Monday, December 21, 2015

Reading Materials: Five Great Books (2015)

Owing to being sick, I missed my Friday post.  And almost missed Monday's too.  So, here it is.  
I've read a bunch this year.  A eternal part of me always trying to learn something more before moving onto the next.  I read print and listen to audiobooks.  This year wasn't much different.  I've gone through a huge variety.  And in previous Reading Materials I've touched on books I've read this year.  Still, here are the five ones that I liked most.  This isn't ordered, nor are all of these "2015" books.

Regardless, this is meant help me to at least order my thoughts on them.  Lists seem to be in fashion this time of year, so why not go about this in list fashion?

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison.

Generic fantasy that sort of hit a itch I didn't know I wanted scratched.  I say generic, but the Goblin Emperor kind of felt like it's own unique journey of a book.  I found myself enamored by its anxious protagonist.

Also intriguing was how the book approached the many traditions and manners of a aristocratic crout.  Conflicts tend to involve how the main character flubs or has to approach particular things.  What I liked was the political depths that came with each decision made.  Even better when the character grew into his own, at least showing confidence.  Not action-packed, but you don't have to be.

Apocalypse World by D. Vincent Baker.

An RPG rulebook.  Yep.  Those count for this list.

This is on the my list.  I'd been meaning to read Apocalypse World for a few years now.  I've tended to be scared of reading new systems, because often that's how I draw myself into wanting to run them.  Apocalypse World, though, is enlightening for Game Mastering on its own.  Apocalypse World is very much the kind of book you don't need to prep for.  In fact, that seems run against the very concept of it.  I should do a more in depth essay on my opinions of it.

Regardless, I've already found ideas in it I'm more than happy to use.  Always love it when a RPG does that without me having to run it to get use from it.


Aeronaut's Windlass by Jim Butcher

Jim Butcher's two previous series, the Dresden Files and the Codex Alera, sort of are this drug I engage in from time to time.  Butcher is the kind of author whose books you don't easily put down.  Page turners.  Aeronaut's Windlass is steampunk, and as I've mentioned previously, I loved how he handled a large cast.

But the part that sold me on the book, and kept coming back to it, were the mad characters.  Folly, especially.  The idea of a magical system wherein your mind cracks in order to work it has been done before.  But Folly presents a mad practitioner who wants to help and protect others.  That and her name.  You name a magic-user steampunk setting character Folly?  Yeah, I'm in the backseat for that.

Debt: The First 5000 years by David Graeber

This anthropological look at debt and economies sort of changed my views on human relationships.  It very much points out flaws in the idea of a free market.  I would normally just ignore that and move on, but I was compelled by how it matched up with other books I've read about various human institutions and history.  Ideas like how every culture considers moneylending to be wrong.  Or the references to things I didn't know, like the idea of a Milk Debt.  The debt you owe your parents.

The book goes into deeper details on it, but the central idea is on debt.  Debt as the main force in human economies, even in our modern ones.  Fascinating read, especially for giving me insights I can later try to use for my own games and the like.

Hellboy In Hell by Mike Mignola.

More or less the only significant Hellboy I got to read in 2015.  Mignola is one of my major artistic influences.  Hellboy ranks up there as one of the most interesting sorts of tales to digest.  It isn't done by any means, but the Mignola's version of the Inferno is full of awesome.  Hellboy remains a stellar character, repeatedly having sticking to who he is, rather than be drawn down anyone else's path.

Stories about journeys into the underworld and hell always are enlightening.  They kind of help define what the universe is, in a way.  The Myth of Eurydice underlines the cruelty of Greek Gods, even at their most merciful.  Japanese mythology and the tale of Izanami and Izanagi paints a mythos wherein death is the result of a couple's failure to maintain their marriage (sort of, I'm interpreting here).  Christian mythos puts Christ as descending into Tartarus (not Hell- he's supposed to go into the Greek version of hell to free people.)  Seeing how Mignola interprets hell intrigues me after having enjoyed the dark universe of Hellboy for a very long time now.