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[This is actually from last Wednesday but I'm just going to post it now anyway]
• What are you reading?

Notes from a Feminist Killjoy, by Erin Wunker. It's a bits-and-pieces book, but all the bits are in conversation with other writers, and with reality; even its bittyness recalls how Tillie Olsen would carry a sentence in her mind, polishing it in scraps of time between interruptions, through a day of women's work, a day of no peace, no privacy, no silence, no solitude.
When I started this book, I wanted to write something unimpeachable. Something so clear and objective, it could be a little dictionary or translation phrase book for how to speak a feminist language and live a feminist life. I wanted what many other writers -- the many-gendered mothers of my heart -- had already written. I wanted A Room of One's Own, Sister Outsider, Willful Subjects, Islands of Decolonial Love. I wanted Feminism is for Everybody and The Dream of a Common Language. I wanted No Language is Neutral.

I wanted books that had already been written by people whose experiences of moving through the world are different -- often radically so -- from mine.

*

I got stuck.
*
I read some more.
*
I remembered that I tell my students that reading and writing are attempts at joining conversations, making new ones, and, sometimes, shifting the direction of discourse.
*
I sat down at my typewriter again.


• What did you recently finish reading?

George & Lizzie, by Nancy Pearl.

Lizzie agreed. "I remember reading a novel in which one of the characters, a college professor, was writing a book on the influence of Emily Dickinson on Shakespeare and how his colleagues always misheard it and thought it was the other way around. I wish I could remember the title, because talking about it now makes me want to read it again. It's so interesting to think about. Do you think we read Shakespeare differently because of Dickinson's poems?"


I remember reading that too! It was by David Lodge, I think Changing Places? I read it about the same age Lizzie did. Not at the same time: I'm maybe ten years older than Lizzie. But, like Lizzie, I grew up in Michigan and went to UM and struggled with depression most of my life and, as a young woman, tried to claim my sexuality in ways that were bad for me and for the people I interacted with. Lizzie feels real to me, is what I'm saying, and I'm okay with the fact that the people around her are kind of one-note because the problem this book is about is: if you can't stop being sad about your shitty childhood even though your life is no longer shitty, if you can't stop punishing yourself for bad choices that you made long ago, if you can't stop trying to change something that happened long ago and wasn't in your control even then. . . then how do you stop?
[Lizzie says] "They're your thoughts, right? How can you not think them?"
Marla struggled to answer. "I don't know, but people do it. I think I let go of things, or at least try to. You have to, really, otherwise you're weighted down with all those cumulative bad memories. James and I used to talk about that baby missing from our lives, whether it was a boy or a girl, whether we could find out who adopted it, whether we'd ever forgive our parents, why we didn't just say 'Screw you' to them back then and get married after I got pregnant. I mean, you know, it was so present. It was always there in our lives. But if we kept that up there'd be no place for anything else. And now we just acknowledge all that awful stuff happened, that maybe we made the wrong decision, that we were just kids. We were just kids. You have to forgive yourself eventually, right?"

Lizzie's husband George got famous by explaining that, while pain is inevitable, suffering is optional, but his explanation doesn't work for Lizzie. George doesn't seem to understand that, for some people, that's liberating, but for others, it says that your suffering was your choice and therefore your fault. I'd offer Lizzie Season of Mists, because "you don't have to stay anywhere forever" worked for me, but how a story works depends as much on the reader as on the story.

Which is not to say that we shouldn't do our best to write good stories. This one has a stupid editing oversight that dumped me right out:
[Marla:]"I love you Lizzie, and always will. And I will always, always, keep your secrets. But this, what this means to you and George, is an important secret. It's not the equivalent of a little white lie. It'd be like me not telling James about the abortion."
[Lizzie:]"But James knew about the abortion, he was with you when you had it."
"Don't be deliberately naive, it doesn't become you. You know what I mean: some other James I was involved with."


What abortion, I wondered? Was there an abortion as well as a baby given up for adoption? When?

No, it must have been changed from an abortion to an adoption at some point. Which was a good change: it's believable that Marla would find it harder to move on with her life after carrying the baby for nine months, while knowing that there was a person out there that she felt responsible for but had no ability to protect. But leaving evidence of the change in the story made me notice how flat all the other characters are, how they are the way they are in order to serve Lizzie's story.

• What do you think you’ll read next?

The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories, by H.P. Lovecraft.
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for [personal profile] jesse_the_k:
And so, by circuitous and unpredictable routes, we converge toward midcontinent and meet in Madison, and are at once drawn together, braided and plaited into a friendship. It is a relationship that has no formal shape, there are no rules or obligations or bonds as in marriage or the family, it is held together by neither law nor property nor blood, there is no glue in it but mutual liking. It is therefore rare.
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• What are you reading?

The Other Half of the Sky, edited by Athena Andreadis. I don't read short stories often enough. I think my powers of visualization must be feeble, or at least easily exhausted. The worlds of these stories have mostly been really interesting, but it takes me a long time between finishing one and being ready to pick up the next. The standout so far is Nisi Shawl's "In Colors Everywhere," in which there are penal colonies, but they are on another planet, so to save money you get shipped there without your body. They'll decant you into a new one once you get there, but your new body's race and sex may not match your own.

• What did you recently finish reading?

Kinda Like Brothers, by Coe Booth, because I'm interested in the depiction of eleven-year-olds in fiction. Recommendations welcome!

• What do you think you’ll read next?

Crossing to Safety, by Wallace Stegner, for library book group.

October is going to be all about Lovecraft. Classics book group is reading The Call of Cthulhu and other weird stories. SF book group is reading two novellas: "The first is by H.P. Lovecraft, At the Mountains of Madness. The second book is based on another Lovecraft story, "The Horror at Red Hook". That particular story is especially disturbingly racist, which is why I didn't choose it to read, although you're welcome to if you want for comparison's sake. This second book is The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle. This novella has been nominated for the Hugo, the Nebula, Locus, British Fantasy, Bram Stoker and World Fantasy Awards and won the Shirley Jackson horror award. Here's what the author himself has to say about his book: https://whatever.scalzi.com/2016/02/17/the-big-idea-victor-lavalle/ "

I might, if I'm already soaking in a Lovecraftian miasma, take the opportunity to also read Kij Johnson's The Dream-Quest of Vellit Boe and Ruthanna Emrys's Winter Tide.
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• What are you reading?

Borderline, by Mishell Baker, for SF book group. I am enjoying this although it does have a Mary Sue problem: the narrator is very important to everyone she encounters, for no reason that the reader can see. Also it is very talky.

• What did you recently finish reading?

My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, by Emil Ferris. Interesting and beautiful. I would have like a warning for the child sexual abuse.

• What do you think you’ll read next?

Beloved, by Toni Morrison, for classics book group. Reread.

voice

Aug. 29th, 2017 04:28 pm
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Library book group chose books last night. This group reads six books over nine months, and chooses books by voting. I persuaded the group to choose Kindred, by Octavia Butler. The other five books we chose are:

The Sparrow - Mary Doria Russell
A Gentleman in Moscow - Amor Towles
Crossing to Safety - Wallace Stegner
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close - Jonathan Safran Foer
The Good Earth - Pearl Buck

A wide variety!

Classics book group meets every month during the school year. Each CSU grad student or instructor who volunteers to lead a discussion gets to choose the book. The first four books for that group are:

Beloved - Toni Morrison
The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories - H.P. Lovecraft
The Woman Warrior - Maxine Hong Kingston
The Sun Also Rises - Ernest Hemingway

Tawanda book group is the one that has been meeting for 26 years and doesn't really discuss books much any more. Terri hosted this month and asked us each to bring a poem to read. Amy recovered twelve of her steers since last month, but eleven are still lost in the forest so she couldn't afford to take a night off the search. Terri read "Your children are not your children," by Khalil Gibran. I read "Wild Geese". Jo read "Going to Walden," also by Mary Oliver. Kathleen brought something by Wendell Berry, but I don't remember what, because she asked me to read it, and apparently I do not have enough brain to speak in public and put things into longterm memory at the same time. Cate read "It's Time Somebody Told Me," which her mother had cut out from the newspaper, laminated, and carried around in her wallet until she died.
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• What are you reading?

The Fifth Season, by N.K. Jemisin, for SF book group. I had been putting this one off, because I heard it began with the murder of a very young child, in a world that is so terrible that this seems like reasonable behavior. The book is grim, but gripping.

• What did you recently finish reading?

Nothing! I'm in the middle of six different things. I didn't finish Out Stealing Horses because a moose crashed through the fence of the woman who was hosting book group in July, and now her steers are roaming free on thousands of acres of forest, with the rains washing away their traces. She'll reschedule in August and I'll read it then. There is a moose at my husband's house, too:moose )
I have to keep a careful eye on the dogs when we visit.

I did watch the first season of American Gods, which was beautiful. I read American Gods too long ago to judge how good an adaptation this is, but it is a very good TV show.

• What do you think you’ll read next?

My Favorite Thing is Monsters, by Emil Ferris, because my library hold just came through.
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• What are you reading?

Chimera, by John Barth. Last read in college, when I was studying computer science, and everything Barth said about letters and stories seemed to be a direct reflection of something Turing discovered about numbers and computing machines. "The key to the treasure is the treasure."

• What did you recently finish reading?

Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel. I had been putting this off, because my non-SF-reading friends were saying it was really good but my SF-reading friends were finding it disappointing, which usually means I'll find it disappointing. Turns out it's really good!

• What do you think you’ll read next?

Out Stealing Horses, by Per Petterson, for Tawanda book group.
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• What are you reading?

Panic in Box C, by John Dickson Carr. I spent the night at my husband's house, to limit the dogs' exposure to fireworks, and found this on a shelf. Very strange narrative choices. It seems that Carr wants to give the reader a lot of backstory, in nonconsecutive fragments, which are told by various characters to various other characters, without any believable motive. This is a mystery novel, so maybe it will turn out that some of these stories are lies, and the reader can figure out whodunnit by noticing the discrepancies between different characters' stories.

Also Frommer's Easy Guide to Montreal and Quebec City.

• What did you recently finish reading?

All Systems Red, by Martha Wells. I loved it. This is how Murderbot begins its narrative:
I could have become a mass murderer after I hacked my governor module, but then I realized I could access the combined feed of entertainment channels carried on the company satellites. It had been well over 35,000 hours or so since then, with still not much murdering, but probably, I don't know, a little under 35,000 hours of movies, serials, books, plays, and music consumed. As a heartless killing machine, I was a terrible failure.


I'm always eager for an AI (or alien) that thinks as well as a human but not like a human. Murderbot is clearly related to us, and enough like us to be entertained by our entertainment, but it is not human and has no desire to be -- no matter how much it likes a few humans who are lucky enough to get it as their Security Unit.

• What do you think you’ll read next?

Becoming Unbecoming, by Una, recommended by someone on my reading list I think but I don't remember who.
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• What are you reading?

The Heiress Effect, by Courtney Milan.
The conceit of this book is brilliant. She has to stay single, for complicated family reasons, but her plan will stop working if she turns down any reasonable offer, so she has to make her person repellent enough to counterbalance the attraction of her considerable fortune -- without letting anyone see that she's doing it on purpose. I love it when the obstacles in a romance are not stupid! I love comedy of manners, when it puts extra constraints on the protagonist's solution space! Especially when the protagonist using a formidable intelligence and an immense amount of work to seem foolish and ineffectual!
I was disappointed that this book ignores the constraints that don't assist the story it wants to tell. (For example, these unmarried gentlewomen would not go to a dinner-party in a house without a hostess. One of them is accompanied by a chaperone, another is with her sister, and that is adequate for excursions in public places in daylight, but after dark, in a house full of young men -- no. It would not do.) These elements might not move the story forward directly, but they would do a lot to make the societal forces our heroes are working against seem powerful and real.

• What did you recently finish reading?

The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, by Amy Schumer. DNF. It isn't a bad book, but the more I read of it the more I found myself resenting the idea that it would be one of the approximately 3000 new books I have time left to read. Its greatest appeal for me is how thoroughly Schumer fights against shame. Read for Tawanda book group.

• What do you think you’ll read next?

I put a Climbing Mount TBR challenge on my Habitica To-Do list, but I'm not sure how to tackle it. Two of my book groups are on summer hiatus, so I have room to move. I like [personal profile] melannen's FMK polls, and I keep thinking I could do that too, but when I look at my shelves and ask, "Which of these are you going to read, really?" and "Which of these do you need to keep, really?" my answer is always, "All of them. All. Yes, even that one."
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• What are you reading?

Signal to Noise, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, for SF book group

• What did you recently finish reading?

The Gentleman, by Forrest Leo. Funny and charming, but I think the blurb that mentions Wodehouse and Wilde does this book a disservice by making you think about how much funnier and more charming it would like to be. I think the dialogue worked better when it was rattled off on stage; on the page, it is a bit tedious to have characters explaining to each other what the narrative voice has already made clear to the reader. Still, it has an excellent bookstore, a Victorian club for inventors, a gentlemanly Satan, and a lost wife who has all the manly virtues her silly husband lacks.

• What do you think you’ll read next?

The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, by Amy Schumer, for Tawanda book group.
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• What are you reading?

Red Mars, by Kim Stanley Robinson, for economics in SF panel. I've written to my other panelist a couple times, but he doesn't answer. I hope we manage to pull this off.

• What did you recently finish reading?

Shadowshaper, by Daniel Jose Older. Vivid depiction of New York City, of music, dancing, painting, and the ways people talk. Interesting magic. The plot has the flaws of its genre: you are in mortal danger, your city is in danger, you have powers you don't understand that could protect yourself and your world, other people know things you don't and no one will explain anything! Fortunately, a song you have always known holds the key to the secret, and you manage to figure it out just in time.

• What do you think you’ll read next?

The Worst Hard Time, by Timothy Egan, for library book group. I did decide to skip the book group for Laura Pritchett's The Blue Hour.
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What I have checked out of the library at this moment: )

31 things, even though what little time I am spending reading right now is all for my economics in SF panel. 53 years old and I am as bad at managing my time and attention as ever.
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• What are you reading?

Shadowshaper, by Daniel Jose Older, for SF book group.

• What did you recently finish reading?

One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, for classics book group. Maybe I'm reading too extrinsicly-motivatedly lately, but I didn't appreciate this. I enjoyed the discussion, though.

• What do you think you’ll read next?

Red Mars, by Kim Stanley Robinson, for economics in SF panel.
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• What are you reading?

Walkaway, by Cory Doctorow, for economics in SF panel. I'm enjoying it, even though it is very talky. It's not that Doctorow is bad at describing actions or sensations; it's just that they don't seem to interest him as much as the conversations about how things ought to be. I'm also reading the essays about Walkaway that are being posted at Crooked Timber, starting here: http://crookedtimber.org/2017/04/25/no-exit/

• What did you recently finish reading?

Permaculture for the rest of us : abundant living on less than an acre, by Jenni Blackmore is a pleasant, chatty little book on permaculture gardening, and producing a significant portion of her family's food, in a really difficult spot: a rocky, windswept island off the coast of Nova Scotia. The book's small size demanded a sharper focus. This isn't going to be anyone's only gardening book, because it doesn't have room for which seeds should be started outdoors as soon as the soil can be worked, and which need to get a good headstart inside first. Really, any information that you can find print on the seed packet could be omitted. Fortunately, Blackmore spends most of the book on details that are particular to her: what difficulties her land presented for a particular permaculture practice, how she approached those difficulties, and what rewards she reaped.

• What do you think you’ll read next?

I have more books to read for economics in SF panel than I will be able to get to. I have just remembered that I have never read anything by Ken MacLeod. I also have four book group meetings between now and Wiscon:

One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (reread, but from very long ago)
Shadowshaper, by Daniel Jose Older
The Blue Hour, by Laura Pritchett (might skip this one)
The Worst Hard Time, by Timothy Egsn
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• What are you reading?

The Summer Without Men, by Siri Hustvedt.

• What did you recently finish reading?

Descender, Vol. 1: Tin Stars, by Jeff Lemire. A robot who is also an adorable little boy survives terrible and mysterious catastrophes. He may hold the key to understanding and preventing their return. The other characters and the settings are interesting. The art is beautiful. I would have loved this if I had read it when I was young. Now, I have read enough stories to notice when the plot is steered by the Rule of Cool, when the answer to "Why didn't the characters do the smart thing?" is "Because the author wanted a torture scene/a robot gladiator scene/a woman dying, gasping a slogan." Also, I have read enough stories that treat women as people to find the Weasley ratio really annoyingly noticeable. There's one female main character, one female supporting character, a few more who get a line but not a name. And only one of these female characters is human: the robot boy's dead mom.

• What do you think you’ll read next?

I've got suggestions to read or reread for my SF economics panel:

The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. Le Guin
Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars, by Kim Stanley Robinson
The Diamond Age, by Neal Stephenson
Walkaway, by Cory Doctorow
The Peripheral, by William Gibson
The Marq'ssan Cycle books by L. Timmel Duchamp

More suggestions still welcome!
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• What are you reading?

Regency Buck, by Georgette Heyer. Comfort read, as a reward for having done the tax returns. This one has Beau Brummell, Brighton, dueling, racing, cockfighting, a murder plot, a love interest who is so entirely superior to everyone that he treats them as chess pieces, and a young woman who does not care to be controlled, until she kind of does.

• What did you recently finish reading?

Bitch Planet, by Kelly Sue Deconnick. So good! My favorite part was when Penny demonstrates that her ideal self has nothing to do with prioritizing how others see her. Even in this world, that is a mighty feat for a woman.

• What do you think you’ll read next?

Don't know! Still have 25 items checked out from the library, and four holds to pick up when I return any of these.
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• What are you reading?

Arabella of Mars, by David Levine. It has a very old-fashioned feel. A sort of Golden Age of Science Fiction or Rudyard Kipling adventure. The setting is Age of Sail in spaaaace, because there is breathable atmosphere out past Mars, navigable by ships with balloons, sails, and oars.

Also a permaculture book.

• What did you recently finish reading?

Penric's Demon, by Lois McMaster Bujold. I liked it! I read the Five Gods novels when they came out; as I remember it, the first was good, the second was better, the third was kind of a mess. This novella is a good small story and satisfying look into what it is like to come into possession of one of the Bastard's demons. (Mostly satisfying; I really wanted to know how Penric is going to cope with his shyness and Desdemona's curiosity on sexual subjects, but all Bujold tells us is that it's awkward.)

• What do you think you’ll read next?

I belong to four book groups. In a perfect world, that would mean one meeting every week. In reality, two of them are slightly erratic and one meets only six times a year, so this month I have five book group meetings from 4-10 to 4-18, one of which I am hosting at someone else's house. (The fifth meeting is because someone in my SF book group is also in a graphic novel book group, which is reading Bitch Planet this month, so I'm going to visit.) The books are

A spool of blue thread, by Anne Tyler
Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert
The Traitor Baru Cormorant, by Seth Dickinson
Hope in the Dark, by Rebecca Solnit (I'm hosting this one)
Bitch Planet, by Kelly Sue DeConnick

Also I have to do our tax return somewhere in there.
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• What are you reading?

The Buried Giant, by Kazuo Ishiguro, for SF book group. A third of the way in. We're not getting along very well. Everything is mysterious. Some things are portentous. No one understands anything, but no one is very bothered, because no one remembers anything. Except in fragments. One mysterious woman told the same story as another mysterious woman. A strange warrior keeps giving our main character significant looks: does he remember something that the MC does not? Another odd figure was going to tell us his theory, but he has to leave. He's back. His theory is that maybe it's not just the characters who are senile; maybe God is also going senile.

I think I am going to get to the end of this book and ask, "What was that all about?" And the book will answer, "I don't know, Susan. What do you think that was all about?"

• What did you recently finish reading?

The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula K. Le Guin. Reread, for classics book group. So good! Thirty years ago the exploration of gender interested me most, but now it is the politics, power, status, loyalty.

The book has also changed between readings because I fell in love with Due South, and now I cannot not see Estraven and Genly Ai as alternate-universe Fraser and Kowalski. Especially when Estraven does something amazingly competent. Or lets you see how hard it is on him to do something dishonorable, even when the end absolutely does justify the means. Or writes, about Genly, "He endures the cold pretty well, and if courage were enough, would stand it like a snow-worm." I wonder how many fics in which Fraser keeps a journal, or encourages Ray to, and then after the Quest one of them reads the other's journal, were inspired by Estraven's journals more than Bob's?

• What do you think you’ll read next?

A spool of blue thread, by Anne Tyler, for Tawanda book group.
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• What are you reading?

The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula K. Le Guin, for classics book group. I've read this multiple times, but the last time I remember was on a summer vacation with Neal when I was 19. We were camping in Glacier National Park when Genly Ai and Estraven were out on the ice; if I remember right, it snowed on July 4, and we woke up to a mountain goat with a baby mountain goat investigating our campsite. The baby cavorted as baby goats do.

• What did you recently finish reading?

All About Love, by bell hooks, because my daughter read it and wanted to discuss it. I'm going to have to read this one again sometime. Hooks says she found a meaningful definition of love in M. Scott Peck's The Road Less Traveled: "the will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth." I thought hooks had a lot of useful things to say about how abuse, dishonesty, and injustice damage love, but I still don't understand that initial definition.

• What do you think you’ll read next?

The Buried Giant, by Kazuo Ishiguro, for SF book group.

xmas books

Dec. 30th, 2016 02:04 am
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I got A Small Furry Prayer: Dog Rescue and the Meaning of Life, by Steven Kotler, from my son.
I gave my nieces Cornelia Funke's Inkheart and Rachel Hartman's Seraphina.
I gave my older child
Naomi Novik's Uprooted,
Rebecca Solnit's Men Explain Things to Me,
Ted Chiang's Stories of Your Life and Others, though it did not persuade her to see Arrival with me,
Zen Cho's Sorcerer to the Crown,
Becky Chambers's The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet,
Katherine Addison's The Goblin Emperor,
and Sydney Padua's The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage.
I gave my younger child
Ben Aaronovitch's Broken Homes and Foxglove Summer,
Lev Grossman's Codex,
M. J. Locke's Up Against It,
Martha Wells's The Serpent Sea,
and Carla Speed McNeil's Finder.
I also wanted him to try Nine Princes in Amber, but somewhere over the years I lost my SFBC copy. My library has the giant 10-books-in-one compilation, so I checked that out; he'll only be here for a few more days, but he can read one or two and decided whether he'd like to finish. I think I'll dig out Doorways in the Sand for him too.

• What are you reading?

Detroit City is the Place to Be, by Mark Binelli. A bit about how Detroit got to be that way, a bit about what its possibilities are, but mostly about what it is like to live in Detroit now. Very interesting.

• What did you recently finish reading?

Death by Silver, by Melissa Scott & Amy Griswold.

• What do you think you’ll read next?

My book groups' books for January:
Uprooted, by Naomi Novik
Americanah, by Chimimanda Ngozie Adichie
The Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer, translated by Sheila Fisher

My fourth book group will be meeting in January, but we're not reading a book. The plan is to learn to knit a pussy hat.

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