Taking inspiration from a couple of blogs I like and follow (cupcakesandmachetes and wordaholicanonymous) I’ve decided to share a bit about what I’ve been reading and what’s in my ‘to read’ pile every once in a while on here. I was thinking of doing monthly, but I read some books I really enjoyed over the summer and thought I would do a catch up first. If there’s anything I’ve been reading you have any comments about or if you have any reading recommendations, do let me know!
Wilding — Isabella Tree 5/5
I absolutely loved this book. Wilding tells the story of the rewilding of Knepp, how rewilding works and it’s benefits. At the same time it is a lovely memoir of the journey and of life on the farm as it transformed, with beautiful details about the wildlife that was introduced or returned. Knepp is now somewhere I plan to visit one of these days and I have been keeping an eye on their progress, with white storks nesting and breeding successfully there for the first time in 600 years being one of this year’s highlights.
Conversations at the Edge of the Apocalypse — David Jay Brown 4/5
A very interesting book to have been reading at the beginning of this year! It was one I’d been meaning to get around to for a while. There is even a chapter in which the possibility of a pandemic is discussed, but it is almost humorous that asteroids and various other phenomena seem more focussed on. It’s a very enjoyable read overall, but it seemed more structured for dipping into than reading all at once. The main theme is an okay guiding thread, but the pace changes so much with so many different voices and attitudes I felt a little thrown around, and I didn’t come away from it with any particularly strong voices or ideas standing out.
Altered Carbon — Richard Morgan 5/5
I read this book years ago, but was curious to give it another go after I watched the Netflix adaption. This confirmed my suspicion that the book is definitely better. The show is good for fan fiction, but: it opened up plot holes that don’t need to be there, turned the intellectual adoration of a philosophical figure into a romance that doesn’t really make sense, and turned a villain who makes perfect sense into one who doesn’t. The book is solid, fun, violent sci-fi, and boy does Richard Morgan know how to write a great sex scene.
Hounded — Kevin Hearne 4/5
I am not one to easily go for long series, as I tend to get hooked, but I’d heard a lot of good things about the Iron Druid books for a while and decided it sounded like it would at least be fun. Hounded is a good, strong start to a solid urban fantasy series. The main character, Atticus, is interesting and likeable enough, and the world itself is the kind of setting I have found myself enjoying quite often – like this world but with a hidden magical otherworld underlying it, one that we everyday mortals do not usually see, full of gods, sprits and other supernatural entities. The story is well paced, full of humour and action, and I adored Oberon, Atticus’s Irish Wolfhound, who can speak with Atticus via magic and often acts as comedy relief sidekick. You can read this first one without being lured into the rest of the series, as it all wraps up quite nicely by the end. Well worth a read if you enjoy urban fantasy.
Broken Angels — Richard Morgan 5/5
As Hounded is the first of an at least nine book series, I decided to finish the Takeshi Kovacs books first, as there are only three. Of the three, Broken Angels turned out to be my favourite, mostly because we get to find out more about those mysterious Martians. I do appreciate properly alien aliens in a sci-fi, and found the Martians pretty satisfying on that front. As with Altered Carbon, Broken Angels is a good mix of violent action, dark humour, sex and mystery.
Woken Furies — Richard Morgan 4/5
Fun, if a little confusing at times in terms of character motivations. I enjoyed the exploration of Kovacs as fundamentally damaged, but still striving to do his best for those he cares about. I didn’t enjoy where things go with Falconer, though I think she is an excellent figure throughout the books and I could really get into Quellism. “Face the facts” is pretty much my philosophy of life anyway. The end of the book is fitting, and that is all I shall say about it.
Iron Druid Chronicles 2-9 + Short Stories — Kevin Hearne 4/5
And here’s where I got completely hooked on the Iron Druid books, as I suspected I would. If you don’t want to commit to reading the series you’ll find it hard to stop after Hexed. I’m not going to review each individually as I found them all to be equally good stories, well paced and engaging, taking us onward to a looming final conclusion. Other characters are added as the books move forward, and this is a good thing, as Atticus, interesting as he is, could start to get a bit wearing without some other points of view, especially as counterpoints to his way of seeing and doing things. There are plenty of spirits, witches, vampires, werewolves and other entities to keep an urban fantasy lover happy, with various pantheons of gods and their planes also big features. If you want to binge some good urban fantasy this series may be for you. The short stories are also fun.
At the Existentialist Cafe: Freedom, Being and Apricot Cocktails — Sarah Bakewell 5/5
This book has rekindled my love of early Sartre, Husserl, existentialism and phenomenology; it also sparked new loves of de Beauvoir and Merleau-Ponty, who I had never given direct consideration before. Given the current culture wars, I think society could do with a large dose of existentialism and phenomenology right about now; individual responsibility combined with a determination to see things as they are in the here and now would cure much of what ails us. Bakewell does an excellent job of situating thinkers and their ideas in their historical context in a way that brings both the thinkers and their ideas to life, giving greater depth and perspective to the concepts under discussion. She is even handed and there does not appear to be any drastic misinterpretation or reinterpretation. If you’ve ever been curious about existentialism and its roots this is an excellent overview, though you may, like me, find you need to wade through the first few chapters involving Heidegger to get to the more central themes. Heidegger is important for context, but, in my opinion, little more, and it would have been a shame if I had put the book down and not come back, as I nearly did, as the focus seemed to be so much on him at the start.
One I will be reading again, as I found a lot to be inspired by, as an artist and a writer, as well as a human being.
The End of Gender — Debra Soh
Irreversible Damage — Abigail Shrier
I was impressed enough by Joe Rogan’s interviews with both Soh and Shrier to want to read their books. Gulag survivor Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn warned us we should not live by lies. History is littered with stories of the victims of ideology. I am interested in the facts of this debate, not in people’s feelings, delusions, dogma or word games, and these books seem to have plenty of facts.
Planning to Read:
The Madness of Crowds — Douglas Murray
Heaven’s River (Bobiverse #4) — Dennis E. Taylor
Plan for the Worst (The Chronicles of St Mary’s #11) — Jodi Taylor