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General Category => General Discussion => Topic started by: polly_mer on May 19, 2019, 02:43:35 PM

Title: What have you read lately?
Post by: polly_mer on May 19, 2019, 02:43:35 PM
Just this weekend, I read Cal Newport's latest book Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World.  I generally like Cal Newport's work and this was well written.  However, I did several times think "SPADFY.  SPADFY!  Some freakin' people are different from you and I, personally, don't want to spend my leisure time doing a lot of freakin' work that isn't fun, interesting, or leisure!!!"

I don't even have a smart phone and my online interactions are mostly these fora.  I do, though, love television much more than I want to take up some hobby that somehow is more virtuous and meaningful because <reasons that are very clearly value judgements based on being upper middle class with a high level of education>.  I can get on the bandwagon that says, "Put down your phone to live in the moment", but not if it also includes "and then you must spend your free time on the treadmill to prove your worth as a human being through observable creativity that results in a displayable product".

I can't find the book right now, but months ago, I read a pretty good book on why many people don't want the lifestyle they associate with a college education; instead, those folks want a bit more money so they can have the same lifestyle their non-college-educated parents have with a little bit more financial breathing room.  That filling all one's leisure time with hard work instead of actual relaxing activities or time off is one big turnoff moving from a lower SES to a higher SES.

I've also been working through Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum mysteries and savoring the old before moving on to the new-to-me number 25.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on May 19, 2019, 11:43:02 PM
Yay, this thread!

I just finished Kameron Hurley's The Stars are Legion, which was incredibly gross and incredibly awesome. Enormous organic world-ships in space that are so old that everyone has basically forgotten how they work, rotting from cancerous disorders, and filled inside with lots of different, uniquely horrifying biosystems and cultures of people who don't even believe they're on a world-ship. There's a wonderful subversion of the whole 'live as one with nature' trope, because the people and the world-ships are perfectly aligned with each other: you can eat or drink anything you find, and you don't get infections in wounds, because the human/world-ship biology is so compatible; yet the flip side of that is a ton of body horror: women literally birth organic ship components, and everything can be 'recycled', which means lots of scenes in the deepest depths, where organic material (such as dead or not-yet-dead bodies) rots and is eaten by the recycling organisms.

In some ways Hurley's work reminds me of the opening scenes in Bones episodes: she takes such a delight in imagining the grossest possible things that could happen, and she has such a fertile imagination in rendering it.

I'm now reading Jeanette Ng's Under the Pendulum Sun, which is about Christian missionaries going off into Faerie to convert the fae, and not doing very well. Some of the elements are really beautifully imagined (especially the pendulum sun and the fish moon), but there's a weird sort-of-incestuous plot line that I'm not digging.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: sprout on May 20, 2019, 11:50:24 AM
Yay, this thread!

I just finished Kameron Hurley's The Stars are Legion, which was incredibly gross and incredibly awesome. Enormous organic world-ships in space that are so old that everyone has basically forgotten how they work, rotting from cancerous disorders, and filled inside with lots of different, uniquely horrifying biosystems and cultures of people who don't even believe they're on a world-ship. There's a wonderful subversion of the whole 'live as one with nature' trope, because the people and the world-ships are perfectly aligned with each other: you can eat or drink anything you find, and you don't get infections in wounds, because the human/world-ship biology is so compatible; yet the flip side of that is a ton of body horror: women literally birth organic ship components, and everything can be 'recycled', which means lots of scenes in the deepest depths, where organic material (such as dead or not-yet-dead bodies) rots and is eaten by the recycling organisms.

In some ways Hurley's work reminds me of the opening scenes in Bones episodes: she takes such a delight in imagining the grossest possible things that could happen, and she has such a fertile imagination in rendering it.

I'm now reading Jeanette Ng's Under the Pendulum Sun, which is about Christian missionaries going off into Faerie to convert the fae, and not doing very well. Some of the elements are really beautifully imagined (especially the pendulum sun and the fish moon), but there's a weird sort-of-incestuous plot line that I'm not digging.

Oo, I just added both of those to my wishlist. 

I'm currently reading:  How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan, and The Body is Not an Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor.  Also briefly rereading Alison Bechdel's Fun Home.  Plus random fiction ebook on my phone.  I may have a problem, or maybe it's just nearing the end of the school year.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Puget on May 20, 2019, 04:17:06 PM
I like to listen to audio books while a run/walk/work around the house.

I just finished Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman read by the author. People fall through the cracks in the world into a sort of dream scape alternative reality (London Below), where time and space don't work the same way and many crazy plot twists ensue. It was fun, and often funny, even though not all the plot points seem to really have a point and I could do with a bit less gratuitous violence.

I've now started Lincoln in the Bardo which won all sorts of things -- not sure about it so far but I'll keep listening and see.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: 0susanna on May 21, 2019, 11:35:18 AM
Dorothy Dunnett's brilliant historical novel series the Lymond Chronicles, set in 16th c. Scotland/France/Malta/Turkey/Russia/North Africa/England, has been reissued in attractive paperbacks with nicely readable font AND new audiobooks with an excellent reader, so I just started re-reading The Game of Kings for the Nth time.

These books have made people laugh, cry, and throw them across a room. Highly recommended.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: archaeo42 on May 21, 2019, 12:48:56 PM
I like to listen to audio books while a run/walk/work around the house.

I just finished Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman read by the author. People fall through the cracks in the world into a sort of dream scape alternative reality (London Below), where time and space don't work the same way and many crazy plot twists ensue. It was fun, and often funny, even though not all the plot points seem to really have a point and I could do with a bit less gratuitous violence.

I've now started Lincoln in the Bardo which won all sorts of things -- not sure about it so far but I'll keep listening and see.

Spouse and I chose that for an audiobook on a road trip since we'd both read it and figured it'd be fine for times we weren't listening carefully. Instead, we found Gaiman's voice so soothing that we had to stop it and switch to music because we were both feeling sleepy.

I just finished a random book I chose on my Kindle called Fortune's Daughters by Consuelo Saah Baehr. It's set in the early 20th century and I found it interesting enough. I'm biding my time until book 3 in Charlie Holmberg's Numina series becomes available.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: onthefringe on May 28, 2019, 08:22:50 PM
Dorothy Dunnett's brilliant historical novel series the Lymond Chronicles, set in 16th c. Scotland/France/Malta/Turkey/Russia/North Africa/England, has been reissued in attractive paperbacks with nicely readable font AND new audiobooks with an excellent reader, so I just started re-reading The Game of Kings for the Nth time.

These books have made people laugh, cry, and throw them across a room. Highly recommended.

Ok, this may be what finally pushes me to an Audible subscription instead of just getting audiobooks from the library. I adore these books, and would love to hear them done by a good reader.

Right now I’m listening to Lies Sleeping, the newest Peter Grant novel from Ben Aaronovitch. These are beautifully done books about a British constable working for a semi secret branch that deals with magic. Absolutely charming, great main character, and wonderfully read by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith.

Just finished Middlegame by Seanan McGuire, which was beautifully written and engaging. Now reading yet another of Jody Taylor’s Chronicles of St. Mary’s series about British academics who “investigate historical events in contemporary time” (ie time travel). Some resemblance to Connie Willis’s time travel series, but enjoyable.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on May 29, 2019, 03:48:31 AM
Dorothy Dunnett's brilliant historical novel series the Lymond Chronicles, set in 16th c. Scotland/France/Malta/Turkey/Russia/North Africa/England, has been reissued in attractive paperbacks with nicely readable font AND new audiobooks with an excellent reader, so I just started re-reading The Game of Kings for the Nth time.

These books have made people laugh, cry, and throw them across a room. Highly recommended.
Just finished Middlegame by Seanan McGuire, which was beautifully written and engaging. Now reading yet another of Jody Taylor’s Chronicles of St. Mary’s series about British academics who “investigate historical events in contemporary time” (ie time travel). Some resemblance to Connie Willis’s time travel series, but enjoyable.

Oh, pooh! I love Willis's time travel books.

I have the first of the Taylor books, but haven't gotten around to reading it yet.

I've heard wonderful things about Middlegame, and I'll probably end up reading it pretty soon.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: onthefringe on May 29, 2019, 05:51:48 AM
Dorothy Dunnett's brilliant historical novel series the Lymond Chronicles, set in 16th c. Scotland/France/Malta/Turkey/Russia/North Africa/England, has been reissued in attractive paperbacks with nicely readable font AND new audiobooks with an excellent reader, so I just started re-reading The Game of Kings for the Nth time.

These books have made people laugh, cry, and throw them across a room. Highly recommended.
Just finished Middlegame by Seanan McGuire, which was beautifully written and engaging. Now reading yet another of Jody Taylor’s Chronicles of St. Mary’s series about British academics who “investigate historical events in contemporary time” (ie time travel). Some resemblance to Connie Willis’s time travel series, but enjoyable.

Oh, pooh! I love Willis's time travel books.

I have the first of the Taylor books, but haven't gotten around to reading it yet.

I've heard wonderful things about Middlegame, and I'll probably end up reading it pretty soon.

That came out wrong. I meant that the Taylor books were enjoyable despite feeling a bit derivative of the Willis series that I have also enjoyed...
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: 0susanna on May 30, 2019, 12:50:57 PM

Right now I’m listening to Lies Sleeping, the newest Peter Grant novel from Ben Aaronovitch. These are beautifully done books about a British constable working for a semi secret branch that deals with magic. Absolutely charming, great main character, and wonderfully read by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith.

Just finished Middlegame by Seanan McGuire, which was beautifully written and engaging. Now reading yet another of Jody Taylor’s Chronicles of St. Mary’s series about British academics who “investigate historical events in contemporary time” (ie time travel). Some resemblance to Connie Willis’s time travel series, but enjoyable.
Taylor & Aaronovitch are delightful. Now I must look for McGuire...
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on May 30, 2019, 11:21:59 PM
I just started reading the first Taylor book. It's very cute, and until I read it I hadn't realized how criminally underused dinosaurs are in other time travel books.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: cc_alan on May 31, 2019, 10:09:17 AM
I'm getting ready to start the third book in Martha Well's Murderbot Diaries. A friend rated them pretty high but I delayed reading them because "Murderbot". I mean, it just sounded silly.

OK. I was wrong. Well's seems to be using the main character to explore what it means to be a person. Situations we might find dull or commonplace are anything but for the character.

The books are also relatively short. The world building is interesting and the characters are also interesting. And the use of "Murderbot" is explained and done in such a way that gives it meaning.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: azaz_the_unabridged on May 31, 2019, 11:53:29 AM
I just started Catherynne Valente's Space Opera. It's good fun! Basically, intergalactic Eurovision, where the prize for not coming in dead-last is... well, not dying (as a species).
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on May 31, 2019, 01:26:13 PM
I deeply enjoyed both Murderbot and Space Opera. I also enjoyed the first St. Mary's book, which was a rollicking fun read, although a bit choppy in the pacing.  Am now reading The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O, on the recommendation of my mother. It is also promising to be a rollicking fun read.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: hmaria1609 on June 01, 2019, 07:07:43 PM
Finished Resistance Women by Jennifer Chiaverini
Four friends organize a resistance movement as Hitler rises to power and takes Germany to war.

Now reading: Broken Throne by Victoria Aveyard
Companion book to the popular YA "Red Queen" series.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: paultuttle on June 03, 2019, 08:09:05 AM
I am currently in the last third of Spider Robinson's Lady Slings the Booze--an intriguing pastiche of Wild-West, sci-fi, NYC, and time-travel fiction.

Along with truly bad puns.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: statsgeek on June 03, 2019, 09:37:23 AM
LOVE Jennifer Chiaverini, waiting for Resistance Women in paperback. 

I can't highly recommend anything I've found recently, but for those looking for a good read try Cameron's A Dog's Purpose/A Dog's Journey (yes, much better than the movies) and also Cameron's Dog Master. 
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Vkw10 on June 04, 2019, 05:28:31 PM
I am currently in the last third of Spider Robinson's Lady Slings the Booze--an intriguing pastiche of Wild-West, sci-fi, NYC, and time-travel fiction.

Along with truly bad puns.

Thanks, Paul. That one's a sure mood lifter for me when administrivia-induced depression strikes, as it has this week. Now where did I put my copy?
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Tenured_Feminist on June 04, 2019, 06:30:59 PM
Just finished Chernobyl at Midnight. Superb.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: polly_mer on June 07, 2019, 06:45:10 AM
It's summer so I'm on fluff.  The book sitting next to me is 61 Hours by Lee Child.  Will Reacher be able to save small town cops during a blizzard from themselves?  500 quatloos on yes.  Whether the retired-from-Oxford-University librarian lives long enough to testify against the bad guys is less certain.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on June 07, 2019, 08:05:19 AM
Semiosis, by Sue Burke. It follows multiple generations of colonists on a planet with sentient plants. Really good meditation on sentience and domestication (who domesticates whom?) and social pressures and the challenges of planning a society.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: spork on June 07, 2019, 03:20:29 PM
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. Quick read, good writing, emotional content. Spoiler alert: the book was published posthumously with an afterword by his widow.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: hmaria1609 on June 07, 2019, 06:55:45 PM
Finished: Anna of Kleve: the Princess in the Portrait by Alison Weir
It's the 4th novel and newest installment in the "Six Tudor Queens" series.
Next up: What Jane Austen Knew and Charles Dickens Ate by Daniel Pool
Saw this non-fiction book around at one time or another and finally checked it out when it arrived in our library collection.

LOVE Jennifer Chiaverini, waiting for Resistance Women in paperback.
I checked out a copy of the novel from the library.  It's a good read!
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Juvenal on June 07, 2019, 07:27:21 PM
Perhaps not a good idea to read a short story by Flannery O'Connor while having breakfast ("A View of the Woods").
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: archaeo42 on June 12, 2019, 08:16:53 AM
I started Neal Stephenson's new book, Fall, or Dodge in Hell, this weekend. I'm only about 100 pages in (it's 800+) but I'm enjoying it. His last one, Seveneves, took me long time to get into and it was probably my least favorite of his.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: nescafe on June 12, 2019, 05:54:47 PM
I recently finished Lydia Kiesling’s The Golden State and it was just stunning (somewhat on-topic: it’s about a entry-level university administrator/new mother who skips town to stay in the Sierras, dodging emails from her superiors, smoking cigarettes in the woods, and facing off against Jefferson Staters along the way).   
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on June 12, 2019, 11:25:57 PM
I just finished Adrian Tchaikovsky's Children of Time last night. That's the one with the giant sentient spiders. It was really neat; I found the spider-focused portions much more engaging than the human-focused bits, and indeed the book lagged around the 3/4 mark because of a human-focused conflict that was pretty dull. Characterization in general was a bit weak, but the imaginative world building was wonderful. I loved the theme of how progress is hampered by attempts to recover the accomplishments of the past (post-apocalyptic humans trying to scavenge from the Old Empire; Avrana Kern trying to direct the spiders' evolution to recapture human accomplishments), and the idea of using ant colonies to create computing reminds me of Cixin Liu's soldier computing system from The Three Body Problem, except much better integrated with the biochemical nature of the spiders' technology.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: downer on June 18, 2019, 09:05:01 AM
I've been reading a right-wing polemic against the liberal universities:

THE DIVERSITY DELUSION: How Race and Gender Pandering Corrupt the University and Undermine Our Culture
Heather Mac Donald

No doubt it is full of inflammatory and dated language (who uses the word "co-ed" anymore?) and it exaggerates the sense of crisis. Very few places are actually fully practicing the liberal ideology that Mac Donald identifies. Most places give some lip service to diversity and sexual assault policies and then carry on as before. But Mac Donald does a great job of ridiculing the liberal rhetoric she finds and making arguments against it. Her easiest targets are the nonsense-statements put out by university administrations in defense of what they do. It's pretty funny.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mamselle on June 18, 2019, 10:51:45 AM
In my quest for long series of decent writers'  works by which to distract myself from working....

I just discovered Helen MacInness' "Cloak of Darkness" and see a list of many more to start looking for.

The followup writers for Robert Parker are annoying me, however. Ace Atkins put a well-known street in Cambridge (one away from the late Parker's cool Painted Lady Victorian) in Boston's Back Bay.

The fellow doing the Paradise series (I'm reading "Colorblind") talks about the black servant killed in the "Lexington Massacre." But, where in thunder did he get that from?

Crispus Attucks was killed in the BOSTON  Massacre....grrr!

And the jury's still out on what looks like a misidentified, or made-up site, also supposedly in Cambridge.

Parker would never have made any of those errors...he was the quintessential researcher.

So...humphf

M.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: 0susanna on June 18, 2019, 12:29:41 PM

The followup writers for Robert Parker are annoying me, however. Ace Atkins put a well-known street in Cambridge (one away from the late Parker's cool Painted Lady Victorian) in Boston's Back Bay.

The fellow doing the Paradise series (I'm reading "Colorblind") talks about the black servant killed in the "Lexington Massacre." But, where in thunder did he get that from?

Crispus Attucks was killed in the BOSTON  Massacre....grrr!

And the jury's still out on what looks like a misidentified, or made-up site, also supposedly in Cambridge.

Parker would never have made any of those errors...he was the quintessential researcher.

So...humphf

M.
I sadly abandoned Robert Parker some time before his demise (may he rest in peace). I loved his early novels--The Godwulf Manuscript was a joy--but for whatever reasons, the writing started to go downhill after Crimson Joy, so I'm not surprised that those writing under his name aren't much better. I found myself sitting behind him at the theater once, though, while he was still on his game, and wish I'd had the nerve to thank him.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mamselle on June 18, 2019, 05:21:49 PM
He was a cool dude to talk to, indeed. I spoke with him twice,once he was on the porch--I suspect that was a whiskey in his hand--and I asked if it was OK to point out his home when I was doing tours in the area, or if he'd rather I didn't.

He grinned, and said, "I think the whole world knows where I live now, so it's fine."

The new owners have painted the place beige with ivory trim. Wimps! He had had it done properly, with a three-color scheme (medium blue, with magenta and ivory trim), a cool sapphire blue stagecoach lamp on the porch and a grinning gargoyle on the balcony.

I used to walk past it when my own writing was on the rocks, reminding myself that it was possible to learn to write well enough to be read...and to own a cool place like that as well.

M.
 
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Conjugate on June 28, 2019, 08:56:57 AM
I see a lot of people posting about authors I first found out about via following them on Twitter.  For instance, Kameron Hurley, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Cat Valente. So let me tell you about an author I first found out about on Twitter:  Foz Meadows.

Strictly speaking, I'm going to tell you about the first book of hers that I've read: An Accident of Stars. It's a portal fantasy, by which I mean it is a story that hinges around a portal to another world; think Narnia gate. It is not your typical portal fantasy, however, but modern, and much more gritty.

The hero is a young lady named Saffron, who in the opening chapters suffers from tolerated bullying and even groping in school ("Boys will be boys," says the principal) and is looking for help. Enter an odd woman on the school grounds, who talks to her to ask directions. Out of curiosity, she follows this woman, and finds her opening an odd region in space in a part of her school grounds.

The world she finds herself in is much more vicious and hard-core than Narnia; characters are mutilated, throats are cut, and a serious power struggle between two cultures makes up the exciting plot. I have, and will read, the sequel.

Among old-school authors, I have recently read Timothy Zahn's Thrawn. When Disney obtained Star Wars, they mostly dumped many of the follow-up plots and characters that had been part of the Star Wars Expanded Universe so that they could make the story their own.  However, Zahn's memorable character Admiral Thrawn, from five (?) pre-Disney volumes, was chosen to survive into the new Star Wars universe, and this novel is his origin story.

Thrawn is a blue-skinned humanoid alien, extremely intelligent, and he is found by the Empire on a small backwater world where he was exiled by his civilization, which is unknown to the Empire or to the Republic. The story is told from the point of view of an unambitious cadet who only wants to have an undistinguished career and be left alone; Thrawn guides him up the ladder and past lots of perils. On the way, we see Thrawn as part Sherlock Holmes, part Sun Tzu, and all fascinating character.

Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: polly_mer on June 28, 2019, 07:49:28 PM
Lee Child has lots of Reacher novels.  I'm working my way through the library shelf.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: hmaria1609 on June 29, 2019, 06:39:45 PM
Iron, Fire, and Ice: the Real History that Inspired "Game of Thrones" by Ed West
The book examines the historical events that influenced George R. R. Martin's Game of Thrones series. I received this non-fiction book as a thank you for visiting the publisher's booth during ALA Annual here in DC.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: polly_mer on June 29, 2019, 07:48:11 PM
Iron, Fire, and Ice: the Real History that Inspired "Game of Thrones" by Ed West
The book examines the historical events that influenced George R. R. Martin's Game of Thrones series. I received this non-fiction book as a thank you for visiting the publisher's booth during ALA Annual here in DC.

That's so cool to receive as a thank-you!
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: drbrt on June 29, 2019, 11:54:43 PM
I’m currently working through the Spellmonger series. It’s entertaining but not great literature. Reminds me a little of The Black Company. Mostly I’m just waiting for the last Lightbringer book to come out. (I mostly read trash. I admire those of you who read real books.)
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on June 30, 2019, 03:26:01 AM
I mostly read trash. I admire those of you who read real books.

None of that, now.

I've been cruising through the Temeraire books. It's clear that Novik read Patrick O'Brian very attentively. The Turkish chelengk makes an appearance in book 3, and so does the joke about British officers trying to speak French and using the word domestique as a direct translation when they try to say 'I am your servant' in some way or another. Neither of these is impossible to have come up with on her own, but the circumstantial evidence is pretty strong.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: hmaria1609 on June 30, 2019, 12:51:39 PM
That's so cool to receive as a thank-you!
It was! Some publishers were giving away or selling books throughout the weekend, others were doing it only on Monday.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: onthefringe on June 30, 2019, 01:09:06 PM

I've been cruising through the Temeraire books. It's clear that Novik read Patrick O'Brian very attentively. .

Just listened to the first of these on audiobook, and I definitely agree with your assessment.

Over my recent vacation I read:

A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay. A loosely connected prequel to Children of Earth and Sky, and his usual quarter turn historical fantasy approach, this time based on Renaissance Italy. I always love his use of language, and always learn something as I try to figure out who his characters might be based on.

Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal. Alternate WWI where a group of mediums are employed by the British government to glean important information from soldiers who have died at the front. The main character end up in the trenches briefly, (touching on one of the things about WWI that has always fascinated/horrified me — that trench warfare was ever an effective part of any military strategy)

Storm Cursed, the 11th Mercy Thompson book from Patrica Briggs. Good Urban Fantasy, but not really breaking any new ground at this point. But soothing and familiar.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Conjugate on July 02, 2019, 02:00:00 PM
Becky Chambers, Record of a Spaceborn Few. Read out of order (it's the third of her books in the Wayfarer's books) because I read the first and never got the second.

It's a pretty good exploration of how different societies deal with death, birth, and tradition. That description barely does it justice, but I don't know how to do it justice.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on July 03, 2019, 02:31:00 AM
Becky Chambers, Record of a Spaceborn Few. Read out of order (it's the third of her books in the Wayfarer's books) because I read the first and never got the second.

It's a pretty good exploration of how different societies deal with death, birth, and tradition. That description barely does it justice, but I don't know how to do it justice.

I remember liking the first, but I thought the second was the most satisfying. I cried a lot during a certain key reunion. I found the third book a little unsatisfying: it had terrific world building, which could have supported a really good plot, but there wasn't really any plot. If you liked it, though, I think you'd like the second book too.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: nescafe on July 03, 2019, 07:28:46 AM
I picked up Jokha Alharthi's Celestial Bodies this week to have something to read in the park, and it is brilliant so far. Recently translated Omani fiction with three narrators (sisters plus one husband) on the love, marriage, aging, and loss.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: RatGuy on July 03, 2019, 03:34:10 PM
I'm currently making my way through Lovecraft Country. It's a little too on the nose at some points, but I'm surprised at how slyly funny it can be.

Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: spork on July 03, 2019, 04:34:34 PM
Finished Orhan Pamuk's The Red-Haired Woman. An easy read, but Snow and A Strangeness in My Mind are still the only novels of his that I would recommend to others.

Also read Haruki Murakami's Killing Commendatore. Prefer 1Q84.

Currently reading The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee. He's a good writer. As a modern history of a particular subject, it reminds me of Daniel Yergin's The Prize.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: spork on July 08, 2019, 02:48:30 PM
I decided not to finish Elif Shafak's The Forty Rules of Love. It's an easy read but I didn't find the story engaging enough -- being a fan of Mongol history, I wish the story had focused on that instead of the fictionalized account of Rumi's friendship with Shams.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: bioteacher on July 08, 2019, 03:56:53 PM
I have to confess I have not read many books lately. I have been reading thousands and thousands of pages of excellent fan fiction. Some of these stories are so much better than published works I have read. The diversity of characters and backgrounds is also delicious, since they are written by and for fans. The white centric gatekeepers don't get a vote here, and I've learned so much from reading these stories.

The downside is that not only are there too many books to read in my lifetime but the fanfic supply doubles or triples the amount of reading I want to do. No one has invented day-doubling software or the universal pause button. I want to read, darn it. Everything else is an interruption.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on July 09, 2019, 11:09:53 AM
I have lots of updating to do at some point, but I wanted to point out the book we're currently reading.  It's recently released, Velocity Weapon by Megan E. O'Keefe.  It's number one of a series (at least a planned one, I guess), and I think it's her debut novel.   I'm really into this book! The basic premise (from the back of the book so I don't spoil anything) is that a gunship sergeant's ship is destroyed during a battle, and she is saved in an evac pod, expecting to be roused from her protective sleep by her people after the pod is recovered.  Instead, she is awakened and finds herself on board one of the enemy's ships with no other humans on board.  Oh, it's also 230 years later, and her home planet and system have been destroyed.  Not on the back cover, but introduced right away (and was in the summary I read in best sci-fi books of June 2019) is her younger brother who is about to take on a new role/responsibility just as the news about the gunship disaster breaks.  So there are those two story arcs/time periods and also another, not sure yet how that fits in exactly other than speculation.  So far, it's a pretty intense story, lots of wondering what's going to happen next, some good dialogue and mostly interesting characters.  This is one of those books that just makes me want to hold my breath and hope it's good the whole way through and doesn't fall apart later on.  I also hope the story gets wrapped up to some extent in case there are no further books written in the series. 

Anyone else reading this or planning to?
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Conjugate on July 09, 2019, 05:40:56 PM
I have lots of updating to do at some point, but I wanted to point out the book we're currently reading.  It's recently released, Velocity Weapon by Megan E. O'Keefe.   
Snip!

Anyone else reading this or planning to?

Yes, at some point when the paychecks resume. I've got a list of people whose works I want to try. I'm currently re-reading some old Rex Stout, including an omnibus that contains And Be A Villain, the second book that touches on Nero Wolfe's nemesis, Z.

These are a fun read if you don't mind the fact that Wolfe is a misogynist, his sidekick Archie Goodwin is a womanizer, and all the character's attitudes are solidly 1930s. For instance, in one of the novels (The League of Frightened Men), Archie refers to a disabled character as a "lop" (for lopsided) and is sternly corrected by Wolfe to say cripple.

I also plan to get and read Aliette de Bodard's The Tea Master And The Detective, another mystery set in a science-fictional future. (I believe that the Tea Master of the title is a sentient spacecraft; in any case, one of the characters is, according to the reviews.) I expect much less offensive content there, obviously.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on July 18, 2019, 12:12:13 PM
Conjy, I hope you do get to pick it up at some point (and enjoy it!).  I don't typically buy new books, but Velocity Weapon (and Recursion by Blake Crouch, which we have not yet read) was a Father's Day gift I bought for my spouse.  We finished Velocity Weapon a day or two ago.  We ended up giving it 4/5 on Goodreads.  I think it held up well throughout and remained interesting, and I'd like to read the next book if/when that comes out.  I just took a look at the author's website, and it looks as though I misspoke a bit.  This seems to be her debut sci-fi novel.  She has a couple fantasy novels under her belt. 

Back to the review.  When trying to come up with a rating, we ended up comparing VW to other books that we gave 5s to.  We thought the N.K. Jemisin trilogy was very well done, and there are elements of that series that we were reminded of when reading VW (parts of the society were similar).  But N.K. Jemisin came up with a whole new "world", which I think she did pretty well and coherently.  In some ways that seems easier, because the author has a lot of latitude to make up locations, distances, etc. as long as they make sense as described (especially important if you need to visualize a made-up world, even if it's sort of based in reality).  VW is described as a space opera, and while Earth is part of the story, it takes place elsewhere.  In some ways, this is similar to some of Alastair Reynolds' space operas.   In comparing those authors, what I really like about AR is the technical descriptions and scientific basis (okay, sometimes it can be a bit much).  In VW it was not always easy for us to tell where locations were with respect to each other, how to get from one to the other, and so forth, which made it difficult to tell what options characters had (so hard to speculate about where the story might be going), what implications were of some actions, etc.  Of course, AR is a scientist, so that makes sense, and I don't hold it against M O'K, but it is a point of comparison.  Another weakness we docked "points" for was the main enemy.  Despite building them up a bit, we never really got to know much about them, and the few interactions almost seemed a bit more humorous than maybe they should have been to get across the threat. 

Aside from these minor issues, I thought the story was pretty great.  Very hard to put the book down! I felt that I got to know the main characters well, and they were flawed but likable.  The dialogue was generally good (some eye-rolling parts, but that seems to happen no matter who writes some of these scenes), sometimes very funny.  The story had a touching side that I did not expect.  Lots of good action, drama, intrigue. 

It's also a challenge to rate the book entirely on its own if it is to be part of a series.  So, of course, maybe later books will focus more on the enemy.  All around, as a sci-fi debut and space opera, I thought it was nicely done.  Of course, take my review with a grain of salt, as I have only really been reading sci-fi for a few years and certainly don't know much about it.  Spouse is a big sci-fi fan, specifically space operas, and he agreed with my take (FWIW). 

I also took a look at The League of Frightened Men.  Sounds interesting! I've never read any of those stories so might try one of those books out at some point.

Still have to update the already read list, but we are now working on A Column of Fire (Ken Follett).  We read the previous two books, Pillars of the Earth and World Without End, the past two summers.  I had also read both of those years ago, but this one is new to both of us.   There are a lot of similarities between the books, and I would guess that will remain the case with this one (so far, yes).  There are very similar character tropes and situations that occur despite the hundreds of years between books.  I also don't think Follett is a great writer (who am I to talk) compared to others.  He tends to describe things similarly and doesn't vary his verbs much.  What I really like about the books is the descriptions of architecture and trade and the different political struggles that occur.  The characters are not extremely well developed, but the stories, romances, and allied or adversarial relationships are entertaining.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: archaeo42 on July 19, 2019, 05:40:05 AM
I finally finished Neal Stephenson's new one Fall, Or Dodge in Hell. I enjoyed it but I feel like I need to reread it after doing a deep dive on some modern philosophy of technology. There seemed to be much more that he was saying about society that I was only just grasping. Or maybe I'm reading too much in to it since there's a lot of replication of polytheistic/monotheistic structures and colonial power dynamics in the built digital world in which that part of the book is set.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: downer on July 19, 2019, 06:27:13 AM
I enjoyed Jenny Colgan's The Bookshop on the Shore. Scottish setting, multicultural cast, and Loch Ness. And a romance too. Good summer fare.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: 0susanna on July 19, 2019, 08:51:57 AM
I enjoyed Jenny Colgan's The Bookshop on the Shore. Scottish setting, multicultural cast, and Loch Ness. And a romance too. Good summer fare.
Jenny Colgan is reliably entertaining.

Recently finished Bruce Holsinger's The Gifted School. Not having children, the only experience I have with entitled/helicopter parents and their offspring is at the college level, but I thought Holsinger effectively created multiple parent and child character POVs and plotlines and managed to generate significant suspense. Epigraphs to each section from legit research on gifted children raise the level. Recommended.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Juvenal on July 20, 2019, 08:36:19 AM
Patrick Lee's trilogy: The Breach, Ghost Country, Deep Sky, a peculiar mixture of science fiction and thriller, with an interesting premise and lot of unlikely and preposterous detail in the thriller part.  Yes, yes, SF has a lot of "preposterous" detail, but there were holes in the plot.  Still, books were worth reading.  Lee also seems to blend SF and thrillerdom in two other novels, Signal and Runner, less SF than thriller, but both hinge on an SF matter.  Like neutrinos that go faster than light and bear information from the future, but only from ten hours and a few minutes away (Signal).  Hmm.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: fourhats on July 20, 2019, 03:28:13 PM
I've been wanting to reread a lot of Iris Murdoch, in this centennial year. I once went through a long summer of reading all her novels, and they're jumbled up in my mind now. It was a great summer, as I recall. I don't know why she seems to have fallen out of favor these days. She's smart, witty, and a great writer.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Liquidambar on July 24, 2019, 05:21:13 PM
A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay. A loosely connected prequel to Children of Earth and Sky, and his usual quarter turn historical fantasy approach, this time based on Renaissance Italy. I always love his use of language, and always learn something as I try to figure out who his characters might be based on.

I recently read Tigana by Kay and enjoyed it.  It was nice to read a stand-alone fantasy book rather than long series that may or may not be completed before the author dies.  (Not naming any names here...)  If I read some more Kay, which book should I read next?

I also read The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemison, the first book in her Broken Earth trilogy.  I thought it was fantasy, but Wikipedia describes it as "science fantasy."  It was excellent.  I'm looking forward to reading the sequels.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: phattangent on July 25, 2019, 05:00:15 AM
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: hmaria1609 on July 25, 2019, 06:34:06 PM
Started A Time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor
It's the 1st installment of a classic travelogue trilogy
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: nescafe on July 26, 2019, 12:35:26 AM
I just finished The Neighborhood by Mario Vargas Llosa. A quick and sexy mystery about corruptions and murder among Peru's industrial elite. This was a strange week to read it; between the compromising photos, tabloid seeking bribes to "kill stories," and the death of journalists, it seemed too strange for fiction and just a little more real.

It was quick and worthwhile, but also seemed a bit vulgar, the characters one-sided and simplistic. I had never read Llosa before but saw his previous book won several significant prizes. Before I write him off, maybe I'll find his first book.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: onthefringe on July 27, 2019, 05:32:16 AM
I recently read Tigana by Kay and enjoyed it.  It was nice to read a stand-alone fantasy book rather than long series that may or may not be completed before the author dies.  (Not naming any names here...)  If I read some more Kay, which book should I read next?

My personal favorites are A Song for Arbonne (inspired by the Albigensian Crusade) and The Lions of Al-Rassan (loosely based on the Reconquista).

His Fionavar Trilogy is a much more standard Tolkein-inspired fantasy, but really quite good too.

His work has tended to have fewer and fewer fantasy/magical elements and lean towards straight alternate history as he goes along  so you could also look at publication order and choose that way depending on your preferences.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Liquidambar on July 27, 2019, 10:10:11 AM
Thanks, onthefringe--very helpful.  That last bit is good to know since I prefer fantasy over alternate history.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: downer on July 27, 2019, 04:59:54 PM
Putney by Sofka Zinovieff. It's a book addressing a loving sexual relationship between a man and a girl in the 1970s, and how she comes to rethink what happened when her daughter is the same age as she was when it happened. It isn't easy to address these issues, but Zinovieff does it well.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Golazo on July 29, 2019, 07:12:46 PM
I've mostly been disappointed with what I've read recently. I bought Ann Leckie's new fantasy book The Raven Tower, but found this much less compelling than her sci-fi trilogy, from characters to world building. The Imperial Radch trilogy is very much worth reading.  I also read CJ Cherryh's latest book, and again found it one of the weakest of her catalog. In the non-fiction section, I read Gemma Clark's book on women in soccer, but found she had so many chapters that she wrote only very basic details about each woman in the book. A lot of the material was from internet sources and she didn't make good use of the interviews she did. I was expecting to learn a lot, but was underwhelmed.

I'm looking forward to reading Jeffery Lewis' The 2020 Commission Report on the North Korean Nuclear Attacks Against the United States for a class I'm teaching in the fall. I'll get back to everyone on how it is.

Several of the sci-fi/fantesy choices sound really interesting, but I'll have to have a think if there is enough time before the semester starts for a new distraction.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on July 30, 2019, 01:03:14 AM
I just finished This is how you lose the time war, by Max Gladstone and Amal El-Mohtar. It was exquisite: poetic, imaginative, and allusive to all sorts of other things (Ozymandias, the Death of Chatterton, Calvin and Hobbes (https://www.gocomics.com/calvinandhobbes/1993/04/09), and I'm sure many others that I didn't catch). It's also a novella, so, Golazo, you might find it the right length, although I was surprised at how slowly I read it because of the richness of the language.

Speaking of science fiction, I was also a little disappointed by The Raven Tower. There was some good stuff in it: I loved the idea of gods being careful about what they say, because their use of language makes reality, and if they say something that's not true, they'll spend their strength changing reality so it becomes true (and if they say something that's impossible, they'll die). That was really imaginative. I thought the narrator's backstory, as a stone on a hill, was beautifully written. But I thought the political thriller portion was not as rich as it could have been. Basically, it's Hamlet meets Pratchett's Small Gods, but although it starts there, it doesn't really go anywhere new with it. It's a neat mash-up of two things, but nothing more than that.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Scout on July 30, 2019, 11:07:46 AM
Just finished The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. A gripping true tale of the creation of the Chicago World's Fair and the acts and hunt for a serial killer preying on your women in Chicago (and elsewhere) during the same time. Strangely, the World's fair development was just as gripping as the serial killer story line!
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: hmaria1609 on August 01, 2019, 07:33:42 AM
Patrick Leigh Fermor's classic travelogue trilogy: A Time of Gifts, Between the Woods and the Water, and The Broken Road
Written in his later years, Leigh Fermor chronicled his 1933 walk across Europe.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: nebo113 on August 02, 2019, 05:32:21 AM
Re-reading "My Antonia" by Willa Cather.  Lyrical and timely.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: larryc on August 06, 2019, 05:59:30 PM
Just finished Kate Brown's Plutopia, a history of the Soviet and American nuclear bomb production towns and their oddly parallel development. It is way outside my usual focus and one of my favorite academic books of recent years. It is deeply researched, beautifully written, and students love it.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: downer on August 13, 2019, 02:42:54 PM
Just finished "One Day" by David Nicholls. Reader, I have to confess I really enjoyed it. It was a little tragic, and had a lot of the misery of unhappy marriages in it.

I know it was made into a movie with Anne Hathaway, Jim Sturgess, and Patricia Clarkson. Not just a movie, a "rom com". It's the sort of movie I hate. But something about Nicholls' writing gets me. I will just avoid the movie.

I admit there are problems with the book's plot. But it does bittersweet so well.

His new book, Sweet Sorrow, is already out in the UK, but not in the US until next May. Ugh! I guess I can wait.

Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: spork on August 13, 2019, 03:02:39 PM
Tried reading two of Yiyun Li's short story collections -- Gold Boy, Emerald Girl and A Thousand Years of Good Prayers. Read a few stories in each but couldn't finish either volume. Too depressing, as one might expect from an author who tried to commit suicide twice but failed, and whose son succeeded.

Did finish Lisa Halliday's Asymmetry. The writing was very good but I couldn't figure out what all the fuss was about. I didn't get why this novel was supposedly such a phenomenon.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: downer on August 13, 2019, 03:26:39 PM
Tried reading two of Yiyun Li's short story collections -- Gold Boy, Emerald Girl and A Thousand Years of Good Prayers. Read a few stories in each but couldn't finish either volume. Too depressing, as one might expect from an author who tried to commit suicide twice but failed, and whose son succeeded.

Did finish Lisa Halliday's Asymmetry. The writing was very good but I couldn't figure out what all the fuss was about. I didn't get why this novel was supposedly such a phenomenon.

As the New Yorker (https://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/why-asymmetry-has-become-a-literary-phenomenon) said
Quote
The novel surely owes some of its event-ness to the voyeuristic thrill of reading about watching baseball in bed next to Philip Roth; ordering Walnettos from the Vermont Country Store account belonging to Philip Roth; having geriatric, Hasbro-inflected sex with Philip Roth. (“He came like a weak water bubbler.”)

Apart from that, it wasn't as interesting as people made out.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: drbrt on August 13, 2019, 03:33:11 PM
I read a bunch of the Spellmonger series over the summer. It was interesting but unchallenging, which how my summer reading often goes. I'm currently rereading Drew Hayes' Super Powereds series.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on August 13, 2019, 03:38:41 PM
We recently finished A Column of Fire (Ken Follett).  I ended up liking it a bit more than I had expected, which is a little odd because I really enjoyed the previous two books.  His books are such tomes and don't have any carryover between the people I get invested in in each offering that I guess I always fear that each new one won't be so interesting.  This book focuses a lot on the religious/political dynamics of England, Spain, Scotland, and France (primarily) in the time just before/during/after Elizabeth I.  The story is fairly one-sided, in that it is told mostly from the view of Protestants who were targeted, had their property taken, were burned for heresy, etc. by the Catholics while they themselves allegedly strove for religious tolerance.   I say "allegedly" because politics and related issues seem to have made that mission go astray.  However, it's fairly clear that the reader is supposed to root very strongly for the Protestant characters.  In any case, we both enjoyed the book despite the usual villains and heroes approach and the somewhat less compelling characters.  Some ways along while reading, I realized that I had recently seen a Twitter post about a key plot point as it occurred in history.  Partner apparently forgot that I had told him about it, but I was excited to see how it would play out in the book.  Maybe the historical ties made up for some of the less interesting or likable people.

Now we are reading Trinity (Leon Uris), because apparently we are in a religious/political historical fiction mood.  I've read this one before but hadn't recalled how funny it is at times (and certainly not at other times).   I had also forgotten how tiny the type is in this copy (though I am glad to not have the huge heavy Follett book to lug around).  I guess I have gotten a wee bit older since having read it before.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: S-4711 on August 13, 2019, 04:22:58 PM
"Conflict in the Caucasus: Georgia, Abkhazia and the Russian Shadow" by Svetlana Chervonnaya. A solid, objective analysis of the events leading to the Georgian-Abkhazian War of 1992-93.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: archaeo42 on August 14, 2019, 06:00:21 AM
I recently finished Postcards from a Stranger by Imogen Clark. It's about a woman who finds out her dead mother isn't dead after all and the fallout as she learns that multiple people in her life have lied to her about what they knew. I enjoyed it but the very end of the epilogue turned me off and felt a bit trite.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Scout on August 14, 2019, 08:14:03 AM
We recently finished A Column of Fire (Ken Follett).  I ended up liking it a bit more than I had expected, which is a little odd because I really enjoyed the previous two books.  His books are such tomes and don't have any carryover between the people I get invested in in each offering that I guess I always fear that each new one won't be so interesting.  This book focuses a lot on the religious/political dynamics of England, Spain, Scotland, and France (primarily) in the time just before/during/after Elizabeth I.  The story is fairly one-sided, in that it is told mostly from the view of Protestants who were targeted, had their property taken, were burned for heresy, etc. by the Catholics while they themselves allegedly strove for religious tolerance.   I say "allegedly" because politics and related issues seem to have made that mission go astray.  However, it's fairly clear that the reader is supposed to root very strongly for the Protestant characters.  In any case, we both enjoyed the book despite the usual villains and heroes approach and the somewhat less compelling characters.  Some ways along while reading, I realized that I had recently seen a Twitter post about a key plot point as it occurred in history.  Partner apparently forgot that I had told him about it, but I was excited to see how it would play out in the book.  Maybe the historical ties made up for some of the less interesting or likable people.

Now we are reading Trinity (Leon Uris), because apparently we are in a religious/political historical fiction mood.  I've read this one before but hadn't recalled how funny it is at times (and certainly not at other times).   I had also forgotten how tiny the type is in this copy (though I am glad to not have the huge heavy Follett book to lug around).  I guess I have gotten a wee bit older since having read it before.

Thank you- I hadn't realized another book in the series had been released. Getting it now-
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: wareagle on August 15, 2019, 02:28:30 PM
I'm reading Under the Banner of Heaven, Jon Krakauer.  I like his books, tragic though most of them seem.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: spork on August 15, 2019, 04:17:35 PM
I'm reading Under the Banner of Heaven, Jon Krakauer.  I like his books, tragic though most of them seem.

I remember this book. It was good. You might like Educated by Tara Westover -- a first-person account of growing up in a family of abusive, on-the-fringe believers.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Juvenal on August 16, 2019, 11:38:11 AM
Agrippina by Emma Southen, a history of Imperial Rome, from about Tiberius to the death of Nero, with a focus on Agrippina the Younger, done in a racy, conversational style, not afraid of the f-word (for those doing it or not), with a focus on Agrippina, sister of Caligula, wife of Claudius, mother of Nero, finally murdered by Nero.  A feminist view, a lot of speculation, as there is not much authentic material about Agrippina, whole years of her life blank in history, save pejorative mentions in some later writers of the time-Tacitus, Dio Cassius. So, not just Agrippina, but the status of Roman women, and asides about many other topics in early Imperial Rome.  With zingers along the way.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on August 22, 2019, 08:13:21 AM
I've been reading Malka Older's Centenal Cycle. The first book is called Infomocracy and the second, which I'm halfway through, is Null States. It's a really smart, imaginative view of a medium-future (late 21st century) earth, which has adopted a vastly different global governance system of 'microdemocracy': The world is divided into 'centenals' of 100,000 people each and they vote on one of a few thousand different possible governments. To the extent that there's anything resembling a nation-state, it's the patchwork of centenals around the globe that all happen to share a government, but of course at each election a centenal can switch to a new government. The events of the first book cover one such election, which is full of all sorts of shenanigans. Highly recommended!
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: the_geneticist on August 22, 2019, 09:31:03 AM
Yay, this thread!

I just finished Kameron Hurley's The Stars are Legion, which was incredibly gross and incredibly awesome. Enormous organic world-ships in space that are so old that everyone has basically forgotten how they work, rotting from cancerous disorders, and filled inside with lots of different, uniquely horrifying biosystems and cultures of people who don't even believe they're on a world-ship. There's a wonderful subversion of the whole 'live as one with nature' trope, because the people and the world-ships are perfectly aligned with each other: you can eat or drink anything you find, and you don't get infections in wounds, because the human/world-ship biology is so compatible; yet the flip side of that is a ton of body horror: women literally birth organic ship components, and everything can be 'recycled', which means lots of scenes in the deepest depths, where organic material (such as dead or not-yet-dead bodies) rots and is eaten by the recycling organisms.

In some ways Hurley's work reminds me of the opening scenes in Bones episodes: she takes such a delight in imagining the grossest possible things that could happen, and she has such a fertile imagination in rendering it.

I'm now reading Jeanette Ng's Under the Pendulum Sun, which is about Christian missionaries going off into Faerie to convert the fae, and not doing very well. Some of the elements are really beautifully imagined (especially the pendulum sun and the fish moon), but there's a weird sort-of-incestuous plot line that I'm not digging.
I'm almost done reading The Stars are Legion.  It's fantastic! Gross, and weird, and fantastic.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: nescafe on August 29, 2019, 07:25:01 AM
I just finished The Boat People by Sharon Bala. A brilliant debut novelization of refugee detention centers, and the processing of 500 Sri Lankan refugees who arrived in Canada by boat after fleeing the civil war. Definitely recommended, not only for its salience to our own moment but because it is beautifully narrated and makes plain the many legal and ethical issues involved in this work.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: hmaria1609 on August 29, 2019, 07:11:58 PM
Enjoying "The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club" series by Theodora Goss:
The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter
European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman

The #3 and final novel The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl comes out next month.

More about the author here: https://theodoragoss.com (https://theodoragoss.com)
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: nebo113 on August 30, 2019, 04:56:06 AM
Enjoying "The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club" series by Theodora Goss:
The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter
European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman

The #3 and final novel The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl comes out next month.

More about the author here: https://theodoragoss.com (https://theodoragoss.com)

Thanks for this link.  Sounds intriguing.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: traductio on August 30, 2019, 10:11:59 AM
Every summer, or almost, I read Madlands (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1356711.Madlands) by J. Allen Kirsch. It is a poorly typeset campy soap-operatic romp that also happens to satirize (lovingly) one of my favorite places, Madison, Wisconsin. It's a send-up of academic culture, and I can never seem to put it down.

This year I discovered there's a sequel called God's Little Isthmus, and my copy finally came in the mail today. Its typesetting is much better, but that's all that's changed, I'm happy to report.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on September 24, 2019, 12:38:56 PM
We finished Trinity (Uris) a while back.  It's quite a tale, heartbreaking at times, entertaining at times, pretty engaging.  There were quite a few aspects that seemed very relevant to today, politics, treatment of different groups of people, identity, and so forth.  We decided to hold off a bit before reading Redemption, which I think picks up a bit later from the point of view of others in one of the families. 

After that, we read Solaris (Stanislaw Lem).  My partner had seen the George Clooney version of the movie and thought it was intriguing and, although the book is a bit different, we agreed that it also fits that description.  After writing up my little review below, I looked it up on Amazon to try to find a description that provides some context without giving anything away, and I noticed that a reviewer commented that it's good "if you like asking questions more than getting answers."  You'll see that I agree with that! It's described elsewhere as "philosophical science fiction".  I would sum it up as essentially a quest to understand the planet Solaris that scientists are studying in the research station that is stationed above the planet.  I thought most of the book (which is not very long) was creepy and dreadful in a good way.  There is clearly something going on, and it's fun to speculate about what with all the happenings.  From my point of view, some parts during which historical and geographical aspects are described in really painful detail take away from an otherwise enthralling book.  I am torn on this because I felt that those sections were excruciatingly long compared to the total length of the book and did not seem to contribute much to solving any of the mysteries about what was occurring.  But, I realize that I may have missed key elements, having fallen asleep several times during those parts.  My partner did not identify anything important, but I think he also felt that those parts (though few) were quite a slog.  We also agreed that the book did not seem to wrap up in a satisfying way.  Again, this may be due to being used to books that at least attempt to tie up loose ends.  Here, there were a number of threads of interest and questions raised throughout the book that were not solved or answered, as far as I could tell.  There were some fairly thought-provoking discussions of humanity, intelligence, and relationships but, again, I wasn't sure they went anywhere at the end.  Still, I appreciate books that stoke that desire to hash out our thoughts in detail and try to figure out what might be meant by what.  Partner and I had different takes on some of it, so we got some good debates out of it.  It's hard to tell sometimes whether an author meant to leave things a certain way or just ran out of steam, or who knows what. 

Now we are reading Empire Falls (Richard Russo), which won the Pulitzer and was apparently written between the two previous books of his we'd read (Nobody's Fool and follow up Everybody's Fool).  I'd guess we're about 3/4 of the way through.  It reminds me very much of Nobody's Fool in terms of the setting (town based around some industry that has dried up, college/rival town nearby) and some of the character types and lifestyle fixtures (the local bars everyone goes to, the diner everyone eats at).  I loved Nobody's Fool, and I am anxious to see how this story turns out.  It has been hard to put this book down.  I think Russo has a great ability to write about scenes in a way that is matter-of-fact, dry, and absurdist... completely hilarious (my kind of humor).  The other night we were up way too late reading and had tears streaming from the laughter about one particular section.  While these kinds of scenes and depictions have come up several times in the books of his we've read, he is also very good (I think) about subtly painting characters a little more deeply and a little more deeply during a book.  They start out almost as stereotypes, but they get layered as time goes on, and I find myself really drawn to a number of them and caring about how things play out for them (and, there are some really unlikable folks, of course).  There are a couple little mysteries going on that I am impatient to find out the answers to.  We still have a ways to go, but that is my report so far. 

Just figured I'd bump the thread up.  It's interesting to see what everyone's reading.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: scamp on September 24, 2019, 01:35:50 PM

Now we are reading Empire Falls (Richard Russo), which won the Pulitzer and was apparently written between the two previous books of his we'd read (Nobody's Fool and follow up Everybody's Fool).  I'd guess we're about 3/4 of the way through.  It reminds me very much of Nobody's Fool in terms of the setting (town based around some industry that has dried up, college/rival town nearby) and some of the character types and lifestyle fixtures (the local bars everyone goes to, the diner everyone eats at).  I loved Nobody's Fool, and I am anxious to see how this story turns out.  It has been hard to put this book down.  I think Russo has a great ability to write about scenes in a way that is matter-of-fact, dry, and absurdist... completely hilarious (my kind of humor).  The other night we were up way too late reading and had tears streaming from the laughter about one particular section.  While these kinds of scenes and depictions have come up several times in the books of his we've read, he is also very good (I think) about subtly painting characters a little more deeply and a little more deeply during a book.  They start out almost as stereotypes, but they get layered as time goes on, and I find myself really drawn to a number of them and caring about how things play out for them (and, there are some really unlikable folks, of course).  There are a couple little mysteries going on that I am impatient to find out the answers to.  We still have a ways to go, but that is my report so far. 

I just watched the Empire Falls miniseries with Ed Harris on Amazon Prime recently. I am intrigued to read the book now as it does take a sudden turn and I am wondering how that is treated in the book. Also there are lots of characters and I think many probably get short shrift in a TV movie, even in mini-series format like this.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on September 24, 2019, 01:56:32 PM

Now we are reading Empire Falls (Richard Russo), which won the Pulitzer and was apparently written between the two previous books of his we'd read (Nobody's Fool and follow up Everybody's Fool).  I'd guess we're about 3/4 of the way through.  It reminds me very much of Nobody's Fool in terms of the setting (town based around some industry that has dried up, college/rival town nearby) and some of the character types and lifestyle fixtures (the local bars everyone goes to, the diner everyone eats at).  I loved Nobody's Fool, and I am anxious to see how this story turns out.  It has been hard to put this book down.  I think Russo has a great ability to write about scenes in a way that is matter-of-fact, dry, and absurdist... completely hilarious (my kind of humor).  The other night we were up way too late reading and had tears streaming from the laughter about one particular section.  While these kinds of scenes and depictions have come up several times in the books of his we've read, he is also very good (I think) about subtly painting characters a little more deeply and a little more deeply during a book.  They start out almost as stereotypes, but they get layered as time goes on, and I find myself really drawn to a number of them and caring about how things play out for them (and, there are some really unlikable folks, of course).  There are a couple little mysteries going on that I am impatient to find out the answers to.  We still have a ways to go, but that is my report so far. 

I just watched the Empire Falls miniseries with Ed Harris on Amazon Prime recently. I am intrigued to read the book now as it does take a sudden turn and I am wondering how that is treated in the book. Also there are lots of characters and I think many probably get short shrift in a TV movie, even in mini-series format like this.

There are a couple story arcs going on in the book that I fear may take turns in ways that I wouldn't hope for.  One in particular concerns a character who clearly has some issues.  I am hoping the character turns out to have a good resolution, but my partner thinks it will end up quite poorly, and I am starting to think he might be right.  I would like to see the miniseries and how all of these characters and situations are handled.  There is so much subtlety to the storytelling that it seems as though it would be a challenge to really get across some of the depth.  However, partner saw the movie Nobody's Fool with Paul Newman and loved it and thought it was very well done despite not being quite as good as the book (which he read later).  Some of the choices of actors were particularly spot on and memorable in their roles, in his opinion.  A few important aspects were changed in the movie, though.  At least it seems that a mini-series might have more room to explore things than a movie, but there are examples supporting and refuting this idea.  I would love to know what you think if you read it!
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Puget on September 24, 2019, 03:57:48 PM

Now we are reading Empire Falls (Richard Russo), which won the Pulitzer and was apparently written between the two previous books of his we'd read (Nobody's Fool and follow up Everybody's Fool).  I'd guess we're about 3/4 of the way through.  It reminds me very much of Nobody's Fool in terms of the setting (town based around some industry that has dried up, college/rival town nearby) and some of the character types and lifestyle fixtures (the local bars everyone goes to, the diner everyone eats at).  I loved Nobody's Fool, and I am anxious to see how this story turns out.  It has been hard to put this book down.  I think Russo has a great ability to write about scenes in a way that is matter-of-fact, dry, and absurdist... completely hilarious (my kind of humor).  The other night we were up way too late reading and had tears streaming from the laughter about one particular section.  While these kinds of scenes and depictions have come up several times in the books of his we've read, he is also very good (I think) about subtly painting characters a little more deeply and a little more deeply during a book.  They start out almost as stereotypes, but they get layered as time goes on, and I find myself really drawn to a number of them and caring about how things play out for them (and, there are some really unlikable folks, of course).  There are a couple little mysteries going on that I am impatient to find out the answers to.  We still have a ways to go, but that is my report so far. 

I just watched the Empire Falls miniseries with Ed Harris on Amazon Prime recently. I am intrigued to read the book now as it does take a sudden turn and I am wondering how that is treated in the book. Also there are lots of characters and I think many probably get short shrift in a TV movie, even in mini-series format like this.

There are a couple story arcs going on in the book that I fear may take turns in ways that I wouldn't hope for.  One in particular concerns a character who clearly has some issues.  I am hoping the character turns out to have a good resolution, but my partner thinks it will end up quite poorly, and I am starting to think he might be right.  I would like to see the miniseries and how all of these characters and situations are handled.  There is so much subtlety to the storytelling that it seems as though it would be a challenge to really get across some of the depth.  However, partner saw the movie Nobody's Fool with Paul Newman and loved it and thought it was very well done despite not being quite as good as the book (which he read later).  Some of the choices of actors were particularly spot on and memorable in their roles, in his opinion.  A few important aspects were changed in the movie, though.  At least it seems that a mini-series might have more room to explore things than a movie, but there are examples supporting and refuting this idea.  I would love to know what you think if you read it!
I won't give anything away except to say you are indeed in for some swerves.
I too love Russo-- he's a master at characters and story telling. If you haven't already, read Straight Man next-- it's an academic novel, and one of his funniest I think. I also love That Old Cape Magic.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on September 24, 2019, 04:17:13 PM

Now we are reading Empire Falls (Richard Russo), which won the Pulitzer and was apparently written between the two previous books of his we'd read (Nobody's Fool and follow up Everybody's Fool).  I'd guess we're about 3/4 of the way through.  It reminds me very much of Nobody's Fool in terms of the setting (town based around some industry that has dried up, college/rival town nearby) and some of the character types and lifestyle fixtures (the local bars everyone goes to, the diner everyone eats at).  I loved Nobody's Fool, and I am anxious to see how this story turns out.  It has been hard to put this book down.  I think Russo has a great ability to write about scenes in a way that is matter-of-fact, dry, and absurdist... completely hilarious (my kind of humor).  The other night we were up way too late reading and had tears streaming from the laughter about one particular section.  While these kinds of scenes and depictions have come up several times in the books of his we've read, he is also very good (I think) about subtly painting characters a little more deeply and a little more deeply during a book.  They start out almost as stereotypes, but they get layered as time goes on, and I find myself really drawn to a number of them and caring about how things play out for them (and, there are some really unlikable folks, of course).  There are a couple little mysteries going on that I am impatient to find out the answers to.  We still have a ways to go, but that is my report so far. 

I just watched the Empire Falls miniseries with Ed Harris on Amazon Prime recently. I am intrigued to read the book now as it does take a sudden turn and I am wondering how that is treated in the book. Also there are lots of characters and I think many probably get short shrift in a TV movie, even in mini-series format like this.

There are a couple story arcs going on in the book that I fear may take turns in ways that I wouldn't hope for.  One in particular concerns a character who clearly has some issues.  I am hoping the character turns out to have a good resolution, but my partner thinks it will end up quite poorly, and I am starting to think he might be right.  I would like to see the miniseries and how all of these characters and situations are handled.  There is so much subtlety to the storytelling that it seems as though it would be a challenge to really get across some of the depth.  However, partner saw the movie Nobody's Fool with Paul Newman and loved it and thought it was very well done despite not being quite as good as the book (which he read later).  Some of the choices of actors were particularly spot on and memorable in their roles, in his opinion.  A few important aspects were changed in the movie, though.  At least it seems that a mini-series might have more room to explore things than a movie, but there are examples supporting and refuting this idea.  I would love to know what you think if you read it!
I won't give anything away except to say you are indeed in for some swerves.
I too love Russo-- he's a master at characters and story telling. If you haven't already, read Straight Man next-- it's an academic novel, and one of his funniest I think. I also love That Old Cape Magic.

Thanks for the confirmation about what may be coming up.  Given some clues so far, I am really anxious to find out what the deal is.  I want to speed up the reading but also savor it, alas.  What a good dilemma to have.  And thanks for the recommendations (have put them firmly on the list)! I have enjoyed his books so much, probably more solidly throughout the three books that we've read/are reading than for any other author, and I have some favorite authors.  It's nice to know that there are still yet more of his that are worth the read! Each time we read another I wonder if this is it, the last good one.  Surely, there can't be more.  This is very exciting.   I wish I had come across his books years ago.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on September 24, 2019, 11:52:55 PM
I went through a huge Russo phase some years ago, and the similarities of settings, lifestyle fixtures, and character types that you noticed, ab_grp, are in all of the books. They are all set in a decaying New England town where the industry is gone but left behind carcinogenic pollution, and there's a wise-cracking cynic who's kind of an asshole, in many cases because some interaction of economic and family pressures meant that he had to give up his prospects for a better future away from the town. I remember loving Straight Man when I first read it, but on re-reading I decided that the wise-cracking cynic was too much of an asshole. One thing I liked about Nobody's Fool is that our wise-cracking cynical asshole is constantly being called out and criticized for his assholery, which doesn't happen in Straight Man.

I also remember putting down Empire Falls and thinking what an astonishingly depressing book it was, but then I was a junior in college at the time, and probably too young for many of the points about disappointment and compromise to resonate properly.

Of all of Russo's books, I think I liked Nobody's Fool the best. The ending was really satisfying.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: lsmrlnds on September 25, 2019, 05:24:58 AM
I'm determined to make it through the The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan.  Started it a few years okay because my brother had a few of the books lying around, but I never did finish the series, although I've always wanted to.  I'm on Book 5 of 14....
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: downer on September 25, 2019, 05:38:04 AM
I read an advance copy of Becoming a Man, by P. Carl. It was smart and interesting. But it still left me wondering why it is OK for some to engage in such gender stereotyping.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on September 27, 2019, 12:44:11 PM
I went through a huge Russo phase some years ago, and the similarities of settings, lifestyle fixtures, and character types that you noticed, ab_grp, are in all of the books. They are all set in a decaying New England town where the industry is gone but left behind carcinogenic pollution, and there's a wise-cracking cynic who's kind of an asshole, in many cases because some interaction of economic and family pressures meant that he had to give up his prospects for a better future away from the town. I remember loving Straight Man when I first read it, but on re-reading I decided that the wise-cracking cynic was too much of an asshole. One thing I liked about Nobody's Fool is that our wise-cracking cynical asshole is constantly being called out and criticized for his assholery, which doesn't happen in Straight Man.

I also remember putting down Empire Falls and thinking what an astonishingly depressing book it was, but then I was a junior in college at the time, and probably too young for many of the points about disappointment and compromise to resonate properly.

Of all of Russo's books, I think I liked Nobody's Fool the best. The ending was really satisfying.

I agree with so much (all?) of this! We finished Empire Falls last night.  I've been thinking about a couple aspects that I guess I shouldn't mention explicitly except to say that I wonder how the timing of the release of the book versus now would change the reception to it.  I also wonder about some of what I think are parallels in behaviors that in some cases I think are supposed to be supported and in others are supposed to be reviled.  There are a lot of great parts of this book.  The story builds pretty slowly, as in Nobody's Fool, but the end comes very swiftly, and I felt that the epilogue was tacked on to tie up loose strings (not in a very satisfying way, in my opinion).  I do think Nobody's Fool was the better novel.  It didn't seem at any time to be going for the cheap gags or feels.  I would say all three we've read have different mixes of character development, hijinx, and action.  Nobody's Fool seems to be on one end of the spectrum.  The characters felt very real to me, as if I would recognize them if I ran into them somewhere.  There was certainly hijinx, though not over the top.  There was very little in the way of what might be considered action (compared to the other two).  It was just a slow, layered, really engrossing, lovely, painful, wonderful story well told.  I would put Everybody's Fool down as medium character development (even though a lot of the characters are the same as in NF, I don't think they're as vivid at times here) and a hefty amount of hijinx and action.  I didn't think everything came together as well as it could have, and it felt more superficial, but still a good story that was great at times.  As for Empire Falls, it was really enjoyable overall and very well told through most of it.   The major action was foreshadowed pretty well as things evolved but was still quite powerful.   There was some hijinx, though it's not easy to place that right now.  I guess I just didn't really feel the characters as much as in the other books.  I didn't get a really good sense of who the main characters were, and some of the others were such caricatures that I could completely picture them but didn't care much about them.  It seemed as though there was an additional little mystery going on throughout, but that seemed to get sidelined and just written off hastily.  At the end, I just didn't care much where life would take most of the characters, which is a little odd given how similar the book initially seemed to NF.  I would happily read about Sully and crew's everyday life.   Maybe Russo will write a prequel to NF someday! I am looking forward to the other books recommended here.  I just looked him up, and apparently he has a PhD.  I wonder how common that is.

We started re-reading Catch-22 (Heller) last night as a palate cleanser.  I'm not sure if we will stick to that or move on to another new book.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: scamp on October 01, 2019, 01:18:38 PM
Maybe I will read Nobody's Fool first, before picking up the novel version of Empire Falls. I enjoyed Straight Man as well, which is maybe another reason I was taken off guard by Empire Falls. I now live in the type of town he writes about, which adds an extra element when I read.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: wareagle on October 01, 2019, 04:53:22 PM
Russo taught at Colby College for many years.  He's an academic as well as an author, which is why Straight Man is classic higher-ed literature.  It remains my favorite of his books, although Empire Falls is a close second.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on October 07, 2019, 03:27:49 PM
We picked up both the recommended Russo books and look forward to reading them (and hearing what others have to say as they read his various books)!

After re-reading a bit of Catch-22 that evening, we chose to move on to Foundation and Empire (Asimov).  Neither of us found it as engaging as Foundation was, and we had some issues with how things played out.  I am interested to see what happens in the next book, as this one introduced another intrigue beyond the more straight-forward sci-fi of the first.  What I liked so much about the first book, the military and political strategy and some of the philosophical aspects, were not as much represented here, in my opinion.  The new threat seems more of a fantasy element, and while the gist of it makes sense with respect to what Hari Seldon could or could not predict through psychohistory, I am skeptical of whether it will seem as compelling to me.  Although I grew up with all the Asimov books that my father loved so much, I never read them because at the time they seemed way too sci-fi and technical for me from the book blurbs.  I was excited to find that Foundation (read about 1.5 yrs ago) worked on so many other levels that I could relate to, even as a relatively novice sci-fi reader.  I didn't think this book's characters or the plot pulled me in as much.  There was a review I read on Goodreads afterward that pretty much summed up my thoughts on it, and the review is also posted here: https://notbadmoviereviews.wordpress.com/books/foundation-2/ (https://notbadmoviereviews.wordpress.com/books/foundation-2/).   A major plot twist seemed pretty easy to figure out fairly early on, and the Scooby Doo "all about me and how I did it" type of explanation at the end was just ugh.   But, it was worth reading, and we will be reading Second Foundation sooner or later to find out what happens next.  Asimov had so many neat ideas.

Next up is Sarah's Key (Tatiana de Rosnay), which I read quite a while back. 
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on October 28, 2019, 01:32:38 PM
I'm a few books behind now, so maybe everyone else has also been too busy reading to update!

Let's see.  We read Sarah's Key, as I mentioned in my last post.  It's a very tragic story, and the historical parts are difficult but important to think about (sadly, relevant today).  I was not as much a fan of some of the wrapper (modern timeline) story or most of those characters.  The older storyline takes place mostly in 1942 in Paris around the time of the Vel d'Hiv' round up, detention, and deportation (mainly, ultimately, to Auschwitz, it seems) of thousands of Jewish men, women, and children.  A tale worth reading for the history if not as much for the other stuff.

We then read Blood Music (Greg Bear).  Definitely a strange book. It's basically about a scientist who does some genetic manipulation outside the bounds of his role at the company he works for.  He gets in trouble once he's discovered by his employers but decides he can't kill what he's created, so he injects himself with it on the sly, and mayhem ensues.  It's very creepy at times, and I think fairly thought provoking in some ways, but I wasn't thrilled with it overall.  I think it started as a short story, and maybe it should have stayed that way.

Now we are reading Out Stealing Horses (Per Petterson), which I read a couple years back.  This takes place in Norway, and though I do not remember much of it, it seems to be a remembrance of a tragic and eventful summer.  It's pretty gripping so far, and I really like the writing. 
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: downer on October 28, 2019, 02:38:23 PM
The Dutch House, by Ann Patchett. I enjoyed it, to be sure, but basically I found it undemanding and not as deep as so many reviews say it is.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Tine0625 on October 28, 2019, 03:36:49 PM
The Cook by Maylis de Kerangal. It's very interesting for people like who loves novels about food :)
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: wareagle on October 29, 2019, 07:02:04 PM
I recently finished Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend.  Highly readable and creative.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Second Chance on October 31, 2019, 07:49:25 AM
For novels, i sort of liked The weight of ink (prof is main protaganist) and liked the style of Where the Crawdids sing (written by a naturalist). For non-fiction, I forced myself to read Sapiens, since a friend of mine who loved it recently passed away. Waiting for a library (kindle) copy of Pollin's latest book. Nothing has blown me away lately. Kindle has changed the way I read.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on November 05, 2019, 10:56:31 AM
We finished Out Stealing Horses a few nights ago.  It was hard to put down at times, and the writing is really splendid in some places, but we both felt that the story was a bit lacking.  Maybe it just didn't seem to come together well? But we really enjoyed reading the book. 

After that, we started on Agent to the Stars (Scalzi).  As I have said elsewhere, I absolutely loved his Fuzzy Nation but thought that Red Shirts wasn't quite as good as I expected.  This book seems a bit funnier than RS (which also had some pretty touching parts).  We are barely into it, but I'm anticipating hijinx.  I think that all three of these books have interesting concepts, so I always appreciate seeing where he'll take them.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mamselle on November 05, 2019, 02:13:32 PM
Parts of 56 books I set aside at the OSU music and dance library, which I've also scanned, over the past three days.

Heaven....

M.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on November 22, 2019, 11:38:50 AM
We finished Agent to the Stars.  Overall, I'd probably put it second in the list of Scalzi books we've read.  It was very funny at times, had an interesting premise that was pretty well executed, and some surprisingly touching points (which Scalzi seems to be good at inserting into otherwise humorous tales).

Since then, we've been reading Black Swan Green (David Mitchell), which I read a few years ago.  I remember it as being pretty good but not great.  I think I am enjoying it more this time.  Really, reading to each other has been eye-opening.  It has changed how I've thought of so many books!
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: archaeo42 on November 22, 2019, 12:32:42 PM
I finished Thick: And Other Essays by Tressie McMillan Cottom the other night. I wish it was longer. I really enjoy the way she weaves in theory with popular writing.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Bede the Vulnerable on November 23, 2019, 12:47:47 AM
Just received Houellebecq's "Serotonin" in the mail a couple days ago.  I should be grading, so I'm reading it instead.  He's my favorite contemporary author, and this one--thus far--does not disappoint.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on December 04, 2019, 02:29:05 PM
We finished Black Swan Green.  I did end up enjoying it quite a bit more all the way through.  Maybe different parts just resonate with me now.   Some of the characters and scenes are just great.  It covers one year in an early teenage life in early 80's England, but it still feels very relatable.   Some of the observations and depictions are really well rendered.

Then we started Cryptonomicon, which we have both read before and loved.  I read it many years ago and don't remember too much of it but got back into it pretty quickly.  It's another book with some really entertaining and interesting characters and scenes, and it's also pretty fascinating, too!   
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Vkw10 on December 04, 2019, 06:59:56 PM
I'm reading Robert Heinlein's I Will Fear No Evil, which I recall enjoying in my late teens. In my mid-50s, I'm finding it rather depressing and moralistic. Can I call a book with so much discussion of nudity and swinging moralistic? not sure I'll finish it.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Puget on December 04, 2019, 07:19:06 PM

The second book in the "Rivers of London" serious by Ben Aaronovitch -- fantasy meets police procedural in modern day London. They are fun and smart and not too heavy, which is just what I want at the stressful end of the semester. I've acquired the third book to take on my winter break trip. There are 8 total and counting so I won't run out anytime soon.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: archaeo42 on December 05, 2019, 06:42:00 AM
Crazy Rich Asians. I found it fun although I think I was more interested to see how it differed from the movie.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on December 05, 2019, 07:42:41 AM
The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern. It's a beautiful, magical book with an unhurried narrative style, about a continuing competition between magicians who use a circus as a venue to display their talents to their fullest. It reminds me of a combination of Natasha Pulley (for the narrative style), Jonathan L Howard's Joannes Cabal books (for the traveling magic circus), and Frances Hardinge's A Face Like Glass (for the beautifully imaginative details).
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: downer on December 05, 2019, 08:38:06 AM
Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams. A great book about ethicnity, relationships, sex, and friendship. Often very funny but also really interesting.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: onthefringe on December 05, 2019, 09:50:15 AM

The second book in the "Rivers of London" serious by Ben Aaronovitch -- fantasy meets police procedural in modern day London. They are fun and smart and not too heavy, which is just what I want at the stressful end of the semester. I've acquired the third book to take on my winter break trip. There are 8 total and counting so I won't run out anytime soon.

I love these. If you like audiobooks at all, try those. The narrator is fabulous, and adds to the already great experience enough that I alway “read” this series by audiobook if possible.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Puget on December 05, 2019, 11:35:05 AM

The second book in the "Rivers of London" serious by Ben Aaronovitch -- fantasy meets police procedural in modern day London. They are fun and smart and not too heavy, which is just what I want at the stressful end of the semester. I've acquired the third book to take on my winter break trip. There are 8 total and counting so I won't run out anytime soon.

I love these. If you like audiobooks at all, try those. The narrator is fabulous, and adds to the already great experience enough that I alway “read” this series by audiobook if possible.

Yes! I did listen to the first two on audiobook but got a paperback for the next one since the wait for the audiobook at the library was super long.
I love audiobooks in general-- it's one of the perks, besides the built in exercise, of my half hour walking commute.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on December 05, 2019, 12:28:51 PM
I finally read all of The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan, after many years of reading bits and pieces of it.  A classic religious allegory that's also a leading contender for the first fantasy novel in English, depending on how one defines the genre.  As allegory a great deal of it still rings true.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: hmaria1609 on December 07, 2019, 07:35:54 PM
I haven't posted any of my reads in a long time! Here are two that I read this week:
Dream City: Race, Power, and the Decline of Washington, DC, 20th anniversary edition by Harry Jaffe and Tom Sherwood (NF)
I was seeing this book on and off in the library over the years. Finally got to read it when a replacement copy arrived at the library. Worthwhile read about DC during the 1980s-'90s. The authors wrote a new afterword for the 2nd edition, providing an update since its original 1994 publication.

Queen of Nothing by Holly Black (YA)
Final and #3 installment in the best selling "Folk of the Air" trilogy.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: spork on December 23, 2019, 02:38:48 PM
Just received Houellebecq's "Serotonin" in the mail a couple days ago.  I should be grading, so I'm reading it instead.  He's my favorite contemporary author, and this one--thus far--does not disappoint.

The only novel of his that I've read is Submission, which I liked because of how it veered between a satire of academics, a lesson on parliamentary French politics, and a political thriller. Is Serotonin as good?

Nearing the end of Stephen King's 11/22/63, which I've liked so far.

Didn't finish The Hidden History of Burma by Thant Myint-U. It needs a hook. Or at least the fundamental narrative needs to be more prominent.

Almost done with The Ungrateful Refugee by Dina Nayeri, which is a mix of a memoir and a meditation on the refugee experience. It needs editing. In fact she has what is essentially a condensed version of the book in The Guardian that is much better reading.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: nescafe on December 24, 2019, 10:11:35 PM
Finishing Colson Whitehead's The Nickel Boys tonight. It's an intense read about a boys' reform school based on the author's historical research. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/14/books/review/nickel-boys-colson-whitehead.html (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/14/books/review/nickel-boys-colson-whitehead.html)
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on December 26, 2019, 02:14:41 PM
After 1.5 years of slowly reading The Goldfinch (Donna Tartt) on the side, I have finally finished it.  I went to my Goodreads account to mark it done and give it three stars and read some of the reviews.  A little tidbit of information mentioned in some of the reviews is that the book is 771 pages, which is probably one reason it took so darn long.  I am used to reading 1000-page books (in much less time!) but had no idea this one was actually fairly long and thought it just felt that way and was not very engaging.  This is one thing I do not enjoy about ebooks, not having as much of an idea of what progress has been made! In any case, some other reviewers seemed to agree with my general take but expressed it better.  The book was intriguing at times, informative (e.g., art), and certainly action-packed in places.  However, it also seemed very disjointed, incoherent, and unbelievable.  The vast majority of characters were unlikable (which is fine, but when the story isn't great it's nice to have someone to root for or care about).  I didn't think the ending was satisfying at all.  But, there were some glimmers of pretty good writing (I say eloquently... hey, I'm just the reader).  A shorter and more focused version probably would have been a solid improvement.  There are a bunch of twists and turns, so it's hard to decide how to describe the book without giving some of those away.  Spouse and I are still reading Cryptonomicon, but at least I finally finished this (actually not so little) side hustle and can check that off my holiday time-off task list.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Stockmann on December 26, 2019, 04:30:48 PM
I'm reading Arthur Miller's adaptation of Ibsen's An Enemy of the People. It feels very, very current.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: hmaria1609 on December 26, 2019, 07:11:36 PM
After 1.5 years of slowly reading The Goldfinch (Donna Tartt) on the side, I have finally finished it.  I went to my Goodreads account to mark it done and give it three stars and read some of the reviews.  A little tidbit of information mentioned in some of the reviews is that the book is 771 pages, which is probably one reason it took so darn long.  I am used to reading 1000-page books (in much less time!) but had no idea this one was actually fairly long and thought it just felt that way and was not very engaging.  This is one thing I do not enjoy about ebooks, not having as much of an idea of what progress has been made! In any case, some other reviewers seemed to agree with my general take but expressed it better.  The book was intriguing at times, informative (e.g., art), and certainly action-packed in places.  However, it also seemed very disjointed, incoherent, and unbelievable.  The vast majority of characters were unlikable (which is fine, but when the story isn't great it's nice to have someone to root for or care about).  I didn't think the ending was satisfying at all.  But, there were some glimmers of pretty good writing (I say eloquently... hey, I'm just the reader).  A shorter and more focused version probably would have been a solid improvement.  There are a bunch of twists and turns, so it's hard to decide how to describe the book without giving some of those away.  Spouse and I are still reading Cryptonomicon, but at least I finally finished this (actually not so little) side hustle and can check that off my holiday time-off task list.
The novel was adapted for a movie, and it's now available on DVD and Blu-Ray.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: nescafe on December 29, 2019, 09:23:58 AM
This week it's been Flea's memoir, Acid for the Children. Picked it up in an airport, expecting it to me meh. But it's really entertaining!
https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-album-reviews/flea-red-hot-chili-peppers-book-acid-for-the-children-908218/
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: nebo113 on December 30, 2019, 05:30:10 AM
I finally read all of The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan, after many years of reading bits and pieces of it.  A classic religious allegory that's also a leading contender for the first fantasy novel in English, depending on how one defines the genre.  As allegory a great deal of it still rings true.

WOW!!!
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Anselm on January 03, 2020, 01:02:53 PM
Santa gave me a book I put on my wish list, Bullsh*t Jobs by David Graeber.  He is the same author of Debt: The First 5000 years.   I am just getting into it now.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on January 03, 2020, 04:33:12 PM
Magic for Liars, by Sarah Gailey. For a book about a magic academy, it was a very adult story, told from the perspective of a non-magical PI hired to investigate a murder there. It had all sorts of thinky thoughts about responsibility, about adolescence from the perspective of an adult, about nostalgia and identity, and about family. It took the trope of a dark, brooding PI and gave it depth and meaning beyond simply trying to add a Mood to a murder mystery.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: nebo113 on January 04, 2020, 04:05:48 AM
Where the Crawdads Sing
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: onthefringe on January 04, 2020, 06:20:54 AM
Magic for Liars, by Sarah Gailey. For a book about a magic academy, it was a very adult story, told from the perspective of a non-magical PI hired to investigate a murder there. It had all sorts of thinky thoughts about responsibility, about adolescence from the perspective of an adult, about nostalgia and identity, and about family. It took the trope of a dark, brooding PI and gave it depth and meaning beyond simply trying to add a Mood to a murder mystery.

I have that on hold at my library after reading Hippo River by the same author. Similar themes about identity and family, set in an alternate US where Frederick Russell Burnham’s proposal to farm Hippos for meat actually was accepted.

Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on January 04, 2020, 08:07:19 AM
Where the Crawdads Sing

In the months since our library got its copies they've been continually checked out or on hold.  Only yesterday did I actually see a copy on the shelf!
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: nebo113 on January 05, 2020, 05:33:33 AM
I download from my library and was surprised at how quickly I got it.  I prefer paper but ......
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: archaeo42 on January 07, 2020, 01:10:27 PM
Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak. It's his first book in awhile so I'd forgotten what his writing style was like. I quite enjoyed it once I got into it.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: statsgeek on January 08, 2020, 10:18:12 AM
I loved The Book Thief, but could not get into this one.  Maybe during the next vacation when I can read more than a page in a sitting. 
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: archaeo42 on January 08, 2020, 01:55:52 PM
I loved The Book Thief, but could not get into this one.  Maybe during the next vacation when I can read more than a page in a sitting.

It definitely took a minute to get into it but I was glad I stuck with it.

I wanted to come post here because I started Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe by Jenny Colgan and wanted to thank whoever recommended her. I'm finding it utterly charming and have stayed up waaaay too late reading the past 2 nights because of it.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on January 08, 2020, 03:03:07 PM
I wanted to come post here because I started Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe by Jenny Colgan and wanted to thank whoever recommended her. I'm finding it utterly charming and have stayed up waaaay too late reading the past 2 nights because of it.

Thanks for bringing this up.  I don't think I had seen the initial recommendation (or maybe it just hadn't stuck with me) but looked the book up just now.  Sounds great!
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: 0susanna on January 09, 2020, 10:36:04 AM
I wanted to come post here because I started Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe by Jenny Colgan and wanted to thank whoever recommended her. I'm finding it utterly charming and have stayed up waaaay too late reading the past 2 nights because of it.

Thanks for bringing this up.  I don't think I had seen the initial recommendation (or maybe it just hadn't stuck with me) but looked the book up just now.  Sounds great!
I wasn't the one who recommended Jenny Colgan, but I would have. She is reliably delightful when you need a break.

Recently finished Once Upon a River, by Diane Setterfield (The Thirteenth Tale) and found it engaging magical realism.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: larryc on January 10, 2020, 10:18:29 PM
Colson Whitehead, The Underground Railroad.

Meh. The first third is a dark slog through plantation slavery. The last third is a dark, emotionally manipulative slog where the protagonist goes through a cycle of finding hope and getting crushed. By the last time it is so formulaic.

The middle third is FUCKING BRILLIANT. Whitehead creates an alternative history where the technology of the 1840s is more advanced than it was, powered by dark experiments on black bodies. Whitehead echoes various classic documents and important episodes in African American history. It is fucking brilliant.

Then he wimps out and writes the predictable, meandering, and emotionally manipulative last third. Honestly, the brilliance of the middle part of the book makes me resent the whole so very much.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Parasaurolophus on January 11, 2020, 10:02:19 AM
Hmm. Looks like I haven’t posted an update since the end of June, when I made my last post to the old thread. Henceforth, I'll aim for more of a monthly roundup (at the end of each month). Here goes, then, another massive update. I’ll try to remember my impression of the things I read:


Alastair Reynolds – Shadow Captain: I loved Revenger. This sequel is fun, though not as much fun as its predecessor—probably because the world isn’t as new, and so the world-building just isn’t the same. Still, I enjoyed it, and look forward to the third installment in the trilogy.

Michael Crichton – The Eaters of the Dead: Took me a while to find this one in a book box, but I finally did. It’s a fun re-telling of Beowulf, and representative of Crichton at his best. Honestly, he should have stuck to historical fiction—he did a great job whenever he did.

Michael Crichton – The Great Train Robbery: Vintage Crichton: as I said before, he’s often at his best writing historical fiction, and that’s true of this, too. I’m not at all a fan of the period, but it was a gripping story and well-told.

Michael Crichton – The Terminal Man: So boring. So, so boring. Dull. Ugh.

Michael Crichton – State of Fear: A long, long Gish Gallop against climate change. I think this is the last Crichton novel I had left to read, apart from his pseudonymous medical thrillers. Half of it was super boring, the other half okay (in particular, the brief chunk set in Antarctica). It’s all-in on climate change denial and it spends hundreds of pages justifying itself—poorly, I should add, and with reams of dodgy science, misleading graphs, and half-truths. Not a winner.

Karl Schroeder – Lady of Mazes: I read this on the strength of a friendly acquaintance’s recommendation. Meh. It was pretty slow and dull for most of its runtime, though punctuated with interesting sequences. The plot is relatively complex, but IMO that’s mostly because the story is poorly told, and the revelations aren’t managed well. Lots of telling, not enough showing.

Ann Leckie – The Raven Tower: This was my first proper fantasy novel in years, and it was fantastic. I really enjoyed it, right down to the Pratchett-style take on gods. Telling the story from the point of view of a stationary god is also a neat little trick. I really enjoyed it, and look forward to the sequel. Leckie’s performed a fantastic genre pivot.

Mira Grant – Feedback: I love Feed. Feedback is fun, but really, it’s just Feed retold and, as such, it really lacks the original’s punch and imaginative world-building. It’s a competent novel, but ultimately it’s so similar to the source material that it can’t help but be a little disappointing.

Mira Grant – Rise: The Complete Newsflesh Collection: This was better. It’s a bunch of short stories, some of which are quite powerful (most notably the San Diego ComiCon story, and the Florida one), and others of which are a little dull (e.g. the Australian story, where nothing at all happens). It made for a nice last taste of the Newsflesh world, though.

M.R. Carey – The Girl With All The Gifts: This was a fantastic read, and another great take on the zombie novel (unfortunately, it totally scooped me on the origins of the zombie plague). This was one of my favourite reads of the year, and telling it mostly from a little girl’s perspective was genius. I totally believed the peril, and I nearly wept at how well-executed one of those early scenes was. It makes a few false steps, but it was fantastic nonetheless. A totally unexpected hit.

M.R. Carey – The Boy On The Bridge: This is a surprisingly good sequel (well, prequel) to The Girl With All The Gifts. It’s not as good—the element of surprise is gone—but it manages to tell an interesting story, even if we already know how it’s going to end. A pleasant surprise.

Naomi Klein – The Battle for Paradise: Puerto Rico Takes on the Disaster Capitalists: Short and sweet, a compelling piece of reporting on the climate crisis from Puerto Rico. I learned a lot, especially about Puerto Rico.

Naomi Klein – On Fire: The Burning Case For A Green New Deal: A collection of Klein’s climate change reporting, essays, and speeches. Again, it was totally compelling and I learned a lot (even if I’d read most of the original reporting before). It’s wonderful to have all these pieces collected together. Klein really is a national treasure.

Lois Lowry – Gathering Blue: I don’t remember much about The Giver (to which it’s a sequel, of sorts), except that it was stridently anti-communist. Gathering Blue, however, is stridently anti-capitalist, and it was a fantastic and utterly compelling short piece of teen fiction. I loved it.

Sarah Vowell – Unfamiliar Fishes: I hated this book so much. First of all, it pretends to be a history of Hawai‘i, but spends more time talking about Amrerican missionaries in Connecticut than it does anything Hawaiian. Second, there are long tracts in which Vowell talks about her Cherokee ‘ancestors’—but she isn’t Cherokee! Like Warren, she has one distant Cherokee relative, and that just isn’t enough to make her part of that community. Frankly, it’s a fucking disgrace that this book talks almost as much about the Cherokee and the Trail of Tears as it does Hawai‘i and the Hawaiian people. Let me be clear: the Cherokee story is interesting and important, and I support the re-insertion of indigenous stories and histories into non-indigenous contexts, since otherwise they tend to get erased. But when you’re a white tourist telling an indigenous history, don’t fucking mix-and-match your indigenous peoples. To make matters worse, the book is chock full of spectacularly oblivious racism (including a complaint about all the Hawaiian street names!). It’s a total This American Life book, complete with useless digressions down obscure, boring, and totally unenlightening tangents (because, you see, this person met that one at Yale, and that other person hung out with them and later played a bit part in My Cherokee Heritage Minute, but also, let’s talk about all these mainland white people and their religious beliefs, because there were missionaries in Hawai‘i—isn’t it a funny American life, after all?). UGH. I can’t even begin to remember everything I hated about it.

Bernard Cornwell – Sword of Kings: I love this series, and always welcome new installments. This one did not disappoint.

Marlon James – Black Leopard Red Wolf: A really cool fantasy rooted in... the Malian Empire? Somewhere in the vicinity, anyway. There’s lots to like about this book, including the weird and difficult pigeon that made my reading rather slow. It’s highly imaginative, and full of colour. Very slow in parts, and fast-paced in others. Quite a lot of fairly graphic sex, including some dodgy stuff. But fascinating all the same. I don’t know whether I have the energy for the sequel, once it comes out, but there’s a lot here that’ll stay with me for a long time.

Terry Pratchett – Faust Eric: Found it in a book box, and since it’s been about twenty years since I read it, thought I’d give it a spin. Every bit as fun and original as it was the first time around. Honestly, it makes me feel like I should re-read all the Discworld novels—in order, this time.

Poul Anderson – Hrolf Kraki’s Saga: I read the original saga about ten years ago. As far as I could tell, this “retelling” is pretty much just the original, plus an occasional reference to a narrator. The source material is as gripping as it ever was, however, and I’d forgotten all about the Beowulf interlude, which made for a nice little treat.

Jean-Yves Ferri and Didier Conrad, Didier– La Fille de Vercingétorix: I love Astérix, but I have mixed feelings about these new additions. The last Ferri/Conrad book was pretty racist, in a manner that I couldn’t reconcile with the originals. This story was OK. A little bit rushed and all over the place, like their others, but on the whole better. But man, I miss the Uderzo/Goscinny originals.

Iain M. Banks – Inversions: I enjoyed this one very much, certainly more than I’d enjoyed most of the Culture novels up until this point. Banks found a great way to write across genres, while maintaining his primary scifi audience. A neat trick, and neatly performed.

Iain M. Banks – Look to Windward: This was another good Culture novel, and I enjoyed it, too. I don’t have much to say beyond that, except that the Culture novels get a lot better as you go along. I like the thematic arc in each of these later novels, and the execution is good.

Iain M. Banks – Matter: Another hit. I liked this story a lot, too. It was a good mix of genres, not too heavy-handed, and fast-paced.

Iain M. Banks – Surface Detail: This is one of the very best Culture novels, right up there with The Player of Games, although it’s a completely different sort of novel. I was thoroughly gripped by all the different plotlines, including the horrifying one that takes place in the Hells. And the callback to Use of Weapons was great (and subtle!).

Iain M. Banks – The Hydrogen Sonata: A fitting end to this series, even if it wasn’t intended as such. I enjoyed the closer look at subliming, and the kind of overview of the series that it provided. I’m sorry that Banks is dead, and that there won’t be any more installments in this series—by the end, it got to be a pretty rich universe with lots of really, really cool ideas in it.

Cixin Liu – The Three-Body Problem: Boring. I mostly enjoyed the parts set in Three-Body, but the rest was dull as rocks. It’s all telling, and almost no showing. Doubtless translation didn’t help, but honestly, I don’t think there’s much for it to have been unhelpful about. All tell, no show.

N.K. Jemisin – The Fifth Season: I heard about this years ago, but put off reading it because I thought it would be bad. Man, was I wrong. This is one of the most exciting novels I read in all of 2019. It’s a really cool, original premise, fantastic world-building, and it’s clearly influenced by Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time (my favourite fantasy series, featuring my favourite system of magic), especially his Aes Sedai. This is a brilliant novel, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

N.K. Jemisin – The Obelisk Gate: This is the sequel to The Fifth Season, as it’s just as brilliant. There’s no step down, here: Jemisin has succeeded in writing a novel that’s every bit as good as its predecessor. A rip-roaring read that left me in awe of the work she’s done.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on January 15, 2020, 03:38:56 PM
I'm so glad to see you're back with more reviews! They always inspire additions to our to-read list, and the only ones we've read in the current review list are the Jemisin books (agreed, excellent), so lots to consider.

We finished Cryptonomicon, finally.  I hadn't read it in years and thought it took off slowly (too much math, ironically, given where life has taken me since I first read it).  Once it got going, though, I fell in love with it again.  Plenty of hilarity and interesting history.  One aspect that annoyed me was the belaboring of what seem like very obvious or easy to understand aspects while blowing past more complicated but important pieces (e.g., military strategies).  In any case, we both found it delightful again and thoroughly enjoyed rereading it.  Now our arms can have a break from holding that enormous book up all the time.

I started to read At Swim-Two-Birds (Flann O'Brien/Brian Nolan), which I had previously read for book club.  I had really enjoyed the quirky writing style (at least the outer story).  It's a bit of a challenge to read out loud at times, and life has been stressful, so we switched to Recursion (Blake Crouch), which was one of the new sci-fi books I picked up last summer.  I don't think the writing is excellent, but the story has some promise.  It has to do with memory and manipulation thereof.  An interesting premise, so we'll see how the story works out.


Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Parasaurolophus on January 15, 2020, 06:13:50 PM
Haha, well, I'm glad my lists contribute to more than just my post count!
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: archaeo42 on January 16, 2020, 05:41:38 AM
I'm so glad to see you're back with more reviews! They always inspire additions to our to-read list, and the only ones we've read in the current review list are the Jemisin books (agreed, excellent), so lots to consider.

We finished Cryptonomicon, finally.  I hadn't read it in years and thought it took off slowly (too much math, ironically, given where life has taken me since I first read it).  Once it got going, though, I fell in love with it again.  Plenty of hilarity and interesting history.  One aspect that annoyed me was the belaboring of what seem like very obvious or easy to understand aspects while blowing past more complicated but important pieces (e.g., military strategies).  In any case, we both found it delightful again and thoroughly enjoyed rereading it.  Now our arms can have a break from holding that enormous book up all the time.

I started to read At Swim-Two-Birds (Flann O'Brien/Brian Nolan), which I had previously read for book club.  I had really enjoyed the quirky writing style (at least the outer story).  It's a bit of a challenge to read out loud at times, and life has been stressful, so we switched to Recursion (Blake Crouch), which was one of the new sci-fi books I picked up last summer.  I don't think the writing is excellent, but the story has some promise.  It has to do with memory and manipulation thereof.  An interesting premise, so we'll see how the story works out.

Hahaha I was going to ask if you plan on reading any other Neal Stephenson soon. I do love The Baroque Cycle books...and Anathem.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on January 16, 2020, 11:09:34 AM
Haha, well, I'm glad my lists contribute to more than just my post count!

If post count were your focus, of course you could always split your review posts up into one per book! Seriously, though, I really appreciate hearing about what you've been reading.

Archaeo42, we have read a few other Stephensons, some of which were (thankfully) a bit less hefty to wrangle.  We read or reread Snow Crash and Zodiac within the past year or so, and we've each previously read The Diamond Age.  Spouse loves, loves, loves Anathem.  I read it and enjoyed it but felt that I was not "getting it" completely.  Again, ironically, I didn't think I was getting the math in particular.  Maybe my mind just resists reading what I have to read at work all day! I would like to reread that one.  Spouse and I both tried to read The Baroque Cycle but didn't get too far, though we have all the books and should probably take a crack at those again (they are big, though!).  He also read Seveneves and found it to be interesting but a bit ponderous in the details at times.  I attempted to read The Mongoliad but didn't get so far with that one, either.  Stephenson seems to have a couple different types of books, some easier to get into than others, but I have enjoyed all of the ones I've finished, even if I have not loved all of them.  Have you read others of his? What did you think?
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: archaeo42 on January 16, 2020, 11:52:20 AM
Haha, well, I'm glad my lists contribute to more than just my post count!

If post count were your focus, of course you could always split your review posts up into one per book! Seriously, though, I really appreciate hearing about what you've been reading.

Archaeo42, we have read a few other Stephensons, some of which were (thankfully) a bit less hefty to wrangle.  We read or reread Snow Crash and Zodiac within the past year or so, and we've each previously read The Diamond Age.  Spouse loves, loves, loves Anathem.  I read it and enjoyed it but felt that I was not "getting it" completely.  Again, ironically, I didn't think I was getting the math in particular.  Maybe my mind just resists reading what I have to read at work all day! I would like to reread that one.  Spouse and I both tried to read The Baroque Cycle but didn't get too far, though we have all the books and should probably take a crack at those again (they are big, though!).  He also read Seveneves and found it to be interesting but a bit ponderous in the details at times.  I attempted to read The Mongoliad but didn't get so far with that one, either.  Stephenson seems to have a couple different types of books, some easier to get into than others, but I have enjoyed all of the ones I've finished, even if I have not loved all of them.  Have you read others of his? What did you think?

I've read all of his fiction, except the short stories.  I found Seveneves really hard to get in to as well -- it's probably my least favorite novel of his. I enjoyed The Mongoliad and the rest of that series but I also really enjoy sweeping, complicated story lines with a lot of detail. I felt like I wasn't quite "getting it" with his recent novel Fall: Or Dodge in Hell. It seemed like there was some background philosophy of science reading I should have done to fully get it. He remains one of my favorite writers because his stories assume the reader is smart and will understand the science and technology concepts he's drawing from.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on January 16, 2020, 12:18:54 PM
Currently reading Big History, which tries to cover everything from the Big Bang to the present.  It's nothing if not ambitious in scope!  I'm up through the formation of the Solar System.  Fascinating stuff.  I look forward to eventually getting into the era that covers history as we usually define it.  I actually know enough about that to form an opinion on whether the authors of this book know their stuff.  Until them I'm having to take things largely on trust.

Also recently read Forgotten God:  Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit, by Francis Chan.  I found it very insightful.

Also reading Stanley Karnow's Vietnam:  A History, which is widely hailed as a definitive work on the subject.  So far still in the early chapters, which deal with France's colonial activities in Southeast Asia. 
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: sprout on January 16, 2020, 12:38:22 PM
I felt like I wasn't quite "getting it" with his recent novel Fall: Or Dodge in Hell. It seemed like there was some background philosophy of science reading I should have done to fully get it.

Huh.  Well, now I'm way more interested in that one!

I really like Neal Stephenson.  I've read his earlier stuff (Zodiac, Snow Crash, Diamond Age).  I like a lot of his later stuff too - including both Anathem and Seveneves, but feel like it would benefit from a more aggressive editing.  Like, when he was less of a name maybe people told him more firmly to tighten it up.  I will probably never read The Baroque Cycle, just because my reading time is limited and I have too many other books I'd like to get to eventually.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: archaeo42 on January 16, 2020, 01:08:28 PM
I felt like I wasn't quite "getting it" with his recent novel Fall: Or Dodge in Hell. It seemed like there was some background philosophy of science reading I should have done to fully get it.

Huh.  Well, now I'm way more interested in that one!

I really like Neal Stephenson.  I've read his earlier stuff (Zodiac, Snow Crash, Diamond Age).  I like a lot of his later stuff too - including both Anathem and Seveneves, but feel like it would benefit from a more aggressive editing.  Like, when he was less of a name maybe people told him more firmly to tighten it up.  I will probably never read The Baroque Cycle, just because my reading time is limited and I have too many other books I'd like to get to eventually.

If you have any sort of interest in the intersection of technology, ontology, and philosophical theology you might really dig it. Also, please please please understand I am using these descriptors with just a very broad, high level understanding of what they may encapsulate.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on January 16, 2020, 02:31:39 PM
The philosophy of science angle sounds interesting to me, too! And I agree that Stephenson's books are pretty smart and don't tend to overexplain.  I was a little surprised that in Cryptonomicon he seemed to go over and over some of the simpler crypto stuff and modular arithmetic.  At the same time, I wish there were more explanation of some of the more advanced crypto stuff and functions, as well as more info on particular strategic maneuvers that I don't want to spoil here but that involved a particular individual's background expertise coming in handy.  And although I thought the book started off slowly for me this time, the end wrapped up way too quickly! But I love the characters and story. 

The editing aspect reminds me of Hawaii (Michener).  I loved that story as well, but good grief I did not need all of the first 50 pages of it.  During Christmas this year, I found out that my MIL had sent a copy of it to a granddaughter and essentially advised her to skip that part.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: hmaria1609 on January 17, 2020, 07:27:31 PM
Starting the newest "Lady Emily Mystery" In the Shadow of Vesuvius by Tasha Alexander from the library. With this mix of snow and rain we're getting here in the metro DC area this weekend, I'm content with a good novel!  :)

I had the fun of visiting the area during a Mediterranean cruise. I was in college at the time--it was an impressive site!
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: monarda on January 19, 2020, 09:25:22 AM
After hearing a radio show with the authors, I started reading The Public Option by Ganesh Sitaraman and Anne L. Alstott and really enjoying how simple and accessible it is so far. Not at all my field, but it strikes me that it would be a good one for teaching... maybe?
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mamselle on January 23, 2020, 02:42:28 AM
The philosophy of science angle sounds interesting to me, too! And I agree that Stephenson's books are pretty smart and don't tend to overexplain.  I was a little surprised that in Cryptonomicon he seemed to go over and over some of the simpler crypto stuff and modular arithmetic.  At the same time, I wish there were more explanation of some of the more advanced crypto stuff and functions, as well as more info on particular strategic maneuvers that I don't want to spoil here but that involved a particular individual's background expertise coming in handy.  And although I thought the book started off slowly for me this time, the end wrapped up way too quickly! But I love the characters and story. 

The editing aspect reminds me of Hawaii (Michener).  I loved that story as well, but good grief I did not need all of the first 50 pages of it.  During Christmas this year, I found out that my MIL had sent a copy of it to a granddaughter and essentially advised her to skip that part.

I read several of Michner's books. It sometimes seemed to me as if he were trying to write his way into the story, searching for the thread that would get him through it all.

He also came up with some excellent metaphors in so doing, I thought.

I quoted the one about the vulnerability of moulting shellfish to variations in the salinity of the water (an opening passage in one of the chapters of "Chesapeake") to a friend the other day--it was apt.

So, rewarding in its way.

M.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on January 25, 2020, 12:53:06 PM
Mamselle, those are good observations about Michener's writing.

We finished Recursion and had mixed feelings.  The premise is pretty intriguing, and I appreciated that the author addressed some of the philosophical, psychological, and scientific aspects of memory manipulation.  At times, however, there seemed to be a good bit of hand waving about how some of this worked.  Some of the dialogue and description was pretty terrible, other parts were better written.  It was a bit uneven.  Still, it's an interesting idea and fairly enjoyable overall.

Now we're reading Clue, the book based on the movie screenplay.  I'm loving it so far, probably because I've watched the movie so many times that I think I could probably act the whole thing out, and this gives me somewhat of a chance to do so.  It's been interesting to see what works better visually and what is funnier when described in words.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: bioteacher on January 27, 2020, 07:20:26 AM
Boys & Sex: Young Men on Hookups, Love, Porn, Consent, and Navigating the New Masculinity by Peggy Orenstein.

Fascinating and depressing. It pointed out things Biodad and I have done right and where we have fallen short with our kids. I've already sent Bioson an text of the cover and told him I think he should read it, too.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on January 29, 2020, 12:11:41 AM
Classic sci-fi
I've been listening to Librivox recordings while I do art or wash dishes or whatever. Since everything is public domain, it's all pretty old. I'm astonished by how lousy a lot of the classic sci-fi is, in terms of character, plot, pacing, and even the science.

The Big Time, by Fritz Leiber: Not too terrible, with a fun conceit, but the primary plot never actually went anywhere, and the big conclusion ended up being some stupid pseudo-philosophical speechifying. There were some great scenes, though: at one point a Greek Amazon woman is describing a battle in metrical verse, but using modern English vocabulary, and hearing that narrated aloud really brought out the meter.

Space Prison, by Tom Godwin: This is very classic planetary romance: Evil aliens take over a colony ship and maroon 4000 colonists on a planet that has killer unicorns on it. That's all very fun. The death rate is enormous (we're down to about 300 left alive), and Godwin is not at all shy about killing viewpoint characters, which I appreciate. But there's a villain colonist who is clearly a bad guy because he's trying to hoard food, and yet his arguments make a lot of sense. They're full of things like, 'I have experience in project management and operations, so maybe I should be the one to organize work teams, rather than you military leaders.' or 'Why are you military leaders in charge? I don't remember any agreement about how we should organize ourselves.' And, like, sure, I get that it's an emergency and there isn't time for Roberts Rules of Order, but they've been on that planet for over a year now, and they've still not found time to talk about it? Strawman has a point here.

Modern SFF
Jade City and Jade War by Fonda Lee: This is great fun! It's eastern-flavored magical The Godfather, with clan wars and magical superpowers, and the second book starts looking into how those clans spread into other countries, and how foreign relations and foreign trade can be conducted by a country that is jointly ruled by a legitimate government and a set of overpowerful clans. It's fabulous worldbuilding, and the characters are complex and make genuine decisions about genuine dilemmas. In Jade War one of the clan leaders makes such an appalling decision so lightly that it completely switched how I'm reading the books: Instead of rooting for his clan and hoping things work out for him, now I'm considering them all scum, and while I might care for individual characters, I would be perfectly happy if the series ends with the downfall of the entire clan system.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January, by Alix E Harrow: There were some beautiful bits to this, especially the way two seemingly distinct plotlines dovetailed, but the narrator was far, far too passive for my taste. And when she learns that she has the power to do a thing that her companion, who has done so much for her, desperately wants above all else in the world, she doesn't even consider doing it until the very, very end of the book. In fact, the book is full of people having the power to do a thing they desperately want and then not doing it for reasons that are never entirely clear. I enjoyed it, but it was very frustrating.

Adulthood Rites, by Octavia Butler: Not as good as Dawn. It sacrificed plot for ideas, but the ideas were a continuation from Dawn, and so they were not in themselves new and fresh enough to make up for the absence of a plot.

The Praxis, by Walter Jon Williams: Perfectly fine space opera, but nothing new or fresh.

Serial Box
Are you guys aware of serial box? The idea is serialized fiction, like tv shows, but you can get stories as either text or audiobook. The sci-fi stuff is written by really top-tier authors. We're talking Max Gladstone, Yoon-Ha Lee, and Malka Older.

The Witch Who Came In From The Cold: This is about warring magical factions that intersect with Cold War spy stuff. So you have grudging respect growing between an American spy and a Soviet spy who both work for one magical faction against the other. The cross-cutting loyalties are done very well.

Ninth Step Station: This is a political police procedural that takes place in near-future Tokyo, which has become partly occupied by the Chinese after an earthquake destroyed much of their infrastructure. Americans are there as peace-keepers (which I find depressingly quaint), and we have individual mysteries in which an American peacekeeper and a Japanese detective team up to solve crimes. It was a little too episodic for my taste; I would have preferred for the individual crimes to come together into a juicier political story than they did,, but it was still very well done.

The Vela: This was really superb. It's a science fiction story that is simultaneously a bitterly angry take on climate change and the refugee crisis, and also an awesome adventure romp. Humans have colonised a solar system and mined the sun for hydrogen, which means the sun is going out, and the planets are freezing to death. The outer planets are dying first, creating a flood of refugees to the inner planets, but eventually the sun will go out (in 100 years or so) and every planet will become uninhabitable (Get it? Get it?). Our viewpoint characters are a mercenary who was herself a refugee as a child, and a super-privileged child of the president of one of the inner planets, who deeply cares about the refugee crisis. They are sent off to track down a refugee ship that has gone missing, and the adventure romp has to do with finding the ship and discovering why it, of all refugee ships, was so important that the president of an inner planet wanted it tracked down when it disappeared.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on January 29, 2020, 10:27:39 AM
Thank you for all of these reviews, Ergative! The Vela sounds particularly interesting and has also gotten good reviews elsewhere, apparently.  I looked briefly into Serial Box (hadn't heard of it) and will mention to spouse to see if that sounds like something he'd be interested in trying. 

We finished Clue and thought it was very entertaining overall.  Again, I can't quite tell if I enjoyed it so much because I could hear the movie in my head, but I think it's a solid and humorous mystery on its own.  Despite having watched the movie so many times, there were a couple new things I picked up on (one particular line completely sailed over my head in the movie but became a real duh moment during our reading of the book).  There are some narrative gaps that had or had not occurred to me while watching the movie that stood out to me more in the book, but it's still a favorite.

Now we're reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows), which I can never remember the name of and always think there's a sweet potato in there somewhere.  I've been wanting to read it for years.  I guess it's an epistolary novel, in that it seems to consist so far of letters back and forth between various folks.  That put me off at first, especially for reading out loud, although I realized it makes it much less burdensome to try to parse out different voices.  The questions of how the Society arose and what it is are intriguing, and the characters and situations are at times quirky, sad, mysterious, etc.  Pretty good so far. 
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Parasaurolophus on February 01, 2020, 09:53:21 AM
January's (small) haul:

Joe Simpson - Touching the Void: I've seen the film and was familiar with the story, but when I saw this in a book box I thought it'd be worth picking up. And it was! The quality of the writing isn't fantastic, but it's an absolutely astonishing tale, and well worth hearing from the person who lived through it. Totally spellbinding for that reason.

Russell Hoban - Kleinzeit: I love Riddley Walker, so when I saw this in a used book store, I thought: "why not?" Experimental Literature, is why not. I don't have the patience for this kind of claptrap, which thinks it's deep just because it's obscure and disjointed. I'm not a fan of High Literature, and I have zero tolerance for this kind of pretentious twaddle.

Mur Lafferty - Six Wakes: This was a fun, engaging read. Great premise, good execution. The quality of the writing let me down at times (weirdly, it sounded a little ESL-ish in a few places, but English is definitely the author's first language), but I was totally into the world Lafferty built, and I'd like to revisit the characters further into their journey, or maybe when they start to colonize their target planet. I'd definitely read more, if there were any.

N.K. Jemisin - The Stone Sky: What can I say? It was heartbreaking and thoroughly engaging. I've often been disappointed by Hugo winner, but not this one (nor its two predecessors): it was well deserved. Jemisin does a fantastic job of telling this story, and of keeping me wanting more. The more I see of this world and its origins, the more I want to see (and the clearer the Wheel of Time influence becomes--weird that I haven't seen anyone else mention it!). Spellbinding, and so well done. I'm sorry that the trilogy is over. And, honestly, I'm a little apprehensive about reading her other work, just because I can't imagine it'll top this trilogy. Then again, I suppose they're not likely to disappoint, either.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on February 01, 2020, 11:06:09 AM
Regarding N. K. Jemisin's other work:

Her short story collection, How Long Til Black Future Month, is excellent. She also has a duology, containing The Killing Moon and The Shadowed Sun, which are easily as good as the Broken Earth Trilogy.

Her other trilogy, beginning with The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, is not as good---or, at least, when I think about it I remember being a little disappointed and impatient with the first book. I think the other two are better, but overall I have a less enthusiastic feeling about them.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on February 01, 2020, 02:07:20 PM
Thanks for the question and answer about other Jemisin work worth reading.  I ordered the short stories and first book of the duology.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on February 06, 2020, 08:09:35 AM
We finished the Guernsey literary society book last night. We both just absolutely loved it and would rank it a favorite.  It was so nice to read a book with so much joy (and sadness).  The characters were well rendered, dialogue was fresh and clever, story was adorable.  It was hard to put down to attend to real-life obligations, and we didn't want it to end. 

Now we are giving Anathem another try.  Probably not a great idea to start late last night, as I am already lost (again), but hopefully we will make better headway this evening.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Parasaurolophus on February 06, 2020, 08:35:56 AM
Thanks for the question and answer about other Jemisin work worth reading.  I ordered the short stories and first book of the duology.

Chime!
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: hmaria1609 on February 06, 2020, 12:12:25 PM
The Secret Chapter by Genevieve Cogman
The latest and #6 in "The Invisible Library" series.  At the end of the novel, there's an announcement about the next installment, The Dark Archive, releasing later this year.

Of interest, the Dreamblood duet is available as an omnibus edition.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on February 06, 2020, 01:47:20 PM
Of interest, the Dreamblood duet is available as an omnibus edition.

That's great to hear! I read them from the library, but I would like to own them.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: paultuttle on February 11, 2020, 12:39:28 PM
I'm currently plowing back through my collection of Louis L'Amour novels and short-story collections and (re)learning some things.

For example, I truly didn't know that (1) every exciting female was redheaded and (2) most fights are about cattle, the land required for those cattle, or both.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: nebo113 on February 12, 2020, 06:45:36 AM
I'm currently plowing back through my collection of Louis L'Amour novels and short-story collections and (re)learning some things.

For example, I truly didn't know that (1) every exciting female was redheaded and (2) most fights are about cattle, the land required for those cattle, or both.

Haunted Mesa is one of my favorites by him.  It's a sci fi take on the Ancient Ones (Anasazi).
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on February 12, 2020, 10:52:48 AM
I'm currently plowing back through my collection of Louis L'Amour novels and short-story collections and (re)learning some things.

For example, I truly didn't know that (1) every exciting female was redheaded and (2) most fights are about cattle, the land required for those cattle, or both.

Haunted Mesa is one of my favorites by him.  It's a sci fi take on the Ancient Ones (Anasazi).

Haunted Mesa is one of the few Louis L'Amour stories I've ever read.  It's an interesting variant on the "lost world" theme. 
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mamselle on February 12, 2020, 11:06:16 AM
Is that about Acoma?

I did a comps on that and two other colonial churches....

M.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on February 12, 2020, 11:57:58 AM
Is that about Acoma?

I did a comps on that and two other colonial churches....

M.

No...but "Haunted Mesa" might be a good title for a work set there!

I bet you loved Willa Cather's Death Comes to the Archbishop.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: nebo113 on February 13, 2020, 06:36:29 AM
Is that about Acoma?

I did a comps on that and two other colonial churches....

M.

Not specifically.  More about the (former) Anasazi, now known as Ancestral Puebloans. 
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: nebo113 on February 13, 2020, 06:37:27 AM
Is that about Acoma?

I did a comps on that and two other colonial churches....

M.

No...but "Haunted Mesa" might be a good title for a work set there!

I bet you loved Willa Cather's Death Comes to the Archbishop.

I loved it!!!
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on February 13, 2020, 07:53:29 AM
Is that about Acoma?

I did a comps on that and two other colonial churches....

M.

No...but "Haunted Mesa" might be a good title for a work set there!

I bet you loved Willa Cather's Death Comes to the Archbishop.

I loved it!!!

Wonderful novel.  I had the good fortune to read it in an edition that had Harold von Schmidt's pen-and-ink illustrations.  Then I made sure my mother, a New Mexico native, had a chance to read it.  She loved it too.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Myword on February 17, 2020, 07:22:49 AM
Death Without Tenure by Dobson. A mystery, and satire of affirmative action and multicultural education. Humorous with a cast of unlikable characters. Author is an English professor.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Parasaurolophus on March 19, 2020, 09:58:16 AM
I haven't re-read it recently, but the viral apocalypse sure seems like a good time to revisit Mira Grant's Feed, which, if memory serves, features a world that's been reorganized very much along the same lines we're currently contemplating.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on March 19, 2020, 10:27:18 AM
We finally finished Anathem again last night.  I definitely enjoyed it more than I did the first time, although I still don't think it's as good as Cryptonomicon.  There are some really interesting ideas and great characters, but he does go on and on at times.  Good gravy.  And, also similar to Cryptonomicon, it seems to me that he dwells and dwells on the most basic stuff and then waves his hands at the more complicated aspects. It's good and thought provoking but a bit arduous to go through at times. When he's on he's really on, and then there are those other times.  Still, I'm glad we reread it.  I have no idea what we'll read next, but hopefully something just as distracting.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: delsur on March 19, 2020, 11:23:09 AM

Long Bright River by Liz Moore. Highly recommend!
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on March 19, 2020, 11:48:42 AM
Just read Footprints:  In Search of Future Fossils, by David Farrier.  We've been hearing a lot in recent years about how human impact upon the Earth's environment has become so great that it now constitutes a new geological age--the Antropocene."  Farrier describes just how much that is now the case.  It's mind-boggling how much STUFF humans have made/transformed/relocated in recent decades.  No matter what happens next, what we as a species have done in recent generations will be a fact of life in the world for a very, very long time to come.  Assuming there is that much time left.

It's a fascinating subject, but I wish that the author's personal meditations on the subject hadn't spent quite so many pages out on center stage.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on March 19, 2020, 11:49:40 PM
I've been listening to a Librivox recording of The Three Clerks, by Anthony Trollope. It's fine. Trollope is prolific and reliable, and sometimes you just want to slip into those days. Also, one of the young rakes is an aspiring writer, and there's a hilarious scene where he describes a story he's working on, and explains his decisions about pacing and plotting in terms of what the editor says, and it's very funny.

(I am making a conscious decision not to be annoyed by the wife-husbandry (https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/WifeHusbandry) in the plot.)
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: polly_mer on March 20, 2020, 04:59:05 AM
I'm reading Richard Rhodes The Making of the Atomic Bomb.  It would be better in many places so far if Rhodes would pick a one storyline and go with it. 

Are we being told the history of the field of nuclear physics? 

Doing flashbacks to follow the making of a physics Nobel prize winner who had a very interesting life due to being in the wrong place at the wrong time until middle age?

Following the development of the political changes in the early 20th century in Europe that led to WWII?

Learning how literature influenced the development of modern physics?

Following various schools of thought regarding the philosophy and history of science?


Right now, it's reading a lot like the index cards that were used to make notes on every idea that Rhodes encountered were tossed on the floor and picked up randomly to be incorporated as a new paragraph for every card.

Perhaps it's a meta experience regarding the chaos of war or how one doesn't know how a scientific field will develop until a good 20 years into publications and discussions in the new field.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: archaeo42 on March 20, 2020, 06:25:36 AM
I'm working my way through the Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante. I'm on book 3 (Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay). I'm enjoying them and find her writing style compelling but I'm not loving them like so many of the people who have raved about them to me have. Maybe I need to read the entire set or maybe it's just not connecting to me.

The setting (post-WWII Italy) is exactly what my father grew up in outside of Naples. It makes me want to ask him more about his childhood - he hasn't told us stories in quite awhile.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on March 20, 2020, 01:38:31 PM
We started on Straight Man (Russo) last night.  The recommendation was a good one.  We are already drawn into and appreciate the humor right now!
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: bioteacher on March 23, 2020, 06:49:45 PM
Smoke Bitten by Patricia Briggs. Bioette is reading it now. I love the authentic marriage portrayed by Adam and Mercy. The Mercy Thompson series hits all my buttons for werewolves, vampires, urban fantasy and fantastic characters. Now I can read it again to savor it.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Puget on March 23, 2020, 08:24:39 PM
We started on Straight Man (Russo) last night.  The recommendation was a good one.  We are already drawn into and appreciate the humor right now!

One of my favorites-- Maybe I should re-read it now. Seems like just the thing. Can't remember if I already recommended it down thread, but I'd also recommend That Old Cape Magic as another one of his on the funny side (though with some pathos as well).

I've been checking out lots of audiobooks from the library. I started listing to After the Flood -- it was good but I decided post-apocalyptic fiction was NOT what I needed right now. Instead I now have a David Sedaris (Dress your Family in Corduroy and Denim) and a Walter Moseley PI novel (Down the River Unto the Sea).
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mamselle on March 23, 2020, 08:34:31 PM
What's Moseley's work like?

M.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on March 23, 2020, 09:23:33 PM
We started on Straight Man (Russo) last night.  The recommendation was a good one.  We are already drawn into and appreciate the humor right now!

One of my favorites-- Maybe I should re-read it now. Seems like just the thing. Can't remember if I already recommended it down thread, but I'd also recommend That Old Cape Magic as another one of his on the funny side (though with some pathos as well).


I didn't recall who had recommended it, but it is keeping us entertained.  We had read a bunch of his other books and also picked up That Old Cape Magic based on a recommendation here.  I hope you can get back to it if you enjoyed it, and thank you if you had recommended it! I also agree that post-apocalyptic stories are not so great to read right now.  We've read quite a few, and I'm not sure if it's possibly making things worse for me (or better? better prepared?).  I am really heartened by all the folks posting videos reading aloud for kids right now.  I would like to do that.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Anselm on March 24, 2020, 11:27:47 AM
Recent news events gave me the idea of maybe rereading A Distant Mirror by Barbara Tuchman.

I just want to know when people start doing the crazy dances.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on March 24, 2020, 12:43:44 PM
Recently finished Simon Sebag Montefiore's comprehensive history of Jerusalem.  What an awful spectacle that city's history has made!  It reaffirms me in my desire never to make a pilgrimage there.  It seems like representatives of all of the Abrahamic faiths (With a few honorable exceptions--the Spaffords' American Colony, for example) tend to be at their worst there, rather than their best.  Somebody once pointed out that a worshiper of one God treating a city as "holy" sounds a lot like idolatry.  I think that sort of idolatry explains most of the problem right there.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mamselle on March 24, 2020, 06:02:44 PM
Recent news events gave me the idea of maybe rereading A Distant Mirror by Barbara Tuchman.

I just want to know when people start doing the crazy dances.

I read that straight through the week after I finished my MA thesis (which included work on 13th c. church history).

Do you mean "St. Elmo's Fire," the tarantisms, or the dance manias?

A lot of that has been debunked as anecdotal.

M.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Anselm on March 25, 2020, 09:44:43 AM
Recent news events gave me the idea of maybe rereading A Distant Mirror by Barbara Tuchman.

I just want to know when people start doing the crazy dances.

I read that straight through the week after I finished my MA thesis (which included work on 13th c. church history).

Do you mean "St. Elmo's Fire," the tarantisms, or the dance manias?

A lot of that has been debunked as anecdotal.

M.

I was thinking about the dance manias.  I read the book back in 1994 and have since forgotten many of the details.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on March 26, 2020, 10:19:25 AM
We're still enjoying Straight Man (Russo) very much.  He has a way with describing people and scenes.  We nearly couldn't get through one of the scenes (filming the news of the new campus building), we were laughing so hard.  Definitely good timing for this book.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on March 26, 2020, 10:43:52 AM
Just finished Wolf Hall. It was an enormous slog. Nothing wrong with it, but it just didn't work for me. Next up is Myke Cole's coastguard-in-space Sixteenth Watch, about which I know very little; I just like watching him swear at cute animals on twitter and bought his book on the strength of that.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on March 26, 2020, 10:56:07 AM
I felt similarly about Wolf Hall.  I had really been looking forward to it and am always interested in that era, but there are many more interesting books on the topic out there.  It did feel like a drag, unfortunately.  I have a couple of Mantel's other books but haven't dug into them yet for that reason.  Have you read any of the others?
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Morden on March 26, 2020, 01:00:18 PM
I enjoyed Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies. Wolf Hall was more daring in terms of narrative structure (you weren't always sure who was speaking of what); Bring up the Bodies was easier to follow. I have just got the third and am looking forward to it. A Place of Greater Safety, about Robespierre and the French Revolution, was very good.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: sinenomine on March 26, 2020, 01:48:43 PM
I’m reading a collection of short stories by Daphne du Maurier — quite diverting!
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on March 26, 2020, 02:07:17 PM
(you weren't always sure who was speaking of what)

That drove me wild.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Vkw10 on March 27, 2020, 08:24:37 PM
I just acquired three books from my "broaden your horizons by reading something a student mentioned" list.  Red, white, and royal blue appears to be a rather lighthearted gay romance. Any old diamonds appears to be a gay mystery/romance, possibly set in the 1920s. A history of the United States in five crashes appears to be pop economic history.

I wish I remembered who said what about each of these books to inspire me to add them to my list. I'll try the mystery/romance first.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: nebo113 on March 28, 2020, 05:40:18 AM
Listening to Anna LeBaron's  The Polygamist's Daughter, after having read Educated by Tara Westover.  LeBaron's book isn't particularly well-written but does offer insight into the horrors that cults inflict upon children.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: polly_mer on March 28, 2020, 06:49:13 AM
I just finished Vox by Christina Dalcher.  I probably would have liked this novel more if I had read it when I was younger and knew far less.  The basic idea was interesting and the writing itself was an engaging style.

However, I just keep mentally tripping on:

* a nearly complete lack of awareness about what happened in Iran in my lifetime as Iran went from a modern country, albeit not democratic, to a theology that sent modern professional women back into the home.

* very bad mixes of what scientists with various specific expertises would know or expertly defer on knowing.  At various points, I was smacked in the face with the difference between what an MD would have written (love me medical thrillers and read them by the dozen) and what someone who has possibly skimmed some medical thrillers wrote.  Fandom calls certain things Star Trek science; this wasn't even up to Star Trek science in many noticeable places.

* clearly zero experience working in a government classified setting or an industrial/academic proprietary setting.  Yep, that's what one sees in the standard movies, but we all laugh every time.

* lack of creativity that people would exhibit to get around some of the restrictions on "communication".  Yes, a really noisy place for the scientists covers conversation.  Does no one do direct person-to-person tapping in Morse code in the dark?  Finger spelling or Morse code in clasped hands?  Everyone visiting the bathroom to run the water and perhaps draw in the steam on a mirror or large surface? C'mon, PhD holder, you can do better than that.  Even if bees don't really have language and the best one can do is blink to communicate with other possible revolutionaries, you're not limited to one tiny signal that takes the expert quite a while to figure out is a signal.  Even the kidnapped kid on last night's mystery did better than that to communicate in front of the kidnappers.

* lack of creativity on assassination if taking down only a dozen men will restore everything to normal.  You don't need the highly specialized-unique-in-the-world-just-synthesized chemical if you have access to these men by someone they trust enough to bring them beverages or prepare their food who is also on the revolutionary side.  Again, a little experience actually reading and learning from mystery novels would have made those parts less needing-to-scream-at-the-bozos-who-are-doing-it-wrong and more appreciative of the unfolding events.

I'm now sad that I returned Steven King's Sleeping Beauties to the library a few weeks ago after borrowing it for Blocky.  Rereading that probably would have been a more rewarding experience.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on March 28, 2020, 09:25:57 AM
Just finished Carmilla. I understand that it was the first big vampire book, and the lesbian themes by no means require any turning-your-head-and-squinting to see. These properties go quite a way to justify its continuing fame. Lesbian victorian vampires has a lot to recommend it as a theme. But as a work of literature it also kind of sucks: the chapter breaks and transitions are choppy and weird; everyone is profoundly stupid at not seeing what's right before their eyes; the pacing is terrible; and the narrative frequently does something like this. 'I will now tell you about Y. The next night, X happened. Now, I will tell you about Y . . . '

I find myself regularly struck by the desperate need for editing and revision that jumps out of these Victorian novels. I recognize that hand-writing and re-typing every draft would have made editing much more of a chore without word-processors, but I had previously imagined that this just led authors to do more outlining, planning, or perhaps they were better at keeping track of things in their head. Tut tut, I would have said to myself, see how modern conveniences have damaged mental abilities of modern writers.

But now, I read many of these novels, and I'm constantly gritting my teeth at the odd pacing, the strange chapter breaks, the sloppy transitions, the incoherence of exposition that jumps around from topic to topic without considering how best to introduce new ideas and characters and plot points. Perhaps the tools that make editing easier have also made editing better. Is it possible that modern writing has actually improved, because of the ease of access to these technological advances? Because even leaving aside the sexism, racism, classism, and colonialism that permeates these texts, I'm getting rather tired of having to remind myself to grade these authors on a curve. The curve has bent far enough, and on Carmilla, despite the sexy vampire kisses, it definitely snapped.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: polly_mer on March 28, 2020, 03:05:56 PM
Perhaps the tools that make editing easier have also made editing better. Is it possible that modern writing has actually improved, because of the ease of access to these technological advances? Because even leaving aside the sexism, racism, classism, and colonialism that permeates these texts, I'm getting rather tired of having to remind myself to grade these authors on a curve. The curve has bent far enough, and on Carmilla, despite the sexy vampire kisses, it definitely snapped.

Eh, my bet is that what's improved is much more access to more stories and therefore more good writing is available to those who want good writing as well as a new storyline.  At the time, any new enough story was likely worth wading through not great writing.

I've been disappointed many, many times in my life by finally picking up some beloved-by-a-good-many-people novel and having to sigh heavily about having that particular novel's writing/organization/implementation flaws scream so much at me that I can't go very far in the book.  For example, I know many of the Edgar Allen Poe stories, but I can't say I've managed to reread anything as an adult.  I was more optimistic with more free time as a teenager to read so many and be disappointed very time that I didn't love the execution. The writing is just sooooooo bad, even though the ideas were very new and therefore memorable at the time Poe was writing.  I've never made it through a Lovecraft story yet, although I watch movies based on and read homages/borrowing/reimagings frequently.

I read Frankenstein in high school; now that I've read a lot of freshman prose, I'm perfectly willing to believe this was a story a teenager wrote during a house party.  The ideas are there, but, again, the execution leaves a lot to be desired.

Now that I'm an adult, I better understand why Stephen King is kind of a hack in the "world of literary ideas", but his stories at least move along and it's worth investing a weekend in reading his new book because they are seldom obviously repackaged ideas that have been done to death.  I'm told I would better appreciate Tolkien's work if I didn't encounter it well after I'd already read so many later works that presented similar ideas, but in a much better format.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on March 28, 2020, 03:15:55 PM
Perhaps the tools that make editing easier have also made editing better. Is it possible that modern writing has actually improved, because of the ease of access to these technological advances? Because even leaving aside the sexism, racism, classism, and colonialism that permeates these texts, I'm getting rather tired of having to remind myself to grade these authors on a curve. The curve has bent far enough, and on Carmilla, despite the sexy vampire kisses, it definitely snapped.

Eh, my bet is that what's improved is much more access to more stories and therefore more good writing is available to those who want good writing as well as a new storyline.  At the time, any new enough story was likely worth wading through not great writing.

I've been disappointed many, many times in my life by finally picking up some beloved-by-a-good-many-people novel and having to sigh heavily about having that particular novel's writing/organization/implementation flaws scream so much at me that I can't go very far in the book.  For example, I know many of the Edgar Allen Poe stories, but I can't say I've managed to reread anything as an adult.  I was more optimistic with more free time as a teenager to read so many and be disappointed very time that I didn't love the execution. The writing is just sooooooo bad, even though the ideas were very new and therefore memorable at the time Poe was writing.  I've never made it through a Lovecraft story yet, although I watch movies based on and read homages/borrowing/reimagings frequently.

I read Frankenstein in high school; now that I've read a lot of freshman prose, I'm perfectly willing to believe this was a story a teenager wrote during a house party.  The ideas are there, but, again, the execution leaves a lot to be desired.

Now that I'm an adult, I better understand why Stephen King is kind of a hack in the "world of literary ideas", but his stories at least move along and it's worth investing a weekend in reading his new book because they are seldom obviously repackaged ideas that have been done to death.  I'm told I would better appreciate Tolkien's work if I didn't encounter it well after I'd already read so many later works that presented similar ideas, but in a much better format.

Fair point: the competition pool has expanded as well as the execution tools. I am very willing to believe that is also (or instead) contributing to the perceived improvement in the quality of modern writing.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: marshwiggle on March 28, 2020, 04:39:29 PM


Now that I'm an adult, I better understand why Stephen King is kind of a hack in the "world of literary ideas", but his stories at least move along and it's worth investing a weekend in reading his new book because they are seldom obviously repackaged ideas that have been done to death.  I'm told I would better appreciate Tolkien's work if I didn't encounter it well after I'd already read so many later works that presented similar ideas, but in a much better format.

Kind of the "George Lucas" effect. The writing in Star Wars stands out now as more cheesy than originally, partly because the effects and so on were so groundbreaking then. Now that the effects don't stand out the writing has no place to hide.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Puget on March 28, 2020, 06:40:57 PM
Just finished the audiobook of Codex, by Lev Grossman. I really love his Magicians trilogy, but hadn't read this one (it was written earlier). Not quite as good, but very engaging nonetheless. It's a mystery about a search for, well, a codex. Definitely kept me guessing, interesting characters, but in the end it sort of felt like he didn't quite know how to end it. 

Per my prior post, I think I'll pull Straight Man off my self and re-read it now.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: nebo113 on March 30, 2020, 08:31:44 AM
Not a book, but am browsing JSTOR. 
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mamselle on March 30, 2020, 09:54:48 AM
Oooohhh, good idea!

M.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: spork on April 06, 2020, 09:04:01 AM
Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi: Liked it. An interesting adaptation of Mary Shelley's original.

Death is Hard Work by Khaled Khalifa: Meh. Not that thrilled by it. Maybe dark humor got lost in the translation to English.

Into the Hands of Soldiers by David Kirkpatrick: Liked it even though I'm familiar with the book's subject. It was interesting to see details on the incompetence of Obama's senior foreign policy officials in regard to the Middle East (something not particular to Obama's administration and much worse now).

Water: Asia's Next Battleground by Brahma Chellaney: A well-written academic book on water scarcity. Read it to get material for a course I'll be teaching next year.

Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan: A historical overview of Central Asia. It's fairly well-written stylistically for a popular history, but I set it aside in favor of other books. I might return to it depending on how long the stay at home order lasts.

The Hundred Years War on Palestine by Rashid Khalidi: Reading this now. He weaves his family history into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which I like.


Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: onthefringe on April 06, 2020, 07:36:03 PM
Imaginary Numbers by Seanan McGuire. Interesting entry in a long running series. But a cliff hanger ending and no new book until next year.

This in how you lose a time war really nice epistolary-ish novel with a relationship between time traveling agents trying to bend various multiverse timelines towards their desired ends.

Thinking about re-reading McGuire’s Newsflesh series about a future US where we are on the other side of a pandemic, dealing with the ongoing remnants of a highly contagious a zombie virus. And there’s even a presidential election in it!
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on April 07, 2020, 02:35:11 AM
Imaginary Numbers by Seanan McGuire. Interesting entry in a long running series. But a cliff hanger ending and no new book until next year.

This in how you lose a time war really nice epistolary-ish novel with a relationship between time traveling agents trying to bend various multiverse timelines towards their desired ends.

Thinking about re-reading McGuire’s Newsflesh series about a future US where we are on the other side of a pandemic, dealing with the ongoing remnants of a highly contagious a zombie virus. And there’s even a presidential election in it!

I loved This is how you lose the time war. I got to see Amal El-Mohtar in at an event at a local bookstore the day after we read it in my sci-fi book group, and she was such a delightful person. She told us that she and Gladstone had written the thing together, at a writing retreat, sitting across from each other at a writing table, one writing the frame and one writing the letter for each chunk, and for the bit about Atlantis, they did not discuss their approach beforehand, and instead came up with such consistent attitudes independently. How many of the cultural references did you look up? I looked up the Meissen Ming Dragon tea sets and the Death of Chatterton and Travel Light, which actually has a blurb from El-Mohtar on its amazon page.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: paultuttle on April 09, 2020, 08:46:34 AM
Currently rereading the Harry Potter series.

Up to book 3, right now; I'm at the point where Hermione impatiently "tuh"s at Ron when he wonders aloud why Professor Lupin is looking so tired and wan.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on April 09, 2020, 09:38:32 AM
We finished Straight Man (Russo) and enjoyed it very much.  It was very funny at times, and I appreciated that there were no major tragedies in this one.  As usual, Russo creates very interesting characters, although I wish a few were fleshed out a bit more.  There were plenty of hijinks-filled situations, and we definitely winced at times wondering what a particular turn of events would lead to.  All in all, an entertaining read that lifted our spirits.

Now, we are reading Consider Phlebas (Iain Banks).  It was recommended by one of spouse's colleagues, and it's appealing to try out books that are part of a series so that we have additional books to read if the original book is well received.  We're not too far into it yet and are still in the process of figuring out people and place names, always a fun part of scifi. 
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: hmaria1609 on April 09, 2020, 12:44:26 PM
Currently rereading the Harry Potter series.

Up to book 3, right now; I'm at the point where Hermione impatiently "tuh"s at Ron when he wonders aloud why Professor Lupin is looking so tired and wan.
I'm listening to Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets movie soundtrack at the moment!  :)  I read and own the complete series in paperback.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: paultuttle on April 09, 2020, 07:30:07 PM
Currently rereading the Harry Potter series.

Up to book 3, right now; I'm at the point where Hermione impatiently "tuh"s at Ron when he wonders aloud why Professor Lupin is looking so tired and wan.
I'm listening to Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets movie soundtrack at the moment!  :)  I read and own the complete series in paperback.

I'm with you on the Harry Potter fervor--I've got the whole series in hardback, the whole series in full-size paperback format (as a boxed set), and several of the volumes in smaller-size paperback format.

(I'm really self-indulgent when it comes to books I truly like and know I'll re-read many times. For those favorites, it's all about being able to choose what size book to curl up with when you're at home at your desk, at home on the couch, at home in a recliner, or at the beach stretched out on a towel under an umbrella. It's the same way with my four Lord of the Rings sets, two "Ring of Fire" [Eric Flint] series, and two "Vatta's War" and "Familias Regnant" [Elizabeth Moon] series: Different hardback or paperback sizes for convenience's [or indulgence's] sake. And I have other authors' singletons in different sizes, or newer duplicates of singletons that I bought when the older versions started to fall apart.)
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mamselle on April 09, 2020, 07:47:12 PM
Oooohhh, good idea!

M.

J-Stor currently has a free 100-view signup program for individuals.

Just in case it's useful....

M.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on April 15, 2020, 12:37:40 AM
We finished Straight Man (Russo) and enjoyed it very much.  It was very funny at times, and I appreciated that there were no major tragedies in this one.  As usual, Russo creates very interesting characters, although I wish a few were fleshed out a bit more.  There were plenty of hijinks-filled situations, and we definitely winced at times wondering what a particular turn of events would lead to.  All in all, an entertaining read that lifted our spirits.

Now, we are reading Consider Phlebas (Iain Banks).  It was recommended by one of spouse's colleagues, and it's appealing to try out books that are part of a series so that we have additional books to read if the original book is well received.  We're not too far into it yet and are still in the process of figuring out people and place names, always a fun part of scifi.

I read a few of the Iain M Banks books, including Consider Phlebas, but the only one I really enjoyed was The Player of Games. That was absolutely superb. The others somehow just didn't quite land for me.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on April 15, 2020, 07:42:29 AM
We finished Straight Man (Russo) and enjoyed it very much.  It was very funny at times, and I appreciated that there were no major tragedies in this one.  As usual, Russo creates very interesting characters, although I wish a few were fleshed out a bit more.  There were plenty of hijinks-filled situations, and we definitely winced at times wondering what a particular turn of events would lead to.  All in all, an entertaining read that lifted our spirits.

Now, we are reading Consider Phlebas (Iain Banks).  It was recommended by one of spouse's colleagues, and it's appealing to try out books that are part of a series so that we have additional books to read if the original book is well received.  We're not too far into it yet and are still in the process of figuring out people and place names, always a fun part of scifi.

I read a few of the Iain M Banks books, including Consider Phlebas, but the only one I really enjoyed was The Player of Games. That was absolutely superb. The others somehow just didn't quite land for me.

So it sounds as though The Player of Games can be read as a standalone book? That one was also recommended, but I think I picked Consider Phlebas because it was the first of the series.  It's interesting that you mention this, because we had gotten so blah about CP that I had been reading Goodreads reviews to see if it might get any better later on.  Apparently not, or not for several hundred pages.  But several reviewers there also mentioned TP of G as one that they liked quite a lot.  Maybe we can pick that one up.  In the meantime switched to Jemisin's How Long 'til Black Future Month?, which was recommended here.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on April 15, 2020, 10:34:51 AM
Yes, TPOG can be read as a standalone. My experience with Phlebas was that it was pretty much the same from the start, so if you don't like it for the first hundred pages, you may not get any more sucked it. I believe that all of the Culture books work as standalones.

Do let us know how you like the Jemisin! I may well have recommended it; I loved it.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Parasaurolophus on April 15, 2020, 11:12:20 AM
I think TPoG is far and away the best Culture novel.

They're all standalone novels, but they benefit a great deal from the rest of the Culture universe. They're much better and more interesting novels when seen in light of one another (I confess to some boredom in my progression through them all). The main exception, to my mind, is TPoG. I loved that one from the start.

Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on April 15, 2020, 12:06:07 PM
Thanks to you both! I will report back on the Jemisin short stories and will get a copy of TPoG.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: archaeo42 on April 16, 2020, 04:59:55 AM
I finished The Murmur of Bees last night be Sofia Segovia. It was really lovely. Takes place in Linares around the turn of the 20th century and is about a foundling and the family that takes him in. It was a bit difficult to follow the narration at first (it's told from the point of view of the youngest son) since it does jump back and forth between years at the start. Admittedly the Spanish Flu pandemic chapters were a little....eerie, but I found it hard to put down. It was a nice change of pace from what I usually read.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on April 24, 2020, 07:47:33 AM
The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs, by Steve Brusatte.  It's a fascinating history of--well, the rise and fall of the dinosaurs, as currently understood by paleontology.  It's very readable popular science, with vivid profiles of several figures in the field of paleontology, and detailed descriptions of the methods they use to deduce what dinosaurs looked like, how they lived, and how their lineages mapped out.  It's one of those books where the author's enthusiasm for the subject proves contagious.  That's a mark of good popular nonfiction writing.

For extinct creatures, dinosaurs sure have changed a lot in the four decades since I began reading about them as a kid!  Makes me wonder how much of what Brusatte discusses here will be subject to modification in the years to come, due to continuing new fossil finds and methodologies.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: fourhats on April 24, 2020, 03:02:31 PM
Quote
I'm with you on the Harry Potter fervor--I've got the whole series in hardback, the whole series in full-size paperback format (as a boxed set), and several of the volumes in smaller-size paperback format.

If you have these, you need to check out the Juniper Books website! They do wonderful covers, and imaginative editions that look wonderful on the shelf. I bought two sets of books through them. There are multiple Harry Potter sets.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: nebo113 on April 29, 2020, 04:47:32 AM
Skimming another Lee Child.  I can skim as I'm falling asleep since it's so easy to pick up the plot every three or so pages.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: evil_physics_witchcraft on April 29, 2020, 02:14:20 PM
Currently reading my old college/grad school Physics texts. Good bathroom reading. I may start working problems to keep my mind busy.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: onthefringe on April 29, 2020, 05:15:26 PM
I’m having a huge amount of trouble focusing on anything, including reading. It’s very distressing.

I did make it through “Because, Internet” by Gretchen McCullouch, which prompted some interesting discussions  about texting punctuation and emoji use with my daughter. And “Fated Stars” by Mary Robinette Kowal, which I quite enjoyed.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: paultuttle on April 29, 2020, 05:19:08 PM
Quote
I'm with you on the Harry Potter fervor--I've got the whole series in hardback, the whole series in full-size paperback format (as a boxed set), and several of the volumes in smaller-size paperback format.

If you have these, you need to check out the Juniper Books website! They do wonderful covers, and imaginative editions that look wonderful on the shelf. I bought two sets of books through them. There are multiple Harry Potter sets.

Thanks! I'll take a look at their website.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: statsgeek on April 30, 2020, 04:58:17 AM
I'm finally getting to Jennifer Chiaverini's Resistance Women.  Her description of the rise of the Nazi party is, in the present climate, terrifying. 
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: archaeo42 on April 30, 2020, 05:12:24 AM
I've been reading Marc Levy recently. I finished The Strange Journey of Alice Pendelbury, originally published in France as The Strange Journey of Mr. Daldry. I'm currently reading P.S. from Paris. They're nice brain breaks - something pleasant to read that isn't taxing.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Parasaurolophus on May 02, 2020, 06:25:23 PM
Hmm. Haven't posted since February. Kthen, here's my haul for February, March, and April. It's pretty minuscule, for reasons. I'm not happy about having read so little, but there you have. I'ma step up my game now! I'm reading a few concurrently now, and I'm looking forward to a small fortune of books from an order I placed aaaaages ago, so. Plus, more free time!


Fraans de Waal - Are we smart enough to know how smart animals are?: An entertaining bit of popular science, with lots of really interesting and compelling examples. I often gasped at the shoddy experimental design from the past, which is basically what I was looking for when I got it (and which were, in many ways, highly reminiscent of Elisabeth Lloy'd magnificent Pre-theoretical Assumptions in Evolutionary Explanations of Female Sexuality). It was also interesting to have my childhood memories of how we talked about animal cognition confirmed; I'd come to think I must have been misremembering, but apparently not. Wow, have we ever come a long way!

Ezekiel Boone - The Hatching: Found it in a book box. It's almost a competent creature feature, except that the creature apocalypse described doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Too many different points of view, too, which make the story (such as it is--it's pretty cookie-cutter, with some cookie-cutter misogyny) pretty disjointed. It also just... ends. Without ending. It was an easy read that passed time on the bus, back when we could still bus around, but no more than that.

Robert Jordan - Warrior of the Altaii: Since this was his first novel, I didn't expect much. But those expectations were exceeded, and then some! It was a great, rip-roaring read. I wish it had been longer, because the story could have used expansion in places. But it did a great job of building a new world for me, taking me there, and guiding me through it. It was a lot of fun, and it was especially fun to see the seeds being sown for The Wheel of Time. In fact, it made me desperately want to re-read the series again, but it's such an undertaking... Well. Maybe sometime later this year.

Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, and Steven Barnes - The Legacy of Heorot: Space colony Beowulf, except the colonists are brain-damaged from hibernation. I don't much care for Niven and don't know the other two, so my expectations were low, but I loved the premise so I gave it a go. I really, really enjoyed this. It's a little dated, lightly misogynist (surprise, surprise), and the different writers show through sometimes, but I had a great time with it. Fantastic premise, competent execution, all-around good story. I definitely want more space colony novels, preferably with wildlife (that's always my favourite part).

Jane Austen - Lady Susan: I've never actually read an Austen, although I've been meaning to for a while. Lady Susan is a joy, what more can I say? (And, of course, the film adaptation is fantastic.)

Norman F. Cantor - In the Wake of the Plague: The Black Death and the World it Made: I've had it on my history shelf for ages, and finally decided to give it a go (I'm reading Defoe with my partner, so it's slower, but also way better). It's an OK bit of popular history, but I have complaints. One is that crossbows definitely did not take two people and half an hour to reload, and only shoot thirty yards. Dunno where that came from. Another is that I didn't appreciate the amount of speculation involved, especially with respect to introducing his pet theory that the Black Death was bubonic plague + anthrax, which frankly isn't all that credible. There was some other grandstanding I don't remember, a sentence which seemed to claim that England won the Hundred Years' War but was probably just very poorly constructed, and, well, I just couldn't trust Cantor as a guide through the fourteenth century. Oh, and his focus is almost exclusively on England, which is, well, a bit chauvinist and not as advertised. Overall, not impressed. An easy read, though.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Parasaurolophus on May 02, 2020, 07:25:19 PM
Oops, I forgot to ask: what can you guys recommend me by way of space colonies with interesting wildlife?
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: sprout on May 02, 2020, 10:27:57 PM
Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, and Steven Barnes - The Legacy of Heorot: Space colony Beowulf, except the colonists are brain-damaged from hibernation. I don't much care for Niven and don't know the other two, so my expectations were low, but I loved the premise so I gave it a go. I really, really enjoyed this. It's a little dated, lightly misogynist (surprise, surprise), and the different writers show through sometimes, but I had a great time with it. Fantastic premise, competent execution, all-around good story. I definitely want more space colony novels, preferably with wildlife (that's always my favourite part).
There's a book I remember reading years ago - maybe high school, that has stuck with me, that may in fact be this one.  (I say this after checking out a Wikipedia summary.)  It was definitely a Beowulf in space book, and it fits that the creatures were called grendels.  It stuck with me because of the way the human colonists became prey to this intelligent, learning predator.  It really made me think about human exceptionalism, and how thin the veneer of being the dominant species could get.  Part of the effect may have been the age I read it, but there's not a ton of books that I still randomly think about on occasion, decades later.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on May 02, 2020, 11:01:28 PM
Oops, I forgot to ask: what can you guys recommend me by way of space colonies with interesting wildlife?

Sue Burke's Semiosis (and the sequel Interference) is awesome in that way, as long as you include sentient plants in your definition of 'interesting wildlife'.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: smallcleanrat on May 03, 2020, 07:48:51 AM
Fraans de Waal - Are we smart enough to know how smart animals are?: An entertaining bit of popular science, with lots of really interesting and compelling examples. I often gasped at the shoddy experimental design from the past, which is basically what I was looking for when I got it (and which were, in many ways, highly reminiscent of Elisabeth Lloy'd magnificent Pre-theoretical Assumptions in Evolutionary Explanations of Female Sexuality). It was also interesting to have my childhood memories of how we talked about animal cognition confirmed; I'd come to think I must have been misremembering, but apparently not. Wow, have we ever come a long way!

If you enjoyed this you might also like Lucy Cooke's The Truth About Animals: Stoned Sloths, Lovelorn Hippos, and Other Tales from the Wild Side of Wildlife.

It has many examples of the historical/cultural origins of misconceptions and myths about animals and contrasts these with the more modern, empirically-based understanding of animal lifestyles and behavior. Also quite an entertaining read.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Parasaurolophus on May 03, 2020, 11:47:50 AM
There's a book I remember reading years ago - maybe high school, that has stuck with me, that may in fact be this one.  (I say this after checking out a Wikipedia summary.)  It was definitely a Beowulf in space book, and it fits that the creatures were called grendels.  It stuck with me because of the way the human colonists became prey to this intelligent, learning predator.  It really made me think about human exceptionalism, and how thin the veneer of being the dominant species could get.  Part of the effect may have been the age I read it, but there's not a ton of books that I still randomly think about on occasion, decades later.

Oh! I'm so glad that might have been the one! (I suppose it could have been one of the sequels, too, but I haven't read them yet.) I found out about it from my brother-in-law, who was basically in your situation but couldn't find the book, and after asking me a pile of questions about Beowulf and the names of things in Beowulf, he was able to google his way back to the book.


Sue Burke's Semiosis (and the sequel Interference) is awesome in that way, as long as you include sentient plants in your definition of 'interesting wildlife'.

Thanks! This is actually one of the books I ordered ages ago which should arrive soonish. I'll move it up the 'to read' list accordingly! (Cool flora definitely counts!)


If you enjoyed this you might also like Lucy Cooke's The Truth About Animals: Stoned Sloths, Lovelorn Hippos, and Other Tales from the Wild Side of Wildlife.

It has many examples of the historical/cultural origins of misconceptions and myths about animals and contrasts these with the more modern, empirically-based understanding of animal lifestyles and behavior. Also quite an entertaining read.

Thanks! That sounds really cool, too. I'll look around for it!
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mahagonny on May 08, 2020, 03:47:10 AM
Without Conscience The Disturbing World of The Psychopaths Among Us by Robert D. Hare

How many have you met/known? Are you sure?
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: FishProf on May 09, 2020, 07:11:13 AM
Whiny student emails, mostly...

...but I am listening to Fahrenheit 451 and trying to get a start on Bill Bryson's The Body.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mamselle on May 09, 2020, 11:10:10 AM
As I've said before, elsewhere...we are Bradbury's hoboes....

And think about that wide-screen TV in your wall....

M.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: FishProf on May 09, 2020, 04:23:10 PM
As I've said before, elsewhere...we are Bradbury's hoboes....

And think about that wide-screen TV in your wall....

M.

Walls, soon we can buy the 4th.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mamselle on May 10, 2020, 10:22:39 AM
Got it in one.

M.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on May 26, 2020, 02:31:41 PM
The Tale of Genji, by Murasaki Shikibu, and The Tale of Murasaki, by Liza Dalby

I came across Dalby's historical novel some months back.  It looked interesting.  Reading Tale of Genji first, to understand the context, seemed like a good idea.  I'd been toying with the idea of reading Genji for years anyway.  Now I've finally gotten down to business and completed them both.

Tale of Genji was something of a slog.  I'm mainly a reader of nonfiction.  When I read serious literary fiction, it tends to go down like a dose of medicine.  This was a preposterously big dose (How on earth did anybody ever manage to write a novel this long in the days before modern paper, ink, and typewriters?).  Slog or not, it deserves its reputation as one of the world's great novels.  It's full of psychological insight, and it's an extraordinary window into a long-ago world.

Title character Genji...is a real piece of work.  He's a sexual predator who brings disaster upon most of his paramours.  He even manages to create serious trouble for the royal family, with the all the potentially severe political consequences that that entails.  He's not a sociopath.  He has a conscience and can feel remorse.  Mainly that serves to turn him into a world-class rationalizer.  Yet he's supposed to be a sympathetic character. How did a female author create a "hero" like this?  How did he become so popular among a female readership?

Dalby's Tale of Murasaki tries to have Murasaki herself explain this in the course of narrating her own life's story.  Of course there's no way of knowing whether Dalby's educated guesses regarding Murasaki's motivations are true.  They generally come across as plausible.  The one place where she really overreaches is in the final chapter, which is an imagined reconstruction of a hypothetical missing final chapter to Genji.  I think it would have been best not to have tried that.

Overall it's a remarkable novel in the way it vivdly recreates the lost world of the Heian Japanese court.  It also, for the most part, allows its characters to be people of their time, not time-warped moderns.  That's an essential part of any worthwhile historical fiction.  Modern writers can't help having modern preoccupations, but they can work them into their historical recreations in a subtle way.  Dalby only occasionally tips her hand with an observation or phrase that's a little too on-the-nose. 

I do wonder, as I often to when reading historical fiction, whether certain unsympathetically portrayed characters--Murasaki's jerk of a brother comes to mind--are getting treated fairly.  I guess we'll never know. 
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mamselle on May 26, 2020, 07:37:56 PM
Does your copy of the original book show any of the paintings or the pen-and-ink drawings?

Those are amazing in and of themselves.

I am pretty sure I saw these at one point:

   https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/53892

This is also an oft-reproduced work:

   https://artgallery.yale.edu/collections/objects/25532

M.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Puget on May 27, 2020, 05:56:58 AM
I've been listening to lots of audiobooks from the library as I work in the yard and house and go for walks--

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern (who wrote The Night Circus). A secret underground world centered around stories, with lots of intersecting stories within it and interludes of stories within stories. It got mixed reviews and I can see why-- it's rather odd, and follows dream logic, but in audiobook form and for this moment when we all seem a bit unmoored in time like the characters are, it worked for me.

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield. I really enjoyed this one-- multiple intersecting story lines in 1840s (?) England. Good characters and an interesting plot that kept me guessing, with some magical realism elements.

The House of Silk and Moriarty, by Anthony Horowtz. Two Sherlock Holmes take-offs that were pretty well done and captured the style well.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on May 27, 2020, 07:42:46 AM
Does your copy of the original book show any of the paintings or the pen-and-ink drawings?

Those are amazing in and of themselves.

I am pretty sure I saw these at one point:

   https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/53892

This is also an oft-reproduced work:

   https://artgallery.yale.edu/collections/objects/25532

M.

The copy I read was our library's very old Modern Library edition (The Arthur Waley translation, which has lots of helpful annotations).  No illustrations.  It doesn't even have its original book jacket! 

I'll have to check those links you've supplied when I have some time.  Thank you!
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: notmycircus on May 27, 2020, 08:20:25 AM
Currently reading Little Fires Everywhere.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mamselle on May 30, 2020, 11:08:38 AM
Does your copy of the original book show any of the paintings or the pen-and-ink drawings?

Those are amazing in and of themselves.

I am pretty sure I saw these at one point:

   https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/53892

This is also an oft-reproduced work:

   https://artgallery.yale.edu/collections/objects/25532

M.

Just found the copy I got from a friend for use as a teaching resource.

It's Seidensticker's paperback, an abridged tranlation with reproduced woodcuts based, per the publication info, on the 17th c. artist Y. Shunsho's work for a 1650 pub. by E. G. Monogatari.

The cover has two color scenes from the Met's screen (referenced above); I'm thinking the woodcuts were informed by/based on the paintings at Yale (or, depending on an unclear chronology, the other way 'round), since both feature several scenes with protruding corners of porches, dias(es), etc. into the center space.

Anyway, there are worthy visual sources at hand...a kid interested in manga or anime might like to explore these as precursorial elements.

M.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on May 31, 2020, 12:22:57 AM
The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs, by Steve Brusatte.  It's a fascinating history of--well, the rise and fall of the dinosaurs, as currently understood by paleontology.  It's very readable popular science, with vivid profiles of several figures in the field of paleontology, and detailed descriptions of the methods they use to deduce what dinosaurs looked like, how they lived, and how their lineages mapped out.  It's one of those books where the author's enthusiasm for the subject proves contagious.  That's a mark of good popular nonfiction writing.

For extinct creatures, dinosaurs sure have changed a lot in the four decades since I began reading about them as a kid!  Makes me wonder how much of what Brusatte discusses here will be subject to modification in the years to come, due to continuing new fossil finds and methodologies.

I was intrigued, so I actually requested that my library acquire it as an ebook, and then I took it out and read it. (They're surprisingly obliging about acquiring texts I recommend.) I did enjoy it, but I was extremely struck by the fact that he (a) only seems to profile current people that he knows personally, and (b) they're almost entirely men. In the acknowledgements he says that his research comes from his own personal experience and publications--fine, he's an expert--but it led me to look up the gender balance overall in the field of paleontology. Are women really as rare in the field as they are among his buddies?

 According to this article in Smithsonion (https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/many-ways-women-get-left-out-paleontology-180969239/), women make up 'less than one-quarter' of professional paleontologists. Assuming that 'less than one quarter' means 'more than one fifth and less than one quarter' (or else they'd have said 'less than one fifth'), I would expect a properly representative book to contain between a fifth and a quarter as many women as men. But it sure didn't. On one page I counted twelve men mentioned and no women at all. So this leads me to conclude that Brusatte's own behavior in the discipline--who he makes friends with at conferences, collaborates with, who he cites in this research--is compounding the gender imbalance.

He's exactly my age, and went to my college, so it's not a case of an old fuddy-duddy perpetuating the norms of an earlier time. And that made me sad.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mamselle on May 31, 2020, 11:10:07 AM
Tracy Chevalier's Remarkable Creatures discusses the life and work of this 19th c. female in the field:

   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Anning

M.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: FishProf on May 31, 2020, 12:01:23 PM
I teach about Mary Anning and that book is remarkably accurate about the paleontology.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: hmaria1609 on May 31, 2020, 05:28:20 PM
I read and own a paperback copy of Remarkable Creatures.  I thought it was good too.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on June 01, 2020, 02:05:10 AM
I teach about Mary Anning and that book is remarkably accurate about the paleontology.

Can you fill in a gap for me? Brusatte makes a big distinction between things that looked like dinosaurs but weren't, and things that actually were dinosaurs. But it's not fully clear to me what the distinction should be. He himself admits that it's a bit arcane, but he didn't really lay out the characteristics that allow a paleontologist to say, 'yes, this is a dinosaur, but no, this thing isn't.'
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: FishProf on June 01, 2020, 11:43:06 AM
Sure.  You want the online lecture?

In short, Dinosaurs are Vertebrate Osteichthyan Tetrapod Amniote Sauropsid Diapsid Archosaur Ornithodire with an open acetabulum and an upright gait.

Wait, what?

Vertebrate = has a backbone
Osteighthyan = Bony Fish (has bones and lungs)

Tetrapod = Four-legged terrestrial

Amniote = Lays waterproof eggs (extant = birds, mammals, "reptiles")

Sauropsid = What is typically (incorrectly) called a reptile, has 2 holes in the roof of its mouth (palatine fenestrae)

Diapsid = Two holes in the side of head (upper and lower terrestrial fenestrae)

Archosaur = teeth in sockets, additional hole in skull in front of eye (anteorbital fenestra)

Ornithodire = Pterosaurs + Dinosaurs (plus birds)

Acetabulum = hip socket

Upright gait = Lugs under body, weight supported by bones (opp. to sprawling gait)

Therefore, Ichthyosuars, plesiosaurs, pterosaurs are all NOT DINOSAURS

Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Vkw10 on June 01, 2020, 12:14:03 PM
FishProf, you've almost convinced me to seek a course in biological classification. I vaguely recall learning about vertebrates and mammals many decades ago, but I had no idea of the detail involved in those branching diagrams of classification.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on June 01, 2020, 12:47:55 PM
Sure.  You want the online lecture?

In short, Dinosaurs are Vertebrate Osteichthyan Tetrapod Amniote Sauropsid Diapsid Archosaur Ornithodire with an open acetabulum and an upright gait.

Wait, what?

Vertebrate = has a backbone
Osteighthyan = Bony Fish (has bones and lungs)

Tetrapod = Four-legged terrestrial

Amniote = Lays waterproof eggs (extant = birds, mammals, "reptiles")

Sauropsid = What is typically (incorrectly) called a reptile, has 2 holes in the roof of its mouth (palatine fenestrae)

Diapsid = Two holes in the side of head (upper and lower terrestrial fenestrae)

Archosaur = teeth in sockets, additional hole in skull in front of eye (anteorbital fenestra)

Ornithodire = Pterosaurs + Dinosaurs (plus birds)

Acetabulum = hip socket

Upright gait = Lugs under body, weight supported by bones (opp. to sprawling gait)

Therefore, Ichthyosuars, plesiosaurs, pterosaurs are all NOT DINOSAURS

Thank you! This was exactly what I wanted. Brusatte talked about the upright gait a bit, but very little of the rest.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mamselle on June 01, 2020, 05:52:19 PM
When things are crazy everywhere else, it's so reassuring to know we can at least classify the dinosaurs we know about.

M.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: FishProf on June 02, 2020, 03:30:39 AM
I'm actually teaching a course on Dinosaurs right now and I have to update this stuff (at least) weekly.

It's fun to study fields where what we "know" is ion a reasonable state of flux.

I'd hate to be doing cosmology lectures right now.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on June 02, 2020, 05:00:03 AM
I'm actually teaching a course on Dinosaurs right now and I have to update this stuff (at least) weekly.

It's fun to study fields where what we "know" is ion a reasonable state of flux.

I'd hate to be doing cosmology lectures right now.

I only recently discovered that brontosaurs are now a Thing again. There was a long period in my later childhood when I went around smug in the knowledge that there's no such thing as a Brontosaurus, and the knowledgeable dinosaurophile should say Apatosaurus. Then a month or two ago I read a golden-era scifi book that mentioned Brontosaur and I realized my ten-year-old smugness was alive and well, so I prepared a long condescending post about it in which I was prepared to forgive the writer for not knowing the truth about Brontosaurs (although still holding firm that he was Very Wrong in his implication that they coexisted with early humans), and went to wikipedia to check out when, exactly, Brontosaurus had gone the way of Pluto--only to discover that they're back!
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on June 02, 2020, 07:38:34 AM
I'm actually teaching a course on Dinosaurs right now and I have to update this stuff (at least) weekly.

It's fun to study fields where what we "know" is ion a reasonable state of flux.

I'd hate to be doing cosmology lectures right now.

What sorts of students to you get in a course on dinosaurs?  Are they taking the class because it sounds interesting, or is this something they're required to do? 

Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mamselle on June 02, 2020, 07:52:29 AM
A friend in Colorado teaches about the dinosaurs whose footprints are fossilized in the park where he works.

I've always thought that would be fun.

(I did mean my previous post as a wry observation, not snark--hope that was clear...)

M.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: RatGuy on June 02, 2020, 08:09:26 AM
Nearing the end of Devil in the White City. For some reason, my local library's algorithms think that Pacific Vortex! would be a good follow-up.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: archaeo42 on June 02, 2020, 08:18:46 AM
I'm actually teaching a course on Dinosaurs right now and I have to update this stuff (at least) weekly.

It's fun to study fields where what we "know" is ion a reasonable state of flux.

I'd hate to be doing cosmology lectures right now.

What sorts of students to you get in a course on dinosaurs?  Are they taking the class because it sounds interesting, or is this something they're required to do?

I used a course on dinosaurs to fulfill a science gen ed requirement. It looked like it would be the most interesting/fun of that grouping. I wasn't disappointed.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mamselle on June 02, 2020, 08:30:45 AM
I still have the fossils (trilobites, brachyopods, and microscopic conodants) that I found at Cowan Lake when taking Dr. Sweet's paleontology course at the end of my undergraduate program at OSU. The egg carton in which they were turned in, with labels, has been moved several times but remains intact.

Plus a huge rugosa coral that popped up in the middle of a path in a woods that used to be near the campus.

I agree, it was a most satisfying course.

M.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: FishProf on June 02, 2020, 08:51:12 AM
I'm actually teaching a course on Dinosaurs right now and I have to update this stuff (at least) weekly.

It's fun to study fields where what we "know" is ion a reasonable state of flux.

I'd hate to be doing cosmology lectures right now.

What sorts of students to you get in a course on dinosaurs?  Are they taking the class because it sounds interesting, or is this something they're required to do?

This class is a non-majors, Science with a Lab general elective, so I usually get students who need it to graduate and have put it off as long as they can.   However, I have been teaching it for a decade+ and the reputation that it is hard has permeated the culture.  SO my students are generally engaged.  The Criminal Justice department steers their majors this way, as does business.

There is also a Majors-only Vertebrate Paleontology class, and that is a much different critter.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on June 02, 2020, 10:10:12 AM
For extinct creatures of more recent times, it's hard to beat The End of the Megafauna, by Ross MacPhee and Peter Schouten.  It's a beautifully illustrated guide to the fantastic creatures of only a few millennia ago--mammoths, mastodons, and other proboscids; monster birds; even giant turtles discovered recently enough to be known as "Ninja turtles."  To me, the more recent creatures are at least as interesting as the dinosaurs.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: archaeo42 on June 02, 2020, 10:19:44 AM
I recently finished How to Stop Time by Matt Haig. I enjoyed it until the last 85ish% of the book when the climax seemed rushed, seemingly out of nowhere, and some characters seemed to just make decisions that didn't fit with how the author had written them. Things were resolved at a pace seemingly not in line with how things were built up. Or, it would have been nice to have alternate narration by the main character's daughter in relevant places so she doesn't just show up out of nowhere.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: FishProf on June 03, 2020, 06:11:28 AM
Neil Patrick Harris' Choose Your Own Autobiography
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Parasaurolophus on June 09, 2020, 07:45:34 PM
The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs, Semiosis, and Space Prison arrived in the mail recently, and I’m looking forward to sinking my teeth into them!

But before I fall too far behind again, here was May’s small haul:

David Bischoff – Time Machine 2: Search for Dinosaurs: I haven’t read this since I was eight or ten or so (i.e. part of the book’s intended audience). It was a delight. It’s wonderfully and cleverly put together, and I quite literally went through every page in the book on my quest to photograph an archaeopteryx. Lots of gear from the future got left behind in the past, but the story didn’t seem to notice. I even got stuck in the very same super-frustrating loop I was stuck in the last time I read this!

Alastair Reynolds – Bone Silence: This is the last of Reynolds’s space pirate trilogy. And while I was happy to return to this delightful storyworld and these characters, I have to confess that the whole thing felt pretty rushed to me. Reynolds just pushed me through too much story in too few pages. The first in this series is brilliant, but I’m afraid there’s a steady decline where the next two are concerned. Don’t get me wrong: I enjoyed it. Just not as much I should have, given the givens.

Becky Chambers – A Closed and Common Orbit: This was brilliant and just lovely, although the Owl storyline is pretty heartbreaking. I loved every minute of it. It’s a loose sequel to A Long, Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, although it’s really just set in the same universe. It’s vastly superior to the first novel, which was fun but not quite there yet. It was just great!

Douglas Adams – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Not much to say, except of course that it’s brilliant and hilarious. I’ve read it twice before, once as a teen and once as an early adult. It still holds up and, unsurprisingly, is a lot richer now that I know more about everything.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: traductio on June 09, 2020, 08:07:25 PM
The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs, Semiosis, and Space Prison arrived in the mail recently, and I’m looking forward to sinking my teeth into them!

I had to read your sentence twice before I realized you were talking about three different books, rather than one. I'm sad it's not one book called The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs, Semiosis, and Space Prison. I was going to order myself a copy based on the title alone.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Parasaurolophus on June 09, 2020, 08:12:31 PM


I had to read your sentence twice before I realized you were talking about three different books, rather than one. I'm sad it's not one book called The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs, Semiosis, and Space Prison. I was going to order myself a copy based on the title alone.

!

It's not too late to follow up your scammy journal submission with a scammy book proposal...
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on June 10, 2020, 07:23:51 AM
The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs, Semiosis, and Space Prison arrived in the mail recently, and I’m looking forward to sinking my teeth into them!

I had to read your sentence twice before I realized you were talking about three different books, rather than one. I'm sad it's not one book called The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs, Semiosis, and Space Prison. I was going to order myself a copy based on the title alone.

And here we thought Allan Sokal had a new book out!
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: RatGuy on June 10, 2020, 07:52:46 AM
I just read an email that said that subcutaneous microchips were predicted by the Bible. So far it's better than Pacific Vortex that a colleague recommended.

And I'm nearly through with the Watchmen graphic novel. I know, I know.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mamselle on June 10, 2020, 08:18:49 AM
It's tattooing, I think, that is supposed to transfer the number of the Beast (666) to the forehead and hand of the anti-elect (my term) in John's Revelation (14:9).

I don't think they had micro-chipping then....

M.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on June 10, 2020, 10:34:18 AM
Does your copy of the original book show any of the paintings or the pen-and-ink drawings?

Those are amazing in and of themselves.

I am pretty sure I saw these at one point:

   https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/53892

This is also an oft-reproduced work:

   https://artgallery.yale.edu/collections/objects/25532

M.

Just found the copy I got from a friend for use as a teaching resource.

It's Seidensticker's paperback, an abridged tranlation with reproduced woodcuts based, per the publication info, on the 17th c. artist Y. Shunsho's work for a 1650 pub. by E. G. Monogatari.

The cover has two color scenes from the Met's screen (referenced above); I'm thinking the woodcuts were informed by/based on the paintings at Yale (or, depending on an unclear chronology, the other way 'round), since both feature several scenes with protruding corners of porches, dias(es), etc. into the center space.

Anyway, there are worthy visual sources at hand...a kid interested in manga or anime might like to explore these as precursorial elements.

M.

By the way, I never properly finished thanking you for linking these.  I loved looking at them!  The way the blacks were spotted in some of those was strikingly like some modern graphic art.  Oddly enough, some of it reminded me of the work of Crockett Johnson, of Barnaby and Harold and the Purple Crayon fame.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mamselle on June 10, 2020, 11:07:15 AM
You're welcome!

It strikes me that a class on literary works and their visual counterparts in India, China, Korea, and Japan would make an interesting interdisciplinary course. It might even be library-specific, if the library has large, seminar-type classrooms--in a year or two, once we've worked out our co-operative lifestyle vis-a-vis The Virus, that is--ascwell as online, for the moment.

A selection of the Hindu myths (focused on 1-3 stories and their iconographic depictions--say, representations of the cow herders flirting with the blue god, Krishna, etc.), Buddhist writings (paired with discussions of the mudras in visual arts, as compared with dance) and the formulaic/triadic representations of members of those pantheons, (as well as the Jains), in India; and the spread and interaction of Buddhism with Chinese and Japanese systems, reading Lao T'tsu, Confucius, and myths from the T'ang and Sung dynasties-while looking at their sculpture and paintings and the wondrous 9-ft Dragon Scroll; then considering Korean and Japanese stories and the great pen-and-ink drawing in the original scroll of the "Tale of Choju-Giga" and comparing it with the (later) representations of Gen-Ji.

You could do all this online, in fact; if in place, the class might meet in the library so the larger art history books could be passed around the table while speakers from the various linguistic disciplines presented their papers and led discussions; comparative forms in visual and verbal sources could also be treated in the contexts of danced and dramatized representations of these tales as well.

Another lifetime, another day....

Syllabi RUs....

M.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Economizer on June 11, 2020, 06:08:01 AM
PLUM ISLAND, Nelson DeMille, 1997. An informative read for those still alive in 2020. The fiction novel includes gore, murder, NYC vicinities, a very likeable smartass NYC detective, the farthest reaches of Long Island, NY, taunting and titillating sexual encounters, intellectual scientists, government agents, rivalries, TOP SECRET bioscience labs, plus pirate lore and much, much more. No mention of butlers but I've not yet finished reading the book.. it is still quite a mystery to me!
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: marshwiggle on June 11, 2020, 06:37:27 AM
It's tattooing, I think, that is supposed to transfer the number of the Beast (666) to the forehead and hand of the anti-elect (my term) in John's Revelation (14:9).

I don't think they had micro-chipping then....

M.

My apologies if I'm incorrect, but I believe you'll remember Erich von Daniken's "Chariots of the Gods" in the 70's, which was kind of a high water mark of sci-fi-ish speculations about historical mysteries and/or prophecies and what they "really mean" now. (Also, Hal Lindsey's stuff in conservative Christian circles.)

There was a little bit of stuff like that coming up to Y2K, and a bit more before "the end" of the Mayan calendar in 2012, but I don't think either of those quite compare...
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: RatGuy on June 11, 2020, 07:46:12 AM
PLUM ISLAND, Nelson DeMille, 1997. An informative read for those still alive in 2020. The fiction novel includes gore, murder, NYC vicinities, a very likeable smartass NYC detective, the farthest reaches of Long Island, NY, taunting and titillating sexual encounters, intellectual scientists, government agents, rivalries, TOP SECRET bioscience labs, plus pirate lore and much, much more. No mention of butlers but I've not yet finished reading the book.. it is still quite a mystery to me!

If you like John Corey, the author reuses that character a few more times -- notably in the wake of 9/11
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: nebo113 on June 12, 2020, 04:57:32 AM
It's tattooing, I think, that is supposed to transfer the number of the Beast (666) to the forehead and hand of the anti-elect (my term) in John's Revelation (14:9).

I don't think they had micro-chipping then....

M.


My apologies if I'm incorrect, but I believe you'll remember Erich von Daniken's "Chariots of the Gods" in the 70's, which was kind of a high water mark of sci-fi-ish speculations about historical mysteries and/or prophecies and what they "really mean" now. (Also, Hal Lindsey's stuff in conservative Christian circles.)

There was a little bit of stuff like that coming up to Y2K, and a bit more before "the end" of the Mayan calendar in 2012, but I don't think either of those quite compare...

First grad MA course in research methods used "Chariots" as text on misuse of "research."  I learned a great deal about analysis and interpretation of socalled "data."
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on June 12, 2020, 07:54:03 AM
It's tattooing, I think, that is supposed to transfer the number of the Beast (666) to the forehead and hand of the anti-elect (my term) in John's Revelation (14:9).

I don't think they had micro-chipping then....

M.


My apologies if I'm incorrect, but I believe you'll remember Erich von Daniken's "Chariots of the Gods" in the 70's, which was kind of a high water mark of sci-fi-ish speculations about historical mysteries and/or prophecies and what they "really mean" now. (Also, Hal Lindsey's stuff in conservative Christian circles.)

There was a little bit of stuff like that coming up to Y2K, and a bit more before "the end" of the Mayan calendar in 2012, but I don't think either of those quite compare...

First grad MA course in research methods used "Chariots" as text on misuse of "research."  I learned a great deal about analysis and interpretation of socalled "data."

My adolescent interest in stuff like that led to the same thing.  Among other things, I read quite a bit on the Bermuda Triangle.  Then I read Lawrence Kusche's Bermuda Triangle Mystery:  Solved.  Kusche was a university research librarian who examined each Bermuda Triangle case one-on-one, comparing what the legend said about the case with what he was actually able to find.  Reading his deconstruction of the Triangle mystery in high school gave me an excellent education on critical thinking and the need to check your sources before drawing conclusions.  I'd love to see that book taught today.  Except that I think it's out of print, and today's students probably mostly don't know what the Bermuda Triangle was supposed to be.

I read some of Hal Lindsey's books when I was a kid as well.  Some of his interpretations of trends that he identified at the time seemed plausible enough.  But it's long since become clear that he was a dud as a prophet.  That taught me a few things about how inadvisable it is to get too dogmatic in one's interpretations of biblical prophecy.  That said, I can't help noticing that the world that climate scientists predict we're going to see in the next few decades bears an uncanny resemblance to some of the crises predicted in the Revelation of Saint John....
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mamselle on June 12, 2020, 10:45:39 AM
I was in a campus fellowship that went as a  group to hear Hal Lindsey and Josh MacDonald in the late 70s.

That was indeed one of the sources discussing tattoos...and there may have been a sort of whoo-woo reference to the procedure that became microchipping--but the warning was about never getting a bank account that made you get your no. tattooed on your hand or forehead ( which, it turned out, was in fact being considered.

Given research I've assisted in for an author on 16th-18th c. European and British Reformation authors' commentaries on the Apocalypse, it is indeed hard not to fall into their same traps.

For them the Pope was identified as the Anti-Christ; now, well....

M.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: nebo113 on June 13, 2020, 06:49:42 AM
It's tattooing, I think, that is supposed to transfer the number of the Beast (666) to the forehead and hand of the anti-elect (my term) in John's Revelation (14:9).

I don't think they had micro-chipping then....

M.


My apologies if I'm incorrect, but I believe you'll remember Erich von Daniken's "Chariots of the Gods" in the 70's, which was kind of a high water mark of sci-fi-ish speculations about historical mysteries and/or prophecies and what they "really mean" now. (Also, Hal Lindsey's stuff in conservative Christian circles.)

There was a little bit of stuff like that coming up to Y2K, and a bit more before "the end" of the Mayan calendar in 2012, but I don't think either of those quite compare...

First grad MA course in research methods used "Chariots" as text on misuse of "research."  I learned a great deal about analysis and interpretation of socalled "data."

My adolescent interest in stuff like that led to the same thing.  Among other things, I read quite a bit on the Bermuda Triangle.  Then I read Lawrence Kusche's Bermuda Triangle Mystery:  Solved.  Kusche was a university research librarian who examined each Bermuda Triangle case one-on-one, comparing what the legend said about the case with what he was actually able to find.  Reading his deconstruction of the Triangle mystery in high school gave me an excellent education on critical thinking and the need to check your sources before drawing conclusions.  I'd love to see that book taught today.  Except that I think it's out of print, and today's students probably mostly don't know what the Bermuda Triangle was supposed to be.

I read some of Hal Lindsey's books when I was a kid as well.  Some of his interpretations of trends that he identified at the time seemed plausible enough.  But it's long since become clear that he was a dud as a prophet.  That taught me a few things about how inadvisable it is to get too dogmatic in one's interpretations of biblical prophecy.  That said, I can't help noticing that the world that climate scientists predict we're going to see in the next few decades bears an uncanny resemblance to some of the crises predicted in the Revelation of Saint John....

I worked with Larry at the time the book was published.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on June 13, 2020, 07:51:28 AM
It's tattooing, I think, that is supposed to transfer the number of the Beast (666) to the forehead and hand of the anti-elect (my term) in John's Revelation (14:9).

I don't think they had micro-chipping then....

M.


My apologies if I'm incorrect, but I believe you'll remember Erich von Daniken's "Chariots of the Gods" in the 70's, which was kind of a high water mark of sci-fi-ish speculations about historical mysteries and/or prophecies and what they "really mean" now. (Also, Hal Lindsey's stuff in conservative Christian circles.)

There was a little bit of stuff like that coming up to Y2K, and a bit more before "the end" of the Mayan calendar in 2012, but I don't think either of those quite compare...

First grad MA course in research methods used "Chariots" as text on misuse of "research."  I learned a great deal about analysis and interpretation of socalled "data."

My adolescent interest in stuff like that led to the same thing.  Among other things, I read quite a bit on the Bermuda Triangle.  Then I read Lawrence Kusche's Bermuda Triangle Mystery:  Solved.  Kusche was a university research librarian who examined each Bermuda Triangle case one-on-one, comparing what the legend said about the case with what he was actually able to find.  Reading his deconstruction of the Triangle mystery in high school gave me an excellent education on critical thinking and the need to check your sources before drawing conclusions.  I'd love to see that book taught today.  Except that I think it's out of print, and today's students probably mostly don't know what the Bermuda Triangle was supposed to be.

I read some of Hal Lindsey's books when I was a kid as well.  Some of his interpretations of trends that he identified at the time seemed plausible enough.  But it's long since become clear that he was a dud as a prophet.  That taught me a few things about how inadvisable it is to get too dogmatic in one's interpretations of biblical prophecy.  That said, I can't help noticing that the world that climate scientists predict we're going to see in the next few decades bears an uncanny resemblance to some of the crises predicted in the Revelation of Saint John....

I worked with Larry at the time the book was published.

Wow!  What was it like working with him?  He's kind of a librarian hero of mine.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on June 14, 2020, 11:12:17 AM
We decided to give The Player of Games (Banks) a whirl given the positive recommendations.  It was (in our opinion, which IIRC seems to match those here) way better than what we had read in Consider Phlebus.  It's much more coherent, introduces a lot less of the universe and a lot fewer (and more interesting) people, and has a really suspenseful plot.  It took a little bit to get into it, but we intrigued fairly quickly.  Some of the plot twists were easy to anticipate, but others were more complicated and cleverly constructed, and the whole thing worked well together.  Thanks for the encouragement to give it a try! We are now going back to Consider Phlebus because we have it on hand, and we're hoping that it will make at least a little more sense now that we are a bit more familiar with the overall context.  We decided to skip what we had previously read and just move forward.  The first chapter of our new reading session was more similar to TPoG (discussion between person and drone), so that helped.  I'm still a little lost on the big picture, but hopefully it will come more into focus.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: FishProf on June 14, 2020, 11:54:23 AM
After finishing the Harry Potter Series, and the Hobbit, I am reading The Golden Compass to Smolt (and MrsFishProf.  I never read this series, so a second childhood of sorts.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on June 14, 2020, 12:10:56 PM
After finishing the Harry Potter Series, and the Hobbit, I am reading The Golden Compass to Smolt (and MrsFishProf.  I never read this series, so a second childhood of sorts.

I really loved The Golden Compass and the following two! We read them a year or two ago.  I think they would be appealing to many ages, though there are some dark parts of the story.  They were very entertaining and touching overall, and some of the characters are favorites.  Please let us know what you think of the book and series!
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on June 15, 2020, 07:03:53 AM
After finishing the Harry Potter Series, and the Hobbit, I am reading The Golden Compass to Smolt (and MrsFishProf.  I never read this series, so a second childhood of sorts.

I really loved The Golden Compass and the following two! We read them a year or two ago.  I think they would be appealing to many ages, though there are some dark parts of the story.  They were very entertaining and touching overall, and some of the characters are favorites.  Please let us know what you think of the book and series!

Yes, that trilogy is very, very good and satisfying. Skip the new one that Pullman is currently writing. It's deeply disappointing and actively gross in places.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: FishProf on June 15, 2020, 07:35:12 AM
Two Chapters in and I am intrigued.  I fear it may be too much for Smolt, however. She's 8
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on June 15, 2020, 11:05:06 AM
Ergative, thanks for the heads up about the new book.

Fishprof, you know your daughter best, but I would be hesitant to read those books to someone so young.  I am not sure I would consider them children's books... there are a lot of adult themes (mostly in terms of violence or frightening or very sad elements) from what I recall, and a feeling of loss of youth and innocence.  But, there are good aspects as well, friendship and love and fighting for justice.  Maybe you can pre-read some of it and see whether you wish to continue at this time? I started reading Stephen King when I was around her age, but I'm not sure that was a good thing.  On the other hand, the Pullman books have more positives to offer, especially if you are reading together and you can discuss things that come up or gauge how she is handling it.  Just my two cents.  Good luck.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mamselle on June 15, 2020, 11:15:25 AM
I have had a similar issue to deal with in working with the ADHD student I've supported over the past semester.

What was his teacher thinking of, assigning young middle-schoolers (6th grade) a story with two gang-related deaths by shooting and other assorted moments of violence?  (S.E. Hinton's "The Outsiders," FYI). The chapter work was excellent, in using comparisons with other literary materials, etc., but the basic material worried me.

I know, I know they see it all the time in video games and streaming stuff, but it was a bit raw and I really worried at first about how it would affect him; he deals with a certain degree of emotional abuse from his dad (nothing physical that I'm aware of, but the bad-mouthy acid drip is bad enough, thankfully he only has short visits and lives primarily with his mom) and has serious ego-assurance issues as well, and he's not the only one in those classes who has such situations (I subbed in their school a few years ago, and was often assigned to the special-needs classroom, so I'm familiar with the setting).

So, I'm glad you're  keeping an eye out for Smolt in this regard.

M.

Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: FishProf on June 15, 2020, 11:24:24 AM
How about Watership Down?  That's kid friendly, right?  Just some bunnies doing bunny things.....
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on June 15, 2020, 11:46:45 AM
How about Watership Down?  That's kid friendly, right?  Just some bunnies doing bunny things.....

Ha... I don't think I'm old enough to read that yet.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Parasaurolophus on June 15, 2020, 12:06:48 PM
How about Watership Down?  That's kid friendly, right?  Just some bunnies doing bunny things.....

Ha... I don't think I'm old enough to read that yet.

Me neither. I avoid it like the COVID.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: marshwiggle on June 15, 2020, 12:11:22 PM
I have had a similar issue to deal with in working with the ADHD student I've supported over the past semester.

What was his teacher thinking of, assigning young middle-schoolers (6th grade) a story with two gang-related deaths by shooting and other assorted moments of violence?  (S.E. Hinton's "The Outsiders," FYI). The chapter work was excellent, in using comparisons with other literary materials, etc., but the basic material worried me.


Going to high school in the 70's, (and where I grew up, high school started at Grade 7), it seemed part of the point of English class was to try and shock students my picking edgy things. In some grade, (9 at the latest), we read The Grapes of Wrath. Not a single character who I cared enough about to enjoy the book.

Short stories were different, though. Some of my favourites were "The Most Dangerous Game", "Sorry Wrong Number" and "The Monkey's Paw". If they'd have picked novels like that, I would have been much more onboard.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mamselle on June 15, 2020, 12:34:53 PM
Interesting...speaking of Steinbeck, I was just pondering East of Eden, in fact, having just hit Genesis 2-4 in my daily rota....

M.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: hmaria1609 on June 15, 2020, 07:08:31 PM
Got a trove of library books coming for my reading pleasure!  :)
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: traductio on June 15, 2020, 07:21:36 PM
Ergative, thanks for the heads up about the new book.

Fishprof, you know your daughter best, but I would be hesitant to read those books to someone so young.  I am not sure I would consider them children's books... there are a lot of adult themes (mostly in terms of violence or frightening or very sad elements) from what I recall, and a feeling of loss of youth and innocence.  But, there are good aspects as well, friendship and love and fighting for justice.  Maybe you can pre-read some of it and see whether you wish to continue at this time? I started reading Stephen King when I was around her age, but I'm not sure that was a good thing.  On the other hand, the Pullman books have more positives to offer, especially if you are reading together and you can discuss things that come up or gauge how she is handling it.  Just my two cents.  Good luck.

My daughter and I read His Dark Materials (the trilogy starting with Golden Compass) when she was about seven. On the one hand, there were parts I think we should have waited for, especially in the second and third books. On the other hand, there are some deeply moving parts, especially in the third book, when the characters start on their most serious adventure. (That's all I'll say because it's generic enough not to give away plot points, but clear enough that when you get there, you'll know what I'm talking about.) On yet another hand (that makes three!), I don't think my daughter picked up on a lot of the subtler points of some of the more mature material. The gruesome parts, yes, she certainly did, but certain aspects of the characters' emotional growth were things she'll need to discover later, if she reads the books again.

All that to say, I don't think I scarred her by reading them, but I mighta waited a bit if I had previewed the books first.

(I started to read the first book of the new trilogy, but I didn't get very far. My daughter doesn't know I bought it, or she'd demand to read it. I'm intrigued by the premise of the second book of the new trilogy, though.)
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on June 16, 2020, 02:44:31 AM
Ergative, thanks for the heads up about the new book.

Fishprof, you know your daughter best, but I would be hesitant to read those books to someone so young.  I am not sure I would consider them children's books... there are a lot of adult themes (mostly in terms of violence or frightening or very sad elements) from what I recall, and a feeling of loss of youth and innocence.  But, there are good aspects as well, friendship and love and fighting for justice.  Maybe you can pre-read some of it and see whether you wish to continue at this time? I started reading Stephen King when I was around her age, but I'm not sure that was a good thing.  On the other hand, the Pullman books have more positives to offer, especially if you are reading together and you can discuss things that come up or gauge how she is handling it.  Just my two cents.  Good luck.

My daughter and I read His Dark Materials (the trilogy starting with Golden Compass) when she was about seven. On the one hand, there were parts I think we should have waited for, especially in the second and third books. On the other hand, there are some deeply moving parts, especially in the third book, when the characters start on their most serious adventure. (That's all I'll say because it's generic enough not to give away plot points, but clear enough that when you get there, you'll know what I'm talking about.) On yet another hand (that makes three!), I don't think my daughter picked up on a lot of the subtler points of some of the more mature material. The gruesome parts, yes, she certainly did, but certain aspects of the characters' emotional growth were things she'll need to discover later, if she reads the books again.

All that to say, I don't think I scarred her by reading them, but I mighta waited a bit if I had previewed the books first.

(I started to read the first book of the new trilogy, but I didn't get very far. My daughter doesn't know I bought it, or she'd demand to read it. I'm intrigued by the premise of the second book of the new trilogy, though.)

The premise of the second book of the new trilogy is a thirty-something college professor perving on his twenty-something student--a student that he had looked after when she was a literal infant. There's other stuff, but that was the bit that made me nope out of there.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: traductio on June 16, 2020, 06:45:54 AM
The premise of the second book of the new trilogy is a thirty-something college professor perving on his twenty-something student--a student that he had looked after when she was a literal infant. There's other stuff, but that was the bit that made me nope out of there.

Eww. What I had read made it seem like more like the psychological portrait of the main character as she grew alienated from herself (I'm again trying to avoid specifics). That's not at all inconsistent with what you wrote, but the nature of that alienation -- the gross prof -- wasn't in any of the descriptions I read.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on June 16, 2020, 07:38:31 AM
The premise of the second book of the new trilogy is a thirty-something college professor perving on his twenty-something student--a student that he had looked after when she was a literal infant. There's other stuff, but that was the bit that made me nope out of there.

Eww. What I had read made it seem like more like the psychological portrait of the main character as she grew alienated from herself (I'm again trying to avoid specifics). That's not at all inconsistent with what you wrote, but the nature of that alienation -- the gross prof -- wasn't in any of the descriptions I read.

Oh, the alienation is a different component of the book entirely, but I also found it frustrating and boring. It felt more like a plot device to prevent crucial pieces of information from being fully apprehended than any genuine exploration of the psychology of internal conflict.

To be fair to the book, I quit when the perviness became impossible to ignore, so it might improve after that.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: traductio on June 16, 2020, 10:59:25 AM
The premise of the second book of the new trilogy is a thirty-something college professor perving on his twenty-something student--a student that he had looked after when she was a literal infant. There's other stuff, but that was the bit that made me nope out of there.

Eww. What I had read made it seem like more like the psychological portrait of the main character as she grew alienated from herself (I'm again trying to avoid specifics). That's not at all inconsistent with what you wrote, but the nature of that alienation -- the gross prof -- wasn't in any of the descriptions I read.

Oh, the alienation is a different component of the book entirely, but I also found it frustrating and boring. It felt more like a plot device to prevent crucial pieces of information from being fully apprehended than any genuine exploration of the psychology of internal conflict.

To be fair to the book, I quit when the perviness became impossible to ignore, so it might improve after that.

That's a shame because the idea had incredible potential. You've made me all the gladder, however, that I'm not reading the book with my daughter.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on June 22, 2020, 01:05:18 PM

Now we are reading Empire Falls (Richard Russo), which won the Pulitzer and was apparently written between the two previous books of his we'd read (Nobody's Fool and follow up Everybody's Fool).  I'd guess we're about 3/4 of the way through.  It reminds me very much of Nobody's Fool in terms of the setting (town based around some industry that has dried up, college/rival town nearby) and some of the character types and lifestyle fixtures (the local bars everyone goes to, the diner everyone eats at).  I loved Nobody's Fool, and I am anxious to see how this story turns out.  It has been hard to put this book down.  I think Russo has a great ability to write about scenes in a way that is matter-of-fact, dry, and absurdist... completely hilarious (my kind of humor).  The other night we were up way too late reading and had tears streaming from the laughter about one particular section.  While these kinds of scenes and depictions have come up several times in the books of his we've read, he is also very good (I think) about subtly painting characters a little more deeply and a little more deeply during a book.  They start out almost as stereotypes, but they get layered as time goes on, and I find myself really drawn to a number of them and caring about how things play out for them (and, there are some really unlikable folks, of course).  There are a couple little mysteries going on that I am impatient to find out the answers to.  We still have a ways to go, but that is my report so far. 

I just watched the Empire Falls miniseries with Ed Harris on Amazon Prime recently. I am intrigued to read the book now as it does take a sudden turn and I am wondering how that is treated in the book. Also there are lots of characters and I think many probably get short shrift in a TV movie, even in mini-series format like this.

Bringing back up an older discussion: we watched the Empire Falls miniseries last week.  I can confirm that many of the characters get short shrift versus their roles in the book.  I didn't particularly care for the miniseries, partly because of that, but also some of the characters really didn't seem much at all like their counterparts in the book.  I know Russo probably had to cut quite a lot for this format, but I was dismayed at some of what he cut versus what he left in.  I don't think there was nearly as much background and build up for the major stuff, so some characters ended up very one-dimensional, which is unfortunate due to the complexity of the story and seems unfair to the characters.  In contrast, the movie version of Nobody's Fool was way closer to the book in my opinion, even though I did prefer the book in that case as well.

In other news, we are still reading Consider Phlebus in a second attempt, and it continues to be more engaging than the first attempt now that we have some familiarity with the writing style and context and the story has picked up.  It still drags at times and is not as compelling as The Player of Games (nor does it seem as clever), but we are more interested in finding out what happens! I was thinking, too, that there were some pieces of The Player of Games that didn't seem to be explained (or I may have missed something!), and I am wondering how that book, or these two books, tie in to the rest of the series or whether each book is pretty stand alone.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Parasaurolophus on June 22, 2020, 01:22:02 PM
I was thinking, too, that there were some pieces of The Player of Games that didn't seem to be explained (or I may have missed something!), and I am wondering how that book, or these two books, tie in to the rest of the series or whether each book is pretty stand alone.

They're all standalone, although each fills in more of the universe (which gets more interesting the more you know about it). And occasionally you'll spot a reference to previous works, like at the end of Surface Detail.

None of the other novels quite compare to Player of Games, though. For one thing, they're mostly (but not entirely) straightforward space operas, and Banks is far more interesting when he deviates from that subgenre.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on June 22, 2020, 03:16:08 PM
I was thinking, too, that there were some pieces of The Player of Games that didn't seem to be explained (or I may have missed something!), and I am wondering how that book, or these two books, tie in to the rest of the series or whether each book is pretty stand alone.

They're all standalone, although each fills in more of the universe (which gets more interesting the more you know about it). And occasionally you'll spot a reference to previous works, like at the end of Surface Detail.

None of the other novels quite compare to Player of Games, though. For one thing, they're mostly (but not entirely) straightforward space operas, and Banks is far more interesting when he deviates from that subgenre.

Thank you! Your insights are (as always!) very helpful.  We do like space operas quite a bit, but we may step away from the series after this book and come back to it later in favor of other items on tap. 

One more thing about Russo... we watched DOA last night (the version with Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan), and it made me think a lot about Straight Man! Of course, the movie is a murder mystery (and a fun one, I thought), so it's a little darker at times, though Russo can certainly go dark.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on June 23, 2020, 03:21:54 AM
Catfishing on Catnet, by Naomi Kritzer: YA, charming romp about a benevolent and beneficent AI that uses the internet for good. There's a great sequence about a bunch of teens hacking a sex-ed teaching robot that has been programmed to respond 'you'll have to ask your parents about that' when asked any of the hard questions.

John Scalzi's Interdependency series: pretty standard Scalzi, with one particularly awesome foul-mouthed smartass, but something about it seemed too easy. The bad guys were too regularly thwarted too easily. The good guys always seemed one step ahead of them, which meant that there was never any real tension about whether the good guys would fail. Even a particularly striking bombshell in the third book didn't end up actually setting the Forces For Good back too far.

Dark Eden, by Chris Beckett: I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it. It's an accidental colony that sprouted on a wandering planet without a sun, so everything's dark and the only light comes from the colony's fires or else bioluminescence from the native ecosystem. Visually the world was great. Socially the book was trying to do things that I get, but which I found a little tiresome (lots of Feelings about how myth and historical narrative are constructed and reinforced not true retellings of what exactly happened). Content warning: only one man and one woman were left behind, so the entire population several generations on is based on incest and inbreeding.

Lanie Taylor's Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy: It was florid and smoochy and dramatic and overwrought, and I adored it. The development of the magical component works so wonderfully (teeth? Why teeth?!), and the conclusion is very satisfying. The second half of the first book is a bit too dependent on tiresome tragiromantic flashbacks, which interfere with the actual plot development, but things pick up again in the second and third books. Content warning: attempted rape in the second book. It is justified narratively, but I think it was unnecessary and the same narrative goals could have been accomplished without it.

The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison: Reread. So good! Terrifically engaging imperial political thriller, based entirely on an out-of-place, friendless surprise!emperor who just wants to do a good job, and by dint of goodwell and earnest hard work makes better.

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norell, by Susanne Clarke: Reread. Just as good the second time through. The miniseries is good, too. There were a couple of distinct narrative choices that I really liked. They showed a genuine partnership of trust building between Lady Pole, Mr Segundus, and Mr Honeyfoot at Starecross Hall as they work to decipher the strange tales, and they grant Lady Pole real agency after Arabella joins her and Mr Strange asks her to look after Arabella. And they make Mr Norell's dastardliness much more straightforward by showing that he knew about the consequences of the fairy bargain he made from the beginning, and so he knew that it wasn't a simple matter of 'magic can't cure madness', but in fact was the result of his own actions.

Luna, New Moon
, by Ian McDonald: Mafioso-like families battle it out for economic supremacy on our colonized moon. If you like that sort of thing, it's fine, but it didn't quite work for me. What was much better were  . . .

Jade City and the sequel, Jade War, by Fonda Lee: Mafioso-like families battle it out for economic supremacy on a secondary-world fantasy where magical jade turns people with the right biology into superpowered bags of thuggery. The world is heavily flavored with the technology and politics post-WWII Asia (airplanes and telephones, but not internet or computers), and it's incredibly rich and wonderful. Issues include: the role of ethnicity in allowing you to access the magical jade powers; the international macroeconomics of being a small country that has a monopoly on the source of magical jade; the ethics of belonging to a family that puts clan interests above personal interests; the complexities of immigrant communities recreating the social structures from home in a new country; and the awkwardness of needing to fit personal skills to available roles in different political environments.



Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on July 07, 2020, 03:36:51 PM
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norell, by Susanne Clarke: Reread. Just as good the second time through. The miniseries is good, too. There were a couple of distinct narrative choices that I really liked. They showed a genuine partnership of trust building between Lady Pole, Mr Segundus, and Mr Honeyfoot at Starecross Hall as they work to decipher the strange tales, and they grant Lady Pole real agency after Arabella joins her and Mr Strange asks her to look after Arabella. And they make Mr Norell's dastardliness much more straightforward by showing that he knew about the consequences of the fairy bargain he made from the beginning, and so he knew that it wasn't a simple matter of 'magic can't cure madness', but in fact was the result of his own actions.

I had this book at one point but never got around to reading it.  Maybe I'll take a look for it.

We finally finished Consider Phlebas (Banks).  The book did get more interesting at times (and at one point quite gory), but I agree with a review from Goodreads that there is too much tell and not enough show, too much explanation, clunky writing at times, and poor character development.  Even once the cast list was whittled down, it still took a while to remember which characters were which, because there was almost no description or demonstration of personality.  It was difficult to care about any of them.  Although the pace picked up after the first hundred or so pages, it started dragging again at times.  Then, near the end, we realized that a lot had to be wrapped up and wrapped up quickly.  I still don't know how some of the characters fit in (if they do).  Maybe they show up elsewhere.  I may be one of the less literate here, because I had no idea what the title referred to and kept waiting for Phlebas to show up for consideration.  But, I finally looked it up today and get where Banks was coming from with the reference.  The Player of Games was way better, so we may try other books in the series.  The other one recommended by spouse's colleague, besides those I've mentioned in this post, was Use of Weapons.

We are now reading That Old Cape Magic (Russo) but are not far enough into it to comment.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: downer on July 08, 2020, 08:03:59 AM
By weird coincidence, I just finished

Overkill
When Modern Medicine Goes Too Far
by Paul A. Offit M.D.
2020

When does medicine go too far? All the time!
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Economizer on July 17, 2020, 06:44:22 AM
THE WATCHMAN By Robert Crais, 2007

A very good mystery. It is not overly rough (as action stories go nowadays), and shares very interesting information re big city investigation resources. The ending..well, it is wonderful.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on July 20, 2020, 10:50:05 AM
Salem Possessed:  The Social Origins of Witchcraft, by Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum.  It's an older book that takes as its thesis the idea that the Salem witchcraft panic of 1692 was an outgrowth of social factionalism in Salem Village.  The authors show great ingenuity in using a variety of records to reconstruct the social factions in Salem Village, and to show correlations between these and who got accused of witchcraft.  It's amazing what you can reconstruct from centuries ago if you scrounge hard enough for sources.  Everything that survives from an historical period is a potential historical source.  That said, there's an awful lot of conjecture here.  I'm not sure how convinced I am regarding what the authors assert about some of the historical actors' motivations.


I've also been reading a lot of F. Scott Fitzgerald's earlier novels and short stories.  The man could certainly write!  He's one of the more readable "classic" authors out there.  It's shocking, though, to see how frequently, and how consistently, his work includes denigrating portrayals of African Americans.  It's not just a matter of using derogatory terms and stereotypes that were more acceptable a hundred years ago than they are now.  Black characters in Fitzgerald are always portrayed as background figures who are casually dismissed in some way.  I haven't found a single instance in his writing of his taking a human interest in any character who isn't white. 

Not that he often views white characters with much admiration or compassion either.  His cynicism about human beings bodes well for his continuing to be viewed as a classic author.  His portrayals of people of color?  Likely to lead to growing calls in the years to come to have him kicked out of the literary canon.  Should that happen, I don't know that he'd be that big of a loss, really.  But then I'm not usually a fan of "literary" fiction in general.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on July 21, 2020, 12:51:23 AM
One thing I always wonder about when people worry about the preservation of any sort of canon, is why we want to preserve it.

1. Is it genuinely so good that we are willing to overlook its flaws? (e.g., [some] Shakespeare, Austen)
2. Does it represent the first instance of something genuinely new and innovative, even if it has aged badly? (e.g., Chaucer)
3. Is it important for its social/political/historical impact, even if, as a work of literature, it's rather lousy? (e.g., The Jungle, Uncle Tom's Cabin)
4. Has it always been a member of the canon, and so should stay on it for the sake of tradition and cultural continuity?

Points 2 and 3 tend to be fairly stable. Chaucer is never not going to be the first major poet transferring the traditions of Boccaccio and French fabliaux into vernacular English. The Clean Food and Drug Act is never not going to be inspired (in part) by The Jungle. It's really point 1, and as a consequence, point 4, that are possible sources of debate. In my preferred genre, science fiction and fantasy, it is undeniably true that the sorts of books that are written now are just plain better in every way than books from the golden era. I don't mean in terms of representation--although that's improved too. I mean in terms of world-building complexity, character complexity, and the basic sentence level quality of the prose. The genre has matured from something written quickly to make a quick buck in pulp magazines into something that can be astonishing. Even the Wall Street Journal has finally admitted it (https://www.wsj.com/articles/science-fiction-finally-a-grown-up-fantasy-11595020733) (and in the process provoking outrage among the SFF authors and fans who think this article breathtakingly condescending and decades too late).

So it may well be worth considering whether things that were once great works, compared to the other stuff out there (point 1) and deserved a place in the canon as it was then, are in fact not really so great given how much other amazing stuff has been published since then.  And that's where the drama lies. I just reread Nickolas Nickelby not too long ago, and my goodness, it was a very, very poorly constructed novel. All over the place, all sorts of little episodes that don't relate to each other and don't move the plot forward, because they only existed as an excuse for Dickens to comment on how silly theatre people are, or to make fun of a widow who wants to have a harmless romance with the man next door. The good stuff is absolutely great, but I'm not sure it's good enough to count as canon anymore. The only reason to keep it there is point 4.

When I was at college, I worked in the special collections of the library, and a large part of my duties involved making photocopies of archived papers for various scholars who requested them. I once spent several days making copy after copy of documents and memos from a committee in which everyone was discussing what should be the core canon that formed the basis of--something, I don't remember what. A core undergraduate curriculum? A set of texts issued by the university press? Something official, at any rate. It was from the 1930s or so. I don't think that something as nebulous as 'the canon' should be decided by one committee of university dudes, but if it is, it should definitely be ruthlessly updated every five or ten years.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Treehugger on July 21, 2020, 04:28:34 AM
Since I’m no longer an academic and have loads of leisure time, but, other the other hand, cannot currently travel or get out much, I have decided to read all the winners of the Nobel prize in literature in their original language. Seeing as how the Nobel prize winners wrote in 28 different languages, this project should take me a while (at least several lifetimes). I have already read many of the winners in French and English (for my doctoral studies and for myself) and have been studying Spanish with some friends, so first up on the list was Garbriel Garcia Marquez’s El Amor en Los Tiempos de Cólera, which I adored. I am currently re-reading it and writing a little essay about it en español, por supuesto while also starting on Mario Vargas Llosa’s La Ciudad y los Perros.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on July 21, 2020, 07:23:40 AM
Since I’m no longer an academic and have loads of leisure time, but, other the other hand, cannot currently travel or get out much, I have decided to read all the winners of the Nobel prize in literature in their original language. Seeing as how the Nobel prize winners wrote in 28 different languages, this project should take me a while (at least several lifetimes). I have already read many of the winners in French and English (for my doctoral studies and for myself) and have been studying Spanish with some friends, so first up on the list was Garbriel Garcia Marquez’s El Amor en Los Tiempos de Cólera, which I adored. I am currently re-reading it and writing a little essay about it en español, por supuesto while also starting on Mario Vargas Llosa’s La Ciudad y los Perros.

I guess after that you could brush up on your Scandinavian languages, since that's where a lot of Nobel laureates came from in the early decades.

I feel like I had enough of reading Latin American authors in the original Spanish in my college literature classes (Sorry Mom!).
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Treehugger on July 21, 2020, 08:19:53 AM
Since I’m no longer an academic and have loads of leisure time, but, other the other hand, cannot currently travel or get out much, I have decided to read all the winners of the Nobel prize in literature in their original language. Seeing as how the Nobel prize winners wrote in 28 different languages, this project should take me a while (at least several lifetimes). I have already read many of the winners in French and English (for my doctoral studies and for myself) and have been studying Spanish with some friends, so first up on the list was Garbriel Garcia Marquez’s El Amor en Los Tiempos de Cólera, which I adored. I am currently re-reading it and writing a little essay about it en español, por supuesto while also starting on Mario Vargas Llosa’s La Ciudad y los Perros.

I guess after that you could brush up on your Scandinavian languages, since that's where a lot of Nobel laureates came from in the early decades.

I feel like I had enough of reading Latin American authors in the original Spanish in my college literature classes (Sorry Mom!).

Well, I did spend some time learning beginner’s Swedish on Duolinguo a few years ago before we went to Sweden. I had some phrases all ready to whip out, but everyone’s English was so good, I really didn’t get a chance. The irony is that when we went to Norway (for one day) nobody spoke any English and I hadn’t studied any Norwegian, so ooops.

Anyway, yes ... my plan is first authors who wrote in Spanish, then German (since I had 4 years in college), then Swedish, then back to Italian which I had also studied (two years). In the mean time, I could start learning a really challenging language like Japanese ....
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on July 21, 2020, 08:26:43 AM
Since I’m no longer an academic and have loads of leisure time, but, other the other hand, cannot currently travel or get out much, I have decided to read all the winners of the Nobel prize in literature in their original language. Seeing as how the Nobel prize winners wrote in 28 different languages, this project should take me a while (at least several lifetimes). I have already read many of the winners in French and English (for my doctoral studies and for myself) and have been studying Spanish with some friends, so first up on the list was Garbriel Garcia Marquez’s El Amor en Los Tiempos de Cólera, which I adored. I am currently re-reading it and writing a little essay about it en español, por supuesto while also starting on Mario Vargas Llosa’s La Ciudad y los Perros.

I guess after that you could brush up on your Scandinavian languages, since that's where a lot of Nobel laureates came from in the early decades.

I feel like I had enough of reading Latin American authors in the original Spanish in my college literature classes (Sorry Mom!).

Well, I did spend some time learning beginner’s Swedish on Duolinguo a few years ago before we went to Sweden. I had some phrases all ready to whip out, but everyone’s English was so good, I really didn’t get a chance. The irony is that when we went to Norway (for one day) nobody spoke any English and I hadn’t studied any Norwegian, so ooops.

Anyway, yes ... my plan is first authors who wrote in Spanish, then German (since I had 4 years in college), then Swedish, then back to Italian which I had also studied (two years). In the mean time, I could start learning a really challenging language like Japanese ....

Sounds like you're a seasoned enough linguist that you could pull it off!

My Japanese is mainly limited to trying to sing along with some of my favorite anime themes.  It's surprising how much you can learn about a language by paying close attention when watching subtitled videos.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ciao_yall on July 21, 2020, 08:27:41 AM
Since I’m no longer an academic and have loads of leisure time, but, other the other hand, cannot currently travel or get out much, I have decided to read all the winners of the Nobel prize in literature in their original language. Seeing as how the Nobel prize winners wrote in 28 different languages, this project should take me a while (at least several lifetimes). I have already read many of the winners in French and English (for my doctoral studies and for myself) and have been studying Spanish with some friends, so first up on the list was Garbriel Garcia Marquez’s El Amor en Los Tiempos de Cólera, which I adored. I am currently re-reading it and writing a little essay about it en español, por supuesto while also starting on Mario Vargas Llosa’s La Ciudad y los Perros.

I guess after that you could brush up on your Scandinavian languages, since that's where a lot of Nobel laureates came from in the early decades.

I feel like I had enough of reading Latin American authors in the original Spanish in my college literature classes (Sorry Mom!).

Well, I did spend some time learning beginner’s Swedish on Duolinguo a few years ago before we went to Sweden. I had some phrases all ready to whip out, but everyone’s English was so good, I really didn’t get a chance. The irony is that when we went to Norway (for one day) nobody spoke any English and I hadn’t studied any Norwegian, so ooops.

Anyway, yes ... my plan is first authors who wrote in Spanish, then German (since I had 4 years in college), then Swedish, then back to Italian which I had also studied (two years). In the mean time, I could start learning a really challenging language like Japanese ....

Japanese is easy to pronounce but the grammar is strange. Just say everything backwards, or like Yoda and it's fine.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ciao_yall on July 21, 2020, 08:28:58 AM
Since I’m no longer an academic and have loads of leisure time, but, other the other hand, cannot currently travel or get out much, I have decided to read all the winners of the Nobel prize in literature in their original language. Seeing as how the Nobel prize winners wrote in 28 different languages, this project should take me a while (at least several lifetimes). I have already read many of the winners in French and English (for my doctoral studies and for myself) and have been studying Spanish with some friends, so first up on the list was Garbriel Garcia Marquez’s El Amor en Los Tiempos de Cólera, which I adored. I am currently re-reading it and writing a little essay about it en español, por supuesto while also starting on Mario Vargas Llosa’s La Ciudad y los Perros.

I guess after that you could brush up on your Scandinavian languages, since that's where a lot of Nobel laureates came from in the early decades.

I feel like I had enough of reading Latin American authors in the original Spanish in my college literature classes (Sorry Mom!).

Well, I did spend some time learning beginner’s Swedish on Duolinguo a few years ago before we went to Sweden. I had some phrases all ready to whip out, but everyone’s English was so good, I really didn’t get a chance. The irony is that when we went to Norway (for one day) nobody spoke any English and I hadn’t studied any Norwegian, so ooops.

Anyway, yes ... my plan is first authors who wrote in Spanish, then German (since I had 4 years in college), then Swedish, then back to Italian which I had also studied (two years). In the mean time, I could start learning a really challenging language like Japanese ....

Sounds like you're a seasoned enough linguist that you could pull it off!

My Japanese is mainly limited to trying to sing along with some of my favorite anime themes.  It's surprising how much you can learn about a language by paying close attention when watching subtitled videos.

Or online Japanese lessons like this one?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CKjaFG4YN6g
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on July 21, 2020, 09:03:52 AM
Reading major works in their original languages sounds like a great project to take on, especially with so much background in different languages!

We finished That Old Cape Magic last night.  It was very enjoyable throughout and had lots of the signature Russo elements.  He is so good at his descriptions sometimes.  We were happy to find that it was generally light reading, no major heavy downer plot points, although there were some that were certainly sad.  It was a fun summer read with some clever writing as we have come to expect from Russo.  There were a few things that didn't seem to get resolved, but they were more of a curiosity than a major story line, and the lack of closure may have been intentional.

Not sure what we will read next.  Maybe Echopraxia (Watts) or How Green was my Valley (Llewellyn).  We try to alternate sci fi in with other fiction, but spouse's birthday is coming up, and I'm planning to get him/us a bunch of the books listed on some of the favorites lists from Goodreads.  This past week was apparently sci fi/fantasy week there, and at least some will be new to him.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on July 21, 2020, 10:44:49 AM
Since I’m no longer an academic and have loads of leisure time, but, other the other hand, cannot currently travel or get out much, I have decided to read all the winners of the Nobel prize in literature in their original language. Seeing as how the Nobel prize winners wrote in 28 different languages, this project should take me a while (at least several lifetimes). I have already read many of the winners in French and English (for my doctoral studies and for myself) and have been studying Spanish with some friends, so first up on the list was Garbriel Garcia Marquez’s El Amor en Los Tiempos de Cólera, which I adored. I am currently re-reading it and writing a little essay about it en español, por supuesto while also starting on Mario Vargas Llosa’s La Ciudad y los Perros.

I guess after that you could brush up on your Scandinavian languages, since that's where a lot of Nobel laureates came from in the early decades.

I feel like I had enough of reading Latin American authors in the original Spanish in my college literature classes (Sorry Mom!).

Well, I did spend some time learning beginner’s Swedish on Duolinguo a few years ago before we went to Sweden. I had some phrases all ready to whip out, but everyone’s English was so good, I really didn’t get a chance. The irony is that when we went to Norway (for one day) nobody spoke any English and I hadn’t studied any Norwegian, so ooops.

Anyway, yes ... my plan is first authors who wrote in Spanish, then German (since I had 4 years in college), then Swedish, then back to Italian which I had also studied (two years). In the mean time, I could start learning a really challenging language like Japanese ....

Japanese is easy to pronounce but the grammar is strange. Just say everything backwards, or like Yoda and it's fine.

Very easy to pronounce, if you're used to Spanish pronunciation.  And vice versa.  When my mother taught college Spanish, she found that Japanese exchange students were some of her best students.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mamselle on July 21, 2020, 11:36:04 AM
Salem Possessed:  The Social Origins of Witchcraft, by Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum.  It's an older book that takes as its thesis the idea that the Salem witchcraft panic of 1692 was an outgrowth of social factionalism in Salem Village.  The authors show great ingenuity in using a variety of records to reconstruct the social factions in Salem Village, and to show correlations between these and who got accused of witchcraft.  It's amazing what you can reconstruct from centuries ago if you scrounge hard enough for sources.  Everything that survives from an historical period is a potential historical source.  That said, there's an awful lot of conjecture here.  I'm not sure how convinced I am regarding what the authors assert about some of the historical actors' motivations.


I've also been reading a lot of F. Scott Fitzgerald's earlier novels and short stories.  The man could certainly write!  He's one of the more readable "classic" authors out there.  It's shocking, though, to see how frequently, and how consistently, his work includes denigrating portrayals of African Americans.  It's not just a matter of using derogatory terms and stereotypes that were more acceptable a hundred years ago than they are now.  Black characters in Fitzgerald are always portrayed as background figures who are casually dismissed in some way.  I haven't found a single instance in his writing of his taking a human interest in any character who isn't white. 

Not that he often views white characters with much admiration or compassion either.  His cynicism about human beings bodes well for his continuing to be viewed as a classic author.  His portrayals of people of color?  Likely to lead to growing calls in the years to come to have him kicked out of the literary canon.  Should that happen, I don't know that he'd be that big of a loss, really.  But then I'm not usually a fan of "literary" fiction in general.

Boyer and Nissenbaum have been superceded. I can't describe the details without sidelining work I'm doing on a different 17th c. issue now, and I don't want to derail the thread, but PM me if you want all the juicy details later.

M.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: RatGuy on July 21, 2020, 03:53:35 PM
One thing I always wonder about when people worry about the preservation of any sort of canon, is why we want to preserve it.

1. Is it genuinely so good that we are willing to overlook its flaws? (e.g., [some] Shakespeare, Austen)
2. Does it represent the first instance of something genuinely new and innovative, even if it has aged badly? (e.g., Chaucer)
3. Is it important for its social/political/historical impact, even if, as a work of literature, it's rather lousy? (e.g., The Jungle, Uncle Tom's Cabin)
4. Has it always been a member of the canon, and so should stay on it for the sake of tradition and cultural continuity?

Points 2 and 3 tend to be fairly stable. Chaucer is never not going to be the first major poet transferring the traditions of Boccaccio and French fabliaux into vernacular English. The Clean Food and Drug Act is never not going to be inspired (in part) by The Jungle. It's really point 1, and as a consequence, point 4, that are possible sources of debate. In my preferred genre, science fiction and fantasy, it is undeniably true that the sorts of books that are written now are just plain better in every way than books from the golden era. I don't mean in terms of representation--although that's improved too. I mean in terms of world-building complexity, character complexity, and the basic sentence level quality of the prose. The genre has matured from something written quickly to make a quick buck in pulp magazines into something that can be astonishing. Even the Wall Street Journal has finally admitted it (https://www.wsj.com/articles/science-fiction-finally-a-grown-up-fantasy-11595020733) (and in the process provoking outrage among the SFF authors and fans who think this article breathtakingly condescending and decades too late).

So it may well be worth considering whether things that were once great works, compared to the other stuff out there (point 1) and deserved a place in the canon as it was then, are in fact not really so great given how much other amazing stuff has been published since then.  And that's where the drama lies. I just reread Nickolas Nickelby not too long ago, and my goodness, it was a very, very poorly constructed novel. All over the place, all sorts of little episodes that don't relate to each other and don't move the plot forward, because they only existed as an excuse for Dickens to comment on how silly theatre people are, or to make fun of a widow who wants to have a harmless romance with the man next door. The good stuff is absolutely great, but I'm not sure it's good enough to count as canon anymore. The only reason to keep it there is point 4.

When I was at college, I worked in the special collections of the library, and a large part of my duties involved making photocopies of archived papers for various scholars who requested them. I once spent several days making copy after copy of documents and memos from a committee in which everyone was discussing what should be the core canon that formed the basis of--something, I don't remember what. A core undergraduate curriculum? A set of texts issued by the university press? Something official, at any rate. It was from the 1930s or so. I don't think that something as nebulous as 'the canon' should be decided by one committee of university dudes, but if it is, it should definitely be ruthlessly updated every five or ten years.

I do like Jane Tompkins's chapter "But Is It Any Good?" for a discussion of the sentimental (and UTC factors into this discussion) and the canon. I generally don't like Dickens for the same reasons that you list, but I think it's an unavoidable issue of the Victorian literary marketplace. I do like to ask my grad students to consider Hawthorne's position the canon -- having a BIL on the state board of education, who can make your novel required reading in school, probably helps your literary reputation.

Whenever I teach a class in post-war American literature, I like to discuss canon. The Norton includes one Dick story as a token SF story, but I try to bring in a few other genre writers. It's fun to teach something like "The Call of Cthulhu" in this context -- Lovecraft certainly has a strong influence on contemporary SF and horror, and he works well in discussing the genre conventions of the Modernists. Then I ask if his blatant racism should exclude him from the canon, and if not, how do we address it (especially given the influence of his mythos). I've also assigned Shirley Jackson who is having somewhat of a resurgence, and ask if she deserved to be dropped from the canon (the Norton no longer contains "The Lottery"). I've even taught Stephen King's "All That You Love Will Be Carried Away" in the context of the canon.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on July 22, 2020, 12:59:56 AM

I do like Jane Tompkins's chapter "But Is It Any Good?" for a discussion of the sentimental (and UTC factors into this discussion) and the canon. I generally don't like Dickens for the same reasons that you list, but I think it's an unavoidable issue of the Victorian literary marketplace. I do like to ask my grad students to consider Hawthorne's position the canon -- having a BIL on the state board of education, who can make your novel required reading in school, probably helps your literary reputation.

Whenever I teach a class in post-war American literature, I like to discuss canon. The Norton includes one Dick story as a token SF story, but I try to bring in a few other genre writers. It's fun to teach something like "The Call of Cthulhu" in this context -- Lovecraft certainly has a strong influence on contemporary SF and horror, and he works well in discussing the genre conventions of the Modernists. Then I ask if his blatant racism should exclude him from the canon, and if not, how do we address it (especially given the influence of his mythos). I've also assigned Shirley Jackson who is having somewhat of a resurgence, and ask if she deserved to be dropped from the canon (the Norton no longer contains "The Lottery"). I've even taught Stephen King's "All That You Love Will Be Carried Away" in the context of the canon.

That sounds like a fun set of discussions! I was never invited to consider the idea that canon decisions could be overruled when I was in college. I think if I'd had such a class I might have had a great deal more confidence in forming my own opinions about 'great literature' much earlier.

There's been a regular feature (https://www.tor.com/series/the-lovecraft-reread/) on the tor.com blog about Lovecraftian horror, in an attempt to reclaim the good bits of the mythos and disconnect it a bit from the assholery of its originator.  They started by reading and discussing Lovecraft's own works, and then moved on to other works that are similarly Lovecraftian.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on August 11, 2020, 10:53:08 AM
I finally got around to reading something by Jane Austen.  I know that Northanger Abbey isn't considered her masterpiece, but it's what wasn't checked out from the library at the time, so...

It's quite funny (even laugh-out-loud funny) in places, and the characters and settings are well drawn.  No question that Jane Austen knew her craft.  However, my ability to get into what is after all basically a romance involving very upper-crust people of two centuries ago is limited.  Heroine Catherine Moreland may marry well above her station, but her station was pretty high to start with.  Note that the romance comes with a solid dose of realism.  To marry well you've GOT to have money and negotiate a deal between the two families, no matter how much the lovers might like each other.

I wonder what Jane Austen's future in the literary canon will be?  Feminist literary critics long ago convinced themselves that she was a proto-feminist, and that it was therefore okay to enjoy her works as a break from more conventionally dreary literary fiction.  But she was a member of the upper classes in colonial-era Britain, and surely had family whose money came partly or entirely from some colonial business that would have involved the labor or traffic of slaves.  That she reportedly expressed abolitionist sympathies back in the day might not be enough to save her from being "cancelled."  Laura Ingalls Wilder and other long-recognized classic authors have already been unpersoned, and the pace of this sort of thing has greatly quickened recently.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on August 12, 2020, 01:35:37 AM
I finally got around to reading something by Jane Austen.  I know that Northanger Abbey isn't considered her masterpiece, but it's what wasn't checked out from the library at the time, so...

It's quite funny (even laugh-out-loud funny) in places, and the characters and settings are well drawn.  No question that Jane Austen knew her craft.  However, my ability to get into what is after all basically a romance involving very upper-crust people of two centuries ago is limited.  Heroine Catherine Moreland may marry well above her station, but her station was pretty high to start with.  Note that the romance comes with a solid dose of realism.  To marry well you've GOT to have money and negotiate a deal between the two families, no matter how much the lovers might like each other.

I wonder what Jane Austen's future in the literary canon will be?  Feminist literary critics long ago convinced themselves that she was a proto-feminist, and that it was therefore okay to enjoy her works as a break from more conventionally dreary literary fiction.  But she was a member of the upper classes in colonial-era Britain, and surely had family whose money came partly or entirely from some colonial business that would have involved the labor or traffic of slaves.  That she reportedly expressed abolitionist sympathies back in the day might not be enough to save her from being "cancelled."  Laura Ingalls Wilder and other long-recognized classic authors have already been unpersoned, and the pace of this sort of thing has greatly quickened recently.

Eh---lots of people choose not to teach Jane Austen for all sorts of reasons. If they decide that their reading lists contain too much upper-class privilege and want to replace some of it with other types of authors, that seems perfectly reasonable to me.

In general, there are so many reasons not to teach an author---ranging from 'he's morally reprehensible' to 'I don't really like him and there are so many others that I do like'---that fussing about making a decision because of 'cancel culture' seems a bit disingenuous to me. For one thing, it depends on the assumption that certain books have an indisputable right to belong to the canon--and I've already said what I think about that higher up. And anyway, if the concern about cancelling Austen were genuinely motivated by the belief that Austen always belongs on reading lists, then there would be equal outrage around instructors who remove her for other reasons (such as, 'I just don't like her all that much'.) But while we might disagree with such decisions, they don't make us clutch our pearls and bemoan today's Philistinism. So I believe that worries over 'canceling' Austen are really just using Austen as an excuse to complain about cancel culture more generally. And I myself think such complaints are misplaced.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on August 12, 2020, 07:24:11 AM
I finally got around to reading something by Jane Austen.  I know that Northanger Abbey isn't considered her masterpiece, but it's what wasn't checked out from the library at the time, so...

It's quite funny (even laugh-out-loud funny) in places, and the characters and settings are well drawn.  No question that Jane Austen knew her craft.  However, my ability to get into what is after all basically a romance involving very upper-crust people of two centuries ago is limited.  Heroine Catherine Moreland may marry well above her station, but her station was pretty high to start with.  Note that the romance comes with a solid dose of realism.  To marry well you've GOT to have money and negotiate a deal between the two families, no matter how much the lovers might like each other.

I wonder what Jane Austen's future in the literary canon will be?  Feminist literary critics long ago convinced themselves that she was a proto-feminist, and that it was therefore okay to enjoy her works as a break from more conventionally dreary literary fiction.  But she was a member of the upper classes in colonial-era Britain, and surely had family whose money came partly or entirely from some colonial business that would have involved the labor or traffic of slaves.  That she reportedly expressed abolitionist sympathies back in the day might not be enough to save her from being "cancelled."  Laura Ingalls Wilder and other long-recognized classic authors have already been unpersoned, and the pace of this sort of thing has greatly quickened recently.

Eh---lots of people choose not to teach Jane Austen for all sorts of reasons. If they decide that their reading lists contain too much upper-class privilege and want to replace some of it with other types of authors, that seems perfectly reasonable to me.

In general, there are so many reasons not to teach an author---ranging from 'he's morally reprehensible' to 'I don't really like him and there are so many others that I do like'---that fussing about making a decision because of 'cancel culture' seems a bit disingenuous to me. For one thing, it depends on the assumption that certain books have an indisputable right to belong to the canon--and I've already said what I think about that higher up. And anyway, if the concern about cancelling Austen were genuinely motivated by the belief that Austen always belongs on reading lists, then there would be equal outrage around instructors who remove her for other reasons (such as, 'I just don't like her all that much'.) But while we might disagree with such decisions, they don't make us clutch our pearls and bemoan today's Philistinism. So I believe that worries over 'canceling' Austen are really just using Austen as an excuse to complain about cancel culture more generally. And I myself think such complaints are misplaced.

To be clear, the future of Jane Austen's (or any other novelists') literary reputation doesn't make a great deal of difference to me one way or another.  But I am curious to see whether she becomes a contested figure in today's climate.  A year ago I would have thought that her place in the academic literary canon was as secure as anybody's.  Now...I'm not so sure.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mamselle on August 12, 2020, 08:41:32 AM
Many of Austen's characters were hardly upper-class...she explored a range of different layers of society in her day, the 'arrived' (whom she often spoofed as buffons), the aspirational--some of whom 'got on' and were rewarded for their efforts, others of whom did but--and a number of in-betweeners.

She doesn't go into the factories with Hardy, or visit London's low-rent tenements as Dickens later did, but her characters are not all playing tea party games; many, in seeking viable marriages, were fighting for their lives, as things were then.

M.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Morden on August 12, 2020, 08:49:42 AM
Sometimes I teach Austen; often I don't because she is one of two 19th century novelists (the other is Mary Shelley) that my students have probably already heard of, if not read. I usually don't teach Mary Shelley's novels for the same reason, but this year I picked her The Last Man because it's about a pandemic. So that's what I've been reading recently.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on August 12, 2020, 10:49:03 AM
She doesn't go into the factories with Hardy, or visit London's low-rent tenements as Dickens later did, but her characters are not all playing tea party games; many, in seeking viable marriages, were fighting for their lives, as things were then.

M.

Which, from what I understand, is what keeps her from being regarded as just a forerunner of the romance novel genre, as some of her less in-the-know fans seem to imagine.  A woman in her society had to make the best marriage she could, or she was likely condemned to a lifetime of being a poor relation or worse.  There really is a lot at stake in her novels.  That was clear even in Northhanger Abbey.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on August 12, 2020, 01:28:09 PM
She doesn't go into the factories with Hardy, or visit London's low-rent tenements as Dickens later did, but her characters are not all playing tea party games; many, in seeking viable marriages, were fighting for their lives, as things were then.

M.

Which, from what I understand, is what keeps her from being regarded as just a forerunner of the romance novel genre, as some of her less in-the-know fans seem to imagine.  A woman in her society had to make the best marriage she could, or she was likely condemned to a lifetime of being a poor relation or worse.  There really is a lot at stake in her novels.  That was clear even in Northhanger Abbey.

I'm thinking now about Miss Bates in Emma, who is so poor that she relies on baskets of food from Emma, and how Emma's eventual arrival at maturity depends on her realizing that she needs to be kind to Miss Bates, rather than mocking her.

Of course, Emma is also really invested in maintaining social class boundaries, so it's probably not a great example of progressive values more broadly.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: nebo113 on August 13, 2020, 06:01:22 AM
I've been listening to The Oregon Trail by Rinker Buck, and am fascinated, less by his trek, than by his segues into the history of mules, geography, and the delightful Olive Oil.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: hmaria1609 on August 13, 2020, 08:48:29 AM
I've been listening to The Oregon Trail by Rinker Buck, and am fascinated, less by his trek, than by his segues into the history of mules, geography, and the delightful Olive Oil.
I read a library copy of this book when it came out and enjoyed it!
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on August 17, 2020, 12:28:09 PM
We finished Echopraxia (Watts) a few days ago and were unsure how we felt about it.  It definitely didn't draw us in as much as Blindsight had, but we tend to wonder whether we just did not pick up on or understand everything very well.  Lots to think about, but I agree with one review on Goodreads that it seemed Watts went farther outside his knowledge base and expertise with this one, and it just didn't seem as coherent or that his ideas landed that well.  I know there was some discussion of this book on the other site but haven't yet been able to access it via the wayback machine.  There was a brief mention over here.  My recollection was that others felt similarly about the two books?

After finishing that one, we excitedly got to the Chaos Vector (O'Keefe), the sequel to Velocity Weapon, which we read last year.  So far, it's been holding its own.  There are so many interesting story arcs in this series, and it's interesting to see how they relate to each other.   There are a couple pretty solid lead female characters, which is refreshing in science fiction.  The back of the book describes this as the second in a space opera trilogy, and the story involves a sentient AI space ship, a lot of political intrigue and treachery, and some compelling action.  It's a little hard to summarize a follow up book without giving away any spoilers about what happens in the first book! One of the aspects I really liked about the first book was how the sentience of the ship was described and the interactions with it.  It raised a lot of philosophical questions for me, and I believe this book will continue on with those.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: hmaria1609 on August 17, 2020, 01:26:02 PM
The Oxford Guide to Heraldry by Thomas Woodcock and John M. Robinson (2001 reissue)
Took this book since it was being weeded from our branch collection.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on August 17, 2020, 01:39:01 PM
The Oxford Guide to Heraldry by Thomas Woodcock and John M. Robinson (2001 reissue)
Took this book since it was being weeded from our branch collection.

That's a librarian for you!  Awhile back I temporarily salvaged a multi-volume Oxford set on British writers from Bede through the Victorian era that we had weeded from Reference and read through parts of it.  It was funny to see Anthony Trollope being dismissed as a minor novelist.  Evidently his reputation has grown since the early 1900s.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on August 18, 2020, 12:10:05 AM
I just finished Katie Mack's The End of Everything (Astrophysically Speaking), about different theories of how the universe will end. It's a popular science textbook, so I imagine that astrophysicists on the fora may find nothing new--or indeed might find themselves nitpicking the various analogies--but I thought it was mindblowing. It's friendlily written for the lay reader, and Mack has a lot of personality that flavors her prose without turning it into that kind of tiresome 'let me tell you my life story' memoir/science genre that I find so tiresome.

My only question is this: in one chapter we learn about the cosmic horizon, and how elements in the universe beyond it are moving away from us too fast (because of universe expansion) for their light ever to reach us. So if that's the case, then how can vaccuum decay destroy the universe as we learn in a later chapter, if the bubble of true vaccuum, when it appears, will expand "only" at the speed of light? Would all the things beyond the bubble's cosmic horizon be safe because the bubble can't expand fast enough to catch them?
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Parasaurolophus on August 18, 2020, 09:34:05 AM
Gotta catch up on my June and July reporting:

Simon Scarrow – Traitors of Rome: Always a fun romp, and plenty of fighting to see me through it all. I do prefer it when they’re based on real history and real battles, though.

Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, and Steven Barnes – Beowulf’s Children: The misogyny is really strong in this one, and usually centres on sexuality, so I mostly blame Pournelle (although I’m sure Niven bears his share of the responsibility, too). I have no idea about Barnes. It was enjoyable despite that, mostly because the new ecology is exceptionally well-rendered. I was excited to read about the mainland and its flora and fauna, and in that respect it didn’t disappoint. I also especially appreciated the subtle deformations of the names of Earth plants and animals to convey the properties of the new ones. There's an awful lot of casual cruelty to animals portrayed, however, and I don't think the authors recognize it for what it is.

Sue Burke – Semiosis: I loved every bit of this one. The imagining of the new world and its creatures was very well executed, as was the central conceit about sapient plants. It was also a very interesting and fresh take on the colonists’ side, especially the initial descent into pretty bleak territory, and I wondered the whole way through how the plot could get resolved without diverging too far from the characters’ commitment to pacifism. Very cool. My only reservation is that too many of the plant names relied on unchanged earth names, which left me a little confused—especially since the colonists start out with some earth crops. I’d have preferred it if Burke had adopted something akin to the naming conventions in The Legacy of Heorot and its sequels, to mark the difference.

Tom Godwin – Space Prison: I enjoyed it because it’s pretty much what I asked for—space colony with deadly critters, although the ecology was a little sparse. It’s a very flawed work, however, quite apart from its foundations in misogyny. What it is, basically, is just the sketch of what has the potential to be a really great story, with only the barest bones filled in. A meticulous writer could do an impressive job with the basic plot, especially if they forgot about including the ‘70s-style fulfillment of revenge thing at the end. Oh, and Godwin apparently has no idea about how bows and crossbows work, the difference between them, or their relative advantages and disadvantages.

Steven Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner – Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores: I read the expanded edition. It was an entertaining pop read, but I’m afraid that I’m pretty skeptical of the conclusions drawn about most of the topics covered, especially—but not exclusively—in the extra essays at the end of the expanded edition. It was fun to think about the weird places where you can find supporting data, but it gave off a very strong impression of the arrogant Economists-Know-All-The-Things-And-Solve-All-The-Problems-Because-Better-At-Applied-Maths-Than-Other-Social-Scientists attitude that I find to be a real turn-off (probably not least because it’s the mirror of philosophy’s attitude to just about everyone else). As a series of disconnected vignettes, it didn’t do much to capture my lasting interest, however. I confess that I often found myself thinking I’d rather be reading Stephen J. Gould.

Douglas Adams – The Restaurant at the End of the Universe: A fitting follow-up to the the first.

Douglas Adams – Life, the Universe, and Everything: Still fun, but the non-sequiturishness of the plot and its occasional efforts at something more substantial is starting to wear a little thin. The whole campaign for real time thing with Slartibartfast and the Bistromath seems especially out of left field, not least because they just disappear again by the end.

Douglas Adams – So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish: This one held together somewhat better than the last, although it’s somewhat further removed from the charm of the original. Actually, it felt much less zany and more tame—I think less happens in it?


We finished Echopraxia (Watts) a few days ago and were unsure how we felt about it.  It definitely didn't draw us in as much as Blindsight had, but we tend to wonder whether we just did not pick up on or understand everything very well.  Lots to think about, but I agree with one review on Goodreads that it seemed Watts went farther outside his knowledge base and expertise with this one, and it just didn't seem as coherent or that his ideas landed that well.  I know there was some discussion of this book on the other site but haven't yet been able to access it via the wayback machine.  There was a brief mention over here.  My recollection was that others felt similarly about the two books?

I think that was in relation to me--I reread them a couple times over on the old foum. I did save my reports on my reading from the old forum, so I can probably reconstruct those posts. I can't remember where I stashed them now, but I'll have a look.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on August 18, 2020, 10:23:51 AM
Gotta catch up on my June and July reporting:

Sue Burke – Semiosis: I loved every bit of this one. The imagining of the new world and its creatures was very well executed, as was the central conceit about sapient plants. It was also a very interesting and fresh take on the colonists’ side, especially the initial descent into pretty bleak territory, and I wondered the whole way through how the plot could get resolved without diverging too far from the characters’ commitment to pacifism. Very cool. My only reservation is that too many of the plant names relied on unchanged earth names, which left me a little confused—especially since the colonists start out with some earth crops. I’d have preferred it if Burke had adopted something akin to the naming conventions in The Legacy of Heorot and its sequels, to mark the difference.

I'm so glad you liked it! There's a sequel, Interference, that I also enjoyed. What's particularly fun about Interference is that it's not at all clear whether to read the sapient plants as sinister or not.

Quote

Tom Godwin – Space Prison: I enjoyed it because it’s pretty much what I asked for—space colony with deadly critters, although the ecology was a little sparse. It’s a very flawed work, however, quite apart from its foundations in misogyny. What it is, basically, is just the sketch of what has the potential to be a really great story, with only the barest bones filled in. A meticulous writer could do an impressive job with the basic plot, especially if they forgot about including the ‘70s-style fulfillment of revenge thing at the end. Oh, and Godwin apparently has no idea about how bows and crossbows work, the difference between them, or their relative advantages and disadvantages.

I read this not too long ago, and I agree. I did rather enjoy the attempts to domesticate the unicorns, who remain half-wild assholes throughout. What I thought this book did really well was capture the scale of time and the number of generations and the issues of population shrinkage and resource sparcity that would control the endeavor of these unwilling colonists to escape. I was also struck by the convenience of the ending revenge: how convenient that the hundreds of years that have passed have not changed the design of the Gern blasters or the operation of their spaceships!
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Parasaurolophus on August 18, 2020, 12:00:00 PM

I'm so glad you liked it! There's a sequel, Interference, that I also enjoyed. What's particularly fun about Interference is that it's not at all clear whether to read the sapient plants as sinister or not.

Yes! I read it, and loved it, too. But that goes into the August report. =)

Quote

I read this not too long ago, and I agree. I did rather enjoy the attempts to domesticate the unicorns, who remain half-wild assholes throughout. What I thought this book did really well was capture the scale of time and the number of generations and the issues of population shrinkage and resource sparcity that would control the endeavor of these unwilling colonists to escape. I was also struck by the convenience of the ending revenge: how convenient that the hundreds of years that have passed have not changed the design of the Gern blasters or the operation of their spaceships!

Yeah, the arc of generations was cool (a feature which it shares in common with the Burke novels!), along with the fact that Godwin didn't shy away from killing characters off. I really liked the premise. I'd like to see someone tackling it again in a longer format!


More space colonies with critters, please!
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on August 18, 2020, 12:12:14 PM
We finished Echopraxia (Watts) a few days ago and were unsure how we felt about it.  It definitely didn't draw us in as much as Blindsight had, but we tend to wonder whether we just did not pick up on or understand everything very well.  Lots to think about, but I agree with one review on Goodreads that it seemed Watts went farther outside his knowledge base and expertise with this one, and it just didn't seem as coherent or that his ideas landed that well.  I know there was some discussion of this book on the other site but haven't yet been able to access it via the wayback machine.  There was a brief mention over here.  My recollection was that others felt similarly about the two books?

I think that was in relation to me--I reread them a couple times over on the old foum. I did save my reports on my reading from the old forum, so I can probably reconstruct those posts. I can't remember where I stashed them now, but I'll have a look.

Yes, I believe you are the one who introduced us to Watts's books, and I would be interested to re-read your thoughts if you get a chance to find and post them at some point.  Thanks, too, for your thoughts on the Douglas Adams books.  We had read the first one a year or two ago, and I was just thinking the other day that maybe we should move on to the others.  Maybe the second would be worthwhile to put in the near-term queue, but it doesn't sound as though the rest of them are quite as good. 
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: hmaria1609 on August 18, 2020, 06:32:56 PM
That's a librarian for you!  Awhile back I temporarily salvaged a multi-volume Oxford set on British writers from Bede through the Victorian era that we had weeded from Reference and read through parts of it.  It was funny to see Anthony Trollope being dismissed as a minor novelist.  Evidently his reputation has grown since the early 1900s.
*Grins* Thanks! The book was in our general collection. There aren't many books written on the subject.

I've nabbed books that have been weeded from the library collection that interested me and didn't have to drop $ on them.
My all time find: a Croatian language book about the history of Croatia by Ivo Goldstein.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on August 19, 2020, 07:15:32 AM
Say, how are your library operations shaping up as we head into a new academic year?
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: hmaria1609 on August 19, 2020, 11:18:30 AM
Say, how are your library operations shaping up as we head into a new academic year?
I work in a large public library system. We have limited number of our branches open to the public and limiting how many can be inside the library at a time. It's closed stacks to the public.
I've seen some of our school aged kids (usually accompanied by adult) to check out books since we reopened in June. I saw the city public school system expanded the number of distribution sites for free meals and fresh grocery program heading into the new school year.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on August 20, 2020, 07:28:50 AM
Say, how are your library operations shaping up as we head into a new academic year?
I work in a large public library system. We have limited number of our branches open to the public and limiting how many can be inside the library at a time. It's closed stacks to the public.
I've seen some of our school aged kids (usually accompanied by adult) to check out books since we reopened in June. I saw the city public school system expanded the number of distribution sites for free meals and fresh grocery program heading into the new school year.

We were just discussing this morning how we're getting fewer patrons, but they're often needing more involved service (To say nothing of the need to wipe frequently-touched surfaces down after them).  We did a LOT of faxes and scans yesterday, and photocopies of things that couldn't be readily run through the fax. 

Looks like we're going to need an upgrade on scanning equipment.  The pandemic has made it almost impossible for people to get photocopy and fax service locally anywhere else--right when more and more people are having to do business remotely.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on September 03, 2020, 03:06:47 PM
Been reading through an omnibus edition of Booth Tarkington's works, including The Magnificent Ambersons.  Tarkington was both a bestselling selling novelist and a critical success a hundred years ago.  In the 1960s the academy seems to have decided that he was no longer worthy of serious study.  Nowadays he seems on the verge of being forgotten entirely.  I've seen it alleged that the critical neglect is due to his works containing no social criticism.  I've found them to hold quite a bit of criticism of contemporary society's preoccupations with money, status, and economic growth at all costs.  He was also an early critic of automotive culture and its effects on society and the environment.

Magnificent Ambersons is in some ways a kind of saga of suburbanization.  The Ambersons made their name and fortune after the Civil War by developing an upscale suburb called the Amberson Addition.  For roughly a generation the Addition served as an idyllic, genteel enclave for its privileged residents.  During the same period the Ambersons reveled in their status as the richest and most prominent family in town.

But continued urban growth and the rise of the automobile cause the Ambersons and their Addition to be left hopelessly behind.  In only a decade or so the posh Addition becomes a has-been neighborhood of spec houses, apartments, and the occasional run-down mansion turned boarding house.  Protagonist George Minafer, only son of old Amberson's daughter, spends his twenties watching bewildered and helpless as the glittering world of his youth, and his family's fortune and status, all vanish before his eyes like a puff of cloud.  Readers today know that in the years to come the new suburbs that stole the Amberson Addition's thunder will be left behind in turn by still further waves of change.

Since Tarkington was himself a child of a rich family that lost much of its fortune--though not to the point where they couldn't support his ambition to become a writer--it might be tempting to write all this off as simple nostalgia for lost privilege and an imagined golden age.  There's more to it than that.  The reference to the Ambersons as "magnificent" is clearly ironic.  There's nothing admirable about their foolish pride in their wealth and the way they let it be frittered away.  Tarkington is pretty merciless in depicting young George as a vain rich kid who's spoiled so rotten he practically stinks on ice. 

The novel ultimately comes across as a meditation on the fleeting nature of wealth and status in a society where prolonged rapid population growth and economic change repeatedly condenses a century's worth of economic and social change into a few decades.  Poor George's plight could even be seen as emblematic of millions of Americans of today who, raised to consider prosperity and security their birthrights, find it all evaporating now.  Maybe Booth Tarkington is more relevant now than we give him credit for.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Parasaurolophus on September 03, 2020, 03:42:17 PM
August's haul:

Sue Burke - Interference: This is the sequel to Semiosis, and it's also very good. I quite liked the premise--militaristic re-colonists arrive from Earth to re-establish contact--and very much enjoyed the bleak glimpses of Earth, with hints of another sentience on the planet. The names of things were better balanced in this one.

Larry Niven, Steven Barnes, and Jerry Pournelle - Starborn and Godsons: Coincidentally, the premise is basically identical to Interference's. It's OK. We don't get much in the way of new critters, which is a disappointment. The foreword makes it clear that the cool ecology in the other two was entirely down to an outside biology consultant, which sort of raises the question why we aren't reading that guy, instead, since he did such a bang-up job before. Pournelle died 3/4 of the way through, and it shows: there's much less misogyny (although it's still there). Much less cruelty to animals, too, although it's also still there. What's missing, which made the other two really fun, are the Grendel POVs. Also, however, there's a bunch of stuff that seems to go against events in the first two novels, suggesting at least one of the three didn't bother re-reading them before starting this one. The transitions are weird and hackneyed, and much of the novel feels... unpolished and perhaps incomplete.

Angus Donald - Robin Hood and the Caliph's Gold: I was delighted to discover this, since the Robin Hood series was supposed to be over (it is: this is an interlude). It's self-ish published (via Amazon), so it's full of typos, but it's good fun. It's a delight to revisit the characters. I'd be happy to read more of these--indeed, it looks like at least one more is planned, in addition to a new series (with vikings!).

Douglas Adams - Mostly Harmless: Fenchurch disappears for a plot point and isn't heard from again, and her absence from the story is pretty conspicuous (not in a good way). On the whole, I think it was mostly better than the previous two. It ends abruptly without ending, however.

Eoin Colfer - And Another Thing...: This is a sequel to Mostly Harmless. Colfer mostly just goes for random and zany, although he occasionally gets the tone just right (and when he does, it's great, and as close to Adams as I think you'll get). Vogons and Thor are prominent, and well-rendered; Wowbagger, too. But mostly, it just plods on without much rhyme or reason, and with a distinct sense of trying too hard. Fenchurch is just about totally absent, although she's referred to a fair bit, and the absence is just weird. Like, I don't mean that she should be a character again. Just that she's a plot point not driving any plot, and that's pretty unsatisfying (not to mention boring).


I nearly finished Defoe, too, but am still a few pages short, so that'll be for September's report. Haven't found my Watts posts yet, but I'll keep looking. I definitely have them somewhere.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: hmaria1609 on September 03, 2020, 07:25:26 PM
Apl68, there were two adaptations of The Magnificent Ambersons. There was a black and white movie in 1942. I watched the 2002 version on A&E in college, starring Johnathan Rhys Meyers as George.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on September 04, 2020, 01:11:39 AM
Parasaurolophus, what do you think about the plants' plans? Benign well-wishers, like (probably) Steveland, or incipient dictators just biding their time? I really can't tell.

I've been enjoying Seth Dickinson's Masquerade series very much. The first book, The Traitor Baru Cormorant, was a perfect reading experience: rich world-building, twisty political maneuverings, lots of bureaucratic competence porn, and a twist at the end that, in retrospect, was pretty obviously telegraphed but somehow came out of nowhere. Now I'm reading the sequel, The Monster Baru Cormorant, which is not quite as good in some ways: the competence porn is breaking down a bit, and the characters who were so perfectly in control of all the threads of their shenanigans are beginning to lose control, not just of their plots (which is fine), but also of their own composure, which seems a little bit out of character for them. But that's a very personal preference. The book itself is lots of fun and the world-building is being expanded and enriched in new ways. The third book in the series came out last month, and I'm looking forward to finishing it. I highly recommend it to anyone who likes this sort of rich twisty political stuff.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: nebo113 on September 04, 2020, 04:53:07 AM
Re-reading Dorothy Sayers.  Just finished "Gaudy Night" and now immersed in 'Nine Tailors" though will never truly grasp bell ringing.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on September 04, 2020, 07:16:46 AM
Apl68, there were two adaptations of The Magnificent Ambersons. There was a black and white movie in 1942. I watched the 2002 version on A&E in college, starring Johnathan Rhys Meyers as George.

That's interesting.  I saw the Orson Welles adaptation on Turner Classic Movies some years ago, but don't remember a great deal about it.  I didn't know about the more recent version.  I'd like to see them both sometime.  I'd also like to watch the 1930s version of Alice Adams.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Parasaurolophus on September 04, 2020, 07:25:43 AM
Parasaurolophus, what do you think about the plants' plans? Benign well-wishers, like (probably) Steveland, or incipient dictators just biding their time? I really can't tell.

I think it's generally the latter, although there's some hope for the bamboo who's had a foot in the other shoe. Stevland's mentions of the bamboo seem to lend credence to the latter interpretation, although the groves on Pax seem to indicate that Stevland's not alone in its beneficence.

TBH, I found Stevland pretty terrifying and dictatorial for most of the first book, and I think I was right to do so. The push for moderator, in particular, seemed to bode rather ill. I thought it would be the culmination point. But I was wrong, because Stevland... grew? Matured. Genuinely changed. I thought it was well done, and a nice twist on the usual way of resolving conflicts. So, anyway: I think all that is true in the story.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: nonsensical on September 05, 2020, 05:20:04 PM
I am close to finishing Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane, which I just started last night. It usually takes me a few weeks to read through a book, but this one was ... engrossing. And just wonderful in so many ways. It's a book about the intersecting lives of two families and follows members of these families over several decades. It has interesting things to say about redemption and navigating pain across long periods of time. In general I like novels that focus on families and relationships, and I like being able to follow the same characters over many years. This is rapidly becoming one of my favorite novels of this type. (A Prayer for Owen Meaney and A Little Life are other favorites in this genre, though these are both books I read a while ago.]
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: paultuttle on September 08, 2020, 07:53:36 AM
She doesn't go into the factories with Hardy, or visit London's low-rent tenements as Dickens later did, but her characters are not all playing tea party games; many, in seeking viable marriages, were fighting for their lives, as things were then.

M.

Which, from what I understand, is what keeps her from being regarded as just a forerunner of the romance novel genre, as some of her less in-the-know fans seem to imagine.  A woman in her society had to make the best marriage she could, or she was likely condemned to a lifetime of being a poor relation or worse.  There really is a lot at stake in her novels.  That was clear even in Northhanger Abbey.

I've just reread Pride and Prejudice (and rewatched the 2005 film twice or three times--it's on Netflix). Each time, I was struck by how strongly Liddy's elopement with Wickham affected the entire family, and how notable it must have been in that time period for not one, but two, wealthy gentlemen to offer marriage to the two oldest sisters in the family.

Mrs. Bennet's character's question in the 2005 film was particularly poignant: "Who will have you now, with a fallen sister?"

It just underscored to me how narrow the line was between "respectable" and "not," and how much our cultural mores have changed since that time.

They really were "fighting for their lives"; there was indeed quite "a lot at stake" in a time when the actions of one person could well be seen as revealing the fundam(n)ental immorality of the entire family.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on September 13, 2020, 02:57:45 PM
We finished Chaos Vector (O'Keefe), second in a trilogy.  It was nearly as good as the first book.  I am wondering if I liked the first one so much because it was so different from other space operas I've read, plus I think it was her first novel, so I was very impressed.  She writes with charisma and has constructed some really well-built and enjoyable characters.  I like the mix of political intrigue and action and the way that the story arcs intertwine.   I'm definitely looking forward to the third book and am interested to read the sneak peek at the end of the current one.  I fell asleep during the final two pages of the book last night (naturally, not the book's fault) so didn't get to read the sneak peek yet.

Next on the list is one of the other books I got for husband's birthday: Leviathan Wakes (Corey, which I now see is a pen name).  I tried to get several first-in-a-series, highly rated sci fi novels so that we have some further paths to explore if we like the writing.  I didn't realize until just now that this one is part of The Expanse, which I have heard good and less good things about.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mamselle on September 20, 2020, 10:27:45 AM
Re-reading Dorothy Sayers.  Just finished "Gaudy Night" and now immersed in 'Nine Tailors" though will never truly grasp bell ringing.

Ah, Sayers!

I've re-read Gaudy Night several times; probably due for another one soon.

PM my with your questions about bell-ringing. My god-sister directs the bell-ringers at a colonial church with a full peal, and I used to ring with them.

M.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: kaysixteen on September 20, 2020, 07:59:21 PM
I am about half way through 'The Meritocracy Trap', written by a Yale Law prof whose name escapes me, the book currently lying in my car.  I am interested to see the end of the book, where he says what he thinks can be done about this.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: larryc on September 20, 2020, 10:20:40 PM
I just finished the audiobook of A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, which I really loved. It defies easy explanation, but it is a multi-layered literary novel set in Japan and British Columbia, It covers from World War Two through Fukashima in a non-linear fashion. Wonderful writing and some magical realism along the way.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on September 25, 2020, 03:42:07 AM
The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

The structure was really rather brilliant, but, having reached the end, I now know that the title didn't mean what I thought it meant, and also I can't understand what it was intended to mean.

There was some appalling fat-shaming of a fat character, which was utterly gratuitous and horrible, and I cannot understand why Turton thought it was at all appropriate to spend so many words describing how utterly disgusting fatness is, and how fat people can't control their eating and smell bad. It really, really cast a pall over my ability to enjoy the brilliant structure and plotting.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: nebo113 on September 25, 2020, 05:43:46 AM
Re-reading Dorothy Sayers.  Just finished "Gaudy Night" and now immersed in 'Nine Tailors" though will never truly grasp bell ringing.

Ah, Sayers!

I've re-read Gaudy Night several times; probably due for another one soon.

PM my with your questions about bell-ringing. My god-sister directs the bell-ringers at a colonial church with a full peal, and I used to ring with them.

M.

Thanks!  A dear friend helped with the basics but I will never grasp the complexities, especially of the hidden code based on the "peal" Wimsey deciphers.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: fourhats on September 25, 2020, 11:55:37 AM
I'm not very far into it yet, but I'm now reading the novel "Hamnet" by Maggie O'Farrell and am completely hooked. It's about Shakespeare's son who died in a plague, and whose name sparked the play Hamlet. The writing is knocking my socks off. I love reading books where the writing itself is great, let alone character, plot, etc. I don't much care about plot (but this one definitely has one), but good writing makes me want to climb aboard the author's boat and drift down that literary river with them.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on October 10, 2020, 04:12:16 PM
Next on the list is one of the other books I got for husband's birthday: Leviathan Wakes (Corey, which I now see is a pen name).  I tried to get several first-in-a-series, highly rated sci fi novels so that we have some further paths to explore if we like the writing.  I didn't realize until just now that this one is part of The Expanse, which I have heard good and less good things about.

Just finished this last night.  Here's the quote from Amazon:
Quote
Two hundred years after migrating into space, mankind is in turmoil. When a reluctant ship's captain and washed-up detective find themselves involved in the case of a missing girl, what they discover brings our solar system to the brink of civil war and exposes the greatest conspiracy in human history.
We both enjoyed it for the characters and action.  I didn't think that the main plot driver was as interesting as it could have been, and I would have liked to know more about the political aspects going on.  But, we will pick up the second book and read it sometime in the not-too-far future in case there are elements of the first one that need to be remembered.  I was interested enough to give the series some more room to move.

In the meantime, we still have a bunch in the queue.  First up is A Memory Called Empire (Martine), which is also a first of several in a series. Actually, it looks as though it might be the first of only two.  Here's the Amazon blurb:
Quote
Ambassador Mahit Dzmare arrives in the center of the multi-system Teixcalaanli Empire only to discover that her predecessor, the previous ambassador from their small but fiercely independent mining Station, has died. But no one will admit that his death wasn't an accident—or that Mahit might be next to die, during a time of political instability in the highest echelons of the imperial court.

Now, Mahit must discover who is behind the murder, rescue herself, and save her Station from Teixcalaan's unceasing expansion—all while navigating an alien culture that is all too seductive, engaging in intrigues of her own, and hiding a deadly technological secret—one that might spell the end of her Station and her way of life—or rescue it from annihilation.

Sounds intriguing! And it got several major awards and nominations.  We have only read the prelude so far, and the writing does not seem to flow as cleanly as in the O'Keefe and Corey books.  However, the prelude is not always a fair indicator of how a book will proceed, as it often seems to be written in a different style.  It's going to take some time to adjust to the new universe and naming conventions.  Maybe we should have taken a non-scifi palate cleanser in between.  Still, we are looking forward to reading more.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Vkw10 on October 11, 2020, 11:22:14 AM
Currently reading Megan Whelan Turner’s Return of the Thief, just published this week. She’s introduced a new character as narrator. When she introduced a reluctant guard as narrator in The King of Attolia, I was hesitant, but it worked well. This time, I’m looking forward to seeing how this most unlikely narrator will transform.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Parasaurolophus on October 11, 2020, 12:15:54 PM
September's small haul:

Daniel Defoe - A Journal of the Plague Year: Read this one with my partner. It was a really interesting read, and gave some neat perspectives on plaguen-times, which was especially fun and fascinating in relation to our present circumstances. Defoe's propensity to digression is really impressive, too.

Linnea Hartsuyker - The Half-Drowned King: It's fun to see some viking historical fiction by a woman, for once. It makes for a welcome change. There are a few small, jarring inaccuracies, and I'd have liked her to spend more time developing the combat scenes, but on the whole it was a fun read, and pretty compelling. I've acquired the two sequels, and I look forward to reading them. The mixed brother-sister perspectives work pretty well, and it's nice to get a different handle on period life than the usual doughty troublemaker's. Plus, y'know: Harald Fairhair's story is pretty compelling stuff!

Maria Dahvana Headley - Beowulf: A New Translation: This is a fun rendering of Beowulf into a more contemporary lingo. It's been about ten years since I last read Beowulf, and it was a lot of fun to revisit it in Headley's "translation" (I'm not sure that's quite the right term for this, but it's all i've been supplied with). I think she generally manages to capture the spirit of things, although there are times when it feels forced (hwæt/bro, for instance, sometimes works and sometimes doesn't). Still, I'm glad I acquired it, and it now sits beside my Heaney. Plus, the cover is beautiful.

Emily St. John Mandel - The Glass Hotel: I decided to read this on the strength of Station Eleven, which was my favourite book of the year it came out. This is nothing like that, apart from the semi-Canadian setting (yay!), and it's not the sort of thing I usually read, but I found it lovely and really compelling. It was hard to figure out what kind of story it was for quite a while, not least because of the shifts in narrative perspective, and that's not something I usually care for, but I thought it worked really well. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and thought it came together beautifully at the end. Actually, it takes a shift in a totally unexpected direction towards the end. Really cool.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on October 11, 2020, 12:33:42 PM
Emily St. John Mandel - The Glass Hotel: I decided to read this on the strength of Station Eleven, which was my favourite book of the year it came out. This is nothing like that, apart from the semi-Canadian setting (yay!), and it's not the sort of thing I usually read, but I found it lovely and really compelling. It was hard to figure out what kind of story it was for quite a while, not least because of the shifts in narrative perspective, and that's not something I usually care for, but I thought it worked really well. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and thought it came together beautifully at the end. Actually, it takes a shift in a totally unexpected direction towards the end. Really cool.

This sounds good.  We loved Station Eleven but hadn't read her other novels.  We'll keep an eye out for this one.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: hmaria1609 on October 11, 2020, 03:35:33 PM
Doing a binge read of the "Lady Darby Mystery" series by Anna Lee Huber. I came across the series not too long ago at the library--I had seen the author's name before from an another historical mystery author.  So, I'm on hold for the latest and #8 installment from the library!

September's small haul:
Linnea Hartsuyker - The Half-Drowned King: It's fun to see some viking historical fiction by a woman, for once. It makes for a welcome change. There are a few small, jarring inaccuracies, and I'd have liked her to spend more time developing the combat scenes, but on the whole it was a fun read, and pretty compelling. I've acquired the two sequels, and I look forward to reading them. The mixed brother-sister perspectives work pretty well, and it's nice to get a different handle on period life than the usual doughty troublemaker's. Plus, y'know: Harald Fairhair's story is pretty compelling stuff!
I borrowed and read the trilogy from the library. The author's notes at the end of each novel was fascinating to read too. Happy reading!
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on November 07, 2020, 10:57:39 AM
I forgot to report that we finished A Memory Called Empire.  The story was interesting, and I really liked a lot of the characters.  I'm not sure the whole thing pulled together perfectly, so we ended up giving it 4/5 stars (same as Leviathan Wakes).  We'll certainly read the second book.  One aspect I wondered about is the inclusion of items we currently use, though this is set in a time of space travel (beyond what we have now).  I am curious if that was done on purpose or not, because it seems like so many sci fi novels of this type try to come up with so many new ways of doing things that are different from what we are used to.  In any case, I am impressed that this is a debut novel, and I'm not surprised that it won, was a finalist for, or was nominated for major awards.

For the past couple days, we've been reading The City & the City (Mieville).  I read it for book club a few years ago and thought it had a neat premise and was very involving.  It's described as a cross between "weird fiction" and police procedural, and that's pretty apt, I think.  His writing style seems so distinctive and engaging.  Here's the blurb on Amazon:

Quote
When a murdered woman is found in the city of Beszel, somewhere at the edge of Europe, it looks to be a routine case for Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Extreme Crime Squad. To investigate, Borlú must travel from the decaying Beszel to its equal, rival, and intimate neighbor, the vibrant city of Ul Qoma. But this is a border crossing like no other, a journey as psychic as it is physical, a seeing of the unseen. With Ul Qoman detective Qussim Dhatt, Borlú is enmeshed in a sordid underworld of nationalists intent on destroying their neighboring city, and unificationists who dream of dissolving the two into one. As the detectives uncover the dead woman’s secrets, they begin to suspect a truth that could cost them more than their lives. What stands against them are murderous powers in Beszel and in Ul Qoma: and, most terrifying of all, that which lies between these two cities.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: spork on November 07, 2020, 02:31:18 PM
Now reading The Secret Life of Groceries by Benjamin Lorr. So far it's quite good. Similar to Wine Wars by Mike Veseth and Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Parasaurolophus on November 11, 2020, 03:13:32 PM
Happily, I found some fab new scifi the other day. But before I can report on that, here's October:

Erin Bowman - Contagion: Quite a fun teen novel about a zombie outbreak on a distant mining outpost. Very hard to put down once we get to the destination; excellent execution.

Erin Bowman - Immunity: The sequel to Contagion, this one is very much a teen novel. It's astonishing how much teen novels can resemble one another, actually; I'm put in mind of Mira Grant's zombie and parasite series (especially the latter), although it's a lot like The Hunger Games and its clones, too. It's not plot-level similarities, although those are clearly there--evil greedy soulless corporations devoid of a moral compass, and all that--but even the characters and their arcs are super-similar. Consequently, it was much less exciting than its predecessor, which is a great standalone zombie scifi mashup. I kept waiting for the real action to happen, and when it finally did, it was much too brief and contained.

Halldór Laxness - Wayward Heroes: I don't often read properly 'literary' literature, but this one caught my eye. I once started reading Independent People, but stopped after a while because it was kinda of dull (if beautiful) and I was excited to read other things, and I haven't picked it up again. This one is a retelling of the Saga of the Sworn Brothers and Saint Olaf's Saga, but as a biting indictment of human cruelty, stupidity, and vainglory. It's superbly done, but also incredibly frustrating/hard to read as someone who loves saga literature precisely for the same qualities which are so effectively satirized here. I'm really glad I took the plunge, and doubtless I'll try Independent People again soon(ish).

Jorge Luis Borges - Labyrinths: I've read a lot about Borges and his stories, but the only story I'd read before was Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote. I'm really glad I picked this up, because man, the guy was brilliant. The stories are just so rich, especially for a philosopher like me. There's a whole huge range of issues to sink your teeth into. I'll have to hunt down more.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on November 11, 2020, 11:37:34 PM
Happily, I found some fab new scifi the other day. But before I can report on that, here's October:

Oh, you tease!

Erin Bowman - Contagion: Quite a fun teen novel about a zombie outbreak on a distant mining outpost. Very hard to put down once we get to the destination; excellent execution.

Erin Bowman - Immunity: The sequel to Contagion, this one is very much a teen novel. It's astonishing how much teen novels can resemble one another, actually; I'm put in mind of Mira Grant's zombie and parasite series (especially the latter), although it's a lot like The Hunger Games and its clones, too. It's not plot-level similarities, although those are clearly there--evil greedy soulless corporations devoid of a moral compass, and all that--but even the characters and their arcs are super-similar. Consequently, it was much less exciting than its predecessor, which is a great standalone zombie scifi mashup. I kept waiting for the real action to happen, and when it finally did, it was much too brief and contained.

Halldór Laxness - Wayward Heroes: I don't often read properly 'literary' literature, but this one caught my eye. I once started reading Independent People, but stopped after a while because it was kinda of dull (if beautiful) and I was excited to read other things, and I haven't picked it up again. This one is a retelling of the Saga of the Sworn Brothers and Saint Olaf's Saga, but as a biting indictment of human cruelty, stupidity, and vainglory. It's superbly done, but also incredibly frustrating/hard to read as someone who loves saga literature precisely for the same qualities which are so effectively satirized here. I'm really glad I took the plunge, and doubtless I'll try Independent People again soon(ish).

Jorge Luis Borges - Labyrinths: I've read a lot about Borges and his stories, but the only story I'd read before was Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote. I'm really glad I picked this up, because man, the guy was brilliant. The stories are just so rich, especially for a philosopher like me. There's a whole huge range of issues to sink your teeth into. I'll have to hunt down more.

I'm also so glad to hear that you're diving into Borges! I audited a SFF literature class in college, and we were assigned some of his stories, and ever since then I've sought out and read I think every one of his stories. Some are better than others, but many are just so imaginative! When our young cousins turn 13 we usually include a collection in their package of 'welcome-to-adulthood' books.

I've been reading a lot of Frances Hardinge recently. During the Great Vote Count last week I finished A Skinful of Shadows and Deeplight. They are marketed as YA books, but they are not at all teen novels in the sense that you describe. Deeplight had some really interesting things to say on how society changes when oppressive dangerous powers are overthrown (although, oddly, not in a way that feels immediately relevant to the current situation, since the oppressive dangerous powers are semi-sentient sea gods), and had a really great illustration of how a friendship can be toxic and abusive in the same way romantic relationships can be. A Skinful of Shadows had a refreshingly savvy child who does not make the overly naive decisions to trust people that are so often betrayed in frustrating ways in YA books. And the ending was a wonderful example of merciful second chances being granted to people who were unfairly deprived of first chances.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: sprout on November 12, 2020, 10:02:38 AM
Happily, I found some fab new scifi the other day. But before I can report on that, here's October:

Erin Bowman - Contagion: Quite a fun teen novel about a zombie outbreak on a distant mining outpost. Very hard to put down once we get to the destination; excellent execution.

Erin Bowman - Immunity: The sequel to Contagion, this one is very much a teen novel. It's astonishing how much teen novels can resemble one another, actually; I'm put in mind of Mira Grant's zombie and parasite series (especially the latter), although it's a lot like The Hunger Games and its clones, too. It's not plot-level similarities, although those are clearly there--evil greedy soulless corporations devoid of a moral compass, and all that--but even the characters and their arcs are super-similar. Consequently, it was much less exciting than its predecessor, which is a great standalone zombie scifi mashup. I kept waiting for the real action to happen, and when it finally did, it was much too brief and contained.

Halldór Laxness - Wayward Heroes: I don't often read properly 'literary' literature, but this one caught my eye. I once started reading Independent People, but stopped after a while because it was kinda of dull (if beautiful) and I was excited to read other things, and I haven't picked it up again. This one is a retelling of the Saga of the Sworn Brothers and Saint Olaf's Saga, but as a biting indictment of human cruelty, stupidity, and vainglory. It's superbly done, but also incredibly frustrating/hard to read as someone who loves saga literature precisely for the same qualities which are so effectively satirized here. I'm really glad I took the plunge, and doubtless I'll try Independent People again soon(ish).

Jorge Luis Borges - Labyrinths: I've read a lot about Borges and his stories, but the only story I'd read before was Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote. I'm really glad I picked this up, because man, the guy was brilliant. The stories are just so rich, especially for a philosopher like me. There's a whole huge range of issues to sink your teeth into. I'll have to hunt down more.

Spouse was just telling me yesterday that I need to read Borges.   Also, I read Laxness' Independent People a few years ago, after getting back from a trip to Iceland.  It took me a while to get into it, but when I did it was one of those rich, lush novels you just sink into and don't want to leave.  I may have to check out Wayward Heroes.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Parasaurolophus on November 12, 2020, 03:42:25 PM


Oh, you tease!


I'm pretty late to the party--you've probably already read this stuff already. :)



I've been reading a lot of Frances Hardinge recently. During the Great Vote Count last week I finished A Skinful of Shadows and Deeplight. They are marketed as YA books, but they are not at all teen novels in the sense that you describe.

I'll give them a spin soonish! I'm not even opposed to teen/YA stuff like what I described. In that case, I was just disappointed because it was a big departure from the first novel.

Also, I read Laxness' Independent People a few years ago, after getting back from a trip to Iceland.  It took me a while to get into it, but when I did it was one of those rich, lush novels you just sink into and don't want to leave.  I may have to check out Wayward Heroes.

Yeah, it's my partner's favourite book. I really need to try again, in a dedicated fashion. It would be easier if I still had a commute via public transit.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: fleabite on November 12, 2020, 04:28:30 PM
I haven't jumped into this thread in a long time. Some recent favorites:

Byron's Don Juan. I really enjoyed this. I'm sure at traditional college age I would have skimmed the whole thing in a hurry and been inpatient at all the digressions. But Byron's verse is inexhaustively creative and much of it is very funny. I didn't realize how much of a liberal he was. He is scathing about the Duke of Wellington and the restoration of monarchies that resulted from the Allied victory in the Napoleonic wars.

Mary Ball's new biography of Nancy Pelosi. Excellent. I didn't know that Pelosi spent years fundraising for the Democratic Party while being a stay-at-home mom before moving into paid roles in politics. Through her years in office, she has consistently stressed the need to get out there and knock on doors and connect with voters. She would have recognized from beginning what a detrimental impact virtual-only campaigning was going to have on candidates.

Continuing in a political vein, Curtis Sittenfeld's Rodham. This is a very plausible and well-imagined take on what Hillary Clinton's life might have been like had she not married Bill Clinton. The ending is particularly good.

Margaret Atwood's The Testaments. I enjoyed this sequel to The Handmaid's Tale. There are some piquant lines. For example, speaking of one of the commanders (the man in charge in Gilead): "This Wife has lasted longer than usual. His Wives have a habit of dying: Commander Judd is a great believer in restorative powers of young women, as were King David and assorted Central American drug lords."

Shakespeare's Venus and Adonis. This is an interesting read in the me-too era, since Venus is stalking Adonis. Or rather, she is already in his presence and trying desperately to convince him that he should sleep with her. For people in literature, it would make an interesting pairing to teach in conjunction with The Rape of Lucretia, which I also read this year (two very different views of women—one who owns her sexuality openly and the other whose role demands chastity above all).

Daniel Immerwahr's How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States. This is the story of the US as an empire in the nineteenth and twentieth century—a perspective from which the country's history is rarely told. I learned about many incidents that were entirely new to me.

Going back a little further to primary season: Kristin Gillibrand with Elizabeth Weil's Off the Sidelines: Raise Your Voice, Change the World. This is both biographical and aimed at getting women involved in politics. I was impressed by how much Gillibrand, like Elizabeth Warren (I've also enjoyed a couple of books by the latter) cares about the people she serves.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: hmaria1609 on November 13, 2020, 01:04:42 PM
I think it's been awhile for me posting here too.

From the library: Sidney Chambers and the Problem of Evil (#3) and Persistence of Love (#6 and series finale) by James Runcie.
I've read the other novels in the series including the prequel The Road to Grantchester.  Although "Grantchester" on PBS's "Masterpiece" differs from the novels (especially after 4th season), it's been enjoyable reading!

For any fans here of "The Crown" on Netflix, the voice of the late Robert Runcie, Archbishop of Canterbury and the author's dad, is used in the season 4 teaser trailer: https://www.radiotimes.com/news/on-demand/2020-10-13/the-crown-teaser-trailer-princess-diana-season-4/ (https://www.radiotimes.com/news/on-demand/2020-10-13/the-crown-teaser-trailer-princess-diana-season-4/)
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on November 13, 2020, 01:35:07 PM
Happily, I found some fab new scifi the other day. But before I can report on that, here's October:

Erin Bowman - Contagion: Quite a fun teen novel about a zombie outbreak on a distant mining outpost. Very hard to put down once we get to the destination; excellent execution.

Erin Bowman - Immunity: The sequel to Contagion, this one is very much a teen novel. It's astonishing how much teen novels can resemble one another, actually; I'm put in mind of Mira Grant's zombie and parasite series (especially the latter), although it's a lot like The Hunger Games and its clones, too. It's not plot-level similarities, although those are clearly there--evil greedy soulless corporations devoid of a moral compass, and all that--but even the characters and their arcs are super-similar. Consequently, it was much less exciting than its predecessor, which is a great standalone zombie scifi mashup. I kept waiting for the real action to happen, and when it finally did, it was much too brief and contained.

Halldór Laxness - Wayward Heroes: I don't often read properly 'literary' literature, but this one caught my eye. I once started reading Independent People, but stopped after a while because it was kinda of dull (if beautiful) and I was excited to read other things, and I haven't picked it up again. This one is a retelling of the Saga of the Sworn Brothers and Saint Olaf's Saga, but as a biting indictment of human cruelty, stupidity, and vainglory. It's superbly done, but also incredibly frustrating/hard to read as someone who loves saga literature precisely for the same qualities which are so effectively satirized here. I'm really glad I took the plunge, and doubtless I'll try Independent People again soon(ish).

Jorge Luis Borges - Labyrinths: I've read a lot about Borges and his stories, but the only story I'd read before was Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote. I'm really glad I picked this up, because man, the guy was brilliant. The stories are just so rich, especially for a philosopher like me. There's a whole huge range of issues to sink your teeth into. I'll have to hunt down more.

Spouse was just telling me yesterday that I need to read Borges.   Also, I read Laxness' Independent People a few years ago, after getting back from a trip to Iceland.  It took me a while to get into it, but when I did it was one of those rich, lush novels you just sink into and don't want to leave.  I may have to check out Wayward Heroes.

I've been working my way through Laxness.  It's a vivid picture of a land and people, but I'm finding it as much of a slog as I'd expect from a Nobel laureate in literature.

A collection of Borges stories is waiting in the wings.  Maybe on some dark winter day when everything seems just a bit unreal...
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on November 13, 2020, 02:02:10 PM
The Running of the Tide, by Esther Forbes:  Esther Forbes is perhaps best remembered today for her Newberry-award-winning Johnny Tremain.  Years ago a school librarian worried that I was too deep into science fiction (It was just a phase) gently browbeat me into reading it.  I quite liked it, but then I was already reading a good bit of nonfiction history. 

Esther Forbes wrote both fiction and nonfiction for adults as well.  The Running of the Tide recreates the history of Salem during its great days of overseas commerce between the 1790s and the 1810s.  It's told from the perspective of a fictional family of Salem shipowners.  It offers the sort of vivid recreation of another time that any good historical novel should have.  Only problem is, there are so many melodramatic plots and subplots surrounding this one family and their associates  that it gets kind of preposterous.  It reminded me at times of a 1980s TV miniseries.  I would have expected different from the author of Johnny Tremain.  I still hope to locate the nonfiction work on Paul Revere sometimes.


The Ancient Engineers, by L. Sprague DeCamp:  DeCamp is best known for his science fiction and fantasy, of which I have read a few examples.  He also wrote some nonfiction.  Here he tells the story of engineering from early times through the Middle Ages.  It's one of the better books about building and the history of building that I've seen. 


Speaking of building Chicago's Great Fire, by Carl S. Smith, has a pretty good account of the fire, but is largely about the relief and rebuilding efforts in the aftermath.  Good popular history, and well illustrated.  I think that perhaps he's a little harsh in his criticism of some of the main relief committee's actions after the fire.  That said, they really did let their legitimate concerns to avoid letting their charitable activities be taken advantage of them get the better of them, leading to some unnecessarily harsh and intrusive rules.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: FishProf on November 13, 2020, 06:49:24 PM
I am reading A Wrinkle in Time to Smolt (and MrsFishProf when she's awake).  It is really interesting to read this now, as it was very influential to the young me.  I can see the downstream effects as I reread.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on November 13, 2020, 07:02:05 PM
I am reading A Wrinkle in Time to Smolt (and MrsFishProf when she's awake).  It is really interesting to read this now, as it was very influential to the young me.  I can see the downstream effects as I reread.

I loved those books growing up! Spouse and I actually read that particular one last year, I think.  I read Many Waters in grad school (for fun, not for school) and love that one, too, but it may be a good book for later on.  I hope Smolt and MrsFishProf enjoy the story and that you enjoy the re-read.  Even rereading as an adult, I found it moving at times and definitely a little scary!
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: nebo113 on November 14, 2020, 06:09:16 AM
I am reading A Wrinkle in Time to Smolt (and MrsFishProf when she's awake).  It is really interesting to read this now, as it was very influential to the young me.  I can see the downstream effects as I reread.

I re read it annually.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on November 14, 2020, 07:17:22 AM
I am reading A Wrinkle in Time to Smolt (and MrsFishProf when she's awake).  It is really interesting to read this now, as it was very influential to the young me.  I can see the downstream effects as I reread.

I loved those books growing up! Spouse and I actually read that particular one last year, I think.  I read Many Waters in grad school (for fun, not for school) and love that one, too, but it may be a good book for later on.  I hope Smolt and MrsFishProf enjoy the story and that you enjoy the re-read.  Even rereading as an adult, I found it moving at times and definitely a little scary!

I liked A Wrinkle in Time when I read it long ago.  I still have vivid memories of it.  Never got around to reading the others, though.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Harlow2 on November 14, 2020, 07:20:53 AM
Martin Walker’s Shooting at chateau rock.
Part of his detective Bruno series set in the Perigord, France, where many of the ancient caves are. Though there are somewhat stronger books in the series it was lovely to be transported to a beautiful part of Somewhere Else for a few hours.  The detective cooks some delicious meals so I don’t read until I’ve already eaten.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: notmycircus on November 14, 2020, 08:42:26 AM
Wendy Wasserstein plays.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mamselle on November 14, 2020, 07:12:24 PM
I am reading A Wrinkle in Time to Smolt (and MrsFishProf when she's awake).  It is really interesting to read this now, as it was very influential to the young me.  I can see the downstream effects as I reread.

I loved those books growing up! Spouse and I actually read that particular one last year, I think.  I read Many Waters in grad school (for fun, not for school) and love that one, too, but it may be a good book for later on.  I hope Smolt and MrsFishProf enjoy the story and that you enjoy the re-read.  Even rereading as an adult, I found it moving at times and definitely a little scary!

I liked A Wrinkle in Time when I read it long ago.  I still have vivid memories of it.  Never got around to reading the others, though.

Our fourth-grade teacher read it aloud to the class the year it won the Newbury Award.

I've since bought all the twinned Time series books ("Chronos" and "Chairos").

Might indeed be due for a re-read. Thanks for the idea!

M.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: spork on November 17, 2020, 04:26:51 AM
The Secret Life of Groceries was very good.

Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: hmaria1609 on November 18, 2020, 07:15:35 PM
From the library:
A Stroke of Malice by Anna Lee Huber
Latest and #8 installment in the "Lady Darby Mystery" series. Kiera and Sebastian Gage are celebrating 12th Night with Kiera's extended family when a body is discovered during the revelry.

Next up: The Forgotten Kingdom by Signe Pike
New novel and #2 in her "Lost Queen" trilogy set in 6th century Scotland.
https://www.signepike.com/the-lost-queen-usa (https://www.signepike.com/the-lost-queen-usa)
The #3 and final novel releases in 2023!
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on November 19, 2020, 12:17:36 AM
Chuck Wendig's Wanderers. It's about a pandemic in an election year, so I think I made the right choice in not starting until after Biden won and Pfizer (and now Moderna!) announced an effective vaccine, but if you can handle it it's a very well-written, well-plotted, engrossing book.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: nonsensical on November 19, 2020, 03:24:22 AM
I had read The Giver in elementary school but just recently learned that it's the first in a series of four books. I've been working my way through the whole quartet and just finished the last book, called Son. It was pretty good - probably my favorite of the quartet other than The Giver itself. The first 2/3 was especially strong, and then the pacing was kind of off for me at the end. I also didn't appreciate some of the implications of the fantastical world the author is describing, though that could be me reading more into it than intended (for instance, the people in this world take pills that prevent them from being able to have kids and also numb their feelings, and I did not like the suggestion that deep feelings were so connected with the ability to reproduce). But overall, an enjoyable book to read at night while unwinding.   
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on November 21, 2020, 03:37:50 PM
We finished The City & the City.  I liked it as much as the first time I read it, and husband also thought it was very good.  Although the premise or device is a little strange, I think Mieville carried it out consistently and kept it contained enough that there weren't really loose ends or aspects that didn't fit well.  I don't want to say too much about it to avoid giving anything away.  Now we're reading How Green was my Valley (Llewellyn), which husband previously read.   
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on November 22, 2020, 02:30:55 AM
I just finished Chuck Wendig's Wanderers, which I waited to start because I knew going in that it was about a pandemic in an election year, and for my own mental comfort it seemed better to wait until Biden won and there was an effective vaccine before diving into that world. It was a very engrossing story, with a fun SF premise and extremely thoughtful things to say about the uses and dangers of organized religion, but things turn out Very Badly, and I should warn anyone else who is interested in reading it that it is an apocalypse novel.

I do not like apocalypse novels. I hate getting sucker-punched by apocalypses. Last year that happened with Michael Faber's Book of Strange New Things, which was about a missionary heading off to another planet to proselytize to aliens. Fun premise, happens on another freaking planet--you'd think I'd be safe! But nope, apocalypse. And now, here it is again in Wanderers, it turned out.

I feel like there should be a category on doesthedogdie.com: 'Is there an apocalypse?' I don't like knowing too much about books before I read them, so my self-imposed spoiler-protection bit me in the backside and I guess I deserved what I got. I should make an exception for apocalypses.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mamselle on November 22, 2020, 07:21:59 AM
Hmm...yeah. I'm not even really a fan of Revelation, (i.e., the Scriptural text), although (ah...or maybe because?) my boss did one book on it and wants to do a second one.

Maybe that's what I didn't like about 《Crake and Oryx》, too...although Atwood bugs me more generally than just that.

Blue bottoms?

M.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Myword on November 22, 2020, 07:49:16 AM
Around where I live most public and academic libraries are closed or open in the vestibule only or limited hours. Thirty minutes inside only. They are so fearful that they wait 7-10 days to put the book back on the shelf. Some of the doors are locked with security guards
   I prefer not buYing books online, especially novels. I can use interlibrary loans but not if the book is new.

Last academic book I read is an original study of mineral mining in Mexico. Very interesting.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on November 23, 2020, 07:49:46 AM
Around where I live most public and academic libraries are closed or open in the vestibule only or limited hours. Thirty minutes inside only. They are so fearful that they wait 7-10 days to put the book back on the shelf. Some of the doors are locked with security guards

Wow!  The limited openings or curbside service only I can understand in situations where there is either a severe spike raging locally or not enough space inside to socially distance properly.  But the 7-10-day quarantine on library materials has been demonstrated by studies to be unnecessary.  Overnight's probably adequate.  Two days is enough to be really sure.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on November 23, 2020, 08:24:10 AM
Dream of the Red Chamber, by Cao Xueqin.  In the abridged translation by Wang Chi-Chen.  It's considered one of the all-time classics of Chinese literature.  Essentially it's a kind of soap opera set in a noble family's vast communal household that makes Downton Abbey look like a suburban bungalow.  There are scores of nobles, wives, concubines, sons and daughters, and servants.  And an itinerant Buddhist monk, a Toaist priest, and an enchanted, sentient stone that wander in and out of the action.  There are love affairs, assorted kinds of palace intrigue, an extraordinary number of suicides, the rise and fall of family fortunes, and a couple of characters who decide that they're fed up with it all and renounce the world to become monks or nuns.  You can't really blame them.

Little is known for certain of the eighteenth-century author's life.  It has been suggested that the novel is to some extent a roman a clef.  That's a scary thought....

It's a challenge for a 21-century westerner to read, given all the unfamiliar naming conventions, elaborate honorific forms, customs, allusions, etc. on display.  It must have been an absolute bear to try to translate.  I now have a renewed respect for people from that part of the world who come here and have to adjust to our own unfamiliar society and customs.  Although I suspect it may be even more of a challenge for modern Chinese to read in the original than, say, Defoe or Swift is for the average English-language reader today.

I'm not quite sure what to make of the book now that I've read it.  Even with the translator's notes, I can't begin to understand all the allusions and wordplay in the text.  You can tell from the speed with which things move that it must be a considerable abridgement.  From what I've read, the book was added to and re-written to the point where it's hard to decide on a "definitive" text in the first place.  At any rate, it's a vivid portrayal of a very different, now-vanished, society.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mamselle on November 23, 2020, 08:45:52 AM
Sounds like Anna Karenina in Mandarin...

M.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Parasaurolophus on December 05, 2020, 07:26:19 PM
Kwell, here was November. A small haul; I've been pretty slow this year, probably because of all the teaching and publishing (sigh). I'll try to make my way through a few more in December.

Allie Brosh - Solutions and Other Problems: Brilliant, of course. It also felt much more personal than Hyperbole and a Half, probably because so many of the stories are about her grief and coping mechanisms. You can also see how much her mastery of the medium has evolved (as well as what's possible in the medium itself). It's really quite something, surprisingly earnest, and lovely (but sad). Brosh has really impressive insight into her own behaviour. And she's a dab hand at picking out what's going on with other people, too. I can't wait for her next one!

Simon Scarrow and T.J. Andrews - Pirata: Bit of a change from the usual, since it's pirates this time. It was OK, as usual these days. Perfectly serviceable, but unremarkable. Our protagonist seemed awfully canny and capable for someone so young and inexperienced, and that was a bit of a distraction. I also wish it was firmly rooted in historical events, rather than just an imagined story from the period. But pirates are fun.

Adrian Tchaikovsky - Children of Time: This is amazing. Superb scifi centred on a long-term terraforming project gone awry, replete with lots of entolomology (yay!), careful attention to detail (including entomological detail), and some very well-executed satire. Also, a generation ship. This book is already firmly entrenched in my scifi faves, and it's very high up the list. I'm halfway through the sequel now (and it's every bit as good!), but I'm terrified to read this guy's other work, because how could it possibly measure up? For those of you who are scifi fans, if you haven't tried it already, I highly recommend it!
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on December 06, 2020, 06:33:27 AM
Kwell, here was November. A small haul; I've been pretty slow this year, probably because of all the teaching and publishing (sigh). I'll try to make my way through a few more in December.

Allie Brosh - Solutions and Other Problems: Brilliant, of course. It also felt much more personal than Hyperbole and a Half, probably because so many of the stories are about her grief and coping mechanisms. You can also see how much her mastery of the medium has evolved (as well as what's possible in the medium itself). It's really quite something, surprisingly earnest, and lovely (but sad). Brosh has really impressive insight into her own behaviour. And she's a dab hand at picking out what's going on with other people, too. I can't wait for her next one!

Simon Scarrow and T.J. Andrews - Pirata: Bit of a change from the usual, since it's pirates this time. It was OK, as usual these days. Perfectly serviceable, but unremarkable. Our protagonist seemed awfully canny and capable for someone so young and inexperienced, and that was a bit of a distraction. I also wish it was firmly rooted in historical events, rather than just an imagined story from the period. But pirates are fun.

Adrian Tchaikovsky - Children of Time: This is amazing. Superb scifi centred on a long-term terraforming project gone awry, replete with lots of entolomology (yay!), careful attention to detail (including entomological detail), and some very well-executed satire. Also, a generation ship. This book is already firmly entrenched in my scifi faves, and it's very high up the list. I'm halfway through the sequel now (and it's every bit as good!), but I'm terrified to read this guy's other work, because how could it possibly measure up? For those of you who are scifi fans, if you haven't tried it already, I highly recommend it!

Yes, I really liked this one. I've got the sequel but haven't started it yet.

I also read his book Dogs of War, which wasn't as good, but there were some very clever ideas in it. I've also got the first in his huge Shadows of the Apt series, so evidently just on the basis of Children of Time I am something of a convert.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Parasaurolophus on December 06, 2020, 08:58:51 AM

Yes, I really liked this one. I've got the sequel but haven't started it yet.

I also read his book Dogs of War, which wasn't as good, but there were some very clever ideas in it. I've also got the first in his huge Shadows of the Apt series, so evidently just on the basis of Children of Time I am something of a convert.


Oh! I'm glad!

I had a hunch you were no stranger to his work. If you've got more scifi hidin up those sleeves, do let me know!
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: hmaria1609 on December 06, 2020, 07:08:57 PM
Re-reading the "Lady Darby Mystery" series by Anna Lee Huber from the library. I recently discovered this historical mystery series set in 1830s Scotland. I had seen the author's name from another historical mystery author I read.
Kiera, Lady Darby, is a young widow who becomes an amateur sleuth. Sebastian Gage is a gentleman inquiry agent whose well-known father is a trusted agent of the British Crown. The two marry and continue investigations as a couple.  The 9th novel, A Wicked Conceit, will be released next spring.
I've been to Scotland twice so it's been a pleasure to "revisit" as I read.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: fourhats on December 07, 2020, 09:06:22 AM
Just finished Maggie O'Farrell's "Hamnet," about Shakespeare's son who died. I was hooked from the first page because of the great writing.

Now I'm halfway through Ali Smiith's "Summer," the last of her four-part series in modern Britain.

Next up are "Jack," by Marilynne Robinson and "Piranesi" by Susanna Clarke, who wrote "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell."

I'm not into sci-fi, fantasy or YA (unless rereading from my childhood, before YA was a thing), and not much in to plot either. But I love to read, usually with a bowl of popcorn.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on December 07, 2020, 10:58:35 AM
The People of Concord:  American Intellectuals and Their Timeless Ideas, by Paul Brooks.  I've sometimes thought that Concord, Massachusetts would be a remarkable place to visit.  It seems like a place full of history and natural beauty.  I doubt that time, distance, and financial concerns will ever permit it--I do live an awful long way off--but I can dream.

Anyway, Brooks certainly makes mid-19th-century Concord seem like a fascinating place.  It seems to have been a prosperous and bucolic community in the days before the railroads set runaway economic development on fast-forward.  It already had 200 years of recorded history behind it.  And there were notable, little-remembered local citizens like lawyer Samuel Hoar, who seems to have been an admirable fellow in some ways.

Of course most of the attention goes to Concord's more famous inhabitants and neighbors.  There was the Brook Farm commune, for example, one of the very best-remembered of hundreds of experiments in communal living in 19th-century America.  They made a go of it for several years until they fell under the spell of the madman Fourier.  If you study 19th-century utopias you'll notice that Fouriest communities were invariably the shortest-lived of them.  Sure enough, within a year of their adoption Fourier's lunatic notions had killed the Brook Farm dead.  Meanwhile Bronson Alcott had been hard at work with his Fruitlands community, which made the Brook Farmers look like the most hardheaded and worldly of Yankee entrepreneurs by comparison.

There were the Alcott women, struggling to deal with would-be intellectual and reformer Bronson's decades-long midlife crisis.  There was Emerson, the great guru, whose lectures and essays Sarah Ripley, "probably the best-educated woman in Concord," admitted she couldn't always get.  Never mind, Emerson has always had plenty of admirers who lacked her honesty....  There was Thoreau, the sociable semi-recluse and worshiper at the shrine of Nature, who in his youth goofed around and started a forest fire that incinerated hundreds of acres.  Brooks' account of Thoreau's uphill struggle to get Sam Staples, Concord's amiable town jailer, to lock him up long enough to enable him to present himself as a martyr for the cause of Civil Disobedience is more than a little amusing.

Brooks obviously admires these figures from the Flowering of New England.  In some ways, most especially their faithful espousal of abolitionism, they are admirable.  The only figure of the bunch whose works I've ever really gotten into, though, is odd man out Hawthorne.  Hawthorne was the one who refused to drink the Transcendentalist Kool-Aid about the divinity and perfectability of human nature.  He recognized that, like it or not, the fundamental fallenness of human nature couldn't simply be wished away.  To me, Hawthorne's work still has more relevance than all the rest of them put together.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: fourhats on December 07, 2020, 02:52:45 PM
This reminds me that I just finished reading both the wonderful recent biography of Thoreau, and the terrific joint biography of Louisa May Alcott and her father Bronson (by John Matteson), that won the Pulitzer Prize. Both definitely worth reading now that you've been initiated into Concordiana!
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on December 07, 2020, 03:37:19 PM
That biography of the Alcotts sounds very interesting.

Poor Bronson Alcott.  On top of everything else, his name got to be a gag in the movie Clueless.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: smallcleanrat on December 08, 2020, 07:26:09 PM
Reading the sequel to Little Women by Louisa May Alcott: Little Men.

Premise: Jo and her husband run a sort of boarding school for boys (and a couple of girls; orphans and other "problem" children) including their own offspring. Lots of emphasis on teaching children moral behavior through example and compassion; style can get overly sentimental and...I don't know...treacly?

Still enjoyable.

Each chapter is more of a slice-of-life story rather than part of a larger narrative.

The most entertaining parts are the stories of the kids at play: the games they dream up, the rules they invent, unanticipated consequences, the propensity towards destruction and violence.

Example 1: One of the boys convinces his twin sister and Jo's toddler son to make a sacrifice by fire of a favorite possession to some invisible entity he invented.

One of the things they burn is a toy town:
...the children arranged the doomed village, laid a line of coals along the main street, and then sat down to watch the conflagration...at last one ambitious little cottage blazed up...and in a few minutes the whole town was burning merrily. The wooden population stood and stared at the destruction like blockheads, as they were, till they also caught and blazed away without a cry. It took some time to reduce the town to ashes, and the lookers-on enjoyed the spectacle, immensely, cheering as each house fell...and actually casting one wretched little churn-shaped lady, who had escaped to the suburbs, into the very heart of the fire.

Jo's toddler, Teddy, tosses a doll onto the fire:
Of course she did not like it, and expressed her anguish and resentment in a way that terrified her infant destroyer...she did not blaze, but did what was worse, she squirmed. First one leg curled up, then the other, in a very awful and lifelike manner; next she flung her arms over her head as if in great agony; her head itself turned on her shoulders, her glass eyes fell out, and with a final writhe of her whole body, she sank down a blackened mass on the ruins of the town. This unexpected demonstration startled every one and frightened Teddy half out of his little wits. He looked, then screamed and fled toward the house, roaring "Marmar" at the top of his voice.

Example 2: describing how the two girls in the house "play" with Teddy

Poor Teddy was a frequent victim, and was often rescued from real danger, for the excited ladies were apt to forget that he was not of the same stuff of their longsuffering dolls. Once he was shut into the closet for a dungeon, and forgotten by the girls, who ran off to some out-of-door game. Another time he was half drowned in the bath-tub, playing be a "cunning little whale." And, worst of all, he was cut down just in time after being hung up for a robber.

This passage really stuck out. When kids lie or swear or fight, it's made out as a big deal. But these girls nearly hang a toddler to death and it's just a few sentences embedded in a chapter devoted to describing how the kids like to play.

You'd think the adults would make the girls leave the little boy alone...
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: downer on December 09, 2020, 04:49:54 AM
I enjoyed Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi, short listed for the Booker Prize. She lives in the UK but the book is set in contemporary India, and expores women's identity.

I'm half way through The Lives of Lucian Freud: The Restless Years: 1922-1968 by William Fever. At 700 pages, it goes into a lot of detail. Yet it doesn't explain much about Freud's view of his own art. It does make clear Freud had sex with a lot of women, at least when he was not living in remote locations focusing on his art.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: fleabite on December 09, 2020, 05:31:43 PM
apl68: The novel March, by Geraldine Brooks, is a novelization of the story of Louisa May Alcott's father Bronson. It's been a long time since I read it, but I remember enjoying it. If I recall correctly, it focuses on Bronson's experiences during the Civil War, and the family's life during his absence. Perhaps it might interest you.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: fourhats on December 09, 2020, 06:27:58 PM
After reading the biography, it became clear: Bronson had nothing to do with the war. It was Louisa who served in a hospital, and became very ill for the rest of her life because of it. The treatment eventually killed her. But Bronson stayed home, and Louisa pretty much supported the family for the rest of her life.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: hmaria1609 on December 09, 2020, 07:05:45 PM
Smallcleanrat, Last year I read Little Women, Little Men, and Jo's Boys in an omnibus edition published by Library of America, copyright 2005. (I borrowed a copy from the library) The original illustrations by May Alcott were included in the text.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on December 18, 2020, 08:06:06 AM
Seasoned Timber, by Dorothy Canfield Fisher.  She was a regional novelist with a focus on New England.  I grew up seeing short stories and articles by her, but had never read one of her novels.  I happened to run across Seasoned Timber not long ago. 

It's about a headmaster at a school in small-town Vermont in the 1930s.  It's a well-regarded, though not elite, institution with a long history and a very small endowment.  Naturally the protagonist has to spend a lot of time worrying about money.  He's also experiencing something of a mid-life crisis.  A major donor dies and leaves the school a potentially transformative legacy--but it comes with strings that the headmaster can't in good conscience accept.  How does he persuade the rest of the school's stakeholders not to sell out?

Though the book's rather longer than I felt it needed to be, it has plenty of local color, and some interesting characterizations.  The author much admires Vermonters and Vermont character.  New England's fortune in having a kind chronicler like Fisher stands in stark contrast to the way noted Midwestern authors like Sherwood Anderson and Edgar Lee Masters performed such vicious hatchet jobs on their communities (And in the process pandered their way into winning plaudits from the East Coast literary establishment).  The protagonist is also a compelling portrayal of a midlife crisis that does not lead to self-destruction.

Reading about the tribulations of an under-resourced school made me think about the colleges on the "Dire Financial Straits" thread.  Though the school in the story is not a college, it is very much the sort of small institution that's in so much trouble now.  It probably also gives insight into how colleges of the time were run--the institution is very small by today's standards, everything is run on a shoestring, there aren't a lot of frills, and there's scarcely any administrative infrastructure (The headmaster runs the school in between teaching classes).  I can just see the school prospering and expanding in the postwar era, and now experiencing an economic and demographic crunch of the sort that has struck Vermont schools and colleges in general.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: fourhats on December 18, 2020, 08:15:43 AM
Interesting, APL! I have a full set of her books, and was once asked by a special collections library director if I'd be interested in writing her biography.

She came in (posthumously) for a hard time over the past few years, by Native American and other readers for remarks or affiliations she made early in her life. I'm not sure how fair the criticism was, though.

As I child, I loved her book Understood Betsy, and reread it just a year or two ago.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on December 18, 2020, 11:05:38 AM
Interesting, APL! I have a full set of her books, and was once asked by a special collections library director if I'd be interested in writing her biography.

She came in (posthumously) for a hard time over the past few years, by Native American and other readers for remarks or affiliations she made early in her life. I'm not sure how fair the criticism was, though.

As I child, I loved her book Understood Betsy, and reread it just a year or two ago.

She seems to be a significant enough author that she could use a good bio.

From what little I know about it, Understood Betsy sounds like the kind of book my mother would really have loved.

I hadn't heard about Fisher's reputation having had a hard time in recent years.  It would be ironic, given that combating prejudice was a major theme of hers, as in Seasoned Timber.  In today's climate, though, no author who didn't start writing within the last few decades is safe.  The American Library Association unpersoned Laura Ingalls Wilder just a couple of years ago.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: fourhats on December 18, 2020, 02:03:24 PM
It had to do with a brief and tangential connection to a Vermont eugenics movement. She was never really part of it, and dropped the association, but they've renamed the book award that had been named for her.

https://www.sevendaysvt.com/OffMessage/archives/2019/05/03/dorothy-canfield-fisher-book-award-to-be-renamed

Interestingly, she spoke or read (I think) five languages, was on the board of the Book-of-the-Month Club, where she championed the work of Richard Wright. She was pretty interesting.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on December 20, 2020, 04:19:47 AM
I, too, loved Understood Betsy as a child, and read it over and over again. I also just recently read The Homemaker, and also enjoyed it very much. I'm so pleased to discover that she is so well known on these fora!
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: spork on December 20, 2020, 01:33:03 PM
I am more than halfway through The Quiet Americans: Four CIA Spies at the Dawn of the Cold War -- a Tragedy in Three Acts, by Scott Anderson. I'm a fan of political history, and this book is well-researched.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: hmaria1609 on December 20, 2020, 06:48:54 PM
From the library:
Tsarina by Ellen Alpstein
Novel about Catherine I, wife of Peter the Great. She rose from obscurity in the Baltic countryside to be Tsaritsa/Empress of Russia. I knew about Catherine's story from reading the biography Peter the Great by Robert K. Massie years ago.

Fallen Angel by Tracy Borman
Final installment and #3 in the "Frances Gorges" trilogy. In 1614, Frances and her husband Thomas are back at the royal court after a period of time away. King James has a new favorite, George Villiers, the future Duke of Buckingham. Readers follow Frances through the final years of James I's reign and young Prince Charles finding his place. A solid finish to the trilogy!
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on December 21, 2020, 09:41:23 AM
Now we're reading How Green was my Valley (Llewellyn), which husband previously read.

Finally finished this one, though I found out after I posted that husband hadn't actually read it but had heard it was one of the best books ever written? I'm not sure I would say that, but I really liked some of the descriptions and characters.   It's not the happiest of tales, focusing mostly on the coal mines and unions in Wales, and it reminds me of Trinity (Uris), though that book came later.  The feel of the writing is similar, as are the class struggles.  There were some tragedies that hit a bit too close to home at the moment, so I'm glad to be done with it for now.  I also didn't think it wrapped up very cleanly.  It seemed as though there was a lot of potential laid out, and then everything suddenly ended without much closure.  But, it really had some good turns of phrase.  Definitely a bit of a downer.  Although, husband pointed out that it's not called "How Green *is* my Valley".  True enough!

Now we're reading another of the newer sci fi books I got him for his birthday: Red Rising (Pierce Brown).  We just started, but it sounds interesting (Amazon blurb below) and is the first of a series.  I fell asleep during the first chapter so will have to catch up on the reading.

Quote
Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations. Yet he toils willingly, trusting that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children.

But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and lush wilds spread across the planet. Darrow—and Reds like him—are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.

Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity’s overlords struggle for power.  He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society’s ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies . . . even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: evil_physics_witchcraft on December 21, 2020, 11:37:43 AM
Just read Sweet Thursday for the umpteenth time.  I tried Cannery Row, but just wasn't feeling it, so I went back to My Family and Other Animals. Love the imagery.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: nonsensical on December 23, 2020, 05:42:14 AM
I recently finished The Vanishing Half. I can definitely see why it's gotten so much positive attention, though it took me until the second half to really get it.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: hmaria1609 on December 23, 2020, 09:27:26 AM
My annual Christmas read Christmas with Anne & Other Holiday Stories by Lucy M. Montgomery, edited by Rea Wilmhurst
Collection of Montgomery's Christmas short stories originally published in various Canadian magazines in the early 20th century. It also includes two chapters from Anne of Green Gables and Anne of the Island.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: larryc on December 23, 2020, 03:01:41 PM
I have recently read Power's The Overstory and Ozeki's A Tale for the Time Being, both excellent. Next up is Walter, The Cold Millions.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: nebo113 on December 24, 2020, 06:03:30 AM
John Banville's "Snow".  Wow!
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mamselle on December 24, 2020, 07:50:18 AM
I'm re-reading.

Sometimes re-re-re-reading...

Two Dick Francis mysteries in the past week...

M.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Hegemony on December 24, 2020, 12:14:46 PM
I just reread "A Christmas Carol." It is shorter than you might think. Very satisfying, although some of the film versions are so present in my mind that I had a whole mental comparison table going the whole time. I am now embarking on Dickens' other Christmas tales (he wrote five), starting with "The Chimes." I read them many years ago but there must be a reason they're less famous, because I have zero recall of them.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Cheerful on December 29, 2020, 09:11:08 AM
A PBS documentary about Laura Ingalls Wilder premieres this evening (8 p.m. Eastern Time).
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: FishProf on December 29, 2020, 10:57:12 AM
Bill Bryson's "The Body".  He has a gift for taking the mundane and curious and making it interesting and funny.   Now I want to reread "A Walk in the Woods".
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on December 29, 2020, 11:41:10 AM
Bill Bryson's "The Body".  He has a gift for taking the mundane and curious and making it interesting and funny.   Now I want to reread "A Walk in the Woods".

I hadn't heard about this one, but it sounds interesting from the descriptions and reviews.  I loved A Walk in the Woods, especially having hiked different parts of the AT.  We took a detour to Centralia at one point.  Very strange place.  As an aside, thanks for happening to post this.  I was trying to think of his name last night and just could not for the life of me.  And I had forgotten how much I like some of his writing.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: FishProf on December 29, 2020, 11:48:19 AM
I've read (or had audio book versions of) all his books.  He is truly a pleasure to read, or listen to.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Langue_doc on December 29, 2020, 06:34:49 PM
A PBS documentary about Laura Ingalls Wilder premieres this evening (8 p.m. Eastern Time).

Thanks! Just watched it. I love her accounts of settler life and all the hardships endured without any trace of self pity.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: hmaria1609 on December 29, 2020, 07:09:56 PM
I've read Bryson's Notes From a Small Island and The Road to Little Dribbling from the library. In these 2 books, he chronicles about his time living in the UK and everything he's experienced and observed over the years.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mamselle on December 30, 2020, 03:03:37 AM
A PBS documentary about Laura Ingalls Wilder premieres this evening (8 p.m. Eastern Time).

Thanks! Just watched it. I love her accounts of settler life and all the hardships endured without any trace of self pity.

Have I already mentioned "The Ghost in the Little House," about her editor/daughter, Rose Wilder?

That's a very interesting complement to the L. I. Wilder books.

M.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: traductio on December 31, 2020, 07:20:15 AM
Last night I got to sit in a comfy chair while my kids got along with each other in the basement (!) and my wife got to enjoy cooking a fancy meal she has wanted to make for a while. I read Jay Parini's Borges and Me: An Encounter, a book I've been looking forward to since I heard about it a few weeks ago. (I had to request it through our library.) It's a very funny book (I love Borges, and Parini's encounter with him is so much more interesting than mine could have been, if I had been born at a different time, because Parini has never heard of him and doesn't venerate him as I tend to!), followed by a lovely dinner.

Luxury.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on January 11, 2021, 01:17:31 PM
Now we're reading another of the newer sci fi books I got him for his birthday: Red Rising (Pierce Brown).  We just started, but it sounds interesting [took the Amazon blurb out from my previous post] and is the first of a series.  I fell asleep during the first chapter so will have to catch up on the reading.

We finished the book last night, and I fell asleep during the final two or so pages.  Despite bookending the read with me being asleep, it was a pretty engaging story, and we will be reading the sequel sometime soon.  There were some interesting takes on power, in particular.  The main character/narrator seems a bit full of himself given the number of fairly obvious reveals he does not catch onto very quickly.  Aside from some minor eye rolling here and there, we thought it was a fun and intriguing story.  Perhaps not the best to read right now given the recent government events, but we did not anticipate those specifics when we started.

Tonight we will being the second book in The Expanse series, Caliban's War (Corey).   It seems to have gotten good reviews, so we'll see where it takes things from Leviathan's Wake.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on January 12, 2021, 12:59:24 PM
Now we're reading another of the newer sci fi books I got him for his birthday: Red Rising (Pierce Brown).  We just started, but it sounds interesting [took the Amazon blurb out from my previous post] and is the first of a series.  I fell asleep during the first chapter so will have to catch up on the reading.

We finished the book last night, and I fell asleep during the final two or so pages.  Despite bookending the read with me being asleep, it was a pretty engaging story, and we will be reading the sequel sometime soon.  There were some interesting takes on power, in particular.  The main character/narrator seems a bit full of himself given the number of fairly obvious reveals he does not catch onto very quickly.  Aside from some minor eye rolling here and there, we thought it was a fun and intriguing story.  Perhaps not the best to read right now given the recent government events, but we did not anticipate those specifics when we started.

Tonight we will being the second book in The Expanse series, Caliban's War (Corey).   It seems to have gotten good reviews, so we'll see where it takes things from Leviathan's Wake.

I find this maddening! I just finished Juliet Marillier's The Harp of Kings, the first in her 'Warrior Bards' sequence. Warrior Bards--what's not to like? Also, I imprinted hard on her Sevenwaters trilogy when I was a teenager. But it had a similar problem, and I really dislike books where the characters are dense as to the plot of their own stories.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mamselle on January 12, 2021, 07:22:10 PM
But that is sort of true-to-life.

People who are full of themselves are usually tone-deaf, clueless, and egocentric. They don't pick up nuance and they don't learn interpretive logic.

Rather like a certain president I can think of at the moment...

M.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on January 13, 2021, 12:18:15 AM
But that is sort of true-to-life.

People who are full of themselves are usually tone-deaf, clueless, and egocentric. They don't pick up nuance and they don't learn interpretive logic.

Rather like a certain president I can think of at the moment...

M.

Remember, you're talking to someone whose favorite genre involves dinosaur wizards flying spaceships. I tend to prefer my fiction untrue to life; an improvement on the original, if you will.