Sunday Morning Catchup

A meme, via Abigail, Martin, and Alison. The idea is that you list the ten books on your shelves that you haven’t read. I have many, many more than ten books on my shelves that I haven’t read; I couldn’t tell you exactly which have been sitting there the longest, but these are the ones that are nagging at me at the moment:

1. Use of Weapons by Iain M. Banks

Four years ago I spent six months working in a bookshop. When I left, I shamelessly abused my staff discount and bought vast piles of books. I haven’t even nearly worked my way through them. This, being by all accounts the Banks sf novel to read, has been nagging at me since then.

2. The Baroque Cycle by Neal Stephenson

I loved Cryptonomicon, so I bought these as they came out. In hardback. Next time I have a spare three months, I’ll read them. (So, mid-2008, then.)

3. Sarah Canary by Karen Joy Fowler

I picked this up at an Eastercon at some point in the past few years. I haven’t read much by Fowler, but everything I have has filled me with joy, with the exception of The Jane Austen Book Club, and even that was pretty good. The premise of this one intrigues me:

The American Old West, Winter, 1873: a white woman of indeterminate age and great ugliness materialises in a Chinese railway workers’ camp, babbling incomprehensibly. Chin Ah Kin believes she is one of the fabled immortals, sent to enchant him. His more practical uncle sees trouble, and orders Chin to escort her back to the white world and the local lunatic asylum where she must belong. […] Neither malign nor benign, who is she and where does she come from?

4. Dubliners by James Joyce

A while ago I attempted Ulysses and bounced fairly hard; being me, I turn to Joyce’s short stories for my next attempt on his oeuvre. Except that this was given to me as a birthday present last year, and I haven’t gotten around to it yet.

5. Temeraire by Naomi Novik

The major fantasy release this year that I want to read and should read but haven’t read, despite having bought a hardback on publication.

6. Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge

The major sf release this year that I want to read and should read but haven’t read, despite having bought a hardback on publication.

7. Snow by Orhan Pamuk

Recommended by Abigail when we were discussing The King’s Last Song, as relevant to thinking about political art, so I should try to make time for it soon.

8. Orlando by Virgina Woolf

Having read A Room of One’s Own for the first time earlier this year and fallen thoroughly in love with Woolfe’s voice, I went and bought an omnibus edition of three of her novels quicksharp. Victoria assures me this is the one to start with.

9. Selected Stories by Theodore Sturgeon

Sturgeon is the great classic short story sf writer I want to read and haven’t (just ahead of Cordwainer Smith). I’m not brave enough to dive into the umpteen-volume “Complete Stories” series being put together by North Atlantic Books, but this looks like an easier way in, so I snapped up a copy a little while ago.

10. Spin by Robert Charles Wilson

It sounds like my sort of thing, I’ve owned a copy since about March, and now it’s won the Best Novel Hugo. I have no excuse.

Other stuff:

  • I’ve been in Copenhagen for most of the past week. It was a work-related trip, but I did manage to find a couple of hours to wander around the city. There are photos here. Had I been concentrating, I’d have taken Miss Smilia’s Feeling For Snow with me, or something; as it is I’ve been reading Julie Phillips’ biography of James Tiptree Jr, which (amazingly) is about as good as everyone says it is.
  • For those who may care but haven’t checked, there are some interesting comments on the last two posts.
  • Gabe Chouinard has a long essay on reviewing and criticism and all that jazz. It’s broken up into several chunks for discussion on his livejournal.

13 thoughts on “Sunday Morning Catchup

  1. Minor correction: Sarah Canary takes place in 19th-century America; one of the characters is a Chinese immigrant.

  2. Still not quite correct. The woman who may or may not be an alien appears to be white; it’s another character who is Chinese.

  3. I can recommend Use of Weapons – arguably Banksie’s most ‘literary’ sf work, and pretty dark to boot. Just doesn’t have the sensawunda that PoG or Excession possess, though.

    The Baroque cycle is well worth giving up a few months for – heavy going at times, but brilliant on so many levels.

    And I presume you read my review of Rainbows End, so I’ll not repeat myself here… ;)

  4. Right. I am now going to go and get my copy of Sarah Canary and type up the blurb. If I don’t get it right then, there really is no hope for me.

  5. I must say I think that’s a very promising list of books … Sarah Canary is my choice for best first novel of the ’90s, Use of Weapons is indeed wonderful, Spin is the most deserving Hugo winner in some time, Dubliners is truly great — the closing story, “The Dead”, is a very strong candidate for best short story of the 20th Century, Sturgeon — well OF COURSE you need to read Sturgeon’s best short fiction! — and Temeraire is great fun.

  6. As I said elsewhere, but in case you miss it. I won’t often post here,. It requires me to come back and track the conversation. LJ is a far better medium if you actually want discussion.

  7. Re Dubliners.

    What I meant to say was that 20 years ago I would have bounced around firmly recommending you read Dubliners right away. I was a big Joyce fan as a teenager.

    Nowadays, I find myself looking for humour as well as brilliance and can quite understand you bouncing off the walls of his gloom.

    Does that help?

  8. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Theodore Sturgeon is overrated; I much prefer Cordwainer Smith. Unfortunately, I don’t have Sturgeon’s Selected Stories handy and so my criticisms must be limited, but on reading it I was immediately struck by the emotional immaturity of many of the stories. I realize that he was enormously important to many of my favorite writers (e.g., Delany), but I feel that if Sturgeon was necessary at one point in the history of SF, today SF has moved way beyond him. Cordwainer Smith was simultaneously much sillier and more serious. Like PKD, he’s an imperfect and clumsy writer. Also like PKD, he’s a genuine (if less prolific) visionary. There’s something really beautiful and far-seeing in Smith’s best stories.

    I just stumbled on this blog, Niall, but I look forward to reading more in the future.

  9. Rich: I thought as much! Although don’t hold your breath for me to actually get around to reading these any time soon — there’s always something else in the queue …

    Penny: Well, you’re talking to the guy whose favourite episode of Angel is ‘Reprise’. I usually like the gloom, and I usually don’t like funny; I bounce off Pratchett, for instance. It’s embarrassing to say, but it was the prose that defeated me in Ulysses, and I’m sort of hoping Dubliners will give me a rampup.

    Jeremy: I’ve heard some people say Sturgeon’s stories are emotionally immature, some say that they’re emotionally complex, and some say that they’re emotionally simple but honest and powerful, so we’ll see. Also, welcome!

  10. People doing this meme seem to be apologetic about having more than ten books they haven’t actually read, so here’s a brilliant quote from Umberto Eco’s “The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana”:
    “And there’s always some imbecile who comes over and says, my how many books you have, have you read them all?”
    “And what do I say?”
    “Usually you say: Not one, why else would I be keeping them here? Do you by chance keep the tins of meat after you’ve emptied them? As for the five thousand I’ve already read, I gave them away to prisons and hospitals. And the imbecile reels.”

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