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Reading: June 2011’s Books

Almost a month late, we have the June round-up posts. Games and television were up first, now it’s time for the books:

Terry is the only returning author this month and is proving something of a regular, appearing in four of the last six months.

Image sources: Terry, Cormac, Markus and Brian

There are four authors this month but I read nearly twice that amount of books. As ever, that’s because of one specific author. Including this month’s haul I’ve read ten of his books so far this year and eighteen in the past twelve months. Let’s get to it then:

May 31st - The Wee Free Men, June 8th - A Hat Full of Sky, June 11th - Wintersmith and June 14th - I Shall Wear Midnight - All by Terry Pratchett

Image sources: The Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky, Wintersmith and I Shall Wear Midnight

These four books constitute the entire Tiffany Aching subseries of Discworld novels, aimed at a younger audience than the main series, though the target audience seems to age as Tiffany does across the series. In The Wee Free Men she’s just nine but by the time of I Shall Wear Midnight she’s fifteen and the books reflect that, starting with something that’s almost pure fairytale (though with the typical Discworld spin), but from the opening of the third book, Wintersmith, things are considerably darker.

I’ve mentioned before that the witches are my favourite overall series within the greater Discworld series and that Granny Weatherwax is one of my favourite characters in general, so I’ve been disappointed that there hasn’t been a new novel in that series since 1998’s Carpe Jugulum. Having read all of the Tiffany Aching books now I’d say they absolutely count as part of the series despite being aimed at a different audience. Not having Granny as the focus allows for a greater sense of threat, as Granny is all but unbeatable at this point just through sheer pride and stubbornness whereas Tiffany is still learning as she goes. Having Granny assist in Tiffany’s training but not solve her problems for her works really well and Tiffany is a great character.

I Shall Wear Midnight serves as a decent finale for Tiffany and the witches in general if Pratchett’s illness means we don’t get any more, without backing the series into a corner. The maturing nature of the series means I’m not quite sure what the target age would be now, as something like The Wee Free Men seems like it would be fine for my nephew (who is turning ten soon) but as I said above the latter two seem like they’re targeted more to people the same age as Tiffany is in those books, approaching the mid-teens, both because they’re more complicated and because they tackle subjects that are simply more significant to teens. Regardless, they’re all great books, whatever their targeted age group.

June 4th - The Road, by Cormac McCarthy

I actually read this between The Wee Free Men and A Hat Full of Sky, but wanted to discuss that series as a group. The Road is an incredibly bleak book. For the most part it is just the father and son travelling together along the road after a cataclysmic event has essentially wiped out almost all life on the planet, heading for the coast for no real reason beyond that it’s better than accepting death by remaining where they are. Food is always scarce, everybody they meet has to be treated as an enemy and they see and hear things that are horrifying. It’s almost relentless in its bleakness but it’s an excellent novel.

June 19th - The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak

Narrated by Death and covering a young girl’s life in Nazi Germany after losing her parents, it’s clear early on that The Book Thief isn’t going to be the happiest of stories. It’s not miserable though, as even Death is more of a being performing a service rather than an evil force bringing lives to their end (that’s left to the humans). He takes a personal interest in Liesel Meminger, the titular book thief, meeting her three times throughout her life. She’s a wonderful character and it’s a great book, as well as quite an emotional one.

June 26th - Greybeard, by Brian Aldiss

In some ways Greybeard is similar to The Road in its broad structure, focusing on two people travelling together (in this case Greybeard and his wife) after a major event has brought civilisation to its knees. In this case the event is explained (in The Road it’s irrelevant), human experimentation leaving almost the entire human population unable to reproduce, the childless and ageing population steadily drifting apart. Unlike McCarthy’s novel Aldiss has hope as the central theme, Greybeard always convinced things will be better and actually embracing the world he lives in, which has given him a unique life that’s a far cry from the monotonous one he feels he would have otherwise lived. He has his wife and for him that’s all he really needs, and that sense of hopefulness and contentment never fades.

Greybeard is another entry in the SF Masterworks collection. I’ve only read three others in the collection – Star Maker, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Frankenstein – so it’s going to be a source for good science fiction for a long time to come.


June Verdict

Quality – I’d say the quality of books this month was incredibly high, as I really enjoyed all of them.

Quantity – I got through seven books this month. The first three Tiffany Aching books and The Road were all quick reads, bumping up the completion rate. The Book Thief was the longest, but even that only took a week of reading for about an hour a day.

Newness – As with last month (when I started it) The Wee Free Men is the only book I read this month that I’d read before.

Goals – These were my goals for June:

  1. “keep to what I’m doing, reading daily and for at least about an hour per day” – Achieved
  2. “I’d quite like to read at least one book I own but have never read before, a token effort towards working through the backlog” – Achieved
  3. “For June then I still have The Road to read” – Achieved
  4. “the fourth Tiffany Aching book, I Shall Wear Midnight, releases in paperpack next month [so] I’m going to go through the whole set again” – Achieved
  5. “by the end of the month I might need to buy some more books” – Achieved
June was an unambiguous success for reading then, making it the one stand-out in a month of failures (though I think ‘failure’ is a bit strong a word for ‘I didn’t watch/play as many things as I intended to’). I really am enjoying reading at the moment, which probably helps. For July then goals one and two transfer across cleanly, and of the books I purchased this month I still have Catch-22 to read, after which I’m going to need to buy some new books. I think that will do.
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  1. July 30, 2011 at 15:01

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