I am a big Joe Haldeman fan. So much so that I get nervous around him when I see him at conventions. Today, his upcoming novel, Work Done for Hire arrived, courtesy of Ace Books. Now I have something else to read on my upcoming vacation. I can’t wait!
I discovered another benefit to audiobooks today while home sick in bed. On those rare occasions when I am feeling sick enough to stay in bed, I like to read. But usually, when I am that sick, I can’t seem to get my eyes and mind to cooperate and focus on the page (printed or digital) to make the reading enjoyable. Thus, I usually just end up dozing off, wishing I could read, but not actually reading.
With audiobooks, as I discovered today, I don’t have the same problem. I continued the book I was listening to (it happened to be Stephen King’s The Library Policeman) and ended up finishing it. It didn’t matter that I’d taken medication and probably couldn’t have finished the book if I had been reading it off the page. Listening to it was perfectly find and equally satisfying.
Before giving audiobooks a try back in February, I know that I frequently said I never thought they’d work for me. I can’t think of a single example where I had been so wrong in my life.
After finishing a pair of good books over the weekend, I was at a loss for what to read next. I was looking for a really good story. I think I finally found what I was looking for. Reading Old Mars gave me a desire to return to reading some short fiction (as opposed to novels). At the same time, I have been somewhat obsessed with Stephen King stories lately, in part because he is a very good storyteller. I decided, therefore, to go back and read those Stephen King short story collections that I have not yet read. These include:
- Four Past Midnight (1990)
- Nightmares & Dreamscapes (1993)
- Everything’s Eventual (2002)
- Just After Sunset (2008)
I started reading Four Past Midnight a few days ago, and I’m glad I did, because so far, it contains good stories. Actually, at least two of those stories would be considered short novels, “The Langoliers” and “The Library Policeman.” But I am more interested in being entertained by a good story than in how long that story happens to be. Indeed, if the story is good, the longer the better.
The first two collects are pretty long, and I imagine all four of these books will take me into December. So I know what I will be reading for the next several weeks, and that is a relief.
Incidentally, Four Past Midnight is my 49th book of 2013. I think my previous record, going all the way back to 1996 is 47 books, which means that already, in mid-November, 2013 is a record year for me in terms of reading books. This is almost entirely due to the fact that I have set aside my prejudices, and embraced audio books. Listening to audiobooks on my daily walks has allowed me to read a lot more books than I would otherwise have been able to read. And I am beginning to get the sense that “hearing” the words is helping me improve as a writer as well. But more on that another time.
It is entirely possible that I’ll hit 55 books before the end of the year, making this the first year that I have reached and surpassed the goal that I first set out for myself as a New Year’s resolution way back in 1996: “Read one book a week–or 52 books a year.” In the 18 years since, I have read 249 books, averaging about 14 a year. I think that will change dramatically beginning this year–and thanks to audiobooks.
Back when I was doing my Vacation in the Golden Age, I mentioned, quite frequently, how I came to enjoy Malcolm Jameson’s “Bullard” stories. These were essentially Navy-in-space stories written between 1939 and 1942. They were a lot of fun. I’ve talked about how I think Jameson is overlooked today, and I’ve even written an article about him for SF Signal.
At Capclave, on a panel on Space Wars, I talked about Bullard as well. Several people have asked me about his stories and if they are available in e-book format. Today I learned that the Bullard stories are available in e-book format on Amazon, in a collection titled Bullard: Tales of the Patrol. The book is selling for $2.99, and I think it is well worth the price to help keep these stories alive.
While at Worldcon, I was part of a group interview of authors, artists, editors, and publishers who worked on the Beyond the Sun anthology. My story, “Flipping the Switch” appears in that anthology. A bunch of us got together to talk to Patrick Hester about the book, our art and our stories. If you like that kind of thing, head over to SF Signal and listen to me, Alex Shvartsman, Jean Johnson, Maurice Broaddus, Cat Rambo, Mitchell Davidson Bentley, Bryan Thomas Schmidt (who edited the book), and Patrick Swenson (who published the book).
It was fun getting to hang out with other authors appearing in the anthology. My only regret is forgetting to bring a copy of the book to get all of them to sign.
Tomorrrow, Stephen King’s second new book of 2013 arrives. Doctor Sleep is a sequel to The Shining and I am really looking forward to it. I thought his book from earlier this year, Joyland, was excellent and I’ve been looking forward to Doctor Sleep since it was first announced.
The little feeling of butterflies I get in anticipation of a new book made me reflect on some of the simple pleasures of life, one of which, for me, is the anticipation of a new book. It’s really not that much different from the anticipation leading up to a well-deserved vacation. Indeed, for me, books are a form of vacation, a way of skipping out on the real world for a time and living another life, taking an adventure, traveling back (or forward) in time, and doing things I might not ever be able to do otherwise.
Of all of the things my parents bestowed upon me, a love for books and a love for reading is perhaps greatest of gifts. And when I see my own kids bring in a book and ask me to read to them, well, it just makes me smile, and think, “You’re hooked, too, aren’t you? You just don’t know it yet.”
There are some movies I look forward to seeing. There are upcoming vacations which I dream of from time-to-time, but for simple pleasures, nothing is quite so sweet as the anticipation of a new book.
Because I have nothing else to post about this morning, here is some of what I am currently reading, or will be reading in the very near future.
- Salinger by David Shields and Shane Salerno
- Transcendence by James Gunn
- The Best of Connie Willis by Connie Willis
- The Very Best of Barry N. Malzberg by Barry N. Malzberg (edited by Joe Wrzos)
- When the Blue Shift Comes by Robert Silverberg and Alvaro Zinos-Amaro
- Jimmy Stewart: The Truth Behind the Legend by Michael Munn
- Doctor Sleep by Stephen King
- Way Station by Clifford D. Simak (re-read)
- Colonel Roosevelt by Edmund Morris
- One Summer by Bill Bryson
I’m about a third of the way through the Salinger biography and it is very, very good. Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep comes out later this month and I’m looking forward to that as well.
Lists like these sometimes changes with my changing mood. But I think this is a pretty good reflection of what I am currently reading and what I plan to read in the near future.
Tell me what you are reading in the comments.
I have been reading a lot of Stephen King lately, and I’m ready for something else. Don’t take this as me getting tired of King. I’ve grown to love his style and the depth of his story telling expertise. But pushing through nearly all of the Dark Tower series has me ready for a change. I’ve been flip-flopping on what to read over the last week or so, and I’ve finally settled on something that I’m excited about:
W. P. Kinsella and his baseball stories.
For those who are unfamiliar with the author, Kinsella is perhaps most famous for his novel Shoeless Joe, which was the basis for the film Field of Dreams starring Kevin Costner. It is a book that I’ve read before, but it is also one of those books that is on my short list of all-time favorites. I’m looking forward to reading it again.
As it turns out, Kinsella has written lots of baseball stories and novels, many of which I’ve read, some of which I haven’t. Of the ones that I have ready, all of them are worth re-reading, and that is what I plan to do over the next couple of weeks. There are at least two Kinsella baseball novels that I haven’t read and I plan on getting through both of those as well. The only exceptions in the mix for the next few weeks are the books that I am currently reading for my book review column.
For those curious, here are the Kinsella books I plan on reading (or re-reading) over the next couple of weeks. The are listed in no particular order. Books with a * after them are books that I have not read before.
- Shoeless Joe (novel)
- The Iowa Baseball Confederacy (novel)
- If Wishes Were Horses* (novel)
- The Adventures of Slugger McBatt* (collection)
- Magic Time (novel)
- Box Socials (novel)
- The Dixon Cornbelt League* (collection)
- The Thrill of the Grass (collection)
- Butterfly Winter *(novel)
The books that I have read, I last read more than a dozen years ago, and I’m looking forward to rediscovering them. I remember Kinsella writing about baseball the way Ray Bradbury wrote about Green Town, with nostalgia, humor, and deep emotion. I’m really looking forward to getting started.
Then, too, I’ve been so busy with everything else this year that, although August is already waning, I still have not seen a baseball game this year, either on TV or at the stadium. I miss it. The great thing about Kinsella’s books is that they are about mythical baseball, and are not steeped with the lingering controversy in which baseball still finds itself mired. In any case, these books should be a nice close to my summer reading and a good lead in to the Fall Classic.
What are you reading this summer?
For my friends who prefer e-books over paper, the new anthology, Beyond the Sun, in which my story “Flipping the Switch” appears, is now available in e-book format over at Baen Books. If you were holding out for an e-book edition, the wait is over.
Last night, shortly before midnight, I finished reading book 7 of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, The Dark Tower. My mind was kind of blown away by the ending. I can see why Stephen King considered this his magnum opus, and while I enjoyed it, I don’t think it was his best work. I still think It is my favorite King novel, and there are probably half a dozen others he’s written that I like better than the Dark Tower books. But I did enjoy the books, and I was even surprised how much I grew to like the characters. My favorite book by far in the series was Wizard and Glass.
I’ll have a lot more to say about the series after I have allowed a little time to pass for the full implications of the last book to sink in. In the meantime, I just wanted to mention that I had done it! I have finally read the Dark Tower series.
*This does not include The Wind Through the Keyhole, which I have not yet read, but which, I understand is also somewhat independent of the main series.
Some of the books that are on my spring/summer reading list. They are listed in no particularl order:
- Dracula by Bram Stoker (currently reading)
- Joyland by Stephen King
- The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
- The Gunslinger1 by Stephen King
- The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
- Ghost Story by Peter Straub
- The Strange Case of Doctor Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
- I am Legend by Richard Matheson
- NOS4A2 by Joe Hill
- Double Feature by Owen King
- Theft of Swords2 by Michael J. Sullivan
- Inferno3 by Dan Brown
- The Best of Connie Willis: Award-Winning Stories by Connie Willis
- Shogun4 by James Clavell
- Transcendental by James Gunn
- Doctor Sleep5 by Stephen King
You may notice a theme with some of the books on the list: Stoker, Stevenson, Jackson, Matheson. These are on the list because I recently read Stephen King’s Danse Macabre, which I enjoyed and which really opened my eyes to the horror genre in much the same way that David Hartwell’s Age of Wonders opened my eyes to the science fiction genre in a broad sense back in 2007.
This is what is on my list as of today. It may change, and likely, other books will be added. I wish I had saved some of my pre-1996 summer reading lists, especially those pre-1985 lists. They would be interesting to look at today.
What is on your summer reading list?
- I am going to give the Dark Tower series another try. Hopefully the third time is a charm. If I can get through the first book, I will likely add others to my summer reading list. ↩
- Every time I see Michael, I feel guilty for not having read his books. ↩
- I read and enjoyed The Da Vinci Code before it was popular. I didn’t particularly like The Lost Symbol, but I am fascinated by Dante and so I am curious. ↩
- This would be a re-read, but I loved the book so much the first time around that I am curious to see how it holds up eight years later. ↩
- Technically, this would be a fall book, but I still consider late September to be close enough to summer to include it on the list. ↩
I am currently re-reading Stephen King’s The Shining1 in preparation for the sequel, Doctor Sleep, scheduled for release in the fall. Earlier this morning, I came to the scene where Jack Torrence goes out to trim the topiary and gets a little surprise, with those animals turning from cute little hedges into menacing creatures bent on his destruction.
When I first read The Shining, I’d never seen a single episode of Doctor Who. In the years since, I’ve seen three or four episodes, but the first episode I ever watched, the episode which the Internet told me to start with, was “Blink.” For those not familiar, there are evil statues in that episode. These statues can move, but only if the observer is not looking at them. Thus the term, “don’t blink.”
Well, this morning, as I re-read that topiary scene in The Shining, I had a sudden feeling of familiarity, more than the kind of feeling you get when you are re-reading something from a few years back. I’d seen something like this somewhere else. I thought about it for a moment and came up with that Doctor Who episode, “Blink.” In The Shining, it seems that those topiary animals only move when Jack isn’t looking at them. When he looks back, they’ve changed position, just like the statues in “Blink.”
And then I realized that I had it backwards. “Blink” is what should have seemed familiar to me because I’d read The Shining years before. And, of course, the book had been written decades before that. Stephen King had been there first.
This isn’t meant to take anything away from Doctor Who or “Blink.” I think it serves as a good example of how the same idea can be reused in novel ways by different writers. New writers often worry that there are no new ideas, but an old idea used in a unique way is just as good.
- I first read the book in September 2009. And no, I have not seen the movie. ↩