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Discussion in 'Books' started by Ismitje, Jan 1, 2021.
Population: 485 by Michael Perry. About a small town in northern Wisconsin. Pretty good book.
A Swim in a Pond in the Rain: In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life which consist of seven short stories by four Russian writers (Chekhov, Tolstoy, Gogol and Turgenev) with insightful commentary about how fiction works by noted American author George Saunders.
Have that on my Amazon wishlist.
What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker: A Memoir in Essays, a Thurber-Award winning collection of essays that isn't super funny but still pretty solid by Pittsburgh-based writer Damon Young.
I've begun reading my library haul in pairs of fiction and non-fiction, which has been fun. The first set is an Irish zombie apocalypse/road novel called Last Ones Left Alive by Sarah Davis-Goff, and How Iceland Changed the World by Egil Bjarnason. The zombie novel is pretty clearly a part one. I enjoyed it fine - the zombies weren't ever-present and there were some elements that were fun about it (such as the Irish setting) - but it isn't so unique.
The one that's worth your time is the book about Iceland.
Bjarnson has a great sense of narration, and there's lots of fun things here. He makes good points without overdoing it or taking himself or his premise too literally. I chose it because I am attending the wedding of a friend who is marrying an Icelander - they already like in Reykjavik - and I thought it would be fun to know more. She told me her dad is also reading the book, and that she'll put us together for the reception so we only regale each other and not the other guests. She's wise in that.
I am not a fan of Dan Brown, but I read most of his books. Many years ago, I read "The Holy Blood and Holy Grail". So when "Da Vinici Code" came out, I was very disappointed. I do not doubt Dan Brown's intelligence, but I found "Da Vinici Code" very shallow as compared to "the Holy Blood" book. For "Origin", Dan Brown borrowed a lot of materials from Yuval Noah Harari. In fact, I just googled the subject and I was right about the connection. The plot, the characters, etc are actually not believeable.
I spent the pandemic year doing a lot more reading. Kinda got hooked on crime novels. This one stood out.
The Hollow Kingdom, a novel that was shortlisted for the Thurber Prize. Not bad, considering it's narrated by a semi-domesticated crow from Seattle (mostly, other animals make cameos) because all the humans have mysteriously died in a gruesome post-apocalyptic event that isn't clearly explained (for sound reasons, given the narrative) by Kira Jane Buxton
With rare exceptions, the most innovative and successful people in a field are not early specializers. That shouldn't be news, but despite the raft of evidence proving it most fields keep moving to hyper-specialization and the head start mentality.
Rachel Carson -- The Sea Around Us
FYI, her The Edge of the Sea is currently 57 cents on Amazon for some reason.
In Vol. 4 Mark finishes high school, goes to Mars, and meets up with Titan and Machine Head while Amber gets suspicious and Debbie spirals downward. We get some of the largest divergence from the show so far, and the writing takes a big step forward in this collection. You can tell Kirkman was really dialing in what he wanted the story to be at this point. It contains issues 14-19 and a summer special that's about 5-6 pages long.
Getting ready to start Vol. 5 this evening, covering issue 0 and 20-24, then Vol. 6 covering 25-30. Plan to knock out Vol. 7-9 by the end of summer, catching me up to what's collected in Compendium #1.
Wise Blood by Flannery O' Connor. A 1952 novel about a Southern man who starts an anti-religious ministry.
Under the Dome: Walks With Paul Celan, a memoir by French poet Jean Daive recounting regular walks taken by two poets separated by about 25 years of age and different native languages, but who translated each others work. Some of the walks are interesting, some of them are two guys exchanging non-sequiters in the hope that a poem or something might emerge. The walks ended in 1970 with Celan's suicide.
The Horde by Marie Favereau. About the late medieval Mongol Golden Horde. The author is French, but has taught at Oxford.
Really fun at this point. Everyone heads off to college, we get quick backstories of some key characters, Allen the Alien makes another fun appearance, Mark spends months on another planet, a major character in the comics gets his storyline's first arc completed, Amber finds out who Mark is, and the half-brother shows up. Gets us through issue 30 of the comics along with the origin stories, issue #0, and the summer special.
My second pairing of fiction/non from the library haul is The Quantum Magician by Derek Kunsken and Eleanor and Hick: The Love Affair that Shaped A First Lady by Susan Quinn. Both are interesting. The first is a combination SciFi/heist story featuring the titular character - part of a genetically modified variant of human that can see into the quantum realm/past Newtonian physics - putting together a team and carrying out a heist amidst some pretty complicated political struggles. The second details one (and refers to several others) relationship Eleanor Roosevelt had as first lady, this one with a one-time AP journalist named Lorena Hickok. I am a big fan of ER; the press was pretty kind to her and FDR both for the relationships they maintained beyond their marriage.
Similar to when I read the book The Unwomanly Face of War, I found myself wanting to know more about the source material and the process of writing the book. There's no overt proof that ER and Hickok were lovers but they surely were in love, and because of that historians in different times and places suggested the letters between them should be destroyed. Probably what I need is the right segment on "Fresh Air" or something like that to hear more.
The Free World: Art and Thought in the Cold War an incredibly thorough yet succinct (though still weighing in at 800 pages) covering (mostly) American culture from the end of World War II to the height of Viet Nam. Amazing coverage: poetry, politics and diplomacy, pop music, art and so on... by Louis Menand. Damn fine book full of chapter sections that could easily have been full length books, though not superficial. Menand may very well be the best stylist of any American university professor.
Lucy Gayheart - Willa Cather
Book One (which is more than half of the novel) can be tedious, but Books Two and Three make this one of Cather's best novels.
The closing sentences are brilliant, if I remember correctly.
Next pairing, starting with a really intriguing noir novel called The Nightworkers, set in Brooklyn, centered on a family of money launderers. Lots of interesting, interconnected people, all doing things I can understand, in a place and a time and a way that is visceral on the page. It's a debut novel for Bryan Selfon, and I recommend it.
The non-fiction book is Mo Rocca's Mobituaries: Great Lives Worth Reliving. I judge it a terrible library book but probably a fun book to own. It does not lend itself well to a read-through but as a coffee table book or a bathroom book, the numerous vignettes would make great 5-10 minute (or so) interludes. But with pressure to return it looming, it doesn't work so well - too much in too little time, really. (I have since learned he has a podcast of the same name. Might have come first even.)
It was a Jeopardy! category. (Mobituaries).
Same the same to my wife as we watched the episode last night! Category was interesting. Will definitely need to check it out.
Tozer is one of the more interesting people of the last century or so of Evangelicalism. He preached non-materialist living, and practiced that by doing things like never owning a car and travelling by foot, bus, or train from his home on the southside of Chicago and signing away almost all of the royalties he received for his 12 books and other publications. He openly, an aggressively, opposed the rising politicization of churches that he saw coming as early as the late 40s, and probably delayed the rise of the "religious" right by a few decades. He was a simple, straightforward guy who embraced mystery and a bit of mysticism with a view of the Bible that didn't fit any particular denominational view.
Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. The classic 1850s abolitionist novel. First time reading it.
Just finished this myself. Very good stuff. Will have to read Augustus soon (I read Stoner in Feb/Mar).