Books, July 2017

Come see my play!

Thinking Like a Director, Michael Bloom

The core of directing, according to directors with an actual education in directing, is picking a strong script, a great cast, and getting out of the way. Fortunately, I managed to get those first two steps right, based on my experience working with directors as an actor/stage manager, before I ever thought of picking up a book to guide me. Now I just need to remember to stay out of their way!

This book came recommended courtesy of the internet. Many reviews could be summarized as “gives too much excellent practical advice, should have been more abstract and philosophical” (paraphrasing, obviously). I just don’t understand what’s wrong with actual practical tips! (Perhaps this is an insight into why many rehearsals are frustratingly disorganized…) Philosophy of directing is fine and fun, but it doesn’t help me make a rehearsal schedule or prioritize blocking vs. run time or plan tech week, and ripping into this production at top speed, that’s what I needed. There’s space for both, and this is the only major directing book out there that focuses on the practical implementation, so why ask it to be something it’s not? I’ll read the more philosophical book I got someday soon, but this is what I needed.

Genre: drama. Format: nonfiction. Rating: 3/3, very helpful

I Contain Multitudes, Ed Yong

I accidentally attended Ed Yong’s talk on tour for the release of this, his first book, earlier this year. (I was in the neighborhood, waiting to go I don’t even remember where, and where else do I go when I need to kill time but a bookstore, and there he was!) I haave read his shortform work (he is the science writer for the Atlantic) for ages. He maintains such an air of delight and wonder in his subjects – it’s easy to get bored or cynical when you’re as prolific as he is, feeling like you’ve seen it all, but he doesn’t lose sight of the fact that things like sea spiders (!) driving blood circulation via their gastric fluids (!!!) in subzero antarctic conditions (!!!!!!!!) is absolutely BONKERS and isn’t nature AMAZING. The human microbiome is certainly complex enough to merit an encyclopedia, but instead of veering into the dry and academic, it’s was personal and insightful, capturing the inquisitive spirit of the scientists and the dazzling breadth of their work.

Genre: life science. Format: nonfiction. Rating: 3/3

A Crime of Passion Fruit, Ellie Alexander

My many delights with this series here and here. This one wasn’t my favorite – that’s TWO books now with not enough Thomas, my fave – plus I worry that the series might be coming to an end too soon as we ramp up towards Jules’s mom’s wedding to Doug, a natural culmination point. (The Amazon preorder page, which generally has the best available intel, lists the announced seventh book as 7/7 in series. Maybe it’s just that it’ll be the 7th of 7 available.) I’m a fan of several famously long-running series (such as the Dresden Files, 15 books and a bunch of shorts in 15+ years and counting). So I am of the opinion that seven books is just getting started. (2021 me adds: on book 13 now and going strong!)

It’s also shaping up to be the year of mystery dominating the list, instead of fantasy, in a shocking turn of events. That’s right, I, a person who writes murder mysteries, haven’t historically read many mysteries.

Genre: mystery. Format: novel. Rating: 3/3

Lumberjanes, Volumes 5 and 6, Noelle Stevenson and team

I wrote about the absolutely delightful Lumberjanes before (Vol 1 and 2; somehow I failed to record reading Vol 3 and 4, though I know I did). These stories are just plain weird fun and I adore them! Seriously, so unapologetically weird. In these volumes, they help get the band (of mermaids) back together and diffuse an international incident (with some selkies). They would be absolutely perfect for a 10-14 year old dreaming of summer camp bonding, or for adults thinking back on their formative years.

Genre: adventure, coming of age. Format: graphic novel. Rating: 3/3

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