Books Read January 2014

With the winter break I was able to read quite a bit! The books were pleasurable though less brainy than previous months.

The Language Instinct: How The Mind Creates Language (P.S.) – Reading linguistics books is dangerous when you’re married to a linguist. Pinker tells an interesting tale, but I wasn’t completely convinced. I found the overview of cognitive science studies absolutely brilliant.

Homeland: The Legend of Drizzt, Book I: Bk. 1 – The Drizzt series is very well reviewed, and I understand why. The lowest ratings hint at the fact that the books are pretty simple and thrive in D&D lore. The book is definitely no Diamond Age or Dance with Dragons, but I found it thoroughly enjoyable.

Exile: The Legend of Drizzt, Book II – More of the same: a straightforward, pleasurable hero story based in D&D universe. The Drizzt series is a nice break from the more involved Wheel of Time.

The Shunned House – I asked friends for fantasy series recommendations and received too many good suggestions. H.P. Lovecraft was one of them, so I found this book and plowed through it. I see why people love Lovecraft! I cannot describe how, but the writing style is so evocative and creepy.

Case of Charles Dexter Ward – Perhaps because I haven’t read many graphic novels, or perhaps because I am impatient, I found myself skipping the drawing and going straight for the story. This made for a quick read. Unfortunately, I felt Lovecraft’s ability to generate tension and suspense was was hindered by the shortened story.

The Wendigo - Amazon recommended this along when I got the Lovecraft book. I would have liked more description of the Wendigo (and if the story wasn’t written a century ago I would have wanted to hear how wendigos are undiscovered), but I liked the book overall.

Fifty-One Tales - This is another recommendation from a friend. Apparently, Edward Plunkett a.k.a. Lord Dunsany, is one of the first fantasy authors. While The King of Elfland’s Daughter was recommended, I was drawn to this book as an introduction to his style. Of the 51 tales, my favorites were The Workman—about a workman vainly struggling for immortality—and A Moral Little Tale, which says that Puritanical beliefs are actually devilish because God appreciates mirth.

Dracula – A classic fantasy story that I knew but had not read. I hate redoing things, so reading a story I already knew was challenging; however, the book was good. It unfolds as a series of diary entries, which I thought was unique and clever. I am stunned at the lack of resolution—I feel like the climax is on the penultimate page.

The Elements of Style (a.k.a. Strunk and White) – This is a short book, but it was not a quick read for me. Between The Language Instinct and conversations with my linguist wife, I have come to realize that I have an elementary understanding of English grammar. Strunk and White often pressed the limits of my knowledge with highfalutin terms like gerundive and dependent clause; however, they offer great examples that helped me understand the concepts without mastering the vocabulary.

The Gathering Storm (The Wheel of Time Book 12) – After a break, I was ready for more Wheel of Time. I read summaries for books 7-11 and jumped straight to the finale, which is written by Brandon Sanderson with the late Robert Jordan’s notes. I don’t know if it is Sanderson’s writing or the fact that the books are rushing towards the end, but I loved this story. I should finish the series in another month.