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What are you reading . . . . Now?
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Martian Kyo



Joined: 12 Jul 2006
Posts: 1542

PostPosted: Wed Sep 03, 2014 9:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Guns, Germs and Steel
but I have been reading that for a few months off and on. It's well written, easy to read...and apparently very contraversional/hated in the history buff community (i.e. history subreddits)

In meantime I did read
Amusing ourselves to death - which was different then I expected, it has a very hyperconservative attitude and I have a knee jerk reaction to disagree with such thing. But he does make good points about how each medium is different and that learning from video media cannot replace learning from a written media.

The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone--Especially Ourselves - which was good, it didn't present me with new information as I have heard of a lot of theories and experiments mentioned in other books. But it's an interesting read if you like books about fickleness of the human mind, which I do.


yeah....I kind of don't read fiction lately.
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WheelsOfConfusion



Joined: 09 Jul 2006
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 20, 2014 10:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Suffering from library withdrawal, I fell off the wagon and sped over to the main branch with about fifteen minutes to spare before closing. Grabbed a couple of classics I've been meaning to read (Maus*, Ringworld), a stonking huge Best Of Niven short story collection, and a few nonfiction books to feed my brainicles:
The Knowledge, which actually prompted my library trip today. Wanted to get ahold of this one because hey, knowing how to rebuild a technological civilization from collapse is fun. Probably not going to be necessary... unless we keep cutting public education funds and electing Dittoheads who hate science.
Once you have successful gotten humanity back onto the rails of techno-wizardry and forward progress, you may want to relax with a nano-reef saltwater aquarium. This is the Handbook for those things! Fish guy though I am, saltwater is something I haven't yet dipped my toes into.



*I actually grabbed Maus on my way to the checkout counter because it was on the library's Book Jail shelf. It's part of the ALA's Banned Book Week (officially starts tomorrow), and this year they're focusing on graphic novels that have been challenged, banned, or otherwise caught heat. Wanna know what takes the #10 spot on the list? Jeff Smith's Bone. WTF?
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WheelsOfConfusion



Joined: 09 Jul 2006
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 28, 2014 9:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ringworld is a page-turner that's not stupid. At the same time I'm glad I read partway through the short story collection first, because now I have some references to the call-backs.
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mouse



Joined: 10 Jul 2006
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 29, 2014 6:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

WheelsOfConfusion wrote:
Ringworld is a page-turner that's not stupid.


yes, niven is good at this.

but you will probably want to read the followups (ringworld engineers, ringworld thrown and ringworld's children) pretty quickly, so you have all the characters still in mind. (i gotta get all mine together and read them through again - i think i have like 4 copies of ringworld and 2 of ringworld engineers, keep buying them when i can't find the copy i have, and then in the wait i forget stuff...)
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Darqcyde



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PostPosted: Tue Sep 30, 2014 12:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I can't see Nevin's name without thinking of Nevinyrral's Disk
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Martian Kyo



Joined: 12 Jul 2006
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 02, 2014 12:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

or the wonderful card art on it


One of those old school cards that destroyed everything of one kind.
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Mr Gary



Joined: 30 Apr 2009
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 07, 2014 7:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Totally stoked to find that the preface to In The Name Of The Rose has makes sly reference to Jorge Luis Borges. Has anyone read this? Will my inability to read Latin hold me back much? I haven't the patience to copy all the references into Google Translate.
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Celaeno



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PostPosted: Thu Oct 09, 2014 7:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I read it a couple of years ago, Gary. This was my review:
Quote:
This was beautiful and philosophical and incredibly dense.

Set in the 14th century, there are two main story lines: a murder mystery and a ideological clash between the Pope and the order of the Franciscans.

If you're looking for a light summer read, leave this at home. If you're looking for a quick, page turner, murder mystery, pass this one over. If you're looking for classic romantic historical fiction, definitely avoid this one.

But if you're looking for solid historical fiction about life in an abbey, detailed theological and philosophical discussions, and an intriguing slew of murders, this might be your book. If you love libraries, this could be your book. There are in-depth discussions of the thoughts of Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, and William of Ockham (the last even is a character in the book, albeit one we never see but only hear of)--if you don't mind pushing through these (or if, better yet, this is right up your alley), this could definitely be your book.

One to reread.
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Mr Gary



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PostPosted: Fri Oct 10, 2014 8:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nice review, thanks. It's one of my Dad's favourite movies so I know the resolution to the murder mystery anyway. Not that it's a secret. I've just encountered the villain for the first time in the novel and, boy, does he stink of 'hedunnit'. I like my historical novels for their digressions and 'factoids'. It's why I'll take a Neal Stephenson draggy plot over any Dan Brown cack any day.
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WheelsOfConfusion



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PostPosted: Sun Dec 28, 2014 8:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lately I've been read-listening to a lot of American slave narratives/auto-bios. Don't even remember why, but I downloaded 50 Years in Chains off of Librivox and decided to fill up the gaps between my podcasts' releases with the story of an escaped slave named Charles Ball.
Then another followed that.
And another.
And another.

Some of these were published before the Civil War, some afterwards. All of them show a keen, perfect understanding of how cruel and twisted the slavery system was, its utter dependence on injustice, hypocrisy, and sadism.

White society in slave states was so distorted as to be nearly unrecognizable, when accounted through the eyes of their "servants" (the other S-word was rarely used by whites). The entire system exploited human psychology to justify owning human beings to both the slave and the master. Even the kinder slave holders in these accounts were prone to beat, whip, or kill their slaves for imagined offenses and never be held accountable. Those who had never owned slaves before acquiring them tended to become the most fervent practitioners of cruelty, and there are several stories of slave owners (especially the wives) starving their slaves or keeping the women working too often to feed their children merely out of spite. Below the slave owner in status but constituting a class of their was the slave Overseer, the man whose job was to manage the slaves as they worked and keep the peace. They were almost always sadistic brutes who genuinely disdained their charges, tolerating nothing short of perfect obedience even to their most unreasonable demands. It's something else to read accounts of the Overseer on a plantation; they don't even pretend to be the genteel aristocrats that their employers play at. But it says something that even the overseers looked down on the actual slave merchants and traders who transported, sold, and exchanged slaves. From all accounts these people were at the bottom of the estimation of nearly everybody else; they were dishonest as a rule and totally unscrupulous. Imagine a stereotypical used car salesman, but debased enough to push human merchandise like livestock. Even the callous slave owners despised them, and only did business with them because it was necessary to maintain the system.

Nurturing this kind of inhumanity was a society built upon an inflated notion of itself and putting tremendous weight on personal honor and respectability in the eyes of one's peers. In fact, it's no exaggeration to say that one of the rough metrics of social status among whites was how many slaves you owned: more than 100 put you into the highest ranks of standing, irrespective of other merits or measures of wealth. It was a kind of mock nobility system, almost aping the feudal system of Europe in medieval times, but taken to extremes and made into a caricature. The slave holders fancied themselves an aristocratic society and tried desperately to live like it, provided by the blood and unending labor of human beings who were barely fed and often not even clothed. And the further one went into the South, the more this was the case. In border states like Maryland, there was much pressure to treats slaves somewhat humanely even while denying them their liberty.
But the fear of being kidnapped or sent away to work in the Deep South was a very real specter hanging over the heads of all African Americans, as they knew it would mean deprivation of every minor privilege or grace they might be afforded in border states. Every horror and injustice was magnified in the lower states, even though slavery was intolerable everywhere. It was in the lower plantations where conditions and treatment reached their nadir, often rivaling the Nazi concentration and labor camps, and where every conceivable legal mechanism was turned abjectly against slaves and into the favor of whites. In the Deep South, a black person without papers had absolutely zero legal protections (and in practical matters a white southerner could destroy or dispute the validity of a freedman's papers and often come out on top). If some white person suspected or accused a black person of anything, it was virtually synonymous with a conviction - especially since most matters of "justice" were settled without ever taking the issue to court, as a white slave owner was considered within their "rights" to punish or execute their slaves for virtually any offense. And it was usually the case that the accused were not allowed to speak in their own defense, in court or out.

3 of the 4 authors of these accounts here were written down by literate ex-slaves themselves, which was a glaring exception to the condition of most escapees or freedmen. By a kind of self-selection process these are also the accounts that tended to be published, so in the autobiographical literature there's an over-representation of self-taught, educated authors and orators. Nevertheless, the lives and experiences they describe are remarkably uniform with one another and even with accounts from the illiterate ex-slaves whose stories were dictated to a transcriber to be published. It's not just the system of punishment and deprivation that's common to them all; most especially is the universality of being separated from their families as slaves were sold or captured or swindled away. It was not common to know who their father even was. Every one of them is separated from their mothers and siblings, and some are separated later from their wives and children... even more than once. Sometimes they managed to become reunited with long-lost family members ... but not often. The lack of paternal knowledge, separation of families, and enforced lack of surnames among slaves was another part of the system calculated to put freedom, mutual support, and coordination beyond the reach of slaves, and this made it even more difficult to find your family after you were separated at a young age.

Some of the accounts, especially by Louis Hughes and Frederick Douglass, are amazing pieces of literature even without the historical significance. But there is plenty of historical interest, for example their accounts of the Civil War from different perspectives.
Hughes was still enslaved in the Deep South while the war went on, and only freed afterwards. He describes the view of things "on the ground" as his white masters began to lose their courage, their privilege, their holdings, and control of their "servants" as the months wore on. Douglass had already escaped and attained his freedom by the time the war broke out, and was able to live in the North as one of the country's most eloquent and well-known Abolitionists (he also advocated for women's suffrage).

There's also an element of the dramatic in these accounts. It's almost like reading a suspense story, an adventure, or in some places even a supernatural thriller. Every one involves at least one escape attempt and flight; to a free state, to Canada, even to Ireland. Some involve a subsequent return to find their family after emancipation, or a rescue mission, or an attempt to settle and start a free farm while still being hounded by slave hunters.

This is all stuff you learn about in history class, but the lessons just don't come to life and kick you in the ass like they do when you read the personal accounts. It makes the institution of slavery in America a much more human and less academic experience. You can't help but feel personally involved. Skimming over the broad strokes in class, you don't realize that sometimes an escaped slave would have to bribe Union officers to accompany them back to the plantation to rescue their family. You don't hear the Confederate planters' social cohesion and sense of identity became eroded as the War turned out to be neither quick nor successful (for them) and increasingly not a distant affair but one that chipped away at their own holdings and claimed members of the family. In class, you don't get to read a father's recollection of the time he and his wife are kept working so hard that their children waste away. Maybe you hear about Nat Turner's Rebellion, but you don't get the view from other slaves afterwards who live with the consequences as paranoid whites clamp down ever tighter to prevent another uprising. How many times to you read about a fugitive slave's encounter with a fellow fugitive, a recent prisoner from Africa who used to be a "Big Man" but was now reduced to wearing iron manacles and jingling bells that are designed to betray him as he hides out in the forest, where he lives off of lizards and frogs? Everyone learns about Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad, but what about the slaves they couldn't help?
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Mr Gary



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PostPosted: Sun Dec 28, 2014 11:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I got some books for Xmas. First one I read was Stephen Fry's latest memoir 'More Fool Me'. I love Stephen Fry. Who doesn't. But save your monies. It's 1/3 retread of his previous memoirs, 1/3 pillory of The War On Drugs (which I happen to agree with) and 1/3 random diary entries. My overwhelming feeling was one of 'Stephen, did you need some cash?'

I also bought Caspar Henderson's 'Book Of Barely Imagined Beings', which I intended to gift to my nieces (aged 10 & 12) along with Jorge Luis Borges Book of a similar name. However, a quick flick through by my Catholic mother showed that my ultra-Catholic nieces ought not to be gifted this book. To be fair, it does contain references to William Burroughs and Franz Kafka, that they will no doubt arrive at one day. But no 12 year old needs to be intrigued by Burroughs. So they're getting a copy of Wreck-It Ralph alongside their Borges.

I can't wait for two years from now when I give them all my CDs.
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Dogen



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PostPosted: Mon Dec 29, 2014 1:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I got several books this year! I've already read two...

The first was David Sedaris' latest, Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls, which is my least favorite of his books so far, but still good.

Then there's Flow. Come for the author's last name, stay for the in-depth analysis of how people find satisfaction in effort.

I haven't started Unruly Places yet, but it's the one I'm most looking forward to. So... we'll see how it goes. Smile
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mouse



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PostPosted: Tue Dec 30, 2014 7:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

i got a trip to powell's, and came away loaded with much ursula k. leguin (including a translation she did of lao tzu's "tao te ching" and a novel about aeneas' wife which was somehow something i didn't expect from her at all) and cat sense by john bradshaw, which i was thinking of sending to my brother if had any suggestions for helping his cats get along better, but it's looking like bradshaw doesn't believe cats ever want companions (except related ones).

so now i have like 5 books going (including studs terkel's hard times which i started before xmas and the complete wizard of oz on the kindle, which i work through whenever i have a few minutes.)

the slave narrative stuff sounds fascinating, wheels. one wants to say that the slave-owners considered slaves little better than livestock, except that they probably treated livesstock better. one can't, for example, imagine that they ever kept even a draft horse working so long her foal starved. you would think a child and a foal would have similar value as stock available for use or sale - but clearly, wielding power over the parent was more important than mere finances. there is some deep psychological weirdness involved there - some deep need to make clear their separation from slaves, which it would seem must stem from an even deeper realization that they really aren't that different. no wonder it's so hard to eliminate racism, when it grows on roots like that.
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eureka00



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PostPosted: Tue Dec 30, 2014 8:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hubby and I purchased The Slow Regard for Silent Things by Rothfuss with some of our giftcard money. I just started it last night after hubby finished it up. At least it is a short one. Smile
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enchantedsleeper



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PostPosted: Thu Jan 01, 2015 3:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Homeland by Cory Doctorow. I read Little Brother over the summer, and then went to Waterstones the other day and was like "OMG SEQUEL MUST BUY." I can't get enough of Cory Doctorow's fiction. He writes about the exact same subjects I love to write about - technology, hacktivism, online vigilantism, any and all internet stuff, set in the near future so it's kind of futuristic but still relatable to today - but does it so much better, and reading it just makes me want to go out and do cool cyber things, even if I barely have a hundredth of the tech ability of his protagonists.
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