The Neil Gaiman Reader

Neil GaimanI am doing something I thought I would never do. Today, I am recommending a book I have not yet read. This sounds counter-intuitive and perhaps a bit wrong, but I actually have several reasons to recommend it. The book is The Neil Gaiman Reader by, as you may guess, Neil Gaiman.

I’ve read a decent amount of Neil Gaiman’s work and this book is a collection of 52 stories. A handful are excerpts from a few of his books. I have read several of his books and a few collections of short stories, so technically I have read a good amount of what is in this book from previous collections.

The four excerpts are from Stardust, American Gods, Neverwhere, Anansi Boys, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I have read all but Neverwhere and Anansi Boys and they are both on my list of books to read (both books are on my shelf and just a few of many that I have yet to get to).

This book was released just recently, which is one reason I have yet to read it, but it is an excellent volume that is great for anyone who has never read Neil’s work and wants to try it out. It is also an essential for any diehard Gaiman fans.

Since this book is ideal for those who have never read him before, I figured it was okay for me to recommend it for that reason. Of course, those who are already fans don’t need any recommendations of his work from me. They already know what they like. I know what works of his I like, having read several already, and I know which ones I want to check out next when I get to them. In fact, I’ve been considering reading Coraline soon as I haven’t read it yet and it is that time of year for spooky reads. It is also a shorter work that fits into my currently busy schedule.

So, if you have ever been interested in trying Neil Gaiman’s work, perhaps this is the prime opportunity for you to do so. You can always check your local library if you don’t want to make a purchase, or you can perhaps borrow a copy from that friend who has been bugging you to try anything by Neil Gaiman.

Happy Reading.

Mythologies

Norse MythologyI’ve always loved mythology. My favorite has always been Norse Mythology. I recently began listening to Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman. I’ve read it before but was in the mood for some stories and figured what was better than to have Neil read them himself. It was the perfect choice, and it got me thinking about different mythologies and some I want to learn more about.

Greek & Roman

MythosI know a decent amount about Greek and Roman mythology mainly because they are closely intertwined, taught in school, and likely the most popular mythologies in the world. Everyone knows of Zeus and Poseidon and Hercules and the many others within these pantheons. There have been dozens of movies made based on these stories and characters, but there is still much I’d like to learn. I’ve read The Odyssey but have yet to read The Illiad. I really want to read Stephen Fry’s retelling of the Greek myths in his book titled Mythos. I have a copy and just have to take the time.

Egyptian

Egyptian mythology may be my second or third favorite. I’ve always liked these characters since I was young, but I realized I don’t know too much about their actual history. I hope to find some texts that will give me a better background in this area. Ironically I can’t think of any at the moment.

Celtic

I know very little about these mythologies aside from a few characters and I only recently discovered them. I definitely want to know more and I did pick up one book to help me do so. Celtic Myths and Legends by Peter Berresford Ellis.

Chinese – Japanese – Hindu

Another few mythologies I know very little about aside from a few characters or names. I mainly learned of these characters through shows or video games. I used to play a game called Smite where you played as mythological gods from different pantheons. It was a lot of fun to play with friends and I really liked learning about the different mythologies and characters through the lore provided in the game even if it was brief.

Maori

Kia Ora. I lived in New Zealand for a brief time and was lucky enough to learn a bit about the Maori culture and their creation myths including Papatuanuku and Ranginui. Learning these stories increased my interest in mythologies around the world because there is so much and many of them have similarities despite the cultures never being in contact with each other.

Norse

Norse MythologyBack to my favorite. Of course there have also been modern retellings of these myths as well. Marvel comics (and the MCU) have made several characters popular despite only key elements remaining true to the myths themselves. Thor is my favorite Avenger even though he is quite different in the myths. I’m going through Neil Gaiman’s recent retellings of these myths. I’ve also read Myths of the Norsemen by H. A. Guerber and Snorri Sturleson’s Prose Edda. I still need to read the Poetic Edda and there are surely many stories in this pantheon I have yet to discover. I will eventually.

What are some of your favorite myths? Do you have some recommendations for me to learn more about some of the pantheons I mentioned? Or perhaps some that I did not? I’d love to learn more so let me know with a comment or message me on Twitter at @YarberWrites.

Every Tool’s A Hammer

Every Tool's A HammerEvery Tool’s A Hammer: Life Is What You Make It by Adam Savage is a biographically centered love letter to making. More generally, creating. Though he focuses mainly on crafting things like movie props, cosplay armor, and mechanisms used in commercials or movies, much of what he discusses can be applied to any craft. To put it simply, seeing his enthusiasm for making will inspire you to create whatever it is you may be waiting to make.

This book came out just last year (2019) and my interest primarily comes from the fact that I watched Adam on Mythbusters when I was growing up. By growing up, I mean while I was in high school. I loved the show because they were testing a lot of movie myths and pretty much confirming or denying the plausibility of what we thought we knew or were led to believe. I’ve always loved movies and around that time I was really into the sciences and wanted to know more about how things worked. The show was fun, nerdy, entertaining, and informative. Everything I was looking for and now I really want to go back and rewatch some episodes.

I listened to the audiobook as read by Adam Savage himself. It is mixture of autobiography and craft similar to Stephen King’s book On Writing except about building instead of writing. It was interesting to get more information about Adam as well as several behind-the-scenes stories about his time on Mythbusters or working on Star Wars while working at Industrial Light & Magic. We get to see how his career developed and evolved and we get to learn about how seemingly wondrous things were made simply out of passion and basic materials.

This book is not only about making or building, it is also about Adam’s journey to self-understanding. Through his years, he learned vital lessons about the craft but also about his own behavior and preferences when working on his craft and with his team or colleagues. He discusses his failures and successes. One early failure proved a vital lesson to him that I think everyone needs to be reminded of from time to time; it is okay to ask for help. On the other end, he delves into things he learned from mentors that helped him influence and manage his own team.

This is, of course, also a book that is great for anyone interested in making their own stuff. Be it a replica of a favorite movie prop or designing a cosplay outfit. He talks about different key components to any maker’s space and use of tools or materials. You can definitely learn a lot, as I did, about making. I have always toyed with the idea of making props for myself but have never followed through. I’m sure I will eventually because that desire is always there.

Again, Adam’s story and information is a great resource for all makers, but also for all creators. His passion is inspirational. His stories are reminders that you don’t necessarily need to know what you are doing to begin a project. Everyone has their own methods, and sometimes knowing your method can make it easier to plan the project to fit your needs. Never lose your spark of creativity. If you can, try to make sure you always have fun along the way.

Happy Reading.

A 2020 Update

I haven’t been posting as much as I planned to lately. I kept a pretty decent pace for most of the year but a few developments have kept me away from devoting time to this blog the past month or so, and I’m afraid I’m not going to have much time to find for awhile.

The main reason being that I have started a second graduate program. I am currently pursuing an MBA in Management. I finished my MFA in Writing about three years ago and my ever-inquisitive mind has dreamt up interests that made getting an MBA a logical decision. I am already learning a lot and enjoying the program. I hope to complete the degree by the end of 2021.

Since I have to spend a large amount of time studying and reading for my classes, I have had little time to read for pleasure and therefore have not been writing any book recommendations. I picked up a book of short stories since I figured short stories would be easy to read with my new schedule. The collection is The Best of Gene Wolfe and I am enjoying them so far. I first read Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun series and found his writing interesting. I’m glad to find I am really enjoying his short fiction. I had a feeling I would like his work and I will likely continue exploring more of his stories. I think he is an interesting person as well. He may very well be the next installment in my On Authors series.

I have been completing house projects like my secret bookshelves leading into my new office. We are doing a few other larger house projects since our planned vacation was canceled due to the pandemic. It has been a crazy year and I have been staying sane by continuing to read and learn and try to take care of myself by focusing on the good things. Honestly, one thing that has helped is The Great British Baking Show. The show is an a sincere, relaxing, wholesome experience you wouldn’t normally find in a competition show. It isn’t a cutthroat competition like you would typically find in most competitions shows. Everyone is just trying to do their best while still helping others when they can, which is probably the best trait of the human race. The show has also made me want sweets every time I watch it and it also makes me want to delve into baking myself, which I intend to do perhaps when I’m finished studying.

It seems like everything is unstable and the world is a mess, but the day-to-day is mostly unchanged. Technology has given us a wide, constant view of the world. All the bad and the good. It just seems like the bad is more prominent. We must persevere and do what we can to look out for each other. Continue doing good and good shall prevail. Keep doing what makes you steady, healthy, and rejuvenated. Keep your balance and we will make it through.

An Alphabet of Authors

Inspired by @WS_Bookclub’s post of alphabetical fantasy authors. I decided to do an Alphabet of Authors myself. These are authors I have read and I was surprised to see several gaps in letters, so please give me some recommendations if you know of any.

I made this list mainly by perusing my bookshelf so it may very well be incomplete. I’ve also only added the authors whose work I have enjoyed (of course) because I figured you may want to read them if you haven’t yet. If you want a specific book recommendation for any of these authors, peruse my list of recommendations I have posted here. Anyway, here we go:

An alphabet of authors (by last name)

A – Douglas Adams with Honorable Mentions: Isaac Asimov, Margaret Atwood, Ryunosuke Akutagawa

B – Ray Bradbury with Honorable Mentions: Edgar Rice Burroughs

C – Ted Chiang with Honorable Mentions: Orson Scott Card, Raymond Carver, Albert Camus, Ernest Cline

D – Philip K. Dick with Honorable Mentions: Emily Dickinson, Anthony Doerr, Alexandre Dumas

E – Cary Elwes with Honorable Mention: Matthew Eck

F – Raymond E. Feist with Honorable Mentions: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Carrie Fisher, Victor Frankl

G – Neil Gaiman with Honorable Mentions: William Gibson, Arthur Golden, Helene A. Guerber, The Brothers Grimm, Malcolm Gladwell

H – Frank Herbert with Honorable Mentions: Robert Heinlein, Joe Haldeman, Aldous Huxley

I – Dave Itzkoff with Honorable Mention: Kazuo Ishiguro

J – Robert Jordan with Honorable Mention: Diana Wynne Jones

K – Stephen King with Honorable Mention: Franz Kafka

L – Ursula K. Le Guin with Honorable Mentions: Stanislaw Lem, Ann Leckie, Tom Lloyd

M – John Marco with Honorable Mentions: David Mitchell, Cormac McCarthy

N – Garth Nix with Honorable Mentions: Phong Nguyen, Patrick Ness

O – George Orwell with Honorable Mentions: Joyce Carol Oates, Nnedi Okorafor

P – Terry Pratchett with Honorable Mentions: Gary Paulson, Robert M. Pirsig, Gareth L. Powell, Edgar Allen Poe

Q – Recommendations Please (I do want to read Matthew Quick’s Silver Linings Playbook)

R – Patrick Rothfuss with Honorable Mentions: Ayn Rand, J.K. Rowling

S – Antione de Saint-Exupery with Honorable Mentions: V.E. Schwab, Snorri Sturluson

T – J.R.R. Tolkien with Honorable Mention: Karen Traviss

U – Recommendations Please

V – Kurt Vonnegut

W – Tobias Wolff with Honorable Mentions: Gene Wolfe, Martha Wells, Danny Wallace, and Andy Weir

X – Recommendations Please

Y – Recommendations Please (I do want to read Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life)

Z – Yevgeny Zamyatin with Honorable Mention: Timothy Zahn