Tag Archives: ursula k. le guin

30 Day book meme, 4: your favourite series ever

Day 4 of the 30 day book meme: your favourite book or series ever.

Let me interrogate the question for a moment. Day 4 is “your favourite book or series ever.” Day 6 is “Favourite book of your favourite series OR your favourite book of all time”. That pretty much compels Day 4 to be about my favourite series ever, doesn’t it? Because if I choose the other door, I have to talk about my “favourite book of my favourite series” on Day 6, which would be strange if I hadn’t talked about the series, no?

In addition, I am actually not a big series reader and the meme has questions that assume that I read essentially all series all the time. My favourite series should be distinct from my comfort book, which should be distinct from my first favourite series which should be distinct from my favourite childhood book. That’s a stretch, frankly.

My favourite series right now, I think, is probably Le Guin’s Earthsea novels. (Not counting the Hainish setting, which doesn’t re-use characters, centuries or planets terribly often, and I don’t think that’s a series as the meme intends it.) Here’s a conversation I had on Geek Feminism.

Stephanie asked:

Okay, please explain to me what I’m missing in the Earthsea series. I read The Wizard of Earthsea on the recommendation of a friend who when he thinks of feminist, he thinks of me and vice/versa so he said I would LOVE them.

Only, I didn’t. If we were to submit the book to the Bechdel Test it would fail miserably. Furthermore all of the women characters are the basic stereotypes of evil witch or virginal damsel.

Does it just get exponentially better as the series goes on or am I missing something?

I answered:

The first three are in fact notoriously male-centric. Decades later Le Guin, with a much more feminist eye, returned to the universe and wrote a fourth novel Tehanu which was a woman’s perspective on the whole thing (although the second novel is also from the point-of-view of a woman, but it’s still About Men). There’s also a fairly large change in tone. The fifth and sixth books (which are a collection of stories and a novel respectively) are more in the tradition of the fourth, although not as exclusively focussed on women’s point-of-view.

With regard to whether to continue, I would suggest that you do so only if you want to follow the story of Ged, because otherwise you will probably find the whole thing pretty annoying. An alternative might be reading the second and then the fourth, fifth and sixth books.

I actually like the first three, especially Tombs of Atuan, better than Stephanie likes A Wizard of Earthsea. But even with Tehanu this wouldn’t have made it into this entry: the fifth book really makes it for me. But I’ll save that for Day 6.

30 Day book meme, 3: the best book you’ve read in the last 12 months

Day 3 of the 30 day book meme: the best book you’ve read in the last 12 months.

I got into Ursula Le Guin’s writing non-Earthsea writing rather late, but now it’s like always coming home, for me. (Yes, haha, I have not in fact read it. I don’t actually seek them out, because I think her work deserves to be read over many years.) This year’s gem is The Birthday of the World, which is a collection of stories. The thematic draw of this book for me was the stories about various forms of introversion, of relationships unfolding slowly, of societies that have been the same way for a long time and who find meaning in returning and returning again. Thus, my favourite stories in the collection were: Unchosen Love (fear and helplessness in the face of passion) and Solitude (committed adult relationships and all interpersonal manipulation as evil sorcery). I liked Paradises Lost too (and the others!) but for a slightly different reason: I’ve always liked Le Guin’s marriages, indeed they form a really key part of the way I view marriage (as a word for intending life partnership rather than a legal system) and Hsing and Hiroshi have a distinct kind of me: marriage as a secondary part of life’s work.