I’m a bit stunned to find myself already facing February. Where did my January disappear to? So many reading ambitions and so few goals achieved. I find myself five books behind my pace to reach my annual goal of ninety-six books (eight books per months). Basically, I finished three books last month. Not that I wasn’t constantly reading something (I’ll discuss my overflowing currently reading dilemma in a bit).
Here’s the three I actually started and finished during January:
Hard Timesby Dickens
The first book I started and finished during the first week of the new year was Dickens’ Hard Times. This was the winter reading classic selection for my local library adult book club. We meet on the second Thursday and have lively discussions, including about this shortest and last published work of Charles Dickens.
I listened to the audiobook read by Simon Prebble and managed to complete it with just thirty minutes to spare before arriving at the library for the discussion. We were split as a group whether we liked this book. It is not your typical Dickens and had some portions that were a bit of a slog to muddle through. In hindsight, we all agreed we should have read Little Women in light of the release of yet another movie adaptation over the holiday break. We decided that next winter we will allow ourselves the luxury of reading a classic that might be adapted and released during Thanksgiving or Christmas holidays.
Last week, I finished listening to or reading the rest of the short fiction I had earmarked for perusal before end of year in a previous post. I’m very grateful to the podcasts of various SFF magazines that fit perfectly into my daily commute. Many of the authors below are new to me. Only Aliette de Bodard, KJ Parker and Sarah Pinsker have I read previously.
Most of the year, I’m heads down in full length books and novels. Only when I reach December, when my book clubs take a break for the holidays, do I come up for air enough to review any novellas or novelettes published in any of the magazines listed above. So I spent some time earlier this week, scrolling back through my Patreon posts to find all the ebooks I forgot to download for Uncanny and Strange Horizons. Then I scrolled through all the podcast episodes for authors I liked or had heard of for any works at least 40 minutes long (the length of half of my daily commute). I added several to my playlist and downloaded the ebooks to my tablet. My commute and lunch time reading was taken care of for the entire week.
Several weeks ago I decided to stop falling asleep to whatever audiobook I was currently listening to because I spent too much time the following morning figuring out where I drifted off to dreamland. In other words, what’s the last thing I remembered coherently before losing consciousness? So I switched to podcasts of a different nature that didn’t require as much of my brain engaged to follow along.
For example, I use Podcast Addict exclusively now for my podcast listening. I set the sleep timer to thirty minutes and then I review my playlist. I rearrange it, usually putting the shorter episodes at the top. Sometimes I just select on of Dr. Corey Olsen‘s Mythgard Academy Tolkien podcasts because they are always nearly two hours long and I can hop in and out of those without too much loss.
One podcast that I really like to fall asleep to, and re-listen to if I nod off too quickly, has been The History of Rome by Mike Duncan. Duncan started the podcast in 2007 so some of the first episode show their age (auditorially speaking). This week, I reached episodes 20 (a & b) related to the First Punic War. The oddest thing I heard last night was the Romans building walls around a city they were besieging because another army had arrived upon the field and now threatened and surrounded them. The Romans besieged while besieging. This is not going to end well (and unsurprisingly it did not).
Aside from the Stuff You Missed In History Class podcast, I hadn’t been listening to any other history podcasts. But I enjoyed both of these quite a bit, which got me looking for more history related listening. This week, I’m testing out three new podcasts, one of them the current endeavor of Mike Duncan, called Revolutions.
I have high hopes for Ben Franklin’s World, I just hope they are not all interviews. The first three episodes are inaugural introductory interviews.
All of these history podcasts have hundreds of episodes under their collective belts so I have a dearth of listening available and won’t need to resort to counting sheep or backwards from one hundred to transition to dream land successfully.
Yes, I’m still here. Sort of. I’ve been so busy since the first of the year, I just now came up for air, and only because I realized it had been nearly a month since I’d posted to my blog. A new year at work means a new budget cycle and all the projects that were on hold now have been given the green light and of course should have been completed yesterday. The ringing in my ears can be directly correlated to the number of hours per day I spend on conference calls. I spend so much time in fact on conference calls that the only time I have to accomplish actual work is at home during the evenings.
And for some reason, I thought it was a good idea, to take another online course, this time in Statistics. I needed one more course to finish my Associates Degree and I wanted to do something related to my core goal – Mathematics. Ironically, as I learned while reading and studying the first chapter of my textbook, Statistics is not technically considered a course in Mathematics. Math results in one right answer if you solve the problem correctly – and this is repeatable for anyone anytime. One problem = one right answer. This is not the case for Statistics.
For my commutes to and from work I switched from listening to audiobooks (for now) to following various podcasts as a sort of New Year’s resolution. Some of them are audio dramas, some of them are non-fiction, some are current tech news, some are short fiction (mostly fantasy and science fiction from various magazines) and some are just pure fun. Most of them I can complete in one day (two commutes = approximately 90 minutes) so I don’t have to worry about losing my place or losing track of the story in a long audiobook.
To prepare for last night’s Tolkien Society of Kansas City discussion of The Children of Hurin, I listened to nearly seven hours of amazing depth and insight on Chapter 21 of the Silmarillion thanks to the trilogy of episodes broadcast by the Prancing Pony Podcast. I plan a more in-depth post on my tumble down Tolkien’s tragic Turin tale. Our next group read at TSoKC is Unfinished Tales, but thankfully we’re skipping Part One (which would be yet another reading of Turin), but will start with Part Two and also read Letters 50-89 in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien. Check our Facebook page for the date of our next meeting in February and join us if you’re so inclined. All are welcome.
This weekend will be all too short between obligatory after-hours work (ah, the joys of information technology support and maintenance), volunteering at the library (now that is pure joy) and tonight’s General Meeting of the Astronomical Society of Kansas City.
It’s the 27th day of January, 2018. I’ve flown through 7.4 percent of the year in days, nearly 8.3 percent of the months and 11 percent of the first quarter.
A dear friend of mine sent me off on a wonderful Tolkien tangent last week when she replied to my Podcast Pickup post and directed me to the Prancing Pony Podcast. I quickly scanned the last half dozen posted episodes and settled on #038, also entitled “I Will Choose Free Will” – which immediately gave me a Rush earworm. Not one to be daunted by a nearly two hour podcast (we are dealing with ‘epic’ fantasy here), I gave a listen to the ongoing discussion of The Silmarillion, specifically Chapter 21 and Túrin Turambar. I pulled out my ebook edition and quickly skimmed Chapter 21 to remind myself of the story. I really enjoyed the insights and the banter of the hosts. It took me several days to completely listen to the episode, but by the end I was hooked and a plan began to form in my mind.
I have read The Silmarillion at least three times, possibly four. My first attempt occurred in high school, followed by a reread during college. I probably pulled it out for a third reread in the 90s, but with two young kids, I doubt I succeeded a complete journey. The most recent rereading took a different tack wherein I switched to an audiobook edition, the one read by Martin Shaw. I adore English voice actors so I had no trouble listening to the entire book twice, in 2010 and again in early 2013.
Having been impressed with the podcast above, my plan now is to begin at the beginning, to rewind back to episode #001, “In Defense of Fantasy” originally released in February 2016. I’ve requested the recommended reading from my local library (the biography by Carpenter and Tree and Leaf by Tolkien). I already own the ebook editions of Tolkien’s letters.
I am not going to rush this journey. The road goes ever on, as any Tolkien fan knows. I will indulge myself as the fancy takes me, betwixt and between my other reading and listening projects. I will consider this an ongoing and long running blog posting series and please remember that “Not all those who wander are lost.”