Press "Enter" to skip to content

Posts published in “Reading”

A Great Discworld ReRead & Read

I love Discworld. A lot.

I was first introduced to Terry Pratchett through Good Omens in the late 90s. I’d been a big fan of Hitchhiker’s Guide so the humor spoke to teenage me. Good Omens is great. One of very few books I’ve read more than once. But I didn’t really know anything about the Discworld series. Not that there was a good way to learn about things like that besides word of mouth, stumbling on them in a bookstore or library, or maybe some cruddy Geocities website.

I learned about the books from a TA at a summer film program I attended at the Maine Photographic Workshops and it sort of blew my mind. An entire series like the Hitchhiker’s Guide, but longer and about fantasy? Written by one of the guys who wrote Good Omens? Fantastic! Getting the books was a little tougher, though.

This was an era before easily accessible electronic copies of books and most of the older Discworld books were out of print in the US or hard to find. And I certainly wasn’t going to start somewhere in the middle of the series like some insane person with no respect for order. But then Harper Collins started reprinting mass market paperback versions in chronological order.

That meant the time was right. So I dug in! For years, from the reprinting of Color of Magic in 2000 , I’d pick up the next Discworld book as it was reprinted or printed in the US, careful to read them only in original publication order.

If you ask people, they’ll often recommend you start with some of the later books and then only return to the early ones if you find you’ve become a fan. Nonsense. I think the beginning is the best place to start. You really get to see Pratchett come into his own not only as a writer but also as the creator of a world that starts as a sort of send-up of sword and sorcery tropes but becomes a rich, living, satirical thing of its own that is unlike just about anything else in modern fiction.

Discworld is silly. Discworld is exciting. Discworld is profound.

Discworld is great. I love Discworld.

I’ve wanted to start at the beginning again, reread the ones I’ve read already, and finally read the ones I haven’t. About a year ago I had the idea to start collecting Kindle versions as they went on discount and would work my way through as they became available. By the beginning of 2024, I’d collected three books: The Color of Magic (Discworld 1), Hogfather (Discworld 20), and Raising Steam (Discworld 40). Ok. A start. It’s probably going to take me a long time.

And then yesterday I found that Humble Bundle is selling 39 of the 41 Discworld books for the price of a burger and a beer. It might be the universe’s biggest no-brainer. How could I possibly say no to this?

Sure, the books activate on the Kobo store (what?). Sure, it’s missing the graphic novel The Last Hero and Raising Steam (the latter of which I already have). Sure, Humble Bundle is kind of sketchy now. But almost all the books? In one place? For eighteen stupid dollars?


I spent about 2 hours converting the files with Calibre and then sending them off to my Kindle for the sheer convenience of having them all in one place with all my other ebooks. Time consuming, sure, but easy and didn’t require a ton of thought. A little metadata clean up here, find new cover artwork there, and boom! All done.

Now I can reread and read the whole series. So follow along with me as I work my way through forty Discworld books over the next few years. I’ll give each a write up here as a way to stay honest about my progress. Honestly, I am pretty excited about it. If you love Discworld, or are at all curious about it, I encourage you to read along with what is sure to be a wild ride. Should be fun!

A Peek at my Reading Queue

Goodreads gives you a little tool to track the number of books you read over the course of a year. In 2021, I wanted to read 52 books—a book a week—but that proved a little ambitious. Who knew that infants were so much work? I got half way. A far cry from my 2020 peak of 62 books.

This year I’ve set my goal at a more reasonable 26 books, or one every other week. That is the same number I managed last year, so I feel pretty good that I should be able to make it happen. And if I don’t? Well, that’s how the cookie crumbles, I guess.

I try to read a variety of things, but the reality is that I end up actually reading a bunch of SFF, horror, and technical stuff. A scan through my previous years’ lists confirms this. The examples I’ve considered for this post are all in line.

What *do I have in the list for this coming year? Let’s look.

Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson – I’ve already started this one. I anticipate that I am going to finish it some time in September. Sanderson is not known for his brevity. Coming to this after finishing John Langan’s The Fisherman was a bit of a shock. Their two styles of prose could not be more different. Langan is dense and literary while Sanderson is like watching a comic book movie. Both are good. Both have their places. But, dang, are they different.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott – I started this book like two years ago during my writing class at Cabrillo. Fortunately, it’s a collection of essays. Picking it back up will not be difficult. Lamott is charming, hilarious, and just enough of a pain in the ass for her writing to resonate strongly with me.

Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo – I’ve read the entirety of Akira before when it was first collected into five volumes in 2000. A long time ago at this point. I purchased the 35th anniversary collection last year and it’s been sitting on my floor waiting to be read. This is the year. Akira is massive and, along with the film version, a formative work for me.

The Terror by Dan Simmons – I’m about 45 hours into the 50 hours of the audiobook of Simmons’ Carrion Comfort and I’ve enjoyed the hell out of it. I’ve read the Hyperion series, but didn’t know until Carrion Comfort that Simmons also wrote novels that weren’t just love letters to John Keats. Further, the audiobook version of The Terror I spent an Audible credit on is produced with background music. This is going to either be a big hit or a big miss. Either way it is going to shine some light on an idea I’ve had for The Black Laser Reads about doing audiobooks with more production elements than just voice. Also, it’s another horror novel that is well regarded. I am sure it will be a fun one.

Piranesi by Susannah Clarke – Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell was one of the best books of the year in whichever year I read it. Goodreads tells me I finished the Kindle version in 2016. It is so rich and such a fun adventure that I felt pretty bummed that it was her only novel. One hell of a one-and-done, you know? Shortly after moving to Delaware, Sarah and I went into the bookshop in Bethany and I saw she had a new book, Piranesi, available only in hardback. Instant purchase. My copy is signed by the author, too, which is fun. Piranesi has gotten a lot of good chatter around it, which makes me look forward to it even more.

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski – This was one of the suggestions by my friend Mike when I solicited Facebook for horror novel recommendations a while ago. The format of this book doesn’t lend itself well to e-reading, which is my preferred way of consuming novels. I hesitated a long time until I finally just bit the bullet and picked up a paper copy. I know almost nothing about what happens in House of Leaves, only that people whose opinions I respect think it is fantastic. That is enough.

The Rhetoric of Fiction by Wayne C. Booth – My understanding is that this work gave us the name for the “unreliable narrator”. It’s dense. It’s academic. He writes about a lot of works I’ve never read. Seems like the perfect thing to shift my brain into a different gear.

Books of Blood, Vols 3-6 by Clive Barker – I find that toggling between horror shorts and other books is a good way to break things up without getting distracted from the main text much in the same way as how I like to have one nonfiction and one fiction book going at any one time. So, really, I guess it’s actually one fiction, one nonfiction, one collection of short stories, and one audiobook in progress at all times. Clive Barker’s Books of Blood fit in perfectly with any combination of things I’m reading. It’s nice to have that short, sweet, horror fix. Palate cleansers.

Off the top of my head and a quick glance around my desk that’s it for now. Certainly I will think of some other things I intend to read this year. I’ll revisit this in a few months and we can check in on my progress. Completing these books will get me 15 books further toward my goal of 26. Not all the way, but not too bad either.

Did I miss anything you think I should definitely read this year? Is something on my list so stupid I should give it a pass? What are you reading (besides this post)? Suggest a book that is outside my normal consumption and tell me why I should read it.

Download the audio of this post.

Photo by Alfons Morales on Unsplash

City of Golden Shadow… or, Why Am I Still Reading This Book?

After reading the second and third Expanse books back to back, I turned my attention to Tad Williams’ Otherland: City of Golden Shadow. The book had been in my mental queue for a long time, but for this reason or that I never actually read it. As much as I just wanted to read the next Expanse book, I felt like it was probably prudent to give the series a rest for a moment. Enter City of Golden Shadow.

Now, I am about three quarters of the way through it and I have no idea why I am still reading.

The book isn’t bad, exactly, but something about it isn’t grabbing me. Weighing in at about 800 pages, the commitment to reading is no little thing. But there’s something off and I can’t put my finger on it.

I feel like I’m just continuing on with it out of some sense of stubbornness. Like, maybe at some point the book will pick up and start being interesting? I’ve gotten this far, so I should probably just keep going? It has everything is should have to grab my attention: international intrigue! Nefarious plots! Parallel worlds! Science fictiony stuff! Egyptian gods! Murders! Explosions! Little girls who have weird friendships with elderly burn victims! Everything!

But, when it comes time to pull it out of my pocket on the train or get in bed and read, I’m overwhelmed with a feeling “meh”ness, you know? It’s weird.

Life is too short to read bad books. I know that much. There have been plenty of books I’ve gotten into and put down forever after a hundred pages. I’ve tried to read Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow like three times, and just put it down each time because it’s so full of itself trying to impress readers with its cleverness that it fills me with rage. Screw that book. Seriously.

City of Golden Shadow just isn’t bad enough to put down, though. I don’t actively hate it. It’s just not exciting enough, either, that I am ripping through it. It’s stuck in this mental/emotional neutral place for me where I can’t build up the required spite to put it down, but I also don’t give enough of a damn to want to see how it ends up. It’s the kind of book that I could get stuck “reading” for years because I just never spent any time with it. Or, at least, it could be that kind of book if I was the kind of person who could do that sort of thing.

I am also totally willing to posit that my feelings about the book might have absolutely nothing to do with the book itself, but possibly have everything to do with my mental state these days which we’ll diplomatically describe as “rough”. City of Golden Shadow, it might not be you; it might be me. It might still be you, though. I don’t know. Probably not.

At this point, I’m just going to finish the damn thing since I am getting pretty close to the end now, but the chances I read the following three books are pretty low. And that quickly, I’m in the market for something to read after this. Any suggestions?