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Author Topic: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?  (Read 24802 times)

Offline Kavik Ryx

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Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
« Reply #15 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

Offline genki sakura

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Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
« Reply #16 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...>_><_<
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Offline MK

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Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
« Reply #17 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.

Offline CoaeSystems

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Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
« Reply #18 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

Offline MK

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Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
« Reply #19 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." :)


Offline Kavik Ryx

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Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
« Reply #20 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.

Offline zzeroparticle

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Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
« Reply #21 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.

Offline DrIdiot

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Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
« Reply #22 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).

Offline MK

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Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
« Reply #23 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.

Offline DrIdiot

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Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
« Reply #24 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.

Offline DrIdiot

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Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
« Reply #25 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.

Offline DrIdiot

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Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
« Reply #26 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).

Offline DrIdiot

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Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
« Reply #27 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.

Offline DrIdiot

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Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
« Reply #28 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.

Offline Kaikyaku

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Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
« Reply #29 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.
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