Seer of ghosts & weaver of stories

(You are very much not forgotten)

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Out of love with reality
During the four months that James and I have been stuck in this waiting-on-bureaucracy rut, I've been catching up on reading I've been meaning to do for quite some time. In addition to a handful of poetry collections (Mary Oliver's Dream Work, which has led me to conclude I'm far more in love with her early work than with her later work, etc.), I've also tackled a couple of epic series that have been on my to-do list for the past five years: Stephen King's Dark Tower and Alan Moore's Promethea (the latter being my most recent conquest, which I plowed through in three days; very good, I feel, but not exceptional).

Given my fragile, unpredictable state of mind (yes, I'm trying to get help, but it's proving difficult given that we don't have insurance here), it's taking a lot to divorce me from the situation, hence the...extremity of my reading, I suppose you could say. I'm in search of more material that will blow some more holes in my day-to-day. I'm looking for weapons-grade, take-my-breath-away fare. It can be hard to find at a glance.

What would you recommend?

what kind of reading do you prefer?
if you like zombies and journalists and conspiracies (oh my), i'd recommend Mira Grant's "Feed".

if you like urban fantasy, preferably of the elves-and-politics kind, i'd recomment Seanan McGuire's "Toby Daye" series (currently 5 books).

if you like heavy going and impenetrable 800-page fantasy tomes, Steven Eriksson's epic series might be the one for you.

if you like heavy going, 800-page space opera you might enjoy Peter F Hamilton's books...

for a more light-hearted look at life, with added animals, Gerald Durrell's books are fantastic and funny. (edit: if you like animal books, James Herriott might be to your taste too)

Edited at 2012-02-03 02:13 pm (UTC)

You're the third person to recommend Feed to me. I have a rule of three: when something gets recced to me three or more times by various individuals who are not in collusion, I always look into it. So that's going on the list!

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Do you ever read nonfiction? The last book that totally blew me away was a travelogue -- Mark Mann's The Gringo Trail. It starts out as a fairly standard and amausing jaunt through drugs and the Amazon, and then out of nowhere it morphs into this treatise on nature, and existence, and the comfort of human futility. After I finished it, I stayed up thinking about it all night.

I do! I'm fond of personal essays and travel writing, so this sounds like it's right up my alley. Thank you :)

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Re: Valente, I know what you mean. I've enjoyed some of her poetry, but her prose almost always leaves me cold. I read Palimpsest when it came out, and while I found it compelling enough to keep going, the finished product didn't match the hype at all. I liked it, but I didn't love it. I've read a few of her short stories beyond that, and the effect they had on me was very much the same.

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Have you read any Diana Wynne Jones? It's mostly YA but excellent and there's quite a lot of it, and while it's not all happy it's mostly uplifting and has excellent worldbuilding.

I think you might like Pamela Dean's The Secret Country trilogy... again it's YA, but fun worldbuilding and intellectually engaging in a way I think might appeal to you - it's quite meta in the good way (I think).

Ted Chiang's SF is excellent.

Steven Brust's Dragaera series is plotty and involving and has some excellent worldbuilding and characterisation, though it does have a bit more sense of realworld problems than the above, I'd say.

Depending on your approach, Jo Walton might be a good person to read: Tooth and Claw is a Victorian melodrama where things make SENSE because everyone's a dragon (it works WAY better than that sounds, I loved it), and her Among Others is a wonderful (albeit potentially painful) look at growing up a female geek. Her Small Change books are almost Agatha Christie-ish, but set in an AU where all the issues of that sort of nostalgia are laid out: gripping and excellent worldbuilding, but not cheerful.

If any of those sound vaguely appropriate, I will happily babble more. :)

It's high time I read some more Pamela Dean; I adore her Tam Lin.

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I'm in search of more material that will blow some more holes in my day-to-day. I'm looking for weapons-grade, take-my-breath-away fare. It can be hard to find at a glance.

Off the top of my head—

M. John Harrison, The Course of the Heart (1992).

Greer Gilman, Cloud & Ashes (2009). If you have not already read her earlier novel Moonwise (1991), start there.

Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita (1967). I can recommend the translations by both Diana Burgin and Katherine O'Connor (Vintage, 1996) and Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky (Penguin, 1997), although the former is the one I encountered first and therefore the one I feel more fondly toward.

Ali Smith, Girl Meets Boy (2007).

Gemma Files, A Book of Tongues (2010), and if you like it, chase it with its sequel A Rope of Thorns (2011) and join the rest of us in waiting for A Tree of Bones.

Pat Barker, Regeneration (1991) and its two sequels, The Eye in the Door (1993) and The Ghost Road (1995).

Mary Wesley, The Camomile Lawn (1984).

I can give more detail about any of these, if you like.

I tend to wait until series are complete before I read them, so I'm making a mental note re: Gemma Files. As titles go, The Chamomile Lawn is one of the most intriguing I've ever seen.

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Seconding Diana Wynne Jones--she's clever and thought-provoking and generally wonderful.

I am going to assume you've already read Ellen Kushner's Swordspoint--if not, read it now. Like, now. It is such a fabulous book and there are two more set in that universe that are also great, but not quite the same level of epic awesome love.

There are two fantasy series that I really enjoyed but that are also very much dependent on personal taste and personal preferences--George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire (basis for HBO's Game of Thrones series) and Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Legacy. The latter is not a single series so much as several interconnected trilogies, the first one of which I adore, the second I have grown to love, and the third of which I found underwhelming so far (I haven't yet read the most recent book). However, be warned, in both series, there may be triggery elements as far as non-consensual sex is concerned and there is a fair bit of misogyny in ASOIAF. I'm able to roll my eyes at it and read on because I care about the characters and the plot, but I know it's been a dealbreaker for some people so I feel compelled to warn for it. Carey, conversely, suffers from an adherence to purple prose and occasionally stupid world-building decisions (o hai fantasy religions? Also a weird adherence to heteronormativity) that, once again, I sigh and overlook but that drives some people up the wall. So, while I recommend both GRRM and Carey as authors that I enjoy, I also like to provide the caveat that although both have rabid fans, they also have people who intensely dislike their work for valid reasons.

Scott Lynch's Gentleman Bastards series is also great, although the second book ends on a cliffhanger and the third one has yet to appear, so fair warning there.

Have you read Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games trilogy? The first book blew me away and the rest of the trilogy is worth reading even if it doesn't quite sustain the awesomeness of the first. The worldbuilding is fantastic and her universe is seriously fascinating.

I'll think further and see if anything else comes to mind. As far as nonfiction is concerned, I've heard nothing but good things about Stacy Schiff's Cleopatra: A Life though I haven't yet managed to read it myself...

I have, indeed, read and enjoyed The Hunger Games.

A long time ago, a friend gave me a copy of Swordspoint. I lost it. I'm well aware that I absolutely must read it, so perhaps now is the time.

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I just finished Stephen King's latest book, 11/22/63, and it was amazing. There were multiple nights when I stayed up way too late reading it :)

That is already on my hit list!

I have a large collection of books to get through myself, so here is my to read list, if you'd like to join me:

Do Travel Writers Go to Hell? by Thomas Kohnstamm

Naked Lunch by William Burroughs

The Final Solution by Michael Chabon (not about Hitler, mostly)

Slaughterhouse 5 by Vonnegut

Smiley's People by John le Carré

The Fry Chronicles by Stephen Fry

God is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens

Also tons of Supernatural books because I've become obsessed lol

I like Chabon's work very much, and I have not read that one yet!

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Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan books are one of my favourite reads. Her prose is gorgeous and she really makes the characters and world come alive. Engrossing as well as hilarious.

People have been reccing Bujold to me for ages. Duly noted :)

David Almond's Skellig is very very short, but left me profoundly affected when I read it; conversely, Patrick O'Brien's Aubrey/Maturin series is very, very long, and not so much breath-taking (although it is that, in places, and painfully so) as it is sweetly, deeply immersive.

Yes to the Aubrey/Maturin series! That is a wonderful, wonderful long thing to immerse oneself in.

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I would recommend anything by Dan Simmons, but my personal favourite is his Hyperion series. That is emblazoned on my brain permanently. If you want something very different, you might try S.P. Somtow. He combines elements of poetry, theatre, and quite a bit of breaking the fourth wall in his fiction. Charles de Lint is another love of mine, and I might start with Moonheart, or The Little Country. I hope you find something in all these recommendations:)

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Not sure about weapons-grade, take-your-breath-away, but have you tried one of the all-time great slash pairings, Raffles and Bunny? Especially as Bunny's description of Raffles may seem oddly familiar: "I see his indolent, athletic figure; his pale, sharp, clean-shaven features; his curly black hair; his strong unscrupulous mouth. And again I feel the clear beam of his wonderful eye, cold and luminous as a star, shining into my brain - sifting the very secrets of my heart."

I've heard about Raffles, but I've not yet read any :)

All of Mary Renault if you haven't already. In particular I would recommend The Charioteer, the Alexander Trilogy and Last of the Wine. Although they are all worth reading.

I would also second Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan series. They have been, ahem, effective in distracting me from my depression Thing, as it were.

in fanfiction novels I'd suggest all of AJ Hall, who you might know from Lust Over Pendle. Her Sherlock/Bronte juvenalia is particularly delightful. http://ajhall.shoesforindustry.net/ebooks/

Oh God Yes on the Sherlock/Bronte juvenalia. I was sceptical at first glance, despite (or given) my love of all three, and I was hooked from the first paragraph.

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Sadly I haven't ready anything speculative/fantasy/science fiction-y lately, but here's some stuff I can definitely recommend!

Anything by Michael Chabon--though I particularly enjoyed The Yiddish Policemen's Union, I've liked everything I've read by him.

I just read Manhattan Transfer by John Dos Passos and totally loved it.

Petersburg by Andrei Bely.

To continue the YA vein, anything by E.L. Konigsburg that you may not have yet read––her older stuff tends to be a little more out-of-the-box and thus more to my own particular taste, but I read The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World and The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place last year and I enjoyed them both very much––with added support for Diana Wynne Jones and Skellig, the latter of which totally blew my mind in about fourth grade and which I've never ever forgotten though I haven't read it since.

The only Chabon book I've read is Kavalier & Clay, and I loved it. Yiddish does look excellently witty, so it's also getting priority on the to-read list.

Anathem by Neil Stephenson is one of the best things I've read in the last few years - definitely take-your-breath-away, and in several different ways.

And if you're looking for some multi-volume hard-SF that's similarly good, the Revelation Space books of Alastair Reynolds are great.

Oh, Neil Stephenson! I had a friend in York who recced those to me :)

Have you read James Morrow's The Last Witchfinder? I read it over Christmas in a frenzy; don't recall the last time I've been so swallowed up by a book. Fascinating stuff, set on the brink of the Englightenment; a great female main character and several awesome side characters, among them e.g. Benjamin Franklin. I loved how the book dealt with the conflict of superstition and the dawn of modern science. Just... awesome. I really, really recommend it.

Somebody else told me about that book very recently. Another multiple-rec suspect :)

Yet another rec for the Vorkosigan series weighing in.

Also suggesting The Gandalara Cycle by Randall Garrett and Vicki Ann Heydron. Seven book series; don't know if it's still in print, though - stumbled on it at my favorite second-hand bookshop.

Vorkosigan has got so many endorsements in these threads that my hand will pretty well be forced ;)

I second the recommendations for Swordspoint, N. K. Jemisin and A. J. Hall's Bronte stories. Swordspoint is a book which would suit you down to the ground -- I really, really want to see what you think of Alec Campion. Jemisin's Hundred Thousand Kingdoms was one of the best books I read last year, with brilliant worldbuilding and with central relationships of terrifying intensity. I liked Book 2 very much, but didn't find it as dazzling as book 1, and I still haven't read the third.

Have you read anything by Patricia McKillip? I go back to her Riddlemaster trilogy every few years. It's the kind of series that uses every bit of your brain to unravel the puzzles McKillip has set out for you, and I really wish I could read it again for the first time so I could find out what was going on in it again. Riddlemaster also includes a young lady of quality, a destined love interest, deciding that she refuses to sit around and wait for her true love to show up, and instead she'll go off questing on her own account. Of McKillip's standalones, my favorites are Ombria in Shadow (absolutely stunning), Song for the Basilisk, Alphabet of Thorn and The Forgotten Beasts of Eld.

The Riddlemaster trilogy is one of my favorite things *ever*--I read it for a year straight, basically, senior year of high school. I had to stop reading it for a while, actually, because I knew it too well, although maybe I'm now due for a reread...

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May I recommend the following? Two are novels, two are non-fiction, all of them are utterly engrossing.

Smilla's Sense Of Snow by Peter Hoeg: a novel. "It is freezing, an extraordinary minus eighteen degrees Celsius, and it's snowing, and in the language which is no longer mine, the snow is qanik - big, almost weightless crystals falling in stacks and covering the ground with a layer of pulverised white frost..." One winter evening, the neighbour's six-year-old boy falls to his death from an apartment-block roof in Copenhagen. Accidental death, say the police. But Smilla Jaspersen, a resourceful, tenacious and bloody-minded Greenlander, knows the boy well; moreover she has an uncanny sense of snow -- and those last footprints tell her a tale. Her investigation starts in Denmark and leads to the Artic ice cap as Smilla doggedly homes in on her quarry.

Possession: A Romance by AS Byatt, a novel. Two modern-day academic researchers aim to uncover the truth about the relationship between two Victorian poets, one of whom is loosely based on a blend of Robert Browning and Alfred Tennyson, the other on Christina Rossetti. Warm, witty, romantic, and surprising.

The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger, non-fiction. The first book that I've found it almost physically painful to tear myself away from reading. The book is very well written, is fascinating, and as the storm builds, so does the tension. Read the first chapter if you like, to see what I mean.

Konin: A Quest by Theo Richmond, non-fiction. Theo Richmond is the English son of Jewish Polish immigrants. His folks left Konin, a small town in Poland, before World War One. He overheard them talking about Konin during his childhood, and when he grew up, he set about investigating. Through interviewing survivors and archive research, Mr Richmond evokes the history, daily life, and final ordeal of the Polish town of Konin's Jewish community, founded in the 13th Century. He meets tailor Louis, chairperson of a Konin society, a survivor of 21 Nazi camps, and Sarah, who, carrying her baby daughter, fled into the forests and joined the Resistance. Other survivors tell of Jewish prisoners' doomed, courageous revolt in a Gestapo-run Konin slave labor camp. Ultimately, Mr Richmond describes his visit to Konin accompanied by Holocaust survivor Izzy Hahn. Moving and memorable.

The Byatt novel sounds especially compelling - thank you!

Delaney's Dhalgren and Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow are the most affecting novels I've (finally gotten around to reading) in the past few years. I think you might enjoy Cole's Open City, and Feinburg's Stone Butch Blues wins strongest novel of all time, but both of those are rather more tied to reality. I'd also consider some Ballard; Super-Cannes was quite good, but also a little closer to home.

Then perhaps I'll start with Stone Butch Blues :)

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Scott Westerfeld's "Leviathan" trilogy (Leviathan, Behemoth and Goliath) is a great YA story World War I AU, with the steampunk Clanker nations (Germany and the Austro-Hungarian empire) against the bio-engineering Darwinist nations (Britain, France and Russia). It has living airships! Cross-dressing girls who join the airforce! Lost imperial princes! Assassinations! Rebellions! Fantastic illustrations! And much much more, of a spoilery nature.

Ben Jeapes' The New World Order is more YA, about an alien invasion of England - during the Civil War. Thirteen years prior to the invasion the sole survivor of the alien scouting party was nursed back to health by and fell in love with an English widow. On his return he finds he has a son, a discovery that complicates things for him rather a lot. I enjoyed this a great deal!

Patrick Ness' "Chaos Walking" trilogy (The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Ask and the Answer and Monsters of Men) is a fabulous science-fiction YA about the terrible events that happen on a colony world. All the women of the colony are dead, and the men infected with Noise, a telepathy that the native lifeforms share. Then, just as his thirteenth birthday nears and he becomes the youngest man in the world, Todd finds a girl in the woods. Everything else is a spoiler, so I can just say, read these!

Scott Westerfeld's "Leviathan" trilogy (Leviathan, Behemoth and Goliath) is a great YA story World War I AU, with the steampunk Clanker nations (Germany and the Austro-Hungarian empire) against the bio-engineering Darwinist nations (Britain, France and Russia). It has living airships! Cross-dressing girls who join the airforce! Lost imperial princes! Assassinations! Rebellions! Fantastic illustrations! And much much more, of a spoilery nature.

This? Sounds completely fucking awesome.

Oh man, you've gotta read John Crowley's Little, Big! Far and above, one of my most favorite books. After that, Crowley's Aegypt series is excellent.

A few more: Cloud Atlas (Mitchell), Snowcrash (Stephenson). I'm currently reading John Dies at the End (Wong) - quite hilarious. Colin Melow of Decemberists fame also released a YA book called Wildwood that I got for Christmas, and am looking forward to reading.

Make that Colin Meloy, natch!

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If you like Austen, I just finished reading a book called Cassandra and Jane, which is an imagining of the real-life relationship between Jane Austen and her older sister. It was very engrossing and I liked it a great deal.

I just recently saw Becoming Jane, so I do think I'd find that of interest.

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Well, we haven't applied for it yet, because we don't know how much longer we'll be here. But I'm really about to push the issue.

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Keri Hulme's The Bone People is one of my favorite books in the world, and no one ever seems to have read it. Perhaps because the author is a New Zealander. I highly recommend it.

I also recommend most of Clive Barker's body of work, most particularly Imajica, Weaveworld and the Abarat series, which I don't think is finished yet.

Jay Lake's novels of "The City Imperishable" are fascinating, while being a bit more political than I usually like but very well-crafted. I've read Trial of Flowers and Madness of Flowers; I'm not sure if there are any more. I'm not really big on reading series of books, so I don't keep up with them much.

Oh, Clive Barker. I adore the Books of Blood, but that's all I've read so far! Time to check out some more.


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