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6/30/14

Rachel's Random Recommendation #38: The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann

http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1403170928l/88077.jpgThe Magic Mountain (1924) by Thomas Mann

I know that I sound like a broken record when it comes to Thomas Mann, my Favorite Author Ever In The History of The World, but I'm telling begging pleading with you to read The Magic Mountain (the John E. Woods translation).

Mann, a winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature for 1929, is considered one of the most influential and brilliant writers of the 20th century, and not just in his native Germany. Not only that- Mann also stood up to fascism and Nazism, using his influence and popularity to try and persuade his fellow citizens and his readers beyond Germany to reject it as well.

6/29/14

My Month of Science Fiction: Robot Uprisings, ed. Daniel H. Wilson and John Joseph Adams

http://www.johnjosephadams.com/robot-uprisings/wp-content/uploads/sites/41/2010/05/RobotUprisings-Final-Hires.jpgRobot Uprisings (2014) ed. Daniel Wilson and John Joseph Adams

I'm just going to say up front that I love everything about this anthology: the eclecticism of the stories, the cover image, the mix of well-known and lesser-known authors, the fact that it's about ROBOTS...

Maybe it's because I loved Data's character on Star Trek: TNG, or maybe it's because I love the tantalizingly-terrifying feeling that creeps up my spine whenever I think about robots shaking off their shackles and getting their vengeance on. WHATEVER I just love robot stories. And Wilson and Adams have given us an anthology of robot stories that will stay with us, informing and changing how we think about the AI of the future and the robots we currently live with.

6/26/14

My Month of Science Fiction: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline


https://encrypted-tbn3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcT8db1Av5K76eK1B_t7XugpM0kvmHQNjD0GIe2LGs80GgP8rH6KReady Player One (2011) by Ernest Cline

I think the closest I've ever come to reading a dystopian/scifi/video-game novel like RPO was when I delved into Cory Doctorow's For The Win (2010). Both novels are fast-paced, addictive action adventures, and I do enjoy a good adventure...

What struck me about RPO was the sheer amount of detail that Cline loaded into it- references to '80s pop-culture; descriptions of vintage and recent video, arcade, and computer games; discussions of gaming culture. 

Now, even though I was born in the early '80s, doesn't mean I remember much of that...er...strange decade. I was basically dressing up my stuffed animals and watching Sesame Street as it drew to a close. I do, however, have some knowledge of '80s video games, popular music, and TV shows because of my older brothers. So that was a HUGE help in deciphering what Wade/Parzival was talking about half the time.

6/24/14

My Month of Science Fiction: Embassytown by China Miéville


http://escapepod.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/embassytown-china-mieville.jpgEmbassytown (2011) by China Miéville

When I was asking around for recommendations for my Month of Science Fiction, the name "China Miéville" kept coming up. Now, I had heard the name before, but knew nothing about the author. Eventually, I chose Embassytown to read and BOY OH BOY am I glad I did (and all the other Miéville? Yeah, gonna read those too!).

Anyway, there are books that you read and you feel great afterwards- enlightened, almost buoyant. Other books leave you feeling confused and dizzy. Still others suck you in and make you work so hard that you come out on the other side saying "that wasn't a book, it was an EXPERIENCE."

Embassytown was an Experience.

6/21/14

5 New Bookish Words for the Age of Angst

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, as we all know, are constantly in flux, and English is no different. So with all of the recent articles and “think-pieces” and brou-ha-has on the bookternet, I realized that we needed to coin some new words to reflect this brave new angsty world of ours.

So listen up, OED, here are five new words comin’ atcha and no, no, no need to offer me a large sum of money or a boatload of books, I’m doing this because I care about language and I love words and I’m happy to share my lexicographical expertise (n.b. I have no lexicographical expertise).

Genreshaming: v. The act of ridiculing or shaming a reader because of his/her genre choices. Genreshaming is mostly done by people who have nothing better to do than belittle others and then take pride in it.

6/18/14

Books to Look For (June): Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Humor

Science Fiction

http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1384017416l/18490786.jpgRobogenesis by Daniel H. Wilson (Doubleday, 384 pages, June 10)

I thought that name sounded familiar, and sure enough, Wilson is one of the editors of Robot Uprisings, the last book on my list for my Month of Scifi. Robogenesis is the sequel to Robopocalypse, and this time, the artificial intelligence (Archos) is even more bent on destroying humanity. With a devastated Earth and human survivors trying to pick up the pieces, it doesn't seem like much can stop Archos...or is there? Man, how did I not read Robopocalypse, like, the second it came out? *runs to bookstore*

6/17/14

My Month of Science Fiction: Bloodchild by Octavia Butler

https://dopaliciousdistrict.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/bloodchild.jpgBloodchild and Other Stories, 2nd ed. (1996, 2005) by Octavia Butler

Having never read anything by Octavia Butler before, I was unprepared for the wonderful energy, wit, and precision of these short stories and essays. They were fantastic- the kind of science fiction that strikes a match in your brain and makes you want to write ALL THE SCIFI STORIES yourself. Now that's what I call good writing.

And then, just because being awesome wasn't enough, Butler had to go and add brief afterwords to each story, laying out her inspiration or thoughts on the issues that were raised. You guys, I wish every book of short stories was like this! It was like reading a story, and then going to the author and saying, "but why did you write it this way? How did you come up with this idea?" etc. Such a small book (just over 200 pages), but such a powerful punch.

6/16/14

Rachel's Random Recommendation #37: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1353048590l/6334.jpgNever Let Me Go (2005) by Kazuo Ishiguro

My first exposure to the beautiful prose of Kazuo Ishiguro was, of course, The Remains of the Day, which I read in college for a Modern British Fiction course. Reading that novel made me want to walk around on tiptoe, whispering and peering around corners- Ishiguro is that masterful with subtlety and quiet, contemplative, yet profound, stories.

Several years later, I read Never Let Me Go for a grad school version of that course, and came away...puzzled. I wasn't sure how to classify it, and perhaps that was the point. This novel about a group of clones growing up at a special school and then released into the world, their purpose in life to donate their organs to people in need, has been called "dystopian" and "science fiction," but ultimately it is many things. It is a comment on how ethics often lag behind scientific innovation, and a warning about how we as humans often fear or dismiss that which is almost human- a humanoid machine, a clone, etc.

6/15/14

A "Dead Poets Society" Reading List

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-h4owmMLQPcs/UuQwE1CLKlI/AAAAAAAAB1M/VzcfOFCmsTU/s1600/936full-dead-poets-society-screenshot.jpgYou might find this hard to believe, but Dead Poets Society turned 25 on June 9. I know. Nothing like making me feel super ancient, huh world?

Anyway, I recently re-watched this beautiful film and now I love it even more. And while John Keating does throw around literary references like so many footballs, without ever diving in and, you know, doing some close reading or situating writers in their historical/political contexts, the references do make many of us smile. After all, you’ve got your Whitman, your Thoreau, your Tennyson, and your Shakespeare (among others). What more could you want in a film? (Oh, and of course there’s Robert Sean Leonard and Ethan Hawke).

In honor of this quarter-century milestone, I’ve assembled a little reading list, which includes texts referenced in the film, as well as a few other books that have a similar theme.

(And for a great Dead Poets Society live-blog, check out Jeff’s post here).

6/12/14

My Month of Science Fiction: The Margarets by Sheri Tepper

http://images-eu.amazon.com/images/P/0061170658.02.LZZZZZZZ.jpgThe Margarets (2007) by Sheri Tepper

Wow.

This was quite a bit different from Neuromancer, and that's putting it mildly. Such diversity among the books that we label "scifi" made me take to twitter to ask people to try and define the genre (in 6 words or less- I know, that's unfair, but there were some great responses).

Having never heard of Sheri Tepper before, I dove into The Margarets without many preconceptions. It's a fascinating story that encompasses multiple planets, planes of existence, and time periods. A little girl named Margaret Bain, bored to tears and lonely while living on a human settlement on Phobos, summons up some imaginary friends and VOILA they all eventually split off from her and become separate beings, each of whom grows up to become a full-fledged individual. Seven separate beings, to be exact. They each develop their special abilities, all in the service of helping the human race survive.

6/11/14

10 Obnoxious Things People Say To Hard-Core Readers

http://lawartscult.osgoode.yorku.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Bernardino-Licinio-Da-Pordenone-Portrait-of-a-Lady-half-length-in-a-black-robe-holding-a-book.jpgWe hard-core readers have all been there. You’re trying to have a serious conversation with someone about a book you’re reading and then their eyes glaze over and they say something obnoxious. You know, like one of the following:

1. All that reading will destroy your eyes.
2. You’re going to spend all of your money on books and then you’ll starve and you can’t eat books, now can you.
3. You read books outside of class?
4. You read books for fun? What kind of masochist are you?
5. Oh, you read War and Peace? Weeeelllll, guess you’re too smart for me to talk to, huh?!

Books to Look For (June): History, Comics/Graphic Novels, & Travel

History

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-q1zrWEKLEqI/Uw-Cq2wzXOI/AAAAAAAAI_Y/gMzw8VAPtaA/s1600/the+romanov+sisters.pngThe Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra by Helen Rappaport (St. Martin's Press, 512 pages, June 3)

They had me at "Romanov Sisters." After all, this is a story of doomed royalty on the eve of the Russian Revolution- four princesses who, in their letters and diaries, tell us more than we ever knew about what happened to the Romanov family leading up to their deaths in 1918. Looks like a fascinating read.



6/10/14

In Translation: June Fiction

http://images.arcadja.com/friedrich_caroline_therese-still_life_with_globe_and_books_on_a_%7EOM985300%7E10000_20040714_W04711_218.jpg

It’s that time again, guys- time for some fabulous fiction from around the world, courteously translated into English for our reading pleasure. This month, I’ve highlighted some rather short but fascinating books from Argentina, Iran, and Mexico. Enjoy!





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How Old is an “Old” Book?

http://samluce.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Books.jpgOk, so I have this thing about time, history, and terminology, being an English-major-who-sometimes-thinks-she-should-have-been-a-history-major kind of gal. And not many things get my hackles up, but when I encounter those that do, I get kinda mad.

“So what specifically provoked this rant?” I hear you asking. Just this: I recently heard someone call The Catcher in the Rye an “old” book.

WHAT? WHAT? WHAT?

*counts to 10*

6/9/14

Rachel's Random Recommendation #36: The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-pYYadmzOkg4/T5jYTvKItSI/AAAAAAAAA_I/wYmO49a-VxY/s1600/tumblr_lgeom54UZo1qeli0f.jpgThe War of the Worlds (1897) by H. G. Wells

If you haven't yet read Wells's most famous novel, I insist that you rectify that situation. I mean, just read this first sentence:
No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.

6/5/14

My Month of Science Fiction: Neuromancer by William Gibson

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/4/4b/Neuromancer_(Book).jpgNeuromancer (1984) by William Gibson

Sooooooo, yeah. Not sure what just happened there.

I mean, I'm reading this "cyberpunk" novel and there's something about the "matrix" and "flipping" and "jacking in" somehow to a network where there are these two AIs and it's bad if they get together but one of them wants to get together with the other one. And then there's Case, the dude who used to be this big-time hacker but stole from his employers, who messed. him. up. and now he can get un-messed-up if he does this little job for some dude named Armitage but that's not his real name of course and he's really just a shell anyway after that thing that happened...

*deep breath*

6/4/14

Books to Look For (June): Biography, Literary Fiction, & Mystery

Biography

https://d3myrwj42s63no.cloudfront.net/180/978/067/404/953/6/9780674049536.jpgStephen Crane: A Life of Fire by Paul Sorrentino (Belknap Press, 520 pages, June 5)

If you haven't read anything by the nihilistic, depressing, yet cuttingly hilarious Stephen Crane, you've been missing out on some great literature. Here's what I'll do: I'll link here to the Random Recommendation post I wrote about why Crane's writing is brilliant and you'll go out and read his novels and stories and then this new biography. I mean, not many people can pack a "life of fire" into just 29 years.



6/3/14

Wiscon: A Feminist Science Fiction Convention

https://erith1.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/wiscon_logo.jpg?w=590WisCon, the world’s leading feminist science fiction convention, just wrapped up its 38th year of programming, and what a line-up it was. (They also teamed up with the SFRA this year). Poets, novelists, students, editors, professors, artists, scifi fans: all were in attendance, whether moderating panels, displaying their art, reading papers, or meeting up with friends and fans.

The JamesTiptree, Jr. award, which “honors works of science fiction and fantasy that expand or challenge our ideas about gender,” was given this year to N. K. Salway for her novel Rupetta.