Nightstand Reading: Matt Ruff reads the gamut, from War to Pie.

Editor’s Note: Matt Ruff will be reading from his 2008 PNBA Book Award-winning book Bad Monkeys, freshly released in paperback, at the Ballard Branch Library this Thursday, August 21at 6:30 p.m, in conjunction with Secret Garden Books.  (Matt will also be reading at Queen Anne books on Tuesday, and coming up in October he will be reading from a new work at the Richard Hugo House).
If you haven’t had a chance to read Matt Ruff’s Bad Monkeys yet, do yourself a favor and get it into your To Be Read pile now. It is that wonderful combination of a book that you cannot stand to put down, even though it is actually exploding your head into happy little shards. It is no surprise, then, that Matt has a diversity of interesting reads on his nightstand, and we thank him for offering us a glimpse of what keeps a mind like Matt’s supplied with creative fodder:

In the Red Zone: A Journey into the Soul of Iraq by Steven Vincent – Vincent is a former artcritic turned war journalist who was killed in Basra in 2005. This book, published just months before his death, describes his first trip to post-Saddam Iraq. I’m reading it as part of the research for my next novel.

Watchmen by Alan Moore – A highly praised DC Comics series by the author of V for Vendetta. There’s a movie version due out next year which has been generating lots of Internet buzz, so I decided to pick up the collected edition of the original books and Continue reading “Nightstand Reading: Matt Ruff reads the gamut, from War to Pie.”

Author crush: Ted Chiang

In my tween and teen years, I devoured science fiction like Godzilla devoured Tokyo train cars. I read all the great authors and all the classic titles until I found myself, around age 19, sated. No more science fiction for me. I got it. Space. Aliens. The Future.

A year or so ago, I subscribed to our Library’s NextReads newsletter service and decided to return to science fiction (or speculative fiction, in this case) to see what was new out there. While there were a few good choices, many reminded me of what I’d read so many years ago, just updated with things like the Internet and bioengineering. But there was one author who lit my mind on fire with stories that deal with the limits of our humanity in the face of the new and the unknown: Ted Chiang. He’s written just two books, and each one is a gem.

Ted Chiang Stories His first book, Stories of Your Life and Others, collects the ten stories he has written into one book. One follows one of the builders of the Tower of Babylon as he ascends the fabled tower and approaches heaven, only to discover that God has a surprise in store for humanity; another story considers what happens to a brilliant mathematician who discovers a glaring error in the equation that describes reality itself. Another premise is that golems, activated by Continue reading “Author crush: Ted Chiang”

In space, no one can hear you read…

So, there you are bobbing along weightlessly — another dull evening orbiting Earth. How do you pass the time? Well, if you’re on the International Space Station, you do have some entertainment options!

Image of Intl. Space Station provided courtesy of NASAThanks to a Freedom of Information request, NASA recently released a list of all the books, movies, and music currently on the station.

As you might expect from a group of scientists and space enthusiasts, the list of books is rather heavy on the science fiction. But, there are a few surprises, too. Could Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and James Madison ever have dreamed that their Federalist Papers would be in orbit? For that matter, do you think David Sedaris ever thought his Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim would make the list? And, if you’ve come to realize that the whole “space thing” isn’t for you, they Continue reading “In space, no one can hear you read…”

Shelf Talk(s) with Cory Doctorow, pt. 2

image of cory doctorow courtesy of joiLibrarians like Cory Doctorow a lot, not least of all because we both tend to think that information wants to be free, and we both get a kick out of giving books away. However, if you want his actual analog pen-and-ink signature on his latest book – Little Brother – Cory will be appearing at the library’s Ballard Branch on Sunday, March 18 at 2 p.m, where he can oblige you. Generous guy that he is, he recently obliged us with a mind-expanding phone call, and here’s some more of that conversation (here’s part one):

Q: Congratulations on your latest project, your new daughter.

Oh yeah – my wife just sent me the world’s most awesomely cute one minute video clip of getting ready for bath time and I swear to god its just hypnotic, I’ve watched it a hundred and fifty times.

Q: (In addition to the effect this experience will have on your writing), how do you think having a child will effect your views on your creative children, and giving them away on the Internet?

…you know, it did get me thinking. I wrote a column for Locus magazine that just came out called Think Like a Dandelion – actually the title’s an homage to a James Patrick Kelly book called Think Like a Dinosaur – and its about the different reproduction strategies of plants and mammals. And I understand why as a mammal my intuition is that I need to be really closely attuned to the disposition of my reproductions, of my offspring. That is our reproductive strategy. But it’s not the reproductive strategy of a dandelion. The reproductive strategy of a dandelion is to be just utterly profligate to just blow your seeds Continue reading “Shelf Talk(s) with Cory Doctorow, pt. 2”

Shelf Talk(s) with Cory Doctorow, pt. 1

Cory Doctorow is coming to Seattle this weekend, on tour to promote his latest book – Little Brother – a smart dystopic thriller aimed at young adults, but with something to say to everyone. (Comparisons are odious, but if Gene Shalit were here he might say 1984 meets Catcher in the Rye. I’d add in Eric Frank Russell’s Wasp.) He’ll be appearing at the library’s Ballard Branch this Sunday at 2 p.m (in collaboration with our good friends at the Secret Garden Bookshop). Of all the great things that have been said about Little Brother, here’s a bit from Neil Gaiman: “I’d recommend Little Brother over pretty much any book I’ve read this year, and I’d want to get it into the hands of as many smart 13 year olds, male and female, as I can. Because I think it’ll change lives…”

If you’re unfamiliar with Doctorow, popular editor and blogger at, author and outspoken advocate for intellectual freedom and the creative commons movement, a few hours spent surfing through his prolific work and thought may change your life too, or at least the way you view your rights to information, to privacy, and to making a contribution to this world. It is also a bracing tonic for the mind: Doctorow’s range of interests – from hacks to cool gadgets to public policy – are head-spinning.  I had a chance to talk with Cory the other day, and wanted to share some of what he said.

Q: Little Brother seems to bring together a lot of your diverse interests in one place. When did you know this was going to be a book for younger readers?

It was absolutely conceived of as a young adult book… I had friends who went and done successful – artistically, commercially – young adult books… and they really sold me on the idea that it was just a lot of fun, and that particularly that Continue reading “Shelf Talk(s) with Cory Doctorow, pt. 1”