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What Makes This Book So Great by Jo Walton

What Makes This Book So Great

by Jo Walton

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Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
A book about books, obviously/ As it happens, the vast bulk of my reading is covered by the subjects in Walton's chapters. Walton writes about many of my favorites, CJ Cherryh, Tim Powers, Lois McMaster Bujold but not all (If she mentions Gene Wolfe, I didn't record it, and I spent a lot of time recording the authors and books she wrote about.) I found new and new old authors here, and need to get a copy of my own so I don't keep the local libraries copies out for 5 months again. ( )
  quondame | Dec 26, 2017 |
Amazing collection of Jo Walton's columns from tor.com on rereading old classics and stories or books that she'd recommend new readers find and enjoy.

In all, I think this book has now added dozens more books to my to-read pile.

Full confession--it's got me reading 9 authors I'd not before read (and a collective 36 books) and another two dozen books beyond that to explore.

And as this is the 3rd book of Walton's I've read this year, I suppose that puts her on my automatic to-read/buy pile too.

If you've ever wondered what people see in certain books or series, this collection of short pieces could give you that answer...and introduce you to many good books in the process. ( )
  SESchend | Sep 6, 2017 |
This is a collection of Walton’s contributions to a blog on Tor.com, appearing between 15/6/2008 and 25/2/2011, in which she discussed the works of SF and fantasy she had been re-reading during that time. Her claim to be able to read up to six books in a day astonished me. If she’s doing that how does she fit in everyday life - food shopping, cooking, eating, family life, putting out the bins? Where on Earth can she find time to write fiction, or a blog post? Yes she says she sometimes spends all day in bed (I assume through illness or some debilitation) but even so. Admittedly that six was a maximum and she says she starts another book as soon as finishing the previous one. There was also the odd, to me, observation that she feels she hasn’t read a book if she hasn’t re-read it at least once; that first impressions of a book are suspect. I differ here, certainly from a later in life perspective. If a book does it for me the first time that’s fine; with perhaps a very few exceptions, if it doesn’t, a re-read is unlikely to help. My tbr pile is too high for much re-reading anyway. I also cannot read at Walton’s pace. Perhaps I pay too close an attention to the minutiae of a text; vide Pedant’s corner.

Many of Walton’s enthusiasms I doubt I would share. She spends 14 posts and over 60 pages here on Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series which has far too many volumes for me to embark upon now, and in any case I have a disrecommendation from another source. Similarly 17 posts and 53 pages on Steven Brust’s Dragaera series. Not going to happen.

Walton always writes interestingly about the subject at hand; even of books I have no desire to read (whatever her eloquence.) And "IWantToReadItosity" is a great coinage. “It’s hard to explain, is utterly subjective and is entirely separate from whether a book is actually good.” We all have such guilty pleasures.

She occasionally digresses from the SF/Fantasy remit, for example enthusing about Iain Banks’s The Crow Road and of Middlemarch opines that George Eliot would have been a great writer of Science Fiction if only she’d had the idea to invent the form.

A puff on the back cover quotes Publishers Weekly, ‘For readers unschooled in the history of SF/F, this book is a treasure trove.’ I wouldn’t disagree. ( )
1 vote jackdeighton | Aug 18, 2017 |
I read this collection of short commentaries a couple a day and that is probably the best way to approach this book. Apart from being a broad appraisal of the field, the thing that strikes me as a person who seldom rereads anything is what a ferocious reader Walton much be! ( )
  Shrike58 | Mar 18, 2017 |

This book of reviews originally published on Tor.com in 2008-2011 is an extended conversation about great (and some less great) works of SF, part of a chat that I've been having since the start of the century. The final essay, which I think didn't appear online, established the agenda: this is not literary criticism, this is talking about books, not new books but books that she has reread and thought about for our benefit.

As always, I find I have distinct points of convergence (Bujold, Le Guin, the Clarkes - Arthur C. and Susannah; Doorways in the Sand, When the Kissing Had To Stop) and divergence (Brust, Cherryh; to an extent Delany and Asimov); but enough of the former that I will be adding several of her recommendations to my own wish list (Random Acts of Senseless Violence, Black Wine, In The Wet).

And the piece on The Last Dangerous Visions is grim but funny at the same time. All good fun and recommended. ( )
  nwhyte | Feb 4, 2017 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jo Waltonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Stafford-Hill, JamieCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wirth, Mary A.Designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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This is for Pam Adams, and Steven Halter, and the other wonderful people I have met through their comments on Tor.com.
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This book is made up of a series of blog posts I wrote on Tor.com between July 2008 and February 2011.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Taken together, the 130 essays in What Makes This Book So Great are a wonderful immersion in the mind of Jo Walton and a fantastic set of insights into what makes SF and fantasy tick.
Haiku summary
Jo Walton has read
more books than you. You will want
to read them all, too.

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"As any reader of Jo Walton's Among Others might guess, Walton is both an inveterate reader of SF and fantasy, and a chronic re-reader of books. In 2008, then-new science-fiction mega-site Tor.com asked Walton to blog regularly about her re-reading--about all kinds of older fantasy and SF, ranging from acknowledged classics, to guilty pleasures, to forgotten oddities and gems. These posts have consistently been among the most popular features of Tor.com. Now this volumes presents a selection of the best of them, ranging from short essays to long reassessments of some of the field's most ambitious series. Among Walton's many subjects here are the Zones of Thought novels of Vernor Vinge; the question of what genre readers mean by "mainstream"; the underappreciated SF adventures of C. J. Cherryh; the field's many approaches to time travel; the masterful science fiction of Samuel R. Delany; Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children; the early Hainish novels of Ursula K. Le Guin; and a Robert A. Heinlein novel you have most certainly never read. Over 130 essays in all, What Makes This Book So Great is an immensely readable, engaging collection of provocative, opinionated thoughts about past and present-day fantasy and science fiction, from one of our best writers"--… (more)

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