Khadaji’s Whatcha Reading Thread - Sept. 2020 edition

Last month’s thread: Khadaji’s Whatcha Reading Thread - August 2020 edition

Khadaji was one of the earlier members of SDMB, and he was well-known as a kindly person who always had something encouraging to say, particularly in the self-improvement threads. He was also a voracious, omnivorous reader, who started these threads 'way back in the Stone Age of 2005. Consequently, when he suddenly and quite unexpectedly passed away in January 2013, we decided to rename this thread in his honor and to keep his memory, if not his ghost, alive.

(copied from the last thread)

Finished Leigh Perry’s The Skeleton Makes a Friend Moving on to a series of books I got on my Kindle, because I’ve never sen them in stores. I already mentioned Anthony Boucher’s Rocket to the Morgue , but I also picked up these:

The Book of Iod – Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos by Henry Kuttner. With all the interest in Lovecraft and all the pastiches, I’m surprised that I never saw this collection in print anywhere, but had to get it in e-book form

American Connections by James Burke. I was surprised to stumble across mention of this title on the internet several years ago, since I’d never seen it anywhere in stores. All my other books by Burke are print editions that I actually did stumble across in stores. This is not only the first e-book of his, it’s the first one I’ve had to search for. Definitely worth the reading, though. I had no idea, for instance, that Eli Whitney had been a boarder with Declaration of Independence signer Lewis Morris’ widow.

I recently finished Windhaven by George R.R. Martin and Lisa Tuttle, a sf novel about a stormy waterworld over which human flyers with ultralight wings are a lifeline, a corps of elite couriers between the island colonies. It follows the life and career of a single flyer over the span of decades. I appreciated that her quasi-medieval society wasn’t completely static, as they often are in these kinds of books, and there was decent mix of adventure, politics and intrigue, but the writing never really grabbed me.

I also just finished reading John Scalzi’s military sf novel Old Man’s War aloud with one of my sons, and we both enjoyed it (me for maybe the fourth time; him for the first). Action, adventure, laughs, tears, and even a little romance. Good stuff! Haven’t decided yet what we’ll read next, but it might be the next book in the series.

I’m about two-thirds of the way through Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes novel The Valley of Fear, much of which is an extended flashback set in Pennsylvania coal country. It’s ok but nowhere near as good as The Hound of the Baskervilles, which is hands-down his best Holmes novel IMHO.

I’ve now begun an audiobook of Martin’s horror short-story collection, Nightflyers. The title story, about a group of scientists aboard a small starship with a captain who refuses to be seen, has a very creepy vibe to it.

Crud, sorry it’s been chaotic around here the last couple days and I completely forgot!

The book was made into a movie in 1987 and a miniseries in 2018 (by some of the same folks). I saw the 1987 movie first and hated it, and read the novella to find out what was going on. That was more satisfying (and the first George R. R. Martin I ever read). The miniseries didn’t hold my attention longer than one or two episodes.

I wasn’t really a Martin fan until I read his Game of Thrones series

I’m still working on Ellen Datlow’s latest compilation, Final Cuts: New Tales of Hollywood Horror and Other Spectacles. A mixed bag, naturally, but there have been a couple of goodies.

No worries.

Yes, I’d heard that both adaptations of Nightflyers sucked. May I recommend instead his sf novella Sandkings, which appears in the collection of that name; his vampire novel Fevre Dream, set on the Mississippi River before the Civil War; and his sf novel Tuf Voyaging, a sequence of interrelated short stories - all terrific.

I read Sandkings, which was in the same anthology. I’d wanted to read it ever since I saw the adaptation they did on TV, which was IMHO awful. Again, I wanted to know what was really going on in the story, because the TV version was kind of muddled, and gave no reason to sympathize with (or even understand) the protagonist. Again, Martin’s original story was better and more coherent, but still didn’t win me over.

I sought out Tuf Voyaging because it had been mentioned on this Board, but I’d never seen it, either in bookstores or in conventions. It was the first non-Game of Thrones thing of Martin’s that I liked. I remarked on this Board that it felt like “Varys in Space”, and someone said that Martin felt that the guy who played Varys on GoT would make a good Tuf.

Yes, that was probably me who wrote that. GRRM had said so himself not long after GOT began. Although Tuf and Varys look somewhat similar (but Tuf is much fatter and paler), and I think the same actor (Conleth Hill, who’s Irish) could do both roles well, Varys is much more expressive than Tuf.

I thought Martin’s Sandkings was excellent.

Finished Alan LIghtman’s Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine, which was most interesting when the author was discussing the history of science.

Now I’m reading a historical novel by Patricia Beatty, By Crumbs, It’s Mine!

Finished Patricia Beatty’s By Crumbs, It’s Mine!, which was okay.

Now I’m reading The Plaza: The Secret Life of America’s Most Famous Hotel, by Julie Satow.

Coincidentally, By Crumbs, It’s Mine! is also about a hotel, although a very different kind of one.

A couple hundred pages into the mammoth, unabridged version of Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo.

Just finished it. Not bad, but not his best work.

Now I’ve begun A Great Improvisation by Stacy Schiff, about Ben Franklin’s adroit diplomacy which eventually brought France fully in on the Americans’ side in the Revolutionary War. It’s OK so far.

My next book, after I finish the gargantuan Les Miserables, is Walter Isaacson’s highly acclaimed biography of Franklin. Looking forward to it.

Yes, that’s been on my list for awhile now, too. I recommend Founding Brothers by Joseph Ellis to you and anyone else for a terrific, Pulitzer-winning history of the Framers in their relationships to one another as friends, allies, frenemies and foes.

Actually, now I may need to read the Michael Cohen book first as well as Bob Woodward’s. But it will be awhile, as Les Miserables is huge. Engrossing so far, but I am benefiting from having read Andrew Roberts’ Napoleon biography recently. Les Miserable starts in 1815, a few months after Waterloo, but there’s some back story into the Napoleonic era.

Finished The Plaza: The Secret Life of America’s Most Famous Hotel , by Julie Satow, which I enjoyed because of its many anecdotes. My favorite is the one about

Enrico Caruso stopping every clock in the hotel because he smashed the one in his room since it was distracting him. (They were all connected.)

Now I’m reading Freaky Deaky, by Elmore Leonard. I’ve never read any of his fiction before.

I’ve read a lot of Elmore Leonard (but not that one) and would be glad to suggest others to you, if you like it, DD.

I just finished JFK: A Vision for America by Stephen Kennedy Smith and Douglas Brinkley, a big coffeetable book with essays by the likes of Jimmy Carter, Elizabeth Warren, Conan O’Brien, the Dalai Lama, Robert Redford, John McCain, Norman Mailer and others - pretty interesting, and good graphics (including photos, illustrations, ephemera like campaign posters, passports, letters, etc.). Worth a read for anyone interested in President Kennedy and his times.

Now I’ve resumed reading Tales of the Vulgar Unicorn, ed. by Robert Lynn Asprin, aloud with my teenage son. A lot of meh stories, some good and very few excellent ones, but we’re making progress.

Started today on Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, a novel described in one review as “Lovecraft meets the Brontës in Latin America”. I don’t like the protagonist much, but I think that’s how I’m supposed to feel about her at this point.