Monday, June 11, 2018

Summer Reading List: Phoebe Wagner

Unlike some folks here at Nerds, I still get to have a summer! [insert maniacal laughter here] And by summer I mean moving, prepping for a PhD, and writing my butt off before all free time ever evaporates. Yay for being a student! That being said, I’m trying to balance my reading with fun. If any of these books are on your summer list, let me know!

1. Acacia: The War with the Mein by David Anthony Durham

A bit of an older one that I’ve had on my shelf for half of grad school, but I knew when I first read the opening chapters that I was going to be hooked SO HARD. I’m excited to dive into this secondary world and the politics of Acacia. As a writer who hopes to publish in multiple genres, I’ll be looking at how Durham, first known as a literary writer, turns his talents to an epic fantasy. Plus, I need some 800+ page epic in my life as a celebration for finishing my MFA (thank you, thank you, no applause is necessary). It was a close call with rereading LotR for the Xth time, but I want to break some habits this summer.

2. Humankind by Timothy Morton

This philosophy book ends up on my list after Dark Ecology, which was an inspiration for Jeff Vandermeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy. Humankind analyzes and dissects what it means to be human when human biology is made up of so many other things, and I’ve been thinking a lot about humanity’s relationship with other-than-humans. Morton has an interesting mind to dig into on such topics, often included pop culture references as much as scholarship. I’m not really sure what I’m in for, but I think it will be a good brain stretch.

3. Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Again, this is a bit more of a research book than for fun. I’ve only heard good things about Braiding Sweetgrass and I expect this essay collection to shift some worldviews in the best way. It came up several times at WisCon this year, so I believe it’s crossing over into the SF community, too. Since my PhD will be focused on environmental literature, I always want to expand my views beyond the straight, white, colonizer cannon, so I’m trying to grow my research beyond the white academic cannon. Her essay “The Grammar of Animacy” is one I’m probably most looking forward since I’ve heard a lot of chatter for it.

4. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Back to the fun stuff! I really, really want to write about Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi. It’s been on by TBR pile for a while, but my book buying budget does not agree with my reading wish list. I’m hoping to snag a copy for the library and stay up late reading it (as one does). It’s got everything—a female protagonist taking down the monarchy, magic, snow leoponaires (which just sound awesome). A YA set in a secondary world inspired by Africa, yes please!

5. Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

Since I heard of this book—a post-climate-apocalypse about a Din├ętah monster hunter—I’ve been excited. Monster hunter alone would be enough to interest me, but one thing I’m half-heartedly tracking right now is books that are coming out with a reference to climate change. It always seems slightly easier and more popular to take current events and reinterpret them in science fiction, but I love to see fantasy takes on current events and the political situation. Personally, I’d argue that fantasy is the perfect place to comment on climate change due to the heavy nature aspect so often built into the narrative. Regardless, I’m interested to read Rebecca Roanhorse’s novel and I suspect it will interact with my reading of Braiding Sweetgrass and Humankind in interesting ways.

6. Tahoe beneath the Surface: The Hidden Stories of America's Largest Mountain Lake by Scott Lankford

This book is the odd one out, obviously. I’m attending University of Nevada: Reno this fall for a PhD, and I’ll be living in Virginia City, an old silver mining town. I’ll be subletting at a place where wild horses munch the weeds in the front yard, so I’m excited to get a break from the Monsanto-green cornfields of Iowa. My landlord recommended this book in order to learn about Tahoe, which is not far off. In my writing, I love to use local folklore and history so I’m excited to learn about the area and most likely, write about it!

Posted by Phoebe Wagner