2016 First Novel Prize Shortlist aka My Fall Reading List

Go here for synopsis’s about these books.

A week ago the Center of Fiction announced the finalists for this years First Novel Prize. Seeing that the list was a lovely mix of women and color (plus one stoic male equivalent), and I’d already read and loved Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, I wanted to read other books first-time novelists were being celebrated for. The winner will be announced on December 6th so I hope to have read all except Kia Cothron’s The Castle Cross The Magnet Carter by then, which is a galloping 800 pages.

I snagged a free copy of Emma Cline’s The Girls during my creative writing class (which was equivalent to winning the lottery considering the amount of other people who’d shot their hands up for it), I’m halfway through and it’s so enjoyable. I find myself both inspired and wholly consumed with jealousy by Cline’s style, humor, and insight – so much confidence I didn’t think could (or should) exist in a twenty-seven year old writer. But Cline is an obvious exception to the rule and was published in Tin House by the time she was sixteen, while most of us teens were still figuring this writing thing out through angsty poetry.

These finalists have written novels that explore girlhood, freedom, homosexuality, loneliness, and race. For the same reasons I think it’s valuable to keep up to snuff with what literary magazines are publishing, I think it’s also good to read books by new novelists – it’s a direct observation of what the publishing and creative worlds are paying attention to.

Of the five books I haven’t yet read, I’m most excited to read Here Comes The Sun and will pick that one up once I’m done with The Girls. Have you read any of the books on the First Novel Prize shortlist? What did you think? Are any of these going on your ‘to read’ list? Do you have any guesses at which book might win?

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10 Books of Summer Reading Challenge

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Photo: 746 Books

I’m already three books behind in my Goodreads Reading Challenge, where I set a goal of reading 35 books in 2016, but hopefully this challenge will help catch me up. After finding a post over at 746 Books, the blog hosting this summer long challenge, I felt compelled to join in at least to make my growing pile of unread books a little bit smaller.

If you’d like to join in it’s simple; read 10, 15, or 20 books between June 1st and September 5th and let your fellow bloggers know how you’re doing along the way. In keeping with my idea that low expectations=success, I’ve aimed for the lowest amount possible. Even so, being a notoriously slow reader, this may be out of my reach but it’s definitely worth the effort. Here’s the pile I’ll be tackling this summer, click their titles for detailed summaries on Goodreads.

1.Euphoria by Lily King

I just bought a used but good as new copy from my beloved Friends of the Library book sale for $1. Euphoria has been on my ‘to read’ list for a while after seeing it on The Millions list of most anticipated books in 2015. I gave myself a head start and started reading this book yesterday evening. The story is about three young anthropologists in the 1930s, caught in a love triangle. I have yet to get to the parts on illicit love, but so far the book is clever, funny, and well written.

2. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

I’m finally ready for the Atwood Experience. The Handmaid’s Tale is a classic, but the topic has never drawn me in. I’m a stickler for great first lines and The Blind Assassin has plenty that demand attention; the first line of the book is “Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge.” so I was hooked to find out more. At over 500 pages The Blind Assassin may be the most challenging of the list to get through, but one can dream, right?

3. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

It’s not often that I read books with murder or mystery as a large portion of the plot, but this book has been collecting dust on my shelf for as long as I can remember, and reading this among more cheerful plots balances out my list. This chilling story is Capote’s reconstruction of the real life murder, investigation, and eventual capture, trial, and execution of the killers while conveying great empathy for them. Writing that makes you care about fictional bad characters are great; writing that makes you care about real life murderers are exceptional.

4. Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

From the author of acclaimed novel Mr. FoxBoy, Snow, Bird puts a twist on childhood fairy tales. I’ve never read anything of that sort before, but after hearing praise for Oyeyemi’s writing I picked up a discounted copy at Barnes and Nobles. I’m excited to start this one.

5. How to Breathe Underwater by Julie Orringer

This book of short stories was given to me during my creative writing class and apparently is a must read for short story lovers and writers alike. Published in 2003, How to Breathe Underwater features nine stories that speak on the endless tragedies of youth. I have been on a short story binge lately so thought this would be a welcome break from all of the long fiction in this list.

6. Rock Springs by Richard Ford

Another short story collection. This is my cheat book, I started reading Rock Springs a while ago but never got around to finishing so want to pick up where I left off. Don’t take my not finishing to mean I did not enjoy the stories; this book is American literature gold.

7. Spheres of Disturbance by Amy Schutzer

Over a year ago after a tour of Red Hen Press, me and a group I was with were given the opportunity to take any book of our choosing – I picked up Spheres of Disturbance but have yet to read it. This book is published under Red Hen Press’ imprint, Artkoi Books, which publishes fiction by lesbian writers.

8. Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay

After reading Bad Feminist, I was over the moon to find Roxane Gay was writing a memoir. Gay uses her personal struggles with food and body image to explore “our shared anxieties over pleasure, consumption, appearance, and health.” I especially want to find out how her past, and the traumatic events within it, formed the woman whose work we’re reading today. Unfortunately, Hunger will not be in bookstores until June 14th, but I’ve already pre-ordered my copy – a little nonfiction to break up my reading.

9. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Another book I got overly excited about before realizing it had not been released yet. There is a lot of buzz around this debut novel about two half sisters in eighteenth-century Ghana. Their lives veer off on two very different paths, one sold into slavery while the other marries an Englishman and moves to the Cape Coast. I will be attending the ALOUD Reading series on June 7 where Yaa Ghasi will talk about her book. Here’s hoping I’m able to get my hands on and finish reading the book before then. 

10. Outer Dark by Cormac McCarthy

It has been a while since I’ve indulged myself in some Cormac McCarthy and I think I’m well overdue for my fill. I was tempted to give Blood Meridian another read, but still don’t think I’m ready to stomach decapitations and random removal of entrails. Outer Dark may not be any better since the story follows a woman who bears her brother’s child… but I think I’ll be able to stomach it.

Are any of you participating in 20 Books of Summer? What do you think of the books in my list? Are there any that you’ve read and did/didn’t enjoy? Any books that I should just cross of my list?

Used Book Sale Finds

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These have been really productive days for me, I think I’m running on the high of getting back to writing-whatever it is I hope it hangs around awhile longer. Since posting Better Writing Habits for 2016 I’ve been able to stick to my writing goals and have had a nice enough work schedule where I can write first thing in the morning, which I found out helps tremendously. I love getting up with a fresh mind, grabbing a quick drink then heading off to my desired writing spot. I’ve even been able to go to the Writer’s Group on Saturday mornings. Writing early, consistently, and with other writers has helped produce a few blog posts and an eight page short story I’m on the tail end of editing. I come home from work; I write. I go to lunch and set myself up to eat my sandwich in one hand while I write, balancing my notebook on my lap.

Yesterday I got to leave work early and was left with loads of time on a day too nice to spend indoors, so got some writing done before going to a Friends of the Library book sale. I’ve been to one before and I’m certain it’s the best used book sale in Los Angeles that I’ve come across. Volunteers run these sales out of Silver Lake Branch and John C. Fremont library as well as a few other, with donated books (good books) that are sold for as little as 75 cents to $2 a book. This place built my Cormac McCarthy collection for about $4 and he’s brilliant!

I bought twelve books yesterday (two not pictured) that fall into many genres-science fiction, classic reads, and contemporary literature. Here are synopsis’ of the books and some reason why I bought them.

Obligatory Reading

usedbookstorefinds1Animal Farm by George Orwell

I read 1984 for the first time a few months ago and fell in love with George Orwell’s satirical style and writing. I love a good dystopian future.

From the book cover: A farm is taken over by its overworked, mistreated animals. With flaming idealism and stirring slogans, they set out to create a paradise of progress, justice, and equality. Thus the stage is set for one of the most telling satric fables ever penned- a razor-edged fairy tale for grown-ups that record the evolution from revolution against tyranny to a totalitarianism just as terrible.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

We all got assigned to read this in high school, but it’s rare to appreciate the ‘classics’ first time around – at least for me. This used copy was obviously owned by a student who took great care in note taking and highlighting important plot points, so maybe I’ll learn something.

From the book cover: At the dawn of the next world war, a plane crashes on an uncharted island, stranding a group of schoolboys. At first, with no adult supervision, their freedom is something to celebrate. This far from civilization they can do anything they want. Anything. But as order collapses, as strange howls echo in the night, as terror begins its reign, the hope of adventure seems as far removed from reality as the hope of being rescued…

Cheap ‘n Cheerful

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None of these books are cheerful, but for only $2, this was the cheapest I’d seen these book so thought Why not?

The Little Friend by Donna Tartt

I know she wrote the Goldfinch. I know she wrote The Secret History. I’m just unapologetically cheap and can’t bring myself to invest $26 in long literature I might never finish. A volunteer mentioned that Donna Tartt’s other books are more popular, but the story of this one appealed to me the most.

From the book cover: In a small Mississippi town, Harriet Cleve Dufresnes grows up in the shadow of her brother, who-when she was only a baby-was found hanging dead from a black-tupelo tree in their yard. His killer was never identified, nor has his family, in the years since, recovered from the tragedy. For Harriet, who has grown up largely unsupervised, in a world of her own imagination, her brother is a link to a glorious past she has only heard stories about or glimpsed in photograph albums. Fiercely determined, precocious far beyond her twelve years, and steeped in the adventurous literature of Stevenson, Kipling, and Conan Doyle, she resolves, one summer, to solve the murder and exact her revenge. Harriet’s sole ally in this quest, her friend Hely, is devoted to her, but what they soon encounter has nothing to do with child’s play: it is dark, adult, and all too menacing.

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

From the book cover: Fight Club’s estranged narrator leaves his lackluster job when he comes under the thrall of Tyler Durden, an enigmatic young man who holds secret after-hours boxing matches in the basement of bars. There two men fight “as long as they have to”. A gloriously original work that exposes what is at the core of our modern world.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon

From the book cover: Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. And he detests the color yellow. The improbable story of Christopher’s quest to investigate the suspicious death of a neighborhood dog makes for one of the most captivating, unusual, and widely heralded novels in recent years.

Reading for Writers

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The Most Beautiful Woman in Town & other stories by Charles Bukowski

When I showed my finds to my husband he laughed and said he has a biased against Bukowski because it’s common for people in Brazil (where he’s from) to quote him when they want to appear smart. Well, I want to seem smart too, I said.

Flipping through the contents page some titles I saw were “The Fuck Machine”, “My Big-Assed Mother” and one simply with a swastika symbol, and I realized I had no idea what I just bought.

From the book cover: These mad immortal stories, now surfaced from the literary underground, have addicted legions of American readers, even though the high literary establishment continues to ignore them. In Europe, however (particularly in Germany, Italy, and France where he is published by the great publishing houses), he is critically recognized as one of America’s greatest living realist writers.

Not much detail other than how understated and great Bukowsky is, but I’ll bite based on the story titles alone.

All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy

My love affair with Cormac McCarthy’s writing continues.

From the book cover: All the Pretty Horses tells of a young John Grady Cole, the last of a long line of Texas ranchers. Across the border Maxion beckons-beautiful and desolate, rugged and cruelly civilized. With two companions, he sets off on an idyllic, sometimes comic adventure, to a place where dreams are paid for in blood.

The Lay of the Land by Richard Ford

I got my first doses of Richard Ford when my teacher was handing out free books and I ended up with a copy Ford’s short story collection Rock Springs, and heard an excerpt of Canada during class, loving the tone and simplicity of his work. He takes the average American life and makes it interesting, so I’m glad I was able to pick up some of his longer work.

From the book cover: A sportswriter and a real estate agent, husband and father- Frank Bascombe has been many things to many people. His uncertain youth behind him, we follow him through three days during the autumn of 2000, when his trade as a Realtor on the Jersey Shore is thriving. But as a presidential election hangs in the balance, and a postnuclear-family Thanksgiving looms before him, Frank discovers that what he terms the “Permanent Period” is fraught with unforeseen perils.

Closet science lover

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Billions & Billions

Because Carl Sagan, and I like non-fiction that blows my mind.

From the book cover: Sagan applies what we know about science, mathematics, and space to everyday life as well as to the exploration of many essential questions concerning the environment and our future. Ranging far and wide in subject matter, he takes his readers on a soaring journey, from the invention of chess to the possibility of life on Mars, from Monday Night Football to the relationship between the United States and Russia, from global warming to the abortion debate. And, on a more intimate note, we are given a rare glimpse of the author himself as he movingly describes his valiant fight for his life, his love for his family, and his personal beliefs about death and God.

Science Fiction: The Very Best of 2005

That’s the very best so obviously I had to get it. I’ve been avoiding science fiction so I could read different genres, but I miss it a lot. Some short stories are just what I need to bring me out of my funk.

From the book cover: A herd of dinosaurs wander the fields of rural Vermont; a young girl discovers what happens when you’re no longer a goddess in a near-future India; Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics are put to the test as a family is split apart and then redefined; the last man in the universe, stranded on Mars, searches for meaning with a pop song; and an artificially intelligent turtle questions Intelligent Design and evolution. These are just some of the fourteen award-nominated stories that acclaimed anthologist Jonathan Strahan has assembled in his third annual survey of the best new science fiction stories of the year.

What are some good books you’ve found at a used book sale/store? Are any of these on your TBR list? Have you read any of these titles already, what did you think?

Mid-July TBR List: The Overhyped, Marvelous Murakami, and Short Stories

My July reading list has only managed to come together in mid July. Thank you numerous unwarranted trips to the bookstore! Thank you Amazon.com and your lure of infinite books and fast delivery at my fingertips! Because of this I have been finicky over a now large selection of unread books to choose from, starting one until another arrives and I think No, I have to start this one now. But I have finally narrowed it down to three that will fill out the rest of this month.

The Fault in Our Stars, John Green

I have crawled out from under my rock and left the comfort of hibernation to read The Fault in Our Stars, as hyped as it is. I saw a trailer for the film before hearing about the book and it completely deterred me from wanting any part of it’s YA form. Nor with it’s plot, or with it’s sickly characters and sudden teenage love. But Hollywood has the ability to take a great book and market it to sell regardless of whether it reflects the story accurately. These are usually a re-imagining rather than a strict recreation.

When Hazel’s terminal tumor relents thanks to a medical miracle, she is bought a few more years of life. While at a Cancer Kid Support Group she meets Augustus Waters, a brilliant boy who allows her to see a new side of life, being in love.

I hope the book deals with Hazel’s real feelings about her diagnosis and knowing she is going to die as equally, if not more than, it talks about the Augustus and Hazel’s relationship. I don’t want it to be like The Lovely Bones, where a much greater issue lies within the story but all boils down to Susie wanting to have sex with her crush. I want it to deal with Hazel’s mortality and not have the power of love cure everything. I can not deny the book has something that has everyone raving, and my guess is the plot is great.

I also bought Paper Towns for good measure, but I will save that for next month.

Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World, Haruki Murakami

There is a weird level of excitement within me considering I have never read any of Murakami’s work, but I am positive I will enjoy it. His stories are well written and often take the strange of fantasy and science fiction, which are all wonderful in my mind. After reading a few passages across his books I decided to first dip my toes into Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World. The synopsis is painfully vague, only revealing that amoung a gang of oddball happenings – deranged scientists, unicorn skulls, and Bob Dylan (?) – a man falls into the underworld of contemporary Tokyo, uniting tragedy and comedy.

Murakami’s labeling as a controversial fiction writer and my urge to read international literature more will be soothed by this read!

The Brink, Austin Bunn

I picked up this book for two reasons:

1. Sometimes, I judge books by their covers.

2. I like short stories and enjoy seeing how other writers deal with this form of story telling.

Flipping through to find a passage at random I read of one character being “pleasantly retarded” after too much drink. I put it into my basket because I had read enough. This is Austin Bunn’s book debut and the stories within explore what happens at “the end” (I spot a theme) and beyond that. The stories span a wide range of plots; In “How To Win an Unwinnable War”a summer class on nuclear war somehow leads to the destruction of a family. Videogamers fall in love in the virtual world in “Griefer”. Despite the diversity of these stories all the characters go through changes in their lives and deal with solitude, which I find interesting because right now I am writing a short that deals with this. Something tells me this will be a fun read.

Summer Reading Picks: A Very Mixed Bowl

Lately I have found editing to be both a gratifying and intolerably tedious activity. I have been editing a short story for two days now – the first edit turning into a rewrite and the second carrying on a story I thought I had ended, and although I love the characters growing within what I think is a reasonably good plot, a short is called a short because it is short. I need to work on this.

While taking a break from editing/rewriting I decided to compile a list of summer and beach reading from books I already own. When asked what your favorite summer read is you might not mention titles filled with mental illness, death, and ritual killings, but I have my reasons!

 

Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon, George Armado

During a trip to Brazil last August I discovered a love for international storytelling through hearing about a literary festival in Paraty and the thousands of south American authors who would be in attendance, I did not get to go but it sparked the bug to read some on my own. Being exposed to their sing song way of speaking and learning to talk to my husband’s grandma by listening to Brazilian music, I found that every song on the radio naturally sounded like poetry – I wanted to hear their stories. Although Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon is considered a romance between Syria born Nacib Saad and his new cook Gabriela, we are immediately thrown into Colonel Mendonça shooting his wife and the man he finds her in bed with, an example of how things are dealt with in this small town in the 1920s. Yes, Nacib and Gabriela fall in love, but they are faced with obstacles almost immediately when the society they reside in refuses to accept them together, changing them and their relationship completely.

 

The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway

A group of friends and lovers travel from Paris to Spain to see the bull fights with alcohol, nightlife and debauchery thrown in for good measure in this portrayal of the post-World War I generation. Jake Barnes falls in love with drinker and divorcee Lady Brett Ashley almost immediately upon introduction, but she refuses to commit to a relationship with him because of the expectation that comes with it – sex. Brett is admired by multiple men and this soon leads to drunken fist fights and dark humor. After parting ways, Jake and Brett meet later in Paris; Jake is accompanied by his friend Robert Cohn (another admirer of Brett) and Brett, now married, is with her husband Mike Campbell. The four agree to go to Spain together and, of course, events go poorly. Although The Sun Also Rises reads like a light beach book, Ernest Hemingway uses character’s action and a great plot to show the aimlessness of life for the lost generation.

 

The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath

I ordered this from Amazon about a month ago and it is next in my classic reading pile, it sounds like the perfect summer read, like The Devil Wears Prada but with a girl who isn’t perfectly cliche. Esther Greenwood starts a summer internship at a New York magazine but despite her move to the big city and starting a position many women strive for- she is is unsatisfied, scared, depressed. Her mother forces her to see a slew of unprofessional psychiatrists that prescribe electric shock therapy, and Esther refuses to go back. The story follows Esther through tales of her internship, the people she meets, half attempts at suicide and then one real attempt, and unravel fears and feelings Sylvia Plath suffered through in her real life as a writer and person with depression.

 Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe

The copy I own of this book is nine years old and has “From mummy, happy reading” written on the first page, I think Things Fall Apart was the first piece of real literature I read outside of school and enjoyed. Set in Nigeria, reading this book reminds me of the summers I spent there as a child. Cornrows dirtied with dust, big cheesy grins with cousins. The rich culture and detail Chinua Achebe paints transports you to that world, one of tribes and tradition that begin to creep into western assimilation and the tragic irony that follows. The story focuses is on an Igbo man named Okwonko. Shamed by an absent father, he strives to be respected by everyone in the village by simulating extreme masculinity, working hard, gaining wealth, and an overabundance of wives and children. He and his family take in a young boy named Ikemefuna, who is given to the village as a peace settlement after his father kills an Umuofia woman. Okwonko raises the boy they take to each other like father and son, but when the Oracle of Umuofia claims Ikemefuna must be killed Okwonko’s decision to appear strong and deal the killing blow to Ikemefuna sends him and his family into a downward spiral.

I think I will have to give this story a reread, I am getting the same chills I did when I first read it.

Have you read any of these or are you planning to?

Currently Reading: Feminist Essays, Moral Narrative, and Peculiar Classics

It has been two weeks since I moved into my new apartment and I’m still hauling books in and discovering ones I forgot I owned. It feels like Christmas all too often! I have two copies of Rendezvous With Rama and I don’t feel bad about it. I have accumulated a ridiculous amount of John Grisham books from used bookstores that they are all too common in. I have only half read one of his books before losing it and not bothering to buy another copy, yet my bookshelf looks like I am his number one fan. Having my fill of legal thrillers I removed him and all other used bookstore staples (Sidney Sheldon, Jodi Picoult, etc) that cluttered my bookshelf and went on a search for new reads. With suggestions from The Millions Most Anticipated 2014 list and a deliciously long list my creative writing professor handed out (my mouth bursts into spontaneous salivation every time I look at it) I searched for books that interested me and decided to get fiction, nonfiction, and classic literature.

I have been on a Chimamanda Adichie binge lately after my mother in law forwarded her Single Story TED Talk. After adding Americanah and Half of a Yellow Sun to my goodreads ‘to read’ list I went on a hunt for more recent feminist literature. There was something curious about the search, nonfiction and female authors are far and few between on my shelf so after coming across Bad Feminist and having an all too real connection with the title I hit “add to cart” and wondered how amazon could expect any reasonable human being to wait 48 hours for such a good book. Then I was prompted by a “start reading now” button…

Bad Feminist, Roxane Gay 

Within the first twenty pages of these essays I had to put the book down and find out more about Roxane Gay- I looked for her blog, twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and interviews. She lives, breathes, and writes too much truth. As a woman. A black woman. A black woman with parents born in a third world country. And, of course, as a writer. She does not strive to fall within societal lines and simply put, she kicks ass because of it. These essays use humor to boldly address topics people sidestep: feminism, privilege (the fact that we all possess some form of it), and politics. She also talks about being an unconventional professor and the awkwardness that ensues when her students come to talk to her about her mostly sexual writing. In these essays Roxane takes an in depth look at how the things we consume greatly effect our culture and the rest of the world. All with a voice of wit and “I’m not entirely sure what I am doing here.”

And she has fiction too!

Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov

Lolita, Lolita, Lolita. This was my pick for a classic read, suggested by my professor and good god was I not ready for it. Most are familiar with the story even if they have never read it: A man named Humbert spends the pages obsessing over twelve year old Lolita, and after he marries her mother to get closer to her he and Lolita become sexually involved.

Yes, almost every page goes by and you think “No… this couldn’t possibly. Is this really what the story is about?“, but it is and you keep on reading. And you read and read and hate yourself for enjoying the book so much despite it’s horrific subject matter and narrator. I love the narrator because he is hilarious and unreliable, I hate him because of everything else. Recently I have been learning that good literature is supposed to make you uncomfortable. So I take that to mean that as a writer I cannot afford to be afraid of feeling discomfort or causing that feeling with my writing, especially when what a lot of us write about are real emotions and people. Sometimes hilariously shitty ones.

The Children Act, Ian McEwan

Named after the Children Act of 1989 this book centers on Fiona Maye, a high court judge who is pulled in to rule on a controversial case. Seventeen year old Adam refuses to get life saving treatment to fight leukemia because of religious reasons and his parents believe the same. Weighed down by a haggard marriage and personal strife Fiona speaks to Adam and makes a choice that will change both of their lives. I had a particular interest in this book because I work in a setting where I often have to deal with requests that border on ridiculous/dangerous because of personal beliefs or preference (or ignorance), so I was curious to read what take this book has on the matter.

Have you ever seen a grown woman run to the mail box first thing on a Tuesday morning, unbathed and ravenously opening a parcel of books from Amazon?

I’m really looking forward to finishing these books, so far I have not been disappointed. Have you read any of these, what did you think?

Literary London – Any Amount of Books

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My husband and I recently went to London to visit my family and decided to do our version of a Literary London tour (I say “our version” but I have no idea whether a Literary London tour exists. If it doesn’t, surely it should.*). After hours of intense google searches and finagling to see more, we narrowed our outings to bookstores that either specialized in used books or science fiction. Among others we ended up going to Any Amount of Books, Book Mongers, and Forbidden Planet (a.k.a the best place on Earth). Posts for the books I got at Book Mongers and Forbidden Planet will be coming soon!

During our month long trip I learned two things about buying books abroad.

1) It can get heavy. Over the baggage limit heavy. This may lead to judgemental glares from flight attendants and possibly having to choose between your month supply of clothes and six month supply of books. Cruel world.

2) The exchange rate and cost of living was not built in your favor, actually it was built in spite of it. That used book you just bought for six pounds? That’s the price of a new book in Los Angeles, dummy.

But it was all in the name of reading.

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And all was good in the world.

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We chose to go to Any Amount of Books first after finding out they have a bin of used books that are one pound (around $1.50) each or five for four pounds. After shedding a single tear we went inside to skim through the science fiction section and found the most popular author was Lloyd Biggle Jr, classic forefather he is. My husband unknowingly picked up a copy of The Still, Small Voice of Trumpets (1968) that he will probably never set eyes upon again while I cannot wait to absorb it. This treasure was only $1.50 but I would have paid more for the cover and title alone.

Biggle Jr is the mind behind science fiction staples like the Interplanetary Relations Bureau and Cultural Survey The Still, Small Voice of Trumpets (Interplanetary Relations Bureau)which both make an appearance in this novel. Jeff Forzon is an agent of the IPR bureau where the motto is “Democracy imposed from without is the severest form of tyranny”. When Jeff is sent to the planet Gurnil to introduce it’s inhabitants to democracy in the hopes of eventually inducting them into the galactic federation, he is met with beings more interested in art than politics, perfectly content continuing the monarchical system they have been under for the past four hundred years. So Forzon is set with the challenging obstacle of aiding change in this species with the introduction of a single innovation that will change their planet.

Coming in at just 206 pages this is a short one, I’ll save this read for an afternoon in with tea and Ravi Shankur.

I could only find one snippet of a good quote but me thinks it’s a good’un.

“Beauty he loved for its own sake; ugliness, which more often than not was a form of inverted beauty, fascinated him. Life offered far too little of either, and far too much appalling mediocrity, which he thought hideous.”

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We also picked up a copy of The Alien Way (1965), a first contact story with a twist- the aliens (called Ruml) that come into contact with Earth are not amorphous drones but creatures of culture, with a community and infrastructure as defined as the ones we are familiar with today. The plot follows a human who has a mental connection to the leader of the Ruml who plans on invading Earth. This allows him to know every plan that is contrived but will it be enough to prevent the downfall of humankind?

Ah, the questions science fiction asks are endless. This book carries a shroud of mystery online so I could barely find more than a brief synopsis on it, and being that this is the first book I have picked up of Gordon R Dickson it makes me itch to think how good of a story could be waiting between these pages.

*I just checked, they do exist.