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What to read next?

Hi All. Please excuse my absence this month. My third book (Ethnic Knitting Discovery, having nothing to do with skepchickism) has just been released and I’m doing a blog book tour, plus catching up on some straggler freelance work that just won’t seem to come to an end.

I’ve got two more books that I’d like to read this year and I’d like your input on which to read first. Here are the choices:

Full Frontal Feminism by Jessica Valenti of I’d wanted to read this in September but I’m running behind. Here’s the blurb from amazom:

Feminism isn’t dead. It just isn’t very cool anymore. Enter Full Frontal Feminism, a book that embodies the forward-looking messages that author Jessica Valenti propagates on her popular website,

Covering a range of topics, including pop culture, health, reproductive rights, violence, education, relationships, and more, Valenti provides young women a primer on why feminism matters.

Valenti knows better than anyone that young women need a smart-ass book that deals with real-life issues in a style they can relate to. No rehashing the same old issues. No belaboring where today’s young women have gone wrong. Feminism should be something young women feel comfortable with, something they can own. Full Frontal Feminism is sending out the message to readers — yeah, you’re feminists, and that’s actually pretty frigging cool.

The second book is The Golden Compass, the first in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials Trilogy. Since this is coming out as a movie in winter, I thought it would be fun to read first. I hate seeing movies before I’ve read the book. It just flattens out the story and takes about half the fun out of reading for me. Again, a blurb from amazon:

Some books improve with age–the age of the reader, that is. Such is certainly the case with Philip Pullman’s heroic, at times heart-wrenching novel, The Golden Compass, a story ostensibly for children but one perhaps even better appreciated by adults. The protagonist of this complex fantasy is young Lyra Belacqua, a precocious orphan growing up within the precincts of Oxford University. But it quickly becomes clear that Lyra’s Oxford is not precisely like our own–nor is her world. For one thing, people there each have a personal dæmon, the manifestation of their soul in animal form. For another, hers is a universe in which science, theology, and magic are closely allied…

In The Golden Compass, Philip Pullman has written a masterpiece that transcends genre. It is a children’s book that will appeal to adults, a fantasy novel that will charm even the most hardened realist. Best of all, the author doesn’t speak down to his audience, nor does he pull his punches; there is genuine terror in this book, and heartbreak, betrayal, and loss. There is also love, loyalty, and an abiding morality that infuses the story but never overwhelms it. This is one of those rare novels that one wishes would never end.

The author also has excerpts on his website.

So, what’s your vote?


Donna Druchunas is a freelance technical writer and editor and a knitwear designer. When she's not working, she blogs, studies Lithuanian, reads science and sci-fi books, mouths off on atheist forums, and checks her email every three minutes. (She does that when she's working, too.) Although she loves to chat, she can't keep an IM program open or she'd never get anything else done.

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  1. Well, that's really a genre decision — do you want to read a discussion of feminist issues and tactics (I haven't read it, but I'm sure it'll be pretty interesting), or start into a future-classic literary work? (And yeah, I agree it's a masterpiece!).

  2. Golden Compass, Golden Compass! Even if you're busy, you'll enjoy it' it's a nice fast read (since it is a children's book). But be forewarned that if you read the first one, you'll be inclined to read the next two in rapid succession. Screw feminism; it's all about the talking polar bears!

  3. The Golden Compass is really exquisite. It has a lot of fascinating philosophical meanderings suitable for adults. And it brings in dark matter, string theory, quantum entanglement….but basically it's a lot of fun. And like mollishka said, you are signing up for all three books; nobody can read just one.

  4. The Golden Compass for sure, Pullman's His Dark Materials series is unforgettable. It was always one of my favorites growing up and every time I reread it I find something new and symbolic to love about it. Besides, I'm a skeptic feminist knitter too, so my vote should count extra.

  5. Golden Compass, and then the other two; let feminism wait. This trilogy is one of the best I ever read. Try to get your hands on the UK-version, word on the street goes it's better than the North-american.

    Let us know how you liked it (probably within 2 weeks)…

  6. Iries: It was always one of my favorites growing up

    Huh? (rummage rummage) holy crud, it's been in print 12 years already… How time flies, I was still thinking of it as "new"! But then, it is one of those books that just don't get old….

    Aaron: I don't remember if The Amber Spyglass actually brings me to tears (maybe time for another re-read?), but I'm currently rereading the Sandman GNs (as a break from my memorial reread of WoT), and "The Sound Of Her Wings" always gets me.

    (OK, that sentence probably needs a good spanking, but I have other things to catch up with…)

  7. I did the same in prep for the movie and read The Golden Compass for the first time a month ago. How come I didn't think it was so hot? I got all the religious references, etc. but I must be hard to impress in my thirtysomething old age. I don't even feel like reading the next one. I mean, it was good but I wasn't amazed.

  8. I get the impression this trilogy is one I need to search for. It sounds like the kind of thing I'd like.

  9. OK, sounds like The Golden Compass is the winner (sorry bug_girl!). But it also sounds like almost everyone voting for it has already read it… Still, I do have to count lries's vote at least twice since she's a skeptic-feminist-knitter AND she owns one of my books! :-)

  10. I agree with David Harmon that this is really a genre decision. I've read Golden Compass (but not the other 2 in the series) and my impression is that it's a good children's novel, but it's still just that: a children's novel. There are a number of very cleaver ideas about alternative history that the author does well, but the characters are still about as deep as you expect from an "SF" story written for the pre-teen set. For an approach to "alternative" Victorian worlds I think the Difference Engine does a better job.

  11. Well, I might suggest you to read "Full Frontal Feminism", because that is exactly the reason why I am checking your blog.

    In Brazil, where I live is children's day – to give children gifts and so, and I was trying to find a kind of toy which would estimulate my 3 year-old daughter into a universe of science and skepticism. But I could only find Barbies and similar toys. I got really unpleasant with that. So I decided to build up a Zoetrope for her, as well as she loves playing with an old one I made myself.

    I wish I could listen from you a position on being a woman, and skeptical in a world ( at least the nowaday brasillian society) where women still don't have equal room to play role outside housework.

    See you

  12. Yeah, The Amber Spyglass is the only book I've ever read that has made me cry; it's how I learned that it is actually rather difficult to continue reading when you can't open your eyes.

  13. Dkary: my impression is that it’s a good children’s novel, but it’s still just that: a children’s novel.

    ???!!! Perhaps you should reread it more slowly… There's a heck of a lot of layering and depth in there! The "religious references" are the least of it.

  14. @dkary said, October 11, 2007 at 2:19 pm

    "I agree with David Harmon that this is really a genre decision. I’ve read Golden Compass (but not the other 2 in the series) and my impression is that it’s a good children’s novel, but it’s still just that: a children’s novel."

    The same thing can be said of "Lord of the Rings": just a children's novel. Really a shame.

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