Julie’s Book Club: Summer Reads

I’ll be attending the Clarion West Writers Workshop this summer. It’s an intense, six-week workshop with six different instructors, and I am reading or plan to read works by all of them. (I’m starting mostly with short story collections since they will be teaching short story writing.)

Here are the books I’ve got on my reading list (summaries from Goodreads):

Week 1: Paul Park

If Lions Could Speak and Other Stories (Wildside Press, 2002)

“If Lions Could Speak is the first collection from Paul Park, acclaimed author of The Starbridge Chronicles, Coelestis, and The Gospel of Corax. Subtle, stylish, at once forthrightly simple and ingeniously complex, the pieces gathered here are compelling and penetrating explorations of cultural difference and psychological crisis, regret and reconciliation. It is a marvelous literary labyrinth, a realm of memory palaces, eerie doppelgangers, terrifying theocracies, implosive revelations. Here time travels, sordid and ludicrous, becomes emblematic of how all lives are led; here, disease is an index to how the past is rewritten; here, the Other, extravagantly alien or simply alienated, can collapse into the Self with the suddenness of a lethal gunshot. Sometimes sardonically hilarious, sometimes gravely humane, always fiercely shocking, these stories constitute one of the finest bodies of short fiction by any contemporary SF writer.”

Week 2: Kij Johnson

At the Mouth of the River of Bees: Stories (Small Beer Press, 2012)

A sparkling debut collection from one of the hottest writers in science fiction: her stories have received the Nebula Award the last two years running. These stories feature cats, bees, wolves, dogs, and even that most capricious of animals, humans, and have been reprinted in The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror, Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, and The Secret History of Fantasy. Kij Johnson’s stories have won the Sturgeon and World Fantasy awards. She has taught writing; worked at Tor, Dark Horse, and Microsoft; worked as a radio announcer; run bookstores; and waitressed in a strip bar.

Week 3: Ian McDonald

Assorted stories here: http://www.freesfonline.de/authors/Ian_McDonald.html.

From a Strange Horizons review:

“…a British writer whose novels are about, but not of, India. McDonald is writing largely Western-style SF for a largely Western audience, and does not pause to explain. As Christopher Priest wrote in The Guardian at the time of its release, if River of Gods had a fault (and surely it did not) it was that, “it is not a page-turner book; it is a turn-page-back book.” McDonald is unforgiving to the lazy reader: keep up or keep out. This is a demanding but hugely rewarding style, and Cyberabad Days retains its chaotic, uncompromising approach. If Vandana Singh seeks to reimagine the Indian past into a fresh literary mode, Ian McDonald’s work in these stories, published over a similar period to Singh’s, uses the established cyberpunk form to imagine a new Indian future.”

Week 4: Hiromi Goto

Hopeful Monsters: Stories (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2004)

Hopeful monsters” are genetically abnormal organisms that, nonetheless, adapt and survive in their environments. In these devastating stories, the hopeful monsters in question are those who will not be tethered by familial duty nor bound by the ghosts of their past.

Home becomes fraught, reality a nightmare as Hiromi Goto weaves her characters through tales of domestic crises and cultural dissonance. They are the walking wounded—a mother who is terrified by a newborn daughter who bears a tail; a “stinky girl” who studies the human condition in a shopping mall; a family on holiday wih a visiting grandfather who cannot abide their “foreign” nature. But wills are a force unto themselves, and Goto’s characters are imbued with the light of myth and magic-realism. With humor and keen insight, Goto makes the familiar seem strange, and deciphers those moments when the idyllic skews into the absurd and the sublime.”

Week 5: Charlie Jane Anders

Choir Boy (Soft Skull Press, 2005)

“Twelve-year-old choirboy Berry wants nothing more than to remain a choirboy. Choral music and the prospect of divinity thrill him. Desperate to keep his voice from changing, he tries unsuccessfully to castrate himself, and then convinces a clinic to treat him as a transsexual. Berry begins a series of hormone pills, which keep his voice from deepening but also cause him to grow breasts. When his parents and friends discover the truth about him, Berry faces a world of unexpected gender issues that push him into a universe far more complex than anything he has experienced.

Abounding with bewitching religious symbolism, self-mutilation, bizarre suburban torture, drugs, class-based violence, and hidden meanings, Choir Boy is a wildly inventive and charming story about an outcast who refuses to grow up gracefully.”


Week 6: John Crowley

Novelties & Souvenirs: Collected Short Fiction (Harper Perennial, 2004)

A master literary stylist, John Crowley has carried readers to diverse and remarkable places in his award-winning, critically acclaimed novels — from his classic fable, Little, Big, to his New York Times Notable Book, The Translator. Now, for the first time, all of his short fiction has been collected in one volume, demonstrating the scope, the vision, and the wonder of one of America’s greatest storytellers. Courage and achievement are celebrated and questioned, paradoxes examined, and human frailty appreciated in fifteen tales, at once lyrical and provocative, ranging fromthe fantastic to the achingly real. Be it a tale of an expulsion from Eden, a journey through time, the dreams of a failed writer, ora dead woman’s ambiguous legacy, each story in Novelties & Souvenirs is a glorious reading experience, offering delights to be savored … and remembered.


What are you reading this summer? Do you have any other recommendations by these authors? Please share!

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