Monthly Archives: November 2010

“Verily, Stilt-Man, Thou Art A Mighty Foe!”

The Mighty Thor has uttered many a memorable line over his long career as one of Marvel Comics’ heavy-hitting heroes, but none so absurd as the one that forms the title of this post.  Way back in Thor #269, ‘ole Goldilocks fought one of Marvel’s lamest villains, Stilt-Man.

What are Stilt-Man’s powers, you ask?  What makes him a super-villain?  Well, he wears a suit of metal armor that possesses telescoping stilt-legs, allowing him to walk around 50 ft. (or more) in the air.  The suit also gave him limited super-strength (he could lift a VW Bug, or in today’s comics, a Smart Car).  It also happened to look patently ridiculous.  But that never stopped Marvel’s merry writers from sharing Stilt-Man across numerous titles.  Although he rightfully gets his clock cleaned by Thor, he certainly gives Daredevil a run for his money in issue #102 of that title, which CLP owns in a lovely hardcover collection that can be found here.

Aside from being an excellent second story man and sometime peeping tom, Stilt-Man has never really accomplished much in his super-villainous career.  But he keeps coming back for more, and that’s the thrust of this post.  There are villains in comics who entertain merely by their existence.  Sometimes their absurdity makes them interesting foes.  And sometimes it just means they’re really silly.  Here are a few more lame villains, with links to some titles in our collection that highlight their ill-fated capers.


This curious little villain first appeared in Batman and the Outsiders #11, and while he has a cool origin, as a villain he’s still pretty lame.  Blowdart comes from a magical sword which slew him and a host of other warriors, taking their soul essences captive and allowing them to return and serve the blade’s master.  His powers?  Well, he uses a blowgun and poison darts, and he’s short.  That’s about it.

The Melter

This old Iron Man villain also owns the distinction of being one of the original members of the Masters of Evil.  Sounds impressive, huh?  Not really.  The Melter’s sole ability resided in a belt-buckle mounted ray that could melt anything metal.   That’s about it.  So if you happen to be facing the Melter, and wearing something metal, you might be in trouble.  Otherwise, just run behind him and smack him in the back of the head and you’re good.  Later on, he upgraded to a pistol, and seemed to be able to affect more materials than just metal, but this did not improve his lameness.

We’ve got some of the older Melter stories in our Iron Man and Avengers collections.  They’re both fun reads and well worth a look.

The Cannoneer

The sheer number of criminal carnies and circus performers in the DC and Marvel universes might make one think that attending either a circus or a traveling carnival is hazardous to one’s health.  Danger aside, you would at least have a good chance at seeing these villainous performers getting stomped by your favorite superhero.  The Cannoneer is a Batman villain whose only ability seems to be a willingness to allow himself to be shot out of a cannon, generally into banks and other establishments where he might crash into money or other valuable items.  You can read about him in the pages of one of our Brave & the Bold collections.

The Shocker

Not sure if it’s the pantyhose face mask or the fishnet bodysuit, but the Shocker has long been one of Spider-Man’s lamest foes.  He wears twin vambraces giving him hyper destructive, super-vibrational powers, and begging the somewhat uncomfortable question, shouldn’t this guy be named The Vibrator?   But I digress.  In spite of all of his considerable weaknesses, I kind of like the Shocker, and I find myself rooting for him.  Maybe it’s because I remember him so fondly from Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends. You might root for him too if you read his exploits in the pages of Essential Spider-Man vol. 4.

The Trickster

Emblematic of the classic comic book “gimmick” villain, the Trickster committed crimes using a series of zany devices generally associated with comedy.  Funky wind-up joke toys, explosive yo-yos, and “air-walking” boots were among his tools of the trade.  Notable also for being one of the Flash’s famous Rogues Gallery, the Trickster was only really cool because of his association with this loosely organized group of “ham and egger” bad guys.  By himself, he was just a bit too lame for my tastes.  Trickster shows up in this Showcase edition of the Flash.

The Trapster (aka, Paste-Pot Pete)

It seems like Stan Lee was obsessed with idea of adhesives during his most productive years as a writer in the 1960’s.  After all, Baron Zemo had Adhesive-X, and Paste-Pot Pete made his debut in Strange Tales #104 (1963) and after many defeats returned as the Trapster in Fantastic Four #38.  The name change did not improve his performance.  Trapster uses a backpack mounted device linked to wrist launchers to shoot powerful wads of super-adhesive at his foes.  You can see him taking on Daredevil in Essential Daredevil vol. 2.   I don’t think I’d be spoiling it for you to let you know that he loses.

These are but a few of the lame, misguided, and just plain goofy villains to have graced comics over the last fifty years.  Heck, in the 1980’s Marvel writer extraordinaire Mark Gruenwald cleaned house with his Scourge of the Underworld storyline that eliminated dozens of lame villains.

Of late, some of the above villains, and many others I have not written about have gotten their due in titles that expand their backgrounds and make them a little cooler, a little edgier.  Suicide Squad does a nice job taking lame villains and making them interesting.  That said, there’s something cool about a wacky villain, and you might agree after reading some of this classic stuff!


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By Any Other Name

My sister and her husband are expecting their third child sometime next spring, which made it doubly wonderful to spend time with the growing family over the Thanksgiving holiday.  Hanging out with a tween and a pre-schooler definitely honed the aunt skills, but suggesting potential names for the new sprout proved trickier. Although I’m very good at naming pets, none of my baby name suggestions, male or female, struck a chord with the parents-to-be.

To be fair, naming is a difficult thing, and a very personal one. Whenever you name a person, pet or thing, you want something that sounds good, carries meaning, and can’t be twisted into a cruel or otherwise unfortunate nickname. On top of that, there may be religious or cultural factors to take into consideration, as well as the desire to avoid–or accommodate– the trendy or unusual.

The world wide web is awash with baby name websites, to be sure, but if you have a name to choose, and you’re tired of staring at your computer screen, why not try a different tack?  Make yourself a cup of tea, then settle into a comfy chair in a quiet place with one of the library’s many books about names and naming.  Not sure where to start?  Consider these:

Penguin ClassicThe Penguin Classic Baby Name Book, ed. Grace Hamlin. Looking for a literary namesake? Take a flip through nearly 500 pages of options from the world’s greatest works of fiction.

Mother of all Baby Name Books

The Mother of All Baby Name Books, Bruce Lansky. Because puns are fun! Also, with 94,000 names to choose from, this is a great option if you don’t have room in your bag for multiple books.

Celtic Baby NamesCeltic Baby Names, Judy Sierra. If Western mythology and folklore tend to inspire you, grab this guide to pronunciations and meanings from the British Isles and figure out if Declan, Dylan, or Dana might be a good option for you and your baby (I’d avoid Tristan and Isolde, though, just on general principle).

World NamesA World of Baby Names, Teresa Norman. Diversity abounds in this collection of names that dedicates a chapter to just about every country and culture under the sun, including Czech/Slovak, Hawaiian, Native American, and Southeast Asian names. Perfect for families seeking to honor an ancestor, celebrate an adoption, or otherwise open up their naming options.

Auntie LAV can’t wait to see what they pick, but until then, she’ll just have to wait patiently.  Did you have difficulty naming your children?  Your kittens?  Your computer?  If you were going to take a new name to reflect the person you’ve grown up to be, what would you pick?

Dana Elizabeth Veronica Leigh Anne


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The Day After Thanksgiving

This is the biggest shopping day of the year.  And yes, I know the U.S. economy is largely driven by consumer spending.

Instead of going to the mall like a zombie, though, you should go to the library’s CD collection and check out some classic anti-consumerist punk such as Crass and Conflict from the U.K. or the U.S.’s own Dead Kennedys.  I can’t repeat much of the lyrics of Crass’s “Buy Now, Pay As You Go” song here, but let’s just say that it’s a strong message to “consumer slaves.”

We’re living in a material world, but I appreciate those who try to avoid the incessant cycle of buying stuff and throwing it away.  Let us give thanks to those who craft, grow, and fix things.

A picture to promote the U.S. Department of Agriculture's WWII era "Share and Repair" program.

The library caters to them and, it logically follows,  so do my fellow library bloggers.  For example, Julie helps your garden grow, Dave shows you how and where to fix your bicycle, Leigh Anne would like to help you find the resources to make and do just about anything, and the same goes for the rest of the blog team.

And even if you just want to passively protest the shopping frenzy by quietly reading, Melissa will help you dive into a good book amidst the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.

I am thankful for all of that.

— Tim

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Words. Books.

Please, no matter how we advance technologically, please don’t abandon the book. There is nothing in our material world more beautiful than the book.

These words streamed from the voice of Patti Smith when she accepted the National Book Award for nonfiction last week, for Just Kids, a memoir of her life with Robert Mapplethorpe in New York City’s 1970s art scene.

We may think of a book as low-tech. The combined technologies of the printing press and paper mill created an utterly simple and useful object we often take for granted. As’s CEO Jeff Bezos said, “The book just turns out to be an incredible device.”

Open one of those incredible devices over this holiday weekend. Give thanks for books.



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10 More Top 10 Time Travel Books

from the MGM Motion Picture "The Time Machine"

Recently, I posted a positive review of the new novel by Charles Yu, entitled How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe. So I was delighted to come across an article by Yu written for The Guardian of Great Britain in which he names his top ten time travel books.

In case you’re interested, here’s the list of what he recommended:

  1. Slaughter-House Five, or the Children’s Crusade by Kurt Vonnegut
  2. Garden of Forking Paths”  (short story) by Jorge Luis Borges
  3. Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman
  4. The Fermata by Nicolson Baker
  5. The Fabric of Reality by David Deutsch
  6. A Wrinkle in Time by Madelaine L’Engle
  7. All You Zombies” (short story) by Robert Heinlein
  8. Six Walks in the Fictional Woods by Umberto Eco
  9. An example of a new type of cosmological solution of Einstein’s field equations of gravitation” by Kurt Gödel (Rev. Mod. Phys. 21: 447–450.)
  10. Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams

As you can see, Mr. Yu has played it a little loose with his list, which he readily admits. Besides fiction, there is non-fiction, including an article on time travel by Kurt Godel, of Gödel, Escher, Bach fame. I don’t have a problem with that per se, but I do take issue with calling the list ten time travel books, when two are short stories in larger collections (not devoted to time travel stories) and one is a journal article. Still, it is a pleasure to see what he likes and, since they are his rules, he’s allowed to break them.

Here’s an additional list of ten more time travel books, all novels this time, to supplement the list above. A couple of my favorite time travel books did not make Yu’s list, though his own book certainly makes mine. I am going to carry over one; though not on my list, Slaughter-House Five, which is one of my favorite books, period, it certainly deserves to be.

  1. Time and Again by Jack Finney
  2. Timequake by Kurt Vonnegut
  3. Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy
  4. How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu
  5. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
  6. Orlando by Virginia Woolf
  7. Kindred by Octavia Butler
  8. The Female Man by Joanna Russ
  9. Martin Time-Slip by Philip K. Dick
  10. The Time Machine by H. G. Wells

And two Bonus novels:

These 12 additional time travel novels hardly address how many are missing from the original list; in fact, this list is lopsided in its own way: a bit too literary from some folks, I’m thinking.

So, what do you think? Anything missing?

– Don

PS  The only edition of Behold the Man any of the libraries has is the original abbreviated novella, which Michael Moorcock expanded into a full novel — we intend to correct that situation by ordering a copy ASAP.


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Many years ago, I learned how annoying it was to some people when other people asked them what they were thankful for on Thanksgiving.  If you are one of those annoyed people, you might want to stop reading now. Really.  Go away. Click the little X in the top right hand corner. Because I am breaking out my gratitude list, and it is full of cute, happy, sweet, and positive things that will either make your heart sing, or make it blacker.

I am thankful for:

Cake Wrecks: When Professional Cakes Go Hilariously Wrong, by Jen Yates.  I don’t think I’m the only one who is glad that cake exists, and that there are people who decorate them, even people who make mistakes. …………………………………………………………………………………..
Regretsy: Where DIY Meets WTF, by April Winchell.  I’m a fan of etsy, too, but to know that there are people who express their creativity despite themselves makes me feel proud to be human. ……………………………………………………………………………………….  ……………………………..

Four Word Film Reviews, by Benj Clews and Michael Onesi.  I am grateful to anyone who keeps an opinion to four words or fewer.   …………………………………………………………………………… 


I Judge You When You Use Poor Grammar: A Collection of Egregious Errors, Disconcerting Bloopers, and Other Linguistic Slip-ups, by Sharon Eliza Nichols.  What wud I do witout peeple hu cot my misteaks?

Of course, what gratitude list would be complete without friends, family and library patrons? And since you’ve read this far, I know you know that love is what makes it all worthwhile.


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Pittsburgh poet Terrance Hayes wins National Book Award

Lighthead / Terrance Hayes.Winners of the 2010 National Book Award were announced Wednesday night, and Pittsburgh poet Terrance Hayes took the prize in the Poetry category for his collection Lighthead.

Hayes often speaks kindly of Pittsburgh’s literary scene in his interviews, and Pittsburgh returns the love. Hayes has been a featured reader in CLP’s very own Sunday Poetry and Reading Series and teaches at a local university. Recently, ‘burgh-based Sampsonia Way online magazine  featured an article of a conversation between Hayes and Lynn Emanuel,* another celebrated Pittsburgh poet.

Terrance Hayes’ talent isn’t limited to local recognition, though. Comprehensive national poetry websites Poetry Foundation and Academy of American Poets’ include pages about Hayes, and PBS Newshour offers streaming video of an interview with him.

If you haven’t discovered the poet’s work yet, you might want to try any of his three previously published collections, Hip Logic, Muscular Music or Wind in a Box while you wait for your turn in line for Lighthead.

In this video from the From the Fishouse reading series, Hayes gives a lively reading that opens with several poems from Lighthead:

Here is the title poem from the award-winning collection:


Ladies and gentlemen, ghosts and children of the state,
I am here because I could never get the hang of Time.
This hour, for example, would be like all the others
were it not for the rain falling through the roof.
I’d better not be too explicit. My night is careless
with itself, troublesome as a woman wearing no bra
in winter. I believe everything is a metaphor for sex.
Lovemaking mimics the act of departure, moonlight
drips from the leaves. You can spend your whole life
doing no more than preparing for life and thinking,
“Is this all there is?” Thus, I am here where poets come
to drink a dark strong poison with tiny shards of ice,
something to loosen my primate tongue and its syllables
of debris. I know all words come from preexisting words
and divide until our pronouncements develop selves.
The small dog barking at the darkness has something to say
about the way we live. I’d rather have what my daddy calls
“skrimp.” He says “discrete” and means the street
just out of sight. Not what you see, but what you perceive:
that’s poetry. Not the noise, but its rhythm; an arrangement
of derangements; I’ll eat you to live: that’s poetry.
I wish I glowed like a brown-skinned pregnant woman.
I wish I could weep the way my teacher did as he read us
Molly Bloom’s soliloquy of yes. When I kiss my wife,
sometimes I taste her caution. But let’s not talk about that.
Maybe Art’s only purpose is to preserve the Self.
Sometimes I play a game in which my primitive craft fires
upon an alien ship whose intention is the destruction
of the earth. Other times I fall in love with a word
like somberness. Or moonlight juicing naked branches.
All species have a notion of emptiness, and yet
the flowers don’t quit opening. I am carrying the whimper
you can hear when the mouth is collapsed, the wisdom
of monkeys. Ask a glass of water why it pities
the rain. Ask the lunatic yard dog why it tolerates the leash.
Brothers and sisters, when you spend your nights
out on a limb, there’s a chance you’ll fall in your sleep.

To watch videos of the award ceremony, visit the NBA’s homepage. You can view all previous winners of the National Book Award for Poetry on this list on the NBA website.


*This page of the Sampsonia Way site is best viewed in Firefox.

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My Favorite Movie

Not only is it absurd, hilarious, and absurdly hilarious, Mel Brooks’ 1974 spoof is also one of the most successful westerns of all time.

I first encountered this movie as a very young Amy, when my dad would choose a movie for us to watch on Monday nights while my mom was at her ceramics class. (I used to think that the Monday night movie was quality family bonding time, but now I also realize that it was a darn good ploy for keeping my brother and me entertained until bedtime. Way to go, dad!)

I’m not sure what I could possibly say about this film that hasn’t been said before by real professional movie-reviewing types, so instead I’ll share some fun facts:

  • The movie grossed $47.8 million dollars at the box office1, or $119.5 million if you believe the Internet Movie Database.2
  • Richard Pryor, one of the film’s screenwriters, was originally chosen to play Sheriff Bart, but the role went to Cleavon Little because “the studio believed that Pryor was an insane drug addict.”3 Though another source claims that Pryor lost out because he was considered too new and inexperienced.4
  • The role of the Waco Kid, made famous by Gene Wilder, was first offered to John Wayne, who loved the script but was unwilling to ruin his image.5

So if you’re looking for fart jokes, horse punching, biker gangs, pie fights, Slim Pickens, candygrams, Count Basie and his orchestra, sharpshooters, an entire town full of people named Johnson, countless Mel Books cameos, schnitzengruben, musical numbers, the world’s most overbooked hangman, and believe it or not – a healthy dose of social commentary, be sure to check out Blazing Saddles.

– Amy


1 Hughes, Howard. Stagecoach to Tombstone: the Filmgoers’ Guide to the Great Westerns. London: I. B. Tauris, 2007.

2 “Blazing Saddles (1974) – IMDb.” The Internet Movie Database (IMDb). Web. 8 Nov. 2010. <>.

3 Schneider, Steven Jay. 1001 Movies You Must See before You Die. Hauppauge, NY: Barron’s, 2005.

4 McCabe, Bob. The Rough Guide to Comedy Movies. London: Rough Guides, 2005.

5 Ibid.


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Leaves, and pages, turning.

Fall sets back the clocks one hour, and as the evening turns dark at some unruly hour, we can also be reminded as if by the seasons itself of the most perfect time of the year to sit down and read. I like to sit outside until it just gets too dark (or too cold), just to enjoy the weather, the trees, and most of all, the page. Here’s what I’ve been knocking back recently, as well as a few to look forward to on those nights where staying in with a blanket and a cup of tea seems like a more pleasant night than anything else.

Frederick ExleyA Fan’s Notes
Frederick Exley has been on my radar for a long time now, I chose to put this book off, simplifying it as one of those ‘rite of passage’ books that everyone tells you to read and can’t explain why. Well, at least now having gotten into it, I know why it’s difficult to put into words, Exley is a delight but also a mess.  Notes is referred to as a fictional memoir, but the events are all very real – he drank to excess, obsessed over the New York Giants, and eventually spent time in mental institutions as a result – yet it is in just how Exley captures these events that made this book very worth the read.  A quick sidenote: the best word I can think of this phenomenon is serendipity, but that just makes me think of John Cusack now, but does anyone else get the feeling you are being haunted by what you read? I’m reading this book, finally, and while looking up other books to read, they ALL reference this title. There’s Brock Clarke’s Exley (obviously) which is about a narrator obsessing over the author. Then, there is Beg, Borrow, Steal which has a blurb on the cover comparing it to A Fan’s Notes. Finally, Judd Apatow’s new collection I Found This Funny has a foreword mentioning how this book influenced his reintroduction into the hobby of reading. None of these three titles have much to do with one another, but I happened to pick up all three within days of each other.  I feel haunted, yet justified in how I’m reading, by my ghostly coincidences.

Roland BarthesMourning Diary
Barthes was so deeply affected by the loss of his mother that he kept a regular journal for two years, compiled in small postcards, that are both deeply moving and thoughtful. For anyone who has experienced loss, and the mourning that follows, Barthes puts his personal pain into words beautifully. I am a sucker for reading the diaries of those I admire, even if I think the intrusion is too personal, I can’t help myself but be curious. Barthes, even at his most intimate, is an intriguing mind worth exploring.

James SchuylerOther Flowers
One must have poetry. I’ve devoured many of Schuyler’s books since only recently discovering him in this review in the NY Review of Books (where have I been all my life?) This collection is more recent, compiled of poems not yet before collected in other titles. Perhaps because he so fresh to me, but as far as the “New York Poets” go, Schuyler gets the edge (at least presently) over Ashbery and O’Hara.  

Karen Tei YamashitaI Hotel
I’ve never heard of this novel before she was nominated for the National Book Award, but am so delighted to have such a talent in my scope now. I have only begun to peck through I Hotel, as it has already becoming a book I’m savoring to read while I still am able to enjoy it for the first time. I Hotel is the by-product of years of writing and research, the book is divided into ten stories, each compiling a year in time starting at 1968. I may go on and on about first time novelists from time to time, but the meticulous nature of a pro still gains my awed praise.  The book spreads its influences wide, incorporating meticulous research and work into various voices, with different ideologies, struggling to be heard against one another at a trying time for our country, and Yamashita pulls no punches. I can’t wait to read this book and watch the seasons change.

– Tony


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Daydreams About Books I Need to Read

Life has lately been hectic and unsympathetic to my reading needs. Fortunately, every now and then I have a minute to daydream about the books that I’ll read when I have a chance. Here are some that have been on my mind:

Face in the Frost by John Bellairs – Bellairs, the classic author of young adult gothic horror, was one of my first favorite authors. I received his book The Treasure of Alpheus Winterbornwhich is, incidentally, about a secret treasure hidden in an old library — as a gift in 6th grade, and quickly went on to read many of his other titles, such as The Spell of the Sorcerer’s SkullAs a kid, the autumnal ambience of Bellairs’s stories did much to shape my brain into the scare-seeking adult reader I am today. Face in the Frost is an earlier Bellairs title that I discovered only recently. It’s a mashup of horror and fantasy about two wizards trying to stop a world-destroying spell, and something I need to get my hands on soon. 

Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation by Joseph Ellis – In an earlier post, I mentioned the “founding fathers” book club I started with a friend. We fell a little behind on our reading schedule, but when we’re both able to read again, this is the book we’ll turn to next. Founding Brothers is Ellis’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book about, who else, the founding fathers of the United States. Hopefully this book will reveal to me some truth about the founding fathers, something that is in short supply these days.

Cicero by Anthony Everitt – I’ve been in the mood to dive into some Roman history, and since I enjoyed Everitt’s Augustus so much — a reading that was inspired by the amazing HBO series, Rome — I hope to eventually give his Cicero a try. Everitt has a knack of writing history in a way that feels more like a story than an academic treatise. He brought Augustus to life for me, so I’m sure he can do the same for Cicero.

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen – My colleagues have been discussing Franzen’s latest hit a lot lately, and I’m itching to get in on the conversation. I also think it sounds like an interesting story, I’m curious about what it says about American culture, and its pretty cover is always tempting me.

Stephen King’s N by Marc Guggenheim and Alex Maleev – This is a graphic novel version of the best short story I’ve read in the last year-and-a-half or so, “N.”, from Stephen King’s short story collection, Just After Sunset. “N.” is a Lovecraftian pastiche about a man who suffers from severe OCD after accidentally stumbling across a field that contains a half-opened entrance to our world with horrible things on the other side trying to get through. A graphic version of this amazing story must be great. 

Eye of the World by Robert Jordan – Do I really want to get into a high fantasy series (Wheel of Time is the series title) that’s now thirteen books long, with no end in sight, and that most people I talk to say becomes a drag just a few books in? I guess I’m just curious to see how far I can get before I hate it.

Aftershock by Robert B. Reich – It’s true, I’m obssessed with the post-recession state of the world and what the future holds, and Reich’s book jumped out at me. Aftershock argues that a definitive structural component of the near economic future will be the decline of the American consumer class that’s been built up over the last century. With wealth and power increasingly concentrated in the hands of the few, the income and influence of the majority of Americans (that’s us) will steadily decline. It’s an intriguing argument that I’d like to read more about. 

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson – Sanderson took over the aforementioned Wheel of Time series after Robert Jordan died. As if he wasn’t busy enough working on that huge series, he recently published this first whopper (1,007 hardcover pages) in a new 10-part epic of his own called The Stormlight Archive. It’s about kings and weapons and magic and fights and other fantasy stuff that I enjoy.

What books have you been daydreaming about?



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