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Monday, June 30, 2003

Matthew Yglesias is posting intermittently right now (boo) because he's spending something like three weeks traveling in Europe (hiss). But today he's got something of a Summer Reading List up, although it's not so much a list. Anyway, I hadn't thought of posting a reading list because I rarely know more than a book or two in advance of what I'm planning to read.

For instance, I may have a stack of epic fantasy novels to get through, but then I might decide after reading the first one that I'm really in the mood for something else when I'm done. Every volume of George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series has had this effect thus far: those books are so densely plotted and intricate that each time I finish one, quite frankly the last thing I want is to read another epic fantasy, or even any kind of fantasy at all.

And then there are the time when I'll encounter a book that's so good that the next book on The Reading List is, well, pretty screwed unless it's literally Shakespeare or Steinbeck or some such literary giant. I remember when I tried reading Tad Williams's The Dragonbone Chair immediately after finishing Guy Gavriel Kay's Tigana, which did Williams's book no favors (and Tigana is not even my favorite of GGK's novels!). I waited a year to tackle Williams again, and finally found that it actually was a pretty damn good book, if a bit bloated. A really good book can send me into something of a "reading funk" after I finish it. Last time this happened was Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay, a year ago.

As for nonfiction, I'm even more all over the map than in my fiction reading. I'll wander through the library and say, "Holy crap, that sounds interesting!", and under my arm the book goes. And that's not even mentioning the immense number of books I personally own. About the only nonfiction books that I know I plan to read in the near future are Hillary Clinton's new book and The Clinton Wars by Sidney Blumenthal (thus indulging my double-fascination with Presidential stuff in general and Clinton stuff in particular).

Even my approach to my recent Short Fiction Month was random and scattershot. Generally, my reading tends to err on the side of "I wanna read that!", with occasional pangs of guilt that "I oughta read that". But luckily for me (or not; the jury's still out), I've become quite good at pushing guilt out of my mind.

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