What are you reading these days? #14
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 could not start the thread yesterday on Friday like I used to, I'm sorry for the delay.
Past weeks: Week #1 · Week #2 · Week #3 · Week #4 · Week #5 · Week #6 · Week #7 · Week #8 · Week #9 · Week #10 · Week #11 · Week #12 · Week #13
I am almost finished with the first book of the Earthsea Cycle Series by Ursula Le Guin! It was a book that got recommended a lot and I liked the Earthsea movie, so I figured it'd be a good read. I've been enjoying it a lot and can't wait to read the next one. I'll also be rewatching the movie (the animated one let's be clear) after I've read a few more from the series. I personally love when Ghibli makes books into movies. Like with Howls Moving Castle, there is an essence and feeling that they catch so spectacularly it's always a treat to watch. Even when they diverge from the source material it's done in a careful and loving way and much more acceptable in my opinion.
I am also on track for reaching my reading goal. I'm only doing 18 books as a minimum because I have a lot of other goals and projects that I have to keep up on. Luckily I have plenty of books that I haven't read yet so I'll be kept busy with my reading list.
Earthsea was magical to me (pun intended) when I first read it, and the second book, The Tombs of Atuan, remains one of my favourites. There is just something about the atmosphere of the place that I can imagine vividly in my mind's eye.
Glad to hear you liked the Ghibli movie - the animation is beautiful, and even if it isn't entirely in line with some of the lore of the books, it is still a good introduction to the series. I personally enjoyed it less than I expected, but that's probably because I already had such a defined idea in my head of how Sparrowhawk, Tehanu and the others would look and act like, that any attempts at putting that into any other medium clashed with my personal preferences and imagination.
Good luck with your reading goal!
I first heard of Le Guin's Earthsea Cycle when I read an article couple of years ago on how Harry Potter's framework is similar to it. I never got around to reading it so is was that article true?
It's a similar framework for the majority of the first book - there is a wizard school on the Island of Roke, where the young wizards train, magic is described as an inborn talent which is developed with training (similar to the Harry Potter Universe), and there is a somewhat clear divide between the 'good' and the 'bad' types of magic. The wizards of Earthsea carry staffs, like the wizards and witches of Harry Potter carry wands, and there are magical creatures such as dragons around (although not nearly as prevalent as they are in Harry Potter).
But I think there are also a lot of differences - Harry Potter is primarily a story about our world with the magic sprinkled in, while the Earthsea Archipelago is entirely its own thing, with a separate mythology and culture.
Re-reading The Stormlight Archive book one, The Way of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson. I read the first two so long ago that I don’t remember much of what happened, and I want to read the newest book (Oathbringer, book three) with some context.
I'm reading Elantris right now. Waiting for Words of Radiance from the library.
Great series; great writer.
You’re in for a treat :)
I just finished two books. The first was The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin. Its name has come up on my radar a couple of times, but it wasn't until a friend from China gushed about the book and its translation into English that I finally decided to pick it up. I'm normally averse to series fiction on account of my own attention span and reading stamina, so it's rare that I pick up a book that continues into other volumes. Nevertheless, I was happy enough with this one that I'll be reading its follow-ups shortly.
The book is a deep, sci-fi rabbit hole full of big ideas. There aren't plot twists so much as there are plot expansions. You'll be headed down one narrative path, thinking you know where you're going, but then you'll reach a clearing and suddenly become aware that there's a lot more to this journey than you originally thought there was. These moments were in the book were great and satisfying. It does have some missteps and clunky parts, but the compelling plotting and ideas it presents more than make up for its weaker parts. I'm excited to continue the series, which is something I don't say often.
The second was Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli. One of the occupational obligations of being a teacher is reading young adult books so that you can stay current and make solid recommendations to students. As such, while I don't personally derive a ton of enjoyment out of YA, I still read it frequently and can appreciate what it has to offer.
Leah is the follow-up to the curiously named Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, which was the source material for the 2018 movie Love, Simon. I genuinely loved the first book (and the movie), and Leah continues in the same setting with the same characters, but is written from her perspective instead of Simon's.
The book focuses on Leah's struggles with her identity, friendships, romance, and looming graduation. Albertalli has a gift for writing with a believable, genuine voice, and that skill comes through in this book, just like the first. Leah is sympathetic and flawed, both of which are part and parcel of the genre, but Albertalli's characterization and dialogue round out her as a person rather than just a trope. She also includes but doesn't belabor real-world issues, keeping the book from falling into the didactic territory of others of its kind.
Overall, Leah feels like a believable, genuine protagonist, and her story feels lived rather than told. Even the flaws (for example, the narration's overreliance on "fuck" and its derivatives) feel authentic to the character rather than a crutch of the author. I feel the novel will resonate strongly with high school students, and I will definitely be recommending it to some in the future.
If you liked The Three-Body Problem, I highly recommend the rest of the trilogy. I just finished it myself, last weekend. I can't decide which I liked more, The Dark Forest or Death's End, but The Three-Body Problem pales in comparison to both. The scale and scope of the trilogy is grander and more epic than anything I've read. I wish there were more books in the series! There's certainly plenty of room to tell more stories in the universe Liu Cixin has created.
That's great to hear!
Interestingly enough, shortly after reading your comment, I was talking about the series with my brother-in-law, and he told me the exact opposite. He believes the first was the best and the other two were much weaker. Now I don't know what to believe!
I guess I'll just have to read them and decide for myself. :)
I just finished a short story called My English Name, by R.S. Benedict, featured in The Year's Best Science Fiction: Thirty-Fifth Annual Collection. It's about some kind of shapeshifter (its true nature is never revealed) that assumes the form of an elegant British man in China. He falls in love with a local young man and the juxtaposition of their tenderness and the fragile presentation of the "creature" makes for a very creepy yet beautiful love story.
I just finished Dostoyevsky's The Bothers Karamazov for the second time. Last time I read it was several years ago, and after going through it this time I could tell that much of it went over my head the first time (not to say I didn't love it then). The second time through turned out to be even more profound than last time. I love Dostoyevsky's writing, he is up there with my other favorite authors (like Vonnegut, Emerson, and Huxley). I'm now working through Jordan Peterson's 12 Rules for Life also for the second time, and I can say the same thing for this book; I'm catching or seeing things more clearly this time through that I did the first time. I'm about to order $100+ worth of Russian literature; more Dostoyevsky (I've also read Crime and Punishment, Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita, and Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago.
Highly recommend anything from Dostoyevsky, especially his masterpiece The Brothers K.
Which translation? I tried reading Pevear and Volokhonsky's translation of The Brothers Karamazov but couldn't get into it. Now, I'm reading Constance Garnett's translation (formatted and typeset by Standard Ebooks, shoutout) which I think flows much better and is easier to read.
I have Constance Garnett's translation.
I've gone down a twisted path. I signed up for this Chinese website called Qidian in spite of not knowing any Chinese at all. Using Google translate, I binge read extremely long fan fictionesque stories about transmigration or cultivation. Between the weirdness of the translation and my unfamiliarity with idioms... Well. I'm sure that the stories I'm reading are not quite what the authors intended.
But I'm having fun! So far I love most things by Ding Mo (some of which have become popular dramas). And I like silly ones like 捡枚杀手做农夫.
Unfortunately work and school are both rather busy, so the only book I've had time to really dig into is my textbook Compilers: Principles, Techniques, and Tool. Hopefully in a couple of months I'll get back to the Hamilton biography by Ron Chernow, which is fantastic so far!
I don't remember when I last responded to one of these, but in the immediate past I re-read Frankenstein, which is still a contender for my favorite book, if not the one. I always loved it as a perfect piece of storytelling, but now I see how many little bits of ideas that are bouncing around in my head a lot more now and my interest shifts. So much about the construction of identity and personality is contained in that lil story.
Along with that I listened to an audiobook (not my preferred way to read, but I'm trying to train myself to get more used to it) of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Really couldn't view this one as much other than a historical piece in a genre I love, though. In fact, the most interesting thing that came from this for me was that I started thinking more about what to do when assumptions are uprooted. What brought this to light was that in my mind, this book was not the pulpy fun adventure that it really is. I always saw it, because it was put next to books like Frankenstein, as something closer to "high" art, which it really is not. So then I'm left to wonder, how many ideas do I have about science fiction history that are based on that? What are decisions and statements I've made based on what I think the history of science fiction was? That's such a big web and it's so deep and far back in my own brain that there's no way to unravel that all. So I try to be conscious of when things that could be based on that false assumption come up, but it's still a bit of a stress point for me. Silly, I know.
For a class that started recently, I read The Old Man and the Medal, Song of Lawino, and The Lion and the Jewel. I don't really have many thoughts on these purely from an artistic perspective, for me they're mostly just useful historical and political pieces, which the class is mostly about anyway. I get the feeling these authors might agree with Chinua Achebe that "art for art's sake is just another piece of deodorised dog shit". I can certainly understand that, but that doesn't mean I like the work. I'm leaving them unrated on LibraryThing though, as I just wasn't thinking of them in terms of quality or enjoyment.
Otherwise I'm just trying to get a little Intro to Philosophy going for myself. I have a lot of scattered philosophy knowledge that kinda naturally comes from hanging out in radical left wing communities, critical writing stuff, and getting an education in English, but I'd like to do it a little closer to the "right way," though not super strictly that either. I've been reading short little approachable things like Descartes' Meditations, but I only just now had a chance to get some stuff from the library. So some obvious things like The Myth of Sisyphus and general introductions like this short guide to aesthetics and another book I've had laying around for forever but never touched called Think. I'm also listening to this podcast called The Partially Examined Life that is helping out a lot.
Plus I've got a book on writing interactive fiction that I'll be digging into in the next few days :)
WRT getting into philosophy, I too have a quite scattered knowledge of it, and something that helped fixing that a bit was Nigel Warburton's A Little History of Philosophy. It is not in depth, or completely accurate, but it is a nice birds eye view of the field that is hard to get when focusing on parts of the vast philosophical literature. Seems there is an audiobook too.
Just finished "Skunkworks" by Leo Janos and Ben R. Rich. Amazing read and inside look into how Skunkworks operated as well as the challenges faced by engineers in bringing the U2 Spy Plane and the SR-71 to life.
Now reading "Messing with the Enemy" by Joe Knezevich which is a super interesting look at online trolls and modern information warfare.
Another book I highly recomend is "Spam Nation" by Brian Krebs (From Krebs on Security). Really insightful look at how how hacking/malware works as a business model.
I've recently finished JUDGES Vol 1, which is a trio of short stories from the Judge Dredd universe. It was okay. It was a lot more police work than I was expecting out of Judge Dredd, but I've really only seen the Stallone movie (awful) and the Urban movie (AWESOME) so I don't have a whole lot of in-universe stuff to compare it to.
I started Rosewater by Tade Thompson in anticipation of reading The Rosewater Insurrection for review.
Reading The hobbit to my 4-year old.
Reading LOTR for myself.
My main read at the moment is Dynasty: The Rise and Fall of the House of Caesar by Tom Holland. It's a pop-history version of the lives of the first Emperors of Rome, from Augustus to Nero. I'm finding it quite entertaining and somewhat informative. I've always wanted to know more about Augustus's heirs, and this is filling in the gaps for me. Tom Holland is definitely writing for a popular audience, but his sources are good, and he knows his stuff - there's no sensationalising or fictionalising in this book, beyond reasonable extrapolation.
My bedtime reading is Heaven by Virginia Andrews. I like Virginia Andrews' pre-death work (she's the only author I know who became more prolific after dying!): the 'Flowers in the Attic' series, 'My Sweet Audrina', and this Casteel family series, starting with Heaven. I would say they're a guilty pleasure, except that I don't feel guilty about it at all. These books are my only foray into the romance genre (I got into them because my parents took us all to see the 'Flowers in the Attic' movie at the drive-in when I was a teenager - Louise Fletcher was great as the grandmother!). I like them, and every now and then I re-read them just for the sheer enjoyment of it.
Oh, that's a huge category that includes writers like Fernando Pessoa (one of my favourites) and Franz Kafka. This has some surprising names in it.
I didn't mean that Ms Andrews became more famous or better appreciated after she died. I meant she started producing a lot more work after she died. Her post-death output has been prodigious. She wrote only 7 books before she died, and had started a few others (she had notes on plots and characters for future books in the two series she was working on). However, since she died in 1986, she has written dozens of books! She's become quite prolific since her death.
What actually happened was that her publishers got a ghostwriter to complete the books that Virginia had started before she died, based on her notes - and then kept the ghostwriter on, to keep writing more books in Virginia's style. They've been published under the "V.C. Andrews™" name for the past 30 years, rather than "Virginia Andrews". They trademarked her name.
So, she became more prolific after she died! ;)
Whoops! And wow! That is something I never heard of.
Not sure if this is a book per se, but I just binged through the entire run of unOrdinary so far, and it's something else when you consume it all at once. Light spoilers below:
It's kind of a send up of the High School Shonen Battler, where everyone uses their crazy powers to do constant battles, except the MC gets by with just physical fighting skill, much to the ire of everyone who's fighting over who the coolest is. But what separates it from every other high school battler is that it steps outside the school and painstakingly points out that this world is screwed up, and the kids who can toss cars around at a private school are going to be just fine and can write their own ticket, but the people who live in the slums and can glow in the dark are at the bottom of the totem pole and all the healing tonics in the world aren't going to be able to subvert the might-makes-right system these anime love so much. Even if powerless people are uplifted above their peers, the underdog triumphs and the true King is found, the only thing that changed is the labels on the org chart. Even when highly powered Individuals have been taking up vigilantism to try and break the cycle, and terrorist groups have been killing them and branding the corpses, the government line is "It is unsafe to take up vigilantism, please do not risk your own lives," with the news and media co-signing "Do not be a hero, only defend yourself and yours." And it is really interesting to see how the Shonen Battler formula plays out in a setting of civil unrest, and be pulling for something other than the "They do not value you, time to unleash your true power" MO.
I've been plowing through discworld at high speed. In the past two weeks, I've finished Jingo, The Truth, Monstrous Regiment, The Fifth Elephant, and Going Postal. All fantastic books, but I think The Fifth Elephant is probably my favorite in the series so far.
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius.
A couple years ago I got a copy of the Art of War, and then I got a second copy because it seemed like a better edition. And then I got a third edition for Christmas. Now its halfway between running joke and legit collection, but I have eight different editions of the Art of War, and several of them are bundled with other classical works like the Prince, or the Tao Te Ching, which got me into ancient philosophy in general and led me to Aurelius. Stoicism is legit, dude.
I just finished The Book of the New Sun + Urth of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe. I had a few false starts with the series, attempting the first book, Shadow of the Torturer, twice before finishing it. After changing my approach to the books, and getting deeper in, I realized I was reading something truly fantastic, and by the end of Citadel of the Autarch I had drank Wolfe's kool-aid, as it were. Next I'll be diving straight into Book of the Long Sun, and also picked up the Lexicon Urthus, and it's been awesomely useful to help unpack the novels .
I also just finished The Player of Game by Iain M Banks, the second Culture book I've read. I found this one to be somewhat unsatisfying. I hesitate to call the series overrated, but I hope the other books in the series aren't as one-dimensional as Consider Phlebas & Player of Games. I have Use of Weapons on my shelf that I'm planning on reading eventually.
I'm listening to the audiobook of the fantasy novel Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik, and so far it's fantastic. It's about a moneylender's daughter who takes over the business from her father (who doesn't collect on debts) and gains a reputation for being very good at the job. The story is told from multiple points of view, with each character navigating twists and turns of their own. The narrator is above average, she's really pulling me into the story. This is the same author as Uprooted, which I also enjoyed.
I know it doesn't count too much as reading, but I'm listening to a podcast and an audiobook:
The Podcast is Stuff you should know, from how stuff works and I love it. Not only are topics interesting, but the hosts also make it extremely fun. Recomended for anyone and everyone.
As for the audiobook, I'm listening to Never Split the difference. I just got slightly started, but it seems like a good book! I would recommend it too!
I'm not big on podcasts and I haven't tried an audiobook yet, but I'd count both as reading. Especially themed, time-limited podcasts, which are not very different from audiobooks in essence.
My main issue is that the time I can dedicate to reading is those last 15 minutes before bed....but I rarely survive them, work + MBA takes its tolls!
However, podcasts and audiobooks make commutes suck less, if you do wish to give it a try I highly recommend either of these 2 episodes from stuff you should know:
Db Cooper Heist
edit: correct linking format