Jonathan Crowe

Book reviewer, cat photographer, fanzine editor, map blogger, snake whisperer.

Category: Books Read Page 1 of 2

Books Read: 3Q 2019

  1. A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine. Science fiction novel. A new ambassador from a peripheral world must learn to survive at the heart of an expansionist interstellar empire. Loved it.
  2. The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente. Novella that centres “fridged” female comic book characters (i.e., killed solely to cause pain and motivation for the male protagonist); in this case said characters are recognizably stand-ins for well-known female characters.
  3. Making Conversation by Teresa Nielsen Hayden. A collection of Teresa’s blog posts and other web comments, many of which are extraordinarily pertinent to online discourse.
  4. This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone. Time-travel epistolary novella in which agents from mutually exclusive futures develop a relationship through the messages they leave for each other.
  5. The Art of Illustrated Maps by John Roman. Reviewed at The Map Room.
  6. The Labyrinth Index by Charles Stross. The ninth Laundry Files novel. Nyarlathotep dispatches Mhari and her team to America, where no one seems to remember the president. (This will make sense to regular readers of the series.)
  7. The Fire Opal Mechanism by Fran Wilde. Fantasy novella, set in the same world as The Jewel and Her Lapidary. Time travel and library destruction.
  8. Desdemona and the Deep by C. S. E. Cooney. Fantasy novella. Industrial Faerie; daughter of privilege rescues men sacrificed to the world below.
  9. Empress of Forever by Max Gladstone. Science fiction novel. Expansive space opera on a wide canvas.
  10. Trafalgar by Angélica Gorodischer. Reread. Trafalgar Medrano tells you tall tales over coffee about his adventures in space.
  11. Thrill Me: Essays on Fiction by Benjamin Percy. Useful collection of essays on the craft of writing.
  12. After Atlas by Emma Newman. Science fiction mystery novel.
  13. Cartography: The Ideal and Its History by Matthew H. Edney. Reviewed at The Map Room.
  14. The Famished Road by Ben Okri. A spirit child grows up in an impoverished quarter of an unnamed African city.
  15. He, She and It by Marge Piercy. A cyborg’s creation in a post-apocalyptic world is juxtaposed with the story of Rabbi Loew’s golem. (First published as Body of Glass in the U.K.)

Books Read: 2Q 2019

  1. Three Squares: The Invention of the American Meal by Abigail Carroll. Cultural history of food in America: what constitutes a meal and when and how it should be eaten; tracks the rise of the formal evening meal, commercial packaging, and snacking.
  2. Dreamsnake by Vonda N. McIntyre. Hugo- and Nebula-winning classic about a snake-handling healer in a post-apocalyptic world: how did I not read this sooner?
  3. The Fated Sky by Mary Robinette Kowal. Sequel to The Calculating Stars. Civil unrest breaks out during the first mission to Mars. I honestly think it’s better than the first book, which just won a Nebula.
  4. The Man Underneath by R. A. Lafferty. Third volume of Centipede Press’s Collected Short Fiction series. David Hartwell once told me that a Lafferty story was more powerful as one story in a magazine than it was as one story in a collection of other Lafferty stories, where his tricks and devices start to get repetitive. This volume proves his point, I’m afraid.
  5. Lands of Lost Borders: Out of Bounds on the Silk Road by Kate Harris. Travel book in which the author and a friend bike across central Asia, from Istanbul through the Caucasus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, China, Nepal and India, and inadvertently prove that white woman privilege can be cashed in anywhere in the world.
  6. The Faithful Executioner by Joel F. Harrington. Microhistory teasing out meaning from, and providing context to, the memoirs of a 16th-century Nuremberg executioner.
  7. The Iron Dragon’s Mother by Michael Swanwick. Proficient fantasy novel from one of my favourite authors. Third in a loose trilogy set in an industrial Faerie, with a different focus and scope than the first two (The Iron Dragon’s Daughter and The Dragons of Babel). The two viewpoint characters don’t feel balanced to me—Helen is too absent—but it’s a fluid and delightful read.

Books Read: 1Q 2019

  1. The Consuming Fire by John Scalzi. Science fiction novel, second in the Interdependency series. The usual fun, but definitely a middle book.
  2. The Lost Steersman by Rosemary Kirstein. Science fiction novel whose protagonists think they’re in a fantasy novel; third book in the Steerswoman series. Kirstein’s worldbuilding levels up here.
  3. The Language of Power by Rosemary Kirstein. Fourth book in the Steerswoman series. The curtain is starting to be pulled back here. Desperately awaiting the next volume.
  4. The Starlit Wood edited by Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe. Fantasy anthology reimagining fairy tales. I’ve been reading this off and on for more than a year. Not a weak story in the book; some are just superb.
  5. The Un-Discovered Islands by Malachy Tallack. Short book on islands that proved imaginary.
  6. The Phantom Atlas by Edward Brooke-Hitching. Longer, more substantive book on the same subject—geographical features later found to be false—but covers more than just islands.
  7. They Promised Me the Gun Wasn’t Loaded by James Alan Gardner. YA superhero novel, sequel to the highly entertaining All Those Explosions Were Someone Else’s Fault (reviewed here); switches the POV to another character.
  8. An Agent of Utopia by Andy Duncan. Short story collection by one of my favourite authors. His first two collections—both of which I own—were limited editions from small presses and aren’t easy to find (all but three of the stories in Agent can be found in those collections); this book makes his delightful and idiosyncratic stories more widely available.
  9. Infinity’s End edited by Jonathan Strahan. Science fiction anthology; final volume in the Infinity series; I’ve read every volume (and reviewed three of them: here, here and here).
  10. The Monster Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson. Fantasy novel, sequel to The Traitor Baru Cormorant. A saga of imperialism and colonialism, infiltration and revenge, and weaponized financial instruments. Most epic fantasy isn’t this politically or economically sophisticated.
  11. The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal. First book in the Lady Astronaut series: former WASP and computer dreams of space in an alternate history where an asteroid strike threatens survival on Earth and kickstarts a desperate space program; Hidden Figures meets Promised the Moon.
  12. The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein by Farah Mendlesohn. Reviewed here.
  13. Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong by Jean-Benoît Nadeau and Julie Barlow. France is its own thing and does things by its own rules and logic, and has been doing so for a very long time. This is something Anglo-American observers of the country find hard to understand, and treat France as a kind of broken Britain or America.

Books Read: 4Q 2018

  1. Soundings by Hali Felt. Biography of ocean cartographer Marie Tharp. Reviewed at The Map Room.
  2. Winter Tide by Ruthanna Emrys. Lovecraftian novel; a Cold War-era sequel to The Shadow over Innsmouth that has lots to say about who the monsters are.
  3. Atlas: A World of Maps from the British Library by Tom Harper. Reviewed at The Map Room.
  4. A History of America in 100 Maps by Susan Schulten. Reviewed at The Map Room.
  5. The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander. Magnificent long novelette banging together the electrocution of Topsy the elephant, the radium girls, and the long-term storage of radioactive waste.
  6. The Steerswoman’s Road by Rosemary Kirstein. Omnibus of The Steerswoman and The Outskirter’s Secret. I understand why people have proselytized this series. Sympathetic fearless female protagonists travel the world seeking and sharing knowledge; they think they’re in a fantasy world, but they aren’t. Strong recommend.
  7. Alice Payne Arrives by Kate Heartfield. (Disclosure: she’s a friend.) Engaging time-travel novella in which a female highway robber is swept up by a time war.
  8. The Writer’s Map edited by Huw Lewis-Jones. Reviewed at Tor.com.
  9. The Quantum Magician by Derek Künsken. (Disclosure: he’s a friend.) Ambitious hard sf novel that is simultanouesly a heist and a meditation on humanity and autonomy. Also features an interstellar empire run by Québécois Venusians.
  10. Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction by Alec Nevala-Lee. Campbell and (to a lesser extent) Hubbard are the primary foci, and come off less well than Heinlein or Asimov: Hubbard comes across as a mythomaniacal liar, Campbell a mansplaining, bigoted opportunist. Delicious and readable book, disappointing literary icons.
  11. All Over the Map: A Cartographic Odyssey by Betsy Mason and Greg Miller. Reviewed at The Map Room.
  12. Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire. Novella; third in the Wayward Children series. Less impactful than the first two; still good.

Books Read: August-September 2018

  1. The Wizard and the Prophet by Charles C. Mann. Uses Norman Borlaug and William Vogt as archetypes of two diametrically opposed approaches to solving global problems like hunger, energy and climate change: essentially, innovate versus reduce. Engrossing synthesis and a tour de force of even-handedness.
  2. The Million by Karl Schroeder. Novella set in the same universe as Lockstep. Review forthcoming.
  3. Bullshit Jobs: A Theory by David Graeber. An expansion of his 2013 essay, “On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs”; explores why a capitalist society ostensibly obsessed with efficiency and productivity would produce jobs that for all intents serve no purpose and should not exist, and the inverse relationship between usefulness and compensation.
  4. The Lost Art of Finding Our Way by John Edward Huth. A look at how we navigated before GPS came along. Review forthcoming.
  5. Washington’s Spies: The Story of America’s First Spy Ring by Alexander Rose. A history of espionage activities around New York during the Revolutionary War, focusing on the Culper Ring. Fun fact: Abraham Woodhull is a relative of mine (he was my 4×-great-grandfather’s second cousin) so this is family history, as is the TV series based on it.

Books Read: May-July 2018

Reading has been slow going. Presbyopia is now in full flower, and I haven’t picked up a set of reading glasses yet. (Soon, though.)

  1. The Freeze-Frame Revolution by Peter Watts. Novella set in the same universe as “The Island,” “Giants” and “Hotshot.” Review forthcoming.
  2. The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien. Reread (of course), because it had been a few years since the last time and I needed a comfort read.
  3. The Two Towers by J. R. R. Tolkien. Reread.
  4. The Return of the King by J. R. R. Tolkien. Reread.
  5. Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly. Secondary-world queer fantasy set in an stand-in for interwar Europe during the rise of fascism, full of secret agents, intrigue, and nightclubs. If Cabaret had been a fantasy novel. Disturbingly easy for the reader not to see the oncoming danger as danger, which is the whole point. Not as much my cuppa as you might expect, for stylistic reasons: I keep bouncing off historical fantasy (and this is close enough) with modern prose style.
  6. How to Lie with Maps, 3rd edition by Mark Monmonier. Reviewed at The Map Room.
  7. The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien edited by Humphrey Carpenter. What few secrets about Middle-earth revealed in this book are wrapped in layers of paleoconservatism, long lectures about Christianity and marriage to his sons, complaints about deadlines and schedules and available time, health issues, ferocious pedantry and general fussbudgetry. One should not know too much about one’s literary heroes.
  8. The Quest of the Missing Map by Carolyn Keene (Mildred Wirt). Nancy Drew novel, read for a forthcoming essay on maps in mystery novels.
  9. You Belong to Me by Colin Harrison. Crime thriller (more about it here), read for a forthcoming essay on maps in mystery novels.

Books Read: February-April 2018

  1. Mycelium Running by Paul Stamets. Because Star Trek Discovery (which outright steals Stamets’s name for a character and uses his ideas about mycelial networks); also see Stamets’s TED talk. Also because we have multiple mushroom species growing on our property, some of which are actually edible. As I expected, a bit more woo than I’m comfortable with, but I learned a bit about mycology.
  2. Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet, Book 1 by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Graphic novel. Because of the movie, and it was available.
  3. The Art of Map Illustration by James Gulliver Hancock, Hennie Haworth, Stuart Hill and Sarah King. Reviewed at The Map Room.
  4. The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard. Novella set in her Xuya universe. Holmesian detective story about a disgraced teacher and a traumatized ship mind: they solve crimes. Stories like these should come in six-packs, and I’d binge-read them that way; just one is just too little and too thin.
  5. Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach by Kelly Robson. Novella in which cyborg time travelling environmental remediators from a despoiled future travel to ancient Sumeria. You know, when you put it that way…. Review forthcoming.
  6. Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente. Batshit comedy sf novel, basically Douglas Adams meets Eurovision with just the hint of a post-Brexit edge and a ton of heart. So much goddamn fun. Strongly recommended.
  7. The Tangled Lands by Paolo Bacigalupi and Tobias S. Buckell. Reviewed here.
  8. Head On by John Scalzi. Review forthcoming.
  9. Lock In by John Scalzi. Reread for my forthcoming review of Head On.

Books Read: January 2018

  1. How to Bake by Paul Hollywood. Celebrity chef cookbook, but one that wants to get people baking rather than be in service to a lifestyle brand. Perfect for what we needed: we’d bought a stand mixer in order to bake more; this book covers the basics we needed to learn. Very inexpensive Kindle edition.
  2. Raven Strategem by Yoon Ha Lee. Military science fiction novel, sequel to last year’s award nominee Ninefox Gambit. Still a bit bewildering (what is calendrical warfare?), but not as bewildering to the characters in this book who don’t know how the last one ended, and are brought up short.
  3. Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff. Based on hundreds of interviews with terrible mendacious liars, whose perspective is not filtered or critically engaged with. Mostly Steve Bannon. If Fire and Fury was A Confederacy of Dunces, Bannon would be its Ignatius J. Reilly.
  4. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. Classic fantasy children’s book. Never read before now; I confess that the upcoming film was an impetus. Pleasantly odd. Surprised at how theologically Christian it is—C. S. Lewis was more subtle.
  5. Navigation: A Very Short Introduction by Jim Bennett. Reviewed at The Map Room.
  6. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin. Classic and influential science fiction novel about first contact with a human culture whose people change their sex over the course of a month. One of the ur-texts of anthropological sf. Fantastic book.
  7. The Moon and the Other by John Kessel. Science fiction novel. Why Artemis was the moon book talked about last year when this book was already out is proof there is no justice in publishing. Sensitive and, in the end, sad book about masculinity, marginalization and cultural difference; the elevator pitch could well be “MRAs on the Moon” but it’s way more nuanced than that.

Books Read in 2017

I finished 60 books in 2017:

  1. The Obelisk Gate by N. K. Jemisin
  2. Miniatures by John Scalzi
  3. A Paradise Built in Hell by Rebecca Solnit
  4. The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley
  5. Weird Dinosaurs by John Pickrell
  6. The Fifty Year Mission: The Complete, Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Star Trek: The First 25 Years edited by Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman
  7. The Fifty-Year Mission: The Complete, Uncensored, and Unauthorized Oral History of Star Trek: The Next 25 Years: From The Next Generation to J. J. Abrams edited by Mark A. Altman and Edward Gross
  8. The Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan
  9. The Jewel and Her Lapidary by Fran Wilde
  10. A Perfect Machine by Brett Savory
  11. The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson
  12. Mozart in the Jungle: Sex, Drugs, and Classical Music by Blair Tindall
  13. Dune by Frank Herbert (reread)
  14. The View from the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman
  15. All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai
  16. Borderline by Mishell Baker
  17. The Unbroken Machine: Canada’s Democracy in Action by Dale Smith
  18. Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer (reread)
  19. Seven Surrenders by Ada Palmer
  20. The House of Binding Thorns by Aliette de Bodard
  21. The Gradual by Christopher Priest
  22. The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi
  23. Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel
  24. Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel
  25. Snakes of the United States and Canada by Whit Gibbons
  26. The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
  27. Traveler of Worlds: Conversations with Robert Silverberg by Alvaro Zinos-Amaro
  28. Amatka by Karin Tidbeck
  29. The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley
  30. Words Are My Matter by Ursula K. Le Guin
  31. Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee
  32. Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
  33. The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle
  34. Penric’s Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold
  35. Penric and the Shaman by Lois McMaster Bujold
  36. The Man with the Aura by R. A. Lafferty
  37. The Nightmare Stacks by Charles Stross
  38. The Delirium Brief by Charles Stross
  39. Venera Dreams by Claude Lalumière
  40. Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer
  41. River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey
  42. Recipearium by Costi Gurgu
  43. The Stone Sky by N. K. Jemisin
  44. Infinity Wars edited by Jonathan Strahan
  45. A History of Canada in Ten Maps by Adam Shoalts
  46. How to Draw Fantasy and RPG Maps by Jared Blando
  47. The Map Thief by Heather Terrell
  48. Lethal Legacy by Linda Fairstein
  49. The Dispatcher by John Scalzi
  50. You Are Here: NYC: Mapping the Soul of the City by Katharine Harmon
  51. Vacationland by John Hodgman
  52. Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire
  53. Artemis by Andy Weir
  54. Picturing America: The Golden Age of Pictorial Maps by Stephen J. Hornsby
  55. The Red Atlas: How the Soviet Union Secretly Mapped the World by John Davies and Alexander J. Kent
  56. Provenance by Ann Leckie
  57. Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton
  58. Autonomous by Annalee Newitz
  59. All Those Explosions Were Someone Else’s Fault by James Alan Gardner
  60. The Will to Battle by Ada Palmer

Links are to my reviews. (Note that several books read in 2017 will be reviewed in 2018.)

Books Read in 2016

So in the end, I finished 45 books in 2016:

  1. Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente
  2. Quantum Night by Robert J. Sawyer
  3. The Planet Mappers by E. Everett Evans
  4. Adventures in Academic Cartography by Mark Monmonier
  5. Arguably: Selected Essays by Christopher Hitchens
  6. My Father, the Pornographer: A Memoir by Chris Offutt
  7. Thomas the Rhymer by Ellen Kushner
  8. Persona by Genevieve Valentine
  9. China at the Center: Ricci and Verbiest World Maps edited by Natasha Reichle
  10. Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
  11. Snakes of the Southeast (revised edition) by Whit Gibbons and Mike Dorcas
  12. Wings of Sorrow and Bone by Beth Cato
  13. Get in Trouble by Kelly Link
  14. The Winged Histories by Sofia Samatar
  15. Uprooted by Naomi Novik
  16. Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard by Lawrence M. Schoen
  17. Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer
  18. Discovering Scarfolk by Richard Littler
  19. Company Town by Madeline Ashby
  20. SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard
  21. The Usual Path to Publication edited by Shannon Page
  22. All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
  23. The Invention of Nature: Alexander Humboldt’s New World by Andrea Wulf
  24. The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente
  25. The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two by Catherynne M. Valente
  26. Ventriloquism by Catherynne M. Valente
  27. Necessity by Jo Walton
  28. Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal
  29. The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin
  30. Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds
  31. Not So Much, Said the Cat by Michael Swanwick
  32. Atlas Obscura by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras and Ella Morton
  33. The Man Who Made Models by R. A. Lafferty
  34. Shoot the Moon by Nicolas Dupont-Bloch
  35. Speak Easy by Catherynne M. Valente
  36. Pirate Utopia by Bruce Sterling
  37. Updraft by Fran Wilde
  38. The Tyrannosaur Chronicles: The Biology of the Tyrant Dinosaurs by David Hone
  39. Invisible Planets edited by Ken Liu
  40. Bridging Infinity edited by Jonathan Strahan
  41. The Sorcerer’s House by Gene Wolfe
  42. Treasures from the Map Room edited by Debbie Hall
  43. The Glass Universe by Dava Sobel
  44. A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit
  45. The Nasty Bits by Anthony Bourdain

(Links are to my reviews.)

I like to track what and how much I read. It amuses me to crunch the numbers, but most of you will be bored stiff by what follows.

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