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Explorations by Kenley Neufeld

Review

Ren, Holden, and Nassun: Top Three Books of 2018 (Fiction)

By on December 18, 2018

I’m a genre fiction reader, primarily in the science fiction and fantasy categories. And thanks to Sword & Laser I read at least one book each month. This year I read 22 books in these categories (and zero “literary” fiction). These are my favorite three titles of the year.

 

Obelisk GateThe Obelisk Gate (The Broken Earth #2)
By N.K. Jemisin
Book two in a series and winner of the Hugo Award. Her writing is creative, engaging, and visual. As a middle-book in a trilogy, it carries the story forward very well and sets the stage for a culmination in the final book. The balance of realism, science, and magic pulls the reader into this amazing world. Great writing, world-building, and storytelling. The presence of inequities, racism, class, violence, and leadership are essential components for Obelisk Gate. If you haven’t picked up this series yet, maybe now is the time since all three books are published.

From Goodreads: “The season of endings grows darker as civilization fades into the long cold night. Alabaster Tenring – madman, world-crusher, savior – has returned with a mission: to train his successor, Essun, and thus seal the fate of the Stillness forever. It continues with a lost daughter, found by the enemy. It continues with the obelisks, and an ancient mystery converging on answers at last.”

 

 

Persepolis RisingPersepolis Rising (The Expanse #7)
By James S.A. Corey
I’m completely hooked on this book and television series. With the TV version, I do need to read carefully to not get confused with the different story arcs and how the characters look in my mind versus the actors. This is book 7 in a series and I loved it! It’s hard to believe, but even at book 7 the series is still rocking the story. The next and final book should bring it all together, right? Metaphysical space opera at its finest.

From Goodreads: “In the thousand-sun network of humanity’s expansion, new colony worlds are struggling to find their way. Every new planet lives on a knife edge between collapse and wonder, and the crew of the aging gunship Rocinante have their hands more than full keeping the fragile peace. In the vast space between Earth and Jupiter, the inner planets and belt have formed a tentative and uncertain alliance still haunted by a history of wars and prejudices. On the lost colony world of Laconia, a hidden enemy has a new vision for all of humanity and the power to enforce it.”

 

 

The Poppy WarThe Poppy War (The Poppy War #1)
By R.F. Kuang
Unique. Familiar. Graphically horrible. Drugs. Hatred. Revenge. And yet she has built an amazing world. Young girl protagonist who struggles with everything and which this reader questions whether I even like her as a character. Themes of poverty, classism, and gender in this world of magic and power. It’s a debut novel from Kuang and the stage is set to continue exploring the story of Rin, an orphan girl from the Rooster Province.

From Goodreads, “When Rin aced the Keju, the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies, it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who believed they’d finally be able to marry her off and further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free of the servitude and despair that had made up her daily existence. That she got into Sinegard, the most elite military school in Nikan, was even more surprising.”

 

 

Picked from the following list:

  1. Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan
  2. And Then There Were [N-One] by Sarah Pinsker
  3. Babylon’s Ashes by James S.A. Corey
  4. Beren and Luthien by J.R.R. Tolkien
  5. Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
  6. Circe by Madeline Miller
  7. Hawkeye, Volume 1: My Life as a Weapon by Matt Fraction
  8. Jade City by Fonda Lee
  9. Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr by John Crowley
  10. Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff
  11. Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve
  12. Night’s Master by Tanith Lee
  13. The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin
  14. Persepolis Rising by James S.A. Corey
  15. The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang
  16. Saga, Volume 6 by Brian K. Vaughan
  17. Sister of the Circuit by Amanda Orneck
  18. Slan by A.E. van Vogt
  19. An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon
  20. We Are Legion (We Are Bob) by Dennis E. Taylor
  21. A Wrinkle in Time by Madelieine L’Engle
  22. Zeros by Chuck Wendig

Happy People Read Books: My 2017 Book List

By on December 28, 2017

As a history major in college, I read a lot of material for each class. And with my college being on the quarter system, that meant a dozen or two books per quarter. Unfortunately, this material wasn’t all something I’d choose. I’ve always been an avid reader, but as life went on, my reading scaled back due to family and work obligations over the decades.

This year I thought it’d push myself a little and set a goal of reading thirty books this year. I feel accomplished in a couple of ways. First, only 34,529 of 3.1 million Goodreads users who pledged a goal actually met their goal. Second, because I exceeded my goal by reading a 36-books in 2017. My reading interests are primarily science fiction, fantasy, spirituality and Buddhism.

The list intentionally included people of color, women, and non-binary authors. I also don’t necessarily stick to current-year titles, so I can’t give you a “best of…” for the year’s releases but I can highlight a few books to pick for yourself.

But first, here’s the list:

Science Fiction and Fantasy

  • California Bones, by Greg Van Eekhout
  • The Gunslinger, by Stephen King (my first Stephen King!?!)
  • The Drawing of the Three, by Stephen King (my second SK!?!)
  • Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis
  • Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline
  • The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter, by Theodore Goss
  • A History of Bees, by Maja Lunde
  • Helliconia Spring, by Brian W. Aldiss
  • The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle
  • The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, by Becky Chambers
  • A Closed and Common Orbit, by Becky Chambers
  • The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula K. Le Guin (re-read)
  • New York 2140, by Kim Stanley Robinson (environmental theme)
  • Nemesis Games, by James S.A. Corey
  • The Hum and the Shiver, by Alex Bledsoe
  • Gateway, by Frederik Pohl
  • The Salt Roads, by Nalo Hopkinson
  • The Fifth Season, by N.K. Jemisen
  • The Three-Body Problem, by Liu Cixin (hard SciFi)
  • The Invisible Library, by Genevieve Cogman
  • Everfair, by Nisi Shawl

Nonfiction

  • What Does it Mean to by White?: Developing White Racial Literacy, by Robin DiAngelo (twice this year)
  • Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do, by Claude M. Steele
  • Trans* in College: Transgender Students’ Strategies for Navigating Campus Life and the Institutional Politics of Inclusion, by Z Nicolazzo
  • The Gandhian Iceberg, by Chris Moore-Backman

Spirituality / Buddhism

  • The Other Shore, by Thich Nhat Hanh
  • Happy Teachers Change the World, by Thich Nhat Hanh
  • How to Fight, by Thich Nhat Hanh
  • The Art of Living, by Thich Nhat Hanh
  • The Art of Communicating, by Thich Nhat Hanh
  • Silence, by Thich Nhat Hanh
  • Hermitage Among the Clouds, by Thich Nhat Hanh
  • At Home in the World, by Thich Nhat Hanh
  • Interbeing, by Thich Nhat Hanh (re-read)
  • Secular Buddhism, by Stephen Bachelor

Selection of 2017 BooksNow that I’ve written out the list, I’m feeling a bit challenged to recommend anything. They were all good in their own way, but some were certainly better than others. I totally enjoyed reading Ready Player One, The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter, and The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet. All fun and quick. But I did pick up the second book in Becky’s Chamber’s universe so maybe I’ll recommend that one to you. The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet is a very sweet and touching story. Great character development. Appreciate the philosophical digressions about life, ethics, humanity. Solid on describing different species. Keeps the story moving when it’s time to move on to the next scene.

From the nonfiction stack, I can easily recommend reading What Does it Mean to be White? (especially to my fellow white-readers!). It’s a bit academic, being written by a sociologist, but still worth the read. Get challenged. Think critically about racism. See your privilege and move in the direction of racial literacy.

In the last category, spirituality and Buddhism, I’m going to need to say Happy Teachers Change the World was my favorite. It’s a great textbook for mindfulness practitioners both inside and outside the classroom. Don’t let the “teachers” part of the title turn you off because this can easily be used by just about anyone. Great practices, guidelines, and methods for learning to breath and being more mindful and present for others.

Coming up,  2018 will likely be more of the same. You might want to get started with Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, originally released in January 1, 1818 by Mary Shelley. Considered by many to be the first science fiction book written.

Like what I read? Follow me on GoodReads. Questions about a specific title, write it in the comments.

Enjoy.

Thoughts on Lelyveld’s Gandhi Biography

By on June 13, 2011

Joseph Lelyveld makes some pretty provocative statements in “Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and his Struggle with India” and then seems to immediately backpedal on his analysis. Critical thinking, even criticism, is good. In fact, having read many Gandhi biographies myself, I recognize Gandhi’s contradictory nature. Who in life doesn’t change over a period of eighty years? But how far should criticism and analysis go?

For example, connecting Gandhi to Osama bin Laden in terms of Gandhi’s support of the Khilafat or whether we’d have a unified India without Gandhi.

Anyone else reading this book? What do you think?

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