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Current reading - Page 103

post #5101 of 5131
I miss Halberstam. My favorite book of his was Firehouse.
post #5102 of 5131

I finished Mark Mazower's Dark Continent: Europe's Twentieth Century. Great book but it really doesn't mix well with the happenings over in Ukraine.

post #5103 of 5131
Try Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin if you really want to get wrist- slittingly depressed about the bullshit the Slavs have been putting up with over the past century-plus.
Edited by Chavez - 3/2/14 at 11:09am
post #5104 of 5131

Reading Damned by Chuck Palahniuk. Feels like a contractual obligation. Got all the stuff Palahniuk does, just absent much inspiration. All the oceans of semen in the world don't amount to a hill of beans when they're just propping up toothless satire of limousine liberals.

post #5105 of 5131
The Quantum Thief was wonderful. Reminded me a lot of Iain M Banks.

Which is fitting since I'm about to read his last ever Culture novel, The Hydrogen Sonata.
post #5106 of 5131

Just finished Joe Hill's 20th Century Ghosts. I thought it was OK. The best stories by far, I'm afraid to say, were the ones where he was blatantly aping his father. The more literary attempts were just ponderous drags.

 

Still, he's mostly the goods. I ended up picking up NOS4A2 once I finished. It looks kind of Christmas-y, so I may wait a bit on it, but when he's doing Stephen King stuff, I'm game.

 

Next up, I believe I'll be going for the Lost City of Z. I can't really get enough of nonfiction tales of expeditions gone bad.

post #5107 of 5131

So I'm 2/3's through Vol 2 of Steven Runciman's History of the Crusades. I've had this set of books sitting on my shelves for a couple of years now, so I finally decided to plow through them.

 

And "plow" is the right word. Runciman writes serviceable prose, and has a nice way of bringing up events then circling back to them to show different perspectives and consequences. But I'm finding these are painful books to get through.

 

Partly my reaction is due to reading Edward Gibbon last summer; when you read prose of incredible beauty, "serviceable" doesn't cut it.

 

But the subject matter itself is bringing me down, much more so than I would have expected. I studied the Crusades in College, have read books and listened to lectures off and on since college, so I know the subject matter.

 

But reading in detail about the rampant stupidity, fanaticism, greed, shot through with only an occasional Gallantry and nobility, is proving to be actively painful (and the Muslims and Christians both look really bad).

 

It's weird to think I'm finally reading the standard text for this period of History, one I've heard referenced and praised for decades, and know I'm going to sell these books once I've finished them and never revisit them.

post #5108 of 5131
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cylon Baby View Post
 

So I'm 2/3's through Vol 2 of Steven Runciman's History of the Crusades. I've had this set of books sitting on my shelves for a couple of years now, so I finally decided to plow through them.

 

And "plow" is the right word. Runciman writes serviceable prose, and has a nice way of bringing up events then circling back to them to show different perspectives and consequences. But I'm finding these are painful books to get through.

 

Partly my reaction is due to reading Edward Gibbon last summer; when you read prose of incredible beauty, "serviceable" doesn't cut it.

 

But the subject matter itself is bringing me down, much more so than I would have expected. I studied the Crusades in College, have read books and listened to lectures off and on since college, so I know the subject matter.

 

But reading in detail about the rampant stupidity, fanaticism, greed, shot through with only an occasional Gallantry and nobility, is proving to be actively painful (and the Muslims and Christians both look really bad).

 

It's weird to think I'm finally reading the standard text for this period of History, one I've heard referenced and praised for decades, and know I'm going to sell these books once I've finished them and never revisit them.

 

Reading history is the most efficient way to turn you into a cynical pessimistic asshole available. Everyone is, in addition to whatever positive qualities they have, a crook, an asshole, a moron, a sociopath or a murderer. Everyone. Often times they are many of these things.

post #5109 of 5131
Quote:
Originally Posted by stelios View Post
 

 

Reading history is the most efficient way to turn you into a cynical pessimistic asshole available. Everyone is, in addition to whatever positive qualities they have, a crook, an asshole, a moron, a sociopath or a murderer. Everyone. Often times they are many of these things.

 

I can read histories of Rome, Britain or even Ancient Egypt and find lots of things to admire and be inspired by, while not failing to acknowledge the brutalities and horrors.

 

With the Crusades I've got nothing. They were a total waste of lives and did the exact opposite of what they were intended to achieve.

 

Two key insights I gained from reading this epic work (thus far):

 

1) Never trust a Norman.

2) Byzantium may have been the first and last Christian Empire. I mean "Christian" in the "turn the other cheek" sense of the word. The Byzantines genuinely hated war, but ruled a vast territory surrounded by Barbarians. What to do? Well they bought some people off, played others against each other via Diplomacy, and as a last resort hired Mercs to do their dirty work for them (The Crusaders were originally viewed as Mercs).

And for that they were regarded as "weak", "duplicitous" assholes. And in the end they got sacked by the "Christians" were swore to protect Christendom. Bah.

post #5110 of 5131
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cylon Baby View Post
 

And for that they were regarded as "weak", "duplicitous" assholes. 

 

You have Gibbon to thank for a great part of that.

post #5111 of 5131

I've been reading a lot of Lovecraft lately, something I've neglected to do before, save the odd short story here and there. But anyway, part of my Lovecraft joyrney lead me to a collection of short stories written by authors who either inspired Lovecraft or were inspired by Lovecraft. And among those stories was one called "In Amundsen's Tent". I forgot the author's name but I think you can find the story by googling. It is a fascinating short story, it was written in 1920's and I'm pretty sure it inspired both John Campbell's Who Goes There? and also the Creepshow segment called The Crate. I highly recommend it, it's a cool story.

post #5112 of 5131
Quote:
Originally Posted by stelios View Post
 

 

You have Gibbon to thank for a great part of that.

 


Well the Crusader's pretty much thought the same thing. So much so that they ended up sacking Constantinople.

post #5113 of 5131
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cylon Baby View Post
 

 


Well the Crusader's pretty much thought the same thing. So much so that they ended up sacking Constantinople.

 

The Crusaders were a bunch of illiterate savages, Gibbon and the people influenced by his work weren't. The guy just had an agenda. 

post #5114 of 5131

Gibbon's agenda was that he was a 19th Century Humanist. I'm on board with that agenda.

post #5115 of 5131

I disagree but this is a discussion for people more qualified than me.

post #5116 of 5131

Same here: I'm going by what I've read by him (he had no time for Christianity) and brief overviews of his life, but I'm not expert.

post #5117 of 5131

Hydrogen Sonata was great.  Harshest was reading the interview with Banks that's at the end, where he talsk about having many more plots and ideas :(

 

Then read the last part of the Owner Series by Neal Asher, Jupiter War.  OK, but kind of felt a bit wheel spinny/need to tie things up.  Never really engaged me.

 

Now reading Seeds of Earth by Michael Cobley - which is pretty good.  Also reading UnLunDun by China Mieville to my daughter, and that is fantastic!

post #5118 of 5131

I read a couple books. The Lost City of Z, a nonfiction story about British explorers disappearing in the Amazon jungle. It was written in the Jon Krakauer vein, and it works well enough, but ultimately, the most interesting stuff about it is the unanswerable questions about how these guys finally went down. It's taken for granted that they're on a fool's errand to find El Dorado, but once the official record ends, the real story begins. It kind of made me want to read a fictionalized version of the story Col Percy Fawcett, but then it turned out I already had. The book describes one of the Indiana Jones expanded universe novels I read when I was a kid. It's about Indy going into the Amazon, finding the Col, and getting them both out of there, changing history Inglourious Bastards style. I wish I remembered it better.

 

Then I read Firestarter, which I hadn't read since the 80s, I think. It's much better than I remembered. Really fun 70s paranoia stuff about CIA dark sites and a really neat take on evil G-Men. The book is about a family of powerful psychics, but the bulk of the book is about the bad guys, a bunch of government agents working for a CIA offshoot called The Shop. They're all more or less idiots, driven by craven self interest, power fantasies and general ignorance. There is an uncomfortably dated sequence that kind of demonizes transvestites, but even that adds the the misanthropic Lone Gunmen conspiracy wonk vibe. I would rank just above the middle in King's work.

 

Just started my second Philip K Dick novel ever, The Penultimate Truth. He's a trickier read than what I've been looking at lately.

post #5119 of 5131

Love Firestarter - probably time for a re-read.  I just got Nic "True Detective" Pizzolatto's novel Galveston as a gift and just started reading it.  Going into it the style is a little Iowa Writers' Workshop for me, but having seen with my own eyes what he did with TD, I'm going to wait until I'm done with it to make any kind of judgment on his language.

post #5120 of 5131

I enjoyed Lost City of Z, even if it ended with a whimper compared to the historical stories he told before that. It is one of those novels that makes me long for a time machine though so I could see the wooden city of grandeur that Z may have been. That book turned me on to two books about Teddy Roosevelt's Amazonian adventure and near death after his presidency. Say what you will about TR's politics, but the man was an adventurer.  It would be like forming a Mars colony and Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter just deciding to pay and embark on an exploration mission.

post #5121 of 5131

Slowly making my way through Hilary Mantel's WOLF HALL, which is good, but should probably require a degree in English History to fully get on board

post #5122 of 5131

Reading THE LONG EARTH by Pratchett and Baxter. Looks like it'll finally be the first Pratchett novel I will finish. I know that's probably heresy around here, but I have the same problem with Piers Anthony. Started many, finished none.

post #5123 of 5131
Quote:
Originally Posted by tcjsavannah View Post
 

Reading THE LONG EARTH by Pratchett and Baxter. Looks like it'll finally be the first Pratchett novel I will finish. I know that's probably heresy around here, but I have the same problem with Piers Anthony. Started many, finished none.


Same here. I have tried three times on different Piers Anthony novels and just can't get through them. I have tried two Pratchetts and just didn't like them.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ratty View Post
 

Slowly making my way through Hilary Mantel's WOLF HALL, which is good, but should probably require a degree in English History to fully get on board

 

I have an English Literature degree and thought the novel was okay. I sometimes wonder if some literary editor writes in the margins: "Needs more density; can still understand plot."

post #5124 of 5131

The fact that Piers Anthony is being metnioned in the same sentence as Pratchett makes me sad. 

post #5125 of 5131

I'm taking my time getting into Bad Brains by Kathe Koja. So far it's uneven, dark, strange and meandering. It seems like it could get great after the first act.

post #5126 of 5131
Quote:
Originally Posted by andrewhawkins View Post

I'm taking my time getting into Bad Brains by Kathe Koja. So far it's uneven, dark, strange and meandering. It seems like it could get great after the first act.

I remember giving this a go ten or fifteen years ago and not getting into it. I'll give it another try; I still have my copy kicking around.
post #5127 of 5131

I just started the latest Dark Tower book (4.5?) and I had forgotten how invested in this world I was. Not even the characters, really, but the whole of Mid-World is really one of the better fantasy kingdoms I've encountered. Nice little book so far.

post #5128 of 5131
Quote:
Originally Posted by andrewhawkins View Post

I'm taking my time getting into Bad Brains by Kathe Koja. So far it's uneven, dark, strange and meandering. It seems like it could get great after the first act.

Wow, Bad Brains. I've read Koja's The Cypher, Strange Angels, and Skin . . . I can't remember if I've read Bad Brains. Spent so much time in high school reading the Dell Abyss line of horror fiction that much of them have blended together.
post #5129 of 5131

I really enjoyed The Cypher. It's one of my favorite books right now. Bad Brains starts off a little rough for me with the pacing and characters, but I'm still giving it a shot. I am really looking forward to Skin. The premise sounds like it could be great.

post #5130 of 5131
Quote:
Originally Posted by Arjen Rudd View Post

I just started the latest Dark Tower book (4.5?) and I had forgotten how invested in this world I was. Not even the characters, really, but the whole of Mid-World is really one of the better fantasy kingdoms I've encountered. Nice little book so far.

Eh? There's a new Dark Tower book? Will need to look it up.

Read Catching the Wolf of Wall Street, which was as readable, if not quite as salacious, as the first one.

Now re-reading Day of the Triffids, inspired by the fact that there is apparently going to be a "must see" meteor shower in May.

I may be stupid and paranoid, but I never watch stuff like that. Thanks Mr Wyndham.
post #5131 of 5131
THE TELLING ROOM by Michael Paterniti; best book about cheese I've ever read.
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