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Re: What Have You Read Lately? (2024 Edition)

Started by apl68, January 03, 2024, 06:35:02 AM

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apl68

Swallows and Amazons, by Arthur Ransome.  Summer, 1929.  Four children vacationing with family on the banks of a large, unnamed lake receive permission to take their sailing dinghy, the Swallow, and go out seeking adventure.  They spend well over a week sailing around the lake, camping on islands, and pretending to be explorers and pirates.  They develop a friendly rivalry with a pair of sisters who have their own boat, the Amazon.  They receive only the lightest supervision from adults who obviously remember what it's like to be a kid.

The whole story is a delightful celebration of the joys of being active outdoors, of imaginative play, and of what would now be called free-range children.  Even nearly a hundred years ago the level of freedom the protagonists receive pushed the limits of plausibility, but even as recently as my own childhood in the 1970s-early 1980s you could just about see something like this actually happening. 

Now it would all be simply unthinkable--unthinkable that parents would allow it to happen, that kids would actually be able to handle that kind of responsibility, that they would be interested in putting their devices down long enough to want to do it in the first place.  And is there even anywhere left where they could have such relatively safe adventures?  The woods I used to explore near home when I was that age have all been obliterated by timber clear-cutting, and most lakes are now hemmed in by solid property development.  Maybe youths' current reluctance to put down their devices and go outside is understandable, in an environment that has become so uninspiring.

Somehow I never encountered Swallows and Amazons when I was growing up.  I first learned of it as an adult, when I saw its wonderful endpaper map reproduced in a book of maps of imaginary places.  I stumbled across the book itself sometime back.  Younger me would have just loved it!
If any will come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.
Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever will lose his life for my sake will find it.
For how does a man profit if he gains the whole world, but loses his soul?

Morden

I've been reading the Ben Aaronovitch Rivers of London series--light urban fantasy involving a policeman who winds up dealing with magic.
I've also been reading some sci-fi books by Elizabeth Bear--very imaginative world building, but sometimes I can't figure out exactly what's happening.

And I started reading poetry again.

Puget

Quote from: Morden on January 03, 2024, 08:50:58 AMI've been reading the Ben Aaronovitch Rivers of London series--light urban fantasy involving a policeman who winds up dealing with magic.

I love these books- they do become somewhat less light as the series goes on. The audio books are very good.

I've been listening to the Dresden Files series (Jim Butcher) thanks to the recommendation of someone one on here. Similar in some ways to River of London, but definitely more noir, and (though this seems weird to say about fantasy) less plausible (that is, once you accept the world building of RoL, everything makes internal sense, whereas in DF it doesn't quite). Still fun listens though!

I also just finished Starling House (Alix E Harrow) and highly recommend it.

"Never get separated from your lunch. Never get separated from your friends. Never climb up anything you can't climb down."
–Best Colorado Peak Hikes

hmaria1609

#3
From the library:
Finished: Unruly: the Ridiculous History of England's Kings and Queens by David Mitchell (NF)
Comedic and informative read about England's rulers from Arthur (who didn't exist) to Elizabeth I.

Current: The Sunset Crowd by Karin Tanabe
Novel about a NY transplant in Hollywood in the 1970s

apl68

The Seine:  The River That Made Paris, by Elaine Sciolino.  Winter's a good time for armchair travel.  So, courtesy of Sciolino, I took a visit to the banks of the Seine--from its source, through Paris (which naturally gets the lion's share of the attention), to the estuary where the river flows into the Atlantic.  We learn about ancient Roman temples along the river, barge life, the Impressionists who liked painting along it, the Parisian bookstalls along the river--there sure do seem to be a lot of them--the rather hard-core river police force, and much, much more. 

It's all a love letter to the river, to Paris and certain other places in France, and to a certain vision of "the good life."  While I don't personally share that vision, it must be quite an experience to live in, or even to visit, a place that has that much visible history concentrated around it.  Had I the means and time available to travel overseas, and freedom from the borderline agoraphobia and lack of confidence that have kept me from ever becoming fluent in another language, I'd be ready to rush out and visit the Seine.  But I'm used to cutting my coat according to my cloth when it comes to travel.



Left in Dark Times:  A Stand Against the New Barbarism, by Bernard-Henri Levy.  The author is a well-known public intellectual in France who is obviously a big believer in speaking one's mind.  It's a rambling sort of book that deals much with intellectual figures whom I don't always recognize.  The thesis is clear enough--that the political Left, of whom Levy is a card-carrying, but at times heterodox, member, has lost its way.  Instead of being committed to universal ideals of justice and truth, it has come to be dominated by mindless forms of anti-Americanism, opposition to Jews and Israel, and opposition to any genuine liberal ideals.

The book is written in such an over-the-top manner that it's sometime a little hard to take seriously.  Levy makes some valid points, though.  Now and then he even says a bit about the problem of identity politics, which has pretty much swallowed the American Left whole in recent years.  In one chapter he predicts that "the new anti-Semetism will be progressive."  Fifteen years later, it would appear in the wake of recent events that he nailed it.
If any will come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.
Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever will lose his life for my sake will find it.
For how does a man profit if he gains the whole world, but loses his soul?

hmaria1609

Started from the library: The Manuscripts Club by Christopher De Hamel (NF)
I enjoyed the author's award winning book Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts (2017 US release) so I was delighted to see he'd written a new book. It's a thick tome with lots of full color images and archival material throughout the text.
This book was first published in the UK in 2022 and released here in the US last year.

apl68

Quote from: hmaria1609 on January 29, 2024, 03:05:43 PMStarted from the library: The Manuscripts Club by Christopher De Hamel (NF)
I enjoyed the author's award winning book Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts (2017 US release) so I was delighted to see he'd written a new book. It's a thick tome with lots of full color images and archival material throughout the text.
This book was first published in the UK in 2022 and released here in the US last year.

Sounds like a fascinating book!  Wonder whether I could justify ordering a copy of that for our library?
If any will come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.
Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever will lose his life for my sake will find it.
For how does a man profit if he gains the whole world, but loses his soul?

apl68

Powder Days:  Ski Bums, Ski Towns, and the Future of Chasing Snow, by Heather Hansman.  Growing up in a working-class town several states away from anyplace where ski resorts were even a possibility, snow skiing seemed as remote from my experience as a trip to the Moon.  I thought of it as something that only people unimaginably richer than anybody I knew could do.  In grad school I met some undergrads from affluent backgrounds who occasionally skied at entry-level Appalachian resorts.  Last year I was shocked to learn that one of our staff members, who grew up here, recalls skiing with friends when she was a teenager.  More evidence that this town had stronger unions back in the day than my home town did.

Heather Hansman recalls her youth as a ski bum--an unattached individual who hung around ski resorts, doing low-level resort jobs and living as cheaply as possible to maximize skiing time.  She often waxes lyrical about the thrill of skiing all day and getting drunk with fellow ski bums every night.  Sometimes she waxes intersectional about how getting to ski involves a level of privilege that not all groups have historically had, etc.--all of which is true enough.  Now many ski towns have become exceptionally bad examples of the tendency for resort areas to be taken over by rich hedonists and corporations, making it hard for ordinary people to ski or even make a living there.  And over it all looms the progressive loss of snow and skiing opportunities brought about by climate change.

She also acknowledges that there is something problematic about skiing itself.  It's a very wasteful and resource-intensive activity, in a world that's using way too many resources as it is.  It tends to attract self-centered thrill-seekers who take lots of risks and indulge in self-destructive behavior (lots of alcohol and other drugs).  It's ultimately an empty and unsatisfying lifestyle--some ski resort towns have suicide rates three times the national average.  Yet she somehow can't seem to imagine a world-view that might be more functional. 

Ski towns come across as a microcosm of our world.  There are the obnoxiously rich and excessive haves; the have-less ski bums, who resent the haves but really seem to differ from them mainly in degree; the true have-nots, who are just trying to get by; and all living in a world where we're in the process of ruining the environment itself.  Maybe we should be looking to something outside of ourselves and the pleasures around us for our hope and satisfaction?  Hansman's account of skiing culture makes me suspect that those of us who have spent our lives locked out of the chance to ski haven't really been missing that much.  Though granted, skiing sounds kind of fun, and one can kind of feel for those who enjoy doing it but are now being priced out it.
If any will come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.
Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever will lose his life for my sake will find it.
For how does a man profit if he gains the whole world, but loses his soul?

Parasaurolophus

Just a quick note to say that I've split up the previous thread so that these can now be yearly threads, which might make them a little more manageable to navigate. The old thread has been relegated to the archive, here.

If the idea of a yearly thread isn't working for you, let me know, and I can always undo it.


I'm a few months behind on my reporting, but I promise I'll get to it soon!
I know it's a genus.

FishProf

Thirteen by Richard K Morgan. A near future semi-dystopian novel set in a world where Mars has been colonized, and the US has split into several nations (New England, The Rim States, and Jesusland).  The main character is a genetically modified human (a Thirteen) - they have been rounded up and put on reservations, or sent to colonies on Mars, or in the case of the protagonist, used to hunt down renegade 13s.  In that sense, it is reminiscent of Blade Runner but is a deep dive into genetic determinism and human nature.  This is the third 'world' of Morgan's I've read and this is a great stand-alone (although I hear there is a quasi-sequel) novel that introduced his writing style.  Highly recommended.
I'd rather have questions I can't answer, than answers I can't question.

apl68

Quote from: Parasaurolophus on February 02, 2024, 03:36:22 PMJust a quick note to say that I've split up the previous thread so that these can now be yearly threads, which might make them a little more manageable to navigate. The old thread has been relegated to the archive, here.

If the idea of a yearly thread isn't working for you, let me know, and I can always undo it.


I'm a few months behind on my reporting, but I promise I'll get to it soon!

A yearly thread sounds like it might be a good way to organize things.

I was a bit startled when I logged on and saw that I was the first poster in a thread I knew I hadn't started....
If any will come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.
Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever will lose his life for my sake will find it.
For how does a man profit if he gains the whole world, but loses his soul?

ciao_yall

Quote from: apl68 on February 03, 2024, 06:37:49 AM
Quote from: Parasaurolophus on February 02, 2024, 03:36:22 PMJust a quick note to say that I've split up the previous thread so that these can now be yearly threads, which might make them a little more manageable to navigate. The old thread has been relegated to the archive, here.

If the idea of a yearly thread isn't working for you, let me know, and I can always undo it.


I'm a few months behind on my reporting, but I promise I'll get to it soon!

A yearly thread sounds like it might be a good way to organize things.

I was a bit startled when I logged on and saw that I was the first poster in a thread I knew I hadn't started....

FWIW I don't mind when the threads get really long. Sometimes it's fun to go back in time and look for recommendations or comments from a prior period.


Hegemony

I agree. I don't see why we can't just keep the same thread going — it makes it much easier to find things. But, whatever.

apl68

Well, the archive of lengthy threads gives us a handy opportunity to revisit the older ones.  I was going through the original hundred-plus-page reading thread reminiscing just last week, and found it unwieldy.  Annual threads might be handier to peruse in the future.
If any will come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.
Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever will lose his life for my sake will find it.
For how does a man profit if he gains the whole world, but loses his soul?

Myword


 Try the academic novel The Hazards of Time Travel by Joyce Carol Oates.  A bizaare very original take on a secluded
liberal arts college in the fifties, narrated wholly by a 17 year old girl, who is way too smart and mature for her age. This remark struck me--- Nothing that is done here will make any difference in the future. All the papers, projects and grants will not matter at all--looking back from the future.

Psychology faculty will especially enjoy.