Friday, November 25, 2011

The Dresden Files, by Jim Butcher

Where have I been all fall? Well, besides The Swan Thieves, and a couple other random books that I hope I can remember, I've been reading Jim Butcher's collected works.

When I get stressed I read "lite" books and this series got me through a particularly high pressure fall. The Dresden Files combine humor, fantasy, and have a flavor of hard-boiled detective fiction like books by Dashiell Hammett. A series that regularly gets me to laugh out loud is just what I need to get me through the stressful times.

Harry Dresden is a wizard-for-hire in present-day Chicago. Since I'm very familiar with Chicago and the surrounding areas it is regional fiction that I can appreciate. Dresden is a powerful wizard, but burdened with a bad-upbringing, incomplete knowledge of his craft, and well-founded mistrust of his fellow wizards.

I won't say too much about the content of the books, just recommendations from two young men. My son and my colleague's son both have or are tearing through this series. That my adult son, an avid video gamer, can take time to pick up books that I have also read is one of the great gifts of my life. That another bright young man in my circle of acquaintances has also read the series tells me that this is one I can recommend to older young adults. I'll stress the adult there, in the later books there are some sexual scenes that may cause some teachers to hesitate about suggesting the series to students. These scenes are not so explicit that I would not recommend the books, but I would warn students as I recommend them that there are some brief scenes with sexual content.

At the same time I was reading The Dresden Files I also worked through Butcher's other series, Codex Alera. I wasn't as engaged with this series. I think probably it would appear more to young men. There are lots of horses, evil monsters, and intricate plots. Of course, it could also be that I listened to all of these on my smart phone instead of in book form. I read all but one of the Dresden books in paper form.

Butcher admits to being a great fan of Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. Allusions to these words as well as others enrich the Dresden books. The provide a great opening for teachers to encourage wider reading.

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