September Reading Round-up

Where did the time go? I feel like September just arrived, and now it’s leaving already. Probably because I had oral surgery on the first, and it’s taken me this long to get myself put back together again. I won’t bore you with the details – suffice it to say, I am fine. So that is good. On to the books!

Winter Tide, by Ruthanna Emrys

I was skeptical of this book. I’ve never been a huge Lovecraft fan, but I do tend to enjoy other people riffing on his ideas, particularly if they are doing it with an eye towards poking at his racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. People told me this book was a good example of that, so I figured I’d give it a read. Damn, did that recommendation sell this book short! Yes, Emrys manages to use the stories, characters, and themes of a profoundly xenophobic man to tell a story about a found community of misfits, but this is also just a breathtakingly gorgeous book. It is unrepentantly introspective, with lots of space given to the main character’s philosophical musings and memories, without once letting the forward momentum dissipate. This is a gloriously thoughtful, introverted book with big themes and rich characters, and I love it so much. For what it’s worth, I listened to this as an audiobook, and thought the narrator did a fantastic job with it.

The Unreal and the Real: Selected Short Stories of Ursula K. Le Guin

I did not read this whole book in September. According to Goodreads, I started it in February, but this is not a book to be read straight through. One should leave time to let Le Guin’s short works percolate, never rushing through them like so many potato chips (also, most of these stories are far too long to be potato chips). The volume is roughly divided into two sections: stories that take place on earth, and stories that take place in space. I’d say my favorites are evenly divided between the two. Le Guin’s spare, beautiful language is a gift no matter what kind of story she is telling. Several of the space stories are part of her Hainish cycle, and might be a bit confusing if you aren’t familiar with that world.

Anger is a Gift, by Mark Oshiro

I don’t even know what to say about this book. It is perfect and beautiful and it made me cry more than once and it broke me open in the best possible way. The thing is, this book isn’t really for me. This book is for the teenagers who don’t see their lives reflected in YA books about white, suburban kids. This is a book for those who can’t trust that the authorities have their best interests at heart, because they never have. That being said, I am glad that I get to read this book anyway. Moss and his friends are such real characters, with strong, varied relationships and wants. Since I’m an adult, they may have triggered a stronger protective instinct than they would in the intended YA audience, but there were times reading this when I would have sworn I would take a bullet for them.

Wild Earth, Wild Soul: a Manual for Ecstatic Culture, by Bill Pfeiffer

I was hoping to get some insights into how to live a life more in tune with the earth, but it turns out that most of this book is actually a guide for running Pfeiffer’s Wild Earth Intensives, and extensive information of various exercises one could employ. Nonetheless, I found much of the book at least inspiring. It covered a lot of territory that I’m already familiar with – spending quiet time outside, connecting to our authentic feelings, learning to exist in healthy community with other humans and how to listen to both human and nonhuman beings. It might not have been what I was looking for, but it wasn’t a bad book.

The Knife’s Daughter, by Andrew Coletti

This is a slender novella, an experimental story about gender, family, responsibility, and fairy tales, set in a world of Korean folklore. I met the author at a Kaffeklatsch we both attended at Readercon this year, and the premise was too intriguing for me not to pick up a copy. I’m glad I did. This isn’t the sort of book I would normally pick up, but I thoroughly enjoyed the quiet prose and the main character’s surprisingly straightforward journey. I liked that the conclusion did not offer any easy answers, while still ending on an optimist, confident note. It’s hard to pull that off, and in a second person point-of-view to boot!

I’m excited to move into October and the fall proper. We’ve had some solidly autumnal weather, but I’m ready for pumpkins and witches and the season of magic. I find the early moments, when the night has only just begun to overtake the day, to be downright energizing. I know that the cold will eventually wear me down, but right now, chill winds and rain just make me want to read and sip tea, or meditate and journal and think.

Happy fall, everyone!