Tim's 2016 Reading
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I'm Tim, I'm a writer and editor (among other pursuits), I live in Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, with my wife and son, and I have been in Club Read since 2009, even though I devote much less time to it than I would like. You'll probably find that I'm reasonably active here each December-February, but my appearances get fewer and fewer as the year gets busier, before a frantic year-end scramble to bring everything up to date..
I read 52 books in 2015 - my blog post highlighting them is here: http://timjonesbooks.blogspot.co.nz/2016/01/reading-highlights-in-2015.html
When I'm not writing, working in my part-time day job, or working on environmental issues, I like to read (obviously!), listen to an alarmingly eclectic range of music, walk the hilly streets and urban forests of Wellington, and watch cricket. (I used to play cricket, but my love for the game is in inverse proportion to my ability.)
I can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/timjonesbooks and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/timjonesbooks
>2 avaland: Thanks, Lois - yes I have. Generally Xmas & New Year is a happy time here as it's the main summer holiday. This comes with its inevitable downside: I have to go back to work tomorrow! But I've watched a lot of cricket, gone for fewer walks than I should, spent time with my Dad and tidied several square nanometres of the house and garden. I hope you have had a good New Year too.
1. Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries by Neil deGrasse Tyson - nonfiction/articles/science (3.5/5)
2. The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker - fiction/novel (5/5)
I loved this book. To be fair, as a co-editor of two poetry anthologies who has faced exactly the task facing poet Paul Chowder in this novel - that is, to (co-)write an an introduction to the whole shemozzle - I could scarcely be more squarely in the target audience: but even so, I easily identified with the shambling, rather hangdog narrator and enjoyed the contrast because his deep, if exasperated, knowledge of poetry and his haplessness with almost everything else. His attitude to his ex is refreshing too - rather than being bitter or angry or cynical, he just wants her back. A really fun novel that also teaches you useful stuff - what could be better?
>5 dchaikin: I hope I haven't oversold it - it may simply have been the perfect book at the perfect time!
3. Best Small Fictions 2015, edited by Robert Olen Butler - anthology/short-short fiction (4/5)
I enjoyed this anthology & have reviewed it - will post the review when it appears!
4. The Horizontal Everest: Extreme Journeys on Ellesmere Island by Jerry Kobalenko - nonfiction/exploration (4/5)
My review of Best Small Fictions 2015 has been published on Beattie's Book Blog, 2/2/16: http://beattiesbookblog.blogspot.co.nz/2016/02/the-best-small-fictions-2015.html
Interesting Tim. I'm intrigued by your US centric comment. Is it an American publication?
>9 dchaikin: Yes, but its mission is to collect the best small fictions written in or translated into English worldwide - and I have subsequently arranged to do an interview with the series editor, Tara Masih, for the "Flash Frontier" website here in NZ: http://www.flash-frontier.com/
In the course of arranging this, she commented on this aspect of my review by saying that there had been a dearth of submissions from outside the US - but they were hoping to improve this in future editions.
5. Choosing Death: The Improbable History of Death Metal and Grindcore by Albert Mudrian - nonfiction/music history (3.5/5)
6. Points and Lines by Seicho Matsumoto - detective novel (4.5/5)
I very much enjoyed this combination of a complex plot with deceptively simple and elegant writing. Well worth a read whether you're into mysteries, Japan, or trains that run on time!
>11 timjones: Well worth a read whether you're into mysteries, Japan, or trains that run on time!
And who isn't?!?
ETA: very disappointed that this doesn't seem to be available in the UK :-(
>8 timjones: I've been looking forward to your review! I'll definitely read this volume. Also appreciate your mention that the anthology includes introductions, interviews and features on flash fiction.
7. Winter Is Coming: The Medieval World of Game of Thrones by Carolyne Larrington - nonfiction/history (3.5/5)
An interesting but, in places, very once-over-lightly survey of the historical antecedents of George R. R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" series and hence of the Game of Thrones TV series. The areas treated in depth are very interesting, but too many areas are given cursory treatment for me to feel entirely satisfied.
8. Maine to Greenland: Exploring the Maritime Far Northeast by Wilfred E. Richard - nonfiction/geography (4/5)
9. Just Kids by Patti Smith - nonfiction/memoir (3.5/5)
A well written book which I nevertheless found increasingly frustrating: Patti Smith's portrayal of her long relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe, and their mutual circle of poets, artists and musicians, is deep and tender, but what I really wanted to know about was the Patti Smith Group era, and after lots of tantalising lead-up, this is almost entirely skipped over - so as far as I was concerned, the book was like an LP where all the best music had been swallowed by the hole in the middle.
>17 rebeccanyc:: i enjoyed it too - and am going to use parts of the "slide show" section this week as an example of techniques in experimental fiction with the writing course I teach; my only caveat is that I thought the parts set in the future didn't work so well: it felt as though she's thrown a bunch of cool ideas in the pot rather than thought carefully about how her future world worked.
>19 SassyLassy: It's a mixture of current exploration, history and pre-history, and geography ... lavishly illustrated!
He's baaack... and with a few books to write up! They include a number of short story collections I read in the course of the "Writing Short Fiction" courses I taught earlier this year at Whitireia Polytech, and also a range of other reading, from the veeeery long to the very short. Onwards!
13. The Interregnum: Rethinking New Zealand edited by Morgan Godfrey - essays/New Zealand politics (3.5/5)
14. Towards A Warmer World: what climate change will mean for New Zealand's future by Veronika Meduna - nonfiction/New Zealand environment & politics (4/5)
15. Polluted Inheritance: New Zealand's freshwater crisis by Mike Joy - nonfiction/New Zealand environment & politics (4/5)
I read these three short books from Bridget Williams Books' excellent BWB Texts series (see http://bwb.co.nz/books/bwb-texts) in close succession. Of the three, The Interregnum is, broadly speaking, millennials' perspectives on a variety of New Zealand and social issues - good on analysis, somewhat less good on plans of actions. Towards A Warner World is a good brief introduction to its important topic.
Polluted Inheritance, already topical when I read it, is now even more topical due to the recent Havelock North water contamination case - New Zealand's own mini-Flint, though fortunately of shorter duration. Environmental scientist Mike Joy has been sounding the alarm about the disastrous effects of the uncontrolled expansion of industrial-scale dairy farming on New Zealand's rivers for some time now, and been scorned and criticised by the Government for daring to raise these issues. Now, after the E. coli contamination case in Havelock North, all New Zealanders should pay close attention to what Mike Joy has to say.
16. In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination by Margaret Atwood - nonfiction/literary criticism (3.5/5)
A collection of Margaret Atwood's writing on science fiction - a genre she spent a long time denying she wrote! As is usually the case with collections of literary criticism, some of the pieces are slight, but the best of them are very thought-provoking - I found this book a useful resource for the science fiction section of the "Writing Short Fiction" course I taught earlier this year.
17. The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins - fiction/thriller (3.5/5)
After the huge amount of hype about this novel, I found it slightly disappointing, although it did pick up markedly in tension towards the end. For me, there were just too many times that the protagonist acted stupidly in the service of the plot, rather than believably in character. I can see it making a good movie, however.
18. Dad Art by Damien Wilkins - fiction/novel (4.5/5)
This novel was way more fun than I expected. Here's my review for Landfall Review Online:
19. Lady Susan by Jane Austen - fiction/novella (4/5)
Jane Austen's mature work skewers the economic and social basis of the English landed gentry of her time with rapier wit and exquisite irony. In this novella, evidently written when Austen was 19, the weapon is a bludgeon and the wit is satire. Lady Susan Vernon is a shameless adventuress (in the old, not the modern meaning), but her chutzpah is such that it's hard not to root for her as she lies, manipulates, flatters, seduces and cons her way through life - though her utter unconcern for her daughter's welfare is impossible to forgive. She gets off some caustic zingers about men, relationships and marriage, as well.
"Lady Susan" is nowhere near the standard of Austen's six published novels - in particular, the characterisation of everyone but Lady Susan is pretty much flat; and the novella abruptly wraps up with a few pages of exposition. But this early draft, which Austen tried not to have published, is a remarkably good read all the same, and all the more so considering its author's age. This is Jane Austen with the cynicism dialled up to 11 and no punches pulled.
20. Lonesome When You Go by Saradha Koirala - novel/YA/music(4.5/5)
This YA novel features Paige, the bass player in a high school rock band, as she and her bandmates prepare for Rockfest, a Battle of the Bands-style competition for high school rock bands. The proverbial "musical and personal differences" threaten to derail the band and lives of Paige's friends alike, but in the end, Paige's determination to hold down the metaphorical as well as literal bottom end comes through.
Paige is the best thing in this book: likeable, determined, but far from flawless, she's a character worth identifying with. And I also really liked the balance between the joy and the tedium of building a working musical relationship with other people who never see things quite the same way as you do. Definitely a recommended read.
21. Mean by Michael Botur - fiction/short stories (3.5/5)
I reviewed this collection of gritty urban realist stories for Beatties' Book Blog:
22. New Sea Land by Tim Jones - poetry/collection
This is my fourth poetry collection. "The Sea" (below) isn't the title poem, but it's probably the best guide to the main subject matter of the book:
The sea does not negotiate.
The sea does not read communiques released at the end of others’ negotiations.
The sea is not subject to the constraints of the electoral cycle.
The sea welcomes contributions from anywhere.
The sea welcomes water from the Greenland icecap and the glaciers of Antarctica.
The sea welcomes your input.
The sea is not interested in money.
The sea does not accept donations from oil, gas or coal companies.
The sea neither knows nor cares about your new eco-friendly logo.
The sea is not a hostage to powerful interests.
The sea does not accept that it’s hard to get traction on some issues.
The sea does not believe in softening the blow.
The sea does not mean any harm.
The sea rises because all that meltwater has to go somewhere.
The sea does not apologise.
The sea is uninterested in the ten-year planning horizon used by local authorities.
The sea has never recommended investing in coastal property.
The sea and your doorstep will soon become close friends.
Like the poem Tim and congratulations on getting your fourth poetry collection published.
>32 baswood: Thanks! I've since received the excellent news that the publisher of my first three books - two poetry collections and one short story collection - is planning to reissue them as ebooks; they have been out of print for many years. Of course, that means a few rounds of proofing and format-checking - but it's worthwhile to have them become available again.
23. A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin - fiction/selected short stories (3/5)
I just couldn't get into this book, even though, from what I'd been told about it and had read about it, I expected to enjoy it. In truth the problem may mainly have been one of timing - I read it (for my book group) around the same time as I was finishing teaching two "Writing Short Fiction" courses at Whitireia Polytechnic, and between selecting short stories to use as readings, and assessing students' stories, I may simply have been short storied out.
24. The Penguin Book Of Contemporary New Zealand Short Stories (2009 anthology) edited by Paula Morris - fiction/short story anthology (4/5)
I received this one as a contributor's copy but had never got round to reading it (bad me!). I remedied this while preparing to teach my short story courses earlier this year, and it's a good selection of work from NZ short story writers active in the first decade of the 21st century, with a balance of well-known and less-well-known authors. Maybe still not as much diversity in terms of genre as I'd like to see, but the anthology signals how far NZ fiction has moved from the heads-down, no-nonsense, social-realism-or-else straitjacket of the post-WW2 period.
25. Udon by the Remarkables by Harvey Molloy - poetry/collection (5/5)
Harvey is a good friend of mine - the last poetry reading I did was a joint one with him - so I freely admit it's hard to be objective - but this is a cracking poetry collection. Harvey's first collection "Moonshot" is very good, but this one represents a considerable advance on all levels: the poems here marry technical excellence with intellectual and emotional engagement, and that is not easy to do. As a bonus, Harvey uses his knowledge of Anglo-Saxon to produce a fine free translation of that classic Anglo-Saxon poem "The Wanderer." Highly recommended.
26. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie - fiction/YA novel (4/5)
27. It by Stephen King - fiction/novel/horror (4/5)
28. A Brief History Of Seven Killings by Marlon James - fiction/novel (4.5/5)
In many respects this is a great novel, and I can certainly see why it won the Booker Prize, but my goodness it does go on! I think 100-150 pages could have been shaved of it without weakening its cumulative power - but, that said, this is still a novel that rewards your perseverance.
I like your poem, I'm very interested in sea poems, and I your/its/her point of view. And congratulations on your book.
29. Once Upon A Time in Aotearoa by Tina Makereti - fiction/short stories/collection (4.5/5)
A really fine short story collection that showcases the author's excellent eye for character, smooth plotting and judicious use of myth and magic realism. Very much worth reading.
I used a story from this collection as a reading in the first of the "Writing Short Fiction" courses I taught at Whitireia Polytechnic this year, and the reaction was so good I used a couple more stories as readings, and examples of literary technique, during the second course.
30. Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link - fiction/short stories/collection (4/5)
Another of the collections I used in my "Writing Short Fiction" courses. Some great setups in these stories, which are usually somewhere in the magic realism/surrealism space, but I didn't always think the payoffs justified the setups.
31. Shortcuts: Track 1, edited by Marie Hodgkinson - fiction/novellas/anthology (4/5)
This anthology collects the six science fiction & fantasy novellas that were released individually in Paper Road Press's Shortcuts series, including my own novella Landfall. There's more on the series here, with links to the individual novellas:
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