What are you reading these days? #20
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'm starting this a couple days earlier because I will not be able to do it on Friday this time round. This is a one-time deviation from the usual schedule. Sorry for the inconvenience if it causes any trouble to anybody. Have a nice time!
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 · Week #14 · Week #15 · Week #16 · Week #17 · Week #18 · Week #19
I'm still reading the linguistics books from last week, but I've dropped Ferdydurke, because it was still just weird rants and ramblings many pages later, I was way to bored and detached, and the horrible translation did not help at all. So I'm going to give myself a couple treats this week and I'll read two books I know are great: Piccoli equivoci senza importanza "Little Misunderstandings of No Importance" by Antonio Tabucchi and Beni öp sonra doğur beni "Kiss me then birth me" [original translation] by Cemal Süreya, one of the best poets out there. I've talked about and dropped the former because of time issues, and in the latter all I know is a couple of the poems, so I don't know much. But the eponymous poem is one of my favourites, so here is an attempt at translating it:
Kiss me then birth me
it grains disgrace
atop blond kids' spikes.
From the plains
a blindfolded lilac's fragrance from the plains
encircles that little sun of ours.
Spouting out of homes terraces
comes and settles in my voice.
The supple conium of my voice
the pied conium of my voice.
And towards the birds
ivory: the manner of the wind.
Mountain: a sun's skeleton.
Among wooden statues
sea's whelp hefty.
I see blood I see stones
among all the statues
warm novice incubus
---insomnia's milky fig---
seeps not into the beehives.
My mom died so young
kiss me, then birth me.
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes is so famous and oftread that I won't bother to tell you what it's about. It was good and thought-provoking, but I was dissapointed. It's praised as one of the best books ever written on Reddit, and it definitely isn't that. I think it might be the first "real" book many people read, which is why it's so popular. It was touching, but in reviews people write they bawled their eyes out. I was nowhere close to crying, and trust me, I've cried to books.
So in short: It was good but underwhelming.
I agree with your review... I think people probably view it with a bit of a rosy-eyed nostalgia. I'd never read it as a younger person and was pretty underwhelmed as an adult.
I think the first "real" book I ever read was "The Giver" and in my mind it was a really good book - eye opening! But I attempted to read it again at 16 or so and I was like, oh geez, I hope I haven't recommended this to anyone.
I first read it as an adult, and it hit me hard. And it hits me hard every time I re-read it (which is why I don't re-read it very often).
Did you read the later full-length novel, or the original shorter novella? I've found that the novella packs a stronger punch than the novel. The novel is more diluted, with more digressions, whereas the novella is clearer and the ending hits harder.
I'm not sure I'd say it's one of the best books ever written, even though the novella is my favourite story of all time. But it is bloody good.
And I cry every time I read the novella - which is why I don't read it very much, despite it being my favourite story of all time.
What underwhelmed you about it? Why didn't it come up to expectations?
I read the full-length novel, and I can imagine that you're right about the novella hitting harder. I'll have to read it when I've forgotten a bit about the novel.
Many people have said it's one of the saddest (and best) stories ever, and I didn't think it was. I can see why people think that, but I couldn't feel it.
Would you mind sharing some of the books that did cause you to cry?
Sure! The one that comes immediately to mind: The Book Thief. I'll see if I can remember any others.
I'm right in the middle of The Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality by Julie Sondra Decker at the moment. I don't identify as ace, so I can't speak about it from that perspective, but for someone who picked it up because I was interested in learning more about the asexual identity, it's been a great resource. The author is articulate and organized, and thus far it seems to be ideal for anyone wanting a primer on ace identity and culture.
Moneyball by Michael Lewis, unsurprisingly I really like it so far. Billy Beane is a super interesting guy.
I really dug that book too - have you read his other works? I sort of lost the plot after a while, but I very much enjoyed Liar's Poker and The New New Thing, though from looking at his wikipedia page it looks like he's written an ocean of similarly themed books. Maybe this is a kick in the pants to pick up some more of them.
I've been reading Borne by Jeff VanderMeer, because my dad had just finished it when I was in town and I took it, even though he didn't think it was great. I like it so far but I'm not very far in. Interesting worldbuilding though so far.
Also, browsing Food Lab by kenji lopez-alt and just finished audiobooking "The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo" which I liked, even though it was kind of pointless and the "big reveal" at the end was super obvious.
I've moved on to The Fall of the House of Wilde: Oscar Wilde and His Family by Emer O'Sullivan. I'm only a few chapters in, and it's interesting. I'm reading about Oscar's parents, William and Jane, as people in their own right, rather just as adjuncts to him. So far, William has invented ground-breaking opthalmological surgical techniques, and Jane's writings inciting the Irish to armed revolution have gotten an editorial friend dragged into court - and they haven't even met yet.
And I'm still reading Dark Angel. Because I can!
I always feel out of place in these discussions, so many people talking about some non-fiction or psychological books and all I'm doing here is reading normal old fiction. But here we go, with mostly stuff I didn't like or overly enjoy.
First I read the first 2 books in The Dresden Files, and decided to drop the series early. It just didn't do anything overly interesting and it felt kinda random and rambling. But I guess at least I gave it a try.
Than I guess one of the best series I read was from what is definitely a newer less known series. Given they only have like 30 reviews on Amazon, but it is called the Ethereal Earth series by Josh Erikson. I don't feel like this did anything shocking or new or incredible, but it felt solid and enjoyable. Did enough to keep me coming back and wanting to continue reading. Going to keep following the Author to see the next book in the series and what more he writes.
Other day decided to read a genre other than fantasy or scifi and read Cold Waters by Debbie Herbert. And man did this story start off really strong, sure it felt like it was gonna be kinda generic mystery. But it was a solid start that while I didn't think it was gonna do anything revolutionary, it would have been perfectly decent. But man oh man, did it just go off the rails by the end. She just couldn't resist giving more and more twists everything single chapter. Even with massive really unnecessary twist like 80% way through the book. By the end it just felt so complicated and confusing that I realized I had no chance to to figure out the mystery using context clues at all because of it.
Also for the book I got about 50 pages into before dropping it and never looking back, Lord Foul's Bane from The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, #1 by Donaldson, Stephen R. I was looking to read something with an anti-hero character, normally like the idea of anti-hero's cause they feel different. And I can put up with anti-hero characters doing various evil things, but I draw the line with certain subjects. I just feel like I don't want to keep following this character if this is how it starts, specially since I know nothing happens to him since there are like a dozen more books in the series.
No need at all to feel out of place here, we're all for diversity of content in this recurring feature. There clearly are some tendencies, e.g. sci-fi, fantasy, tech-oriented self-help and tech books are big, but that just represents the folks here in Tildes: early adopters of this sort of platforms will tend to be techies, and they tend to like techy fiction and tech literature itself. But the number of participants that talk about texts more to the other end of the spectrum (like more complex fiction, poetry, philosophy, historical texts, etc.), and from the non-Anglophone parts of the world are slowly---perhaps too slowly---increasing, including e.g. yours truly, @iiv or @alyaza (off the top of my head), and that's something I really welcome. Just like @Algernon_Asimov strives for a less tech-oriented Tildes, I want to try and cultivate a more diverse set of postings here from many genres, traditions and languages, but it is hard to go against the grain.
TL;DR that there are some clear tendencies should not discourage posters that don't fit in to those, this is about anything longform that you read, including journals people follow, audiobooks, podcasts and even webcomics.
I'm not trying to talk you into anything, but the writing in the Dresden Files gets miles better after the first 3 books or so. That said, if you didn't enjoy the first couple enough to press on, you probably wouldn't have gotten much out of the later books.
I agree on Lord Foul's Bane. I first read it when I was young enough to not really fully grasp the gravity of what was going on, and when I tried to reread a few years ago I kinda hated it.
I usually have two books on the go, and the second book is always some light fiction.
I'm guessing your mention of "certain subjects" is a reference to Covenant raping someone. Yes, it's a horrible event. However, it informs the rest of the first trilogy. It's almost necessary to the story. For one thing, how would you know he's an anti-hero if he didn't do something bad? There's an old dictum in writing: "show, don't tell". Well, Donaldson made sure to show you just how unheroic Thomas Covenant really is. And then you get to see the consequences of that rape throughout the remainder of that first trilogy - and they're not good. Not good at all. It's not like Donaldson is glorifying rape, or even implicitly approving it. It's a bad thing, and you get to see that at every step of way through the trilogy.
And, by the way... lots of things happen to Covenant. The whole series is about what happens to Covenant, and how he learns from his mistakes. A major aspect of the first trilogy is him repeatedly dealing with the consequences of that rape (you won't believe how many different times and ways he has to deal with it!). Also, he eventually dies. I won't say when or how, but he dies somewhere in the course of the ten books (two trilogies and one tetralogy) that make up the full Chronicles. Don't assume that "nothing happens". Remember that it's a fantasy series: even the dead can have their roles to play (multiple dead people make their appearances along the way).
And... even if you can't care about Covenant himself, you're supposed to care about the other people he meets in the Land, as well as the Land itself. You didn't meet Lord Mhoram yet. He's amazing: determined and strong and caring, carrying a load that's just too much for him, but unable and unwilling to give up. And Saltheart Foamfollower! Gotta love a jolly Giant. Especially one whose heart is breaking. These two characters are good people, and very much worth caring about. But you won't meet them or know them if you abandon the books so early.
That said, this series isn't for everyone. It may be a classic of the fantasy genre, but it is pretty heavy going at times.
Courtesy of my wife watching some of Hulu's Catch 22, I picked the book back up last night. I have a general sense of not liking it terrible much when I read it in high school, but this time through I was struck by how it's pretty much a joke every other line. Given it's length I'm honestly curious as to whether it'll keep it up, which I simply can't remember.
On top of every other line being a joke, every chapter seems to be a huge set-up that ends on a punchline.
I think I've stated this here before...at least, I've thought it before.
still making positively glacial pace on Ian Kershaw's first Hitler book. in between i've also been chipping off a few little anarchist texts here and there, like Jeff Shantz's Green Syndicalism: An Alternative Red-Green Vision. i have a whole bunch of theory like this i also want to get around to reading at some point, but that'll have to come later.
Wow that's so many words I like. I've been on the prowl for Bookchin the last couple trips to the used book store so it's exciting to hear about another writer thinking along these lines. I'm getting involved with a community council working group with my local DSA so I'm trying to read as much of this stuff as possible. What do you have queued up?
i use theory a bit loosely here, and most of it is socialist over anarchist and kinda esoteric, but broadly these are the ones i want to get through/have gone through this year if nothing else, as organized by how esoteric i feel they are. i probably missed a few but that's fine:
pretty good to start out
deeper reading but still digestable
pretty esoteric or actual french intellectual stuff; these take time to digest and probably multiple readings
Others that I'd recommend:
The Politics of Social Ecology: Libertarian-Municipalism by Janet Biehl and Murray Bookchin, which lays out a model for governance for realizing the political philosophy of Social Ecology. (Note that that the term libertarian is used here in its original European sense, not as coopted in America by so-called 'anarcho-capitalist' individualists.)
Post-Scarcity Anarchism by Murray Bookchin
Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future by Bill McKibben
oh, it occurs to me that i forgot to mention the other book i'm glacially reading, which is Elizabeth Becker - When The War Was Over: Cambodia And The Khmer Rouge Revolution. this book is also huge, like Ian Kershaw's Hitler books, so that makes it fun.
Ive been reading Ayn Rand’s Fountain Head. While I don't agree with everything she says, I really like how the protagonist views his work. It inspires me to really go the extra mile with design and fine details when working on projects.
i've found in general with some of rand's writing that, if you strip away the hamfisted, awful ideology that she's trying to push and just read it as standard fiction, most of it is not that bad. anthem for example is actually a decent idea and pretty decently written--it's the ideology that just makes it a painful book. of course, arguably reading most of what she writes without taking the ideology in mind is pointless, but it is what it is.
There are things I do like about Rand’s ideology, but on the contrary there are some good points. The main protagonist’s indifference to others opinions (which is an aspect of objectivism) has helped me personally disregard others’ opinions. Which as a 17 year old loner, is almost necessary. Granted, I don’t like her rejection of altruism, but the focus on independence and self-sufficiency is refreshing.
I've been going through The Hillbilly Moonshine Massacre by Jonathan Raab. Without spoiling too much for the inevitable review that I'll put up on Staining The Timbre, it has been a ride. I've never read anything else by Raab but a cursory glance at his bibliography reveals quite a few other things dripping with intrigue. Depending on how THMM ends I may be picking up The Lesser Swamp Gods of Little Dixie sooner rather than later.
I picked up a few books from my local purveyor for fine bound volumes Myopic Books for a lil retail therapy. Got a bunch of good books on people power, popular institutions, and also the Autobiography of Malcolm X. The first one I'm reading Eric Liu's "You're More Powerful Than You Think." It's about power literacy and how citizens can find and exercise their power. Every so often there's a little "enlightened centrism" but in general I think this book is pretty excellent. I am enjoying getting out of the far-left intellectual bubble I've been in lately.
I'm also "reading" (meaning every so often before bed) Writing to Learn by William Zinsser and Wallace's opus Infinite Sentences which for various reasons I'm having trouble getting finished. With Writing, the author is constantly making historical references to people I've never heard of because the book is kind of old and Zinsser was pretty old when he wrote it. With the case of Jest I just get discouraged that this book literally does not ever end. I'll finish them some day!
I finished the first part of Don Quixote (as translated by Tom Lathrop) and have since started on Terra Nostra by Carlos Fuentes.
The humor of Don Quixote aged very well, in my opinion. It helps that it's pretty silly and slapstick-y, which I'm all for. Lathrop's translation contains fairly illuminating notes*, so I'm glad it's the translation I chose.
Terra Nostra is a bit strange, so far (~115 pages in). Kind of dream-like in prose and setting.
*for example, Cervantes occasionally gets the continuity of the story and certain characters mixed up, which some translators decide to fix but Lathrop suggests is done on purpose to further satirize chivalric romance novels.
I agree regarding Don Quixote. What made you decide to go with the Lathrop translation? I read the Grossman translation and I have nothing but praise for it. It manages to salvage as much of the wordplay as possible, and, where it cannot, it has helpful footnotes.
I found his review of Grossman's translation compelling. Pedantic in a way I find satisfying.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, I like it so far, although I preferred the more rural tone of Wuthering Heights.
I signed up for bill gates reading club or wtv, he recently recommended A Gentleman in Moscow, so i am reading that right now. Only 10 pages in, it seems ok so far.
East of Eden, by John Steinbeck. It's been kick ass so far.
Hey, @Bauke and @Algernon_Asimov, thanks for fixing the tags on these topics retroactively and consistently, I've adopted the new tags into my posting process and use them from now on.
I'm trying to complete the r/fantasy reading bingo this year, so the last couple of weeks I've been reading the short story collection Mothership: Tales from Afrofuturism and Beyond. It was fairly rough going at times. Some of the stories were genuinely fantastic but there were a few that I really struggled to get through. I don't regret picking it, though, because it was very much out of my comfort zone and a lot of what I'm trying to do this year is explore some of the SFF landscape that it beyond what I typically read.