Books read, early September

Jens Andersen, Astrid Lindgren: The Woman Behind Pippi Longstocking. I found this, the first English-language biography of Lindgren, really interesting, and I can’t wait until someone writes a good one of her in English. Andersen is enthusiastic but disorganized. This book could have used at least one more editorial pass for coherence and clarity. I understand not wanting to do everything in a biography in strict chronological order, but the way Andersen hopped around…well. This still gives context to Pippi, and to those of Lindgren’s works that were formative to me (The Brothers Lionheart and Ronia the Robber’s Daughter), and it’s not so bad that it’s not worth having if you’re interested in the subject matter.

Sue Burke, Semiosis. A mosaic novel about settling an alien planet with really alien life on it, learning to communicate with other species with very different priorities and assumptions than oneself. Learning to communicate with other generations of one’s own species with same. There are places where I feel things are glossed over (there is in particular a rape that is not handled very fully), but I am a sucker for alien SF so here we are.

Deborah R. Coen, Climate in Motion: Science, Empire, and the Problem of Scale. This is substantially about the Habsburg Empire, how the idea of climate and its variability really got going there and how they handled it without some of the concepts that we now consider foundational. Definitely a different angle on early climate science, and a welcome one.

John M. Ford, Growing Up Weightless and The Final Reflection. Rereads. I am on my second Mike Ford panel of the year at Scintillation just under three weeks from now, so this is my not-at-all-burdensome research reading for that. I remain amazed at how I find more in each of Mike’s books every time I read them. The balance of perspectives in Growing Up Weightless in particular astonishes me. Both highly recommended.

Tryntje Helfferich, The Iron Princess: Amalia Elisabeth and the Thirty Years War. A study of the princess/landgravine of Hesse-Cassel, neglected in 20th/21st century histories of the Thirty Years War, through a combination of sexism and people having grave difficulties tracking the German principalities of this period. (I am also a people.) She was stubborn and focused and manipulative in the best way for her job, and this was a really interesting read…but if you don’t already know a few things about the Thirty Years War, I think you’ll be a bit lost, so maybe start somewhere else.

Liu Cixin, Ball Lightning. Discussed elsewhere.

Premee Mohamed, The Apple-Tree Throne. Kindle. A postwar ghost story with strong friendships in its core. WWI inspiration is my wheelhouse (think Witchmark, but not the same kind of speculative element), and this made me very happy with its emotional grasp of that period.

Timothy Morton, Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology After the End of the World. There are a lot of places where I think Morton is wrong or oversimplifying about specific details, often in a Western Europe-centric direction. However, this is still doing some fascinating things with concepts larger than we can wrap our heads around, that we have to deal with anyway, and it’s worth the quibbles.

Christopher Rowe, Telling the Map. This is a weird and beautiful connection, giving exactly the sense of dislocation people tout for speculative fiction but rarely deliver. The last two stories in particular were amazing, but frankly I recommend the whole thing.

Vivian Shaw, Dreadful Company. What a kind book. You can see in the details of how the characters treat the monstrous and the mistaken how much kindness is the core of this entire series. That’s rare enough in any sub-genre, but in an urban fantasy laden with the creatures of horror lore, it’s astonishing.

Dana Simpson, Razzle Dazzle Unicorn and Unicorn Crossing. I fell behind on the Phoebe & Her Unicorn series and am now catching up. When I read the first one, I saw the comparisons to Calvin & Hobbes and could see all the places P&HU is not doing the same things. Now I mostly see how much it makes me giggle, how delightful it is to read about this quirky little girl, her parents, her friends, especially her best friend Marigold Heavenly Nostrils, the unicorn. I’m definitely going to get the next two collections from the library right away.

Tracy K. Smith, Life on Mars. This poetry collection was intense in directions right next to my wheelhouse, but still very much worth my time to think long thinky thoughts about. Especially “Solstice.” I’m going to return to “Solstice” several times, I think.

Mariko Tamaki, Lumberjanes: The Moon Is Up. This is the second Lumberjanes MG novel, and it is just as exuberantly friendly and zany as the comic. This one feels a bit more…rote?…than the series at its best, but I still got some good laughs out of it and find it wholesome and fun.

Carrie Vaughn, The Wild Dead. This is the sequel to Bannerless, and I really love what it’s doing with worldbuilding and characterization and post-apocalyptic fiction that has actually taken the post- part to heart and understands humanity’s ability to make do, to move on, to figure things out. This series is so very much my jam.

Shannon Watters, Kat Leyh, Carolyn Nowak, et al, Lumberjanes: On a Roll. This is the roller derby/cryptid issue of Lumberjanes. If that doesn’t make you want to read it, you probably don’t want to read it. But strong kid friendships + cryptids, come on.

Drew Weing, The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo: The Monster Mall. Discussed elsewhere.

Jane Yolen, The Devil’s Arithmetic. Reread. I hadn’t picked this back up since it came out, but I’m on a panel about teens and time travel and another panel about good and evil, and…really, this was an essential reread. Jane is doing so much about the Holocaust and family and memory in so few pages. It’s beautiful and heart-shattering. Also…I have a strong fondness for books where great-aunts are important. That’s a part of my life I don’t see enough, and this could easily have gotten ground down into “why can’t it be her grandma” etc. And it wasn’t, it was particular and loving about this relationship.

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