Two weeks or so to go until my (it seems now firmly) annual revision of whatever I’ve read since last mid-October, and having just finished Jo Walton’s Among Others, which is just wow, I’m filled with a kind of utterly euphoric afterglow, and with Iain M. Banks’ new one arriving next week, and … yes, and … doing a bit of preparation of my celebration/damnation of a year of books, I noticed there were a couple I didn’t bother to blog about: re-reads, 2nd, 3rd, nth of the usual pestiferous authors whom I turn to when I can’t face my current reading pile.
Sometimes the non-fiction I read — and occasionally the fiction — is just too dense for lying in bed at night. It goes in cycles … hmm, I’m not sure that’s the right word, because it’s not a predictable routine, maybe it goes in a chaotic but non-random periodicity. There’s a lot of guilt involved also. I should be reading x by author n, an adjective study on the verb of noun, printed by y university, bound in hardback with very nice choice of paper, (small) typography and layout, a beautiful cover to boot, and at least a third devoted to footnotes of the kind that need to be read. And I want to read these. I’ve got a whole bookshelf of them, and around 2/3 of my wishlist is comprised of such things — even before the philosophy stuff which I’m always thinking of reading gets a mention.
What I want to read though is stories of a particular kind, which cleverly insert those philosophical and political questions, which allow for a certain imagination, which fill my head with images and leave me after with that euphoria, mostly which I find in science-fiction. Sometimes too, I just want my eyes to pass over words without much effort, just getting a fix and provided the quality is good enough I’m not too fussy.
Of course the solution to this could be found by a) going to a public library and snarfing great piles of books, which in Berlin would probably be Haus Amerika-Gedenkbibliothek; b) going to a second-hand bookstore and snarfing great piles of second-hand books for €5 or less, and getting over my new-book snobbery; or c) having the kind of income that makes snarfing 20 new books a week unproblematic.
Given the hilariously voracious role-model reading habits of Amy, the subject of Among Others —and the absence of a realistic c — b then a it is.
I can also just plunder the 300 or so books on my shelves. And so I did.
After or around reading Graeber’s Debt, I reread all six of Charles Stross’ Merchant Prince series, for the 3rd time I think. They’re quite a flüssig read but have enough socio-political threads to not be a tedious costume drama, though from around the fourth book, where it becomes to rely on American politics as a base narrative, I have to do some judicious ignoring as that meandering plot line I always find a little forced and unnecessary, as well as at the expense of some really interesting lines of thought.
They’re a little like Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings, books I reread with some regularity even though I know the story and weaknesses and all the rest, just because I occasionally like returning to those worlds.
After that, while I was waiting for a couple of books to arrive, I engulfed a few Iain M. Banks. Not quite ready to slurp down Stonemouth again, though perhaps Whit once more soon. This time it wasn’t the usual favourites, instead the ones that are a little outside the Culture canon, or somehow in my mind not the ones I think of when I imagine Iain Banks (Feersum Endjinn!).
Player of Games (3rd or 4th time), Look to Windward (at least 2nd time), Inversions (again at least 2nd time), The Algebraist (probably 3rd time). You can see my need for more books.
Look to Windward and Inversions I have an association in my mind as being not such good/monumental works. Maybe I didn’t find them captivating so much the first time, or maybe the covers I associate with them is not the typical attentively beautiful art (the former is almost airport novel quality), but this time both became firmly adored. The Algebraist, ah well, it’s just a sublime tale that goes nowhere, or maybe goes everywhere to arrive battered, back where it started. It’s one of his best, full with an existential emptiness and dirty black humour.
Yes, so an additional ten books bringing my year’s consumption to almost one a week. Think I shall make an impromptu trip to St George’s tomorrow and pick up some second-hand sci-fi.