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a day for books!

June 18, 2010

(Note: I know book titles are supposed to be underlined instead of put in quotation marks, but I can’t get the underline feature of this blog to work, so I will be using quotation marks.)

Everyday is actually, for me, a day for books. I spend probably three hours a day reading.. and read long into the night. Last night I could not sleep – anxiety problems worse than usual, and so read and read.

Many years ago, I read a novel called “Good Omens.” It is one of my all-time favorite books, and was co-written by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. The book is a rather comical and yet quite poignant re-telling of the biblical apocalypse. I soon got into other books by Gaiman, and his novels “American Gods, and “Neverwhere” are also 2 of my favorites.

I’ve read most of his novels, and graphic novels as well. He wrote the “Sandman” series. Sometimes I found those graphic novels to be too extreme – gory, evil, etc. but do not regret reading them. It would have helped if I’d read them in order, I think. But, I got them from the library and just read them when I was able to find them on the shelves. There is a lesser known graphic novel by Gaiman, called “Murder Mysteries,” which, although not as good as some of the “Sandman” stories, is certainly worth the read.

I tried to get into Terry Pratchett’s books some years ago, and just wasn’t in the mood at the time. Pratchett has written many many Discworld novels. Tolkien created Middle Earth, C.S. Lewis created Narnia, Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman created Krynn (the magical realm of the Dragonlance novels from the ’80’s) and Pratchett created Discworld, or at least borrowed the concept.

I stared with the first Discworld book, called
“The Colour of Magic.” I don’t know why I couldn’t get into it years ago, but that’s just how I felt, so I didn’t finish it, and did not read any more of Pratchett’s books until a few months ago.

I am generally extremely picky about what I read, and have had much difficulty finding authors I can rely on to provide excellent fiction. I was casting about trying to figure out whose books to read next. I work twice a week at the main library in the area, and it is rather large. There is a huge fiction collection, and I would wander through the shelves reading the dust jackets or back covers of books that looked interesting to me.

Almost every time I tried out a new author – even one that somebody recommended, I was disappointed, or worse. I am SO glad and grateful to have an excellent library where I can get books for free. I buy so many books as it is.

Digging through the shelves in search of new favorites actually did pay off.. once. I found a book called
“Tropic of Night,” by Michael Gruber. It’s a bizarre, dark, dangerous, and rather original book that combines anthropology, mysticism, and detective fiction, and is sometimes narrated in the first person, and sometimes in the third person – third person omniscient, I should say. I barely made it through another of Gruber’s books, which wasn’t much good. I don’t even remember the title, and started another that was about Catholic mysticism, and also quite graphic and intense, but not nearly as good as “Tropic of Night,” so I didn’t bother to finish it. Life is far too short to read bad fiction!!

A few months ago, I finally had the inspiration to re-visit Discworld and the words of Terry Pratchett. It turns out Mr. Pratchett has several casts of characters, and multiple novels featuring each cast. I picked a book called “Men At Arms,” and loved it. That book, as well as “Guards! Guards!,”
“Night Watch,” “Feet of Clay,” and “Thud!” are about the City Watch guards, the Night Watch, in particular.

These books are ingenious! They are fantasy stories, and deal with all manner of creatures. All the Night Watch books are set in the main Discworld city of Ankh-Morpork, and are a combination of genres – not only fantasy, but gritty urban mystrery-thrillers, and police procedurals, all told with the witty style of British humour you might have already encountered in the works of Douglas Adams.

I love these Night Watch novels! I’ve already read “Men At Arms,” “Night Watch,” and just finished “Feet of Clay” a few days ago. I’ve already started on “Guards! Guards!” which I think is the first of the Night Watch series, but I’m not positive about that.

The Discworld novels will not say on the front or the back of the book which series the stories belong to. The Wikipedia article on the Discworld books helps some, and if you are familiar with characters from a Discworld book you’ve already read, you will know which character names to look for on the backs of other novels.

Besides reading the Night Watch stories, I recently purchased another copy of “The Colour of Magic.” I should have kept the copy I’d bought originally, because it was a first edition paperback – but oh well. Also frustrating is that the color of the cover of the newest printing of “The Colour of Magic” is a bright fire-engine red, which hurts my eyes. In the book, the actual color of magic is yellowy-purple, if I remember right. The publishers got the color wrong on the cover. Oh well. I still haven’t finished “The Colour of Magic,” but will eventually.

Today, and this evening I got LOTS of books! I go to Borders Books and Music very often – 3 times a month, on average. I do NOT like Barnes and Noble, the other major bookstore chain. The staff at Barnes, at least at the location here in town is rude and pushy, and they always try to sell me a “discount” card – which costs $25.00 per year, and will only allow me to save 10% on each purchase for that year.

The Borders Rewards card is free!! And.. every week, at least once a week I get several coupons in my email box. Typically, the coupons I use are for 30% to 40% off one item (excluding magazines, and a few other items). Also, a small percentage of what I spend at Borders is refunded in the form of Borders Bucks – store credit – nice!

The Borders staff is cool, and the store is much more pleasant than Barnes, except for the absolutely ghastly music they usually play in the store. Unnervingly bad stuff, and I am rather open-minded when it comes to music, liking many genres.

I was at Borders last night, and had a 40% coupon, and bought the 2 DVD set of the Akira Kurosawa masterpiece “Ran,” by far the most amazing and best samurai picture I have ever seen. I am not nearly as much into things Japanese these days, but could not pass up getting such a discount on “Ran,” which normally costs almost 40 dollars.

I went to the library this afternoon, and was planning on heading to Borders right away, but thought it best to return home to check if there was another coupon waiting for me, and there was! So, I did go home, but stopped at a grocery store to use a Coinstar machine to convert my change into a Borders gift card, which was pretty cool.

I came home, printed the coupon, accompanied my aunt to Costco (I don’t like shopping there, even when it isn’t too crowded. This is because Costco is so damn big!! The store is the size of several airplane hangars stitched together. Really good deals, though), returned home again, ate dinner, and then was off to Borders, tonight with more time to browse than last night.

I will tell you what I bought there, but first I shall write a bit about what I got from the Library..

“The Spiders of Allah,” by John Hider. What a title! It’s nonfiction, and is about religious extremism in the Middle East, not just extremist Islam, but Judaism and Christianity as well. I saw it in Borders awhile back, but didn’t buy it. Spotted it on Wed. in the library (I work in the library on Mon. and Wed. nights) and went back for the book (and one I had placed a hold for on behalf of my mother) this afternoon.

I also got several books on songbirds. I work with songbirds at the wildlife center these days (see my many entries on birds and so forth if you like to read about animals), but don’t get taught much at all, other than how to care for the birds, so I figure it’s about time I educate myself.

Besides these books, I also checked out the first novel by Christopher Moore, called “Practical Demon Keeping.” I had not heard of Moore until recently. He was on NPR (National Public Radio) a month or two ago, and was quite interesting and funny, so I made it a goal to read some (or at least try one) of his books. His stories are odd and silly. I hope they are also good. I will let you know.

I do not mind taking a break from “Guards! Guards!” to read other books. This is the 4th Night Watch book in a row I’ve been reading, and I need some more variety.

I follow my little obsessions, including learning about and tracking down books. It helps to be acquainted with other people who know about books. I know a librarian at the main branch that I go to, and I asked him for some recommendations. He suggested an author named China Mieville, who I had never heard of before. The librarian recommended I start with “Perdido Street Station.” I placed a hold request at the library, but it never showed up, so this is the book I bought today at Borders. I hope I will like it. The librarian told me Mieville is heavy on description – loving to go into massive detail about the surroundings the characters find themselves in. That sort of thing usually tends to bother me. Gaiman, Pratchett, and many other writers have a knack for conjuring up images of scenery with only a little bit of description. This I like, just as I like it when the appearance of characters is not described in great detail. Leave some room for the imagination, I say.

I will, however, dive into “Perdido Street Station” anyway. By the way, I just looked up the word “perdido,” it is Spanish for “lost.” Ever since I heard the title for that book, it has stuck in my head. I don’t know why I like the title so much, I just do. And I finally got the book.

Mieville, and another author who I have not yet read, named Jeff Vandermeer, are at the head of a literary movement called “The New Weird.” So who was involved with the “old weird?” The main guy, so I’ve heard, was Philip K. Dick – another of my favorite authors. I read ten of his novels, mostly during the late ’90’s. Also read many of his short stories. Crazy? Well, yes, considering Dick himself was. Brilliant? Definitely.

I don’t know if William Gibson was also considered part of the weird movement. Gibson either started or at least made popular the cyber-punk style of sci-fi stories – cyber-punk- gritty, violent stories of characters using technology, sometimes technology even being part of their bodies. I tried one of Gibson’s books, and didn’t like it. I got bored. To each his own.

Right then.. so, yes, I really have a pile of books now! A couple weeks ago, I got two instructional drawing books, and a book on art and spirituality called “The Artist’s Way.” I’ll work on these, eventually.

That’s enough info on books for tonight, I think. Feel free to explore these books at your leisure, but please keep in mind that everybody has their own individual tastes and interest, and that what I like you might not, but then again, you might.

I am going to wrap up this blog here and now, put on my pajamas, and

READ !!

(Thank you for reading this blog. Goodnight.)

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