In the long ago time of February when I came down sick with a really bad cold that caused me to miss several days of work, Bookman brought me home some “chicken soup.” No, not fake vegan “chicken” soup. It was a book. And not one of those “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books. If Bookman had been silly enough to do that I think I probably would have barfed on him. A chicken soup book doesn’t have to be a specific book, just a book to help a person feel better. The book Bookman brought me was What Makes this Book So Great by Jo Walton. I didn’t finish it when I was sick and have only picked away at it from time to time since then. But when I caught a mild cold two weeks ago I picked it up again and managed to finish it just as I got better. Was finishing the book and my return to health a coincidence? Don’t be too quick to discredit chicken soup!
What Makes this Book so Great is a collection of essays that originally appeared at Tor and I think you can still read them there. The essays in the book are generally short, about three pages or so, perfect for cold weary brains. Walton takes a light and breezy tone, she only talks about books she likes, and it is like listening to a friend who is really excited about this book she just read and wants to tell you all about it and why you might want to read it too. Fun stuff!
There are also a few essays not about books but about book related things like wondering whether people skimmed while reading, mulling over why some people have a hard time with fantasy and science fiction, or outlining the difference between literary criticism and simply talking about books.
But most of the book is about books, specifically fantasy and science fiction books. As someone who has been reading SFF since she was a pre-teen, I’ve read my share, but there is so much I haven’t read and so much I haven’t even heard about before. Even my husband who is also a reader of SFF was stumped on occasion when I’d ask him, have you ever read … ? Which means this is a really good book for discovering “new” books. I have a tidy little list because of it.
You don’t have to be a fan of fantasy or science fiction to read this book but it helps. However, if you’re new to the genre and looking for some ideas about books to read, this would definitely be a good book to browse through.
Now that my chicken soup book is finished, I hope that means I will manage to avoid getting sick again for a long time.