July 01

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104 in 2014 : June must rhyme with something

I’ve finally racked up a decent amount of reading, so I might just manage to finish the challenge! This month is a mix of classics, cyberpunk and cookbooks.

44  Letters of Johnathan Oldstyle by Washington Irving

Washington Irving — the Sleepy Hollow guy — wrote a series of observational letters to a newspaper. The early ones were about contemporary marriage, the middle series criticized the behavior of people performing and viewing theater, and the final one was about dueling. They are lovely little pieces, particularly the section about community performance, much of which is still relevant today. It is available in audio through Librivox, and in free e-book from either Internet Archive or Project Gutenberg.

45   The Best Man by Grace Livingston Hill

This is an odd little romance novel, which is mixed in with a naive spy drama. It was entertaining, but I find it hard to recommend to anyone. The romance is of the old, odd type where a man falls for a woman just by seeing her. The espionage story contains a secret which could destroy the country, but an agent who hesitates to break a woman’s heart to deliver it to his superiors. There are better works in each genre. This book is also available in audio through Librivox.

46-55 The Transmetropolitan series

(Transmetropolitan : Back on the Street, Transmetropolitan;  Lust for Life, Transmetropolitan : The Year of the Bastard, Transmetropolitan: The New Scum, Transmetropolitan : Lonely City, Transmetropolitan: Gouge Away, Transmetroplitan: Spider’s Thrash, Transmetropolitan: Dirge, Transmetropolitan: The Cure, Transmetropolitan: One More Time)

I reviewed this earlier. It’s just brilliant, and I recommend it broadly to those not offended by…well…anything.

56 Bert’s Treatise of Hawks and Hawking By Edmund Bert

A guide to his art, written by a falconer in the late 19th century. Interesting from a historical perspective, but not useful as guide to modern practice. Difficult to recommend, even to people interested in history. Available from Librivox.

57 The Trickster’s Hat : a mischievous apprenticeship in creativity by Nick Bantock

A lovely book about developing artistic creativity. It uses visual arts, particularly collage,as its main media, but is applicable to many types of artistic work. Available from City Libraries.

58 Kansha: celebrating Japan’s Vegan and Vegetarian traditions by Elizabeth Andoh

This beautiful book is based on the Buddhist vegetarian tradition. It isn’t as finicky as you might expect, because it reflects a monastic tradition based on simplicity. Indeed, in certain forms, this tradition is based on cooking ingredients gathered by begging. The visual composition of the book is bright and modern. Highly recommended for vegetarian cooks. Available from City Libraries

59 Veganomicon

The great grandmother of vegetarian cookbooks. I recently went through it to spreadsheet all of the low-gi recipes, and it’s as good as I recall. My only criticism is that it is laid out in a visually uninteresting way. It is bland to look at, and this makes it better for reference than reading for amusement. Available from City Libraries

60 Veggienomics : Thrifty meat-free cooking at its best by Nicola Graimes.

I didn’t find this book useful from my new perspective of seeking out low GI recipes, but I think it has a great layout. It is about low-cost vegetarian food. One chapter is about what you can cook with a tin of beans, while another starts each recipe with a handful of pasta. It’s not useful to me, at my current level of skill as a cook, but for new vegetarians, I’d strongly recommend it, for its simplicity. Available from City Libraries

61-64 The Planetary series (All Over the World and Other Stories, The Fourth Man, Leaving the 20th Century, Spacetime Archaeology)

The idea behind Planetary is what makes it interesting: it’s a world-building book. The actions of the main characters, at least in the first arc, are not the point of the stories. The plot, such as it is, is rudimentary. Each floppy was a short story: a single concept pushed in an interesting way for a few pages. Each calls back to earlier source material, like classic sci-fi or other graphic novel properties, and puts a quick twist on them.

Structurally the early parts of Planetary remind me of things like Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. It’s a book about observed things, and you see the observers only in their selection of what and how to observe. It’s also like a copy of Fortean Times, in that it shares Fort’s idea that odd events can be the centerpieces of stories, requiring little in terms of action or plot.

I recommend Planetary for people versed in the history of comics. I’m not sure you’d enjoy it as much if you didn’t know what the series was calling back to in each issue. If you get over that barrier to accessibility, it’s a rewarding read. Available from City Libraries

65-67 Let it Snow, Looking for Alaska and An Abundance of Katherines by John Green.

Each is an excellent book, but Green’s formula begins to show through too strongly if you binge read his back catalogue. I’m going to give myself a few months before I read Will Grayson will grayson.  I’ll link to a fuller review in a few days. (Added later.)

68-69  That Mitchell and Webb Sound Volumes 1-3 and Volume 4.

A great set of audiobook, originally recorded as radio plays, and laterm ade into a TV series (That Mitchell and Webb Look). Highly recommended for fans of British comedy. Available from City Libraries