What are you reading these days?
What are you reading currently? Fiction or non-fiction or poetry, any genre, any language! Tell us what you're reading, and talk about it a bit.
Previous topics are listed in the wiki.
What are you reading currently? Fiction or non-fiction or poetry, any genre, any language! Tell us what you're reading, and talk about it a bit.
Previous topics are listed in the wiki.
I've been keeping a bit of an art diary on one of my sites. I think there's some missing stuff in-between when I last posted and when I started keeping this table, but this should do well enough:
Remember the thing Pace said about Wheatley.
Hm, it got cut off. Here's the rest:
On the other hand, "On Keeping a Notebook" is brilliant and the reason I switched to this commentary format instead of scores. So it kinda balances out.
I love your formatting, your honest blurbs, and the breadth of your book diet. Thanks for sharing that with us!
Like you, I thought that The Reluctant Fundamentalist was well-written, and I think it's particularly noteworthy for being a literary example of the "silent protagonist" trope, which is usually reserved for videogames. I read it around the same time I replayed the Half-Life 2 series, and I was struck that their narrative deliveries were nearly identical. Much of HL2 is Alyx Vance talking to a silent Gordon Freeman, just as most of Hamid's book is Changez talking to a silent American. I don't know that I can think of another example in literature where this technique was used, much less as skillfully as Hamid does.
Thanks! I've been having a great time focusing on books a bit more than usual lately, so hopefully I'll keep having more to share :)
I did really enjoy the silence of the American, and I think a lot of what makes the book so interesting is how good Hamid is at playing with that. Though I do think a lot of the problems also stem from it...for instance I think it really invites readers to think in terms of "what do you think happened?" that to me is kinda shallow and boring. I discussed it with a lot of people who are normally really great to speak to about literature, but we kept getting to these dead ends where we had to circle back to that question and not much came of it. Not that the kind of ambiguity that the one-sided monologue / silent protagonist introduces is inherently bad, but I feel like the novel relies too heavily on plot (and the truth of that plot) to get away with it without sacrificing what it's actually getting at.
I can definitely see how trying to fill those ambiguity gaps would be off-putting. To me it's much more interesting to consider why they're there or how they're effective. Because I read it years ago the details and even overall plot have faded with time, but I still remember fondly how skillfully the writing makes the unnamed American both a non-entity and a real presence at the same time.
Yeah, I don't mind some ambiguity...just falls flat for me here.
You're right, the American sits in this strange middle place in your mind. You're not often consciously thinking about him, but you're constantly nudged to never forget his gaze. We're able to see through what we imagine his eyes to be, without being over-burdened with the attention-grabbing of an actual character or the expected responsibility of the author to treat that person as a person.
I heard some people making points about that being a flip of colonial literature tropes of colonized non-characters, but I don't feel familiar enough to say if I'd make that argument. It's interesting either way. Have you read Hamid's other work? I wonder if I should try out some more.
I haven't read any other of Hamid's work, so no recommendations there -- sorry! I'm actually flat out awful at exploring authors, as I tend to bounce around indiscriminately in my reading rather than diving into a specific focus.
I'm working through Didion's work! I started with The White Album then went to A Year of Magical Thinking. I think I'll do Slouching next, followed by South and West and Blue Nights.
I absolutely love it when she digs in deep on the details... like municipal water supply. I don't mind cynical stuff, but your notes are a great head's up!
I had no idea games like Penguin Cafe existed. What are some titles you'd suggest?
Slouching Towards Bethlehem is something I ultimately dislike but I still think is totally worth checking out. There's some moments where all my criticisms fall away and I'm just left in awe at her observational skills.
By "games like Penguin Cafe" I'll assume you just mean visual novels, but if you mean something specific about Penguin Cafe then correct me and I'll try to hit you with more recommendations. To start out, I'd recommend:
One Night, Hot Springs - by the same author
Katawa Shoujo - Made by a group on 4chan, this is like the traditional dating sim visual novels that you'll see people talk about the most, but it has a lot less of the gameyness to it, so if you're approaching it as more of a reader than a gamer then this is a good place to start.
Eden* They Were Only Two, On The Planet.
nice! thanks for the visual novel links. I'll check 'em out.
I'm finishing The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and there's not much humor in it, maybe I should have gone with Agnes Grey. I thought Charlotte's Jane Eyre was excellent though, hard to say if I prefer Wuthering Heights over it.
I just finished reading Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami. I'm not really sure what the right word is, but I walked away feeling a bit directionless, or apprehensive. It was a good read probably for that reason. The narrator is sort of dulled to life; he has interests, but goes through the motions like a machine. School, work, eat, repeat, with his hobbies almost as a distraction, but with no actual purpose. He can talk to people well enough to hold a conversation, but doesn't have many real friends; when he interacts with another person, other than the romantic interests of the story, he makes almost no effort to engage with them intellectually. The fact that they are autonomous creatures like him, with their own lives and their own perceptions, is barely something he recognizes. When he does make a new friend, he does so almost as an instinct or habit, or out of boredom, not because he actually cares about them. He simply responds to input.
It's depressing to witness in the story and personally hits me kind of hard because, lately, I've been feeling as though that's the way I often end up interacting with people. What is this person saying to me? What can they offer me? Who should I talk with to get this emotion I want? The novel's desensitized take on sex is a little disillusioning and I found myself becoming more and more disgusted with the narrator as the novel progressed, sexually and emotionally. Everything he does just makes his situation morally worse, somehow, even if what's happening isn't even really a bad thing. His character resonates with me in a way that I don't like because his life feels variously pointless, or wasted, or just hopelessly wrong in a way that can't even be defined by words.
I'm glad that I read Norwegian Wood, but I think I need to go for something a little happier next!
Murakami is one of my favourite authors, and for something a little bit lighter, and a bit more surrealistic I would recommend Kafka on the Shore.
I've been wanting to read this for a long time! I've only read his short stories, which I encountered after a Raymond Carver binge.
Went pretty heavy into the sci-fi this round. And was pretty mixed in good books and bad and how much I enjoyed them. Also looked at my Good Reads yearly goal and noticed I'm still 5 books behind schedule, don't know if I can hit it this year.
The Last Dance by Martin L. Shoemaker
Series: The Near-Earth Mysteries Book 1
This book ended up being more of a collection of short stories, than a fully cohesive story for me. Jumping between recollections of events from over the years, you learn about the characters relationships with each other and how they came to work together. But my issue comes with how the main character was dealt with and built over the chapters. By the end you know the side characters building up to getting a complete picture of who the main story is actually about. By in this trip I feel like the investigator who you are viewing these stories with ends up being very under-developed since they are just listening and not participating in the stories.
Now that isn’t to say I didn’t like this book, I really did. I found myself invested in the characters heavily and wanted to see what methods were being used. It constantly kept my attention the entire way through. One issue I would have to mention is I just couldn’t visualize any of the locations very well. It seemed like many of the scenes could have taken place in a white chamber because the setting and layouts wasn’t well described for me. In some books I don’t find it to be an issue, but a realistic science journey where your trying to piece together details to form opinions I feel really needed it.
The Hammer of God by Arthur C. Clarke
This book definitely shows its age and you can instantly tell that an old school sci-fi author wrote it. From the start it takes a different approach to building up to the climax and events of the story, in a kinda meandering way that makes me question how any of these events matter until they suddenly do. All this leads to a very satisfying conclusion that works well, if a little open ended.
But it isn’t without any issues at all, most of it comes down to character relations and romance I feel. An issue most of the old school sci-fi authors seem to suffer, they are great at big ideas but rather terrible at people. I wasn’t really crazy impressed by any of the characters, they fit into place and did what they needed but never really felt like they did more. And the main character I instinctively dislike due to the way he handles his relationships with his previous wife and kid. It almost comes off as a man who got tired of dealing with something and decided to just say “well that was fun for a while, time to see what else I can get though”. He acts like he fondly remembers the old times and reminisces, but just left them and started a brand-new family. And never do you learn what the various family members actually think about what happened and whether they actually care.
Overall for me, this is a classic sci-fi story. Read it for the ideas and science and future tech but expect nothing at all from the characters or relationships.
Colonization by Scott McElhaney
This collection has some stuff that works, but also a far bit that just didn’t work well for me at all. The first 2 books I found really good they came together in a really good story that kept me interested. The science was good enough that I didn’t question stuff and it stayed interesting. But I wish they were expanded and longer actually.
This is a problem that I had with all 5 novels, but it got worse the farther into the novels it got. Everything moved really, really fast with no breaks or delays or time to stop and collect yourself. Plot points seem to just pile on one after another and the pile of points gets higher and higher as more get introduced with each novel but never truly explored in a satisfying way. This started showing for me in the last book which seemed like it was doing a ton without much more exploration of the events.
The characters suffer in this method as well for me, with some lightning fast character development that seems random. In 10 pages they meet, fall in love, get married, and decided to start having kids. And you barely even have a chance to see any relationship between the two develop, sure an attempt to hide it happens but it doesn’t work all that well. This happens again to an extent with the new teen characters, but I think it works a bit better. Though the romance still feels awkward, though it kinda sorta works given these are teenagers who are pretty isolated to a small group.
The worst for me is the final grouping and romance, it really felt random and out of place. Suddenly introducing this brand-new group that would have massive importance to everything in the final novel felt out of place. And the relationship and history being told via flashback story isn’t the most graceful, I feel it could have been worked in better somehow.
Overall it was decent, but I think it needs more work. I understand the idea of having these short classic sci-fi style novels. Something you can easily sit down and read in an hour without trouble, but it just didn’t work for me perfectly.
Pushing Ice by Alastair Reynolds
Well, this felt like a hodgepodge of various ideas and books that ended up with a mess. Combined with politics and power struggles between characters that didn’t feel realistic. Ending with an unfinished universe that just leaves me disappointed.
The characters and politics were somehow the most unbelievable part of this book. It has this dual power struggle thing going on between the two main female characters, whose role changes between major sections in a very unrealistic way. It keeps flip flopping between these two and it just gets annoying to flip between perspectives and be expected to believe that everything is still functioning. And that a third party didn’t get pissed off by this point and thrown them both out an airlock and remade the government in a logical way. The characters outside of the politics weren’t overly interesting, they filled roles and didn’t really have massive influence because of who they were.
The flow of the novel hurt it also, it jumps between events and years at almost random it feels like. It will glance over dozens of years of development in moments, but spend pages going into what doesn’t feel important. Major events just get solved in time skips and you don’t see how they solved or overcame the issue. At a point they even had what seemed like a major religious sect growing, but after the next time skip and leader change, they have vanished, and the characters talk in past tense about the event about how horrible it was. But what happened exactly? It never gets explained or detailed, just forgotten about completely.
The worst part for me is none of the ideas feel original. I didn’t see anything in this novel that made me think it was new or creative future tech, instead it was things I’ve seen before. It is rehashing and combining old ideas into a single book and as you read, you stop and say “Wait, isn’t this almost identical to this other novel I read the other year?”. I couldn’t point out a single idea in this book that I feel is original and will stick with me. So I come back to the hodgepodge idea, cause that is what it is, a hodgepodge of other novels just stuck together to form a novel.
I haven't read any of his other novels yet, but I'm planning on it. It seems like he likes his Big Dumb Objects and I just love those. I can deal with the ideas not being very original, but I just couldn't really get over the characters. It just felt really unbelievable that everyone would put up with this power struggle between two people for what ends up being like 100 years, like somebody would have gotten annoyed and deposed of these two girls already.
There were some moments that straight up made me shed a tear (or two). A lot of Christian moralizing, but I'd be damned if it wasn't written beautifully and poignantly. I read this version translated by Ignat Avsey.
Have you read Notes from the Underground? It's the only Dostoevsky I've tried reading, and I couldn't get into it. I know he is so cherished, but something didn't fit. Maybe it was bad timing? I was reading a lot of Bukowski at the time...
Maybe I'll try again with The Brothers Karazamov. =]
I loved this book. However, there are some long stretches of “wtf am I reading”.
I'm currently re-reading Terry Pratchett's Tiffany Aching series, which is one of my favourite sub-series in the Discworld books, with the intention of finally reading The Shepherd's Crown at the end. Pratchett was a huge influence on me when I was growing up, and his books are the safest of safe, cosy places for me to go (I rarely re-read anything but I re-read Pratchett). I've thought about reading The Shepherd's Crown several times since it came out - I bought it day one - but for the longest time I wasn't ready to live in a world where there was no more unread Pratchett. I may well not be ready yet, we'll see in a couple of books time.
Might as well recount the time I met him, while I'm here. I'd gone to a theatre to see him talk, some time in the mid-nineties before he was quite so famous. My English teacher has driven me and a couple of others to the theatre that evening, and I slunk off to the bar for a cheeky underage pint before the event started. It was very quiet, so I sat at the bar and after a while a guy came and sat next to me. We chatted about the kind of small things you talk about over a beer, he was very pleasant although eventually apologised for having to dash off, donned a wide-brimmed black hat and stalked out of the bar with a swish of his long black coat. I thought no more about it, finished my drink and made my way into the auditorium. The man I'd been talking to walked out on stage and said "Good evening, I'm Terry Pratchett". He remains the most famous person I've ever met and I had no clue at all.
I just finished The Name of the Wind, on many's recommendation here. It was good!
Now I'm re-reading The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, which of course is also great.
Did you read the sequel to Name of the Wind? It’s called The Wise Man’s Fear, and it is very good.
Not yet -- I've got like 10 books from the library I've got to get through, and I think I want to space out the trilogy so that I don't have to wait too long for the third installment. But I'll get there!
Book three will be completed when GRRM finishes Winds of Winter - I don’t think it’s coming. :D
Yeah I've heard it's kind of ... clogged up. Ah well.
I just finished a couple of books, most notably Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir, and boi did I love it. It took me a bit and I had to rush a little towards the end because it was due soon, but I thoroughly enjoyed it! Sci fi magic, necromancers, and loveable lesbians galore.
I loved the whole setting of the book! The empire seems to be in decay and the way the books written, this isn't a bad thing. It's a fact and even in places written as sometimes beautiful. I liked that take along with just everyone's ideas on death and spirits. I'm probably not doing the book justice at all, but I think I'll pick up a physical copy at some point so I can have it in the future to reread.
Finished what is going to be the first of many readings of the yoga sutras (part of the training program I'm in, but definitely going to revisit). It's hard to summarize the wisdom; describing it or talking about it limits the wisdom and insight by way of providing a personal interpretation. It's also not for everyone; the reader needs to be in a receptive mindset to really get the best of it, there needs to be a patience and openmindedness. I could go on and on, but I'll just say that it was something I needed to read right now.
In between this and other training books, I've been reading The Two Towers. Tolkien's work is of a slow, leisurely pace that I had trouble with when I was younger but I'm enjoying now. There's so much detail, so much worldbuilding, and I just love digging into it. Again, not for everyone, but it's something of an obligatory read for a tabletop gamer and I'm enjoying it besides.
And in between all that, I'm reading a bit of poetry here and there. Charles Bukowski, Catullus, Emily Dickinson, Mary Oliver. I'm getting more into writing poetry myself, and reading many poets to get a feel for how they do things. Catullus and Bukowski are very gritty and real, yet also very male; Dickinson's prosody is just fascinatingly different and unique. Oliver's work is an invocation and exhortation of nature, something I feel I need living in the middle of a big city.
And probably Friday, squeezed in with precarious balance, I'll be thumbing through the Deities and Demigods D&D book because my character in my Saturday game may have become the god of learning and understanding in a new pantheon and I need to familiarize myself with all that means and update my character sheet accordingly.
I've recently started Greek Lessons (희랍어 시간) by Han Kang; author of The Vegetarian, Human Acts, and The White Book. It's my third novel of hers. The last one, Human Acts, messed me up pretty bad so I took a little hiatus and read Steinbeck non-stop for a year (I'm still not done!).
Edit: a word
Made my way through Umbrella Academy and both runs of Gotham Academy, Gotham is the far stronger offering, almost to the point where it's kinda disappointing when Batman shows up and it becomes Yet Another Batman Book for a time. These were through Hoopla.
In Marvel Unlimited, I read the Eye of the Camera follow up to Marvels, and it didn't really need to happen, and it kinda gets lost in the whole "Gosh golly, didn't comics get dark for a bit." But it ends nice and I am glad I read it.
Started the latest Doctor Strange run, Strange kinda has a Rick Sanchez thing going on with chasing after space magic and having to deal with Galactus being banished to the Magic realms. It's interesting, Strange has some genius pain from being right all the time, but it's still in progress.
Also started the 2012 Hawkeye run. Lots of style, and Hawkeye isn't exactly as much as a boy scout in the MCU. I like the Art too.
I haven't been reading much, these days. Dammit, I need to get back in the habit!
I’m about 90% of the way through American Gods by Neil Gaiman. Surprisingly, this is the first book of his that I’ve read and it is excellent so far. I’m almost certain I will finish it before the weekend is up.
...so I finished it. I really liked it. It was a fun read, lots of cool characters, and enough guessing to really motivate you to keep reading. I had a few guesses throughout the book that were mostly right, especially at the very end, which felt very satisfying.
I know it’s considered a bit of a classic, but I highly recommend reading it.
The First Philosophers: The Presocratics and Sophists by Robin Waterfield
Waterfield organizes the fragments of all the Greek philosophers we have (which are scarce), offering some small introductions to each thinker before laying out, in full, what pieces of information we have from each, along with some blurbs about how each thinker was treated by his contemporaries.
It is very interesting to see how the Presocratics treated their own religion, believing both in polytheism and a quasi-monotheism. By favorite line so far is from Xenophanes:
And his annoyance at the gods were anthropomorphized with human emotions:
It's very interesting, too, to see how the Greeks attempted to understand the cosmic origins of the world. Some (like Thales) seemed to believe that Water was an important element, and was the basis of all existence (which is not a bad guess!).