Monday, November 21, 2016

Barely Making a Dent: November 2016 Books

In which our narrator tries to read his way through the endless stacks of books that are slowly overtaking both his bookshelves and his life.

I broke down and ordered a tall five-shelf bookcase earlier this week. It's nothing fancy, but it should help consolidate some of the backlog of books from around the house. Now we can set aside one of our smaller bookcase for the kids' room, too. I'm antsy for it to be delivered so I can make some progress with the book piles. Note, in this instance "progress" means "Moving books from one place to another" as opposed to "Getting rid of any books." Baby steps, right?

Currently reading

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin. Having read and been perplexed by this book in college, I haven't revisited it since. But it's lingered with me all these years. In college I may have been too young to grasp what she was doing here, but I was certainly fascinated by it. I hadn't read anything quite like it before. Since then, I've read more about Le Guin, including this fantastic recent piece in The New Yorker, but still haven't read much more of her work beyond some short stories. The New Yorker profile made me realize she's the kind of author that plays with themes and ideas I find appealing and worth examining: isolation, identity, and politics, to name a few. The Left Hand of Darkness resonates much more with me today, especially having started my reread immediately after Election Day this month. Her story of an envoy from another world trying to make sense of the people of the planet Winter has only grown more powerful with time, as oppression and fear of the Other seem as alive and well as ever in our current political climate. Le Guin traffics in big ideas, using metaphor and symbolism to explore how these ideas impact us. I'm more than halfway done with the book and absolutely loving it so far.

Recently read

Wonder Woman by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang. I was able to read this entire run in six trades (thanks to the public library). The series ran from 2011-2014 and I've heard plenty of good things about it since. It didn't disappoint me. I'm becoming more and more interested in Wonder Woman recently—as a character, a concept, and an icon. To my way of thinking, Diana seems like the most thoughtfully progressive of the major superheroes. Alongside her super powers, she's also compassionate, kind, sympathetic, and empathetic. Azzarello placed a heavy emphasis on Greek mythology and seeing Diana interact with the mischievous and arrogant gods was a pleasure. Chiang's artwork is absolutely gorgeous, which is not a surprise. He's one of the best cartoonists working right now and his Diana exudes strength, intelligence, and warmth—just as any interpretation of her should. There's a reason why they chose an illustration of his for the recent Wonder Woman postage stamps. Stellar work, highly recommended.

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