Lily Valley

November 2017: What was good this year?

65 posts in this topic

Finished The Underground Railroad. I thought this was a good read but wasn't blown away. I liked the characters and the structure (alternating between different US states and minor character POVs) and the prose was fantastic in places. But for some reason I was left a little disappointed - perhaps my expectations were too high given the critical and popular acclaim. 

I also read a couple of short classics: Catcher in the Rye and Fahrenheit 451. I really liked Catcher and can certainly see why it's been such an enduring classic. I didn't particularly like Fahrenheit 451 apart from a couple of great monologues from Captain Beatty and Faber. 

Now moving on to Bring Up The Bodies. I've been eagerly anticipating this one since enjoying Wolf Hall earlier in the year. 

Edited by Paxter

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7 hours ago, Paxter said:

 

I also read a couple of short classics: Catcher in the Rye and Fahrenheit 451. I really liked Catcher and can certainly see why it's been such an enduring classic. I didn't particularly like Fahrenheit 451 apart from a couple of great monologues from Captain Beatty and Faber. 

 

I wonder if this would hold up for me. I loved it when I read it in high school, but fear Holden would simply grate one me as I'm much older now.

I'm about 100 pages into Michael McDonnell's Masters of Empire: Great Lakes Indians and the Making of America. It's very interesting so far, focusing on the influence the Anishinabaag (more specifically, the Odawa) had in the region from their geographically ideal location at Michilmackinac at the confluence of Lakes Michigan, Huron and Superior a bit farther north.

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On 11/12/2017 at 10:27 PM, Nasty LongRider said:

This sounds like a must read for me having read so much about early Antarctic exploration, a trip to the Arctic could make for stellar reading.  Will have to follow up on this. 

DO IT!  I'm only 25% through and totally savoring it.  It's really good.  REALLY GOOD.  

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3 hours ago, Astromech said:

I wonder if this would hold up for me. I loved it when I read it in high school, but fear Holden would simply grate one me as I'm much older now.

I think there are enough strangely endearing Holden moments that I got past the general revulsion at his petulant internal monologue. He’s a softy at heart.

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7 hours ago, Lily Valley said:

DO IT!  I'm only 25% through and totally savoring it.  It's really good.  REALLY GOOD.  

Have it on hold at the library now, thanks for the reference.

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On 11/13/2017 at 6:20 PM, Hello World said:

Has anyone here read Court of Broken Knives yet? It's been on my to-read list for some time. Mark Lawrence wrote an interesting review of it here https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2107260736?book_show_action=true&from_review_page=1

That's a very accurate and honest review to my experience of the book.  My main question for a would-be reader would be: do you want a strongly directed plot with urgency and forward motion to it?  This book is absolutely not that and it ends and apparently there will be another.  But it's not an uninteresting experience in style.

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On 14/11/2017 at 1:20 AM, Hello World said:

Has anyone here read Court of Broken Knives yet? It's been on my to-read list for some time. Mark Lawrence wrote an interesting review of it here https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2107260736?book_show_action=true&from_review_page=1


I really liked it. Was a bit worried at the start as I felt the author was trying a bit too hard with her prose, but I quickly settled into it. Past that, it's a very interesting take; what I liked about it particularly was that the tone of the narrative changed with what was happening in the narrative, giving things a slightly fever-dream air in places.


Me, I finished Gnomon, which was excellent, and Deadhouse Landing, which was also excellent. Now I'm reading Those Above by Daniel Polansky.

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On a whim I decided to buy The Final Empire yesterday. About 200 pages in and it's pretty bad... I find the plot of an oppressed race vs an evil emperor and the chosen magical prophesied savior kid to be familiar and silly at this point, and the last 50-70 pages were one character explaining the magic system to another character. I'll finish the book but if there isn't much more to this series than that I don't think I'm reading the next one... not with my current to-read list.

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On 11/6/2017 at 8:24 PM, Peadar said:

The voice is very similar here to the voice in The Martian. But without such a compelling dilemma to work against, the jokes are just annoying. YMMV, of course.

I tweeted about how poorly written The Martian was and the author thanked me... Guess he didn't get any better then?

Going on holiday kind of crashed my reading for some reason. But I've just started the new Harkaway and it's gooood.

I stalled about a third into Ancillary Mercy. Not sure if it was me or the book but I just didn't care that much about what happened any more. I'll try again with it after Gnomon. 

 

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I finished The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins.  It was a bit of a self-indulgent read for me because it's not like I learned anything new and I was internally cheering him on throughout.  I was a bit surprised that there wasn't more to it for such a successful book.  But I enjoyed it nonetheless.  I especially enjoyed it as a worked example of critical deconstruction of arguments.

I started Three Parts Dead in the Craft Sequence by Max Gladstone.  OK so far but judgment withheld for now.

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I finished Ben Aaronovitch's The Furthest Station, which was good. While I'd prefer to have a longer Peter Grant story to read this year, I thought a novella was probably the appropriate length for this story. While there isn't much movement for the overall plot of the series it does look like Abigail could be playing a bigger role in the series as it goes along, perhaps it's good for Peter to have someone to interact with at The Folly other than Nightingale.

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18 hours ago, Isis said:

I tweeted about how poorly written The Martian was and the author thanked me... Guess he didn't get any better then?

Going on holiday kind of crashed my reading for some reason. But I've just started the new Harkaway and it's gooood.

I stalled about a third into Ancillary Mercy. Not sure if it was me or the book but I just didn't care that much about what happened any more. I'll try again with it after Gnomon. 

 

I too, am enjoying Gnomon. It's loooong, though, so I'm gonna be a while...

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21 hours ago, Iskaral Pust said:

I finished The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins.  It was a bit of a self-indulgent read for me because it's not like I learned anything new and I was internally cheering him on throughout.  I was a bit surprised that there wasn't more to it for such a successful book.  But I enjoyed it nonetheless.  I especially enjoyed it as a worked example of critical deconstruction of arguments.

If you're game to try something similar, but that is much more pointed (absolutely brutal in parts) check out God Is Not Good, by Christopher Hitchens. Just an absolute beating of organized religion. 

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19 hours ago, Manhole Eunuchsbane said:

If you're game to try something similar, but that is much more pointed (absolutely brutal in parts) check out God Is Not Good, by Christopher Hitchens. Just an absolute beating of organized religion. 


That book sounds like Hitchens did exactly what Dawkins did, which is take a perfectly reasonable starting position-  organised religion has issues/is a bit shit- and then ruined it by turning in a badly researched, badly thought out piece of work that fails to understand many of the arguments or events that it's refuting or criticising.

Although The God Delusion and Dawkin's biggest sin is falling into the exact same dogmatic habits that he is consistently criticising religions for. It's a massively hypocritical book. I'd hope that Hitchens at least doesn't fall into that (which is to say: I fully expect Hitchens to be dogmatic in his argument- just not to be hypocritical about it).

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6 minutes ago, polishgenius said:


That book sounds like Hitchens did exactly what Dawkins did, which is take a perfectly reasonable starting position-  organised religion has issues/is a bit shit- and then ruined it by turning in a badly researched, badly thought out piece of work that fails to understand many of the arguments or events that it's refuting or criticising.

Although The God Delusion and Dawkin's biggest sin is falling into the exact same dogmatic habits that he is consistently criticising religions for. It's a massively hypocritical book. I'd hope that Hitchens at least doesn't fall into that (which is to say: I fully expect Hitchens to be dogmatic in his argument- just not to be hypocritical about it).

I haven't read the Dawkins book, but I suspect some of your criticisms are spot on. If anything, I'd say Dawkins is probably more measured and scientific in his approach than Hitchens is.

 That said, Hitchens is much funnier and more biting. 

As Iskaral Pust mentioned in his review of Dawkin's, this is a self-indulgent sort of a read for me. Hitchens is preaching to the choir, and I'm crying out amen. It's not like he has to win me over to his point of view.

Edited by Manhole Eunuchsbane

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8 minutes ago, Manhole Eunuchsbane said:

If anything, I'd say Dawkins is probably more measured and scientific in his approach than Hitchens is.



I think this might actually be a point in Hitchens favour- he doesn't really pretend to be scientific or some purely rational creature. I'm aware that as an actual scientist Dawkins is unarguably brilliant in his field but as a theologian (which is what he is when engaging on this subject, despite his claims to the contrary) he leaves a lot to be desired. If I remember it right (it was a long time ago that I read it), he is particularly bad at engaging with Aquinas.


I'd have to read the book (and re-read The God Delusion) to be sure. But I suspect that even as Hitchens would annoy me (and he'll presumably be directly insulting me for some of it, since I am actively religious) I'd find him less actually offensive.

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7 minutes ago, polishgenius said:

I'd have to read the book (and re-read The God Delusion) to be sure. But I suspect that even as Hitchens would annoy me (and he'll presumably be directly insulting me for some of it, since I am actively religious) I'd find him less actually offensive.

Yeah, I think it's safe to say that if you're a practicing anything in regards to organized religion, you'll likely be offended by Hitchens at some point. That's pretty central to his style of argument and debate. This is a guy who vilified Mother Teresa, after all.

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6 minutes ago, Manhole Eunuchsbane said:

This is a guy who vilified Mother Teresa, after all.



Mother Teresa should be, if not vilified, heavily questioned at least. I abhorr the idea that Christianity is about suffering and we should look for it and accept it, and the fact that she took the principle and applied it to those under her care by apparently denying them painkillers and paliative care when she had the means to get them is shocking. The Church certainly shouldn't have rushed to her canonisation, for all the good she did for the poor and sick.

Like, I'm not sensitive about my religion. I'm not offended by being offended. I'm fully in agreement that religions, both mine and others, need to be kept under heavy scrutiny and if that scrutiny comes with some lumps on my dignity and ego, oh well. Sometimes approaches like Hitchens' bother me in that at some level they may be counter-productive in their stated aim of convincing people since a lot of folks will simply tighten up their stances if you outright insult them, but on the other hand there has to be a place for a bit of that.


What bothers me with Dawkins is his intellectual dishonesty.

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1 hour ago, polishgenius said:


That book sounds like Hitchens did exactly what Dawkins did, which is take a perfectly reasonable starting position-  organised religion has issues/is a bit shit- and then ruined it by turning in a badly researched, badly thought out piece of work that fails to understand many of the arguments or events that it's refuting or criticising.

Although The God Delusion and Dawkin's biggest sin is falling into the exact same dogmatic habits that he is consistently criticising religions for. It's a massively hypocritical book. I'd hope that Hitchens at least doesn't fall into that (which is to say: I fully expect Hitchens to be dogmatic in his argument- just not to be hypocritical about it).

God. This a million times. Drives me insane.

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November's books:

Ackerman, Kenneth D. (2003)  Dark Horse: The Surprise Election and Political Murder of President  James A. Garfield

The 1880 Gilded Age Presidential election and nominating convention in exquisite, exhausting, granular detail.  Don't forget Grant!

Chesnut, Mary; edited by C. Vann Woodward. (1981) Mary Chesnut’s Civil War.
Won the History Pulitzer in 1982.  This is a fifth re-read, so maybe doesn't count.

Epstein, Daniel Mark (2017) Loyal Son: The War in Ben Franklin’s House. Not necessarily entirely flattering to either Benjamin or his illegitimate son, the Tory governor of New Jersey, William.  They did things differently back then.

Strausbaugh, John (2016) City of Sedition: The History of New York City in the Civil War.
 
Wharton, Edith (1920) In Morocco.
I thought about the book while watching the lovely vacuity that is Hertzog’s Queen of the Desert, though, despite what Queen of the Desert's film locations may suggest, Bell never mounted a camel on the dunes of Morocco.  For her, it was all the hard stone pans of the Middle East, not the soft sands of Mediterranean Africa. Yet Bell and Wharton have more in common than might seem immediately evident, starting with being critical of the class of people within which they are born, but reaping all the benefits of their birth privilege, as they take advantage of, and manipulate those benefits for themselves to accomplish things as women that women generally are prohibited by that social circle from doing.  Both retain their class presumptions and behaviors intact.

 Wharton surely was aware of Bell! This journey is taken after WWI ended, and Bell was indeed in all the newspapers and newsreels as Europe partitioned the old Ottoman Empire. Perhaps, vice versa ttoo, Bell aware of Wharton?

Wharton alternates between congratulating herself for traveling in this exotic place, with all the luxury a woman of her class travels with, where others do not  / have not gone, while bewailing that the others will come and ruin it.  Others just like her.  I expected better of Wharton, actually.

Wilson, Peter H. (2016) Heart of Europe: A History of the Holy Roman Empire. Harvard University Press
Good thing I’d brushed up Merovingian, Carolingian and Capetian eras back last fall and winter -- not to mention the Sicilian Vespers.  A major work.
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/apr/01/holy-roman-empire-peter-wilson-europe-charlemagne

Three of these I listen to during work-outs (and two of which had been started last month). One of them we read aloud before bed. The others I just, well, read, you know, by holding the physical book, running my eyes down the text and turning pages. :read: :cheers:

Edited by Zorral

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