Current Reading

Reviews, recommendations, books to avoid. What have you been reading?
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Reviews, recommendations, books to avoid. What have you been reading?

Current Reading

Postby Sweet Peace » December 11th, 2009, 6:03 am

I've loved this week to listen to an audiobook of The Brothers Karamazov (free download of the month from christianaudio.com). I'll be looking out for a secondhand copy of the book to reread and to loan to others and to catch up on whatever was abridged from the version I heard. I enjoy the sermons given by the Elder in the monastery and will read them again. It has prompted me to borrow Dostoevsky's The Idiot from the library.
Other reading lately has been Simon Winchester's A Crack in the Edge of the World, about the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. I selected it as I'd read his book - The Surgeon of Crowthorne: A Tale of Murder, Madness and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary (Published in the US as The Professor and the Madman). He instructs on geology and early American history as well as describing the earthquake and its consequences. Co-incidentally the city had asked a prominent town planner to redesign the city and received his new plans the day before the earthquake but didn't implement them as they wanted to rebuild in the quickest possible manner.
Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.
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Re: Current Reading

Postby Sprocket » January 11th, 2010, 9:45 am

The Greatest Show on Earth, by Richard Dawkins - his first book, surprisingly, designed specifically to show why evolution is true and creationism wrong. His previous books have assumed the truth of evolution.
The Madwoman in the Attic, by Susan Gilbert and Sandra Gubar (or possibly Sandra Gilbert and... - I'm always mixing them up). Classic work of feminist lit. crit. about 19th Century fiction by women. Been reading it for yonx, but put it down for extended periods.
The Little Stranger, by Sarah Waters, a ghost story published last year and much raved-about in the press. I bought Paula the audio-book version for Krimbo, and decided to get myself the print version at the same time. Set in 1947, it is very good at invoking the middle-class speech of the time, which sounds a little dated now, e.g. "I shouldn't like to...", where nowadays we'd say "wouldn't", and "awfully" as a general-purpose intensifier.

Lucy Mangan, in her column in 'Garudnia Weekend', said recently that she has for years been in the habit of noting the details of all the books she reads as she reads them, and totting up how many she reads in a year. It is, apparantly, over 100, sometimes well over, which seems a lot to me (little show-off!). However, I've decided to do likewise for 2010, and have already put two books down which I finished recently, though I had to add a note to each that I'de started them in 2009. I haven't read a complete book entirely within 2010 yet, which does not augur well for a total over 100 by the end of the year. However, we'll see.
Treason doth never prosper: what's the reason?
Why, if it prosper, none dare call it treason.
Sir John Harington (1561-1620)
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Re: Current Reading

Postby Sweet Peace » January 11th, 2010, 11:22 am

Since last week's trip to the library I've read The Diary of a Nobody and am half way through Charlotte Bronte's Villette.
The Dairy of a Nobody is a comic novel, first published as a column in Punch in the 1880s. It was amusing but scary - it's only too easy to identify with Mr Pooter. (from Wikipedia -The humour derives from Pooter's unconscious gaffes and self-importance, as well as the snubs he receives from those he considers socially inferior, such as tradesmen.) Now with blogs, we have many Mr Pooters on the 'puter. (I hardly dare write anything in case it sounds Pooterish.)
I'm finding Villette heavy going but good bedtime reading in that it's not so exciting as to make me stay awake late.

I don't think I'd read 100 books a year -maybe 50.
Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.
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Re: Current Reading

Postby Pondero » January 11th, 2010, 12:02 pm

I am reading Math books at present the material in which presents no arguments for debates but is just knowledge for its own sake mostly. I do like to know the practical applications of some of it, and I find technical Math interesting. In fact I am sick of debates as nothing is finalized and disagreements persist after many pages of criticism have been written, as in English Lit criticism, Religion and the Global Warming debate.
Also I am taking a Math book with me down south. In fact my next door neighbour is a retired Calculus teacher and a very practical man about the home. He is doing his own patio around his swimming pool, I had mine done for me as I can't be there more than a month at a time and he is there for a much longer period.
According to one study, the average adult has a shorter attention span (eight seconds) than a goldfish (nine seconds).
This is not surprising in today's wired , or wified world.
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Re: Current Reading

Postby Poncho » January 12th, 2010, 6:50 am

100 a year... depends on the kind of book!
I've just finished Collapse by Jared Diamond, which took a couple of weeks as I read no more than half and hour a day, but I've read The Places in Between by Rory Stewart in a couple of days and then went ultra light yesterday with Philippa Gregory's The White Queen, which I started in the morning, and I'm over half way through it already. It does help not having to go to work until the end of the month. But I would rather read fewer good books than lots of ultra-light ones.
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Re: Current Reading

Postby Andrew L » February 24th, 2010, 5:46 pm

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, about a dying pastor writing the story of his life for his 6 year old son to read when he has grown up.

Very readable.
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Re: Current Reading

Postby Sweet Peace » February 24th, 2010, 9:57 pm

Hi Andrew :wave:
I've been reading Quaker Testimony by Irene Allen -a crime thriller set among a Quaker community. They are brave people who withold the proportion of their taxes that would be used for war - in the USA an estimated 60% including war veteran costs!!
Whilst I deplore murder as entertainment, it's hard to find books that aren't full of sex and violence. I often go for classics as they are more constrained but I wonder if having my nose in Victorian times so often makes me old-fashioned.
Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.
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Re: Current Reading

Postby different glory » March 16th, 2010, 9:39 pm

Picked up at random from a local op shop, and evidently having been thrown out by the council library: Faithful Ruslan, by Georgi Vladimov. It turned out to be stunning, gripping, intensely thought-provoking.

It's a story of the demolition of Stalin's reign-of-terror labour camps, told through the eyes and mind of a camp guard dog, turned out to become a stray when the camps are closed down, and trapped by his training to be a pitiless and suspicious member of the Service until the end.

It's a better dog story than White Fang, and a better labour camp story than A day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch, and as good an existentialist story as The Outsider. (in my current opinion -- but it's been a few years since I read any of those!).

A very grim read, but I do strenuously recommend it.
That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all thy wondrous works. - Psalm 26
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Re: Current Reading

Postby GregB » March 22nd, 2010, 9:05 pm

It's certainly an excellent book, DG, though I wouldn't agree that it is better than 'Ivan Denisovich' - just different. I would also recommend the writings of the Russian revolutionary Victor Serge, formerly a Bolshevik who later supported Trotsky and, like him, went into exile in Mexico (though he didn't suffer the same grisly fate.) His masterpiece is the novel 'Midnight In The Century', a critique of Stalin's Soviet Union in the Thirties which in my view ranks alongside Koestler's classic work on the same subject, 'Darkness At Noon'. The last part of the book is set in the prison camps, as is that of another of his novels on a similar theme, 'The Case of Comrade Tulayev'. Serge's autobiographical 'Memoirs of a Revolutionary' makes fascinating reading, too. He was an unfairly neglected writer and eyewitness of some of the most turbulent events of the turbulent twentieth century.
"The wiles of dissembling fate afford us the illusion of freedom, yet in the end always lead us into the same trap."
- Jean Cocteau
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Re: Current Reading

Postby different glory » March 23rd, 2010, 9:48 pm

Thanks for the recommendation re Victor Serge, Greg. Sounds daunting. :(

It's great to hear that somebody else has read Faithful Ruslan! I was totally gripped by how much the books showed the way the system trapped and scarred those who looked like the safest, least damaged ones; I thought there were huge moral points in there. (very Russian!)

The "unfairly neglected" part -- it so much depends on who catches the eye of good publicists in the English-speaking world, I think. Literary merit comes a long way down the reasons that books come to general attention.
That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all thy wondrous works. - Psalm 26
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