Last year at about the time I was getting married, one of my bosses had me compile a list of books she’d read to completion over the course of the year. She had read fifteen books, and that number didn’t change by December, or so she told me. Compiling that list got me thinking: how many books had I read over the year? I’m not the reader I was in high school – I love my life so much more now and no longer feel the need to escape into an alternate reality the way I used to – but I’ve been trying to get back into it and I figured that I’d probably read at least fifteen books!
My list probably wasn’t completely accurate. I probably missed a few novels that I’d read and counted a few that I hadn’t read that year, but by January 1, 2017, I figured that I’d read about 32 novels and novellas. I didn’t count magazines, blogs, or fanfictions because those don’t require any commitment… and there’s no way to accurately figure exactly what I’d read since fanfics are notorious for never being completed. But, thirty-two novels and novellas aren’t anything to sneeze at!
I told my boss about my accomplishment a few weeks ago and she was suitably impressed until she learned that pretty much everything I’d read were science fiction or fantasy. Then she dismissed it as if it were nothing but fluff reading because she’d read fourteen self-help books and one emotional tragedy.
Well, that kind of ticked me off. I started raging at her in my head (not aloud because I wanted to keep my job) that Sci Fi/Fantasy is way smarter than that crap she’d read. Fantasy – be it futuristic, modern, or historical in nature – involves monumental amounts of world building. In urban fantasies you have to show how the magical world fits in with our known world: What do the muggles know and how much do they understand about magic? Do the worlds of magic and the mundane touch or are they separated by a wardrobe door? Does the future have angels? Does technology continue to develop or is it nullified by an electromagnetic pulse? Does a middle age of magic look like Rivendale, or more like a great throne made of swords? The imagination it takes to visit these worlds we can only see through words written by another mind is so powerful that people make movie and television series to help bring them to life (though the book is always better).
One of my favorite authors, Juliette E. McKenna, wrote an essay that was published at the end of her book titled The Swordsmans’s Oath where she argues that Sci Fi/Fantasy always asks the question “what if.” Fiction has always been a medium to explore human nature and ethics, and fantasy pushes those definitions even further through questioning the natural order. It isn’t always easy to get through, either; Game of Thrones was too darkly convoluted for me even though I love all the heartbreaking tortures in Anne Bishop novels.
But, that conversation with my boss got me thinking more about my reading choices of late. When I was in high school I had needed an escape from the tedium that was my life. In middle school I would bang through an Animorphs book in a day, and during my senior year I could read my then-favorite book, Exiles; The Ruins of Ambrai by Melanie Rawn, an 800 page masterpiece, in three days. I also loved reading Star Trek novels despite never having seen a single episode at that point, as well as mysteries like The PMS Outlaws and the historical fiction novels of Jean M. Auel. On top of all that fun stuff, I was forced to read boring crap like Shakespeare, John Steinbeck, and Mark Twain for school, the latter of which was the only book along with To Kill a Mockingbird that I actually enjoyed. It all made me think that maybe I should broaden my horizons a little bit and read some “better” material.
Then my love of reading was killed in college. I’ve read a meme that says 77% of college graduates will never pick up another book after graduation. It makes a lot of sense when I remember that one week I had to read eleven 50-page chapters from one textbook for a single class. Every week was like that, and I got very good at learning while never cracking open my texts. That’s when I got into manga and fanfiction – short bursts of story that took little time to read and had no commitment.
Now I’m thirty and past my Master’s program by a few years, soI can safely get back to reading things I enjoy. Since that conversation with my boss a few months ago, I have been trying to incorporate some different genres into my reading if only to branch out and play at self-improvement. Most self-help books, I’ve noticed, assume that their readers are dumb and talk down to them. That’s why John C Maxwell’s book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, was such a pleasure to read – he assumed his reader was intelligent and striving for betterment! But, for the others, I’ve taken to writing arguments to the author on mini post-it notes that I stick in the pages of the book. The author will never read them, but in my head I am confronting him/her for being a verbose dumbass who can’t get to the point and I feel better (btw, the secret they keep referencing in the book The Secret is positive thinking, and the author never says it directly).
I’m also reading more humor books and my guilty pleasure: gay romance novels. I’m a straight cisgendered female myself, but I find a story about two guys defying the odds to develop a loving, functional relationship to be endearing. But, my true love will always be fantasy, no matter how much I try to branch out into other genres. I will forevermore pre-order upcoming Kevin Hearne books so I can get them the day they are released! I have over 380 books on my e-reader, and a vast majority of them are Science Fiction or Fantasy.
And do you know what? As of today, May 10, 2017, I have completed reading 18 novels and novellas, and I’m working on two more including Tom Sawyer and a lovely fantasy detective book about a world where dinosaurs didn’t go extinct and are hidden among us humans.
Not bad, huh?
All the highlighted links above lead to books on barnesandnoble.com that I recommend, even if I complained about them. I feel it makes quite a decent reading list! What books would you recommend for me???