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July 22, 2009

Book Genres - Something About Me

I began reading just before I entered kindergarten, and I've been a voracious reader ever since. My proudest reading accomplishment when I was a kid was reading The Lord of the Rings trilogy when I was in 3rd grade. Anybody who's read it knows that it isn't exactly the most exciting series for those with short attention spans, but I did it. That was probably my first fantasy/SF book, actually. I don't remember if I read many more at the time, but I became an avid Trekkie and Dr. Who fan in 1983 and devoured any books pertaining to those at the time.

Now I read a lot of fantasy, some science fiction (though mostly short stories in that genre), Trek and Dr. Who of course. I love Jennifer Fallon, Greg Keyes, Kage Baker, and Terry Pratchett. Jasper Fforde is also a must-read. But I read a lot of different stuff, and most of it is quite good.

Then there's History. When I was in elementary school, I read every book on World War II that was in our school library. I think I also devoured books from our public library, but not as much because we didn't go down there (don't ask me why). My fellow students called me and a friend of mine who did the same thing "war-mongers" because we always had a World War II book in our hands. I'm still a big reader of military history, though I've branched out from World War II (probably one of the best military history books I've read is Cataclysm, by David Stevenson, which is one of the most complete examinations of World War I, what led to it, and how it was waged, I've ever seen).

I'm also a general history buff, having majored in History in college (and of course, I'm not working in that field). I love European history the most, but I've read about a few others too. I was recently on a history-reading binge, but I've moved away from it a little bit. One thing I've found about history books is that they take me a lot longer to read than regular novels. It's like I'm trying to actually remember the information. Or it could just be the fact that the book is as dry as sawdust (such as The Terror by David Andress). I'm still glad I read that book, but it was a chore to get through.

As for history authors, I used to be an avid reader of Allison Weir, but I've kind of grown away from her books as the scholarship seemed to weaken (here's my scathing review of The Princes in the Tower). I've loved both historical books I've read by Nancy Goldstone (the recent Four Queens and The Friar & the Cipher with her husband Lawrence). Militarily, you can't beat Victor Davis Hanson, Rick Atkinson (I still have my reader's copy of The Day of Battle), John Keegan and Antony Beevor. I've also recently discovered Adrian Goldsworthy, via his new book, How Rome Fell. That made for fascinating reading.

I do read some mysteries, though I'm not an avid fan of the genre itself. P.D. James is the ultimate British mystery writer for me, as I love the way she builds characterization into her Adam Dalgliesh books (I haven't read any of her other books). My favourite book of hers is Shroud for a Nightengale, one of the best mysteries I've ever read. I believe it's still in print, or has been reprinted, and it's excellent. I also read G.M. Ford, Tess Gerritsen (my favourite new discovery, read my review of The Surgeon and then click the links at the bottom for her other books), and also J.A. Jance.

Occasionally, I'll get in a weird mood and read something way out there. You know, one of those things that "explains" history and what really happened, or gives an alternative viewpoint on something like that. When it gets really bad, I might stumble upon somebody like David Icke (a mistake I'll never make again), but sometimes it can be quite fascinating, even if I don't buy their premise. There are a couple of examples of that. First is The Templar Meridians, by William F. Mann, which attempts to talk about the Knights Templar coming to the New World after it was discovered, and how they brought with them the Holy Grail. I really didn't buy this premise, and Mann's writing didn't help convince me either.

More interesting, though, was Before the Pharaohs, by Edward Malkowski. This attempts to discuss the origin of some of the Great Pyramids, as well as positing that there was a great civilization before Ancient Egypt. Another common theory is that Egyptians sailed across the Atlantic and became the Mayans/Aztecs etc, and that's why there are pyramids in Central America. Malkowski thinks, however, that some Mayans came over to Egypt and ended up becoming the Egyptian gods. It's all fascinating stuff, and while I don't necessarily buy it, he presents it in such a fashion that it makes you think. His writing...well, go read the review.

When I started this, I didn't intend this to be a review pimping post, but I guess it turned into that. But I wanted to celebrate reading, and find out what other people are interested in too. This also gives you a bit of an idea where my head's at (Shout from the Peanut Gallery: "We won't go there!").

So what genres do you like to read?


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