On My Shelf: Last of the A-Bs

On My Shelf is a new monthly meme started by KJ Mulder over at Worlds in Ink and it’s all about sharing the books on your shelf in alphabetical order, according to author. It’s a very chilled-out meme, so you can plan it in any way you like, and post at any time of the month, any number of times you like. And who doesn’t like to show off some of their books?

Today I’m finishing off the A-Bs with a few random books. I’ll go in alphabetical order, starting with Paul Auster.

I bought The New York Trilogy (1985, 1986, 1987, Faber Firsts edition published 2009) with a voucher I’d received for Exclusive Books. It had been recommended to me and in general I’d heard good things about it. Turned out to be very odd and perplexing in the kind of way that I find compelling. Man in the Dark (2008, Henry Holt and Company) I bought in hardcover at an EB sale last year.

J.G. Ballard: The Drought, (1965, Triad Panther), The Drowned World (1962, Science Fiction Book Club) and Kingdom Come (2006, Fourth Estate). I’ve read two of Ballard’s novels – Empire of the Sun (1984) and Millenium People (2003). I read Empire because I loved the movie (with a very young Christian Bale, and a few shots of Ben Stiller who was also very young but looked the same as he does now), but the book I found boring. Millenium People was weird but ok. I would not have bothered reading more Ballard after those two, but I got more books because he has cult status and I wanted to try his sci fi. However, I’m reading The Drowned World at the moment, and finding it so dull that it might be time to give up on him. The Drought and The Drowned World I got through Bookmooch (where I also gave away my copy of Millenium People). Kingdom Come – not too sure where I got this, but since it’s a trade paperback I probably bought it at Paperweight, taking advantage of one of their constant special offers.

The Somnambulist (2007) by Jonathan Barnes. The edition on the left is Gollancz, the one on the right is William Morrow (in hardcover). The Gollancz on is an uncorrected proof I received while working at EB, and because I love hardcovers I couldn’t resist buying the William Morrow edition when I saw it at an EB sale. I have yet to read the novel though.

Two novels from Frank Beddor’s trilogy based on Alice in Wonderland: The Looking Glass Wars (2004) and  Seeing Redd (2007), both published by Egmont, both purchased at an EB sale. Unfortunately they didn’t have the third book. I bought it because I like the metafictional premise and yes, because I like the covers.

And once again I’m seduced by cult status, not to mention special-edition status. Lord knows when I’ll get around to reading this 50th Anniversary Edition of William Burroughs’s Naked Lunch (1959) from Grove Press New York, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get this copy for only R77 (possibly half that) at an EB sale.

And to end this post, some non-fiction on one of my favourite topics. This morning I noticed that I have a few other A and B authors on my non-fiction shelf, but unlike my fiction shelves, I’ve arranged it according to topic, not author, so this one was the only one I noticed and photographed. It’s a very special book because I bought at a bookshop in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia of all places. Why is this weird? Well in Addis the shops that sell books in English have very random selections that look a lot like leftovers from other parts of the world, plus a variety of books about the country itself. The fiction selections are small, and in the 6 months that I’ve lived here, I’ve only seen about two sci fi novels, both quite old. They occasionally show sf blockbusters at one of their cinemas, but the majority of the population are unable to afford movie tickets, and wouldn’t be able to understand a movie in English anyway. Thus it makes no sense for them to stock a collection of essays on sf, but as I said, the stock bookshops get is pretty random. So I was amazed and utterly ecstatic when I found The Science Fiction Handbook edited by M. Keith Booker and Anne-Marie Thomas. It was published in 2009 by Wiley-Blackwell, making it one of the newest books in Ethiopia. The bookstore I found it in mostly stocks textbooks, and although the place is relatively large, it’s obvious that their stock will never be taken off the shelf unless someone buys it, because they have a lot of very old, very odd, totally useless things, like a book on American elementary school laws from the 60’s.

This collection is divided into 3 sections: historical surveys of sf subgenres; representative authors; and discussion of individual texts. Should prove very interesting and useful.

On My Shelf: Octavia Butler and Lauren Beukes

On My Shelf is a new monthly meme started by KJ Mulder over at Worlds in Ink and it’s all about sharing the books on your shelf in alphabetical order, according to author. It’s a very chilled-out meme, so you can plan it in any way you like, and post at any time of the month, any number of times you like. And who doesn’t like to show off some of their books?

Ok, so A & B got extended into August, giving me a bit more time. Today it’s Octavia Butler and Lauren Beukes, two very different sci fi and fantasy authors, but they’re both done groundbreaking work in the genre – Octavia Butler as a black female writer and Lauren Beukes as a South African writer.

I can’t remember which of these I got first – Dawn and Parable of the Sower (bought secondhand at Rick’s in Pretoria) or Kindred (a pricey special edition bought with my staff discount at Exclusive Books). Whichever one I bought/read first, I was impressed with Butler’s storytelling. She handles some very heavy topics – racism, rape, sexuality, slavery – but with such compelling stories that the subject matter won’t weigh you down, although it retains the necessary gravitas.

Dawn (1987, VGSF edition) is the first in the Xenogenesis trilogy, which was later renamed Lilith’s Brood. I’ve got the Grand Central edition of the series, containing Dawn, Adulthood Rites and Imago. All good books, although I have to admit they feel very similar. Parable of the Sower (1993, Aspect edition) is about a young empath in a post-apocalyptic world and she’s developing a new faith called Earthseed with the principle that “God is change”. Kindred (1979, Beacon Press) is my favourite of Butler’s novels. It’s about a black woman, Dana, in present-day America who keeps getting pulled back in time to the antebellum South. It becomes apparent that she time-travels whenever she has to save the life of a boy (later man) named Rufus, the son of a white slave-owner. Rufus is actually Dana’s ancestor, so if she doesn’t save him she won’t exist. But her other ancestor from this time is a black woman, and Dana isn’t sure what kind of relationship the two of them will have, and what cruelty she might have to condone if she wants to exist.


Then there are my two Lauren Beukes novels:

I was lucky enough to get them both autographed at the Joburg Book Fair last year;

Both are Jacana editions, and both have awesome covers, especially Zoo City‘s, which won a BSFA award. And of course the novel itself recently won the prestigious Arthur C. Clarke award. I hadn’t even heard about a new Lauren Beukes novel when Zoo City  came out last year, but when I saw it on the African fiction shelf at Exclusive Books her name and that amazing artwork on the cover sold it to me. Admittedly, I didn’t like it as much as I did her debut, Moxyland (2008), which was my very first taste of South African speculative fiction. Like lots of South Africans, I’d come to think of our fiction as only ever being about (post-)apartheid politics and social relations. In other words, no matter how important, no matter how well-written, no matter how gritty and realistic its portrayal of life in South Africa, I wouldn’t have a good time reading it, although I might get forced to do so at school or varsity. Moxyland completely defied that dreary stereotype by being a cool, edgy, amazing read.

On My Shelf: Iain (M.) Banks

On My Shelf is a new monthly meme started by KJ Mulder over at Worlds in Ink and it’s all about sharing the books on your shelf in alphabetical order, according to author. For July we’re kicking off with A & B. It’s a very chilled-out meme, so you can plan it in any way you like, and post at any time of the month, any number of times you like. And who doesn’t like to show off some of their books?

Second up in my rush to do (most of) my A & B books at the very end of the month, is Iain M. Banks. As with Margaret Atwood, I first read a Banks novel in third year at university, for a course on sci fi that also got me hooked on the genre. Banks’s The Player of Games (1988) was prescribed for the space opera section of the course. I was impressed – the novel was elegant, full of ideas and very entertaining. I sought out others, and Iain M. Banks easily became one of my favourite authors. Here is my collection of his SF:

Consider Phlebus (1987, Orbit) was the first published of Banks’s sci fi novels. I bought it at an Exclusive Books sale. The Player of Games (Orbit) I bought for my varsity course, from Van Schaik’s. Feersum Endjinn (1994, Bantam Books), Look to Windward (2000, Orbit) and The Algebraist (2004, Night Shade Books) I all got from Bookmooch. I haven’t read any of those three yet, although I got about halfway through Feersum Endjinn. Excession (1996)  is my favourite so far. I got my first copy through Bookmooch, and later replaced it with the one here, which I found at Rick’s Book Shop in Pretoria. Inversions (1998) I bought at Exclusive Books. The price tag says R164. I must have had a voucher or something because that’s very expensive, and I don’t think I would have bought it full-price.

I’ve also read Use of Weapons (1990), Matter (2008) and Against A Dark Background (1993), but I still need to add those to my collection. The later Orbit covers (The Player of Games, Excession, Inversions) are my favourites, so I’ll get those if I can.

Banks also writes mainstream/literary fiction as Iain Banks (no ‘M’). Of these I have only read his debut novel The Wasp Factory (1984), which was just staggeringly good, and Canal Dreams (1989), which I don’t remember particularly well. Oddly enough, I don’t own either of those, but I do have six others, all still sitting on my tbr pile:

Walking on Glass (1985, Futura), Espedair Street (1987, Abacus) and Complicity (1993, Abacus) were all mooched. The Crow Road (1992, Abacus) I bought second-hand from Rick’s. Dead Air (2002, Little Brown) I found at an EB sale. Transition (2009, Little Brown) I bought at the Joburg Book Fair last year. I really must get around to reading one of these…

On My Shelf: Margaret Atwood

On My Shelf is a new monthly meme started by KJ Mulder over at Worlds in Ink and it’s all about sharing the books on your shelf in alphabetical order, according to author. For July we’re kicking off with A & B. It’s a very chilled-out meme, so you can plan it in any way you like, and post at any time of the month, any number of times you like. And who doesn’t like to show off some of their books?

It’s the end of the month already so the first part of this meme is nearly over, but I actually made the effort to photograph most of my A & B titles, so I’m going to do three more of these posts, just because I feel like it and don’t want to waste the photos. First off, is one of my favourite authors, Margaret Atwood. I first read Atwood for a postmodernism course during third year. The novel was Surfacing, which I didn’t like at all. But then during honours my thesis supervisor suggested I try Oryx and Crake, as Atwood’s sci fi is more interesting than her other fiction (at least for the purposes of my thesis, and for sf fans). I absolutely loved Oryx and Crake and went on to read  The Handmaid’s Tale, which was brilliant as well. I gave Atwood’s other fiction a second chance, and really enojoyed some of it, while others left me as cold as Surfacing. Nevertheless, I bought many of her works, mostly second-hand or at book sales.

First, my favourites, Atwood’s SF novels.

The Handmaid’s Tale (1985, Vintage Future Classics edition) was the first book I bought with my staff discount when I was working at Exclusive Books. Oryx and Crake (2003) I bought in paperback (Virago) to use for my thesis. I found the hardcover (Bloomsbury) some time later at an Exclusive Books sale, and couldn’t resist taking it. I love hardcovers, but usually can’t afford them, so it’s wonderful to find them at sales. I don’t particularly like the dust-jacket cover of this one, but the cover of the book itself is really cool, as it features the glow-in-the-dark rabbits from the novel:

I also have a beautiful hardcover edition of The Year of the Flood (2009), but it was a very impractical purchase – I picked it up at Paperweight while in Cape Town, shortly before I had to leave for Ethiopia, and because the book was heavy I left it with my parents. I’ll get it back next time I go home.


Next up, Alias Grace (1996) and The Robber Bride (1993), both published by Seal Books.

Of Atwood’s non-sf works, The Robber Bride is my favourite. The title is based on one of Grimm’s fairy tales, “The Robber Bridegroom” (Atwood often uses fairytales and folklore in her work). Both novels were bought at a charity bookshop in Rondebosch Main Road. I used to visit the bookshop quite often, as it was very close to campus. One day I was very happy to find several Atwood works on the shelf, and bought all of them.


Surfacing (1972, Virago), Bodily Harm (1981, Anchor Books) and Cat’s Eye (1988, Virago). Surfacing I bought for varsity, either at Van Schaik’s or the campus bookstore. Bodily Harm I acquired through Bookmooch; Cat’s Eye I got at the charity bookstore as part of that Atwood haul. I disliked both Surfacing and Bodily Harm, but I can’t bear to give either away, if only because they’re part of the collection. Anyway, I might one day change my mind about them. Cat’s Eye  on the other hand is one of my favourites, a brilliant if disturbing story about bullying among young girls and how it affects one woman into adulthood.


Dancing Girls(1977), The Edible Woman (1969) and Bluebeard’s Egg (1983), all Virago. I have to admit I haven’t read any of them yet, although I’ve read a few of the stories collected in Bluebeard’s Egg. The Edible Woman I acquired through Bookmooch. Dancing Girls and Bluebeard’s Egg I got at the charity bookshop.


Curious Pursuits (2005, Virago) is a collection of essays, reviews and other writing by Atwood, from 1970 to 2005. I bought the paperback a few years ago, and then found the hardcover at an EB sale last year and gave the paperback away on Bookmooch. I don’t know how to describe Bones and Murder (1995) and The Tent (2006). They contain very short, short fiction, that are more like fictional musings than regular stories. However, they have some great insights and imagery. Bones and Murder is drawn from two of Atwood earlier works, Good Bones  and Murder in the Dark. I bought it at the charity bookshop. The Tent  found at an EB sale (you can still see the sticker).

Finally, a book that’s not by Atwood but rather about her work:

Acquired through Bookmooch. I haven’t read this yet, but I intend to do so one day, and (re)read her fiction as well.

Having done this post I’ve also realised how many Virago editions I have of Atwood’s work. I really like the newer ones (the editions of Surfacing, Cat’s Eye and Curious Pursuits) so if I were every to get a collection of matching novels, I’d choose those.