Nightstand Reads: Author Cory Doctorow tells us what he’s reading

Homeland by Cory Doctorow, at SPLCory Doctorow kicks off his book tour for Homeland with a reading at the Central Library on Tuesday, February 5 (at 7 p.m.; doors at 6:30 p.m.). We asked him what he was reading, and he kindly took the time to tell us about five books that are coming out this spring.

I happen to have a bunch of book-reviews queued up for future Boing Boing posts, timed to coincide with their publication. I can think of nothing better than to give you a look in to five books that people can (and should!) pre-order:

Minimalist Parenting: Enjoy Modern Family Life More By Doing Less by Asha Dornfest (of Parenthacks) and Christine Koh (publication date: March 19)
A simple, short, entirely sensible guide to escaping social expectations and personal childrearing anxiety. It’s a book about figuring out the parenting choices that’ll make you and your family the happiest, and to clearing your life of all the stuff that’s been foisted on you as a must-do for modern parenting.

Scowler by Daniel Kraus
If you enjoyed Daniel Kraus’s YA debut Rotters, you might be expecting a gross-but-fun kid’s book from Scowler. You’d be wrong. Scowler is a book squarely aimed at adults, a book that did all the stuff that Rotters had done, but turned the dial up to 11. Where the horror in Rotters was the delicious, peek-between-your-fingers variety, Scowler is built around scenes of such terrifying grisliness and cruelty that it’ll keep you up at night for weeks afterwards — the kind of nightmare fuel you get in novels like The Wasp Factory, say. But this isn’t gross-out horror: the terror comes as much from piano-wire taut tension and spectacular characters as from viscera. I actually shouted out loud on a bus while reading this.

The Case of Charles Dexter Ward a graphic novel by HP Lovecraft and I.N.J. Culbard (note: this comes out in April and will soon be available to place holds)
The dirty secret of the Cthulhu mythos is that their originator, HP Lovecraft, wasn’t a very good writer. In addition to his unfortunate tendency to embrace his era’s backwards ideas about race and gender, Lovecraft was also fond of elaborate, tedious description that obscured the action and dialog. Which is a pity, because Lovecraft did have one of the great dark imaginations of literature, a positive gift for conjuring up the most unspeakable, unnameable (and often unpronounceable) horrors of the genre, so much so that they persist to this day.

Enter INJ Culbard. Culbard is a fine storyteller and artist, and makes truly excellent use of the medium to deliver a streamlined Lovecraft, one where the protracted, over-elaborated descriptions are converted to dark, angular drawings that manage to capture all the spookiness, without the dreariness.

YOU by Austin Grossman (publication date: Apr 16)
YOU is the story of Russell, who tries to leave behind his nerdy, computer-game-programming high-school life to get a law degree, but by the end of the 90s, he’s dropped out and come to work at Black Arts, a game studio founded by three of his school buddies — the three who stayed true to their nerdy roots. Black Arts is famous for its brilliant simulation engine, which was written by Simon, Russell’s old school buddy, who has just died under mysterious circumstances, leaving the company he founded in uncertain shape.

Russell’s story weaves in the fascinating fictional canon of the Black Arts games, his history as a teenager encountering the first generation of PCs, and the white-hot fever of a game studio whose existence depends on shipping a game to beat all the other games ever made. As a piece of fiction about life in a high-tech company, You ranks with Microserfs for its portrayal of the romance and heroism of wresting life from endless lines of code, and with JPOD for its pitiless depiction of the alienation and loneliness of a life inside a machine.

But Grossman isn’t just chronicling the rise and fall of a company, or of a character, or even an industry. Rather, he uses YOU as a tool to prise open the mystical center of what art is, what games are, what fun is, and how they all mix together.

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes (to be published in June)
The Shining Girls is a departure from Beukes’s earlier cyberpunk-inflected fiction, being a supernatural thriller that’s one part Hannibal and one part House on Haunted Hill, tautly written and sharply plotted.

Shining Girls is the story of a serial killer named Harper Curtis, a savage psychopath who hunts the alleyways of a stinking Hooverville in Depression-era Chicago. Curtis is your basic remorseless nutcase who reels from one act of callous violence to another. Until he happens upon a boarded-up house where he seeks refuge from the people he’s wronged and a chance to rest up and lick his wounds from an unsuccessful encounter. And that house isn’t just a house, it’s the House, an unexplained and inexplicable haunted place that slips through time back and forth between the Depression and the early 1990s. In this house is a room, filled with the trophies of murdered girls and their names, written on the wall in Curtis’s own handwriting. Curtis learns that his destiny is to travel through the ages, killing the girls he’s already killed, taking the trophies he’s already taken.ting, heart-pounding mashup that delivers on its promise.

In Homeland, the sequel to Doctorow’s Little Brother, Marcus, once called M1k3y, receives a thumbdrive containing evidence of corporate and governmental treachery. Now his job, fame, family, and well-being, as well as his reform-minded employer’s election campaign, are all endangered. Don’t miss this chance to see Cory Doctorow on Tuesday, February 5!

See also our interview with Cory Doctorow in 2008.


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