A to Z: What I Read in 2017

30896668A is for ALEX + ADA. Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn’s near-future sci-fi drama about a man who falls in love with an android might seem like well-trodden, eye-roll inducing territory, but it’s a genuinely interesting exploration of what love could mean in the 21st century. A spiritual companion to Spike Jonze’s HerAlex + Ada can challenge you if you want it to. Vaughn’s art is simple, yet beautiful. This book was an absolute pleasure. Although, off the top of my head, I’m not sure it passes the Bechdel Test (however, every page of this book is about relationships so I think it can be forgiven).

B is for BLEAKER HOUSENell Stevens’ memoir about attempting to write her first novel on one of the most secluded places on Earth–half way around the world, to boot–is, surprisingly, a page-turner. It was so good that Pan Macmillan is publishing her next book, about Elizabeth Gaskell, in June 2018.

C is for CONVERSATIONS WITH KAFKAGustav Janouch’s memoir about his quasi-apprenticeship with Fraz Kafka was interesting, even though I’ve never read anything from Kafka. Don’t ask about what prompted me to read this because I don’t remember. I’m glad I did, though. I earmarked so many pages (don’t judge me) it was ridiculous. This is a quote fan’s wet dream.

D is for DAVE EGGERS. The Circle was, easily, the worst book I read this year. Eggers feels at least a generation too old to be writing about a cutting edge social media company. This was startlingly free of insight, unintentionally comical, and inhabited by one of the most vapid protagonists you’ll even find in Mae Holland. Avoid at all costs.

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What Makes a Book a Classic?

With another Classics Spin well underway, it’s time to discuss that age-old blog question: What makes a book a classic?

It’s one of the more provocative and unsolvable questions in the literary community. Like an argument over whether or not a book is worthy of five stars, it’s a hopelessly subjective and seemingly pointless affair. But these discussions continue to rage on, and here we are, talking about it again.

Why? Because it’s delicious. Like the proverbial cake that could very well lead to a heart attack, we shout “consequences be damned!” and maniacally devour it.

It’s possible we keep circling back around to it because there are only a few places where a discussion like this one is worth much of anything: a classroom, a bookstore, and a blog with a connection to the Classics Club.

To help me get to the bottom of this conundrum, I searched far and wide for advice from the wisest sages: Italo Calvino, Ezra Pound, Chris Cox, Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve, Mark Twain, and five “normals” from the literary community.

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Acknowledgments: December 2017

Acknowledgements will be a regular feature at Another Book Blog where I wrangle up some of the more interesting things around the blogosphere and present them to you in a neat and tidy package. Like sports highlights, or the mall.


⇒ Marian Keyes offers some of the best writing advice you’ll ever read, and has a great answer when asked about “guilty pleasure” reads. [The Globe and Mail]

⇒ The Penguin Hotline is back for another holiday season! Get personalized book recommendations from the Penguin staff. I love doing this every year. [Penguin Random House]

⇒ Laura from Reading in Bed just published an important video about “reading as spectacle.” If you’re a blogger/vlogger, please watch it. [Laura’s YouTube Channel]

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Firefly Meets Pirates of the Caribbean

In The Hobbit, Tolkien’s observes that tales of inspiration are “soon told about, and not much to listen to; while things that are uncomfortable, palpitating, and even gruesome, may make a good tale, and take a deal of telling.” The same rings true for book reviews, I fear.

If a book is truly great, how does one give a recommendation equal to it? On the other hand, everyone loves a good tear down. Here’s your social proof: I have garnered a few dozens likes (combined) for the 49 five-star reviews I’ve left on Goodreads; meanwhile, my scathing review of Ready Player One has (of this writing) 140 likes and is the 20th-most-liked review among the 56,000 reviews of that book.

Such is my dilemma as I sit down to write my review for Retribution Falls, without doubt one of the most entertaining, rip-roaring reading experiences I’ve ever had. If you’re in the mood for a tear down, go elsewhere. I’m about to spend the next three minutes verbally felating Chris Wooding’s steampunk masterpiece.

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The Day Mike Brown Murdered Your Childhood

The smut rag that is Mike Brown’s How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming has been inducing existential crises the world over for more than a decade.

In it, Brown makes two things abundantly clear: Pluto is not a planet, and he thinks your childhood was a complete sham. He seems blithely unaware of the role Pluto played in our collective, cherubic upbringings, and staunchly unwavering in the face of protests. Like Santa, Saturday morning cartoons, and the blinding tang of Colt 45, Pluto is the stuff of childhoods gone right. How dare he, then, be arrogant enough to “scientifically prove” that Pluto is not a planet?

With the malice of a hedonistic devil worshiper, Brown blatantly disregarded our emotional investment in a nine-planet solar system in 2005, when he declared that Pluto was simply a giant hunk of ice, a “dwarf-planet,” one of the largest jewels in the crown that is the Kuiper Belt (a ring of small interplanetary bodies that’s 200 times the size of the asteroid belt).

The scientific community was rocked in the wake of Brown’s sacrilege, from his fellow astronomers right down to your grade school educators (who were proven to be nothing more than charlatans).

Twelve years after Brown’s “discovery,” the public has yet to forgive him.

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