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What Makes This Book So Great

by Jo Walton

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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3842249,743 (3.97)102
"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)
  1. 20
    Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman (amanda4242)
  2. 00
    An Informal History of the Hugos by Jo Walton (Cecrow)
    Cecrow: Another collection of Tor.com content from this author.
  3. 00
    The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby (sturlington)
    sturlington: Both are fun and inspiring books by people who love to read for people who love to read.
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» See also 102 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
I can say without blushing that I felt like I was in a long drawn-out conversation about books and reading with a long-time friend.

It might not be true, but it certainly felt true, and it was a continued conversation with whom I spent some truly memorable moments as I walked through the fantasy that was Among Others.

I'm still not blushing, but perhaps I should be, because I dropped a goodly sum of money trying to hunt down all these other books, the ones I hadn't already read, simply because her enthusiasm was simply the last push I needed after realizing that her taste in SFF is sublime.

I feel blessed, as I always feel blessed, after being introduced to fantastic and sophisticated works of high literature. (No one can gainsay me on this. I've spent a lot of time in both worlds, and genre lit is no less brilliant than any other.)

My only regret is that I can't continue the discussion as I'd please. I'd have loved to discuss so many other top-notch pieces and see her take on them, too, but in the end, I might just have to do some further rereading of my favorites. There is a solid logic there that my younger self disdained and my older self has gradually seen for its beauty.

Of course, I might not reread Dune for the fourteenth time. I've pretty much memorized that novel already. But there are a few others that might serve a third or a fourth read.

I have to face reality... the temptation is more than a little unendurable.

Shall I reopen Rajaniemi, Joan D. Vinge, or Brin? How about Eco, PKD, or Gaiman? Or Neal Stephenson, Manly P. Hall, or Ayn Rand? (Yes, indeed.)

The list feels like it ought to be endless, and perhaps when I'm 800 years old it might still seem that way, but for now, the brightest stars are the most effortless to name.

Thank you for this conversation!

Brad K Horner's Blog ( )
  bradleyhorner | Jun 1, 2020 |
I am thankful I got my hands on this book when I did. It added more than 30 books to my to-read list but more importantly got me feeling more interested in and excited about reading. My enjoyment of reading has been one of the things depression has really disrupted in the last few years. Jo Walton's evident love for SF is infectious and she has a real knack for communicating "what makes this book so great" in a way that motivates me. Also, her descriptions of how ridiculously fast she reads made me extremely jealous, which is its own form of motivation.

10/10 would recommend to anyone else who is looking for motivation to read more. ( )
  lightkensei | May 17, 2020 |
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this collection of blog posts by Jo Walton. I’m not a huge SFF reader but will dabble enthusiastically if something catches my eye, and many things caught my eye in this collection. I may finally end up reading at least the two Cordelia books of the Vorkosigan Saga as a result of this book. I also liked her essays about reading habits and styles, particularly the knowledge of tropes and conventions that SFF readers tend to pick up. And as a fellow reader on public transit, I identified strongly with her comments about books that made her cry on the metro, or covers that caused people to give her weird looks.

This was an enjoyable collection to munch on (either gulping or sipping, which is another topic covered in this book) and I’d recommend it for those who are at least interested in SFF. ( )
  rabbitprincess | Jul 4, 2019 |
Jo Walton is, I'm sure, the possessor of many fine opinions. Many of which, I am equally sure, relate to Science Fiction and Fantasy writings. She may even be a good Sci-Fi/Fantasy writer. I don't know. Outside of this book I've not read anything from her.

Which is a shame, I suppose, as it would give me a much more clear idea of what she considers to be 'good' SF/F. As it stands though, I only have the assertion on the front cover that she is dealing with The Classics of the genres.

And she's not. Aside from a very, very few entries, she doesn't touch on much outside of the last 20 - 25 years. There are a few from the 50s and 60s, an odd one of two from the 70s and 80s, but most of it is post 1990. A better explanation of the book's contents might be "Re-Reading Jo Walton's Favorites of Science Fiction and Fantasy".

There's nothing wrong with that, of course. I AM sort of interested in what a given author enjoy's reading. Typically, I like to know something about that author first, to have some context around why I might be interested in their particular thoughts, but that's not the case here.

The word 'classics' conjures up certain books that one would expect to be discussed, providing the context for the discussions that is otherwise lacking. Inside of that framework the author can talk about favorites that derive from or contain elements of those classic stories. That's good discussion fodder and perhaps provides a different view of actual SF/F classic literature for one to consider.

But this? This is just a list of Jo Walton's favorites and her personal justifications for liking them. Which is fine. It's just not what it says on the tin. ( )
  Fiddleback_ | Dec 17, 2018 |
This was a book to dip in and out of if you had spare 5 minutes. I am generally not a rereader - too many new books. When I do reread it tends to be in audiobook as you know the story and if you zone out it doesn't matter. I have been having a nostalgia kick on some favourites recently by listening to the audiobooks of them - it has been great fun too. I know some of the books that are discussed here but a lot of the sci-fi ones were unknown to me as I now tend to read more fantasy than sci-fi. I am an equal fan of Bujold so they were interesting chapters. There were a couple of books discussed which I might pick up if I come across them but some I know I would never bother with. Interesting for dipping in to. I'm not sure why books about books are so fascinating but they are. ( )
  infjsarah | Jun 3, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
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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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"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"--

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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.
http://www.tor.com/blogs/2013/05/anno...
Haiku summary
Jo Walton has read
more books than you. You will want
to read them all, too.
(jen.e.moore)

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