Sunday, November 1, 2020

October Reads

October was all about writing for me--I had two short story releases in anthologies to promote and a novel to finish, so I stole every moment I could get at my computer. Plus it was October--my favorite time of year for watching scary movies :-)

All that is to say that I didn't read much this month. But I don't feel bad about it or deprived in some way this time. I still got my share of story in my life--it's just that I was writing it or watching it this month. 

Since I had really enjoyed my foray into short Audible productions last month, I continued that trend, listening to The Machine Stops by EM Forster,  A Grown Up Guide to Dinosaurs, and In An Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire. I enjoyed all three for different reasons. 

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The Machine Stops is maybe a little "on the nose" by contemporary standards. A little blunt and obvious in its moralizing, but when you realize it was published in 1909, it begins to feel a little more prescient. 

The short story takes place in a nonspecific future year, when the earth, having experienced some kind of unspecified human-caused disaster that left the surface uninhabitable. Our characters live completely underground in near-complete isolation from each other with all their needs attended to by a giant complex of machines. 

I know, right? What could go wrong? 

Since I knew EM Forster as the author of period pieces about relationship difficulties and the oppression of early twentieth century moral strictures--you know the types of stories Merchant made sun-drenched costume dramas about--this story was definitely a bit of a surprise. I had no idea the man had dabbled in science fiction. 

A Grown Up Guide to Dinosaurs delivered just what it promised: a program of adults enthusiastically fan-peopling over dinosaurs. The work encourages us to remember our childhood dinosaur obsessions and gives us the chance to catch up on some of the latest thinking is about what dinosaurs really were and how they ended up as chickens. 

In An Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire is the fourth story in a series called Wayward Children. I've also read the first one, Every Heart a Doorway but none of the rest. That didn't matter. Book 4 stands alone quite well. Quite, quite well, indeed. I loved it. The premise of the series is that there are portals in the forms of magical doorways throughout the world and that sometimes children go through them and are changed in ways that won't let them rejoin ordinary life. In this one, Lundy finds such a doorway and ends up in the Goblin Market. Gorgeous story with some wonderful life advice wrapped in its pages, like the best of fairy tales. 

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Blue Highways
 was the single long work I read this month. I read it as a combination of audiobook and kindle edition, moving back and forth between the two. This one was the selection for my Classics Book Club at my library…if it wasn't for the commitment I made to the group, I might not have finished it. Too meandering for me. Pointless. There were some lovely, lyrical moments, but in the end it felt like I'd listened to some guy natter on for hours and hadn't learned anything, gained any insight, or even come to like the guy. 

So, there's my short reading list from October. How about you? What did you read? Got any good ones I should add to my TBR? I'd love to hear about it in the comments. 



  1. I read Blue Highways several years ago and loved those lyrical bits. The author also has some wonderful anecdotes dropped in here and there. What got me is that he presents himself as Native American. He's got some Osage ancestry but essentially is no more Native American than Peter Coyote

    1. I was a little disappointed on that front, too. Our group chose the book for Native American Heritage month, even flexing our usual standards for how old a book has to be to qualify as a classic . . .but it didn't really serve to give a better understanding of Native American cultures. We might have done better to flex our year qualification even further and tried Sherman Alexie or Rebecca Roanhorse.