14 votes

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.

20 comments

  1. [2]
    Flashynuff
    Link
    Recently finished reading house of leaves with my friend; we've now started reading The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin. It's about a scientist from an anarchist moon world that visits the...

    Recently finished reading house of leaves with my friend; we've now started reading The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin. It's about a scientist from an anarchist moon world that visits the capitalist planet his world orbits. I think it's quite fascinating how weird many capitalist practices sound when they're described from the perspective of an outsider -- and I love being able to see a vision of a functioning anarchist society.

    8 votes
    1. entangledamplitude
      Link Parent
      That comparison between the two worlds, and a careful uncovering (from different perspectives) of much that we take for granted, and the constant back-and-forth/evolution in the protagonists mind...

      That comparison between the two worlds, and a careful uncovering (from different perspectives) of much that we take for granted, and the constant back-and-forth/evolution in the protagonists mind as they keep learning more is something I really enjoyed!

      6 votes
  2. entangledamplitude
    Link
    Just finished reading Robert Pirsig’s Lila (follow up to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance). I came to it after pondering about art, beauty and quality as applied to life (a snippet of...

    Just finished reading Robert Pirsig’s Lila (follow up to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance). I came to it after pondering about art, beauty and quality as applied to life (a snippet of which I posted recently). Really enjoyed the book, especially the philosophical aspects in the second half (even though I don’t necessarily agree with every observation). Very reminiscent of themes from Robert Kegan’s The Evolving Self (on adult cognitive development) and James Carse’s Finite and Infinite Games.

    Currently in the early parts of Free Play by Nachmanovitch; seems fun but mostly descriptive so far... I don’t have a sense of how to adapt/operationalize those ideas yet.

    6 votes
  3. [2]
    aditya
    Link
    It's the end of the year and I had a tough semester, so I'm "comfort reading" James Herriot. It's been a while since I last read them, and I loaded them up on my Kindle as, for the first time, I...

    It's the end of the year and I had a tough semester, so I'm "comfort reading" James Herriot. It's been a while since I last read them, and I loaded them up on my Kindle as, for the first time, I don't have access to our decades-old copies.

    4 votes
    1. Thra11
      Link Parent
      We had several James Herriot books at home as a child and I must have read them many many times. With their gentle wit and each chapter often almost a standalone tale, they really are excellent...

      We had several James Herriot books at home as a child and I must have read them many many times. With their gentle wit and each chapter often almost a standalone tale, they really are excellent for comfort reading. One of my favourite adult pleasures is to revisit book series which I read bits of as a child, borrowed piecemeal from the library, not necessarily in quite the right order, and get the whole series and read them in the right order. I've been meaning to do that with James Herriot for a while, but haven't quite got round to it.

      1 vote
  4. [5]
    skybrian
    Link
    I’m reading Abe: Abraham Lincoln in His Times which is quite good. There is little new that can be said about Lincoln himself but the strength of this biography is giving context about American...

    I’m reading Abe: Abraham Lincoln in His Times which is quite good. There is little new that can be said about Lincoln himself but the strength of this biography is giving context about American culture during that era.

    As usual, reading history is a good way of learning how much better off we are now.

    3 votes
    1. [5]
      Comment deleted by author
      Link Parent
      1. [4]
        skybrian
        Link Parent
        It seems there was a strong culture of self-reliance back then, based on actually being self-reliant. (Not individually though, but in family groups, on farms.) The Amish are the closest thing...

        It seems there was a strong culture of self-reliance back then, based on actually being self-reliant. (Not individually though, but in family groups, on farms.) The Amish are the closest thing now.

        Now we have only the ghost of this. We say “self-reliant” when we really mean “earn enough money to buy things ourselves” and I think the only widespread exceptions are cooking, housework, and childcare. Which, probably not coincidentally, have traditionally been considered women’s work.

        People talk about “unpaid labor” as if it were a bizarre exception. At one time it was most labor.

        But the myth of self-reliance still has a strong pull in our culture, even if the material circumstances are mostly gone, and good riddance.

        3 votes
        1. [3]
          entangledamplitude
          Link Parent
          Oof, that hits the spot on something I’ve been discussing with friends recently (comparing with an anecdote from a few decades ago). I’m amazed how “consumption” is now pitched as the thing to do,...

          Now we have only the ghost of this. We say “self-reliant” when we really mean “earn enough money to buy things ourselves”

          Oof, that hits the spot on something I’ve been discussing with friends recently (comparing with an anecdote from a few decades ago). I’m amazed how “consumption” is now pitched as the thing to do, and “frictionless” “convenience” as the value to aspire for. I’m constantly struck that most people around me don’t seem to notice or mind the resulting infantilization.

          The deeper problem is also a conflation of “capital” from the capability to do things to the ability to pay for it. This substitution only works in shallow and narrow regimes in stable situations, whereas the loss of ability and agency is both deep and broad. To emphasize with a topical example, it doesn’t matter how many billions in your account if your community has run out of PPE/masks and doesn’t know how to make more (EDIT: I guess markets have replaced communities, so there’s no rootedness anymore). Capabilities are the truest measure of “wealth”, and their enhancement is the truest measure of progress.

          5 votes
          1. [2]
            skybrian
            Link Parent
            At the same time if you look at the material basis for our standard of living, most of our wealth is based on specialization and on collaboration and trade between specialists. There's no such...

            At the same time if you look at the material basis for our standard of living, most of our wealth is based on specialization and on collaboration and trade between specialists. There's no such thing as a homemade computer chip. At best you might make a fairly primitive circuit board, using supplies you bought, provided that you're comfortable with working with hazardous chemicals. It's a hobby.

            I don't think this can or should be reversed. I think it's better to properly acknowledge our interconnectedness as the way things are and the way we want them to be. We are truly all in this together, at global scale, and it is almost impossible to disconnect, or at least not without settling for a pretty primitive and precarious existence.

            Lincoln's time was before electrification and, on the frontier anyway, before hospitals. Sometimes we talk about going off the grid, but it's more like camping. It might be pretty serious camping, but supplies will run out. It's still part of the same economy.

            Of course disaster preparedness and learning first aid are great things, but these are temporary measures, about getting by until you can get connected back to civilization.

            The smallest independent unit of civilization might be a large group of nations. Maybe the US and its allies could disconnect from China and its allies, but not without an enormous amount of effort and suffering.

            3 votes
            1. entangledamplitude
              Link Parent
              I do not have qualms per se with a degree of global connectedness (ignoring geopolitics for the moment) and functional specialization. My observation is simply that there is a cultural change that...

              I do not have qualms per se with a degree of global connectedness (ignoring geopolitics for the moment) and functional specialization. My observation is simply that there is a cultural change that devalues capabilities (even at the collective level, if not the individual level) in favor of consumption & fungible money, and I think the latter is much more fragile.

              4 votes
  5. mrbig
    (edited )
    Link
    I’m reading Bigger, Leaner, Stronger. It’s kinda overwhelming so far. I do wanna get strong, but I wonder if I really need all that information beforehand. It also have a lot of motivational talk...

    I’m reading Bigger, Leaner, Stronger. It’s kinda overwhelming so far. I do wanna get strong, but I wonder if I really need all that information beforehand. It also have a lot of motivational talk that seemed useful in the first chapters, but not so much after that. I tend to skip those parts. I get the impression that this book contain loads of valuable information, but it is overextended to fill some expected length. Recommended for those that like to geek out about fitness or have a goal that is very hard to achieve. For some, Information itself is a great way to improve discipline, change habits, etc . I’ll keep reading because the author clearly knows his stuff.

    2 votes
  6. Tuna
    Link
    I just finished "Solaris" by Stanisław Lem. A worthwhile read for SF enthusiasts. The world the author created, is very thorough and the only flaw I did not understand was one instance, where the...

    I just finished "Solaris" by Stanisław Lem.
    A worthwhile read for SF enthusiasts. The world the author created, is very thorough and the only flaw I did not understand was one instance, where the protagonist completely changed his point of view from one sentence to the next.

    Next up is "Kindred", by Octavia Butler.
    I read her Xenogenesis series, which completley blew my mind (her description of the ooloi as completely foreign to humanity, gives this series its charm) and is now one of my favourite books.

    As for popular scientific books (I usually read one scientific book and one book with story at the same time).
    I finished "This is how democracies die" by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt.
    Currently I am reading "The victory of capital" by Ulrike Herrmann. I did not read anything about capitalism before and I was told this book captures its essence very well.

    2 votes
  7. Parameter
    Link
    My First Summer in The Sierra ~ Standard Ebooks It's the journal and experience of John Muir during time spent in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range while accompanying some shepherds. He gives his...

    My First Summer in The Sierra ~ Standard Ebooks

    It's the journal and experience of John Muir during time spent in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range while accompanying some shepherds. He gives his account and impressions of their trek and landscape with an engaging style of "storytelling".

    2 votes
  8. [2]
    moriarty
    Link
    About halfway through Seveneves / Neal Stephenson, which I'm quite enjoying. It is very much unlike his previous works and is very reminiscent of The Martian. It discusses a near future in which...

    About halfway through Seveneves / Neal Stephenson, which I'm quite enjoying. It is very much unlike his previous works and is very reminiscent of The Martian. It discusses a near future in which the moon was somehow hit by an unknown force and broke into 7 pieces, the implications it has on society and how humanity decides to tackle that challenge. This book is giving me so much existential anxiety, though - I keep thinking if this is how our children are going to feel when climate change finally kicks into full gear.

    1 vote
    1. Sen
      Link Parent
      Great book. Read it recently as I’m re-reading all the (good) Stephenson books again. It’s such a random and wild ride. I’d love to see it done as a movie/mini-series done to Expanse levels of...

      Great book. Read it recently as I’m re-reading all the (good) Stephenson books again. It’s such a random and wild ride. I’d love to see it done as a movie/mini-series done to Expanse levels of production.

      1 vote
  9. mat
    Link
    I am in the final few pages of Jodi Taylor's Just One Damned Thing After Another which I've really enjoyed. It's short and simple but the characters are well-drawn and engaging, and the plot is...

    I am in the final few pages of Jodi Taylor's Just One Damned Thing After Another which I've really enjoyed. It's short and simple but the characters are well-drawn and engaging, and the plot is well paced and exciting and it's managed to make me both laugh out loud and cry a bit as well. It's the first in a surprisingly long series which I'm not entirely sure the concept will support but I'm going to read a few more and see how it goes.

    With the Kid we are mostly reading Stuck, by Oliver Jeffers which is great. The best children's books stand up to repeated readings and I'm not tired of this one yet. Jeffers' books are always a pleasure.

    1 vote
  10. tomf
    Link
    I just started Anna Karenina and also Eve Babitz's Slow Days, Fast Company. Both of these books are excellent. Babitz is often compared to Didion -- and it's clear why. However, at least so far,...

    I just started Anna Karenina and also Eve Babitz's Slow Days, Fast Company. Both of these books are excellent.

    Babitz is often compared to Didion -- and it's clear why. However, at least so far, it doesn't have the looming sadness that I've always felt with Didion's writing.

  11. Wes
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    Just finished Babylon's Ashes, and then Strange Dogs from The Expanse series. Despite being a much shorter novella, Strange Dogs is the book I've been left thinking about. It left me feeling a bit...

    Just finished Babylon's Ashes, and then Strange Dogs from The Expanse series.

    Despite being a much shorter novella, Strange Dogs is the book I've been left thinking about. It left me feeling a bit unsettled, and raised a lot of questions. I'm looking forward to reading more in hopes of seeing those questions answered.

  12. mmarco2121
    Link
    I tend to jump between books, depending on what I feel I need to get out of it. Currently bouncing between: Getting Things Done by David Allen Deep Smarts: How to Cultivate and Transfer Enduring...

    I tend to jump between books, depending on what I feel I need to get out of it.

    Currently bouncing between:

    Getting Things Done by David Allen

    Deep Smarts: How to Cultivate and Transfer Enduring Business Wisdom by Dorothy Leonard and Walter Swap

    Traditional Wing Chun: The Branch of Great Master Yip Man by Igor Dudukchan

    Midnight Tides by Steven Erikson (Book 5 of A Tale of Malazan Book of the Fallen)

  13. Thra11
    Link
    Currently half way through La Huitième Porte (french) by Pierre Bottero. It's the last book in the trilogy L'Autre. L'Autre has some hints that it's set in the same worlds as his other three...

    Currently half way through La Huitième Porte (french) by Pierre Bottero. It's the last book in the trilogy L'Autre. L'Autre has some hints that it's set in the same worlds as his other three trilogies, La Quête d'Ewilan, Les Mondes d'Ewilan, and Le Pacte des Marchombres, but is somewhat distinct from the others. While the other trilogies focus on different characters in the group, they all fit into the same overarching story. So far, L'Autre has a couple of things which strongly suggest that it's set in the same world, but doesn't otherwise appear to be connected to the story or characters of the other trilogies.

    Possible spoilers in the following... !

    It's all fairly 'conventional' fantasy, set mostly in another world with a variety of 'evil' monsters and other humans to fight, and a selection of different skills and magics used to fight them. That said, there are some unique twists which make the world quite engaging. For example, the main form of magic in the series consists not of waving a stick about and reciting arcane words, but of 'drawing' things in your mind, then transferring them into reality, while an important part of the the stealthy ninja/assassin-type marchombre's way of life is writing poetry.

    I've really enjoyed the whole series. I felt like in the first trilogy and the start of the second, the author maybe had some difficulty finding the balance between not killing off the protagonists, while still making the reader believe that they are actually facing real danger (which to be fair, sounds like an incredibly difficult task for any author): At times it feels like the group of main characters are practically invincible and can come to no harm. Even the one that died appears to be recovering! Towards the end of the second trilogy, it maybe swings a little too far the other way, suddenly becoming rather dark and tragic, which is good, but comes as a bit of a shock after the gentle adventuring of the previous novels. I think in Le Pacte des Marchombres he really starts to get the balance just right, and even though the first two novels in the trilogy are prequels, so we know the main character must survive, there's a healthy atmosphere of intrigue and threat (Just because you survive, doesn't mean you can't suffer devastating losses!).

    It's written for a 'young adult' audience, but I—as an 'old child'—still found it engaging. Perhaps not the most profound books ever written, but a welcome dose of escapism.

    Not sure what I'll read next in terms of french stuff (I tend to have a few different books on the go at once, a mixture of french and english and also lighthearted and more serious stuff). Might give A Comme Association a go, might look for something completely different.