whistle (not really reading these, as such, but working through)

I have recently read Simon R Green's For Heaven's Eyes Only and Live and Let Drood - I'm not sure why I read Green, I've decided his prose is like crisps; an immediate flavour kick that goes away quickly and while it passes the time is not satisfying. I have also recently re-read the whole of the Laundry series and the whole of the Family Trade series by OGH. More satisfying, these, and the FT books also benefit from having all the plot threads fresh in mind.

A sample of the 'opened' pile includes, Blue Remembered Earth by Alastair Reynolds, The Magicians by Lev Grossman, When the Clyde Ran Red by Maggie Craig, The Fallen Blade by Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Demand the Impossible; A History of Anarchism by Peter Marshall, Voodoo Histories by David Aaronovich, and Mark Twain's Autobiography


Patricia @61: It's Celtic Magic, D J Conway, but it';s really one of a whole genre that's mostly made-up stuff derived from the popular and misleading books by people like Jean Markale. The Fortune is The Training and Work of an Initiate, which was one of her early works, I think. I'm a big fan of Fortune: her writing is interesting and thoughtful and her ideas on magic and religion are well-thought-out and well considered. I often suspect that if she were a man, she would be taken more seriously as a theologian or philosopher of religion.


Currently working my way through some H P Lovecraft after finishing The Apocalypse Codex. I've been struggling with it a bit and keep flipping out to other books, but as it's short novels and longish stories that's working OK. I can't interrupt a complete book for another one then drop back in to the first, but doing it with omnibus editions is OK.

Sitting on the sofa for next are Where Demons Dare by Kim Harrison and The Ascendant Stars by Michael Cobley which the postman dropped off this morning, though the last might require reading the first two in the trilogy again to refresh my mind. Also The Unbeaten Track by Arthur Tarnowski after reading his obituary a week or two back, and The Four Musketeers by Phil Nanson and someone going by the name of Maund that I got pointed at during the week...


There are waterproof cases for e-readers.

Tried them, don't like them. They're a pain in the neck to get the e-reader in and out of (for charging), they resemble thick plastic bags (and tend to partially obscure the screen or add reflections), and they don't play well with capacitative touch screens. There are hard-shell waterproof cases for some devices, but they generally add weight and bulk (and I don't think there's one for the Nexus Tab yet).

Overall my solution -- put the device somewhere dry and crank up the font size -- seems to work better for me.

However, if Amazon would release an e-ink kindle that was splash-proof by design -- capacitative touchscreen, sealed front, inductive charging rather than micro-USB, wireless-only provisioning -- I'd buy one in a shot, just for the bathroom. Hell, if anyone else built such a machine, as long as it could read epub or mobi and wasn't too much of a headache to use ...



NOT as good as "Callaghan's Crosstime Saloon" ...also Poul Anderson, the Old Pheonix as a venue?

Ah, I see the problem now. Cowboy Feng's isn't a collection of short stories; the vignettes at the beginning are simply establishing the backstory as the characters see it. The bar is actually going somewhere, making stops along the way. Brust doesn't tie it all together until the end, which would make things very strange if you were expecting something like Callahan's...

The characters have no clue what's going on, and Brust doesn't give the reader anything else either. That's why I put it down a couple of times; it didn't seem to be going anywhere. It's a writing trick that can be useful, but Brust stretched it out way too long.


"My dad still writes with a fountain pen."

Clipboard with heavy paper, and my old Parker, best way to plan stuff out and do the thinking, especially for mathematics. The paper gets stuck on the wall when I implement. I am old, as my students cheerfully point out on occasion.

Reading: Robert Caro, Means of Ascent (life of Lyndon Johnson, but really American history and the ways of power).

ereader: I keep getting lost in the stream of text. Most of what I read is not available in digital format.

Good thread, well done.


My original comment seems to have got trapped in moderation limbo because of links to Amazon, so here goes again, without the links:

Currently reading: The Peloponnesian War by Donald Kagan Cain at Gettysburg by Ralph Peters

Also slowly making my way through My 60 Memorable Games by Bobby Fischer. Good lord, but that man could play chess. Too bad he had paranoid schizophrenia.


Moderation cuts in automatically for any comment with more than one link in it, regardless of where the link points. (Our typical spam includes over 20 links, but some of the smarter ones use fewer.)


I'm currently reading Randy L. Barnett's Restoring the Lost Constitution (Barnett was one of the principal sources for the arguments presented to the U.S. Supreme Court against the Affordable Care Act and especially the health insurance mandate), a book on the local geography of Shropshire (for my campaign set there!), A. E. Houseman's poems (inspired by thinking of Shropshire, but Houseman has been one of my favorite poets for nearly half a century—his "Loveliest of trees, the cherry now" could almost be a translation of some unknown Japanese poem), Tim Powers's Hide Me among the Graves, and Meg Cabot's Avalon High (which I learned about while researching present-day works inspired by Malory). I just finished Sue Barton, Student Nurse, the first of a series of girls' books from the 1930s, written by an author who was a close friend of the classic libertarian writer Rose Wilder Lane (after the Great War the two of them toured Albania together in a Ford!)—a bit old-fashioned but it has some rather sophisticated ethical themes, along with a rather Heinleinian "going home and finding that everything looks smaller" scene; I'm thinking of reading the rest of the series.

I think that's slightly shorter than my average list, but I don't have any specific project in mind right now. When I'm working on something for Steve Jackson Games I often have a big stack of research floating around the apartment.



The spammers are back, so I'm switching off comments.

Discussion continues over here, in the Antipope Storm Refuge.



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This page contains a single entry by Kari Sperring published on August 24, 2012 10:54 AM.

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