Here are the 16 books I read in 2014. Still not near the quantity I was reading five or six years ago, but more than last year (11 total, 5 re-reads), and only one re-read in the bunch.
- Heechee Rendezvous – Frederick Pohl (Wrapping up the original Heechee trilogy.)
- The Human Division – John Scalzi (Still love the Old Man’s War universe.)
- Among Others – Jo Walton
- The Alphabet Not Unlike the World – Katrina Vandenberg (Poetry. Really, really good poetry. Like “Inspires John Green while he’s writing The Fault in Our Stars” good poetry.
- Mystery Comics Digest No. 6 – The Twilight Zone (August 1972 – picked this up on Free Comic Book Day.)
- The Art of John Harris: Beyond the Horizon – John Harris (GeekDad review.)
- Avengers: Assembled – Brian Michael Bendis
- The Paleoart of Julius Csotonyi – Julius Csotonyi and Steve White (GeekDad review.)
- Alpha Centauri – Or Die! – Leigh Brackett (I picked this up a couple years ago at a bookstore in the small Ohio town where Brackett and her husband Edmond Hamilton lived. I wrote about it for StarWars.com.)
- Star Wars: A New Dawn – John Jackson Miller (I stopped reading most Star Wars novels long ago, but this one caught me, and it was quick and fun.)
- The Art of John Alvin – Andrea Alvin (GeekDad review.)
- The Future of the Mind – Michio Kaku (Fascinating stuff.)
- The Importance of Being Ernest – Ernest Cline (Author of Ready Player One. Interior illustrations by fellow Northeast Ohioan and cool guy Len Peralta.)
- Something Wicked This Way Comes – Ray Bradbury (re-read)
- Chicks Dig Gaming: A Celebration of All Things Gaming by the Women Who Love It – Mad Norwegian Press (GeekDad review.)
- Good Omens – Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett (No, I can’t believe I’d never read it either. What an incredibly fun book.)
I also spent a lot of enjoyable time in the pages of the following four role-playing game books last year, and I expect it to continue in 2015:
- Numenera (core rulebook) – Monte Cook
- Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook (5th ed.)
- Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual (5th ed.)
- Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master’s Guide (5th ed.)
I only read through 25 books in 2012, compared with 36 in 2011. (And down further from the 38 in 2010, and barely half my 2009 number: 46.) Those books (linked to my GeekDad reviews where applicable) were:
- American Gods: Tenth Anniversary Edition – Neil Gaiman
- Ganymede – Cherie Priest
- The Martian Way and Other Stories – Isaac Asimov
- Redshirts – John Scalzi (GeekDad interview here)
- The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
- Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins
- Mockingjay – Suzanne Collins
- Girl Genius Omnibus Vol 1: Agatha Awakens – Phil and Kaja Foglio
- Pilgrim of the Sky – Natania Barron
- The Broken Universe – Paul Melko
- Libriomancer – Jim C. Hines (GeekDad interview here)
- Armored (anthology) – edited by John Joseph Adams
- Calico Joe – John Grisham
- The Stainless Steel Rat – Harry Harrison (I hadn’t read any of these books before, and I loved them.)
- The Stainless Steel Rat’s Revenge – Harry Harrison
- A Long Time Ago – Gib Van Ert
- The Princess Bride: A Celebration
- Revolt on Alpha C – Robert Silverberg
- Gateway – Frederick Pohl (I tried to read this in elementary school and hated it. Fred at Backlist Books had a copy, so I picked it up to try again – and blasted through it in a day.)
- The Science Fiction Universe and Beyond
- The Stainless Steel Rat Saves the World – Harry Harrison
- Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made – Alan Eisenstock
- Juliet, Naked – Nick Hornby
- The Whore of Akron – Scott Raab
- The Inexplicables – Cherie Priest
The list does include fewer re-reads than the previous few years, the exceptions being American Gods, the Hunger Games trilogy (read as a psyche-up for the movie), and Revolt on Alpha C, a childhood favorite.
I did specify at the beginning that those are the books I “read through,” because I spent a lot of time in the pages of larger reference-style books, even if I don’t count them as cover-to-cover reads (links, again, to GeekDad reviews):
- Star Wars: The Ultimate Action Figure Collection
- Star Wars: The Essential Reader’s Companion
- Dungeons & Dragons: Into the Unknown
- Dungeons & Dragons: Heroes of Shadow
- Pathfinder: Core Rulebook
- Advanced D&D: Dungeon Master’s Guide (1979 edition)
- Dungeons & Dragons: Player’s Handbook v 3.5
I also have a monthly Kindle subscription to Lightspeed magazine, which I don’t consume beginning to end every month, but which adds another bunch of short stories and interviews to my count.
I’ll also note that this was my first year owning the Kindle, which led to something that hasn’t happened much to me in the past: Unfinished books. Being able to grab books on the cheap (or for free) made it incredibly easy to load up, and there are several books on the device (or in my Amazon cloud) which I either haven’t started yet or which remain only partially read. Part of it is because I tend to read those when I’m not at home, which is part of the point of the Kindle, after all.
Maybe I’ll put those – plus the ones on the shelf on my new bookcase which I’ve reserved for unread books – at the top of this year’s list.
Once I’ve finished the book I’m reading now, of course.
Adam Besenyodi will be sharing the table and selling Deus ex Comica: The Rebirth of a Comic Book Fan. He may even have some copies of Exo-1 and the Rock Solid Steelbots on hand. (And if he won’t, I’m sure he’ll let me know soon enough.)
I believe I speak for
all both of us at booth A12 when I say it would be excellent for you to come by and nerd out for a few minutes.
In no particular order, a few thoughts on Disney buying Lucasfilm, mostly composed in my head on the way home from work:
- I started out thinking, “I’m OK with this.” This has since evolved into, “YES, I’m really, really freaking OK with this.”
- I remain amused that this sentence – “Star Wars Episode 7 is targeted for release in 2015, with more feature films expected to continue the Star Wars saga and grow the franchise well into the future.” – is at the end of the sixth paragraph. Best. Buried Lede. EVER.
- Disney’s overseen mostly amazing work in its ownership of the Pixar, Marvel, and Muppets properties, which makes me think the Star Wars universe will be in good hands.
- Incredibly smart move on George Lucas’ part: If Disney messes up the Star Wars franchise, he has washed his hands of it. If Disney can pull an Avengers-esque success with Episode VII, then Lucas is the guy who turned over control of his empire in order to save it, and he regains Favor Among Nerds.
- No idea where Episode VII will take the story. Original Jedi leads are out of the question. The droids? Han & Leia’s kids? A direct sequel recast with new actors in the leads? (Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy? I like it a lot, but I don’t think it will ever be positioned as big-screen canon.)
- Star Wars Celebrations with actual movie build-up involved again? Sweet. I wonder if Disney ownership improves Orlando’s chances of landing future conventions.
- Star Wars movies scripted and directed by someone other than George Lucas? History proves this is not an ungood idea. (Please see: The Empire Strikes Back.)
- Yes, like every other dang geek on the planet, I thought, “JOSS! JOSSSSSS!”
- I took my daughter to opening night of Episode III, thinking it would be the last chance for us to see an original Star Wars big screen premiere. She was eight years old. When I told her about Disney buying LFL and announcing Episode VII in 2015, and that it meant we’d be able to do another opening night Star Wars, her reaction was, “That rocks so hardcore.” I have to love that.
Big surprise: I really like talking with people – especially first-generation fans – about their Star Wars memories, and about growing up loving the saga and then sharing it with a new generation of kids.
So in planning my GeekDad coverage of Star Wars Celebration VI back in August, I thought it would be fun to set up a series of short interviews with some notable geeks and Star Wars personalities, asking them about their favorite memories and toys and things like that.
Eight great people took some time during the four-day convention to hang out and answer the same five questions, and I had a blast conducting the interviews. (MAJOR thanks again to everyone who participated!) The series ran in August and September at GeekDad, and I thought it would be fun to round up all the links here, too.
- Gronk creator and Lucasfilm-licensed artist Katie Cook was the first person I asked what were later named the “Five Force-Full Questions.” Her interview is here, and it includes her “deep dark Star Wars secret.”
- I was psyched to meet everyone I interviewed, but I’ll confess that when Fanboys and Ready Player One writer Ernie Cline accepted the invitation, I had a bit of a nerdsquee moment. I’ve identified very strongly with his writing, since he grew up not far from my home in Ohio, and at around the same time. We actually spent about a half hour talking about tons of other geek stuff before we even got to his Five Force-Full Question answers, and then, generous and patient guy that he is, Ernie was kind enough to repeat his answers over the phone a couple days later due to a digital recording error on my part.
- Marc Thompson is a voice actor and a narrator of several Star Wars audio books, and he was actually attending Celebration with his kids, so he gets bonus geeky dad points for that. His interview is here.
- Kristen Rutherford is a fellow contributor to the GeekDad/GeekMom universe, head writer and creative producer of The Nerdist on BBC America, and host of Geek & Sundry‘s #parent hangouts. Also, she was kind enough to laugh off my goofspazzing response to a text about a bowling shirt – a message which was not, in fact, meant for me. So she’s cool that way. Plus she remembers exactly which card she’s missing from her Empire Strikes Back red-border set.
- Kristen invited me to one of the Nerdist crew’s Star Wars Transmission tapings and introduced me to several other neat geek types, including Chris Hardwick, who, it turns out, also has an affinity for the second wave of Kenner’s original Star Wars figures (the grouping which brought the action figure total to that magic number of 21). Read which one was his favorite here.
Finally, I did a trio of interviews with three actors from Star Wars: The Clone Wars:
- Matt Lanter, who plays Anakin Skywalker,
- And Dee Bradley Baker, another fellow first-generation fan and geeky dad who – seriously – was so into Star Wars as a kid that he landed a gig dressing up as a jawa at his local movie theater.
Man, was that a fun trip.
The lump in my throat has snuck up on me several times since I heard about Ray Bradbury’s death this week.
Thinking about how his name first meant something to me when I was a little kid and I watched (but didn’t understand) the TV adaptation of The Martian Chronicles, but it was 1979, and I ate up anything science fiction because I was still drowning in the wake of Star Wars. Thinking about being older, then, and recognizing his name when I found Fahrenheit 451 at a library’s used book sale. It scarred me in the best ways possible, and I wanted more.
Thinking about being at Bowling Green State University in 1990 and 1991, which is when I really started scarfing down Bradbury stories by the handful, sitting in the stacks on the first floor of the library. This is where I met those bratty kids from “The Veldt” and the time-traveling hunters in “A Sound of Thunder” and the inventor of “The Toynbee Convector.” (It was also in this period when I read a review of Bradbury’s collections that featured a description of “The October Game” as the most chilling story that Ray had ever written. It would take me a long time to track down a copy, but I still remember finding it in the Upper Sandusky library on a visit to my grandmother’s, and feeling icy water down my back when I read the story alone in a quiet den.)
Thinking of “The Lake,” one of my favorite Bradbury stories ever.
Thinking over and over again of a train and a bridge and a poem and a story and, finally, the time Ray Bradbury sent me a letter.
In December of 1990, my friend Tobi took me to Five Mile Bridge, west of Bryan, Ohio, to watch a train thunder past. Years later, I wrote the following in Crossing Decembers – and though my novel is fiction, this part is pretty close to reality as I remember it:
I wrote about the [train] in that green spiral notebook, but that was a two a.m., hurry-God-please-don’t-let-me-forget-a-nanosecond rush of howl and sigh and adrenaline.
The next night, I fell asleep trying to recreate the train, the bridge, and her eyes in my mind.
After I soaked it into my blood for a week or so, one night while my roommate was out, I shut off the lights and sat down at my desk by the window, where a bright pink-orange glow came in from the floodlight on the outside of the building.
Tree branches clicked in the wind, and over an hour or two, I wrote a poem I called “For Kallie: A Night at Five Mile Bridge.”
The next morning, on my way to the cafeteria, I stopped by her room. I was pretty sure she’d be at class already, so I slid the poem in an envelope with her name on it under the door.
Late that afternoon, I was alone in my room again and there was a quick, soft knock at the door.
When I opened it, Kallie was standing there, shaking, and her eyes were wet.
Before I could even say hello, her arms were around my neck, her sweet hair like spring, her body quaking, and in one of her hands was single sheet of paper, folded in thirds, with my poem typed on it.
Jump forward a few years to late summer, 1995. I have just sold my first piece of fiction, “Heading Home,” to Florida magazine for $100. Having practically memorized large chunks of Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing, I found myself thinking about the part where Ray wrote that the greatest reward a writer gets is when someone “rushes up to you, his face bursting with honesty, his eyes afire” at how your work connected with him. And I thought about Tobi, and then, since it was well past midnight, I wrote Ray what I’m certain was a rambling, barely coherent letter about these thoughts bouncing around in my head.
I mailed it the next day and forgot all about it.
Two weeks later, his response landed in my mailbox, and I remember that my hands just started shaking when I saw the return address. Inside was a one-page typewritten letter, with a few errors and one ballpoint spelling correction.
At the top of the page were these images:
And below, a short note, reading in part:
These celebratory cats are Bradbury cats and they are celebrating John Booth and his first story sale and the night his girl friend flung her arms around him and wept because of the beauty of his poem!
Much luck in the coming years from Win-Win, Ditzi, Dingo and Jack, the Bradbury cats, and from
(Oh, how I love this part – )
Over the years, I’ve opened that envelope time and again, always carefully unfolding the letter and imagining that maybe the tiniest remnants of typewriter dust from Bradbury’s fingernails are still settled in the weave of the paper, quietly crackling with static electricity and magic.
I read 36 books in 2011, which is two fewer than my 2010 total, but a number which still pleasantly surprised me, given that I landed a full-time career-changing job in February.
Mostly fiction, by far. The eight non-fiction reads included two biographies, an essay collection, a book on gaming and society, and four pop culture niche explorations.
Nine books on the list are re-reads, although one of those was the extensively annotated Heir to the Empire 20th Anniversary Edition. If you want to get technical, it’s ten counting Pillars of Pentegarn although it’s been probably 25 years – at least – since I last read it.
Obsessive streak: I closed the year on a 10-day break from work, during which time I read volumes 2-7 of the Harry Potter series. (I had planned to read the entire set, but then realized I had already read Sorceror’s Stone over the summer.)
Shared joy: My daughter and I fell in love with the Scott Pilgrim series after I bought her the first volume and then went to the library within a day or two to check out the other five.
I have Adam to thank for two books on the list which were gifts: John Landis and Manhood for Amateurs. Excellent call on both.
I reviewed twelve of the books for GeekDad.
- Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Happy and How They Can Change the World – Jane McGonigal
- John Landis – Giulia D’Agnolo Vallan
- The Star Wars Craft Book – Bonnie Burton
- Fuzzy Nation – John Scalzi
- Geek Fantasy Novel – E. Archer
- Manhood for Amateurs – Michael Chabon
- Serenity: The Shepherd’s Tale – Joss Whedon, Zack Whedon and Chris Samnee
- Nerd Do Well – Simon Pegg
- Transformers Vault – Pablo Hidalgo
- The Snow Queen’s Shadow – Jim C. Hines
- Agent to the Stars – John Scalzi
- Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone – – J.K. Rowling
- Watchmen – Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
- Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life – Bryan Lee O’Malley
- Scott Pilgrim vs. the World – Bryan Lee O’Malley
- Scott Pilgrim & the Infinite Sadness – Bryan Lee O’Malley
- Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together – Bryan Lee O’Malley
- Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe – Bryan Lee O’Malley
- Star Wars: Heir to the Empire (20th Anniversary Edition) – Timothy Zahn
- Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour – Bryan Lee O’Malley
- Mail-Order Mysteries: Real Stuff from Old Comic Book Ads – Kirk Demarais
- Prophets – S. Andrew Swann
- The Complete Vader – Ryder Windham and Peter Vilmur
- Amazing Everything: The Art of Scott C. – Scott Campbell
- At the Mountains of Madness and Other Tales of Terror – H.P. Lovecraft
- Ready Player One – Ernest Cline
- Kraken – China Mieville
- Cloak – James Gough
- Pillars of Pentegarn – Rose Estes
- Star Wars: Millennium Falcon Owner’s Workshop Manual – Ryder Windham, Chris Reiff, Chris Trevas
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – J.K. Rowling
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – J.K. Rowling
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – J.K. Rowling
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – J.K. Rowling
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – J.K. Rowling
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – J.K. Rowling
And first on the list for 2012:
Ganymede by Cherie Priest
I reviewed some awfully fun stuff this year for GeekDad – a dozen books and a couple TV shows, most of which are well worth checking out:
Two facts: One, contributing to Wired‘s GeekDad is, no question, one of the most fun things I get to do as a writer; and two, I’ve always loved the inspiration and energy rush that comes from talking with creative people about their imaginations, work and passion.
So when I get to do both of those things at the same time, well, it’s like sticking the equivalent of a plant nutrient spike into the nerdiest corner of my brain.
I wrote up four interviews for GeekDad in 2011:
From Monty Python to Mad to Manga: An Interview with Mark Crilley – Don’t forget, Brody’s Ghost, Volume 3 is set for a May release.
What’s Behind James Gough’s Cloak? – Great premise for a book, fantastic guy to talk to. You’re ever in the market for an extra kiloton of energy, spending five minutes with James will replenish your stores and then some.
Hey future-dwellers: Crossing Decembers is available as a $4.99 eBook through the iTunes Bookstore, so if you’ve read any or all of it online and enjoyed it, why not pick up a digital edition you can keep for your very own?
(The paperback edition is, of course, still available through Amazon.)