What I'm reading. (And what are YOU reading?)

I'm never one to turn down a good writing challenge, particularly if it hails from one of my favorite bloggers. Lorelle's blog is inspiring because she offers practical advice about blogging and the online life. She also issues weekly blog challenges. This week's challenge is a must-participate for me: "Blog about what you are reading, what you like to read, and why."

I'm up to my eyeballs in good books these days. I'm coming down from a months-long fiction binge (more on this in a moment), so I'm currently enjoying some excellent non-fiction.

Reading serves two purposes for me: entertainment and creative inspiration. My mind rarely seeks out new ideas for my own novels/short stories when I read fiction; I'm there to escape. But when I'm questing for concepts to explore creatively -- either in my fiction or my in "zero budget" marketing adventures -- I dive into non-fic.

So. That recent fiction binge. What did it entail?

  • Rainbow's End by Vernor Vinge: Vinge is my favorite SF author; his far-future A Deepness In the Sky is so damned good, I wish I could read it for the first time all over again. Rainbow's End is a near-future story, and its world is meticulously realized. Sadly, I wasn't invested in the characters (and there wasn't enough conflict for my tastes), and I dropped it halfway through.
  • NEXT by Michael Crichton: A book that had a lot of potential, but felt more like a "101" on the genetics industry than a true narrative. Again, the characters and conflict weren't compelling enough for me to recommend it. Sloppy.
  • Planetary and The Authority by Warren Ellis: Killer epic SF thrillers by the wickedly subversive Warren Ellis. Yeah, they're comic books ... and they've got better pacing and character depth than most traditional novels these days. Highly recommended.
  • Garden of Beasts by Jeffrey Deaver: I'm an unapologetic Deaver geek; no one can bonk you on the head harder with an unexpected plot twist than this guy. Garden of Beasts is a fascinating look at Nazi Germany, just before World War II. Deaver deftly educates readers on the history and political climate of the era, and throws in an excellent assassination plot, to boot. Recommended, as are his Lincoln Rhyme thriller series.

But my belly's full of fiction for the moment (aside from some podcast novels, which are serialized and feel more like "shows" than "novels" to me), so I'm currently immersed in non-fic. It's all tickling my creative side something fierce.

  • Merchant of Death by Douglas Farah and Stephen Braun: Just finished this remarkable true story about Victor Bout, an infamous and reviled Russian black-market arms dealer. In addition to directly arming many of the conflicts in Africa for the past 18 years, he's also put guns (and rockets, and helicopters and frickin' jets) in the hands of Columbian drug lords, the Taliban and other slimebags. The most terrifying part: He's still doing it. Excellent read.
  • Join the Conversation by Joseph Jaffe: Terrific read for mainstream noobs (or know-it-alls) who don't know it all about social media, the speed of communication, and the connectedness of the online world. Jaffe's prose is punchy and mischievously irreverent, and the perspective he provides is an excellent resource for folks interested in diving into the soc.media space.
  • Meatball Sundae by Seth Godin: Another excellent marketing-related read for folks curious about the social media explosion. Godin speaks volumes with few words (a rare writing trait indeed), and offers intriguing insights for marketing folk who aren't grokking the conversations -- and opportunities -- found in the soc.media space. Currently reading.
  • Letting Go of the Words by Janice (Ginny) Redish: This isn't just a great resource for bloggers, podcasters and anyone who wants to effectively communicate on the Web -- it's a fun, spunky read. Redish provides great writing advice (and context for that advice) in a style that keeps my peepers moving. The very execution of the book proves that she practices what she preaches. Currently reading.

So those are the things on my plate these days. What about you? What are you reading? Talk to me in the comments! Share your recommendations with fellow JCH.net readers!

--J.C.