Yes, I've read three Asimov books (plus one short story) in a row: all of the Elijah Baley/Daneel Olivaw detective stories, the Robot novels.

It hasn't taken long. I've inhaled them. Asimov is like Pratchett in that respect, at least in these books - a page turner, a joy to read. As Dave said, it's ice cream. Other books I've read recently I've enjoyed, but it's been a considered enjoyment.

For those who don't know, I've embarked on a reading project this year, documented at a new blog, My Blog Loves a Bunch of Authors. I'm quite behind, because some of the books I've read have not been ice cream. Instead, they've been something spicy, enjoyable but leaving an odd taste behind. Another was something new, a foreign dish, tried gingerly and very satisfying once digested, but also changing my understanding of food and the culture and world that creates it. But it pains me a little that, even though I do discuss my reading habits on that blog, I only add books from the project in the "Books Read" list, and it looks like I've been very lazy. This is especially sad considering how I've just reignited my passion for reading and have fired through three novels in three weeks (the last of which bigger than the first two combined!).

Currently the project is on hold because I have yet to locate a book by the next author on my list: Pierre Berton. He's a Canadian, and what's more an historian and columnist. Finding his books in Australia is proving...difficult. I may have to revise my own rules...

While you're here, allow me to spruik the brief return season of my beloved's excellent Comedy Festival show, World War Wonderful. This Thursday to Sunday - that's June 4 to 7 - 9pm (8pm Sunday) at the Butterfly Club (details and bookings on their web site). If you like the idea of boogie song and dance in the style of the Andrews Sisters, but with a dark satirical anti-war flavour, then get along! I'll be there Thursday and possibly Sunday.

I meant to do this all year: keep track of the books I read. But of course, I didn't. Now, though, I want to talk about the last few I read. So here they are, in chronological order:
  • Skullduggery Pleasant - one I read with (read: to) my girlfriend. It's young adult fantasy, not quite magic realism in the vein of Potter, but a bit older in tone and attitude. That will turn some people off right there. The prose isn't amazing, and the plot retreads a few tired standards of the genre (vanquished bad guys seek to break truce by capturing fabled ancient artefact that no-one believes exists), but it's refreshingly direct; the lead character is an animated skeleton who can summon and control elemental forces without so much as a magic word. Bam! Exploding doors! It's pretty exciting. Unfortunately all this overt magical violence makes the inclusion of the standard issue "young girl new to this whole other world of magic" rather less believable than usual, though at least she still has a family (they're the equivalent of ignorant muggles, though they have suspicions). Never mind; it was fun. I may not bother with the sequels, though.
  • The Pirates! in an Adventure with Napoleon - the fourth (and latest) in the series, and another I read with my lady. The Pirates, as you may or may not know, are a band of brigands of the "affable cuddly daft anti-hero" variety, led by the Pirate Captain, and none of his crew have names either (except Jennifer, who used to be a Victorian lady). Their latest adventure is almost entirely on shore, but Napoleon does feature heavily. It uses breaks some of the previously established conventions of the series, so it bucks the trend, and it's probably as good as the other sequels but none have yet bettered the original (The Pirates! in an Adventure with Scientists).
  • The Inmates Are Running the Asylum - Alan Cooper's so-accurate-it-seems-obvious critique of the software industry and the lack of design. This book has single-handedly changed my entire attitude to my day-job industry, mainly by reminding me of the thing I was most interested in about computers - how they interact with humans. Software, largely, is awful, and this book details why, how this state of affairs came to be (and continues), and how to fix it. Damningly, it's from the last decade but every bit as relevant as it was back then.
  • ...and it's goodnight from him - the autobiography of The Two Ronnies, written by the smaller one, Ronnie Corbett. Fills what I never realised was quite a massive gap in my knowledge of British comedy, and documents a friendship and professional partnership that spanned decades. It's delightful, touching, and rather funny; given my own experience with comedy partnerships, it was also quite an eye opener. Not being very familiar with their work, I will now have to re-watch and re-evaluate the Ronnies with fresh eyes. I was sad to hear they were rather hurt by the Not the Nine O'Clock News sketch lampooning them; I rather liked it, but I guess my scant familiarity with the original meant I never appreciated how wide of the mark it must have seemed to the Ronnies themselves.
Next year, I have a reading project: one book written by every author mentioned in the Moxy Früvous song "My Baby Loves A Bunch of Authors". I'll read them in order, for good measure; that means I'm starting with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Any suggestions?
barrington: (pirate)
Tomorrow is Talk Like A Pirate Day! Always fun. I'll have to wear my pirate T-shirt and possibly call up my Mum and talk to her like a pirate.

But even the joy of tomorrow's celebrations can't stop my mind from returning to the piece of news which has vexed me since yesterday: Eoin Colfer, author of the Atemis Fowl books, has been commissioned by Penguin to write a sixth Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy novel, titled And Another Thing...

This really is blowing my mind. I have never been shy about saying that Douglas Adams' non-fiction was much better than his fiction; his ideas and comedy writing were always excellent, but he couldn't string together a coherent story to save his life. And yet, HItchhikers is such an important cultural touchstone for my generation, and indeed my entire youth; I could quote entire passages of the first book/radio series/television series by the time I was 10, and reread the book every year until my mid-teens, getting more and more jokes every time. Mostly Harmless was the first novel I can remember for which I waited for its release, and I bought the hardcover from a bookshop while on a trip to the Gold Coast, finishing it before the day was out.

So it's little wonder I feel weird about another book, and also have become obsessed with a desire to read all of this Eoin Colfer's books and see what he's about.

At least he has a great attitude; he's scared to death of filling Adams' boots, but at the same time determined to make this the best thing he's ever written.

Arthur Dent isn't too happy about it, either.

Games have crept back into my life in so many forms, and I'm very happy about it. On the video front, I'm enjoying the hell out of Castle Crashers on the XBox 360 (and Kate, if you're out there, I'm still waiting for you to look me up so we can play Ticket to Ride!).

As a former book store guy, I rather enjoyed this commentary (which I found via Neil Gaiman's blog) on correspondence in which Angus and Robertson ask small publishers to give them more money. The reply from Michael Rakusin of Tower Books, also included, was a joy to read.

Update: this story is almost a week old; I can't believe I only found out about it via Gaiman's blog. Then again, my 'net access has been pretty intermittent. It seems the main source was the SMH Undercover blog, which first published an article (similar articles were written by the ABC and others), then the full, unabridged letters.

I have been reunited with my books and my computer, though not, as yet, my beloved enormous desk or broadband Internet at home, though I'm working on it. I need to be able to work at home! I'm once again so busy I sometimes can't work out when I will live the normal parts of my life, but that's how it goes.

February 2012

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