Forum Index Off Topic Off-Topic's Shelf Life: Literarily the best thread on this forum.

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The purpose of this thread: share what book/s you've read, lately or otherwise, recommend or naysay. Any genre, any length, any author. While we may all have POE in common, I firmly believe our reading tastes are likely quite diverse and easily justified.

Guidelines

Please start your post with the name of the book and the author. Other details are welcome, but those two are essential.

Books only -- excerpts are also fine, but the source has to be a published book that others can go read;

One book per post -- this isn't an author discussion thread. Keep it focused, keep it clear, keep it tight;

No untagged spoilers, especially if the book is heavily plot driven. Consider this an exercise in discussing something without ruining for others, even if it's a really, really old book. Don't assume anything;

and finally

Please do not deliberately double post reviews/new books -- share your book thoughts, let others take them in and respond. And if that results in the death of the thread, so be it. ;)

And since I've already posted, it's now up to one of you to get this one started. Who'll flex first?

edit: clarified a guideline.

鬼殺し
Jun 03, 2019 03:03:17 AM

101 Uses for a Dead Cat, by Simon Bond

Whether you hate cats or love cats (maybe especially if you love cats), it's a worthwhile "read".

aggromagnet
Jun 03, 2019 03:42:13 AM

I'm shamelessly typing this to 'bookmark' this thread and see how long it survives without being bumped by OP. And because I'm an asshole. ^_^

The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan I started years ago. I don't remember which part, but I finally read about the "thing" a unique item in PoE was named after.

Damn you, aggromagnet, I wanted to be first so much. Delete that post, eh? :P

Iangyratu
Jun 03, 2019 03:52:41 AM

English name: "The Swarm: A Novel of the Deep"
Original name (German): "Der Schwarm"
Author: Frank Schätzing

This is one of my favourites. It is rather long (just short of 1000 pages), but I couldn't put it down until I had finished reading it the first time. It has a LOT of complex characters in it, all of which have their own story thread. Some end up meeting and interacting with each other, a few don't. One thing I greatly enjoyed about it was the degree of scientific accuracy. Schätzing made sure that anything and everything in this book is at the very least plausible.

If you're somewhat interested in (marine) biology and are looking for a good story with a certain degree of mystery to it, then I can highly recommend this one. Going into any further detail without spoiling something would be impossible.

Please keep in mind that I do not know how well the english translation holds up as I only read it in German. Considering that it was a best seller over here for quite a while and got translated to a total of 18 languages, I guess it's safe to assume that the translation should be pretty good though.

FCK42
Jun 03, 2019 04:09:48 AM

Thank you. :)

__



Underworld
Don DeLillo
First published 1997
827pp

DeLillo's a name-drop literary author, like Pynchon or Franzen I guess. I've never actually had a serious conversation about him with anyone and this is the only book I've read by him. It's also the only book I own by him and it's been sitting on my bookshelf for well over a decade. It seemed enough that I had a damn DeLillo on my shelf, but recently I was like, I'm going to read and finish it this time. So I did.

It starts dense and doesn't let up but once you get into the rhythm of how the dialogue goes, the 'as if you were there' half-sentences and slang (oh so much slang), it becomes fairly smooth reading.

So the wiki entry for the plot makes sense mainly because it skims like hell. This is a Great American Novel that aims to capture an entire era of the country's history: the 1950s-90s, so basically the entire cold war. Anything that happened during that period is covered in this book through the various perspectives. I like that the novel achieved this without seeming like a textbook or chronicle. It felt natural that the cast of characters, all of whom are clearly connected (from a reader's perspective), would engage with things like Vietnam, the hippy movement, the Rolling Stones, duck-and-cover, the mafia, race riots, and so on.

Despite the meandering, there is a main character. His name is Nick Shay, and he's an Italian-American waste management specialist. He's in his 60s the first time we see him in the early 1990s. The novel then works backwards, roughly by decade, all the way to 1951. Nick Shay's lifetime basically dictates the span of the novel.

Baseball, that great All-American sport, is the single thread that runs through the whole book. A particular baseball, in fact, that Nick owns in the 90s, has its own journey from the game in 1951 to his hands. One of my favourite characters is the obsessive dude determined to trace the lineage and prove the ball is 'the one'.

I also very much like the portrayal of Lenny Bruce.

I hardly need to highlight just how clever the book is but for a clever book it's very accessible, very original, and very easy to follow in the moment. Some passages feel out of place but they make sense later. Those passages were my roadblocks and they are, overall, a con rather than a pro to me. I get the literary reasoning, I just don't like it as a reader.

I'm eager to reread it now that I know who everyone is and where they fit, but I'll give it some time to percolate.

I cannot recommend this book to younger readers. It's squarely aimed at people who have lived long enough to accept that mediocrity is the destination for the vast majority of people, even those born under very bright stars. It's for those who've sat with the dying and wondered if their own demise will be as insignificant. It's a fatalistic book in that light, but the past is so vibrantly drawn, we can almost forget where we started, and that it was where we end up.

Arbitrary rating: ****1/2 / *****

Lose yourself in the twilight years of America's global naivete

鬼殺し
Jun 03, 2019 04:11:09 AM

"
FCK42 wrote:
English name: "The Swarm: A Novel of the Deep"
Original name (German): "Der Schwarm"
Author: Frank Schätzing

This is one of my favourites. It is rather long (just short of 1000 pages), but I couldn't put it down until I had finished reading it the first time. It has a LOT of complex characters in it, all of which have their own story thread. Some end up meeting and interacting with each other, a few don't. One thing I greatly enjoyed about it was the degree of scientific accuracy. Schätzing made sure that anything and everything in this book is at the very least plausible.

If you're somewhat interested in (marine) biology and are looking for a good story with a certain degree of mystery to it, then I can highly recommend this one. Going into any further detail without spoiling something would be impossible.

Please keep in mind that I do not know how well the english translation holds up as I only read it in German. Considering that it was a best seller over here for quite a while and got translated to a total of 18 languages, I guess it's safe to assume that the translation should be pretty good though.


Noted! Having just come off a catchup of The Expanse (the show, not the books), I've rekindled an admiration for science fiction where the fiction works with the science rather than around it, or even better, is dictated by the science. I'll look into this one.

edit: purchased on Kindle!

鬼殺し
Jun 03, 2019 04:17:44 AM

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, first published 2008.

This is something of a light read, recommended for a summer holiday. It mostly deals with issues of our time - civil rights, privacy, security, social activism. The sequel, Homeland, delves even deeper into some of these issues. Both are considered "young adult novels" and even though I am 15 years older than the protagonist in Little Brother (he is 17) I was able to relate to him and his gang quite well.

In my opinion, both books are perfectly suited for a lazy summer holiday read.

eperon
Jun 03, 2019 10:56:18 AM

Oh the choices here, I suppose I'll have to be content with my second favourite though, as someone seems to have already mentioned The Wheel of Time.



Wizard's First Rule
Terry Goodkind
Published in 1994

By extension, a lot of what i'm about to say encompasses the entire Sword of Truth series of books, however I will try to stay on topic with the first one.

I had mixed feelings about this book to start. After spending the past year or so reading Robert Jordan before picking it up, the writing as whole felt quite shallow and boring. (I will admit this was partially me being spoiled the beautiful depth of The Wheel of Time.)

I read a little, and put the book down. Read a little more and once again put the book down. Conceptually the story looked inviting, but the entrance was dry enough to keep putting me off.

However!

A few days later I committed to giving it a real chance and reading a few hundred pages and I was a little surprised. As a whole it still felt a little rough around the edges, and the scope of character development was narrower than I was used to; but I was finally gripped.

In general, the progression of how each key protagonist is developed starts out very standard to the fantasy genre, but this shifts wildly and makes for a truly thrilling read as their personalities are built up from many different angles.

The first book is crammed with plot points, but as the series progresses the finesse of Goodkind is noticeably developed in his quite unique writing style, and makes this quite gargantuan list of books an absolute pleasure to sink your time into.

I would absolutely recommend this series to any fantasy enthusiast, and as the final book of the series was just recently published, it's totally possible to binge them all in a row now. (Something i'm totally considering doing now I have my hands on the last book!)

Zionyaru
Jun 03, 2019 16:22:40 PM

Another quick and very enjoyable summer read:

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan, first published 2012.

Rather fast paced, this fun little gem has a bit of everything - adventure, fantasy, mystery - actually read it twice, once when it first came out, and one more time last summer. Enternaining and thought provoking at the same time.

eperon
Jun 03, 2019 16:49:39 PM

Embers by Sándor Márai.

The narrator, an elderly general, tells the reader about his friendship with the guest he is awaiting for dinner, a guest he hasn't seen for many years. Both became best friends while at a cadet academy in Vienna in the last decades of the austro-hungarian empire, but while the narrator came from a wealthy aristocratic family, his friend's family were not wealthy. As the book progresses, the narrator leads us through his thoughts on why the friends didn't see each other for so long.

This is the only book ever that made me stand up and read aloud.

It is amazing. Over the years, I must have gifted a dozen copies to friends, and only stopped when there was no one left that I thought might enjoy the book. Read it.

Ersatzdrummel
Jun 03, 2019 17:35:59 PM
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