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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.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on January 25, 2021, 11:18:40 AM
Saints and Strangers, by George F. Willison
Mayflower Lives, by Martyn Whittock
Plymouth Adventure, by Ernest Gebler

Three different ways of looking at the same story.  Willison's classic follows the settlers of the Plymouth Colony from the origins of the sect that founded the colony to its eventual absorption by Massachusetts in the late 1600s.  They were a blend of idealists hoping to build their idea of an ideal society in the New World and economic migrants hoping to gain a more prosperous life.  The whole venture was seriously underfunded from the start, had a lot of hard luck, and never really overcame that.  Then again, it's truly remarkable that the initial settlement survived at all.  Along the way Willison chronicles constant quarreling with rival interloping settlements, with the exploitative businessmen who bankrolled the project, with the natives, and with each other.  The idealists among them were forced into what must have been some very tough compromises with their principles. 

Whittock's much more recent history--published only last year--tells the story of Plymouth through the lives of several of those who were there.  They include such standard, familiar figures as William Bradford, Miles Standish, John and Priscilla Alden, and Squanto (Tisquantum).  There are also some less familiar stories--such as the four indentured children who turn out not to have been orphans.  They were packed off on the one-way voyage across the Atlantic in a shocking act of vindictiveness stemming from a dysfunctional family situation.  The different stories, taken together, do a lot to illuminate the Plymouth story.

Gebler's historical novel (Made into a 1952 Technicolor spectacular that I saw some years ago--now I'm curious to see it again) is a meticulously-researched fictionalization that employs a novelist's liberty to speculate to try to bring the story alive.  I tend in principle to dislike subjecting real historical actors, who are no longer around to defend themselves, to this level of speculation about their personalities, actions, and motives.  For what it is, though, it's very well done.  It at least tries hard to be plausible, and the author clearly knows and respects what could be known of the true story.  Historical novels very often feature major characters with anachronistically modern viewpoints in conflict with others who have more period-accurate attitudes, or caricatures of the same.  Generally the anachronistic "moderns" are made out to be the heroes.  Here it's the other way around--the character who's made to represent the modern inability to comprehend the the idealism of the Pilgrim Fathers comes across looking rather ignoble compared to their flawed but noble humanity.

All of these books have a great deal that fits into the truth-is-stranger-than-fiction category.  If any one of several improbable things had not happened, it's unlikely the Mayflower settlers would have made it.  It's no wonder some of the hardy survivors believed that they had been preserved by divine providence.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mamselle on January 25, 2021, 11:43:30 AM
I expect you'll re-read Longfellow's "The Courtship of Miles Standish" next.

(I know where one of their descendants' gravestones is sort-of 'hidden in plain sight'...)

;--}

M.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Parasaurolophus on January 25, 2021, 12:11:23 PM
Hmm, I never reported on December:

Adrian Tchaikovsky - Children of Ruin: This was a really great sequel to Children of Time. It was compelling from the start, beautifully written, and full of really exciting changes of pace and tone (including an interlude clearly inspired by John Carpenter's The Thing, one of my favourite films). The introduction of cephalopods was fantastic, and seemed like a clear nod to Peter Godfrey-Smith's excellent Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness, which makes the point (among others) that cephalopods are about as close as we're likely to come to intelligent aliens. Such great execution!

Adrian Tchaikovsky - Ironclads: A pretty compelling novella set in a dystopian corporate future. One part Heart of Darkness, one part something-I've-forgotten (J.G. Ballard, maybe?) two parts not-so-subtle satire. I found myself wanting to know more about this world and how it got that way, but I also think that a novella is about as much of it as you'd want, so that it's over before it strays into more boring cookie-cutter territory.

Steve Brusatte - The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: I'm glad I finally made it to this one! Thank you, fora! It was an easy, engaging read, and it was great to get a bit of an update on my dino-knowledge before my own egg hatches. I think I would have liked a little less emphasis on Tyrannosaurids, however, especially when it came to size comparisons and talking about the largest predators, etc. It's not that I'm not into that--on the contrary!--but that web is a lot more tangled than I expected, and kind of confusing since there's a lot of contrary information out there. Plus, spinosaurs didn't even rate a mention (there's just one instance of 'spinosaurids' early on), even though it seems pretty clear they were much larger than Tyrannosaurs. I guess because they were probably semi-aquatic? Shrug. I also didn't really dig the fictionalized interludes (the autobiographical interludes, by contrast, were great!). But all the same, it was such a fun read, and educational, too!

Stephanie Kelton - The Deficit Myth: Modern Monetary Theory: I've been hearing a lot about MMT, so figured I'd pick this up. It's clear and accessible, and does a good job of driving its main points home over and over (which is what you need in a popular work). I think it gave me a decent idea of what MMT is all about, although it was surprising to learn that so many questions I've had about economics seem not to have really registered for so long. It was nice to have some answers, although I was left with some fairly basic questions which I'd have liked to see answered (e.g. why would anyone abandon their monetary sovereignty to form a currency union?), and which may, I suppose, hint at some important lacunae. I can guess at the outlines of answers, but I'd have liked to see them tackled. Weirdly, leaving out those basics made it feel a bit dumbed-down for my taste. Also: I'm afraid it's not terribly well-written. It's passable and fine, and certainly not terribad, but there are a ton of weird constructions in there, and sections where meaning is obscured.

Bernard Cornwell - War Lord: I saved this one for when I was done with my classes, since it's the last in the series. I cried, of course, because it's the end of a series I've loved for sixteen years. There's no question that Cornwell does this thing better than anyone, and I hope this isn't his last effort at this type of historical fiction. This was a fitting end to the series, a glorious return to properly historical fiction, anchored with some real-life set-piece battles. It was really good--frankly, one of the best in years--and I was swept along for the duration, even though Uhtred is abominably old by the end. (I forgive it its small cinematic foibles!) The myriad allusions to Beowulf were both fun, and reassuring (in view of Uhtred's advanced years). I look forward to finally having the chance to read all of these novels in a row sometime in the near future, without having to wait a year between installments!



At 43 books in 2020, this looks like my smallest haul of pleasure-reading since I started keeping track back in... 2015 or so? I guess, partly, I was busy writing stuff up, and didn't really stumble upon a really long and compelling series which could help me rack up the numbers.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on January 25, 2021, 12:49:06 PM

Steve Brusatte - The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: I'm glad I finally made it to this one! Thank you, fora! It was an easy, engaging read, and it was great to get a bit of an update on my dino-knowledge before my own egg hatches. I think I would have liked a little less emphasis on Tyrannosaurids, however, especially when it came to size comparisons and talking about the largest predators, etc. It's not that I'm not into that--on the contrary!--but that web is a lot more tangled than I expected, and kind of confusing since there's a lot of contrary information out there. Plus, spinosaurs didn't even rate a mention (there's just one instance of 'spinosaurids' early on), even though it seems pretty clear they were much larger than Tyrannosaurs. I guess because they were probably semi-aquatic? Shrug. I also didn't really dig the fictionalized interludes (the autobiographical interludes, by contrast, were great!). But all the same, it was such a fun read, and educational, too!

That was a fascinating book.  I'm going to have to try to re-read it some time this year.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: nebo113 on January 30, 2021, 12:49:30 PM
Carl Hiaasen's Squeeze Me.  Location is an estate in Florida referred to as Casa Bellicosa, owned by the Mastodon and his willowy wife Mockingbird.

Light reading.....and as with all Hiaasen, amusing.  Biting.  Satirical.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: hmaria1609 on January 30, 2021, 06:53:50 PM
From the library: Don Quixote by Cervantes, English translation by Edith Grossman
Thought I'd give this great novel a read!
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: FishProf on January 31, 2021, 03:12:23 AM
Just finished Brace New World by Aldous Huxley.  Disturbingly prescient.

Now I'm reading The Lost Continent - Travels in Small Town America by Bill Bryson.  Also, disturbingly prescient.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Langue_doc on January 31, 2021, 07:49:43 AM
Er, um, don't you mean Brave New World?

I first read it when I was an undergrad, and remember staying up most of the night because I found it so engrossing.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on January 31, 2021, 09:19:05 AM
Er, um, don't you mean Brave New World?

I first read it when I was an undergrad, and remember staying up most of the night because I found it so engrossing.

I remember loving that book when I was in high school, but I haven't read it since. I still remember the puzzling over the use of 'pneumatic' as a descriptor of a woman's body and resorting to asking my mother to explain it to me. I also remember being unconvinced by that particular metaphor, and thinking that the author was trying too hard to be clever in his use of language.

I'm adopting Parasaurolophus's practice of reporting monthly. Here's January's reads:

The Provincial Lady Goes Further and The Provincial Lady in America, by E. M. Delafield. These are sequels in the Diary of a Provincial Lady series, and they are all delightful. It's the form of a diary kept by a 1920s-1930s era English woman, who has to run a country house with servants and so on, perpetually strapped for cash, with rambunctious children and snotty neighbours, and all sorts of domestic and village-life responsibilities that harass her and frustrate her, and she reports on them to her diary with a wonderful snarky wit.  In the later books she gets a bit of money and moves to London to write, and eventually even goes on book tour in America, but she's constantly suffering from imposture syndrome and the need to be polite to people she doesn't like. It's all very fluffy and fun and charming.

The Bone Ships, by R. J. Barker. This is a great secondary world fantasy book about a disgraced sailor in the disgraced sailors' navy, who meets a new captain who strips his ship from him and then gives him lessons in leadership and strength of purpose as she takes his disgraced ship and turns around the sailors and takes them on a mission. The worldbuilding and politics are great, but it's really the sort of grudging mentorship relationship that made this book work for me.

Lady Rose and Mrs. Memmary, by Ruby Ferguson. This is a book written and set in 1930s-era Scotland, in which a group of American tourists tour a big old Scottish house and learn all about the glory days of the last family to have lived there, with the little girl growing up, being presented at court, marrying, having children, and living this golden girlhood that eventually morphed into something less and less golden as the strictures of Victorian womanhood constrained her life. Structurally I could see what was being done, but the goldenness of the girlhood was much too tiresome and twee, and the disillusionment as she discovers the constraints of Victorian womanhood were so predictable that they were boring; and the final twist that unites the past and the present narrative was also predictably boring. I was left utterly cold.

The Harp of Kings, by Juliet Marillier. This was fine. I loved Marillier's original Sevenwaters trilogy when I was a teenager, and I adored Foxmask, but everything else she's ever written has been some variant on 'eh, it was fine'. This, too--eh, it was fine. I rather enjoyed the twist that the young people who are trained as warriers must show their worth by pretending not to be warriors, because refraining from defending yourself when you are quite capable of doing so takes its own kind of strength. But the final reveal was perfectly obviously clear from the clues we'd seen along the way, so needing to have our heroine sit down and get someone to lay it all out for her just made her seem slow and stupid.

The Lefthanded Booksellers of London, by Garth Nix. I picked this up because of its outstanding title, but it was a real disappointment. Nix is trying to pull a Jo Walton here: He's set his story in the 1980s and peppering all the settings with specific details about books and authors from the era, in what I can only assume is a nostalgic paean to his youth. The problem, though, is that the book is clearly a YA story: It's about a teenager looking for her father, and the plotting, dialogue, and characterization have the sort of straightforward simplicity that are characteristic of many YA novels. (Not all! The Chaos Walking series avoided it, and Frances Hardinge is incapable of simplicity.) But teenage readers are not going to have the nostalgia for the 1980s he's trying to evoke, and adult readers (like myself) are going to find the shallowness of the story tedious. I didn't finish it.

Ninth House, by Leigh Bardugo. This was great! It's about a girl who can see ghosts, and on the strength of this ability she's been inducted into a secret society of magical policemen who keep watch over all the other secret societies based around the Yale campus. While she's there, things go very badly wrong, and she has to figure out which magical societies have been engaging in which magical nefariousnesses, pulling together a wonderfully unwilling rag-tag team to help solve crime. This is one of the only books I've read that successfully manages to skip around from time period to time period ('last winter', 'last fall', 'this spring', 'last summer') without interrupting with the flow of the narrative, because every time the time period shifts backward, it's to give us a vital piece of information that informs what's happening later.

The Secret History, by Donna Tartt: This was lots of fun. She writes very engrossingly, and it was very reassuring to remind ourselves that a particularly horrible character was going to end up dead (not a spoiler here--we learn he's doomed in the first sentence). It was a particularly great illustration of the academic cult of personality that can spring up around a particularly charismatic professor, who seems so smart to the teenage students who revere him, but whose 'wisdom' is complete bullshit when you look at it.

The Vela: Salvation, published on Serial Box. I really loved the first season of The Vela when I listened to it last year, but this was very disappointing, I think because the writing team changed completely. Instead of Becky Chambers and Yoon-ha Lee and S L Huang and Rivers Solomon, it was a bunch of people I'd never heard of, and the change in quality showed. Lots of plot holes, big ol' deus ex machina, none of the complexity of motivation and loyalty that made the first season so satisfying. Meh.

Planetfall, by Emma Newman: This was great! It's about a religious cult that follows a cult leader to establish a colony on another planet, but then the cult leader disappears and they all decide that she's gone to commune with God in 'God's City'--a mountain-sized aggregate of alien tentacles and mucus that they build their colony next to and occasionally go spelunking in. So the colony is happily waiting for their leader to return, but in fact the situation is not as they believe it is, because our POV character who knows what is actually what happens to be engaged in shenanigans, and things develop in very excellent ways that culminate in a wonderful one-two punch at the ending. My only criticism is that I wanted some more spelunking in the mucus city.

Truthwitch, by Susan Dennard. This was fine. It was a very standard kind of secondary world fantasy, with some great female friendships and a nice magic system and some carefully thought out politics and a nice map and history and everything, but it didn't really go beyond my baseline expectations of competent fantasy. I'd probably bring its sequels on an airplane, because it's fun and undemanding and doesn't seem likely to hurt or challenge me in any way (unlike, say, Planetfall or Ninth House, or the first season of The Vela, which get real dark). But I was left a little unsatisfied when I was done reading it.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: FishProf on February 01, 2021, 04:58:43 AM
Just finished Brace New World by Aldous Huxley.  Disturbingly prescient.

The story of a young girl tormented by misaligned teeth, and her obese friend who can't keep his pants up....
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Langue_doc on February 01, 2021, 05:20:47 AM
Not sure if this is the right place for an obit, but here is Sharon Kay Penman's: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/29/books/sharon-kay-penman-dead.html?searchResultPosition=1

I didn't realize that she was a NYC/NJ girl, considering the topics and language of her novels. I think it's time for me to reread "The Sunne in Splendour".
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Parasaurolophus on February 01, 2021, 05:13:51 PM
January:

Chris Beckett - Dark Eden: This was great! Space colony with two twists: (1) it was founded by just two people, one male, one female, with no backup embryos or anything, and (2) it's on a planet with no sun. It's actually quite reminiscent of Riddley Walker, in terms of the narrative and plot (not so much the language; lots of people have mentioned the language in their reviews, but it's really nothing remarkable, whereas Riddley Walker's language...). The world-design was really good and imaginative, too, IMO. I quite enjoyed the alien biology. And the parallels to the Adam and Eve story are fun, too. I can't wait to finally get the next one, which should arrive any day now!

Adrian Tchaikovsky - Empire in Black and Gold: This was pretty good. It's a good (and very ambitious) first novel, but starts out pretty slow and only really gets going 100 or so pages in. It's a clever attempt at high fantasy, although it smacks of video gamery at times and the combat and armour are kind of nonsensical. I'm also not really a fan of steampunk and steampunkery. But it's enjoyable enough that I'll pick up the next instalment at some point, and I'll enjoy that, too. Not a patch on his later work, but we all have to start somewhere!

Robert J. Sawyer - Calculating God: I tried reading Hominids years ago and gave up because of the piss-poor rendering of a French Canadian character and his use of both French and English. This was much more palatable. Full of CanCon, which is nice, and surprisingly compelling for a book that's essentially just a dialogue between a theist alien who's found proof of God in the fossil record, and an atheist paleontologist. I have to say, however, that those conversations were cringeworthy, and would have benefitted from a better background in the philosophy of science. I suppose that makes the book truer to life, but the art suffered for it. Even so, however, it was a fun read, and I'll try him again in the near future. I'm not sure about the last act, however.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on February 02, 2021, 12:12:14 AM
January:

Chris Beckett - Dark Eden: This was great! Space colony with two twists: (1) it was founded by just two people, one male, one female, with no backup embryos or anything, and (2) it's on a planet with no sun. It's actually quite reminiscent of Riddley Walker, in terms of the narrative and plot (not so much the language; lots of people have mentioned the language in their reviews, but it's really nothing remarkable, whereas Riddley Walker's language...). The world-design was really good and imaginative, too, IMO. I quite enjoyed the alien biology. And the parallels to the Adam and Eve story are fun, too. I can't wait to finally get the next one, which should arrive any day now!

Adrian Tchaikovsky - Empire in Black and Gold: This was pretty good. It's a good (and very ambitious) first novel, but starts out pretty slow and only really gets going 100 or so pages in. It's a clever attempt at high fantasy, although it smacks of video gamery at times and the combat and armour are kind of nonsensical. I'm also not really a fan of steampunk and steampunkery. But it's enjoyable enough that I'll pick up the next instalment at some point, and I'll enjoy that, too. Not a patch on his later work, but we all have to start somewhere!

Robert J. Sawyer - Calculating God: I tried reading Hominids years ago and gave up because of the piss-poor rendering of a French Canadian character and his use of both French and English. This was much more palatable. Full of CanCon, which is nice, and surprisingly compelling for a book that's essentially just a dialogue between a theist alien who's found proof of God in the fossil record, and an atheist paleontologist. I have to say, however, that those conversations were cringeworthy, and would have benefitted from a better background in the philosophy of science. I suppose that makes the book truer to life, but the art suffered for it. Even so, however, it was a fun read, and I'll try him again in the near future. I'm not sure about the last act, however.

I read Dark Eden and had mixed thoughts about it, but I agree that the ecology of the planet was really cool. I have Empire of Black and Gold on my kindle, and I'm looking forward to it. I do enjoy ambitious fantasy works, I love the steampunk aesthetic (when it's done well), and I thought Children of Time was superb (although Dogs of War not quite as much).

If you like the idea of a paleontologist finding proof of God in the fossil record, I can't recommend Ted Chiang's story 'Omphalos' highly enough. It takes that idea and goes in a wonderfully satisfying (to me) direction.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on February 15, 2021, 10:57:31 AM
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.

Finished this one a couple nights ago.  I enjoyed it more than the first, more due to the characters that were introduced than to the plot.  It was nice to see a few strong female characters come into play.  The main bad ass lady is played by a pretty bad ass actress in the series, so I am looking forward to watching that at some point.  The plot was similar, centering a lot on a biological (I guess) agent and the political intrigue surrounding it.  Not as much in this one about the caste-ish roles of those from different areas of the solar system.  Some exciting action and good dialogue.  We picked up the next one already and put it in the queue.

But we decided to move back into the Red Rising (Brown) universe with book two, Golden Son.  The immediate beginning was a bit annoying, because it seemed intended to recap a lot of the first book but felt a bit forced.  Now we're moving toward the main thrust of the story, so hopefully things will get more interesting.  This one had the highest Goodreads rating of those we considered reading next, but you never know what kind of sampling bias is going on there.  The first book was really pretty good, so I am optimistic.  We'll see if the main character has any greater self-awareness this go round.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on February 16, 2021, 01:11:24 AM
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.

Finished this one a couple nights ago.  I enjoyed it more than the first, more due to the characters that were introduced than to the plot.  It was nice to see a few strong female characters come into play.  The main bad ass lady is played by a pretty bad ass actress in the series, so I am looking forward to watching that at some point.  The plot was similar, centering a lot on a biological (I guess) agent and the political intrigue surrounding it.  Not as much in this one about the caste-ish roles of those from different areas of the solar system.  Some exciting action and good dialogue.  We picked up the next one already and put it in the queue.


The series is really very good. I find Naomi's casting a little underwhelming, and Bobby is insufficiently immense (although well-acted), but the real standout in the series is Avasrala, played by Shohreh Aghdashloo, who is superb. (And her costumes are exquisite.) And in later seasons they condense some book characters into a really outstanding badass lady named Camina Drummer, who is outstanding.

The balance in the entire series really shifts between the sci-fi protomolecule stuff and the social issues. I feel like, taken as a whole, the balance is very good in books 1-4, but it tilts too far towards the social struggle in books five and six. Then there's a big break, and new social stuff happens (which is surprisingly awesome), but the balance also begins to tilt back towards scifi stuff.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on February 16, 2021, 07:40:49 AM
Paul Revere and the World He Lived In, by Esther Forbes.  This is an older biography that tries to imaginatively re-create the society in which the subject functioned.  It's not an academic monograph style account, but is no less thoroughly researched and scholarly for that.  The author obviously admires Paul Revere and his generation, yet is well aware of their warts. 

Revere comes across as an extraordinary character.  He was a craftsman who turned his hand to all sorts of things--silversmithing, engraving, black powder manufacturing, dentistry (!), bell casting, and eventually large-scale metal smelting.  As well as serving as an organizer, activist, and, on multiple occasions, participating in military campaigns (NOT against Native Americans!).  He comes across as a thoroughly admirable, useful citizen filled with public spirit.  The fact that such a figure is now being "canceled" by those advancing an ignorant and vaguely Orwellian political agenda is disturbing.  It leaves me convinced that people who care about history need to be opposing efforts to reduce him and his contemporaries to nothing more than slave owners and Indian killers whose legacy ought to be obliterated.


Samuel Pepys:  The Unequaled Self, by Claire Tomalin.  I read through Samuel Pepys' Diary--all of it--during grad school.  I was looking for material for my dissertation, and so had my eye out for certain things.  You can't read Pepys without picking up all sorts of other vivid impressions.  Claire Tomalin considers Pepys' life as a whole, not just the years of the Diary period.  He was a prominent figure who left many other records to work with, plus a later, though less vivid and detailed, period of diary-keeping. 

It's interesting to compare Tomalin's work with an older generation of biographers such as Forbes.  One's not better than the other.  They simply differ in their emphases, as is only to be expected of writers who reflect their respective generations' interests and perspectives.  They're both very readable. 

Tomalin mentions several of Pepys' contemporaries who also kept journals, such as Bulstrode Whitelocke and Ralph Josselin.  She describes some of these figures as more admirable, but less interesting, than Pepys, the man of the world.  If you understand why somebody like Josselin felt and believed the way he did he's actually pretty interesting in his own right.  Tomalin's right, though, to say that Pepys gives you a more vivid look at his age and society.

I can't say as I find much to admire in Pepys the man.  There's no denying his vivid observation, intelligence, and humor, his significance as a social chronicler, or his government service.  He was also a turncoat, a boot-licker, and a serial sexual harasser.  I'm reminded of what Jim Hawkins said of Long John Silver at the end of Treasure Island--you wish him well in this world, since his chances of happiness in the next are not great.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on February 16, 2021, 08:42:13 AM
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.

Finished this one a couple nights ago.  I enjoyed it more than the first, more due to the characters that were introduced than to the plot.  It was nice to see a few strong female characters come into play.  The main bad ass lady is played by a pretty bad ass actress in the series, so I am looking forward to watching that at some point.  The plot was similar, centering a lot on a biological (I guess) agent and the political intrigue surrounding it.  Not as much in this one about the caste-ish roles of those from different areas of the solar system.  Some exciting action and good dialogue.  We picked up the next one already and put it in the queue.


The series is really very good. I find Naomi's casting a little underwhelming, and Bobby is insufficiently immense (although well-acted), but the real standout in the series is Avasrala, played by Shohreh Aghdashloo, who is superb. (And her costumes are exquisite.) And in later seasons they condense some book characters into a really outstanding badass lady named Camina Drummer, who is outstanding.

The balance in the entire series really shifts between the sci-fi protomolecule stuff and the social issues. I feel like, taken as a whole, the balance is very good in books 1-4, but it tilts too far towards the social struggle in books five and six. Then there's a big break, and new social stuff happens (which is surprisingly awesome), but the balance also begins to tilt back towards scifi stuff.

Yep, Bobbie and Avasarala were introduced in book two.  I liked Bobbie a lot, but I thought Avasarala was a great character.  And that is the actress I was referring to! I am so looking forward to watching her.  Bobbie and Avasarala make a good team, too.  Sounds like you recommend it! The Camina Drummer character sounds intriguing! Thanks also for the info about how the book series wends its way along.  As for Naomi, her character hasn't made much of an impression on me, unfortunately.  I feel as though she and Alex really take a back seat to the others.  That's why I was extra excited about Bobbie and Avasarala.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Parasaurolophus on February 16, 2021, 09:03:29 AM
He comes across as a thoroughly admirable, useful citizen filled with public spirit. 

All I know about him is what I know about the Penobscot Expedition, in which he did not exactly cover himself in glory. Based on his behaviour then, it doesn't seem to me that he was especially admirable, but he may well have been a useful and public-minded citizen. Shrug.

(But, of course, that's just one event in what I gather was a pretty long life.)
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Puget on February 16, 2021, 06:10:54 PM
Richard Russo's Chances Are , which I somehow missed when it came out in 2019. He's one of my favorite authors, and this one did not disappoint-- interesting characters, and a story that cuts back and forth across time and narrators, with a surprise twist.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: wareagle on February 16, 2021, 07:49:31 PM
Richard Russo's Chances Are , which I somehow missed when it came out in 2019. He's one of my favorite authors, and this one did not disappoint-- interesting characters, and a story that cuts back and forth across time and narrators, with a surprise twist.

I just finished that one, too!
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on February 17, 2021, 01:53:44 AM
Richard Russo's Chances Are , which I somehow missed when it came out in 2019. He's one of my favorite authors, and this one did not disappoint-- interesting characters, and a story that cuts back and forth across time and narrators, with a surprise twist.

I just finished that one, too!

Which of the following elements does Chances Are use?


Every RR book I've read has mixed and matched these elements, some more successfully than others. As much as I want to love Straight Man, I can't get over the fact that the narrator is such a jerk and no one calls him on it. I think Nobody's Fool is the perfect combination of the signature Russo elements, in part because people don't let Sully get away with his jerkishness.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on February 17, 2021, 08:24:01 AM
Good list of Russo plot elements, and I would maybe add a divorce and/or complicated marriage or affair.  True, too, about the jerkish main characters and Sully being the exception due to those keeping him (mostly) in line.  I'll put this "new" book on our list! Sounds pretty good.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Puget on February 17, 2021, 11:36:25 AM
Richard Russo's Chances Are , which I somehow missed when it came out in 2019. He's one of my favorite authors, and this one did not disappoint-- interesting characters, and a story that cuts back and forth across time and narrators, with a surprise twist.

I just finished that one, too!

Which of the following elements does Chances Are use?

  • Dying small town in New England
  • which used to host a manufacturing industry of sorts that has now left
  • but first poisoned the water and gave everyone cancer
  • Wise-cracking jerk as a main character
  • Who gave up some real opportunity in youth and instead built an unsatisfying life in the small town

Every RR book I've read has mixed and matched these elements, some more successfully than others. As much as I want to love Straight Man, I can't get over the fact that the narrator is such a jerk and no one calls him on it. I think Nobody's Fool is the perfect combination of the signature Russo elements, in part because people don't let Sully get away with his jerkishness.

That's a pretty good list for a lot of them, but this one does't really have any of those, though there are some lives that didn't go as planned in different ways. Of his other books, it is probably most similar to That Old Cape Magic, although that one has more comic elements.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on February 19, 2021, 09:24:31 AM
Ivanhoe, by Walter Scott.  The historian in me makes me hard to please when it comes to historical novels.  It's very annoying when an author either didn't do the research, or did and then chose to take extensive liberties anyway.  Sir Walter is way too in love with the "Norman yoke" idea of English medieval history, which wasn't considered good history even in his own day.  He also has quite a few anachronisms in his 1190s setting.  A medievalist could no doubt spot a lot more of them than I can.  On the other hand, Scott really tells a great story, albeit in a prolix style that hasn't aged well.  It's full of vivid characters and settings, with plenty of humor, melodrama, and intrigue.  There are thrills that would do a Hollywood screenwriter proud.

And Scott does get a lot right about the Middle Ages.  Ivanhoe's enormous popularity is often credited with spurring the popularity of romantic 19th-century medievalism.  True, perhaps, but Scott's depiction of the era isn't nearly as romanticized as some.  Scott's medieval England is a thoroughly brutal and unjust place, dominated by tribal loyalties in which considerations of ethics and morality are reserved almost entirely for the members of one's in-group.  Even the most admirable characters struggle to rise above their ingrained prejudices (But prove that doing so is possible for those who have a spark of genuine goodwill toward others).  Scott also correctly portrays medieval piety as an ostentatious veneer of ostensibly Christian ritual over a fundamentally pagan and barbarian society.  Spirituality is overwhelmingly a matter of superficial ritual, the appeasement of a corrupt clerical elite, and the veneration of a pantheon of minor deities bearing the names of saints.  Actual New Testament values and practice are thin on the ground.

Scott also spends a lot of time critiquing medieval chivalry.  For all their admirable qualities, his knightly heroes are badly limited by their conditioning to treat chivalric violence and glory seeking as ends in themselves, instead of subordinating them to higher ends.  Toward the end Scott acknowledges that Richard the Lionhearted's endless glory-seeking ruined any chance of his accomplishing anything truly worthwhile in his reign.  The Jewish Rebecca--easily the most consistently admirable character of all--repeatedly interrogates the knights' priorities and attitudes.  Her allegiance to biblical teaching places her closer to genuine Christian values than any of the novels' professedly Christian characters--an irony that surely wasn't lost on Scott's more thoughtful readers.


Ivanhoe, (1952), with Robert Taylor and Elizabeth Taylor.  I couldn't resist watching this classic screen adaptation again after finally reading the source material.  The movie is necessarily a fairly free adaptation, since it would have taken at least twice the running time to do the full story justice.  There's lots of condensation of plot, consolidation of characters, and elimination of some fairly important characters (Wamba does all of Gurth's work in assisting Ivanhoe, Ivanhoe handles far more of the heroism himself, Urfried and Athelstane are missing, etc.).  The movie still does justice to Scott's basic plot and themes.  Not a bad adaptation at all, and as much fun to watch as the book is to read.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: hmaria1609 on February 19, 2021, 06:50:45 PM
I haven't posted on this thread in awhile!

Finished The Dark Archive by Genevieve Cogman
The new and #7 novel in the "Invisible Library" series.

Started: Age of Empyre by Michael J. Sullivan
Series finale and #6 in the "Legends of the First Empire" series.  I've been borrowing this series from the library. I read and own Sullivan's two earlier series "The Riyria Revelations" and "The Riyria Chronicles."

Apl68,
I remember seeing bits and pieces of the 1997 adaptation of Ivanhoe on TV. Sir Walter Scott wrote 16 novels in the "Waverley" series--Ivanhoe was the 5th entry, published in 1819.
I've had the fun of climbing the steps of the Scott Monument in Edinburgh. Great views of the city at the top!
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on February 20, 2021, 08:35:15 AM
I bet Scotland was beautiful.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on February 22, 2021, 10:48:58 AM
With the town shut down by snow all last week, it seemed like an appropriate time to re-read Storm, by George Stewart.  Storm is a day-by-day account of a fictitious winter storm, from its formation over the Pacific to its disruption of human activities across much of North America.  Stewart creates an epic story with a cast of hundreds--from the meteorologists trying to track and forecast the storm system, to the teams fighting to keep transportation, electricity, and other infrastructure going, to people from all walks of life dealing with the storm's impact.  It's a real tour-de-force.

The vignettes the story is constructed from often have a slow-burn quality.  Readers are repeatedly told about a fallen tree that is gradually shifting from its resting place in the mountains.  Finally it slides downhill and takes out a major power line.  This touches off a whole chain of events as utilities struggle to keep the grid going, and crews make dangerous field repairs.  Meanwhile a kid's stupid pot-shot at an electrical box on the side of a highway creates a minor road emergency days later.  And the seemingly random vignettes of a hog foraging in the hills above a railroad track and the passengers on a transcontinental express prove to be related in a most unexpected manner.

The author's frequent attempts to wax philosophical about how "man is a creature of the air" whose life and society are governed by the weather get a little tedious at times.  But the basic theme about how our society must deal with natural forces beyond our control is valid enough.  It's obviously still very relevant, 80 years after the novel first came out.  We tend to think of weather mainly in local terms as it affects our personal plans.  It's useful to be reminded of how our local weather and its impact upon us are only pieces of something much bigger.  And of all the behind-the-scenes work that takes place to try to keep our transportation and utilities running.  In Storm these efforts are mostly successful.  It would be interesting to know what Stewart would have made of the recent infrastructure disaster in Texas.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on February 22, 2021, 10:57:29 AM
BTW, if you've never heard of Storm, that's not too surprising.  It was a critically-acclaimed bestseller in the 1940s.  There was a special Armed Services edition in World War II.  In the '50s it served as the basis for a Disney semi-documentary on TV entitled "A Storm Named Maria."  Then the book seems to have become almost forgotten (There was a reprint in the 1980s).  Stewart is mainly remembered today for an early post-apocalyptic novel called Earth Abides. 

An old copy of Storm caught my eye at an antique store some years ago.  It goes to show that some of those old, forgotten books can be well worth reading today.  I can't recommend it highly enough.  Looks like there's a new edition due out later this year.  Meanwhile old copies are still available at Amazon.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mamselle on February 22, 2021, 11:31:47 AM
Quote
It would be interesting to know what Stewart would have made of the recent infrastructure disaster in Texas.

He might have linked it to a grain elevator's being torn down 10 years earlier, from what you describe of his long-range interest in causality...

At first, though, my thought was, "Oh, Dick Francis' son Felix finally wrote the book they talked about in "Second Wind," which was the cover activity for a clandestine spy-like operation that pulled a couple meteorologists into flying through a couple of hurricanes...

M. 
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: hmaria1609 on March 04, 2021, 07:23:59 PM
Finishing: The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in Regency and Victorian England, From 1811-1901 by Kristine Hughes
It's a withdrawn library copy I got a few years ago.

Next up: Enola Holmes Mystery series by Nancy Springer
This children's series got attention (and new book covers) because of the Netflix movie. Since there's a lull in demand for now, I'm reading the series ahead of the new Enola Holmes novel that the author is releasing this summer.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: nebo113 on March 05, 2021, 05:31:55 AM
With the town shut down by snow all last week, it seemed like an appropriate time to re-read Storm, by George Stewart.  Storm is a day-by-day account of a fictitious winter storm,

Completely OT but I was caught by your use of fictitious and wondered how it is different from fictional. Checked dictionary and still can't figure it out.  Sooooo....why did you choose the former over the latter?  And I'm not being snarky.  Curious and a bit of a vocabulary nut.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Parasaurolophus on March 06, 2021, 06:23:11 PM
Angus Donald - Robin Hood and the Castle of Bones: A fun new Robin Hood adventure, although it has to be said that I'd forgotten how irritatingly stupid our protagonist, Alan Dale, is. Ugh. He's insufferable. I don't have much more to say, really: it did what it said on the tin, with a typo or two on every page (such are the perils of not having access to a copy editor, I guess). But I'm glad Donald has been able to crank out a few more of these, and that there's a market for them, even if his publisher didn't want them. He's pretty good at stitching these adventures together.

Robert J. Sawyer - Mindscan: The premise was pretty interesting to me (mind-upload technology has been developed. Some rich people do it, are sued by their children for their legacies.) The execution was OK--the trial is by far the most interesting part of the novel, and there's not really enough of it. Sending the shedskins to the moon also seems really backwards--they've developed this mindscan technology, fine, but they haven't done a good job of thinking through its applications. The philosophy of mind that was mixed in was OK (notwithstanding the philosopher who testifies at the trial, who doesn't acquit himself any better than an undergrad could). Also, while I'm all for CanCon, the CanCon here was kind of grating. President Pat Buchanan was a nice touch, though.

Robert J. Sawyer - Factoring Humanity: Sawyer seems like something of an r-selector scifi author to me: he has lots of neat little ideas, and he churns them out in the hopes that one will be a hit. This is another OK novel. It's more engaging than Mindscan, but I dunno about the central conflict, really. And his grasp of the academy, and of academic ranks, is not good. Also, I just couldn't really get past the idea that a Jungian psychologist is the one who ends up deciphering the aliens' message. Too much disbelief, not enough suspension.

Robert J. Sawyer - Starplex: This was the most fun of RJS's works which I've read (also, in some ways, the least ambitious. Coincidence?). I enjoyed it a fair bit. Put the scientists into space and turn it into a small-scale space opera, and he does just fine. There's still a lot of Basil exposition, but that's his way.

Robert J. Sawyer - Flashforward: The core here is a very good idea (for one minute, the LHC gives everyone on earth a vision of a minute 21 years in the future), and it's competently executed. I enjoyed it, although I have to say that his vision of the near future was just so, so far from the mark that it was grating. There's a philosophical discussion of free will (and quantum mechanics... sigh...) in the middle that's exasperatingly undergrad, too.

Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Puget on March 06, 2021, 06:52:39 PM
The City We Became, N. K. Jemisin
New York comes alive, literarily. I enjoyed it-- some good characters, a fast moving plot, and interesting concept. If you don't like social commentary in your sci-fi it won't be your cup of tea however.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: nonsensical on March 06, 2021, 07:11:00 PM
I've been trying to find a book or book series that I read as a child and can't remember the title or the author, and I was wondering if any of you might have ever read this or have a sense of how to search for it. My memory is that this was a series of stories about a girl growing up in the 1800s. I remember one story in particular where she was trying to memorize a Bible verse and took a Bible into the bath with her to practice, and then panicked because she didn't know how to get out of the bath without putting the Bible down on the floor, and clearly that was not a thing to do with such a sacred book. I think this same book or series also had a different story where this same girl wanted a new dresser for her bedroom, or something, and her brother made her one but she had to do his chores for him. The new dresser made her realize how drab her curtains were, so her brother fixed her curtains in exchange for her doing more chores. Then she noticed that the paint was faded, so her brother painted her room in exchange for her doing still more chores. Someone commented about what an expensive dresser she got and she said, no, the chores I'm doing now are for the paint, and the other person said that the paint would not have been an issue without all the other new stuff, so she was actually still paying for the original thing that started the whole chain. It's possible that either this main character or someone else in the stories was named Mabel.

That's about all that my memory is giving me, and some of it may be wrong or jumbled up with something else I read around the same time. I know this is a long shot but figured I'd post here in case anyone had any inkling of what book this might have been, or any suggestions for keywords that I could use or other ways to search for it ("girl who doesn't want to put a Bible on the floor" isn't really giving me very much...)
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on March 07, 2021, 01:35:54 AM
I've been trying to find a book or book series that I read as a child and can't remember the title or the author, and I was wondering if any of you might have ever read this or have a sense of how to search for it. My memory is that this was a series of stories about a girl growing up in the 1800s. I remember one story in particular where she was trying to memorize a Bible verse and took a Bible into the bath with her to practice, and then panicked because she didn't know how to get out of the bath without putting the Bible down on the floor, and clearly that was not a thing to do with such a sacred book. I think this same book or series also had a different story where this same girl wanted a new dresser for her bedroom, or something, and her brother made her one but she had to do his chores for him. The new dresser made her realize how drab her curtains were, so her brother fixed her curtains in exchange for her doing more chores. Then she noticed that the paint was faded, so her brother painted her room in exchange for her doing still more chores. Someone commented about what an expensive dresser she got and she said, no, the chores I'm doing now are for the paint, and the other person said that the paint would not have been an issue without all the other new stuff, so she was actually still paying for the original thing that started the whole chain. It's possible that either this main character or someone else in the stories was named Mabel.

That's about all that my memory is giving me, and some of it may be wrong or jumbled up with something else I read around the same time. I know this is a long shot but figured I'd post here in case anyone had any inkling of what book this might have been, or any suggestions for keywords that I could use or other ways to search for it ("girl who doesn't want to put a Bible on the floor" isn't really giving me very much...)

There is a goodreads community called 'What's the name of that book'? in which people post these sorts of questions. I have used it successfully myself, in the past. You might give it a try: https://www.goodreads.com/topic/list_group/185-what-s-the-name-of-that-book

(I'm already on goodreads, so if you want me to post it there for you and report back, I'm very happy to.)
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: nonsensical on March 07, 2021, 04:48:10 AM
There is a goodreads community called 'What's the name of that book'? in which people post these sorts of questions. I have used it successfully myself, in the past. You might give it a try: https://www.goodreads.com/topic/list_group/185-what-s-the-name-of-that-book

(I'm already on goodreads, so if you want me to post it there for you and report back, I'm very happy to.)

I did not know that! Thank you for pointing me in this direction. I don't have an account there, so if you really don't mind posting for me, I would really appreciate it.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on March 07, 2021, 05:38:50 AM
There is a goodreads community called 'What's the name of that book'? in which people post these sorts of questions. I have used it successfully myself, in the past. You might give it a try: https://www.goodreads.com/topic/list_group/185-what-s-the-name-of-that-book

(I'm already on goodreads, so if you want me to post it there for you and report back, I'm very happy to.)

I did not know that! Thank you for pointing me in this direction. I don't have an account there, so if you really don't mind posting for me, I would really appreciate it.

Here it is: https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/21895160-children-s-book-1800s-little-girl-doesn-t-want-to-put-bible-down-on-wet

Let me know if you remember more and want me to update it.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on March 07, 2021, 08:48:35 AM
Thanks for the reviews, Parasaurolophus! Some of the Sawyer books sound like promising reads (others not so much).

And it is neat that there's a forum like that on Goodreads for figuring out names of somewhat-recalled books! I hope that group can help.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on March 08, 2021, 01:24:15 AM
There is a goodreads community called 'What's the name of that book'? in which people post these sorts of questions. I have used it successfully myself, in the past. You might give it a try: https://www.goodreads.com/topic/list_group/185-what-s-the-name-of-that-book

(I'm already on goodreads, so if you want me to post it there for you and report back, I'm very happy to.)

I did not know that! Thank you for pointing me in this direction. I don't have an account there, so if you really don't mind posting for me, I would really appreciate it.

Here it is: https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/21895160-children-s-book-1800s-little-girl-doesn-t-want-to-put-bible-down-on-wet

Let me know if you remember more and want me to update it.

Here's a suggestion: is this it?


The series Grandma's Attic by Arleta Richardson came up in a search.
The first book is In Grandma's Attic. The main character's name is Mabel and she was a child at the "turn of the century". The scene of the bible and the bath is in the book Still More Stories from Grandma's Attic (I did a search within the book using Google Books). The chapter about the piece of furniture that makes her think the rest of the bedroom looks shaby is in the book Treasures from Grandma; it's a bookcase, though, not a dresser, so not sure it's the same story you were looking for!
It looks like the 1st book was published in the mid 70s and the other books in the 80s and 90s!
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: nonsensical on March 12, 2021, 04:59:57 AM
Here's a suggestion: is this it?


The series Grandma's Attic by Arleta Richardson came up in a search.
The first book is In Grandma's Attic. The main character's name is Mabel and she was a child at the "turn of the century". The scene of the bible and the bath is in the book Still More Stories from Grandma's Attic (I did a search within the book using Google Books). The chapter about the piece of furniture that makes her think the rest of the bedroom looks shaby is in the book Treasures from Grandma; it's a bookcase, though, not a dresser, so not sure it's the same story you were looking for!
It looks like the 1st book was published in the mid 70s and the other books in the 80s and 90s!


Yes!! Thank you so much!
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on March 12, 2021, 08:52:54 AM
Hooray for the series being identified!

Just finished this one last night:

But we decided to move back into the Red Rising (Brown) universe with book two, Golden Son.  The immediate beginning was a bit annoying, because it seemed intended to recap a lot of the first book but felt a bit forced.  Now we're moving toward the main thrust of the story, so hopefully things will get more interesting.  This one had the highest Goodreads rating of those we considered reading next, but you never know what kind of sampling bias is going on there.  The first book was really pretty good, so I am optimistic.  We'll see if the main character has any greater self-awareness this go round.

It got a lot better once we moved past the beginning and got into the story.  It was a pretty similar story to the first book, sort of a Hunger Games feel, but took place in a different setting than the first.  I guess you could say the first was in a school setting, and the second was in a workplace setting.  The plot is still about the main character trying to undo society and the caste system that has been in place forever, with those at the lower levels having no idea of the reality of the world and basically kept in slavery.  Each color (red, blue, violet, pink, gold, etc.) has their roles to play in the society and are violently discouraged from expanding beyond those roles.  Similar to the first book, there's a lot of plotting and treachery.  Some very good characters from the previous book and new ones introduced in this one, some eye-rolling (at times) dialog, interesting plot reveals.  It's still hard to get behind the main character completely, because he just doesn't seem to get it half the time, though at least he has grown a bit less naive.  Overall, I really like this series so far.   It's advertised as a trilogy but seems to have five books.  I guess we'll have to see if three books should have been enough. 

Now we're reading An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green.  Seems like it's off to an interesting start, but we began it before bed last night, and I fell asleep not too far into it.  It appears to be about a bunch of statues that start appearing in different cities and the main character having to figure out what the purpose is.  I would post the blurb, but it's a bit long.  Supposed to be a humorous sci-fi with complex underlying ideas.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: hmaria1609 on March 18, 2021, 01:48:48 PM
A short list of books I read or soon will from the library:
Enola Holmes Mystery series by Nancy Springer
Quick reads--kids series about Enola Holmes, the 14 year old sister of Mycroft and Sherlock Holmes. The 1st book, The Case of the Missing Marquess, was the basis of the hit Netflix movie. I recommend reading the books in order.  The author has a new and 7th installment releasing this summer!

Murder at Queen's Landing by Andrea Penrose
#4 in the "Wrexford & Sloane" mystery series.  The Duke and Charlotte Sloane investigate a murder at London's docks.

The Queen's Secret by Melissa de la Cruz (teen)
The sequel to The Queen's Assassin

The Dark Heart of Florence by Tasha Alexander
New and #15 in the "Lady Emily Mystery" series
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on March 26, 2021, 07:52:25 AM
Quakeland:  On the Road to America's Next Devastating Earthquake, by Kathryn Miles.  It's a fascinating piece of journalism.  The author investigates the geology of earthquakes and earthquake prediction, has a good bit to say about recent and historical quakes, and talks about the risks of a catastrophic quake in various parts of the country and how to prepare for it.  California isn't the only place that's at risk.  Several other parts of the country have real risks of a catastrophic quake within not too many decades.  Even New York City has a slim but real chance of a quake that, in a worst-case scenario, could render the whole city as uninhabitable as New Orleans after Katrina.  Think about that for a moment.

Miles devotes a couple of chapters to the New Madrid fault zone.  I've known all my life that our whole state lies in that zone, although I've always lived in areas far enough out that serious damage would be unlikely.  Most of our state seems fairly safe.  Neighboring regions, such as the city of Memphis, are another story.

There are a couple of pages on the long-term effort to retroactively quake-proof the DeSoto Interstate 40 bridge across the Mississippi at Memphis.  I've crossed that bridge about a hundred times (No hyperbole) over the last 31 years, and had wondered why it had construction on it for so long.  They had to do the retrofitting while keeping it open.  It was one of the first bridges to receive such an upgrade.  It carries such a huge volume of commercial traffic that it could cripple the nation's economy if it were destroyed.  Now it should be proof against a 2,500-year quake.  Good to know somebody has been on the ball there.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on March 27, 2021, 11:47:38 AM
Now we're reading An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green.  Seems like it's off to an interesting start, but we began it before bed last night, and I fell asleep not too far into it.  It appears to be about a bunch of statues that start appearing in different cities and the main character having to figure out what the purpose is.  I would post the blurb, but it's a bit long.  Supposed to be a humorous sci-fi with complex underlying ideas.

Finished this last night.  We ended up LOVING it.  It's a sci-fi mystery with an interesting plot.  The writing style kind of reminded me of a mix of some of John Scalzi (like Fuzzy Nation or Agent to the Stars), Neal Stephenson (like Zodiac or Snow Crash), and Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum stories.  A little quirky, and I laughed and cried.  It was really an enjoyable read with some timely messages.  I wish the follow-up were out in paperback, but it looks like that's coming out just around my husband's birthday in July, when it seems like a lot of sci-fi (at least in paperback?) comes out, so I will put that on the list to pick up.  Makes for easy birthday presents! I didn't realize that the author, Hank Green, is John Green's brother (e.g., The Fault in Our Stars).

Just started Wool (Hugh Howey).  It seems to center around a group of people living in an underground silo to protect themselves from the outside.  Apparently, wanting to go outside is a no-no, and a character wishes to do this, which I guess ultimately leads to some sort of uprising against the society and rules they've been living under.   Could be interesting if done well, or could be a rehash of other, similar stories.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on March 29, 2021, 07:39:08 AM
Lying Awake, by Mark Saltzman.  The novel's protagonist is a Carmelite nun who begins having very vivid experiences of God's presence that prompt her to become a popular devotional writer.  She also has worsening problems with migraines and seizures.  Eventually she learns that she is suffering from epilepsy.  This puts her in a dilemma.  If she has surgery to end the symptoms, she will likely lose her vivid experiences.  If she doesn't she will continue to burden her sisters in the community with caring for her during her seizures.

The whole story is a brilliant exploration of the issue of faith struggles--not struggles with doubt in the existence of God, or in the truth of scripture, but with one's own relationship to God and service to God.  It hits very close to home.  I've spent my life dealing with neurological issues--borderline autism in my youth, serious introversion, and periodic attacks of depression.  I've spent most of my life wishing that I wasn't the way I am.  It feels like these things have always held me back from accomplishing most of what I've wanted to accomplish in life, in God's service and in other ways. 

A year ago renewed major depression made it necessary for me to start taking antidepressants, which I very much did not want to do.  Though the drug has greatly improved my situation, I have lost a great deal of my former energy and creativity in the process.  Saltzman's protagonist found after her surgery that she could no longer write.  I've found the same thing.  I used to be a very productive writer.  Now I can no longer write anything much longer than this post.  It makes me feel very diminished.

Which may be kind of the point when God allows his children to go through such things.  Milton learned, in his famous sonnet on his blindness ("When I consider how my light is spent"), that God doesn't need for us to be our idea of high achievers.  He simply wants us to follow him.  That's essentially what the sister in the novel learns.  It's a wonderful exploration of this theme.  I'd love to write a novel like this.  If I could still write....
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on March 31, 2021, 06:39:35 AM
The Organization Man, by William H. Whyte.  This once-famous 1950s study was evidently a big factor in spreading concerns that the postwar rise of corporations and suburbs was turning the United States into a nation of bland conformists.  Well, the 1960s and subsequent developments sure showed them!  It's an interesting social analysis that in some ways looks very quaint with hindsight.

Whyte devotes a couple of chapters to the sorts of standardized personality tests that had become popular with employers.  He gives a brief "test" that includes examples of the different sorts of questions one is likely to face.  It's very funny.  Deliberately so, but he's also making a serious point about the sorts of things that those personality inventories asked.  Then he has an appendix on how to game the exams to keep from getting a score that employers will worry about.  "To settle on the most beneficial answer to any question, repeat to yourself:

I loved my father and my mother, but my father a little bit more.
I like things pretty well the way they are.
I never worry much about anything.
I don't care for books or music much.
I love my wife and children.
I don't let them get in the way of company work."

Probably still good advice for job seekers.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on March 31, 2021, 08:46:44 AM
Anyone here read the works of T. Kingfisher? I've just started my third, and each time I open the book it promises to be a light, entertaining fantasy, but about halfway through I realize it's really, really good! I've just cruised through her goodreads page to mark all her other books so I don't forget about them.

Except The Twisted Ones. I don't like being scared.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Parasaurolophus on April 01, 2021, 01:24:19 PM
March:

Cormac McCarthy - Blood Meridian: Not nearly as violent as everyone always makes out (at least, not for this particular historical fiction fan!), although the violence is on the whole much more immoral than what historical fiction has accustomed me to. It was mostly dull but punctuated with some nice flourishes, and the spare language mostly got in the way of comprehension and reading for content. I was routinely confused about the progression of events, who was who, etc., and I made awfully slow progress through it. McCarthy's spare language works brilliantly in The Road; here, it's just a gimmick that's supposed to tell you you're reading Literature and there's a Point to it all. But really, there isn't. It's just boring and confusing and pretentious. Also, that epilogue... ugh. For fuck's sake! I know what's going on there (either fencing, telegraph installation, or prospecting for oil), but it's the epitome of pretentious bullshit. Give me a fucking break! Oh, and Bloom's introducition is full of shit. (Despite appearances, I didn't hate it. But I don't have much patience for it.)

Chris Beckett - Mother of Eden: Beckett seems to have mostly abandoned his attempt at Riddley Walker-style language, and that's too bad, since it could have been improved. It's also too bad that this novel doesn't pick up from the last, since I was really interested in seeing what they all found out, and in learning more about Eden's ecology (that's what I want from these scifi colonization stories, after all!). But it was quite a fun read nonetheless, and I did enjoy seeing what Eden had turned into further downstream. And the nascent realpolitik was fun. But this is a very different kind of novel from the first.

Chris Beckett - Daughter of Eden: I expected this one to be further downstream as well, but it mostly picks up after the second one, and settles on a single character's POV. Two of the events we've all been waiting for finally happen, however, and at least one of them is quite interestingly rendered (the other's OK, but actually fades into the background). I enjoyed it, however, and thought it brought the trilogy to a fitting end (to the extent that it does). I wouldn't mind revisiting Eden in another book sometime, although I still mostly just want more of its ecology!

Naomi Novik - Uprooted: This is basically a children's fable/story set in a fantasy world, fleshed-up with a basic Harlequin structure, and set in an eastern European locale. It was a lot fun, I'll admit, although I'm disappointed that there's no system of magic at all (it's pure deus ex machina) and I think that the two romantic interludes were ill-fitting (despite the Harlequin-influenced structure). I was never bored, though, and I tore through it. Plus, it was refreshing to have things be inspired by eastern Europe instead of the usual western European stuff.


I suspect I'll be reading much more slowly over the next few months, but I'll do my best to make it through at least two a month.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: hmaria1609 on April 01, 2021, 07:25:15 PM
March:
Naomi Novik - Uprooted: This is basically a children's fable/story set in a fantasy world, fleshed-up with a basic Harlequin structure, and set in an eastern European locale. It was a lot fun, I'll admit, although I'm disappointed that there's no system of magic at all (it's pure deus ex machina) and I think that the two romantic interludes were ill-fitting (despite the Harlequin-influenced structure). I was never bored, though, and I tore through it. Plus, it was refreshing to have things be inspired by eastern Europe instead of the usual western European stuff.
I read this one from the library after the book was released.  I liked the Polish-Lithuanian inspiration. Her fantasy inspired Spinning Silver was good too.
I had the fun of seeing Naomi Novik speak at an author's panel at American Library Assoc. (ALA) several years ago!

Her latest novel A Deadly Education is the 1st installment in a new series.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Parasaurolophus on April 01, 2021, 09:26:16 PM
March:
Naomi Novik - Uprooted: This is basically a children's fable/story set in a fantasy world, fleshed-up with a basic Harlequin structure, and set in an eastern European locale. It was a lot fun, I'll admit, although I'm disappointed that there's no system of magic at all (it's pure deus ex machina) and I think that the two romantic interludes were ill-fitting (despite the Harlequin-influenced structure). I was never bored, though, and I tore through it. Plus, it was refreshing to have things be inspired by eastern Europe instead of the usual western European stuff.
I read this one from the library after the book was released.  I liked the Polish-Lithuanian inspiration. Her fantasy inspired Spinning Silver was good too.
I had the fun of seeing Naomi Novik speak at an author's panel at American Library Assoc. (ALA) several years ago!

Her latest novel A Deadly Education is the 1st installment in a new series.

Oh, cool!
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mamselle on April 02, 2021, 06:07:05 AM
Lying Awake, by Mark Saltzman.  The novel's protagonist is a Carmelite nun who begins having very vivid experiences of God's presence that prompt her to become a popular devotional writer.  She also has worsening problems with migraines and seizures.  Eventually she learns that she is suffering from epilepsy.  This puts her in a dilemma.  If she has surgery to end the symptoms, she will likely lose her vivid experiences.  If she doesn't she will continue to burden her sisters in the community with caring for her during her seizures.

The whole story is a brilliant exploration of the issue of faith struggles--not struggles with doubt in the existence of God, or in the truth of scripture, but with one's own relationship to God and service to God.  It hits very close to home.  I've spent my life dealing with neurological issues--borderline autism in my youth, serious introversion, and periodic attacks of depression.  I've spent most of my life wishing that I wasn't the way I am.  It feels like these things have always held me back from accomplishing most of what I've wanted to accomplish in life, in God's service and in other ways. 

A year ago renewed major depression made it necessary for me to start taking antidepressants, which I very much did not want to do.  Though the drug has greatly improved my situation, I have lost a great deal of my former energy and creativity in the process.  Saltzman's protagonist found after her surgery that she could no longer write.  I've found the same thing.  I used to be a very productive writer.  Now I can no longer write anything much longer than this post.  It makes me feel very diminished.

Which may be kind of the point when God allows his children to go through such things.  Milton learned, in his famous sonnet on his blindness ("When I consider how my light is spent"), that God doesn't need for us to be our idea of high achievers.  He simply wants us to follow him.  That's essentially what the sister in the novel learns.  It's a wonderful exploration of this theme.  I'd love to write a novel like this.  If I could still write....

It's been awhile since I audited a seminar on Hildegard von Bingen's sermons, but the thought at the time was moving towards seeing her visualized meditations in 'Scivias,' etc., as the results of migraines as well. I don't know if further work has been done on that, since, but this has strong resonances with it.

I'm sorry for your senses of loss. It's hardest when it seems like the blocks towards fulfilling ones vocation--especially a vocation to which one enthusiastically assets and wishes to fulfill--seem immutable and arising from some aspect of the same self that wishes to comply with that call.

My most recent image is of the boat stuck in the canal. It didn't want to be wedged against the sides, it just was....

And it didn't take one big crane to move it, but a lot of little tugboats, both pushing and pulling, as well as those intrepid tiny sandblasters.

M.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: spork on April 02, 2021, 03:24:52 PM
Changing a syllabus for a course scheduled for next year that probably won't meet minimum enrollment, so I've read these:


I should probably mention that a new edition of Milton Osborne's Southeast Asia: An Introductory History is scheduled for release in September. Too late for my needs, but the edition I had as a student twenty-five years ago was excellent.

I'm also looking forward to Suchitra Vijayan's Midnight's Borders: A People's History of Modern India, which is due out in May.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: fleabite on April 02, 2021, 03:50:03 PM
Thanks for mentioning these. I'm going to have to read Superpower Interrupted. I found The Hispanic History of the United States, which is thematically in the same vein, very interesting.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: spork on April 02, 2021, 04:23:15 PM
Thanks for mentioning these. I'm going to have to read Superpower Interrupted. I found The Hispanic History of the United States, which is thematically in the same vein, very interesting.

Thank you for letting me know about Our America: A Hispanic History of the United States. Generally U.S. history isn't my thing, but this looks quite interesting.

Michael Schuman, the author of Superpower Interrupted, is a journalist rather than a historian, so the writing is breezier but it's not a hard-core academic work like Kenneth Pomeranz's The Great Divergence or Klaus Mühlhahn's Making China Modern. From the Great Qing to Xi Jinping.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on April 05, 2021, 07:26:09 AM
Thanks for mentioning these. I'm going to have to read Superpower Interrupted. I found The Hispanic History of the United States, which is thematically in the same vein, very interesting.

Those both look like good works to check out.  If they're popularly-accessible works, they might be good choices for our library collection.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: fleabite on April 05, 2021, 01:07:11 PM
Our America: A Hispanic History of the United States (Spork supplied the correct title which I had garbled) isn't really short, but it is accessible to a broad audience. In fact, I had wanted to suggest it for the book club at my local public library, but there weren't enough copies in the system. (With budget cuts after the last recession, there is much less nonfiction purchased in sufficient quantities for book club use.)
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Hegemony on April 05, 2021, 11:31:49 PM
Following up on Ab-grp's comments, I read that Wool was great, and tried to get through it, and absolutely could not. It read like some random person without much writing expertise was trying to hack their way through a plot. I was having to force myself to keep going in the hope that it would take off after a while. It never did and eventually I gave up. Then some research revealed that it was self-published, and so it was some random person without much writing expertise was trying to hack their way through a plot. I am at a loss to explain why so many people liked it.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on April 06, 2021, 01:42:34 AM
Following up on Ab-grp's comments, I read that Wool was great, and tried to get through it, and absolutely could not. It read like some random person without much writing expertise was trying to hack their way through a plot. I was having to force myself to keep going in the hope that it would take off after a while. It never did and eventually I gave up. Then some research revealed that it was self-published, and so it was some random person without much writing expertise was trying to hack their way through a plot. I am at a loss to explain why so many people liked it.

I've recently been viewing with avid fascination the three (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qzk9N7dJBec)-part (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pjViIRWesQ0) discussion  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0R4bczm8BPY)of the book and movie adapation of the Fifty Shades of Grey series, which the presenter absolutely describes as a random person without much writing expertise trying to hack their way through a plot. I find this sort of discussion so interesting--not enough to encourage me to read the books (which the presenter evidently did extremely carefully), but enough that I follow these publishing trends and associated discussions. What is it about certain texts that catches the interest of (millions of) readers, or publishers, when their objective merit is so evidently lousy?

This component to publication and reading trends is the part of literary Discourse that interests me the most, I think. I don't really care too much whether a reviewer considers something Good or not, because I disagree with them often enough and read enough Good books to recognize that merit and preference can be related, but also wildly divergent. It's the preference side of things that attracts me to the Discourse: external to merit, what causes something to catch on in a big way? It's works like Fifty Shades of Grey that highlight how disconnected merit and preference can be, and there's just enough randomness in the patterns of explosive popularity to be confusing, and just enough connection to changes in societal values/tastes/mores to make it really juicy to discuss.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on April 06, 2021, 08:37:42 AM
Following up on Ab-grp's comments, I read that Wool was great, and tried to get through it, and absolutely could not. It read like some random person without much writing expertise was trying to hack their way through a plot. I was having to force myself to keep going in the hope that it would take off after a while. It never did and eventually I gave up. Then some research revealed that it was self-published, and so it was some random person without much writing expertise was trying to hack their way through a plot. I am at a loss to explain why so many people liked it.

We are only about a third (?) of the way in, but I've started to get into the story, and I hope it takes off! I really like of the relationships between some of the characters, and there is some intrigue as far as what is actually going on (I have some suspicions).  But I could also see it not pulling it off, so I will report back when we have finished it (or have decided not to). 

As far as the self-publishing goes, I generally avoid those books (and didn't know Wool was one of them), but there are a couple I've picked up that I was glad for.  One series in particular is the Miss Fortune Mystery series by Jana DeLeon.  I think I got all the books for free on Kindle.  They're sort of in the Janet Evanovich Stephanie Plum vein and we have really enjoyed them, but they are also more fun and not serious books.  It's also how a friend of mine got into the market with his horror stories.  He's gotten a lot of good reviews for them, and apparently one is possibly going to be a film at some point.   But I am still skeptical most times, and finding out that a book that I didn't think was well written was also self-published would not surprise me. 

The self-publishing angle and also the publishing trends that ergative described are really interesting in general.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on April 07, 2021, 06:47:38 AM
Now reading a truly fascinating document.  Our town was founded around 1900 as a company mill town.  In the early 1950s the company commissioned a team of city planners to develop a master plan for controlled development of the town's population from a few thousand to well over 20,000.  A couple of years ago the library snagged a copy of the plan for its archives when the company's successor got rid of a bunch of historical material that they had inherited.  The planners were quite thorough.  They included lots of maps and tables, clear explanations of their methodology (It was aimed at a general audience), and statistics of all sorts regarding the city's projected needs.  They even have detailed breakdowns of anticipated costs of all the projected development, and what proportions would be paid by the taxpayer and by developers.  They envisioned a gradual three-stage process.

The plan envisioned developing six or seven residential neighborhoods, each with its own elementary school and mini-park.  The land around the old sawmill pond would be cleaned up and turned into a big city park.  There would be an expanded downtown business district, a traffic bypass all the way around the town like a miniature urban boundary ring, and much else.  The planners tried to calculate projected needs down to how many classrooms would be needed in the schools.  They included detailed maps of sewers and other utilities.  There were also plans to preserve much of the land's natural tree cover during development, and to plant new trees to give the whole city a park-like appearance.

Much of the plan was never implemented, in large part because most of the projected population increase never showed up.  But the plan definitely left its mark on the town.  Some of the neighborhood schools were built.  There's one a couple of blocks from my house that remains in use, though it's now a city-wide elementary school, not just for the neighborhood.  Its playground areas double as a neighborhood park.  They were upgraded with some grant funds a few years ago.

The big park was built and remains a great place to walk, fish, and picnic.  The nine-hole golf course there was never built, but a few years ago somebody installed a disc golf course.  The town still has a lot of tree cover.  The oddly wide street right-of-way on the edge of town, a few blocks from my house, turns out to be the remains of part of the projected bypass system.

There are a lot of what-might-have-beens.  There was supposed to be a big new municipal cemetery near our neighborhood elementary school.  A little up from that would have been a proposed college of forestry (The state eventually built a vo-tech school some way out of town).  The plan's maps shows a projected "outdoor theater" roughly where the Asian restaurant now stands.  Our library sits on the edge of town in a patch of land that was never developed--which is a big part of why we have virtually no foot traffic.

If I can get some good, clear scans of these maps to work up a slide show, this would make a great historical presentation to trot out at civic meetings.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on April 07, 2021, 07:06:03 AM
When you look at the civic master plan, it's clear that they envisioned a solidly working-class community.  Some neighborhoods would be designed to have a little nicer housing than others, but there were to be no country-club districts.  There would be a modest amount of duplex and apartment housing.  By all accounts I've heard from people who recall the town's heyday in the 1960s and 1970s (I didn't grow up here myself), that's pretty much what the town became.  Then mechanization, automation, and regional industrial decline wrecked the region's fortunes, as it did in most of small-town and rural America.

A striking feature of the plan is the way it assumed, just a few years before the Civil Rights movement started gathering force, that racial segregation would continue.  The existing black neighborhood would receive the same amenities as the rest of the town, and would expand in area, but it would remain the place where all the black residents lived and went to school.  Some of the park areas were designed to serve as a buffer to keep the black neighborhood properly quarantined. 

A decade or so later, the schools were desegregated.  Truly desegregated, since the town is small enough that everybody goes to the same schools regardless of what neighborhoods they live in (The neighborhood elementary schools were consolidated long ago).  Unlike happened in much of Mississippi, the white residents didn't just abandon the public school system to set up "segregation academies."  White and black students just shrugged their shoulders and got used to going to school together.  The same thing happened in my own home town elsewhere in the state.  It works just fine.  It beats me why some people in other communities can't seem to wrap their heads around the idea.

And, although black residents remain concentrated in certain areas, they now live in every part of town.  Just neighbors like anybody else.  Again, it's hard to see why so many people just don't seem to get the idea.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: hmaria1609 on April 07, 2021, 07:00:24 PM
apl68, you had a trip back in time with your community maps! Is there someone on library staff who handles local history materials?
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on April 08, 2021, 07:21:05 AM
apl68, you had a trip back in time with your community maps! Is there someone on library staff who handles local history materials?

No, we don't have a designated person for that.  I do sometimes detail our person in charge of outreach to do certain things with that material.  Yesterday our mayor asked us to supply a selection of historic images of the town from which they could choose some nice items to duplicate to go on the wall of City Hall (They've been doing a bit of remodeling there, and wanted something to supplement all the photos of past mayors).  Today I plan to give that staff member a list of things to look for and turn her loose in our extensive collection of historic photos.

The Mayor also asked if I could cover for a Rotary Club presentation for today.  The speaker fell through, and they needed a last-minute substitute.  I started making plans to do a show-and-tell with some of our more portable memorabilia, including our copy of the master plan.  Then I got a call saying that there had been a misunderstanding.  They have a speaker after all.  That means I can have some time to prepare a better presentation in a couple of months.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: spork on April 10, 2021, 04:48:46 AM
Quakeland:  On the Road to America's Next Devastating Earthquake, by Kathryn Miles.  It's a fascinating piece of journalism.  The author investigates the geology of earthquakes and earthquake prediction, has a good bit to say about recent and historical quakes, and talks about the risks of a catastrophic quake in various parts of the country and how to prepare for it.  California isn't the only place that's at risk.  Several other parts of the country have real risks of a catastrophic quake within not too many decades. 

[. . .]

If you are interested in earthquakes:

Kathryn Schulz's New Yorker piece on the risk to the coastal northwestern USA: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/07/20/the-really-big-one (https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/07/20/the-really-big-one) (requires creation of a free website account if you are not already a paid subscriber).

Jonathan M. Katz, The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster, 2013.

I teach a course on disasters, so I'm always looking for readings on events like earthquakes. I'll probably check out Quakeland this summer, so thanks.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on April 10, 2021, 06:54:49 AM
Quakeland:  On the Road to America's Next Devastating Earthquake, by Kathryn Miles.  It's a fascinating piece of journalism.  The author investigates the geology of earthquakes and earthquake prediction, has a good bit to say about recent and historical quakes, and talks about the risks of a catastrophic quake in various parts of the country and how to prepare for it.  California isn't the only place that's at risk.  Several other parts of the country have real risks of a catastrophic quake within not too many decades. 

[. . .]

If you are interested in earthquakes:

Kathryn Schulz's New Yorker piece on the risk to the coastal northwestern USA: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/07/20/the-really-big-one (https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/07/20/the-really-big-one) (requires creation of a free website account if you are not already a paid subscriber).

Jonathan M. Katz, The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster, 2013.

I teach a course on disasters, so I'm always looking for readings on events like earthquakes. I'll probably check out Quakeland this summer, so thanks.

A course on disasters.  Now that sounds interesting!

I think your students would like Quakeland.  It's very accessible and has lots of anecdotes among the science stuff.  And some good thoughts about the public policy implications of the world's disaster-proneness.  You could pick a lot of good modest-length readings out of there.

I read New Yorker regularly and have probably seen the Schulz article.  I'm planning in the near future to go back and re-read some of New Yorker's environmental pieces.  I'll have to try to find the Katz book.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mamselle on April 10, 2021, 07:19:54 PM
Apl, I find your analysis of the town development materials fascinating. It's like having a geographic telescope with a rear-iew mirror, that helps you see how things came to be the way they are.

It's sooo important that you saved them, too.

If I recall aright, Larryc might have some ideas about how to do more with those materials as public history documents,  including the availability of grants to fund, say upper-level high school students' use of them, for coursework, or for creating town signage.

The history of peacefully conducted school integration also deserves some kind of mention, albeit with representative participation from all the affected populations in the town (but I'm guessing you'd be doing that anyway).

Understanding how we got to where we are--accurately--is so important.

M.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on April 12, 2021, 07:56:54 AM
I can no longer walk along that street on the edge of town without trying to imagine it as a bypass road.  That's hard to do, since it now has very little traffic most of the time.  It has houses along one side like any other residential street in the neighborhood.  On the other side is a long, grassy strip that is still kept mowed.  That's part of the original right-of-way.  Past that you have a combination pipeline/power line right of way that is open in places and has trees in others.  And past that it's mostly clear cuts and timber plantations.  The town/country divide is very abrupt in that section.

Comparisons of the plan maps with a current city map show that most of the land was developed.  Evidently they overestimated how many residents could be accommodated at the level of density the plan envisioned.  The ending of the baby boom caused average household size to be lower than they anticipated.  And by the time the last phase of development took place, some older neighborhoods were losing residents.  It also looks like more people than anticipated decided to live outside the city limits in the compass-point low-tax "suburbs."

Still, a lot of the plan did come to fruition in one form or another.  I'm still trying to get an idea of just how much.

Hoping by week's end to give the Mayor a thumb drive with a good selection of those historical images that we promised her.  We really need to include a scan of the master plan map.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on April 12, 2021, 08:02:52 AM
Apl, I find your analysis of the town development materials fascinating. It's like having a geographic telescope with a rear-iew mirror, that helps you see how things came to be the way they are.

I've always been fascinated by micro-geographies of communities.  And city planning.  I still recall several illuminating studies of older communities in time.  Robin Osborne's Classical Landscape With Figures:  The Ancient Greek City and Its Countryside is also very interesting.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: spork on April 12, 2021, 10:08:08 AM
Quakeland:  On the Road to America's Next Devastating Earthquake, by Kathryn Miles. 

[. . .]

If you are interested in earthquakes:

Kathryn Schulz's New Yorker piece on the risk to the coastal northwestern USA: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/07/20/the-really-big-one (https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/07/20/the-really-big-one) (requires creation of a free website account if you are not already a paid subscriber).

Jonathan M. Katz, The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster, 2013.

I teach a course on disasters, so I'm always looking for readings on events like earthquakes. I'll probably check out Quakeland this summer, so thanks.

A course on disasters.  Now that sounds interesting!

I think your students would like Quakeland.  It's very accessible and has lots of anecdotes among the science stuff.  And some good thoughts about the public policy implications of the world's disaster-proneness.  You could pick a lot of good modest-length readings out of there.

I read New Yorker regularly and have probably seen the Schulz article.  I'm planning in the near future to go back and re-read some of New Yorker's environmental pieces.  I'll have to try to find the Katz book.

While researching Quakeland, I found another book by Kathryn Miles: Superstorm: Nine Days Inside Hurricane Sandy. This also looks interesting and I'll be requesting a copy through my university's library network at the end of the semester.

I just finished Until the World Shatters: Truth, Lies, and the Looting of Myanmar by Daniel Combs. I thought it was much better than The Hidden History of Burma: Race, Capitalism, and Democracy in the 21st Century by Thant Myint-U.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: FishProf on April 12, 2021, 01:15:30 PM
A People’s History of the United States: 1492 – Present by Howard Zinn. 2005.

It was interesting to read about the stuff typically left out of history books (e.g. the Marias Massacre) that had been part of my middle school education in the West.   I thought everyone would have heard those stories. 

By the same token, there was a lot of the eastern labor movement struggles that I was woefully unaware of.  I was one of the 10,000 (https://xkcd.com/1053/), regularly during this read.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on April 12, 2021, 02:53:41 PM
I've now prepared a working copy of the 1953 master plan map for my own use.  When I get out and around on my own I can compare what was projected with what we actually have.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: hmaria1609 on April 12, 2021, 07:17:43 PM
I haven't posted my reads since last month. All but one are from the library. Here goes!

A Wicked Conceit by Anna Lee Huber
New and #9 entry in the "Lady Darby Mysteries" series. I bought my own copy of the novel.

How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories by Holly Black (YA)
Novella collection with illustrations to the "Folk of the Air" trilogy.

Beneath the Keep by Erika Johansen
Prequel novel to the "Queen of the Tearling" trilogy

My Calamity Jane by Cynthia Hand et al (YA)
Comedic, alternate history about Calamity Jane and her friends

Queens of the Crusades by Alison Weir (NF)
New and #2 entry in "England's Medieval Queen" series
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mamselle on April 22, 2021, 01:32:11 PM
Apl, I find your analysis of the town development materials fascinating. It's like having a geographic telescope with a rear-iew mirror, that helps you see how things came to be the way they are.

I've always been fascinated by micro-geographies of communities.  And city planning.  I still recall several illuminating studies of older communities in time.  Robin Osborne's Classical Landscape With Figures:  The Ancient Greek City and Its Countryside is also very interesting.

I know the feeling of "...if you squint, you can see them...," which I regularly get after doing an afternoon of 18th c. tours. It's like your awareness of what used to be supplants your sense of what is, sometimes just for a fleeting moment...

I also enjoy doing this with medieval French and English towns. The paper I'm working on now looks at Palm Sunday processions in three French and three English cathedral towns.

So much of the infrastructure is still preserved in nearly all the towns I'm working on that even the roads and their names give clues to what was where. The Celestines still have a (smaller) convent on the Rue des Celestines in one place.

There are remnants of the last 14th houses of the canons in another one's former Cathedral cloister (close). Commercial writing houses were along the roads called "Rue des Scribes" and "Rue des Parmentiers."

And my sister and I got lost in 1973 in London when we tried to find the youth hostel that had newly been established in an old warehouse on Clerkenwell Close. Turned out you had to go through Clerkenwell Street, turn on Clerkenwell Road, go towards Clerkenwell Green, and finally, there was a little side alley called "Clerkenwell Close," that (I know now) led to the cloister for the Clerkenwell monastic emplantation.

All the roads had had that same configuration (maybe a few were straightened a bit) since before the 1500s, when Henry VII destroyed the abbeys and monasteries.

And if you read Robert Parker's books, and you know the area he speaks of, well...

M.   
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on April 23, 2021, 07:27:10 AM
We have a local road that is named after an auto body shop that is no longer there.  The name was used informally for so long that it now appears on the official road sign.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on April 28, 2021, 04:55:32 PM
We finished Wool (Howey) last night.  It was actually easier to get into than some of the other books we've read (like Consider Phlebus), but certainly not one of the best.  I am not sure if I think the premise, as it ended up playing out, was clever in terms of storytelling or in terms of setting the stage for additional books.  In looking at the background, it looks as though it was self-published as discussed in this thread, but originally only just the first part of it as a short story.  It got some attention, so he added some subsequent short stories, and the book was eventually published as a whole by Simon & Schuster.  So it is an interesting publishing model, as the next book in the series is apparently a combination (?) of three prequel short stories.  I would probably check out the second book but wouldn't put it on the short list as we have done for other series starters.  There were a couple interesting twists in the story, but some of the important pieces don't seem well explained (and they're not things that would be explained in prequels or sequels).  Some of the content is a bit eye-rolly.  I did enjoy several of the characters, however.  Unfortunately, most of them contributed only to the beginning of the book.  So we didn't give it high praise but did finish it.

Now we're back into the Expanse universe (Corey) with Abaddon's Gate.  Just started, though I wasn't as into the previous books as my husband was (compared to other series), and I am not gaga for this one just yet, either.  We'll see. 
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Parasaurolophus on May 02, 2021, 08:06:52 AM
Snorri Kristjansson - Swords of Good Men: Absolutely awful. Total drivel. The period details are all wrong--it's just ill-informed, unresearched bad viking-inspired D&D dungeon mastering with fantasy weapons and combat. The "story", such as it is, makes no sense--I still have no idea why the settlement was besieged, especially since the beginning made it seem like a natural ally to the besiegers. The writing is poor, and not at all helped by the rapid changes of perspective. Speaking of which, there are far too many perspectives. The entire effect is very disjointed. I struggled to read more than a handful of pages a day. It took me all month to read, and what a waste of a month's reading.

Charles Stross - Glasshouse: A friend likes to describe Stross as an r-selector of a writer, and I tend to agree. This one's a real hit, though: it was great! Interesting and engaging the whole way through, even though I'm usually hesitant to pick up novels of the 'distant future scifi but set in a modernish Earth bubble-world' variety. I would have liked a longer dénouement, because things felt a little rushed at the end, but this is probably the best thing of Stross's that I've read. I'd happily read another with the same general setting, if there was one.

John Conway, C.M. Kosemen, Darren Naish, and Scott Hartman - All Yesterdays: Unique and Speculative Views of Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Animals: This is amazing! All of you dino fans should do yourselves a favour and pick up a copy. The authors basically re-imagine dinosaurs in light of the things we don't know about them and their integument, and cap it off at the end by imagining what alien archaeologists might guess our contemporary wildlife looks like, if they apply the same principles as paleoartists usually do. The results of the first experiment are weird and wonderful; of the second, terrifying and creepy. This is sure to be the best book I've read all year! What a treasure this is!
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mahagonny on May 02, 2021, 08:12:12 AM
Snorri Kristjansson - Swords of Good Men: Absolutely awful. Total drivel. The period details are all wrong--it's just ill-informed, unresearched bad viking-inspired D&D dungeon mastering with fantasy weapons and combat. The "story", such as it is, makes no sense--I still have no idea why the settlement was besieged, especially since the beginning made it seem like a natural ally to the besiegers. The writing is poor, and not at all helped by the rapid changes of perspective. Speaking of which, there are far too many perspectives. The entire effect is very disjointed. I struggled to read more than a handful of pages a day. It took me all month to read, and what a waste of a month's reading.


Why read the whole thing then?
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: RatGuy on May 02, 2021, 08:41:27 AM
Currently reading Barbara Kingsolver's The Bean Trees and re-reading David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas. I'm enjoying Bean Trees so much that I'll likely move onto Pigs in Heaven fairly quickly. I'm kinda surprised that we didn't have an early-90s film adaptation of Bean Trees, given its voice, setting, and subject matter. Does Kingsolver fly under the radar, or does everyone already read her and I'm just late to the party?
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Parasaurolophus on May 02, 2021, 08:47:34 AM
Snorri Kristjansson - Swords of Good Men: Absolutely awful. Total drivel. The period details are all wrong--it's just ill-informed, unresearched bad viking-inspired D&D dungeon mastering with fantasy weapons and combat. The "story", such as it is, makes no sense--I still have no idea why the settlement was besieged, especially since the beginning made it seem like a natural ally to the besiegers. The writing is poor, and not at all helped by the rapid changes of perspective. Speaking of which, there are far too many perspectives. The entire effect is very disjointed. I struggled to read more than a handful of pages a day. It took me all month to read, and what a waste of a month's reading.


Why read the whole thing then?

OCD. The rule is that if I make it to page 70 I have to finish. Subsidiary rules can compel me to get to page 70.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: spork on May 02, 2021, 08:50:01 AM
Quakeland:  On the Road to America's Next Devastating Earthquake, by Kathryn Miles. 

[. . .]

If you are interested in earthquakes:

Kathryn Schulz's New Yorker piece on the risk to the coastal northwestern USA: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/07/20/the-really-big-one (https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/07/20/the-really-big-one) (requires creation of a free website account if you are not already a paid subscriber).

Jonathan M. Katz, The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster, 2013.

I teach a course on disasters, so I'm always looking for readings on events like earthquakes. I'll probably check out Quakeland this summer, so thanks.

A course on disasters.  Now that sounds interesting!

I think your students would like Quakeland.  It's very accessible and has lots of anecdotes among the science stuff.  And some good thoughts about the public policy implications of the world's disaster-proneness.  You could pick a lot of good modest-length readings out of there.

I read New Yorker regularly and have probably seen the Schulz article.  I'm planning in the near future to go back and re-read some of New Yorker's environmental pieces.  I'll have to try to find the Katz book.

While researching Quakeland, I found another book by Kathryn Miles: Superstorm: Nine Days Inside Hurricane Sandy. This also looks interesting and I'll be requesting a copy through my university's library network at the end of the semester.

I just finished Until the World Shatters: Truth, Lies, and the Looting of Myanmar by Daniel Combs. I thought it was much better than The Hidden History of Burma: Race, Capitalism, and Democracy in the 21st Century by Thant Myint-U.

I found a copy of Superstorm: Nine Days Inside Hurricane Sandy through my public library and read it. It's well-written long-form journalism. I liked it.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on May 02, 2021, 11:18:04 AM
John Conway, C.M. Kosemen, Darren Naish, and Scott Hartman - All Yesterdays: Unique and Speculative Views of Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Animals: This is amazing! All of you dino fans should do yourselves a favour and pick up a copy. The authors basically re-imagine dinosaurs in light of the things we don't know about them and their integument, and cap it off at the end by imagining what alien archaeologists might guess our contemporary wildlife looks like, if they apply the same principles as paleoartists usually do. The results of the first experiment are weird and wonderful; of the second, terrifying and creepy. This is sure to be the best book I've read all year! What a treasure this is!

Does it depend heavily on illustrations? In other words, should I try to find a physical copy, or would my black-and-white e-reader be able to do it justice?
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Parasaurolophus on May 02, 2021, 11:20:50 AM
John Conway, C.M. Kosemen, Darren Naish, and Scott Hartman - All Yesterdays: Unique and Speculative Views of Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Animals: This is amazing! All of you dino fans should do yourselves a favour and pick up a copy. The authors basically re-imagine dinosaurs in light of the things we don't know about them and their integument, and cap it off at the end by imagining what alien archaeologists might guess our contemporary wildlife looks like, if they apply the same principles as paleoartists usually do. The results of the first experiment are weird and wonderful; of the second, terrifying and creepy. This is sure to be the best book I've read all year! What a treasure this is!

Does it depend heavily on illustrations? In other words, should I try to find a physical copy, or would my black-and-white e-reader be able to do it justice?

It's pretty much all illustrations. One page of text for 1-1.5 pages of illustrations.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: smallcleanrat on May 03, 2021, 05:14:41 PM
The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

Combination of memoir and self-help principle, but far more likeable than some of the more famous books in the personal development genre. No sweeping over-generalizations or claims to grand truths; no arrogance or condescension in tone. She describes her own successes and failures without implying that, in the process, she discovered some universal principle for living a good life. 

The book is structured around a series of small "experiments" the author applied in her own life. In preparation, she read up on the psychology and philosophy of what happiness is and how people attain it (she has a law background, and she seems to have been very methodical and thorough with this part of her project). Each chapter centers around a different factor (e.g. friendship, recreation, productivity) and the small projects and challenges she set for herself to see how it affected her mindset and behavior. Much of it centers around home and family life, and she writes with mild, inoffensive humor.

I might post again with a couple of highlights once I've finished the book.



This isn't really one of the most profound insights in the book, it just made me chuckle. It's in the chapter on how money relates to happiness; author has been describing ways money can indeed make it easier to be happy. This leads to an argument with an acquaintance:

"That's so wrong!" she said. "Money can't buy happiness!"
"You don't think so?"
"I'm the perfect example. I don't make much money. A few years back, I took my savings and bought a horse. My mother and everyone told me I was crazy. But that horse makes me incredibly happy - even though I end up spending all my extra money on him."
"But," I said, confused, "money did make you happy. It makes you so happy to have a horse!"
"But I don't have any money," she answered. "I spent it all."
"Right, because you used it to buy a horse!"
She shook her head and gave up on me.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: spork on May 11, 2021, 03:15:39 PM
Just started Michael Lewis's The Fifth Risk. Liking it. Points out that Trump and his acolytes are quite willing, even eager, to burn down whatever they don't understand.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Myword on May 13, 2021, 08:26:55 AM
I am rereading  PIRATES! by Gideon Defoe. Comical farces about silly pirates who meet Darwin, Marx, Ahab, Napolean, etc. It's an intellectual wink with gross anachronisms. Author says that his mother thinks that pirate books are stupid. Eric Idle approved book.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on May 13, 2021, 09:25:35 AM
I am rereading  PIRATES! by Gideon Defoe. Comical farces about silly pirates who meet Darwin, Marx, Ahab, Napolean, etc. It's an intellectual wink with gross anachronisms. Author says that his mother thinks that pirate books are stupid. Eric Idle approved book.

That sounds fun! Do you think the first book sells the series right away, or is a little patience required? I can't tell from the reviews whether it tries a bit too hard at first or is just a particular kind of humor that you either like or don't.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: spork on May 13, 2021, 01:30:29 PM
Finished The Fifth Risk and now reading Michael Lewis's Boomerang. Liking this one, too.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on May 14, 2021, 01:38:48 PM
Quakeland:  On the Road to America's Next Devastating Earthquake, by Kathryn Miles.  It's a fascinating piece of journalism.  The author investigates the geology of earthquakes and earthquake prediction, has a good bit to say about recent and historical quakes, and talks about the risks of a catastrophic quake in various parts of the country and how to prepare for it.  California isn't the only place that's at risk.  Several other parts of the country have real risks of a catastrophic quake within not too many decades.  Even New York City has a slim but real chance of a quake that, in a worst-case scenario, could render the whole city as uninhabitable as New Orleans after Katrina.  Think about that for a moment.

Miles devotes a couple of chapters to the New Madrid fault zone.  I've known all my life that our whole state lies in that zone, although I've always lived in areas far enough out that serious damage would be unlikely.  Most of our state seems fairly safe.  Neighboring regions, such as the city of Memphis, are another story.

There are a couple of pages on the long-term effort to retroactively quake-proof the DeSoto Interstate 40 bridge across the Mississippi at Memphis.  I've crossed that bridge about a hundred times (No hyperbole) over the last 31 years, and had wondered why it had construction on it for so long.  They had to do the retrofitting while keeping it open.  It was one of the first bridges to receive such an upgrade.  It carries such a huge volume of commercial traffic that it could cripple the nation's economy if it were destroyed.  Now it should be proof against a 2,500-year quake.  Good to know somebody has been on the ball there.

And now the DeSoto Bridge, on which hundreds of millions of dollars were spent making it supposedly proof against a 2,500-year quake, has up and cracked for no obvious reason.  Traffic on both I-40 and the Mississippi are snarled, and the Tennessee and Arkansas departments of transportation are busy seeing what can be done.  This is dispiriting.  We keep hearing about the massive amounts of infrastructure repair the nation needs, and now it appears that one of the best recent efforts to fix infrastructure in time has been botched somehow.  Most Americans are willing at this point to pay serious money toward infrastructure improvement (If Congress can ever stop arguing over it), but only if they can trust that the jobs will be done right.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Myword on May 15, 2021, 06:58:56 AM
Regarding PIRATES, to answer you, I read them all and my favorites are An Adventure With Napolean, and Adventure With Scientists. It is oddball silly humor that some readers will like and others may think is stupid or childish. Does not matter what order they are read....very short novels. Characters have no names. "Pirate With a Scarf" "Pirate in Red"   etc. Napolean and Captain compete to be president of the Condo Association.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on May 15, 2021, 09:04:32 AM
Regarding PIRATES, to answer you, I read them all and my favorites are An Adventure With Napolean, and Adventure With Scientists. It is oddball silly humor that some readers will like and others may think is stupid or childish. Does not matter what order they are read....very short novels. Characters have no names. "Pirate With a Scarf" "Pirate in Red"   etc. Napolean and Captain compete to be president of the Condo Association.

Thank you! If it doesn't matter what order they are read in, maybe we will put the ones you listed on the list first.  It's hard to know what humor will resonate.  But if Eric Idle approved it, it's worth a try.  We just got in a boatload of sci fi, so I'm not sure when we might get to this.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: hmaria1609 on May 15, 2021, 07:35:39 PM
Started The Steel Beneath the Silk by Patricia Bracewell
It's the finale to her "Emma of Normandy" trilogy. I had read the first two novels so I'm eager to read Emma's story.  It's only been 6 years!
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Golazo on May 19, 2021, 01:05:45 PM
I owe an update now that I've caught up on my

I read Promised Land (Obama's memoir) and found it quite disappointing. Far from being the honest memoir a lot of reviews suggested, this was a well written defense of Obama's first term, including things that I find quite hard to defend (ie Libya policy). Some interesting tidbits but hard to recommend.

I also read Lucky: How Joe Biden Barely Won the Presidency (on Biden's win), and though it was quite mediocre. I know Halperin (of Game Change) had me too issues, but he had much better access and also wrote better than  Allen and Parnes. This read like a collection of Politico articles.

I also read some assorted sci-fi and fantasy. Among these, Johnson's The Space Between Worlds is an interesting take on moving between earths though a bit dystopian for my mood, and  A Memory called Empire an interesting take on intersteller diplomacy, language, etc.

Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Parasaurolophus on May 23, 2021, 02:08:52 PM
I came across an unexplained reference to "O'Neal's Razor" today, and the internet isn't helpful. I gather it's got something to do with fiction--perhaps historical fiction? But what is it, ô wise forumite readers?
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mamselle on May 23, 2021, 04:32:04 PM
I"m going to guess it's some sideways take on "Occam's razor" (or maybe a misunderstood Autocorrect...)

   https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Occam%27s%20razor

M. 
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Parasaurolophus on May 23, 2021, 05:00:14 PM
Yes, but what?
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on May 24, 2021, 12:03:51 AM
I also read Lucky: How Joe Biden Barely Won the Presidency (on Biden's win), and though it was quite mediocre. I know Halperin (of Game Change) had me too issues, but he had much better access and also wrote better than  Allen and Parnes. This read like a collection of Politico articles.
Given the delay between final MS and actual printing and distribution, I'm not surprised to hear this book wasn't great. How quickly must it have been written? When was the MS submitted to the publisher? Did it include January 6th?

Quote
I also read some assorted sci-fi and fantasy. Among these, Johnson's The Space Between Worlds is an interesting take on moving between earths though a bit dystopian for my mood, and  A Memory called Empire an interesting take on intersteller diplomacy, language, etc.

I loved The Space Between Worlds, and put it on my Hugo ballot. I thought A Memory Called Empire was great, but perhaps not quite as astonishing as a lot of the noise around it made it out to be. But I also discovered that I knew the author when I was in college (she was a friend of a friend), so it was good to see her reappear in this way.

What other assorted SFF have you read?

I just finished The Once and Future Witches, by Alix E Harrow, and loved it so much. It is what I hoped Lolly Willowes would be, and so much more. I wish I had read it earlier, so I could have put it on this year's Hugo Ballot. But maybe someone else will have put it on, and then when voting comes around I can vote for it. But I don't know how I'd rank it in respect to The Space Between Worlds. They're both so good.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on May 24, 2021, 08:45:31 AM
I just finished Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee.  It's the story of a Korean girl in "trouble" in the early 1930s who marries a tubercular young minister and immigrates to Japan.  It follows her family across fifty-odd years of struggle and discrimination (Japan has long harbored a very poorly-treated Korean immigrant community).  It's an impressive-written and researched work.  The author is unquestionably talented and deserves the praise she has received from reviewers.

Unfortunately Pachinko is also an example of why I really don't much like reading contemporary "literary" fiction.  It's a miserable story about miserable people being miserable.  Often predictably so.  I've promised myself that I'm going to let myself read things I might actually enjoy for at least the next few weeks, before doing my duty as a reader and subjecting myself to another "serious" novel.



I've also recently read The Tudors, by G.J. Meyer.  It's a bestselling popular history of the notorious dynasty.  It's well-researched and well-written popular history.  It's also a very aggressively revisionist history.  Revisionist history is usually worth paying attention to, since it tends to point out things that older received interpretations of history don't adequately address.  It also has a tendency to be highly agenda-driven, and to overstate things, often very badly (Which is a big part of why I don't trust the 1619 Project).  Meyer is very deliberately trying to perform a hatchet job on all the Tudor rulers and their underlings, with the predictable exception of an attempt at rehabilitating Queen Mary as a sympathetic sort who wouldn't have hurt a fly.  I'm not convinced.

It's not that I've ever found much to admire in Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VI, or Elizabeth I.  Most of them were appalling egoists and tyrants, and Henry VIII's and Elizabeth's behavior can only partly be explained as being a product of their times.  But I believe that it's a mistake to throw out the old Whig interpretation of British history altogether, especially when it comes to representing the whole Reformation as nothing more than a monstrous crime.  Personally I believe that Simon Schama gives a better assessment of the Tudors than you'll find here.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on May 24, 2021, 10:09:58 AM
Unfortunately Pachinko is also an example of why I really don't much like reading contemporary "literary" fiction.  It's a miserable story about miserable people being miserable.  Often predictably so.  I've promised myself that I'm going to let myself read things I might actually enjoy for at least the next few weeks, before doing my duty as a reader and subjecting myself to another "serious" novel.

Yes, exactly. Absolutive and I once went through a long list of book award nominees or new books to watch out for, or something, and actually kept count of how many of them were driven by a tale of trauma. The number was very high.

While I guess I approve of this move away from middle-aged English professors having affairs, the new favorite focus is not any more attractive. I'll stick to dragons and spaceships and check in again on the next litfic paradigm shift.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on May 24, 2021, 10:32:45 AM
Unfortunately Pachinko is also an example of why I really don't much like reading contemporary "literary" fiction.  It's a miserable story about miserable people being miserable.  Often predictably so.  I've promised myself that I'm going to let myself read things I might actually enjoy for at least the next few weeks, before doing my duty as a reader and subjecting myself to another "serious" novel.

Yes, exactly. Absolutive and I once went through a long list of book award nominees or new books to watch out for, or something, and actually kept count of how many of them were driven by a tale of trauma. The number was very high.

While I guess I approve of this move away from middle-aged English professors having affairs, the new favorite focus is not any more attractive. I'll stick to dragons and spaceships and check in again on the next litfic paradigm shift.

Personally I'm not a big genre fiction reader either.  I mostly read nonfiction.  I have been reading a bit more sci-fi lately.  Much of that is older stuff that I didn't get around to reading when I was a kid and was really into it.

I go over the jacket copy of most books for grown-ups that come across my desk at the library, while writing my weekly library newspaper column.  Most of what we get for our readers is genre fiction.  Sometimes I go over a week's batch of new books and feel like I haven't seen a single fresh idea.  It's all P.I.s, and FBI agents, and undercover agents, and women making terrible discoveries about their family pasts, and bonnet romances.  Right now we're at the time of year when we get all the books with beaches on the cover.  You'd be amazed at how many women in mid-life crises apparently have family beach houses in Nantucket to fall back on.  And meanwhile guys can still read new (or at least recently-composed) stories about Texas rangers chasing outlaws circa 1875.

I just remind myself that even people who read the same genre over and over again are still exercising mental muscles that watching TV tends not to exercise.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: spork on May 24, 2021, 10:35:32 AM
Continuing on my Michael Lewis binge -- most of the way through The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds. It's sort of a professional biography of Kahneman and Tversky.  Basic conclusion: if you have the choice between a human physician or an AI system for a medical diagnosis, choose the AI, because the AI can accurately incorporate probabilities into decision making. The part of the book about how medical experts were diagnosing stomach cancer was terrifying.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: hmaria1609 on May 24, 2021, 02:10:19 PM
Finished from the library: Katharine Parr, the Sixth Wife by Alison Weir
The 6th and finale novel in the "6 Tudor Queens" series. I've enjoyed reading this series about Henry VIII's wives and Mrs. Weir's non-fiction books.

Here's a link to the landing page for the novels:
https://sixtudorqueens.co.uk/ (https://sixtudorqueens.co.uk/)
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Golazo on May 25, 2021, 06:02:47 PM
Given the delay between final MS and actual printing and distribution, I'm not surprised to hear this book wasn't great. How quickly must it have been written? When was the MS submitted to the publisher? Did it include January 6th?

Jan 6th was only briefly mentioned in the intro. This is really different from Game Change and Double Down, which were more than a year after the election. But of course we are in a different era now in terms of timing and expectation. But even worse, it didn't seem like the authors had the access they needed to write the book. Heilemann and Halperin broke a lot of actual ground on the reporting. I felt like I could have written a lot of Lucky based on following the campaign.   



Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on May 27, 2021, 11:53:34 AM
Bring Back Our Girls:  The Untold Story of the Global Search for Nigeria's Missing Schoolgirls, by Joe Parkinson and Drew Hinshaw.  It's a detailed look at the 2014 kidnapping of almost 300 school girls in Nigeria by the Islamist Boko Haram insurgency.  The authors try to cover all aspects of it--the background of Boko Haram and the Nigerian political situation, the mediators who negotiated hostage deals, the international efforts to find and rescue the abductees, and the experiences of the abductees themselves.

Their experiences occupy a great deal of the book.  Their captors attempted to force the Christian girls to convert to Islam through beatings, hunger, and threats.  They also demanded that they submit to forced marriage with Boko Haram fighters.  Those who persisted in refusing were reduced to slavery--which is still widespread across much of the Muslim world--as punishment.  Some eventually gave in.  They found that their new husbands' attitudes toward the status of women and wives were exactly what one would expect of them.  The largest group professed Islam, but drew the line at "marriage."  They continued to be pressured to do so.

And then there was one group who simply refused to cooperate.  They resisted by singing hymns and reciting Bible verses among themselves, keeping clandestine diaries of their experiences, and even putting themselves at risk to smuggle food to their fellow captives when their captors committed the odd lapse of having them room in a storehouse.  Their story is an inspiring episode in the midst of the tragedy.  And there was a lot of tragedy.  About 40 of the abductees are believed to have died one way or another.  Many are still "married" and missing.  And the wider war killed thousands, displaced a couple million, and tore apart whole communities.

All and all, a fine piece of journalism.  Spectacular crimes and incidents like this tend to grab the whole world's attention for a time before fading away.  Most people never really get much understanding of the wider stories behind the story.  Bring Back Our Girls does a real service in trying to fill in what's missing.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on June 01, 2021, 10:14:32 AM
Now we're back into the Expanse universe (Corey) with Abaddon's Gate.  Just started, though I wasn't as into the previous books as my husband was (compared to other series), and I am not gaga for this one just yet, either.  We'll see.

Finally finished this one, which took more than a month.  Eek.  Husband did not like this one as much as the previous ones.  I thought it had some interesting ideas and am interested to see where the series goes from here, but there was too much going on to follow at times.  Maybe too many big ideas plus too many characters and too much action? A bigger picture for the series emerges than in previous books.  In any case, the beings introduced in previous books have built a gate to somewhere, so the focus is on that gate and the consequences of various human actions.  I think that was the most intriguing part, how the non-human force perceived the human actions and acted in return.  They introduced some more good characters, though not as strong as the ones introduced in the last book, in my opinion.  I hope those characters come back in future books.  As the name suggests, the series appears to be about expansion through the known and unknown universe(s?). 

We started on The Test (Neuvel).  Here's the Amazon blurb:

Quote
Britain, the not-too-distant future.
Idir is sitting the British Citizenship Test.
He wants his family to belong.

Twenty-five questions to determine their fate. Twenty-five chances to impress.
When the test takes an unexpected and tragic turn, Idir is handed the power of life and death.
How do you value a life when all you have is multiple choice?

I'm not sure where I came across this one.  It's hard to describe without giving away the plot, but it's very brief (110).  We started it yesterday evening and got about 75% of the way through.  So far, I really like it.  I was unsure where it was going at first (and am unsure of where it will go from here), but there is a lot of psychological stuff going on that I find very interesting (also from a testing perspective).  I expect that we might finish it this evening.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Charlotte on June 02, 2021, 04:37:03 AM
  We started it yesterday evening and got about 75% of the way through. ….  I expect that we might finish it this evening.

Do you read aloud or are you both reading separate books?
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on June 02, 2021, 09:08:44 AM
  We started it yesterday evening and got about 75% of the way through. ….  I expect that we might finish it this evening.

Do you read aloud or are you both reading separate books?

We read aloud to each other, switching back and forth every so often (sometimes at the section or chapter, or after so many minutes, depending on the book).  Some books are a little more difficult to do this with than others, but it works out pretty well overall.

We finished The Test last night.  Again, a little hard to describe with out giving away the plot, but it was an intriguing psychological thriller (in some ways, it almost reads as a psychological case study) and didn't end up exactly as I thought it might.  I am on the fence about the ending, though it does fit well enough with the story.  Definitely not a happy book.  Dystopian? I'm sure the general idea has been done before, but I still appreciated that it was a different type of story than a lot of other books we've read.

So we started on Bird Box (Malerman), which received pretty good reviews and was made into a fairly popular movie.  I hadn't paid much attention when the movie came out, except to get the impression that people are blindfolded and not allowed (?) to look at the world around them.  That seems to be in line with the plot so far.  It's another story that seems as though it could be too similar to others or contrived, so we'll see how it turns out.  I guess it's another dystopian psychological thriller.  Where did the people go? What happened? Hopefully the author will pull this off in a clever way.  It's also pretty short (272 pp), so we should finish it pretty soon.  We're using these as palate cleansers before getting back to various sci-fi series that are more epic.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Economizer on June 03, 2021, 08:03:24 AM
Not lately, but certainly relating to current topics, I read MARIJUANA: THE NEW PROHIBITION in the mid 20th century. In that work, it was supposed that "grass" users and suppliers would meld into and with criminals and criminal suppliers in business, criminal, and social circumstances. Well, I do believe that has happened and the confluence of those cultures has made it very difficult
for peace officers and law enforcement agencies to ascertain and act against suspicious appearances and activities that forewarn dangers to the general American public. Me? I hate to have to attempt to work, and to play,  and to attempt to guide those that I love in the environments this has and continues to create!

Does this suggest that I have become a proponent of the legalization of "Weed"? HELL NO! What I do support is the
maintaining and not diminishing defenses against its use and availability.



Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: hmaria1609 on June 04, 2021, 07:29:09 PM
I haven't posted here in a bit.
Finished: Lincoln's Wartime Tours From Washington, DC by John Schildt
Local history about Pres. Lincoln's tours to battlefields and cities and towns in MD and VA during his presidency.

Now: The Deadly Hours by Susanna Kearsley et al.
A gold watch believed to be cursed is passed through the centuries. Two of the contributing authors are ones I've enjoyed and own their novels.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: spork on June 05, 2021, 01:45:38 AM
Bring Back Our Girls:  The Untold Story of the Global Search for Nigeria's Missing Schoolgirls, by Joe Parkinson and Drew Hinshaw. 

[. . .]

slavery--which is still widespread across much of the Muslim world

[. . . ]

I do not know of any data that would support this claim.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Golazo on June 05, 2021, 05:25:57 AM
+1
I suppose one could argue that conditions in some countries where labor abuses are frequent (ie, confiscation of passports, non payment of wages, debt traps) amounts to slavery. But calling this much of Muslim world is a stretch even in this case.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on June 05, 2021, 07:13:48 AM
+1
I suppose one could argue that conditions in some countries where labor abuses are frequent (ie, confiscation of passports, non payment of wages, debt traps) amounts to slavery. But calling this much of Muslim world is a stretch even in this case.

I don't have the citations ready to hand and don't have the time to look them up, but in recent years I've seen articles--non-sensationalized articles in thoroughly mainstream publications like New Yorker--regarding the continued existence of outright chattel slavery in several North African countries.  There are also continued reports of guest workers being essentially reduced to household slaves in Persian Gulf states like Dubai.  All of this is distinct from the wartime actions of Islamist groups like Boko Haram and ISIS.  I guess one could quibble over how widespread it has to be to be considered "much" of the Muslim world, but it's not limited to just one or two places.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mamselle on June 05, 2021, 07:26:30 AM
It may be helpful to distinguish the Arabic or North African/Middle Eastern world from "the Muslim world," then.

Islam being an important religious affiliation in parts of SE Asia and the Oceania/Pacific Island nations as well as the Mediterranean rim, geographic specificity might be a more helpful description than a religious adjective that could seem to suggest slavery is consistent with Koranic belief systems.

That may be at least one root to the objection under consideration; my limited knowledge of Islam suggests that it's no different from the other Abrahamic faith traditions (i.e., Judaism, Christianity) in perhaps having holy texts that appear to accept a slave-based economic system, but whose current cultural mores reject that stance as theologically indefensible, given the larger message of the whole of any one of those faith systems' received canons.

M.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: smallcleanrat on June 05, 2021, 07:50:52 PM
+1
I suppose one could argue that conditions in some countries where labor abuses are frequent (ie, confiscation of passports, non payment of wages, debt traps) amounts to slavery. But calling this much of Muslim world is a stretch even in this case.

I don't have the citations ready to hand and don't have the time to look them up, but in recent years I've seen articles--non-sensationalized articles in thoroughly mainstream publications like New Yorker--regarding the continued existence of outright chattel slavery in several North African countries.  There are also continued reports of guest workers being essentially reduced to household slaves in Persian Gulf states like Dubai.  All of this is distinct from the wartime actions of Islamist groups like Boko Haram and ISIS.  I guess one could quibble over how widespread it has to be to be considered "much" of the Muslim world, but it's not limited to just one or two places.

Why call it a “quibble?”
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: spork on June 06, 2021, 05:45:32 AM
+1
I suppose one could argue that conditions in some countries where labor abuses are frequent (ie, confiscation of passports, non payment of wages, debt traps) amounts to slavery. But calling this much of Muslim world is a stretch even in this case.

I don't have the citations ready to hand and don't have the time to look them up, but in recent years I've seen articles--non-sensationalized articles in thoroughly mainstream publications like New Yorker--regarding the continued existence of outright chattel slavery in several North African countries.  There are also continued reports of guest workers being essentially reduced to household slaves in Persian Gulf states like Dubai.  All of this is distinct from the wartime actions of Islamist groups like Boko Haram and ISIS.  I guess one could quibble over how widespread it has to be to be considered "much" of the Muslim world, but it's not limited to just one or two places.

Chattel slavery is not widespread across the "Muslim world," whatever publications like The New Yorker might have reported. The equivalent of debt bondage might exist in some locations in South Asia, but is not limited to majority Muslim communities. Same for  remote parts of North Africa. If chattel slavery is practiced anywhere, it would be rare and unrelated to religion. The closest comparison I can think of is captive labor in West African cocoa farms, Thai fishing boats, and sex trafficking.

"Slavery existed/exists elsewhere" is the butwhataboutism practiced by members of Georgia's board of education:

https://theintercept.com/2021/06/04/georgia-racism-education-schools/ (https://theintercept.com/2021/06/04/georgia-racism-education-schools/).

In book news, I just finished William Gibson's Pattern Recognition and have requested the second and third books in the trilogy from the local library. It's been maybe twenty-five years since I've read any Gibson novels. While I think he's a far better writer stylistically than, say, Neal Stephenson, I'd rate Pattern Recognition as ok but not great. It's not really sci fi, and feels dated given a post-9/11, post-Soviet setting with mention of DVDs, etc. Plus I didn't like how the story was conveniently resolved at the end. Too deus ex machina.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on June 07, 2021, 08:02:15 AM
It may be helpful to distinguish the Arabic or North African/Middle Eastern world from "the Muslim world," then.


M.

That's a very fair point.  This (and some other things as well) does seem to be much more of an issue in the Arabic world than in the broader Muslim community.  And it's no longer the norm in most of the Arabic world, which I was not trying to imply.

One thing about posting on a site frequented by academics--it reminds me to be more careful with my use of terms!
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mamselle on June 07, 2021, 09:06:14 AM
Good for you for being flexible.

M.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: spork on June 07, 2021, 10:40:58 AM
And I hope my comments did not come across as critical of you. I haven't read the book, but I'm always leery of claims made by journalists, academics, policymakers, and random go-gooders about events in other parts of the world (Kony 2012/Invisible Children, Greg Mortenson/Central Asian Institute, and the American Red Cross in Haiti come to mind) -- especially accounts that have an Orientalist tinge to them.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Parasaurolophus on June 07, 2021, 11:24:24 AM
May's haul:

Laura Lam - Goldilocks: A feminist colonization attempt from an increasingly dystopian society not too far in the future, but things start going wrong en route. I think this is the first clearly post-Trump (as in, post-2016 election) piece of scifi I've read, and it's pretty OK. Some of the writing is a bit awkward, and it's plotted like a teen novel (which is fine by me, but I'm not sure it was intended as one!). I would have liked it if there was more on the colonization end of things, or if there was some mystery to the on-board problems, but it was a sufficiently interesting read despite all that. I do think, however, that it's trying to do too many things, and so has had its attention diluted somewhat. For the problems-en-route approach, I think that Mur Lafferty's Six Wakes does a much, much better job of it.

Peter Watts - Peter Watts is an Angry, Sentient Tumor {{revenge fantasies and essays}}: This is a collection of essays drawn from Watts's blog posts. The writing and tone are great, and about as acerbic as you'd expect; the topics and thoughts being collected are pretty interesting, and the memorials to his cats are especially moving. Oh, and he's working on a third installment for the Firefall series (Blindsight and Echopraxia), which seems to be called Omniscience! I really enjoyed reading these, and highly recommend them to anyone who enjoys his work.

Sue Burke - Immunity Index: This is the first post-pandemic novel I've read (although apparently she began work on it well before the pandemic), and waddayaknow, it's about a pandemic, set in a future USA that's only a little further down the Republican garden path than we are. It pains me to say this, but it wasn't very good. It's a shame, because Semiosis and Interference were brilliant. This... this just feels rushed. The different perspectives don't tie together very well, the plotting is very basic teen novel plotting (and like Goldilocks, I'm not sure the author intended it that way), the social commentary is too ripe, the story seems naïve and invites too much imaginative resistance (really? Your plan to beat authoritarianism is to hold a protest and a day of civil disobedience? And as it happens, the protest takes place on the day a pandemic gets loose?), etc. It had interesting moments, but the focus was too dilute to make much of them.

Charles Stross - Saturn's Children: I didn't think I'd enjoy it, but it was pretty fun. In the distant future, all organic life on earth is extinct. All that's left are robots, who've colonized the inner solar system. Beyond that, it's a robot-femme-fatale-thriller, and works pretty well on that score. There are some very amusing moments having to do with many of the few texts left over from our time being fundamenalist religious texts, resulting in the assumption, e.g., that we were fructivores and that Tyrannosaurs were crucial parts of our biome. I would have liked to see that connection explored in more detail!

Charles Stross - Neptune's Brood: The sequel to Saturn's Children, set many thousands of years later. This is a less-interesting thriller, sans femme fatale and with a lot of telling and repeating, and not so much showing. Also, it features a lot of cryptocurrency, and some good explanations of how they work, etc. So, a bit of a mixed bag, really. It was OK, but no more than that.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on June 07, 2021, 01:38:35 PM
May's haul:

Charles Stross - Saturn's Children: I didn't think I'd enjoy it, but it was pretty fun. In the distant future, all organic life on earth is extinct. All that's left are robots, who've colonized the inner solar system. Beyond that, it's a robot-femme-fatale-thriller, and works pretty well on that score. There are some very amusing moments having to do with many of the few texts left over from our time being fundamenalist religious texts, resulting in the assumption, e.g., that we were fructivores and that Tyrannosaurs were crucial parts of our biome. I would have liked to see that connection explored in more detail!

Charles Stross - Neptune's Brood: The sequel to Saturn's Children, set many thousands of years later. This is a less-interesting thriller, sans femme fatale and with a lot of telling and repeating, and not so much showing. Also, it features a lot of cryptocurrency, and some good explanations of how they work, etc. So, a bit of a mixed bag, really. It was OK, but no more than that.

I've noticed something of a trend toward sci-fi works dealing with artificial life forms.  I've never had any interest in them myself--introvert though I am, it's flesh-and-blood people I'm interested in.  The only work of that sort I've ever really gotten much from was an anime series some years back in which the principal characters--a typical team of giant robot pilots fighting to save the world from aliens--discover that the bad guys have in fact already destroyed the world.  The protagonists are artificial life forms trying to prevent the invaders from eliminating the last traces of humanity by destroying the well-guarded servers on which the virtual worlds inhabited by downloaded copies of once-living humans run.  There was something oddly compelling about characters realizing that their world--and they themselves--are dead, and yet still sentient, and learning to deal with that fact.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on June 07, 2021, 01:43:46 PM
And I hope my comments did not come across as critical of you. I haven't read the book, but I'm always leery of claims made by journalists, academics, policymakers, and random go-gooders about events in other parts of the world (Kony 2012/Invisible Children, Greg Mortenson/Central Asian Institute, and the American Red Cross in Haiti come to mind) -- especially accounts that have an Orientalist tinge to them.

One of the good things about Bring Back Our Girls is that they're trying not to fall into that trap of exoticizing the people and events they write about, or describing the Boko Haram rebellion as simply what you'd expect in "that part of the world."  They try to give a wide variety of voices their due.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Parasaurolophus on June 07, 2021, 04:35:39 PM

I've noticed something of a trend toward sci-fi works dealing with artificial life forms.  I've never had any interest in them myself--introvert though I am, it's flesh-and-blood people I'm interested in.  The only work of that sort I've ever really gotten much from was an anime series some years back in which the principal characters--a typical team of giant robot pilots fighting to save the world from aliens--discover that the bad guys have in fact already destroyed the world.  The protagonists are artificial life forms trying to prevent the invaders from eliminating the last traces of humanity by destroying the well-guarded servers on which the virtual worlds inhabited by downloaded copies of once-living humans run.  There was something oddly compelling about characters realizing that their world--and they themselves--are dead, and yet still sentient, and learning to deal with that fact.

Hmm, interesting. Sounds like a plot element from Robert J. Sawyer's Calculating God.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on June 08, 2021, 07:36:31 AM

I've noticed something of a trend toward sci-fi works dealing with artificial life forms.  I've never had any interest in them myself--introvert though I am, it's flesh-and-blood people I'm interested in.  The only work of that sort I've ever really gotten much from was an anime series some years back in which the principal characters--a typical team of giant robot pilots fighting to save the world from aliens--discover that the bad guys have in fact already destroyed the world.  The protagonists are artificial life forms trying to prevent the invaders from eliminating the last traces of humanity by destroying the well-guarded servers on which the virtual worlds inhabited by downloaded copies of once-living humans run.  There was something oddly compelling about characters realizing that their world--and they themselves--are dead, and yet still sentient, and learning to deal with that fact.

Hmm, interesting. Sounds like a plot element from Robert J. Sawyer's Calculating God.

If you're interested, it's called Zegapain.  Don't know how readily available it is in North America at this point.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on June 11, 2021, 07:57:43 AM
The Curious Reader:  A Literary Miscellany of Novels & Novelists, by the editors of Mental Floss.

This is a big collection of literary trivia and not-so-trivia.  It has entries on 65 novels and short novels of note, with facts about the works and their authors.  You learn about real people and events that were (or may have been) used for inspiration; odd stuff about the authors (Mary Shelley kept her deceased husband's heart with her!); quotable quotes; writing advice and quirks; and lots more.  There are also sidebars and entries with titles like "9 Nobel Prize-Winning Novelists."  The article on Tolstoy has a feature on how War and Peace is by no means the longest novel ever written, with several examples of longer ones.

Lots of fun stuff there, but I found it physically hard to read due to a graphic design that left the text and background colors of many pages with too little contrast for me to make out the text easily.  I have only read a dozen of the works that are profiled, plus large parts of several others.  And other works by some of the authors listed.  There are lots of recommendations for further reading...and honestly, with one or two exceptions, none of them leaves me wanting to check them out for myself.  Most of them come off sounding dreary and unreadable to me.  I guess the sorts of readers this book is mainly aimed at will probably feel different.


Holding Back the River:  The Struggle Against Nature on America's Waterways, by Tyler J. Kelley.  This is an interesting look at the infrastructure of levees, dams, and floodways built in the U.S. since the 19th century to make the nation's major rivers more navigable and open up vast tracts of flood plain for agriculture and settlement.  The idea is to make nature conform to our society's needs and desires--and nature keeps stubbornly refusing to do so.  And of course the problem is now getting worse, due to aging infrastructure, climate change, and encroachment from rising seas.

Although the author profiles a lot of failed policies, collisions of selfish interests, and even some outright injustices, he spends refreshingly little time seeking to find villains to blame.  The communities that seek to exist in what naturally wants to be flood plains are a fact of life, they've been there for generations, and their assorted competing interests all have legitimate elements that need to be taken into account.  The Army Corps of Engineers has the unenviable responsibility of trying to juggle and reconcile all these interests.  They're portrayed sympathetically too, for all that so many of their policies have proven badly misguided in hindsight.  If there's a villain, it's short-termist thinking and a refusal by some to consider that others have legitimate interests that can't just be sacrificed to protect their own.

Kelley definitely helps the reader to get an idea of the sheer complexity of the issues involved in trying to control floods and keep communities and navigation going on our rivers.  There's nothing the authorities can do or omit to do that won't create real problems for somebody.  Though Kelley is not too quick to prescribe solutions, he does ultimately come out in favor of a strategy of retreating from threatened lands in some places, with a greatest-good focus on the best long-term solutions.  He holds up the Netherlands' ways of doing things when it comes to flood control as an example--not because the Dutch are any smarter than Americans, but simply because they've been at it for hundreds of years longer.  And the fact that their whole country is at stake when it comes to flood control gives them a huge incentive to work together to do everything it takes to get it right.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: spork on June 11, 2021, 10:05:03 AM
Finished Spook Country, William's Gibson's second novel in his Blue Ant trilogy. It was far, far better than the first installment, Pattern Recognition. Comparable to a John le Carré or Graham Greene thriller.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on June 11, 2021, 10:26:18 AM
Finished Spook Country, William's Gibson's second novel in his Blue Ant trilogy. It was far, far better than the first installment, Pattern Recognition. Comparable to a John le Carré or Graham Greene thriller.

Good to know! We really liked Pattern Recognition for the most part but had heard mixed reviews of the second novel.  We'll put it on the list.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: hmaria1609 on June 11, 2021, 02:15:06 PM
From the library:
The Library of the Dead by T.L. (Tendai) Huchu
The 1st in a new series called "Edinburgh Nights." A secret library underneath the Scottish capitol--who knew?!

Lightbringer by Claire Legrand (YA)
#3 and finale in the "Empirium Trilogy"
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mamselle on June 11, 2021, 02:19:04 PM
From the library:
The Library of the Dead by T.L. (Tendai) Huchu
The 1st in a new series called "Edinburgh Nights." A secret library underneath the Scottish capitol--who knew?!

Lightbringer by Claire Legrand (YA)
#3 and finale in the "Empirium Trilogy"

I've been to the main national library near the bridge just at the (end/beginning? I think) of the Royal Mile....is this some ghostly mirrorplace beneath it?

(That might be why I missed the main librarian the day I was there.....)

M. 
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Parasaurolophus on June 11, 2021, 02:27:42 PM
The article on Tolstoy has a feature on how War and Peace is by no means the longest novel ever written, with several examples of longer ones.


If you're into it, I have in my back pocket an article on story size which offers several infinite-length stories (each one longer than War and Peace!), but argues that there is no maximum story size (in passing, it argues for a minimum story size of 0). It's 17 pretty accessible pages, although knowing some basic set theory helps them go down more easily.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on June 11, 2021, 02:29:11 PM
The article on Tolstoy has a feature on how War and Peace is by no means the longest novel ever written, with several examples of longer ones.


If you're into it, I have in my back pocket an article on story size which offers several infinite-length stories (each one longer than War and Peace!), but argues that there is no maximum story size (in passing, it argues for a minimum story size of 0). It's 17 pretty accessible pages, although knowing some basic set theory helps them go down more easily.

I know you're responding to apl68, but I would be interested to hear more about this!
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Parasaurolophus on June 11, 2021, 02:43:08 PM
The article on Tolstoy has a feature on how War and Peace is by no means the longest novel ever written, with several examples of longer ones.


If you're into it, I have in my back pocket an article on story size which offers several infinite-length stories (each one longer than War and Peace!), but argues that there is no maximum story size (in passing, it argues for a minimum story size of 0). It's 17 pretty accessible pages, although knowing some basic set theory helps them go down more easily.

I know you're responding to apl68, but I would be interested to hear more about this!

Sent you a PM!
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on June 12, 2021, 06:43:45 AM
The article on Tolstoy has a feature on how War and Peace is by no means the longest novel ever written, with several examples of longer ones.


If you're into it, I have in my back pocket an article on story size which offers several infinite-length stories (each one longer than War and Peace!), but argues that there is no maximum story size (in passing, it argues for a minimum story size of 0). It's 17 pretty accessible pages, although knowing some basic set theory helps them go down more easily.

I know you're responding to apl68, but I would be interested to hear more about this!

Sent you a PM!

I'd be curious to hear this also.

BTW, the bit on Tolstoy introduced me to an author I'd never heard of before.  Apparently Madison Cooper's 1950s novel Sironia, Texas holds the record for longest novel published in the U.S.  I just had to look it up.  The author was an eccentric businessman in Waco, Texas who spent 11 years writing it.  And convinced a major publisher to bring it out in two huge volumes!  It was actually a bestseller for some weeks.  Then Cooper and his work fell off the radar.  He's best known now for setting up a local philanthropic trust that is still active.

His Wikipedia article has links to more info:


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


Apparently Sironia, Texas is now an expensive collector's item.  Those who are really interested can reportedly order a print-on-demand version for $70.  About what a new two-volume work of that size would probably cost today.  I decided to pass....
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mamselle on June 12, 2021, 07:38:58 AM
Hmm, it even beats Proust? (Or do his various volumes count as different books?)

M.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Parasaurolophus on June 12, 2021, 08:11:44 AM


I'd be curious to hear this also.


PM sent!

Hmm, it even beats Proust? (Or do his various volumes count as different books?)

M.

Yup! They're infinitely long--literally. Of course, that makes them much less interesting than Proust. I also have, in my back pocket, an article that identifies a story which contains all of Proust, and everything else, too, for that matter. It's also infinitely long--possibly indenumerably infinite, depending on how we articulate it (and whether we accept it in the first place).
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mamselle on June 12, 2021, 12:38:17 PM
Wow.

Parasaurolophi must have pretty big back pockets....

M.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on June 12, 2021, 03:09:54 PM
Wow.

Parasaurolophi must have pretty big back pockets....

M.

Those pockets are filled with some really interesting stuff, too!!

We finished Bird Box last night.  I'm glad we took a chance on it and felt the author pulled off the suspense really well with some smart pacing.  He builds the dread carefully, and some of his writing seemed particularly good.  We made it to the end without figuring anything important out ahead of time, and we had a number of fun discussions during while trying to predict the outcomes.  It's unusual to see a story like this with some real cleverness, not too similar to other such tales.  It was very enjoyable, and we will be picking up the sequel. 

After that, we started on Morning Star, which was our next book in the Red Rising series I've mentioned here before.  As with previous novels in the series, it often comes off as melodramatic.  I told my husband while reading it last night that I felt as though I needed to be wearing a turtleneck and have someone playing bongos.  The story has always grown more interesting in the previous novels, so we shall see.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: hmaria1609 on June 12, 2021, 07:20:03 PM
From the library:
The Library of the Dead by T.L. (Tendai) Huchu
The 1st in a new series called "Edinburgh Nights." A secret library underneath the Scottish capitol--who knew?!

Lightbringer by Claire Legrand (YA)
#3 and finale in the "Empirium Trilogy"

I've been to the main national library near the bridge just at the (end/beginning? I think) of the Royal Mile....is this some ghostly mirrorplace beneath it?

(That might be why I missed the main librarian the day I was there.....)

M.
Haha, made you look! Yes, the National Library of Scotland is by George IV Bridge, top of the Royal Mile. I've been in too--the ground floor has an exhibit gallery off to the side.  And a reproduction of Edinburgh in 1700 over the entrance. Loved that!

In the novel, the Library of the Dead is located in the Calton Hill area.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on June 14, 2021, 08:32:57 AM


I'd be curious to hear this also.


PM sent!

Hmm, it even beats Proust? (Or do his various volumes count as different books?)

M.

Yup! They're infinitely long--literally. Of course, that makes them much less interesting than Proust. I also have, in my back pocket, an article that identifies a story which contains all of Proust, and everything else, too, for that matter. It's also infinitely long--possibly indenumerably infinite, depending on how we articulate it (and whether we accept it in the first place).

Thanks for the article.  It left me scratching my head, not being a mathematician.  It also reminded me of an article I saw years ago that mentioned Borges' "Library of Babel" in a discussion of how it is possible to envision sets that each meet the definition of "infinite," and yet some can be bigger than others.

I had never heard of Forrest J. Ackerman's cosmic report card story.  Sounds more like nonfiction to me....

Interesting to note that Guinness now considers Proust's magnum opus to be the longest novel.  In my older edition of Guinness it was a toss-up between Jules Romain's Men of Goodwill and Yamaoka's Tokugawa Ieyasu, which took decades to serialize.  Apparently Romain's work has been reclassified as a series, while Proust's is considered a single unitary work of fiction.  I wonder how these definitions come to be made?
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Parasaurolophus on June 14, 2021, 10:17:01 AM

Thanks for the article.  It left me scratching my head, not being a mathematician.  It also reminded me of an article I saw years ago that mentioned Borges' "Library of Babel" in a discussion of how it is possible to envision sets that each meet the definition of "infinite," and yet some can be bigger than others.

Yeah, the different magnitudes of infinity are really trippy when you first learn about them. Despite that, though, they're also pretty intuitive: there's an infinite number of numbers between 0.1 and 0.2, and betwwen 0.2 and 0.21, etc., so it's pretty clear that if you assigned one natural number to each number between 0 and 1, you'd fall hopelessly behind really quickly. So it's clear that there are infinitely many more numbers between 0 and 1 than there are natural numbers.

What I always found less intuitive and trippier was that the same isn't true of even and odd numbers--there are exactly as many odd numbers as there are even + odd numbers (or even as there are even + odd).




Quote
Interesting to note that Guinness now considers Proust's magnum opus to be the longest novel.  In my older edition of Guinness it was a toss-up between Jules Romain's Men of Goodwill and Yamaoka's Tokugawa Ieyasu, which took decades to serialize.  Apparently Romain's work has been reclassified as a series, while Proust's is considered a single unitary work of fiction.  I wonder how these definitions come to be made?

Yeah, I don't buy it. Seems rather just so to me.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on June 29, 2021, 08:01:45 AM
Some noted Latin American authors lately (In translation):

Dom Casmurro, by Machado de Assis.  Machado de Assis was a contemporary of novelists like Henry James and Edith Wharton.  Like them, he wrote about the marital trials and tribulations of the "one percent" of his day.  Common folks only get an occasional walk-on part.  This one is interesting in having a first-person narrator, rather self-centered (naturally), with a dry sense of humor and a tendency to write in many brief chapters.  He tells of how his mother superstitiously vowed when he was a baby that he would go into the priesthood, and spent his youth trying to push him into it; how he fell in love with a pretty neighbor girl and decided that the priesthood wasn't for him; managed to worm his way out of the priesthood and into a legal career; married the girl of his dreams; and finally lets unfounded (probably) jealousy ruin his relationship with with wife, best friend, and son.  It ends with all the cast either deceased or alone--exactly what you'd expect from a Serious Literary Classic.

Interesting for the way it depicts religious devotion that springs overwhelmingly from superstition and ritual, with no real spirituality.  The narrator grows up manifesting his faith mainly in efforts to make "deals" with God to say a certain number of ritual prayers whenever he wants something--something he never follows through with--and yet he nearly becomes a priest, simply because his mother offered him as a kind of human sacrifice as a way of making her own "deal" with God.  It's sad to see people settling for such a thin gruel of faith when there's a great feast of faith out there waiting to be claimed.


The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho.  This reminds me a bit of Redfield's Celestine Prophecies.  I came away feeling as though I had plumbed the shallows of religion, philosophy, and life's great questions.  The message seems to be that You are the Hero of your own Story.  A popular message, no doubt.  It puts me in mind of Francis Chan's parable about the extra who appeared for a couple of seconds in a crowd scene in a blockbuster movie and then rented a local movie theater for "his" big premier.  The movie of life is not all about us.  It's delusional to imagine otherwise.  Again, it's sad to see people settling for messages like this when there is a far greater and more hopeful Good News out there.


Ficciones, by Jorge Luis Borges.  Finally got around to reading this!  I now understand why, when I read some excerpts from Barry Lopez' story collection Winter Count to my mother some years back, she acted like it seemed familiar.  Mom taught Borges for years in her undergrad Latin American Literature classes.  Some of Lopez' stories owe an obvious debt to Borges.

Borges himself has earned a place in world literature through his baffling stories that turn our understandings of reality and knowledge upside down and inside out.  I suspect he may be popular with those readers who can recognize most of his vocabulary and learned allusions, because it gives us an excuse to pat ourselves on the back for being able to catch all this stuff.  Borges is something of a literary equivalent of those T-shirts that say, in Latin, "If you this shirt can read, too much education you have."  I get the distinct impression that Borges had fun pulling his readers' legs, in the most learned way possible.  His Ficciones can sometimes be kind of fun to read.  Though Barry Lopez and Italo Calvino are more accessible.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on June 29, 2021, 08:35:05 AM

Ficciones, by Jorge Luis Borges.  Finally got around to reading this!  I now understand why, when I read some excerpts from Barry Lopez' story collection Winter Count to my mother some years back, she acted like it seemed familiar.  Mom taught Borges for years in her undergrad Latin American Literature classes.  Some of Lopez' stories owe an obvious debt to Borges.

Borges himself has earned a place in world literature through his baffling stories that turn our understandings of reality and knowledge upside down and inside out.  I suspect he may be popular with those readers who can recognize most of his vocabulary and learned allusions, because it gives us an excuse to pat ourselves on the back for being able to catch all this stuff.  Borges is something of a literary equivalent of those T-shirts that say, in Latin, "If you this shirt can read, too much education you have."  I get the distinct impression that Borges had fun pulling his readers' legs, in the most learned way possible.  His Ficciones can sometimes be kind of fun to read.  Though Barry Lopez and Italo Calvino are more accessible.

I both have that t-shirt and adore Borges's stories. Not because of the allusions (I don't recall that as a characteristic of his work, which I suspect means I missed most of them) but because of the mind-bendingness of his imagination.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on June 29, 2021, 09:01:15 AM

Ficciones, by Jorge Luis Borges.  Finally got around to reading this!  I now understand why, when I read some excerpts from Barry Lopez' story collection Winter Count to my mother some years back, she acted like it seemed familiar.  Mom taught Borges for years in her undergrad Latin American Literature classes.  Some of Lopez' stories owe an obvious debt to Borges.

Borges himself has earned a place in world literature through his baffling stories that turn our understandings of reality and knowledge upside down and inside out.  I suspect he may be popular with those readers who can recognize most of his vocabulary and learned allusions, because it gives us an excuse to pat ourselves on the back for being able to catch all this stuff.  Borges is something of a literary equivalent of those T-shirts that say, in Latin, "If you this shirt can read, too much education you have."  I get the distinct impression that Borges had fun pulling his readers' legs, in the most learned way possible.  His Ficciones can sometimes be kind of fun to read.  Though Barry Lopez and Italo Calvino are more accessible.

I both have that t-shirt and adore Borges's stories. Not because of the allusions (I don't recall that as a characteristic of his work, which I suspect means I missed most of them) but because of the mind-bendingness of his imagination.

I know what you mean about the mind-bending imagination.  It has gotten to be popular in contemporary popular fiction to try to bend the readers' (or viewers') minds.  The creators we have today haven't caught up with Borges!
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: hmaria1609 on July 02, 2021, 07:14:48 PM
Having a fantastical adventure with The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels by India Holton.  It's the 1st installment in the "Dangerous Damsels" series.
I like the Bronte sisters are getting a shout out for their novels as well as the author being inspired by them.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on July 06, 2021, 12:01:38 PM
After that, we started on Morning Star, which was our next book in the Red Rising series I've mentioned here before.  As with previous novels in the series, it often comes off as melodramatic.  I told my husband while reading it last night that I felt as though I needed to be wearing a turtleneck and have someone playing bongos.  The story has always grown more interesting in the previous novels, so we shall see.

Just finished this book last night.  Like the others, its story eventually became more interesting as the action and intrigue started in earnest, centering on the hierarchical Society ruled by the Sovereign and the various forces trying to make deals and power plays.  The series has a number of great characters to root for (though still not the protagonist, who is still overconfident and naive) and a bunch of villains who are written complexly enough that there is room for some thought about good versus bad.  There was one perfect line amongst the often eyeroll-worthy dialogue and narrative, but I'm not sure if it was an intentional homage or not given the probably reading audience.  We really do enjoy the series despite some of its failings, as the good parts are pretty good and the overall story has legs.  It feels as though this was meant to be the final book of a trilogy with a very neatly wrapped-up ending, but there are two more in the saga.  Those take place a bit in the future, so we'll check them out at some point.

Now we're reading the final book in the Protectorate trilogy (O'Keefe), Catalyst Gate.  This has been one of my favorite series so far.  Aliens, spies, AI, political intrigue... lots of fun, and I really like the interactions between characters.  Hopefully this one will meet or surpass the bar set by the first two and round out the trilogy well.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Parasaurolophus on July 08, 2021, 05:19:12 PM
June's haul, before I forget them all:

Cathy O'Neill - Weapons of Math Destruction: A book about the pernicious influence of algorithms on our lives. While informative and well-written, it was kind of underwhelming. I mean, it was interesting, but felt like fairly small potatoes. Mostly, it felt like she was in love with her characterization of these algorightms as WMDs, but they mostly didn't live up to their designation. And the solutions prescribed seemed like bandaids for a severed limb.

Michael Cadnum - Raven of the Waves: I found this in a book box years ago (in California, a day after my defence, I think), and had very low expectations of it. It's historical fiction for youngish teens centred on the dawn of the viking age, and it's actually pretty OK. It's clearly written by a poet, in the sense that the flow is weird, the continuity is a little off, and he does a poor job with communicating causality, but it was a perfectly enjoyable read. The period combat leaves something to be desired, and the armour is a common misconception, but on the whole, this was a decent effort. I'd  be interested in reading some of his other work.

Charles Stross - Wireless: The Essential Charles Stross: Some of these were pretty fun, although many cried out for novel-length treatments (especially the novellas, Missile Gap and Palimpsest, but also the short story Rogue Farm). Not my favourite kind of scifi--a lot of it is rooted in the cold war--but it was pretty interesting and effective, even if I'd have liked something more outlandish. The intro was pretty rad, I have to say.

I don't recall if I ever added my review of Stross's short story Antibodies. In case I didn't: I don't remember much about it now, save that I thought it was an intriguing premise but didn't quite work.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on July 16, 2021, 07:52:45 AM
London:  The Biography, by Peter Ackroyd.  A great big book about a great big city!  Ackroyd takes a thematic approach, with numerous chapters, many brief, about all sorts of subjects.  There are chapters on London's clubs and restaurants, on its long-buried rivers, on its now-lost holy wells, on prisons and madhouses, on the development of the Cockney dialect, on such specific neighborhoods as Southwark, and much, much more.  The amount of detail is fascinating and impressive.  But Ackroyd spreads his coverage so thin that the phrase "A mile wide and an inch deep" sometimes comes to mind.

There are frequent free associations between this and that.  Sometimes these come across as insightful.  Sometimes--the discussion of the rhyme "London Bridge" that turns into an assertion that children were once sacrificed to the god of the Thames is a good example--they seem rather fanciful.  Ackroyd puts a lot of emphasis on the seamy side of London life.  It's clear that life has been miserable and often violent for most Londoners for most of the city's history.  A recurring theme is the contrast between the authorities' efforts to impose order and the inhabitants' resistance to any sort of order.  One gets the impression sometimes that Ackroyd has been reading his Michel Foucault.  That observation is not meant as a compliment.

Another theme is the notion that London has never ceased being a "pagan" society.  It's true enough that London seems never to have been dominated by New Testament ethics and morality (What place ever has been?  Jesus made it clear to his followers that following him was about striving to spread and exemplify his teachings in an evil world, not to somehow make the world good).  But Ackroyd really does, in the midst of digressions about obscure, eccentric clubs and enumerations of all the dozens of kinds of fish once caught in the Thames, slight a very long history of Christian practice in London.  Catholic/Anglican churches are usually mentioned only in connection with archaeology or architecture.  Evangelical Nonconformists are only mentioned now and then as part of broader observations about London's "radical" traditions.

Obviously Ackroyd was going for an impressionistic approach.  He does indeed give a great mass of vivid impressions, which leave the reader wanting to know more about all kinds of things.  Next time I think I'll look for a more focused approach to London's history.  And maybe something more chronological.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mamselle on July 16, 2021, 09:36:33 AM
For a more balanced, sympathetically informed view on ecclesiastical relationships in Londinium, as it was once called, I'd start with the formation of the early buildings and congregations that preceded the Anglican establishment in the 1500s, something on printing in London from the 1600s-1900s (who does he think printed all those Dissenters' sermons, tracts, hymnals and treatises--and ordered, and read them?) and the way they gave safe harbor to Catholic non-juring priests escaping the French Revolution? Such shelter was not always ungrudging, but still...Cheverus was sheltered at Tottenham Chapel for a couple years before he made it to the Americas.

A study of the evolution of Christopher Wren's churches (all of them--sorry I don't know a recent book to recommend at present) would also point up the fact that while many were indeed built on early worship sites that probably pre-dated the arrival of Christian missionaries from Germany in the very earliest centuries, not all were, and the growth of parishes continued, whether under the Pope or the Crown, so that new as well as old buildings were required.

It sounds in part like he's parroting Lethaby ('Londinium,' 1924) on architectural aesthetics, Jungian psychology, and sociology: that work has a similar tone and can be disproved in several instances (as I did on an assigned pre-comps paper): he worked from his own impressions and not actual architectural and sociological studies. More useful might be Percy Scholes on Dissenters' music, or the study of liturgical history by (A-- & E---, I always called then "Addlepate and Eggsheels," to the point I can't recall their true names...mea maxima culpa...).

I might agree that it's never quite been "all one thing or the other," confessionally speaking, but that's the nature of a large city. Since Canterbury and York had more ecclesial power after the 1530s, the Anglican bishops of London were more functionary (but one signed the midwife's license I found, so they did have some power...ahem). And he may have had some wish partially to defeat the British tendency to romanticize pagan practices, which might not necessarily have included infant sacrifices to the Thames, but could have...Molech-like practices were not limited to the Eastern Mediterranean.

Being more secularly important, more tied to royalty, and more of a military center, there were indeed always competing interests and philosophical approaches to life, so the sense of a "hodge-podge" of thoughts is not wrong, either. The Oxford Medieval History book, and some of the musical entries on hymnals and composers centered in London, in Grove's Dictionary of Music; and the Art Encyclopedia entries on other British architects, like Gibbs, or the Adams, might also give a better sense of solidity and structure.

A wry thought...Perhaps Peter Ackroyd is related to Roger? (;--})

M.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: hmaria1609 on July 16, 2021, 07:40:57 PM
The Empire's Ruin by Brian Staveley
The 1st installment in the "Ashes of the Unhewn Throne" series.  I've read the "Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne" trilogy; the new novel picks up some years afterwards.

Apl68, I've read and enjoyed Peter Ackroyd's Thames: the Biography from the library.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on July 17, 2021, 12:27:54 PM
The Empire's Ruin by Brian Staveley
The 1st installment in the "Ashes of the Unhewn Throne" series.  I've read the "Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne" trilogy; the new novel picks up some years afterwards.

Apl68, I've read and enjoyed Peter Ackroyd's Thames: the Biography from the library.

It gives a vivid impression of the city's long history, doesn't it?  BTW, I'm pretty sure Ackroyd is NOT related to eager Roger or Dan.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mamselle on July 17, 2021, 04:17:44 PM
Kidding about Roger.

Circling around not falling into a Poirot loop online....

;--》

M.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mahagonny on July 18, 2021, 03:51:07 PM
What's a good book for learning more about polling? Anyone? Thanks.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: spork on July 19, 2021, 11:53:24 AM
Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World's Greatest Nuclear Disaster, by Adam Higginbotham. Excellent journalistic research (the book includes ~ 100 pages of bibliographic notes). An exciting, if depressing, read. Everyone ends up chronically ill, dead, imprisoned, disgraced, or, usually, some combination thereof. If I was teaching an undergraduate course on the end of the Soviet Union, I would use this book.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on July 20, 2021, 07:34:00 AM
Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World's Greatest Nuclear Disaster, by Adam Higginbotham. Excellent journalistic research (the book includes ~ 100 pages of bibliographic notes). An exciting, if depressing, read. Everyone ends up chronically ill, dead, imprisoned, disgraced, or, usually, some combination thereof. If I was teaching an undergraduate course on the end of the Soviet Union, I would use this book.

The only book-length treatment of the Chernobyl disaster I've ever read was Piers Paul Reed's Ablaze, which was published much closer to the event.

Speaking of Chernobyl--I'm currently reading Islands of Abandonment:  Nature Rebounding in the Post-Human Landscape, by Cal Flynn.  I've already passed her chapter on the abandoned zone around Chernobyl, which has become a remarkable wildlife preserve.  The return of diverse wildlife to places abandoned by human settlement and use is the book's main theme.  Apparently our greenhouse gas problem would already be far worse by now had it not been for widespread reversion of farmland to forest in much of the world. 

Our region, like so many rural regions, has seen a great deal of that.  Unfortunately our abandoned lands have mostly been clear-cut and then either abandoned again or turned into commercial timber lots.  We really don't have a great deal of biologically-diverse, naturally-seeded woodland around here.  That's one reason why I want so badly not to have to sell our family's 20 acres when my parents die.  If I do, they'll inevitably become yet another clear-cut tract, and there's far too much of that already out their way.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on July 20, 2021, 10:53:03 AM
I joined Kameron Hurley's Patreon to get access to her short stories, and a nice perk is that, in addition to getting a new short story every month or so, I also get access to all the last four years of her short stories. The first volume (the Patreon Year 1 collection), is stunningly good. Many of those stories were subsequently published in her short story collection Meet Me in the Future, and of the ones that weren't, some of them are in her Patreon Year 2 collection, which I'm reading now. It's not quite as good as Year 1---to be honest, there is insufficient body horror and mucous, and that really is the purest Hurley ethos---but I'm always struck by how good she is at building a world and a story in very few words. She always does interesting stuff with her fiction, and I recommend her work highly.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Puget on July 20, 2021, 10:54:49 AM
  That's one reason why I want so badly not to have to sell our family's 20 acres when my parents die.  If I do, they'll inevitably become yet another clear-cut tract, and there's far too much of that already out their way.

Off topic for this thread but-- have you looked into a conservation easement? That would protect the land from development but allow you to still sell it if necessary. https://www.conservationeasement.us/what-is-a-conservation-easement/
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: spork on July 27, 2021, 03:29:59 PM
13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi, by Mitchell Zuckoff. Read this because I watched the terrible Michael Bay movie adaptation. The writing doesn't come anywhere close to the quality of Mark Bowden's Black Hawk Down.

Grasp: The Science Transforming How We Learn, by Sanjay Sarma and Luke Yoquinto. Sort of an overview on cognitive psychology/science research as it relates to learning. Starts with educational philosophies of the 19th century and how this drove the unscientific development of the educational institutions we have today. Not as epic or as well-organized as The Emperor of All Maladies by Ned Sharpless, and not as practical as Daniel Willingham's stuff.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on July 28, 2021, 05:45:21 AM
13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi, by Mitchell Zuckoff. Read this because I watched the terrible Michael Bay movie adaptation. The writing doesn't come anywhere close to the quality of Mark Bowden's Black Hawk Down.

Grasp: The Science Transforming How We Learn, by Sanjay Sarma and Luke Yoquinto. Sort of an overview on cognitive psychology/science research as it relates to learning. Starts with educational philosophies of the 19th century and how this drove the unscientific development of the educational institutions we have today. Not as epic or as well-organized as The Emperor of All Maladies by Ned Sharpless, and not as practical as Daniel Willingham's stuff.

Is this a different book from the history of cancer by the same title by Siddhartha Mukherjee? I did a bit of a google around and couldn't find anything by this title by Ned (=Norman?) Sharpless.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mamselle on July 28, 2021, 06:38:33 AM
There isn't a mix-up somewhere in there with Jhumpa Lahiri's "Interpreter of Maladies," is there?

(A good short-story collection, by the way...)

M.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: spork on July 28, 2021, 08:06:02 AM
13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi, by Mitchell Zuckoff. Read this because I watched the terrible Michael Bay movie adaptation. The writing doesn't come anywhere close to the quality of Mark Bowden's Black Hawk Down.

Grasp: The Science Transforming How We Learn, by Sanjay Sarma and Luke Yoquinto. Sort of an overview on cognitive psychology/science research as it relates to learning. Starts with educational philosophies of the 19th century and how this drove the unscientific development of the educational institutions we have today. Not as epic or as well-organized as The Emperor of All Maladies by Ned Sharpless, and not as practical as Daniel Willingham's stuff.

Is this a different book from the history of cancer by the same title by Siddhartha Mukherjee? I did a bit of a google around and couldn't find anything by this title by Ned (=Norman?) Sharpless.

My mistake. You are correct, the author is Siddhartha Mukherjee. I read so much history of scientific research that I often get the authors and the scientists confused. Mukherjee happens to be both.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on July 28, 2021, 08:44:24 AM
13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi, by Mitchell Zuckoff. Read this because I watched the terrible Michael Bay movie adaptation. The writing doesn't come anywhere close to the quality of Mark Bowden's Black Hawk Down.

Grasp: The Science Transforming How We Learn, by Sanjay Sarma and Luke Yoquinto. Sort of an overview on cognitive psychology/science research as it relates to learning. Starts with educational philosophies of the 19th century and how this drove the unscientific development of the educational institutions we have today. Not as epic or as well-organized as The Emperor of All Maladies by Ned Sharpless, and not as practical as Daniel Willingham's stuff.

Is this a different book from the history of cancer by the same title by Siddhartha Mukherjee? I did a bit of a google around and couldn't find anything by this title by Ned (=Norman?) Sharpless.

My mistake. You are correct, the author is Siddhartha Mukherjee. I read so much history of scientific research that I often get the authors and the scientists confused. Mukherjee happens to be both.

Ah, ok. I read The Emperor of All Maladies a few years ago, and it was really superb. I've been thinking of reading his other book, The Gene, but it's marketed as being part memoir because his family has a genetic history of some illness or other, and I get really impatient when my science books start poking the authors' personal lives into the science. (If you* like the parasocial author-reader relationship, good for you, but I get impatient. Maybe it's because I don't really like people that much.)

*the generic you
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: spork on July 28, 2021, 09:47:49 AM
That's why I didn't like Grasp. It was trying to do too many things.

Halfway through Midnight's Borders: A People's History of Modern India, by Suchitra Vijayan. A very good book on politics, geography, and identity.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: hmaria1609 on July 30, 2021, 07:30:52 PM
I don't read graphic novels, however, this title was inviting to be read: Reading Quirks: Weird Things that Bookish Nerds Do! by the Wild Detectives
A fun graphic novel for adults of all things we do reading.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Hegemony on August 02, 2021, 05:15:30 AM
I was looking for a page-turner, so I tried Then She Was Gone, by Lisa Jewell. To my mind it was more a page-tear-out-and-throw-across-the-room-er. What a lot of unengaging hokum. Implausible on about six different levels. And the ending was guessable from about page 15. Books like that really show you what your time is worth (too much for another one like that).

I'd still love a good page-turner, though.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: larryc on August 03, 2021, 06:41:14 AM
I finally got around to John Sclazi's Redshirts, a science fiction novel set in a Star Trek adjacent universe, telling the story from the POV of a group of normally faceless minor crew persons who exist only to get killed to advance the plot. Slowly they realize that they are not just in a starship, they are in a narrative, and it is one that never ends well for them. They decide to do something about it.

I loved this book. It starts off as a romp, a hilarious sendup of the original Star Trek series, but it soon takes a turn, and then another... It is funny, thought-provoking, and moving. I think it is his best work.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on August 03, 2021, 08:36:44 AM
Larryc, if you haven't read his Fuzzy Nation or Agent to the Stars, you might want to give them a try.  I think those two are my favorites of his so far.  They are plenty funny but are also really touching and interesting.  I thought Red Shirts was very good but a little inconsistent and probably could have been edited down a bit in places.

We finished Catalyst Gate (O'Keefe).  I thought she finished the trilogy very well, but the first book of the series (Velocity Weapon) was the best of them, in my opinion (my husband felt the same).  More of this book covered interaction with other life forms, which led it in an interesting direction but felt a little overdone at times.  Still, the same good cast of characters, action, and political intrigue made it a fun read.

Now we are on Hank Green's A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor (follow up to An Absolutely Remarkable Thing).  We really enjoyed the first book, which was told from one point of view.  This sequel has several narrators.  We are barely into it, but it seems like a good set up so far, and I'm interested to see where it goes.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: FishProf on August 03, 2021, 09:57:57 AM
Do audiobooks count?  I just finished a radio production of Babbit (Ed Asner, Judd Nelson, Hector Elizondo etc).  Great production.

But I didn't really get the book.  At the end, I still didn't really know what it was about.

I'm standing outside the gate, but I don't see any barbarians here....
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on August 03, 2021, 10:18:05 AM
Audiobooks definitely count!

I've recently been getting into Sarah Waters. I read The Paying Guests while recovering from Pfizer #2, and I've just started Fingersmith. She's a very engaging writer, and I enjoy the evocation of the time periods she writes in.

I also just finished Fredrik Backmann's Anxious People, which was outstanding, and Lucy Jago's A Net for Small Fishes, which was a little disappointing. The latter book is about the events surrounding the death of Sir Thomas Overbury in the court of King James I, but the problem is that Jago decided to humanize the characters that history records as scheming villains, and turn them into kind, earnest, sympathetic people who are driven by understandable motives. But after I read the history itself (there's a great chapter about the same events in Eleanor Herman's The Royal Art of Poison), I realized that I didn't want a book about kind, earnest, sympathetic people. I wanted the story about the villains! The book would have been so much more fun if people had leant into their villainy more.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Golazo on August 04, 2021, 12:48:22 PM
In nonfiction, Rosa Brooks' account of being a reserve police officer in DC, Tangled Up in Blue, was compelling. Her conversations with her mother, Barbara Ehrenreich (well known lefty, author of Nickle and Dimed) are hilarious, while the reflections on policing reform, interspersed with what she actually did, are interesting even when I don't agree with her takes.
I also read Liddle Heart's classic book on Strategy, which reinforced my skepticism of him. The cases are all structured to support his argument behind the superiority of the indirect approach, and the book seems like a classic example of problems that come from selecting on the dependent variable. McChrystal's Leaders: Myth and Reality suffers from a different problem--the cases, though sometimes interesting, don't align with his argument about leadership at the end, which is thus less compelling than it might be.

In fiction, I read Katherine Addison's The Goblin Emperor, which was fine but not outstanding, which I had hoped for given the book's awards, and Sarah Pinkser's We are Satellites , which is well written and grabbed my attention but suffered from some key parts of the plot not being at all convincing.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Vkw10 on August 04, 2021, 01:11:12 PM

In fiction, I read Katherine Addison's The Goblin Emperor, which was fine but not outstanding, which I had hoped for given the book's awards

I found the audiobook of The Goblin Emperor better than the print, although I enjoyed the print. She’s just published another book in the same world, Witness for the Dead, which is in my stack.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on August 04, 2021, 03:24:17 PM

In fiction, I read Katherine Addison's The Goblin Emperor, which was fine but not outstanding, which I had hoped for given the book's awards

I found the audiobook of The Goblin Emperor better than the print, although I enjoyed the print. She’s just published another book in the same world, Witness for the Dead, which is in my stack.

I think what I liked most about The Goblin Emperor, aside from the wildly inventive and systematic onomastics, was the fact that it was a book about a good guy, trying his best to do a hard job, and by sheer dint of earnest good faith he manages to bring around enough people to his side to change a political snakepit into something that seems like a functional government. That kind of fable is so refreshing.

Witness for the Dead, which I read not too long ago, is similar, but on a much smaller scale. I enjoyed it, but the plotting wasn't as coherent as The Goblin Emperor. There were multiple different plot threads that didn't all connect, but together they formed a loose weave that characterized a month or so in the life of the main character; and if you like the world building and society building, it was a comfortable, restful book to spend time in.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: spork on August 06, 2021, 03:10:05 AM
Finished Midnight's Borders: A People's History of Modern India, by Suchitra Vijayan. Some chapters are high quality writing. Others are more legalistic in style. All present accounts of atrocities in Kashmir, Assam, etc. One of Vijayan's conclusions is that the Indian state is becoming genocidal. Can't say I can argue strongly against that.

Now halfway through Noise by Kahneman, Sibony, and Sunstein. Liking it so far, but I like anything that Danny Kahneman writes.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Vkw10 on August 06, 2021, 05:51:53 AM
Larryc, if you haven't read his Fuzzy Nation or Agent to the Stars, you might want to give them a try.  I think those two are my favorites of his so far.  They are plenty funny but are also really touching and interesting.  I thought Red Shirts was very good but a little inconsistent and probably could have been edited down a bit in places.

Thanks for mentioning Scalzi’s Fuzzy Nation. You reminded me of Piper’s Little Fuzzy, the basis of Scalzi’s story. Searching my shelves for it led to A Planet for Texans, aka Lone Star Planet. I’d forgotten both how much I enjoy Piper’s work and how useful it is for starting ethical discussions. Most of his material is available through Project Gutenberg, too, which gives me an opportunity to introduce my students  to an excellent resource.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on August 06, 2021, 06:00:13 AM
Larryc, if you haven't read his Fuzzy Nation or Agent to the Stars, you might want to give them a try.  I think those two are my favorites of his so far.  They are plenty funny but are also really touching and interesting.  I thought Red Shirts was very good but a little inconsistent and probably could have been edited down a bit in places.

Thanks for mentioning Scalzi’s Fuzzy Nation. You reminded me of Piper’s Little Fuzzy, the basis of Scalzi’s story. Searching my shelves for it led to A Planet for Texans, aka Lone Star Planet. I’d forgotten both how much I enjoy Piper’s work and how useful it is for starting ethical discussions. Most of his material is available through Project Gutenberg, too, which gives me an opportunity to introduce my students  to an excellent resource.

I'm not a huge fan of Golden Era scifi (I have to make way too many concessions to 'ugh, of its time, of its time'), but Piper did have one really outstanding short story, called Omnilingual, which, despite its icky exotification of a Japanese woman, did one of the best jobs depicting how linguists might go around deciphering an ancient (or extraterrestrial, in this case) language. My particular favorite bit was how they assumed that some document must be an academic journal, which meant that the bit of text in the top corner must be the volume and issue and date information, and from there managed to work out the dating system, number system, and morphology of the language. It struck me as really funny, but really accurate: goofy-ass assumption, but hey--if it seems to work, then run with it!
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Parasaurolophus on August 06, 2021, 08:05:36 AM
July:

Simon Scarrow - The Emperor's Exile: It was OK. I'm not a fan of when these books centre on imaginary events instead of real ones, and I confess that I don't like where the ending is taking us, which seems to run against the grain of the characters a fair bit. But whatever, I guess. It'll have to end somehow. Cato was somewhat less annoying this time around.

Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross - The Rapture of the Nerds: It's OK. It clearly wants to be The Hitchhiker's Guide, but is only very mildly amusing. Far too much slapdash-running-around plot for my liking. SciFi's at its best when it's about ideas, and this wasn't.

Jack McDevitt - Infinity Beach: Found it in a book box and gave it a spin on the basis of his Priscilla Hutchins series, which was pretty good. I was pleasantly surprised--it's a solid first contact thriller that had me gripped, and I enjoyed the wrongfooting. I'm also pleased that it's not characterized by the overt misogyny of the late novels in the Hutchins series--there are a few dodgy moments, but I might have missed them if I hadn't been on the lookout for them. I think this is the best of his novels that I've read.

Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on August 16, 2021, 07:32:05 AM
Just finished The City in History, by Lewis Mumford.  It attempts to survey the history of the urban idea from ancient times up to the early 1960s.  The sections that deal with the medieval city try hard to rehabilitate the Middle Ages.  Efforts to correct the common Monty Pythonesque view of the Middle Ages as all one grotesque spectacle of degradation are always welcome, but he does take rather a rose-tinted view of the time.  Mumford considers the medieval city to have been the apotheosis of the human, livable urban settlement.  A lot of his enthusiasm for medieval cities comes down to "small is beautiful"--medieval cities were built on a human scale, within a decentralized political order that let local communities find the best available solutions to their needs.

Mumford considers that the world has taken several disastrous wrong turns since the Middle Ages.  During the Baroque Era tyrants centralized power and authority, and channeled society's resources into grand palaces, capitals, and fortifications that only made things worse for most people.  Then laissez faire capitalism subordinated everything to economic activity that benefited only the few.  Laissez faire capitalism combined with the dirty machines of the early industrial revolution turned cities into hell on earth for most people.  And the continued rapid development of technology in the 20th century, though it solved problems of material scarcity, has continued to develop cities and societies in ways that put human needs last, in both capitalist and centrally planned socialist societies.

Mumford was an early proponent of the now commonplace (but still mostly unheeded) observation that over-reliance on automobiles for transportation results in vast waste of land and resources, pollution, and cities that are engineered around cars, not human beings.  He diagnosed a lot of our urban problems before they became so acute.  But he wrote too early to recognize what have turned out to be the two greatest existential threats to our world--the global climate change that is wrecking the environment in ways that the ecological alarmists of the 1960s never dreamed of, and the proliferation of information and media technologies that are laying waste to our economies, society, and politics.

Mumford, as he admits on the first page, is a generalist.  Books this broad usually end up containing a lot of nonsense and rhetorical excesses, and The City in History is no exception.  It nonetheless also offers some striking insights.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on August 16, 2021, 07:49:02 AM
Two things that occurred to me while reading Mumford.  First, the sorts of cities that he considers the best for human beings are actually what the modern world would call small towns--communities of a few thousand to a few tens of thousands.  Having grown up in a small town, and moved back to one after some years' residence in a big city, I'm a great believer in the virtues of small towns.  At their best they're human-scaled communities that have a lot of the "walkability" and other neighborhood qualities that the New Urbanists wanted so much to see preserved in cities.  Unfortunately the destructive forces that Mumford identified have only continued to run amuck in the 60 years since he wrote.  In my own lifetime I've seen these economic and social forces destroy small towns--my own hometown included--in droves, while all the wealth and population and opportunities continue to be sucked into a handful of over-built, over-crowded, increasingly uninhabitable urban areas. 

Second, at the beginning of his consideration of the Middle Ages Mumford offers this interesting observation concerning how Christianity (of a sort) became the dominant faith of medieval Europe:

"Many reasons have been assigned for the triumph of Christianity; but the plainest of them is that the Christian expectation of radical evil--sin, pain, illness, weakness, and death--was closer to the realities of this disintegrating civilization than any creed based on the old images of `Life, Prosperity, and Health.'"  He goes on to describe how Christian teaching's emphasis on charity and self-sacrifice proved an adaptive response to a disintegrating civilization.  Sounds an awful lot like what we see happening to the world now.  If only more in the church now could stop worshiping the same gods of 'Life, Prosperity, and Health.' like the pagans did.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: downer on August 16, 2021, 08:01:47 AM
Trans: When Ideology Meets Reality.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: hmaria1609 on August 16, 2021, 10:15:56 AM
It's been awhile since I've posted in this thread.

Finished from the library: "Verity Kent Mystery" series by Anna Lee Huber
In 1919 Verity and Sidney Kent are solving cases related to their wartime experiences in the UK. By the same author of the "Lady Darby Mystery" series.

Now: "Lady Helen" trilogy by Alison Goodman (YA)
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on August 17, 2021, 01:57:09 AM
The Habitation of the Blessed, by Catherynne Valente. It's a take on the Prester John legend, and really beautiful. Valente is a wonderful stylist with her writing, and the way she plays with the ideas of religion and conversion and memory and record-keeping is just wonderful. It's the first in a series, but because there is a recurring motif of incomplete records of tales and history, you don't feel the need to read the later books, because the broad outlines of the missing bits of the story to be addressed in sequels are still clear in this book, and the missing bits can remain missing in a way that is fully consistent with the motif. I was very impressed.

Predator's Gold, by Phillip Reeve. This is the second in the Mortal Engines quartet (start with Mortal Engines), which is a delightfully imaginative far-future science-fantasy series about a world where, after the Thirty-Minute War destroyed civilization as we know it, people rebuilt the world based on 'Traction Cities', creating vast, mobile cities that, according to the principles of Municipal Darwinism, hunt each other down and eat each other. There are also air ships and pirates and zombie monster robots, and overall it's a really wonderful series, full of wit and action.

Fingersmith and The Paying Guests, by Sarah Waters. Both books have the identical plot, if you abstract away enough from the specifics: Two women fall in love, and then one of them murders her husband. Very versatile, as far as plots go. Endlessly adaptable.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Hegemony on August 18, 2021, 03:08:46 AM
I'm reading Stephen King's new novel, Billy Summers. It's basically a crime novel, sort of Lee Child lite. I'm near the end and there was one disconcerting moment (really only about two lines) of something paranormal; so far no actual relation to the plot. And halfway through something very implausible starts, and just keeps on being implausible.

But I had been trying to force myself to read deep and intricate fiction without much narrative drive, and this novel is about the most my actual brainpower can cope with right now. I'm actually yearning for something that's both suspenseful and brilliantly written, but I have exhausted my supply of Graham Greene's thrillers and Elmore Leonard, and this is what the bookstore had. I do like Stephen King, but the last third is often a let-down, when the real answers behind the mystery start to emerge, and they're less interesting than the mystery was.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on August 18, 2021, 01:23:13 PM
Thanks for the review, Hegemony.  It seems as though recent King novels are hit and miss.  I guess I think that's the case about much of his work, but I haven't found any really recent ones that seem as compelling as earlier novels.

Now we are on Hank Green's A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor (follow up to An Absolutely Remarkable Thing).  We really enjoyed the first book, which was told from one point of view.  This sequel has several narrators.  We are barely into it, but it seems like a good set up so far, and I'm interested to see where it goes.
Finished this one last night.  It's very similar to the first book in its timely commentary on social media and societal interactions in the face of a global issue.  His writing reminds me a bit of the lighter Scalzi work.   Pretty funny, suspenseful, sad at times, and some interesting characters.  The first one was a "first contact" type of tale, and the second builds off of that on a bunch of philosophical paths (I use that term loosely, not being a philosopher!) including consciousness, "god" (or an infinite power), and free will.  Some parts and explanations feel a bit rushed or cute for the sake of cuteness, but overall it was very enjoyable, and I sort of wish that there were more books to come in the series.  Sometimes it's better to leave things as good and move on, though, rather than drag a story out and dilute the quality.  Green seems like a smart and creative guy, so I'm sure he has other things in the pipeline.

Now we're back to the Silo series (Howey) with the follow up to Wool, Shift.  I fell asleep within seconds of my husband starting to read, so I have no idea if it's good or not yet but will report back.  The first one was inconsistent but had some worthwhile parts, I thought.  I know we discussed it a bit earlier in the thread.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on August 19, 2021, 01:40:28 AM
Quote
I fell asleep within seconds of my husband starting to read

I have nights like that too. But not last night. Last night we finished The 100-Year-Old Man who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared, a delightful romp of delightfulness. This was nearly the perfect book. We have a doddery old man who, as we learn in backstory flashbacks, has been responsible in one way or another for nearly all the notable events in the 20th century, and his adventures continue in the present day as he sows chaos, collects allies, and, with the train of dead bodies that accumulate in his wake, sends gangsters and policemen spinning in circles as he just goes his merry way. There were a couple of places where the backstory dragged a little bit--some adventures in Communist China were rather slow--but they all feed into each other, culminating in a brilliant scene where the new Best Friends of Chaos need to explain to an extremely harassed official what's been going on.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on August 19, 2021, 08:47:36 AM
Ergative, that sounds like a really fun read! Never heard of it, but I will look into it for our list.

After I caught up on the previous night's bit of reading, we made some more progress.  It definitely has a different feel from the first book.  And right now, I am still not quite sure I understand what's going on (which I guess makes sense).  This is a prequel to Wool and seems to be going back and forth between 2049, in which politicians are working on a proposal for some facilities and need to build a silo to get the proposal passed, and 2110, which takes place in the silo.  I omitted some of the details, because I think some could be considered spoilers of plot points in Wool.  We'll see what happens!
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on August 19, 2021, 11:56:46 AM
Ergative, that sounds like a really fun read! Never heard of it, but I will look into it for our list.

After I caught up on the previous night's bit of reading, we made some more progress.  It definitely has a different feel from the first book.  And right now, I am still not quite sure I understand what's going on (which I guess makes sense).  This is a prequel to Wool and seems to be going back and forth between 2049, in which politicians are working on a proposal for some facilities and need to build a silo to get the proposal passed, and 2110, which takes place in the silo.  I omitted some of the details, because I think some could be considered spoilers of plot points in Wool.  We'll see what happens!

Wool sounds like a Mark Kurlansky title.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on August 19, 2021, 01:15:14 PM
That's true, apl68! Maybe we should nudge him with the idea...
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Hegemony on August 21, 2021, 02:24:54 AM
I think we talked about Wool earlier on this thread. Anyway, I found it so unreadable that I gave the book away. I was not surprised to find out that it started out self-published. My experience of it was that it's a great plot idea made into a novel by someone who can't write his way out of a paper bag, or even a silo. But your mileage may vary.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on August 21, 2021, 10:24:53 AM
Hegemony, yep, we did talk about that! It is interesting that this follow up feels a good bit different than Wool did, so I wonder if that's because it was not self-published or if I am biased because I know the first one was.  It's not great writing, certainly.  But it almost feels as though it had been written to be made into a movie or some such.  I think they are making a series out of it (or out of the first one, or maybe the series), so maybe that's accurate.  Anyway, I'll see where it goes and how it develops.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: FishProf on August 22, 2021, 11:38:14 AM
I read Robin Hood and His Merry Men to Smolt. She was entertained, but quickly noted that "They didn't include THAT in the Disney version."

Sharp kid.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: hmaria1609 on August 31, 2021, 11:03:38 AM
Binge reading the "Lady Sherlock Series" by Sherry Thomas from the library.
Charlotte Holmes solves crimes as Sherlock Holmes in 1886 London.  The new and #6 entry, Miss Moriarty, I Presume?, releases in November.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mamselle on August 31, 2021, 11:27:59 AM
An old but useful survey, "Papists and Puritans under Elizabeth I" by Mc Grath is making me glad I didn't put it into one of the "LittleNeighborhoodLibrary" boxes last week with others I've been turfing out after helping a friend move.

I'm dithering over a collection of Jonathan Swift's essays, too....figure they're mostly on line, but the commentaries  are often the most useful parts...

(Can you tell my friend was an English lit. major at one point? Now she's an artist....)

M.

Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: spork on September 06, 2021, 01:11:21 PM
Finished these:
Next I will probably start either The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the road to 9/11, by Lawrence Wright, or The Afghanistan papers: A secret history of the war, by Craig Whitlock.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on September 07, 2021, 12:27:44 AM
I've been really jonesing for some books on poison lately. Ever since I read Eleanor Harmon's magnificent text on The Royal Art of Poison I've been wanting more. Deborah Blum's books on the history of food safety and forensic investigation were great.

But then I tried to find fictional books that use poison as plot points, and I'm coming up dry. Sam Hawke's City of Lies was insufficiently poisonous, despite being about a professional poison-protector for a ruling family. There were all these interstitial entries about various poisons that could be used for various purposes and detected in various ways, but none of them actually appeared in the main plot, so that was a waste. Maria Snyder's book Poison Study was marginally better, but still didn't scratch my poison itch, because it was more about politics than the mechanics of being a poison tester.

Can anyone recommend either a good non-fiction tome about poisonous poisons, or else an SFF book in which poison really takes center stage?
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Hegemony on September 07, 2021, 03:32:16 AM
Ergative, I'm something of an devotée of 19th-century murder trials in which women were alleged to have used poison; they make fascinating case studies. Here are three:

Florence Ricardo, a widow charged with poisoning her husband James Bravo. Covered in Death at the Priory: Love, Sex and Murder in Victorian England, by James Ruddick. Despite the rather sensationalist subtitle this is a really well-done book, and the author's detective work has turned up the persuasive answer to the case.

Florence Maybrick, a wealthy American woman accused of poisoning her husband James, a rich Liverpool merchant. Covered in A Poisoned Life: Florence Chandler Maybrick... by Richard Jay Hutto.

Madeleine Smith, a Scots socialite charged with poisoning her lower-class illicit lover, Emile L'Angelier. This was the sensationalist case to end all sensationalist cases, and her steamy letters certainly take the lid off Victorian repression. Covered in The Strange Affair of Madeleine Smith: Victorian Scotland's Trial of the Century, by Douglas MacGowan, and by Eleanor Gordon and Gwyneth Nair, Gwyneth (2009) Murder and morality in Victorian Britain: The Story of Madeleine Smith, neither of which I have read.

All the cases provide excellent, non-poisonous food for thought.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: spork on September 07, 2021, 04:41:32 AM

[. . . ]

Can anyone recommend either a good non-fiction tome about poisonous poisons, or else an SFF book in which poison really takes center stage?

Not quite an answer to your question, but you might be interested in Blind Eye by James B. Stewart. It's about Michael Swango, whose poison of choice for co-workers was arsenic. For his patients, it was lethal doses of medication.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on September 07, 2021, 07:40:29 AM
Nobody has yet mentioned The Elements of Murder:  A History of Poison, by John Emsley.  It's the only book on the subject I've ever read.  It's quite well-written.  There are sections on mercury, arsenic, antimony, lead, and less well-known elemental poisons such as copper and barium.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on September 07, 2021, 07:51:10 AM
I just read a donated copy of a recent reprint of The Red Air Fighter, by Manfred von Richtofen, aka "The Red Baron."  In 1917, while recuperating from wounds, he wrote up a short memoir of his war service prior to his injury.  It seems to have been subject to quite a bit of wartime censorship and editing, but it was not just ghost-written.  There are now and them some pretty frank passages.  The Red Baron comes across as very pleased with himself and his war service.  He was, not surprisingly, the sort who loved the thrill of danger.  He mentions the deaths of a number of his friends and colleagues without saying a lot about how they affected him.  Reticence was normal for a man of his time and social position, of course, and the wartime editing wouldn't have encouraged too much emotion either.  Still, one does get the impression of Richtofen as a man not much given to reflection.

Remarkably enough, the Red Baron's memoir was published in translation in Britain while the war was still going on.  In fact, it was evidently published before Richtofen's death in April, 1918--the original British preface, which was included in this edition, makes no mention of it.  The author of the preface speaks of the German pilots as worthy opponents, with whom one would be glad to shake hands once the war was over.  The Red Baron would not be around to do that.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on September 08, 2021, 02:38:36 AM
Hegemony, spork, apl68, thank you so much for the recommendations! I'm going to go with apl68's in the first instance, since it seems more directly attuned to my cravings at the moment, but I'll keep the others in mind too!
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on September 12, 2021, 10:40:15 AM
Now we're back to the Silo series (Howey) with the follow up to Wool, Shift.  I fell asleep within seconds of my husband starting to read, so I have no idea if it's good or not yet but will report back.  The first one was inconsistent but had some worthwhile parts, I thought.  I know we discussed it a bit earlier in the thread.

Finished this one a couple nights ago.  It was a fairly interesting story, and better than the first book (in my opinion).  It was suspenseful at times and had some thought-provoking ideas about society, as well as some intriguing characters.  However, it felt somewhat disjointed, like it was trying to do too much.  There is a lot of back and forth between timelines and locations that can get difficult to follow and to try to keep in mind what is happening when with respect to what other occurrences.  We will still likely read the third book at some point.

Now we are back to the Expanse series (Corey) with Cibola Burn.  We're not too far in yet, but it was interesting to come across the mention of the Nipah virus, since that is currently causing problems in India.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mamselle on September 12, 2021, 11:01:12 AM
For poison, there's a short section on the development of cyanide (Prussic acid) in this article:

   https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2021/09/13/a-cautionary-tale-about-science-raises-uncomfortable-questions-about-fiction

Not that I recommend trying it at home or anything...

M.

Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on September 13, 2021, 08:13:29 AM
The History of Henry Esmond, Esquire, by William M. Thackeray.  Henry Esmond is not as well-remembered as Thackeray's Vanity Fair.  It is definitely full of Thackeray's characteristic wit and satire.  The title character--who confusingly alternates between referring to himself in first and third person--is the child of a prominent family in late 17th- early 18th-century England.  Harry is involved from boyhood in several plots on behalf of the exiled Stuarts; serves in Marlborough's campaigns in the early 1700s; falls in love with a kindly lady and later the lady's no-good daughter; and learns that he has an improbably melodramatic and convoluted origin story.  In the end (and this is not a spoiler, because it's mentioned in the original introduction) he goes off to colonial Virginia and establishes one of those old southern families that claims aristocratic British origins (Most of which are in real life totally bogus--at the time of the Civil War the average southern planter family was only three or four generations removed from indentured servant origins).

The exciting details Esmond's eventful life are embedded in a typically long-winded Victorian novel.  You either have the patience to read through all that purple prose for any nuggets that are concealed within it, or you don't.  I do, so it was a worthwhile read.  Ivanhoe was quite a bit faster-moving, if that tells you anything.  Much of Henry Esmond's interest has to do with the historical setting.  England/Britain went through repeated succession crises between 1688 and 1715, with repeated rebellions in the Celtic periphery and fears of renewed civil war at home.  In between these events there was lots of political debate and intrigue.  Thackeray gives a vivid picture of how unstable and divisive the situation was during the period.  A recurring theme of the novel is the idea that political allegiances--Esmond's and many others' as well--are driven as much by personal feelings as by actual principles.

Quite a few actual historical figures--Addison and Steele of Spectator fame, Jonathan Swift, the Duke of Marlborough, even the Old Pretender himself--appear as characters.  Thackeray's history frequently doesn't square with what I recall from my studies of the period years ago (No, the Old Pretender did NOT sneak into England incognito in 1714 in hopes of being there to seize the throne when ailing Queen Anne died).  Now I want to refresh my knowledge of the period.  Making plans to do so in the next few weeks, as I have opportunity.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mamselle on September 13, 2021, 09:18:07 AM
You might then like the book I've been working from as a reference for my colonial burying ground work: "The English People on the Eve of Colonization: 1603-1630." (Notestine/Harper).

It's older, but very useful for the dates and the basics; I've also been working from "Puritans and Papists in Elizabethan England," which starts a bit further back but gives some of the entangled political/politial skirmishes that issued from the 16th c. tacking of Henry, Edward, Mary, and Elizabeth across the river of "cuius regio, religio" and that led to the intrigues you've just mentioned.

Also Hosteter's "America at 1750," from this side of the puddle, or any of the Atlantic Rim historians.

And coincidentally, I came here to note I've just re-read "Death Comes to Pemberly," by P.D.James, which ends with some interactions with the colonies (I won't say more to avoid spoiling it). "The Carolinians" is one of the "bodice-ripper-but-not-too-bad-historically" novels treating of those folks who showed up on this side of the Atlantic in one guise, while not entirely being the folks they were on the other side, when they left.

After all, once your shipmates are gone, who's to know?

M.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: FishProf on September 13, 2021, 10:11:34 AM
Bill Bryson's Neither Here Nor There.  It's a travelogue from ca. 1990.  It was interesting to compare hos description of the places I have been (1-2 decade later) and places that have drastically changed since he was there.  Also, I like his snarky style.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on September 13, 2021, 10:50:23 AM
You might then like the book I've been working from as a reference for my colonial burying ground work: "The English People on the Eve of Colonization: 1603-1630." (Notestine/Harper).


Read that in grad school, as a matter of fact. I seem to recall it being pretty good.  I'll have to look it up again sometime.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: spork on September 20, 2021, 10:27:45 AM
The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11, by Lawrence Wright. Family members of people killed in the 9/11 attacks who read this book probably wanted certain employees of the NSA, CIA, FBI, and White House to be hanged.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: hmaria1609 on September 20, 2021, 12:24:49 PM
From the library: Travels with George by Nathaniel Philbrick
The author retraces George Washington's regional tours during his presidency.  It's got travelogue tossed in the mix.  I'd read a comparable book titled George Washington's 1791 Southern Tour by Warren L. Bingham (History Press, 2016)

And coincidentally, I came here to note I've just re-read "Death Comes to Pemberly," by P.D.James, which ends with some interactions with the colonies (I won't say more to avoid spoiling it).
M.
I saw the adaptation of the novel on "Masterpiece Theatre" in 2014--lots of familiar faces in the cast!  I didn't read the novel.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on September 21, 2021, 12:02:56 AM
And coincidentally, I came here to note I've just re-read "Death Comes to Pemberly," by P.D.James, which ends with some interactions with the colonies (I won't say more to avoid spoiling it).
M.
I saw the adaptation of the novel on "Masterpiece Theatre" in 2014--lots of familiar faces in the cast!  I didn't read the novel.

I read that when it came out. I remember thinking that it felt a bit slow and plodding, lacking the wit and zing I'd expect from a Jane Austen fanfiction.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mamselle on September 21, 2021, 07:38:00 AM
Hmm, I hadn't noticed that. I've read a lot of P.D. James, though, and maybe I'm just used to her longer descriptive passages.

I admit, in the first one of hers I read, "Holy Orders," I skipped over some of the descriptions the first time through, to get to the plot points, but then I realized that, in doing so, I'd missed some important details that she'd embedded in the descriptions.

I've read most of the rest of her work since then. Maybe it's a different approach to conveying plot: I've often thought of writing an essay on, say, the difference between Austen and Mann in their use of dance scenes; in this case, Austen conveys plot while things are moving (hence the zing to which you allude) while James uses the essential nature of contemplative settings and more placid background musings to get her points across.

So maybe she's trained me to read her, like Dickens, at a different pace, or something.

Interesting, I hadn't thought of that before.

Thanks--

M.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on September 21, 2021, 07:49:09 AM
Catastrophe 1914:  Europe Goes to War, by Max Hastings.  One of many books that came out for the centennial of World War I.  It's a very good one.  Hastings focuses less on the intricacies of what caused the war and more on the actual outbreak of fighting and the first several months of it.  It's an accessibly written history by somebody who has nonetheless clearly familiarized himself with the most authoritative literature on it.  Hastings presents the story from a wide range of points of view--soldiers, officers, refugees, home-front civilians, and civilian leaders.  And also a variety of nationalities, although not surprisingly there's a greater focus on the Western Front.

Hastings is one of the most fair-minded historians I've read.  He tries hard neither to sentimentalize nor demonize any of the individuals or groups that he writes about.  You see that in his treatment of World War I commanders, for example.  They're hard men to like--their attitudes and values were not much like those of today, and they made decisions--and mistakes--that cost great numbers of men their lives.  But they were also men called upon to do a virtually impossible job, at a time when mass armies and mass firepower guaranteed appalling casualties no matter what strategies and tactics the commanders attempted.  They made mistakes, but they weren't, contrary to what you still often hear, a bunch of criminally incompetent blunderers (Well, there were exceptions).

Probably the best book on the opening months of World War I I've seen.  It even supersedes Barbara Tuchman's classic The Guns of August.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mamselle on September 21, 2021, 08:34:25 AM
Supercedes Tuchman?

Impossible. Heresy.

(But I haven't read Hastings, so that's just an uninformed opinion.)

How would you compare Tuchman, Hastings, and "All Quiet on the Western Front"?

Are they each simply functions of their time and the development of more information as things unfold, or does each author's hermeneutic also differ markedly enough that they have very different slants on the situation overall?

(Quiz question, just out of curiosity; you don't have to answer...)

;--}

M.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on September 21, 2021, 10:03:42 AM
Supercedes Tuchman?

Impossible. Heresy.

(But I haven't read Hastings, so that's just an uninformed opinion.)

How would you compare Tuchman, Hastings, and "All Quiet on the Western Front"?

Are they each simply functions of their time and the development of more information as things unfold, or does each author's hermeneutic also differ markedly enough that they have very different slants on the situation overall?

(Quiz question, just out of curiosity; you don't have to answer...)

;--}

M.

Well, I'd have to re-read Tuchman and Remarque to refresh myself on them.  I now have a mind to do that, when I can make the time.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mamselle on September 21, 2021, 01:04:05 PM
I think I have Remarque, and I read Tuchman about a year ago (can't look at it now, loaned it to a friend and of course returning a borrowed book is--ahem--not possible at the moment).

But I was impressed with her usual methodical way of building up an understanding of the various sides' perspectives one-by-one, so that when it was time to talk about the cataclysm of Sarajevo itself, it made sense in an awful way.

(She's also good on early American history, if you can get "The First Salute.")

I'll have to see about Hastings. It's starting to occur to me that it would be interesting to use the three of them as a backdrop for teaching art history in that period....hmmm....

Sorry, I'm derailing threads right and left today.

M.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on September 21, 2021, 02:50:00 PM
Tuchman's A Distant Mirror is my favorite of her works.  My brother and I were talking about it over the phone just the other day.  Another one I haven't read in a very long time.

The first one that I was exposed to was The Proud Tower, which I tried to read when I was in seventh grade.  Though I had long been reading above grade level, that one was too big a chunk to chew at that age.  It made more sense when I went back to it as an adult.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mamselle on September 21, 2021, 04:26:03 PM
I've read both. Great minds...

I read A Distant Mirror in a week, straight through, after handing in my M.A. thesis (on a topic in the period, although not directly connected to the book itself).

It was like I was on overdrive and dieseling and had to plow through it to slow back down and re-enter humanity.

M.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: hmaria1609 on September 21, 2021, 07:13:40 PM
I've read both. Great minds...

I read A Distant Mirror in a week, straight through, after handing in my M.A. thesis (on a topic in the period, although not directly connected to the book itself).

It was like I was on overdrive and dieseling and had to plow through it to slow back down and re-enter humanity.

M.
I read an older edition of A Distant Mirror in junior high. It's a worthwhile read!

I discovered Remarque wrote a sequel to All Quiet on the Western Front titled The Road Back. Has anyone else read this novel?
To sum: First published in 1931, the novel begins in the days and weeks following the end of the war and the uncertain future for those who fought in the German army. The novel is available on Amazon; the current English translation of the novel has a 2013 copyright date.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on October 04, 2021, 08:03:54 AM
The Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy, by David Cannadine.  In the 1870s Britain's caste of landed, titled families was still generally in charge of Britain's political and cultural leadership.  They probably owned the highest concentration of Britain's landed wealth that they would ever own.  Things just went downhill for them from there.  In the decades that followed, stagnating landed incomes (Due to competition from imported agricultural goods) and an increasing democratic franchise eroded the aristocracy's incomes, influence, and privileges.  World War I dealt them a severe blow.  World War II pretty much finished them off.  A few landed families have held onto substantial wealth, and now and then an aristocrat may gain some influence or notoriety.  But they're very much exceptions. 

A good book of history that is both serious and readable.  It didn't really need to be as long as it is.


1913:  In Search of the World Before the Great War, by Charles Emmerson.  Emmerson structures this look at the world before the great catastrophe as a series of chapters about what various cities and nations all over the world were doing in the year before it hit.  He gives an impressively broad, if not terribly deep, view of that world.  The idea is just to give readers an idea of what the world was like before World War I, without a teleological effort to show how the war came out of it. 

If there is a thesis here, it's that the world of 1913 looked a lot more modern than people often realize.  There was already a very high level of economic globalization and global movement of people.  Societies dealt with racial and class issues, terrorism, and all kinds of other issues that we deal with today (But not global climate change, it's worth noting).  The decades-long horrors that World War I ushered in led many Europeans to have an understandable nostalgia for a prewar era of prosperity and stability and general absence of mass murder and totalitarian tyranny.  Honestly, though, the prewar world was way too dynamic and unsettled for any stability it may have boasted to have lasted for too much longer.  The forces of modern science, technology, ideology, and media are just too powerful not to create a lot of creative destruction--and plain old destructive destruction.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Parasaurolophus on October 04, 2021, 08:44:20 AM
Hmm, I missed August and September. Here they were:

Jane Harper: Force of Nature - A mystery set in the Australian wilderness. This was very capably done, and I enjoyed the surviving-in-the-wilderness aspect. It was reminiscent of Nevada Barr that way. I'd happily read something else by Harper.

Neil Gaiman: Coraline - Picked it up from a book box, and it was fantastic and quite scary (just like the film). I loved it. I don't care for Gaiman's adult novels, but he's clearly a very talented children's author.

Angus Donald: The Last Berserker - Viking-age fiction which I'd hesitate to call 'historical'. It was basically what that crap novel by Snorri Kristjansson wanted to be. It was OK, but the period details were all off (down to 19th-century fantasy arms and armour), and it didn't quite work, although aspects were interesting and some sections were engrossing. In all, it seemed like a hurried job, and it's nowhere near as good as his usual Robin Hood fare. I might well give the sequels a miss. We'll see.

Robert J. Sawyer: Far-Seer - A story about a dinosaur Galileo. I've been pretty hesitant to read these, but I found a signed copy at a used book store and decided to give it a go. I was pleasantly surprised--it's really, really good. The conceit is really well executed, although the biology is clearly late-'80s and early-'90s dino (and not particularly cutting-edge at that). There's a lot of really cool world-building that's gone into this. This is definitely the best thing he's written.

Robert J. Sawyer: Fossil Hunter - This one's dinosaur Darwin. It doesn't disappoint: it's also very good, and it's shrugged off some of the elements of the first one that felt a little forced. There's even a small murder mystery bundled in, and a fantastic showdown with the king of the dinosaurs (although again, '90s dino-bio).
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mamselle on October 04, 2021, 09:39:02 AM
Quote
If there is a thesis here, it's that the world of 1913 looked a lot more modern than people often realize.

+100

In fact, art history looks to 1913 (and the NYC Armory Show that year, in particular) as a watershed year for modernist/abstract movements in the visual arts (Orphism, Fauvism, etc. all draw from this strand):

   https://www.npr.org/2013/02/17/172002686/armory-show-that-shocked-america-in-1913-celebrates-100

and the work of the Delauneys, Matisse, Kandinsky, Dove, and others:

   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abstract_art#/media/File:Robert_Delaunay,_1913,_Premier_Disque,_134_cm,_52.7_inches,_Private_collection.jpg

   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abstract_art#/media/File:'Windows_Open_Simultaneously_(First_Part,_Third_Motif)'_by_Robert_Delaunay.JPG

   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abstract_art#/media/File:Yellow_Curtain.jpg

   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abstract_art#/media/File:Untitled_(First_Abstract_Watercolor)_by_Wassily_Kandinsky.jpg

   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abstract_art#/media/File:Arthur_Dove,_1911-12,_Based_on_Leaf_Forms_and_Spaces,_pastel_on_unidentified_support._Now_lost.jpg

These were not all peaking just then; there are both known precursors and later developments, and parallels in the performative arts.

But yes, indeed, a century ago we were already doing daring things.

M.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Parasaurolophus on October 04, 2021, 12:57:22 PM
Oh, I forgot. Also:

Isabel Fall: I Sexually Identify as an Apache Attack Helicopter (a.k.a. Helicopter Story) - This is a fantastic short story. It's a Hugo finalist for 2021, and it totally deserves to win. It's such a rich story, and actually does a fantastic job of talking about the nuances of gender. Fall did such a great job of running with that stupid meme and turning it on its head. The kerfuffle it caused was entirely unwarranted. I never got around to reading it before Clarkesworld took it down, but thanks to Peter Watts's blog, I found it here (https://archive.is/oXDEt).
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on October 04, 2021, 02:12:59 PM
Oh, I forgot. Also:

Isabel Fall: I Sexually Identify as an Apache Attack Helicopter (a.k.a. Helicopter Story) - This is a fantastic short story. It's a Hugo finalist for 2021, and it totally deserves to win. It's such a rich story, and actually does a fantastic job of talking about the nuances of gender. Fall did such a great job of running with that stupid meme and turning it on its head. The kerfuffle it caused was entirely unwarranted. I never got around to reading it before Clarkesworld took it down, but thanks to Peter Watts's blog, I found it here (https://archive.is/oXDEt).

Judging from the timing of this comment, might I infer that you have registered for the Hugos and are perhaps working through your Hugos packet?

I've just finished the first two October Daye books. I doubt I'll read all fourteen of them, however--though mad props to Seanan McGuire (or her publisher) for making them all available for the Hugo packet--because, based on the first two, the series just isn't as good as some of the others up for Best Series. On the one hand, it's fourteen books long, so maybe giving up after two isn't fairly sampling the wares. On the other hand, the other nominees for Best Series were outstanding from the start and should be rewarded for that.  Probably my top ranking votes will go to Murderbot and The Poppy War.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on October 05, 2021, 10:58:13 AM
Now we are back to the Expanse series (Corey) with Cibola Burn.  We're not too far in yet, but it was interesting to come across the mention of the Nipah virus, since that is currently causing problems in India.

We finished this one last night.  As with many of the other books in this series, it took me a while to get interested in the story.  There are a lot of different characters introduced in each book, and I find myself wanting the same ones to appear in subsequent books rather than meet new ones.  This one had a couple good characters who made their debuts and I who I hope will stick around, and it also brought back some favorites.  Trying not to give too much away, in this book there are people of different factions having to deal with an unfriendly planet without any backup.  Will they work together? Once the story got started, I was on board for the ride. 

Now we are reading The 100-Year-Old Man who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared, thanks to the recommendation from ergative! We just started but are enjoying the writing style (kind of reminds me of Tove Jansson?) and are looking forward to reading about the man's adventures.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Parasaurolophus on October 05, 2021, 05:55:03 PM
Oh, I forgot. Also:

Isabel Fall: I Sexually Identify as an Apache Attack Helicopter (a.k.a. Helicopter Story) - This is a fantastic short story. It's a Hugo finalist for 2021, and it totally deserves to win. It's such a rich story, and actually does a fantastic job of talking about the nuances of gender. Fall did such a great job of running with that stupid meme and turning it on its head. The kerfuffle it caused was entirely unwarranted. I never got around to reading it before Clarkesworld took it down, but thanks to Peter Watts's blog, I found it here (https://archive.is/oXDEt).

Judging from the timing of this comment, might I infer that you have registered for the Hugos and are perhaps working through your Hugos packet?

Alas, not! I hope to someday, however!
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on October 05, 2021, 11:07:37 PM
Oh, I forgot. Also:

Isabel Fall: I Sexually Identify as an Apache Attack Helicopter (a.k.a. Helicopter Story) - This is a fantastic short story. It's a Hugo finalist for 2021, and it totally deserves to win. It's such a rich story, and actually does a fantastic job of talking about the nuances of gender. Fall did such a great job of running with that stupid meme and turning it on its head. The kerfuffle it caused was entirely unwarranted. I never got around to reading it before Clarkesworld took it down, but thanks to Peter Watts's blog, I found it here (https://archive.is/oXDEt).

Judging from the timing of this comment, might I infer that you have registered for the Hugos and are perhaps working through your Hugos packet?

Alas, not! I hope to someday, however!

It's kind of a catch-22, I've discovered this year: if you're embedded in the SFF buzz enough to want to register and nominate, chances are good you've already read much of the stuff that will end up on the shortlist. I already owned all but one of the books on the best novel list, and read completely four of the six best series (and already owned two-thirds of a fifth best series nominee). I suppose there's the short fiction, which has more new titles, but I tend not to pay too much attention to short fiction (although I did love Open House on Haunted Hill and Little Free Library).
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on October 11, 2021, 10:30:54 AM
Run, by Anne Patchett.  My latest attempt to read some contemporary or near-contemporary "serious" fiction.  I do this now and then hoping for a nice surprise--it's happened before--but once again all I found was another self-importantly gloomy work aimed at the book discussion group market.  It has no fewer than (sorry for the spoilers here ) three dead mothers in it!  And more characters than I can count who spend time musing about how they've lost their religious faith, since that is of course the only thing that any reasonable person can be expected to do in today's world.  The sad thing is, this is a very well-written work by somebody who obviously has great talent.  It's not written in that annoyingly affected "lyrical" prose style we hear so much about, nor is it "experimental" (i.e. the author saying "I'm going to dress my emperor of a work of fiction in clothing that only very clever people can see, so that you can claim to be clever enough to see it").  Viewed purely as a work of craft, it's very readable. 

The used copy I got had within it a hand-written note by a previous reader that said "Couldn't get into."  Though I did read through all the way to the end, I'd have to say the same.  Another example of how I've learned to treat the knowledge that an author has won literary awards as a warning, not a recommendation.


Why Buildings Fall Down, by Matthys Levy and Mario Salvadori.  The authors are a pair of architectural engineers who examine a series of structural failures that have occurred over the years (mostly in recent decades) to explain what went wrong.  In the process they also explain a lot about how structural engineering is supposed to work.  They have another one out called Why Buildings Stand Up.  Not the most felicitous writing I've ever seen, but lucid enough for the lay reader to follow.  The stories, which they tell in a non-lurid fashion, are often fascinating.  Accompanied by informative line drawing illustrations by Kevin Woest.  In some ways it's like a David Macauley book for grown-ups.  If there's an overarching idea to take away, it's that structural failures tend to be the result of a chain of circumstances, and structures should be designed to stop those chains of failure from running to their conclusion.  That would be a good idea with all kinds of things, really.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: jimbogumbo on October 11, 2021, 11:06:42 AM
The Testaments. Liked it so much I re-read The Handmaid's Tale right after.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mamselle on October 11, 2021, 11:10:14 AM
I'm surprised (and sorry) 'Run' disappointed you.

I've re-read it a couple times, and found the ending redemptive, and the setting and characters very realistic. She clearly researched her sites carefully, and maternal death in the populations she describes is realistically represented..which is, itself, of course, upsetting, but she's not exaggerating, or didn't seem to me to be doing so.

I've also found Patchett's work generally to be of value in various ways; I might have read everything she's written without trying.

But, de gustibus...Did you like 'Bel Canto'?

M.

She's going to be giving the Eudora Welty lecture at the Folger/WDC, I just noticed...apparently, too,, I've missed one of hers, haven't read "The Dutch House" yet.

Also, it might be worth noting, she doesn't generally disparage religious faith, except when it gives unwonted shelter to hypocrisy. As I recall reading somewhere, her own religious nature is important to her, however she sees it constructed, and she's undergone faith crises of her own, so she seems (to me) to take it seriously and engage with its issues, rather than not valuing it at all. -- M.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on October 12, 2021, 07:10:59 AM
I haven't read Bel Canto.  It looks interesting.  But after my disappointment with Run, I'm reluctant to invest in it.  There are many more authors and books out there waiting.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ciao_yall on October 12, 2021, 08:52:54 AM
I haven't read Bel Canto.  It looks interesting.  But after my disappointment with Run, I'm reluctant to invest in it.  There are many more authors and books out there waiting.

Bel Canto was a wonderful book. My favorite of all of hers, actually. Worth the read, and I recommend it highly.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Stockmann on October 12, 2021, 11:13:07 AM
Last book I finished was The Gift of Fear. I found it interesting and informative, although, perhaps to be expected, too heavy on anecdote for my taste.
I've received, but not yet started, The Great Mortality, which is about the Black Death. Reading it at this time is I hope not as crazy as it may sound at first - for example, watching movies about really, really toxic relationships really helped me once after a bad breakup, and reading horror has sometimes had a cathartic effect during bad times. So I'm kind of hoping for a similar effect, among other reasons for wanting to read it.
My taste for reading fiction seems to have run out of steam, for some reason.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: hmaria1609 on October 14, 2021, 11:40:08 AM
Bing re-reading the "Verity Kent Mystery" series by Anna Lee Huber from the library
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on October 15, 2021, 07:46:17 AM
Our Biggest Experiment:  An Epic History of the Climate Crisis, by Alice Bell.  This is a new book that tries to interweave the story of how modern society became dependent upon fossil fuels with that of how the emerging science of climatology began to realize what all of that fossil fuel burning was doing to the climate.  The realization began to dawn earlier than we often realize.  Ironically it was often supposed early on that global warming would actually be a net improvement.

It's like many better popular-history books--impressively broad and pretty readable, but very anecdotal and not especially deep.  I still found it informative in places  Frequent asides on colonialism, etc. in earlier chapters to demonstrate the author's wokeness had me worried about where this was going.  Overall, though, it's a pretty fair-minded book.  There is very occasionally some acknowledgement that our judgements of the architects of modern fossil-fuel technology are very much judgements of hindsight--they often thought of themselves as benefactors, inasmuch as they helped to make it possible for a majority of people to live something other than a hardsdcrabble subsistence existence.  There's even a bit of hindsight self-criticism regarding the environmental movement's origins and past priorities.

I appreciated how Bell's summing-up consciously avoided playing a shouty blame-game.  The climate crisis wasn't something foisted upon us by a cabal of evil businessmen and politicians.  It developed because nearly all of humanity has allowed ourselves to be seduced into the comfortable, convenient, but catastrophically unsustainable lifestyle of modern consumerism.  It stems ultimately from the way we humans in general tend to be self- and pleasure-seeking, short-sighted, and rather greedy by nature.  None of which excuses us from trying to do the best we can to do something about the problem now, even if it's now decades too late to avoid many problems we might have avoided with earlier action.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on October 19, 2021, 07:27:26 AM
The Egoist, by George Meredith.  I first learned of Meredith in a late 1990s Times Literary Supplement article entitled "A Revered Corpse:  The Peculiar Unreadability of George Meredith."  It described Meredith as a major Victorian novelist, in a league with Dickens and Trollope, who has come to be almost entirely unread.  Apparently late-20th Century attempts to put Meredith's work back into print "foundered on the brute commercial fact that Meredith doesn't sell."  The article described Meredith as having taking the stereotypically prolix, allusive, and obscure writing associated with Victorian novelists to uncommon extremes.

Ever since then I've been wondering what Meredith's work was like.  Now I know.  Well, it's not like I wasn't given fair warning.  Meredith's style makes the likes of Bulwer-Lytton and Thomas Carlyle read like Hemingway.  His wildly elaborate and stylized dialog is meant to be comic.  And it is, in a very dated way, if you can keep up with it and puzzle out the allusions and vocabulary.  I can read ordinarily complex Victorian fiction without much trouble.  Meredith was a slog.  As is common with Victorian three-volume novels, there's a sense that it's two-thirds too long.

Which is too bad.  The Egoist has the kernel of a pretty worthwhile story buried in there somewhere.  The title character is a wealthy, eligible aristocrat who also happens to be the sort of narcissist so obsessed with self that anybody who gets close to him (or her) is likely to regret it.  So it is that a young lady who becomes engaged to him belatedly realizes what a narcissist he is and desperately wants to break it off.  But how to do that, at a time and level of society where doing so, in the absence of the fiance committing something truly egregious, will create a scandal and ruin the lady's own future prospects?  Fortunately narcissists have a way of hanging themselves if you give them enough rope....

My curiosity about George Meredith is now satisfied.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Stockmann on October 21, 2021, 06:45:59 AM
I'm slightly over halfway through The Great Mortality. It's impossible for me not to make comparisons with the current pandemic, even though of course the Black Death was, if measured by the percentage of the population killed, about two orders of magnitude worse than Covid.
The modern world, specifically most of Europe and the Americas, compares surprisingly badly in its response. The pop culture portrayal of medieval rulers is basically of unaccountable narcissists and psychopaths. However, most European rulers acted responsibly, attempting what very little could be done, from quarantines and other attempts to stop or delay the plague to stuff like opening new cemeteries or decreeing that all citizens had to make a will. There was even a Sicilian local ruler who offered to personally carry a saint's relics to try to help a neighboring city, in the end personally carried holy water the relics had been dipped in, and died of plague, a selflessness inconceivable in a politician today and in stark contrast with modern rulers who are too delicate to be inconvenienced by wearing a facemask. There seem to have been zero instances of rulers, even the minority in denial, attempting to stop others from taking measures to protect against the plague - that seems to be a Floridian and Brazilian thing.
But it's not just the present's politicians that compare badly. When reading accounts of how people desperately tried to innocculate themselves against plague by breathing in fumes from latrines, it's hard not to think of the present's anti-vaxxers. Some people threw caution to the wind, yes, but ordinary medieval folk don't seem to have actively hindered attempts by others to ameliorate the pandemic - in contrast to modern Dutch people setting testing centers on fire, French people attacking vaccination sites, Mexicans setting clinics on fire and throwing bleach at nurses, etc. Aside from "confessions" obtained under torture and anti-Semitic rumors, there appears to be no evidence of any deliberate spread of plague - in contrast with isolated but well-documented modern instances of people deliberately coughing on groceries and so on. There  was plenty of pillaging, rape, murder, etc during the Black Death, of course, but, again, it was two orders of magnitude worse, and happened to very ignorant people in a world already dominated by famine, war and natural disasters.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on October 21, 2021, 10:51:27 AM
Now we are reading The 100-Year-Old Man who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared, thanks to the recommendation from ergative! We just started but are enjoying the writing style (kind of reminds me of Tove Jansson?) and are looking forward to reading about the man's adventures.

Just finished this one last night and didn't want it to end! Ergative, thank you so much for the recommendation.  It was such a delightful book.  I just recommended it to a couple friends yesterday.  There was another writer it sort of reminded me of, but I can't remember who now.  Anyway, we loved it.  And I ordered the movie!

So we started on The Silent Patient (Alex Michaelides), which is definitely a different one for us.  Part of the Amazon blurb describes it as
Quote
The Silent Patient is a shocking psychological thriller of a woman’s act of violence against her husband―and of the therapist obsessed with uncovering her motive.
It was recommended by a friend.  We're only a couple brief chapters in, so we'll see how it goes.  It seems to have been given some kudos by authors of that genre.  I used to read a lot of these types of books, but it's been a while. 
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on October 22, 2021, 01:45:24 AM
Now we are reading The 100-Year-Old Man who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared, thanks to the recommendation from ergative! We just started but are enjoying the writing style (kind of reminds me of Tove Jansson?) and are looking forward to reading about the man's adventures.

Just finished this one last night and didn't want it to end! Ergative, thank you so much for the recommendation.  It was such a delightful book.  I just recommended it to a couple friends yesterday.  There was another writer it sort of reminded me of, but I can't remember who now.  Anyway, we loved it.  And I ordered the movie!

I'm so glad you liked it! Some of the prose style reminded me a little bit of Alexander McCall Smith. I'd be curious to know who it reminded you of, if you ever remember.

[/quote]
So we started on The Silent Patient (Alex Michaelides), which is definitely a different one for us.  Part of the Amazon blurb describes it as
Quote
The Silent Patient is a shocking psychological thriller of a woman’s act of violence against her husband―and of the therapist obsessed with uncovering her motive.
It was recommended by a friend.  We're only a couple brief chapters in, so we'll see how it goes.  It seems to have been given some kudos by authors of that genre.  I used to read a lot of these types of books, but it's been a while.
[/quote]

I read this during the brief period when I joined my mother's Murder Mystery book group. I had very strong opinions about it. Let us know when you've finished it, so I can unleash them.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on October 22, 2021, 08:56:35 AM
Thanks, ergative! I think I only read one Alexander McCall Smith book and don't really remember it too well.  There were aspects of it that reminded me of The Decameron and The Master and Margarita, but there was something else even more salient that I mentioned to my husband that neither of us can remember, and it's bugging me! I will definitely let you know if I can think of it and also will update when we've finished the new book.  Very interested to hear your thoughts unleashed! I've seen very good reviews for it but also found it on a Buzzfeed list of the worst books, ones that people couldn't finish. 
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on November 02, 2021, 10:43:30 AM
So we started on The Silent Patient (Alex Michaelides), which is definitely a different one for us.  Part of the Amazon blurb describes it as
Quote
The Silent Patient is a shocking psychological thriller of a woman’s act of violence against her husband―and of the therapist obsessed with uncovering her motive.
It was recommended by a friend.  We're only a couple brief chapters in, so we'll see how it goes.  It seems to have been given some kudos by authors of that genre.  I used to read a lot of these types of books, but it's been a while.

Okay, we have finished! Ergative, do you want to share your strong opinions here if not too spoilery or PM? I am definitely interested to hear them! We had some opinions of our own. 

Now we are reading another book recommended on this thread, Chances Are (Russo).  We're only a couple chapters in but are enjoying it so far.  Russo seems to be pretty consistent (in a lot of ways).
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on November 02, 2021, 10:58:32 AM
So we started on The Silent Patient (Alex Michaelides), which is definitely a different one for us.  Part of the Amazon blurb describes it as
Quote
The Silent Patient is a shocking psychological thriller of a woman’s act of violence against her husband―and of the therapist obsessed with uncovering her motive.
It was recommended by a friend.  We're only a couple brief chapters in, so we'll see how it goes.  It seems to have been given some kudos by authors of that genre.  I used to read a lot of these types of books, but it's been a while.

Okay, we have finished! Ergative, do you want to share your strong opinions here if not too spoilery or PM? I am definitely interested to hear them! We had some opinions of our own. 

Now we are reading another book recommended on this thread, Chances Are (Russo).  We're only a couple chapters in but are enjoying it so far.  Russo seems to be pretty consistent (in a lot of ways).

I'll send a PM. My thoughts are definitely all tied around the 'twist' (such as it was). But for those of you reading along, briefly noted, I hated this book. It was so obviously manipulative that I felt personally offended that the writer imagined his literary and narrative techniques would work on me.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on November 05, 2021, 11:15:38 AM
Pump:  A Natural History of the Heart, by Bill Schutt.  It begins with several chapters on how the hearts and circulatory systems of a wide variety of animals work, together with explanations of why they work so well for these species.  We learn that the heart of a blue whale is not the size of a car--it's more the size of a golf cart.  There's a chapter on horseshoe crabs and why their blood is so unique and useful for human medicine.  Along the way, there's some editorializing on how the hearts of fish, cephalopods, etc. are not, as is sometimes said, "primitive" in comparison to the mammalian four-chambered heart.  They're just as elegant a solution to the needs of their respective owners as our hearts are to us.

Then there are chapters on how humans groped their way toward an understanding of what the heart does (and does not) do, and how it does it.  Then there is some examination of heart diseases, and how they are treated.

I ordered this for the library's collection a while back on the basis of some good reviews.  Sometimes I do this, read the book, and come away disappointed that I spent taxpayer money on it.  That was emphatically NOT the case here!  Pump is a great piece of accessibly-written, informative popular science.  I'd recommend it to anybody with any interest at all in the subject.


Ticker:  The Quest to Create an Artificial Heart, by Mimi Swartz.  I just happened upon this one around the time I was ordering Pump for the library.  It makes a whole book, and quite an interesting one, out of something that Pump barely touches on.  The story of artificial hearts is one of big, colorful characters.  I'm old enough to remember the huge media attention given to the Jarvik-7 heart when it was first transplanted into Barney Clark.  A fantastic piece of engineering--but it only succeeded in postponing the inevitable for a few months, at huge cost in resources and human suffering.  The result was a shift in emphasis at the federal level from funding technical fixes of heart disease and more toward prevention of such disease in the first place. 

Artificial heart research has continued since then.  It has made a lot of progress, too.  The goal of an artificial heart that can truly serve as an open-ended replacement for a human heart, with a reasonable quality of life, nonetheless remains something like controlled fusion power plants--always a few years away, never actually seems to get here.

I came away from Pump and Ticker with a greater appreciation for what a truly incredible piece of design any heart, in any species, is.  Yes, I used the D-word in talking about biology.  Though I'm sure Schutt and many others would disagree with me, I just don't see phenomena like hearts as being anything other than the result of an intelligent design process, even granting that design unfolded through natural forces over a period of millions of years.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: hmaria1609 on November 09, 2021, 11:26:59 AM
Finished from the library: Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset, translated by Tiina Nunnally
I read the Penguin Classics Deluxe edition--it's 1,124 pages long.  All I can say: Wow, what a trilogy!
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on November 09, 2021, 12:49:53 PM
Finished from the library: Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset, translated by Tiina Nunnally
I read the Penguin Classics Deluxe edition--it's 1,124 pages long.  All I can say: Wow, what a trilogy!

I read the first volume some years back.  It was good, but I never got around to reading the rest.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Parasaurolophus on November 09, 2021, 01:38:10 PM
Not much to show for October, but I was busy:

Robert J. Sawyer - Foreigner: More or less dinosaur Freud/Lacan + Leif Erikson, but better? It was pretty good, and made for a neat conclusion to the saga. Happy to report that I have this one as a signed copy, too! These are definitely his best works. They're such a fun romp.

Chris Moriarty - Spin State: Impressive scifi world-building for a debut novel, but the pacing was kind of uneven. It's sort of a noir thriller on an orbital station + space colony, but not all that mysterious or suspenseful. It was pretty OK, but I'm not sure I need to revisit that universe, as impressive as the worldbuilding was (it really was quite intricate!).
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Harlow2 on November 09, 2021, 03:57:46 PM
Finished from the library: Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset, translated by Tiina Nunnally
I read the Penguin Classics Deluxe edition--it's 1,124 pages long.  All I can say: Wow, what a trilogy!

I read the first volume some years back.  It was good, but I never got around to reading the rest.

I read it when I was 15 at the suggestion of my English teacher. I was enthralled, and I’ve often wondered if I would like it as an adult. Have seen it mentioned twice in the last months (your post being one).
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: hmaria1609 on November 09, 2021, 07:20:34 PM
I read it when I was 15 at the suggestion of my English teacher. I was enthralled, and I’ve often wondered if I would like it as an adult. Have seen it mentioned twice in the last months (your post being one).
Thanks!  I'd seen older editions of the trilogy at the library and articles written about it.

Tiina Nunnally won an award for her translation for the 3rd and final installment The Cross. She has an extensive background in Scandinavian literature and has translated other Norwegian literary works.
I definitely recommend the Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition to enjoy the complete trilogy in one volume!
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Harlow2 on November 09, 2021, 08:11:25 PM
How much does it weigh? 😀
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: FishProf on November 10, 2021, 07:25:19 AM
I just finished (with Smolt) the audiobook of Neil Gaiman's Coraline, read by the author.  A fun Halloween season story.  A nice contrast to the film.

I could listen to Neil Gaiman read the yellow pages and be entranced.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: hmaria1609 on November 10, 2021, 10:57:11 AM
How much does it weigh? 😀
A gallon of milk!  :D
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: paultuttle on November 10, 2021, 12:40:08 PM
Elizabeth Moon's Vatta's War series.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on November 16, 2021, 07:29:54 AM
The Leopard, by Giuseppe di Lampedusa.  It's a rare example of a "literary" novel that I personally found very readable.  It has well-drawn characters, a vivid sense of setting and society, and a writing style that is distinctive without coming across as affected or obtrusive.  It also, despite the author's clearly serious intent, is unafraid to show a sense of humor. 

The Leopard is set in Sicily amid the upheaval of the Italian unification in the early 1860s.  The protagonist is a highly-ranked aristocrat who recognizes that the almost-medieval society to which he owes his power and privilege is unavoidably about to change.  He chooses to accommodate himself to the changes, in what proves a successful effort to preserve as much of the family's wealth and influence as he can.  Although the focus is largely on the aristocracy, there are also insights into how the other half lives.  Lampedusa also speaks his mind about how it was that so many in southern Italy came to regard the government of the new unified Italy, the leaders of which came from other regions, as a kind of permanent foreign occupation.  Lampedusa was himself a titled aristocrat who reportedly based much of the story on the experiences of his own recent ancestors.

The final chapters carry the story on through the protagonist's death of old age, all the way to 1910.  For all that the protagonist is an immensely rich, privileged fellow who more or less succeeds all the way through life, he finds himself discontented a great deal of the time.  Even the most wealthy and powerful of human beings can't make everything in life turn out the way they want.  Toward the end he looks back on his life and figures that in seventy-three years he got a total of maybe two or three years of genuine happiness and satisfaction.  Years later his spinster daughter comes to realize that it was she, and not all the people she spent her life blaming, who was responsible for her failure to marry the man of her dreams.

So ultimately The Leopard has the same theme that I've found running through pretty much all of "serious" fiction--that life is mostly a big disappointment, and you're either never going to get what you want, or will find that it really isn't that satisfying.  Well...yeah.  If we make our own pursuit of happiness and pleasure, however we define these, our main goals in life, we ARE apt to end up spending a lot of our lives feeling disappointed and frustrated.  The thing is, it doesn't HAVE to be this way, if we focus on a perspective that goes beyond ourselves and this life (And I'm not talking about the Zen solution of just learning not to care, either).  I wish we could see fiction that recognizes this, without either the unconvincing pat endings of so much genre fiction, or "serious" fiction's insistence on the misery of life in reaction to that.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on November 16, 2021, 10:33:45 AM
Now we are reading another book recommended on this thread, Chances Are (Russo).  We're only a couple chapters in but are enjoying it so far.  Russo seems to be pretty consistent (in a lot of ways).

Finished this a night or two ago.  I really enjoy his writing and various turns of phrase.  This was another of his with some pretty dark material.  The plot was quite intriguing, though the story is a bit hard to believe.  I guess that's part of what he means by the title.  Anyway, not my favorite nor my least favorite of his novels.

So we started on the fourth book of a series we've been reading, Iron Gold (Pierce Brown).  Like the previous books, it is taking a bit to get into, and the protagonist is a bit much.  Still, I've enjoyed the others once the story gets going, so I will hang in there.  Without giving too much away, this one seems to focus on rebuilding a society in the aftermath of a great war between the castes. 
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: hmaria1609 on November 16, 2021, 07:27:45 PM
From the library...
Finishing: Vespertine by Margaret Rogerson (YA)

Next up: A Corruption of Blood by Ambrose Parry
#3 and finale in the "Fisher & Raven Mystery" series set in 1850 Edinburgh.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on November 17, 2021, 12:04:41 AM

So we started on the fourth book of a series we've been reading, Iron Gold (Pierce Brown).  Like the previous books, it is taking a bit to get into, and the protagonist is a bit much.  Still, I've enjoyed the others once the story gets going, so I will hang in there.  Without giving too much away, this one seems to focus on rebuilding a society in the aftermath of a great war between the castes.

I started reading the first in the series (Red Rising, was it?) and had the same opinion, but couldn't be bothered to plough through.

Absolutive and I are now reading Lucy Mangan's Are We Having Fun Yet, which was originally marketed under the title of Diary of a Suburban Lady, a clear homage to E. M. Delafield's delightful, charming, witty, wonderful Diary of a Provincial Lady. I think it's good that we knew that, because it's not something we would have picked up without knowing its origins, and it is just as wonderful and charming and delightful as its predecessor. It's exactly what its (original) title says: the diary of a woman who lives in the suburbs around London, who juggles a part-time job, two kids, a husband who does all the tiresome things that stereotypical patriarchal husbands do--well-meaning attempts to 'help' that just make things harder, for example--and spends a great many pages wishing for things like an opportunity to have a bowel movement in peace.

Much of it reminds me of things my own mother complained about (especially the desire for uninterrupted bathroom time), and my father still does those tiresome attempts to help that just make things harder. It's also extremely, extremely funny. The children are such a hoot.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mamselle on November 17, 2021, 09:07:04 AM
The Leopard, by Giuseppe di Lampedusa.  It's a rare example of a "literary" novel that I personally found very readable.  It has well-drawn characters, a vivid sense of setting and society, and a writing style that is distinctive without coming across as affected or obtrusive.  It also, despite the author's clearly serious intent, is unafraid to show a sense of humor. 

The Leopard is set in Sicily amid the upheaval of the Italian unification in the early 1860s.  The protagonist is a highly-ranked aristocrat who recognizes that the almost-medieval society to which he owes his power and privilege is unavoidably about to change.  He chooses to accommodate himself to the changes, in what proves a successful effort to preserve as much of the family's wealth and influence as he can.  Although the focus is largely on the aristocracy, there are also insights into how the other half lives.  Lampedusa also speaks his mind about how it was that so many in southern Italy came to regard the government of the new unified Italy, the leaders of which came from other regions, as a kind of permanent foreign occupation.  Lampedusa was himself a titled aristocrat who reportedly based much of the story on the experiences of his own recent ancestors.

The final chapters carry the story on through the protagonist's death of old age, all the way to 1910.  For all that the protagonist is an immensely rich, privileged fellow who more or less succeeds all the way through life, he finds himself discontented a great deal of the time.  Even the most wealthy and powerful of human beings can't make everything in life turn out the way they want.  Toward the end he looks back on his life and figures that in seventy-three years he got a total of maybe two or three years of genuine happiness and satisfaction.  Years later his spinster daughter comes to realize that it was she, and not all the people she spent her life blaming, who was responsible for her failure to marry the man of her dreams.

So ultimately The Leopard has the same theme that I've found running through pretty much all of "serious" fiction--that life is mostly a big disappointment, and you're either never going to get what you want, or will find that it really isn't that satisfying.  Well...yeah.  If we make our own pursuit of happiness and pleasure, however we define these, our main goals in life, we ARE apt to end up spending a lot of our lives feeling disappointed and frustrated.  The thing is, it doesn't HAVE to be this way, if we focus on a perspective that goes beyond ourselves and this life (And I'm not talking about the Zen solution of just learning not to care, either).  I wish we could see fiction that recognizes this, without either the unconvincing pat endings of so much genre fiction, or "serious" fiction's insistence on the misery of life in reaction to that.

CS Lewis' Perelandra trilogy might appeal, or "Til We Have Faces."

M.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on November 17, 2021, 10:01:10 AM
The Leopard, by Giuseppe di Lampedusa.  It's a rare example of a "literary" novel that I personally found very readable.  It has well-drawn characters, a vivid sense of setting and society, and a writing style that is distinctive without coming across as affected or obtrusive.  It also, despite the author's clearly serious intent, is unafraid to show a sense of humor. 

The Leopard is set in Sicily amid the upheaval of the Italian unification in the early 1860s.  The protagonist is a highly-ranked aristocrat who recognizes that the almost-medieval society to which he owes his power and privilege is unavoidably about to change.  He chooses to accommodate himself to the changes, in what proves a successful effort to preserve as much of the family's wealth and influence as he can.  Although the focus is largely on the aristocracy, there are also insights into how the other half lives.  Lampedusa also speaks his mind about how it was that so many in southern Italy came to regard the government of the new unified Italy, the leaders of which came from other regions, as a kind of permanent foreign occupation.  Lampedusa was himself a titled aristocrat who reportedly based much of the story on the experiences of his own recent ancestors.

The final chapters carry the story on through the protagonist's death of old age, all the way to 1910.  For all that the protagonist is an immensely rich, privileged fellow who more or less succeeds all the way through life, he finds himself discontented a great deal of the time.  Even the most wealthy and powerful of human beings can't make everything in life turn out the way they want.  Toward the end he looks back on his life and figures that in seventy-three years he got a total of maybe two or three years of genuine happiness and satisfaction.  Years later his spinster daughter comes to realize that it was she, and not all the people she spent her life blaming, who was responsible for her failure to marry the man of her dreams.

So ultimately The Leopard has the same theme that I've found running through pretty much all of "serious" fiction--that life is mostly a big disappointment, and you're either never going to get what you want, or will find that it really isn't that satisfying.  Well...yeah.  If we make our own pursuit of happiness and pleasure, however we define these, our main goals in life, we ARE apt to end up spending a lot of our lives feeling disappointed and frustrated.  The thing is, it doesn't HAVE to be this way, if we focus on a perspective that goes beyond ourselves and this life (And I'm not talking about the Zen solution of just learning not to care, either).  I wish we could see fiction that recognizes this, without either the unconvincing pat endings of so much genre fiction, or "serious" fiction's insistence on the misery of life in reaction to that.

CS Lewis' Perelandra trilogy might appeal, or "Til We Have Faces."

M.

True, there's always C.S. Lewis.  But he hasn't had a chance to write anything new in a long, long time!  "Christian Fiction" as a contemporary publishing phenomenon consists almost entirely of chastely-written romance novels, usually historical or featuring Amish protagonists.  Which is okay as far as it goes--we buy it all the time for our library patrons who like it.  But fiction that deals with Christian themes and is not all about romantic or close family relationships is awfully rare.  One of the reasons why I've been writing in recent years has been an effort to supply the sort of work that I see missing.  The few people who've read it seem to like it, but I don't know who would publish it.  It doesn't fit the narrow mold of contemporary Christian romantic fiction, and since it's not written like Flannery O'Connor or Walker Percy it's doubtful any secular publisher would ever touch it.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mamselle on November 17, 2021, 05:03:55 PM
Agreed.

Madeleine L'Engle has some OK things, although I didn't like them as much as I did her children's work.

And as you say, she's not contributing to her corpus anymore, either.

What's hard, I think, is work that has the serious soul-wrestling dimension that one finds when trying to live out the life of faith, but that isn't reduced to the kind of hackneyed, pat answers one gets in all the 45-page 'miraculous wonders' works, as you say.

A friend who's a writer is also trying to work on something (between chemo treatments) along those lines; the three of us in her prayer support group also recently looked at a book that her minister's wife just published.

It's apparently doing well enough on Amazon, but we were each dismayed at how trite it was.

It's sort of the same as the search for life partners if you're both a person of faith, and someone who values intellectual depth and nuance.

It's hard to find folks who engage with the difficulties while neither selling the significance of faith down the river, nor using it as a magic crutch to resolve the issues superficially, or failing to address the emotional depths they may go to.

Maeve Binchy, the Irish writer, did that in some of her earlier books; "Light a Penny Candle," and "Echoes" got at some of those things.

But she's also gone, now, for which I'm sorry, too...

M.

Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on November 17, 2021, 10:42:55 PM
What's hard, I think, is work that has the serious soul-wrestling dimension that one finds when trying to live out the life of faith, but that isn't reduced to the kind of hackneyed, pat answers one gets in all the 45-page 'miraculous wonders' works, as you say.


Michael Faber's The Book of Strange New Things has a lot of Christian worldview in that book from the perspective of a pastor who buys into the whole personal/emotional support component of pastoral care, rather than the explicitly religious theology. I thought it was a very thoughtful exploration of how people lean on faith in difficult times when they are far away from home and helpless to do anything for the people they love. And I thought the book was very, very well-written, but I hate apocalypse novels so the sneaky apocalypse left a really bad taste in my mouth. And, I suppose for people who do not share my tastes, you should know that the conceit is that the pastor is invited to go on a missionary trip to an alien planet to teach the aliens about Christianity, so it's pretty solidly scifi.


Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: smallcleanrat on December 04, 2021, 10:32:40 PM
Uh...stumbled upon some internet chatter around a book titled Johnny the Walrus by a conservative media personality I'm not very familiar with named Matt Walsh. He's posted a video of himself reading the book aloud to a group of very young kids (who seem to do an awful lot of blank staring).

From the Amazon promo blurb:
Johnny is a little boy with a big imagination. One day he pretends to be a big scary dinosaur, the next day he’s a knight in shining armor or a playful puppy. But when the internet people find out Johnny likes to make-believe, he’s forced to make a decision between the little boy he is and the things he pretends to be — and he’s not allowed to change his mind. From Daily Wire personality and bestselling author Matt Walsh comes a timely tale of innocence, identity, and imagination.

It's styled as a children's book for the preschool/kindergarten age group (illustrated board book with story told in rhyme), but I'm so confused as to whether it's actually aimed at children or is meant to be a satire for adult readers (something in the realm of Go the F*** to Sleep).

Judging from the book itself, it seems the latter. But the marketing (like that video) and some of the chatter makes it seem as if this was really intended for children.



The storyline involves a kid putting socks on his hands for flippers and wooden spoons in his mouth for tusks as he playacts being a walrus. I think it's supposed to be clear that he is playing, not that he actually believes he's a walrus or that he actually wants to be a walrus. Unfortunately, people on the internet convince his mother that the right thing to do is accept his professed identity and take him to a doctor to discuss "transitioning" to his new walrus life.

The doctor explains that now Johnny must eat worms, wear his spoons and socks at all times, and wear gray make-up. There are pictures of the kid crying, complaining that the worms are gross, the make-up itches, and wearing the spoons all the time is painful. There is a menacing illustration of the doctor holding a gleaming saw while suggesting turning feet into flippers.

Eventually, the mother tries to take Johnny to the zoo to live full-time, and it's there that the zookeeper saves the day. He tells her that Johnny is a little boy, NOT a walrus.

MOM: "But if I believe that, they'll say that I'm phobic!"
ZOOKEEPER: "Protecting your son, ma'am, is what's most heroic."



The hype includes a lot of cheering for 'speaking the truth against the trans agenda' or 'giving the woke cultists a taste of their own medicine', and it certainly "works" as a book for adults who want to point and laugh and say 'yes, this is exactly how stupid SJWs sound.'

But for actual kids? Do 4-6 year-olds even know words like "phobic" or "bigot" (another word used in the book)? There's an illustration of protesters holding signs saying things like "Let Johnny transition!" Does that even mean anything to kids this young?



Even as an allegory for how some people perceive transgenderism, it's really, really weird.

I thought the common argument was that children are too immature to fully understand their own identities and that parents need to be MORE assertive with their children. If a boy says, "I'm a girl" it's the parents' job to tell them, "No, you're not." Else all they're doing is reinforcing his confusion.

But in this book, it's the mother insisting Johnny is a real walrus and that Johnny must live as a real walrus (even if Johnny himself is resisting the whole way).

This is a conservative talking point I hadn't heard before.

Are there many people who imagine there are vast numbers of modern parents dragging their weeping, protesting children in for medical transitioning (with doctors blithely indifferent to the fact that the child is clearly unwilling)? Do they think it's become common for little boys to be forced into dresses despite their frequent pleas of "No, Mommy, no! I was just playing pretend at home! I don't want to dress like a girl all the time?"

Do they think this is what people are talking about when they push for "acceptance" of trans people?

???
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mahagonny on December 05, 2021, 04:16:01 AM

The storyline involves a kid putting socks on his hands for flippers and wooden spoons in his mouth for tusks as he playacts being a walrus. I think it's supposed to be clear that he is playing, not that he actually believes he's a walrus or that he actually wants to be a walrus. Unfortunately, people on the internet convince his mother that the right thing to do is accept his professed identity and take him to a doctor to discuss "transitioning" to his new walrus life.

The doctor explains that now Johnny must eat worms, wear his spoons and socks at all times, and wear gray make-up. There are pictures of the kid crying, complaining that the worms are gross, the make-up itches, and wearing the spoons all the time is painful. There is a menacing illustration of the doctor holding a gleaming saw while suggesting turning feet into flippers.

Eventually, the mother tries to take Johnny to the zoo to live full-time, and it's there that the zookeeper saves the day. He tells her that Johnny is a little boy, NOT a walrus.

MOM: "But if I believe that, they'll say that I'm phobic!"

ZOOKEEPER: "Protecting your son, ma'am, is what's most heroic."

this one sentence (Bolded) is the key.
It sounds like the author is making the point that the new progressive ideology pressures people to believe it is wrong to state 'I understand that there are two genders: boys and girls. I am a boy, though I may have fantasies that delve into any number of things. But I understand they are make believe, and deep down, I fine with boyhood. But not because someone requires me to accept boyhood arbitrarily. Rather because boyhood chose me.' Which is true. Progressives don't merely want the option to dismantle the concept that there are two genders in their own thinking, but they want to be able to require everyone to hold that view. And he might have added, from this pressuring people, and prevailing at it, would come political power and the establishing of the left as the only people to put your trust in morally, because they now believe they  have a blank check which they think they can use to subtract beliefs from your mental bank account any time they decide the ideas are not useful to them and their agenda. But ultimately it doesn't work, because reality always shows up and says 'boo.' And the progressive becomes odd man out.
The boy and the mother are pawns in this arrogant winner-take-all game that they never elected to be part of. And that's what he's making fun of or warning us about. The moralizing from the left, and their in-your-face mission to mainstream ideas that just a short time ago were anything but mainstream. So I think suspect book speaks agaINST THAT TYRanny.
My attitude, as a somewhat reluctant convert to conservativism, is if people need validation for their gender-is-nothing-but-a-continuum views, they can keep that need to themselves rather than insert that need into the personal lives of others. It's a free country. But don't bug me, and watch yourself around my children.
Of course, I'm non-binary, non-racially specified in real life. Try slinging mud at me. I have no identity.

Of course I could have it wrong. Sometimes an allegory is more effective than an argument when it conveys ambiguity and leaves the ball in the reader's court as far as determining the ultimate meaning.

Bill Maher has a show where explains that he is not phobic about this or that, merely because he chooses something else.  That's because have meaning. They are not your personal Play-Dough to mold into anything you want.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: WWUpdate on December 05, 2021, 04:44:45 AM
My attitude, as a somewhat reluctant convert to conservativism, is if people need validation for their gender-is-nothing-but-a-continuum views, they ought to keep that need to themselves rather than insert that need into the personal lives of others.

But if that's the case, shouldn't it also work the other way around? If people need validation for their gender-is-immutable views, they ought to keep that need to themselves rather than insert that need into the personal lives of others.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: downer on December 05, 2021, 04:47:33 AM
Silent Earth: Averting the Insect Apocalypse by Dave Goulson.

Insect populations have crashed due to a number of reasons, including global climate change, herbicides and pesticides, and the loss of habitat. The central point of the book is that the insect apocalypse, which to a large extent has already happened, will lead to a plant apocalypse, which will in turn mean that human life on earth is largely unsustainable except in far reduced numbers.

My main criticism of the book is that Goulson's proposals for avoiding the terrible future seem unrealistic. Public policy has done little to address these issues internationally, and there's not much sign that anything is going to change there before it is far too late.


Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mahagonny on December 05, 2021, 05:06:39 AM
My attitude, as a somewhat reluctant convert to conservativism, is if people need validation for their gender-is-nothing-but-a-continuum views, they ought to keep that need to themselves rather than insert that need into the personal lives of others.

But if that's the case, shouldn't it also work the other way around? If people need validation for their gender-is-immutable views, they ought to keep that need to themselves rather than insert that need into the personal lives of others.

It can easily work that way if progressives would just stop inserting their personal needs into compulsory public education, which they won't, because they are arrogant jerks. And they've got teacher's unions to fortify them now, because unions are illegitimately the property of the democratic party, despite how their members feel. So now if you want to advocate for a square deal for a college professor, you've got to also advocate for radical leftism.
The radical left is choosing culture war because they think they can win it by splintering the opposition into disparate factions.
I don't need validation for my views. I just need school choice even if I'm not wealthy, so I can use my God-given right to raise my children and have them attend schools taught by people with whom I can work with as a team.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on December 05, 2021, 07:16:12 AM
I've been reading Mud and Glass by Laura E. Goodin. It's a very entertaining academic farce, which is zany and fluffy and yet also feels deeply accurate to academia. Our main character hasn't got tenure yet, so she and her untenured friends are constantly trying to get free food because they're so broke. A student transfers late into her class with all the appropriate paperwork, along from an apologetic note from his academic advisor--not for the late transfer, but because everyone knows what a pain the student is, and then the rest of the day everyone--including the professor's mother--drops by to commiserate about how they'd heard she has Danny in her class, and how sorry they are to get the news. None of the freshmen did the reading over spring break because of the predatory mold infestation in the library--you should see what it did to the head librarian!--and so on. (That's actually a valid excuse, because this is an SFF fluffy zany thriller., and the head librarian does in fact look quite rough after the predatory mold got done with her.)
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Parasaurolophus on December 05, 2021, 08:05:29 AM

The storyline involves a kid putting socks on his hands for flippers and wooden spoons in his mouth for tusks as he playacts being a walrus.


It's too bad, because there's almost a good children's story there, in the classic style of children's stories. He dresses up as a walrus and goes around insisting he is one, and the people around him take him at his word. But then he encounters the stumbling blocks of walrus food he doesn't like (shellfish, obviously; where the fuck did worms come from?! Unless they're benthic worms? I mean, if we want to go along with worms, we need to add cucumbers. And shellfish.), the spoon-flippers are tiring, etc. And we end with the parents comforting him in some way--maybe the father grows a handlebar moustache to show him he can be an incognito walrus, or something.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: smallcleanrat on December 05, 2021, 03:27:40 PM

The storyline involves a kid putting socks on his hands for flippers and wooden spoons in his mouth for tusks as he playacts being a walrus.


It's too bad, because there's almost a good children's story there, in the classic style of children's stories. He dresses up as a walrus and goes around insisting he is one, and the people around him take him at his word. But then he encounters the stumbling blocks of walrus food he doesn't like (shellfish, obviously; where the fuck did worms come from?! Unless they're benthic worms? I mean, if we want to go along with worms, we need to add cucumbers. And shellfish.), the spoon-flippers are tiring, etc. And we end with the parents comforting him in some way--maybe the father grows a handlebar moustache to show him he can be an incognito walrus, or something.

Funny part of the author's reading is when he gets to the part about the kid complaining that the worms are gross. Author comments, "See, look. He doesn't want to eat worms," and one of the kids in the audience pipes up and matter-of-factly mentions he's eaten worms himself. Walsh kind of glances at him, doesn't seem to know how to respond, then continues reading as if nothing had happened.

I'm still baffled by the implication that the issue is kids who are NOT trans are being forced into a trans identity. The illustration of the doctor's office includes a diploma with the words: "University of Doctoring: Woke Doctor." Which, again, fits in to a satirical work written for adults, but not in something intended for very young children.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Parasaurolophus on December 05, 2021, 03:36:27 PM

The storyline involves a kid putting socks on his hands for flippers and wooden spoons in his mouth for tusks as he playacts being a walrus.


It's too bad, because there's almost a good children's story there, in the classic style of children's stories. He dresses up as a walrus and goes around insisting he is one, and the people around him take him at his word. But then he encounters the stumbling blocks of walrus food he doesn't like (shellfish, obviously; where the fuck did worms come from?! Unless they're benthic worms? I mean, if we want to go along with worms, we need to add cucumbers. And shellfish.), the spoon-flippers are tiring, etc. And we end with the parents comforting him in some way--maybe the father grows a handlebar moustache to show him he can be an incognito walrus, or something.

Funny part of the author's reading is when he gets to the part about the kid complaining that the worms are gross. Author comments, "See, look. He doesn't want to eat worms," and one of the kids in the audience pipes up and matter-of-factly mentions he's eaten worms himself. Walsh kind of glances at him, doesn't seem to know how to respond, then continues reading as if nothing had happened.

^^ That's delightful!



I realized I haven't updated November yet, so:

Helge Ingstadt - Westward to Vinland: The Discovery of Pre-Columbian Norse House-sites in North America: A first-hand look at Ingstadt's discovery of Leif Erikson's houses at L'Anse au Meadows. This was a really cool read, and I learned a lot. It was interesting to read in light of everything we know about that site now, but also in light of the climate crisis (a lot of it is environmental description, which is pretty fascinating). Also interesting anthropologically for the instances where women and Indigenous people come into the story.

Agatha Christie - Hallowe'en Party: This is a fun one (though not the best-written), but I'd forgotten it's set in the sixties (the ITV adaptation is set in the 1930s). That makes a lot of sense, actually.


It's a paltry list, I know, but I was busy.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on December 15, 2021, 08:31:43 AM

So we started on the fourth book of a series we've been reading, Iron Gold (Pierce Brown).  Like the previous books, it is taking a bit to get into, and the protagonist is a bit much.  Still, I've enjoyed the others once the story gets going, so I will hang in there.  Without giving too much away, this one seems to focus on rebuilding a society in the aftermath of a great war between the castes.

I started reading the first in the series (Red Rising, was it?) and had the same opinion, but couldn't be bothered to plough through.

We finished this book last night.  I'm going to stop referring to him as the protagonist and just call him the main character at this point.  He somehow manages to be even more annoying in this book! How does he do it?! But the nice thing is that he is no longer the only narrator.  Many of the chapters (most?) are from other characters' viewpoints, which definitely saved the book for me.  Again some good new characters are introduced, and the story is pretty interesting.  It went in a different way than I had expected.  Although they have built a republic to replace the hierarchical caste society that had been in place, it didn't go off without a hitch, and now there are cracks in that infrastructure that lead to some intriguing conflicts.  There is also more action taking place in other locations than in the previous books, and it was nice to learn more about the story and history from the other characters (the "other side" in some cases).  It wasn't a mindblowingly great novel, but I am still interested to read the "final" installment.  We'll see if in the end it's all been worth having to travel along with Captain Ego.

Now we're back to the Wool trilogy with Dust, supposedly also a final book.  So far it's hard to recall what happened to who when since the second book went back in time and this one is in the timeline of the first one.  I'm hoping to finish this series and get to more of The Expanse before I hear any future plot points or reveals from the TV series.

Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on December 15, 2021, 10:14:49 AM
Agreed.

Madeleine L'Engle has some OK things, although I didn't like them as much as I did her children's work.

And as you say, she's not contributing to her corpus anymore, either.

What's hard, I think, is work that has the serious soul-wrestling dimension that one finds when trying to live out the life of faith, but that isn't reduced to the kind of hackneyed, pat answers one gets in all the 45-page 'miraculous wonders' works, as you say.

A friend who's a writer is also trying to work on something (between chemo treatments) along those lines; the three of us in her prayer support group also recently looked at a book that her minister's wife just published.

It's apparently doing well enough on Amazon, but we were each dismayed at how trite it was.

It's sort of the same as the search for life partners if you're both a person of faith, and someone who values intellectual depth and nuance.

It's hard to find folks who engage with the difficulties while neither selling the significance of faith down the river, nor using it as a magic crutch to resolve the issues superficially, or failing to address the emotional depths they may go to.

Maeve Binchy, the Irish writer, did that in some of her earlier books; "Light a Penny Candle," and "Echoes" got at some of those things.

But she's also gone, now, for which I'm sorry, too...

M.

Rumer Godden's In This House of Brede and Mark Salzmann's Lying Awake (reviewed above) are among those rare exceptions.  They both deal with the sisters in a convent environment.  Wonderful books.  If you're in the mood for a big read about a large cast, In This House of Brede is a good choice.  If you want a shorter read focused mainly on its protagonist, but still with a lot of spiritual meat in it, Lying Awake is your book.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on December 15, 2021, 10:30:01 AM
A Short History of the Middle East:  From Ancient Empires to the Islamic State, by Gordon Kerr.  This arrived with a batch of recent donated books.  It's part of a series called "Pocket Essentials" that gives overviews of big topics, like the history of this or that region, or World War I.  It seemed very concise and well-written--a good primer to a big subject.  Then I was reading its treatment of ancient Israel and learned that "The Kingdom of Judah, with its capital at Jerusalem, prospered during the reigns of rulers such as Omri, Ahab, and the later dynasty of Jehu." 

Omri, Ahab, and Jehu were all rulers of the northern kingdom of Israel, not the kingdom of Judah!  A few minutes' work by either the author or an editor in any standard reference work on the subject would have prevented that error.  It's one of the biggest howlers I've ever seen in what purports to be a work of history.  I immediately lost all faith in either the author or his editors, assuming he even has any.  How many other foul-ups like this might there be lurking that I wouldn't know enough to catch, let alone the average lay reader who doesn't share even my limited background of knowledge on the subject? 

I didn't even read the rest of the book, for fear of what other misinformation I might accidentally imbibe.  It was a rare case where I decided I couldn't in good conscience put something in the library book sale room.  It's going into File 13 instead.  I have no plans to check out any others in this series.  Goof-ups that fundamental in what is supposed to be a reference book are inexcusable.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: mamselle on December 15, 2021, 10:38:28 AM
Might make an interesting Bible Study book: Ask the participants to figure out where the errors are and how they could have gotten in it.

M.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on December 15, 2021, 11:47:54 AM
Flyaway, by Kathleen Jennings. It's a superb book! It starts out as a sort of moody tale in a young narrator, keenly aware of how to be good and sweet and tidy and domestic, tells us about her life in a way that makes it clear that something terrible happened to her father and brothers, and her mother is controlling her in some way to make sure she never thinks about it or asks questions or remembers what happens. But of course she does start asking questions, and half the book is about her quest (well, day-trip) to find out what's what.

But the other half of the book is this wonderfully skillful interlacing set of local folklore that's also not at all local, but Australian-flavored variants of European folklore that have been brought to Australia and turned native. There's this elegant symmetry between the people, European immigrants who have become local to their areas, and the tales they brought with them, that are recognizable (one of them is clearly a descendent of the Pied Piper of Hamlin) but also undeniably Australian too. And the truth of what happened to this narrator's family lies in the intersection of these tales, which are both folklore and family history, together with her own investigations. It's so, so, so good.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: paultuttle on December 26, 2021, 05:47:17 AM
Just re-read the entire Harry Potter series, this time in the order the author intended (the immediately previous time, I read them in reverse order, including back-to-front within some of the volumes).

____

Side note: I like re-reading old favorites in different ways. Sometimes I choose a specific section and read just that, so that counts as my most recent re-reading. Other times, just for the new experience of the old favorite, I open the book randomly and read alternately forward and backward until I finish. Still other times, I start at the end and read backward, paragraph by paragraph. And in each case, I find that after I’ve satisfied my urge to re-read that book, it takes anywhere between several days and several months before I pick it up again, eager for a new experience with the old favorite. Curiously, I often am able to juxtapose—as I re-read—my memory of first reading a particular passage with my current reactions, which provides a many-layered perspective to my understanding of what a “favorite book” is to me. For some books, it’s almost as though I’m accreting layers of mother of pearl memories into a single overwhelming feeling of what that particular book means to me.

_____

Started yesterday on The Lord of the Rings. Currently walking into Bree and sympathizing with Sam’s unease at his first sight of humans’ tall buildings.

Received the first three volumes of Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” series for Christmas. Am now on page 83 in the first book.

Will probably alternate between the old favorite and the new interest over the next few vacation days.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Parasaurolophus on December 31, 2021, 06:26:35 PM
December's meagre haul (in fairness, I've been writing and parenting hard):

Alastair Reynolds - Inhibitor Phase: I was glad to return to the Revelation Space universe and find out more about the period before humanity started beating back the inhibitors, although it's been so long and I've forgotten so much that I was a little confused at times. It was a lot of fun, though, and even gripping at times.

Anne Lamott - Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year: This was hilarious, and it was lovely to read it now, as the hatchling nears the end of his first year. It was a great way to put things in context, not least because I'm also keeping a daily journal. It's a tad dodgy in places, though.



Received the first three volumes of Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” series for Christmas. Am now on page 83 in the first book.


I love The Wheel of Time; I've read the whole thing twice, and the first ten books six times. The first three are great but old-school fantasy, the remainder a hugely rich political and anthropological tapestry. Hit me up if you ever wanna talk about it!
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: FishProf on January 01, 2022, 09:39:07 AM
"AntiFragile" by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.   I think there were some good ideas in there, but it became a tiresome slog though cherry-picked anecdotes and poorly-articulated (if not thought out) critiques.  Taleb has such a sneering1, mean-spirited style that it became difficult to hear the message through the vitriol.  There were discussions in my own areas of experience that rang false and made me question how accurate he is in areas I lack familiarity.

1 It was an audio-book and I agree that some of the sneering tone may have been exacerbated by the reader.

I read Thomas Sowell's "Basic Economics" right before that (note to self - put an intellectual palate cleanser in between next time) and I found that interesting, but not novel, and slanted by its omission of the more interesting things economics could speak on.

Time for a Jack Reacher novel, methinks...
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ciao_yall on January 01, 2022, 11:37:01 AM
"AntiFragile" by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.   I think there were some good ideas in there, but it became a tiresome slog though cherry-picked anecdotes and poorly-articulated (if not thought out) critiques.  Taleb has such a sneering1, mean-spirited style that it became difficult to hear the message through the vitriol.  There were discussions in my own areas of experience that rang false and made me question how accurate he is in areas I lack familiarity.

I have read his work and heard him speak. He's a big sneerer in real life.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Parasaurolophus on January 01, 2022, 04:59:45 PM
"AntiFragile" by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.   I think there were some good ideas in there, but it became a tiresome slog though cherry-picked anecdotes and poorly-articulated (if not thought out) critiques.  Taleb has such a sneering1, mean-spirited style that it became difficult to hear the message through the vitriol.  There were discussions in my own areas of experience that rang false and made me question how accurate he is in areas I lack familiarity.

I have read his work and heard him speak. He's a big sneerer in real life.


All this makes me want to listen to the audiobook, even though I know it'll drive me up the wall.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: FishProf on January 02, 2022, 05:54:35 AM
"AntiFragile" by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.   I think there were some good ideas in there, but it became a tiresome slog though cherry-picked anecdotes and poorly-articulated (if not thought out) critiques.  Taleb has such a sneering1, mean-spirited style that it became difficult to hear the message through the vitriol.  There were discussions in my own areas of experience that rang false and made me question how accurate he is in areas I lack familiarity.

I have read his work and heard him speak. He's a big sneerer in real life.


All this makes me want to listen to the audiobook, even though I know it'll drive me up the wall.

I got it from my local library.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ab_grp on January 03, 2022, 12:52:41 PM
Now we're back to the Wool trilogy with Dust, supposedly also a final book.  So far it's hard to recall what happened to who when since the second book went back in time and this one is in the timeline of the first one.  I'm hoping to finish this series and get to more of The Expanse before I hear any future plot points or reveals from the TV series.

We finished this one a night or two ago.  We were both fairly pleased with how the trilogy wrapped up.  It seems as though the author's strategy was to avoid discussing details that might have been difficult to explain, but there didn't feel like there were too many loose ends.  It certainly wasn't a great series, but he pulled it off a bit better than I had expected him to.  As in the previous two books, the big picture keeps expanding as the story unfolds, but it's hard to describe the plot without giving important plot points from previous books away. 

We moved back to the Expanse series with Nemesis Games.  Thankfully, the most familiar characters from previous books have already arrived on the scene.  It's hard to get into some of these books without a foothold when there are too many characters. 

It looks as though the audio book threads are old, and I never know the rules for bumping up a thread or leaving it dead and starting a new one.  Given that some have been mentioned here, I will note briefly that I just finished an amazingly great one (in my opinion) on the Apollo 8 mission.

Alastair Reynolds - Inhibitor Phase: I was glad to return to the Revelation Space universe and find out more about the period before humanity started beating back the inhibitors, although it's been so long and I've forgotten so much that I was a little confused at times. It was a lot of fun, though, and even gripping at times.

Thanks for this review, Parasaurolophus! We haven't read that one yet, but it sounds good.  I think I have probably forgotten enough to be confused at this point, too.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Vkw10 on January 03, 2022, 08:46:18 PM
The Utterly Uninteresting and Unadventurous Tales of Fred, the Vampire Accountant, which I listened to while driving from SC to Texas. I generally avoid vampire tales, but couldn’t resist listening to the Audible sample when that title showed up in a search for books about accounting. Light-hearted entertainment, but I found myself liking Fred and the gradually building cast. I’ve purchased the next volume in the series and look forward to seeing how the author makes taxes lighthearted.

I also caught up on Lois McMaster Bujold’s Penric series, with Assassins of Thasalon and Knot of Shadows. Both were excellent, as usual for LMB books. Penric and his demon Desdemona are fantastic characters.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: apl68 on January 10, 2022, 10:47:42 AM
Inside the Victorian Home:  A Portrait of Domestic Life in Victorian Britain, by Judith Flanders.  This is a good example of how the history of everyday life can be as fascinating as that of history's more dramatic moments.  Flanders employs an impressive variety of personal memoirs and correspondence, examples from fiction, advice books, and other contemporary sources to draw a detailed (and well-illustrated) portrait of a world of experience entirely unfamiliar to us today.  And yet this was also a society where mass media, mass consumerism, mechanization, and other forces which have done so much to make today's world were beginning to emerge. 

The focus is mainly on the middle classes.  The poor had little house to keep, while the elaborate establishments of the very rich were a world of their own that has been much described elsewhere.  Middle-class Victorians were beginning to have modern expectations of domestic comfort and convenience--but didn't have just a whole lot of either, by modern standards.  Maintaining such comfort as there was took an enormous amount of labor.  One has to feel for the busy housewife.  And even more for the maids-of-all-work who had to handle most of the dirty and heavy work, in return for low wages, poor living conditions, and continual reminders of their inferiority.

Speaking of continual reminders of inferiority--Flanders sometimes sounds a little too much like the sort of historian who often judges and finds wanting the people of earlier generations for failing to be more like those of today.  They did so many things wrong, and and were so wrong-headed!  That the poor, miserable things had the misfortune to be born too early to be more enlightened is only somewhat of a mitigating factor for their failures to be more like us.  Even an aspect of their society that might be expected to appeal to the modern reader--the Victorians' habit of diligently recycling and repurposing--is made to look like another example of mindless adherence to over-elaborate rules and concerns about status.

Actually, to be fair, Flanders is at least some of the time more fair-minded toward her subjects than that last paragraph makes it sound.  She's aware, for example, that some later portraits of the age by those who experienced it as frustrated youths--Edmund Gosse's memoirs of his father, Philip, for example--were deliberate hatchet jobs.  I do find her attitude a little prosecutorial at times, though.  Ruth Goodwin, whose re-enactments of life a century and a half ago qualify as walking in somebody else's moccasins, writes with more empathy toward her subjects, and shows more recognition that people's customs in earlier times often made more sense on their own terms than we today give them credit for. 

Flanders is still quite a good resource on the era for those interested in it.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: ergative on January 10, 2022, 12:04:11 PM
I really like Flanders's work on the Victorians. She expanded the last chapter of the Victorian Home into an entire book called The Victorian City, about London street life, and it was equally fascinating. I do agree, though, that she doesn't have the fond affection and slightly prickly defense that Ruth Goodman has. I enjoy both of their work.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: hmaria1609 on January 10, 2022, 12:12:29 PM
I checked out and read Flanders'sChristmas: A Biography (2017) from the library a few years ago. I thought it was ok.
Title: Re: What have you read lately?
Post by: Harlow2 on January 11, 2022, 06:37:35 AM
Last week I stumbled on a fascinating new book in the library: The Booksell