Author Topic: Books [split topic]  (Read 91189 times)

Zero Gravitas

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Re: Books [split topic]
« Reply #90 on: November 10, 2010, 11:39:27 PM »
You may be joking but 'The Map That Changed the World' by Simon Winchester is great, in fact it was the first of his forgotten history books I read, if you're not genuinely fond of maps take a look at his biography of Joseph Needham.

Retinend

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Re: Books [split topic]
« Reply #91 on: November 11, 2010, 02:09:20 AM »


Reading Bill Bryson's new book 'At Home'. An open recommendation from someone on this forum, I remember.

It's about the history (though told without any order) of the home and household life. It's packed full of amazing (tabloid style) historical stories, and while its very sympathetic (heartbreakingly so in parts) to the majority of people who weren't privileged enough to enjoy the household innovations produced, it also managed to give a sense of how admirable these innovations were, and how ordinary people still shared in their awe. I think it's insights are broader than just the subject matter - it manages to convey how valuable protection of rights are, more vividly than many overtly political polemics I've read (they always keep to a largely abstracted, conceptualised discussion of 'justice') but without tediously spelling out that "things are better now!". Buy a copy. You'll have lots of titbits to weave into pub conversations if nothing else.

ThickAndCreamy

  • Relax and rolex
Re: Books [split topic]
« Reply #92 on: November 22, 2010, 10:05:33 PM »
I've just finished reading The Death of Ivan Ilyich, my first Tolstoy. It was sublime, and astonishingly easy to read compared to what I was expecting.

I've been fascinated with societal customs and expectations in life recently, and it fulfilled my intrigue brilliantly. It is blunt in it's depictions of hopelessness and despair, with the style often also being straightforward and coherent in clear themes. The vividness of a hopeless death and the inability to come to terms with the inevitable was just beautifully done, with a clarity in simplicity that so many other writers summarising death fail to achieve. The epiphany at the end: the realisation of leading a false life, of the selfishness of his aims and the pointlessness of his possessions, it's just stunning and truly hit home. I still doubt they'll ever be a point I'll truly accept death in my life other than for frantic hopeless moments, but it's still pleasant to vaguely accept the hopelessness of it.

I'm desperately trying to start reading more lately, but I'm still finding it tough to get past novella's for fiction. I'll try to give Cloud Atlas another go soon though.

I did try reading War of the Worlds in the past couple of weeks also. It's horrendous, probably the most contrived, predictable and forgettable book I've ever read. I enjoy dystopian sci-fi for ideas of how a current society may evolve into something wrong, whether immoral, unnatural or just inhumane. I don't want to read 100 pages on fucking laser beams, descriptions of people and places and essentially the dullness of an alien invasion mixed in with a few cack handed metaphors. He somehow manages to make an alien invasion monotonous and dull which, to be fair, is a spectacular achievement.
« Last Edit: November 22, 2010, 10:16:53 PM by ThickAndCreamy »

Queneau

  • That was a joke. That's all it was, it was a joke.
Re: Books [split topic]
« Reply #93 on: November 23, 2010, 07:59:52 AM »
I did try reading War of the Worlds in the past couple of weeks also. It's horrendous, probably the most contrived, predictable and forgettable book I've ever read. I enjoy dystopian sci-fi for ideas of how a current society may evolve into something wrong, whether immoral, unnatural or just inhumane. I don't want to read 100 pages on fucking laser beams, descriptions of people and places and essentially the dullness of an alien invasion mixed in with a few cack handed metaphors. He somehow manages to make an alien invasion monotonous and dull which, to be fair, is a spectacular achievement.

When I was younger the beginning put me off somewhat. It's well worth sticking with though. Wells is one of the best.

Am currently reading Billy Liar by Keith Waterhouse. I haven't laughed out loud this much during a novel for a very long time. Great stuff.

CaledonianGonzo

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Re: Books [split topic]
« Reply #94 on: November 23, 2010, 12:40:02 PM »
I did try reading War of the Worlds in the past couple of weeks also. It's horrendous, probably the most contrived, predictable and forgettable book I've ever read.

Many pioneering works can appear cliched after their core idea has been widely copied, disseminated and re-vamped dozens and dozens of times.

Criticising it for not being a study of dystopia is also, I fear, a bit unfair.  Besides, Wells had already done that a few years earlier in The Time Machine.

Famous Mortimer

  • War - it's fantastic!
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Re: Books [split topic]
« Reply #95 on: November 23, 2010, 12:53:20 PM »
I'm about halfway through "Pirates! In An Adventure With Communists" by Gideon Defoe. It's brilliant and funny, dry as a bone at times and ridiculously broad at others. "Chelmsford 123" came wandering through my head while I was reading it, which I think is a good thing.

I was just really pleasantly surprised by it, and it's nice and short so you can be done with it in a day.

ThickAndCreamy

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Re: Books [split topic]
« Reply #96 on: November 23, 2010, 01:10:06 PM »
Many pioneering works can appear cliched after their core idea has been widely copied, disseminated and re-vamped dozens and dozens of times.

Criticising it for not being a study of dystopia is also, I fear, a bit unfair.  Besides, Wells had already done that a few years earlier in The Time Machine.
I've read the Time Machine before though and whilst it wasn't incredible, it was still an enjoyable read. War of the Worlds seem to plod along at such a meandering, predictable pace I cannot handle it. He seems to create a group of characters whom I have no empathy for at all. The Time Machine at least produced wider range of ideas than WOTW does, and they have clearly become popular culture now, so it's not entirely the cliched nature of the book I don't like, it's more the ham-fisted approach to detail, description and storytelling.

To me it's too much of an action orientated book, less a comment on society, more a wild chase through England through the first half.

Serge

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Re: Books [split topic]
« Reply #97 on: November 23, 2010, 01:37:58 PM »
Am currently reading Billy Liar by Keith Waterhouse. I haven't laughed out loud this much during a novel for a very long time. Great stuff.

Ah, fantastic, one of my favourite books. And one of the few books whose film captures its spirit perfectly.

I love 'War Of The Worlds', I was slightly obsessed with it when I was a kid. Though, funnily enough, I prefer the first half to the second half, I think it does fall apart a bit there. 'The Invisible Man' is probably his best, though.

ThickAndCreamy

  • Relax and rolex
Re: Books [split topic]
« Reply #98 on: November 23, 2010, 03:02:12 PM »
This is books related so I'll post this here.

Does anyone know of a good library in East London with a large range of books and not just a few shelves for fiction, crime etc.? Preferably far East London also, so that it is near or even in Essex.

My local libraries are shit really and I wouldn't mind travelling a bit further to go to a half decent one.

Famous Mortimer

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Re: Books [split topic]
« Reply #99 on: December 03, 2010, 08:56:51 AM »
About 100 pages into "The Unnamed" by Joshua Ferris (him who wrote the fantastic "Then We Came To The End"). I'm surprised at how different it is from his last book, and I really hope he continues this rather high level of form into the future.

Queneau

  • That was a joke. That's all it was, it was a joke.
Re: Books [split topic]
« Reply #100 on: December 03, 2010, 10:01:59 AM »
Ah, fantastic, one of my favourite books. And one of the few books whose film captures its spirit perfectly.

It is a great film. The few times it does differ from the book didn't annoy me either, if anything the changes were necessary for it to work. I'm looking forward to watching the sitcom to see how well it adapted to that format.

Have been reading The Man Within by Graham Greene. One of his early efforts which clearly lacks the quality of his later work but that's not to say it is without merit. It's been extremely enjoyable so far and, obviously, very well written.

Famous Mortimer

  • War - it's fantastic!
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Re: Books [split topic]
« Reply #101 on: December 05, 2010, 04:52:44 PM »
"The Unnamed" was really good. I'm still not sure what the central illness thing meant, but the descriptions and the sadness at its heart were top-drawer. I hope he continues putting books this good out.

Now is "X Films" by Alex Cox. He's a bit of an anarchist at heart, and his stories of filmmaking are peppered with mini-diatribes about copyright law and so on. He seems like an interesting guy, but I'm only up as far as Repo Man and there's plenty more to go. I may end up hating him.

Zero Gravitas

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Re: Books [split topic]
« Reply #102 on: December 09, 2010, 12:50:39 AM »
We had a CaB reading group thread aaaages ago, did that go well? or was it bogged down by the usual lazy shites that drag all collaborative board events down to the bottom of the ocean of apathy and then piss on them?

P.S. oh yes, recommending http://www.shelfari.com/ it's been a great resource for finding my next read.
« Last Edit: December 09, 2010, 01:38:36 AM by Zero Gravitas »

Retinend

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Re: Books [split topic]
« Reply #103 on: December 09, 2010, 03:08:27 AM »


Folk devils and moral panics: the creation of the Mods and Rockers By Stanley Cohen

http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=K9OxSYJQGXwC&printsec=frontcover&dq=stanley+cohen+folk+devils&source=bl&ots=TlkptafIHW&sig=1S9LEg-i0AueOHdytyVDlxR3NLg&hl=en&ei=hkAATbeaIZKKhQeKzuCfCw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=6&ved=0CEQQ6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q&f=false

Didn't expect more than a dry explication of 'moral panics' (urban myths taken seriously as a societal threat). I didn't even know the subtitle (Mods and Rockers) when I got it out of the library, but it was, at the end of it, most interesting as case study of this particular youth culture. It was written only a decade after the height of the two movements, and unearths sources of such exquisitely brutal Middle-England sentiment that it's comical to note that it was wholly in reaction to some bored teenagers milling about on the coast (NOT rioting, fucking, stabbing popping pills and crashing storefronts on scooters, as some remember it). The exploitation and police brutality is the more shocking considering how publicly sanctioned, and indeed celebrated, the reprisals were. It's a fine reminder of how the baby boomers once felt much like our generation feel about them, and also just how much more civilised we are now, even if the 'folk devil' figures persist in the form of paedophile rings, terrorists, student anarchists etc. Though Cohen ends on a realistically unhopeful note (he had yet to see the truly inventive 'Satanic Cult' panics of the 90s), it would be blind to say that nothing has changed.

It also has eye-opening implications for the more murderous historical tendencies of our nation, bearing in mind that this brutality was levelled at deviance from the norm even within domestic white communities. That said, it makes clear that the shit-stirring rhetoric of the papers did not represent the majority, and most of the book is a direct critique of the media techniques, rather than pretending that they are a trustworthy mirror of society.

It feels very modern in its conclusions/critique, and is definitely relevant near-40 years on.

Cambrian Times

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Re: Books [split topic]
« Reply #104 on: December 09, 2010, 05:09:46 AM »
Currently chewing my way through "Ulysses" at the moment. Not as incoprehensible as "Finnegan's Wake" thank god, but still the way Joyce plays with language manages to twist my noggin up and no mistake.

phes

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Re: Books [split topic]
« Reply #105 on: December 19, 2010, 11:11:30 AM »
Hello, this is a bit of a shameless brain-picking: I want to buy a gift for a colleague who has been very kind to me. She is fascinated by the paranormal and is convinced that contact has been made (she even attends paranormal seminars in Europe). But also she loves reading a lot of terribly dumb, flawed science.

Can anyone reccommend any interesting books that address scientific anomalies and the paranormal?
« Last Edit: December 19, 2010, 01:07:24 PM by phes »

The Widow of Brid

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Re: Books [split topic]
« Reply #106 on: December 19, 2010, 03:35:49 PM »
Spook by Mary Roach is quite a fun book about the various scientific explorations of the afterlife taking place now and in the past. It's not antagonistic to the paranormal, but it is written with a sensible level of scepticism (if something is absolute outright provable bollocks it will be described as such, if not the author is respectful even if they personally disagree) so if your colleague is very sensitive to criticism of the paranormal it might not be for them.

If time isn't an issue, you can get the first fifteen issues of Fortean Times on CDR for twenty quid. If cost isn't an issue you can get the first thirty issues plus a bunch of bonus content on CDR for fifty five quid.

Famous Mortimer

  • War - it's fantastic!
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Re: Books [split topic]
« Reply #107 on: December 19, 2010, 06:50:50 PM »
Just finished "Ice" by Anna Kavan, which is like a sci-fi book written by Kafka, but not really. I just discovered it in the library by accident and decided to read it...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anna_Kavan

Interesting woman, and one of the strangest books I've read in a long time.

hpmons

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Re: Books [split topic]
« Reply #108 on: December 30, 2010, 08:03:00 PM »
Mostly been reading Classics stuff (in translation), but one thing I really enjoyed was The Satyricon by Petronius.  Annoyingly its in fragments, which can be pretty weird if there's just a pargraph describing the middle of an orgy...But there are some parts which are intact - the dinner at Trimalchio's is really fantastic.  It's often difficult to find translations of ancient stuff which is both accurate and engaging, but its awesome (my version is by J.P. Sullivan if anyone cares).

Also read Notes from Underground by Dostoyevsky, which was good, I was surprised at how long ago it was written.

icehaven

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Re: Books [split topic]
« Reply #109 on: December 30, 2010, 08:27:18 PM »
Just enjoyed Lint by Chris Ware (Acme Novelty Library 20). If you liked Jimmy Corrigan you'll love...etc.

Queneau

  • That was a joke. That's all it was, it was a joke.
Re: Books [split topic]
« Reply #110 on: December 30, 2010, 08:44:10 PM »
It is a great film. The few times it does differ from the book didn't annoy me either, if anything the changes were necessary for it to work. I'm looking forward to watching the sitcom to see how well it adapted to that format.

I'm glad this thread has been bumped because it gives me a chance to say how utterly tedious the sitcom version of Billy Liar is.

surreal

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Re: Books [split topic]
« Reply #111 on: January 03, 2011, 11:53:42 AM »
Been downloading quite a few books on to my Kindle - that one-click ordering is a blessing and a curse!

Finished "Feed", which is a zombie novel exploring how news would be reported after a major worldwide pandemic (this one just happening to result in zombification, but could apply to a more "normal" disease).  Told from the perspective of a group of bloggers who are covering the Presidential campaign, it moves quickly enough, and the author has clearly done her research into how technology would be used and adapted in such a crisis.  Not bad, looking forward to the next part.

Now reading the original "Let The Right One In" novel, which is essential if you loved the movie - expands on a lot of details and clears up some things that may have been glossed over in both adaptations.  Recommended.

buttgammon

  • You can't trust a man what's made of gas
Re: Books [split topic]
« Reply #112 on: January 03, 2011, 12:11:32 PM »
I'm getting stuck into 'Remainder' by Tom McCarthy now and it feels like I've hit the really good bit. It's very different to 'C', which I read a couple of months ago and loved but once you get through the character's backstory at the start and begin to understand him, it becomes one of those books that it's hard not to keep reading compulsively.

At about 150 pages, it's starting to feel like something is not quite right within to book but it's hard to tell exactly what (beyond the strangeness of the idea of the man reconstructing his past in that way in itself). It's a good book which induces that kind of barely perceptible sensation in the reader.

Queneau

  • That was a joke. That's all it was, it was a joke.
Re: Books [split topic]
« Reply #113 on: January 03, 2011, 12:16:47 PM »
I'm getting stuck into 'Remainder' by Tom McCarthy now and it feels like I've hit the really good bit. It's very different to 'C', which I read a couple of months ago and loved but once you get through the character's backstory at the start and begin to understand him, it becomes one of those books that it's hard not to keep reading compulsively.

At about 150 pages, it's starting to feel like something is not quite right within to book but it's hard to tell exactly what (beyond the strangeness of the idea of the man reconstructing his past in that way in itself). It's a good book which induces that kind of barely perceptible sensation in the reader.

My mate picked that up recently because he loved the idea of it. I think he's since given it up saying that it was poorly written and didn't live up to it's potential (or at least his expectations). So, I'd be interested to know what you think when you're done. I usually go on his recommendations so haven't touched it.

EDIT: I picked up Alexei Sayle's Train to Hell for 75p the other day. I'm hoping to start that later.

Blue Jam

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Re: Books [split topic]
« Reply #114 on: January 03, 2011, 01:40:36 PM »
Been reading Stephen Fry's The Stars' Tennis Balls and had been enjoying it until the bit where Ned's schoolmates grow up into a bunch of walking cliches. I read some of the reviews on Amazon and was amused to see people slagging it off for not being as good as The Count of Monte Cristo- first of all, rewrites never are of course, but what they are is a bit of fun. Secondly, many of the reviewers were claiming they ended up rooting for Monte Cristo in the original and that Fry's equivalent character was much nastier- the original was a complete bastard [spoiler]who killed an innocent child, among other things[/spoiler], and those reviewers are simply giving away the fact that they hadn't actually read the original book to the end, and have probably just seen a film adaptation cutting out the bit where [spoiler]Monte Cristo goes a bit paedo[/spoiler].

In short then, it's an enjoyable enough bit of fluff, but The Stars My Destination is a much better rewrite.

buttgammon

  • You can't trust a man what's made of gas
Re: Books [split topic]
« Reply #115 on: January 03, 2011, 01:43:22 PM »
My mate picked that up recently because he loved the idea of it. I think he's since given it up saying that it was poorly written and didn't live up to it's potential (or at least his expectations). So, I'd be interested to know what you think when you're done. I usually go on his recommendations so haven't touched it.

EDIT: I picked up Alexei Sayle's Train to Hell for 75p the other day. I'm hoping to start that later.

I'll see. The first few chapters were quite underwhelming but I've got no problems with his writing so far.

Retinend

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Re: Books [split topic]
« Reply #116 on: January 05, 2011, 05:25:01 AM »
Also read Notes from Underground by Dostoyevsky, which was good, I was surprised at how long ago it was written.

I've read quite a few Dostoyevsky and your post prompted me get this one out, seeing as its only short, and I've liked everything else a great deal.

About 30/100 pages in and, while I'm impressed with the style (especially considering the date, like you say), the message seems pretty ignorant and anti-intellectual. He says that science, and recording data using numbers ("mathematics" and "almanacs" are particularly scorned) isn't going to tell us about what the full nature of humanity is (and probably makes us less natural in some way). I don't get this romanticist idea that discovering things is awful and dangerous if you do it methodically and with number.

This seems to be the main message, but most of the others are just as rubbish. Take Chapter one, part three. The whole hypothesis is literally that people positively enjoy pain because they get to exaggerate their woes to disturb and shame the healthy. The reasoning doesn't even include "the sick are jealous of the healthy", he just states this hypothesis baldly and, I think, expects you not to notice that, behind all the rhetoric, he hasn't justified any of his assertions.

falafel

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Re: Books [split topic]
« Reply #117 on: January 05, 2011, 08:13:14 AM »
My mate picked that up recently because he loved the idea of it. I think he's since given it up saying that it was poorly written and didn't live up to it's potential (or at least his expectations). So, I'd be interested to know what you think when you're done. I usually go on his recommendations so haven't touched it.

I loathed it. A completely hollow experience. Read it three years ago so don't remember the details but it really was bad. I think it was mainly the attempt at writing in the protagonist's own thought patterns: the dryness of the language and the showy faux-autism just struck me as horrid contrivances which maybe they wouldn't have done if they were done better.


buttgammon

  • You can't trust a man what's made of gas
Re: Books [split topic]
« Reply #118 on: January 05, 2011, 12:34:18 PM »
For me, the narrator's style does suit the book. Of course, his lack of empathy and affect is terrifying and shallow but that is exactly what he has become. I've just got to the point where his actions and his reconstructions become more and more sinister and although I saw it coming (without wanting to give too much away, an incident at one point is obviously going to give him a certain idea) his total flatness makes it seem so strange and frightening even though the reader expected it.

Re: Books [split topic]
« Reply #119 on: January 06, 2011, 01:07:01 AM »
I recently read The Humbling by Philip Roth not having read anything by him previously. A quick read, but tedious, I picked it up for five bucks at book stall. (Will try one of his better-liked books later.) I bought Nevil Shute's On the Beach at the same time, same price, having a vague interest in the post-apocalyptic genre of late. Really flat prose and awful dialogue.

Almost finished The Orchard Keeper, Cormac McCarthy's first novel. Having read all his others and hearing this was his worst I left it until last. I needn't have worried, I'm enjoying it immensely.

I'll probably finish off Thomas Mann's Death in Venice and Other Stories next as I borrowed it off a friend over a year ago and he wants it back.