August 2018 Reading thread

Randy M.

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#61
I've read Generation Loss by Hand, which I thought was quite good; somewhat in the The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo mode, but better written. Her novellas (I think both are long enough to qualify) "Near Zennor" and "Cleopatra Brimstone" were also very good. She's a writer I mean to dig into more, including a sequel to GL, but I haven't gotten there, yet.

Real life has slowed my reading of Jeffrey Ford's The Shadow Year but it's quite good. I hope to dig in more this weekend.

Randy M.
 

Victoria Silverwolf

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#62
I have grabbed a pile of books that are either very short, full of pretty pictures, and/or meant to be skimmed through. To wit:

Shangrila [sic] (no author, unknown year, sometime after 2001) -- A Chinese book full of lovely photographs of an area of Tibet which resembles the description of Shangri-La in the James Hilton novel Lost Horizon. The introduction, in slightly broken English, comes from the Propaganda Department of Diqing Tibetan Tribe Prefecture, so it's obvious one purpose of this book is to convince people that Tibet is part of China. Be that as it may, the rest of the book consists of undeniably beautiful photographs by Zheng Yi.

We Are All Children Searching For Love by Leonard Nimoy (1977) -- A skinny little book of poems and photographs by the actor. I'm not expecting much.

Poems by Richard Thomas (1974) -- As above, but no photographs.

The Public Library (no author, 2014) --- Photographs by Robert Dawson of American libraries, with quotes scattered throughout from various famous people.

Extraordinary Projects for Ordinary People edited by Noah Weinstein (2012) -- Big book full of oddball do-it-yourself projects.

Gross America by Richard Faulk (2012) -- A state-by-state guide to weird attractions.

Roadfood by Jane and Michael Stern (9th edition, 2014) -- Giant guidebook to nearly 1000 informal eating places in the USA.

And then on to a "real" book:

Portrait of Jennie by Robert Nathan (1939) -- The famous romantic fantasy which was made into a noted film. My edition is packaged as a Young Adult novel.
 

Parson

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#63
Turns out I had good taste in my preteens. Catseye is still a cracking good yarn with words and concepts that I'm surprised that my preteen self even uderstood. (Assuming I did understand them! But the story was very familiar, so I'm happy with that part of my memory.)

I've read Generation Loss by Hand, which I thought was quite good; somewhat in the The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo mode, but better written.
This perked my interest. I loved The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but then I found that it was over $5 to buy the ebook and I wasn't ready to risk it on an unknown author.
 
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Brian G Turner

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#64
Got a couple of different reads on the go, but lacking enthusiasm for any of them. So opened up The Midnight Line by Lee Child and am now thoroughly engaged by another Jack Reacher story. :)
 

Bick

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#65
I’ve now started Diuturnity’s Dawn, by Alan Dean Foster. It’s the third book in his Founding of the Commonwealth series. I really liked the first two (Phylogenesis and Dirge).
 

soulsinging

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#66
Factfulness was an interesting read, particularly for a numbers geek, and I would also say timely. It exposes how the commonly expressed notion that the next generation is worthless and the world is going to hell in a handbasket is demonstrably false in every objective way and humans have always had a habit of viewing the past they grew up in as superior despite all scientific evidence that life is getting immeasurably better for most of the world at an incredible rate. Very thought-provoking read.

Now I'm tackling Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley. I have fond memories of her more famous Hero and the Crown, and am looking forward to her take on the Robin Hood myth.
 

Bick

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#67
Factfulness was an interesting read, particularly for a numbers geek, and I would also say timely. It exposes how the commonly expressed notion that the next generation is worthless and the world is going to hell in a handbasket is demonstrably false in every objective way and humans have always had a habit of viewing the past they grew up in as superior despite all scientific evidence that life is getting immeasurably better for most of the world at an incredible rate. Very thought-provoking read.
Ah yes, but was it written before Trump was elected President? A fly in the philosophical ointment!

More seriously, getting 'better' is mostly subjective not objective, and when folk (like me) complain of the present times in some fashion, its not to dispute the facts that can be described objectively (e.g. health stats), but to address more subjectively how things stand. I often hear that a certain building development or political change is 'progress' when I, with an alternative perspective would argue well and loudly, that its not progress at all, its regression, deciding what's 'best' based on cost rather than value. Some things are getting better for many (health and monetary wealth), and the current generation has huge amounts of worth, and yet I'm a subscriber to the idea myself that things are becoming less good in many ways. How does the scientific evidence stack up that global climate change is a making the world 'better'? How has it improved the world that kids no longer run off and knock on doors to ask their mates to come out and play, but instead facebook them from indoors? How has it improved my liberty that I'm now not allowed to light a bonfire in my own yard, change a light in my own house or get on a bike without a crash helmet - all examples of the myriad modern safety laws in New Zealand that are supposed to represent 'progress' but which are nanny-state nonsense? I'm sorry, but to rephrase Blur - modern life is good in some ways, but rubbish in many others. Not that this is the thread for such discussion, so I'll climb down off my hobby horse now.
 

williamjm

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#68
I just finished Adrian Tchaikovsky's For Love of Distant Shores, his third short story collection set in his Shadows of the Apt world. The previous two collections had a variety of characters and genres of writing, but the four stories here all follow Dr Phinagler, a Collegium Professor with a passion for exploration and seeking out lost civilisations, and his sidekick and chronicler Fosse who narrates the stories. There's an obvious debt to 19th and early 20th Century adventure stories by the likes of Verne, Conan Doyle and H. Rider Haggard, and Tchaikovsky is obviously having fun transposing the genre to his world, and taking the opportunity to explore some of the more peripheral areas that were briefly mentioned in the main series, like Lake Limnia, the Nem Desert or the Forest of Aleth. It quickly becomes clear Fosse rather than her employer of the stories, her witty narration making up for the slightly formulaic nature of some of the plotting, although the fact that she comes across as the hero of the stories might have something to do with her being the one telling the story.

I think fans of Tchaikovsky's series should find it an enjoyable read, even if most of it isn't too essential. The most important story is left for last, a Columbus-style voyage to the West to try to find a new sea route having consequences that fill in a key connection between some of Tchaikovsky's books.
 

janeoreilly

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#69
Finished reading Dreams Before the Start of Time which I really recommend (I think it's still 99p on kindle ATM). Doesn't concentrate so much on the science itself, but on how changes in reproductive technology will affect us socially. Now doing a joint re-read of Howl's Moving Castle with my 14yo and also reading Joan D Vinge World's End.
 

Allegra

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#70
Reading another Stephen Clarke's book Talk to the Snail, it's about how to understand the French, their way of thinking and doing, from government projects to cafe's service etc. Again very funny, cynical, firmly tongue in cheek, informative and entertaining at the same time. Apparently he writes all books like that, and all books about France. I liked his Paris Revealed, and his first fiction about the experience of an Englishman in Paris - A Year in the Merde is often hilarious, occasionally a bit too merde-y. I'm not sure if I'll read his other Merde fictions since there are better ones, including his:

How the French Won Waterloo - or Think They Did
1000 Years of Annoying the French
The French Revolution and What went Wrong
 

soulsinging

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#71
Ah yes, but was it written before Trump was elected President? A fly in the philosophical ointment!
I believe he wrote most of it before, but it was published after. The author was a nobel-prize winning physician and this was his last work before dying. Part of his point is that we get so wrapped up in our localized angst, that we fail to see that progress marches on in spite of it. Even amid the horrors of both world wars, access to power and basic medical care expanded steadily throughout most of the 20th century, increasing the lifespan of humans. Even as the Taliban was throwing acid at school girls, over 90% of women in the world had access to as much education as men. That is a stunning turnaround from even 50 years ago, no matter how much we want to put rose-colored glasses on how great things used to be when we were kids. Tragedy and tyranny dominate our news, but do not dominate history or progress.

Bick said:
How has it improved the world that kids no longer run off and knock on doors to ask their mates to come out and play, but instead facebook them from indoors?
A great example and the answer is yes, because 1) the kids CAN run, very few are crippled by polio (as an example) in childhood anymore due to widespread vaccination and early medical intervention and 2) the kids, almost everywhere in the world, actually have internet access and the knowledge that brings. For every one western teenager anti-socially facebooking a mate, there are 10 people in Asia or Africa logging on to access critical information on medicine or engineering or math.

Every day, more and more people have what the kids call "first world problems" like internet addiction and having to use awful new energy efficient light bulbs and fewer and fewer people (by the thousands) have "third world" problems like being crippled by preventable disease or dying due to lack of clean drinking water.

His point was that just because there is still lots of work to be done, doesn't mean we shouldn't acknowledge just how much good has been done by people that don't get sensationalist news coverage.
 

Bick

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#72
A great example and the answer is yes, because 1) the kids CAN run, very few are crippled by polio (as an example) in childhood anymore due to widespread vaccination and early medical intervention and 2) the kids, almost everywhere in the world, actually have internet access and the knowledge that brings. For every one western teenager anti-socially facebooking a mate, there are 10 people in Asia or Africa logging on to access critical information on medicine or engineering or math.
Then the point only seems to be that things are progressing in a global sense to improve certain aspects of health. This is a a very important advance, but its very restricted and objectively things are worse now globally (and locally) in many other ways that you can easily measure. It sounds as though the book focuses on providing global health - the one area in which we've undoubtedly progressed well (in some areas) - and ignores all the ways things are 'worse' now than they have ever been, including climate change, species extinction rate, air, river, sea and land pollution, first world home affordability, terrorism threat, religious extremism (in the sense of its global impact), massively increased rates of numerous diseases (obesity, diabetes, cancer, depression, anxiety and autism for instance), stressful work-life balance, etc. All these things can be measurably shown to be significantly worse this generation than last generation or the one before it, all are important, and its not looking through rose-tinted glasses to point it out - its reality. When an old doctor says we're now better off because we can treat cancer so much better, he's right but he misses the point that our sedentary but stressful lives now cause far higher rates of cancer to treat. Are we better off if we eradicate polio, but enable a billion people to develop and die of type II diabetes - I guess it depends if you're one of the ones to get the crippling diabetes.
 
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Parson

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#74
Then the point only seems to be that things are progressing in a global sense to improve certain aspects of health. This is a a very important advance, but its very restricted and objectively things are worse now globally (and locally) in many other ways that you can easily measure. It sounds as though the book focuses on providing global health - the one area in which we've undoubtedly progressed well (in some areas) - and ignores all the ways things are 'worse'
You make some good points. But I would direct you to Steven Pinker who has written extensively on this subject. I believe his latest book, Enlightenment Now, finished after Trump was elected because he refers to him, has hard statistics that world wide things are measurably better in terms of life expectancy, health, sustenance, wealth - there has been a 30% reduction in extreme poverty since 1990, inequality, the environment, peace, safety, terrorism, democracy, equal rights, knowledge, quality of life, existential threats, etc. (he doesn't delve into issues like first world housing costs). He would not say that there are not major things to work on, but he does point out that we are genetically predisposed to pay more attention to threats, and that the daily cycle of news will nearly always lead with some tragedy.

It may interest you to know that he is a loudly atheistic thinker and puts religion down viciously, and still I read him.
 

Bick

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#75
You make some good points. But I would direct you to Steven Pinker ... [he] has hard statistics that world wide things are measurably better in terms of life expectancy, health, sustenance, wealth - there has been a 30% reduction in extreme poverty since 1990, inequality, the environment, peace, safety, terrorism, democracy, equal rights, knowledge, quality of life, existential threats, etc. (he doesn't delve into issues like first world housing costs).
Sounds like an interesting writer - thanks for pointing me to him.

And of course, some things are a lot 'better', but some things are demonstrably a lot 'worse' too - whether one thinks things are overall better depends on perspective I guess and what issues you feel are important to you. I think the health issue is an interesting one - we are better at treating disease and have smoked out a lot of communicable disease, but in many areas, we are demonstrably much less healthy. So, its certainly not clear cut. I tend to fall into the "more things I care about are getting worse than they are better' camp. Many of the things I care about are either disappearing in the name of progress (bookshops!) or being slowly wrecked (the environment). Maybe in time, people will look around at the complete lack of books, the lack of any kind of preserved town character that long disappeared at the hands of grasping developers, or at the paucity of animal life in the dwindling countryside and they wont care. They will say, 'life is better now because we're told it is by statisticians', and they will be happy about things because they wont get sick at all until they die at 70 of complications from diabetes and until then they'll be able to watch any reality show ever made whenever they want in 3D on a 7 foot screen that only cost them $10. Brilliant!

A last thought - access to knowledge is now fantastic (t'internet) - but the knowledge in peoples heads (esp. in the US) doesn't exactly fill me with awe - how else to explain Trump as POTUS? This seems to sum up a common mistake of those who argue how great our modern developments are; its one thing to invent a clever technological breakthrough, but its quite another for folk use it in a way that exploits it's capacity to educate and inform - the major use of the interweb seems to be to stream reality TV or watch porn, not to engage in interesting discussions (such as this).
 

biodroid

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#76
Still slogging through Stinger. The story feels like this, people talk, then BAM!, monster appears asking questions, then monster kills, rinse repeat. Kinda repetitive.
 

Stephen Palmer

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#78
Turns out I had good taste in my preteens. Catseye is still a cracking good yarn with words and concepts that I'm surprised that my preteen self even uderstood. (Assuming I did understand them! But the story was very familiar, so I'm happy with that part of my memory.)
A favourite of mine too!
Really atmospheric.
 

dannymcg

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#79
After skimming a couple of Alan Moore-era Swamp Thing collections, I've settled down to a reread of Black Light by Elizabeth Hand. Anyone else read anything by her?
Until I saw this I'd never heard of her.
Got a couple of her ebooks now but it'll be a long time until I work through my reading mountain to try her out.
 

Matteo

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#80
Phew...Bick is getting a bit "deep" but raises some interesting points.

How has it improved the world that kids no longer run off and knock on doors to ask their mates to come out and play, but instead facebook them from indoors?
It hasn't.

Childhood obesity and diabetes is on the rise and (with all due respect soulsinging) vaccination has nothing to do with it. Access to the knowledge the internet brings (which again is separate to Facebook) can be a good thing but so much of what is on the internet, and what I see kids looking at on my daily commute, is pure garbage; finding out how Saturn's rings are formed, or how the Nazis rose to power is one thing, reading about what a Love Island contestant did is another...

Even this easy access to knowledge can be detrimental. It's certainly "better" in the sense that kids without access to a local library, or a decent/sufficient access to the school library, or books at home, are now more equal than they used to be in my day, but many teachers (my wife and colleagues included)believe that this ease of access reduces kid's attention span. They expect immediate results and don't have to work too hard to get them. [Access to the internet for kids who have little access to anything (e.g. third world) is another issue.]

By the way, I'm not exactly with you on the "helmet" issue, but you're not allowed to change a light?!

Getting back on topic, I just read Galactic Derelict (Andre Norton) and it was great fun - pure 50's pulp!). Next up is something a little less light; The Mind of Adolf Hitler by Walter Langer.
 

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