If you’ve friended me on GoodReads, or follow me on Twitter, you know I’m working my way through another fifty-two book challenge: to read fifty-two books, an average of one a week, in the calendar year 2019. Right now, I’m sitting at forty-two books read so far this year, or one book behind schedule, which isn’t bad at all. And, of course, the books I read as part of my job don’t count. These are all books that have been published and that I’m reading for my own entertainment and education, and every book is part both.

One of the things I try to do is to read across a number of categories (fiction, non-fiction, graphic novels, etc.) and genres (science fiction, fantasy, mystery, etc.). And I long ago realized that—maybe we can blame this on a form of attention deficit disorder—I can lose interest in a book for a few days or even a week along the way, just not be in the mood to read that particular book. But that meant it could sometimes take me weeks of even, believe it or not, months to get through a book. I was reading too few books in any given year. So I started reading a number of books interchangeably. That way, if I’m not in the mood for, say, some heavy complex non-fiction book, I have a “pulp” science fiction novel I can pick up instead, and so on. After a little experimentation I’ve more or less settled on four as the right number of books at a time. And I do put at least a little thought into the mix there, but sometimes end up with a couple very similar titles, or a very long book that takes me a while to get through while I whip through shorter books alongside it…

It’s not, nor does it need to be, and exact science. The important thing is that I’m setting aside time to read, and I’m exposing myself to a variety of experiences.

Here’s what I’m reading right now…

The Castaways of Tanagar by Brian Stableford

I have the first edition, first printing, of the original DAW Books edition (No. 428) from 1981. I bought this at a used bookstore, probably paid $1.25 for it… and I have a lot of books just like it. In the past twenty years or so I’ve been on a more or less continuous used book buying spree. My massive personal library has long ago grown beyond reasonable expectations that I’ll ever read them all, though part of this fifty-two book challenge is designed to at least make a little headway. Still, my library have become more a no-kill book shelter than a collection or a “to read” shelf. When I see a book that looks at all interesting or that, basically, is science fiction and I haven’t read it and it’s old and it has cool cover art… and it’s cheap… I buy it.

This got “bad” enough that I eventually put them—some of them, anyway—in a box I occasionally draw from at random. The Castaways of Tanagar is exactly this. I must have thought it looked cool so i bought it, I put it in that box, then a random behavior prompt told me to draw a random science fiction/fantasy paperback from my box, and voila! I’m only fifty-six pages in and I’m digging it. This one is for the love of science fiction. I love science fiction. I read science fiction.


Next is…

Tentacles Longer Than Night by Eugene Thacker

I’ve read the first two of Thacker’s three volume Horror of Philosophy, loved the first, liked the second, and so far am loving the third. The first two look at the horror elements of the Western philosophical tradition, and I found that fascinating. This final volume examines the philosophy of horror, how horror authors have used the genre to put forward or explore certain philosophical concepts. Though they’re slim little volumes they can be a intellectually dense, but while The Castaways of Tanagar satisfies my love of straight-up science fiction, Tentacles Longer Than Night satisfies my curiosity about the horror genre, and helps inform things like this blog, the two online horror courses I teach for Writer’s Digest, and my own writing, which has recently been going back to horror.

I almost never re-read books, but made the decision a few years ago to read the entire Dune series, including the new, expanded series, so I started by re-reading Dune, Dune Messiah, and Children of Dune, then the final three books Frank Herbert wrote, only one of which I had started reading when it was new, but don’t remember finishing. I then moved on to the new series, or series of series, by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson. I loved the first three and have made my way to:

Dune: The Butlerian Jihad by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

I’m only barely into it and it’s good—I’m hanging in with it—but it begins with one thing I have advised anyone and everyone who’ll listen not to do. It opens with a three-page backstory info dump so clunky it sent me scrambling to the Internet to make sure I hadn’t gotten the order of the series wrong—had I just read a three-page spoiler of a book I was meant to read before this?

But no, this was just plopped in there… not good. Please never do this. I’m unable to understand how an author as experienced as Kevin Anderson, and people as experienced at those included in the acknowledgments, would ever allow this…

Let the book stand on it’s own!

Then last, but not least…

Showcase Presents Aquaman, Volume One

Do I just like to root for the underdog?

Do I feel some empathic bond for anyone who seems marginalized?

I hate the hate that Aquaman gets. As a kid, I always thought Aquaman was pretty cool. I’ve always loved undersea science fiction… What could possibly be so bad about Aquaman? He talks to fish—that’s awesome! His mother was a queen of Atlantis—that’s amazing!

I’m more than halfway through this huge collection of the original Aquaman stories from 1959-1962 and okay, sure, they’re… light entertainment pieces. But I’m finding them so charming, so much fun… just delightful. Sometimes you want to read for the pure joy of it, and this is pure joy.

Aquaman rules!

Okay… so there you have it. What are you reading, and why?


—Philip Athans

Follow me on Twitter @PhilAthans

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Or contact me for editing, coaching, ghostwriting, and more at Athans & Associates Creative Consulting.


About Philip Athans

Philip Athans is the New York Times best-selling author of Annihilation and a dozen other books including The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Writing Monsters. His blog, Fantasy Author’s Handbook, (https://fantasyhandbook.wordpress.com/) is updated every Tuesday, and you can follow him on Twitter @PhilAthans.
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