Books read, late November

Neal Ascherson, Black Sea. This is a general history of a region that needs wayyyyy more than a general history. However, a general history is a start, and having some thoughts about, for example, fishing in the Black Sea in different eras, seems like a good thing. A brief intro to who the Greeks regarded as barbarous in the region and what line they drew is pretty instructive about what was considered barbarous elsewhere in the world in Hellenophile cultures. And so on: not a good last book to read on this, a pretty okay first book.

Daniel Braum, ed., Spirits Unwrapped. I make a policy of not reviewing things I’m in, and I’m in this.

John Crowley, Reading Backwards. Discussed elsewhere.

Kameron Hurley, Meet Me in the Future: Stories. This is my favorite thing of Kameron’s in a long time–lots of different tastes of her range of style and topic. Some of it is heart-breaking, some of it is alarming, all of it is Kameron, what a great place to start with her work–or keep going, if you already started.

Dan Jones, The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England. I don’t think Dan Jones writes his own subtitles, because this book was a lot more like The Plantagenets: Oh My GOD What a Terrible Idea the Monarchy Is. I mean, I came in with that baggage, but I really don’t think Jones is in any kind of disagreement with me. It’s kind of heartbreaking watching the English people stagger through “we’ve got a really good form of government now…no wait, it’s not working, try turning it off and turning it back on again…why is it…I’m pretty sure it’s ordained by God this time….” Full of good juicy stories especially when you’re clear that it’s about the Plantagenets, not the Plantagenet era. I mean, I’d prefer Mercians and Saxons, but you take what you can get in these troubled times.

Naomi Kritzer, Catfishing on Catnet. Discussed elsewhere.

Rose Macaulay, The Towers of Trebizond. This is one of the saddest books I’ve ever read. It’s funny enough in spots that I laughed out loud (and usually I am an “I’m laughing on the inside” northerner), but the entire emotional and especially intellectual core of the book is profoundly sad despite all that. As much as I’m a gigantic fan of Macaulay’s work, and oh, I am, I wouldn’t put this very high on my recommendation list not mainly for that reason but also for the reason that I expect a lot of modern readers are less enthusiastic about dealing with mid-century Church of England missionaries and their inevitable prejudices in their pleasure reading, even if a great many of those prejudices are thoroughly satirized. There are beautiful things here, I just wanted to kidnap Macaulay and bring her to stay with people who do talk a great deal about good and evil but not primarily in an early 20th century Church of England framework. You could almost have gotten to that world, Rose my darling. It was over the next ridge. Oh Rose. Now I’m going to take a break from writing my book post and have a cup of tisane and try to get over not being able to have Rose Macaulay and George Eliot to my mother’s for Thanksgiving again. It’s an ongoing process.

Laurie Marks, Earth Logic. I came late to this series but am really enjoying what it’s doing with different cultures trying to coexist with varying degrees of success, and how that’s overlaid with different individuals with their personal kinds of thought trying to coexist. Being an air person doesn’t mean you will get along well or agree with another air person, no matter how much earth logic makes you want to throw up your hands; how human and how humane this series is, and how full of ramifications, and everyone knows how I love ramifications. I can’t wait to get to the later volumes.

Garth Nix, Goldenhand. This brings together previous threads in the series. Nix is good at monsters and creatures. I enjoyed it, but I don’t know that it’s a good starting place; I don’t think it’s meant to be. If you haven’t done the whole Sabriel series, probably don’t start here, but if you have, it’s worth the time.

Mary Oliver, Blue Iris: Poems and Essays. This is one of her more plant-specific collections, and where it’s not plants it’s nature. Short and pithy and worth reading.

Pauline Stafford, Queen Emma and Queen Edith: Queenship and Women’s Power in Eleventh-Century England. This was a really lovely book about two queens of the early English period and the world and expectations around them. There was in-depth stuff about who worked for them and in what capacity, what they were called upon to witness and why…nerding out about medieval queenship, hurray.

Lynne Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas and for the last issue Michi Trota in the nonfiction spot, eds., Uncanny Magazine Issue 31. What a solid issue, oh, how good. It helps, of course, to have Elizabeth Bear’s novella “A Time to Reap” taking quite such a large percentage of word count instead of something worse–but there was also “Nutrition Facts” by D.A. Xiaolin Spires and Jenn Reese’s “A Mindreader’s Guide to Surviving Your First Year at the All-Girls Superhero Academy” on the fiction side, and then Jeannette Ng’s “As You Know, Bob…” for nonfiction, just for the things that leapt out at me, so really, quite a lovely issue.

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