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We Are What We Pretend To Be: The First and Last Works by Kurt Vonnegut which includes his first novella (previously unpublished) and his final book/novella that was in progress but he never finished.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

Player Piano

Player PianoAgain I return to Vonnegut and am now recommending his first novel Player Piano. I was pleasantly surprised with this one. This is an incredible debut novel first published in 1952, making it now 70 years old this year. The story follows engineer Dr. Paul Proteus through a world that is near full-automation. Machines run practically everything and only a handful of engineers are needed to maintain the system alongside a group of managers. These managers and engineers believe themselves to be the elite while all others are employed by the government via joining the Army or by joining an organization called the Reconstruction and Reclamation Corps playfully called the Reeks and Wrecks.

Being 70 years old, and Vonnegut himself passing away in 2007 mere months before the first iPhone was released, there was no way this novel could have predicted the development of the technology we know today. However, it does imagine a highly technical, although mechanic, world where humans are quickly replaced by machines to complete their work which leaves them few options and little excitement or pride in their lives. Everything is studied/surveyed en masse prior to anything being produced so everyone gets pre-fabricated houses with the same appliances and all entertainment is generalized and must fit pre-determined guidelines.

People take exams when they graduate/reach adulthood and are given a score that prescribes their future. The score, highly focused on IQ level, essentially tells them they can go to college to be an engineer or will have to choose either the Army or Reeks and Wrecks. Their IQ is public record and cannot be changed. Any discussion of anti-automation is considered treason. The word “saboteur” holds a special meaning and is considered the worst offense.

There is a lot packed into this one novel and it still speaks to much of what society grapples with today. Though machines may not be as prevalent, we have computers that can replace what were once people-operated jobs. The surveying of the public is now market research and we all have experienced the dreadful targeted ads. The Reeks and Wrecks would be considered Socialism and railed against politically, and many people are working multiple jobs for demeaning wages. This book was written at a time when the nation’s wealth was more equally distributed, so it is hard to imagine what Vonnegut would have had to say about the number of billionaires today who pay their frontline workers so little they need to utilize food stamps. But that is a rant for another day.

I think this novel holds up quite well now 70 years later. In fact, it may be one of Vonnegut’s best novels though it doesn’t get discussed as much as Slaughterhouse Five, Sirens of Titan, or Cat’s Cradle. Vonnegut focused much of his work on societal observations and problems people faced or society faced as a whole. Player Piano seems to be the most direct that I’ve read yet. There are more I still need to read, and I will get to them eventually.

Happy Reading.

The Sound of Waves

The Sound of WavesThe Sound of Waves by Yukio Mishima was published in 1956 (though I believe this was the date for the first English-translated version). This is the first book by Mishima I have read and I came across it randomly, and I was excited to read something without any prior exposure to it. There is a page in the front of the version I read that gives a brief description of Mishima’s life. He wrote several books including a tetralogy called The Sea of Fertility which he considered his greatest work. According to this short insight, “he frequently said he would die when it was completed.” On November 25th in 1970, the day he finished the final novel, he committed seppuku at the age of 45.

I read this book in a day which I believe is a testament to the story itself but more so to how it was written. With how easy it was to read this story, I am interested in reading his tetralogy and will likely do so at a later time. Just another series added to the TBR.

The Sound of Waves focuses on the fishing village located on the island of Uta-jima where a young, poor fisherman falls in love with the daughter of a wealthy man. What follows is the story of a semi-secret love in a village where lives are intertwined so closely nothing remains unknown for long.

What I liked about this book was how it focuses on the essential aspects of life that get forgotten in the overcomplications society imparts upon us. Granted, this was before modern technology (which may make it an even better reminder), but it was still a great story about human interaction and how simple life should be compared to what most of us often experience. It also focuses on honesty and living with integrity. Life is more than our level of intelligence, how much money we make, and who our family members are. It is about how we treat others and ourselves. How we approach life is who we are as a person.

If you are looking for a good story, an easy read, and a relaxing reminder that life doesn’t have to be complicated, then this might be the perfect book for you right now.

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.