If you had to pick only 5 books to read ever again, what would they be and why?
Ouch! Let’s see…
- The Lord of the Rings, because if you have to ask, you don’t know me very well.
- The Magician’s Book, because Laura Miller is a genius and I love it so much.
- Middlesex, because Cal is a human being to me, not a character.
- A Game of Thrones, because the devil is in the details.
- Maps and Legends, because Michael Chabon is a genius and I love his nonfiction essays, especially “Fan Fictions: On Sherlock Holmes”.
Well, that was actually easier than I thought it would be! Fantasy and literary criticism, that’s me.
Women’s writing—throughout history, it’s been suppressed, dismissed, and ignored, but God knows we keep at it. Today’s selections deal with women’s writing as a whole, as well as women’s writing in the supposedly accepting world of speculative fiction.
Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers by Henry Jenkins
(This is one of my “lost reviews”—reviews I wrote and finished but, somehow, never posted to the blog! I read this last May. Enjoy!)
Let me just say this upfront—this book made me want to be a better fan, to the extent that I finally joined TheOneRing.Net’s forums and decided to actually make a conscious effort to get through Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (I like it just fine, but it’s just… it’s just not clicking like Doctor Who does, you know?) I stumbled across Henry Jenkins through his discussions on the implications of fanvids and was blown away by the fact that Media Studies actually studies fandom and takes it seriously in an academic context. You can imagine the sense of immense validation I felt. Alas, because his work is academic, his books are harder to find through public libraries—but PINES did kick up Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers, which I gleefully put on hold.
Mapping the World of Harry Potter edited by Mercedes Lackey
The Harry Potter fandom was actually my first brush with literary criticism—no wonder, since the fandom spent so much time between books feverishly picking them apart to find out what could happen next. While I don’t want to go and find it again (there are some things best left to history and nostalgia), I specifically remember an essay about Peter Pettigrew that opened my eyes to how much meaning you could take away from a text. With that in mind, I decided to pick up Mapping the World of Harry Potter (known in later printings as Mapping the World of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, for copyright reasons, I assume) as my first foray into the pop cultural offerings of Ben Bella Books.
Do you carry books with you when you’re out and about in the world?
And, do you ever try to hide the covers?
When I was a wee lass, my mother asked me to refrain from bringing my copy of Dave Barry Is Not Taking This Sitting Down, which features the author seated on a toilet (with his pants down but his boxers up), into any public place. That was the last and only time I didn’t carry the book I was reading at the time with me into the world.
I am never without a book. Paperbacks, naturally, are easier to stash in my bag, but, as a student with a backpack, one more hardcover will only make my back stronger, right? I read during any spare moment I can get, so I need to have my current print read on me at all times. I don’t try to hide covers; I’m never ashamed of what I’m reading. (Plus, the nature of how I read, with notecards and Post-Its and pens, tends to make me look a lot more studious than I would otherwise.) In fact, I love cheesy covers—as evidenced by my love for cheesy speculative fiction paperbacks from the eighties and nineties—so the sillier the better, really.
Maps and Legends by Michael Chabon
Is it any secret that I adore Michael Chabon? As I was telling a friend of mine recently, I’m terrified that I’ll one day attend a reading and, meaning to tell him that I want to live in his imagination, end up saying something like “I WANT TO WEAR YOUR BRAIN AS A HAT”. After reading the brilliant Manhood for Amateurs, I put down Chabon’s earlier collection, Maps and Legends down on my list. I had to have more of my favorite stylist defending and celebrating “genre” fiction. …y’all know how I feel about that word. Maps and Legends was less of what I had in mind, but still astonishingly wonderful.
Hic Sunt Dracones
edited by Clare McBride
…what do you do for the Con that has everything for its twenty-fifth outing? Try to give it back the immense blessings it has given you. The essays in this short anthology celebrate the community, passion, and truly unique fun that Dragon*Con gives to its guests every year, from the perspective of staff, seasoned veterans, and complete newbies. We all hope that reading this anthology will give you a taste of just what it’s like during those fantastic four days at Dragon*Con, and maybe even entice you to join us for the big two-five in September.
I got the idea for this anthology after Dragon*Con last year sitting in my Econ class. (I am truly getting the most out of my education.) I then sighed about how I would never be able to do it, until I remembered—we’re fans. We can basically do anything we set our minds to. Going from that idea to this final product has been a remarkably fulfilling and wonderful experience, and I couldn’t have done it without my fabulous contributors and their equally fabulous stories—Lindsay Gordon, Othella Morris, Nadine Palmer, Kevin Stallard, and Michael J. Winegar.
Happy twentieth-fifth, Dragon*Con. We hope you like it.
I am not affiliated with Dragon*Con save as an attendee.
Zombie Spaceship Wasteland by Patton Oswalt
Patton Oswalt is one of my favorite comedians. I only have one of his albums—Werewolves and Lollipops—but it’s not just his bitingly funny comedy I enjoy. Not only is Oswalt a fine actor and a dedicated writer, but he’s also one of us, us being both readers and geeks; he recently called for the downfall of nerd culture in order to build it up again, a sort of screed against instant accessibility. I don’t agree with the article, but Oswalt’s earnest desire to have his daughter experience, briefly, the secret handshake of underground geek culture is still endearing and well-written. So when I learned that Oswalt had written a book, I immediately swung down to the library to snatch it up.
Every year, my college hosts a small Writers’ Festival in the spring. Over our storied history, we’ve pulled some amazing authors—I would have loved to have seen Margaret Atwood, Joyce Carol Oates, and Junot Diaz when they came. The panels the Writers’ Festival puts on are uniformly lovely, especially the Q & A from last year, despite it being sidetracked by a girl asking (with increasing desperation) for advice about her vampire novel. This year, for our 40th Writers’ Festival, one of our own has come back to roost—Jennifer Nettles from Sugarland, who’s an alumna. (Did I ever tell you about the time I was in the Sugarland video for “Settlin’” in high school? You can barely see me and they threw twelve pizzas at two hundred kids afterwards. I did not eat that day.) Because of her star power, tickets were required to get into any event featuring her; being lazy and not the greatest fan of poetry, I decided to attend the reading of our visiting novelist, Danzy Senna.
I spent my spring break relaxing, wondering just how purple bug bites can get, and reading Sociological Images. To be totally honest, I’m seeing everything differently now; I’m more aware of which words are used and why (have I ever mentioned I hate it when straight girls call their friends “girlfriends”? It trivializes female/female romantic relationships) and why something is being aimed at me by a culture that can’t read me very well. Heavy stuff that’s definitely deserving of your time. Naturally, I walked out of that archive panic with a few book recommendations under my belt.