Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Summer Reading List

For the last several summers, I've chosen different reading goals. I started when I decided I wanted to read War and Peace before I turned 50. Since I like Russian novels, I figured this was a challenge I could meet. Besides, I had just finished Order of the Phoenix, so length alone wasn't a problem. As it turned out, my lack of knowledge of the Napoleonic Wars was the bigger obstacle.

I thought about making this the Summer of Harry Potter, especially as both the movie and Book VII are coming out. But watching the movie and reading The Book is a given. Summer reading is a time to explore, try something different, read in depth. Last summer was Jane Austen; I thought maybe this summer I would revisit the Brontes. Or maybe tackle A Tale of Two Cities or Les Miserables.

Instead this is shaping up to be the summer of Science Fiction. First it was A Feast For Crows, which I reviewed below. But then I found a complete paperback set of Douglas Adams's epic A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. All five books at a quarter each. Plus, there's my monthly Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, now celebrating it's 30th Anniversary. This month's cover story, "Fountain of Age" by Nancy Kress, is superb.

Can Harry Potter be considered Science Fiction? Not really, not classical SF, anyway.

Also in the July edition of Asimov's is a book review by Paul di Filippo of the works of a British author, Liz Jensen. He raves about her works, which sound dark, a little twisted, yet not without humor--I have to find them here in the States! Plus, in honor of the 100th Anniversary of the death of Jules Verne (back in 2005), a new translation of his novels is in the works. The first in this series is The Meteor Hunt, written near the end of his life. The new translation is by Frederick Paul Walter and Walter James Miller. The Meteor Hunt was published after Verne's death by his son, Michel, who (apparently) "edited" the work beyond coherence. So if I finish Hitchhiker, I have these two authors to track down and read.

A note about Hitchhiker... When the kids were younger and we actually took family vacations that involved long car rides, I would bring along books-on-cassettes that I had checked out from our local library. They were free and I could keep them for three weeks. DS#1, who hates to read but loves a good story, soon figured out that if he & his siblings fought while the book was playing, he'd miss some of the action and Mom (me) didn't believe in rewinding. We started out with the simple Disney books-on-tape, but soon progressed to classic children's literature: 101 Dalmatians, The Jungle Book, almost all of Beverly Cleary's Henry & Ribsy and Ramona series.

As the kids got older, I had to work a little bit harder to find books that kept the driver (Hubs) awake, kept the older kids' interest, but didn't bore the younger kids completely. Jack London was a good choice and so was science fiction. This is where we discovered Hitchhiker and all its subsequent novels. Hitchhiker, I've since learned was originally a radio show. The tapes we borrowed were read by Douglas Adams and some of the cast. The British accents--and the fact I was listening to it in a car full of kids, camping gear, at least one dog, going 70 on I-5--made the story a challenge to follow. But Hubs and the kids loved it. And we loved the movie that came out a couple of weeks ago. Reading the story, it now begins to make sense. Or as much sense as the story is going to make, anyway.

Seriously, I strongly recommend using books on electronic media as a way to introduce your family to literature they might not experience otherwise. Especially if they are trapped in the car with nowhere to go!