So this week is done, and I’m glad for it. It featured one of our busiest weeks of the year at work, and for three nights running I came home dead tired and grouchy. But instead of collapsing on the couch with a glass of wine and a move, I collapsed on the couch with a beer and a book. There are worse ways to recover from a long day.
I’ve done some book-related activities this week in addition to all the book reading. I found a blog on Tor.com that is a re-reading of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion, which is a notoriously difficult-to-read account of the creation and ancient history of Middle Earth. I’ve read The Silmarillion twice now, but it’s been a while so I’ve forgotten much of what I read, and there was a lot of material that went over my head in the first place. So this is a great way to review it before I embark on a planned Tolkien reading project this Fall.
Because ‘The Silmarillion Primer’ inspired me to look into some other Tolkien-related things, I stumbled across a podcast I had never heard of before, but am loving now. The Prancing Pony Podcast is hosted by two guys, Alan and Shawn, who delve into Tolkien’s major works- The Silmarillion, The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings- and discuss how the works’ varying histories are interwoven and play upon each other. They are super knowledgeable but still friendly to people who might only have seen the movies or read the books once a long time ago. You can download it via Apple Podcasts, but I’ve been listening to it on Spotify.
And because, you know, Tolkien, I broke my book buying ban and bought an ebook edition of The Monsters and the Critics, which is a collection of Tolkien’s essays regarding Beowulf and fairy stories in general. So far, ‘On Fairy Stories’ is my favorite. It’s a defense of fairy tales and fantasy stories from an academic perspective (not surprising, given that Tolkien was a professor at Oxford), and it’s wonderful. I’d like to throw it at all those grumpy old white men ( from then and now) who complain about genre fiction’s popularity and the “death of literary fiction”. Because obviously nothing can speak to the essence of humanity other than literary fiction. *rolls eyes*
So! What all did I read during this very stressful week?
- The Tale of Aypi by Ak Welsapar
- The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
- The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson
- Penric’s Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold, audiobook narrated by Grover Gardner
The Tale of Aypi is the story of a fishing village in Turkmenistan. The residents are being relocated by the government to make room for a sanitorium for asthmatics (though I got the sense that it was actually going to be a health spa for the rich and famous). The peope of the village have been there for generations, and while they don’t want to move away, their tyrannical government makes it nearly impossible for them to resist. Meanwhile, their unhappiness has awoken the ghost of young woman who was unjustly executed centuries earlier, and she rises to investigate this disturbance.
I did not expect this story to be as full of feminine rage as it was. Aypi, the ghost, has a lot to say about the role of men and women, and how men project their own failings onto women and blame them for their weaknesses. The story’s progression is not at all like a Western work, so some readers will find it very strange, but the philosophy is worth the read.
The Road to Little Dribbling is an account of Bryson’s journey from the southern tip of England into Wales, through the midlands and the Peak District, and eventually to the northern tip of mainland Scotland. He talks about the little towns he finds, how London was saved from becoming a monstrosity of ugly buildings and highways (and how other English cities did not escape that fate), the odd and usually friendly people he meets along the way, the baffling cultural norms he encounters, and overall describes his love for Great Britain in the snarky way that only Bill Bryson can do.
Look out, Readers. You’re about to be inundated with more gushing about the works of Lois McMaster Bujold. It’s a fantasy series this time, though. I’ve praised The Curse of Chalion here before, so I was pleased to discover a while back that Bujold had written a series of novellas in the same universe, The World of the Five Gods. The novellas do not take place at the same point in history as The Curse of Chalion and it’s follow-up, Paladin of Souls, but the lands and religions are the same. Penric’s Demon is the story of how a young, back-country nobleman from an impoverished lordship finds himself in possession of a demon. It completely alters the course of his life, confuses the religious order he lands among, and grants him sudden, sorcerous powers. Bujold brings Penric and his world to life with the same humor, depth, and grace that I’ve grown accustomed to from her other works. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of this novella series.
Last week, I downloaded the audiobook of The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan and narrated by Katy Townsend. While I love Townsend’s voice and her narration, I was not in love with one of the main characters. The story alternates between Callanish and North’s points of view, and while I was intrigued by Callanish, I was not enamored with North. I returned it to the library, and I think I will end up reading a physical copy so that I can skim North’s chapters until she starts to interest me. The rest of this atmospheric tale was wonderful, so I hope my experience reading the physical copy improves my opinion of North.
I also set aside Isabelle Allende’s Portrait in Sepia this week. It’s beautifully written, but I was having trouble maintaining my interest in the story. Usually, once I get caught up in Allende’s writing, I have no trouble with her rambling narratives that tell the stories of all the family members that live around the main character, but this time I just couldn’t stay interested. I will, I’m sure, continue this book another time, but probably not until the fall.
My current reads include:
- My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk, translated from the Turkish by Erda M Göknar (still)
- The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays by J.R.R. Tolkien
- The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski, translated from the Polish by Danusia Stok, audiobook narrated by Peter Kenny
- A Closed and Common Orbit (Wayfarers #2) by Becky Chambers
So that’s my reading plan for this week. I don’t know what else I will pick up besides these titles, or what I will find on Tor.com but I’ll keep my eyes open. I do have a couple of books from the library that I should get started on before the due date starts to loom. They sound super interesting, so I don’t think it will take much to get into them.
And because it wouldn’t be a proper blog post without some cats, here are some cat pictures to take with you into the week:
For the rest of today, I plan to take it easy and keep well away from people. I spent a crazy amount of time among large groups of people this week, so I need some time to recharge. I’m going to take a long walk, do some household chores, and do a bunch of reading.
Have a great week!