The Way of Kings – Brandon Sanderson
If you read fantasy novels, you’ve probably encountered the problem that there seem to be two kinds of story: worlds so complicated and alien that the most important part of the book is the glossary, and then Lord of the Rings – A Slightly Different Imagining. While both have their fans, The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson is a much-needed fresh take on the fantasy genre, a fun, intriguing, easy to read story that has something every reader will enjoy, without a boring reliance on cliché. Set in a desolate, hurricane swept world, The Way of Kings follows a handful of soldiers and slaves trying to survive a bloody war against a strange species,and a noble family trying to prevent civil war. Sanderson’s storytelling balances well written characters with absorbing worldbuilding. His hallmark “hard magic” approach to fantasy makes wizards an interesting and complex part of the story. His usage of magic does not result in the destruction of narrative tension by solving everyone’s problems with a convenient, previously unmentioned spell, in the way that so many authors do. Not only is The Way of Kings an amazing novel on its own, it ties into the Cosmere, a mysterious shared link between all of Sanderson’s fantasy novels. Fans of more complex fantasy worlds will love looking for the subtle clues as to the nature of the Cosmere and what it might mean for future novels.
The Girls – Emma Cline
I bought The Girls by Emma Cline from Diabolik bookstore. I’d been searching for it since summer, perhaps. The kind of searching that doesn’t end when you find the book, only when you are mentally prepared to part with the money for it. I wish I’d bought it sooner, summer would have been the perfect time to read it so I could feel in tune with the characters and their sunny lifestyle, instead of being indoors and propped up in my bed by three cushions. Not that I didn’t feel in tune, Emma Cline has a masterful grasp on being a woman, on growing up. The novel follows protagonist Evie during her adolescence, and her run in with a cult, moving between present day and the ever-present pull of the past. Cline’s novel talks about sexuality and our mundane, often passively cruel, human interactions with bleak honesty that was refreshing and sad. I saw parallels in my own experiences, and post reading felt like I knew myself better, I felt more settled in the world. The Girls is one of the best things I have ever read.
King James Bible – Multiple authors
I am currently reading the Bible— ever heard of it? This book is one of the best books, since it encompasses most all other books written after it. If you read this book then you can understand all the references poets and painters make, and also you get to know God better (God is real). It is by finding the freedom to know God that you may experience total inward solitude. Anglicanism is pretty much the only form of religion that gets things exactly unequivocally correct, however in reading this you do get insight into some of the thoughts of the Kabbalists and Gnostics, be they misguided. I am reading a translation of the Old Testament in Yiddish, but if you can’t speak Yiddish just read it in English. It is more or less the same storyline.
Harry Peter Sanderson
The Idiot – Elif Batuman
I recently finished Elif Batuman’s The Idiot: a clever, funny, kind, and eminently readable (a compliment) book. The Idiot is a novel in which a young person realises that relationships and experiences are rarely satisfying or meaningful in the way that you expect them to be. Wikipedia states very firmly that it is a bildungsroman. Selin, the protagonist, does not learn things in the way that we expect of a character engaged in their story of maturation. She makes the same mistakes over and over; consciously, introspectively, sadly. Batuman said, in an interview with the LA Review of Books podcast, that she no longer recognises the young woman in the novel, despite the enfolding of many of her own experiences into the story. I, however, do recognise that idiot. Selin’s confusion, hurt, and sometime numbness, have all figured acutely in my own (ongoing) maturation process. Unlike the traditional bildungsroman, Selin does not end the novel much wiser than she begun. She’s still herself, she’s just had more life. Highly recommended.
This article first appeared in print volume 88 edition 4 GIRL