Jo Walton’s Reading List: April and May 2021

MSB: Yes, I love Patrick Leigh Fermor, I've read and re-read those.

Jo Walton’s Reading List: April and May 2021

Claire -- I think it was your recommendation that brought them to my attention. I'm half way through the third one now, and it's just as good.

Worldcon 2021 Moves to December

I am so very going, if the border is open and I am vaccinated. And surely, by December...

Jo Walton’s Reading List: March 2021

For people who knew a bit about Savonarola, I could have just started the book there. :-)

Jo Walton’s Reading List: March 2021

MSB: Yes, I have read The Sixteen Pleasures and I liked it but very much with qualifications. 

Pam: I think you'd really like Sharp.

Jo Walton’s Reading List: February 2021

Donna: I've put it on my list, thank you.

Marko: Oh, yes, definitely!

Jo Walton’s Reading List: February 2021

Alex: I didn't like How to Rule an Empire half as much, it was OK, and I enjoyed it, but it didn't have that extra bounce that 16 Ways and this novella did.

Jo Walton’s Reading List: January 2021

Keith, I read 27% of it when it came out last March, and a) it was last March and I was having a hard time reading b) I didn't like that book the first time around and I felt like I'd been suckered into reading it again. So I asked myself if I had to read it, decided I didn't, and quit. I very seldom do this and probably wouldn't have if there hadn't been a pandemic in addition to it being awful. I keep flipping past it on the Kindle and ask myself "Do I want to finish it?" and answering no, I want to read something I'll enjoy. I love Heinlein, but they were wrong to publish this discarded draft.

Jo Walton’s Reading List: January 2021

Rhoda: I love Last Letters from Hav and have written about it here, you should be able to find it.

Jo Walton’s Reading List: January 2021

This wasn't an audiobook, this is friends reading aloud to each other over Discord as a Pandemic coping mechanism. Sorry.

Jo Walton’s Reading List: December 2020

RobinM: What is this "watch" you mention? :-) I do not enjoy watching shows at all, and so I never ever do it, and this is why I have time to read a bunch. I watched zero TV or movies in December. I think I watched 4 movies in all of 2020 and no TV. Just not my thing.

Jo Walton’s Reading List: November 2020

@3 & @5 I've read some D.E. Stevenson, and I find her patchy. I have only read one Angela Thirkell and I hated it, it was shallow and sniping and really unpleasant. Maybe it was a late one, I can't remember now, it went back to the library with extreme prejudice more than a decade ago, and I've been reflexively saying "Ugh!" whenever I've seen her name since.

@2 Thanks, Rich, I had forgotten it was Gardner too.

@4 Farjeon is that kind of writer. I was looking for a particular story of hers for a long time. Several of her linked-story collections are available free online now.

Jo Walton’s Reading List: October 2020

Chip: Divergence follows directly on from the one before which was in no way a completion of anything, and this is another piece. I agree that to start with they came in sets, but this has been less and less the case in recent volumes. It has volume completion -- but they all do to some extent, Cherryh is the master of "a happy ending depends on when you stop".

Jo Walton’s Reading List: September 2020

Simka: I thought it might just be me, so I'm glad to hear it's not!

Jo Walton’s Reading List: September 2020

Goljerp: Not yet. It looks so... long. I haven't been in the mood for something that long yet.

Seven Books I Love From Seven “A” Authors

But B is so haaaaard! So many great authors start with B!

Jo Walton’s Reading List: August 2020

Nancy @12 I absolutely love Arcadia

Wub @9 The Virgin in the Garden was my first Byatt too, when I was in university. I love the first two, but I have real problems liking Babel Tower perhaps because I read it at a bad time for it and my life to coincide. I also love The Game and her short fiction. But there's something about Possession that's really special.

a-j @6 I am also lazy, and it was the translation in the Delphi ebook, which also has the Latin -- I love that Delphi series.

Dave @1 The paragraph about Sense and Sensibility.

Sorry to be slow getting to comments.

Jo Walton’s Reading List: July 2020

srEDIT -- if I could write a sequel to it, I wouldn't have been the person who could have written it in the first place. I like doing things and then doing other things, and all the hardest things I've written have been sequels, definitely not doing any more. Having said that, I did start writing a sequel to it and then I got bored with it, and the beginning of it is on my website What I actually recommend is reading Trollope and squinting a little and pretending the characters are dragons. It works really well.

I have written lots of other books, and it's possible you might like some of them even more than you would have liked a sequel. If not, I'm sorry. but you did get the completely different book I wrote instead of writing sequels to my first novels.

Jo Walton’s Reading List: July 2020

Rich -- the Walled Orchard books were what I had read, on your high recommendation, and thought were mildly good, enjoyable, I liked them, but not as much as you do, and not as much as I liked Sixteen Ways which I suspect may have been the right book at the right time.

To Create Is To Live Forever: Jo Walton’s Or What You Will

If you didn't like the meta-ness of AO you're just flat out going to hate this, and I recommend you read something you'd like instead. Life is too short to read books you're already half-convinced you're going to hate when there are so many marvellous books out there. Have you read Sofia Samatar's A Stranger in Olondria? That's a great book. And I just read Laurie Marks Elemental Logic books. Give those a go. OWYW is totally meta. No one book is for everyone. If you want to read something of mine with Shakespeare, try Ha'Penny.

Jo Walton’s Reading List: May 2020

MSB: Well I'm glad somebody liked it! I hated Jill Paton Walsh's first continuation of the Lord Peter stories, it was full of things that felt wrong, like Bunter's romance. I would much prefer it if she did her own work, almost all of which I love (especially Knowledge of Angels which I have written about here, and The Emperor's Winding Sheet) instead of working in somebody else's universe with such unsatisfying (to me) results.

Jo Walton’s Reading List: March 2020

I'm reading Belles on Their Toes right now. :-)

And I liked the Dagger and the Coin books, they were good, they had awesome banking and lots of fun stuff. But they weren't so innovative. It's as if somebody said make it more European and more like Game of Thrones. They also had great metaphysics though.

Books in Which No Bad Things Happen

MCKarle: If you'd like to make an alphabetical list and email it to me [email protected] I could annotate it and make a new post, I think there's enough interest! I'd probably put the whole list at the end and do a post discussing the suggestions and talking more about these things. I've been thinking this would be a good idea but been intimidated by the thought of the time/effort it would take to make the list.

Books in Which No Bad Things Happen

Nancy: I was also thinking a lot of books recommended in comments are things that have a high level of anxiety and humiliation. There's a reason I recommended Cotillion and not the whole of Heyer.

Willis's Bellwether is however a total win, there's nothing bad in it, and I should have thought of it. I think Uncharted Territory would also count.

Books in Which No Bad Things Happen

I thought of another one after I finished the post, which I was writing for some time as events overtook me!

Tove Jansen's Comet in Moominland, and indeed most of the Moomin books. But Comet in Moominland comes firmly into the category of "threat averted".

Jo Walton’s Reading List: January 2020

Pamela Dean's Tam Lin, Mary McCarthy's The Group, Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited, Marge Piercy's Braided Lives, L.M. Mongomery's Anne of the Island -- you know, when I come to write them down they look like a very odd assortment, but what can I say?

Jo Walton’s Reading List: January 2020

PJCamp -- I'm a writer and I work at home. I also get paid for writing about books as well as writing books. Some of what I read is research and inspiration and feeds back into my writing, some of it is keeping up with the field, which is useful though not all writers do it, and some of it is deliberately reading outside the field which again, is useful. Reading is one of the tools of my trade, and my secret superpower, although the reason I do it is mostly because I like it.

Also, I DO NOT WATCH TV, full stop end of sentence. In January I watched zero TV and one movie. I also spend very little time playing videogames. In January I played 2048 on my phone a few times when waiting for things, probably less than half an hour total.

And I'm disabled, so I don't do a whole lot of physical stull that many people spend time doing -- I can walk with a cane, though not so much in uncleared snow, but it hurts to climb stairs, run, dance, or stand still. This was a month with a fairly high number of pain days in which I wasn't fit to write and so did literally nothing but lie around reading all day. A book like Would Like to Meet or Ninth House that can really distract me from pain is a godsend sometimes. But this is the thing that makes Neuralnet's positively intended "living the dream" difficult to wholeheartedly agree with.

I do have a social life, but it tends to happen in short intense bursts, and in winter it tends to be mainly in the apartment, a couple of nights a week when friends come over or visit for a weekend from out of town. But yes, reading is a big part of my life, and I feel really good and positive about that. I love reading. I'm sorry if it doesn't give you the same delight.

I've been doing these reading updates for almost a year now. If you have time to glance over them you'll see that the number of books I read varies a huge amount month by month depending on what else I'm doing, from a high of 33 to a low of 8. 

I just read a lot. It's what I do. You're not going to make me feel bad for doing it. But you might make other people who read a lot feel bad, when you imply that it prevents one from having a life or a living, and especially other disabled people and chronic pain sufferers for whom reading is a benison. 

Jo Walton’s Reading List: January 2020

Chris: 2021 is correct for Perhaps the Stars, I'm afraid. But it's worth waiting for, really.

The Suck Fairy

I wrote this in 2010. I did not mention the Ablism Fairy, who has only really become visible to me in the last decade. I wonder what other suck fairies will manifest as time goes by?

Jo Walton’s Reading List: December 2019

Pat -- I always do that! I blame Roald Dahl.

Carl -- we're all fallible, see above, and you were already forgiven.

Jo Walton’s Reading List: December 2019

Carl -- it's Walton, not Clayton, Jo Clayton died in 1998. No worries, but it might make me easier to find, should you wish to. And yes, I have read The Interior Life and I'm very fond of it, I've also reviewed it here, some time ago. Weirdly, the domestic part of the story is more interesting than the fantasy part.

Rhoda: I have read it, but not since I was a teenager. It's funny, with Du Marier there are ones I've only read once and ones I go back to over and over. Maybe I should read that again. As for disability in books, the older they are the more they get a pass from me on that kind of thing.

Jo Walton’s Reading List: November 2019

Msb: King John was amazing. It's a weird play, and this production was about as good as I can possibly imagine it done, except for one tiny thing that was a bit confusing. They brought continuity and extra dimensions to the characters with clothing choices and body language that really worked. I wish we'd had time to see it twice.

Henry VI was very cut -- as it would have to be to get three plays into even a long evening. I regretted the cuts, but enjoyed most of what was there. The Sam Wanamaker is such a treat anyway, and for this the lighting was partly candles as it would have been and partly other lighting, which was surprisingly effective. I loved the casting and the doubling. We did see it twice, and I enjoyed it much more the second time because I knew what they were doing and wasn't constantly mourning the shadow play that is the uncut version, or the Jane Howell version I have on DVD and am most familiar with.

Sunspear: Everyone else at book club said they loved Murderbot because they were like that and identified. I did not feel this identification. I do not think I am like that. Perhaps you know more about the inside of my head than I do? 

The 25 Most Anticipated SFF Books of 2020

Juanma -- Perhaps the Stars will be out early in 2021. It's done, I've read it, it's amazing and worth the wait.

Jo Walton’s Reading List: October 2019

2021 is correct for Perhaps the Stars. Ada's incorporating my comments and sending it to other beta readers now, Tor will have it by the end of this year, and it really and truly takes a year to make a finished manuscript a book. Probably it'll be really early in 2021/ And even though I've read it I still can't wait for it to be published so I can talk about the amazing incredible spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler...

Jo Walton’s Reading List: August 2019

I do take recommendations but my to-be-read pile is very long. I haven't read it. Why do you think I'll like it, particularly?

Jo Walton’s Reading List: July 2019

I haven't read it, but Darnton discusses it. And I will probably read it one day, there's a comfortable amount of unread Dumas waiting for me!

Jo Walton’s Reading List: July 2019

Alan Brown -- I absolutely agree about Pilcher's short stories, I loved reading the two collections of them available electronically, and thought a lot about how she does so much in so few lines.

Jo Walton’s Reading List: July 2019

Daniel: I can't answer that question. I read in between everything else and do not measure time spent reading. Also, it varies a lot. Some days I do nothing but read, some days I only read in bed before falling asleep.

Jo Walton’s Reading List: June 2019

Ecbatan: For normal people I'd suggest The Enchanted April which is probably her best book, but for you I'd suggest Fraulein Strauss and Mr Ansthuther because I think you'd enjoy what she's doing there with character and epistolary form.

11: I'm an idiot. I just dislike TV and can't get with it. I agree it's exactly the same as not being able to appreciate any other art form but there it is. I don't like comics either. I freely acknowledge these things as flaws in me and not in the art forms in question. I don't despise them. I agree I'm missing things. But they are not my thing. Sorry about that. 


Jo Walton’s Reading List: May 2019

Rin: It is not my experience that very clever people are any more cruel than anyone else.

Jo Walton’s Reading List: March 2019

Nebilon -- thank you. That makes me feel better about it.

Jo Walton’s Reading List: April 2019

Amaryllis: I rescued Ethel from The Daisy Chain and took her to Plato's Republic in my novel The Just City.

Jo Walton’s Reading List: April 2019

Tekalynn: Yes, it made me cry too, but more with anger that she thought that was a happy ending.

Jo Walton’s Reading List: April 2019

DPZora: I own Pillars of the House but I haven't read it yet. I love all the others you mention!

Jo Walton’s Reading List: March 2019

Ngogam: Thank you. You'd think I could copy it, wouldn't you, but somehow between my eyes and my fingers it got confused with an island in Hong Kong called Cheung Chau. I'll fix it

Jo Walton’s Reading List: March 2019

Hoopmanjh: I read and then Hellburner and then Downbelow Station, and then Rimrunners in the bath, and I've been able to stop myself there though I now want to read AR again...

Jo Walton’s Reading List: March 2019

Hedges: Yes, for Shute it was leave school at 16 and work in a shop, or pay for your education -- entirely wealth based and not merit based in any way. The postwar settlement in the UK was very imperfect, and I do see why people of Shute's class felt unhappy, and why they wrote cosy catastrophes in which all the working class got killed by triffids or eaten by killer bees, and I acknowledge that they did lose something when society made an attempt (however flawed) to become fairer. Still, as somebody who wouldn't have had a higher education under Shute's preferred system, or the US system, or the present UK system, I think I am right to roll my eyes at this aspect of Trustee From the Toolroom, even though in most other respects I do love it.

Jo Walton’s Reading List: March 2019

CHip: I'm a fast reader, though some things faster than others. In recent years I've started reading multiple things at the same time, cycling through them, and that seems to help me get through slow reads faster. I don't know whether re-reads are faster, I've never thought about it. 

Jo Walton’s Reading List: March 2019

GC: One of the reasons On the Beach had so much impact was because Shute had written What Happened to the Corbetts, which was in many ways prophetic, though in other ways very much not. So it gave him authority when he wrote another book about a near future war. As for living through that -- I was 25 when the Berlin Wall came down, and I started to believe for the first time there would be a future and I would be in it and having children was not an act of irresponsiblity.

Jo Walton’s Reading List: March 2019

CHip: Her parents were going to take her to Canada, probably Vancouver. She'd have probably ended up at McGill.

Jo Walton’s Reading List: March 2019

Thomas Goodey: Well, that wasn't my experience of going to university and living on a grant without parental help in the eighties. And I still think he was missing the point.

Jo Walton’s Reading List: March 2019

I re-read a lot. Ah, nine out of twenty-seven, a third. That's probably about normal, yes. I have written here about re-reading:

Jo Walton’s Reading List: March 2019

Saavik: I have not read Sounding, I'll look out for it. Sounds great.

David Evans: I have a new novel coming out May 28th, "Lent". I'm working on revising my novel after that, "Or What You Will".

An Informal History of the Hugos

Yes, Mike, but things take time, and his death is so recent that he was still with us when this book went through the process.

Indeed, I sent him a query email when I was in the last stages of proofing, and his response says how much he was looking forward to the book. This makes the eventual publication sad for me in a way, because he contributed to much to it and now he'll never see it. 

It was bad enough when it was just David.

Death sucks.

An Informal History of the Hugos

James -- If it's time, then I propose Rich Horton for the job. Not only is his knowledge of short fiction is far better than mine (as this book demonstrates) but also he has experience at putting together an anthology.

Godzilla Sonnets, Brought to You by Jo Walton

By the way, if anyone wants this in codex or ebook form, The Godzilla Sonnets are in my new collection Starlings.

Ada Palmer’s Too Like the Lightning Is A Future Worth Having

Alee: Yes, parents raise their own children, but in a context where the parents are living in a group of four to twenty friends, and they all raise their children together.

You say "why are humans like that" in a way that makes me wonder whether I am human, as I have a child but no interest in geneaology or Facebook, or being connected especially with my family of origin even the ones I know, let alone more of them, whereas I am very close to my friends. Therefore, as in fact I am human, I don't see it as an invariant thing -- it's common, yes, but not ubiquitous.

Ada Palmer’s Too Like the Lightning Is A Future Worth Having

You may also be interested in the Crooked Timber seminar on the books, which happened when Seven Surrenders came out. and which includes a piece by me and a brilliant piece by Max Gladstone.

Shared History: Revisiting Long Book Series

OM -- What to me seems conclusive is that the FTL works differently. The AU/Chanur universe has Jump and you need drugs to go through it. Phoenix doesn't work that way. Bren writes in his diary and Cajeiri watches movies while in FTL mode. Also, it's more interesting if it's a different universe.

I am super excited for a new Alliance Union book. Thank you everyone for letting me know it was on its way, so I have something to look forward to.

Shared History: Revisiting Long Book Series

Chris -- I have recently only been re-reading the last four or five when there is a new Atevi book.

What is Alliance Rising?

Shared History: Revisiting Long Book Series

Nine! Nine! There are now 18 Atevi books and book 17 is so great, really, so amazingly wonderful, but you have to have read all the others and how can I tell people they want to invest that much time?

Worth every minute, but...

(I wrote this post a long time ago. I wrote it on a train.)

Pastoral Apocalypse: Leigh Brackett’s The Long Tomorrow

Station Eleven is an interesting case. I really liked it except for the way it didn't make sense -- it had that quality that SF books written by mainstream authors often have of being brilliantly written but inadequately worldbuilt. I kept almost loving it and then being annoyed at things that were stupid and not thought through. But anyway, it's not quite in this subgenre, because it doesn't have that Twainlike voice, and also because it's Canada and not the US. I think there's a particular flavour to this genre of the world having gone back to a 1950's imagination of the Twain flavoured nineteenth centiry US, of course with everyone being white. Station Eleven is more a disaster novel or cosy catastrophe -- we see people living through the disaster as well as the world of afterwards. 

I haven't read Earth Abides or Alas Babylon, I'm afraid, so I don't know. If you can still smell the oranges, I'll take your word for it. (I have not read everything. A bunch of stuff, but not everything.)

Pastoral Apocalypse: Leigh Brackett’s The Long Tomorrow

HP -- no problem with that, and I wasn't at all compleining about the kind of thing she wanted to write. You'd just expect (or I expected anyway) her female characters to be a bit less cliched. 

Revisiting the Recently Rediscovered 1956 Hugo Awards Ballot

Oh! Three to Conquer I have read. Thank you. I agree about Russell, though I've re-read a couple and enjoyed them and written about them here, Wasp and Next of Kin which were the ones I liked best when I was a kid.

The Power of Princesses: Robin McKinley’s The Door in the Hedge

PrincessRoxana -- so download everything right now while you have wifi, hey? Then they are on your device forever. I don't know about the Nook, but with the Kindle, once they're downloaded, they're still there always unless you tell it to remove them from the device. I have literally never used mine any other way -- nothing is "in the cloud", I buy the book, or I download it from Gutenberg, and then I put it on and there is is, always, whenever I want it. I connect to wifi for 30 seconds at a time to download stuff and then turn it off again. When I got the new one, it took me a few hours to download the 1000 books I already had and resort them into their collections. But anything I've bought since March 2014 when I bought it, I have right there, whether there's wifi or not. I bought the thing for travel in the first place. It's the infinite "library in your pocket" nature of the thing that makes it great. Just download them. There is no downside.

The Power of Princesses: Robin McKinley’s The Door in the Hedge

Um, the limit on an old one is 1000, and after 4 years I had filled my old one up and bought a new one where the limit seems to be about 5000. That is indeed "a" limit, but it's not much of one!

The Merry World of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit

Right. But that was a choice on Tolkien's part, and a choice that was a departure from the norms and expectations of his own society. 

The Merry World of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit

Ajay -- I didn't say he understood logistics etc, (though I wouldn't be able to tell the difference whether he did or not) I said he made the journey bits fun to read and seem real and interesting. I can imagine a book written by somebody who understood all those things perfectly and got them utterly correct but who should instead have written "Ten days later when we arrived in X" because making journeys effective for the reader is hard. Though in fact I think Tolkien, who regularly went off for long hikes in England and the Welsh borders, understood walking pace and walking and weather but maybe not carrying provisions because he was never more than five miles from a pub!

The Merry World of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit

Tolkien totally does talk down to his readers. He doesn't do it all the time, but The Hobbit is full of direct asides. Tolkien himself later in a letter repudiates this and wishes he hadn't done it, they get fewer as the book goes on and LOTR doesn't have any of it.

I agree that writing a children's book is a worthy and excellent thing to do, but it's inherently going to be less satisfying for adults than an equally excellent adult book. And an adult book is going to be less satisfying for children. 

Why is Genre Fiction Obsessed with Belisarius?

David Drake: Oh, how fascinating that it was Jim Baen and Liddell-Hart. Thank you for your comment.

And I have either not read The Clocks of Iraz or have blotted it from memory. De Camp could be very variable. When he was good he was splendid.

As for the attitude to Islam in the books, I assumed it was coming from Stirling, as it's very similar to what I've seen from him elsewhere. 

Jo Walton’s Next Book is a Big Space Adventure: Announcing Poor Relations

Zvi: Oh, that's easy. I was having a conversation with a group of friends, and the question came up of Varley-style easy gender changes, and whether we'd do it if it was that easy. ALL the women said yes, and ALL the men said yes... as long as they were sure they could change back later. And I suddenly saw future gender choices as economic, and of course many people would hate this in many different ways, which I do explore in the book. 

As for "we" have gay marriage, for one thing, we for values of "the West" do, being gay is still illegal in many parts of this planet right now. And we, same valuies of we, have a tendency to declare a battle won and forget about it and move on to the next battle. The US STILL does not have an Equal Rights Amendment, in 2017, the glass ceiling is very real, and the work of older women falls out of the canon in a depressingly frequent way. It's better than 1917! But I wouldn't say feminism is over and we can stop examining this stuff.

Anyway, this is a book that has main characters who we would identify as gay and trans, but that isn't quite how they identify, in the same way as you have very different identifications of those things historically.

You may well really hate what I've done with gender stuff in this book, but it's not a thing I did without thinking about it.

Crane: Thank you for giving me the benefit of the doubt. Appreciated.

Everyone else: Yay!

A Burden Shared

Thank you to the people who like it!

I had the idea for this story when a friend and I were both experiencing chronic pain and I thought how much easier it would be to swap -- because then it would be for something, not pointless. 

For any SF idea there's a way of writing it that's simple, obvious, and boring. For this one, that would be the story of paying people to bear pain, oh look, rich people exploiting poor people, outsourcing literal pain, as much an allegory as a woman sitting on a lion with snakes and mirrors in her hands. This seemed to me a much more interesting approach.

One thing I do want to say in response to the negative remarks here -- a life with chronic pain is not a life without value, and saying and implying that it is directly disparages not just my own lived experience but that of others. Please don't do that.

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