Light reading

I began a new nighttime routine during the virus shutdown – bedtime reading. I climb into bed about an hour before my usual bedtime, and open a book. It’s a way to escape reality for awhile, and makes falling asleep easier.

A writer friend loaned me some books by local writers just before the shutdown, so I plowed through those first. I liked some better than others, but “Empire Falls” by Richard Russo was a standout. He made me laugh out loud in the beginning, then gradually made me care about the characters and tied it up very neatly at the end with a satisfying conclusion. Highly recommended.

As things got scarier, I retreated into the children’s books my dad loved as a boy – the “Burgess Bird Book,” the “Burgess Flower Book,” the Old Mother West Wind series. They were actually pretty darned informative. The big type was nice, too, I am sad to admit.


I then read a couple of new-to-me sci-fi books – local writer Marjorie Bradley Kellogg’s “Lear’s Daughters” and Ursula K. LeGuin’s “The Left Hand of Darkness.” They’re both excellent, particularly if your taste in sci-fi tends toward the science side of the genre.

From there, I went back to my old favorite, Roger Zelazny. I have his entire”Chronicles of Amber” and, rereading it for the umpteenth time, it was interesting to see just how the magic disappeared once he added a writing partner. On his own, despite being a bit misogynistic (but those were the times), he was a brilliant fantasy writer.

I read a collection of Harlan Ellison and, much as I’d have found him personally irritating, I like his writing.

My daughter brought me James Herriott’s “All Things Bright and Beautiful”  during her last visit, and each night I’ve been in pre-World War II Yorkshire, marveling at the countryside, laughing at the characters, and wondering how so many drunk drivers managed to not die on those twisting, narrow roads.

I’ve used reading as an escape since a very lonely summer when we moved to Ulster County just as fourth grade ended. I didn’t know a soul, I had no siblings, and books became my friends. My father had a collection on the shelves, so they were always near at hand. John Carter of Mars offered me adventure. Ray Bradbury gave me a playmate in his rural Iowa childhood, as well as a fellow explorer of the future. H.P. Lovecraft scared the socks off me. I didn’t care much for Tarzan, but Mowgli delighted me.

A friend has borrowed the books I intend to read next. I know she’ll return them, so I’m not worried.

Mary Doria Russell’s “Doc” has become one of my favorite books of all time. I read “The Sparrow” years ago and am awestruck at her versatility – she’s as fluent in cowboy stories as she is in space.

I also want to reread both “To Kill A Mockingbird” and “Go Set A Watchman.” I think that in today’s world I’d like to revisit those very different views of the same event.

A Woodstock acquaintance once recommended Iain Banks, and rereading those books is on my list. “Feersom Endinn” was the first one I read, and for sheer invention  I doubt he can be beat.

Unless we talk about Terry Pratchett. Terry Pratchett is always on my read-it-again list, and for heart, imagination, and sheer humor, I think he has no peer. If you do not know him, I strongly recommend “Going Postal as an introduction. Others may disagree, but it’s my favorite.

Tonight, however, I’m on call with James Herriott. Gyp the sheepdog has sounded his one woof, Herriott has swapped a new, talkative budgie for the quiet one he accidentally killed, and I’m waiting to find out what’s next.

Read more installments of Village Voices by Susan Barnett.

There is one comment

  1. Ish

    Hi Susan,

    Rereading books is a wonderful activity. Actually reading for an hour before bedtime isn’t something I’m able to squeeze into my schedule right now, though that’s worth revisiting soon, I suppose.

    Fascinating. I didn’t know about Doc. Sounds like a really interesting book. I’ll add it to a huge backlog list. For this alone, I’m glad I stumbled on this blog…

    Left hand is indeed wonderful. It truly resonated with me, not just on account of the science and world building. One of a very short list of books that made me cry as I was reading it. I was in my late 20s at the time!

    About Zelazny, if I follow what you’re saying, you’re suggesting a writing partner on the Chronicles of Amber. What do you mean exactly? Indeed, I think his stronger work was written by himself alone, but if I’m not mistaken his entire Chronicles of Amber set (all 10 books) were written just by him. I didn’t care all that much for the latter 5. The first 5 are a very frequent reread for me. When I start with “Nine Princess” I sometimes don’t expect to read all 5, but I always do.

    If you haven’t tried them, Lord of LIght and Call Me Conrad (aka This Immortal) are all excellent books in a similar fashion.

    – Ish

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