SarahMichigan (sarahmichigan) wrote in 50bookchallenge,

Books #37-38

I'm a bit behind the pace but trying to catch up!

I'd be at 32 percent non-fiction for my reads this year if I don't read any more non-fiction at all this year; that's pretty close to my final goal for the year (1/3 or more of books each year non-fiction), and that feels good.

I'm planning to do mostly light and fun reading for pleasure for the rest of the year. I generally do try to pick books that are interesting or amusing, and preferably not a total slog. I will abandon a book if it bores or frustrates me. But I also sometimes read books for the experience of having read them (i.e. with some "classics") or for the information in them as much as for my own entertainment, and so I will tolerate some "slower" reads for that reason. But as we cruise into the holiday season and end of the year, I think I'm entitled to a little brain candy...

Book #37 was "The Killing Moon" by N.K. Jemison, first of a two-book series called "The Dreamblood" duology. At first, I wasn't sure I was going to like this book. For one thing, fantasy isn't my favorite genre, so I'm pretty picky about what fantasy books I'll read. Secondly, the author's prose, at least in the beginning, was a little clunky to my ears. Whenever I see an author using either a cliche phrase or one of their own stock phrases too often, it puts me off and makes it harder for me to suspend my disbelief and get into the story. There were some problems of that kind in this book (example: the phrase "startling him badly" was used twice in four pages). However, if a story and/or the characters can draw me in, I can overlook it. (I find Kim Harrison, author of the Hollows series, is that kind of writer - I want to play bingo with some of her stock phrases she uses over and over, but I do enjoy the books.)

Anyway, Jemison has been lauded for her world building, and it IS good. She creates a unique magical system based on dream energy, as well as two competing cultures. The characters are definitely not one dimensional, and I really, really liked the relationship between the apprentice and master in this book. Spoiler:[Spoiler (click to open)]
The fact that one of the two characters I liked best won't be in the second book makes me hesitate to try the second in the duology.

Overall, I'm ambivalent about Jemison's writing style, but I'd recommend it as something out of the ordinary in the fantasy genre.

Book #38 was "Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster" by Jon Krakauer, Randy Rackliff, Daniel Rembert and Caroline Cunningham. I understand why this was a best-seller and is considered a classic of adventure/outdoors literature. I found this book to be extremely gripping. I normally read non-fiction more slowly than fiction but this book pulled me in and kept me turning pages. It is the story of the worst season for deaths in the history of climbing Everest, told from the viewpoint of a journalist for the magazine Outdoors who was an up close witness to what happened. It's accompanied by photographs taken by members of the various expeditions climbing the mountain around the same time: May of 1996. Krakauer does his best to reconstruct what went wrong, which is always easier to see in retrospect. He gives some history of those who have climbed Everest to put that year in context as well. I understand that his story is only one version of the truth, but I think he tries very hard to make that clear, especially in the afterward appended to later editions. A journalist tries to report the objective truth, but when you're one of a band of people who are cold, exhausted and oxygen-deprived, in danger of dying at any moment if you don't keep heading toward safety, it's not surprising if people's accounts don't match 100 percent. The book has some grim details, so much that my husband would notice me sighing or gasping out loud as I was reading. But it's really compelling and thought -provoking. If there's one thing I think I will retain from it, it is the idea that the more complex a system (or an expedition or undertaking) is, the more things can - and will - go wrong. Highly recommended.

1. The Battle of the Labyrinth [fiction] - Rick Riordan (unabridged audiobook)
2. Ice Cold [fiction] - Tess Gerritsen
3. Snow Crash [fiction]- Neal Stephenson
4. The Collected Stories of Vernor Vinge [fiction]
5. The Brontes - Juliet Barker [non-fiction/group biography]
6. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks [non-fiction]- Rebecca Skloot (unabridged audiobook)
7. The Moon in Our Hands [fiction]- Thomas Dyja
8. The Algebraist [fiction]- Iain M. Banks
9. Moab is my Washpot [non-fiction/memoir]- Stephen Fry
10. The Last Olympian (Book Five in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series) [fiction]- Rick Riordan (unabridged audiobook)
11. Swimming to Antarctica: Tales of a Long-Distance Swimmer [non-fiction/memoir]- Lynne Cox
12. A Year in Provence [non-fiction/memoir/travel]- Peter Mayle
13. A Plague of Doves [fiction]- Louise Erdrich
14. Jarhead: A Marine's Chronicle of the Gulf War and Other Battles [non-fiction/memoir]- Anthony Swofford
15. White Witch, Black Curse [fiction]- Kim Harrison (unabridged audiobook)
16. The Witches of Karres [fiction]- James H. Schmitz
17. Dawn (Lilith's Brood: Book 1) [fiction]- Octavia Butler
18. Things Fall Apart [fiction]- Chinua Achebe
19. The Bacchae and Other Plays [fiction/dramatic script]- Euripides
20. Meditations from a Moveable Chair [non-fiction/essays/memoir]- Andre Dubus
21. Trumpet [fiction]- by Jackie Kay
22. Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea [non-fiction]- Charles Siefe
23. Fat: The Owner’s Manual – Navigating a Thin-Obsessed World with Your Health, Happiness, and Sense of Humor Intact [non-fiction]- Ragen Chastain
24. Alif the Unseen [fiction]- G. Willow Wilson
25. Black Magic Sanction [fiction- Kim Harrison (unabridged audiobook)
26. George Sand: A Woman's Life Writ Large [non-fiction/biography]- Belinda Jack
27. Adulthood Rites (2nd book in the "Lilith's Brood" trilogy) [fiction]- Octavia Butler
28. Isadore's Secret: Sin, Murder, and Confession in a Northern Michigan Town [non-fiction]- Mardi Link
29. A Canticle for Leibowitz [fiction]- Walter M. Miller Jr. (unabridged audiobook)
30. The Barbary Plague: The Black Death in Victorian San Francisco [non-fiction]- Marilyn Chase
31. The Book of Sarahs: A Family in Parts [non-fiction/memoir]- Catherine E. McKinley
32. The Three Christs of Ypsilanti [non-fiction]- Milton Rokeach
33. Imago (3rd book in the "Lilith's Brood" trilogy) [fiction]- Octavia Butler
34. Escaping into the Open: The Art of Writing True [non-fiction]- Elizabeth Berg
35. Vanity Fair [fiction]- William M. Thackeray
36. What the Dog Saw - and other adventures [non-fiction]- Malcolm Gladwell


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