Monday, December 15, 2014

The Pleasures of Reading, Viewing, and Listening, pt.5: Jeffrey Ford

Favorite Reads of 2014
by Jeffrey Ford

Elysium by Jennifer Marie Brissett – Best first novel I read this year. Complex without being complicated apocalyptic science fiction/love story. Economical, yet poetic writing.  (fiction)

The Penguin Book of Witches edited by Katherine Howe – Howe’s premise is that the culture of witchcraft played an integral role in the formation of America.  She makes her point by presenting transcripts from various witch trials 1500’s to 1700’s.  (non-fiction)

For All the Tea in China by Sarah Rose – 19th century industrial espionage of a sort. Brit Robert Fortune infiltrates China in disguise to steal closely guarded secrets of cultivating and growing tea, the consumption of which was experiencing a phenomenal boom in the UK.  (non-fiction)  

They Came Before Columbus by Ivan Van Sertima – A compelling (and to me, convincing) case made for a pre-Columbian African presence in the New World. A book to excite the imagination. (non-fiction)

The Ten Thousand Things by Maria Dermout – A hauntingly beautiful story of a Dutch woman,
raising her son on an old estate on Ambon Island in the Molucca island chain (Spice Islands) off the coast of Indonesia.  Largely quiet and contemplative, great descriptions of the natural world, but also with ghosts, murder, family tragedy, and an ill-fated expedition.  (fiction)

The Jatakas: Birth Stories of the Bodhisatta translated by Sarah Shaw – Folktales of the various incarnations of Buddha on the way to his final life.  One of the coolest things about these stories is that you are presented with a cast of characters in each (sometimes human, sometimes animal), and only after the story has played out is it revealed which of the characters was the Buddha.  Lots of surprises that play games with your perceptions and expectations.  (folk tales)

The Black Spider by Jermias Gotthelf – Had read this years ago, but the new translation for NYRB by Susan Bernofsky is a beauty.  Religio/Horror/Weirdo/Sometimes Funny/Creepshow. A Must read for writers and lovers of dark fantasy and horror. 

Jeffrey Ford, who has the won the Nebula Award, the World Fantasy Award (several times), and a few other awards as well, is the author of The Well Built City trilogy and numerous other novels, as well as several collections of short fiction. His most recent book is Crackpot Palace. He lives in Ohio.

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