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What have you been reading recently?


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1 minute ago, Outside the Ox said:

Cool!  Is it online?

Yeah but on a patreon link. But if i could upload it directly(i think?) or like if you have an e-mail u feel comfortable with sharing it would be better for me cause it won't seem like im actually hawking it.

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Based on the fact that this topic has over 1.5 million views, everyone's answer should be "What have you been reading recently?"

The topic is dead! Long live the topic!   —Alorael, who will throw in The Ringmaster's Daughter, a relatively normal and therefore still quite unusual novel by Jostein Gaarder. Unlike Sophie's Wor

It was in one of the introductions for a book. Part of the problem was he had a few children and was trying to save for their future educations.   The figure I've seen is that a basic paper back

For what it's worth, I was using 'fiction' in the way Alorael describes. I wouldn't use fiction to describe a sourcebook, though I admit that's what the definition includes. I apologize for all the digital ink that has been spilled because of my post.

 

One Hundred Years of Solitude is interesting because every online acquaintance who read it has praised it, and every meatspace acquaintance who read it has disliked it. Clearly, I need to read it for myself so I can decide which group to cut off from my life forever.

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Personally I've just never heard anyone really use the word fiction before, other than to describe an actual book being fiction or nonfiction in a library for sorting purposes or something along the lines of, "it's a work of fiction" just to be absolutely sure the possible real events in the book are known to be made up.  But to say D&D and it's rules are fiction would be obvious I would assume to almost everyone, unless there are board games like say Axis & Allies where I guess they use real world war 2 scenarios, but it was just odd reading it from the context.  Like if I read Harry Potter and someone pointed out it was fiction.  I'd be like, I know that...  😅

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In the past couple months, I've read:

The Sunne in Splendour, by Sharon Kay Penman, which was pretty good but sort of spoiled by my having read her later work first; her later novels are noticeably more mature and cohesive, but this one was still pretty good.

Texas, by James Michener, which I sort of hated, not because it was written poorly or not compelling, but because the subject of the book- the history of the state of Texas- is uh. Well, Michener is either unwilling or unable in the novel to gloss over the worse aspects of Texas, so you're stuck with the inescapable awareness while reading the novel that Texas (and most other states in the USA, of course) is a wicked entity built on a foundation of genocide, racism, and petty violence, and it kind of feels like Michener is aware of it too. There are a few little hopeful spots towards the end, but not enough. "Bad people prosper while good people either suffer or fail to change things for the better" is maybe one way of describing history in general, but it doesn't make for a terribly compelling novel... especially when the novel is 1,096 pages long.

Insurgent Mexico, by John Reed, which is a very vivid and compelling fly-on-the-wall view of the Mexican Revolution. Almost nothing of the broader history of or trends represented by the Revolution, but a lot of earthy human experience of the Revolution.

And now I'm reading The Covenant, which is James Michener's historical epic about South Africa, because I am a fool who learned nothing from reading Texas.

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1 hour ago, WolfSpider said:

Personally I've just never heard anyone really use the word fiction before, other than to describe an actual book being fiction or nonfiction in a library for sorting purposes or something along the lines of, "it's a work of fiction" just to be absolutely sure the possible real events in the book are known to be made up.  But to say D&D and it's rules are fiction would be obvious I would assume to almost everyone, unless there are board games like say Axis & Allies where I guess they use real world war 2 scenarios, but it was just odd reading it from the context.  Like if I read Harry Potter and someone pointed out it was fiction.  I'd be like, I know that...  😅

 

I mean, it's hard to find another single word that encompasses all spin-off material including novels, TV/film adaptations, video games, etc.

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8 hours ago, Dintiradan said:

One Hundred Years of Solitude is interesting because every online acquaintance who read it has praised it, and every meatspace acquaintance who read it has disliked it. Clearly, I need to read it for myself so I can decide which group to cut off from my life forever.

 

Just to throw off your groupings, I'm going to say that it didn't really do much for me. I'd say I disliked it more than I liked it, but I didn't hate it.

 

—Alorael, who fears this will simply have him removed from acquaintance pools entirely so as to maintain clarity.

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  • 1 month later...

Started on Diane Duane's Young Wizards series (So You Want To Be A Wizard, etc.), but got sidetracked after the first book and am now re-reading Rick Cook's Wiz Biz series, which I first found when I was in high school. (Unfortunately, the writing and tropes in the latter haven't aged as well as I remember them.)

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It's never too early to think about Christmas ideas for the niblings, so I've been skimming over a library copy of Ryan North's To Be or Not To Be. It's... pretty much what you'd expect a choose-your-own-adventure adaptation of Hamlet written by Ryan North to be? The style of humour would be great for my older niblings, but on the other hand, I've already seen a couple scenes where Hamlet and Ophelia TOTALLY MAKE OUT (and then MAYBE EVEN MORE THAN THAT), and also birds get referred to as "avian dinosaurs" on one page, so the parents would probably veto it. Ah well, this is why I start looking early.

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Glen Cook's Port of Shadows fills in a gap in the Chronicle of the Black Company. A fun story although it goes to a weird resolution at the end. It keeps to the style of the older books that were written decades ago. The cover has a line that sounds like a Spiderweb game description:

 

"Do the job. Get Paid. Survive." 

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On 4/26/2019 at 10:22 PM, Aran said:

Started on Diane Duane's Young Wizards series (So You Want To Be A Wizard, etc.), but got sidetracked after the first book and am now re-reading Rick Cook's Wiz Biz series, which I first found when I was in high school. (Unfortunately, the writing and tropes in the latter haven't aged as well as I remember them.)

I remember reading So You Want to Be a Wizard ages ago, I didn't know it was a series. I barely recall anything about the book, do you recommend it?

I've finally got round to reading through the Witcher series. One chapter left to the end of Lady of the Lake. I'm kinda sad that I've only one more book to go. It's a great read and a fun ride.

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It's been a long time, but I recall So You Want to Be a Wizard being a good trilogy that then kept going with extra books that were fine but not quite up to the standards of the initial ones. I'd put the Black Company in that list, too, actually.

 

—Alorael, who has had all non-academic reading on hold recently while cramming for his big test and also trying to get some academic writing done. On the plus side, if all goes well, no more big tests for him for at least a decade!

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10 hours ago, On the Spires said:

It's been a long time, but I recall So You Want to Be a Wizard being a good trilogy that then kept going with extra books that were fine but not quite up to the standards of the initial ones. I'd put the Black Company in that list, too, actually.

 

So it's similar in that way to The Chronicles of Amber or Ender's Game. Good to know, thanks.

 

10 hours ago, On the Spires said:

 

—Alorael, who has had all non-academic reading on hold recently while cramming for his big test and also trying to get some academic writing done. On the plus side, if all goes well, no more big tests for him for at least a decade!

 

Big test? I'm pretty sure you're older than me. Are you working on a post doc? Thesis defense?

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5 hours ago, Radix Malorum Est Cupiditas said:

Big test? I'm pretty sure you're older than me. Are you working on a post doc? Thesis defense?

 

Neither of those are tests, exactly. I will be taking boards, the 9 hour marathon test that says I'm a doctor. Well, no, I already have an MD, but boards let me be an independent doctor. Well, not that either, because I've already been independently licensed for a couple of years. So, uh, it lets me say I'm boarded. That's good, I think.

 

—Alorael, who has only two things to lose by failing. The lesser is the financial cost of having to sign up and take this thing again. The greater is the emotional toll of having to sign up and take this thing again. There's little practical consequence.

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  • 2 months later...

A while back I read Identity: the Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment by Francis Fukuyama (I was trying to read The End of History and the Last Man, but my library didn't have a copy). I went in expecting to not agree with Fukuyama, and that's pretty much what I got. More recently, I finished Mark Fisher's Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative?, which I also was not a big fan of.

 

On the fiction side of things, I picked up two more trades of Astro City, which continues to be Very Good. Only missing two trades from the Vertigo run now.

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1 hour ago, ladyonthemoon said:

I'm giving a try at The Silmarillion. I've seen the Hobbit and Rings films and find myself unable to read the books; at least they haven't put their hands on The Silmarillion yet. :p

The Second Age, after the Silmarillion, is coming soon to Amazon. :)

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On 12/18/2019 at 4:56 PM, Randomizer said:

The Second Age, after the Silmarillion, is coming soon to Amazon. :)

What Amazon? The book store or the tv? My bet is the tv; these people won't be happy before they have sullied all interesting things in this world to squeeze as much money as can be out of them.

 

13 hours ago, Thaluikhain said:

I've managed to read LotR (it's not easy), but couldn't read the Silmarillion.

I loved the films but they literally killed the books for me; it's a real pity. 😢

 

I hope I'll be able to read them once. Maybe after the Silmarillion? It's not an easy reading but I hope I'll manage to read the whole of it. :)

Edited by ladyonthemoon
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I loved the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy as books (long before the Peter Jackson movies) and enjoyed but got frustrated with movies when they differed from the books.  I was unable to get through the Silmarillion.

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  • 5 weeks later...

Hi all, it's been a while :)

Currently I've got

Light entertainment: The Secret Chapter by Genevieve Cogman, which is the first James Bond pastiche I've actually been able to tolerate.

Heavy entertainment: Occupy Me by Tricia Sullivan, which reads like an M. John Harrison novel written by Jodie Scott. It's good and weird and I like it a lot so far.

Nonfiction: Scatter, Adapt, and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction by Annalee Newitz. I loved their SF novel The Future of Another Timeline, so figured why not?

(I very very wholeheartedly recommend said novel by the way, it hits all the right notes for a Joanna Russ fan.)
 

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On 9/11/2019 at 1:23 AM, runner said:

Just started reading a book called "The Toy Makers" by Robert Dinsdale.

 

this.jpg

 

 

Did you like this book? I'd not heard of it before, but it looks interesting and I'm going to order it.

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I managed to snag some books from the library right before the order came from the governor's office to shut the libraries down. Have been savoring Time is the Thing a Body Moves Through, by T Fleischmann, which is nice. It's very literary, a mixture of prose and poetry and poetic essay. I get the feeling I'm reading it too quickly instead of doing a close read, but I always have that feeling with poetry. Anyway, it's nice, it's about the art of Felix Gonzales-Torres, how that art made the author feel, life as a queer and trans person, among other things.

 

The more fantasy type book I've been going through lately is Beyond the Deepwoods by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell. It's a YA book that I've loved ever since I was younger, set in a world that is very unique and distinct from any other fantasy world I've encountered. The illustration is breathtaking, as well. The series is also, imho, able to grapple with some pretty heavy concepts effectively.

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After seeing a movie trailer/commercial of "Lifeforce", from Mr Lobo's Cinema Insomnia's "First Spaceship to Venus" horror hosted movie, I remembered how good it was.  I decided to read the book it was based on.  Very disappointing.  People generally say the book is always better than the movie.  Well not in this case.  Besides the very beginning and the very end, it was chuck full of tediousness.  And to top it off, unlike the beginning of the book, the ending was nothing like the movie.  One would say two totally different works entirely.  More like what if you found a space ship of aliens and brought it back to earth... STOP!!! now change the entire story.  ^^!

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I have recently read:

The Lord Darcy stories, by Randall Garrett, and the two followup novels by Michael Kurland; fun but slight.

The Peshawar Lancers by S M Stirling; the same.

Dee Goong An, translated by Robert van Gulik; basically the same.

Caribbean, by James Michener; solid as usual with Michener, but maybe felt like he had less of a sympathy for the region (itself heterogeneous and complex) than in some of his other novels.

Richard I: The Crusader King, by Thomas Asbridge; slight, as it's a pocket biography for a series of pocket biographies, but solid.

The Gate of Heavenly Peace: The Chinese and Their Revolution, 1895-1950, by Jonathan Spence; basically a prosopography of the Chinese intelligentsia during the first half of the 20th century, which is an interesting angle to take, and was fascinating.

The Southern Reach trilogy, by Jeff VanderMeer; a spectacular first novel, followed by a dull second and an appalling third. It's been quite a while since I've had my expectations dashed so harshly (at least by books).

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34 minutes ago, googoogjoob said:

The Gate of Heavenly Peace: The Chinese and Their Revolution, 1895-1950, by Jonathan Spence; basically a prosopography of the Chinese intelligentsia during the first half of the 20th century, which is an interesting angle to take, and was fascinating.

 

This was the first book of Spence's that I read, and I cannot emphatically recommend it high enough. The added benefit, since it's about the literati, is that you'll get plenty of good literary recommendations from reading it. The May 4th movement at the end of World War One was one of the brightest moments of cultural production in modern Chinese history, for example, and it is enlightening to see the perspective of such a turbulent period of time from the fall of the Qing Dynasty, through the establishment of the People's Republic.

 

Lu Xun, a master writer from that time, has been in my mind a lot lately. Lu recalls a discussion with a friend who urged him write, in which he explains that he is fatalistic about the future of China,

 

Quote

"Imagine an iron house without windows, absolutely indestructible, with many people fast asleep inside who will soon die of suffocation. But you know since they will die in their sleep, they will not feel the pain of death. Now if you cry aloud to wake a few of the lighter sleepers, making those unfortunate few suffer the agony of irrevocable death, do you think you are doing them a good turn?"

 

"But if a few awake, you can't say there is no hope of destroying the iron house."

 

True, in spite of my own conviction, I could not blot out hope, for hope lies in the future. I could not use my own evidence to refute his assertion that it might exist.

 

 

Perhaps all of humanity, now, is in such uncertain times.

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On 4/27/2020 at 11:50 PM, Goldengirl said:

Lu Xun, a master writer from that time, has been in my mind a lot lately...

There's actually a Penguin edition of the collected fiction of Lu Xun, which is somewhere near the top of the list of books I intend to read. Lao She and Ding Ling were interesting to read about, but Lu was the one who really stood out to me, reading The Gate of Heavenly Peace, as consistently, strongly, even brutally incisive, and the one whose work I'm most interested in.

 

I also need to find a good straight narrative history of the Chinese Revolution(s), which is tricky given a) the extreme complexity of the period, b) the overwhelming focus of English literature on the Communist Revolution, short-changing the 50 years leading up to it; and c) because of b), the frequently polemical or heavily slanted nature of most of the books available.

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16 hours ago, googoogjoob said:

There's actually a Penguin edition of the collected fiction of Lu Xun, which is somewhere near the top of the list of books I intend to read. Lao She and Ding Ling were interesting to read about, but Lu was the one who really stood out to me, reading The Gate of Heavenly Peace, as consistently, strongly, even brutally incisive, and the one whose work I'm most interested in.

 

Lu Xun is really good, and one of the nice things about him is that he deals in short stories. Thus, you can either devour his oeuvre fairly quickly, or savor each tale and still go at a reasonable clip.

 

16 hours ago, googoogjoob said:

I also need to find a good straight narrative history of the Chinese Revolution(s), which is tricky given a) the extreme complexity of the period, b) the overwhelming focus of English literature on the Communist Revolution, short-changing the 50 years leading up to it; and c) because of b), the frequently polemical or heavily slanted nature of most of the books available.

 

The definitive work that I'd recommend here is R. Keith Schoppa's Revolution and Its Past: Identities and Change in Modern Chinese History. It lays some foundations with the founding of the Qing Dynasty and the Macartney Embassy from the British in the late 1700s, but it's mostly focused on the 1800s through to more or less now. It's definitely a textbook, but it's got a narrative focus, is well-written, and focuses on a lot of the different stress points that led to the failed and successful revolutions in recent Chinese history.

 

I've also returned to Dian Murray's Pirates of the South China Coast, 1790-1810, which, among other figures, covers the legendary Zheng Yi Sao (alternatively known as Ching Shih).

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I just read The Call of Cthulhu.  I was expecting more due to all the fandom of it, official video games and what not, but it was basically a let down for me.  Minus the ending, it was pretty boring.  Maybe due in part to this is 2020 and the book was back in the early 1900's, and plus a lot has been fostered because of that mythos, Cthulhu related or not.  But... ehhh... boring...  ^^!  Plus I felt the human characters were weak and frail.  Like the stumbling teenagers in horror movies.

 

I will say however, since this is a reading thread in a video game forum, try the Interactive Fiction game called Anchorhead.  Surprisingly well written.  Surprisingly playable.  And surprisingly deep for an IF game with a feel of Lovecraftian.  It is legally free (The purely texted based game.) and you can probably simply play off the internet/your web browser or download it in an Interactive Fiction app or game module.

 

 

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  • 3 months later...

The power was out for about nine days due to the derecho, so I have read a lot in the past two weeks, specifically:

Vanished Kingdoms, by Norman Davies (reread): maybe sort of uneven, but I really appreciate the histories of eg the Burgundys or the Crown of Aragon or the possessions of the House of Savoy, which get glossed over hard in most history writing as they cannot be slotted into modern national histories cleanly.

The collected fiction of Lu Xun: really good. I actually maybe prefer the stories from his first book (variously translated as "A Call to Arms" or "Outcry"), which are immature and obvious in some ways, but very direct and powerful in a way that I think some of his later stories lose, despite their greater sophistication. The stories in his first two collections (of three) remind me strongly of Dubliners... the very strong sense of place and character, the social commentary that's variously oblique or like an anvil over the head.

Started rereading The Basque History of the World by Mark Kurlandsky; gave up in one of the early chapters after the repeatedly fumbled history (how did an editor let past a text that says Pompey was "more loyal to the emperor" than an ally of Marius?).

Now hacking through The Complete Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino: very uneven; some of the stories feel overly self-indulgent and like they exist not even for the sake of their own existence, but just because Calvino enjoyed writing them, but the good ones (The Spiral, The Origin of the Birds, The Chase) are brilliant.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I read "One of Us is Lying" a while back.  It was fairly good, but came off as cliched at times, with the ending making the mystery less interesting. (The idea in the book seemed similar to 'Pretty Little Liars')

 

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I've eventually finished reading Yuval Noah Harari's Sapiens (a book everyone should read) and I've started Poul Anderson's Tau Zero. I have mixed feelings about that book; interesting but not really entertaining and I'm not sure about the writing. My impression may change in time, of course. :)

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