March was not a good month for books. Like I mentioned at the end of February, The Ask and the Answer left me shaken, and on the lookout for more lighthearted books. I thought my answer to that would be “Paddle Your Own Canoe” by Ron Swanson Nick Offerman, but 30 or so pages later, I found that it wasn’t appealing to me at all — so I stopped reading it [queue gasp here].
I don’t generally like leaving books unfinished, but I found it kind of preachy and boring, and I simply could not go on. Turns out that while I enjoy watching Ron Swanson do his thing in Parks and Recreation, I can’t read an entire autobiography written by his real-life counterpart. Shame.
In the end, I didn’t get around to finishing as many books as I would have liked anyway, but here are the things I did read.
HOW TO LIVE SAFELY IN A SCIENCE FICTIONAL UNIVERSE by Charles Yu
I picked this up the day after I finished reading The Ask and the Answer. Some of the text in the book is in a different font to signify Noise, so when I flicked through the next book in the series (with intent to purchase and read it), I saw the Noise font and immediately felt super sad. Because I had actually been emotionally scarred by The Walking Chaos series. I couldn’t bring myself to read the book quite yet.
So I sent a shoutout on Twitter for books that were guaranteed to make me laugh.
Interestingly, several people independently recommended sci-fi/fantasy novels written by English men, which is how I found myself in the sci-fi/fantasy section. I had meant to choose a Discworld novel (by the excellent Terry Pratchett), but the available selection didn’t appeal to me, and I had flashbacks of not enjoying The Colour of Magic, so I passed.
Then I saw How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, and I know they say never to judge a book by its cover, but I totally do all the time. And this cover appealed to be on several levels. But mostly aesthetically. It’s a pretty novel. And I’d recalled a positive review given by Priscilla of The Readables1, so bam, purchase made.
This is not a comical book. It is in no way light-hearted. Do not be fooled by the cartoon guns and the dog. A time machine repairman shoots himself-from-the-future, but it is not in a hilarious slapstick way.
This book is about time travel in a science fictional universe. It is about the comfort of mathematics, a boy/man’s relationship with his father, it is about family, it is about wanting, it is about regret. This made me feel so many things, because of its subject matter, but also because it reminded me of the major writing project I did in high school for English Extension 2. If I were as thoughtful and articulate as Charles Yu when I was seventeen.
This book did not make me happy, but I’m glad I read it anyway.
EQUAL RITES by Terry Pratchett
As I mentioned before, I wanted to read a Discworld book, but was having a hell of a time trying to choose one. After the above bookshop debacle, I met up with Kyri and he recommended Equal Rites. “A wizard accidentally passes on his wizard powers to a girl, and she has to navigate her way through the all-male wizard university” were words he said that I paraphrased just now.
I have read two Terry Pratchett novels — The Colour of Magic, and Good Omens — but I really only finished one of them (Good Omens, I suspect because of Gaiman). I found that while I enjoy Pratchett’s voice, there are times when my mind drifts so far during some parts of his books that when I come back to the story, I find that I have no idea what is going on. And no amount of backtracking will make me less confused, because my brains starts wandering AGAIN.
I have come to the conclusion that Terry Pratchett’s books are cursed.
HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHER’S STONE by JK Rowling
HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS by JK Rowling
There are several reasons I chose to start re-reading the Harry Potter series.
1. Harry Potter was the first book that made me really appreciate storytelling as a means of communication, and it was my first serious fandom, so I have a lot of sentimental attachment to it.
2. A bunch of Potter-y articles by Ella Ceron were popping up around the beginning of the month that made me think a lot about the series properly for the first time in ages.
3. Equal Rites is all about wizards and witches! Combined with the above reason, I couldn’t stop thinking about Harry and Ron and Hermione and Hogwarts. It had been a while and I was jonesing.
4. I needed to fall back into a fictional world, and what better world to fall into than one I was already intimate with?
So yeah, I read two Harry Potter books this month, and I’m not entirely sure they should count. Ideally, I would have read books that were brand new to me, that made me think about storytelling in a different way, or introduced me to new ideas. But then again, I am a huge believer that all reading is re-reading, so my return to Hogwarts is totally justifiable.2
I’m planning to finally finish the Walking Chaos series in April, so maybe that’ll get me back to reading. Or make me horribly depressed. WHO KNOWS?!
1 but I can’t find it, maybe it doesn’t exist. maybe I made it up in my mind. maybe I am living in a science fictional universe HELP.
2 also, my copy of Chamber of Secrets may or may not have scans of handwritten letters to JK Rowling from young readers who loved the books in the back of it, and I may or may not have cried a little when I read them. It may or may not have been 3am at the time.