Sunday, October 28, 2007


Over the past two months, I've made a substantial change in how I read books. I haven't bought any of the books I've read; instead, I've been checking them out of the library.

It's been years since I've checked anything out of the library, probably since my summers home from college. I allowed my OCD tendencies to rule how I read books and would only read ones that I'd bought or that I was loaned from a trusted source (and those times were very rare). I've bought and read a lot of books over the years (208 from 2001 to 2006 alone, minus a handful that I didn't buy) but that reading has also overflowed my shelves and cost quite a bit of money. That money has brought about this change; we are trying to cut down on our entertainment spending and that's been working.

One of my fears about library books - the fact that other people have handled the books - has turned out to be not such a big deal. I've checked out books that no one has read yet, books that few people have, and books that more than a few have. I've survived. I've been happy to just be reading the book and most of them have been in good condition.

There have been a number of positives. One is that poking around the library is a joy, looking at all the possibilities. I would get that same feeling in a bookstore as well. The difference is that I don't have to worry about what I can afford or justify to myself. Along those lines, I can now read more books. Before I would force myself to read more slowly or try to read other things in between books so I didn't overextend myself monetarily. I don't have that problem anymore.

On Aug. 27, I started reading the first book I checked out of the library (Bad Monkeys by Matt Ruff, which I never could have bought myself - $20 for a oddly-shaped paperback). Today is Oct. 28, two months later, and I finished reading my 10th library book (more on which in a bit). That's 10 books read in two months! I think I'd have to go back to my teenage years to get to such a prolific reading period.

Obviously, I'm enjoying the freedom of the library. I used to go in there only to donate books to the library sale when I had to pare down my shelves or to take Grant over to check out some books but now I look forward to my trips. I should be doing another one in a few days. And all of this is not to say I won't buy books anymore. I will. But I have a whole lot more reading freedom now.

So, what have I read lately?

After Mister Pip, I dove into the Oct./Nov. issue of Asimov's. It's the annual double issue (well, now there are two but this is the traditional one that I've been reading for 10 years or so) and chock full of stories. I won't go into every one like I usually do; instead, I'll mention the highlights. Greg Egan's "Dark Integers" is a sequel to his 1995 story "Luminous," which I remembered somewhat during the reading of this story. It's a story of select group of people who are in contact with an alien intelligence and can patrol a borderland between worlds through use of high level math. I'm oversimplifying here but it's a very effective story that loses me a little with the hard SF math element. That's okay, though, I like being challenged. Robert Reed gives us an homage to the classic Isaac Asimov story "Nightfall" with his "Night Calls." For comparison, we get the original right after, which I've never read. Both were good reads. I enjoyed the hunt for an experimental creature in Michael Cassutt's "Skull Valley" and the unusual setting of Chris Butler's "The Turn." Finally, Allen M. Steele is back with another story about Coyote; actually, he's back with a new novel, of which "Down and Out on Coyote" is the first part. The rest will be serialized over the next three issue (one of which is waiting to be read by me). One of these days, I need to read all the Coyote novels - I've read much of them in pieces in the pages of Asimov's but it would be good to put the whole thing together in my head. Sounds like a job for the library. Anyway, all of the stories in this issue were worth reading but those were my standouts.

I've been meaning to read Douglas Coupland for years and years, way back to when he published Generation X (of which I am a member by age). Never got around to it, though...until now. He's just come out with a new novel, The Gum Thief. It's the story of Roger, a depressed forty-something, and Bethany, a young adult Goth girl. Both of them work at Staples but they don't talk; rather, they write each other letters or leave writings for the other. Roger is working on a novel with the horrible title of Glove Pond, which reflects the characters and events in the book. Bethany loves the novel. Both of them do a creative writing exercise where the main character is a piece of toast about to be buttered. We meet their families and unspool some mysteries. It's a depressing book and a funny one. It can be bitter. But it's full of humanity and told in a very entertaining way. I liked it quite a bit.

A couple weeks ago I mentioned how I planned on getting around to Chris Roberson's Here, There & Everywhere in the near future. The future is now the past, as I galloped through the book the last three days. It's the story of Roxanne Bonaventure, who is giving a device at the age of 11 that allows her to travel in time and space and is able to explore the many worlds of the Myriad. Those concepts are right up my alley and Roberson delivers. The book is told in an episodic manner and covers a wide variety of situations and characters. The mosiac adds up to a very appealing whole and comes to a very satisfying end. High quality SF.

That's the reading over the last ten days or so. Where does the rainbow come in? I still haven't had enough of the new Radiohead album, In Rainbows...but that's a post for another day.

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