Recent Reads

Books are like windows. Open a book and breathe in the fresh air, or close a book and suffocate. Here’s what I’ve been breathing lately.

Climate Fiction has been calling me, enough to read the gargantuan Overstory—three times the length of most books I read, and well worth it. Along with that, I recently read a healthy serving of Becky Chambers—yes, because she wins awards, but also because my daughter recommended her. The Calculating Stars was a pick for my neighborhood book club (more on that in a separate post).

One of these things is not like the others, and it’s the Led Zeppelin biography. My spouse and I had a lot of fun reading this one together.

I’m always looking for great reads, and not just science fiction. Post your recommendations in the comments, thanks.

  • The BFG by Roald Dahl, 1982. Sophie and the Big Friendly Giant take on The Blood Guzzler and his cannibalistic cronies in this entertaining children’s tale.
  • The Calculating Stars and The Fated Sky by Mary Robinette Kowal, 2018. The first two books in the Lady Astronaut series. In this alternate history, a meteor impact causes humankind to accelerate the colonization of space. Outstanding portrayals of racial and gender issues. The Calculating Stars won the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards in 2019.
  • Concrete Island by JG Ballard, 1973. After an auto accident, a man finds himself stranded in a dystopian no-man’s land, and confronts his own materialistic excess as he attempts to escape the machinations of modern existence. This was my first whiff of Ballard, and now I want to inhale him through a canula.
  • Gun, with Occasional Music by Jonathan Lethem, 1994. Gumshoe Metcalf confronts evolved animals and drugs that erase memories in this hardboiled pulp novel set in future Oakland, California. Gun was awarded the 1995 Locus award for best first novel. Lethem also wrote the outstanding Motherless Brooklyn, and he’s near the top of my favorite author list.
  • Led Zeppelin, The Biography by Bob Spitz, 2021. The sole non-fiction book this time around. I enjoyed this book for its detailed look at the early British rock scene, not so much for how the final chapter left me wondering what these guys were doing today. Very timely in light of Jeff Beck’s recent death.
  • The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (2014) and A Closed and Common Orbit (2016) by Becky Chambers. I’ve been reading Chambers to stay current with modern science fiction. A Closed and Common Orbit masterfully intertwined two stories of identity and alienation.
  • The Overstory by Richard Powers, 2018. A fight to save one of the few remaining old growth forests affects several characters, each committed to trees for deeply personal reasons. This sweeping tribute to forests won the 2019 Pulitzer. I blame this 612-page monstrosity for blowing my book-per-week average.
  • Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler, 1993. After total societal collapse, a young woman struggles to rebuild a meaningful community and theology. Dark and bleak. Not for the faint of heart.
  • A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers, 2021. Dex is a monk who travels from village to village, brewing tea for the residents he meets. When he strays into the forest, he encounters a robot. Together, they explore the meaning of life. This 2022 Hugo award winner for best novella shows Chambers’s growth as a writer since her 2016 Small, Angry Planet novel.
  • A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick, 1977. A narc agent required to use a scramble suit to obscure his identity is assigned to bust himself. This 1977 science fiction classic brims with Americana and baby boomer culture.

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