A Note on Book Recommendations

I wanted to briefly talk about the book recommendations that I make on this blog. Believe it or not, I don’t recommend every book I read. I only recommend books that I really like, or books that I find do something really well, or I think there is value in reading them for whatever reason (I usually specify what it is in the recommendation of course). However, I understand that enjoying a book is typically very subjective.

I openly admit that I primarily enjoy science fiction and fantasy genres, but my interests are wide-ranging and my hope is that you discover something new through my recommendations that may become a favorite of yours. I’m sure I never adequately talk up a book or convey my own enthusiasm for it, but I hope my recommendations give enough about the story to intrigue you. I always provide a spoiler warning if I think I may be at risk of spoiling an important part of the story, and I try to avoid spoilers altogether as much as I can.

The primary reason I write book recommendations is simply to share my love of books. Perhaps I may also help broaden reading interests or expose someone to their new favorite author. That is something that can change a person’s life. I believe books, and the act of reading, are healthy. Books can be enjoyed by people of all ages and have profound affects on individual lives. I’ll admit that I was able to get myself out of a dark place by reading a book. I’ve read books that have made me rediscover the joys of life, and I’ve read books that have shown me the darker sides of humanity. Books have power. After all, they are filled with words.

This being said, I don’t write book recommendations to sway or promote or advertise. I write them for me, and perhaps for upcoming generations, or older ones, or maybe I wrote one specifically for you. All I can say is that I genuinely appreciate you taking the time to read them, or peruse the titles on my list, or even just scroll past a post. Regardless, I’ll be here continuing what I love to do, and I hope you do the same.

Happy Reading.

Shadows of the New Sun

Shadows of the New Sun book coverShadows of the New Sun: Stories in Honor of Gene Wolfe is a collection of short stories by various authors who have been influenced, professionally or personally, by the literary master that is Gene Wolfe. The collection also includes two short stories not previously published by Gene Wolfe himself. This collection was released in 2013 and several of those who contributed are authors I really enjoy, and there were many I had never read before but will likely look into their work after reading their stories in this collection.

What I really enjoyed about this collection, ironically enough, were the unintended stories. Each author who contributed a short story also provided a short commentary about Gene himself, which really gave this collection its intended purpose. Yes, each story was inspired by or related to Gene’s work with several even taking place within a world Gene created or included characters he imagined, but it was amazing to see how Gene influenced each storyteller. Many knew Gene personally and had fun stories to tell about him or something he did whereas a few had never met him in person but had an anecdote to share nonetheless.

To my knowledge, there currently are no biographies about Gene Wolfe, though I hope one does come out as I would love to know more about him. Gene passed away in 2019 at the age of 87. I wish I had discovered his work before his passing, but that is the great thing about books. You can discover and be greatly influenced by works written years, decades, or even centuries before. Some say history has a way of filtering the mass amounts of art and only allow the best to persist through the ages. I would not be surprised if Gene Wolfe is read for centuries to come. His work has found me and will persist at least throughout my lifetime as I will continue to read everything of his I can find. I chanced upon this collection at my local library’s annual book sale. Some of the best books are those you find by chance. In fact, many authors in this collection found Gene’s work by chance, and they recognized it as uniquely masterful upon discovery. I had the same experience and his books quickly became treasured tomes on my shelf.

If you have yet to find Gene’s work, perhaps this can be your reason to give it a chance. I hope you like it if you do.

Happy Reading.

8 More Short Story Collections

I recently started a short story collection and thought it might be a good time to provide a list of several collections I’ve enjoyed over the years. I’m not sure why, but with fall coming up, I feel like it is a good time for short stories. Perhaps it is because I am starting my final few classes of (probably) my final academic degree, and short story collections are excellent for busier times. You can focus on coursework, or work-work if your job gets busier this time of year, but still fit in some reading and try new stories. They are also great because you can pick them up and put them down easily without losing your place. You can slowly go through a collection over months or years, or read them all in a weekend. You may love some but not like others, but there always another new one on the next page. So here is a shoutout to an underappreciated form with several collections I enjoy.

This is “eight more” list because I posted “8 Short Story Collections” earlier last year. Feel free to look at that list as well.

Shadows of the New Sun book coverFirst, the collection I just started is Shadows of the New Sun: Stories in Honor of Gene Wolfe. I found this gem at my library’s annual book sale having never known it existed before. I am a big fan of Gene Wolfe and this collection features two short stories of his and stories written by other writers who were influenced or had personally known Gene Wolfe. Each story has a short description of how the author knew Gene and how he influenced their writing careers or personal lives. I’m only a few stories in, but several other authors I like have stories in this collection including Neil Gaiman, Joe Haldeman, and Timothy Zahn to name a few.

Neil GaimanSpeaking of Neil Gaiman, who has several collections of stories, he also had The Neil Gaiman Reader come out roughly a year ago which contains many of his shorter works and excerpts of several of his novels. It is a great collection especially for those who have not yet read his work and want to try it out.

Stories of Your LifeNext, and I’m sure I’ve recommended this before, is The Story of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang. Chiang has become one of my favorite, recent science fiction writers. As far as I am aware, he only has two short fiction collections currently published, but I eagerly look forward to more of his work.

Philip K Dick Classic StoriesI feel somewhat obliged to add Philip K. Dick in this list as well since I’ve read several collections of short stories by him. Some are absolutely absurd and others fall more into classic pulp fiction, but many are fantastic and make you think of the world in a different light. For this one, I will choose The Eye of the Sybil and Other Classic Stories

Cathedral book coverNext is another author known more for his short fiction than his other work, Raymond Carver. Though I really like “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” which is the title story of a collection, I’ve already recommended that collection before, so I’m recommending the collection Cathedral whose title story is also a great read.

In the Garden of North American Martyrs book coverAlso known for his shorter form is Tobias Wolff, who is one of my favorite short story writers. I am recommending his collection In the Garden of North American Martyrs. I like almost every story by Wolff and the title story of this collection is definitely near the top of the list if I had to rank his stories in order.

Interpreter of Maladies book coverThe Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri is the next in the list. It has a been a long time since I’ve read this collection and my memory does not serve me well outside of the fact that it was a great read. I am even beginning to doubt I finished the entire collection but that only means I need to re-read it soon to better appreciate it.

The Best of Gene Wolfe Book CoverLastly, and returning to Gene Wolfe, is The Best of Gene Wolfe which is a great collection that exhibits many of his “best” works. I enjoyed most of these stories and it was definitely fun to read more of his work.

I hope that you give some of these a chance if you are not a regular short story reader. At the very least, I hope you go out and read a short story sometime soon. You can find many online for free, including my own which you can find here on my blog (I recommend Children of Changyang Mountain).

Castle in the Air

Castle in the Air Book CoverCastle in the Air is another magical, wholesome story by Diana Wynne Jones. It was published in 1990 and is considered a companion novel (not a sequel) to her book Howl’s Moving Castle which was published in 1986. I wasn’t sure how it related to Howl’s because it had no real connection until about halfway through the book. The entire story has elements that reminded me of Aladdin, with a flying carpet and a genie, but then the second half enters a realm similar to Howl’s Moving Castle. Fans of both will likely love this book, as I did.

Overall, it is a fun read that gets better as you go along. I felt there was a slower period in the middle when things begin to transition, but the action ramps up and all the pieces fall together in the end. This is one thing I really enjoyed about this book. Things that occur in the first few chapters either persist or reappear in the end to show their impact on the overall story. Some of it is whimsical, sure, but there is never anything superfluous, out of place, or unexplained in a Diana Wynne Jones novel (at least from my experience). Though I expected this book to be entertaining, I was yet again surprised how much I enjoy Diana Wynne Jones’s work.

I must admit that I plan to read this book, and many others, to my kids as they get older. I think Diana Wynne Jones weaves incredible stories that children will love and us adults (aka physically grown children) also enjoy. I will be reading the true sequel to Howl’s Moving Castle shortly to complete the Howl’s “trilogy” and I will discuss that book here as well.

Happy Reading.

July & August Reading Lineup

I ended up finishing my May reading lineup in June, so I figured I’d just give myself some extra time to get through these books. Luckily, I am finishing my current graduate courses and will have a six week break before my next few classes start up, so I should have some more time to read.

Castle in the Air Book CoverI am currently reading Castle in the Sky by Diana Wynne Jones and hope to finish it up soon. This is a companion novel to Howl’s Moving Castle which is a favorite of mine. I am about halfway through and there haven’t been any connections to Howl’s yet, so I’m not sure how it is considered a “companion” novel just yet.

House of Many Ways Book CoverMy next read is actually the sequel to Howl’s Moving Castle which is titled House of Many Ways. I decided to read Castle in the Sky first because it was published before House of Many Ways and I just decided to read these books in order of publication. I will likely write a recommendation for these books and, if I do, I may do one post for both books dependent upon how much they have in common.

After these, I’m not entirely sure what I will read next. I typically pick up whatever I am in the mood for, but I think I may begin the Sandman comic series by Neil Gaiman. I recently acquired the omnibus editions of this series, and I have been meaning to check it out. I don’t often read comics (which is somewhat surprising considering my interests), but I have heard a lot about this series and know many people who really enjoy it. I honestly don’t know much about the overall story. I am a fan of Neil’s work though and I’m certain it will be great. I may even begin this series alongside the Diana Wynne Jones books. I typically don’t read more than one book at a time. I’ll sometimes read one fiction and one non-fiction book simultaneously, but I like to focus on one story. For some reason I don’t think it will bother me since Sandman is in comic format. We will see.

Sandman Omnibus Editions

I hope your are having some fun reading adventures this summer. I am actually volunteering for my local library’s annual book sale next month which I am looking forward to especially since it was cancelled this past year. I’ll likely acquire many more books that will sit on my shelves for a bit before I get to them.

Happy Reading.