March Reading Thread

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T. Kingfisher "Nettle and Bone"
Initially I thought it was going to be too dark for me and prepared myself to plough through something tediously unpleasant
Yes, I hesitated on buying this one for pretty much the same reason—that, and it's one of her more expensive books, too. But when I gave in and bought it and read it, I was glad I did.

I have noticed that advertising a book as dark and violent seems to be a selling point for a lot of readers—or at least publishers seem to think that it is. And as a result I have found that some books I have read are less dark and brutal than they purport to be. But I wonder how many books by authors whose writing I am not familiar with (which is not the case with T. Kingfisher) I have missed out on because the publisher's description misrepresented them in that way.

Anyway, yes, it is an entertaining and imaginative book, and I found it to be worth the price. Not that I am able to pay that much for ebooks on a regular basis, but as an occasional treat.
 
William Dalrymple "Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India"
Please note: this is just a book review, it is not intended to lead to discussion on religion.
I enjoyed this book very much - I always value books on lived experience, and this book is very much that. It's made up of nine interviews with individuals following different religious paths in that vast diverse culture collectively known as Indian. As almost all those interviewed are elderly and the interviews took place prior to 2009, some of these threads of humanity may already be lost. For the most part the author manages to enable the individual stories to stand out without historical or cultural analysis.
The nine lives:
A Jain nun just beginning the process of starving herself to death in Karnataka.
A dancer for three months of the year, possessed by deities whenever he goes on stage; the other nine months he digs wells and works as a prison warder at weekends. Kerala.
A devadasi, sacred prostitute in Karnataka. Sad.
A village singer of a sacred epic in Rajasthan
A woman devotee at a Sufi shrine in Sindh
An aged Tibetan monk who gave up his vows to fight the Chinese and then renewed them to become a monk again
A maker of traditional idols in Tamil Nadu
An old woman Tantric adept living in a graveyard in Bengal
A blind Baul singer in Bengal​
 
Having not picked up the book since the nineteen seventies, I’ve just finished Halcyon Drift, the first Hooded Swan book by Brian Stableford. Time has been kind to this novel and it has stood well against the ages. All in all, still a very enjoyable read.

I’ve decided to continue my nostalgic journey by returning to book 2 (Rhapsody In Black)
 
Alex Through the Looking Glass: How Life Reflects Numbers and Numbers Reflect Life by Alex Bellos.
This is such an interesting book! It's a combination of history and the wierd things that happen when you muck around with mathematics.
 
William Dalrymple "Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India"
Please note: this is just a book review, it is not intended to lead to discussion on religion.
I enjoyed this book very much - I always value books on lived experience, and this book is very much that. It's made up of nine interviews with individuals following different religious paths in that vast diverse culture collectively known as Indian. As almost all those interviewed are elderly and the interviews took place prior to 2009, some of these threads of humanity may already be lost. For the most part the author manages to enable the individual stories to stand out without historical or cultural analysis.
The nine lives:
A Jain nun just beginning the process of starving herself to death in Karnataka.
A dancer for three months of the year, possessed by deities whenever he goes on stage; the other nine months he digs wells and works as a prison warder at weekends. Kerala.
A devadasi, sacred prostitute in Karnataka. Sad.
A village singer of a sacred epic in Rajasthan
A woman devotee at a Sufi shrine in Sindh
An aged Tibetan monk who gave up his vows to fight the Chinese and then renewed them to become a monk again
A maker of traditional idols in Tamil Nadu
An old woman Tantric adept living in a graveyard in Bengal
A blind Baul singer in Bengal​
Dalrymple is a very good writer, on India especially. I think I read the first 4 of these stories, put the book down, and for some reason did not pick it up again.
 
Dalrymple is a very good writer, on India especially. I think I read the first 4 of these stories, put the book down, and for some reason did not pick it up again.
I read "The Anarchy" (excellent) and "City of Djinns" (disappointing as was hoping for less history, more personal experience) last year. I'm very impressed with both his knowledge and understanding of India. I'll probably read further in time.
 
I am in a mood to read some JG Ballard.
Any suggestions?

"My first job in writing a novel is to tell a story. "
-JG Ballard
 
I am in a mood to read some JG Ballard.
Any suggestions?

"My first job in writing a novel is to tell a story. "
-JG Ballard


Depends which Ballard works you prefer.

The early disaster novels? I'd go with The Crystal World.

Tales of decadent artists? I'd go with the collection Vermillion Sands.

The "condensed novels"? The Atrocity Exhibition collection.

Short stories in general? Can't go wrong with The Complete Stories of J. G. Ballard.

Later satires? Crash or High-Rise or Concrete Island.

Mainstream? Empire of the Sun or (sort of) The Day of Creation.
 
T. Kingfisher "Nettle and Bone"
I really liked this. Initially I thought it was going to be too dark for me and prepared myself to plough through something tediously unpleasant, but, as the pages turned, my sense of safety increased, and there were deliciously unexpected turns and twists that that thrilled me with their originality.
Essentially a journey from disempowerment and oppression to life and freedom, but I only appreciated that with hindsight - the book was too engaging to muse on that sort of stuff while immersed in it.!
Exceptionally well edited too.
The book was my february TBR. Love it! I can't believe she packs all those plots in such a short novel and the outcome is still enjoyable to read. The main character is a bit passive in the majority of the pages though, but some compelling side characters really save it for me.
 
Arkady & Boris Strugatsky "Roadside Picnic"
I thought this was excellent. Many thanks indeed @Quokka for recommending it.
If anything it's enhanced the film for me and I must take another look at it - I haven't watched it in years, but it remains one of my favourites.
This Masterworks edition has an interesting 'Afterword" by Boris detailing some of the difficulties in getting it published in book form in the USSR in the 70s. I was surprised to find that they got the word 'Stalker' from an old English edition of Kipling's "Stalky and Co".

I'd really like to read more Soviet SF from the 1960s/70s. All I've previously read is an anthology years ago "Path into the Unknown: Best of Soviet SF" which I found underwhelming. There are other books by the Strugatskys - can anyone recommend any of them as a good follow up to Roadside Picnic or any other Soviet SF?
 
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There are other books by the Strugatskys...

Hi Hugh. I enjoyed and can recommend The Dead Mountaineer's Inn, by the Strugatskys. It's a very odd, but (to me) entertaining spoof of a murder mystery. Unique writing, definitely... I've yet to read Roadside Picnic, but will put it in my TBR pile, after your review, thanks, CC

edit - I've just seen that Robert Forster read the audiobook of Roadside Picnic. Could be interesting...
 
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Hi Hugh. I enjoyed and can recommend The Dead Mountaineer's Inn, by the Strugatskys. It's a very odd, but (to me) entertaining spoof of a murder mystery. Unique writing, definitely... I've yet to read Roadside Picnic, but will put it in my TBR pile, after your review, thanks, CC

edit - I've just seen that Robert Forster read the audiobook of Roadside Picnic. Could be interesting...
Many thanks indeed for the recommendation.
 
Got bored with the Mozart bio, far too analytical and just not that interesting. Looking for a better one, one that actually focuses on Mozart's life and works!
 
David Lewis-Williams' Conceiving God.
I wanted to make a joke saying something like: "This sounds like Mary's retelling of the incarnation." But I wondered if maybe this was something besides what I expected to be a high-brow novel and it most assuredly was.

I'll be interested to hear what you thought of it. I was not impressed when I learned that David Lewis-Williams calls himself a cognitive archaeologist. I find archaeology to be fascinatingly and I read a bit of it. But I'm always very leery of people who think that they can get inside someone else's head and say what significance a probably religious object had to its creator and/or user. Understanding what someone thinks or believes is tricky enough when you are in communication. Understanding someone's thinking over the centuries and across cultures has got to be iffy in the extreme.
 
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