I read a lot. I probably spend almost as much time reading as I do writing.
I rank things by stars on Goodreads, but in reality, I think of books in only a few ways.
First, there are books that sucked me in and made me feel or think, and with which I had no major issues. There are books that sucked me in, but had at least one thing that bothered me. I still enjoyed them.
There are books that I enjoy, but they don’t necessarily blow me away. They aren’t bad, but they aren’t great either. This is probably the majority of books, I would imagine. They’re either great ideas not handled as well as they could have been, or generic ideas done well enough or differently enough to be interesting.
There are books that aren’t great, but offered at least one redeeming value – they made me laugh or had a very compelling moment or idea that made me think.
Then there’s the bad stuff. Poorly or blandly written, uninspired or insipid garbage, perhaps entirely offensive or containing such a glaring error that it invalidates anything else going on (i.e., a plot hole so blatant it renders the entire story unnecessary, or an idea so contradictory to logic and understanding that it offends me to my core, like a book of “wisdom” from Mike Pence.)
Here’s what I read and where I placed it while writing The Mungk.
The Great Stuff:
The Tao Of The Dude, Oliver Benjamin
The Good Stuff:
The Fire Starter Sessions, Danielle Laporte
Dancing Barefoot, Wil Wheaton
The Art Of Non-Conformity, Chris Guillebeau
Gregor The Overlander, Suzanne Collins
Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey
The Decent Stuff:
Dead Until Dark, Charlaine Harris
Blackbirds, Chuck Wendig
The Sword Of Shannara, Terry Brooks
The Poor Stuff:
Aesop’s Fables, Aesop(?)
I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell, Tucker Max
Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
Pride And Prejudice And Zombies, Seth Grahame-Smith
High Hunt, David Eddings
The Awful Shit:
Luckily, nothing this time around.
Obviously, I still had some self-help stuff left on the list from the last time I made one of these lists, but this time around, I put a heavier focus on fiction. I took on some genre fiction and other “standard fare”, including a novel aimed at kids, plus a couple of “autobiographical” stories, in quotes, because I suspect Tucker Max’s is at best, highly exaggerated. At worst, entirely fabricated. Still, despite the boorish misogyny, he made me laugh a few times and I’m not so precious that I can’t laugh at a dirty joke. Plus, it’s an interesting insight into the mind of a narcissistic misogynist and his rationalizations, even if maybe that’s not how it was intended.
Because I know it’s considered a classic, I should probably put a note here on Lewis Carroll. Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland certainly has some moments, but overall, it’s nonsensical shit, dressed up to be clever. Art that’s clever to be clever, while ignoring real emotion and the substance behind it, simply to make its author sound smarter to similarly pretentious others, drives me nuts. It’s pointless drivel as far as I’m concerned, and no matter what little moments or pithy statements carry through, I’m usually better off without it.
(See: Moulin Rouge)
The Tao Of The Dude surprised the shit out of me. For a book of philosophy based on The Big Lebowski, it had surprising depth and intelligence. Definitely a worthwhile exploration of presence and focus and the benefits of just being, without striving. I was suitably impressed. The insane number of quotes provided me a list of authors about a mile long I might not otherwise have read. As a resource, it’s exemplary.
I enjoyed Dragonflight quite a bit. I’d read Anne McCaffrey when I was a kid, but I’m thinking now I wasn’t old enough to give her the due she deserved. I definitely got a Game Of Thrones vibe with the internal politics, and Lessa certainly appears the precursor (if not direct inspiration) to Daenerys. A bit slow to read, hence the less perfect score, but otherwise good.
The same was true with The Sword of Shannara, only its exposition would have seen it in the Poor category had the final battles not been so well written. Dead Until Dark was entertaining, as was Blackbirds. Gregor The Overlander surprised me. Well done little book for a children’s novel.
I had high hopes for Pride And Prejudice and Zombies, but not even the addition of the undead could unbore me with Jane Austen’s classic.
Don’t get me wrong – I love a good classic. I’m clearly not in Jane Austen’s target audience, however, so the appeal there is highly limited.
Aesop’s Fables gave me an idea to lampoon the shit out of them, but then I thought, is it worth it? It’s mostly generic wisdom, a lot of “stay in your lane and keep the status quo”, with a health dose of racism and misogyny.
Plus, the moral with the tortoise and the hare wasn’t that slow and steady won the race; it’s that focus beats lack of focus, always. If the rabbit didn’t inexplicably nap partway through, he’d have won every time.