September Reading

In last month’s reading update post I said I’d been having a rather hectic few weeks, and those continued. Since I wrote that post I have moved to another country and begun (sort of- I haven’t done any actual work for it yet) a PhD. There hasn’t been much reading, as a result.


Vikram Seth, Beastly Tales: A classic, obviously, and one I’m very fond of–I think most Indian schoolchildren of my generation can still recite most of “The Frog and the Nightingale”. I reread the collection this time soon after a conversation about the gender of animals in children’s books, and so ended up noticing for the first time how often the active parties in these stories are gendered female. I suspect even here parity is nowhere close to achieved, but it’s nice for “he/him/his” not to be the default all the time.

Jack Vance, Dream Castles: I reread this while I was writing a review for Strange Horizons, which appeared here. It’s a bit all over the place but the longer stories in particular are very Vance-y, which is all I really needed to enjoy it.

Shira Lipkin and Michael Damian Thomas, Flying Higher: An Anthology of Superhero Poetry: Not a collection I’m going to treasure in particular, but often very funny (and free!). I reviewed it for the column.

Maria Semple, Where’d You Go, Bernadette?: Read this on the plane, wrote about it for the column here.

Terry Pratchett, Thud! and The Fifth Elephant: Comfort reading. The Fifth Elephant is still excellent, Thud! is a definite drop in quality, but against all reason I will still forgive a Vimes book most things.

Diana Wynne Jones, Dark Lord of Derkholm: Reread. If you like DWJ for the clever self-reflexive genre thing that she does with The Tough Guide To Fantasyland, this is excellent. Since that’s not what I most like about her, it’s … still pretty good, I suppose.

Nicholas Blake, The Whisper in the Gloom, The Widow’s Cruise, End of Chapter: Last year I read the last Blake book and it put me off him horribly. I seem to have calmed down enough that I’m still capable of appreciating the books themselves. I’d read End of Chapter before but had completely forgotten who the murderer was; the other two, which I hadn’t read, were far easier to solve. Not that that is the point, of course; these particular Blake books felt far less literary than some of the others have, but I enjoyed them rather a lot anyway.

Ruth Ozeki, A Tale for the Time Being: It’s cool that this book managed to sneak some SF (and Hello Kitty?) onto the Booker shortlist, and it’s unfortunate that it could use a lot more editing, but I enjoyed myself too much to care about either of those things.

Jonathan Grimwood, The Last Banquet: I’m hoping to write more about this soon, but it is very good.

Sophie Kinsella, Can You Keep a Secret?: Hm. I find Kinsella’s fluffiness very comforting and so enjoyed this one, but the power imbalance that the whole thing is based on made me really uncomfortable. He’s her boss and he knows all her secrets and he won’t tell her any of his and he’s attracted to her and he humiliates her publicly in front of her colleagues? Run away. Screaming.

Balaji Venkataraman, Flat-Track Bullies: Middle-grade (I think) novel about children trying to have exciting holidays in Chennai while their lives are curtailed by about fifteen different sorts of coaching classes. I can only hope for their sakes that the society these characters live in is heavily exaggerated.


(Edited to add Ozeki’s book to the list; I’m not sure how I managed to leave it off.)

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