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stephanie
04-28-2011, 03:36 PM
In the interest of having some friendly, non-political talk, I decided to go ahead and start this thread, despite the risk of getting no response.

I know a lot of people here like to read a lot of different things, and I'm interested in hearing about all of it -- genre books are welcome, as is non-fiction (even by 'heads!), and graphic novels and so on.

So what are you reading? What do you think of it? What do you recommend to me or to others? Why do you read? When and where do you read? Have your reading patterns changed? Do you read book blogs?

And what kinds of book conversations would you wish for in diavlogs?

stephanie
04-28-2011, 03:45 PM
To answer my own questions, I actually haven't been reading as much this year as usual, in part because I normally read a lot while commuting, and this year I've been more inclined to listen to music and have been driving more (not conducive to reading).

Normally, I read more older fiction (my favorite book of the year so far was a reread of Magic Mountain), but I've recently been catching up on some newer stuff and using the Tournament of Books ("http://www.themorningnews.org/tob/), which is fun to follow every year, as inspiration. I'm currently in the middle of two of the ToB books -- A Visit from the Goon Squad and Model Home, and also have been reading Amos Oz's A Tale of Love and Darkness, which is best categorized as a memoir.

AemJeff
04-28-2011, 04:03 PM
In the interest of having some friendly, non-political talk, I decided to go ahead and start this thread, despite the risk of getting no response.

I know a lot of people here like to read a lot of different things, and I'm interested in hearing about all of it -- genre books are welcome, as is non-fiction (even by 'heads!), and graphic novels and so on.

So what are you reading? What do you think of it? What do you recommend to me or to others? Why do you read? When and where do you read? Have your reading patterns changed? Do you read book blogs?

And what kinds of book conversations would you wish for in diavlogs?

I'm finishing up Brian Greene's The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos (http://www.amazon.com/Hidden-Reality-Parallel-Universes-Cosmos/dp/0307265633/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1304016569&sr=1-1). It's really a survey of the state of modern physics (with some speculation regarding where to, next?) dressed up as a discussion about multiverse theories. I thought his The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory (http://www.amazon.com/Elegant-Universe-Superstrings-Dimensions-Ultimate/dp/0375708111/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1304016569&sr=1-3) was a generally nice and clear exposition of a highly abstract topic; and his ability to illustrate mathematically dense topics with good metaphors and clear explanations was still very evident in the latest book. I'm a sucker for good pop-physics treatments, and Greene is among the best authors producing work in that realm. In fact I'd say Hidden Reality is a better work even than Hawking and Mlodinow's The Grand Design (http://www.amazon.com/Grand-Design-Stephen-Hawking/dp/0553805371/ref=pd_sim_b_9) which substantially overlaps Greene's topics, though in less detail.

stephanie
04-28-2011, 07:09 PM
Cool. I have (and think I've read, but should reread, because if I did I clearly don't remember it well enough) Elegant Universe, but the new one looks interesting, hmm. (I have to admit I buy more science-related stuff than I actually get around to reading.)

bjkeefe
04-28-2011, 07:50 PM
Cool. I have (and think I've read, but should reread, because if I did I clearly don't remember it well enough) Elegant Universe, but the new one looks interesting, hmm. (I have to admit I buy more science-related stuff than I actually get around to reading.)

That's nothing to be ashamed of (http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/372805-great-quotes-for-bibliophiles#comment_19008348).

The buying of more books than one can read is nothing less than the soul reaching toward infinity.
--A. Edward Newton

Don Zeko
04-28-2011, 08:21 PM
As I mentioned in the other thread, I basically read three types of books: history, public policy related stuff, and fantasy novels. In the first two categories, I finally acquired and read What Hath God Wrought (http://www.amazon.com/What-Hath-God-Wrought-Transformation/dp/0195392434/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1304032424&sr=1-1) and The Gun (http://www.amazon.com/Gun-C-J-Chivers/dp/B004Q7E0YA/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1304032448&sr=1-1). But mostly I've been exulting in the banner year for high-end fantasy novels we're having this year. Book 13 of Wheel of Time was released last fall, which am reading more out of a desire for closure than for anything else, but Patrick Rothfuss finally released The Wise Man's Fear (http://www.amazon.com/Wise-Mans-Fear-Kingkiller-Chronicles/dp/0756404738/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1304032693&sr=1-1), which I devoured and loved, Steven Erikson released The Crippled God (http://www.amazon.com/Crippled-God-Book-Malazan-Fallen/dp/0765316560/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1304032727&sr=1-1), the final Malazan Book of the Fallen, Peter Bakker continued his ruminations on the implications of superhuman false prophets with The White Luck Warrior (http://www.amazon.com/White-Luck-Warrior-Aspect-Emperor/dp/1590204646/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1304032760&sr=1-1), and A Dance with Dragons (http://www.amazon.com/Dance-Dragons-Song-Fire-Book/dp/0553801473/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1304032787&sr=1-1) is coming out in July.

These are all excellent books that get out from under the conventions and stereotypes of their genre, so I'm in the happy and unusual position of not being able to read fast enough to keep up with new releases. Seriously, I've had the White Luck Warrior in my house for a week and haven't read a page, which never happens.

rfrobison
04-28-2011, 10:23 PM
Thanks for this thread, Stephanie.

I am reading (without much success, I might add) three books at present. As an aside, do you think a short attention span is a sign of age?

Anyway, here they are:

Manias, Panics and Crashes, by Charles Kindleberger. This is commonly called the definitive work on the economic history of asset bubbles. I thought it might help me get a better handle on the recent housing debacle.

Science and Religion: An Introduction, by Alister McGrath. More of a reference book than anything else, written by a molecular biophysicist-turned theologian who deals extensively in his writings with the relationship with science and Christianity. Useful for my sporadic interventions on that subject here in the comments section.

(I shouldn't even claim this last one, as I bought the book like three years ago and stalled out in the middle. Should probably start over...)

Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow. A good book about someone the dust jacket calls "the least well-known of the founding fathers." Ah for the Republicans to find -- and choose -- a true Hamiltonian in 2012! (Sorry, you said this wasn't supposed to be political...)

graz
04-28-2011, 11:03 PM
I've just finished two interesting and entertaining books. One is a memoir: "My Korean deli: risking it all for a convenience store". It's a poignant recap of circumstances related to the title - ho hum, right? Well actually, Ben Ryder Howe is a former editor for Paris Review that was working alongside George Plimpton while moonlighting at the Brooklyn, NY deli he goes all in on, along with his Korean mother in-law. A real NY story - immigration, publishing, politics, but no pastrami.
Secondly, Sarah Vowell's "Unfamiliar Fishes", which recounts the conquest of Hawaii by the Evangelicals on behalf of the US government (sort of). She even talked to Obama's teacher! I've travelled to the Islands, but never considered it an unAmerican territory - like some birthers.

Starwatcher162536
04-28-2011, 11:42 PM
I read four types of books; Science/Engineering (I like more of the nut & bolt topics then the big idea cutting edge string theory type), History (No real focus here except I'm not a big fan of biographies), Fantasy (Ambiguity is a must here, I hate good guy bad guy Tolkien stuff), and Science Fiction. My wife has one year left for her PharmD. Since we didn't want to start our marriage apart I only worked 6 months after school to get us by and then subsequently quit, moved back to be with her, and now sit on my ass all day and play video games and read. Life is good :D

A few notables I've recently read;

Science;

-How to lie with Statistics by Darrell Huff. Written for a general audience (no equations). Just as the title implies the books gives a (non-exhaustive) list of examples of how people use statistics to obfuscate and mislead. My favorite example is the "One Dimensional Picture". This is where someone scales one variable (w,l,h) of a three dimensional picture by the quantity in question instead of scaling the volume by the quantity in question. Usually this is done twice to give an incorrect intuition of the ratio of two quantities.

-The Drunkard's Walk: How randomness rules our lives by Loenard Mlodinow. Written for a general audience (very few equations). There are few science books that have impacted by worldview as much as this one. It really makes one question just how coupled ability and success are.

-An imaginary Tale, The story of I by Paul Nahin. Chock full of equations. I really doubt if anyone that doesn't have a good grasp of Calculus is going to get much from this one though. Don't be fooled, despite it's advertising, it's far more of a supplemental math book with a little historical spicing then vice-versa. If you have the background it's a must read. 5 star.

-Sustainable Energy: Without the Hot Air by David MacKay; This book is split
into two parts. The first part gives a qualitative review of various renewable energies. The second part shows how he did his calculations. Except for some heating pump stuff it's all followable by anyone who didn't have trouble with high school math. Seems unbiased to me. Note of caution; It's written for the UK, but it's easy enough for anyone to conform his calculations to be relevant to the USA.

-Why Evolution is True by Jerry Coyne; This book is amazing. Never have I seen a book so thouroughly lay out the evidence for evolution. It also lays out a devastating critique to common creationist arguments, but does it in such a way that doesn't bog the book down examining ridiculous argument after ridicoulous argument. He manages this by negating creationist arguments of the "if detail x is invalid" type by showing how interconnected modern science has become. The best example is when the story of a marine biologist manages to validate several radiometric dating methods using corals and some fairly basic physics. He also lays out alot of evidence that is not saturated among the public. Best examples include evidence for evolution in teh fields of biogeography and embryology.

Hmm... I'm getting tired of typing. Ss no more summaries
-The essential engineer
-Structures: or why things don't fall down
-The simple science of flight
-The cellphone
-Game theory: A critical introduction



Science Fiction

All I've read lately is Alastair Reynolds. I know it's cliche, but it's very true this guy has re-invented the hard sci-fi space Opera. In order from my favorite to least favorite; House of Suns, Pushing Ice, Chasm City, Revelation Space, Terminal World, The Prefect, Absolution Gap, Redemption Arc.

Fantasy

No question the best I've read lately is the Song of Ice and Fire series. My only tough question regarding this genre is do I want to re-read the first four books in preparation of the release of A Dance with Dragons or do I want to start something else.

History
-Guns, Germs, and Steel
-The Prize: An epic quest for oil, money and power
-About a dozen from the A Very Short Introduction series
-Christianity: The first three thousand years
-The emperor of all maladies: A biography of Cancer

Starwatcher162536
04-29-2011, 01:01 AM
I'm a sucker for good pop-physics treatments, and Greene is among the best authors producing work in that realm. In fact I'd say Hidden Reality is a better work even than Hawking and Mlodinow's The Grand Design (http://www.amazon.com/Grand-Design-Stephen-Hawking/dp/0553805371/ref=pd_sim_b_9) which substantially overlaps Greene's topics, though in less detail.

??? "better work even then" ???

I think I just threw up a little in my mouth. Thanks for that.

AemJeff
04-29-2011, 01:27 AM
??? "better work even then" ???

I think I just threw up a little in my mouth. Thanks for that.

Have you read A Brief History of Time? (I'm using my phone to type this so I'm not even going to try insert a link). Hawking owned this genre at one time.

Don Zeko
04-29-2011, 02:10 AM
Fantasy

No question the best I've read lately is the Song of Ice and Fire series. My only tough question regarding this genre is do I want to re-read the first four books in preparation of the release of A Dance with Dragons or do I want to start something else.

Read The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man's Fear if you haven't already. They will not disappoint.

JonIrenicus
04-29-2011, 03:48 AM
... but Patrick Rothfuss finally released The Wise Man's Fear (http://www.amazon.com/Wise-Mans-Fear-Kingkiller-Chronicles/dp/0756404738/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1304032693&sr=1-1), which I devoured and loved, ....

I'd been waiting so long for that I missed it was out now.


A recent series I read (through to parts of the 3rd book - lost my kindle - waiting on replacement) is the First Law series.

A darker fantasy series with LOTS of bitterness. Sounds dry, it's not, it can be pretty amusing, especially when Glokta is around.

http://www.amazon.com/Blade-Itself-First-Law-Book/dp/159102594X

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1591026415/ref=pd_lpo_k2_dp_sr_1?pf_rd_p=486539851&pf_rd_s=lpo-top-stripe-1&pf_rd_t=201&pf_rd_i=159102594X&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_r=1NWD0YFA1PG01VRS7FSV


interview on another standalone book in the same universe

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fmbOl3GoGFA

Starwatcher162536
04-29-2011, 04:22 AM
I usually do not start a series until the series is concluded. I only started A Game of Thrones because I mistakenly believed it was a quartet.

bjkeefe
04-29-2011, 10:22 AM
It's getting rough out there (http://www.michaeleisen.org/blog/?p=358) in the used book business.

(h/t: MK, via email)

stephanie
04-29-2011, 11:30 AM
Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow. A good book about someone the dust jacket calls "the least well-known of the founding fathers." Ah for the Republicans to find -- and choose -- a true Hamiltonian in 2012! (Sorry, you said this wasn't supposed to be political...)

Ah, that's no problem.

I've had this one for a while too, and find Hamilton interesting, so should probably get around to it. My parents recently got offered some books from a friend (I won't bore you with the backstory), many of which were law-related, so they called me to see if I was interested in any of them. One, which did intrigue me, was The Law Practice of Alexander Hamilton, Documents and Commentary, so if that turns out to be at all worth getting into (I'm assuming it won't be a great cover to cover read), it may spur me on to finally reading the Chernow.

stephanie
04-29-2011, 11:37 AM
How to lie with Statistics by Darrell Huff.

I was a debater in high school, and we were required to read this. I keep meaning (well, off and on) to find and buy a copy, since although I remember none of the specifics, I do remember it as a book that was quite eye-opening at the time. Glad you mentioned it, maybe I'll actually go look it up.

Also glad you mentioned the Song of Ice and Fire series. I don't read a lot of fantasy, but have been intrigued by these -- my guess is I won't want to watch the series and then read the books, so I've been prompted by the show to wonder again if I should read them.

operative
04-29-2011, 11:51 AM
It's getting rough out there (http://www.michaeleisen.org/blog/?p=358) in the used book business.

(h/t: MK, via email)

I've seen that happen (though not at near that level!) with some used books that I keep in my cart to see if they go down in price. Thankfully every once in a while a book will decline in price at a predictable pattern before going up again, making it possible to nab the book for under $5. Buying new books makes even less sense than buying new cars.

cragger
04-29-2011, 01:22 PM
Not a book, but relevant to the subject of misuse and misunderstanding of statistics and only takes a few minutes:

http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/peter_donnelly_shows_how_stats_fool_juries.html

Don Zeko
04-29-2011, 04:29 PM
Also glad you mentioned the Song of Ice and Fire series. I don't read a lot of fantasy, but have been intrigued by these -- my guess is I won't want to watch the series and then read the books, so I've been prompted by the show to wonder again if I should read them.

You should! They are excellent.

Starwatcher162536
04-29-2011, 05:08 PM
Key words: "At one time"

Both a Brief History of Time and The Universe in a Nutshell were decent, if somewhat overrated, expositions over mostly well understood principles. The Grand Design is a jumble of circular logic and faulty induction.

The most egregious, and central, examples; M-theory predicts something like 10^500 universe's. We must observe a universe where life can exist. Out of all of the universe's M-theory predicts some of them will be amenable to life. Ding! M-theory confirmed, it successfully predicts that we will exist. Never mind it's goodness-of-fit. He also mangles the path integral interpretation of QM by ignoring quantum decoherence, which successfully explains the classical limit, and posits this is true for the entire universe!

The whole book is him attempting to mangle Physics into something it is not so he can feed his "Physicists are the new Priests! Read the mind of God" fetish.

JonIrenicus
04-29-2011, 06:04 PM
I usually do not start a series until the series is concluded. I only started A Game of Thrones because I mistakenly believed it was a quartet.

You may get burned like all the rest of us, he's in his 60s now, his health... questionable, and his time frame between books spans half decades...

I'm scared.

uncle ebeneezer
04-29-2011, 06:17 PM
Other "burned (http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/04/why_i_am_not_interested_in_wat.php)" feelings from PZ. (warning: spoilers in full post!!! Don't go there!)

Unspoiled excerpt:
HBO has this show now — you've heard about it? — recreating a most excellent fantasy series by George R.R. Martin. I enjoy a good fantasy story, and I think Martin is a fabulous writer…but man, I read the books, and I felt burned.
His main criticism:
Martin really knows how to set a pot to boiling. He doesn't know how to bring a delicious stew to the table. If you want to watch something churn and bubble entertainingly, you're welcome to it, but if you're hoping for a meal, go somewhere else.

uncle ebeneezer
04-29-2011, 06:22 PM
I have two books that are regretably sitting on my nightstand/pile.

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. And Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks. Both are excellent, I just have not been good about making time to read.

Ocean
04-29-2011, 06:36 PM
I have two books that are regretably sitting on my nightstand/pile.

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. And Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks. Both are excellent, I just have not been good about making time to read.

Have you watched this (http://stevens.edu/csw/?p=782)?

I was in the auditorium, but got there late. It was packed, no place to park!

stephanie
04-29-2011, 06:57 PM
I have two books that are regretably sitting on my nightstand/pile.

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. And Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks. Both are excellent, I just have not been good about making time to read.

I finally read Infinite Jest during that Infinite Summer event. I thought parts of it were great and parts not so much, but if you do start reading it, I'd be interested in discussing.

I just broke down and bought The Pale King, which I know will almost certainly be sad in the difference between the potential and its incomplete state, but what I've read about it convinced me that some of the individual bits would make it worthwhile anyway. No telling when I'll get to it, though.

The music book I've been sloooooowy reading forever and should just get to already, since I like it, is Alex Ross' The Rest Is Noise (and he has a newer one out that I also want to read based on the bits of this one I've managed to get to).

And speaking of Ross, he blogs and seems like an interesting person. If he hasn't been on bloggingheads, he should be.

uncle ebeneezer
04-29-2011, 06:59 PM
No!! Cool, thanx. I'll see if I can catch you sneaking in ;)

uncle ebeneezer
04-29-2011, 07:04 PM
Steph, it will probably be awhile. I'm only about 150 pages in. So far the only part that I have a tough time with is French/Canadian spy, and the diplomat storylines. Unsurprisingly, the tennis academy and recreational drug storylines are totally fun, to me ;)

FWIW- your "mixed bag" review seems pretty common among the people I know who have finished it. Hopefully I will get there someday. Have you read DFW's essays? If not, I HIGHLY recommend "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again". Brilliant.

stephanie
04-29-2011, 08:35 PM
Have you read DFW's essays? If not, I HIGHLY recommend "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again". Brilliant.

Yeah, I love his essays.

graz
04-29-2011, 08:56 PM
Steph, it will probably be awhile. I'm only about 150 pages in. So far the only part that I have a tough time with is French/Canadian spy, and the diplomat storylines. Unsurprisingly, the tennis academy and recreational drug storylines are totally fun, to me ;)

FWIW- your "mixed bag" review seems pretty common among the people I know who have finished it. Hopefully I will get there someday. Have you read DFW's essays? If not, I HIGHLY recommend "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again". Brilliant.

When I'm playing tennis I never consider the math (unlike Wallace did), how about you? Now the lobster ... that's something to think about.

uncle ebeneezer
04-29-2011, 09:59 PM
Math is the furthest thing from my mind when I play. I play all on instincts*. I doubt even DFW thought about the math while playing. I think he thought about it when watching tape and analyzing tactics etc. But I don't think there's enough time to really think about the math in anything beyond an ooh-I-see-an-opening-with-a-sharp-angle, momentary thought.

*However alot of the things we practice ARE based on the math/angles and trying to get the best advantage. Things like serving wide to someones backhand, going down the line when your opponent is moving toward middle of the court, getting in good position to hit an overhead etc., are all based on the math. But I know when I'm playing I might say to myself something like "mix it up...serve wide" but more out of habit than actually analyzing the angles. At the end of the day it's all just a matter of hit-it-where-they-aint.

All that said, the look into the physics and angles etc., is one of the things that I think makes DFW's writings on tennis, so cool to read. Guy clearly knew his stuff.

Florian
04-30-2011, 04:41 AM
The music book I've been sloooooowy reading forever and should just get to already, since I like it, is Alex Ross' The Rest Is Noise (and he has a newer one out that I also want to read based on the bits of this one I've managed to get to).

And speaking of Ross, he blogs and seems like an interesting person. If he hasn't been on bloggingheads, he should be.

Excellent idea. Music, and I mean good music, and the decline of an audience for good music, would make an interesting subject. Perhaps Ross could be coupled with Sacks. But given the general tenor of bhtv, this seems to me an unlikely event.

Speaking of books, I am re-reading Montaigne's Essays. Everyone should read Montaigne. He is good even in translation, and the greatest English poet was deeply in debt to him.

Starwatcher162536
04-30-2011, 05:20 AM
I don't agree with PZ. The first four books were focused on the buildup, conflagration, and aftermath of the War of the Five Kings. It's a saga. It's okay for there to be multiple plot-lines that sometimes temporally overlap.

Starwatcher162536
04-30-2011, 11:07 PM
...Not to say there isn't padding in there. Arya being the worst example. Other then being a convenient window into how much The War of the Five Kings makes life horrible for the "little people", her plot hasn't really advanced much over the last (few) hundred pages. It's like has has to occasionally throw her in so we will remember who she is in later books where she plays a more central role.

Starwatcher162536
06-12-2011, 05:36 PM
Have you read Chronicles of the Black Company? Not as high overall quality as A Song of Ice and Fire, but it does have that same protaganists are not good guys theme. I'd reccomend it to any serial fantasy reader who also liked A Song of Ice and Fire.

chiwhisoxx
06-13-2011, 12:16 AM
I read some of his longer essays on the web last week, and really enjoyed his writing. Was thinking about getting one his books (probably infinite jest) and was curious if anyone had read it. It's an absolute behemoth of a book, so I'd like some feedback before I invest half a lifetime in reading it.

Don Zeko
06-13-2011, 03:55 AM
I read some of his longer essays on the web last week, and really enjoyed his writing. Was thinking about getting one his books (probably infinite jest) and was curious if anyone had read it. It's an absolute behemoth of a book, so I'd like some feedback before I invest half a lifetime in reading it.

My brother is working through it right now. I'll see if I can get some feedback from him.

Don Zeko
06-13-2011, 03:56 AM
Have you read Chronicles of the Black Company? Not as high overall quality as A Song of Ice and Fire, but it does have that same protaganists are not good guys theme. I'd reccomend it to any serial fantasy reader who also liked A Song of Ice and Fire.

No, I haven't. Thanks for the suggestion. Perhaps I'll get to them after I finish The Sun Sword, or perhaps re-read Red Mars for Alyssa Rosenberg's book club.

uncle ebeneezer
06-13-2011, 01:38 PM
Chi, IJ gets a very mixed review from everyone I know who has read it. My overall impression is 2/3rds brilliant 1/3rd annoying. Most people seem to agree that it is technically amazing but not likely to appeal to everyone. I struggled with the all-over-the-place nature of Pynchon and Robbins so I can certainly relate to people who get irritated with overly-twisted post-modern, flashy writing. But for some reason, Wallace isn't as bad for me. I'm about 130 pages in but have been at a stand-still for awhile (part of that is me just being busy and IJ just being so physically large that it's hard for me to bring along to read when I'm in lines etc.)

Absolute must read DFW (imo) essays:

IL State Fair
Cruise Ship experience
Profile of tennis player Michael Joyce (String Theory in Esquire)
Tennis As Religious Experience (NY Times)
How Tracy Austin Broke My Heart
Lobster Festival
Porn Convention
9-11 Essay
McCain essay
Essay on right-wing radio guy

Those are the ones that stick out in my mind. I'll keep you posted when I eventually start moving again in IJ.

chiwhisoxx
06-13-2011, 01:50 PM
Chi, IJ gets a very mixed review from everyone I know who has read it. My overall impression is 2/3rds brilliant 1/3rd annoying. Most people seem to agree that it is technically amazing but not likely to appeal to everyone. I struggled with the all-over-the-place nature of Pynchon and Robbins so I can certainly relate to people who get irritated with overly-twisted post-modern, flashy writing. But for some reason, Wallace isn't as bad for me. I'm about 130 pages in but have been at a stand-still for awhile (part of that is me just being busy and IJ just being so physically large that it's hard for me to bring along to read when I'm in lines etc.)

Absolute must read DFW (imo) essays:

IL State Fair
Cruise Ship experience
Profile of tennis player Michael Joyce (String Theory in Esquire)
Tennis As Religious Experience (NY Times)
How Tracy Austin Broke My Heart
Lobster Festival
Porn Convention
9-11 Essay
McCain essay
Essay on right-wing radio guy

Those are the ones that stick out in my mind. I'll keep you posted when I eventually start moving again in IJ.

thanks. I've read some of those; the essay about the cruise ship and the lobster are the ones I loved the most. absolutely brilliant.

stephanie
06-13-2011, 01:56 PM
I read some of his longer essays on the web last week, and really enjoyed his writing. Was thinking about getting one his books (probably infinite jest) and was curious if anyone had read it. It's an absolute behemoth of a book, so I'd like some feedback before I invest half a lifetime in reading it.

I've read Infinite Jest -- had started it a number of times (the begninning is good but I never seemed to be in the right mood for the rest) and ended up being motivated by the Infinite Summer thing.

What uncle eb said is right, IMO -- it's extremely uneven, with some bits that are great and some which didn't work for me at all. Ultimately I was glad I read it and will probably go back to it someday. It's not a book I'd recommend to everyone and not without reservations and disclaimers (as here), though.

But I had the book about 10 years before I read it, so it can't hurt to get it and see if it grabs you.

uncle ebeneezer
06-13-2011, 02:10 PM
But shouldn't your disclaimer be in the form of a footnote (http://kottke.org/09/07/how-to-read-infinite-jest)? ;)

stephanie
06-13-2011, 02:42 PM
But shouldn't your disclaimer be in the form of a footnote (http://kottke.org/09/07/how-to-read-infinite-jest)? ;)

Ah, such a missed opportunity!

graz
07-02-2011, 10:44 PM
I read some of his longer essays on the web last week, and really enjoyed his writing. Was thinking about getting one his books (probably infinite jest) and was curious if anyone had read it. It's an absolute behemoth of a book, so I'd like some feedback before I invest half a lifetime in reading it.

Go for it. (http://www.thecommonreview.org/article/article/our-psychic-living-room.html?sp=1)

Starwatcher162536
07-15-2011, 09:37 AM
Ugh. A Dance with Dragons should never have existed. If A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons had been condensed, something alot easier then you would think due to the many meaningless side-tracts that could have been scraped, there would be just enough plot and character development to make a a strong transition book coupling together the 2 arcs; The War of the Five Kings & The invasion of Dany and the Others. Instead we get meandering.

I really do feel The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring will have the same high quality found in the first three books but these two transition books are really going to mar the reputation of the series as a whole.



Another complaint;
!SPOILER!!SPOILER!!SPOILER!!SPOILER!!SPOILER!!SPOI LER!!SPOILER!!SPOILER!!SPOILER!!SPOILER!!SPOILER!! SPOILER!!SPOILER!!SPOILER!!SPOILER!!SPOILER!!SPOIL ER!!SPOILER!

Ned's death served a purpose. It signified the end of the cloak and dagger war in which the Starks lost,the Lannisters won, & set up how bad a king Joffrey was going to be. The deaths at the Red Wedding served a purpose. They signified, for all intents and purposes, the end of the War of the Five Kings.

Jon's death seems like nothing but GRRM filling his major character death quota.

Don Zeko
07-15-2011, 05:12 PM
Ned's death served a purpose. It signified the end of the cloak and dagger war in which the Starks lost,the Lannisters won, & set up how bad a king Joffrey was going to be. The deaths at the Red Wedding served a purpose. They signified, for all intents and purposes, the end of the War of the Five Kings.

Jon's death seems like nothing but GRRM filling his major character death quota.

That assumes that Jon is actually dead in any permanent sense, which I find incredibly unlikely. Beyond that, I don't share your criticisms. I felt the action in the North and at the Wall moved along in a much more satisfying way than feast, though I'll grant that Meereen got pretty tiresome. And with Theon's plot, I'm afraid that GRRM isn't going to let me despise anybody from here on out. Hell, I actually felt bad for Cersei in her second chapter. Cersei!!!

Don Zeko
07-15-2011, 05:23 PM
Ned's death served a purpose. It signified the end of the cloak and dagger war in which the Starks lost,the Lannisters won, & set up how bad a king Joffrey was going to be.

I get your point, but the fun part is that that isn't really what was going on in the first book. After all, the Lannisters didn't kill Jon Arryn or send the assassin after Bran. What Ned's death really signified was the conclusion of Littlefinger's successful plot to start a war between the great houses that could not be resolved quickly or easily.

look
07-17-2011, 11:44 PM
I just read the first couple pages on Amazon. The length, 700+ pages is daunting, considering how internet surfing has fried my circuits :)

Here's a good Amazon review:

By Tim Dalton - See all my reviewsThis review is from: Gravity's Rainbow (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) (Paperback)
Never has a book led me into a state of consciousness similar to a "trip", with the same unnerving side-effects and life-changing revelations. Read slowly. It's not as hard as you've heard. Just remember A.) that it's hilarious, and B.) it's not a real novel, more like the longest poem ever written.

I would appreciate some opinions from fans of the book.

stephanie
07-18-2011, 06:09 PM
Looks like Borders is about to be no more, as its BK is about to become a liquidation due to an inability to find a buyer. Hardly a surprise, but I will miss it.

AemJeff
07-18-2011, 06:18 PM
Looks like Borders is about to be no more, as its BK is about to become a liquidation due to an inability to find a buyer. Hardly a surprise, but I will miss it.

Ten years ago this would have made me sad. Amazon has so filled this niche for me that I haven't been in a Borders in years. The only reason I stop at a B&N is because there's one with a Starbucks inside on the direct path from home to office. What I do hope is that as the giant chains die off, that the ecosystem finds a way to accommodate a greater number of independents alongside the dot com business.

stephanie
07-18-2011, 06:54 PM
Ten years ago this would have made me sad. Amazon has so filled this niche for me that I haven't been in a Borders in years. The only reason I stop at a B&N is because there's one with a Starbucks inside on the direct path from home to office. What I do hope is that as the giant chains die off, that the ecosystem finds a way to accommodate a greater number of independents alongside the dot com business.

It's mostly sad to me because I know the original Borders from before there was a chain, because of my memories of going to one Borders in particular (mainly 5-10 years ago, true), and because of the initial excitement of having real bookstores everywhere, even where I grew up, where the main bookstore experience was the equivalent of a mall Waldenbooks. We mainly used the library anyway. But I've never felt the dislike that many indie supporters used to express toward Borders and B&N, and I judge independent stores on a case by case basis -- some are excellent, some give me no reason to prefer them to amazon.

Ocean
07-18-2011, 09:22 PM
Ten years ago this would have made me sad. Amazon has so filled this niche for me that I haven't been in a Borders in years. The only reason I stop at a B&N is because there's one with a Starbucks inside on the direct path from home to office. What I do hope is that as the giant chains die off, that the ecosystem finds a way to accommodate a greater number of independents alongside the dot com business.

Yeah, sure, but are you going to get your grande on line?

eeeeeeeli
07-18-2011, 09:37 PM
Just saw this thread - very cool!

I have a terrible time with fiction. I find stuff I love, but it frequently drags me down. So I tend to stick with non-fiction as a safe bet. I tend to oscillate between science writing and social sciences/education. A brief run-down of what I've been reading...

I'm currently reading Salt: A World History and loving it. Almost too many "who knews"...

Before that I read Sam Harris' Moral Landscape. Morality - or lack of it - can be substantiated through science. Quite enjoyable, if a tad shrill at times. (Maybe that's an overstatement) But I love his willingness to be bold and embrace where naturalism leads.

Hitler's Willing Executioners. Antisemitism of German culture's centrality in holocaust. Strangely repetitive, yet somehow so with merit.

Dawkins' Greatest Show On Earth. General overview of how rock-solid the case for evolution is, but as much a simple delighting in the beauty of it.

The Life of the Cell. An amazing portrait for a general audience of what goes on in cells.

My hold just came in for James Gleick's The Information, which I've been dying to read.

AemJeff
07-18-2011, 09:58 PM
Yeah, sure, but are you going to get your grande on line?

Maybe they'll fax it...

AemJeff
07-18-2011, 10:04 PM
Just saw this thread - very cool!

I have a terrible time with fiction. I find stuff I love, but it frequently drags me down. So I tend to stick with non-fiction as a safe bet. I tend to oscillate between science writing and social sciences/education. A brief run-down of what I've been reading...

I'm currently reading Salt: A World History and loving it. Almost too many "who knews"...

Before that I read Sam Harris' Moral Landscape. Morality - or lack of it - can be substantiated through science. Quite enjoyable, if a tad shrill at times. (Maybe that's an overstatement) But I love his willingness to be bold and embrace where naturalism leads.

Hitler's Willing Executioners. Antisemitism of German culture's centrality in holocaust. Strangely repetitive, yet somehow so with merit.

Dawkins' Greatest Show On Earth. General overview of how rock-solid the case for evolution is, but as much a simple delighting in the beauty of it.

The Life of the Cell. An amazing portrait for a general audience of what goes on in cells.

My hold just came in for James Gleick's The Information, which I've been dying to read.

"Salt" is a great book, though I thought the last chapter or so seemed padded so that there was more American content than there would have been otherwise. Aside from that minor complaint, I thought that Kurlansky found a brilliant angle from which to to slice through history. The idea that salt and cod drove European trade and defined an economy all by themselves was a brand new idea to me.

Ocean
07-18-2011, 10:14 PM
Maybe they'll fax it...

Ah, that weird faxing teleportation thing?

stephanie
07-19-2011, 12:21 PM
"Salt" is a great book, though I thought the last chapter or so seemed padded so that there was more American content than there would have been otherwise. Aside from that minor complaint, I thought that Kurlansky found a brilliant angle from which to to slice through history. The idea that salt and cod drove European trade and defined an economy all by themselves was a brand new idea to me.

I love the concept of the Kurlansky books, although I've had Cod forever and haven't read it yet. That's just due to my overwhelming number of books I should read hanging around at all times.

graz
07-19-2011, 12:35 PM
I'm currently reading Salt: A World History and loving it. Almost too many "who knews"...


Big ups on Kurlansky, generally. His 1968: The Year that Rocked the World, along with Perlstein's Nixonland are easily tied to why we're still struggling to define Americanism and what it means to be a patriot.

miceelf
07-31-2011, 09:43 PM
NOt in response to anything, and this may not spark anything either. But I just finished The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall, and am now reading On Writing by Stephen King

The Well of Loneliness was quite well done and highlighted how much things have changed since the 20s when it was written- the dramatic imporvement in life for gays and lesbians, and the dramatic decline in the degree to which casual racism (even among putative progressives) has really gotten a lot less socially acceptable. Or at least the weird version of it that was prevalent back then.

On Writing is better than I anticipated.

stephanie
08-10-2011, 05:22 PM
Review of John McWhorter's latest, What Language Is (And What It Isn't and What It Could Be), in the WSJ. (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111903366504576490730307397242.html)

stephanie
10-05-2011, 05:38 PM
Apparently it is the 100th anniversary of Flann O'Brien's birth, and here's (http://crookedtimber.org/2011/10/05/flann-obriens-birthday/) a post from Henry Farrell to commemorate it.

He says:

People may reasonably disagree about which are the very best bits of O’Brien’s work. My own favorite is the description of the practical philosopher De Selby’s efforts (in The Third Policeman) to take advantage of the “appreciable and calculable interval of time between the throwing by a man of a glance at his own face in a mirror and the registration of the reflected image in his eye.”

(click the link for the quotation)

I liked Third Policeman, but my personal favorites are The Dalkey Archive and At Swim-Two-Birds, both of which made me laugh aloud.

stephanie
10-06-2011, 12:34 PM
Has anyone read any of these books (http://royalsociety.org/awards/science-books/shortlist-2011/)? If so, I'm interested in your thoughts. If not, some of them might be of interest here.

The Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books judges have chosen a shortlist of six books that they describe as having taken them out of their depth and giving them thrilling new experiences of the world of science.

Descriptions and first chapters are available if you click the link.

Sulla the Dictator
10-07-2011, 09:55 PM
Mediterranean Anarchy, Interstate War, and the Rise of Rome.

badhatharry
10-08-2011, 11:14 AM
Ulysses. It took me nine months and now I'm going back and re-reading Portrait of an Artist and The Dubliners. I'm in a James Joyce vortex.

The Pinker interview reminded me that I have not yet finished The Stuff of Thought.

Upon nikkibong's recommendation I have read all of Lionel Shriver's novels and am waiting to see if Kazuo Ishiguro is going to come out with something new.

stephanie
10-08-2011, 04:58 PM
Ulysses. It took me nine months and now I'm going back and re-reading Portrait of an Artist and The Dubliners. I'm in a James Joyce vortex.

The Pinker interview reminded me that I have not yet finished The Stuff of Thought.

Upon nikkibong's recommendation I have read all of Lionel Shriver's novels and am waiting to see if Kazuo Ishiguro is going to come out with something new.

I disliked the one Lionel Shriver novel I read and am perhaps unfairly negative about her because of the topical "ripped from the headlines" nature of What About Kevin. It feels exploitative to me, like the subject matter is designed to get attention, although I know people I respect who have liked it (and who haven't) so admit that may be unfair.

I do like Ishiguro.

Ulysses is one of my favorite books, and it's a shame that people tend to get hung up on trying to decode it and often miss the fun (if they don't just give up). On the other hand, I've been in a Finnegans Wake reading group for over a year now -- we are meeting tomorrow, in fact. Not sure what I think of Finnegans Wake.

badhatharry
10-08-2011, 09:31 PM
I disliked the one Lionel Shriver novel I read and am perhaps unfairly negative about her because of the topical "ripped from the headlines" nature of What About Kevin. It feels exploitative to me, like the subject matter is designed to get attention, although I know people I respect who have liked it (and who haven't) so admit that may be unfair.

I do like Ishiguro.

Ulysses is one of my favorite books, and it's a shame that people tend to get hung up on trying to decode it and often miss the fun (if they don't just give up). On the other hand, I've been in a Finnegans Wake reading group for over a year now -- we are meeting tomorrow, in fact. Not sure what I think of Finnegans Wake.

I liked Kevin because of the ending, which I had no idea was coming. It also reminded me of Doris Lessing's The Fifth Child. The other one I liked is The Post Birthday World. One incident, two divergent scenarios and an ending which could fit both. Very clever...a sophisticated Sliding Doors

miceelf
10-09-2011, 08:35 AM
I am working my way through pre modern American classics.

I just finished the Great Gatsby and am about to start The House of Mirth.

stephanie
10-09-2011, 08:00 PM
I am working my way through pre modern American classics.

I just finished the Great Gatsby and am about to start The House of Mirth.

I love Edith Wharton (and House of Mirth specifically). I think she's underrated.

miceelf
10-09-2011, 09:07 PM
I love Edith Wharton (and House of Mirth specifically). I think she's underrated.

Will let you know what I think. I had actually never read Great Gatsby before- I understand a lot of people get it in high school, but I wasn't one of them.

PS. A recent book I read taht I was horrified they are making into a movie was World War Z. A good book.

stephanie
10-10-2011, 02:47 PM
Will let you know what I think. I had actually never read Great Gatsby before- I understand a lot of people get it in high school, but I wasn't one of them.

Probably Canada vs. the US, partially. We got it in our US lit year. I think high school is too young to really appreciate it, though. Curious to hear your thoughts on both.

miceelf
10-10-2011, 05:26 PM
Probably Canada vs. the US, partially. We got it in our US lit year. I think high school is too young to really appreciate it, though. Curious to hear your thoughts on both.

Great Gatsby really resonated with me, probably its relatively bleak view of the world.

;-)

But then I like novels about that era (I am a fan also of Aldous Huxley's less regarded social manners novels).

you're probably right about canada vs. US. Thinking about high school curricula, we got 1984 (and saw the movie!!!), Catcher in the Rye, To kill a mocking bird, Lord of the Flies, Old man and the sea (probably took the place of Gatsby); that's what I remember, anyway, and a lot of Shakespeare and poetry.

My senior year we ended up doing a lot of Heinrich Boll and did a full literary deconstruction of the entire set of lyrics to Springsteen's Nebraska album. I don't think either were on the curriculum, I think we just had an interesting teacher that year.