Author Topic: What books are we reading at the moment ?  (Read 403417 times)

Re: What books are we reading at the moment ?
« Reply #5575 on: February 18, 2019, 02:01:37 pm »
Just about to start the latest Inspector (or rather Chief Inspector) MClean from James Oswald.
We are making a New World (Paul Nash, 1918)

hellymedic

  • Just do it!
Re: What books are we reading at the moment ?
« Reply #5576 on: February 20, 2019, 04:18:40 pm »
Chain it to the book.  We have a book called Stereo Star Maps and the viewer for that was last seen around 25 years ago.

Jeez: just checked publication date and found that some arrant wanker has pinched the title for a pop crap-o-rama. Suspend by nuts until properly respectful/dead.

This volume has a slot for the viewer in the thick rear cover board.

T42

  • Tea tank
Re: What books are we reading at the moment ?
« Reply #5577 on: February 20, 2019, 05:11:04 pm »
Yeah, so has ours.
I've dusted all those old bottles and set them up straight.

Re: What books are we reading at the moment ?
« Reply #5578 on: February 26, 2019, 04:37:11 pm »
Having just finished Means Of Ascent, I'm now starting on Master Of The Senate, which is Volume III of Robert A. Caro's biography of Lyndon Johnson. Caro's first two volumes paint a picture of incredible corruption in US politics at the state level (at least in the state of Texas, although he suggests that other states weren't much better), and Johnson is portrayed as being among the most corrupt. The first few pages of Master Of The Senate seem to show Johnson in a somewhat more favorable light, we'll see what happens.

Mr Larrington

  • A bit ov a lyv wyr by slof standirds
  • Custard Wallah
    • Mr Larrington's Automatic Diary
Re: What books are we reading at the moment ?
« Reply #5579 on: February 27, 2019, 12:17:59 pm »
Certainly the impression of Johnson I got from Max "Hitler" Hastings' Vietnam history was that he was a massive git.
External Transparent Wall Inspection Operative & Mayor of Mortagne-au-Perche
Satisfying the Bloodlust of the Masses in Peacetime

citoyen

  • Cat 6 Racer
Re: What books are we reading at the moment ?
« Reply #5580 on: March 06, 2019, 12:58:54 pm »
Mr Phillips by John Lanchester

I found Capital infuriating but very much enjoyed The Debt To Pleasure. Unfortunately, this is a lot more like the former than the latter.

For example, there's some classic Sliding Doors geography in a passage describing a Monday morning train journey into central London - his train passes Battersea Power Station then Battersea Dogs' Home, which must mean he is on a train heading *out* of Victoria, so not as likely to be packed with commuters as he describes. He then gets off at the next station, which is not specified but it is implied that it is Battersea Park because he then goes into the park. However, if you're on the bit of line that goes past the Dogs' Home, the next stop is Wandsworth Road...

I wouldn't mind but it reflects a generally lazy approach - this is not a writer who researches but one who relies on his past experience. I could list several other factual inaccuracies that would be easily resolved with a little bit of attention to detail.

I'll stick with it because like Capital it is an easy read and moderately amusing in places, and short enough that it will be over soon enough.

ETA: I just looked up my review of Capital and I seem to have had stronger feelings about it at the time than I remember six years later:
Quote
Hated it. Hated the glib, smug writing. Hated the dull, predictable plot. Hated nearly all the characters, none of whom amount to anything more than enumerations of superficial traits and clichéd behaviours. There's a bit late on that sums up why I hated it, when two new characters are introduced simultaneously, their choice of coffee indicating how we're supposed to feel about them (one sympathetic, the other not). The author uses hackneyed cultural reference points like this in place of true insight into his characters' personalities.

To give Lanchester some credit, this is a well researched book. Every aspect of the lives of the characters is covered in a wealth of detail. As a snapshot of London in 2008, it's certainly broad and ambitious in its scope. It's just that for all that detail, the author appears to have nothing interesting to say. It's just boring. And about 200 pages too long.

At least Mr Phillips isn't annoying me quite as much... so far.

Re: What books are we reading at the moment ?
« Reply #5581 on: March 06, 2019, 02:16:35 pm »
Had a bit of a splurge on cycling books recently:

1) The World of Cycling According to G (Geraint Thomas) : yes it's ghost-written and fairly light and fluffy but it is also interesting and funny in places and I enjoyed it.

2) Chris Boardman's autobiography (can't remember the exact title). Much more a standard "this happened, then that happened" than G's book. Again interesting - I could actually have done with it being longer, as I felt some things got skipped past a bit, especially in the early years when he seemed to go from moderately promising TTer to Olympic champion in about 3 pages...

3) Sunday in Hell by William Fotheringham. "Behind the lens of the greatest cycling film of all time" says the subtitle: it is a book about the film "A Sunday in Hell" about the 1976 Paris-Roubaix. There's bit about the film-maker, the cyclists, the cameramen, the history of the race, the pave - fascinating. I'd reccommend all 3 of the books I've mentioned, but if you only want to read one, read this one.

Redlight

  • Enjoying life in the slow lane
Re: What books are we reading at the moment ?
« Reply #5582 on: March 06, 2019, 03:28:09 pm »

For example, there's some classic Sliding Doors geography.....

I wouldn't mind but it reflects a generally lazy approach

I know what you mean. When I come across that kind of thing it makes me sceptical towards the rest of the book.   It's even worse when you encounter it in non-fiction.  For example, I came across a reference, in a book touted as beingly impressively researched, to somebody taking a ferry* from Newhaven to Hamburg, which is clearly ridiculous. There was no need for the statement to be there other than to give the impression that the author had really done his homework but it then made me doubt most of the more 'interesting' facts that he claimed to have unearthed.

* I also have a vague recollection of an early episode of the X Files in which one or other of the leads referred to a suspicious activity taking place on a cargo ship sailing from Leeds to Bergen. 
Between the Disney abattoir and the chemical refinery

Re: What books are we reading at the moment ?
« Reply #5583 on: March 07, 2019, 02:04:58 pm »
And I recently read a book, by a British Asian author, that referred to the main character shifting gears - in his Prius. Really annoyed me. And even if the author really is that ignorant, surely editors are there to catch such idiocies.
We are making a New World (Paul Nash, 1918)

citoyen

  • Cat 6 Racer
Re: What books are we reading at the moment ?
« Reply #5584 on: March 07, 2019, 04:55:48 pm »
I had to go back and re-read the relevant passage to check I wasn't misunderstanding something. He does actually specify getting on at Clapham Junction, so it's feasible that he's getting off at Battersea Park*, but the bit that threw me was the line "the spires of Battersea Power Station loom up over the rail tracks ahead", which aside from being hackneyed writing is a bit of a stretch of the imagination if you're on a train approaching Battersea Park station.

Hmmmm. Maybe I'm being a tad harsh, but I'd be more inclined to forgive his poetic licence if I didn't find him so irritating generally.


*ETA: later on he mentions the train's destination being Waterloo, so he must be getting off at Queenstown Road, which is the bit of line that heads away from the power station, not the bit that heads towards it.  ::-)

ian

  • fatuously disingenuous
    • The Suburban Survival Guide
Re: What books are we reading at the moment ?
« Reply #5585 on: March 07, 2019, 07:18:18 pm »
Little glitches don't so much bother me, but Battersea was mostly grim chimneys like someone had upturned an impracticably large coffee table. Admittedly, now barricaded by the identikit glass blocks that offer anyone who can afford them the opportunity to expose themselves to thousands of Victoria-bound commuters and quite possibly little else. Until someone figures out how to squeeze another block between them and the tracks in which case it'll be broadsides of unasked-for nudity. If, of course, anyone lived in half of them other than the ghosts of non-domiciled tax dodgers.

Still enjoying Revelation Space, and I even found the third book in the garage in a box of books that had never been unpacked after the house move (*cough* five years ago). It's just about stopped smelling a bit frusty. That said, I fear it, because it's the sort of hefy hardback that will undoubtedly become my tombstone when I attempt to read it in the bath. I'm almost tempted to rebuy it on the Kindle. Almost, I'm also a cheapskate and I'll drown for my principles.

(In other bad news, it's inspired me to write volume three of my magnum sci-fi opus.)
!nataS pihsroW

Mr Larrington

  • A bit ov a lyv wyr by slof standirds
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Re: What books are we reading at the moment ?
« Reply #5586 on: March 08, 2019, 12:57:44 pm »
Just finished Ben Macintyre's "The Spy And The Traitor", the tale of Oleg Gordievsky.  KGB man spies for BRITAIN, is rumbled by The Man, spirited out of the USSR in the kind of operation you normally read about in clunky spy thrillers.
External Transparent Wall Inspection Operative & Mayor of Mortagne-au-Perche
Satisfying the Bloodlust of the Masses in Peacetime

Re: What books are we reading at the moment ?
« Reply #5587 on: March 09, 2019, 11:55:18 am »
Reading a book on Ancient Britons by Neil Oliver. So far he seems to be implying that Earth is the only planet with a significant axial tilt and that there is no evidence that modern humans ever interbred with neanderthals.
“There is no point in using the word 'impossible' to describe something that has clearly happened.”
― Douglas Adams

T42

  • Tea tank
Re: What books are we reading at the moment ?
« Reply #5588 on: March 09, 2019, 12:52:35 pm »
His bum's out the window: Uranus has an axial tilt of 98°.
I've dusted all those old bottles and set them up straight.

citoyen

  • Cat 6 Racer
Re: What books are we reading at the moment ?
« Reply #5589 on: March 09, 2019, 01:09:42 pm »
The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen

Added this to my Kindle ages ago after hearing an interview with the author and thinking it sounded interesting, but never got round to it. Glad I finally did - it's a good read, not at all literarily challenging but well written none the less.

Story concerns a 10yo girl who lives with her father (mother is dead) in an unspecified industrial town in a rather ambiguous time period (cultural references range from cellophane Lucozade bottle wrappers to Richard Dawkins). They're members of a Christian doomsday sect and as such the girl is regarded as weird and bullied at school. She prays for a miracle to prevent the bullying and her wish appears to be granted, leading her to think she has special powers - exacerbated by the fact that she hears voices in her head, which she takes to be God. After a few more 'miracles', the law of unintended consequences kicks in... It's written from the girl's unworldly point of view, so there's lots of stuff that is only hinted at, putting her miracles into context, but it all adds up to a surprisingly interesting exploration of the nature of faith.

The blurb includes a quote from Emma Donoghue and that made me think of certain similarities with Room (mainly the naive young narrator with limited world view).

Recommended.

Mr Larrington

  • A bit ov a lyv wyr by slof standirds
  • Custard Wallah
    • Mr Larrington's Automatic Diary
Re: What books are we reading at the moment ?
« Reply #5590 on: March 10, 2019, 11:36:16 am »
Reading a book on Ancient Britons by Neil Oliver. So far he seems to be implying that Earth is the only planet with a significant axial tilt and that there is no evidence that modern humans ever interbred with neanderthals.

Professor Alice Roberts said otherwise about Neanderthals and I'll take her word over his any day ;)
External Transparent Wall Inspection Operative & Mayor of Mortagne-au-Perche
Satisfying the Bloodlust of the Masses in Peacetime

Re: What books are we reading at the moment ?
« Reply #5591 on: March 10, 2019, 03:23:13 pm »
Certainly the impression of Johnson I got from Max "Hitler" Hastings' Vietnam history was that he was a massive git.

Mr Hastings was much too kind to LBJ, and the "more favorable light" that I referred to didn't last long. LBJ was an evil bastard who did a fair bit of damage to the world, and he was a thoroughly unpleasant individual on a personal level.

citoyen

  • Cat 6 Racer
Re: What books are we reading at the moment ?
« Reply #5592 on: March 12, 2019, 01:13:40 pm »
Lanterne Rouge by Max Leonard

A history of the men who came last in the Tour de France. Very enjoyable. It's not a story of failure (because after all, to finish last, first you must finish) rather an insight into the peculiar psyche of professional cyclists. It's well researched and well structured, and generally well written - despite occasional lapses into journalistic banality and a few pointless digressions. Lots of great anecdotes, too - not included purely for entertainment's sake but by way of providing genuinely interesting insights into how the sport works. The chapter on Wim Vansevenant is a good example - I was aware of his feat in finishing last three years in a row but it turns out there's a lot more to his achievement than meets the eye.

Highly recommended to anyone with even a passing interest in the Tour.

Re: What books are we reading at the moment ?
« Reply #5593 on: March 12, 2019, 01:37:00 pm »
I'm a big fan of Max Leonard's - his 'Higher Calling' is also excellent. I must confess the journalistic banalities didn't jump out at me when I read it; IMO he's a cut above the usual as a stylist.

citoyen

  • Cat 6 Racer
Re: What books are we reading at the moment ?
« Reply #5594 on: March 12, 2019, 01:48:39 pm »
I'm a big fan of Max Leonard's - his 'Higher Calling' is also excellent. I must confess the journalistic banalities didn't jump out at me when I read it; IMO he's a cut above the usual as a stylist.

I've worked with Max before on some of his actual journalism so perhaps I'm just more sensitive to it... but granted, his style is certainly better than the average cycling hack. To me, the book's real strength is the depth and quality of the research, and how he constructs a narrative from the bare facts, rather than just recounting anecdotes and listing stats.

I'll add Higher Calling to the must-read list as well.

Re: What books are we reading at the moment ?
« Reply #5595 on: March 12, 2019, 07:33:14 pm »
Ha, yes, I try to leave my editor's hat off when I'm reading for pleasure; sometimes I even succeed. Anecdotes and stats strung together are unfortunately rather too common in cycle writing (is this the case for other sports writing?), but I guess that's partly the influence of the daily newspaper report being carried over to book length.

Re: What books are we reading at the moment ?
« Reply #5596 on: March 15, 2019, 01:58:19 pm »
Pax Romana: War, Peace and Conquest in the Roman World - Adrian Goldsworthy

and

Legions of Rome: The definitive history of every Roman legion - Stephen Dando-Collins

plus some Disc World novels for light relief.
I think you'll find it's a bit more complicated than that.

Re: What books are we reading at the moment ?
« Reply #5597 on: March 20, 2019, 01:28:41 am »
‘The Descent of Man’ by Grayson Perry. I got to page 26, and could take no more of his solipsistic, banal, bollox. Think Russell Brand in a frock. An opportunity wasted. I picked it up for a project. Fortunately, one of the other books I picked up at the same time was ‘Amateur’, by Thomas Page McBee, which is proving to be an excellent antidote.

citoyen

  • Cat 6 Racer
Re: What books are we reading at the moment ?
« Reply #5598 on: March 20, 2019, 07:36:27 am »
Russell Brand in a frock

Ha! That’s a perfect description.

citoyen

  • Cat 6 Racer
Re: What books are we reading at the moment ?
« Reply #5599 on: March 28, 2019, 01:44:39 pm »
Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad

Well, that's another one ticked off the list. All I will say is that I can see both why some people love it and why others hate it.