The book discussion thread

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May 11, 2022
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A book thread, awesome!

I'm currently reading Coffee and Cigarettes by Ferdinand von Schirach, At the Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails by Sarah Bakewell, Invictus by Sunniva Lye Axelsen (not translated into English), book by Thomas Seltzer (Norwegian band artist) called Amerikansk Karmageddon: Tanker om mitt fordømdte fedreland (not translated into English) and poem from Charles Baudelaire called Flower of Evil from his Les Fleurs du Mal collection.
I often get the impression you're living in a completely different cultural sphere to most of us. Although I have read Les Fleurs du Mal. I found a brief reference to Coffee and Cigarettes and this review of at the Existential......,
you might have to give us an insight into Invictus, if you feel inclined.


I have read modern literature as well, but I've forgotten even what I've read(good job I kept notes).
 
Went to the library today and enjoyed a couple of cups of black coffee (which reminds me to watch Twin Peaks again) while finishing the book Invictus by Sunniva Lye Axelsen (not translated into English). The coffee was good, but the book not so much.

The story is set in a dystopian world and for the most part inside a building complex that is slowly collapsing since the government has long stopped caring and for the most part its inhabitants also. The complex is divided into different floors with the lowest floor having people on drugs and then it goes up from there kind of. Vaguely reminds me of the movie called The Platform.

The main protagonist is an alcoholic self-proclaimed janitor who sees himself as better than most people in there while he tries to fix things that other people break. He struggles with relationships and also doesn't think people thank him enough for the work he does. Most likely because he really does not do much at all, he only thinks he does. There is also another character in the book that might be him, a kind of more vicious version of him, but it is hard to tell really.

The writing is not good, but I think it might be to the fact the author is not only telling a dystopian story but also writing like it if that makes sense. At least that is one way to interpret it, but it could just be that she writes that way and it is not to my liking. One thing that I really disliked is that a lot of the pages had fewer written words and I did not understand why the author would leave out so much blank space. Sometimes it would be just a little text in the middle and then maybe some on top of another page. Maybe she was spacing out the book having it slowly deteriorate becoming its story, but I just found it to be a waste of pages without getting too environmental about it.

The book also brings with it some critical views about the society we live in but the way it goes about it is kind of weird. An example of that: There is a Norwegian TV show called Helene Sjekker Inn, which is about Helene visiting different rehabilitation Institutes and talking with the users. In the book, there is a TV show called Helena sjekker inn with Helena doing the exact thing. It's....confusing.


@ipman Just noticed your post, so that was actually pretty good timing since I just finished Invictus. I don't know what cultural sphere that would be, I just pick up what I find interesting at the library. I really love book recommendations and I am eager to start picking up books from this thread. There are some genres I don't like though, crime being one of them. Never managed to get into it and kind of funny since both my sister and mother are quite into crime books to the point of even giving me books about crime for Christmas even if I say I don't like them. I have a feeling they are trying to brainwash me, I better be careful!
 
May 11, 2022
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@ipman Just noticed your post, so that was actually pretty good timing since I just finished Invictus. I don't know what cultural sphere that would be, I just pick up what I find interesting at the library. I really love book recommendations and I am eager to start picking up books from this thread. There are some genres I don't like though, crime being one of them. Never managed to get into it and kind of funny since both my sister and mother are quite into crime books to the point of even giving me books about crime for Christmas even if I say I don't like them. I have a feeling they are trying to brainwash me, I better be careful!
I just meant with your obscure film references(that film was Hero on other thread). And your music references.

Have you seen High-Rise by the brilliant Ben Wheatley, it sounds similar to Invictus and is based on the book by J.G. Ballard another author I've read.
 
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they are trying to brainwash me,
Hey, that's a crime!
through the story tellers
You need to play the game Chinese whispers :)
I've had a few first-hand experiences of being present at an event, and then hearing an account of it afterwards from different people—let's just say I had to check which planet we were currently on!

With the serious flaws in Eyewitness memory, it's futile to expect any accuracy in person-to-person communication of new material. What passes down thru 80K years or fewer is what the storytellers want transmitted. Whether or not that bears any relation to reality is happenstance—sometimes reality will suit the tellers' agendas, sometimes it'll be real by accident, but mostly it'll be to construct a desired narrative.

I wonder if some books are more suited to certain times of life
Obviously with children's books, but also with adult. Edward de Bono's books were very helpful to me in my late teens, as a sort of framework. Lots of other non-fiction in my 20s to help provide many perspectives and different views of the world.
 
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Children's Books

I devoured the local Primary School's tiny library fairly quickly, so my mom had to enroll me in the county library.

♣ Biggles—swashbuckling Brit wartime flying ace and his mates Ginger and Algy, if I recall correctly.
♦ William—naughty English schoolboy.
♥ Hardy Drew and Nancy Boys—American young amateur detectives.
♠ Famous 5 and Secret 7—adventurous kids.

Amazing I can still recall details from those, like Biggles' mates. Nancy's dad was Fenton… Julian, Anne, Dick, George [girl], and Timmy the dog. Yep, amazing!

So what did you devour in kidland?
 
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You need to play the game Chinese whispers :)
I've had a few first-hand experiences of being present at an event, and then hearing an account of it afterwards from different people—let's just say I had to check which planet we were currently on!

With the serious flaws in Eyewitness memory, it's futile to expect any accuracy in person-to-person communication of new material. What passes down thru 80K years or fewer is what the storytellers want transmitted. Whether or not that bears any relation to reality is happenstance—sometimes reality will suit the tellers' agendas, sometimes it'll be real by accident, but mostly it'll be to construct a desired narrative.

I think this may be one of those concepts where we have to partly agree and partly disagree.

My main point is that I think sometimes there's a certain idea, maybe some 'snobbery'(not sure if that's the right word) that reading the book is the pinnacle, but short stories and books weren't widely available until relatively recently in human history, to the general public.

I don't think the Chinese whispers analogy applies. These stories were a means of survival and a way of connecting communities or tribes over generations, an oral history passed from elders to youngsters.

Also books are written by authors and readers interpret them based on their own perspectives and knowledge, and narratives and histories(as they say written by the victors) are continually being re written.

I actually think that some books are well suited to audio book format like Ulysses, maybe even Ginsberg.
(time for bed:sleep:, Good Night)
 
As for short stories, some of my favorites are all the ones by Steinbeck. I also love the Sherlock Holmes short stories.

But as for books, I think my top favorite series are:

The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams
The Narnia series by CS Lewis (who was a good friend of Tolkien)
And Frank Peretti's This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness

There are a lot of books I have read and loved, but I keep going back to those over the years.

Why? That's basically how orbits work. Say you're on the moon and you throw a ball straight toward the horizon. It goes extra far because of the weak gravity and lack of air, but gravity still brings it down. Now throw it way harder. The ball goes further, of course, but even a little further than you would expect because the curvature of the moon's surface bends away from the ball a little - a bit like throwing a ball from the top of a subtle hill. Keep throwing it harder and harder and, eventually, you'll throw it so hard that the rate gravity pulls the ball down will match the rate at which the moon's surface curves away from it. The ball will then be in orbit because you MISSED THE GROUND!
The only part you're missing is the throwing yourself AT the ground thing. Lol
 
Children's Books

I devoured the local Primary School's tiny library fairly quickly, so my mom had to enroll me in the county library.

♣ Biggles—swashbuckling Brit wartime flying ace and his mates Ginger and Algy, if I recall correctly.
♦ William—naughty English schoolboy.
♥ Hardy Drew and Nancy Boys—American young amateur detectives.
♠ Famous 5 and Secret 7—adventurous kids.

Amazing I can still recall details from those, like Biggles' mates. Nancy's dad was Fenton… Julian, Anne, Dick, George [girl], and Timmy the dog. Yep, amazing!

So what did you devour in kidland?
I dont know how many of these I'd enjoy now even with nostalgia goggles on, and this is probably going to be fairly particular to your age, I've not read any of yours, although heard of them all.

A lot of Roald Dahl
Narnia by CS Lewis I got the full box set for my 7th or 8th birthday.
The Hobbit
Deptford Mice trilogy by Robin Jarvis
Fighting Fantasy books and novellas/lore books, sparking a lifelong love of RPGs and dice.
Brian Jacques Redwall series, first two trilogies before I out-aged his style.
The Rats of Nimh.

A lot of rodents really. Comics a lot of course as well.

When I got to about 12 I started reading Terry Pratchett and didn't read anything else outside of school until I was 15 or 16.
 
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The Pearl is really good, too. He has several good ones.
I know Grapes... and Of Mice....like to get in the right state of mind, throw a pile of dust on the floor, put on some overalls and play some Woody Guthrie:)

But have also read lots of Kerouac, some Philip Roth short stories, Tennessee Williams, and Faulkner among others who all capture the time and places they wrote about.

What sort of books do American's read at school/college? and are their classics widely read?
 
A lot of rodents
Of Mice and Men
Ok, enough!

WwJwOwy.png
 

ZedClampet

Community Contributor
I've got too many favorite short story writers to list. I used to read constantly. I would read a book about every 2 or 3 days. Would just come home from work and read until bedtime. But that was before the kids.

I guess my top two short story writers would be Flannery O'Conner and Franz Kafka.

Oh, and someone needs to read Roadside Picnic other than just me. It's the sci-fi book (pretty short) that the Stalker games were based off of.
 
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I've got too many favorite short story writers to list. I used to read constantly. I would read a book about every 2 or 3 days. Would just come home from work and read until bedtime. But that was before the kids.

I guess my top two short story writers would be Flannery O'Conner and Franz Kafka.

Oh, and someone needs to read Roadside Picnic other than just me. It's the sci-fi book (pretty short) that the Stalker games were based off of.
Roadside Picnic also the inspiration for Tarkovsky's Stalker film of course.

I read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? for obvious reasons.
 
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Somehow I missed this post, and I really like to read, so I'm glad you started this thread.

So what about you and short stories?
So, are we only to talk about short stories? I don't read many short stories, as I prefer longer novels that I can read for days. Give me a beefy 750-1200 page novel and I'm happy. I'll stick to the few short stories I've liked over the years. But what about novellas? A novella can be considered a long short story or a short novel, so that may be open to interpretation.

'Short' now means anything under 500 pages. ;)
That's my opinion as well, and it seems like there are more novels published today that are under that 500 page mark. Not that a novel has to be over 500 pages to be good.

So, sticking with the theory that we're only discussing short stories, and possibly novellas, I'll abstain from listing my favorite novels. I never read any children's books (that I can remember), as I was a bit of a wild, untamed little beast that used to love to go fishing and tramp around in the woods catching snakes & turtles. It wasn't until my sister gave me a copy of The Hobbit that began my lifelong interest in fantasy literature, much like the early Ultima games influenced my gaming preferences.

The Hobbit some might consider a novel, but to me it's a novella as it's only 255 pages from the book I'm looking at (hardcover edition, I wore out my original paperback). Hard to imagine how they made three 2 hour+ movies from such a short story.

Other short story compilations and novels that I've enjoyed:

Edgedancer and Dawnshard (Brandon Sanderson) are novellas/short stories that take place between the lengthier novels in the Stormlight Archives series. Intigral in understanding of certain less prominent characters in the series, plus additional background of the world state.

The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny (Andrzej Sapkowski) are a compilation of short stories about the Geralt and his various companions and should absolutely be read before starting the other novels that begin with Blood of the Elves. (Did you know that Andrzej Sapkoski has another, non-witcher, fantasy series called the Hussite Trilogy (The Tower, Warriors of Gods, Light Perpetual)? I don't know if they've been translated to English yet, as I haven't been able to find them).

Nightmares & Dreamscapes and Skeleton Crew (Steven King). I'm not big on horror books (or games), but Steven King does phycological horror really well, and there are a bunch of really creepy short stories in these short story compilations.

There are 4 books that I've read by Manly Wade Wellman: John the Balladeer, After Dark, The Old Gods Waken, The Lost and the Lurking. They might be listed as novels, but all of them are under 200 pages (I think one might be around 210 pgs.). They're hard to describe. Not sci-fi, and not really fantasy or horror. There's just a weird, undefinable quality to the stories and the style of the writer.
 
are we only to talk about short stories?
Oh gosh no, that was only to…
Let's start with a poor relation
…so the poor little mites wouldn't get crushed underfoot in the great novel rampage! I'll edit OP to make that clearer.

See this post for what a Short Story is—I assumed it was a widely recognized genre, as they are/were a big deal back in Ireland. Or at least a little big deal :)
Think of it as the prose equivalent of the classical unities in drama.
 
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Zloth

Community Contributor
No Secret History, @mainer? Or are you just keeping its existence a secret?

Let's see what else I've got... The Illuminatus! Trilogy. Terrible books, except for the stunningly clever crazy ideas they have about what's going on in the world. Some games try to replicate what those books did, but they just don't write'm like they used to back in the 70's. Probably not enough brain-poisoning disco to break down the walls of inhibition. ;)

Next up, Nancy Kress' Beggars series - that was a really good one! It's pretty old now, but it's outlook on economics is holding up pretty well, and it's one of the few SF series to acknowledge genetic engineering. (Though <points at his avatar> the idea of being sleepless is rather disturbing. )

Finally, Lem, who just got mentioned over in the SF topic. He's got serious, almost philosophical stuff like Solaris, and Eden, and he's got humor as well, like the memoirs of Ijon Tichy. I've found his humorous short stories more memorable, like the time Pirx the Pilot was taking his final flight school test and a couple of flies... well, I shouldn't spoil it. But I think I need to read it again real quick.
 
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Just read a decent short story by Samanta Schweblin called "out". It is from here collection called Siete casas vacías (Seven empty houses). It is about a woman turning away from a possible dialogue with her husband and ends up walking outside only in her morning robe trying to find some kind of tempo she can be able to communicate in. She does find it for a brief moment but loses it again. Maybe she never had it in the first place. I think the story is about how we do not always need to say everything, sometimes silence speaks for itself.
 
No Secret History, @mainer? Or are you just keeping its existence a secret?
Strange. I was under the assumption that Secret History was an audio book only, but I just Googled it and there is indeed a hardcover version. So I ordered it from Amazon since it was only $8.00. Had I known that I would have read it after the 1st Mistborn trilogy and before the 2nd Mistborn books (currently on The Lost Metal).

Have you read any of his other books, outside of the Mistborn & Stormlight Archive books?
 

Zloth

Community Contributor
I read it as part of the Arcanum Unbound: Cosmere Collection. I was rather annoyed at that book just being on Kindle (initially), but now that I've got a Kindle, I'm glad I got the book. It's a set of short(ish) stories, but before each story there's an explanation of the planet it takes place on that tells you what Shards are in play.
Have you read any of his other books, outside of the Mistborn & Stormlight Archive books?
Oh yes!

Legion's series is my favorite. That's the most fascinating main character I've ever seen! Stephen Leeds sees people that aren't there - they're simply figments of his imagination, much like someone with schizophrenia might see. Except these imaginary people are incredibly useful. Each one is an expert in a subject Leeds understood, however briefly. For instance, at one point in the story he quickly reads through a book detailing a foreign language and culture. He doesn't pay much attention to what he's reading but, as soon as he finishes, POOF! A new "person" appears, and she's able to act as an excellent translator and cultural advisor. Leeds has gotten quite rich and owns a mansion, where scores of these personalities live.

I also read Warbreaker, which is most definitely a Cosmere book. I read it because of the mention of "breaths" near the end of one of the books you read somewhat recently - this is the book that magic system comes from. It's pretty good. Not Sanderson's best, but certainly a good read.

Oh, and I'm reading Triss of the Emerald Sea currently. He's using a different writing style there, with the story being told by a narrator instead of from the perspective of various characters.

I'm really curious to see how this Cosmere thing works out. I can't decide if I'm going to feel like I need to read every single solitary book/comic to understand everything or am I going to want to actively avoid some books specifically so I don't understand every magic system, which would let me be shocked by some things that happen just like the characters witnessing the events.
 

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