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Author Topic: Anybody read a good book lately?  (Read 96705 times)

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PhillyPhreak54

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Re: Anybody read a good book lately?
« Reply #1365 on: January 22, 2020, 04:31:12 PM »

Agree. I watched that when it came out. Really well done.
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General_Failure

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Re: Anybody read a good book lately?
« Reply #1366 on: January 25, 2020, 03:54:45 PM »

Just finished Agency by William Gibson. A sequel to his last book where Russian oligarchs are running the world after the apocalypse wiped out 80% of the population and most species, and for fun they connect to a Chinese server that lets them interact with an alternate timeline that splits off as soon as they make contact, 2015 at the earliest.

It was great, but I'm a sucker for Gibson's writing style.
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Rome

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Re: Anybody read a good book lately?
« Reply #1367 on: April 05, 2020, 10:46:59 AM »

Few good things have emerged from this plague but one for me is the chance to start reading again.  I read Ben Lerner’s “10:04” yesterday.  Fantastic read.  Lerner’s poetry is striking. 

Also just began Helen DeWitt’s “The Last Samurai.”  I’m about 50 pages in and it’s interesting.

My aim is to read two books a week if possible. 
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Diomedes

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Re: Anybody read a good book lately?
« Reply #1368 on: February 09, 2021, 09:56:17 AM »

The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
I read the unabridged and I though I will never suggest anyone read a novel in any form other than it's original (or a translation thereof), I can understand why people are tempted to do that with a book like The Count.  Holy farg it goes on and one forever in places.  Back in the day (1844), readers were apparently so farging bored, they'd read anything about anything, with any number of pointless diversions and side stories.  The story is so famous I don't have to mention it here.  It was pretty entertaining in places, but on balance I found the book tedious, mostly for it's baldly ludicrous dependence upon outrageous coincidence, unbelievably gullible characters who cannot recognize anyone they haven't seen for a minute if that person should don a costume, and interminable unrelated side stories.  Even though I recognize that I'm reading a very old story, I recoiled at the treatment of the female characters.  Really though, there are no characters, only set pieces for the moving around of a revenge tale that doesn't really have any depth.  Although it was 20 years ago, I remember liking the Three Musketeers much more.  Unless you have a real interest in the period, I would not suggest putting in the work to slog through this time piece.  Watch the movie and move on.

The Power of the Dog - Don Winslow
File under thriller, this book is a decent run through the chaotic, brutal politics of the drugs economy in the United States, Mexico and Central America.  A lot of people will like this, but I didn't.  There's the renegade protagonist cop, dark, wounded and compromised, etc.  The hot prostitute with a special place in her heart that only the Irish assassin from Hell's Kitchen can access, the ruthless drugs kingpin who...etc, etc.  It will make a great movie for people who like shooting guns and menacing sex scenes.  The author is celebrated as being the Mario Puzo of the modern-day organized crime/drugs genre...I don't know.  Nothing about the writing made me want to pick up the next in the series, and of course, there's a series.  Hollywood wants sequels.  Pick this up if you love a gory, fast paced thriller with better-than-average pacing and momentum.  For reference, I'd place this in the same category as The Whites, which I read a while back and mentioned here.  The latter is better, with fresher language and more resonant observation, to go along with less gratuitous violence and mass appeal plotting.

The Great Escape - Paul Brickhill
Fascinating.  Most of you have probably seen the movie based on this book.  Don't settle just for having watched the movie..the book is fantastic.  It was written by one of the POWs who participated in the events, and in a voice and style that couldn't be made up.  Although the language is period, it's original, which makes it fresh to my ear.  I smiled at many a turn of phrase or piece of dialogue.  One of the more fascinating aspects of the story to me was the kind of respect and orderliness of relations between the German jailors and the Allied prisoners.  Since those being held were all officers, and Germans of the time were if anything, respectful of rank and military tradition, there was a kind of fraternity of sorts in place even across the line of prisoner and guard.  I learned more still about the war generally from this book--in particular how poorly the Nazi decision to murder most of the escapees turned out to be.  That respect between prisoners and jailors was not just in the moment.  When it was understood broadly what had happened to the escapees, the disgust was powerful and helped to shock the conscience of people who had until then been able to look the other way.  Highly recommended.

Labyrinths - Jorge Luis Borges
I tried reading this stuff because I have pretensions to intellectualism...and that's all they are.  I'm actually just a fake and a dolt.  I managed maybe half of these short stories, if that's what you call them.  Bizarre shtein that I could not make heads nor tales of, most of it seems to me more like an exercise in word play or philosophy of some kind.  So many heavies have lavished praise and credited Borges with having influenced their work that I can't begin to disagree, but nor can I say any of it was good.  Mostly, it was baffling, meaningless, and for me a waste of my time.  If you're into conceptual literature, or poetry, I think this might be for you.  I can't stand either.  As I said, I'm a pretender to the ivory tower, not actually worthy of entry.

Our Man in Havana - Graham Greene
Not one of Greene's important works, this one lacks the moral horror that he can reveal in other books, but it's still Graham Greene, which is candy to me.  The writing itself is worth the price of entry.  If I had time, I could read everything Greene ever wrote and enjoy it.  As it stands, I've read (and in some cases re-read) half a dozen or so of his books.  In this one, a drinking American in Havana, single father with debts and bills, gets himself accidentally enlisted as a secret agent, and, lying his way around to keep collecting checks, digs himself into a real life and death piece of espionage.  Greene's contempt for human motives and methods shines throughout, and is delicious to this reader, whose heart is small and dry, and full mostly of fear and hatred.

Don Quixote - Cervantes  (translation by Grossman)
By far the best thing I've read in a very long time and easily one of the best I've ever read.   I had to read it in College, but was too young, and had too little time to give it justice.  This time, I read it carefully, with pencil and post-its in hand.  It is a miracle of literature:  ludicrous, beautiful, hilarious, sad, bizarre.  More than 400 years since it was first published, I'm reading it and laughing aloud on the regular.  How can that be possible?  I don't think I laughed even once for The Count of Monte Cristo.  Maybe a smirk or two at a decent line...but in D.Q., I'm laughing throughout as I read, and I'm laughing later, as I think about, or describe, what I read.  I don't know that really I can say about it other than it's utterly foundational and literally every thinking person should read it closely, and argue about it with friends.  Don Quixote and Sancho Panza are more real to me than most actual people, and now that I know them, I feel like I know the world better.  I don't know...I can't find the superlatives to lavish...just magnificent.  I wish I could read it in the original Spanish.  My 11 year old son is Spanish bilingual, and reads voraciously, though not in Spanish so far.  While working my way through this he would occasionally ask me what was happening, and would himself laugh just upon my retelling of whatever idiocy DQ and SP had gotten into...it's a parent's hope that his child will be able to appreciate something this wonderful in its original language.  How proud I would be if he someday read DQ in Spanish.


the pile to read is not getting smaller...I'm more than midway through a very good book now, about murders in Alabama and Harper Lee's attempt to write about them--more on that the next time I post about what I've read..you can't wait, I know......and I'm already experiencing that weird feeling of mourning for the impending conclusion of a good book, mixed with salivatory expectation of the next one, topic and title as yet unknown
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Diomedes

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Re: Anybody read a good book lately?
« Reply #1369 on: February 10, 2021, 08:48:59 AM »

One more, since I just tore through it.

Furious Hours - Casey Cep
This tightly written non-fiction book is part murder history, part literary history.  It treats the subject of a famous murder story in Alabama from the early 70's as a preamble or foreground setting for Cep's investigating into the author Harper Lee's failed effort to write a book about it along the lines of In Cold Blood, which she had helped Truman Capote research a dozen years prior.  [If you haven't read In Cold Blood, you should.]  The story of the murders, and the characters involved, is compelling enough, but Cep does a great job of turning the shock and pulp of a mass murder/vigilante murder tale into a larger portrait not only of the famously unproductive Great American author, but of the South more broadly.  I was impressed with how well the story is told, and by the succcinct, clear writing that draws the reader from one sentence to the next, one paragraph to the next.  She packs a great deal into her work without it feeling cluttered, etc.  If you have any interest in Harper Lee, the American South, or bizarre true life crime, this book delivers on all counts.  If however you're not interested in Lee at all, skip the book.  Although it spends fully two thirds of the volume treating the murders and trials, the book really is about Harper Lee, and what happened to her apparently serious attempt to write another book, under the crushing pressure of being the author of arguably America's favorite book.  Thoroughly reseacherched, there's a robust section of references and notes to support the work.  I enjoyed it very much.

and a side note psa:  I am amazed by how cheaply you can get books off ebay.  I liked this book so much I decided to get a few copies of it to send to friends.  For less than $20 with shipping I have three hard cover copies of this one coming.  Often, you can find a book for under $4, shipped. 
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