What are you reading these days? #10
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 · Week #9
Recently finished the sci-fi Golden Age trilogy by John C. Wright, which I thought was interesting in the moment but once finished realized I didn't like it all that much. Interesting worldbuilding, but the story got lost in it and the writing style IMO.
Currently I'm reading A History of Russia by Nicholas V. Riasanovsky (2nd Ed, 1969), which is really just a fascinating book. Especially being written by a Russian during the Soviet Union (albeit living in America), my formal education being restricted to the minimal, more Anglocentric bits from highschool.
As well, my partner turned me on to How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan. I'm really glad they did. I don't follow Bestseller lists, but they know I'm very interested in the science of psychedelics and how they intersect with things with depression, consciousness, mental illness, and such.
I just read One Hour in Paris: A True Story of Rape and Recovery by Karyn L. Freedman. The author, a professor of philosophy, writes about how being raped years ago has affected her life. Very well done, with a lot of info about PTSD and how people survive terrible experiences like that.
Now I'm in the middle of Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How it Changed the World by Laura Spinney. (I think that was recommended here recently? My reading list is turning into a rehash of other Tildes users' lists.) It's probably the wrong time of year to be reading this one, as everyone around me is succumbing to colds and flus. Stay healthy, everyone!
Thanks for One Hour in Paris! I just read through what's available in the Amazon preview, I'll definitely be reading this later.
Oh great, I hope you like it. I was going to say, "Enjoy!" but it's not really a book you enjoy.
Well, learning about these more obscure experiences (in the sense that not really spoken-out-about, often hidden away, unfortunately), and having a better perspective about and insight into this huge human issue is enjoyable, however horrible the actual event itself is. I expect Eichmann in Jerusalem by H. Arendt to be so when I'll read it, for example. And Se questo è un uomo by Levi was.
Rape is interesting. It's different from all other sexual exploitation in that in can not be indeliberate. It may be believable that, say, a groping was done "involuntarily", i.e., a product of a moment's stupidity, or a momentary loss of control, or whatnot. Not always, but some cases, maybe. But rape involves so many chaotic and offensive stages that I don't think it might ever be a "mistake", a product of a temporary loss of control or some sort of ignorance. A rapist has to decide on a victim, topple them, not allow them to move, get sexually aroused, and sexually exploit the victim while still trying to forcibly maintain control over the victims movements. That can't happen accidentally, that can't be a moment's mistake, that is some sort of violence that needs to be deeply rooted in the offender's personality.
I'm from a society whose history and day to day life involves various types of violence. There is genocide, there is religious fundamentalism, there is patriarchy, there is more. In the past few years I've gone through first becoming aware of these, then struggling with my "social", ethnic, national and religious identities, and ended up in a refusal of any form of such identity (and identity in general). Now that I have less agony exploring these events (given I don't have identity ties to no one), I want to explore the more human side of these issues. This sort of reading is just what I need for that.
I love the film Life is Beautiful by Benigni. It's criticised for being far from factual, and deservedly so, but it does one thing incredibly well: show us that the many millions killed by Nazism were individuals, with their quirks, their stories, their feelings, their everything. Six million humans. Six million times me, you, our best friend. That's hard to realise from through facts like "six million people were killed by the Nazis" or "one in three women suffer rape". These quickly become some other statistic and, unfortunately, become meaningles almost as soon as is uttered. But reading through a 22yo backpackers life, or a chemist's life who's particularly lucky to have survived in lagers, there can not be one complete and sane human being read such a thing and not feel empathy.
I was thinking of this while I read Pale Rider, the book about the Spanish flu. As the epidemic wound down, some people's mindset changed from "we're all in this together" to "I survived, what's in it for ME?" Late winter/early spring of 1919, Carnival was taking place. "In Rio, in that unusual atmosphere, boundaries became blurred. There are references to numerous defloramentes -- deflowerings -- which led in turn to a cohort of children dubbed 'sons of the flu'. Such reports are hard to confirm, but one historian, Sueann Caulfield, has scoured the archives and found that, in the period immediately after the epidemic, there was indeed a surge in reported rapes in Rio, to the extent that they temporarily outnumbered other types of crime. Some saw this wave of obscenity as the revenge of the unloved dead; others as a shocking reassertion of an inextinguishable life force. Whatever it was, it brought closure: the pandemic was over."
So, great, we've survived the flu, let's rape women to celebrate, because life, baby! And those women who survived, after seeing their family and friends die all around them, now had to deal with being raped and perhaps having to raise the children that resulted. But hey, closure is nice, I guess. It would be educational to hear some of their individual stories as well.
That leaves me speechless...
But also, it makes me think about all the "celebrations" that involve violence, sexual or not. For example, in Turkey, there's a tradition of shooting guns in the air. Many have been killed because of random bullets. But the ignorant masses can't be taught. Joy and excitement has some weird, sad tie to violence, apparently.
The King in Yellow - A few shortish stories from 1895 that share the motif of a fictional book called, well, The King in Yellow. They also all share a similar demented tone and subjects, somewhat comparable to Lovecraft (who's on the cover with the quote "One of the greatest weird tales ever written"). And yes, I came to it through True Detective and no, you won't be disppapointed if it's the same for you.
The Circle - I figured it would be a very interesting read considering the problems of internet social media platforms are the shit right now, but either it hasn't aged very well (a lot of stuff has happened in that regard since 2013, after all), or all the praise on the first few pages was just too much hype even back then. It just feels very flat - "a novel of ideas", sure, but they're all dealt with in a manner so mechanical you may as well just read an instruction manual on how to break society.
For Whom the Bell tolls - Been stuck on this one for a while now. While a fascinating perspective on the Spanish Civil War, it just reads very dryly. I'll definitely finish it, but it'll probably be almost as much of a slog as killing your village's fascists when the Revolution comes...
"The King in Yellow" is available at Project Gutenberg. Trivia: Firefox Reader View thinks that reading through the HTML version of this should take somewhere between 6--8 hours.
Personally, I find titles to be one of the most important parts of a text, and if a title "hits me in the gut", it generally is a good indication of how good the book itself is. The title of the first story in this, "The Repairers of Reputations", is one such title. I think I'll give this one a read!
The last book I read was Dune, and I’d recommend it to anyone into sci fi/worldbuilding. I haven’t gotten into the sequels, but they apparently weren’t written by the same author, so I’m not sure they’re worth reading. I’ve picked out The Count of Monte Cristo to read next, and I think it’ll be a great read. Good revenge always seems to make a fun story.
If I remember correctly, the first three or four books were written by Frank Herbert, then the rest were written by his son.
The six original 'Dune' books, from 'Dune' itself in 1966 to 'Chapterhouse: Dune' in 1985, were written by Frank Herbert.
His son Brian wrote a shipload of spin-offs later.
This also appeared last week in Week #9.
"Universal Principles of Design" by William Lidwell, Kritina Holden & Jim Butler.
Recently I've become more interested in design (e.g. 99 % podcast, Stack Exchange UX, software design, usability of stuff in general). So far it feels like it's making concrete a lot of stuff I've floating around in my mind for ages. Really well laid out book.
Did you watch the trio Objectified, Urbanized and Helvetica by Gary Hustwit? They are very interesting docs about design; consumer products, urban architecture and fonts (especially Helvetica), respectively.
I've seen Helvetica before but not the other two. They'll be added to my list of things to watch.
Solis by A.A. Attanasio
I've read (or rather listened to) the autobiographies of the comedians David Mitchell and Robert Webb (most famous from Peep Show and That Mitchell and Webb Look). It's rare for me to read biographies, I prefer fiction, but I really liked these. I listened to the e-books, and they were autonarrated, which was nice.
How Not To Be a Boy by Robert Webb really resonated with me. In it he talks about how much pressure there are on boys to be "manly". He (as well as me) didn't really conform to that, and I thought it was nice to read something that I could relate to.
Back Story by David Mitchell was more light-hearted and fun. It's just about how he got where he is today, written in a humourous way.
I'm reading 21 lessons for the 21st century by Yuval Noah Harari.
It has so far been a fascinating read; trying to encompass all complexities of modern world into a single book is impossible and the author acknowledges it. Instead, he gives overview of some of the areas of human life (like politics, technology, religion....) , and most if his insights are a joy to read. Apparently his previous books had some chronological continuity, but this book reads more like a collection of essays. On one hand it is more approachable and you can only read bits and pieces, but on the other some of the chapters are underwhelming in terms of 'meat', more looking like blog posts than book chapters. Also, segues feel forceful at times;
Despite those flaws, it is a great book and I have learnt much from it, and it is the kind of information I probably wouldn't pick up reading tildes/hn/reddit, which alone makes it very much worth reading for me; (keeping in mind I still have a couple of chapters to finish it).
The last couple of weeks have been quite busy for me, thus I could not really advance in my readings. The horrible translation of Ficciones I have does not help.
So I won't be able to contribute this week, but will happily read you lot's news. Have a nice time!
Edit (Jan 5th): I think I can actually talk about reading through Karin Boye's poetry a bit, I was reading it last week and somehow totally forgot about it in the past few days. It was one of the recommendations of @iiv last week, and I was enjoying the read. The poems are available in English, online, here. I'm reading the translations of McDuff because they are of Boye's entire work; going along Clouds for the time being.
I'm generally liking the poems, altho some are rather to "religious" for my liking. I like Boye's way of expression, the sense of serenity in which she exposes her thoughts. But I also sense a sincere religiousness, which is generally off-putting for me when comes from an intellectual. I'm yet to read from other books or even halve Clouds tho, so maybe it's too early to characterise her entire work.
Re-reading The Millionaire Next Door, an eye-opening, if dated, look at how most millionaires achieve their success (hint, it's not how you think).
I've been reading The Master and Margarita. It's a good book so far, although I am somwhat lost most of the time. A great read, however. As far as I know, the devil visits a bunch of Russian atheists in the form of a cat. I'm only a little bit in the book though, so can't review it too much.
Also been reading a little bit of Don Quixote, an English translation by David Grossman (iirc). It's a bloody great book so far. No spoilers, but read it. It's genuinely hilarious. It's fiction, by the way, even though it is presented as non fiction in a few areas.
Reading Shaun Askinosie's Meaningful Work, which is going slowly because it insists on taking my world apart a piece at a time, hopefully with the goal of putting it back together in more functional condition. It's combined career coaching and DIY therapy, yet direct and practical. There's a certain amount of privileged self-congratulation, but that's to be expected in this segment of the book market, and it's been what I needed.
For relief, I'm digging into Sue Burke's Semiosis, which is in the science fiction subgenre, "using space colonization to look at human blind spots from a comfortable remove", with a neat morality play about ecology stitched in. The writing has "first novel without great editing" all over it, but it's engaging and I'm enjoying it.
I recently finished The Core - Better Life, Better Performance. I read the whole thing in one sitting and it made me think of ways to improve my life.
I'm not really that interested in sports but it still resonated with me.
Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crisis Changed the World
Quite dry at times but still very informative
Decomposition by Andrew Durkin. It talks about how we, as musicians, think about authorship wrong, and how we need to start thinking of music as a process rather than a result. An interesting read, but rather dense, and I wouldn't recommend it for non-musicians.
L'Opoponax by Monique Wittig, Éditions de Minuit 2018 re-printing. Partly for sharpening my French, partly intrigued by the theme -- childhood.
7 habits of highly effective People. It's not one of the cliché and actually stands out.