Marissa Lingen (mrissa) wrote,
Marissa Lingen
mrissa

books read, late September

Joan Aiken, The Serial Garden. This is a collection of short stories for children and adults, all centered around a family to whom rather matter-of-fact magic happens. I found them utterly charming. At this point I'd rank them very highly amidst Aiken's other work. Very much recommended.

Renee Bergland, Maria Mitchell and the Sexing of Science: An Astronomer Among the American Romantics. For such an interesting book, this wasn't very well-written; or else for such a badly written book, it was very interesting. I think mostly I found the subject matter inherently interesting. Bergland seems to have written for a reader who was not paying attention. I was not that reader. So the favorite bits of trivia that got repeated several times over the course of the book were fairly noticeable as such. I know sometimes writers find shiny bits we want to display to the other birds, but I wish this had been more closely edited.

Boy Scouts of America, Order of the Arrow Handbook. Grandpa's. This is the book of Grandpa's I most wish I had read before he died, because now I have questions about his personal experience of it. It's a 1961 book, so it's something he got well after joining the Order of the Arrow as a boy, and it's fascinating to me to see how this book is pitched: it's explicitly about inculcating anti-totalitarian attitudes in boys who do not remember WWII, for men who do. Some of the assumptions about manliness and about a substantially white boys' organization to Native American/First Nations cultures are extremely dated, but this book, at least, was the good kind of dated; among other things, it encouraged boys to do research into tribal customs in their own region and not accept a homogenized national picture of North America before European arrival. (There were also phrases that have shifted meaning somewhat in the 48 years since this book's publication; I was startled to read that many chapters of the Order of the Arrow had "dance teams," as for me "dance team" meant essentially "pom-pom squad," so I had to go look and see what they meant instead, since I had a hunch that was not it. What they mean is narrative dance. Did my grandpa do narrative dance? He might have. I really don't know. I'd kind of like to know, and I'd kind of like to know what stories he was part of telling if he did.)

Steven Brust (skzbrust), Iorich. Discussed elsewhere.

Christopher Chant, The Zeppelin: the History of German Airships from 1900 to 1937. Grandpa's. A largely pictorial history, although it was very concerned with which models of engine went on which models of Zeppelin. Who doesn't like to look at pictures of Zeppelins? Also their name means Stork! That's pretty awesome.

W.E.B. Griffin, The Corps: Semper Fi. Grandpa's. I liked this better than the other Griffin book I've read so far, because the spies in it did actual spying, which I favor. It traced a perfectly good enlisted man becoming an officer, but some things can't be helped, I suppose. I will be interested to read the rest of this series. I suspect this Pearl Harbor incident is going to cause them some trouble. Stay tuned to see whether it does.

Robert A. Holland, The Mississippi River in Maps and Views: From Lake Itasca to the Gulf of Mexico. Like it says on the label. It started with some very early Spanish and French maps that were, as many maps of their era, heavier on concept than on geography. "Over here somewhere there's a river, and we kind of think it goes like this," sorts of things. "We are used to drawing the Mediterranean," some of them seem to say, "and surely the Caribbean cannot be much different really." I am so fond of my river.

Nancy Kress, Nano Comes to Clifford Falls and Other Stories. Kress wrote one of the books that has consistently remained in my "top five short story collections ever" list a decade now, Aliens of Earth. It's really unfair of me to read Nano Comes to Clifford Falls and think, "That's no Aliens of Earth," because really, nothing is. I found most of the stories entertaining, albeit with a whiff of You Damn Kids Get Off My Lawn about some of them. I still think Kress is one of the most worthwhile short story writers working in the field today. But if you're only going to read one of her collections, this shouldn't be it.

Lois Lowry, The Willoughbys. Sort of along the lines of Lemony Snicket: horrible things happen to a bunch of children, and they turn out all right mostly. This read to me like a book being written for adults under the guise of being written for children, with all sorts of nudging about more famous children's books. I hoped to be charmed, and was not.

Elizabeth Moon, Once a Hero. Follows on the Heris Serrano trilogy but with a new main character working through her past issues and her present attempts to avoid explosive decompression, slavery to evil empires, and other nasty fates. Not deep but fun. I suspect there is more than one young person out there who needs to hear the things about their family of origin this book will say.

Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu, Zahrah the Windseeker. Now here is where I was charmed, in that batch of YAs from the library. Sometimes what you need is a straight-up quest story, with fantastical beasts and plants in, and this was that, a lovely trek through a jungle of great dangers, in which the young heroine finds more inner resources than she thought she had. Is that new? Of course it's not new. It's been done so many times because it's worth doing so many times, and because it's worth doing well, and this time is done well.

Philip Reeve, Larklight. I don't think of myself as cranky about steampunk. But certainly I am less delighted by it than many people. This was another one that read to me like the grown-ups winking at each other over the kids' heads, and being a grown-up who catches the references didn't actually improve the experience for me. It had a few moments with Fabulous Aliens, but I was not won over.

Red Stangland, Ole and Lena #5. Grandpa's. Uff da, you can get to some really bad jokes if you put out five of these things. Even though they're not very long. But I remember Grandpa telling some of these.

Donald Tuzin, The Cassowary's Revenge: The Life and Death of Masculinity in a New Guinea Society. This is what happens when anthropologists get too attached to the culture they're studying. It was an entire book of "but--but--I liked it the way it was!" And sometimes there were even halfway decent reasons to like it the way it was. Sometimes. But.

Joseph Wambaugh, Hollywood Station. Grandpa's. This book was very taken with its own gritty, unflinching realism. I was not. Nor was I taken with its difficulties treating women and people of color as, y'know, people rather than a special category. The dialog had that "but I wrote down what they actually said!" problem (Wambaugh himself was a police officer in Southern California). Also, Ilya is by default a man's name. This is like naming your bosomy, sexy, American female prostitute character Mike because you heard Americans were often named Mike: you can do it, but someone should notice that there's something a little odd about it.
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