Reading 2012, vol 1


Kept getting behind on keeping this updated and now we are halfway through the year. (Of course you care what I am reading. Yes. Of course.)

Has been lots of fantasy, as it was easy to read to fill time on set, and I guess doubling as research while preparing to rewrite Mosaic. And lots of business related stuff. And all sorts of weirdness as research for various things. Also bought a bunch of books online that it will be nice to get to someday.


Black Gods – CL Moore

Early fantasy short stories featuring the same female lead character which form a loose sequence. Very romantic and dark, striking journeys into strange otherworlds. (If Rhiannon is out there, you need to read this, as Jirel of Joiry will doubtless come to hold a special place in your heart.)

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms – NK Jemisin

Recent fantasy. Quite different from anything else I have read. Really “chick-fantasy”, in terms of its wish fulfillment angle, as opposed to the more usual masculine wish-fulfilment patterns. Probably (intentionally) quite Freudian. Really easy to read and page turny, but fairly empty by the end.

Soul Mountain – Gao Xingian

Chinese Nobel prize winner. Two narrative streams, one first person, one second person. Actually didn’t finish this, as it required more focus than reading on set allowed. Pretty odd.

The Education of Millionaires – Michael Ellsberg

Dude went off and interviewed a clutch of millionaires and billionaires who never went to university, and found out what they did, draws lessons from it. Interesting and useful.

The Secret History of Moscow – Ekaterina Sedia

Quite peculiar urbanish fantasy set in contemporary Russia. Obvious comparisons to Gaiman’s Neverwhere while being entirely its own thing. Stark and strange and fantastical, delving into a different mythology and history, with an ending that was suprising and moving.

SPIN selling – Neil Rackham

The largest study ever of sales. At the time anyway. Supposedly classic best book on selling ever. Pretty fascinating revealing of the psychology of sales and the underlying decision making process.

Tranceformations – Bandler and Grinder

Somehow I had never read this despite having it for years. Very much the NLP/hypnosis crossover book. Lots of NLP is in fact hypnosis by another name, as they owe much to Milton Erickson, but the way they go about it is a different kettle of fish.

Prime Chaos – Phil Hine

Classic of chaos magic. A rare reread.
Do the Work – Steven Pressfield

Short punchy self helpy thing I read on a recommendation, as a comparison with one of my nonfiction drafts. Alright.

Shade the Changing Man by Peter Milligan,

Reread a couple of trades of this classic series by Milligan, which is still really good, and pretty wild. When the lead character’s main power is madness, I’m not even going to try and describe what it is about, other than ripping American culture a new ass.

(Also randomly read a couple of his Hellblazer trades, wherein Constantine gets married. Fun times.)

Paladin of Souls – Lois McMaster Bujold

World Fantasy Award winner. Sumptuous, romantic, high fantasy. Lead character is a middle aged woman, which is pretty unusual. Uses the genre very intelligently to tell a good story, with a different sort of perspective and manner.

Onward to our Noble Deaths – Shigeri Mizuki

Autobiographical comic about the Japanese war experience in WWII. Sounds like being in the Japanese military sucked. Punchline is the dude’s unit going on a (fairly strategically unnecessary) suicide charge on some island in the Pacific. Many of them somehow survived. They were then forced to go on another suicide charge, as it had already been reported that their unit had completed a suicide charge, and they were officially dead. This happened to the cartoonist’s unit – he only lived to tell the story by being in hospital with malaria at the time, and therefore not being already reported dead.

The Light of the I – Georg Kuhlewind

Obscure Hungarian philosopher writing about meditation. Quiet genius.

The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss

One of the most loved fantasy epics of recent years, deservedly so. One of the best one of these in a hell of a long time. Very much at the masculine wish fulfillment end of things, as we follow the main character become the most badass motherfucker ever, but classy, humane, and smart. Lots of fun.

The Queen’s Conjurer – Benjamin Woolley

A freaking excellent biography of Dr John Dee, all around Renaissance man and advisor at times to Queen Elizabeth I, and Emperor Rudolf. Exceptional realisation of the times, their complexity and madness. Despite having largely been written out of history due to his involvement with magic, Dee was at the forefront of thought, contributing to many disciplines, and was incidentally one of the co-discovers of the Nova which demonstrated the previous model of reality was indeed broken.

50 Prosperity Classics.

Skimmed it. Basically condenses books into a few pages, which does seem a better idea than reading all the books in question.

How To See Fairies – Ramsey Dukes

The inimitable Ramsey Dukes’ latest is a manual on how to develop psychic powers. Still working through it 😉
The Exegesis of Philip K Dick

Absolute grade-A hardcore mindcrack. After the visionary experiences Dick had in 1974, which he wrote about in Valis and other books, Dick wrote around 10000 pages trying to work out what the hell was going on, Various experiences continued happening, too. This is about a thousand pages of it, edited together. Epic, amazing, wonderful. Have really only scratched the surface, but it is all generally fascinating and mindblowing, and occasionally really rather sad. Will be something to own and cherish and dive into at random, I suspect.

The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction,

Their 60th anniversary best-of. A pretty damn solid collection. Biggest find: Ted Chiang.

The Real Frank Zappa Book by Frank Zappa.

Entertaining but inessential, didn’t finish. Weird how everyone else in his life seems weirder than him, the King of Weird.

Reinventing the Sacred – Stuart Kaufman

Mostly a skim. Interesting enough. Is what it sounds like, bridging science and sacred.

The Truth About Stories – Thomas King

Native (canadian) indian storyteller delivers lectures about the nature of story, and specifically, the various constructions of Indian identity via story over time since contact with the white man. Exceptional use of form to demonstrate content; a treasure.

Prisons We Choose to Live Inside – Doris Lessing

Set of lectures which uses history and social psychology as a leaping off point to examine human nature. Pretty interesting.

Ecstasies: Deciphering the Witches Sabbath – Carlo Ginzburg

Wow. Now this is some deep academic pointy-head-ness. Exhaustively researched, makes a tangled argument (something like) that the persecution of witches in the middle ages evolved out of persecution of Jews and lepers, with the crimes attributed slowly shifting; but that during the witch trials, a whole bunch of interesting stuff comes to light; the uniformity of confessions was due to the torture and the manual followed, but within that, often what is revealed were genuine local traditions in many places; these, plus other stuff, over time gives rise to a sense of a thousand years or so continuity of folk magic practices and beliefs, which initially seem to track back to a celtic origin, but digging further, he sees as an evolution from an essence of Eurasian shamanic practices. Wongo. Hard going but worthy if the subject area grabs you.

Seven For a Secret – Elizabeth Bear

Short novel. Piece of shit. Grabbed from library at a whim to check out the author. Werewolves, vampires, alternate history… competent prose but totally uninteresting.

Making Good – Billy Parish, Dev Aujla

Inspirational business book about making companies that make a difference, and finding a non-evil green sustainable niche, ethically. Good shit. Very right on and right now.

The Three Halves of Ino Moxo – Cesar Calvo

Hoo-ah. Dizzying poetic book about ayahuasca; one of the most extraordinarily structured things I have ever encountered, multiple overlapping threads and timelines, as stories and meta-stories revolve, and come together, eventually to staggering effect. Uses a tale of a quest to visit a legendary shaman in the jungle for his teachings as the format for a tale told in the structure of an ayahuasca session over one evening. Or something. Deeply weird and disorienting for most of the ride, but ultimately magnificent in the most surprising way, illuminating a very different culture and mindset, not to mention the world of ayahuasca itself. (Nonfiction, if that wasn’t clear.)

Nobody Move – Denis Johnson

After winning the National Book Award for his epic last book (Tree of Smoke), Johnson kicks back with a taut deadpan crime noir. I have collected a few of his books, oddly this was the first I read. Funny and tight, but crime is just not my genre.

Te Wheke – Rangimarie Turuki Pere

Ancient Maori wisdom revealed. Nice.

Trail of the Hawk – Cornelius van Dorp

Folks from NZ take pounamu to various american indian tribes, possibly as fulfilment of ancient indian prophecy. Um. Unusual. Interesting that people are out there doing this kind of thing, though.

In Search of the Southern Serpent – Hamish Miller, Barry Brailsford

More outré than my usual taste. Specific research. The guy that mapped major energy lines across the UK and Europe came to NZ a bunch, hooked up with a guy that knows Maori legends and history, and went off to see what he could find here, dowsing NZ power spots. Again, interesting that these people are out there.

Currently on:

Voice of the Fire – Alan Moore

Finally getting around to this! Hard going but truly extraordinary visionary prose.

Coming soon, probably:

A World Without Time – Palle Yourgrau. Which looks incredible.



I also feel like I have read lots of bits of stuff as research – eg, Stolen Continent, Wayfinders, etc.,and maybe forgotten some stuff entirely…

2 Responses to “Reading 2012, vol 1”

  1.   Bruce
    July 2nd, 2012 | 5:05 pm

    yay Ted Chiang! I have his collection if you want to borrow it. Stories of Your Life and Others (Tor, 2002)

    billy Reply:

    Actually, that would be great. It is on my to order pile, and it is always good to shrink that 🙂