January 2014

Books read in January:

  1. Bring Up the Bodies. Hilary Mantel.
  2. Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. Susanna Clarke.
  3. The Count of Monte Cristo. Alexandre Dumas. (150/875pp)
  4. Encyclopedia of the Cat. Bruce Fogle.
  5. Life as we knew it. Susan Pfeffer.
  6. Here, There Be Dragons. James A. Owen.
  7. Champion. Marie Lu.
  8. The Modern Middle East. James L. Gelvin. (25%, in progress)

Some of the books read this month were long, as in running in the 800+ page range. I will probably come back to The Count of Monte Cristo, but it was a bit much after just reading the 1000+ page Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell.

My mom and I are reading The Modern Middle East together, and one thing I’ve noticed is that it focuses heavily on how Early Modern Europe influenced the Ottoman and Safavid empires. What about their neighbours to the east, however? Why so western-centric? And I noticed this to be the case with Here, There Be Dragons, also — the fantastical world, which is supposed to be all the imaginary worlds that have ever existed, is composed entirely of the imaginary worlds of Western European folklore and mythology. What about Asian folklore? Russian? Any of the myriad of African folklores? Australian Aboriginal? Various Latin American? North American Indian?

Time and time again, the motifs drawn on in fantasy literature comes from the Western European tradition. Part of this is due to that is what is taught as the canon for literature in most literature survey courses. Writers write what they know, and so they write about fantasy worlds that are based on Western European mythology. And so this trend is self-perpetuating.

But fiction and fantasy are not solely written by American and British writers. And not all American and British fantasy writers confine themselves to Western motifs (such as N. K. Jemisin or Guy Gavriel Kay). So, my dear readers, who are they? Recommend books to me — fiction or non-fiction — because I don’t want to be confined to only one literary tradition when I go exploring…

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