Books read, January 2011

Bookshelves in my study

My daily reading is a bit of a mixed bag, comprising books from my Ph.D work, the rest from my reviewing work, and sometimes even reading for relaxation. However, these monthly reading posts won’t be exhaustive lists of what I read. I don’t mention manuscripts I edit or proofread, for obvious professional reasons. Neither shall I be listing the various academic papers I get through each month (sample title for January: ‘Reading Nanook’s Smile: Visual Sovereignty, Indigenous Revisions of Ethnography, and Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner)’ – see, you didn’t really want to know, though I recommend the film without reservation). I also read a lot of bits of books, and I won’t mention those either, otherwise it would get silly. In other words, these are books I read all the way through or finish during each month.

So, for January 2011, in order of completion:

#1 Charles Yu – How To Live Safely In A Science-Fictional Universe (2010), reviewed for The Zone, here. If I’d read this sooner, it would have joined Finch as one of my books of 2010. As it stands, it’s definitely one of my books of 2011.

#2 K J Parker – The Folding Knife (2010), also reviewed for The Zone, here. I am open to changing my mind about this one, as I plan to read more Parker.

#3 Alexandra Harris –Romantic Moderns:English Writers, Artists and the Imagination from Virginia Woolf to John Piper (2010) (Kathryn Hughes’ review in the Guardian, here, also winner of the Guardian First Book Award). Really interesting account of what Hughes perceives as a second, more locally focused, strand of modernism in the UK, focusing on artists like John Piper, writers like Betjemin, Beverley Nichols, et al. I am not entirely persuaded of her argument, but it’s really helpful to position the activities of a group that, for all their fame, always seem a bit shadowy to me.

#4 Carmelo Rafala – The Immersion Book of SF (2010), reviewed for a forthcoming issue of Vector. Majority of the stories either dated or didn’t do anything, or in a couple of instances just plain badly written. There were honourable exceptions: Tanith Lee and Lavie Tidhar, whose stories I enjoyed. Gord Sellars’ story also showed promise. Also, I deeply disapprove of the cover art, showing space woman with floaty post-coital hair, a spacesuit shaped to show she has breasts, because obviously that’s just what NASA would do, and in more shades of pink than I care to think about. I have no idea who this cover is supposed to appeal to but I await Space Barbie with a lack of enthusiasm.

#5 Alaya Dawn Johnson – Racing the Dark

#6 Alaya Dawn Johnson – The Burning City

#7 Holly Black – The White Cat (2010).
The last of my embarrassing backlog of reviews that didn’t get written while I was writing a dissertation instead. Thoughts still percolating but I think I can say I’m lacking feelings of whelm in all three cases, for different reasons. I’ll add links when the reviews appear online.

#8 Taiaiake Alfred – Peace, Power, Righteousness: An Indigenous Manifesto 2nd ed (2009). Read for the day job. Taiaiake Alfred is a Kahnawake Mohawk and writes here about the politics of indigenous self-determination, one of the topics I’m grappling with, from the point of view of someone living north of the 49th Parallel. Very clearly argued, very different from the work of a number of US theorists I’ve been reading, and responsible for the light-bulb moment I’ve been lacking these last few months.

#9 Norman Lewis – The Missionaries (1988). Came across this in a second-hand bookshop late last year. It’s represented as part of a trilogy of loosely autobiographical writings by Lewis, best known as a travel writer. In fact, I think it’s best described as Lewis’s account of a series of encounters with Christian missionaries working ‘with’ the indigenous peoples of South America, to lead them away from the error of their pagan ways. It’s an account of sustained genocide and exploitation, focusing on the questionable activities of a couple of large missionary organisations. It makes for grim reading.

#10 Tom McCarthy – C (2010)
I’ve been blogging about C already on Paper Knife. Suffice to say here that I like it a lot.

#11 Bradford Morrow – The Diviner’s Tale (2011). I’m reviewing this for Interzone. Not quite what I expected. More when I’ve finished the review.