Monday, 20 June 2011

Summer reading

It's the same, day in, day out. Wake up on a morning, browse the Job Centre website for jobs, apply for two or more, make lunch, and then have an afternoon to myself. It's starting to get boring already. Fortunately, there is a saving grace in this dull routine, and that's time to engage in my summer reading.

It seems to be a very British thing. The summer read is something that (perhaps thanks to Richard and Judy) has become a part of British holiday and summer society. People who don't touch books all year suddenly pick up the latest bestseller (generally something by Dan Brown or Jodi Picoult) to read either on the beach or in the park. Those who generally do read far more mark out certain books that they want to read. As I'm part of the latter group, I've bookmarked five books I want to read this summer.

5. War and Peace (Leo Tolstoy)

There's always a classic on the to-read list, and this year it's probably the biggest of the lot. Last year, Crime and Punishment had me in the garden soaking up the rays while I read about deepest, darkest Russian winters with destitute students (that sounds familiar) and sordid murders. It was all right - not my cup of tea, but it was bearable enough. I also had a shot at Pride and Prejudice and hated it. But I'm now at an age where I may as well at least have a go at reading Tolstoy's epic, as much to say I have read it as much as anything. Plus, it was only about 70p on the Kindle.

4. Helliconia (Brian Aldiss)

It's another not-short book. This time, it's the omnibus edition of Aldiss' Helliconia trilogy. I've always enjoyed classic SF, and although this is from the 1980s rather than the 1950s, the name of the author alone (and the imprint it's from notwithstanding) is enough to qualify it for classic status. I've read books by Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Philip K. Dick, Robert A. Heinlein, etc, but never one from British SF's second most influential writer. Plus, I got it for my birthday and wanted to do it justice rather than rushing chapters at the end of the day.

3. Iron Council (China MiƩville)

I really need to learn the shortcut for the flick over the 'e', as I seem to be writing MiƩville's name every five minutes at the moment. Right now, I'm in the middle of The Scar, Iron Council's immediate predecessor. There's something about the Bas-Lag world that's addictive and which means Iron Council is one of my essential summer reads. Plus, it's always nice to see a player of Dungeons and Dragons who's made it big.

2. Starship Troopers (Robert A. Heinlein)

I've read Joe Haldeman's The Forever War, and it only feels right that I should read its spiritual rival. I've also read John Scalzi's Old Man's War, and it feels somewhat wrong that I've read different worlds of military SF without reading the paragon of the sub-genre. For years I've bemoaned the cost of what is ultimately a slim volume, but the Kindle edition is far cheaper, and it's about time I got round to it.

1. A Dance With Dragons (George R. R. Martin)

A few people will be annoyed at me. I've been ever so smug over recent weeks while the HBO series Game of Thrones aired on Sky Atlantic, knowing each twist coming well in advance. Reading the book before it came out on the telly was a good idea. I've also read the rest of the series, finally reading A Feast For Crows back in February. And since then I've been waiting to find out what happens next. In July, the next volume of the series comes out, and I'll be getting it for the Kindle (despite having it pre-ordered for when it comes out in paperback... next September). I'm rather looking forward to it.

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