Science Fiction Favorites

I thought I’d put together a few lists this holiday season to recommend books to read, gift, or put on wish lists. This first list is a handful of science fiction books I’ve enjoyed and will likely re-read at a later time. Luckily, I’ve already recommended each of these books so you can find more info about each of them if you are interested.

Dune

Dune by Frank Herbert is one of my favorite science fiction books of all time. I first read it a few years ago upon hearing it is one of the best science fiction books of all time. It was originally published in 1965. It also helps that we recently had a great movie adaptation covering the first half of this book and the adaptation of the second half is coming out next year. I have yet to read the sequels but this first book is great as a standalone story.

The Book of the New Sun

The Book of the New Sun was my introduction to Gene Wolfe who is now one of my favorite authors. This four-book saga is unique and not for everyone, admittedly, but I enjoyed it. Wolfe builds a world filled with mystery without fully giving you a glimpse behind the curtain.

The Murderbot Diaries

The Murderbot Diaries is Martha Wells’s collection of science fiction novellas that follow the fun character who calls itself Murderbot. This story is rich with warnings about how the human race could end up as well as unique views of how we can and should be better. The first in this series is All Systems Red. 

Ready Player One (and Two)

Ready Player One is a fun book all around. The movie adaptation obviously changed a lot but was also fun for me. The sequel, Ready Player Two, was fun but a mediocre follow-up in my opinion.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Douglas Adams’s series The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy might not be the type of humor for a lot of people, but the absurdity of it makes it enjoyable and lighthearted. There are five books in total and, admittedly, some sequels are lacking.

The Library at Mount Char

One of my absolute favorite reads of recent years, The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins is a hidden treasure that gives a unique perspective into how the universe works (or at least who is at the helm of creation).

Project Hail Mary

Andy Weir’s third novel, Project Hail Mary, is another semi-lighthearted-during-life-threatening-situations tale much like his first book The Martian. This story involves a mystery that is causing stars to die much quicker than expected, including the Sun. In an interstellar race against the clock, Ryland Grace needs to solve this mystery before Earth is no longer hospitable for humans.

Cat’s Cradle

Having become a big fan of Vonnegut this year, I felt it necessary to include at least one of his novels and Cat’s Cradle seemed appropriate as we head into winter as it involves the mysterious Ice-9.

The Left Hand of Darkness

Another book with ice as an element (arguable a major character in itself) is Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness. This an important novel containing questions about gender in a world where gender is ambiguous.

Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell spans several centuries and goes into a future (or futures) that fall into the realms of science fiction, so I’m including it in this list. I greatly enjoyed this book which I first discovered when seeing the trailer for the movie, which I also enjoyed but mostly because I’d read the book beforehand.

Fall Reading Lineup (Part 2)

Well, I actually went through my initial fall book lineup quicker than I thought I would, so here we are with a Part 2. I haven’t returned to Gormenghast however, which was on my last lineup, and I’m not sure if I will return to it or let it go. I’m still very much reading through Kurt Vonnegut’s works and a few will be on this list, but of course I want to put a few others in the lineup to give myself some variety. Here we go (again):

we-are-what-we-pretend-to-beI recently finished We Are What We Pretend To Be: The First and Last Works by Kurt Vonnegut which includes his first novella (previously unpublished) and his final book/novella that was in progress but he never finished.

JailbirdI recently started another Vonnegut book, Jailbird (which I am enjoying thus far), and then I plan to read Slapstick as I work through all of his books. Having just read his biography, I chose Jailbird next as it was considered one of his better books to come from the latter part of his career while Slapstick was not well received and is supposedly a bit of a mess. I will find out for myself of course.

Slade HouseSince it is getting into “spooky” season, I figured I should include a book that might fit into that category. I’ve had this one for a while and haven’t gotten around to reading it, so I’m putting Slade House by David Mitchell in the lineup. It is relatively short so I hope to read through it well before the end of the month.

something-wicked-this-way-comesKeeping along the same theme here, I’ve always meant to read Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury, so I’m adding it to the list for now but it may or may not drop off as the month goes by.

I’m not entirely certain what I’m going to dive into after I wrap up the final few Vonnegut novels. There are a million other books I want to eventually read, but sometimes I go by whatever pops out to me or if something captures my interest and I want to read it next. For example, I’m really enjoying the Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power television series so I may possibly jump back into Tolkien’s world.

Again, I hope you find time to read the books you want to read. Fall is a great season for reading as the weather cools and bundling up with a hot beverage and a good book is the perfect way to spend an evening (or an hour).

Happy Reading.

Five Star Books

I thought it would be interesting to go through the books I’ve given a five-star rating. I use Goodreads mainly to encourage and track my goal of reading at least 50 books a year, so it is just a way to encourage myself to keep reading and not fall into a slump. Reading is relaxing and restorative for me, and sometimes I need to remind myself that it relieves stress and read regularly to keep myself balanced.

When going through my list of books I’ve given five stars to on Goodreads, I was surprised at how many made the cut. I typically follow the rating system of three stars means I liked it, four stars means I really liked it, and five stars means I loved it. I think I’ve given one two star rating, and I have never given a one star rating. This is because I often won’t finish a book I don’t like and I always look at a book objectively and won’t let one bad thing ruin the entire work. I also rate the book right after finishing so my feelings about it are fresh, which I hope gives a more accurate rating about how I felt about the book.

Anyway, here is the list of books I’ve given five stars to throughout my use of Goodreads. Some of these are representative of a series, so I may love the series as a whole while not necessarily giving all individual books five stars.

Howl’s Moving Castle was my introduction to the work of Diana Wynne Jones. It remains my favorite Studio Ghibli film and is a great novel I look forward to reading to my children.

Magician is the first book of The Riftwar Cycle by Raymond E. Feist. I first read this in high school and loved it. I only read the primary saga and a few books that followed, so I have not read the entirety of the (I believe) still growing series.

A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs is the start of the John Carter of Mars series. I read the initial trilogy after seeing the 2012 movie that I enjoyed despite it being considered a failure. The movie doubled as a celebration of 100 years since the first book was published. It also was the only reason I learned about the books. There are 11 in total and I read book four and part of five but failed to remain interested at the time. Overall, it is a great, earlier scifi series that influenced much of the scifi that became popular later on.

On Writing is a much loved book about the craft of writing, but it also gives an autobiographical insight into Stephen King. I haven’t read this one in a while, so I may need to return to it and read it with more experienced eyes. I will likely enjoy it that much more.

The Queen’s Gambit is a more recent read. Written by Walter Tevis and turned into a mini-series by Netflix (how I first discovered it), I thoroughly enjoyed this book and it was adapted extremely well.

The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan is the only series I wrote a corresponding series of posts about. I essentially wrote about each book as I read it, all 15 in the series, and discussed what surprised me and what I predicted would come next. It is a great series for fans of fantasy. I did give two of the 15 books five stars.

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. I’ve been a huge fan of this series since I first read these books when I was quite young. I’ve only read the series two or three times and it has been a long time since my last readthrough. I’ve been meaning to re-read it.

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. I read this well after the big craze when the movie came out. I picked it up at the annual book sale of our local library. It was surprisingly good. I have yet to see the movie though.

Our Story Begins is a collection of short stories by Tobias Wolff whom I admire as a writer. He is able to create such intimately human moments in his stories that exemplifies the art itself.

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. This book I first discovered by the trailer for the movie. The trailer intrigued me so I read the book which allowed me to better understand and appreciate the movie when it came out. A lot of people were confused by the movie which is understandable given how it intertwines several storylines across a vast timeline. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The Little Prince by Antione de Saint-Exupery is a fantastic little book that I came to as an adult. I’m curious if I would have loved it as a child but I think I appreciate it more as an adult.

The Name of the Wind is the first book of The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and the sequel A Wise Man’s Fear. The third, and I believe final, book of the series is rumored to be released this year. Pat read the prologue of The Doors of Stone for a charity event earlier this year so it may very well be released later this year or early next year. I also gave the peripheral novella five stars as well. Titled A Slow Regard for Silent Things, the novella is a week in the life of the character Auri from the series. I think this may be the only series that has five stars from me for each book (the three mentioned here).

Harry Potter is a series I grew up with and have enjoyed for a long time. I haven’t read the series in quite some time, but ironically my least favorite book when I was younger turned out to be one of my favorite movie in the series. This series was one that I can vividly remember getting the next book the day it released. I gave a few books in this series five stars.

The Stranger by Albert Camus was a novel I read in college and enjoyed more than I thought I would. It was my first reading of Camus. I need to read more of his work but have only read one other book, The Myth of Sisyphus. 

Dune by Frank Herbert has become a favorite of mine. I have only read this first book in the series but I loved it as a standalone novel. The recent film adaptation was great and I look forward to “Part 2” which I think is releasing next year.

Triple Zero by Karen Traviss is the second book of the Republic Commando series of the Star Wars universe. I read a lot of Star Wars books when I was younger and this series was my favorite. There was a Republic Commando video game I also really liked. The story focuses on a few squads of clone commandos and delves into what these clones lives were like. They were mentally 10 years old in 20-year-old bodies and created to fight a galactic war. There is a lot of cool things in this series aside from it being part of the Star Wars universe.

Catching Fire is the second book in The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. I enjoyed this trilogy and the second book was my favorite.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline is a great book. The film adaptation was great and understandably changed quite a bit of the story while keeping the overall main story thread the same. I read Ready Player Two when it was released and enjoyed it also, but not as much as this first book.

Fullmetal Alchemist is a manga series by Hiromu Arakawa. I first encountered this series as the anime adaptation and was swept up into the lives of the Elric brothers. I read the series this year and the “redo” of the anime series, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, is a faithful adaptation to the series and is fantastic. This story is incredible overall and will always get five stars from me.

The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins was a happy surprise for me when I read it last year. I consider this book a hidden treasure since I haven’t come across many people discussing it.

Norse Mythology with this being Neil Gaiman’s retelling of several Norse myths. I am a fan of mythologies and the Norse myths are my favorite. It is an added bonus that Neil wrote a version and narrated it himself. Definitely worth a listen/read.

Tokyo Ghoul by Sui Ishida is a manga series I first encountered via the anime adaptation as well. There is a lot I enjoyed in the series that was omitted in the adaptation and overall I have a fascination with the series despite some shortcomings. It almost didn’t make this list but it is one of those series that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Network Effect is a novel that is part of The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells. I enjoy this series immensely for many reasons. This novel ironically is a “side quest” of the series which is currently comprised of five novellas. Murderbot is a great character and the universe they inhabit is both chilling yet hopeful for humans.

Art Matters is a little book by Neil Gaiman illustrated by Chris Riddell. This little book is a great, quick read about why art is important and that we should “make good art” if we feel so inclined. I recommend giving this a read (should only take an hour at the most) just to get the message and inspiration that pours from this tiny volume.

That is my list of books I’ve given five stars to as of this date. Many I have not read in some time but I think I would still enjoy them if/when I give them a re-read. Perhaps some of these may become favorites of yours if they aren’t already. Perhaps you disliked several on this list that I enjoyed which is absolutely valid as reading is subjective. Regardless, I hope you find something fun to read.

Happy Reading.

Fall Reading Lineup

I have not been reading as much as I would like this year, but I am reading nonetheless and it is always nice to consider the next handful of books I want to read. I have been on a Vonnegut reading spell so it won’t be a surprise that half of this list include him or his work. Here we go:

GalapagosPlayer PianoI am currently reading Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut and intend to read Player Piano, his first published novel, afterwards as it currently is the last Vonnegut novel I own that remains unread. I will likely buy a few more of his books to read in the near future though. Most of his books are really quick or easy reads. I remember thinking I could have finished Cat’s Cradle in an evening if I had the time available.

A Vonnegut-related book I hope to read this fall, or by the end of the year, is And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut: A Life by Charles J. Shields. And So It GoesThis is an authorized biography that Kurt initially declined but later accepted (I believe the year before he passed). I look forward to learning more about Vonnegut the person which likely will enrich my reading of his fiction. I’m taking a vacation soon and may take this one with me at my travel book as it is a decent size.

GormenghastI am also currently reading Titus Groan which is the first book of the Gormenghast trilogy by Mervyn Peake. I stopped about halfway through this first book and read Cat’s Cradle and now I’m into Galapagos. I will return to Titus Groan and finish the trilogy, but it may be slow going, interrupted by other books, as the reading is a little dense despite the intrigue threaded throughout. This may be a trilogy that extends into next year depending on how often I return to it and how much reading I can fit in.

The Sound of WavesI also want to read The Sound of Waves by Yukio Mishima. This one I really don’t know much about but I think it will be a great book that is one of those reminders about the essential aspects of life which get lost in the maelstrom of things wanting or demanding our attention today. I think part of the reason I am looking forward to this book is because I know very little about it. It will be a completely fresh read which will be great as most of my reading includes books that have been on my list for some time and which I already have some prior knowledge about.

So, that is the lineup that I hope to read in the next few months. My time is filled with work and being a father to a toddler. Regardless, I enjoy reading and it relieves stress so I finding more time to fit in books is doubly beneficial.

I hope you find time to read the books you want to or love to read.

Happy Reading.

Start of the Year Reading List

Well, it’s a new year and we are already a few weeks into it. Unfortunately, I spent the first week or so sick and recovering which gave me plenty of time to think about what I want to get accomplished this year. I am maintaining my 50 books per year reading challenge and have already finished three books so far which is a pretty good start. I am technically halfway through two books as well but I will talk about those in a bit.

I plan on getting some writing done this year (finally) as I was unofficially on a writing hiatus as I worked on my MBA. Now that the degree is finished, no more excuses. I’m really excited to attend a convention later this year which I have already registered for. It will be my first time attending WorldCon and I hope that the world is in a much better place and events like this stop being cancelled, postponed, and we are free and clear to actually spend time in groups. I would hate to cancel yet another outing, but safety first especially now that I have a little one that is always on my mind.

But this post is about a reading list for the beginning of the year. So far, I have read We Watch You by N.S. Ford which was a great mystery/thriller. I just finished Negotiating with the Dead by Margaret Atwood where she talks about the craft of writing and more. I am halfway through Blindness by Jose Saramago. I have to admit that this is the first time I’ve deliberately put a book down and taken time away from reading it. There was a scene that was really disturbing. I’ve not finished books before due to lack of interest or put it away to try again another time. This book I do plan on finishing but had to take time away because the disturbing scene in question just put me in a bad state and I needed to give myself time to recover before going back to it. The book is interesting and I think is good overall, and I may end up writing a recommendation for it if that turns out to be true.

The other book I’m technically halfway through is the Sandman comic series which I purchased last year in the Omnibus editions. There are three volumes, approximately 1000 pages each, that contain all the Sandman comics and extras. I am halfway through the second omnibus volume and will get back around to finishing the series. I think I paused this one because I came to the end of a story arc and life got busy and all that jazz. I compare it as the equivalent of pausing a show at the end of a season with the full intention of finishing the series. It was a good stopping point, but I plan to restart soon.

Pity The Reader CoverWith all that out of the way, I will now get to the few books I aim to read in the next few months. I just started Pity the Reader by Suzanne McConnell & Kurt Vonnegut. This book is primarily Kurt Vonnegut’s discussion of the craft of writing and more, but it was compiled and written by Suzanne McConnell who was a student, peer, and lifelong friend of Vonnegut’s. I look forward to digging into this one.

Kokoro book coverNext, I plan to read Kokoro by Natsume Soseki. I came across this book randomly and it caught my attention. It was first published in 1914, two years before Soseki passed away. Kokoro translates roughly to mean “the heart of things” and this book, at about 180 pages and told in three parts, is supposedly his most popular work. I had never heard of Soseki before stumbling across this book but I may explore more of his work if I enjoy this one.

Rendezvous with Rama book cover folio society editionI also want to read Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke. The only book of Clarke’s that I’ve read so far is 2001: A Space Odyssey and this one came on my radar when it was announced it would be adapted into a film by director Denis Villeneuve who directed the recent adaptation of Dune which I enjoyed. I’ve been meaning to read more of Clarke’s work and now this will prepare me for the film as well whenever it comes out.

So these three are what I aim to read in the next several weeks (I’ll probably finish Blindness as well). Of course life continues to be busy and trying to navigate our crazy world can distract from enjoying our hobbies. I hope you find some time for reading or whatever you enjoy doing. If you can’t find time, then make some time. You’ll likely thank yourself later for doing so.

Happy Reading.