[identity profile] littlerdog.livejournal.com
This list caused some heated debate when Ian Sales posted it to Facebook. 23 men, one woman. Apparently asking for more women is unreasonable as women all write Fantasy anyway. Yeah.

Let's take a look at what I've read and what I haven't, as we all so love that game.

Frank Herbert's Dune. It's probably illegal not to include this book--that would explain its ubiquity, anyway. Yes, I've read it. Let's move on.

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. Nope, haven't read this. Don't intend to, either. I read a short story that was a sequel, and it was a) without plot and b) without conflict. Pretty dull. Or dull but not even pretty.

I'm also aware of issues surrounding Card that make me reluctant to hand him my money. But if he has a story in an anthology that I want, I'm sorry, but that's not going to stop me buying it. Principle of shifting principles?

Talking of controversial authors, next we come to Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers. I've read a lot of Heinlein, especially at the time when I was still finding my feet in the genre and looking for another book like Brunner's Telepathist, but ST hasn't been one of them. I think my disenchantment with Heinlein set in with Friday. But he has written some entertaining and interesting books, so I wouldn't dismiss his work entirely.

Asimov's Foundation series. I've read the original trilogy, plus a really bad book that was a prequel, and which I'm not even sure was actually written by Asimov himself. It was very bad. I can't even remember what it was called. Not that I want to, particularly. If you were after a grounding in Golden Age SF, then you could do a lot worse. But the first book is almost if not quite entirely male, iirc. Tediously so. I mean, where DO all these men come from? There must be some women in the vast Empire. Somewhere.

So far, really, so predictable. Card, Heinlein and Asimov pop up with clock-like regularity on these lists, although the named books tend to vary--except in Card's case, where it's always Ender's Game. It's as if some readers come with presets. And The Stars My Destination, by Alfred Bester, is another one you see again and again and again. Perhaps there's really only one list, which occasionally mutates.

The one Bester book I have read made such an impression that I can't remember which it was, but I think it was the other one that keeps being cited. Or maybe it was this one. Hard to care.

Next up is the third of the oft-named trilogy of safe white men--Arthur C. Clarke. I have read 2001: A Space Odyssey and thought it very dull in lots of places and rather silly at the end. Clarke may have good ideas, but his execution is not of the best, especially at novel length. Still, we wouldn't want to get uppity and start demanding literary SF, or even literate SF, now would we?

Ahem.

Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons I know nothing about, except that it's familiar from, well, lists like this one.

I have read William Gibson's Neuromancer, as well as the other two books in the Sprawl series. Slick, stylish books that have been widely if not successfully imitated.

It'd be hard to claim you have a grounding in SF without having read Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell. But oh he is a tedious writer, with narrative skills just above those of Clarke. Comes from having been trained as a journalist, maybe. Scary book that is gradually coming true, more's the pity.

HHGTTG by Douglas Adams. Sure, I've read it. I'd rather listen to the radio series, though, and do--often. Fun with serious undertones. Unforgettable characters. Dating rather rapidly.

Whenever someone brings forward Ubik as the Philip K. Dick book people should read, I cringe. But it's either that or The Man in the High Castle. I have to wonder why. He's written far better books than either of those. I suppose TMITHC is accessible whereas, say, Martian Time-Slip is not, but if Ubik was your first experience of PKD, I imagine you'd be put off the man for life. Unless you too have a surplus of dopamine and/or a fascination with all that religious stuff.

Joe Haldeman's Forever War I picked up cheap and read. It was okay, I guess. I've read two versions--we'll call them the Hump You version and the Fuck You version. FU was more understandable than HU, which wasn't an idiom with which I was familiar. They're entertaining enough books, I guess, but do better in the combat areas than in imagining social developments.

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson is another book that crawls towards this kind of list with astonishing regularity. It doesn't matter how you dress him up or what fancy gadgets you give him, a pizza delivery guy is not cool. End of. The book has its moments, but I could happily never read it again. And probably won't.

Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep has never crossed my radar.

I think this list loses any credibility with Old Man's War by John Scalzi. Old people get young, turn green, and have a lot of sex. Who cares?

Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan is a book I once glanced at in a bookshop and dismissed as old hat, based on the cover blurb. But I haven't actually read it, so shall say no more. Rule No. One: If you ain't read it you cain't discuss it.

Is Gene Wolfe the Island of Murdering Young Women to Heal Men guy? Anyway, haven't read The Book of the New Sun, so that's all there is to say.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Player of Games by Iain M. Banks, although I have seen it maligned in certain quarters. Well worth a read imo.

The Night's Dawn by Peter F. Hamilton hasn't crossed my radar before, although the author's name is familiar.

It's a relief that Frederik Pohl's Gateway has an everyman character I can relate to*. I was beginning to worry. I have a vague memory of reading some short stories about these HeeChee and enjoying them, although that may have been the BeeGees. Anyway, it's going on the wishlist.

Another book that has evaded my radar up till now is Spin by Robert Charles Wilson. Presumably he is to be distinguished from Robert Anton Wilson. I shall bear that in mind.

Paolo Bacigalupi's The Windup Girl? Now I know you gotta be kidding. Read some way into this and found it both pointless and offensive. Quite an achievement, but not one that's worth all those literary awards.

And another Neal Stephenson, Anathem. At least that was published this century, which gives it an edge on just about everything else. Except the book that's a windup, I guess.

Peter Watts's Blindsight has hovered on the edge of my awareness for a while, but I've never thought seriously about picking it up.

Finally, at the bottom, we come to the token woman: Lois McMaster Bujold. It's hard to guess who'll it be this time, so kudos if you got it right. The list cites the entirety of the Miles Vorkosigan Saga. I've read one book in this series--The Warrior's Apprentice--which was okay but didn't entice me to read any more.

It's impossible to total up when people insist on including series. But of the authors listed, I'm confident I've read something by sixteen of the men (out of 23) and all of the women.


* I've been distrustful of the 'everyman' character ever since it became associated for me with the protagonist in Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, who is a cipher.
[identity profile] littlerdog.livejournal.com
Abebooks (or Amazon #2 as they could otherwise be known) has ventured into blogging.

Can’t afford to get away at all, let alone to another planet? Pick up a book.

When you're done boggling at the idea that some people might be able to afford to go to another planet, and wondering which it would be and what they'd do when they got there, let's consider the list. Twenty-five books, five of which (20%) are by women.

Let's look at which I've read and which I haven't. Because I know you're all dying to find out.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.

Practically a required read for a child of my generation, along with Winnie the Pooh, The Secret Garden and Swallows and Amazons. It's surprising how it retains its appeal, given that most of what it's satirising will be entirely obscure to modern readers. Good fun though.

Dune by Frank Herbert.

Most of the mind-boggling for me in this book was the joyful head-hopping. I read a second Dune book but got disenchanted. It seems pointless to be able to see the future if you can't do anything to change it. Your child's going to be butchered, so you send him to the place where it'll happen--and lie to your wife about it. You're going to be blinded, and you walk blindly towards that fate. Ugh.

A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin.

Great stuff. Fantasy of the best kind. It's sad that the quality of the books declined after the third one. I sympathise with Le Guin's aims in the later books, but they feel forced and the language of high Fantasy has got lost. A shame.

Coraline by Neil Gaiman.

Not read this. Saw the movie tho.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle.

Not read this, and it's really beginning to jar on me. Although my expectations may have been raised so high that it'll be a disappointment. Hard to know. Any book's a venture.

The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Well, yeah. Not a work you can ignore. Bit heavy on the exclamation marks, though.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.

Read this, but much prefer the radio series. Getting a bit dated now.

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery.

Read it. Hated it.

The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett.

Not one of Pratchett's best imo. But one of the first ones I read, after Good Omens, which rocks.

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie.

Read it as an adult so I could say I had. Meh.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum.

Ditto.

Eragon by Christopher Paolini.

Never felt any inclination to read it.

The Secret Country by Pamela Dean.

Not heard of it before today. Wonder why not.

A Spell for Chameleon by Piers Anthony.

Not read. If he's the author I think he is, one book by him was more than enough.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis.

Read the whole lot. Quality is variable.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling.

Read it to find out what all the fuss was about. Still don't know.

The Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel Kay.

Not read.

Swords and Deviltry by Fritz Leiber.

Not read.

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster.

Enjoyed this book as a child.

Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie.

Not read. Don't much feel like reading it, either.

Lord Foul's Bane by Stephen R. Donaldson

Not read.

The Woman Who Rides Like a Man by Tamora Pierce

Not read. Not heard of.

To Your Scattered Bodies Go by Philip Jose Farmer

Not read.

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

Not ventured down this road yet. Too much hype.

A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Not read. I loved Tarzan as a child. Reread it as an adult and the magic was gone. Suspect Burroughs of not being a very good writer.

So, what's the total?

Twenty books by men, of which I have read ten, or 50%. Five books by women, of which I have read two, or 40%. Hmmm.
[identity profile] littlerdog.livejournal.com
"More frequent book readers tend to live in areas of lower deprivation with fewer children living in poverty, while respondents who never read books tend to live in areas of higher deprivation and more children living in poverty," the study says.

Correlation? Cause and effect? And if the latter, which is the cause and which is the effect?

And having a negative view of ebooks is not the same as having a negative view of reading, you doofuses. People who prefer LPs to CDs don't have a negative view of listening to music....
[identity profile] littlerdog.livejournal.com
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.

I read this many, many years ago and found it disturbing. What I principally remember, aside from Lenny killing everything and the ending, is Curly with his glove fulla Vaseline. I'd so love to know if that was true. So this is certainly a book that's stayed with me, but it didn't change my life as far as I'm aware. I can see how the book leaves no option except the one chosen for Lenny, but then the parameters were deliberately drawn that way. So it didn't give me a lifelong enthusiasm for what we term euthanasia. Nope.

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer.

This book makes me laugh. Or, rather, the crap people say about it makes me laugh. A bad book whose success is explicable in interesting ways. That's it.

The Color Purple by Alice Walker.

A book that gripped me while I was reading it but which hasn't left much trace in memory, sadly. A powerful work nonetheless.

Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Yet another book about which everything that could be said has been said. Three or four times over, probably. I put off reading it for years because it was my mother's favourite book; in some mysterious way I felt it 'belonged' to her. I've now read it twice. My excuse for the second read is that I had the most awful flu, and LOTR helped take my mind off it. Also, I was pretty much pinned to the sofa and there wasn't much else I could do apart from read. Frodo's speech at the end always makes me cry. Possibly not for the reasons you think.

The HitchHiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.

Not as good as the radio series. Which did change my life, because I listen to it again and again and again and again. And again. And yet again. Yet I've read the book once and have no interest in reading it again. Eh.

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith.

Good little book. Not life-changing. Can't remember much about it now. Iconic first line.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling.

This book change my life? Well, if becoming the lone voice of 'Actually I don't think much of this book' is life-changing, then yeah. I don't exactly live my life in fear of Potter fans, but I am wary of enraging them. Honestly, I can't see why they don't understand that THEY are the Muggles she's writing about. *shrugs* *gives up*

(Obviously it was life-changing for some because it was the only book they'd ever read. And ever would read.)

The Book Thief by Markus Zuzak.

Not a bad book. Didn't live up to the promise of its title. But a sensitive treatment of a difficult subject.

I think allowing Germans to attend WWI memorials was the right choice. I feel very uncomfortable when military from WWII are interviewed in programmes on channels like Yesterday. I don't think I'm ready yet to see them standing by the Cenotaph.

I'm probably no less, though no more, entrenched on that subject than before. So, life not changed.

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller.

Not sure if this book changed my life, but it certainly had a profound effect on me. If put to it, I couldn't explain *how* it might have changed my life, or directed my life, but it lives with me, it haunts me, I seek a deeper understanding of it even now, years after I read it for the first time. I often think about the conversation between Yossarian and Nurse Whoever-It-Was about pain and neon signs.

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell.

This is a book I've put to the back of my mind in many ways. I find Orwell's writing dull, truth be told, although the storyline is horrific enough. Don't do it to me, do it to Julia. It's heartbreaking. Don't want to think about it. Won't think about it. Judge for yourself whether my life was changed.

Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman.

I was too old for this book, and didn't enjoy it all that much. Not the target audience. But it did teach me a lesson, because I found it very difficult to see the black people 'in charge' of the white people, so to speak. It required an elasticity of which my brain isn't capable, much to my chagrin. So life changed? Definitely. Learnt something about myself I don't like but can't ignore.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.

A silly book. Silly, silly book. I can't stand the mousy narrator, what's-his-face, Mrs Danvers or Rebecca. Not a decent human being between the lot of them.

Let it burn.
[identity profile] littlerdog.livejournal.com
Young people and adults nominated the books that have rocked their worlds, to help us create the ultimate list of 50 BOOKS that will change YOUR life and keep you reading.

So, how many of these have I read, and what effect did they have on my life, if any? Is it even possible to know?

(I might note here that books are more likely to stop me reading than keep me reading; reading is my default.)

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.

I studied this for 'O' Level English Literature way back in the day. I have a huge affection for this much-misunderstood and much-maligned book. It. Is. Not. A. Romance. Mmmkay?

I was living in Yorkshire at the time I studied this book, and in fact both my parents are from Yorkshire, so I was already immersed in the culture, so to speak. And it is a very honest representation of Yorkshire people and Yorkshire life. Take that how you will. I remember we even tramped through the rain one day to look at a ruined farmhouse that might or might not have been the inspiration for Wuthering Heights itself. I've also been round the museum at Haworth, in the old parsonage where the Brontes lived. There's at least one dress on display that's just tiny. It's impossible to believe it was worn by an adult woman.

Changed my life? Not sure. If I'd had any doubts that women could write books, it might have dispelled them, but as far as I can recall I never had such doubts. Not consciously, anyway. And the unconscious ones aren't got rid of that easily.

WarHorse by Michael Morpurgo.

I chanced upon a copy of this book at the tail-end of all the fuss about it, and decided to give it a read. Didn't think much of it, tbh. Also, how come this horse understands both English and German? That's a pretty big achievement for a horse. Definitely did not change my life. I'm left with the usual feeling that public acclaim of a book gives a more than 90% likelihood that I won't like it. I'd've liked to have seen the play with the puppet horses, though.

Seriously, the horse understands English and German? And nobody but me is remotely bothered by that?

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

So much has been said about this book that it seems pointless to heap on it more praise. It is so beautifully written, so evocative. I still remember the anger I felt on Scout's behalf that she'd have to leave her childhood behind to enter the vapid world of the ladies who bathe several times a day, bake and gossip. Poor kid.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon.

Another well-received book that left me feeling meh. I was irritated by having explained to me in such great detail why you should swap one box for the other. Given I already knew that and had seen it explained much more concisely already, there was a strong sense of 'Why are you telling me this?' Also, the lack of room for growth of the character left me feeling depressed. Yes, that fault's definitely in me. It's also why I dislike the tv programme Monk. Yep, mea culpa. I'm sure it's a worthy book but it didn't change my life. Sorry.

The Rats by James Herbert.

Life-changing? Mmmm. No. Mildly entertaining? Definitely. I actually thought Domain was the better read. But silly silly books, all of them.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

I remember reading someone criticising this book on the basis that Jane won't have Rochester until he's beaten down and crippled, ie less of a man. Methinks that person didn't read the book too closely.

It's probably difficult not to be affected by this book. The marvellous scene where Jane first meets the acerbic Rochester. Her quiet yet spirited attitude to life. Jane is probably one of the best female characters in literature. And yes, this one is a Romance.

Women can be people too. It's useful to be reminded of that occasionally.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

Again, a book about which much has been said. Discovering Austen is one of the joys of a reader's life. My father and I are at eternal loggerheads about which is Austen's best book. It's not this one. I say it's Persuasion; he holds out for Emma. But Elizabeth from P&P will always have a place in my heart. Even Andrew Davies couldn't destroy that, although he tried hard enough. Clue for Mr Davies: the book is not about teh menz.

The Time-Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.

Apparently this book was turned down by SF publishers and had to be published as women's fiction or chicklit or something. Good. It's a really bad book; I don't see why SF should take the blame for it.

I think my favourite part was about halfway through where there's a section about punk and how dreadfully important it is to all the characters, a fundamental part of their lives, deeply, vitally threaded throughout their entire existence. Punk has never been alluded to before. It is never alluded to again. And really, how romantic is a man who grooms a child into eventually becoming his wife? I found Henry creepy to the max. Plus we keep being told what a good man he is, yet I can't remember a single act of goodness on his part from the entire book. WF/CL can have it.

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.

It's curious how divisive this book is. Time and again I've seen people dismiss Holden as a whiner. Yet I found the book to be a rich and disturbing portrait of a young person sliding into mental illness. Very sad. If you can't whine when your beloved brother has committed suicide, when can you? Never, according to some people.

Life-changing? Possibly not, but certainly affecting. A book that stays with you, that haunts, that you're driven to defend time and again.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

I read this relatively recently--was it last year?--because I got tired of not having read it. It's not a bad book but it was one with which I found it hard to identify. Gatsby is admired for reasons that don't seem admirable to me. The best part of the book is probably its last line. It didn't change my life, except insofar as I no longer think, must read that book some day.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

Again, a much-hyped book that didn't live up to the hype for me. It's okay, I guess. Didn't change my life. I still think with some irritation that the daughter of a mother with clinical depression would be different, but maybe that's imposing my own experience unfairly. If it got people thinking that female characters don't have to be wimps who break a heel, turn their ankles, and have to be saved by men, that's a good thing. Maybe if I'd read it earlier in my life I'd have liked it more.

Northern Lights by Philip Pullman.

And again, a book that's massively over-rated. Maybe I'm seeing a trend here; if you have a female character with agency it puts your book at an advantage because the readership is starving for them. I feel there's two major flaws with this book. Firstly, the second chapter, which is one huge info-dump that stalls the whole story and has you thinking GET ON WITH IT GET ON WITH IT and secondly the irritating way the plan at the end is repeated and repeated then goes down exactly as planned. The last thing you want to do in your exciting denouement is bore the reader to death with repetition. And a twist or two is also nice.

Continued on next rock, because this is entering tl;dr territory.
[identity profile] littlerdog.livejournal.com
shelves

The average British household has 138 volumes on its shelves, less [sic] than half of which have been read, according to research by storage company Shurgard. "It is a kind of peacock-feather display," says the writer and critic John Sutherland.

I think there's some truth in what he goes on to say--that the books in the bedroom are more likely to have been read. Just about all my books are in my bedroom or on the shelves just outside, handy for where I do most of my reading, ie in bed. But many of those are also unread, sad to say. So many books, so little time.... But honestly, by the time I got the peahen to the bedroom, surely the attraction would already have been decided? Eh.

As for Anthony Powell's Books Do Furnish a Room, it seems to have escaped the attention of the article's author that that title was a riposte to people who claimed the exact opposite....

For the record, I have read all the fiction by PKD on the shelves pictured. I have not yet read the books on the far right of the bottom shelf--they're mostly about PKD or the films made of his work and the two lying on top of the others are his bibliography. I think I've read just about everything on the top shelf, underneath the Family Hedgehog, but I'm not 100% sure.

ETA: Okay, I've gone and had a look at the actual top shelf rather than squinting at this low-light example of the photographer's art. There's two books at the far right I haven't read. One's The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick, which hasn't been in the house very long, and the other is a book of PKD's short stories in Italian. I don't read Italian. I bought it for mad.

Apart from that, there's a couple of anthos there that I'm only halfway through--the Nebula Awards Showcase 2010 and the Best British Fantasy one, which turned out to be somewhat disappointing. All the rest have been read.

Well, Duh!

Oct. 4th, 2013 06:07 pm
[identity profile] littlerdog.livejournal.com
Do children need to read more books? ask the BBC News people. Well, duh. It wasn't all that long ago that a study showed that children who don't read for pleasure perform less well in exams, because they can't understand the questions.

Read for yourself....

The idea of being embarrassed to be seen with a book makes me shudder. Not so long ago it was embarrassing not to be seen with a Harry Potter. Just a fad, then, as some of us said at the time.

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