Well fuck me, half the year is over, and the book blogs I read are filling up with half year’s best lists. Meanwhile, I still vividly remember January’s books and cold, still don’t quite believe this summer thing is real. Summer weather, suddenly as it arrives, makes me feel like I live in a biodome. Because weather this good could not possibly be real. Only the harsh, cold, and miserable winter could be real. Apparently I am a pessimist.
Books! I read fifteen of ’em, which you already know if you saw my one-sentence reviews of the month’s reading yesterday. There was much to celebrate this month, what with my first foray into Jeff VanderMeer’s Ambergris books with City of Saints and Madmen which I recommend you read this instant. Though ostensibly a collection of short stories, it works best combined, connected as every story is by a thousand magical strings of reference and reflection both to each other and to the world on our side of the page. I enjoy the Southern Reach trilogy, but I worship Ambergris. Jeff VanderMeer is officially the most exciting author writing today, in any genre. (Sorry Ings and Miéville, almost, maybe next time.)
But I shouldn’t give all the other books of June short shrift. Besides Brian Aldiss’s Earthworks which was interesting but ultimately fileable under “shrugs,” everything I read this month was above-average interesting. Nimona by Noelle Stevenson, which I bought on a whim, turned out to be such tight, sweet SFF graphic fun that I read it twice. If my title is to mean anything at all, it is to mean that Noelle Stevenson is a saint and Jeff VanderMeer a madman. High compliments both.
Kraken was disappointing, but full of the usual intriguingly weird Miévillian ideas, so I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it. Then I got sick and spent far too many pages inside of Adaddon’s Afterblight shared post-apocalyptic world reading Scott K. Andrews’ School’s Out Forever trilogy one after the other, which was totally fucked up and gave me strange nightmarish dreams for a week. My second read of Nimona was self-defense—I desperately needed some happy between all those children with machine guns and PTSD. Fire Logic got me thinking about the presence of women in fantasy novels, while Mind of My Mind brought me back into Octavia Butler’s Patternist fold (I’ve ordered Clay’s Arc, woot woot).
Tunnel People (non-fiction) was the perfect addition to my tunnel reading journey as it included many of the people featured in Marc Singer’s wonderful documentary Dark Days. (Tunnel People and Dark Days are both about people who lived in the subway tunnels under New York City, creating a strange little community and solving the problems of homelessness in ingenious ways.) If you want to know anything else specifically about the month’s books, you’ll just have to read the one-sentence reviews or wait until next month when the long-form reviews start trickling in.
As usual, the books I reviewed (Un Lun Dun, Ariel, Dark Star, Mind of My Mind, and a flash review combo of The Magician’s Land, Zoo City, and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) were largely things I read during the previous month. Materialism and geek identity were on my mind, and I read and discussed three recent short fictions.
Reading achievements unlocked
Ha! Not this month, and July has rolled in with three books on my currently reading shelf: Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light (so far my thoughts on this can be perfectly summed up by Jo Walton’s response), Lenore Terr’s Too Scared to Cry (non-fiction about trauma in children that School’s Out Forever compelled me to start), and China Miéville’s Embassytown (which is so fucking cool and language nerdy, hurray). Didn’t make it to Nalo Hopkinson’s new short story collection because I was convinced there were at least three more weeks of June left until a few days ago.
I also succeeded in ignoring exactly the books I predicted that I would ignore and continued to fail at author gender parity. Numbers now stand at 91 books read, 36 written by women and 58 written by men. I have read 10 books by authors of color and three books in German, both numbers far below my personal goals for the year. I did manage to add two more books to my A to Z Reading Challenge list, however.
July: Come what may
I’m not going to set a lot of specific reading goals for July, as I’ve been a slow and casual reader for the past week and don’t expect that to change as long as the weather remains so perfect for riding bikes and running from zombies. I’d like to finish the books I’ve started and then put my eyes on some pages that really transport me. Perhaps My Soul to Keep by Tananarive Due, Little Bee by Chris Cleave, and The Company Man by Robert Jackson Bennett will do the trick. Or maybe, once I buy myself some birthday books, I will ignore everything but the shiny new covers I intend to bring home to celebrate 33 years on planet book.
June reading (numbers reflect year-long reading list)
76. City of Saints and Madmen by Jeff VanderMeer
77. Dark Star by Oliver Langmead
78. The Aftermath of Forever by Natalye Childress
79. Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
80. Mind of My Mind by Octavia Butler
81. Fire Logic by Laurie J. Marks
82. Tunnel People by Tuen Voeten
83. Kraken by China Miéville
84. Earthworks by Brian Aldiss
85. School’s Out by Scott K. Andrews
86. Operation Motherland by Scott K. Andrews
87. Nimona by Noelle Stevenson (re-read)
89. Children’s Crusade by Scott K. Andrews
90. Radiant by Karina Sumner-Smith
91. Osama by Lavie Tidhar