How to consciously read books written by women…

Before I started journaling my reading, in 2001, I just read whatever caught my eye at the bookstore without any sort of plan whatsoever. Over the decade since I started journaling, I’ve gradually become more purposeful in my reading, and if I look back over my journals (now on LibraryThing), I can see a steady improvement in the books I choose to read reflected in higher ratings and fewer abandoned books.

At the beginning of the year, I did an exercise where I identified my top 10 favorite books of all time. I noticed that 7 out of 10 books were written by women (and of the 3 on my list written by men, one of those men was gay), but in my general reading, I’m still reading 2 books by men for every 1 book by a woman, according to LibraryThing stats. I decided to get even more purposeful in my reading and read mostly women, choosing books that are similar to my top 7 favorite books/authors. I still have a lot of unplanned reads, but the deliberate planning has been helping me discover new-to-me authors and break out of my ruts. This month, for instance, I’m reading 4 sci-fi/fantasy books all by women I have never read before:

My goals to stretch even further would be to read more women of color and more authors from countries other than the US/Canada/Britain. I would also like to read more gay authors and more authors of color generally. As a former English major, I find that I have about had my fill of the white male voice, even though there are many white male authors whose books I enjoy. But I want to hear from some other voices and open up my world even more.

For further reading:

My Review of The Snow Queen by Joan D Vinge on SF Mistressworks

Shannon:

SF Mistressworks republished my review of The Snow Queen.

Originally posted on SF Mistressworks:

snowqueenThe Snow Queen, Joan D Vinge (1980)
Review by Shannon Turlington

The Snow Queen is an epic story set on a distant planet, about the fall of one queen and the rise of another. The novel is based on the fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson and tackles such weighty themes as immortality and the power of knowledge.

The strength of this novel lies in its world building. The planet of Tiamat is a fully realized world, an ocean-covered planet orbiting twin suns. Two tribes live there: the sea-going, island-dwelling Summers, characterized by a fear of technology and a superstitious worship of their sea goddess, the Lady; and the Winters, who live in the Northern regions and the shell-shaped city of Carbuncle, embrace technology and freely trade with the Offworlders.

Tiamat’s culture and history are shaped by the oddities of its planetary and solar system orbits. Every 150 years, it…

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Book List: Big Books for Summer

Cover of "Under the Dome: A Novel"

Cover of Under the Dome: A Novel

Settle into your summer reading with one of these epic novels.

Summer is the perfect time to wade into a really big book. You know the books I mean, the kind that can double as a door stopper for a recalcitrant screen door or a small table to hold your drink on the beach.

Most of the time, I’m afraid to commit to such books. But in the summer, I have much more reading time available. All I want to do during the long, lazy days is escape into another world, and just stay there a while.

If you don’t mind the extra weight in your suitcase, consider carrying along one of these big books on your summer vacation. There’s something for everyone on this list, ranging from post-apocalyptic horror to epic historical fiction to parallel worlds.

The Passage: A Novel (Book One of The Passage Trilogy) by Justin Cronin: Last summer’s blockbuster is newly out in paperback. If vampires are your thing, don’t miss it. But be warned, these vampires are real monsters. They glow in the dark, have mouths full of sword-like teeth, leap out of the darkness, and are possessed by an overwhelming desire to rip your head off. The book spans 800 pages and 100 years, but you won’t be able to put it down.

Under the Dome: A Novel by Stephen King: The master of horror is known for big books, and his latest novel is no exception. Spend your vacation trapped with the residents of Chester’s Mill, Maine, under a mysterious glass dome. In a very short time, all the rules of civilized society are thrown out the window. What ensues is murder, mayhem, and edge-of-your-seat suspense.

Anathem by Neal Stephenson: Dive into the enormously complex world of Arbre, complete with a 3,000-year history and even its own languages. Anathem has it all: big ideas in physics, mathematics, and philosophy melded with chases, fight scenes, explosions, mysterious space ships, conspiracies, and even a romance. Be prepared by the end to travel across cosmoses and following multiple conflicting story lines through quantum space. But it’s all great fun.

Lonesome Dove: A Novel by Larry McMurtry: Maybe you never got around to reading this Pulitzer Prize-winning classic. It has been re-released in a beautiful anniversary edition, so now is the perfect time to pick it up. Follow a huge cast of characters led by two legendary former Texas Rangers, Woodrow Call and Augustus (Gus) McCrae, who embark on one last folly: the first cattle drive from Texas to Montana.

Sea of Poppies: A Novel by Amitav Ghosh: Travel back to India at the height of British colonialism in this magnificently sprawling book. Each character in the large cast has a secret to hide; each one is in some way living as someone they are not. They are brought together by the intertwined strands of fate that direct their lives. Sea of Poppies is often funny, but it is also suspenseful, epic, and evocative of a long-ago time and place. The first installment in a trilogy, its cliffhanger ending will leave you wanting more.

Article first published as Big Books for Summer on Blogcritics.

So simple a child can understand…

Today my 6-year-old son asked me at the breakfast table: Who was the first human to be born? Then he said that he thought he knew and basically described a very simplified version of the theory of evolution to me. I can’t tell you how proud that made me as a parent.

Hitchcock’s Marnie…

I watched Marnie last night for the first time. I thought it was a good movie, although probably not destined to become one of my favorites. The acting was impeccable, Sean Connery was incredibly easy on the eyes, and I enjoyed the self-conscious artificiality of the world Hitchcock created, especially his use of color.

Marnie

Does this look like a nice guy to you?

I have read that this film “proves” Hitchcock’s misogyny, but I couldn’t see it. Men come off worse than women in Marnie. Marnie is damaged, but Connery’s character Mark is perverse in his obsession with her and his desire to “fix” her that doesn’t seem to arise out of any pure intentions, but rather out of a need to possess and control her. Rather than proving Hitchcock’s hatred of women, Marnie is another dark, twisted view of humankind that characterizes all of his movies and is the primary reason why I am drawn to them.

Whatever Hitchcock’s feelings about women were in real life, I don’t want to know about them. I am sure they were more complex than a simple hatred of women. What I care about is his work. If misogyny did come through clearly in his films, that would turn me off of them. Hitchcock does not shy away from female characters who are immoral, self-serving, or shallow; certainly there are women who are like this. I think he is interested in male obsession with women, though, as can be seen in Marnie, Vertigo and possibly Notorious (which I need to rewatch soon). In all of those movies, though, I don’t see the man as a hero, as a portrayal of what Hitchcock thinks all men should be, no more than I see the woman as an indictment of what all women are. I see them as stories about people, stories that challenge our own exalted views of ourselves. This is why Hitchcock’s films continue to be so compelling.

Review of new fiction: World of Trouble by Ben H. Winters

A review of World of Troublethe terrific final installment of The Last Policeman trilogy, has been added to my virtual library. The book will be released on July 14.

My Review of Lilith’s Brood by Octavia E Butler on SF Mistressworks

Shannon:

SF Mistressworks has kindly republished my review of Lilith’s Brood by Octavia Butler. Go check it out!

Originally posted on SF Mistressworks:

lillith Lilith’s Brood (Dawn, Adulthood Rites and Imago), Octavia E Butler (1989)
Review by Shannon Turlington

Octavia Butler’s Xenogenesis novels were first compiled into one volume in 1989, but that compilation is now out of print. As with Seed to Harvest, Grand Central Publishing has reissued the compilation in an attractive trade paperback to capture new readers. And I’m glad they did, because I probably wouldn’t have read these books otherwise.

When I finished Lilith’s Brood, I actually wasn’t sure whether I liked it or not, but I thought about it a great deal, which I think is a sign of a book worth reading. The underlying theme disturbed me, partly because I didn’t find much hope in it, partly because I found myself agreeing with the series’ assessment: that humankind is fated by our own biology to destroy ourselves.

Lilith’s Brood includes three novels: Dawn, Adulthood Rites

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