Holiday Reading Plans

I’m off to Providence for a conference on Wednesday, and from there am going to spend some time in Boston and DC. My sister is joining me in DC, and, as we lived there for five years when we were little, we’re looking forward to exploring old haunts – and to being there on Halloween. Due to baggage allowances (and my determination to leave enough space to bring the new Tana French, The Witch Elm, back from the US, as it’s not out in the UK until February) I’ve only been able to take Kindle books to the States, which has limited my options somewhat. Here’s what I’ve downloaded, or already had unread on the Kindle:

  • Dreams Before The Start Of Time by Anne Charnock. This is yet another recent novel set in the near future that explores new possibilities of reproduction, although it was published slightly before Helen Sedgwick’s The Growing Season and Angela Chadwick’s XX. However, Charnock’s novel moves away from the relatively tight focus of these two books to explore a series of vignettes, which sounds like it should give her space to consider some of the questions Sedgwick and Chadwick do not – so I don’t think this will necessarily be repetitive.
  • The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker. Out in 2019, Thompson Walker’s second novel imagines a college town transformed by a mysterious illness that sends a series of students into unwaking sleep. I haven’t read her first novel, but I’m intrigued by the premise, which riffs off familiar narratives of infectious adolescent hysteria while taking a new direction.
  • Bit by Bit: How Video Games Transformed Our World by Andrew Ervin. One of the characters in the novel I’m just beginning to write is a computer game designer, and so I’m trying out some popular non-fiction on computer games to get into his mindset. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Jason Schrier’s Blood, Sweat and Pixels, given that I’ve never played computer games myself as an adult, and, having once lived with a World of Warcraft fanatic, I’m fascinated by what people get out of the experience of gaming.
  • My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira. I heard about Oliveira’s work on Claire’s blog, and this story of an aspiring female doctor nursing the Civil War wounded in nineteenth-century Washington DC sounded appropriate for a trip to DC.
  • The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. Rebecca of Bookish Beck recommended this science fiction novel, which echoes the plot of Michel Faber’s The Book of Strange New Things, one of my top ten books of 2016 – although Russell’s book was published first. Set a few decades in the future, it follows a Jesuit priest, Emilio Sandoz, who leads a mission into space to make first contact with an alien culture.

Has anyone read any of these?

22 thoughts on “Holiday Reading Plans

  1. I’m excited for you to have some time back in the States 🙂 I hope it lives up to your memories and expectations. I’m keen to read more of Robin Oliveira’s historical fiction. (Re: Civil War nursing in D.C., have you also read March by Geraldine Brooks?) I read Thompson Walker’s debut and wasn’t too keen, but I’ll be interested to see what you think. It could be she’s gotten better in the intervening years. And I hope you enjoy The Sparrow. I ‘made’ my husband start reading it the other day and he’s now barreling through it.

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    • Thank you! I haven’t read March – I enjoyed Brooks’ Year of Wonders up until the ending, which I thought was ridiculous, but I do rate her as a writer. I’ll have to look out for it. Glad your husband is enjoying The Sparrow!

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  2. The book about computer games sounds interesting to me. personally, I was a Nintendo fanatic, but when the Super Nintendo came out I felt kind of lost. That was the end of my video game days. Have you heard of the small press Boss Fight Books? All of their books are about video games. Each one is about a specific video game, so if you want to know more about a certain game to help your character, I would recommend them! https://bossfightbooks.com

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  3. Thanks for the link and I hope you enjoy Mary Sutter, it’s a wonderful novel and perfect to accompany your visit. I’ve enjoyed her other novels and like her choice of subject and themes and how she interweaves historical facts and research into her narrative, it’s such an enjoyable vway to learn a little more or to motivate one to look further into the actual history. I wonder what you’d make of the legal history embedded in her latest, Winters Sisters, thought-provoking indeed.

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      • Yes, you must read Mary Sutter first, it was so well received she was inundated with letters from readers asking for her to bring back Mary Sutter, she said she hadn’t discovered an issue important enough to bring her back for, until she found on in Albany, New York, and so the readers got their wish.

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  4. I fricking LOVE The Sparrow – better than the Faber by miles. Also, re computer game designers: I echo The Overstory and The Chalk Artist, but try Ellen Ullman’s novel The Bug, too. (And perhaps Cory Doctorow’s Walkaway.)

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