What'cha Reading?

Not to go Teenage Strangler here but I see so many book covers laid out this way and I never know: Is this a book by Juniper Wiles called Charles de Lint (which won the World Fantasy Award)? Or is it a book by Charles de Lint (who won the WFA) entitled Juniper Wiles?

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I love Bill Hicks. To this day I assume that the fact that I read a lot is responsible for me not being a waffle waitress.

This video was my introduction to both Baldwin and Buckley. It’s made me interested in reading more Baldwin. Based on the video, I don’t think I want to know any more about Buckley.

I absolutely love Carl Sagan, this has been on my list for a while, but I haven’t dug in yet.

Second.

What I am reading currently. I’m the biggest fan of Neal Stephenson that I personally know. Right now I’m currently re-reading “Anathem.” Between all of his novels it’s hard for me to pick a favorite, but this might be it:

Also, my younger brother suggested this, and he’s never wrong when it comes to a recommendation:

It’s a bit dense, more like an economics course than a normal manga. Very good though.

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“The Demon-Haunted World” is excellent, and very relevant to current events.

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Li’l help with pushing me toward giving the book a go? I do enjoy Stephenson but he has this habit of derailing a story at least once so he can go on and on about some esoteric topic he’s into for a while. Since (to my understanding) Anathem is fully born from his imagination, I avoided it from a… fear?.. that the esoteric pauses would then involve all this stuff Stephenson built in his head and only he knows it inside and out.

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Yup. There is a lot of variation within the category of LNs. These are on the meatier (but with some humor still) side of things - there are heavier and deeper ones out here as well. Some are more substantive and some not.

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One of my favorite writers is Tad Williams. “Otherland” is possibly my favorite sci-fi book series, and “Memory, Sorrow & Thorn” my favorite fantasy series after LotR. His one-off novel “War of the Flowers” is also among my favorites.

He’s added several books to “Memory, Sorrow & Thorn” since I first read it. He’s got a prequel coming out in November and when that drops I plan to read the whole series through in chronological order. (It’s 10 books now, including two volumes that got split up due to length.)

For me, his books are in the “can’t put ‘em down” class.

Neal Stephenson has been mentioned. I love “Snow Crash” of course, but I also really got into his “Baroque Cycle” stories, historical novels set in the 18th century with only a slight hint of the supernatural or “mad science.” These books serve as a sort of precursor to his giant novel “Cryptonomicon.” I own a copy of “Anathema,” but I haven’t read it yet.

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Anathem, like Seveneves, suffers a version of this ‘esoteric topic derail’ in the form of being the books’ sci fi motifs, delivered too late and too deus ex machina for me to be OK with.

My favorite is Cryptonomicon, but his best is probably The Diamond Age. There’s a small part of Fall that by itself deserves to live in the social dystopia pantheon with 1984 and Brave New World, but it’s stuck with a dreg of a main plot.

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I read the Otherland series. I couldn’t believe how long those books were though. Man. :slight_smile: But talk about vivid worldbuilding. That was an impressive series as far as the world he created in it.

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That’s why you have to open the book to the title page to figure it out. :slight_smile:

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I’m with you there — those two are classics. I totally bounced off of Quicksilver and everything after that. He gave a keynote speech at a conference I went to around 20 years ago and I freaked out when he said he wrote everything in long hand. I can’t imagine! And assuming things got edited out… just kind of a staggering physical endurance. He has some amazing non-fiction essays: In the Beginning Was the Command Line and one on ocean data cables.

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I think this falls into the realm of both feature and bug. I know a lot of people that really don’t like this about Stephenson’s writing, but I absolutely love it. I feel compelled to look up the obscure references to people/places/whatever, and end up learning a lot about random stuff while reading a book that seems at best only tangentially related to that topic. I get the feeling that he feels they are a core element of though, otherwise he wouldn’t spend the time on them. This is somewhat just my personal opinion though.

In regard to giving you a push towards reading it, you may find a bit of a fixation on using old technology to solve problems. How can you use water to wind a clock? How can you be sure the clock stays accurate if the water stops flowing? Stuff like that. That said, it seems pretty relevant to the plot to me, especially in this case. My reading(s) give me the impression that it’s a really cool take on how the human mind can and does influence the universe around it in terms of quantum wave collapse. Also how that problem is simplified by a polycosmic view of the universe. That said, I’m not a physicist or mathematician. Also, as with all Stephenson’s work, I tend to pick up on new things I missed whenever I re-read one of his books. Definitely worth a read in my opinion, but maybe not for everyone.

“Snow Crash” remains fantastic, and I also really love the “Baroque Cycle”. It took me a couple of tries to get into the latter, but “Half Cocked” Jack Shaftoe remains one of my favorite characters in all his books. I love the tie-ins to Cryptonomicon as well.

Both fantastic. I tend to read “Snow Crash” and “The Diamond Age” together, and man what great books. I would mention that what you refer to as “esoteric topic derail” exists in these books as well. As I mentioned above, I see this as a feature, but only because Stephenson can pull it off. It’s likely less noticeable though, because these books are only about 300 pages apiece.

I just read “In the Beginning Was the Command Line” a couple of months ago, and I’m currently reading “Some Remarks,” which has a fair amount to do with laying undersea cables between countries. Quite good as well.

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Esoteric topic derails can be fascinating when done right. Victor Hugo did several of them in “Les Miserables” (one of my other favorite cinderblock-sized novels.)

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Bram Stoker’s The Snake’s Pass has lengthy descriptions of bogs.

And it’s all plot relevant!

Jewel of the Seven Stars is chock full of (apparently very accurate) Egyptology, though it ends up being less relevant and more atmospheric.

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I had Les Miserables sitting on my bookshelf for years but was reluctant to read it because I feared it would be a slog in the vein of Moby Dick (The OG of esoteric topic derails.) Once I finally took it off the shelf, I loved it and felt silly for not cracking it open sooner.

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I started playing D&D in the late 70s and have stacks and stacks of books from editions 1-3 (and some of the pamphlets from the original game). Hardcovers, softcovers, boxed sets, staplebound pamphlets, novels, Dragon and Dungeon magazines. I don’t really play anymore but I love to just grab something off the shelf at random and start reading.

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Okay. That piqued my interest.

Snow Crash holds a really good example of it. That book’s overall pacing is near-perfect – a little slow in the beginning but Stephenson uses the time cleverly to do some world building and introduce all the main players we need to know about. Once the catalyst to the story’s core plot occurs, the rest of the book keeps itself moving… except that one pocket almost dead center where Stephenson hits the brakes in the Library so we get to hear all the Sumerian myth he learned about. Was it essential to the plot? Sure, the kernel that was needed was there. Did it have to go on like it did? Absolutely not. Was it interesting? I guess…? I mean, learning about something new is its own reward and I like where Stephenson eventually went with it… but good gravy… way to kill the mood for a hot minute…

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I struggled to get into Catch-22, so I set it aside, and dug into the Muriel Spark novel. I can see why Evelyn Waugh and Graham Greene (2 of my favorite authors) sang her praises. That blending of the serious and comedic, the Catholicism, must have appealed to them. That, and she’s a damn fine writer.

The novel is more experimental than the film, with flash forwards, and curious repetitions, she emphasizes, for example, individual physical qualities of the girls (Sandy’s small eyes, for one). The film also streamlined and simplified and focused on the romantic angle, and less on Miss Brodie’s fascination with Mussolini and the fascists’

I’m really locked into it, it’s one of those page turners I can’t put down. If it finishes as strong, it might even unseat Solaris in The Best From Your Birth Year thread.

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Gulag Archipelago (Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn) - Super depressing book about Russia 1918 to 1956
Ice Pick Surgeon (Sam Kean) - I’ve liked his other books
And, I’m ashamed to admit it, I just started reading Storm Front (Jim Butcher) - First of the Dresden Files series.

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I just got done reading Guards Guards! by Terry Pratchett. I’ve been trying to catch up on the Discworld books. I’ve only read a few of them but I’ve enjoyed every one I have read so far.

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