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My current reading pile has gotten out of hand. Normally, I may have two or three books on the go – an actual physical book, a book on my Kindle that I read at night, and maybe an audiobook or a book on my phone.

Thanks to poor book management by myself, I seem to be in the middle of ten books right now.

Here they are, in no particular order.

The Integral Trees by Larry Niven

I picked this up at the wonderful Aardvark Books secondhand bookstore in Herefordshire. It has a pretty good SF section, and while I remember Larry Niven’s The Integral Trees coming out in 1983, I didn’t read it then. It cost me £2.50, 55p more than the 1985 cover price.

Unfortunately, it isn’t as good as I hoped. While the world is exciting and different (and the reason to read it), the story is about the descendants of a crashed human spaceship and feels a bit derivative. (Maybe it wasn’t derivative in 1983 – but I can think of other books with similar premises from about that time.)

I won’t seek out its sequel, The Smoke Ring, but I’ll probably pick it up if I come across it.

How to be a Liberal by Ian Dunt

I enjoyed Dunt’s Brexit – What the Hell Happens Now? (which accurately predicted much of the chaos we’ve experienced) and I’ve enjoyed his journalism. But How to be a Liberal is, so far, a history of liberalism, starting with Descartes in 1619.

And I’m finding it hard going - I picked this up in Wetherby’s Oxfam months ago, and yet I’m not even 100 pages in. So I’ve put it on the back burner. I haven’t abandoned it (yet), but I’m clearing other books before returning to it.

The Land of the Green Man by Carolyne Larrington

This is a tour of British folklore, covering pretty much everything. I bought this because I wanted to learn more about British folklore – and particularly how I might apply it to my Liminal games. (I usually just make stuff up, but Liminal’s USP is that it covers British folklore, so I thought I’d do some reading.)

However, I’m starting to regret not taking any notes…

Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang

Chiang’s Stories of Your Life is the short story that became Arrival. It’s been on my to-read list for a while, so when I saw it in a secondhand bookshop in Berwick, I bought it.

However, I don’t enjoy short stories. I find them too choppy – I want to wrap myself in a story, and short stories are over too quickly. They also have a different feel to novels – they’re “cleverer”, and that’s not always what I want. So, I’m slowly working my way through them. My favourite story so far is Understand, a story about a man whose hormone-K therapy makes him superintelligent – but not quite intelligent enough…

I’ve got one story to go, and I’m not quite sure what is stopping me from reading that story and moving Stories of Your Life and Others off my current reading list. (All those other books, probably.)

Discovering Scarfolk by Richard Littler

A birthday present and delightfully wrong on so many levels. Scarfolk is the fictional 1970s county in England’s Northwest – I can’t do it justice here, so I suggest you visit the Scarfolk blog. To my surprise, Discovering Scarfolk has a narrative and concerns itself with the disappearance of two children. Or at least, that’s the story so far.

The Book Your Dog Wishes You Would Read by Louise Glazebrook

All about dog behaviour and communication – our dog, Monty, is now seven years old, so I probably could have done with this a few years ago. It’s an easy read, and I’m already nearly halfway through, so I expect I will finish this fairly quickly.

Cursed Objects by J W Ocker

I’ve had Cursed Objects for ages – I think it was a 2022 Xmas present. It’s a collection of over fifty essays about cursed objects (the clue is in the title). There are loads of ideas in here for RPG investigations, but I probably should have made notes.

This is taking a long time to read because it lives in the summerhouse, and I only read a chapter or so on a sunny afternoon. Now that we’re in November, sunny afternoons are few and far between… I’m not expecting to finish this before next year.

The Ember Blade by Chris Wooding

I’m finding The Ember Blade hard going, which is a surprise as I normally find Chris Wooding very readable – his Tales of the Ketty Jay are wonderful (start with Retribution Falls), as is The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray.

However, this is slow. It’s a fantasy setting, with an occupying empire and plucky underdogs (I wonder who we’re rooting for?), but it’s taking its time in getting going, and I’m not finding the two heroes particularly likeable. (And as a result, I’m finding it much too easy to put it down.)

Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson

Every now and again, I find I’ve got some spare time, but I don’t have my Kindle (or another book) to hand. That’s when I turn to the Kindle app on my phone, and because I had some time on holiday recently (probably waiting for the family somewhere), I have started Ministry for the Future.

The book starts in the middle of an awful heatwave in India that results in millions of deaths. I’ve only just started Ministry for the Future, but it looks like that’s the event that kicks everything off. I expect when I finish The Ember Blade, I’ll start reading this one on my Kindle.

Unruly by David Mitchell

I’m listening to Unruly: A History of England’s Kings and Queens with Mrs H. We like to listen to audiobooks on long car journeys, and we started Unruly on our way back from Herefordshire recently. It’s engaging and often funny, as expected from David Mitchell.

Thanks to concentrating on the traffic, I’ve lost track of exactly where we are, but I know we haven’t reached the Battle of Hastings yet. But I don’t think it’s far off. However, I’m not sure when we’ll next listen to it – we’ve not got another long car journey planned for a couple of months.

MR James: The Complete Ghost Stories Collection

During December, I like to listen to MR James’ ghost stories – I have several of his best-known stories on Audible, read by the likes of Derek Jacobi and David Suchet. Last year, I bought this collection, read by Jonathan Keeble, which fills in the gaps.

I didn’t complete it last year – maybe I will this December. But I’m in no rush.

(By the way, if you don't get on with reading MR James' ghost stories, and I find them hard to read, I do recommend listening to them. They're much better that way.)

And the pile I haven’t started yet

So that’s what I’m currently reading. Part of the problem is that the books aren’t that compelling – so not ploughing through them. I’m likely to score most of them two or three out of five.

And here’s the list of books I have waiting for me. I will try not to start these until I’ve made at least a dent in the above:

  • Art of Ron Cobb by Jacob Johnson (I love Ron Cobb’s art – and there’s plenty of text as well)
  • A Gamut of Games by Sid Sackson (a collection of 30+ games)
  • The Armchair General by John Buckley (a sort-of choose-your-own-adventure where you’re trying to win WW2)
  • Gothic Ghost Stories by Trevor Bell (something for those dark December evenings)
  • Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus (currently being read by Mrs H)
  • The Last Devil to Die by Richard Osman (I’m not allowed to read this before Mrs H reads it, which is probably a good thing)
  • Forgotten Castles of Wales and the Marches by Paul R Davis (I love castles, and saw this in Ludlow)

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My problem is keeping on top of the review copies I get. I have 1 outstanding LTER and I didn't much like the earlier installment I have. I've got about 6 outstanding Netgalley titles, but I'm rereading another book first as it's first in series (Jim Butcher's Cinderspires - book 2 is immanent after several years).

What I find I go through fits of reading: if I'm up to my eyeballs with work, I want an old favourite to relax with. It doesn't have to be particularly good, just the literary equivalent of a cup of hot chocolate and a fluffy blanket on the sofa. Other times I want something to stretch my mind. And other times, I can't face reading at all...