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Recent Books: April – June 2015

I’ve read less than I expected to, just because I’ve been busy for a number of reasons, but I’ve still managed to dig into some really interesting books over the last few months. So interesting that it took me over 5000 words to sum it up!


I’ve been running across copies of the paperback edition of Michael Moorcock’s Elric of Melniboné for about as long as I’ve been visiting libraries, but somehow I never got around to Elric till now. I can say two things about that:

Which isn’t quite to say I disliked it, but neither did I fall in love with it nthe way I did Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and Gray Mouser stories (another series to which I want to return soon). Still, I can see why Moorcock was so influential at the time, and certainly his influence is still being felt in genre fiction today. I don’t know if calling it the Breaking Bad of high fantasy is fair or not, but that’s the impression I got–that if that wasn’t exactly what it is, that’s how it was intended to seem.

I feel like maybe I’d have been better served starting with the Fafhrd and Grey Mouser books earlier; Elric feels more, I don’t know, mid-to-late-teen. A quick read, though, and structurally the book was surprisingly simple, with more familiar tropes than I expected. (Damsel in Distress, Faustian Pact, the Handy Sidekick.) “Thing” crying out “Frank” as it dies, though… that’s the weirdest moment of the book. Even weirder than the Freudian crawl back into the womb near the end. I could continue on with the series, or not; we’ll see if I get around to them, but I’m less excited about Elric’s story than I am about the Fritz Leiber collections I started reading back in 2014, and which I always want to get back around to. I feel like I could probably absorb most of the fun here in secondary remixes, like China Miéville’s Bas Lag books, in which I feel a strong presence of Melniboné.

Premendra Mitra’s Mosquito and Other Stories: Ghana-Da’s Tall Tales is a slim book that delivers on its promise: it’s stuffed with tall tales, supposedly as told by a great storyteller/liar/adventurer/prig named Ghana-Da to his fellow boarders at a mess-bari (a boarding house) in Bengal. Given how provincial I find even recent Korean entertainment—almost always set in Korea—I was surprised to discover such an international scope to Ghana-Da’s datles: the title story, “Mosquito”, published in 1945–set on Sakhalin, of all places, and the rest are set set pretty much all over Eurasia, Africa, Antarctica, and even at the North Pole. (Ghana-Da doesn’t seem to get to the Americas, from what I remember, but he goes everywhere else… and seems to speak the local language wherever he goes, too.)

These stories feel a bit like those adventure serials that so dominated the cinemas a couple of generations ago, I suppose, which makes sense given that Mitra, aside from being a poet and author of genre fiction (apparently he wrote detective stories and SF!), was also involved in the early film industry in India as a broadcaster, screenwriter, and director. I’d love to track down some of his juvnile-aimed SF, if any exists in English translation. (Wikipedia lists English titles for the Bengali SF books, but I don’t think they’re titles of translations, unfortunately.)

I’m curious about the basis of selection used here, since there were a couple—especially the third-last one in the book, “Fly”—that weren’t quite as fun as the others. But that’s subjective, and it could just be that one tires of tall tales read in sequence. After taking a break and coming back to it, even “Fly” was entertaining enough, if a bit more ridiculous and baffling than the rest. Even so, overall I found it very fun collection of tall tales, and something I’d feel comfortable giving to a kid or an adult.

I wasn’t sure whether to consider The Record of the Black Dragon Year (Peter H. Lee‘s translation of the 임진록) nonfiction or fiction while reading the (unnecessarily long) introduction: it rather sits in that odd hybrid region where folk history intersects with legend, myth, and fairy tale— but once I got into the book itself… well, this is basically straight-up bizarre superhero-fanfic of the Imjin War. Essentially, it’s the first Korean bestseller, and is made up entirely of folk stories collected during and after the failed Japanese invasion during 1592-1598. Every major Korean figure (and some of the Japanese and Chinese ones) are depicted as having studied Taoist magic, and many of the Korean heroes are like figures out of Final Fantasy or some Japanese fantasy anime: eight- and twelve-foot tall dual class mage-warriors with weapons the size of a horse, mysterious figures dressed in mourning clothes threatening to kill whole armies with a single fan… hell, before he gets beheaded, Yi Sunshin actually takes his fleet under the waves to kill a bunch of Japanese invaders. That’s right: magical submarine warfare.

If only the recent biopic of Yi had been based on that version of the story. Anyway, I’m glad the library at work had a copy, because the book is both incredibly expensive, and—for the purposes of a casual reader—heavily padded. History majors might appreciate having an introduction as long as the text, highlighting what is and isn’t fantastical, as well as providing historical notes1 A bilingual reader might appreciate having both an English and a Hangeul text. But to me, it’s the main translation of the text that’s useful, and that’s a scant sixty or seventy pages. Personally, I wish that Lee’s introduction had done less in terms of highlighting specific episodes, and more in terms of discussing differences between various versions of the text. It was, after all, circulated in China as well as in Korea.

That said, there are some interesting insights in the text, particularly in terms of how the Japanese treated prisoners in accordance with their scholarly achievement: Confucian scholars and others versed in Chinese poetry got treated well; those who were illiterate, not so well. It’s an interesting thing to consider, the idea of a transnational hierarchy toward the apex of which, just beneath royalty, one finds scholars. Still, this is definitely a book one should get through interlibrary loan, if at all possible. If you’re interested, I discussed this book more here.

Solaris by Stanislaw Lem was fascinating, especially as a comparison to the film versions I’ve seen. Every time I read something by Lem, I always want to go out and read everything else of his currently available in English. This book, I “read” as an audiobook, which wasn’t detrimental to the experience. The right narrator can spring a book to vivid life, as did the narrator for the audiobook of Charles Portis’ True Grit I listened to last year; some narrators can ruin a book, or, at least, bring out its worst characteristics (as I feel John Crowley did in narrating his own novel Little, Big, one of my least favorite reads from all of 2014). Solaris neither benefitted nor was harmed by the narrator, but managed to entertain and unsettle me on its own.

The science is a little… well, science-fictional speculation can become dated, and rather quickly. (When I briefly studied with him, Vernor Vinge actually talked about “future-proofing” an SFnal text, that is, about the necessity of thinking about how SFnal speculation becoming dated, and actively trying to extend the shelf-life of a narrative.) But that didn’t hurt the story: instead, I just found myself editing the book in my own imagination: here’s what the scientists got wrong, here’s why their equipment failed to get such a nonsensical result, and so on. But Lem is a master storyteller, one I feel should be much closer to the center of the Anglo-SF canon. He ran the gamut in styles and approaches, and his stories, even the jokey fun stuff in The Cyberiad, was so often utterly profound.

The profundity in Solaris seems to proceed from the fact that the book is, ultimately, about the completely fucked-up nature of human relationships. Solaris really is like nothing so much as Woman in the minds of that subset of ment who are obsessed with “understanding Women.” Large chunks of the story read like a drug-trip metaphorization of the horrors of a broken, sick relationship… not with the famous memory-figures the planet’s sea extrudes into the station to haunt them, mind you—those are only mind-forms, after all, second-order effects; living ghosts haunting the men on board the ship—but with the planet itself. Solaris and the scientists have a broken relationship because the scientists are so busy insisting on understanding Solaris that they fail to realize how poorly they understand themselves. I feel a weird, invisible connection between this book and the much later book Mary Frances Wack wrote about love-sickness in Medieval Europe… both being focused on how insane men can get when they encounter some object of their desires and obsessions which they cannot control, regardless of how they try.

It’s a fascinating, weird, haunting book. Much more interesting than either of the film versions, not that I disliked either. Reading this reaffirms for me the pivotal importance of Lem in the SF literature canon, and as an author whose work deserves to be read centuries from now, as we read authors from centuries ago… something I don’t often suggest about SF authors, for a whole host of reasons.

Daguerrotype of Nikolai Gogol, apparently by S.L. Levitsky.

Nikolai Gogol’s “The Viy” is a novella, not a novel, but it’s worthy of note: again, it’s a lot better than the (laughably bad) movie, especially if you’re curious about old Russian horror stories. I got a kick out of it, to be sure. It’s available in the public domain, over at the University of Adelaide. (And there’s more Gogol too, if you like “The Viy.”)

The first of Kurodahan Press’s four-book series of English translations of Japanese Lovecraftian fiction, I actually read the first half of Night Voices, Night Journeys: Lairs of the Hidden Gods, Volume 1 (Asamatsu Ken, ed.) several years ago… I think just before we left for Vietnam. Then it was in a box for a while, and I couldn’t read it until we got back. However, it was worth the wait! The stories in this first volume were a mix of bizarre and fascinating tales by Japanese authors exploring the Lovecraftian mode. It seems some Japanese authors came to similar conclusions as I did in terms of how to adapt Lovecraft across cultural barriers: for example, the story “Sacrifice” (written by Murata Motoi, and translated by Nora Stevens Heath) does a mean Japanese riff on the weirdo locals (and the agrarianism of “The Color Out of Space”), and Kamino Okina’s “27 May 1945” (translated by Kathleen Taji) and “The Import of Tremors” (by Yamada Masaki, translated by Kathleen Taji) both use the Japanese experience of World War II as a springboard for their cosmic horrors. Other stories in the book range from pulpy fun (“The Plague of St. James Infirmary” by Asamatsu Ken, trans. R.Keith Roeller) to twisted ero-horror (“Necrophallus” by Makino Osamu, trans. Chun Jin) to the bittersweetly disturbing (“Love for Who Speaks” by Shibata Yoshiki, trans. Stephen A. Carter).

But while I’m now fascinated by the idea of adapting “Sacrifice” to a rural Korean Lovecraftian short film, I think my favorite story of the volume is the title story, “Night Voices, Night Journeys,” by Inoue Masahiko (translated by Edward Lipsett), for the sheer ballsiness of its pairing of beguiling eroticism with stomach-turning horror, topping with a brilliant and entertaining twist. Reminiscent of older groundbreaking texts in Korea, the book closes out with an essay about Lovecraftian comics, and some appendices detailing Cthulhu Mythos manga and fiction in Japanese.

I have two more of the three remaining volumes on hand, and plan on getting to them before the summer is over!


The Speckled Monster: A Historical Tale of Battling Smallpox by Jennifer Lee Carrell is about the fight to beat smallpox, back in the 1700s. It’s fascinating that the idea of inoculation came from the Middle East and from West Africa… another fact that, doubtless, American anti-vaxxers would hold up as evidence against vaccination, if they were actually well-read enough to know about it. But then, the book is pretty much sufficient rebuttal to the idiocies of anti-vaccination anyway: anyone who idealizes a world lacking vaccines is wishing and longing after a living hell. It tells the story of Mary Wortley Montagu, an Englishwoman who, after surviving smallpox herself, accompanied her husband to Turkey on a diplomatic mission and learned of the Ottoman practice of smallpox “variolation” (inoculation), had her kids done, and brought back the knowledge to England (where it ended up being tested on people on death row, and, eventually, being famously refined by Jenner); and across the Atlantic, one Zabdiel Boylston, a Bostonian doctor who learned that inoculation was widespread among Africans (the slaves all knew about the practice) and decided to experiment with willing and desperate friends, family, and his own slaves–supposedly at their own request–when a smallpox infected crew set off an epidemic in Boston.

One thing that’s fascinating is the differences in reactions between the Bostonians and the Londoners: in London, doctors were skeptical, but the royal family–several of its members having suffered through the speckled monster, or lost loved ones to it–were curious and open to testing it. In Boston, Boylston found his fellow doctors horrified, the local government oppressively opposed, and the mob pretty much ready to kill him to stop the inoculations. (Cotton Mather–yeah, that Cotton Mather–actually encouraged him to the practice… but was unwilling to publicly side with him when push came to mob-scale shove… which, well… it brings to mind this particular bit from William S. Burroughs’ “Words of Advice for Young People.”)

It does bear noting that this book actually straddles genres: it’s one of those newfangled histories that takes (slight) creative liberties with history, for the sake of narrative interest, and tells the events in a form much like narrative fiction. It’s a little too fabulated to be pure history, and a little too rigorous to be considered historical fiction. For those who care–and you should, at least a little, if you’re reading the book for the history–the mini-essays in the back that sort fact from fancy are invaluable, especially when it comes to the way the two narratives intertwine at the end. That said, I rather admire how Carrell weaves possible or probable events out of later writings by characters, as well as by inference. Those mini-essays are fascinating not just for the historical insights they provide, but also for the way they illustrate Carrell’s methodical process of consideration, inference, and imagining when she set out to fill in the historical blanks.

(I mentioned the book earlier, here.)

I am also grateful for the introduction the book has provided to Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, a fascinating historical figure who I need to know more about. She’s very, very pertinent to my novel project, but she’s also fascinating in her own right, which leads to the next text:

The Letters of Mary Wortley Montagu (a book I got from Project Gutenberg) is also fascinating reading, if you’re interested in what a bright, thoughtful, horribly scarred Englishwoman–her life turned upside-down. She ended up going about the rest of her life in a veil, to hide the ravages wrought upon her face by smallpox. The ravages upon her life were another story: she had been admired by the king, though he lost interest when she lost her looks, but worse, while she was ill a satire she’d written of the court had been circulated, insulting the Princess. Soon after, her husband–to whom she was quite unhappily married, despite having wed him in a love match hotly forbidden by her father–was appointed Ambassador to Turkey at Istanbul. This blog post has a pretty good summary of her life story.

As one essay I read about her suggests, to read Mary Wortley Montagu’s writing is to be reminded that feminist progress is neither teleological, nor smooth. Montagu strikes one as someone who could have been alive, if not today, then rather easily in the 1960s. Her rhetoric, her sense of humor, her bluntness, and even her biography (leaving her loveless marriage with an annoying husband to go be a “gay divorcée” in Europe) all smack of the utterly modern, though her prose itself is perfectly early Georgian London.

Also, one has to dig the woman who, when Alexander Pope confessed his love to her, responded by bursting into laughter.

Ouch!: “Pope Makes Love To Lady Mary Wortley Montagu”
– William Powell Frith (1852, oil on canvas)

Confession time: I haven’t read all of the letters in the book, but while I plan on doing so, now still seems like a good time to mention them as worth checking out, since it’ll probably take some time before I get through them all.

If you know the indie comic hit Elfquest, you know Wendy Pini. But did you know that before she and her husband partnered on Elfquest, she worked for years on an animated adaptation of Moorcock’s Elric books? Her book Law & Chaos is an account of the attempt, and, like the film Looking for Sugar Man, is an exploration of what happens when an artistic career takes a discouraging turn. I agree with Moorcock’s impression that Pini’s Elric would have been “too romanticized”: on some level, I feel like she was fighting the whole aesthetic of Elric, at least from the little of Moorcock I’ve actually read.

Actually, her “failed” but “not a failure” attempt could be paralleled with Jodorowsky’s Dune, except… well, she’s not a total loon like Jodorowsky, so it’s a less interesting sort of account of a failure (to me). But Pini’s account of the attempt is also briefer, and speaks to an interest I’ve developed in how artists and creative types deal with setbacks and failures. Pini’s take-home lesson seems to be that you learn by doing, even when the doing doesn’t pan out in a completed project… and that you need to tell your story, if you really want to achieve anything.

You can read Law & Chaos free online at her website. (Just as you can read all of the original Elfquest series–but not the new one–free online. Not that I have: I read some as a kid, but never became a huge fan–I was souring on elves and magic around the time I ran across it, and yeah, even though I know they’re actually free-lovin’ aliens from another world, the elf thing turned me off. I am slightly curious what I’d think of them now, but I haven’t gotten around to it.)

As you might have gathered from the bits I’ve quoted over the months, I’d been reading Return to Dragon Mountain: Memories of a Late Ming Man by Jonathan Spence for a good long while now, not because it’s uninteresting–it’s utterly fascinating–but just because it’s so rich that I kept putting it down when I found something interesting to think about, and then getting back to it when I was ready for more. The book is like rich, rich chocolate: you savour it, you have a little more, and start back in disbelief, deciding you’ll save its surprises and stretch them out a while… or at least, that was my reaction. As the passages I’ve quoted show, Zhang Dai was a fascinating sort of polymath-historian figure, excessive in his passions and glorious in his flaws… though, as always, it’s how Spence pulls things into perspective and tells the story that wins me over.

What interests me about Zhang Dai is how he handled the collapse of his world: the failure of the Ming Dynasty, in other words. Zhang Dai spent a good part of his life learning to be part of the system, finding his place in the system, enjoying the privilege he was accorded within the system, and glorifying the system… until that system basically fell apart at the seams. How he dealt with that is fascinating, especially if you’re curious about how the intellectual elite in China constructed history, and understood their place in it… and how, contrary to what you might imagine, a brilliant iconoclast could find a place in it (at least, in times of plenty) and how, during a time of turmoil, he managed to carve himself a place instead in his culture’s enduring memory.

Another book on Chinese history I read was Jerome Chen’s Yuan Shih-k’ai, which is a biography for the Chinese revolution-era Prime Minister of China. Chen is pretty hostile to Yuan, but he doesn’t seem to be unusual in that: so is pretty much everyone as far as I can tell. In this book, at least, Yuan comes off looking like perhaps the worst leader ever to take the reins of China: a failed diplomat, a failed leader, a failed strongman, and he didn’t really even manage to last very long. But there are some amusing anecdotes throughout, which I collected into a recent post.

Another book on Chinese history that I read was Jerome Chen‘s rather hostile biography of Yuan Shih-K’ai, but I discussed that at more length here. It’s a bit specialized, and certainly not the kind of thing a casual reader will get much out of, but if you’re interested in Chinese history, it’s perhaps worth a look, as long as you bear in mind the author’s got an apparent stake in the personal assessment of the man.

Andy Raskin‘s The Ramen King and I: How the Inventor of Instant Noodles Fixed My Love Life—A Memoir wasn’t really life-changing, and I wouldn’t actually buy it myself, but it was in the library and it does a decent job as a personal memoir, interweaving two storylines that are only loosely related: the first is the tale of Raskin’s messed-up emotional/love life and how he deals with it in a way that is only tangentially related to ramen at all, and the other is his bizarre quest to meet Momofuku Ando, the inventor of instant ramen noodles. The trick is that they’re both kind of the same, tied together by a weird and interesting storytelling trick. It’s light, and a quick read, despite Raskin’s embarrassing confessions regarding his general history relationship problems. To be honest, Raskin’s life story is less interesting than Momofuku Ando’s, but, well, so are the lives of most people, I suppose.

Oh, and one more think: Raskin set up a website called to dispense advice based on the writings of Ando; someone else has set up shop at that URL since Raskin shut down, but you can see the archives over on the Wayback Machine.

I’m interested in upping my cooking game, which is why I have a couple of cookbooks signed out work too. The one I’ve gotten through, though, Hervé This‘s Building a Meal: From Molecular Gastronomy to Culinary Constructivism (translated by Malcolm De Beroise) is more a single long essay—albeit in six sections, and focused on six elements of a meal—about the art and science of cooking. This seems not so much hostile toward molecular gastronomy as he is concerned about how the lessons learned and applied in that specialized sub-field could be applied to (a) improving mainstream “traditional” cooking, and (b) how people can do so in home cooking. This collaborates with Pierre Gagnaire (whom I’ve just discovered has a fancy restaurant in Seoul) to the degree where they actually post recipes online regularly… though only in French. (You can see them on Gagnaire’s website.) This’s book is kind of an extended manifesto of sorts, though, so if you’re after practical tips, I’d look else where. That said, it’s nice to read the writing of someone so passionate about cooking, even if occasionally he reminds one a bit of Jodorowski talking about the Dune film that never was, like in this passage near the end of the book:

The roar of war, tragedy, and catastrophe can be heard throughout the world today. But the experience of Lord Rumford, an eminent scientist and adventurer of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, illuminates our predicament. When the elector of Bavaria invited Rumford to Munich, he arrived to find a city full of beggars and thieves, and he sought a remedy. Instead of preaching morality, he set about feeding he people—and morality followed, as a result of eradicating hunger. May we not dream, however naively, of furthering the cause of peace and social justice by reintroducing in the schools an enlightened form of culinary instruction? (page 120)

Well, that’s all well and good, but for my wife and I to eat at his buddy’s restaurant would cost a minimum of $200, without drinks. You’re not gonna achieve world peace that way, and this rather brings up the real question that This avoids addressing: the theme of cook or chef as artisanal craftsperson makes it sound all rustic and traditionnel but in fact the innovations and the artisans of the culinary world, they’re beyond the reach of most people—most especially the people most subject to all the war, tragedy, and catastrophe. Let’s be frank: fancy food is the domain of the privileged, and it’s not going to create world peace. Peace does come from a full belly… but not from a new kind of chocolate mousse, and though This seems vaguely aware that our world’s dietary habits are ecologically and practically unsustainable, he only vaguely touches upon it… and by necessity misses the boat he’d need to catch in order to talk credibly about what “we” will be eating tomorrow, though it is a fascination of his. He claims we will be eating tomorrow what we invent today, but that, too, is the province of the rich. Most of us, tomorrow, will be eating whatever survives today. (Not, for example, the Gros Michel banana.)

If you’re looking for engaging or even just balanced history, A Short History of the Donghak Peasant Revolution by Soonchul Shin and Jinyoung Lee (translated by Rohini Singh and Chongmin Lee) is probably not for you: Shin and Lee’s book is partisan to the point of being unbalanced, dull, and short on thoughtful or instructive analysis of any useful sort. It feels like a book that was put out basically to keep the grant money flowing; whether it’s fair to say or not, I’m not sure, but that was how I felt while I was reading it.

I discussed my disappointment with the book at greater length in a recent post, which you can read here.

The Dutch Come to Korea: An Account of the Life of the First Westerners in Korea (1653-1666) by Gari Ledyard was fascinating. It’s essentially a translation of the account written by a Dutch castaway who happened to be among the first Europeans to bring news of Korea to the West, accompanied by a detailed and thoughtful introduction to the text which is in fact much more interesting reading than the castaway’s original account itself.

Hamel, the aforementioned castaway, wasn’t the first Westerner to end up in Korea, mind: they actually encounter one Dutch pirate who was in Korea a full generation earlier (a fellow by the name of Jan Jansen Weltevree), and who basically settled in Korea and worked in munitions manufacture for the king. But Hamel and his friends escaped to Japan, and were able to carry their tale back to the Netherlands.

Escaped, note: they were essentially living under military arrest and their situation has been summed as living in enslavement, though according to Hamel the conditions varied wildly depending on who was in charge of them at any given time.

The original Hamel text would have been merely interesting, but Ledyard’s research uncovers many of the things that Hamel and his fellow Dutchmen didn’t know or realize at the time, as well as some of the geopolitical context that the Dutch only half-understood. A great deal of politicking left behind the curtain in Hamel’s account gets at least exposed by Ledyard’s investigation, and he also manages to consider the possible connection between the Joseon world experienced by Hamel and Korea today.

Indeed, it is in his consideration of that question that the book is most insightful: he notes that accounts of both China and Japan reached Europe when those nations had reached a high-water mark of cultural and political robustness. whereas Korea only opened up to the West and began being written about by Westerners much at all in the late 19th-century, when things were rather more in a state of disrepair. Ledyard raises a fair question when he asks whether China would have been perceived as mighty by the West if the first accounts given to Europeans dated to during the Taiping Rebellion (as early Western accounts of Korea date to the later 19th century, roughly around the Donghak Rebellion and the collapse of the Joseon Dynasty.)

Game Books:

I also have been reading through a couple of old game books I’ve had for ages, but they’ll get their own posts when I finish them. The only one I’ve finished so far was the wonderfully thoughtful Twenty Four Game Poems by Mark Majcher, which I discussed here.

Pregnancy Books:

I’ve mentioned that a baby is on the way. The process is bewildering, even more so when most of the medical consultations are in a language you’re not fluent in. (Thank goodness they’re in Mrs. Jiwaku’s first language, though!)

So, I’ve ODed on pregnancy and parenting books lately.

What To Expect When You’re Expecting by Heidi Murkoff probably should be called What To Freak Out About Even Though It Probably Won’t Happen To You When You’re Expecting. That’s only half-criticism, though: it’s better to know what we’ve gotten ourselves into, but I could only read this book in doses, as reassuring and friendly as it tries to be. That said, it was interesting to compare and contrast the stuff in Mrs. Jiwaku’s Korean-language pregnancy guide. A lot is the same, interestingly, despite the profound cultural differences that surround childbearing and childrearing between Korea and the English-speaking West. More about that soon, I’m sure.

The Healthy Pregnancy Book by William Sears and Martha Sears is  a general guidebook in the style of What To Expect, but with a little different approach. I’m not sure it’s necessarily all that useful if you have a good doctor and a copy of What to Expect…, but it is a fine text. I’ve found Eating Expectantly a little less helpful, since, basically, we’re just following

The Expectant Father by Armin A. Brott and Jennifer Ash was a nice contrast to the other books, in that it’s directed at the father. The other books are certainly full of information that fathers-to-be should familiarize themselves with, but much as we want to be gender-neutral and egalitarian about things… dad’s not really involved the way mom is: dad’s not gestating a human being. This book is a no-bullshit discussion of how dad can be involved, things dads need to know, and so on. While I find it odd how the book is broken down: each month involves a specific theme: Month Six is all about Work/Family Balance; Month 4 is about getting your money situation in order. That makes it more of a step-by-step self-help guide to getting ready to be a dad, I guess, than a reference book, but that’s fine. The author does have a few funny quirks, though: he was in the military and that seems to have left him with the impression that the only dads who get have to be away from mom are soldiers, for example. (Some of the advice seems like it’d apply to dads who travel a lot on business as well, for example.) That said, it’s a reasonably good book and its focus on the role of the non-child-bearing parent is helpful for those of us who are in hat role.

On the Go…

Since I’m one of those people that usually has ten books on the go all at once, I won’t belabour this post by getting into everything I’ve read half of so far. If you’re curious, there’s a “Currently Reading” section in the sidebar that can enlighten you, and yes, everything that displays there is something I’m currently reading, though there are also books I dip into occasionally that aren’t listed there, too. Um, anyway… I expect to get a fair amount of reading (and writing!) done this summer. I hope to, anyway!

  1. Though some of the notes I found somewhat untrustworthy. See here.

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