26 February 2005

Recent Reading (and some not so)

I kept meaning to get around to writing about what I'm reading for weeks, and kept not doing it, too. So finally I am, as I procrastinate away my Saturday (I should be drawing, or writing).


  1. A History of Reading by Alberto Manguel. The may have taken the place previously occupied by Into the Looking Glass Wood (same author) on my desert island reading list. Depending on the size of the bookshelves on my hypothetical desert island, I might take them both. There is simply so much to think about in this book, that I'm going to have to read it over and over. It's comfort reading for a reader, a nice thick book that says "You are not alone" and then shows you hundreds and hundreds of years of readers, and the way readers use reading, and the way reading is done. I'd read anything Manguel wrote or edited, but currently this is my favourite (mind you, I haven't read a lot of his stuff yet).
  2. Taking Wing: Archaeopteryx and the Evolution of Bird Flight by Pat Shipman. This is another example of my favourite kind of science book. Or one of my favourite kinds. It explores the development of the various ideas about the evolution of bird flight, carefully describing the possibilities in a way that is not too technical for the non-palaeontologist, but has enough meat and details that the reader can begin to evaluate the evidence for themselves. Shipman presents both (or more) sides of each issue fairly. I'd often find myself agreeing with the first idea presented, and then having to re-evaluate when the next one was described. And the writing is well done, pleasant to read, and only technical where it needs to be (but not overly simplistic anywhere). If you're into birds or dinosuars or the history of life, read this. It's not cutting edge, being a few years old (late 90s, if I remember right), but it's still good science. Plus archaeopteryx fossils are probably the most beautiful fossils ever found (though I'm also partial to ichthyosaur fossils).
  3. The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2004 edited by Steven Pinker. This was one of my purchases from Bolen Books, made with my assorted Christmas gift certificates. I chose it because I thought it would have a nice range of different kinds of science writing, and it certainly had. Not only that, but the writing in all of the essays was absolutely top-notch. I found myself thoroughly enjoying essays on topics I wouldn't normally seek out. There was one essay I had already read--the one on multiple universes that was published in Scientific American (I think; maybe it was Discover). It was interesting to see it without all the sidebars and visual aids the magazine adds in, and I had forgotten a lot of the details, anyway. This was definitely a good choice, and I'll probably be looking for previous editions.
  4. Explore Fairy Traditions by Jeremy Harte. I'm supposed to review this book. The author sent it to me, all the way from England, and it's taken me unforgivably long to get to reading it, even though it's on one of my favourite topics. It's a well written, intelligent exploration of different aspects of fairy traditions in the British Isles, and the meaning of the stories for the people who tell them. I kept thinking how useful it would have been when writing my Master's thesis. If you want a good general book on fairy lore to start with, this would be a good choice. You'd probably have to order it from the publisher though (their website is here: http://www.hoap.co.uk/), or maybe from a UK bookseller.
  5. Making and Playing Marionettes by James McMahon. Puppets! Not long after I first mentioned my growing puppet obsession, I logged on to the library website and requested a few books. This is one of them. It's really meant for teachers wanting to get their students into puppetry, but it assumes the students are capable and relatively mature--that they could do basic carpentry and sewing and work togther in a team in a professional manner--so it's a decent book for interested adults, too. Most importantly, it has diagrams and plans for the basic form and stringing of marionettes, which is exactly what I was looking for. There will be notes and sketches made from this one.


  1. A Scientific Romance by Ronald Wright. This is one of the books I got at the recent books sale at the Duncan Mall (which has approximately five stores, plus WalMart at one end and Staples at the other). I thought it sounded kind of neat. It ended up to be one of the best novels I've read in a while. It's not easy to write long stretches of a novel with only a single character, and no one for them to interact with, without losing the reader's interest. Wright pulls it off though--at least half of the book has only the main character all by himself, and much of the rest is so closely focussed on his viewpoint (being in first person), that we only see interactions through him. But it works. It's a beautiful book, and I am going to be searching out more by this author. Plus, everyone I know should read it. I think you'd all get something out of it. (Well, maybe not everyone I know, but most of you.)
  2. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. I found this thing at Superstore of all places. Mostly they have overpriced cookbooks and overpriced books about God. And an odd selection of other stuff. This is one of those books that feels magical without having anything particularly fantastic actually happen. It's a story about books and love and writing and families, and I thoroughly adored it. It has a Cemetery of Forgotten Books. Probably almost everyone I know should read this one, too.
  3. Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi. This is so short, it maybe shouldn't count, but it is over 100 pages. So there. I hadn't read Pinocchio since I was a kid (thanks to my parents, or some gift-giving relative, I had a copy of the originial--though translated, of course--and not one of those "retold for children" horrors). This isn't the copy I had back then, but I think it might be the same translation, and it has lovely, super-detailed illustrations by Roberto Innocenti. I love his cityscape panoramas, especially. I decided to read this because of my recent puppet obsession. I'd forgotten how moralistic the story is, but it has enough beautiful writing and clever comments to make it a good read nonetheless.
  4. The Mammoth Book of Werewolves edited by Stephen Jones. If you've read this blog much, you'll know I have a weakness for werewolves and other shapechangers. I thought, for some reason, that the Mammoth Books of . . . were best-of volumes, rather than ordinary themed anthologies. Turns out they're a mix of reprinted and new material, and pretty much as mediocre overall as other themed anthos. Which isn't to say it was a waste of time. Most of the stories were all right, and a few were very good. Plus there was a long Manly Wade Wellman story that I hadn't read, so it was worth reading for that alone.
  5. Awful End by Philip Ardagh. I'm not sure when this was published (don't have it to hand), so I don't know if it belongs in the "jumping on the Lemony Snicket bandwagon" category, but it looks like it from the cover, and it feels like it when reading. It's not a bad read. The writing is good, and some of the characters are pretty fun, but overall, I think it just tries too hard. Mind you, I'm not remotely the intended audience, but for me, a lot of the wordplay (things along the lines of "He took the seat across from her. 'Don't steal that!' she shrieked, so he put it back and sat down." That's not the actual words, but you get the idea) was so over-the-top that it detracted from the actual story, which was otherwise fun. Basically, I got jarred out of the story so much I ended up not being particularly interested in what happened to any of the characters. Perhaps young boys would like it for the sillyness alone, but I can't imagine more sophisticated kids getting into it. But what do I know?

Sequential Art:

  1. Rurouni Kenshin volume 1 by Nabuhiro Watsuki. I really liked the anime made from this series, so I thought I'd try the manga, and it's just as good (maybe better in some ways). The series in general (manga and anime) is a fun mix of serious more-or-less historical (early Meiji) action and rather slapstick humour, and mixes more and less realistic art styles.
  2. Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle volume 2 by CLAMP.
  3. Wish volume 2 by CLAMP.
  4. Ranma 1/2 volume 5 by Rumiko Takahashi.

Looks like it's all manga this time, and only one new series. I haven't been comsuming comics at quite the insane rate I was, but I've been trying to finish off some of the stuff I've already got on the shelves before buying more. Actually, I've been trying to do that for books in general, though I've been less sucessful with fiction and non-fiction thanks to Value Village, thrift shops, book sales, and the remainder section of Chapters (good thing the nearest Chapters stores are in Nanaimo and Victoria). I have to say, though, I've picked up some really cool books.

I've also been having one of my periodic magazine cravings, and have been continuing to work my way through back issues of Geist (only one left, and then I have to decide whether or not to subscribe again). I've also been reading Scientific American and Discover, as well as the usual anime and gaming magazines (I've not been picking up any PC gaming mags, though, since I don't intend to have a PC for very much longer, and there are no Mac gaming mags).


Jerome said...

Hi, have you tried to use Pricenoia to get your books? It compares a product at every international Amazon store..quite nice... For example:Taking Wingscheers

Niko said...

Hmmm . . . I haven't tried that, I'll have to check it out.