Notes from a Poly-Reader: FEBRUARY 2021

Phew! Can you believe it’s already February?! At the end of last year, I decided I was going to try to read 50 books in 2021, which means I have to hit 4 books every month to even come close. I’ve managed that many before (and someday, hours willing!, I’ll read a heck of a lot more!), but it still requires a lot of focus to get done with wee-ones underfoot. This month, I did hit four books finished (The Color of Magic, Atomic Habits, The White Mountains, and You are Not Your Writing), but I’m going to have to really buckle down in February. I’ve also started some new books in January, and I’m a little ways into a few of them (thank goodness), so I’m not starting a bunch of barely opened books this week.

Currently Reading:


Story Engineering – The WRITE YOUR NOVEL course I’m starting in March had this on its recommended reading list, and YOU GUYS. If you can get past Brooks’ cranky defensiveness about pantsing (he’s clearly had a lot of arguments about planning vs. pantsing during his workshops), WOW. I mean, so much of it is stuff I’ve read elsewhere in some part, but never have the requirements of a good story been so clearly spelled out and quantified. It’s really helped me to see both where my writing strengths are (things I’ve been doing unconsciously for years, but never understood), and what my writing weaknesses are (things I’ve struggled with consciously without any grasp on whatsoever and despairing of ever “getting”). I’m so excited to try some of this methodology, mixing it in with a little summary drafting and a touch more prep-thought on stories prior to writing. It links up very well with some of the editing books I’ve read, and I think maybe–just maybe–I’ve got a bead on how to improve in some key storytelling areas that I have been battling with for years. Hope springs eternal, right? But hope I have! Looking forward to applying some of these lessons in my next project.

Gideon the Ninth – I’m about four chapters into this, and I’m very much enjoying it. The world-building is insane, and very unique. Gideon and Harrowhawk are both characters I definitely want to know more about, and the sense of place is fantastic. The one, itty-bitty little complaint I have–and it’s super minor, and may just be me right now because I’m neck-deep in writing theory–is that sometimes (sometimes) it feels a little…writer-y? Constructed? Like, I become aware of the author pulling the strings and making up this world and the characters. There are just times the story feels so dense (dense = intensely detailed, not dense = stupid), that it’s hard to get into the flow of the story, you know? I dunno, it’s hard to describe. I want to just be completely swept away, but at times I feel like I’m clawing my way upstream to stay submerged in the story. Like I said, I’m not sure that’d hit everyone, and I’m not even sure if it’d hit me at a different point in time the same way, so I’m not giving the complaint much weight at this point. Overall, I’m blown away, so I’m looking forward to digging into it more.

Designology – I’ve gotten a bit stuck on this one. I was so excited to start it, and it didn’t disappoint, I just… I probably slipped out of the prime moment for it (I’m not actively trying to design our front-room like I was when I picked it up initially). But it’s probably just an issue of needing to devote some time to it. It’s a straight-forward read, so once I get rolling again, it should be an easy one to finish.

The Power Broker – I….haven’t made any progress on this. But it’s not for lack of interest! It’s because of physical challenge. It’s HUGE. You guys, it’s like five pounds and soft-cover, and it’s almost impossible to prop-up in any manner to read sideways like I do in bed, and it’s impossible to hold single-handedly, and it’s impossible to LIFT from any weird angle I may get stuck in when Goldbug falls asleep on me, assuming I had anywhere I could PUT it on my lap that wouldn’t wake him up from the weight, which means–IN SHORT–I haven’t touched this book in a while. I’ve been contemplating getting it as an ebook, which in theory I could read on my phone buuuuuuuut… I dunno. I wish I had more time to do audiobooks, because this would be a great one, I feel. Maybe I could get it on audiobook and listen to it before bed? Hmmm…. the idea has merit…

The City of Gold and Lead – Just started this one with B-Bug (at his request!!! AHHHHH! I’ve got him hooked on John Christopher! WEE!), and it’s all good fun. Christopher’s style is very easy to read aloud, and he’s got some great hard sci-fi feels about his work that I feel like are a great primer for other SF writers B-Bug may like later on. I mean, who doesn’t love evil Tripod robots?

Gardening Without Work – Ruth Stout may be my new best friend, even though she died five years before I was born, BUT I DON’T CARE. We’re kindred spirits! I’ve always loved her brother’s writing (author the Nero Wolfe mystery series, Rex Stout), but she’s so lively and snarky as hell and just…wow. I wish I could have met her in real life, because if she was anything like her writing, she’d have been an absolute hoot. Really enjoying her advice on gardening, as myself an indolent gardener and avid vegetable lover, and I’m hoping to put a lot of her advice to work this spring when Mom and I set up our own garden. But even if you don’t garden, you should probably read this, because Ruth Stout is HILARIOUS.


Boy, I don’t think Nerve by Dick Francis even lingered on my list long enough to appear on my “currently reading” list. I picked it up earlier this month and blazed through it. It was a wonderful study in plot structure–both in great ways and bad ways, but I quite enjoy Francis’ work. I’ve got a couple others, but I think I’ll read something else for a bit, then cycle back around for another one.

I also really need to start SAGA: Volume 3, which I got for Christmas, but which I haven’t had a chance to crack open yet. (Same issue as The Power Broker: huge book-size and not enough hands/uninterrupted reading time.)

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