What are you reading these days? #5 (Was: What are you reading this week?)
What are you reading currently? Fiction or non-fiction, any genre, any language! Tell us what you're reading, and talk a bit about it.
Notes: I've modified the title a bit, having it say "this week" when it was never weekly (it's bi-weekly) was a bit weird.
I couldn't really read much in the past week, so the same stuff from last week is still waiting to be read. Thus I'll cheat and talk a bit about the book that I will read next, and a book I've read in the past.
The first one is a book by Turkish journalist Can Dündar on köy enstitüleri, literal translation "village institutes", which is a kind of educational institution that was initiated in the 40's by the Turkish Government, by the then Minister of Education Hasan Ali Yücel in particular, with the aim of educating the villager population of Turkey both about agricultural advancements which did not reach the Anatolian steppes and Mesopotamian Highlands during the imperial reign, and also concerning modern life along with the villagers own folklore. This short-lived project has been massively controversial in its time, criticised and even violently attacked by conservatives and the ignorant population they enraged, given classes were promiscuous (most visible counterargument by conservatives) and that villagers informing themselves meant they'd not succumb into the feudal landlords' hegemony like they used to (which is a social construct that is still alive today, albeit fortunately not as much as it was in the olden times; and this is the actual problem for these landlords who are also the conservatives' backers or their politicians themselves). Still, it produced many well-known names of recent Turkish history in a very broad spectrum, from businessmen to artists. These schools persisted in rural turkey well into 50's, but they lost their core values and most defining and important practices in a couple years after their conception. To this day they are remembered with nostalgia, and a belief that these schools would've produced a much different population if they could really function. And this book, by the famous journalist, is an investigation into the short history of these institutions. In a hundred pages decorated with many photos from the time and many citations, the book is just as short too. It's a reading I'm looking forward to.
Another book I want to mention is The Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, which I wrote about a bit in a recent comment. It is a book I can easily recommend. Here is the contents of that comment:
Just finished Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn. Not as polished as Gone Girl. Quite dark, mostly small-town shady business. Is there any woman who is not sick and any man who is not despicable? Maybe one of each. But they're inconsequential.
Starting a book called The Stolen Bicycle Wu Ming-yi which is a historic/family saga based in Japan. The narrator is really into bicycles, sort of mirroring Zen in the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance but with a completely different approach and tone. I'm not usually into family histories unless there's style and a story beyond 'this is what my grandfather did in this stage of world history', so we'll see. So far, I like its straightforward style and the bicycle theme.
Recently finished Beartown, a more-than-hockey tale by Frederik Backman which was remarkably insightful. Out of 25 books or so I've read this year, Beartown seems to be benefiting the most of from my predictable recency bias.
Because you're not usually into family histories, I'll just mention a couple :) : Cevdet Bey ve Oğulları and Sessiz Ev by Orhan Pamuk. If anybody here is interested in how Turkey changed after WWI and during the first decades of the Republic, these novels are great sources of impressions. I'll translate a sentence that is stuck with me from the second book:
Indeed the new republic switched from the Islamic calendar, which starts countring from the year of Hegirah (622 CE), to the Gregorian calendar in the year 1925. It's both illustrative of the speed at which the regime was trying to change things and of how backwards the society was in some ways at the time. In both of these novels, the changes from one generation to another subtly illustrate the changes of the society.
Pamuk's work, in general, is of very high quality, and makes a very pleasurable read
Thank you, I'm particularly interest in the Ottoman Empire transition period, which I think happened as part of that time. I'll check it out. I've already got one of Pamuk's books on my reading list, I think The Museum of Innocence*, for 2019.
I'm re-reading Céline's Voyage au bout de la nuit, it's one of the masterpiece of French literature, the style is very popular, full of slang but also very poetic. It's very energetic, grabs you by the balls and punches you in the face at every page. It doesn't translate well though. I don't know if there's an equivalent in English, maybe a non-alcoholic Bukowski.
I just finished listening to The Great Hunt (WoT Book #2), and I'm working through my stack of library books starting with John C. Wright's The Golden Age.
I haven't read even the first 40-pages of the latter, so I don't really have an opinion on it yet. The world is still establishing itself at this point. The world is certainly interesting, that's for sure.
The Wheel of Time though.. that's really been frustrating to me.
I've heard so much about it, it's deeply loved, and it's basically mandatory reading for epic fantasy. I want to like it, but I'm having trouble. I love long books, I really do. Thousand-page Space Opera's are my shit. But I can't help but feel that The Eye of the World and The Great Hunt are much longer than they need to be.
There are so many words in either novel, but not so much actually happens, it feels. I go back back and read the plot synopses when I finished both, and while I know that's what happens I feel like I spent most of the books just wading through filler and fat. Like an exercise in tedium. I'm sure Jordan is setting up plot threads for later in the series, but only two books in it doesn't feel quite right in a way I can't put into words. I'm interested in the magic, the lore, the politics, the cultures and races and histories. But something about the novel structure leaves me wanting. It feels like fuck-all happens in them for the bulk of the novel, and then a big ending comes out of nowhere and happens so fast. It doesn't feel quite earned. The notes just fall a little flat.
So much of both novels is focused on just traveling to get from one point to another. I'm used to this in fantasy, and it would be more tolerable if the characters were more pleasant to spend time with. Rand, Perrin, and Mat, are insufferable at times. To a lesser extent, Egwene and Nynaeve as well. I understand they're all young adults, but fuck me do they feel shallow and stupid sometimes. They have arcs, but their characterization is so dull that their arcs thus far are just making them into more believable people.
I like Nynaeve the best because she's interested in her experiences, but she's so god-damn mad about it.
I have a habit of alternating fiction and non-fiction (and I can never have more than one book in progress at the same time.
I just finished Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel. It's just a novelization of the musical with more detail, which is interesting enough. I think I didn't get too much out of it because there weren't too many additional scenes, just more opportunities to flesh out some characters. I think I'd have appreciated reading this more before I saw Dear Evan Hansen, not after.
I just started Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety, and I'm about 15% through. The title tells you everything you need to know. This is shaping up to be an awesome book so far, and I'm finding that I really appreciate the story telling method, where the author is able to maintain a balance of hard history with a retelling of the Damascus Accident which is just enthralling.
I just picked up Lord of the Flies by William Golding. We read this in high school, but being the underachiever I was, I only read the first half of the book and managed to slip though the cracks. I already know the spoilers, but I figured I'd give it another shot.
I just recently finished The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. I don't know what to say besides, holy shit! That was a life altering experience. Probably one of the most powerful pieces of literature I've ever read.
On the side I've been picking through Montesquieu's The Spirit of Laws, and Rousseau's Social Contract. Both seem very relevant and insightful in the context of modern politics, as everything we used to take for granted about government has seemingly come back into question.
For the first time in a long time, I have a "to read" pile! Most times, I buy just one book, then start reading it immediately. Last week, I went to a cheap book shop and picked up 4 books for $20 - and now I'm working my way through them. I've also acquired a few 'Wonder Woman' comic omnibuses recently. I have a "to read" pile!
My current main read is Pythagoras: His Lives And The Legacy Of A Rational Universe by Kitty Ferguson. I'm only a few chapters in, and we've already finished with Pythagorus himself. The book is more about Pythagorus' impact on mathematics and science than about the man himself - about whom, it seems, very little is actually known.
To team with a theme (or "toim with a thoim" for Kath & Kim fans), my bedside table has a copy of Fantasia Mathematica, an anthology of maths-themed science fiction short stories.
Decided to reread an old favorite of mine, The Artemis Fowl series. Loved the book series as a kid, and decided to see if I can still enjoy it 10-some years later. Found that I really enjoyed the first 3 books still, they were enjoyable in their own way. Short enough to be easily read in one sitting, and overall just a fast fun set of books to read.
However I ended up hitting about book 4 and lost interest. Never read past about book 4 as a kid, so I was in new territory. But it really felt like he lost interest in doing the series. Felt like the writing went downhill, and the stories just got crazy and less interesting. Alongside the characters kinda loosing what had made them interesting in the beginning.