Books: And What Are You Reading?

sgtaylor5

Power User
Vaccinated
Posts
118
Reaction score
168
Location
Cheney, WA
re: LOTR; I just wanted to read it normally. Through with the main series, now. I really needed a (mostly) happy ending to read about. Thinking of world events makes me not hopeful of humanity's long-term survival and I don't want to think like that. Sam saw the single, bright star in Mordor when they didn't have any water nor food nor any hope left and he then realized that there was divinity and beauty in the universe that even Sauron couldn't touch. That one act made him stronger by far. Whether it was Eru strengthening him or not, he needed to see that star, and so did I.
 

Scepticalscribe

Site Master
Vaccinated
Posts
6,523
Reaction score
9,283
Locklands by Robert Jackson Bennett (the third book in the Foundryside trilogy).

An excellent ending to an exceedingly good trilogy.
 

Scepticalscribe

Site Master
Vaccinated
Posts
6,523
Reaction score
9,283
A number of years ago, Robert Jackson Bennett wrote a superlative trilogy, "The Divine Cities" which was astonishingly good; ever since, I've been a serious fan of his writing.

The Foundryside trilogy (Foundryside, Shorefall, and Locklands) is also excellent, but - as his stories are complicated and dense (hilarious in part and sometimes frenetic in pace), they need to be read slowly in order to be appreciated and understood. That is also a memo to self, as I tend to speed read sometimes.

Plot, narrative and characterisation are excellent, and, moreover, he is extremely good at writing intelligent and troubled female characters.

Unfortunately, this is not something readily mastered by a surprising number of male writers, who, all too predictably often, tend to let the gender of a female character get in the way of her actual character, - let alone her role in the tale (if any, apart from a distracting relationship with a male protagonist), and all too often succumb to the temptation of allowing a male protagonist to have - or to wish to have - a relationship with whatever female characters cross his path on the printed page. These days, I have come to find this very tiresome, even though it may simply be a form of wish fulfilment.

Robert Jackson Bennett doesn't do that.

His "Divine Cities" trilogy featured a different protagonist in all three novels, (though all three of the respective "protagonist" characters interacted with each other in varying ways throughout the trilogy), two of them female, and one male, and I must say that I thought the entire trilogy outstanding.
 
Last edited:

Scepticalscribe

Site Master
Vaccinated
Posts
6,523
Reaction score
9,283
For anyone who liked (or loved) Caroline Criado-Perez's outstanding "Invisible Women", I can recommend a book I read last week, entitled "Mother of Invention - How Good Ideas Get Ignored In An Economy Built For Men", by Katrine Marçal.

An excellent, occasionally hilarious and downright infuriating read.
 

Scepticalscribe

Site Master
Vaccinated
Posts
6,523
Reaction score
9,283
Another book recommendation:

"Aftermath - Life In The Fallout Of The Third Reich 1945-1955" by Harald Jahner, an excellent and thought-provoking read (about Germany in the decade immediately after the war) which I devoured last week.
 
D

Deleted member 215

Guest
Thanks for the recommendations, Sceptical. Looking up many of these now. "Aftermath" sounds especially interesting to me.
 

Scepticalscribe

Site Master
Vaccinated
Posts
6,523
Reaction score
9,283
Thanks for the recommendations, Sceptical. Looking up many of these now. "Aftermath" sounds especially interesting to me.
Aftermath is excellent, - I recommend it strongly - and offers vignettes and perspectives not frequently encountered in historical writing about that era, let alone about that country, at that time.

Among other things, it is subtle and sophisticated in how it treates women, their lives, aspirations and altered - nay, transformed - positions, postwar: For some women, paradoxically, the immediate postwar era was liberating. They were able to find work - and were generally seen by the Allied occupation as less threatening than male Germans.

For example, "GI Brides" are described (I think, probably correctly) as not simply "marrying for money/security/position", not simply marrying GIs because so many German males had been killled or seriously injured during the war, but also sometimes using the opportunity presented by the possibility of such marriages to escape a stifling (and poverty stricken), defeated (and disgraced) country, that denied them opportunities (personal and professional) that had been in thrall to a robust patriarchal and nationalist ideology (all that "Fatherland" nonsense), suffocating class distinctions, and conservative traditions.

Anecdotally, (because I have worked with many Germans over the years), I have been told stories of returning POWS, some returning after a decade of imprisonment in the USSR, who returned to a transformed world; their wives worked, and had worked, had had to work, to support the family - and were financially independent and had become used to financial and personal autonomy in a society which had not - historically - prized such things.

The days of the classic "hausfrau" were well gone, and they were not about to willingly submit to a marriage with a brutalised, violent and resentful man, often suffering from PTSD, unused to female company after more than a decade of war (with atrocities) and appalling captivity in the Soviet Union, a man who still sometimes subscribed to disagreeable theories about the master race, and a woman's place, views sometimes reinforced with fists; their children had grown up in a different world, and had (for the most part) thoroughly repudiated the values and mindset of the Nazis, which they had come to loathe. Divorce rates soared (the book discusses some of this), while the children, who challenged their returning parent, or avoided them - especially sons of such marriages - were profoundly alienated from their returning parent, who tended to find these changes unsettling (for they were all about upending "natural" hierarchies) and extraordinarily difficult to deal with.

But, it deals with much more than this; an excellent, thought-provoking read.
 
Last edited:
D

Deleted member 215

Guest
Just picked up:

The Idiot by Elif Batuman

I've been hearing a lot about this coming-of-age novel about a Turkish immigrant (not so loosely based on the author). The reviews are mixed but I think it's finally time to give it a read.

The Savage Detectives Reread by David Kurnick

While The Savage Detectives is still fresh in my mind (and now one of my favorite novels of all time), I thought it might be a good idea to read this "afterbook" that analyzes the novel's narrative and its creation.
 

ronntaylor

Elite Member
Vaccinated
Site Donor
Posts
1,226
Reaction score
2,278
The Hundred Years' War on Palestine by Rashid Khalidi

Called a "passionate," "wide-lens" examination of the conflict of the region, I was intrigued by this suggestion and finally got a chance to start on it today. I like that it's not overly long (just 255 pages, not counting notes) and Khalidi attempts to be fair in recounting the tragedy of the Palestinian state since before 1917.
 

Scepticalscribe

Site Master
Vaccinated
Posts
6,523
Reaction score
9,283
Jonathan Stroud, his latest series.

He has already written two extremely good - actually, excellent series, firstly, the Bartimaeus series, and, secondly, the really impressive Lockwood series (the first, a trilogy, the second was a five book series)

Am re-reading the first book in his latest series " The Outlaws Scarlett & Browne", and am also currently reading the second in this series, "The Notorious Scarlett & Browne."
 

Spike

Writer, photographer
Vaccinated
Site Donor
Posts
197
Reaction score
1,074
Location
Lisbon, Portugal
Main Camera
Fujifilm
I just finished The Cockroach of the Dada Movement: The Life and Selected Works of K. Ungeheuer. Very different. Link.
 

lizkat

Deep deep blue
Vaccinated
Posts
6,681
Reaction score
13,933
Location
Catskill Mountains
A couple of books by the Egyptian writer and political activist (and dentist!) Alaa Al Aswany: one is The Yacoubian Building, which I first bumped into as a passing reference while on a summer's "deep dive" into translation issues, an umbrella topic that I continue to pursue since then as well. That book is a novel about the Egypt of then current times, e.g. during Mubarak's rule. It was written in 2002, available inside Egypt, widely acclaimed, eventually translated into more than 30 other languages and adapted not only as a film premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in 2006 but later also as a TV series.

But times change, eh? Right, so this other book. far more recent, is Aswany's The Republic of False Truths, a fictional account of the 2011 Egyptian uprising. which predictably enough was banned in Egypt and a number of other Arab countries, not least because the author was personally and publicly involved in that uprising, having helped found the Kefaya (Enough!) movement against Egypt's military dictatorship way back in 2004. That book was first published in Lebanon in 2018, translated into English in the UK in 2020.

Some background on the author in a review of the later book:

 

lizkat

Deep deep blue
Vaccinated
Posts
6,681
Reaction score
13,933
Location
Catskill Mountains
Tempted to escape from Mar a Lago news, maybe read something like an old classic Erle Stanley Gardner mystery from the Perry Mason series, to try to turn the page on politics ahead of a weekend when media will deluge the planet with speculation and tidbit-leaking.... and I'll end up trying to surf it all without drowning or crashing.

In the meantime here's to Gardner's The Case of the Careless Kitten. It's either gonna be that or one of the Travis McGee series of "color-coded" novels by John D. MacDonald, maybe The Turquoise Lament.

But I've always been so taken by the cover of the Gardner one. Someone on Goodreads posted it up today and it made me realize I have it upstairs someplace. Off to the hunt!

The case of the careless kitten - Gardner.jpg
 
Last edited:

Clix Pix

Focused
Vaccinated
Site Donor
Posts
2,566
Reaction score
4,925
Location
Eight Miles from the Tysons Apple Store, No. VA
Main Camera
Sony
Wow, that takes me back years and years...... My mother and I used to read all the Earle Stanley Gardner books -- she belonged to some sort of mystery/crime book-of-the-month type club and each month she'd get a new one. She'd read it and then pass it on to me. I think this was even before I was in high school. It's not surprising that I am still an avid reader and especially enjoy thrillers/crime/mystery/murder/law and courtroom type novels!
 

lizkat

Deep deep blue
Vaccinated
Posts
6,681
Reaction score
13,933
Location
Catskill Mountains
A memoir by Samantha Power, The Education of an Idealist. Took it as an ebook from the local library system, have had to renew it once because I've kept putting it down to give myself a break from it. The book does include some fascinating recollections of her early days as a war correspondent and her later focus on humanitarian issues, particularly as relating to delayed recognition by the world of conflicts that have morphed into genocide.

But the reality of military intervention to interrupt or prevent genocide, which intervention Power came eventually to advocate for, is fraught with unintended consequences: humanitarian, political, legal, logistical. The questions become more thorny with increased experience of nations attempting to intervene in what starts as an internecine conflict inside a nation, with risks of spillover to larger regional conflicts, and potential leveraging by stateless terrorists or those with state sponsorship.

A caveat about the book: despite my appreciating her related insight and honesty, the level of Power's self absorption --including documenting instances of it that were pointed out to her by colleagues or mentors-- is maybe in the end more annoying than endearing to me, truth be told

She's almost saying look I know you think I'm wrapped up in myself on this point and you're right and others say so too.
My reaction is OK yeah and it's worse reading yet another page having you tell me what I already sighed over.

Still I can't abandon the book because it is informative on issues that interest me, and Powers is nothing if not determined to keep human rights issues on Page One -- instead of some appendix at the back of a briefing paper that few will ever get around to reading. That's worth a lot to me, and potentially to all people without the rights that people like me have to try not to take for granted. I'm sitting on my hands to keep from buying the darn book, because I suspect there's not a waiting list for this tome, and I could borrow it again at will.

Ms. Power was US Ambassador to the United Nations during the Obama administration, and currently serves under President Biden as adminstrator of the US Agency for International Development.
 
Last edited:
D

Deleted member 215

Guest
Currently reading The Stories of John Cheever. I'm enjoying these poignant little stories, but man, every single one is a downer. It gets to be a bit much. 😅 Surely Cheever had a positive outlook on something?
 

MEJHarrison

Site Champ
Vaccinated
Posts
629
Reaction score
1,198
Location
Beaverton, OR
I just finished Strong Magic by Darwin Ortiz. It's a non-fiction book all about captivating the audience for magic performances. It was very interesting.
 
Top Bottom