Shows and Books I’ve read since Diagnosis

A frequent question I get usually involves either “what do you do with all your free time”, or “read any good books” / “watch any good shows lately”? Well. Yes. To all of that. And in case you were curious, I’m going to list them all, and my thoughts on them. I will pointedly not be talking about cancer, because, well. Fuck cancer.

Books

Using GoodReads, I went back and updated every book I’ve ever read on any of my kindles so that they have accurate (ish) read-on dates. I did that because it has some pretty cool stats that let you see how many books you’ve read in a given year, and how many pages they represent. It also let me see that I went from reading 10-15 books a year, up to 52 last year, and 30 so far this year. And that’s despite not really reading during much all of November or December. Anyway, here’s the stuff I read, in no particular order:

The Dresden Files series, by Jim Butcher

This series is just fun, popcorn style urban fantasy. It stars a Wizard who works in Chicago as a PI. Yup. The coolest part is that while each book is stand alone (there are 14 of them), and fairly short, there are also over-arching plot points and twists all over the place, and the world building is great. It, like most things I like, is firmly based first in humor, followed by great action, and touched with a surprising amount of emotional tug. If you’re into books with magic in them at all, I highly recommend this series.

Codex Alera series, by Jim Butcher

Book 14 of Dresden was released in November. I started reading the series in September. I read all 13 books that existed at the time in 9 days. Pretty much since the day I finished book 13, I’ve been hunting for another series like it. Well, the same friend that recommended Dresden mentioned that Butcher’s other series (this one) was really good. For completely different reasons, this series RULES. Legend has it that Butcher wrote the first book of this series on a dare – that he couldn’t write a novel based on the Roman Empire and Pokemon, combined. Now, I know that sounds really weird, but somehow, it totally works, and it’s totally not lame. I promise.

The Wheel of Time Series by Robert Jordan (and finished by Brandon Sanderson)

Ok, so I lied. I will mention cancer. When I was first diagnosed, after a flood of other thoughts, one thing that hit me was that I might not ever be able to read the end of this series. I’ve been reading it pretty much since I was 7 or 8, it’s 14 books long (now), and every book in the series is between 600 and 1,000 pages long. It’s an epic journey just to read them all, and so much happens I just can’t explain it. But, I was happy as humanly possible that I made it to January, when the book was released, and that I can rest easy, knowing that I know how this series ends. Serious fantasy novel fans only. Not for the faint of heart.

The Dark Tower series, by Steven King

This is up there with the Dune series, the Lord of the Rings saga, the Wheel of Time, and all the other classic sci-fi fantasy series. It’s always mentioned in lists of the best of all time, and so I finally sat down and read them all. While there are some lulls and some moments that you wish King had been able to create a more creative way to resolve, all in all, it’s found it’s way into being one of my favorite series of all times.

Various Short Stories by Brandon Sanderson

Mr. Sanderson is a ridiculously prolific writer. He puts out more than one full sized (700+ page) novel a year, plus a shorter young adult novel, and he STILL finds time to publish short little stories that he insists his publishing house put on amazon for a dollar or two, DRM-free. He’s kind of awesome, and all his stories are a blast.

Tale of the Otori series

This is like a historical fiction of Japan, filled with ninja and samurai, honor and betrayal, love and loss. It starts out with some incredibly strong books, but it really peters out after book 4. I stopped reading it. One of the only series, ever, that I didn’t finish after I started.

The Iron Druid series, by Kevin Hearne

Yet another attempt at finding another Dresden-like series, this one came recommended from Brandon and Greg. So far, there are only 5 books, and they’re only about 300 or so pages each. Really short reads, but awesome world building, awesome characters, and uses and abuses all kinds of myths from various cultures, including native american, russian, japanese, norse, and Irish. Fun magic system, and quick reads.

Various Stories set in the Culture Universe by Iam M. Banks

Banks is a prolific writer of science fiction who was recently diagnosed with a terminal illness, and he’s unlikely to make it to next year. His books are all based on a future utopian society that struggles with what to do when you remove basically all the struggles of modern life. As in, no money, no chance of death (your mind has back ups and your body can be rebuilt), no struggles, really, of any kind. Each book plays on a different theme, and the first 3 books are easily some of the best sci fi I’ve ever read. Up there with Ender’s Game, Dune, and the classics.

Rachel Morgan / Hollows series, by Kim Harrison

Basically, take Dresden, swap the genders of most of the characters, and replace “wizard” with “witch”. The rules of the universe are different, but the stories are so similar that it almost feels like you’re reading another dresden alternate universe type story. Fun, short, better written than most other cheap urban fantasy novels, quick popcorn reads.

Saxon Stories series, by Bernard Cornwell

Just started this one. Historical fiction based off Danes invading England. Seems pretty solid so far.

Prince of Thorn series

This is an attempt at a Joe Abercrombie (great writer) style anti-hero. He tries really hard to get you to like the protagonist, but the bottom line is that the protagonist is a scumbag, who’s only redeeming qualities aren’t that he actually has redeeming qualities, it’s just that you can see why he’s such a dick because his life is pretty much the worst. Even still, no excuse. Didn’t bother picking up book 2 in this series.

Daylight War, book 3 in the Demon Cycle series by Peter Brett

The first book in this series, The Warded Man was outstanding. Seriously, in the dictionary definition of the word. Nothing else like it out there, super tense, somewhat a mix of horror, survival, and fantasy, all mixed into one. The second and third (Daylight War is the third) kind of were let downs. Both were solid books, but just didn’t capture the magic of the original.

The Passage and The Twelve

An interesting take on apocalypse, survival horror, and that ilk. I don’t want to spoil too much because they’re definitely worth the read, and some of the fun is trying to puzzle out exactly what genre this book fits into and how. Starts a bit slow, but pretty good, overall.

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

Gladwell is one of those guys that I keep meaning to read, but I keep getting distracted by big series, and when I finish them, I totally forget about Gladwell. Outliers, though, is a pretty fun book about how success stories, by the time the public hears them, are all pretty much BS, and how the myth of the “self-made man” is often exactly that – a myth. He shows how success is often a crazy combination of luck, opportunity, timing, and drive. Very interesting read.

A few other random others, including:

The Left Overs (interesting), The Divergent Series (super similar to Hunger Games, so much so that I get confused about what happened in which series), the final book in the Fall of the Malazan Empire series (WOW – this series is 10 books of just intense craziness. Definitely not for the faint of heart), The Restraint of Beasts (hilarious), and a couple others.

TV Shows and Series that I’ve caught up, or finally watched, since getting the transplant (I wasn’t watching anything but my regular shows before hand)

Breaking Bad

Honestly, a little disappointing in my book. Slow, not too much happens, difficult to empathize with any of the characters, but the last season was pretty sweet.

Homeland

Awesome. Just start to finish. Totally excited to see the next season.

Mad Men

I hate…pretty much every character on this show. They’re all jerks or assholes for some reason or another. I mean, the show is entertaining, so I keep watching, but I just can’t help but root against everyone. I mean, Don ruins everything that’s ever good in his life. Roger is a walking penis (just about literally). Peter is a scumbag. Peggy is an insensitive jerk, which is doubly offensive, because she was in the position of those she mistreats, and yet, she still mistreats them. Betty Draper is the worst. I just. Ugh. And yet I watch anyways.

Shameless

This is one of those shows that I just can’t explain. There’s not really any plot to the show, though things happen. Horrible shit happens to their family, over and over and over, and it’s just like, Man, when are they going to catch a break. And then the show is like LOOK A BREAK, and you get all happy for everyone and then the show is like NAH HAHA WE WERE JUST KIDDING. I still watch every episode and enjoy them.

House of Lies

I’ll pretty much watch anything with Don Cheadle in it. He’s an awesome actor and his work is always entertaining to me.

Game of Thrones

I read the novels almost in order of release, when they were released. That means I’ve been reading this series for almost 2 full decades ( I was 8, or so, when I started reading them). To see all this stuff come to life, and to have the show be pretty savvy at how they are cut, splice, and merge the various parts of the book to make a compelling, not boring show (parts of the books are definitely boring), all while making the pacing flow better? Just…awesome. Though another show/book series that’s pretty brutal to the characters you like, and pretty nice to the characters you hate. [Though those of us that have read the books and know what’s coming know how much of an understatement that is, haha]

Eastbound and Down

I tried to get into this show. I couldn’t. It had it’s moments where it made me chuckle, but for the most part, I just didn’t really enjoy it. And I usually enjoy Danny McBride in whatever he does. Though it would seem supporting roles are better suited for his talents. I might be one of the few that think that, judging by his success, though. I can get behind the lovable idiot. I can get behind the cocky jerk that’s really good at stuff. But incompetent  cocky, asshat? Pass.

Dexter

Second to last season happened in the middle of getting a transplant. There wasn’t really any way to watch the episodes until I got home and could watch the DVR’d episodes my dad had saved me. I thoroughly enjoyed this season, and I’m really looking forward to this summer and watching the final season. Can’t wait to find out how it all ends.

Archer

This is a cartoon that I’ve been meaning to watch for a REAL long time, but never just sat down and did it. Boy am I glad I finally got around to it. If you liked Arrested Development, you would 100% LOVE Archer. The creators have been quoted as saying they wanted to create Arrested Development, but with a Spy Agency instead. It’s dysfunctional, it’s hilarious, and it’s full of ridiculous running jokes that they reference every now and again to reward faithful viewers.

Walking Dead

I watched this while I was recovering from the transplant with Jessie. I think I get more enjoyment out of her shock and horror at the show than I do from the actual show itself. I haven’t seen season 3 yet, but I’m not particularly itching to watch it, mainly because I’ve heard some bad things about how the show proceeds. Ah well, it had potential.

Various Shows on Discovery/History

When I was really struggling (mainly december and most of January) to get going, I couldn’t really focus enough to read, I couldn’t calm my hand tremor enough to play video games, and I couldn’t really sit long enough to browse the internet all day. So, I watched terrible (but somehow good) shows with my Dad. Shows such as Gold Rush, Pawn Stars, Bering Sea Gold, American Pickers, and the one where people bid on abandoned storage containers…Storage Wars, I think it is. Oh, and I can’t forget to include Moonshiners and Amish Mafia.

I think I’ve met my yearly quota of so-bad-its-good-but-still-pretty-bad, though, so I don’t watch them much anymore haha.

On the “To Watch” List:

True Blood and House of Cards are the next two series I’ll be starting. House of Cards is free on netflix, and was recommended by the always awesome Brit, and my wonderful friend Christine actually got me the dvds of True Blood to start.

So there you have it. Those are the things that have kept me entertained since getting cancer. If you want to discuss any of those shows with me, feel free to email, facebook, gchat, text, or whatever else, me, and I’d be delighted.

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4 comments

  1. I am a Walking Dead addict. The special effects are great and I like the way moral issues arise in a totally lawless world.

    I agree with you about Mad Men. I’m having trouble with the evilness. I DO like that so much that came out of that era was black and white (literally too). This shows that era more realistically. The old guy with the goatee looks like my dad who was also one of those advertising guys.

    Homeland is fascinating. Twists galore!

    My girlfriend loves Archer. I tried to get into it, but just couldn’t. Must be a generational thing. She things my shoes are too “old lady” too.

    I am looking forward to Breaking Bad although I think they’re ending it when it should end.

    I love Gladwell’s books, but I haven’t read Outliers. I will. If you like him, you’d like stuff by Daniel Pink.

    I’m crabby today and it helps to commiserate with a cancer comrade. Ciao

  2. Tina Barilla · · Reply

    Loved Homeland…though starting to remind me of “24”….Mad Men is making me sick this year and I agree with all of your comments……Haven’t seen any of the other ones. By the way, my name is Tina and I am Elyse Pattinger’s sister….Hope you are doing well!

  3. I may be a zombie soon … so I thought I would get these thoughts to you before I ‘turn.’ I know I’m only a few days out (I started the cells on the 24th and finished on the 25th … so I have 2 birthdays … I think your Dad had some left over luck!).

    1. I adore GOT … which is surprsing because I adore the books so much
    2. Vikings on History I’m also obsessed with
    3. I’m a nerd so even though it’s ridiculous I also like Grimm and this show called Arrow (perhaps I have a super hero complex … we’ll just add it to the list of my issues … ha!)
    4. Hell on Wheels on AMC is also really good …
    5. Spartacfeels s starts soon … that one hits me close to home bc the original actor Andy Law passes away from lymphoma shortly after the first season … and there was a man in tip top shape … it just proves cancer doesn’t discriminate

    PS If I get one more email, txt msg, carrier pigeon saying my cancer could have been prevented had I followed a special cancer diet … I may need to exercise what lungb power remains in th form of an ear piercing scream! To be so ingnorant must be something people work hard at … if only that were the case that eating healthy prevents cancer (oh wait … I was healthy and in shape and I got cancer while my daily fast food, no exercise, couch potato buddies didn’t. Chew on that people, chew on that)! Sometimes I wish a had a button that I could press that sounded like nails on a chalkboard so whenever someone becomes delusional …. nothing like a little negative reinforcement to set them right again. Ha! 🙂

    1. *Spartacus starts soon

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