What are you reading these days? #9
#9, not #8; sorry for messing the title up. Would be glad if someone can fix it for me, I can't edit it apparently. Thanks a lot, Deimos, for fixing it up!
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.
Past weeks: Week #1 · Week #2 · Week #3 · Week #4 · Week #5 · Week #6 · Week #7 · Week #8
I'm slowly---perhaps too slowly---going through Ficciones by Borges. It's been two weeks, I had visitors, they I had problems w/ my computer and upgraded to Debian Unstable etc. So I have all I need to convince myself that I'm not that lazy.
Anyways, my edition of the book, a Turkish translation by Tomris Uyar and Fatih Özgüven, published by the Iletisim publisher's house, bears a translation of the foreword by James Woodall, which was lovely to read. The first two stories, which are constructed as criticism of fictional texts or events, I did not really like TBH. I found that it was not as exciting as I thought it would be when I learned about the idea reading the foreword, that I frequently disconnected from the text, and that the lack of context was hard to overcome. The Lottery of Babylon instead, was a lovely and engaging read. Now I have my bookmark before another story that's like the first two, and I'm not sure if I should skip it or do the chore. Or maybe I should go back and reread the first two stories, more calmly.
But a big problem is the translation. The translators are apparently language purists, and they've went out of their way to replace common loanwords with very uncommon or made up pure Turkish versions. Which provokes deep dissonance in me, in my reading experience, when I have to go out of my way to look up a word in my native tongue---and I'm a very competent speaker of it. Think like someone in their translation replaces "dialectic" with "byspeak" and "an ad hoc solution" with "a for-this fix". This is a trend in Turkish---which is a language which has suffered huge amounts of purism and reforms---, and it's incredibly annoying. I have to look up or guess these alternative, sometimes coined words where I almost always know the meaning of the proper word itself. It really detracts a lot from the experience. Like a mosquito swimming in your coffee... But well, I'm trying to see through that.
Which order? :D
Well, that order, for now. But time will show if it'll remain so...
I used Debian stable since quite some time. Lately, I started having problems with disks mounting. I don't reboot often, the computer is on all the time, usually remains in sleep mode when I'm not using it. But when I rebooted it a couple weeks ago, it mounted my root volume read-only. Also, I had this
HSM Violationexception appear in init output. Fsck reports nothing, ESP has a bad block but fsck seems to not be able to fix it. Recently, I had moved to using LVM rather than primary partitions. But I couldn't really debug it, and wanted to just reinstall and see if I somehow messed up the ESP partition. I thought, tho, I'd just give unstable a try, given I was gonna format anyways. I was fed up with stale software, too. I understand and appreciate the need to be stable, but Debian is just way too stale. It's been fine since, but I haven't updated or rebooted yet.
I think I'll soon have to hop distros and get a new hard drive...
I'm currently listening to Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O'Neil. I'm pretty sure it was another Tildes user who put it on my radar (though I can't remember exactly who or which thread it was in).
I'm about halfway through, and I like it so far. It's a cautionary book about what can go wrong when you try to distill people down to their representative data.
Oh it took some time for me to be able to parse it. It sounds interesting, will look into it.
I think something similar is at play when talking about the deceased and the killed in big catastrophic events like genocides &c, when the number of the dead are more than a few or even one, it's really hard to perceive the effect of the event on a personal level. Some commenter, I guess in the recent r/WPD thread, cited "the Kashoggi Effect", and that's so real. I think that term should go into the literature somehow.
I finished Washington Square by Henry James. I loved the heroine, who is plain and unremarkable in the eyes of the world, but has great strength of character. It makes a nice change from the gaggles of Austen heroines.
I've been reading The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson. My introduction to Sanderson was via the Wheel of Time series and I thought he did a brilliant job with that, and I've been meaning to pick up other books by him.
I have to admit that it has felt like a bit of a slog so far. I don't feel connected to the characters, and the story hasn't gripped me. I'm still relatively early in the book, but I feel like the multiple points of view happened far too quickly; while I love books that use this device, I think one needs to build a core that one expands out from to do this effectively.
I have some other books on my list that I'll probably read over the holidays; my brother just got me a Patrick Rothfuss book, so I'm looking forward to reading that.
I wouldn't recommend starting on Rothfuss' Kingkiller Chronicles quite yet unless you enjoy George RR Martin levels of waiting for the last book of the series to come out. It's been over 7 years now since he published The Wise Man's Fear and even though he says the next will "possibly" be out next year, I have my doubts since he has said that before.
But IMO you should really check out the Mistborn series if The Way of Kings isn't your thing. TWoK takes quite a while to build up and can get a bit muddled with so many characters perspectives in play but Mistborn is much narrower in scope, has much more likeable/relatable characters (IMO), gets right into the action immediately and almost never lets up.
Several years ago I would have said that I don't mind a GRRM style wait, as I've now been reading that series for twenty one freaking years. Is the time scale of Rothfuss' releases on the same order of ridiculousness?
I really want to like The Way of Kings. I enjoy Sanderson's prose and his world building, but I think this story needed to be less scattered at the beginning. I love stories that weave a tapestry from many story lines, but those storylines should start together. This feels like it has had 4 or 5 separate starts. I'm sure I"ll finish it, but right now it tends to put me to sleep when I'm reading.
Mistborn is on the list of things I'll try next. I feel as if I need to find something substantive to sink my teeth into as it's been a while since I've found something to read that truly delighted me, the last probably being Joe Abercrombie's First Law Trilogy, which I greatly enjoyed.
Yes, unfortunately. And I think he kind of painted himself into a corner in book 2, so similar to GRRM, Rothfuss doesn't know how to actually end the series which is why it's taking so damn long. :(
And hmm, if you liked the First Law Trilogy and are looking for something equally/more substantive, might I suggest my favorite series of all-time, Malazan Book of the Fallen?
It's substantive, incredibly mature, dark, mired in grey morality, super dense and long as fuck (10 books with 11k pages and 3.3M words between them) but really, really good, with a completely unique magic and multi-verse system as well as an amazing (and huge) cast of characters that really stick with you for a long time afterwards. It's the only fantasy book I have ever read that made me cry at the death of characters... and die they will, so be warned!
My other word of warning is that Erikson drops you headfirst into this world of his, which he has designed literally hundreds of thousands of years of history, myths, legends and lore for, so the first book can really take some time parsing at first... e.g. "is that word a person's name, a god's, the name of a month or the city's name?" (and in some cases the answer to that will be, "yes to all four")... so unless you're in the mood for something like that with no hand holding for you along the way, I would advise against starting it until you are. It's the exact opposite of a light summer read, but IMO it's incredibly rewarding once you finally get into it... and the series ending is truly something to behold.
My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk is an excellent instance of that style. One of the most fun reads I ever had.
Basically a repost of last time:
I've finished Segla i ett såll. Patafysisk antologi (Sailing in a sieve: Pataphysical anthology, with the title referring to Alfred Jarry's book about doctor Faustroll), a Swedish anthology of 'pataphysical works. It is compiled by Claes Hylinger, and so far it has been excellent. It consists of 'pataphysical stories and texts by authors ranging from Leonardo da Vinci to Lewis Carroll to Max Ernst. Most of the French texts (and most of them are French) are translated excellently, also by Hylinger.
And I'm just about to start reading Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson as well as 17 dikter (17 Poems) by Tomas Tranströmer.
I looked at 'pataphysics when read your comment from last week, and could not wrap my head around it. Looks like a long-running literary joke, isn't it? I mean, not really meant as a serious school of thought, no?
I've only read Zeplin by Karin Tidbeck from Swedish literature (and liked it). Do you have any suggestions? I'd love to discover more of that literary tradition, Swedish and Nordic in general. Finding out about Kalevala was interesting too, for example.
Yes, it does, and I'm pretty sure it is. But part of it seems to be to deny that it's a joke, so it's impossible to know. Either way, I think it's interesting and it has given me some food for thought.
Sure! I don't know if all of these have English translations, but I'll mention them nonetheless.
August Strindberg is very well known and culturally important. So is Vilhelm Moberg with his tetralogy of Swedish settlers in North America. Selma Lagerlöf is also incredibly important. Astrid Lindgren is internationally famous for Pippi Longstocking, but she's written many many children's books that every Swedish child (ought to) have read. I'd say the most known poets are Karin Boye and Tomas Tranströmer.
Another important author is Tove Jansson, a Swedish-speaking Finn. She is most known for creating Moomin, but she wrote a lot of other books too.
More recently "Scandinavian Noir" is popular. In that genre I'd recommend reading Stieg Larsson and Henning Mankell.
Phew! That's a lot of names. Let me know if you wonder about any specific genre.
Thanks a lot! Will make a note of these. I tend to like texts that have some philosphical depth and / or have and exploratory manner, which is probably why Saramago is one of my favourites. I don't really think about them in genres, and I like when authors blur the lines between them.
Hey, I was going to check the authors later, making a note of them, but while writing this comment I took a look to the poets you mentioned, and I did like them! Especially Karin Boyle, I just read a few of her poems only. Luckily, translations of all her poems are available on her website. I think I found what to read next, after Ficciones! Thank you!
Great! I'm glad you liked them.
Some more I can think of:
Doktor Glas by Hjalmar Söderberg is considered one of the best Swedish books. More contemporary are Jan Guillou and Jonas Jonasson. If you like poetry, Harry Martinson is also great.
Something I didn't tell you in my last comment was that Sommarboken (The Summer Book) by Tove Jansson is the best book I've ever read. It's a must-read!
Thanks a lot! I bookmarked your comments for later reference.
I'm currently reading through Moonwalking with Einstein. It's a book on memory and how to remember things, and it's pretty interesting, although less useful than I anticipated. It's... very hard to learn to remember things quickly (like speed cards), but it's still a fantastic read. I would highly recommend it.
Since you're already in the process of reading The Colour of Magic, IMO you basically have two options at this point.
I have read the Discworld series basically twice now (more than twice really, since I went back and read old ones in the same arc when new ones came out). The first time, 20-ish years ago, I read them in chronological order and then as they were published afterwards, which was a great experience, but that has some drawbacks like I mentioned. And the second time I fully read through the series was just a couple years ago, and that time I instead chose to go through it in "sort-of" chronological order but by arc based on when the first book in the arcs appeared chronologically... which would up being Rincewind, the Witches, Death, Ancient Civilisations, the Watch and finally Industrial Revolution. I found it quite enjoyable and nothing really felt completely out of place or out of order doing it that way, but your results may vary slightly since you haven't yet read all the books so won't be as familiar with everything.
p.s. You can see all the potential orders/arcs here:
Although it should be noted that it's missing a few "non-essential" books in the Arcs. E.g. Theatre of Cruelty is a shortstory that is generally considered book 1.5 in the Watch arc. It's not super important, but if you want to be a completion then you should be aware of all the supplementary books that fit in to various places in the arcs.
Thank you very much for the detailed reply!
Since the library unfortunately only has a few of the first volumes, I'll mostly be unable to follow story arcs by skipping books, so I'm going to read them chronologically at first. In the likely case that I do enjoy the read, I'll probably get the missing volumes of the Watch, Witches and Death arcs next, they sound pretty nice going from your link.
NP and don't worry too much about only being able to read the first volumes first, as I said the chronological order is just fine, especially for starting out. But if you dislike Rincewind and the lighthearted travelogue style of the first books or just get tired of him, just keep in mind that not all of the arcs are like that so you can always swap to another if you need a break from Rincewind and his shenanigans. ;)
I just finished Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed the World . It's a fascinating look at the Spanish Flu and its impact not just on health, but WWI, generations of families, germ theory, and epidemiology
Sounds interesting! I just put it on hold at the library.
I'm a quarter of the way through Ninth Step Station. It's alright so far but I had to set it down for a bit to read Vigilance by Robert Jackson Bennett. A couple friends have described it as "deeply fucked up" and I'm already getting that vibe.
I've been reading the Sharpe's series by Bernard Cornwell.
Super interesting historical fiction that teaches as much as entertains. I'm on like book 15 now in the series, but if you want to get started, start with Rifles. There are some other books that are chronologically earlier in time that Cornwell wrote later on after the series took off, but since they were written later, they pre-suppose a certain familiarity with the series as a whole.
Sharpe is so good! The TV miniseries/movies are a pretty damn fine representation of it too. Plus... Sean Bean 💖
Have you read any of Cornwell's other series? The Warlord Chronicles doesn't even try to pretend any manner of historical realism like Sharpe, and is based on Arthurian legend instead but is quite good too. And I have yet to start the Saxon Stories but have The Last Kingdom sitting on my kindle already for whenever I find the time to get around to it.
p.s. If you enjoyed Sharpe, you should definitely also check out Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey–Maturin series, James Clavell's The Asian Saga and C.S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower series if you haven't already. They are all fantastic too.
Lucky Bastard, an autobiography by (in)famous sports voice Joe Buck. Not exactly a dense or complex read, but I had fun with it nonetheless. I think Buck gets some undue hate from the general public especially when he calls NFL games, but it was nice to read through his side of things.
I have found that classics are way easier reads than what their reputations imply. Until recently, I'd avoid reading them because of such prejudice, but I am now slowly exploring them, and they are a world of wonders, it seems to me.