What are you reading?

Nick Shinn's picture

I’ve just reached 1850 in Claire Tomalin’s Charles Dickens: A Life.
I bought it for a long plane ride, primarily for my interest in the beginnings of the modern magazine, and to learn something of the lives of creatives in that era, paying special attention to the relationship between capital, freelancing and technology in emergent media.

I did interrupt my reading to skip through Shot and a Ghost by James Willstrop, lent to me by a squash buddy. I left out the personal bits and concentrated on the matches and his diet and training. Quite a different kind of personality than Dickens, but still young, and he may yet follow an unconventional path when he retires from professional competition.

tourdeforce's picture

Ha, good one :)

Currently, this one:
Rant: An Oral Biography of Buster Casey

For those who love Chuck Palahniuk.

John Hudson's picture

A.S. Byatt's most recent, Ragnarok, which is an interesting case of a work of fiction that compels me on more by the quality of its prose than by its story.

In non-fiction, I'm currently part way through a collection of essays about the Putney debates of 1647, and Kropotkin's Mutual Aid: a factor in evolution.

On my ebook reader, which I mostly read when I'm out and about, I'm halfway through Robert Tressel's proletarian classic The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, and a few chapters into Gary Taubes' brilliant demolishing of bad nutritional non-science, Good Calories, Bad Calories.

Nick Shinn's picture

I read Tressel’s book a while ago, but some of it has stuck with me. Recently I was looking for old doors to replace modern “improvements” made to our Victorian home, and came across a door with faux wood-graining of the kind that would have been done by the protagonist. If I had not read the book, I would probably have dismissed it as crap, and continued to look for a door of better quality wood (or painted over it), but knowing the story behind the effect, I was chuffed to install it as is—even though it doesn’t really match anything else in the room.

eliason's picture

Just finished reading The Hobbit with my daughter. On to The Fellowship of the Ring!

I also am in the middle of Craig Thompson's autobiographical graphic novel Blankets (and have Habibi by the same author on deck).

riccard0's picture

Excellent taste, Craig! :-)

oldnick's picture

Byatt's Frederica Potter trilogy was enrossing—if, for no other reason that its sheer virtuoisity—the first time around, but I'm more inclined to want to revisit Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy, as I find Mrs. Rupa Mehra far more enjoyable than Ms. Potter's.

mike_duggan's picture

wolf, by Joseph Smith, & Ask the dust, by John Fante

John Hudson's picture

Byatt's Frederica Potter trilogy

You know there were four novels in this series altogether, yes?

The Virgin in the Garden.
Still Life.
Babel Tower.
A Whistling Woman.

The middle two were my favourites.

Té Rowan's picture

Nothing so posh here. Fanfiction, namely by the FF.net authors Maximara and Pyeknu with stopovers at vectorsite and quadibloc. All of this is on a personal and private mirror, so quadibloc.com's expiration affects me less than it would otherwise.

marcox's picture

I'm in the middle of Tearing Down the Wall of Sound: The Rise and Fall of Phil Spector, by Mick Brown.

oldnick's picture

@John Hudson,

Since my reading the first three, the fourth installment of the Frederica Potter saga has come out. I suppose I ought to check out what challenges remain beyond the loss of virginity…

Paul Cutler's picture

This thread.

And Triumph of the Sparrow by Shinkichi Takahashi.


John Hudson's picture

A Whistling Woman is worth reading, Nick, but I did find that it came out so long after Babel Tower that I couldn't remember a lot of the previous story and some of the characters hadn't stuck in my mind.

dberlow's picture

I hate when that happens!

I'm reading 1493 six or seven years after 1491, but I remember all the continents, so it's not too bad.

Richard Fink's picture

Meditations on Violence: A Comparison of Martial Arts Training and Real World Violence by Rory Miller
A book I never in a million years would have thought I'd find thought-provoking and fascinating but I am. And for that reason - as an anomaly - I mention it.

Marcox - the book about Phil Spector caught my eye at some point. Any good?

Ryan Maelhorn's picture

Trying to get through the second Game of Thrones book, Clash of Kings.

William Berkson's picture

John, I see you're reading Taubes' brilliant Good Calories Bad Calories. It's great history of science with contemporary relevance. I found it way too stuffed with references and proofs from the literature, so I just skimmed most of it.

John Hudson's picture

Bill, I find Taubes' mass of citations and detailed explanation of individual studies very reassuring. His thesis, that pretty much the entirety of public policy and medical advice relating to diet and nutrition is without scientific merit, would be hard to believe otherwise.

By the way, he wrote an excellent article for Discover this month. Well worth reading.

William Berkson's picture

Taubes' evidence is very important to make his case, but piling it on so much makes it less fun of a read. I think it is possible to push some of the arguments to appendices and keep the read more fun. But anyway Taubes is great. Thanks for the link to the article. It is delightful and convincing.

marcox's picture

Richard -- I'm a big fan of '60s pop, so the Phil Spector book is right up my alley. While it can be a little repetitive (seemingly everyone he worked with felt he was talented but insecure and manipulative), it's redeemed by interesting tidbits about the songwriting/publishing/recording industry. And I'm about the read the part about his work with the Beatles, which is bound to be interesting.

John Lyttle's picture

I am reading Boom! by Mark Haddon – borrowed from my 11-year-old daughter. A Vonnegutesque sci-fi comic novel set in Helvetica with Times heads and a little Comic Sans thrown in. Publisher: Doubleday Canada, an imprint of Random House.

John Lyttle's picture

Follow-up images of inside pages from Boom!

Bert Vanderveen's picture

Extremely ‘light’ stuff — almost floating; in other words: thrillers, eg Michael Connelly, Baldacci, Lee Child, Ridpath, Nesbø, etc. Guys and gals who produce at least one book a year (the dead ones’ books are in storage, to be reread in a while, or passed on to other people).
On the other hand: biographies (Warburg), history (prof. Israel), inside stories (Michael Lewis) and trade books (Roger Escoffon!).
I don’t read as much as I did 40 years ago (12 a week), but try to get at least one a week behind my belt. I hardly ever read books in my native language, I prefer English and a few German ones now and then (Kehlmann).

processcamera's picture

The Old Way of Seeing
(How Architecture Lost Its Magic and How to Get It Back) by Jonathan Hale.

CanwllCorfe's picture

I forgot that awhile back I bookmarked a link to a few Elizabethan sonnet cycles on Project Gutenberg's site, so right now I'm reading Idea by Michael Drayton.

Queneau's picture

The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad (a true classic of language and irony!)

in non-fiction I'm currently reading Arrival City by Doug Saunders, which is very interesting (for a different perspective on slums, I have Mike Davis’ Planet of Slums lined up)

And I’m basically always re-reading Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino, for the illustration/mapping project I have been planning for years but now finally seems to be taking off, slowly.

stayfocused's picture

Manana Forever by Jorge G. Castaneda

2/3s of the way through and I am not sure the author identifies or agrees with even a small percentage of his countrymen.

Karl Stange's picture

The Dark Philosophers by Gwyn Thomas and Shanties from the Seven Seas, collected by Stan Hugill.

Té Rowan's picture

For once, not fic or tech. The Alps by W.M. Conway.

John Hudson's picture

Harnessed : how language and music mimicked nature and transformed ape to man by Mark Changizi.

Interview with Changizi.

Nick Shinn's picture

Not first edition unfortunately (hey, it was $2.95), but at least it’s set in a contemporary typeface—Baskerville. Unlike the Dickens, set in Bembo; I really detest reading books from or about the mid 19th century that are set in Renaissance faces. I look forward to the day when I can change the font (but still prefer paper today).

Otranto is not quite what I expected, the supernatural events are a bit silly, starting with a member of the royal household being crushed to death by an enormous helmet. Anyway, this is my introduction to “real” Gothic literature, apart from Frankenstein of course and the satirical Nightmare Abbey.

russellm's picture

The RaIlway Man

Eric Lomax, a British army soldier, was captured by the Japanese during the Singapore campaign of 1942. A railroad buff since a child, he took strange pleasure in his work as a POW on the Burma-Siam Railroad, which was later the subject of the film Bridge Over the River Kwai. When his captors discovered his detailed drawings of the railway, he was suspected as a spy and tortured for years. Fifty years later he discovered that the interpreter during his tortures was still alive. The two arranged a meeting and Lomax forgave him. Here is the exciting, moving and truthful account.

John Hudson's picture

I've heard very good things abour The Railway Man and look forward to reading it. My father fought in the Burma campaign.

russellm's picture

excellent book. You won't be disappointed.

Té Rowan's picture

IMP-77 source code.

Karl Stange's picture

Structures, Or Why Things Don't Fall Down by J.E. Gordon.

John Hudson's picture

Sheldon Pollock, ‘Crisis in the classics’ [PDF].

Bert Vanderveen's picture

Googled stuff online about strokes and what happens to people who suffer from them. Because my girlfriend had one 12 days ago and still is unconscious.

eliason's picture

Oh no Bert! Wishing her, and you, well.

dezcom's picture

Best wishes for her recovery, Bert.

Nick Shinn's picture

I’m sorry to hear that.
Best wishes.

William Berkson's picture

Best wishes for a speedy recovery of your loved one, Bert.

John, thanks for the link to the Changizi interview. Very speculative, and fascinating.

russellm's picture

Bert, best wishes for a full and quick recovery to your girlfriend!!

RadioB's picture

Bert my mother had a stroke a while ago, she was also unconscious for several days ... she recovered and is now doing very well after she had physiotherapy, I hope and expect the same recovery for your girlfriend.

reading Anna Karenina ... set in Sabon.

Bert Vanderveen's picture

Thanks for all the good wishes. Hope that I will have the herewithall to read a real book soon… Last bio I read (three weeks ago) was Winston Churchills ‘My Early Life’ (1930) which was very enjoyable.

During my stay in Paris I had a discussion about Coco Chanel, with a model who is Mr. Lagerfelds muze now. She did not want to believe that Miss Chanel had a very murky wartime past. I have read a biography some years ago that had all the releevant facts. Do any one of you fellows know what book I was referring to? (I don’t keep the books I have bought and read, I pass them on or put them in storage…)

eliason's picture

Here's a NY Times overview of recent books on Coco Chanel, including the one you're likely thinking of.

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