[Thanks to Jonathan for buying me a book from my Amazon wishlist!]
[This month, I will be participating in Nanowrimo by writing Move Fast and Break Things, a tremendously self-indulgent AU where Tony Stark is a disabled woman.]
Palimpsest. This is the first book I’ve read by Cat Valente, and I’ll definitely check out more of her books. Valente has the rare gift of making magic feel truly magical, rather than an odd form of science where you can throw fireballs. Every page contains something odd and wonderful and delightful, and several times I had to stop reading just to take in her prose. The book hinges on selling Palimpsest as a city you would give up your entire life to visit one last time, and Valente completely sells it. If you’re the sort of person who likes your fantasy to involve world-saving and strict rules of magic, it isn’t for you, but if you like your fantasy weird and wild and a little bit strange, check it out.
A Grief Observed. As always, C S Lewis is a careful observer of humanity. I think I related to this book much less than most of his books, because my answer to the problem of why God would allow people to die is “he doesn’t, because he doesn’t exist”, and so I obviously had a hard time relating to Lewis’s thoughts on the issue. Nevertheless, the description of grief is tremendously evocative and relatable.
The Northern Caves. Rob Nostalgebraist’s second novel, a Lovecraftian horror story about fandom told entirely through found documents, is finished this month! The serial format, I think, did this novel a disservice: it’s best read in one sitting, preferably late at night when there are spooky noises outside. The Northern Caves is the best book I’ve ever read at evoking the feeling I had in my worst moments of scrupulosity and suicidality. I don’t want to say I found it enjoyable, exactly, but it was very good and very well-written and I recommend it to anyone who wants to figure out what I’m on about.
A lot of people expected this to be the sort of story where a tentacled monster shows up and eats people, and I enjoy reading their reviews and feeling superior.
A Thinking Person’s Guide To Autism. A very extensive book about autism. This book is mostly for parents, rather than for autistics; while it does have essays by autistic adults, those essays seem to be aimed at a parent audience. I don’t think that’s a strike against the book– personally, as an adult who might have autistic children, I appreciated finding some writing about parenting autistic children from a remotely pro-neurodiversity perspective– but just be aware of what you’re getting into.
It’s a little too encyclopedic for my taste: a lot of the chapters felt like the authors didn’t have enough space to explore everything they wanted to say. I appreciated the exploration of autism pseudoscience, although the chapter about how awesome ABA is made me roll my eyes.
The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion. At one point in this book the author opines that self-compassion is natural because “the only reason people do things is to feel better about themselves” and I was so angry at the author’s terrible fucking sense of life that I wished I had a physical copy of the book so I could throw it against the wall. However, I was reminded that this book is a how-to guide to being nicer to yourself through meditation, and one does not normally expect that sort of thing to be philosophically rigorous. Still annoying.
As regards the actual content: it’s well-written and clearly explains the exercises it wants you to do. It is entirely about people who hate themselves and feel shame and guilt constantly, and will probably not be very helpful to people without this problem. The proposed solutions are all meditation, so if you are a completely anti-meditation human this one is not for you. I am currently in the process of testing whether metta meditation actually causes me to hate myself less, and have not come to final conclusions yet.
Discipline Without Distress. I like this book! Of course, it’s a bit difficult to review a parenting book if you don’t actually have children, so take it with many grains of salt. But it included a lot of very practical advice about how to parent in a way respectful of your child’s autonomy, from helping seven-year-olds problem-solve about why they keep forgetting their lunch to talking to your sixteen-year-old about their grades. In general, I like the perspective of “children are small humans; if something would be really wrong to do to an adult human, it’s probably really wrong to do to a small human.” And I liked the advice to not worry about having a united front with your partner, because if you and your partner disagree about parenting it’s an opportunity to model respectful disagreement and compromise to your children. I thought their advice for parenting teenagers was particularly sensible: a lot of fights can be avoided just by committing not to care about your child’s hair or musical taste.
I was amused that even the hippie parenting book is more anti-drugs and anti-sex than I am. I mean, I think it’s probably wise for teenagers to wait to take drugs until their brains are more fully developed, and I wouldn’t want anyone to start having sex before they’re emotionally ready. But to be honest I’m more on the Dutch parenting side of things.
[content warning: torture of disabled children]
And Straight On Till Morning: Essays on Autism Acceptance. I was not terribly impressed by this book. Except for Mel Baggs’s essay (which was, like all her writing, wonderful), most of the essays were boilerplate “notice how people are being mean to autistic people? They should stop doing that! Are you aware that autistic people are people? It is true!”
By far the longest portion of the book is taken up with a discussion of a (failed) lawsuit against the Judge Rotenberg Center, which does successfully make the reader want to storm the center and rescue everyone inside. It is my personal opinion that if you are electroshocking people, you no longer get to complain about them being aggressive against you. Biting people is, if anything, a merciful response to being tortured.