What are you reading these days? #25
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.
First of all, I'm again having to post the topic earlier b/c travel. Sorry.
Seconly, big news! It's already been almost a year that we do these threads! It's been a beautiful time for me, but I've decided that the time has come that I pass the torch on to another Tildista to post and manage these threads. I posted a topic on ~tildes declaring my decision; we held a vote and elected @acdw as the new maintainer of these threads. This is the last one of these topics that I'll post; from the next thread on @acdw will be taking over. FWIW, I'll stay around and comment on these threads when I can.
Hey @acdw, hope you'll have a great time doing this! Good luck!
Previous topics are listed in the wiki.
gradually, working through alex vitale's The End of Policing, which is something i've been putting off reading for a bit because i've just not had the time for it. for those of you not privy to the contents (although you can probably get a pretty good idea from the tiltle which is not at all subtle), i think the explanation off verso summarizes fairly well:
aside from that, i have 11/22/63 by stephen king up in microsoft edge to counteract the endless amounts of political theory in my reading list, but i haven't really gotten a chance to dig into that yet. i really have not read king's novels (except rage, weirdly enough!), even though my mom is a massive fan and i have her old, expensive copy of insomnia sitting on my shelf waiting to be read because i asked her for it like 3 years ago, and i kinda want to rectify that.
Currently, I'm reading Piccoli equivoci senza importanza "Little Misunderstandings of No Importance" by Antonio Tabucchi. It is a collection of short stories, and what short stories they are! Some of you may recognise the name from seeing it in a past comment of mine, yes, it was a book that I started reading some time ago but had to put down: it was too hard to read when studying other stuff, b/c Italian is not my L1 and Tabucchi's use of words and syntax is very creative rendering reading it a bit difficult. And with this book, where even the title focuses of equivoci "misunderstandings", he's created a series of texts that are a semantic adventure, where complex narrative techniques create great surprises for you. I'm almost 2/3 the way in, and the stories flow nicely, despite the difficulty of reading them.
I've also got my hands on Construction Grammar and its Application to English by Martin Hilpert. CxG is a rather new linguistic theory (or family of theories) that I'm interested in as a prospective linguist. The main point is that language is built out of "construction", an amalgam of meaning and structure, that govern how utterances are formed at both morphological and syntactic levels. The established theory holds that syntactic structures are essentially meaningless: grammar provides a semantically empty skeleton for lexical elements, i.e. words, morphemes, idioms; but CxG holds that all these structures also mean certain things. If you want to explore this theory and evidence that supports it, I really recommend Martin Hilpert's online lectures. He's one good lecturer.
I've also acquired the translation of Don Quixote by Tom Lathrop, per @krg's recommendation.
Do you think Tabucchi's stories could work in translation? I can't read Italian but the stories sound like they'd be right up my alley.
I've only read one translation of him, into Turkish, of Gli ultimi tre giorni di Pessoa. It was not bad, but it's a tiny text, so doesn't tell much. So I don't have much concrete stuff to say, but I'd say it probably works: the complexity and linguistic creativity is mostly at a conceptual level, if my memory is not failing me. Even books like Sostiene Pereira are written with a rather plain language. Not much interesting word play I can think of.
OTOH, it's definitely a minefield for a translator, so if I were you I'd make sure I research the translator well and pick accordingly. Can make a big big difference.
Cool, thanks for the tip. I'll have to see if I can find him.
Hey, glad to be here! Hopefully I can live up to @cadadr's legacy.
I've just finished The Circle by Dave Eggers, and struggled the entire way through. I really didn't like it - its protagonist was painfully naive and stayed that way through the entire book, the descriptions behind the technology were rudimentary at best, and I could see plot points coming from a mile away. The characters weren't people, but types that served only to preach at the reader about the eViLs Of TeChNoLoGy. I only finished it so I could talk to my fiancee about how bad it was.
I'm about to start -- probably today -- Lemon by Lawrence Krauser. I have no idea what it's about, but it was on my bookshelf, so I'm going to read it!
I also got a subscription to Poetry for my birthday, and the first issue -- focusing on English language Indian poetry (I think that's the phrasing they use) -- and the little bit I've read of it is really pretty good.
I had a similar experience. Although after having read the book (in 2013/2014) I had an increasing number of 'wow, when this was in The Circle, I found it unrealistic'-experiences over real events. Camera's everywhere, the ideology within and surrounding these companies, the whole 'why wouldn't you go transparent if you have nothing to hide', and not allowing people to choose to stay away (the guy --was it her brother?-- getting hounded by amateur papparazi towards the end).
So, not a great book, but it did influence how I see and experience the world, which usually only good books do :-/
(The guy was her ex-boyfriend.)
And yeah, I was wondering how much of my dislike of the novel was it seeming naive -- I didn't realize it came out in 2013, so parts that ended up being prescient just felt like Eggers missing what was going on in the world. Maybe it'll be like 1984, which I also don't think is great (flat characters, too preachy) but ended up being way ahead of its time on sociopolitical stuff.
Can you recommend some magazines in English, if you follow any (apart from Poetry, of course)? Poetry, shorts, criticism, anything goes for me. I really want to find some nice stuff in the language, maybe some niche that I can try contribute to. But I've always been rather lazy about this.
I don't subscribe to many magazines, but the Rumpus has good poetry and short stories and essays, and I'll try and see if I can find more. I used to be way more "on the pulse" about this stuff, but I've fallen off recently. Maybe looking for recommendations for you will help me get back on top!
Ancillary Justice - Ann Leckie
About half way through, it's an interesting take on sci-fi with a pretty massive universe.
Would recommend reading it with no prior knowledge, don't even read the blurb. I didn't, it made the first few chapters a bit confusing, but much more interesting seeing the pieces of the story fall into place, rather then having the characters motivation spoiled from the beginning.
Murderbot Diaries - Martha Wells
It's four short, ~120 page books that follow what amounts to a snarky robot mixed with Abed from Community. The first book in the series; All Systems Red is probably my favourite short story I've read in the last few years.
The connecting thread between the books is almost too literal, the murderbot books have a quote by Ann Leckie on the cover as praise. It's what lead me to Leckie's book.
More subtly they both deal with gender, AI and identiy.
I loved Ancillary Justice, it's one of the better sci-fi books I've read recently. I'm also glad I'm not the only one who likes to dive into a book cold!
Yes! I've finished it now and it's pretty cool, One Esk is a great character and what an awesome universe.
Already loaded up Ancillary Sword on my kindle. Can't wait.
I loved the series. I really liked the books' approach to gender. (Minor series setting detail that's established pretty early on: the main character and their culture does not use gendered pronouns or really have the social concept, and the importance placed on it by other cultures causes some confusion occasionally when they interact. The book uses "she" as the pronoun for everyone because ostensibly it's translated from the protagonist's language and the original text didn't have the gender information in it.) Early on in the book, I wondered whether certain characters were male or female, and it frustrated me a bit that it wouldn't say. I thought I needed that detail to really picture the scenes or to understand the social dynamics, but I realized I only wanted that detail so I could try to pattern-match the characters to certain gendered stereotypes in my head. I realized that impulse wasn't actually that useful to understanding the characters, or even as useful as I thought it was for understanding people in general.
It made me feel pretty aware of how strange it is that pronouns always include that one specific bit about people. Can you imagine a culture which had pronouns that instead of specifying someone's gender, always specified their skin color, or instead whether the person had a beard? I think that culture would end up developing some extremely strong stereotypes and social roles based around that. I'd be really uncomfortable for a detail like that to always be the first step in how I'm categorized in conversation. I'm more than comfortable being male and identifiable as that, but it's weird to realize that that's the primary detail language uses to categorize myself and everyone.
Coincidentally I also read a bunch of Greg Egan books at around the same time, which often explored gender, had characters that were AIs or uploaded humans which were just minds with no physical body, and posed the question of what gender even means or whether it's an outdated concept when no one is stuck to it.
I think it all helped to truly convince my mind just how arbitrary gender is. Anyway I'm now bisexual and in a same-sex relationship. I'm sure some people will assume this just means I always was actually bisexual and just needed to realize that, but I don't really think that was the case.
I'm currently reading Bullshit Jobs by David Graeber, which suggests that there is a significant chunk of jobs that are on the market are so pointless, unnecessary, or pernicious that the people that occupy them can't justify their existence. It's actually really interesting and I'd totally recommend it for the outrageous stories of people with these jobs.
This article by the author is a nice short intro to the topic and was quite an interesting read for me. Glad to hear that the book itself is nice too!
This video posted about the TV series 'The Office' relies heavily on the concept of bullshit jobs. You might find it relevant and/or interesting, even if, like me, you haven't watched the show.
What's hilarious is that video is how I discovered the book. So I am glad to have come full circle.
I read two Italo Calvino books: Il cavaliere inesistente (The non-existent knight) and Il visconte dimezzato (The cloven viscount).
Il cavaliere inesistente is about a knight that doesn't exist. He is the ideal knight: righteous, honest, chivalrous. The only problem is that he doesn't exist, he is an empty suit of armour. We get to follow him around Europe and see how he handles things like love and fleshy, existing humans. I think that he might symbolise those good qualities. They're in the world, but they're not real. There is no one who is that way all the time. That's why he doesn't exist.
Il visconte dimezzato is about a viscount, who is split in two by a cannon. The two parts are very different: one is evil, and the other is good. The evil part returns to his lands, and we get to see how his subjects live under his awful rule: he is unfair and tortures and kills people for fun. He is comically evil. The good half returns, but is too naïve to stop the evil half. He doesn't want to hurt anybody, even if the net good in the world would increase. Perhaps it is a metaphor for moderates in either communist or fascist societies? Anyway, it is an interesting story about good and evil, and the ending is quite fun.
That's it for me this fortnight.
These are some of the most beautiful texts ever written out there, pure creative and artistic magic, moves that only Calvino can pull off.
Calvino was the son of a family of leftist intellectuals, and his writing often gives it away. Also, his time was that of the partigiani, Italy's anti-fascist irregulars (Il sentiero dei nidi di ragno is an almost neorealist book by Calvino on partisan experience), where he too participated.
The two novellas are part of a trilogy called I nostri antenati "Our Forefathers", where the general tendency IMO is a treatment of how extremity plays a role in life, and how it contrasts with a moderate middle ground: in Il cavaliere inesistente we watch an extreme masculine and bellic virtuousness and discipline may lead to problems; and in Il visconte dimezzato it is extreme good and extreme evil that are put on show, where again, I tend to read the end as a victory of the middle ground, and of balance in general.
I too didn't read Il barone rampicante yet, but it is a story that had sounded really interesting to me; hopefully it won't take too much time until I can get to it. It is one about a baron that one day decides to live on a tree. We might have talked about it in a lesson or two during my BA, but it's been so long I forgot all that if we ever did back then.
That explains a lot! I agree that balance seems to be an important theme in those books. I haven't seen Il barone rampicante in my local library, but I might go look again.
Haven't exactly had great luck with books recently, don't feel like I'm reading many that I really enjoy. Gonna have to change things up again soon if I don't find something I really like. But anyhow, onto the normal reviews.
Fluency by Jennifer Foehner Wells
Series: Confluence Book 1
When a book makes me sit down and read the entire thing in a single sitting, I know I have something that I like. It felt exciting learning about the this new world and alien ship alongside the main character Jane.
Now parts of it was a bit rough for me, but I didn't personally care about them that much. Might take away from your enjoyment sure, but I think it would depend on your preferences. For me I was able to ignore them simple because of how much I did enjoy the book.
Some of those rough parts are the romance and the writing at times. The romance didn't fit at all in the story, didn't make much sense, and felt like it came out of nowhere without any character interactions that would build into romantic developments between these two characters. The only thing it results in is an awkward sex scene that felt poorly written and was pointless. The whole story would have been better off if this romance wasn't written in, and it all just stayed professional between the characters.
The writing at times in general could feel weak at points, but I could largely just ignore it. I don't really notice bad writing, and just go on reading it as long as the editing doesn't let it down. And in that it was fairly good, good enough editing for me not to have any major moments that bothered me at least.
Overall I enjoyed the book immensely. It is a good intro point into what I hope will be a very enjoyable sci-fi universe. Sure I don't think it will be greatly original with it's ideas, but it will put these into something that keeps me turning the pages and looking forward to what comes next.
Remanence by Jennifer Foehner Wells
Series: Confluence Book 2
I'm disappointed in this book compared to the first one. While I was interested enough to read it in a single day. The same issues remain and it doesn't really improve very much. In fact I feel like was let me down in more ways now.
The terrible romance gets more time, and it still isn't interesting. I just don't care about this romance, I feel the characters haven't shown enough love or attraction, and it all comes off feeling really superficial. Just not enough time is given to it at all to really work well. Relationships in general also disappointed, including a strange relationship between two squids that happens in the last couple pages without warning or buildup.
Writing and editing is in the same place as the first book, the major difference is the amount of science she has packed into the book. It starts to make it feel dull and uninteresting at times when I just start skimming a paragraph because what is being discussed isn't interesting. Enough came up she had to include definitions at the end so you could remember all the various names and meanings for what she created.
Now my biggest issue is the pacing of the story, and the way it comes off. The book starts oddly with a rather large time skip, just glossing over the way the previous book ended. And wrapping that up in a kinda overview of events, but it isn't satisfying and felt like she didn't know how to wrap it up. And as the book goes on, I get a feeling this book exists just to set up the rest of the universe and not stand alone. An antagonist is created and confronted and fought off within like 50 pages. It didn't feel satisfying and just like she needed to get him in the story so everyone knew who the mini-boss antagonist was going to be.
Overall this was a much more disappointing book for me, and ended in a way I didn't find satisfying. The first book could have stood by itself, the enemy is defeated and the crew has a ship. The second book can't, they are in a precarious situation with at least 2 antagonists you know who exist and will have to be fought. Honestly don't think I'm going to read the next book in the series, especially after reading the synopsis and learning it suddenly jumps to a whole new set of characters to set up another story. It disappoints me when that happens while the original story is still incomplete.
The Forever Life by Craig Robertson
Series: The Forever Book 1
Yeah I felt like this book was rather terrible. The story felt disjointed, jumping around with very little reason at all. Moving between various sci-fi tropes to make some hodgepodge mess that doesn't work at all.
The characters aren't very good, they are very one dimensional and uninteresting. And the main characters humor was never funny, and just came off as abrasive. We also get a little romance, but it ends up feeling fake and rushed.
The various political elements in the book weren't very good ether. They didn't feel real or possible, just extreme.
Science parts of this book are of the fake lets put things together that sound good type. But not good enough to make you feel like the fake science stuff could possibly work. It would work better if you replaced all instances of science with magic and just said magic is making stuff happen.
I don't know what the author was trying to do with this book. Besides maybe throwing a bunch of random sci-fi tropes into a book and hoping something works. I guess at least the editing wasn't terrible and it was functionally something to read for a couple hours.
New Spring by Robert Jordan
Series: The Wheel of Time Book 0
I've heard many times about how good The Wheel of Time series is, and with the upcoming TV Show I decided to start reading the series finally. Now I know most would say to start with book 1, but I don't feel that is the right way to read a story. If there is a book 0, I will read book 0 because I read in order of universe time, not the order they were written.
And man this books makes me not even bother to read book 1. The biggest issue I have is how nothing happens at all with this story. I question why it was 400 pages and what was done with all of them. You could probably sum up this book in about 10 pages and not miss anything of importance. I understand many of these things that were repeated probably holds relevance for people who have already read the books, but to me they were just more filler that meant nothing. We spend somewhere around 250 pages just following girls study and complain and plan. It is incredibly dull and boring and feels like he was just padding out the pages.
The characters I guess felt really one-dimensional. It is like he wrote down a trait that needed to be filled, than wrote a character around that trait. None of the characters really felt all that fleshed out or interesting, sure they were interesting but I didn't feel like very much more existed to their characters than filling their roles. It doesn't help they don't really interact with each other for most of the book, only really spending 100 pages together. In which I don't feel enough time was given to making them grow together as a group.
In the end this book doesn't inspire much confidence in The Wheel of Time series and the rest of the books. It didn't feel interesting or give me all that many questions about the universe. And just left me wondering where this great fantasy series so many people talk about is. Maybe in book 1 the greatness shows up, guess I will have to read that one to find out at some point. Also this is another book that the synopsis just doesn't match the book at all, I really wish they would write them to actually match the content of the book and not some hook to get you interested in the other books.
Quick comment about new spring: it's really written from the perspective of someone who's already familiar with the world and characters. It should be read around the time you read book 10 or 11 (publication order). This is just because it goes back and explores the history of Moiraine and Lan that had thus far been hinted at.
I strongly recommend trying the Eye of the World.
I've never understood why people wonder if they should consume media in in-world chronological order or publication order. The context of what has already been revealed to the audience is always going to influence how any story is written or relayed. Is there any example of chronological order actually being better?
I think i agree: book series depend on the context of the previous books so should have a natural order, which should be publication order. I can't think of any examples where the in-universe chronological order is better than published (where the two differ, naturally).
Yeah I'm definitely planning on reading Book 1 next and I hope it helps increase what I think of the series thus far. I know what the idea is behind writing prequel books and understand that your supposed to read them after understanding the world already, but that itself feels wrong. If you wanted me to read this book after 11, than label it as 12 or 11.5. Cause if not I'm gonna go up the list from the lowest to highest number, maybe only skipping things like 0.5 books that are 50 page side stories. But I doubt a ton of people are gonna go along with my feelings on that to convince story writers and publishers to stop doing it.
I guess implicit in the 'prequel' or 'a wheel of time novel' is the idea that this book is special in some sense, and shouldn't be considered the start of the series. Similarly, starting with the Encyclopaedia doesn't really make sense.
Ooh. I've been waiting for this thread. I have such a lot I want to say.
After abandoning 'The Dragon Throne' which I was reading last time, I picked up 'The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter'.
I was, to say the least, disappointed.
The book has separate chapters for each topic, such as:
The Revenge of Vinyl [about record albums]
The Revenge of Paper [about notebooks]
The Revenge of Print [about magazines and newspapers]
The Revenge of Boardgames [about boardgames, obviously]
The Revenge of Retail [mostly about books]
... and so on.
Each chapter consists mostly of the author interviewing one or two people who run a business in the relevant sphere. For Revenge of Vinyl, he interviewed some people who are running a record-pressing company. For Revenge of Paper, he interviewed the woman who founded the Moleskine notebooks company. For Revenge of Print, he interviewed some people running printing companies. For Revenge of Boardgames, he interviewed the people who a boardgames café around the corner from where he lives (that's research for you!). And so on.
There was very little analysis or synthesis. There was no "big picture". It was mostly just individual stories about individual people running their individual companies.
When I read that the record-pressing company owners are aiming to achieve 4% of the sales that the company had at its pre-digital peak (to prove that's not a typo: 4%), I had the feeling that the "Revenge of Analog" was more like the "Revenge of Reptiles": "Look how well crocodiles are doing, by staying in their niche. Never mind that mammals are running the planet. Aren't crocodiles doing well?"
And, the format of reporting interviews wasn't what I was looking for. I wanted something larger. I wanted an insight into worldwide trends. I wanted more sociology. Then I read the blurb about the author, and it turns out he's mostly a journalist - and everything fell into place.
So I abandoned that book. (Two in a row!)
I've moved on to two books.
My main reading at the moment is 'A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather Than Nothing' by Lawrence Krauss. I'm only a few chapters in, so I don't really have much to say about it.
However... the book I'm dying to tell everyone about is 'The Horologicon: A Day's Jaunt Through the Lost Words of the English Language'.
Oh. My. God. I am absolutely loving this book!
It's not just a boring list of quirky words - although I have already learned such gems as "uhtcaete", "expergefactor", "pogonology", "cluf", and "bumfodder".
It's also chock-full of wonderfully delicious writing. The author has a very dry sense of wit, which I love. When I saw the book in the shop last week (such a pretty cover!), I started browsing through various pages, and then started reading the introduction. When I realised that I had chuckled out loud a few times while standing in the store, I knew I had to buy this book.
Here are some examples
And my favourite so far...
I'm giggling just from typing those quotes.
I'm having to ration this book. I don't want it to end. I'm forcing myself to read only a few sections at a time (each chapter is divided into small sections). I want to savour the writing. And learn some words as well. So I'm stretching this book out, even though I just want to sit down and devour it from cover to cover in a single sitting.
I just finished A Crown of Swords from The Wheel of Time series last night.
At this point I'm feeling a lot of sunk-cost pressure to finish the series even though I'm not exactly enjoying it like I was in the beginning. I never feel like the stakes are very high. It never seems like the protagonists are in a jam that they can't get out of. What are y'all's thoughts? Keep going?
I struggle with the sunk-cost fallacy in regard to book reading too. I feel like I have to give them a fair shake, and I've put myself through a lot of boring reads because of it.
I've recently started dumping books that I don't like, though. If it's not doing it for you, it's not doing it. However, I've never read Whell of Time, so I'm not sure if the series gets better from the book you just finished or not -- that might make a difference.
I'd say stop: if you're not enjoying it what's the point? Maybe you put it down, read other stuff, and then some time later remember you were reading it and quit w/o finishing the whole thing, and you pick it up again. Then maybe you like it or really hate it. It happened to me with some books. There was this Tabucchi one I read, the first time it was the worst thing ever written; two years later when I retried, it was beautiful, and I read many other books by Tabucchi, he beacme one of my favourites. With Ferdydurke, I put it down first at the beginning, and then retried a year or two later to start over, disliked it again, and put it down.
If you're not enjoying reading these books, why keep reading them? You're just wasting time on something that's not making you happy.
I've finally gotten around to reading Asimov. I've nearly finished the first Foundation book. I've never really read science fiction and this is only my third book in the genre (An assorted short stories collection and Lem's Cyberiad precede this). It's a different style than Lem but I think I like Lem's style better. I've only read one book of each though so I'll read some more before forming an opinion.
Just for context, the so-called books of the original Foundation "trilogy" are actually collections of short stories. Each section within the three books (Foundation, Foundation and Empire, Second Foundation) was originally published as a short story.
And, yes, Asimov and Lem had very different styles. For one thing, Lem wrote originally in Polish, so you're reading a translation. For another, Asimov's writing in the Foundation stories reflected the pulpish milieu he wrote in.
Even at his height, Asimov was never renowned for his style. He was known more for his ideas than his style.
That makes sense, the ideas are certainly interesting, I can certainly see how it must have felt reading them at the time they were published.
Do his other stories have a different style then? What would you recommend?
In my opinion, Asimov had (roughly) three writing periods. Off the top of my head, I'll call them: pulpish; mature; superstar.
As a young writer in his teens and 20s (his first story was published when he was 18, and his first Foundation story was published when he was 20), he very much reflected the pulpish writing that he had been reading as a teenager. All the short stories collected in the initial Foundation Trilogy were written during this period, and they show their pulpish heritage. However, he also wrote all the short stories collected in 'I, Robot' during this period, and they hold up much better.
As he matured, so did his writing. I'd say he reached his peak in the 1950s (after he turned 30) and then revisited that peak in the 1970s (he took a hiatus from writing science fiction from 1957 until the early 1970s, as he focussed on writing science fact instead). Stories from this era include:
The Caves of Steel
The Naked Sun
The End of Eternity
The Gods Themselves
Notable short stories:
The Dead Past
The Ugly Little Boy
Eyes Do More Than See (his only venture into New Wave-style writing)
The Bicentennial Man
That Thou Are Mindful of Him
Then... in the early 1980s (by which time he was in his 60s), his publisher blackmailed him into writing more Foundation books. Asimov did not want to write these books; there was a reason he'd stopped writing them 30 years before. But the publisher insisted.
So he started churning out Foundation novels. Previously, he'd written 8 short stories covering about 300 years of the Foundation's progress. Now he wrote two-full length novels covering about 1 year starting with the Foundation's 500-year anniversary. The style was totally different. The early stories skimmed across history, and were written with a long view. The novels are bogged down, and feel padded and wordy and boring.
Then he couldn't think of an idea for another sequel, so he fulfilled his contractual requirements for more Foundation books by writing prequels. The first prequel is ordinary, like the two sequels. However, the second prequel is written as if it's a series of short stories - and short stories were always Asimov's strong point.
In between those later Foundation books, he wrote a few other novels to scratch his own writing itch. 'Fantastic Voyage II' and 'Nemesis' are interesting, but not as good as the earlier novels written at his peak.
Basically, that final spurt of writing in his 60s was a result of his publisher letting him do whatever he wanted, because he was a superstar by then. Especially regarding the Foundation books (which he didn't want to write), I feel like he was just going through the motions. The others were vanity projects.
So, if you're looking for the best of Asimov, you'll find it in his books and stories from the 1950s, plus a few from the 1970s.
Thanks for the recommendations, will definitely check them out.
I read a ton of Asimov when I was a kid and remember really liking Foundation -- but when I went back to read something else of his as an adult, it seemed almost ... patronizing in style? Like he didn't really trust the reader to make their own conclusions, so he over-explained everything.
I will go back and re-read Foundation at some point though, because I thought the idea was so interesting. And I've been hearing about Lem for some time now, I really should check him out as well, thanks for the rec!
What did you like about the Lem (and the Asimov)?
You should definitely check out Lem.
For Lem, I liked his style and felt his stories were witty. For Asimov once I got past his style, some of his ideas seemed interesting. Of course I can see how it would have felt reading it at it's time of publication.
Finished Out of Mind by J. Bernlef. It's about Maarten, an elderly man from Holland living in the U.S. and gradually losing his mind to dementia and possibly Alzheimer's. Told in the first person, it reminds me of my Dad who died of Alzheimer's, and Slaughterhouse Five, by Vonnegut. I always considered that novel an allegory of dementia, and Out of Mind is eerily reminiscent of Billy Pilgrim's journey through time.
This is possibly the most unsettling book I've ever read. Maarten's reaction to his wife's reactions are heartbreaking and hit very close to home.
This week, I'm starting Leviathan Wakes, which is Book 1 of the Expanse, by James S. A. Corey. I've watched the TV show, but I'm starting the series and plan to catch up and eclipse the series before the next season starts.
This is actually a big step for me. I'm an avid eBook reader, but I'm trying to cut down expenses, so I went to the library and got a library card, so I can read library books on my kindle. The downside is that you need to place the books on hold before you can read them, but then once they're available, you can add them to your kindle for free (during the duration of your library rental). If you're actually someone posting in this thread in ~books weekly, you probably have a long enough book list that this is a massive value to you, and you should not pass this up. Yes, it requires some patience (and interacting with humans to get your library card, which for me can be a bit anxiety-inducing depending on the day), but it's going to dramatically drop the cost of my reading at my pace.
That is... interesting. So in order to get a digital copy of the book, you need to wait for it to become available? Like, til someone else finishes reading?
Yeah. It's the library format, but for digital books. When you're "renting" the book with the app on your phone, it tells you how many digital copies are owned and the number of people in the waiting list for them. Because I use a kindle, it shuttles you through the amazon buy flow—but basically, it gives you a "loan book" button with an expiration date, and pops up on your kindle.
Like I said, just more patience, but I think if I'm clever and bother to maintain a real book queue in this app, this will slash my book expenses by a ton, and that's the motivating factor right now.
I've done this for a while now and it saves SO much money (especially for audiobooks). I'm assuming you're using Libby/Overdrive? If not you can safely ignore the rest of this post, but if so, one of the cool things is it will let you use more than one library card, so you can check out books from different catalogs which increases your choices as well as letting you "shop around" for shorter wait times on popular books.
If you're in the US, check other libraries in your state to see if they will give a card to residents of the state for free. Sometimes you can get a card from a bigger city or library network even if you don't live in that area.
Some libraries also offer non-resident cards for a fee. There's a list of options here, though it's out of date. I can personally vouch for the Houston Public Library card. I've got a non-resident one, and at only $50 a year, it pays for itself easily after only a few checkouts. Libraries are amazing!
Also , since you're using the Kindle option, there's a bit of a hack if you're ever running out of time to finish a book and you can't renew it because other people have it on hold. If you put your Kindle in airplane mode the book will stay on your device past its due date. Overdrive will still follow through with the return on time on the back end and check it out to the next person, so you're not holding up the line. Just be aware that once you turn off airplane mode, the book will automatically be removed from it. It has saved me a couple of times when I just need an extra day or two to get through the last 10% of a book.
You can also see if any of the libraries you use offer other digital platforms. There are other apps offered by some (e.g. Hoopla, Kanopy) that are less ebook-focused but have things like video, comics, etc.
My apologies if I'm telling you stuff you already know, I just really love digital library checkouts!
Ah, yeah, I'm on Libby/Overdrive. I'm brand new to this, so this is all super helpful information. Sounds like I have more research to do. Thanks!
One question: if you have multiple library cards, is the Libby app smart about it, or do you have to switch libraries to peruse different catalogs?
Not smart about it at all, unfortunately. You have to manually swap between each library for searches. Holds, tags, and checkouts are all pooled though, so you can have multiple books out from different libraries at the same time and they'll be equally accessible without having to change what library you're "in."
Now that I have the flow down it doesn't take long for me to search a particular title across my cards, but it's definitely a point of friction they could improve.
I just started Leviathan Wakes, too. The show is probably my favorite thing on TV right now so I figured I'd love the book(s) too. So far that assumption is very true.
Finished up Saga. I'm going to have to wait a while on this one aren't I? What other comics should I look at if I want a completed story. I liked Ultimate Spider-Man back in the day and the original Runaways run, Umbrella Academy was okay, but kind of hard to keep track of.
I'm currently reading (listening to) Perry Rhodan Neo. It's a refresh of an ancient german hard scifi series that I've read when I was younger (and watching my sister read it, it's old and you can tell, they use 'electronic brain' instead of 'computer'). The Neo series is essentially the series modernized, starting with astronaut Perry Rhodan and his crew finding aliens on the moon.
Sadly, it's a german series and the english translation is behind, but I think there are some of the first Neo books available in english (you can try the original series if you can stomach what 50s scifi authors think of as an enlightened society). It's very good with lots of politics, science sci-fi nerdery and 5D spacechess.
I put down Europe in Autumn. I was 1/3 into it and I just wasn't feeling it.
I gave The Ninefox Gambit a start and got tossed a copy of The Throne of the Five Winds by S.C. Emmett, so I put Ninefox down for a bit. Throne is starting a bit slow.
Starting Steven Erikson's Rejoice, A Knife To The Heart. Not much to say about it yet, other than that it's a novel take on the First Contact trope.
I got burnt out on what I was reading before, so I switched to Hard Times and I'm about halfway through at the moment. I haven't read too much Dickens and what I have was a long time ago, so I came at this not really having any expectations for how I would feel, but this is shockingly light and hilarious given the brutality of the subject matter.
I enjoy the simplicity. The targets are unambiguous and direct, and it's just a constant cleanly-directed onslaught. I don't need more than that when it's this funny and on-point.
I'm reading Good Omens at night before I go to bed, and Robert Carro's LBJ series as well.
I started reading The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather last Saturday. It's nice.
I just finished Ubik by Philip K. Dick. It's the second novel of his I've read; I really liked Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said but Ubik didn't really wow me as much. It had some cool worldbuilding, with precogs and telepaths versus agents with anti-talents hired to protect people from them. I would've liked to see that aspect explored more.