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A Good Summer for Reading, part 1

As the end of summer draws near, it’s struck me what a great summer it’s been for reading. Not only have I had ample opportunity to read new books, but I also found a whole bunch of winners in different genres. Today, I’ll start by reviewing the sci-fi/fantasy books I’ve read. In future posts, I’ll tackle some of the other genres.

I can’t remember the last book I had read by Isaac Asimov, only that I liked it and that I read it in middle school. While poking around the library’s sampler collection, I stumbled onto his Foundation Trilogy. Granted by now it’s a whole series, but I decided to stop at the end of the original trilogy. The series is pretty much a fictionalization of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire <corny radio voice> in space! </corny radio voice>. The books are written as strings of short stories, stories that become progressively longer from book to book, until in Second Foundation, there are only two. I found the books to be good, quick reads, and at first I thought, “Why don’t they make this into a movie?” But around the time I found out that someone had similar thoughts, I decided that it probably wouldn’t work too well. The fragmented narrative works fine in book form, but would be difficult to translate into the big screen. And with Roland Emmerich directing, you may want to read the books now before they get spoiled.

The first time I remember hearing about Ender’s Game was as a freshman in college, when my friend Dani told me it was her favorite book. I tried reading it then, but for some reason, couldn’t get into it. Now, six years later, I’ve finally read it, and I loved it. Briefly, the book takes place in Earth’s future. Humanity has been twice confronted by a mysterious alien race and is now preparing for a third invasion by training children to become military geniuses. One of these children is Andrew (Ender) Wiggin. The book follows his progress through battle school up until he passes his final examination. As with many sci-fi books, the series goes on from there, but as with Foundation, I was content to end at the ending. What makes the book great is Orson Scott Card’s ability to get you to care about the characters. Even though there’s a lot of action and excitement, the book is about people and relationships. More than being awed by technology and space battles, you can read it and say, “I’ve felt that.” I liked all the books I read this summer, but this one is in my top 3.

I remember as a kid watching the cartoon version of The Hobbit, it’s folksy music and occasional cheesiness. Around the time, I started into The Lord of the Rings, though I don’t think I even made it out of the shire it moved so slowly. On picking The Hobbit up this summer, I was pleased that it moved much more swiftly than I remember it’s counterpart did. The story of The Hobbit I expect is familiar: a hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, goes with a bunch of dwarves and the wizard Gandalf to retrieve the dwarves’ treasure from the dragon Smaug. They have various adventures along the way, including Bilbo’s discovery of a magic ring that lays the foundation for the ensuing trilogy. My thoughts? It was a fun read with lots of adventure. I also appreciated how Tolkein took time to make the world of Middle Earth real without getting lost in it himself (as I remembered him doing in the Lord of the Rings).

Over the next few weeks, I’ll write about some of the other books I’ve read. Until then, if you’re looking for a good book, I’d recommend any of the above. Particularly if you like sci-fi/fantasy. (Though if you do, you’ve probably already read these.)