Thursday, November 6, 2008

Taking book recommendations and reading update #7

While I love talking about books with anyone and everyone, and I'm always recommending books to people, I'm often surprised when they recommend them to me. My first reaction is usually to think, "Wait, you're telling me what I should read? You're confused, that's not why we're here." I try to catch myself and get my head of out my, um library, when I do this, but its funny how often it happens.

Not to say I do this with everyone. Mostly it happens with people who come to my house, see all the books and have an appropriate look of awe on their face. There are many people who recommend books to me and I eagerly follow their advice. I mention this today because a lot of my reading at the moment is based on recommendations.

In the bedroom: I finished The Last Colony by John Scalzi. At first I wasn't overly impressed with this third book in the Old Man's War series. But then he pulls the rug out from under you and things get very interesting. You know how you're reading a book, or watching a movie, and you think, "Why doesn't he/she just tell so and so this or that, then it will all work out!" But they never do? I was thinking along those lines in this book...and then they did! I was rather surprised. Its not every day I read a book and it ends the way I would have ended it. In fact that almost never happens, to me anyway. As you will see below, I think I'm enjoying Scalzi so much because he thinks like I do.

I've since started reading Ceres Storm by David Herter. This author comes highly recommended by Christopher Paul Carey. Although not the titles he specifically recommended, Ceres Storm is one book I happened to find while trolling used book stores last week. I haven't gotten deep into the book yet, but so far the only thing I have noticed is that he is very understated. I find myself learning something in a scene that tells me I have to go back in fill in the blanks in a previous scene because something happened there that I didn't realize.

In the downstairs bathroom: Two Fridays ago (I think), Your Hate Mail will be Graded arrived in the mail from Subterranean Press. I finished it yesterday. This is a random selection of posts from John's ten year-old blog, Whatever. I enjoyed the vast majority of the book, only skimming over several entries, while amazingly finding myself agreeing with John's opinions on the majority of them. Its almost like he is what I would be like with a better vocabulary and an extroverted personality.

I just started another book that comes to me via an author recommendation. This time it comes from Rhys Hughes about Barrington J. Bayley, an author I had never even heard before he passed away a couple of weeks ago. The Forest of Peldain was the only other book I found while out book hunting last week (along with Ceres Storm), so I decided to take it as a sign and read both of them. I don't read two science fiction books at the same time if I think there is any chance I will get them confused because of similarities. I don't think I need to worry about it in this case, but I'll let you know. I'm still hunting for The Anubis Gate by Tim Powers, a recent recommendation, through this blog, by Win Scott Eckert.

At the office: I'm still reading A Tramp Abroad by Mark Twain. I may be reading this for a while as I've only made it into the office two days a week lately (working from home the other five days of the week). Although I may shift this book to another location if this continues. I'd rather not take two months to read anything.

In the car: I'm currently listening to A History of the English Language by Michael Drout. This is part of the Modern Scholar series of books on cd I have mentioned before. I am enjoying this so much I am going to listen to it again over Thanksgiving when my wife and kids and I drive up to Asheville North Carolina. I know that my wife will grasp much more of it than I have since she is much better at spelling, grammar, etc... I think my 13 year old daughter will pick up enough from it to have an impact on her English courses through the rest of high school. Hopefully my seven year old son won't go too insane with boredom. Although he may enjoy the third and fourth lectures on Phonetics and Phonology. Who knows, listening to a college course while he's in the first grade might have an impact on him as well.

Drout has three other Modern Scholar lectures I am looking forward to listening too:
A Way with Words: Writing, Rhetoric, and the Art of Persuasion
A Way with Words II: Approaches to Literature
A Way with Words III: Understanding Grammar for Powerful Communication

While the Heath Ledger movie, A Knight's Tale is one of my all time favorites, I can't promise that I will listen to Drout's: Bard of the Middle Ages: The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer. I'll probably start it, but I can't say I'm optimistic about finishing it.


Christopher Paul Carey said...

The Drout audio sounds fascinating. I just looked him up and it seems he's a Tolkien scholar. I was just reading Phil's "Creating Artificial Worlds" (, in which he explains how he extrapolated the linguistics of the Blodlanders (parallel universe English) in TWO HAWKS FROM EARTH. He did this using Wessex as a root and assuming Etruscan influences. He also talks about creating a unique sound bank when forming artificial languages, which is exactly what he did in his Khokarsan language notes, which include an extensive Khokarsan syllabary based at least in part on Algonquian.

Mike said...

I'd forgotten about the linguistics in Two Hawks from Earth. I'm looking forward to rereading Time's Last Gift now that I know a *little* bit more about linguistics and the history of the English language.

I do recall Phil talking about linguistics a lot in this book in particular. Though I believe he paid more attention to languages than the average science fiction author.

I also recall a scene in The Lavalite World where Kickaka encounters a tribe of people who have no generic words. For example they have words for oak, elm, pine, etc., but no word for tree. That blew my mind.