Beyond Gender: Exploring Ursula K. Le Guin’s Thought Experiment in The Left Hand of Darkness

Ursula K. Le Guin’s novel The Left Hand of Darkness has been used to progress the discourse on gender and sexuality since its publication over fifty years ago. Many critical responses to the novel center on these topics despite their function as a veil to Le Guin’s original intention. Gender and sexuality are barriers the reader must push beyond to fully understand the novel’s triumph. There is no doubt that this book raises questions and makes us rethink our preconceptions about gender and sexuality, and this confirms one success of Le Guin’s thought experiment, but the primary intention was to go beyond gender and sexuality to reveal a human characteristic. Continue reading

Who Said You Should Never Judge A Book By Its Cover?

Yeah, yeah, there is that old saying (which is true), but I thought I’d list books whose covers I think are beautiful, made me pick the book up initially, or I simply like. There are often several variants to book covers based on editions, reprints, etc. The cover is meant to entice you or else they wouldn’t spruce them up. I’m a sucker for cool artwork too. Here are several that I enjoy.

The Sword of Angels

Sword of AngelsThis cover is actually the reason I picked up this trilogy by John Marco. I saw this cover, thought it looked cool, found out it was the third book in the series, and went on to buy the first book. I need to re-read this series since it has been (I believe) over ten years since I first read it and a fourth book has been released since then that continues the story of one of the main characters.

Exhalation

ExhalationAnother simplistic cover that goes along with an equally simplistic yet mysterious title. This collection of short stories, and one novella, by Ted Chiang is a great read for any SFF fans or if you like stories that make you think.

The Faded Sun Trilogy

The Faded Sun TrilogyI picked up a copy of this trilogy in one volume a long time ago. The cover was of course a factor. I had no idea who C.J. Cherryh was but she has become an author whose work I really need to look into, which of course means I have yet to read this trilogy. I have a lot of books on my TBR and I will get to them eventually. I’ve been trying to read through the books I have and purchase fewer books.

Memories of Ice

Memories of IceMemories of Ice is actually book three of The Malazan Book of the Fallen series by Steven Erikson. This is the first on this list of books I picked up because of the cover but have not yet read. The Malazan series is a larger series and I currently have the first five books. I plan to read them some day, but I just haven’t gotten around to it just yet.

Norse Mythology

Norse MythologyOkay. There are a lot of different versions, retellings, and of course covers of the Norse Myths. The cover I refer to specifically is a recent retelling by Neil Gaiman. I think the cover is fantastic and we get a few versions of it. One for hardback and one for paperback. I have a copy of both mainly because I happened to get an opportunity to purchase a signed copy of the paperback, which honestly is the cover I like best. I think there are a few other variants of the hardback cover (which is different from the paperback version you see here) but they are different color backgrounds including black, white, and red.

Fahrenheit 451

FahrenheitFahrenheit 451There are a lot of different covers for Fahrenheit 451 as it has become a classic and is taught in schools. I particularly enjoy the simplistic 60th anniversary cover as well as the Folio Society version which I recently acquired.

A Memory of Light

The final installment of The Wheel of Time. This cover actually holds more significance because it comes at the end of a long journey and holds the fates of many beloved characters, which makes this cover perhaps the only one on this list linked directly to the story it tells. I’m sure there will be many new covers for the books in this series as time goes on and as the television series releases, but the original (to me) will always have a certain appeal.A Memory of Light

Too Like The Lightning

Too Like The LightningI purchased this book from a big sale my local library puts on every year so I was able to get it really cheap. I picked this one up for two reasons. The cover, and the fact that it made a bit of a wave when it first released however many years ago that was (it was 2016). I believe this is the first of a four-book series by Ada Palmer with the first three currently available, which is a good reason for me to wait a bit longer to read this book as I prefer to read series that are complete since I often need to re-read the first books when a new installment comes out if it has been a while since the initial read.

The Stormcaller

The StormcallerLike The Magician, this cover is for the first of a series that caught my eye. I think the artwork on all the covers is great, but this one made me give the book a try. I read the first three of the series by Tom Lloyd and then stopped as the final two books had not yet released. I plan to return and re-read the entire series some time.

The Magician

Magician Raymond E FeistI remember this one distinctly. I was in high school and about to go on a small trip to visit family when I picked this one up. The version I bought was actually two books in one and was my introduction to Raymond E. Feist’s Riftwar Saga. I have read the saga but have not read much beyond the core books and into the ever expansive world(s) contained in the larger Riftwar Cycle. I picked up the book for my trip because the cover did interest me, especially at the age of 15 with the image of the wizard, and I always enjoy magic.

All Systems Red

Last but not least, The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells. I absolutely adore this series and have also loved the cover art for each book. Network Effect is the fifth installment that was released earlier this year, and we will get the sixth book, Fugitive Telemetry, next year.

Murderbot Series

Public Figures, Bias, and Open Debate

So, J.K. Rowling has been making quite a stir recently with comments about transgender people. She is/was a much admired person by many people in the world and her recent statements have shaken a lot of her fans to the point of trashing her work and refusing to read her books ever again.

I wanted to provide my own stance regarding transgender people as it contradicts Rowling’s and I don’t want my post about her to be viewed as an automatic association of agreement with her personal views. I do have J.K. Rowling listed on this blog as one of my admired authors, which partially prompted me to write this post. I have not reviewed every statement she has made recently, but I’ve been seeing several reactions to her viewpoints.

I also wanted to discuss the responsibilities of public figures, personal opinions, and the association of an artist and their work. Let’s begin. Continue reading

8 Reasons Why I Don’t Finish A Book

There are very few books I have not finished, but in the past few years I have been more apt to not finish a book if it doesn’t capture or maintain my interest. I used to be particular about finishing any book I read because it felt like giving up. Luckily there were very few books I had to force myself to finish. Now I look back and wonder why I wasted the energy on a book I didn’t enjoy.

I remember the first book I never finished. I was about halfway through and took a long hiatus on reading it for various reasons. When I finally got back to it, I had forgotten most of what had happened in the first part of the book, which goes to show that the story didn’t capture my interest. Since I didn’t really remember what was going on, I simply set it aside and never picked it back up.

Since then, I usually will give a book about 50 to 75 pages before I make a decision to give up on it. If the book captures my interest, then I don’t even consider this, but if I’m struggling that far in I’ll set it aside.

These are the reasons I stopped forcing myself to finish books:

It’s not the right time.

Some times I know a book is good but when I go to read it, I find I’m not really interested at the time or that the subject matter is too prevalent with recent events for me to really enjoy it. This also happens with “classics” I intend to read because I know they are good if they have been around for decades or centuries, but perhaps I would rather read something more contemporary at the moment. I usually put it down within the first 20 pages to select a new book in these cases but intend to come back to it eventually.

I don’t care about any of the characters.

Unfortunately, there are some books that I just didn’t care for. Even if they are written by a large name in the literary world. Their stories don’t get me interested or I find their characters lacking. If I can’t care about the characters or what is happening, then why should I keep reading?

I can predict the story or I already know what will happen.

It can be easy to predict how some stories will end. This doesn’t make it a bad story, but it can make you lose interest if it is overtly obvious what will happen. Another point here is if I’ve been exposed to the story prior to reading. This happens in mainly one of two ways: I’ve seen an adaptation (likely film) or I have had something about the book spoiled for me by another reader. I usually will read a book before the movie comes out if I am interested in it, and I will sometimes read the book even after seeing the movie to see how the story differs. The latter is usually because I didn’t know the movie was based on a book. I usually won’t stop reading just because the story is predictable, but it can make the finishing stretch a little hard to push through. However, if I read a book that is hugely popular and it doesn’t capture my interest, I may give up on it or put it down to read later because it was a little over-hyped for me to read it at that time.

The size factors in or I’m not quite ready for another series.

There are times I’ll go to read a larger book and find I’m just not up for it, or I’ll think of starting a series and think I would prefer a standalone novel. I often find I prefer standalone novels for a while after finishing a larger series, or I’ll look for shorter books or novellas after reading a larger book or series. Bigger books/series can be commitments for me because I usually read only that series until I finish it. This is partly why I have developed the habit of reading two books at any given time. One is fiction while the other is non-fiction.

Pacing.

Pacing can really put me off a story. If nothing is happening or there are long hiatuses between important events, I can be tempted to simply set it aside. I don’t want to spend 50-100 pages on non-essential information. This is one reason I think so many people never read or finish Moby Dick.

It’s not the right story.

I usually have my next 3-5 books lined up to help me get through my TBR pile. They vary so I can switch the reading order depending on what I want to read next, but some times I go to start a book and realize that maybe I’m just not currently interested in this type of story. For example, maybe I go to start a science fiction book but realize I’d rather read a biography, fantasy, or collection of short stories. Again, I always intend to read the book in question if this is the reason I decide not to read it at the time.

I don’t like the writing.

Since I started writing stories myself with the hopes of publishing books in the future, I’ve begun noticing and sometimes scrutinizing the quality of writing in books. I never speak about the quality of writing publicly because I don’t believe in being nasty for the sake of being nasty and I know other readers like the book. But if the writing is poor, it can make it a struggle to even read the story. Luckily, this is very rare since books go through a long process before getting published. Also, a story can be good enough to overcome bad writing. I can’t remember who said it, but “A great story written poorly is still good, and a bad story written well is still bad.”

There are too many other books to read.

My TBR list only grows the older I get. Even though I am constantly reading something, I am also discovering new books and new authors faster than I read them. I know I will likely never be able to read everything I want to within my lifetime. This may be a little sad to realize, but it only solidifies my decision that I shouldn’t waste time on books I’m not enjoying. I find that if I am struggling to get through a book for any reason, I read less frequently. Therefore, it is important for me to be able to give up on any book that doesn’t capture my interest. It effectively is preventing me from reading a book I may love or one that may change my outlook.

There have been few books I have completed recently that I’ve not really cared for. Unfortunately, these were the first books I tried by authors who I’ve come to like. I was kind of bummed that I ended up not liking their work since I like them as people, but I may try another story of theirs to see if it was simply that one story that didn’t capture my attention.

I have only put down a few books in the past several years after reading the first 50-75 pages despite liking other work by the same author. It was usually content-related and I just didn’t care for the story or put it down to try again later on. The one that comes to mind right now is The Stand by Stephen King. I think this was both content related and pacing. I was about 70 pages in and it was still introducing characters. Also, pandemic/end-of-the-world scenario can be a bit of a bummer. And it is over 1200 pages long. I’ve always heard it is a great novel, and I may get to it eventually, but I wasn’t ready to read it at the time.

I’m happy to say that the number of books I haven’t finished is still really low. Probably less than 10 (maybe even fewer than 5), but that number will only grow. The few books I mentioned that I did finish but didn’t really care about the characters or story happened to be the first book in a trilogy, and I won’t be finishing the trilogy. There are just too many books I want to read. I hope you focus on reading books that you enjoy and put aside those that you aren’t eager to continue reading.

11 Authors I Want to Read

It is very easy for me to add books to my TBR list based on recommendations or summaries or even book covers (never discredit a book by its cover, but definitely try one because of it). However, I’ve had a small list growing of authors whose names I either keep hearing or who I’ve seen/followed on social media whose works I want to eventually read. So instead of making a TBR list of books I want to read, I’ve made a list of authors who I want to read.

I’ll be honest, some of these authors I have no real idea what they are best known to have written or even what they even write about. I’ve come to know their name and I’m interested in their work because of either them as a person intrigues me or the discourse regarding their work does. Let’s begin.

Octavia Butler

Apparently today would have been Octavia Butler’s 73rd birthday. I’ve seen her name pop up here and there likely because she wrote science fiction which is one of my main areas of interest. Her name is all over social media today and prompted this post because she has been on my list of authors to read for a few years.

N.K. Jemison

N.K. Jemison has been on my list for the past year or two. I first saw her book The Fifth Season and was intrigued but never got around to reading it. It has been on my TBR for some time, but Jemison herself has become someone I’m interested in and I hope I will like her work. I hear her new book, The City We Became, is really good.

Adrian Tchaikovsky

I’m not sure where I first heard of Adrian Tchaikovsky. I think it was in relation to another author I was following, but I remember hearing about one or two of his books (which I can’t remember) and was intrigued.

Myke Cole

Myke Cole’s book The Armored Saint caught my interest a while back mainly because it had a cool cover. Later on, without realizing, I started following him on Twitter because he has entertaining little feuds with his friend Sam Sykes who is also an author. Of the two, Myke seems the most stable.

Samuel R. Delaney

This one may be a bit surprising since I am a big science fiction fan. Samuel R. Delaney is considered a pretty big name in the field. His name has popped up when authors I like discuss who had inspired them. I have yet to read any of his work but I will eventually.

R.F. Kuang

Another fairly new writer (or should I say younger?) who recently completed her first trilogy. Rebecca’s book The Poppy War has been well received and admittedly is how her name came to be on this list. I actually own The Poppy War but have yet to get around to it.

Jeff Vandermeer

Jeff Vandermeer popped on my radar after a friend took me to see the movie Annihilation which is based on Jeff’s book of the same title. The movie was weird as hell but also interesting enough to make me wonder if the book was different or better (which does happen). I have since heard people rave about his book called Wonderbook which I plan to pick up soon.

Kevin Hearne

Kevin Hearne has an interesting place on this list. I believe I first discovered him on Twitter around the time his book Kill the Farm Boy was releasing. He tweets a lot about cool drinks he makes which is fun. He is also friends with Chuck Wendig who dedicated his book Wanderers to Kevin. Kevin seems like an awesome guy so of course I’ll need to check out his work even though I have a feeling it isn’t particularly what I would normally ready.

Haruki Mirakami

Another bigger name in the literary world that I haven’t yet checked out. Though I just realized that he is an exception to this list as I technically have read something by him. I listened to the audiobook of his memoir What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. I haven’t read any of his fiction, so I still count him as an author I still want to read.

Ann Patchett

Ann Patchett is another name that I think is larger than I realize when it comes to writing. I’ve heard her name here and there and recently heard about her book The Getaway Car which is a memoir about life and writing. This will likely be the first book of hers I read since I like reading what writers have to say about writing.

Jose Saramago

I just discovered Saramago a few days ago while reading a collection of essays by Ursula K. Le Guin. I had never heard of him before but he has been added to my list. She spoke about several of his books but Blindness seemed to be the most prevalent in the essay and caught my interest. However, The Stone Raft may usurp it as the first Saramago book I read.

 

It’s always interesting to me how we find new authors to read. Perhaps you have not heard of some of these authors and may now go look into one of their books. Some of these names I’m sure you have read and may be surprised I have not yet read them. There is so much out there that it is, unfortunately, impossible to read it all, but it’s always great to discover new books and authors. I say read widely and often.

Do you have a specific author you have always planned to read? If so, how did you hear about them? Was it a specific book or some other avenue? Let me know because you may very well be introducing me to someone new and I am always up for discovering new books and authors.