Friday, February 18, 2011

What Am I Reading?

For those who like to read and who might be on the lookout for new material (actually most of the books I read are pretty old), I thought I'd write an occasional post now and then to update you on what I'm reading, so maybe you'll get some ideas.

I'm currently on the fourth and last book of Orson Scott Card's Ender series called Children Of The Mind. There aren't too many modern authors I can stomach, so beware of that. I've gotten into Card lately, but honestly he's not a very good writer, but he has some pretty good stories. Out of the Ender series, the first book was easily the best. It's called Ender's Game, and it's about a young American boy in the future who's chosen by the military to be groomed as one of several potential candidates to lead an army against the world's first alien invasion/attack. The book appeals to kids and adults alike, so it's an especially good story to read along with your children.

Before that I was re-reading a lot of CS Lewis stuff, but you probably know about his work, so I won't go into those books.

The only other modern author I can recommend besides Card is Susanna Clarke. She only has two books. One is a short story collection that's based around fairytales for adults. Hers are not the modern fairies of Walt Disney that are two inches high and prance around singing songs. Rather, hers are the old 18th and 19th story types where fairies are full grown adult sized creatures from another world that sometimes venture into ours (and vise versa), and who are usually up to no-good and have special powers. That book is called The Ladies of Grace Adieu, which I know sounds like a book for women, but it's really for anyone. Honestly, the stories in it are hit and miss. Her other book is an 800-page masterpiece called Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. This book is about two magicians who bring magic back to England after a long absence, and the consequences that follow from having done so when the two magicians, onetime friends, become enemies. I must warn you that the first 200-pages are very slow, and you'll wonder why you ever started to read it, but if you hang in there, it really takes off after those initial 200-pages, and by the time you get to the last 200-pages you'll want to read them in one setting because it's impossible to stop! What a great book!

I usually get good book recommendations from my longtime internet friend Ann. The two books I'll be reading next were suggested by her and are 20th century classics. The first is A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller. The other is The Cream Of The Jest by James Branch Cabell. Obviously I can't go into details about the books because I haven't read them yet, but Ann seldom misses with her picks, and she knows what I like, which is mostly sci-fi and fantasy with a mystical bent.

Other books I liked lately were Old House Of Fear by Russell Kirk. Kirk is of course the father of the modern conservative movement (I had the honor a while back of presenting his widow with a CD I sell of the known recordings of GK Chesterton), but he also wrote some fiction, and that is generally thought of as his best novel. I also liked most of The Holographic Universe by Michael Talbot. There are some fringe science moments in it that make me cringe, but overall it's a good assessment of David Bohm's physics theories and what phenomenon they might help explain. I disagreed with some of the logic, but was at least somewhat entertained by Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha. The novel is along the lines of Buddha's journey to enlightenment but slightly different.

Books to stay away from: Anything by Umberto Eco who's all style and no substance. And there are people who will hate me for saying this, but I hated both of Samuel Beckett's best known plays, Waiting For Godot (which should be called waiting for something intelligent to happen), and Happy Days.

I also read a book called The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Story To Screenplay). The story is of course by F. Scott Fitzgerald and is not much good at all. The screenplay based on the book is by Eric Roth and Robin Swicord and is actually much better, though still not terribly good either. (I also saw the movie, which was quite different from both, and was still underwhelmed). Basically, I just wanted to see how to write a screenplay, and it was good for learning to do that.

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