- The Book of the Unknown, Jonathon Keats
- Agents of Treachery, ed. Otto Penzler
- Bag of Bones, Stephen King
- Conjure Wife, Fritz Leiber
- Our Lady of Darkness, Fritz Leiber
- The Judas Child, Carol O’Connell
- The Neighbor, Lisa Gardner
- Split Infinity, Piers Anthony
- Blue Adept, Piers Anthony
- Juxtaposition, Piers Anthony
- Out of Phaze, Piers Anthony
- Robot Adept, Piers Anthony
- Unicorn Point, Piers Anthony
- Phaze Doubt, Piers Anthony
- The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
- Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins
- Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins
- Titan, John Varley
- Wizard, John Varley
- Demon, John Varley
- The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Muriel Barbery
- Dark Matter, Phillip Kerr
Oh, my old stand-bys, John Varley and Piers Anthony and Stephen King. Can you tell I was writing a dissertation chapter while reading these?
The most notable book here is one I’d never heard of, until someone gave me a copy. (I sadly can’t recall who, so if it was you, tell me so I can thank you appropriately!) The Book of the Unknown is freaking fabulous short stories about twelve of the Lamed-Vav Tzadikim, the thirty-six legendary Jewish figures whose virtue keeps God from destroying the world. It’s one of my favorite Jewish myths, and Keats’ take on it is particularly awesome. Each story features a holy figure who is terribly flawed. One is a liar, one a cheat, one a rebel, one a murderer, one a whore; every single story takes those supposedly negative traits and shows how they are holy. Every single story has the feel of a parable, and yet the main characters come alive in the few pages each one gets. I also loved that this book makes a big deal out of a specifically Jewish myth, and unpacks the “flaws” and “virtues” of the people in the stories in a particularly Jewish way. Highly recommended.
I suppose I’m obligated to write something about Suzanne Collins, since everyone seems to feel very strongly about this particular series. I loved the first book, but found each successive book weaker and weaker – despite each one attempting something grander and grander. And if you’re wondering about the truly important question: I’m a Gale girl, and I really didn’t like where Collins took the character. The guy who stands by your side from day to day, the one you trust to take care of your family, the one who helps you stand on your own two feet? That’s way better than the guy who moons over you from a distance until tragedy forces you together.
Dark Matter is a type of book I usually rather enjoy (the secret history) written by an author I usually rather enjoy, but for some reason I didn’t like it much. My theory is that it assumes just a bit more knowledge of the period than I actually had, which left me missing the point of some fairly crucial plot strands. Isaac Newton, intrepid detective, is pretty awesome, and I was fascinated by all the stories of his time at the Royal Mint. Unfortunately, some of the larger political threads involved in the investigation never came alive for me. The book would have been stronger, I think, if it had stuck to counterfeiting and smuggling, and to the well-realized political tension over the existence of the Mint itself.
Finally, The Elegance of the Hedgehog is another of those books that sat on my shelf for a long time. Precocious twelve-year-old girl meets secretly-intellectual concierge … what’s next, They Fight Crime? But this book was a miniature delight. It’s not very long, and it’s not very broad in scope; almost all of the action takes place in a single apartment building, and even then mostly in the minds and hearts of the two main characters. It is, however, a love letter to the joys of secret reading, of private thinking, of carefully constructed lives – and to the joy of self-revelation, when you finally find someone with whom to share your innermost being. Lovely.