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.
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.
I just started Rupert Sheldrake's Science Set Free, which is an analysis of dogma in science and how science is conducted in reality (under constraints by grants, peer pressure, limited thinking etc). It's nice, it's clear, and it's not anti-science. Mostly encouraging further investigating scientific taboos and assumptions.
Science definitely has some known failures, past and present. There are huge lists of sources of bias that can creep in (e.g., not publishing a study, control over what to measure, control over when to stop measuring, what gets funded). You can see the bias when a company funds research, or by the unusual clustering of results that just barely make the cutoff for statistical significance. There are problems with seniority and dogma, enough to lead to the Planck-inspired phrase "science progresses one funeral at a time"
That said, science has also come a long way, and what has already accomplished is pretty incredible (e.g., the correction for time being warped by mass that is used every time your GPS finds your location). It's increasingly common to have professional statisticians available to help with research, or to to register results/submissions beforehand. We have things like the Reproducibility Project that try to stretch the impact of funding on replications by making the willingness of researches submitting their a proxy for their confidence in their research. Science attempts to self-correct with metascience.
The last I heard of Sheldrake was the controversy about his "The Science Delusion", and the impression I got from that was he was someone like Deepak Chopra, who instead of wanting to improve scientific research and accuracy in predicting/understanding phenomena, wanted to use shortcomings of current knowledge or the flaws of research as a wedge for pseudo-scientific ideas. To kneecap the potency of a scientific worldview because it is what is preventing them from promoting their worldview. "Scientists are unsure about quantum loop gravity or String theory; therefore research about psychics is worth funding. Academics have committed fraud; therefore perpetual motion".
The wiki entry from that time supports that impression, with him saying things like "the evidence for energy conservation in living organisms is weak". Is "Science Set Free" a departure from that? Have his views changed? Or do you not consider them anti-science?
Someone like V.S. Ramachandran comes to mind as an example of someone who is less constrained by orthodoxy in science, who used his creativity to do some great science / come up with a treatment to help with phantom limb syndrome.
(on a side note, his son, Cosmo Sheldrake is a musician that has a lot of fascinating songs that seem like they're influenced by his father)
I'll have to report back as I'm only about a chapter in. As I'm interested in both science and "woo-woo" stuff, I'm always trying to separate the possible (yet unexplained) from the total snake oil. Or to understand how the phantoms of consciousness can produce religious experiences or faulty perceptions of "woo-woo" happenings.
This sounds very interesting. Checking if my libraries have a digital copy available. Thanks!
I borrowed the audiobook version from my library on overdrive
I'm finally about to finish Moby Dick. I love it. The book is nothing like I had imagined. I've been taking my time with it to really savor it, which isn't something I typically do.
Next up will be a round of Sagan -- but probably only Cosmos, Blue Dot, and Demons.
After this I'll be tucking into Agents of Influence by Henry Hemming to feed my hunger for trade craft.
Somewhere in here I'll listen to David Sedaris' new 'greatest hits' book, The Best of Me, which should be fun. I've read the bulk of his work, but it'll be nice to have in the car.
Is Moby Dick a book that you need to warm up to, or is it immediately engaging?
So, a lot of people complain about the preacher part, but I didn't mind it at all.
I do think that the style does take a bit to get comfortable with. Its written almost like a journal then takes large breaks that get encyclopedic. It's a weird structure, but I really liked it.
I decided to finally read it after listening to Alan Alda interview Tom Hanks on his podcast.
Hanks said that he gave up with the preacher part, so I was prepared -- but before I knew it, that part was over with. I didn't see any real issues with it -- but I guess that's the only thing I'd say one should be prepared for.
All in all, the style is somewhat Victorian in nature --- super flowery at times -- but this doesn't pull away or become distracting or annoying.
Long story short, I think it would take anybody a bit to get into, but within the first main scene you'll have a good feel for the rhythm.
Thanks for the info. I was going to consider it as a beach read on 4-day holiday, but it doesn't sound like the best book for that. Or at least, I should get into it before going.
yeah, definitely give it a bit of a read before going. If the unabridged audiobook is roughly your own reading speed, it'll be between 21-24 hours of reading :)
I've been reading Cory Doctorow and Charlie Stross, but separately this time, which I'd recommend.
Recently finished Walkaway by Cory Doctorow. It improved my opinion of Doctorow as a writer quite a bit; suffice to say, I was not a fan of Rapture of the Nerds. It's basically about people venturing out into the wilderness, and using technologies of abundance (basically stuff somewhere around the midpoint between 3D printers and universal assemblers) to reimplement civilization from scratch, along radically egalitarian anarchist lines, and of the inevitable conflict that brings with the oligarchs. It's a roller coaster but it delivers a dose of optimism that's in short supply right now, I'd definitely recommend it.
I've also been devouring the Merchant Princes series by Stross, I'm now up to date and in despair that the latest book has been delayed until late 2021. The series is about a tech journalist who finds out she's part of a family with the inborn ability to travel between different timelines, originating (to their knowledge anyway) in a medieval timeline, where they became wealthy using our timeline's infrastructure to operate an unbeatable communications network. Things develop substantially from there, new timelines are discovered, and the economics of industrialization are explored (in the first six books, primarily about why the medieval Gruinmarkt timeline never industrialized in spite of centuries of contact with ours through the world-walking Clan).
Anyway, the first six books are great and all, but in my opinion, Stross really steps things up in the ongoing Empire Games trilogy. I feel like a lot of the developmental economics and sociology stuff that was more brushed on in the first six books, high brow window dressing for what was mostly a fun adventure novel series at heart, really start to become the meat of the story. It also centers on, spoilers ahead, the technological and political revolutions in the New Britain timeline, which aside from already being one of my favorite plot threads, now features some of that grade A 70's schizo tech that Stross excelled at writing in Missile Gap.
I've been reading some of Voltaire's short stories the last couple of weeks.
Essentially, very entertaining, well written and strong putdowns of other philosophies from the 1700s. It feels like a very modern critique of dogmatic ways of thinking and living. (There are of course discriminatory views since this was written in the 1700s.)
From the like 80-page Candide, to short stories that are just a handful of pages, with good notes to the text to pick up the nuances and references of the day, it's been surprisingly fun.
I've always put off reading Voltaire as I really didn't like the stuff we read by him in school back in the day, but I find myself, like Napoleon famously said, to like him way more now that I'm older.
I read Candide after playing selections from the musical in band, and it seemed to hold up fairly well. I borrowed the pithy critique of Optimism as a philosophy from it: "Once one dismisses the rest of all possible worlds, one finds that this is the best of all possible worlds"
Is there any other short story that stands out to you as worth reading?
I'm a sucker for science fiction from hundreds of years ago, so Micromegas was a blast
Susanna Clarke's new novel, Piranesi. She wrote Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell then nothing else for fifteen years aside from a slim collection of short stories. I'm only a couple of chapters in but it seems mysterious.
I'm very interested in reading Piranesi. I really enjoyed Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell when I read it way back when. That reminds me, I should check out that BBC series they made of it.
The show was alright! I especially liked Eddie Marsan. Maybe the ending is underwhelming compared to the book's (Stephen Black is well acted but underdone) and of course the adaptation is very condensed, but I don't think you would be disappointed. I was charmed!
My power and internet was out for a few days last week due to Zeta so I spent most of it reading Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy.
I read it many years ago in high school, but there's plenty I forgot or never picked up on back then. I really, really love how it blends sci-fi and fantasy together. It touches on some really heady subjects like the multiverse, consciousness, religion, but there's also talking animals and witches. It's totally approachable for young adults (and old) but doesn't compromise on some of the more serious and critical themes, which is always nice to see.
Pullman has since written a few more novels that I haven't read in the same universe so I'm eager to read those next.
They're some of my absolute favourite books. Honestly the newer books "The Book of Dust" are certainly enjoyable, but not at the same level as HDM was. And there are certain parts which are just... Mm. The structure of the books can be a bit off putting too, I found; the last third of the first book, for example, made basically no sense to me at all when I first read it, and not in a good way, it just felt completely out of place and random, until I got about halfway through the second book and it was explained. They're definitely worth a read though, there are many high points and they're overall great books.
Well, I'm usually very forgiving of books I struggle to understand so it'll probably be fine. I was so fucking lost reading the later Hitchhiker's Guide books, but I still loved them. Thanks for the mini-review!
I've started to dip my toe in to Science Fiction - I've never read much SF before. I even actively thought I didn't like it. Well, I'm glad I changed my mind :)
My first SF read has been The Red Trilogy by Linda Nagata. I'm just about to start book 2, and I'm loving the expansion of my imagination as I read! My mantra has always been "I prefer books/entertainment based in reality" but I'm realising what I've been missing.
This trilogy is "Mil-SciFi" - I'll certainly look to expand but if anyone has any suggestions on a similar series please do let me know!
My fav mil sci-fi are Armor by John Steakley, The Forever War by Joe Haldeman, and I'm pretty fond of John Scalzi's Old Man's War books. However, I did not like The Red: First Light and it may sit on my DNF pile forever. Take that for what you will.
Thanks for that emnii, Armor looks great to me - I'll take a look!
I read two more novels in the Expanse series. It's well-written and kept my interest. Regarding my previous criticism, for a while I had hope that the series was going to turn into something more interesting, but it didn't.
When you ask why something happened in a story, there are two kinds of explanations, the in-story explanation (what's cause and effect, according to the story) and the out-of-story explanation (why did the author decide to write about that).
I have trouble with war stories when terrible things happen and the out-of-story explanation seems to be "because the author is really interested in combat and wanted to write a story about it." In some cases I'm okay with it (like in the Mongoliad books) because it seems to be based on lots of historical research. History is often horrific and it seems important to understand the sort of things that happened to people in the past. (With liberties for dramatic license.)
The Expanse is a story in which our intrepid heroes fly their beloved space ship to various places and get into various sorts of scary space combat where lots of people die. The series takes place in a universe that's quite well thought out, but implicitly revolves around them. The solar system is divided up between Earth, Mars, and the outer system so that there are sides that have reasons to fight each other, and therefore there are opportunities for interesting space combat, along with militaries to do the fighting. The villains are villainous so they can be justifiably killed by the good guys. The aliens are powerful, scary, and inscrutably weird because this raises the stakes enormously. The main characters have a military, police, or security background because how else would they have suitable skills for combat?
It's all very logical, but I'm reminded of Zaphod Beeblebrox's visit to the Total Perspective Vortex in a Douglas Adams novel, where he learns that it really is all about him.
The authors aren't crude about this. They are pretty clear that war is mostly horrific and the main characters suffer in realistic ways, and people close to them die. There are some jokes that don't quite break the fourth wall, where the characters wonder, why them?
There are a couple of well-done supporting characters that are not combat-oriented at all. It gave me hope that a plot would be resolved in a non-combat way. But in this universe, combat seems to be inevitable, and I find enormous stakes to be a bit tedious. Saving the universe has been done and it gets repetitive.
If these guys were smart, they would sell their ship and retire. It's just going to bring more bad luck, for them and their universe.
Now I'm reading a fantasy novel, The Lions of Al-Rassan. This story takes place in a fantasy version of Moorish Spain. There are three fantasy religions roughly based on Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, with enough differences that accuracy isn't required. It's a bit hard to keep track of all the unfamiliar character and city names, so I had to keep referring to the map and list of characters at the beginning. And, inevitably, a lot of cruelty and horrific fighting here that's appropriate to the time period. But there is also great cleverness, politics, and more peaceful times. Also, a couple of marriages with pretty interesting relationships. Inevitably, there are warriors, but the main character is a female doctor who gets caught up in some interesting situations.
Yay, another person reading the series!
I just started the fifth book and I'm still hooked, despite the shortcomings you mentioned. I admit that some of the story arches are very cliché, and our beloved heroes have lots of plot armor, but still it's just fun to read and I'm very intrigued by the mysteries surrounding the aliens... I already bought the sixth book, let's see if I'll order the rest as well.
With Cory Doctorow's recent kickstarter I started reading his Little Brother series, I already finished Little Brother and the new standalone Attack Surface. Now I'm about halfway through the second in the series, Homeland. I like all of them, but Homeland is my favourite so far!
I'm nearing the end of Sam Sykes' Ten Arrows of Iron. I loved Seven Blades in Black. This one is just okay. It's sort of fun in fits and starts but it's not the runaway train that Seven Blades was.
I've got a huge backlog, but I think I'll be reading This is How You Lose the Time War next. I finished The Way of Kings, which I liked, but I want to put a little distance between that book and the next one, hence Ten Arrows. However, I did not realize The Stormlight Archives are going to be a 10 volume series. I didn't finish The Malazan Book of the Dead series, and I might've liked those books more.
Malazan is by far my favorite Fantasy series... but they are definitely not for everyone, and can be remarkably hard to get into and all the way through. Not only due to the insane length of the series, but also because Erikson basically throws you into this fully developed world he spent years creating (which literally has hundreds of thousands of years of intricately detailed history, with dozens of important countries, races and cultures, and hundreds of principle characters, as well as its own totally unique gods and magic system) and provides absolutely no hand holding to start off with. So I don't blame you for not finishing it.
Heck, I remember the first time I read Gardens of the Moon, it honestly took me quite a few attempts to even parse the language and understand WTF was going on in the first few paragraphs. But the effort is worth it for Tehol Beddict alone, IMO... not to mention the bajillion other amazing characters and storylines that all wind up colliding with each other by the end.
p.s. Kruppe's insanely long, tedious, repetitive monologues can die in a fire though. Do yourself a huge favor and just skip past them if you ever do try to finish the series. :P
I'm pretty deep in at this point. I finished Reaper's Gale in 2016. That's where I left off. I should really just dedicate next year's reading goal to finishing it off. A four year gap means I probably forgot more about the series than I remember, but I went three years between House of Chains and Midnight Tides so maybe I'll be okay. Thanks for the heads-up about Kruppe.
Ah, nice. Yeah, you're already pretty far in so you might as well go all the way! It would be a shame if you missed out on the finale, which was actually a really satisfying conclusion to the series, IMO.
Who has been your favorite character/s so far? I'm obviously pretty keen on Tehol (and Bugg!), but Kruppe gets an honorable mention too (other than his ranting), as does Fiddler, and Coltaine. My favorite storyline of the bunch was even Coltaine's "Chain of Dogs" from Deadhouse Gates. That shit has made me blubber like a baby at the end every time I have reread it, which is more than a few times now since I usually reread the series every couple of years. :)
You're really stretching my memory here and I don't want to dig too deeply into wikipedia for spoilers, but I recall liking a lot of Karsa Orlong. I kept waiting for him to get in too deep and it hasn't happened yet. I also enjoyed Iskaral Pust for a laugh.
Karsa is a badass! And yeah Iskaral is pretty hilarious too. Definitely both up there for me as well. Surprisingly, it's actually a lot of the Bridgeburners (other than Whiskeyjack, Kalam, Quickben and Fiddler) that I could take or leave, Paran included.
All comic books.
Batman/Superman - Year of the Villain Vol. 4 (Brazilian Edition, 96 pages). The main story was, as always, short and mediocre. The others were awesome. Orm, ocean king, learns to be a commoner, finds a new nation to rule, and has family issues. The very funny Harley Quinn presents an award to the most popular villains of DC. The comic book ends with a superb story about a Jew soldier and a Nazi prisoner (no super heroes).
Also a volume called The Defenders (about 100 pages) with Dr. Strange, Namor, Hulk, and the Silver Surfer. They tried to make the individual stories into a cohesive whole—it didn’t work. A waste of time and money.
Neil Gaiman’s The Dreaming is not cryptic after 100 pages, but I’m still not very thrilled.