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Books... (Read 385535 times)

Mike Highbury

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#1775 Re: Books...
March 06, 2022, 12:55:44 pm
Some stuff I've read recently:
The Ratline, Philippe Sands. Had a go at this based on Wellsy's recommendation. It's not for me: I think the issue is that the underlying subject matter (Nazi war criminals escaping justice after WW2) just doesn't interest me that much. I plowed on to where I thought it was going to naturally end only for the author to start dragging it out for an age afterwards. I optimistically read on thinking it surely had to wind up sooner or later, but it broke my will before I could get to the end. Given I got as far as I did suggests it's actually pretty well written and would be good if you're interested in that sorta thing.

It's rubbish, isn't it? It's hard to believe that those who showered it with plaudits had read it. It's just another Shoah-tale, which Ricky Gervais lampooned so well in Extras.

Feels like a first draft and, it's not at all clear to me that he properly understands the meaning of the comma which he places at the heart of the book (pp112). And, he has a schoolboy's obsession with whether or not someone is gay.
« Last Edit: March 06, 2022, 01:14:35 pm by Mike Highbury »

duncan

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#1776 Re: Books...
March 07, 2022, 09:23:13 pm

Whatever you do, don't read A.N. Wilson's novel based on Wedgwood's life - it's a travesty (which is weird, because his father was managing director of Wedgwood at some point). Tristram Hunt, fomer Stoke MP and now director of the V&A, has just publsihed a new biography of Wedgwood, but I haven't read it. What I've read about it put me off a bit, but I was reading with a fairly critical eye. Hunt had a successful academic career as a historian before he entered politics so it should be a pretty solid piece of work.


Wilson's biography of Darwin is well worth avoiding. Being a non-scientist isn't automatically a handicap but when you can't get some basic ideas about evolution correct you probably shouldn't have chosen this subject.

Filming that scene was funny. Wilson is unbelievably posh. It was 10am on a Monday. The pub was open and full of exactly the characters you'd expect to find in a pub in Liverpool city centre at 10am on a Monday morning. They kept trying to join, singing, walking behind us, mugging at the camera etc. Wilson was a pretty good sport.

Anyway, read Uglow.

Thanks Andy (and JB). Sounds like an entertaining day! I'll look for Uglow.

JamieG

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#1777 Re: Books...
March 08, 2022, 01:00:50 pm

Papillon, Henri Charrière. Mega! An autobiographical account of a chap who gets sent to the penal colony in French Guiana and his ongoing attempts to escape. I got the sense that many of the stories are made up (or borrowed or heavily embellished) but they're told so simply and so well it draws you in. If you've read Shantaram it's got a pretty similar vibe.


I really enjoyed this when I read it years ago. But definitely agree the stories at times seem rather embellished, but that didn't detract from the fun when I read it. Apparently the 1973 film adaptation with Steve McQueen is good too (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Papillon_(1973_film)), although I haven't ever seen it.


SA Chris

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#1778 Re: Books...
March 08, 2022, 01:07:20 pm
It's great if you like old films, grim and fairly slow, but good nonetheless.

jwi

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#1779 Re: Books...
March 09, 2022, 08:42:07 am
In the unlikely case that someone cares...

If you can read French and want to learn more about conspiracy theories you cannot go wrong with L’opium des imbéciles by Rudy Reichstadt. The author is also the founder of the site conspiracywatch.info, a French effort to keep track of new developments in the sewers of the info-space.

The book is very well researched and changed how I think about conspiracy theories. In fact it is so good and so well argued that I was briefly considering translating it and adapting it to Swedish before I remembered that the market is likely around less than a thousand readers, most of whom would borrow it at the library.

tommytwotone

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#1780 Re: Books...
March 25, 2022, 01:20:31 pm
Not sure if it's been given a shout out on here but I've just finished The Wall by John Lanchester which is an excellent (if slightly troubling) near-future post-apocalyptic story.


fatneck

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#1781 Re: Books...
March 25, 2022, 01:44:11 pm
Just finished The Jealousy Man by Jo Nesbo off the back of not having read any short stories since Patricia Highsmith many moons ago and thoroughly enjoyed it! Even featured some above averagely described sport climbing... Recommended

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#1782 Re: Books...
March 25, 2022, 05:56:02 pm

fatneck

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#1783 Re: Books...
March 28, 2022, 01:17:24 pm
The Kingdom is also a good read...

andy popp

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#1784 Re: Books...
March 28, 2022, 04:32:45 pm
I've read a bunch this year. I'll have to try and put together a "Top 5 so far" list.

cowboyhat

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#1785 Re: Books...
March 29, 2022, 08:00:20 am
The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey

Really enjoyed this, sort of right up my street. Lucky because it was a total impulse purchase in Waterstones based on the name, it’s a prize winner, and crucially the run time. Trying to read more current prise  winning type stuff to see what’s out there.

(I generally only read old classic literary fiction/ classic sci-fi/ recommendation from trusted ally’s).

Trying to park my snobbery towards anything with a ‘ru pauls book club’ type sticker on. Maybe this first shot really was beginners luck. Remains to be seen whether id attempt anything like this that isn’t under 200 pages. Definitely would have passed on a tome.


TobyD

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#1786 Re: Books...
April 02, 2022, 08:49:38 am
Some stuff I've read recently:


The Man Who Died Twice, Richard Osman. Second int he Thursday Murder Club series. More easy reading.

Feeding The Rat, Al Alvarez. A really touching piece of writing and rightly a climbing classic. Going in I vaguely knew the names of the main protagonists but this really brought them to life. Alvarez is a good writer by the standards of climbing books and it shows.

Sunfall, Jim Al-Khalili (of Life Scientific fame). Sci-fi + thriller kinda thing. It's a fun read but it's unlikely to change how you look at the world.

Papillon, Henri Charrière. Mega! An autobiographical account of a chap who gets sent to the penal colony in French Guiana and his ongoing attempts to escape. I got the sense that many of the stories are made up (or borrowed or heavily embellished) but they're told so simply and so well it draws you in. If you've read Shantaram it's got a pretty similar vibe.


Nice reviews,  I'd agree with those,  I read the first Osman book recently and its undoubtedly well written but eminently forgettable.  That's not supposed to be a criticism,  incidentally. 

Other Minds by Peter Godfrey-Smith, which I'm reading at the moment is a very well written history of the evolution of intelligent life,  and exploration of the capacity of octopuses for intelligence. 

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#1787 Re: Books...
May 26, 2022, 05:27:31 pm
This is your Mind on Plants by Michael Pollan
A non fiction exploration of three chemicals derived from plants. It's mostly interesting and informative writing, the bits on opium and caffeine more so than the bit on mescaline. As the author says in it, psychedelic experience tends toward banality. This doesn't spoil it though. 

I posted a slightly more detailed review here: https://tobydunn.substack.com/p/a-book-review

JamieG

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#1788 Re: Books...
May 26, 2022, 06:18:51 pm
We by Yevgeny Zamyatin

Russian dystopian novel written in the 20s. Apparently an inspiration for 1984 by Orwell, although apparently not for Brave New World by Huxley, despite probably having more in common with the latter.

Written in a diary/report format that makes it quite immediate and at times confusing (I think it is meant to be to emphasise the main character's state of mind) as the main character wrestles with various desires and duties pulling him in different directions. A little more sci-fi (and kind of humorous) than 1984 (which if I remember correctly is very serious) but an excellent read. Especially if you like the other dystopian novels. Remarkably (or depressingly) prescient given it was written over a 100 years ago. A lot still feels very relevant to current politics/societal rhetoric.

Would definitely recommend, especially since it is quite short too.


moose

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#1789 Re: Books...
May 26, 2022, 09:55:49 pm
We by Yevgeny Zamyatin

Russian dystopian novel written in the 20s. Apparently an inspiration for 1984 by Orwell, although apparently not for Brave New World by Huxley, despite probably having more in common with the latter.

Written in a diary/report format that makes it quite immediate and at times confusing (I think it is meant to be to emphasise the main character's state of mind) as the main character wrestles with various desires and duties pulling him in different directions. A little more sci-fi (and kind of humorous) than 1984 (which if I remember correctly is very serious) but an excellent read. Especially if you like the other dystopian novels. Remarkably (or depressingly) prescient given it was written over a 100 years ago. A lot still feels very relevant to current politics/societal rhetoric.

Would definitely recommend, especially since it is quite short too.

I've not read We (it's been on the wish list for ages) but my brother recently recommended an article on how the industrial landscape of the North East has influenced sci-fi.   It suggests that rather than being solely a critique of Communist Russia, as is often assumed, We is also a critique of British imperialism.  Yevgeny Zamyatin apparently lived in Newcastle for 18 months, working in the shipyards, and wrote a satirical novel about life in Jesmond.  There's also some other interesting, albeit slightly better known, material -  e.g. Aldous Huxley's Brave New World name-checking the head of ICI in Billingham, the influence of Redcar on Ridley Scott's depiction of LA in Bladerunner.

https://tribunemag.co.uk/2022/05/the-northern-roots-of-modernist-sci-fi

JamieG

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#1790 Re: Books...
May 26, 2022, 10:15:33 pm
Cheers Moose. That was an interesting read. Definitely provides some more context for We. I think Zamyatin’s father was also a priest, so he was quite critical of any form of forced conformity not just the new soviet communism.

largeruk

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#1791 Re: Books...
May 27, 2022, 02:00:39 pm
The most recent English translation (there have been at least 3 as far as I know) of We has an introduction by Margaret Atwood who discovered Zamyatin’s novel only after she'd written The Handmaid's Tale - https://www.telegraph.co.uk/books/what-to-read/margaret-atwood-forgotten-dystopia-inspired-george-orwell/.

andy popp

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#1792 Re: Books...
May 27, 2022, 03:28:12 pm
I just finished a superb book, Marguerite Yourcenar's Memoirs of Hadrian. The Emperor Hadrian looks back over his life in a series of letters to his chosen successor, Marcus Aurelius. In one sense, a panoramic survey of Hadrian's reign (no doubt very deeply researched), it is a much more a study of how we understand our lives and humanity and, in the end, a deeply moving meditation on mortality.

I'd never heard of it before - it was my wife's pick - I was slightly sceptical, but found it immediately compelling. Hadrian is so instantly present, his voice so complete and believable, that I was swept along from the first page. Highly recommended.

jwi

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#1793 Re: Books...
May 27, 2022, 11:34:34 pm
Just re-read Samarcande by Amin Maalouf, Made me think about how memory works. I remembered the part that was a biographical novel about the great mathematician and poet Omar Kahyyam in early medieval Persia, but had completely forgotten the second half that takes place at the beginning of the 1900s. I did remember the last ten pages though. All very bisarre.

Anyway. Still an amazing novel. Still says important things about contemporary politics in the area.

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#1794 Re: Books...
May 28, 2022, 10:17:18 am
Finally finished Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain which I was inspired to read after it being discussed in Knausgaard's books. Can't say I loved it, and it took me an age. Anyone else read it?

Onto Calculated Risk, a book about Dougal Haston which was a birthday present. Flying through it already - not a brilliant book but interesting and easy going (even if the text can be jumpy and interspersed with impecunious phrases.)

andy popp

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#1795 Re: Books...
May 28, 2022, 11:03:41 am
Finally finished Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain which I was inspired to read after it being discussed in Knausgaard's books. Can't say I loved it, and it took me an age. Anyone else read it?

I have. I confess I really enjoyed it.

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#1796 Re: Books...
May 28, 2022, 11:17:47 am
Don't get me wrong, I don't think it's a "bad" book, just that I didn't really care for the characters much so it always felt an effort to pick up and plod through. I reckon it'll be one of those books I still remember in years to go, but I also have to confess a lot of it went over my head.

andy popp

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#1797 Re: Books...
May 28, 2022, 11:31:47 am
Don't worry, I didn't think you were saying it's a bad book. And I'm sure I missed much of it too.

A comparable book that went pretty much completely over my head was Robert Musil's "A Man Without Qualities." I finished it, but got just about nothing from it.

If you're not completely put off Mann, "Buddenbrooks" is a much more approachable book - and very good.

jwi

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#1798 Re: Books...
May 28, 2022, 11:40:29 am

A comparable book that went pretty much completely over my head was Robert Musil's "A Man Without Qualities." I finished it, but got just about nothing from it.

The first volume (and first part of the second) is good. The novel then proceeds to slowly collapse, much like the Austrian-Hungarian empire, I suppose. A bit too clever to my taste.

andy popp

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#1799 Re: Books...
May 28, 2022, 11:52:01 am
Maybe I should have just stopped at the end of the first book.

On the other hand, I just read an excellent book set during the waning years of the Austrian-Hungarian empire, Joseph Roth's "The Radetzky March." A very different kind of book to Musil.

 

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