Books I read in April

Science fiction, magic, books, and landscape – my favourite subjects.

  • Redshirts by John Scalzi
  • Six Ways, by Aidan Wachter
  • 21st century Yokel, by Tom Cox
  • Bookworm: A memoir of childhood reading, by Lucy Mangan

Redshirts by John Scalzi

An enjoyable science fiction sendup of TV sci-fi where a minor character is frequently killed by random alien plagues and predators such as ice sharks and Borgovian land worms.

The two people whose reviews are quoted on the front of this book found it absolutely hilarious. I wouldn’t go that far but it was a mildly amusing premise.

The bits of the book that are really awesome are Coda 1 and Coda 3. For me, these two sections made the entire book worthwhile, and knocked other books with similar premises into a cocked hat. Coda 2 was quite good too, but Coda 1 was genuinely funny and Coda 3 was emotionally and philosophically satisfying.

Six Ways by Aidan Wachter

Six Ways is probably the most hands-on, experiential book on magic you will ever read. It’s written in a very conversational style, and gets across some very nuanced ideas in a very accessible way. Aidan Wachter has been a serious practitioner of magic for over thirty years, and it shows in the depth of experience reflected in the book.

He’s a a practitioner of magic first and foremost, mainly coming from the chaos magic tradition, so the suggested practices in this book are suitable for occultists from any tradition.

I would recommend reading the book through and bookmarking all the exercises and then working through them gradually. I would have liked the exercises to be clearly headed up, so as to be able to find them again later (and when he refers to them later in the book).

I highly recommend this book to anyone with a serious interest in magic and inner work. It is excellent.

21st century Yokel by Tom Cox

I am partway through this and really enjoying it. Tom Cox’s highly original style and perspective on the world is always enjoyable.

Bookworm: A memoir of childhood reading, by Lucy Mangan

I pre-ordered this book some time ago, and so I interrupted my reading of 21st century Yokel to read it. I enjoyed it very much, and it was occasionally laugh-out-loud funny, but found Lucy Mangan’s taste in books occasionally inexplicable. She loved Milly Molly Mandy; I hated it. I can’t remember why I hated it now, but I do know that I did. She did love The Secret Garden (one of my favourites) and the Narnia books, though they don’t get much of a mention, except for a few paragraphs reassuring parents who are worried their children will be indoctrinated into Christianity by reading them. I agree – as I’ve described, they were a big part of getting me excited about Paganism, plus I prefer Aslan to Jesus, which was not quite what Lewis intended. The section about Maurice Sendak and Where the Wild Things Are is wonderful, and so is the bit about Judy Blume. I was also rather shocked when Lucy Mangan said her schooling failed to inculcate any knowledge of history into her, so historical novels leave her baffled. This is not her fault, of course – but I think I became interested in history from reading the likes of Cynthia Harnett and Geoffrey Trease. However, if you love books, you’ll love Bookworm, and even if your favourites aren’t mentioned, or only mentioned in passing.

I was also comparing the book as I read with my friend Sue’s book, Gems for the Journey. Sue’s taste in books is much more similar to mine (we both love Tolkien, for example), and she explores more of the reasons why she likes the books that she does, which I found illuminating and pleasing. I loved Gems for the Journey so much that I’ve read it twice. I also picked up a couple of excellent recommendations for books that I hadn’t yet read, especially The Heaven Tree by Edith Pargeter.

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