September 2014 Reading

Books Bought 

Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey
Viriconium by M. John Harrison
The Balkans: Nationalism, War, and the Great Powers 1804-2011 by Misha Glenny

Books Read

Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey
The Balkans: Nationalism, War, and the Great Powers 1804-2011 by Misha Glenny (partial)

Wow, I thought I hadn’t read much in August! September is, by that metric, 100% shameful. But I have deleted 2048 from my phone, so perhaps October won’t be a total wasteland on the reading front. As this post is going up on the 12th, I will leave it up to the reader to judge the likelihood of that happening.

Viriconium was the first purchase of the month, an impulse grab out of the deep discount used bin at BookBook in the West Village. If you’re in New York and, while wandering below 14th street, feel an overwhelming urge to visit an indie bookstore, you could certainly do worse than checking out BookBook. It’s on Bleecker and has an idiosyncratic but surprisingly broad selection of titles, and I wandered in just after visiting Cowgirl for brunch and just before visiting Carmine Street Comics, where I purchased Hawkeye #19. (Am I counting comics? Should I count comics? If so, that’s the only one, and can be added to both categories above.) M. John Harrison’s Viriconium comes with an effusive blurb from Neil Gaiman on the front, and though I know *of* him I had never read him. And for $3, I mean, come on. Needless to say I have not read it yet.

Because I’ve been reading about the Balkans! I picked this up basically on impulse because I had a coupon at Barnes & Noble- and I can’t just not use a 20% off coupon, you know? I remember thinking, after finishing The Sleepwalkers in August, that I didn’t know a whole lot about the Balkans, and boy wouldn’t that be something to do as a way of expanding my horizons. Well, The Balkans: Nationalism, War, and the Great Powers 1804-2011 is, if nothing else, 706 pages of horizon-expanding. I’m only 264 pages in, so that’s a lot of powderkegging to go, and I’ve had to take a short break just to clear the mental palate. Misha Glenny has an admirable handle on places, people, and events, but the reader could do with a bit more handholding. Not everyone has made this region their life’s work. Christopher Clark (author of The Sleepwalkers) did this thing where every time he referred back to someone the reader hadn’t encountered in a while, he’d refer back to a specific trait – “the tubercular rebel” or something like that, so that I began to build up a sense of personality and personalities that helped me to keep track of the cast of thousands. Still, it’s interesting, especially looking at the various ways the Great Powers (England, Russia, France) really fucked over this region, and also to learn more about how truly ridiculous the Ottoman Empire was.

Still, I only got 264 pages into The Balkans and had to stop, mostly because I started to go to the gym again and carrying all the gym paraphernalia AND a two-pound book about an obscure history subject was a little much to schlep on a day to day basis. Fortuitously (ish) I read an article about Mason Currey’s Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, and if there is anything I am a sucker for, it is bite-sized looks at the lives of famous people, especially if those looks are at incredibly mundane things like how they got writing done and how much they drank while they were doing it. This book didn’t disappoint on that front, but it didn’t have much to say beyond that point, so it felt a bit like an extended lifehacker article. Still, it was interesting, particularly to track the various wives and partners who were tasked with feeding the geniuses while they kept to these schedules of writing and drinking. I bought it on the nook app on my phone, and I have to say that I really like the Nook app. I’m not sure what will happen with it now that B&N is spinning off it’s Nook division, but I hope it doesn’t go away.

You may notice, and declaim angrily, that the books I left half-finished in August remained half-finished in September! And it must be said, reader, that they remain unfinished in October. This happens to me sometimes – especially if it’s something I love, I don’t finish it right away. This is a stupid process, I freely admit, but since it’s my library and not yours, you’ll just have to deal with the uncertainty. 🙂

This month brings a lot of travel to various conferences & things – I’m attending Sirens: Women in Fantasy next week in Portland, which means a trip to Powell’s, which means a shame-making trip to the shipping desk and the “Books Bought” category swelling to really obscene numbers. Then it’s off to Atlanta for the Atlanta Writer’s Guild conference. That’s a lot of plane time, folks – so maybe the reading-for-fun will pick up.

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