September Reads

I keep reading so much that it takes me a whole month to write these posts, which is why my September Reads post is coming to you at the end of October. I need to write about the books as I read them, but I’m too much of a procrastinator for that.

In September, I chipped away at the complete works of Edgar Allan Poe and Shakespeare (I’ve been working on those since March) and the Song of Ice and Fire series (aka Game of Thrones). I also finished three books not on the original docket: one I started reading at a used bookstore while waiting on my trade-in quote, one I HAD to buy after seeing the movie adaptation, and one by one of my favorite authors.

September Reads

Here are the books I read in September:

Children of Men

The Children of Men(1992) by P.D. James

I bought this book after reading a few pages in a bookstore; I love dystopian novels, so I was immediately hooked. I remembered seeing the movie adaptation a few years ago, but most of the memory of the movie has faded away, so the movie didn’t ruin the book for me (hooray!).

So here’s the premise: no children have been born in the world for twenty-five years. As a result of this mass infertility and political apathy, England has fallen into tyranny. The protagonist Theo, a withdrawn ex-professor and cousin of England’s leader, meets a rebellious faction, leading to a grand revelation and adventure.

The book is written as a diary, and the change that overcomes the protagonist’s intentions, coupled with the shift in his views on morality and power, make this not only a book questioning the function of society, but the nature of man as well.

It’s going on the shelf between Fahrenheit 465 and 1984 (metaphorically, of course, as my bookshelves are organized by spine color).

Now for a quote:

“When I imagine the world without a living human being, I can picture–who doesn’t?– the great cathedrals and temples, the palaces and the castles; existing through the uninhabited centuries, the British Library, opened just before Omega, with is carefully preserved manuscripts and books which no one will ever again open or read.”

Hunger Games

The Hunger Games (2008) by Suzanne Collins

I generally try to read books before watching their movie adaptations, but my little brother-in-law and his girlfriend came over one night and my request to watch a different movie was outvoted three-to-one. I ended up loving the movie so much that I walked around the corner the next day to buy the book. And proceeded to read it in a day. (One thing that’s satisfying about books for young adults). I liked the BOOK so much that I immediately wanted to go buy the other two in the trilogy, but I decided that I have to wait. I’m using the other two as rewards for accomplishments. (Apparently, my goal setting must include dangling a book on a string for me to move forward. Jake and Eliza have hid The Casual Vacancy from me for the same reason).

I just told you that I love dystopian society books, so it’s really no surprise that I thought this was amazing. In a premise very similar to Stephen King-as-Richard-Bachman’s The Long Walk, children outside of The Capitol are chosen through a lottery and are made to fight to the death on live television in “The Hunger Games”, as a punishment for a past rebellion. The book focused mostly on the games; I can’t wait to read the others the see how the injustices in the society are combatted.

I was impressed at the book’s twists. Obviously, in a book like this, a few things have to happen. The protagonist Katniss has to be in the Games, and she has to survive. Sorry if you think those are spoilers; but they really aren’t. They’re inevitabilities and limimitations of a one-POV first-person book. Collins knows you know these things, but she throws in twists that still surprised season a reader like me (or would have, if I had read the book before seeing the movie). You know where the book is heading, but you’re not going to get there the way you expect you will.

But, let’s be honest, I really love the book because Katniss is badass. I love me a good strong female protagonist.

Now for a quote:

“We spent one Hunger Games watching the players freeze to death at night. You could hardly see them because they were just huddled in balls and had no wood for fires or torches or anything. It was considered very anticlimactic in the Capitol, all those quiet, bloodless deaths. Since then, there’s usually been wood to make fires.”

Songbook

Songbook (2003) by Nick Hornby

Nick Hornby is one of my favorite contemporary writers, and he’s one of the few authors that write essays that are just as interesting as novels. Hornby is passionate about music, which shines through in most of his novels (High Fidelity and Juliet, Naked, especially), so I was so excited to find this book of Hornby’s essays on pop music. The book isn’t so much reviews as it is a collection of songs and artists that have influenced Honrby’s views on pop music.

Some of the artists covered are Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Aimee Mann, Suicide, Ben Folds Five, and Soulwax. Hornby’s got range.

I loved reading Hornby’s hilarious anecdotes, theories on how certain songs get under our skin, defense of pop music as an art form, and laments at pop’s constant need to find “new” sounds whilst ignoring artists that do a really good job of making good music with the pop format that’s already been tried and true. I was also comforted by Hornby’s views on having the right music at different ages, which made me feel better about falling out of love with a few bands I swore eternal devotion to while in high school (schoolboy humor in music and teen angst can’t be expected to last one through one’s mid-twenties, after all).

Also, I had fun making a (digital) mixtape of the songs mentioned as I read.

Now for a quote:

“But that’s what happens now: pop music is everywhere. If you like a song, then so, almost certainly, will someone just like you who works on TV advertisements, or in movies, or who edits sports-highlights packages, or puts together compilations for hotels, or chain stores, or airlines, or coffee shops. (A couple of months before the Röyksopp debacle, I’d discovered an album by a good and, I though, impeccably obscure singer-songwriter called Matthew Ryan; I promptly heard the album’s best track during my next three straight visits to Starbucks. So he was dead in the water, too, or at least drowned in a latte.)”

Poe

Stories from Edgar Allan Poe: Selected Works, Deluxe Edition by Edgar Allan Poe

Here are the stories I read from Poe this month:

The Pit and the Pendulum (1842-43) focuses on a narrator filled with anxiety and terror while being tortured during the Spanish Inquisition. It’s very vivid and pretty darn chilling.

The Tell-Tale Heart (1843) is about a murderer trying to prove his sanity by detailing the logical steps to his gruesome crime.

The Gold-Bug (1843) has pirates and buried treasure and code cracking and detective work! It’s a really fun story.

The Black Cat (1843) is another story about a murderer trying to get away with it, like “The Tell-Tale Heart”.

Diddling Considered as One of the Exact Sciences (1843) is a description of a bunch of different cons, or “diddles”.

A Tale of the Ragged Mountains (1844) Reincarnation, possibly time travel, mesmerism, and drugs. Yep.

The Spectacles (1844) A man is embarrased to wear his glasses, and so gets tricked into thinking he married a woman that turns out to be his great-great-grandmother. Hah!

Now for a quote from The Black Cat:

“But may God shield and deliver me from the fangs of the Arch-Fiend! No sooner had the reverberation of my blows sunk into silence, than I was answered by a voice from within the tomb!– by a cry, at first muffled and broken, like the sobbing of a child, and then quickly swelling into one howl–a wailing shriek, half of horror and half of triumph, such as might have arisen only out of hell, conjointly from the throats fo the damned in their agony and of the demons that exult in the damnation.”

Shakespeare

Plays from The Complete Works of William Shakespeare by William Shakespeare

This month I read King Henry VI, First Part (1588–1592), King Henry VI, Second Part (1590–1591), and King Henry VI, Third Part (1590–1591).

I’ve said it before, but I am loving the histories. Squabbling between nobles, loosing the French territories, jealousy, hidden schemes, a crumbling political system, and, ultimately, rebellion and the Wars of the Roses. And Joan of Arc is in the first one, and we all know that Joan of Arc rocks. I can’t wait to read Richard III, which along with these three forms a tetralogy.

Here’s a quote from King Henry VI, Third Part:

“Henry now lives in Scotland at his ease,
Where having nothing, nothing can he lose.
And as for you yourself, our quondam queen,
you have a father able to maintain you;
And better ’twere you troubled him than France.”

Feast for Crows

A Feast for Crows(2005) by George R. R. Martin

Chugging along with the Song of Ice and Fire Series, and just like everyone else it seems, I found A Feast for Crows a little disappointing. Not because it wasn’t a good book (it was), but because the characters that, for me, drive the series (Jon, Daenerys, and Tyrian) are nowhere to be found. This is because the forth and fifth books in the series are split geographically rather than chronologically, which was particularly painful after a giant cliffhanger at the end of the third book in the series. Ah!

You spend a great deal of time in the head of one of the series’s main antagonists, which is interesting and infuriating all at once. There are many haters out there on this one, but I loved that the book expanded geographically to allow more cultures and areas to be seen. I love these books not only because of the depth of characterization and unexpected plot twists, but also because of the amazing scope of cultures represented. Martin beats even Tolkien on this account.

So in love with the series as a whole. Epic fantasy at its finest.

“Needle was Robb and Bran and Rickon, her mother and her father, even Sansa. Needle was Winterfell’s grey walls, and the laughter of its people. Needle was the summer snows, Old Nan’s stories, the heart tree with its red leaves and scary face, the warm earthy smell of the glass gardens, the sound of the north wind rattling the shutters of her room. Needle was Jon Snow’s smile. He used to mess my hair and call me ‘little sister,’ she remembered, and suddenly there were tears in her eyes.”

A Dance with Dragons(2011) by George R. R. Martin

I also started the last available book in the Song of Ice and Fire series in September, but didn’t finish it until October. So I’ll be talking about it in the October Reads post. The book doesn’t come out in paperback until next Spring, so I borrowed a digital copy to read on our iPad until I can buy it next year. Because it will annoy me to no end to have some paperback copies and some hardback copies in a series.


September Reads

You can see all of my other reads posts here.

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Have you read any of these? What did you think? What are you reading lately?