Alchemical Thoughts

Archive for July 2012

I originally wrote this out in my personal journal a couple of weeks ago. It was inspired by Amanda Nelson’s blog post over at Book Riot on the topic of “What Does it Mean to be Well Read.” As a reader, I usually don’t give a hoot about this kind of discussion, which I think often becomes a snob exercise for some readers to feel superior to others. But the post did make me think a bit and reflect on how I view reading. So, as I reflected, I did a little writing, and this is what I wrote. To go along with this, I will suggest to my four readers that they may want to read my other recent post on “There is a Big Reason Why I Read.” It goes a bit more on why I read, especially as a librarian.

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I’ve always considered myself relatively well-read given I strive to read a balance of fiction and nonfiction. And while I stick mostly to some genres, I will venture outside those once in a while. I’ve read a good number of U.S. and international classics. Plus, I can certainly talk intelligently about what I’ve read. So, by some definitions, I am well-read. I don’t brag about it (the most showing off I might do about what I read are my annual compilations of what I’ve read in a year, and I do that mostly for fun and to look back on a previous year). I sure as hell am not a snob about it. As I’ve stated before in other places, including this blog, I read what I want when I want. If it happens to be diverse, then that is a happy side effect.

I will disagree with some that you have to read classics and literary fiction to be well-read. If the definition of “well-read” includes being able to speak intelligently about classics and literary fiction, then there are ways to get around that. I am not saying you can completely skip the classics and literary fiction. I think some exposure to them is healthy. However, given the various available shortcuts, you can easily bluff your way in this regard. In other words, read some classics and literary fiction for a balanced education. Read more of them if you like them, but you should not feel obligated. There are plenty of genre fiction and nonfiction books that are as good, as challenging, etc., in some cases superior to any “classic” or “literary fiction” work. The snobs often hate to admit that, but as both a reader and a librarian I can tell you that is a solid truth.

In the end, don’t be a snob. Read what moves you. Read what you like. Sure, explore here and there, but don’t do it because “it’s good for you” or some snob tells you to “take your medicine.” Reading should not be an experience akin to swallowing castor oil. Let the snobs do that if they like it so much.

I guess in the end I am saying to find your reading bliss. Take a risk now and then, but do so because you want to, because you are curious, because you’d like to experience something new. Don’t do it because some guru or pundit makes you feel guilty. Who knows? Maybe in the end the concept itself of being “well-read” is overrated, especially when it is used to beat others over the head like it’s a club. There are other ways to encourage readers to diversify their reading diet past their quota of 200 paranormal romances (I pulled that example from Ms. Nelson’s post, but I could have instead brought up some of the dystopian military scifi stuff I read now and then, which to me, does not seem terribly dystopian. Then again, I do like my dark in my science fiction). Beating people over the head with the nagging of “you need to be more well-read” is not the way to do it. Offer samples, bits and pieces here and there, and see what happens.

This may be where a good librarian trained in Reader’s Advisory can help. One tool at our disposal is the read-a-like list. So, you like paranormal romances? Find “classics” with similar appeal factors to offer the reader. That probably goes further than just telling someone to read other things so they can be “well-read.”

The bottom line for me is I personally worry little about the label. I don’t think someone is less of a reader if they are not “well-read.” At any rate, anyone out there need a little help in building their “well-read” cred (I am trademarking that phrase, by the way, haha!), feel free to ask your local, friendly librarian.

And keep on reading.

P.S. Anyone really wants to know what I read? The link to my GoodReads profile is on the right column of this blog. Hop on over and look over my shelves. I think I can back up what I preach, though there are always more books to discover. Then again, that discovery is part of the fun, would you folks not agree?

Once again, a bunch of links with some comment about books I would like to read at some point. As always, links for the books are to WorldCat unless noted otherwise.

Items about books:

  • From A Case for Suitable Treatment, a review of Alice in the Country of Clover: Bloody Twins. This is not a series I have read before, but a take on Alice in Wonderland, to me at least, sounds like something to try out.
  • This may go a bit past my usual boundaries, but then again, I am a curious reader. Plus, challenging the comfort zone once in a while can be a good thing. Anyhow, via Bending the Bookshelf, a review of S.L. Armstrong’s Like it or Not (link to publisher. I did not think WorldCat would actually have this). The stories in the collection are described as “are all high charged, very erotic stories, but they do have their often times shocking, and sometimes violent moments.”
  • Also via Bending the Bookshelf, a review of Wilde Stories 2012: The Year’s Best Gay Speculative Fiction (record link to Amazon. As much as I hate Amazon, the  publisher, Lethe Press, did not have this one listed yet it seems). Whether gay or straight or in between, I do like reading speculative fiction. If it is good writing, I am there, and the label does not really matter to me. Some description: “Prepare to skew your view of the world: where jinni in the clouds of a future Tel Aviv aren’t spirits but powerful computer programs; where a suburban garden hiding unrecognizable bones; to a planet colony that outlaws color; or the night when a lonely lab tech finds a spambot flirting with him.”
  • And another one from Bending the Bookshelf. Here is a review of Bound By Lust, which is described as “romantic couples-focused erotica” with a BDSM slant. It is published by Cleis Press, which has a good reputation for this kind of book. By the way, I will admit to being a bit impressed it had a WorldCat record. Sounds like another possibility to share with the Better Half.
  • Bookshelves of Doom mentions Alan Moore’s Neonomicon. Unfortunately, it is not a review, but a mention of some library asshattery where they pulled the books of the shelf because some parent had the vapors when their daughter picked it up in the adult (as in grown up) book section of the library. Because heaven forbid the parent does some actual parenting and instead raises hell so no one else can read the book. Anyhow, sounds like a cool graphic novel to check out.
  • Via My Bookish Ways, a review of the scifi novel Kop Killer by Warren Hammond. John Scalzi also presented this book as part of his “The Big Idea” series on his blog here. The book is third in a series.
  • Via Bookgasm, a review of Carnacki: Heaven and Hell   (link to publisher, not listed on WorldCat). If I am understanding this right, William Meikle, the author of this book, is using a character created by William Hope Hodgson (this guy’s works are on WorldCat, may be worth a look to get a feel for the original too). The reviewer describes the character as “Carnacki is an occult detective often called in to help resolve a supernatural mystery. Think of him like a Victorian-age Dr. Strange, or Sherlock Holmes, if he were written by M.R. James.”
  • Via Bookshelves of Doom, the first volume in the Marvel YA series Runaways. They also mention The Graphic Canon, Vol. 1.
  • Via Bookgasm, a review of The Sword and Sorcery Anthology. Off the top, a couple of reasons I think I may like this. One, it is edited by David G. Hartwell, and I have liked other anthologies he has edited. Two, it is sword and sorcery, which I do like. The reviewer states that this book “could be best described as sort of Whitman’s Sampler of the fantasy subgenre. The work is surely welcome since it’s so well-balanced.”
  •  Bookgasm also features a review of  the 99 Days graphic novel. From the sounds of it, fans of works like 100 Bullets, a series which I have enjoyed and continue reading, may enjoy it too.
  • Let’s toss in a little nonfiction. From the folks at Guys Lit Wire, a review Buzzed: the Straight Facts About the Most Used and Abused Drugs from Alcohol to Ecstasy. The book is in a third edition now, which is the one I have to make sure I note when I place that ILL request later.
  • And a couple of books in the LIS field, also known as for me as “shop talk.” From Ariadne magazine, a review of Being an Information Innovator and a review of From Lending to Learning: The Development and Extension of Public Libraries.
  • Via Guernica magazine, a review of What Money Can’t Buy. From the review, the book “is troubling in the best sense of the word—it ‘troubles’ the complacency with which Americans have received the rapid encroachment of the market into private life. In the post-Freakonomics world, economics has expanded exponentially, not only into the global market but into areas of life not previously governed by market forces.”

Book lists and bibliographies:

  • Via RT Book Reviews, an article with a list of futuristic erotica works. This really means science fiction and fantasy romance for the most part. If this is up your alley, this list may be for you. I am mostly jotting it down for reference. And ok, I do like science fiction, and if it has a bit of erotica in it, cool. Besides, maybe something to share with the Better Half, who is also a big scifi and fantasy reader.
  • The 2012 Indie Book Awards have been announced. This list has a bit of everything, so odds are good almost anyone can find anything to read here. The list includes winners and finalists, which is how I like it. I like when the lists include not only the winners, but the other nominees so I can get the full picture.
  • Announcement and list of winners for the 24th Annual Lambda Literary Awards.
  • There are a few items of interest for me from the Dirty Librarian’s May 2012 list.
  • List of 2012 Nominees for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Translation Awards. They are to be announced later in July 2012.
  • Via RT Book Reviews, “Beyond E.L. James’ 50 Shades of Grey.” Do yourself a favor if you feel a need to read the Grey book. Look over this article, check out the book list, and find something better. There is plenty of good erotica out there. Life is too short to waste it on the so-so stuff. But if you used James’ stuff as your gateway, hey, keep on rolling and read other things.
  • The 2012 Mythopoeic Awards Finalists have been announced. Winners to be announced August 2012.
  • John Scalzi, who is president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, announces the winners of the 2011 Nebula Awards on his blog. You can see previous winner lists at the SFFWA site here.

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