nancylebov (nancylebov) wrote,

6000 books

I was recently culling a few books (suecochran has offered to try selling them) and since figuring out which books I'm extremely unlikely to read doesn't quite occupy my whole mind, it occurred to me that I was probably only going to live another 30 years. I'm 53 and in reasonable health. I might live longer (especially if good cheap longevity tech gets developed). I might get hit with something much sooner, but 30 years is a reasonable bet. At 4 books a week (I do most of my reading online), that's approximately 6000 books.

That's not a whole lot of books compared to the number of books I'm probably interested in. In fact, it's a shockingly small number of books. So I've decided to only read books I'm enthusiastic about. No more vaguely tolerable crap just because it's handy. No more putting off rereading because all those new books are saying "You bought us. We're here. Why don't you read us?"

In particular, no more reading books because they're such bizarre train wrecks, and I mean no more _Date Me, Baby, One More Time_ by Stephanie Rowe. This is a paranormal romance, I guess, and even though life is short, I'm taking a few minutes to complain about it. I'm not sure if the author is hopelessly weird, or if she thinks her readers are, but I get the impression that women who want to kill men are supposed be funny and sexy. This is repeated a lot. What's worse, when for complicated occult reasons, the main character who hasn't had a date for 200 years decides to go on a date and gets the perfect dress, that dress is not described. I'm not saying that clothes porn is the only purpose of paranormal romance, but when nothing else interesting is going on, I at least want to hear about the dress.

As for what I've been reading since my resolution, it's included The Treehouse: Eccentric Wisdom from My Father on How to Live, Love, and See by Naomi Wolf. Naomi Wolf (author of _The Beauty Myth_) concluded at about age 40 that devoting her life to rather aggressive politics wasn't good for her, and realized that her father, a poet and poetry teacher, was worth listening to. The book is about building an extraordinary treehouse and about him (on her request) teaching her the course he gave his poetry students--the essence is to do what you love on both the large and small scales, happiness is more important than money, and to put your energy and attention into what you care about. There are some good sidelights-- somewhat about the best way to teach literature is in terms of universal human experience--if you say that you can't understand people of other ethnicities or statuses the life goes out of it. And the description of the work the contractor did on the treehouse (frex, clearing the land around it to make it an 18th century sublime view) because he'd been given an interesting project from people who cared was a clue--inspiration can't be hired.

I just finished reading Mieville's _Un Lun Dun_. I'm very glad I read it without knowing anything about it except for the eerie quote on the back cover. Suffice it to say that it's an intelligent YA novel, is based on trash (rather than filth like _Perdido Street Station_), has some satisfyingly scary but non-gross horror elements, lots of surrealism and think-for-yourself politics, some humor (a couple of chapters which should appeal to anyone who liked the rooftop culture in _Godstalk_ and puns which survive repetition), and some nice undercutting of a fantasy cliche. *And* it's illustrated by the author with mostly pen-and-ink drawings in every chapter. They're good mostly scary drawings (that giraffe is downright terrifying), and the contrast between pen and ink and the ink wash (when we finally see the big menace) works very well.

I'm not saying it's perfect--some of the secondary characters aren't differentiated enough and it sags a little in the middle when I wanted more surrealism and was getting detective work instead, but this is something special. Get the hardcover (which is $18 like a kid's book)--the repro might not be as good in a trade paperback.

On the other hand, if you want gross horror, the first half of Stephen King's _Cell_ is as good as it gets. Or at least quite violent enough for me. The novel (which I don't think needs the level of care I've given the Mieville) is about people going berserk if they happen to have been using a cell phone at the wrong moment. The second half is pulp sf. You will come out of that part knowing less about computers than you went in with. I have no idea what King does right--there's a weird klutziness about the writing in the first half when the (non-psychotic) viewpoint character kills with a knife he thinks something about "there's no bend in that baby" I would think I'd be thrown right out of the story by that and other similar oddities, but I didn't care. Anyway, the book was a solid read-once experience--there's a fine moment of surrealism (the soft jazz coming out of the mouths of the cellphone-damaged people), an ending that worked emotionally even if it didn't make much sense, and I forgive King for never explaining what the hell happened. For whatever reason, the snarkiness about Winton Marsalis (a trumpet solo so mellow as to be soporific) worked better than the snarkiness about George Bush.

Or how about a little something for the mind? The Expressiveness of the Body and the Divergence of Greek and Chinese Medicine by Shigehisa Kuriyama is about the contrast between ancient Greek and Chinese medicine. I recommend this one to anyone who's inventing cultures--the human past is weirder than anything you're likely to come up with on your own. Chinese didn't have a word for muscle until about a hundred years ago--they were interested in other things. Just imagine--a non-muscle centered view of health and the ideal body. And the ancient Greeks were just as weird--they seem to have valued articulateness--something like having clear joints, though they did eventually get interested in muscles. Part of what's good about the book is that ancient Greek and Chinese medicine each get their histories described--they're not static.

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