The Sixteens Blog About topic for the month of January is reading resolutions for 2015. Now, I think we can all agree that reading resolutions are the best kind of New Year’s resolutions. It’s so easy to resolve to do something you want to do anyway. A few years ago, my reading resolution was to read more books. Last year, it was to specifically read more books by female authors. As far as New Year’s resolutions go, these are kind of on par with “eat more chocolate” and “pet more kittens” in the level of personal hardship they require, but I am not ashamed, nor shall I hesitate to make the exact same kind of resolutions this year.
For this year:
1. Sometimes maybe instead of always buying new books, I will read the ones I’ve already got on my bookshelves. Now that my books are out of storage and delightfully alphabetized all over the apartment, it’s time to start working through the multi-year backlog of “books I am totally going to read someday.”
2. And that means the nonfiction too! Read more non-fiction in general. I like learning things. I like books that help me learn things. I always enjoy nonfiction when I read it. I have a metric fuckton of unread nonfiction books on my shelves. I should read it.
Corollary to 2. Expand my nonfiction reading horizons a little bit. There are in fact nonfiction books out there on topics besides the history of science and people dying horribly of plagues and/or during polar exploration, but you would never know it from looking at my bookshelves.
3. Reread Patrick O’Brian’s entire Aubrey-Maturin series. It’s time, and now I actually have all the books in my possession. When I purchased the last one I was missing (The Nutmeg of Consolation which, let’s be real: greatest title or greatest title ever?) the man at the used bookstore and I agreed that not understanding any of the nautical chatter is part of the experience. You just let it wash over you, like the ocean. Like the Southern Ocean in the Roaring Forties while you’re being chased by a 74-gun Dutch ship-of-the-line and about to hit an iceberg. Like that.
4. Make all of my fellow Sweet Sixteeners send me their books so I can read them before the rest of the world gets to read them and taunt people who haven’t read them and feel very smug.
5. Slow down and pay more attention. Just… slow down. Pay more attention. The books aren’t going anywhere. I’ve done the thing where I read like all the world’s literature is going to burst into flames if I don’t pack it into my eyeballs as fast as possible. Now I can try the thing where I slow down and savor and contemplate.
These are my reading resolutions for 2015. It’s going to be a good year for books. I know it.
I have a new short story out in the Lovecraft-themed totally-not-fake-occult-books anthology The Starry Wisdom Library (ed. Nate Pedersen), now available from PS Publishing. It’s a beautiful little hardcover book filled with weird and wonderful contributions from a ton of great writers:
Scholars and book collectors across the country have long pondered the intended fate of the infamous collection of rare occult books left to rot in the Church of Starry Wisdom in Providence, Rhode Island, after the Starry Wisdom cult dispersed to parts unknown in the late 19th century.
The recent, shocking discovery of a previously unknown book auction catalogue issued in 1877 offers insight into the myriad mysteries of the cult. Entitled “Catalogue of the Occult Library of the Recently Disbanded Church of Starry Wisdom of Providence, Rhode Island,” and issued by the notorious Arkham firm Pent & Serenade, the catalogue reveals the long-suspected fact that the Church intended to sell its library to finance its removal from Providence.
The sale, of course, never materialized—as later events make obvious—but the book auction catalogue informs us of the cult’s original intent and leaves for us an enormously valuable and fascinating piece of ephemera detailing the infamous collection of rare occult books in all of its dark and foreboding glory.
The Sweet Sixteens blogging topic for the month of December is our favorite books and authors, but this post is not really about that. That’s too vast a topic. That list is infinite, and I’m too lazy to narrow it down. Instead this post is about my favorite books by my favorite author when I was a teenager.
Writers are always talking about their deepest influences, their idols, the words that got under their skin in their formative years. We remember the stories that hit us hard. We love to remember them. And for me, there’s a collection of books that towers above all else in the dusty library of my teenage memory. I’m not talking about classics. I’m not talking about great literature. I’m not even talking about good literature.
I’m talking about Christopher Pike’s homicidal telepathic zombie immortal incest dinosaurs.
This is the first in a series of interviews the Sweet Sixteeners are doing with our counterparts from 2015, so there will be many more debut authors and their books featured over the next several months!
The Secret Knowledge of Water by Craig Childs (Back Bay Books, 2000)
The first time I went to the Grand Canyon I disobeyed all the warning signs.
If you’ve ever hiked in the Grand Canyon, you know that not very far down whatever trail you choose, you will pass a sign telling you not to attempt to hike all the way to the bottom and back up in a single day. Don’t do it. You won’t make it. You will perish. Certain doom. The words are accompanied by delightful little illustrations of a swooning fool moments from dying of dehydration or exposure.
House of Rain by Craig Childs (Back Bay Books, 2006)
A few years ago my sister Alia and I took a road trip to visit some archaeological sites in the southwestern United States. I used to be a geologist and she’s an archaeologist (although her area of expertise is considerably more Roman and more volcanic), so driving around the desert looking at ruins sounded like a good time to us. We went to Mesa Verde to tour the cliff houses (with—I kid you not—the most ill-informed volunteer ranger in the entire National Park Service), to Hovenweep to wander around among the towers, to Chaco Canyon to cling desperately to the barren rock with our fingernails while a windstorm tried to blow us away. Look, it was a really powerful windstorm. We couldn’t even sit outside at our campsite because the wind kept blowing our beer bottles over, and that was beer we had backtracked twenty miles to buy at a lonely gas station on US 550.
But we braved the wind to see all the ruins we could see and did manage to visit most of the great houses of Chaco. I bought this book in the visitor center during one of our breaks from all that blowing. It’s been on my bookshelf ever since; I more or less forgot about it after I got home. Now that I’ve read it I wish I had done so when the places we visited were fresh in my mind.