October 01, 2012

On September and science fiction

It's October 1, which means my eighth stab at a science fiction-free September has, more or less, come to an end. My goal for this September was twofold: first, to focus on nonfiction (which I normally only read in between novels, as time permits), and to finish up some books that I had started earlier in the year. As usual, I fell somewhat short of those goals, but if the point is to get my nose into something other than space opera, can it really be called a failure?

I started the month with Mark Steyn's After America. Steyn's previous book, America Alone, foresaw a future in which the United States alone refused to capitulate to the expansion of Islam. The book was so controversial that excerpts published in Maclean's got him, and the magazine, in trouble with Canada's human rights commissions. After America is a sequel of sorts, in which Steyn argues that even America itself is in decline. Whether you agree or disagree with Mark Steyn's politics, you at least have to admit that he is a treat to read—one of the wittiest columnists now working.

Next, I started in on Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, about the Clutter family murders in Kansas in 1959—the book that originally defined the true-crime genre. It's engaging reading, but I was sidetracked by lighter fare: What Einstein Told His Cook by chemist and food columnist Robert Wolke. I love to cook, and often it's the science behind cooking that interests me most. A lot of the science in this book I knew already, of course, but nonetheless Wolke is an entertaining writer. I look forward to reading the sequel someday.

Then, I got sidetracked again, this time by Ann Coulter's Godless. This time, though, the book was on loan, so it trumped anything I didn't have to return soon. (This would apply also to any SF books I happened to have on reserve; the moratorium isn't absolute, and I'm not going to pass up on a library book just because it's the wrong month.) Like Mark Steyn, Coulter is an effective and witty polemicist, but unfortunately I'm finding Godless more shrill than persuasive.

So that's September. I've still got about half of In Cold Blood and two-thirds of Godless, so I'll see if I can get those two volumes off my nightstand by the end of the week. Then, it's back to Frank Herbert and Stephen King.