The Nihon Review Forum

Everything Else => Miscellaneous => Topic started by: GreatGlistener on September 22, 2008, 01:41:26 PM

Title: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: GreatGlistener on September 22, 2008, 01:41:26 PM
I suspect this thread will garner substantially fewer replies than the films thread, but I think it's worth a try. I certainly wouldn't mind being proven wrong.

Books by authors esteemed literary critic Harold Bloom considers notable are preferred.  ;)

I'm not using number ratings because they're stupid.

Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov

A brilliant lesson in what you can do with the English language. I've only finished Part 1, but even after the first paragraph it's easy to see why the book is considered a classic. Here is a sample paragraph, in which the narrator describes a hotel room:

"There was a double bed, a mirror, a double bed in the mirror, a closet door with mirror, a bathroom door ditto, a blue-dark window, a reflected bed there, the same in the closet mirror, two chairs, a glass-topped table, two bedtables, a double bed: a big panel bed, to be exact, with a Tuscan rose chenille spread, and two frilled, pink-shaded nightlamps, left and right."

Exquisite, and even more so in context.
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: sevenzig on September 22, 2008, 04:20:48 PM
The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury

Its a collection of short stories by the best Sci-Fi author ever.
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: Sorrow-kun on September 22, 2008, 05:35:24 PM
I'm not using number ratings because they're stupid.
Do you have a problem with the way we work around here? :p

Recently finished reading Orwell's Burmese Days and am now close to finishing Orwell's A Clergyman's Daughter.

In all honesty, I really don't know what to make of Orwell.  He has this apparent deep pessimism about human nature, which sometimes borders on a depressed hatred, which he tries to veil, but still seeps through.  He constructs these characters which are just loathsome, and that he likes to loath (particularly in Burmese Days where a lot of the characters are based on real people), and there's this common set up throughout a lot of his books I've read where the main character is a lone isle of sense in a sea of backwardness.  The stories he writes... aren't very good.  A lot of the time events play out like a series of episodes and what happens before often doesn't have much to do with what's happening right now.  His books are typically character driven or (in the case of 1984) setting driven, but even then these aren't the most multi-dimensional characters you could come across.  They're good characters, but they're not brilliant characters, but even then I think they're serving a point rather than being the point themselves.  He has this seeming disdain for the apathetic nature of people, and I can dig that, but I'm not sure he really knew how to deal with it... so I guess he gave up and started writing books about it.
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: Akira on September 22, 2008, 05:51:02 PM
Let's see...

I don't read much fiction, but:

Currently, I'm reading The Rings of Saturn by W. G. Sebald. Died recently; he might have won a Nobel Prize, too... I really like this book, but it's definitely not for everyone. It's very stream-of-consciousness, and a bit too post-modernist-y for some, I think. The book has this obsession with death that doesn't seem to beat you on the head, either; it makes death almost a beautiful thing, something that not a lot of books can accomplish.

I'm also reading Waiting for the Barbarians by J. M. Coetzee, a Nobel Prize-winning author from South Africa. It's a book about power, the abuse of power, and the helplessness of those who have fallen from power; although it might be construed as a statement on the British Empire's ruthlessness in South Africa, the book is written in a purposefully generic fashion, so that it could apply to anyone, anywhere. The language is very nice and the book is extremely well written; I definitely recommend.

I read Lolita a few years back, loved it... I should probably re-read it someday, even though I don't have that habit of re-reading books...

I like how Sorrow's instilled the habit of underlining names of authors... >_>;
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: GreatGlistener on September 22, 2008, 06:26:21 PM
Do you have a problem with the way we work around here? :p

Nah, it's more a personal preference than anything. I just don't feel I'm saying much when I use them. Also, the distinctions are a bit too specific for my taste. I'd prefer a three tier scale if anything. You can go ahead on with it if you like, though.

I've also started reading Nabokov's Pale Fire. The narrative structure is very unique and interesting. Looking forward to continuing it.
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: GreatGlistener on February 03, 2009, 07:17:23 AM
Near the Cockpit a guffawing group was watching Rima being cleaned of a copious pollution of red permanganate. Murphy receded a little way into the north and prepared to finish his lunch. He took the biscuits carefully out of the packet and laid them face upward on the grass, in order as he felt of edibility. They were the same as always, a Ginger, an Osborne, a Digestive, a Petit Beurre and one anonymous. He always ate the first-named last, because he liked it the best, and the anonymous first, because he thought it the least palatable. The order in which he ate the remaining three was indifferent to him and varied irregularly from day to day. On his knees now before the five it struck him for the first time that these prepossessions reduced to a paltry six the number of ways in which he could make this meal. But this was to violate the very essence of assortment, this was red permanganate on the Rima of variety. Even if he conquered his prejudice against the anonymous, still there would be only twenty-four ways in which the biscuits could be eaten. But were he to take the final step and overcome his infatuation with the ginger, then the assortment would spring to life before him, dancing the radiant measure of its total permutability, edible in a hundred and twenty ways!

From Murphy, by Samuel Beckett
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: Kurier on February 03, 2009, 12:11:58 PM
All I have time for these days is reading. And most of it isn't by choice.

I have nearly finished Facts on the Ground: Archaeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society by Nadia Abu El-Haj. This book is very interesting, but for an Anthropology class (ANTH 354: Middle East - Culture and Conflict) it vast references to archaeology are troublesome at times.

About to start Masks by Fumiko Enchi from a class I'm auditing (JAPN 314w: Japanese Lit. in Translation). This class will also have me re-reading Kafka on the Shore and Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami. Both of these books are Murakami at his best. Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto is also in the queue for this course, got it in the mail yesterday.

I'd love to be reading Norwegian Wood by Murakami, but I got stuck in the middle and that was nearly 4 months ago.

By the way, Lolita is the shit.
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: Godai on February 05, 2009, 11:50:24 AM
"1984" by George Orwell.... en espan~ol =D
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: genki sakura on February 13, 2009, 12:41:54 PM
Last book I read was The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough...it was epic...Everything was epic--the backdrop of Australia, the amount of information on the Cleary family, the love story between Ralph and Meggie (*squee*)


Comparing the book with the 1983 TV miniseries: Some of the memorable scenes in the show were even more memorable in the book. I thought they made a fairly good adaptation. I cried like a little girl during some of the miniseries. XD


Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: GreatGlistener on March 13, 2009, 03:12:15 AM
If any of you like to read books at all, you should go make an account at http://www.goodreads.com and post it ITT. It's a simple and useful cataloging site similar to myanimelist.com (which everyone here seems to be familiar with). Here's mine:
http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/1746508
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: ddragon292 on March 16, 2009, 11:23:15 PM
well i just finished the RAiN novels recently... the first like 3 were fantastic then it kinda died as the protaganist got predictible and the artist's disinterest in continuing the franchise became apparant (but he had to keep going to tie up loose ends... and fill his pockets with green)
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: mces0421 on May 29, 2009, 02:25:37 AM
Of course my favorite book. "The Purpose Driven Life" by Rick Warren. This book is a gift from my friend. This Book is worth reading over and over again.
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: fuu on May 29, 2009, 05:19:03 AM
All I have time for these days is reading. And most of it isn't by choice.

I have nearly finished Facts on the Ground: Archaeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society by Nadia Abu El-Haj. This book is very interesting, but for an Anthropology class (ANTH 354: Middle East - Culture and Conflict) it vast references to archaeology are troublesome at times.

About to start Masks by Fumiko Enchi from a class I'm auditing (JAPN 314w: Japanese Lit. in Translation). This class will also have me re-reading Kafka on the Shore and Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami. Both of these books are Murakami at his best. Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto is also in the queue for this course, got it in the mail yesterday.

I'd love to be reading Norwegian Wood by Murakami, but I got stuck in the middle and that was nearly 4 months ago.

By the way, Lolita is the shit.

I love you Kurier. Murakami is indubitably, my favourite author ever. I just finished "The Wind Up Bird Chronicle" and his ability to mesh surreal and real is simply unparalleled.

Also, I agree. Lolita is the best piece of satire to grace the last century of literature.

And do read Norwegian Wood. Really.
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: Akira on January 27, 2010, 08:25:27 PM
From KX. Moved to old topic.

Quote
Same as the movie thread. There is no way that none of us are avid readers anyway.

Cloud Atlas:

"Revolutionary, or gimmicky? Shan't know until it's finished." A story of six entirely unrelated, yet closely connected stories. In every sense of the word, this is an experimentalist novel, and it probably comes off as a little pretentious as a result. Well, it would were it not some of the most brilliant prose I've had the fortune of reading. As the novel goes forward and backwards in time, it leaves style, format, and even genre behind, or ahead I guess. But the transitions between each one, while obvious, are surprisingly unnoticeable. From an airport thriller, to a comedy of errors, to a dystopian tragedy, the high quality writing is highly consistent. This is true of the themes as well in both subtle and overt ways. Admittedly, not all of the stories ring as well as the rest, the central one by far being the weakest. As an experimentalist novel, it occasionally comes off as a little too proud of itself, even if the praise is well deserved. Also, getting into each new story is a process that takes a while to get into. But the end results were uncanny, and things ultimately reached a point where I just couldn't put it down.

Rating (For each story):

The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing: 7/10
Letters from Zedelghem: 10/10
Half Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery: 8/10
The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish: 9/10
An Orison of Somni-451: 9/10
Sloosha's Crossin' an' Ev'rythin' After: 6/10

Overall Rating: 9/10

As for myself:

The Ancient Economy by Moses I. Finley. This is the work on the economics of the Greco-Roman world. Incredibly well-written and filled with rhetorical genius. Finley is a very breezy writer, and unlike most historians, doesn't clog up half the page with footnotes. Analytically, I do have a problem with his general mistrust of archeology and his reluctance to cite empirical data in order to prove his point, but his approach is fascinating. Instead of looking at documents and ruins, he approaches the ancient economy as a matter of psychology, focusing more on sociological norms and how they shaped economic behavior between 1000 BC and 500 AD. The book is not without controversy, and as an economics major, I find his lack of economic analysis slightly unsettling. An amazing read, nonetheless, and definitely good material for sweet, pompous cocktail party talk.
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: DrIdiot on January 29, 2010, 11:32:14 PM
Going After Cacciato, by Tim O'Brien.  I've really been enjoying it, though I think I still like his The Things They Carried better.
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: Kavik Ryx on February 11, 2010, 08:20:05 AM
Ghostwritten

With two of four (soon five) novels down, I think I can safely say that I have become a David Mitchell fan. I love this guy. So cynical in his writing, yet surprisingly touching. As for the novel, what can I say? Like how Cloud Atlas showed how vastly different stories had touched each other across time, Ghostwritten does this across space (well technically around the world from east to west.) The stories and voices are richly varied, each one enjoyable in their own right regardless of how important each one individually is to the overall narrative. In each one the central theme rings true. Shit happens. The important thing though is why shit happens, taking it from nine dramatically different angles.

If I had to put Ghostwritten down for anything, really only three things come to mind. The first is the not so linear nature of the Hong Kong and Ireland stories, which involve changing location and time with little provocation. The last few chapters get a little wonky with their sci fi angle. And to be honest, the five page final chapter isn't all it could have been. But speaking as someone who is admittedly not an avid reader, if I cannot find myself able to put down a 400+ page novel for even a second, then obviously someone is doing something right.

9/10
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: genki sakura on June 03, 2010, 09:28:14 AM
*Bumps*

The last book I read was Execution by Hunger by Miron Dolot. It was about his experiences during the famine that happened in Ukraine during collectivization. It was for a class--a class in which the three books I read for it got more progressively more depressing (but it was an interesting class). He almost got eaten...by another human.

Currently I'm reading two books off and on: a book on Rommel and a book entitled The First World War. The latter was actually a text for a class from last spring. I didn't really keep up with the reading assignments for that class, so I felt like reading it over this summer for kicks...>_><_<
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: MK on June 03, 2010, 05:46:36 PM
All of Charles Dicken's books. i read A tale of two cities, Great Expectations, Oliver Twist, David Cooperfield and now I'm reading A tale of Two Cities. I recommend him to anyone who enjoys reading.
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: CoaeSystems on June 08, 2010, 09:49:32 AM
[...] I read A tale of two cities[...] and now I'm reading A tale of Two Cities.

You must really love A Tale of Two Cities. =p

As for myself.

I just recently finished reading the Haruhi Light Novels. (Iunno if you would count them In the "Book" category, but I do after chain reading them). All I can say is, MOAR! It's one hell of a cliffhanger to leave off at. At least the disappearance cliffhanger took place In the first half of it's novel... though, I guess it's not a cliffhanger then :/
However, I demand MOAR!


Other than that, I've been getting a hold of a lot of Forsyth. He seems to be rather Popular in India. So far, I've read;

The Fourth Protocol
: It was an interesting book. There was actually quite a good buildup. I'll try not to go into detail on the plot, as it would ruin the first half of the book. However, it's your basic spy novel. Soviets vs Englishmen. The Soviets essentially wish to have to Leftist groups in England gain a majority victory and hence, have an England with close relations to the USSR. To do this, they have planted an Agent and tasked him with planting the catalyst to this plan. It's actually fleshed out rather well. What really strikes you is the simplicity of some the the actions that are taking place.

Despite this, the book was killed for me due to having one of the most anti-climactic Endings I have ever read.

The Dogs of War: After The Fourth Protocol, I had figured I wouldn't touch Forsyth again. However, the synopsis on this book just made me read it.

Quote
The mercenary protagonists, (like the protagonist in the author's earlier novel The Day of the Jackal [1971]) are professional killers — ruthless, violent men, heroic only in the loosest sense of the word. Thus, they are anti-heroes. The Irishman Carlo Alfred Thomas "Cat" Shannon, commander of the mercenary group, is the exception; the others are life's losers, emotionally impoverished, expendable men.

The story details a geologist's mineral discovery, and the preparations for the attack: soldier recruitment, training, reconnaissance, and the coup d'état logistics (buying weapons, transport, payment). Like most of Forsyth's work, the novel is more about the protagonists' occupational tradecraft than their characters. The Dogs of War title is a term from line 270, scene 1, Act III: Cry, 'Havoc!', and let slip the dogs of war, from the play Julius Caesar (1599), by William Shakespeare.

Once again, Forsyth seems to be the Master of the Build-up. The way it's all put together is so very real. The only point that seemed to detract from this part of the book was the somewhat awkward rivalry between Shannon and the Frenchman. Even during the chapter and a half prior to the actual Coup, you can feel the tension and anticipation rising In you, despite the fact you are reading a book.

The Coup itself is somewhat unamazing, lasting only about 20 - 30 pages. However, the ending is excellent. Perhaps it's due to myself comparing it to the ending of The Fourth Protocol, but I felt it to be extremely fitting. As such, the enjoyment I gained from this Book has led me to venture into a 3rd Forsyth.

The Fist of God: Well, I've only hit Chapter five... =p
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: MK on June 08, 2010, 11:41:11 AM
You must really love A Tale of Two Cities. =p

Yup, one of my favorite novels. I've read it 3 times. "It was the best of times it was the worst of times." :)


Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: Kavik Ryx on June 10, 2010, 09:34:28 AM
After almost two months, I finally got through Haruki Murakami's Wind-up Bird Chronicle, and even with all that time, I have no idea about how I feel about it, or even whether I like it or not. It certainly was fascinating, graphic, and did clearly show what made Number9Dream effectively Murakami-lite. Though much like Number9Dream, by the end I ultimately fell an odd combination of satisfied, yet uneasy. Perhaps it was the vague nature of the book, as well as being one that had several arcs with few coming off as complete. Though on the plus side, it did bring questions regarding the logistics of psychic prostitution to my mind, and its passage on execution by skinning has further solidified my desire not to step foot inside Mongolia. In a way, it was like reading a Satoshi Kon movie, and probably needs to be read simply for its dives into surrealism and absurdity. As for a rating, it is eminently uneatable, so I'd say */10 would be most appropriate in this case.
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: zzeroparticle on June 10, 2010, 11:34:05 AM
Finally got around to reading Blink which was a very enjoyable read filled with fun little anecdotes.  Funny how many weeks it might take for me to get through classic lit and yet, something like Gladwell takes a few days to run through.
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: DrIdiot on June 11, 2010, 05:38:21 AM
I've been sort of partial toward short stories lately, because I had been pretty busy with schoolwork and sometimes had to put down books for weeks.  I read some Raymond Carver books (What We Talk About When We Talk About Love is the most well known), Nine Lives (Salinger), and I'm almost done with Interpreter of Maladies (Jhumpa Lahiri).  They're short stories, and there isn't really a unified theme (except maybe in Lahiri's case).  Carver's stories tend to be about things that on the surface appear very mundane, I guess.  Nine Stories is just... nine stories (For Esme - With Love And Squalor was probably my favorite though).
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: MK on June 26, 2010, 02:28:30 PM
I just finished reading "Mao, A Life" by Phillip Short. To all you out there who are "history Nuts" like me... This is a must. Especially the chapter on the Long March. I've never even seen a documentary that portrays it so vividly.
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: DrIdiot on August 09, 2010, 09:16:09 PM
I picked up after the quake by Haruki Murakami randomly in a bookstore today.  I haven't finished, but what I've read so far, I've really liked.  It's a collection of short stories, and the author is apparently fairly well known.  I thought I'd share it prematurely because it seems like something people may be interested in.

Since he's written so many other books that seem to be well-known, has anyone else read this guy?  Any recommendations?  I was going to pick up The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle next.
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: DrIdiot on August 15, 2010, 12:11:16 AM
After almost two months, I finally got through Haruki Murakami's Wind-up Bird Chronicle, and even with all that time, I have no idea about how I feel about it, or even whether I like it or not. It certainly was fascinating, graphic, and did clearly show what made Number9Dream effectively Murakami-lite. Though much like Number9Dream, by the end I ultimately fell an odd combination of satisfied, yet uneasy. Perhaps it was the vague nature of the book, as well as being one that had several arcs with few coming off as complete. Though on the plus side, it did bring questions regarding the logistics of psychic prostitution to my mind, and its passage on execution by skinning has further solidified my desire not to step foot inside Mongolia. In a way, it was like reading a Satoshi Kon movie, and probably needs to be read simply for its dives into surrealism and absurdity. As for a rating, it is eminently uneatable, so I'd say */10 would be most appropriate in this case.

Ah, I just finished.  I blew threw it in two days... but I pretty much didn't do anything else.  And yeah, I can relate to the sentiment.  I'm pretty confused.  But even so, I must have enjoyed it.  I can't blow through 600 pages in two days if I'm not enjoying it.  Usually I can't even get through 50 pages of a story I don't enjoy.

For those that like things laid out concretely and like explanations, then this book will probably piss you off to no end.  It's very abstract, and the lines between reality and fantasy are blurred.  It's very real, but at the same time, there's a supernatural element.  It sort of reads like a Coen brothers movie.

I'm finding it difficult to pick out a central theme of the book.  There are a lot of small themes.  There are anti-imperialistic themes, commentary on the nature of work in people's lives, a warning against the passive approach toward life, the idea of re-defining oneself, and the juxtaposition between the values of Wataya and Okada.  I'm not very good at doing this sort of analysis, so I'm going to stop here.

On a less related note, I've heard Mongolia is actually a very nice place.  So, I wouldn't let this book stop you from going.
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: DrIdiot on August 17, 2010, 11:53:43 AM
I guess, a follow-up on The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle -- one thing I'm interested in is how much is lost in translation.  When a foreign novel gets translated, we are really at the mercy of the translator.  The prose in the Murakami works I've read -- translated by Jay Rubin -- have been fairly plain.  It's a bit stylistically bland.  The vocabulary is very basic.  I wonder if the same can be said of the Japanese novel, or whether such a question can even be posed.  It is even possible to effectively retain stylistic elements in translation between the two languages, because they are so different?

For example, I know a little Chinese, and I can see how it would be difficult to take an eloquent phrase in Chinese and translate it into English.  It would require a bit of imagination or embellishment by the translator.  Part of this difficulty might arise in the big difference in grammar.  By contrast, it may be somewhat easier to do this with Germanic and Romantic languages that share roots with English, whose grammars are essentially the same.  Another problem may be in culture -- a lot of more advanced words in English are based on cultural ideas that may not have existed in the East.  The converse is also true, so perhaps in translation, cultural nuances are lost.  Or, at the very least, they may become less eloquent.

As another example, I've picked up a book, 2666 (which has been nothing short of excellent in the first 100 pages), and the prose is much more engaging.  The original novel was written in Spanish.  There are a few terms I had to look up (menage a trois?  coprophagy?).  There is a sentence that lasts over 4 pages (there's a reason).  I doubt there is a Chinese word for "coprophagy" -- well, other than just describing what it is.  And I'm not sure if such a run-on sentence would translate well into Chinese.

If anyone has any light they can shed on this, it would be appreciated =)

Also, I'm prematurely recommending 2666 because I've liked what I've seen so far.  I'll post again when I finish (it'll be awhile -- it's 1000+ pages and it's not a book you can read as quickly like The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, which has a lot of flab).
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: DrIdiot on August 17, 2010, 12:14:41 PM
Sorry for spamming the shit out of this thread, but I've been thinking about literature education in high school.  Maybe some of you can corroborate my experience, of give a contrary one, I'm just interested in general.

So, for me, we had a class called "Language Arts" which consisted of roughly three components: writing, grammar, and literature.  I want to focus on the literature aspect.

When I was in high school, I didn't do very much reading.  Most of the school reading we did were classics, like Moby Dick and Silas Marner.  I think this is a bad way to teach literature, because it really turns people away from reading.  It did for me, and I know it did for a lot of my classmates.  I think there should be more modern literature.  In my high school curriculum, until I dropped out of the honors level senior year, there was no modern literature at all.

The reason is that you can obtain a very complete analysis of Moby Dick, and most classics, online.  Everyone's figured this out by now.  The only way to show you didn't just look shit up on Sparknotes is to have a waaay-out-there opinion (risky), or do what most people do, which is just cite random shit from the book.  This leads to a practice I call quote-chasing, in which the student pre-formulates a thesis about the book (which is usually discussed in class beforehand anyway, i.e. man vs. nature), possibly without reading the book, BEFORE he actually does any analysis.  Then, the student will skim the book for quotes that support this statement.  Of course, in the real world, the analysis is done first, and then the statement is formed.  It takes a lot more time, but unlike the current way, it's not a totally pointless exercise.  Modern books have been analyzed less, and it's much harder to do this.

Modern literature also tends to have more "relevant" ideas than classic literature because it's closer to the present world.  I think it's important to have a good mix of this a well.

I understand it's important to learn the classics.  But at the same time, it's equally important to keep up with modern literature.  I'm not suggesting that high school students study pop-fiction by any means (Harry Potter is pop-fiction, for example).  But, in high school, after reading a lot of books that really didn't interest me, I basically stopped reading altogether.  I've started up again recently, and I'm just trying to figure out why I stopped in the first place.

Maybe it was just an impatient teenager thing, and I'm overanalysing.
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: DrIdiot on April 20, 2011, 05:12:53 PM
Man, I just wanted to revive this, even though it seems like no one else is posting.  I've read a bunch since my last post and I probably can't remember everything, so here are a few notables.

Roberto Bolaño - 2666, The Savage Detectives
Roberto Bolaño is currently my favorite author.  I once read (in a blog, I forgot the name) that Bolaño's narrative not only breaks Chekhov's principle (if a character hammers a nail into a wall in Act I, then he should hang himself on it in Act III), but that if Bolano (I'm going to stop doing the ñ) has a character drive a nail in a wall in Act I, not only will he not hang himself on it in Act III, but the character will spend the entire scene hammering nails into walls.  That is, much of his narrative plays no dramatic role.  But they do play a purpose, and that is to convey his ideas and emotions to the reader.  2666 is a 1000-page epic consisting of five parts, centered on the fictional Mexican border city of Santa Theresa, where a disturbing number of cases of women being raped and murdered go unsolved.  (This is based on real life events: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Female_homicides_in_Ciudad_Ju%C3%A1rez).  These five stories all intertwine and weave a tapestry of humanity standing on the edge of the abyss (which Bolano has said, is the only place the "cure" can be found).  I personally cannot say that I fully understand what the novel is about, but I can't but feel completely awestruck by it.  Though it may not seem to be about anything in particular, everything Bolano says seems simply relevant to mankind and its condition.

The Savage Detectives is much more lighthearted, and follows the lives of two poets (Arturo Belano and Ulysses Lima, based on Roberto and his friend Mario Santiago) and their new movement of poetry, called visceral realism, in which the members denounce the poetry establishment and encourage their fellow poets to hit the road (or rather, they say that this is the lifestyle of true poets).  Ultimately, the story is about the loss of innocence; we follow the two characters from their youth to their old age.  The subject matter is reminiscent of On The Road, but this is much better written, and I think says a lot more about the human condition, whatever that means.  One particular scene that stuck to me is one where Bolano challenges a critic who had written a poor review of his poetry to a duel (and surprisingly, he accepts) and invites the woman he had been seeing to watch from a distance.  To her, it seems like they're playing, but then she wonders, what if they were using real swords?  The two bang swords against each other into the night.

Bolano manages to write about nothing in particular, yet you can't help but feel like what he's saying has to do with everything.  I can't stress enough how much I enjoyed reading these two masterpieces.  I wish I could give a less wishy-washy reason as to why I enjoyed it so much, and if I understand one day, I'll let everyone know.  (I swear, I wasn't high while reading this).

Kobo Abe - Woman in the Dunes
A deeply existentialist work, in which the protagonist goes to a remote town where the houses are in sand pits, and residents are given the Sisyphean task of endlessly cleaning sand from their houses.  Unknowingly, he stays the night and they villagers trap him in the pit.  It's an allegory.  If you like this kind of thing, you'll know.

Absurdistan
A satire which I did not particularly enjoy that much.  Mostly, I felt the prose got out of hand very often; the author seemed too interested in showing off his mastery with words rather than conveying his ideas.  Satires American foreign policy and the War in Iraq in particular.

Junot Diaz - Drown, The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Drown is a book of short stories, detailing the immigrant experience for Dominicans.  Oscar Wao has similar themes; about a Dominican-American growing in Jersey.  Both are great reads, though I don't have much else to say.  Very enjoyable narrative, the people feel very real, and they leave an emotional impact.

Logicomix
This is a graphic novel, but it's truly excellent.  It's a dramatized biography (i.e. not entirely accurate, as the authors explain) of Bertrand Russell, mathematician and philosopher, and his search for the foundations of mathematics.  A friend once told me that logic (as a sub-branch of mathematics) drive mathematicians insane, but it is suggested in this book that perhaps the insane are simply attracted to logic by nature.  It contains many deep philosophical ideas but presented in a clear way for laymen, and it depicts Russell's dramatic transformation from boyhood to old age - how his outlook changed, his views on rationality and mankind, and the impact of his search on his soul.

EDIT:
Also, I'm reading The Help -- so far it's been enjoyable; very readable.
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: Kaikyaku on April 20, 2011, 11:07:26 PM
I couple weeks ago I finished reading The Brother Karamavoz by Dostoevsky, which was amazing. The whole story is told by a narrator who is not an active character, but we get to meet him in the way he tells his tale. The artistry of the writing is great, plus the characters are really human and well developed. The three brothers are all different, but all believable. The only thing that bothered me was that the ending was left a bit open, but apparently it was supposed to be the first book is a series but then Dostoevsky died, so that's forgivable. A lot of interesting ideas about religion, politics and society are raised as well.

Right now I am reading Juuni Kokki (big surprise, eh?), the story about Enki and Shoryuu. Even though it is good and I love the series, it seemed a big step down after reading BK.
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: DrIdiot on September 05, 2011, 11:24:11 PM
The Help
Okay, so I finished "The Help", and now that it's a movie... well, I basically agree completely with what David Denby wrote in his article (in the New Yorker), so I'll just summarize: it's a pop novel, it was meant to be made into a movie, and there's no point reading a book for which there is already a movie.  So, just watch the movie.  Regarding the actual content, it reads like a pop novel much of the time, and you can't help but feel like writing such a book in 2010 is not so courageous as writing one in 1955 or whenever it was set.  It's 50 years late.  It's not controversial anymore, it's not pushing any boundaries.  It's a feel good novel, condemnation of racism, but in the end there's not much substance to it.
6/10

Lolita
I read the first half.  It's written very well, but it really got pretty boring.  So, I didn't finish the second half.  Sorry, Nobokov.

Guns, Germs, and Steel
An interesting concept, but I feel like the book could have been 10% the actual length without cutting any major content.
7/10

By Night In Chile
Another Bolano book, this one about a Chilean poet who is complicit in the Pinochet regime, who, though not a fascist, watches idly and retreats into the classics while fascism reigns.  One of the opening lines is great: "I've always contended that men are responsible for their actions, and that includes their words and silences, yes, silences, because silences rise to heaven too, and God hears them."  Or something like that, I paraphrased.  The book is about failed poets destined to obscurity and the role of the state in poetry and literature.  A great book, well-written (as Bolano always is).
9/10

I have more to say about The Savage Detectives.  The first part is called "Mexicans Lost In Mexico."  In fact, this is really a major theme of the novel, which is that Arturo Belano and Ulises Lima are lost, lost in the world, lost in Mexico.  Their wanderings are a manifestation of this, their search for a mother (in a figurative sense), and for literary and personal identity.  Do they ever find it?  It's not clear.  But what makes this book so great is how well it is written, how beautiful its prose.

20000 Leagues Under The Sea
Boring pseudo-science.  I can see nerds of the 19th century wanking to this but I don't see how anyone should give a shit today.  It delves into lengthy expositions about fictional machinery and technology.  But who cares?  If I wanted to read about technology, I'd, well, go study it or something.  Often I feel the part of the novel about travelling is superceded by the part about technology, and unfortunately the latter is just unbearably boring.
4/10

Currently reading:
Labyrinths by Borges.  I highly recommend the following short stories:
The Babylon Lottery: http://evans-experientialism.freewebspace.com/borges02.htm
What is this about?  One can say about life, because "Babylon is nothing but an infinite game of chance."
The Library of Babel: http://jubal.westnet.com/hyperdiscordia/library_of_babel.html
Reminiscent of Tatami Galaxy's infinite dormitory, here we have an infinite library, where the existence of all works negates the existence of any.  There are parellels to real life: the inquisitors are historians, the purifiers censors, searchers of the Man of the Book are scientists, the pilgrims are the religious.
Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote: http://www.coldbacon.com/writing/borges-quixote.html
This story is about an author, Pierre Menard, who sets out to reproduce a few chapters of Cervantes' Don Quixote without consulting the text.  It questions the notion that one must take the historical context of a novel into account, and that perhaps by disregarding this, by pretending it was written in another era, we would have entirely different interpretations, and perhaps more interesting ones.
Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius: http://www.coldbacon.com/writing/borges-tlon.html
Here is a story about the ultimate fantasy novel, a fictional world constructed in great detail, compiled in numerous large volumes.  It talks of the world sinking into this fantasy and its obsession with it.

Okay. I think that's all.
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: DrIdiot on October 12, 2011, 09:12:59 PM
Read with me!  Barring Un-Go really wowing me with its first two episodes, and with the exception of Penguindrum with I have already started, I am going on an anime hiatus for a season.  The reason is simple: I'm just pretty tired of it.  It's starting to feel stale in general, and I think I need a break.  From what I've gathered, this season kind of sucks, so what better time to go on a break?  In the meantime, I will read.

We The Animals (Justin Torres)
A very short novel about childhood.  The prose is really engaging, and the ending was surprising.  8/10

The Insufferable Gaucho (Roberto Bolano)
An essential to any Bolano collection.  The short stories range from good to great (my personal favorites are The Police Rat and Two Catholic Tales) but what this collection is really about is the essay, "Literature + Illness = Illness," which basically sums up the Bolano manifesto and its origins.

What I am reading now:
1000 Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
A World On Fire: Britain's Crucial Role in the American Civil War (Amanda Foreman)
A Season In Hell (Arthur Rimbaud)

Also, in other news, I think I give up on translated Japanese literature.  The post-translation prose is simply not very engaging.  I may make an exception for 1Q84, which is set to come out this month or something, but maybe not.
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: DrIdiot on March 20, 2012, 06:02:19 PM
Kokoro - Natsume Soseki
Great book.  I used to think that maybe Japanese literature was untranslatable into English, but I renounce that position (I think Murakami is just not very good).  The plot is simplistic and you'll probably guess the ending halfway through but a good book should never rely on plot anyway (because after reading enough everything is basically seems like variations on a few themes).  We have a little of the character Sensei, I think, in all of us.  Literature is a mirror in which we see ourselves.

Open City - Teju Cole
Another good book.  Similar in a way to Kokoro -- the protagonist learns something about himself in the end, though his reaction is different, which highlights a difference between East and West.

Just Kids - Patti Smith
Autobiography, very well written (this is important -- even people with interesting lives can have horrible autobiographies).  Just Wikipedia Patti Smith -- if her life sounds interesting to you then you'll like this.

A couple others, mostly more minor Bolano works, some Chekhov, more Borges.  The Cat's Table by Michael Ondaatje was good.  There are surely more I've forgotten since it's been awhile but whatever.

Oh, I gave up on 1Q84.
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: Kaikyaku on September 23, 2012, 12:44:40 PM
This thread could use a bump.

Last night I finished We Need to Talk About Kevin. It's one of those strange cases where I can very much recommend the book, but I can't really say I liked it. It would be rather hard to say that I like a novel built around a school shooting.

But Ms. Shriver's novel is well written (her prose is fantastic), well constructed (even with the climax of the novel known, she still reveals information bit by bit) and features beautifully flawed characters (Eva especially can come across as unsympathetic at times, but feels very real because of it). It's a challenging novel, and a fascinating one that asks a lot of big questions and doesn't provide easy answers.

Just prior to that I finished The Remains of the Day. What a British book! It was an interesting insight on society and one's place in it. My only complaint was that at the end, as the reader, I put the pieces together and made a realization, but the main character of the novel never does. He simply can't admit to himself what becomes obvious to the reader. I was hoping he would finally figure it out, but perhaps it was in his character not to. Regardless, a good read and an interesting character study.
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: DrIdiot on November 06, 2013, 10:57:23 PM
It's been awhile.  Read too many books since... recently I've really liked Bed, stories by Tao Lin.  They're great.  Tao Lin is the only serious Asian American writer I know (admittedly -- I don't know much).  His characters are (pick a few): awkward, apathetic, on drugs, distant, disconnected in a very hikikomori way (I think reading this book made me want to rewatch NHK, but then I watched a few episodes and got bored -- meaning I think Tao Lin is better, I guess?), awkward, awkward, awkward, awkward....

By the way, if you want, you can friend me on Goodreads:
https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/4158975-harrison
I post very short and lazy (and sometimes vacuous) reviews, but those the best ones! (for lazy readers)
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: Pebble on November 07, 2013, 03:39:14 AM
Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb is ok in terms of construction; its story is deliberate, the world is fairly detailed, holds up to logical probing, and can get fairly intense at times. It's boring though, and hardly ever feels like it has plot-momentum. The real meat in this book is watching what appears to be an idyllic family slowly and viciously tear itself apart. There is a genuine sense of growth in it's characters, and while they are never really poorly written, they are hardly ever memorable, and more often than not are just dicks, which, compounded with the incredibly slow plot, make for a really really trying reading experience. I hate this book and will definitely read the next two.

The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski finishes the entire first story arc in 25 pages, which is just amazing for a fantasy novel, especially considering the amount of detail in the arc itself. This is one of the rare books where the pace never drags, hardly a word is wasted, and it still manages to cover a variety of themes, ranging from political neutrality to social irrelevance and ostracisation. It didn't end on the best of notes for me, but this book is definitely a memorable one. The MC is great, by the way.

I really need to start reading more stuff.
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: Desdemondia on December 04, 2013, 08:16:01 PM
Guns, Germs, and Steel
An interesting concept, but I feel like the book could have been 10% the actual length without cutting any major content.
7/10

The prologue "Yali's Question" is well worth your time while the rest, though interesting, probably can safely be cut. Found sections to be a bit of a drag just to get through..
As for Diamond.. came to our area to lecture before and was hoping to hear him condense his arguments a bit with the time limitations..
and.. well. IMHO, a better writer than he is a public speaker and you can see for yourself as he appeared on TED Talks.

Kokoro - Natsume Soseki

Aoi Bungaku series. Kokoro would be episodes 7-8.
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: Pebble on December 20, 2013, 11:31:15 AM
After the Quake - Haruki Murakami
I've read... I don't know how many Murakami books now, and they feel like they're missing the magic. In a lot of ways that's not a bad thing at all; many of his stories are about lost people coming to terms with their own irrelevance and unsatisfiable, shapeless desires. But in a lot of ways it's not. The first time I read an equivalent of "I understand how you feel, but if you put those feelings into words, they will become lies.", I was floored. Now I've read the same thing thrice in roughly the same format and with roughly the same buildup, and the edge is gone. 'Grey' is what I keep taking away from Murakami books now. They used to inspire me. Now they just depress.

1Q84 - Haruki Murakami
I actually read this a long time ago, but what the hell.
It's boring. Why is it boring? Because Tengo and Aomame are subpar protagonists for Murakami. Or maybe it's just that it is clear from the onset that this will conclude just like any other Murakami book. In any case, 800 pages is too much for a book that goes nowhere and doesn't have half the sense of directed directionlessness as The Wind-up Bird Chronicle and Kafka on the Shore. It has it's moments, but this is not one of Murakami's better books imo.

I've started Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time Series, and am at the beginning of The Eye of the World. For those of you who don't bother with fantasy, you just need to know that the series is 14(+1) books, over 10000 pages, and was written over 23 or so years. I estimate it should take... a lot of time to finish. So far it's cool. Nothing spectacular yet, but it's interesting how little shit women take in this world. Jordan doesn't change the sexual division of labour in his world, but rather shifts the balance such that women get more respect and hold more power for womanly jobs instead of in spite of them. Not sure how much that's plausible, but it's an interesting alternate vision of certain feminist ideals.

I'm also going to pick up The Brothers Karamazov, again, for the third time. Don't get me wrong, I love the first hundred pages of the book -no, I'm floored by them every time. But for some reason some terrible, stupid catastrophe keeps occurring (Relatives borrowed book for months on end, exams, etc.) that keeps me from finishing it.
Speaking of dead, depressed Russians, Nikolai Gogol's Dead Souls is... funny. Yes, funny. Kinda boring, and rather weird, but good weird. Good weird despite having boring, old-timey prose.
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: thanosmat on December 20, 2013, 11:40:05 AM
After the Quake - Haruki Murakami
I've read... I don't know how many Murakami books now, and they feel like they're missing the magic. In a lot of ways that's not a bad thing at all; many of his stories are about lost people coming to terms with their own irrelevance and unsatisfiable, shapeless desires. But in a lot of ways it's not. The first time I read an equivalent of "I understand how you feel, but if you put those feelings into words, they will become lies.", I was floored. Now I've read the same thing thrice in roughly the same format and with roughly the same buildup, and the edge is gone. 'Grey' is what I keep taking away from Murakami books now. They used to inspire me. Now they just depress.

1Q84 - Haruki Murakami
I actually read this a long time ago, but what the hell.
It's boring. Why is it boring? Because Tengo and Aomame are subpar protagonists for Murakami. Or maybe it's just that it is clear from the onset that this will conclude just like any other Murakami book. In any case, 800 pages is too much for a book that goes nowhere and doesn't have half the sense of directed directionlessness as The Wind-up Bird Chronicle and Kafka on the Shore. It has it's moments, but this is not one of Murakami's better books imo.

I've started Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time Series, and am at the beginning of The Eye of the World. For those of you who don't bother with fantasy, you just need to know that the series is 14(+1) books, over 10000 pages, and was written over 23 or so years. I estimate it should take... a lot of time to finish. So far it's cool. Nothing spectacular yet, but it's interesting how little shit women take in this world. Jordan doesn't change the sexual division of labour in his world, but rather shifts the balance such that women get more respect and hold more power for womanly jobs instead of in spite of them. Not sure how much that's plausible, but it's an interesting alternate vision of certain feminist ideals.

I'm also going to pick up The Brothers Karamazov, again, for the third time. Don't get me wrong, I love the first hundred pages of the book -no, I'm floored by them every time. But for some reason some terrible, stupid catastrophe keeps occurring (Relatives borrowed book for months on end, exams, etc.) that keeps me from finishing it.
Speaking of dead, depressed Russians, Nikolai Gogol's Dead Souls is... funny. Yes, funny. Kinda boring, and rather weird, but good weird. Good weird despite having boring, old-timey prose.

The Brother Karamazov don't bother reading the Constance Garner translation. Is shit. The Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky translation is the best, and considered the most accepted translation of Dostoevsky prose.
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: Pebble on December 20, 2013, 11:48:46 AM
The Brother Karamazov don't bother reading the Constance Garner translation. Is shit. The Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky translation is the best, and considered the most accepted translation of Dostoevsky prose.

Whaa...

*Checks his edition*

F@#&!!!!!!!
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: thanosmat on December 20, 2013, 11:58:44 AM
The Brother Karamazov don't bother reading the Constance Garner translation. Is shit. The Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky translation is the best, and considered the most accepted translation of Dostoevsky prose.

Whaa...

*Checks his edition*

F@#&!!!!!!!

Garner translation was for many years the only translation to english for Russian Literature (Tolstoy and Dostoevsky). Her translations is very popular, because is cheap and sold in bulk in bookstores. But if you read the reviews, realizes she changed whole passages, omit paragraphs, and completely changed the style of prose. Characters who speak simply, speak in cult and archaic jargon. Nabokov hated her for it huauhauuha.

Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky were the first to make a faithful translation of Russian prose. They received universal acclaim for their translations.
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: Kylaran on December 22, 2013, 10:49:48 AM
The Brother Karamazov don't bother reading the Constance Garner translation. Is shit. The Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky translation is the best, and considered the most accepted translation of Dostoevsky prose.

Whaa...

*Checks his edition*

F@#&!!!!!!!

Garner translation was for many years the only translation to english for Russian Literature (Tolstoy and Dostoevsky). Her translations is very popular, because is cheap and sold in bulk in bookstores. But if you read the reviews, realizes she changed whole passages, omit paragraphs, and completely changed the style of prose. Characters who speak simply, speak in cult and archaic jargon. Nabokov hated her for it huauhauuha.

Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky were the first to make a faithful translation of Russian prose. They received universal acclaim for their translations.

If I ever got to reading this fine piece of literature, good to know which translation to go to. Thanks!

One book I recently read is Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal. It's received quite a bit of attention previously. The main topic is the idea that game design elements can change the way we approach life in general (gamification) to motivate us to do things and/or solve problems. It attempts to identify a fundamental temptation for human beings to be motivated by arbitrary rules as a means for generating interest or fun and explain how an understanding of this aspect of human nature can change our ability to succeed in life or solve very serious problems.
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: DrIdiot on January 19, 2014, 07:58:12 PM
Yeah, I once bought a translation of Don Quixote that some critic described as "worse than worthless," probably because of its ubiquity in the bargain piles of bookstores...

I read an autobiography, Straight Life: The Life of Art Pepper.  Art Pepper is a jazz alto saxophonist, but you don't need to know or care about jazz to enjoy his autobiography, because through most of it he's not playing jazz but doing heroin, doing robberies, and doing time.  Later he checks himself into the Synanon organization, and gives a pretty good look at some of those wacky borderline "experimental" (and I don't mean drugs -- I mean like, social experimentation or something) cults that popped up in the 60s.  You have to kind of read between the lines, read what he is feeling less than what he is saying, because while he's emotionally honest he makes a lot of pretty bad excuses for himself.

I forget what else, maybe Coetzee's The Life of Jesus, which was interesting but not his best work.  The characters are just contradictory enough to be believable, but one can't really completely shake the feeling that there's a message one is trying to be fed.

I read a pair of books by Sjon, From the Mouth of the Whale and The Blue Fox.  Sjon is fun to read, even in translation his style shines through, his reimagining of old tales like folk singers reimagine old tunes, and his rejection of the realist trends.  I am partial to realist fiction, which to me makes it even more notable that I can enjoy something like Sjon's fiction.  He revives an antiquated medieval logic so fluidly that you find yourself almost buying into it, he depicts a harsh and violent Icelandic life, well researched, and the musings of his narrator-protagonist echo his own while worked seamlessly into the narrative.
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: Pebble on May 17, 2014, 12:57:40 PM
Yeah, I once bought a translation of Don Quixote that some critic described as "worse than worthless," probably because of its ubiquity in the bargain piles of bookstores...
Ach. Balls.
>*checks copy*
Does this mean I need to chuck out my P.A.Motteux translation? Because I swear, if I do...
>*checks wikipedia; "John Ormsby, in his Introduction to his own 1885 translation of the novel, called Motteux's version "worse than worthless.""*
Fate is most cruel.

There is this really odd feeling you get in fantasy epics like Robert Jordan's The Great Hunt that makes you think that, no matter how pedestrian the prose is, how dull or irritating some characters are, and how generally plodding the whole affair feels, the piece as a whole is just incredibly complete. Large, epic, weighty, solid, insert similar adjectives here; the general approach taken to pacing here just makes it feel like very little has been cut out to fit the narrative, as if the events are being described as is. It hasn't really, but it feels that way, which is just strange.
Flashes of brilliance, or generally evocative moments, are few and far between here. In a way that keeps them from being cheapened, but it is something to note. What isn't few and far between, however, is the attention to detail in the backdrop, which is remarkable, and very understated. All examples require too much context to explain here, though.

The Death of Ivan Illyich is depressing. No surprises here. I think that its a book that's very much driven more by emotion than rationalizations and worded reasonings, at least compared to Dostoevsky's accounts of despair.
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: thanosmat on May 17, 2014, 01:28:51 PM
About Don Quixote translations. I live in Brazil, and the original is written in old spanish, therefore translations to portuguese are very good, due to similarity between the two languages.

I'm reading a lot of classic female writers. Bröntes (including Anne, in my opinion underrated in comparison to her sisters), Jane Austen, George Eliot, Edith Wharton, Virginia Woolf (Her essays are amazing). Many I had already read, but now I'm reading a lot more careful, like a writer perhaps. I'm pay attention to structure, voice, narration and etc. It is a good exercise.
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: hayama on July 15, 2014, 11:55:22 AM
I'm on my way to completing Toni Morrison's entire repertoire. Over the past 7 years I've read every book by her except Paradise and Song of Solomon. I have a hard time finishing books that are more than about 250 pages, so those two are going to require a lot of commitment from me. Still, she's my favorite author, and it would be nice to be able to say I've completed all of her works, bar essays.
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: DrIdiot on August 24, 2014, 09:56:58 PM
I read some Japanese stuff lately, all contemporary.  Here's a list.

Evil and the Mask  This was a fun book.  It's about a kid who was raised to be a "cancer upon the world" in accordance with family tradition.  You have awesome lines like: "oh, I didn't realize that you were a cancer too!"  It feels like it could have been an anime or B movie, but it's still a lot of fun to read.  The publisher is Soho Crime, which finds these kinds of fun crime stories and translates/publishes them.

Granta 127  This issue of Granta was dedicated to "Japan" which doesn't necessarily mean translated Japanese stories but stories that have to do with Japan.... somehow.  For example, there's Tao Lin writing about writing his article and asking his non-expert (Taiwanese) parents about Japan ("Because Japanese migrated from northern China, and those in north China like to fight. Because they like alcohol.").  http://www.granta.com/Archive/127/Final-Fantasy-III/1 (http://www.granta.com/Archive/127/Final-Fantasy-III/1).  There are other stories, but my favorite was "Breakfast" by Toshiki Okada.  Unfortunately I can't find much else by him in translation.

We The Children of Cats by Tomoyuki Hoshino.  This book is interesting, it's published by PM Press, a small publishing house in Oakland.  If you google their website it's mostly anarchist literature, but Hoshno's writing doesn't quite fit that pattern exactly.  It's definitely political in a way -- they're often based off real events (the leftist Latin American group MRTA hold hostages at the Japanese ambassador's residence, the Japanese government's program to send Japanese overseas to the Dominican Republic after WW2) and also often based in Latin America, as he spent a lot of time there himself.  The translator wrote a long essay at the end which I found very interesting, tying together some of the overall ideas and talking about their contexts.  My favorite story was probably "No Fathers Club," where children in a school whose fathers for whatever reason aren't around start a club and act as though they did have fathers, inventing conversations and interactions they had with them on the fly.  The weirdest story was "Air Penis" which was about a girl who had an "air penis," i.e. she felt it was there but no one (including her) could see it.

Grotesque by Natsuo Kirino.  This is another crime novel.  The main characters are mostly women, and all the narrators are unreliable.  They take turns giving their accounts and the reader is left wondering what actually happened (does it matter?)  Like most of Kirino's books there's a slighty feminist flavor to the book, and I mean it in the vaguest way possible.  In some sense the women are victims of the attitudes of society towards them.
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: thanosmat on August 24, 2014, 10:36:09 PM
The Serialist - David Gordon.

A metafiction/detective story. Good.

I find out that the author is a celebrity in Japan (japanese movie adaptation) and not well known in the West, only after reading the book. Crazy.
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: Pebble on November 01, 2014, 04:38:18 AM
Coetzee's Foe is marvelous. Its structured as a confessional of sorts, which makes its emotional punch feel a bit cheap in retrospect, but it's clever, romantic, visceral, and has some spectacularly interesting parts (like the ending). It also starts to go crazy near the end and becomes spectacularly hard to follow. Not thematically (I use the term begrudgingly here), but simply because of the enigmatic mental processes of a certain Mr. Foe.

Kazuo Ishiguro's The Unconsoled is as ballsy as it is bizarre. In a sense its a colder, darker, and harsher version of a Murakami book, and perhaps, just perhaps, more stylistically adventurous. Considering how far out Murakami is all the time, that's saying something. It really alternates between crushingly dull, technically confusing, structurally confusing, just plain confusing overall, and piercingly revelatory. None of the best moments in this book lie purely in the prose, but they exist, and they make you start laughing maniacally at the sheer callousness with which Ishiguro works his very annoying magic. There's also an amazing fake-out somewhere in there, but I don't want to spoil it for anyone who wants to read 600 pages of potential gibberish. But honestly, its a very good book.

And on a similar train of thought, what surprises me about Murakami's Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage is that it's actually structured. That does mean that it doesn't properly get going until chapter 17, though. It didn't hit me with the visceral impact that Murakami banks so much on, and I feel like the translator is phoning it in, but eh. It has its strengths. At least it doesn't meander as much as 1Q84.

Amitav Ghosh's Sea of Poppies is a blast. Go read it. Its a big story about small people, and about as fun as historical fiction about the Colonial Opium Regimes can get. You'll be surprised.
Its also the first in a trilogy, which is incomplete, so don't expect it to end. Hint: cliffhangers.
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: Kavik Ryx on June 23, 2015, 12:36:25 PM
If the film thread can come back to life, then so can this.

The Bone Clocks: I loved just about every second of reading this book, but the end almost made me hate it as it got so close to perfection and missed by a mark. The book plays to both of David Mitchell's strength, his stylistic maximalism and his ability to change voices. The story follows suit from Cloud Atlas by taking six stories from six (technically five) perspectives over six periods in time, although admittedly all focusing on the life of one woman. An odd choice is made though in that (following the example of the second chap aged of Cloud Atlas), many of the viewpoint characters are rather loathsome at first glance, a bitchy teenager being the least offensive, but also a trust fund Oxbridge baby, as well as a washout author (who refers to books about authors as incestuous). As with chapter two of Cloud Atlas, the immaculate prose and intimate characterization makes each view point sympathetic in the end. The protagonist Holly stands out as the majority of her characterization comes mainly from the perspective of those around her.

I've often found David Mitchell to rather self indulgent with his writing, although seldom to his detriment. The book does go supernatural near the end, while par for the course, does have a boy of awkwardness to the writing as it tried to distinguish itself. It's not enough to hurt the book at all. It's persistent effort to make its protagonist's life miserable, however, goes overboard one too many times by the end to the point of being exhausting. One death near the end and I almost threw my copy across the room in anger. Preachyness also does rear it's head on the last third. As someone who is already a liberal, vegetarian, environmentalist, I kept thinking enough already. Shame though, because I would almost put the novel up with American Gods and Norwegian Wood in terms of my all time favorites.
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: Kavik Ryx on September 08, 2015, 11:11:54 AM
Kafka on the Shore

Foolishly, I always go into Murakami expecting answers and am left somehow surprised when I leave with more questions. Norwegian Wood was fairly straightforward and I have my own interpretations for South of the Border, West of the Sun. But this one is still leaving me scratching my head. Kafka's Oedipus complex, Johnnie Walker's soul flute, the raining mackerel. There is the assumption one need to make that Murakami's novels run not on traditional cause and effect, but rather (as Colonel Sanders put it) metaphysical concepts. It's gonna take a few days to piece together what I just read. But the experience feels whole nonetheless. Murakami's extensive knowledge of literature and western music shines through, and how he had Nakata speak without once using metaphor was impresive

On the translation, I understand that not all western readers know the value of the yen, or what a centimeter is. But it disrupts the setting see US conventions being used. Secondly, the sex scenes read rather awkwardly and uncoftably, and not just because of the subject matter. Granted I felt the same way about South of the Border, and I'm not sure if that was the same translator.
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: Sidenote on September 08, 2015, 08:46:23 PM
Didn't even know a thread like this existed; I might as well contribute:

The Art of Thinking by Ernest Dimnet: A book that is no longer in print. A shame really, seeing as it well written and has something for everyone. The author is sort of like a C. S. Lewis in his thought processes (read any of C. S. Lewis's essays on literature, and you'll know what I mean), so he's a little difficult to read; he just thinks so fast, it's hard to keep up. That said, this book is a real treasure mine for anyone who wants to improve the quality of their thought. The books biggest draw is that it's written by an old man who's seen a lot of the world, and from many perspectives (Dimnet is a Frenchman who spent about equal amounts of time growing up and living in both the U.S. and France).

Tower of God by SIU, translated into Spanish: Mentioned for the sole purpose of showing off.

The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams: Good, classic comedy, I'm sad that I came by this so late. The author's ability to tell real and witty jokes in pen is astounding; usually with 'comedy' books, it's the character's stories/actions that are funny, with small supplement from the author's exposition. But in Hitchhikers Guide, there's a nice balance between the author's exposition and the plot.
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: Kavik Ryx on September 08, 2015, 10:11:59 PM
Did a marathon of the Guide last years. I had tried years back, but my ignorance of Cricket got me stuck on the third. (Amusingly the book started out as a pitch for a Doctor Who script). The amount of control Adams has over his universe and the precision of his prose are both astounding, the opening chapter of the second book being the absolute best. His aphorisms and digressions are easily the funniest things in literature, although Catch 22's biography of Major Major comes close.
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: KS on September 09, 2015, 11:13:34 AM
If I said I've been reading the Gundam The Origin graphic novels would it surprise anyone?  I'm also very slowly making my way through War & Peace from a good couple years back.  I really should find the time to read more real books though.
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: Kavik Ryx on September 09, 2015, 01:19:33 PM
Find yourself in one place for too long where options are limited. It took me breaking my leg to become a serious reader. I had myself a Philip K Dick marathon recovering from the first surgery and following the second I got through all five Hitchiker's Guide Books, Norwegion Wood, and Leon Uris's Exodus.
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: KS on September 09, 2015, 05:28:34 PM
Find yourself in one place for too long where options are limited. It took me breaking my leg to become a serious reader. I had myself a Philip K Dick marathon recovering from the first surgery and following the second I got through all five Hitchiker's Guide Books, Norwegion Wood, and Leon Uris's Exodus.

I've actually read quite a few Dick shorts as well as 3 of the Hitchhiker's books.  I tried to do the Dune prequels as well and while I didn't find them horrid I didn't find them all that compelling compared to the originals either. Foundation is one I'd like to try as well but it's just so damn long I'm worried I'd get distracted.

Also just an aside and another sort of thank you that I feel is overdue, I really love this place for just having intelligent people who are into anime but also have other tastes to take about as well.  I think I've finally found an anime board where I feel I mostly fit in after like a decade of searching.   I just want to thank the entire community for that, it means a lot to be able to have conversations and not worry about just... well...raw dumb taking over everything. I don't think there's anywhere else on the internet right now where I can have conversations about anime that don't make me want to lobotomize myself and then have side conversations about potential good reads.  I realize I haven't always been the easiest poster to deal with sometimes, but I hope to be one of the more grateful. The lot of you are just good decent people, and I can't explain why that seems so rare to find nowadays in a mostly anime centric community but it just is. :)
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: themaster20000 on September 09, 2015, 08:22:49 PM
If I said I've been reading the Gundam The Origin graphic novels would it surprise anyone?  I'm also very slowly making my way through War & Peace from a good couple years back.  I really should find the time to read more real books though.

I actually really enjoy the Origin graphic novels from what I read of them. It makes the original show obsolete.
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: Sidenote on September 10, 2015, 02:12:06 AM
Quote
I really love this place for just having intelligent people who are into anime but also have other tastes to take about as well

Agreed.
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: SQA on September 10, 2015, 02:32:18 AM
Quote
I really love this place for just having intelligent people who are into anime but also have other tastes to take about as well

Agreed.

We're something of the "snob" circle, actually.   Though most of the conversations are TIF trying to understand the stupid within an anime.

Though we'll always have Muv-Luv: Total Eclipse.
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: Kavik Ryx on September 10, 2015, 03:34:49 AM
Find yourself in one place for too long where options are limited. It took me breaking my leg to become a serious reader. I had myself a Philip K Dick marathon recovering from the first surgery and following the second I got through all five Hitchiker's Guide Books, Norwegion Wood, and Leon Uris's Exodus.

I've actually read quite a few Dick shorts as well as 3 of the Hitchhiker's books.  I tried to do the Dune prequels as well and while I didn't find them horrid I didn't find them all that compelling compared to the originals either. Foundation is one I'd like to try as well but it's just so damn long I'm worried I'd get distracted.

Foundation runs into the trouble of being rather dry and is victim of science marching on (the standard model of particle physics had yet to be formulated). The ideas represented in it, though tranced the prose. The idea that a washing machine is a stronger deterrent for war than ICBMs or that economic ties are more effective in the long run than religious ones are things that have become clear in today's world. Also, using technology as the basis of religion was something that I had hoped G no Reconguista would have explored more.
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: AHideyo on September 10, 2015, 06:18:06 AM
Quote
I really love this place for just having intelligent people who are into anime but also have other tastes to take about as well

Agreed.

We're something of the "snob" circle, actually.   Though most of the conversations are TIF trying to understand the stupid within an anime.

Though we'll always have Muv-Luv: Total Eclipse.

You guys are certainly not being decent people when discussing whether it makes sense for horse girl in monster musume to be wearing skirts.
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: KS on September 10, 2015, 07:08:18 AM
Quote
I really love this place for just having intelligent people who are into anime but also have other tastes to take about as well

Agreed.

We're something of the "snob" circle, actually.   Though most of the conversations are TIF trying to understand the stupid within an anime.

Though we'll always have Muv-Luv: Total Eclipse.

Well for starters you people don't seem to have a total breakdown and ignore anything that's longer than a couple of sentences worth of posting so that's been extremely refreshing.  I don't know if twitter did something to the length of a post people are willing to interpret but it's nice not to be totally ignored for my tendency to want to actually get it all out there and make it worthwhile if I'm going to post something.  If people find that snobbish than so be it, I'll gladly wear the label.  :)
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: Sidenote on September 10, 2015, 05:16:28 PM
Quote
We're something of the "snob" circle, actually.   Though most of the conversations are TIF trying to understand the stupid within an anime.

Though we'll always have Muv-Luv: Total Eclipse.

Oh, I agree with that too; if we weren't a little snobbish, I wouldn't be here. But this place is no where near as bad the general anime internet community, or most review websites for that matter. I can easily think of multiple threads here where people have had incredibly meaningful/educated/worthwhile conversations, considering that this is the internet anime community where people will take their ErinxLevi shipping with them to the grave no matter how obviously non-existent it is.

Not to unnecessarily sing the praises of NHRV or make things seem nicer than they really are. But you guys gotta give yourselves some credit.

TIF you are excluded from any compliments that may have been mentioned above.
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: TypicalIdiotFan on September 10, 2015, 09:41:19 PM
Okay!
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: Kavik Ryx on October 21, 2015, 12:55:46 PM
A Feast for Crows

The fourth installment in the A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones) saga. A scant year and a half it has taken me to get this far in the series, in anticipation for the (hopefully) soon to be released sixth novel, among other reasons. All of the books thus far have been page turners with this one possibly being the fastest read yet. Though likely due to familiarity and more time I devote to reading these days.

It takes from the strengths and weakened of the previous installments fairly closely. The complex character webs with several multi dimensional characters within them. The richness of the world. The dark humor. The ability to shock. It's all here. Likewise remains he excessive minutia that pad the books, over repeatin of themes, and the excessive roster of pawns among other things. I know this one is given flack as the weakest in the series, and to an extent I agree. While A Storm of Swords took more time than it needed to get the ball rolling, it kept up the momentum through several major events. AFOF likewise doesn't finish its setup until about halfway in and doesn't have any major payoff. There are resolutions of course. But for most little is felt as if it was accomplished. Fitting to the title it's a story about aftermaths and with little action to occur is mostly plotting of setup to greater plots. While GOT season V got a lot of flack for many of its changes, they did give many characters fuller arcs. Sansa here only really takes a lateral step from the last book (and I die of boredom whenever a character named Royce is mentioned) while Arya's arc feels anemic. The one off POV characters also felt like a cheat. I don't think it would have taken tooich effort to simply make Asha and Arianne permanent characters instead.

To the book's credit, the intense amount of plotting only serves to boost anticipation for the latter novels. Seeing Doran Martell silently play the game of thrones near the end added a lot more nuance to the Dorne arc and no doubt going to cause greater waves. The Cersei chapters were compelling for a character who is neigh impossible to love. Watching her try and fail at the game is viscerally painful as one reads her dig her own grave. The paranoia her chapters bring to light solidify her as a human being much the same way the Kingslayer's did last book. Speaking of him, while I felt early on that his addition her was superfluous, he continues to be one of the most faso mating POVs as his true feelings noble intentions continue to cast him as a wiked man. From the way AFOF ended with Winter's arrival in both a literal and figurative sense makes the only reason I'm not starting A Dance with Dragons tomorrow is the simple fact that I don't own a copy.
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: Kavik Ryx on November 19, 2015, 01:28:26 PM
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet

The story of a logistics clerk seeking wealth and finding lust on the island of Dejima during Japan's isolationist era and the twilight years of the VOC (Dutch East India Company). If I keep harping on about how much I love David Mitchell novels, it's only because they are legitimately that good. For a generally genre bending and experimental novelist, this one is an oddly straightforward historical novel (possible supernatural element notwithstanding). Though from a meta level it Mitchell working within the confines of historical fiction. Within those parameters, the book does an excellent job at portraying Japan's only open port to the world. The work put into the historicity (with some liberties for drama's sake) grants a great deal of credence and authenticity. It also makes it somewhat of a more challenging read, but not nearly as much as the Melville inspired journal from Cloud Atlas. This may be in part to the story demanding that one knows quite a bit about Edo era Japan as well as the VOC, both of which I had some knowledge. Though not knowing doesn't take from the style, humor, or the horror of the work.

In a departure from other Mitchell novels, several character viewpoints are utilized within the same single story rather than each voice also having its own separate arc. There's nothing wrong with this so to say, and Mitchell has always been able to imitate any voice his so desires. Though the transitions between them can be rather jarring, causing minor lulls in the book's momentum. It is, however, for the best that the story isn't confined to Dejima where the outside world remains an abstract concept, as it does for Jacob. A gout ridden captain set on making a name for himself in British maritime history as well as a midwife trapped is a monastery committing subtle yet terrible abuses of human rights both serve to flesh out the setting while granting more urgency to Jacob's own arc. As for Jacob himself, while he makes a decent central viewpoint on a count of his moral uprightness contrasting with the hedonisms and corruption of Dejima and Nagasaki, he less grows as a persons as he withstands the trials and tribulations before him. Character growth is sadly fairly absent in general. The sarcastic and forward thinking Dr. Marinus doesn't ever seem like he is more than Mitchell's mouthpiece (although an entertaining one at that) while the rest of the Dejima residents fall under one archetype of scoundrel or cheat, even as their backstories are offered. The antagonist Lord Abbot Enomoto, while being irredeemable to the bone, is an utterly frightening presence, serving as a precursor to what would entail in The Bone Clocks.
Title: Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
Post by: Kavik Ryx on February 15, 2016, 04:40:44 AM
The Sun Also Rises:

This is one of those cases where I understand why a book is celebrated, but I don't enjoy a moment of reading. I get the book being about the imasculating nature of war. But it does such an effective job that it is unpleasant to sit through. There's not much fun to be gleaned from reading about people who have reduced their lives to work, cafes, and dancing, trying hard to avoid reality, all the while barely being able to tolerate each other's company. It also difficult to empathize. I kept waiting for someone to come to terms with their self annihilation, only to see people be resigned with being broken. It's not lost on me why all of this makes the book a classic. But then again the constant and deliberate antisemitism got way too overbearing for me to appreciate the nuances. It's a bit of a shame since I do recall enjoying The Old Man and the Sea quite a lot.