June Reading Diary : Classics of Fantasy

To explore our ongoing theme of the Best Quests, I’ve been sampling ancient fantasy and travel literature.

(58-9) The Book of Wonder and Tales of Three Hemispheres by Lord Dunsany

Lord Dunsany is one of the great founders of fantasy, and his works are easy to recommend to those interested in the genre. Dunsany writes short stories, mostly in the high fantasy style. His characters are archetypal rather than fully-fleshed, and tend to revolve around a single conceit which he explores. I listened to the Librivox recordings of these works.

(60) Washington Irving in London by Washington Irving.

A minor work by an author famous for writing short stories of the weird. This work is a travel diary, so Irving is writing outside the field of his greatest strength. It is interesting in the sense that it captures a lost place vividly, but only recommendable to those who already have an emotional connection to London. I listened to the Librivox recording.

(61) Vegetronic by Alexis Gauthier

This is one of an expanding genre of vegetable cookbooks by British-based chefs who are not vegetarians. It uses garish colours and florid language to present vegetable recipes which are not particularly difficult, and so can be recommended for people wanting to expand their repertoire. As a vegetarian, I’d like to steer other veg*ns away from this book. Gauthier loves coating things in meat and chicken juice. Now, sure, you can umami it up in other ways, but at its core, the book’s recipes for vegetables are likely things you have seen before. There are a few little surprises, like a recipe for chewing gum, but there are so many other books about preparing vegetables you could read instead that you time might be better directed elsewhere.

(62) A Christmas Blizzard by Garrison Keillor

Perhaps the Keilor book that has disappointed me most. I’d prefer that not be read as too harsh a criticism, because I think this may be because there’s a cultural element here that I’m not sharing. There’s something about the way Americans spend their Thanksgiving and Christmas, cooped up with people they hate in a frozen climate, that I have never experienced. The library Service has copies, and it’s a brief reead, so if you’d like to work out what I missed, click through.

(63) The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Mushashi

At its core, this is a modest, interesting book, written by a man who dedicated his life to mastering sword fighting techniques. The layers of interpretation which have been piled onto it since detract from its value, much as they detract from The Prince or The Art of War.

(64) Trigger Warning by Niel Gaiman

Excellent enough to deserve its own post, and yet I’m having a hard time writing it. These short works by Neil Gaiman often have a melancholic feel, and I think would be enjoyed most when spaced with other things. Best read, I’d argue, after “American Gods” as there is a lengthy novella toward the end which extends that story. The Library Service has copies.

(65-69) Children’s Songs For Ukulele Strummers, The Amazing Ukulele 3-chord Songbook, Rodgers and Hammerstein for the Ukulele, Glee For Ukulele, 101 Ukulele Favorites.

I’m working on a longer post about our uke materials. These are the ones I didn’t think particularly suitable for a beginner. I’ll come back and add in a link for those I did find useful once the other posts is up.

(70) The Iron King by Maurice Druon

An excellent start to a series of epic historical backstabbery. Book club discussion questions are available.

(71) The Moving Toyshop by Edmund Crispin

An inventive early detective novel, so good I wrote up some book club discussion questions...

(72) The Innovator’s Dilemma by Charles Christiensen

I read this every few years. Its basic thesis is that in industries which have new technologies emerging, best practice management tends to destroy market-dominating firms. That is, managers tend to destroy their organizations by listening to their customers, much as Barnes and Noble did when its customers told it they didn’t want to buy books online, or Kodak’s did when they said they would never use digital cameras. It’s an interesting bit of heterodoxy.