Heaven: Shelf Life: What We're Reading in 2018

TrudyTrudy Heaven Host
edited January 16 in Limbo
This is the new-boards version of our all-purpose book discussion thread, where we talk about whatever we've recently read that we want to praise, condemn, or just blather on about.

For reference purposes, book discussion for the first two months of 2018 can be found on the old boards here.
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  • New book started this week: 'My Childhood' by Maxim Gorky. I enjoy reading books about people whose childhood has been different than mine. But they are usually British authors writing about childhood in Britain, recently or in the past. So reading about growing up in a completely different country and culture with completely different norms.... now that sounds very interesting indeed.
  • A friend at work recommended Delphi Classics to me, large collections of out of copyright works in ebook form for a couple of quid. I am currently tearing through the complete works of H P Lovecraft and M R James. After that I will move on to Robert E Howard and H G Wells. Bliss!
  • FirenzeFirenze Purgatory Host, Host Emeritus
    Well good for you if you can read all of Lovecraft and James without becoming a shivering wreck scrabbling at the walls of your cell and screaming a lot.
  • I have put aside my reading of the sequel to His Majesty's Dragon to start a library book, A Darker Shade of Magic by V E Schwab. MY daughter recommended it to me, and it's interesting and well written so far.
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    edited February 2018
    Working on A Tree Grows in Brooklyn for a Facebook read-along. Six chapters in and I am totally non-plussed. Nothing has happened, the protagonist is wholly milquetoast, and it read like nothing more or less than a pre-teen version of Joyce's Ulysses. Endless wandering around her chunk of Brooklyn doing totally unremarkable things. Also there was a surprising amount of sex for a book with an 11-year-old protagonist. People working at condom factories, the young bride downstairs getting raped every night by her thuggish husband and crying herself to sleep, the young swain grinding against his girlfriend's hips to where her butt rings the bill, and her father comes down and tells him what he can do to himself. And that's just the last 2 chapters of the six I read. Yikes.
  • Firenze wrote: »
    Well good for you if you can read all of Lovecraft and James without becoming a shivering wreck scrabbling at the walls of your cell and screaming a lot.

    Don't worry, I passed my SAN test...
  • NicoleMR wrote: »
    I have put aside my reading of the sequel to His Majesty's Dragon to start a library book, A Darker Shade of Magic by V E Schwab. MY daughter recommended it to me, and it's interesting and well written so far.
    About 6 months back, I also read Temeraire (UK title of His Majesty's Dragon) and it's next couple of sequels back to back with A Darker Shade of Magic and greatly enjoyed both. Spooky...
  • TrudyTrudy Heaven Host
    mousethief wrote: »
    Working on A Tree Grows in Brooklyn for a Facebook read-along. Six chapters in and I am totally non-plussed. Nothing has happened, the protagonist is wholly milquetoast, and it read like nothing more or less than a pre-teen version of Joyce's Ulysses. Endless wandering around her chunk of Brooklyn doing totally unremarkable things. Also there was a surprising amount of sex for a book with an 11-year-old protagonist. People working at condom factories, the young bride downstairs getting raped every night by her thuggish husband and crying herself to sleep, the young swain grinding against his girlfriend's hips to where her butt rings the bill, and her father comes down and tells him what he can do to himself. And that's just the last 2 chapters of the six I read. Yikes.

    That is one of my favourite books of all time. It is gritty -- definitely not FOR 11-year-olds just because it has an 11-year-old protagonist. And it's not particularly plot-heavy -- more of an exercise in setting and character. I guess I can see how it's not everyone's cup of tea but I love it.

  • Trudy wrote: »
    And it's not particularly plot-heavy -- more of an exercise in setting and character.

    Ulysses is is, then.
  • TrudyTrudy Heaven Host
    I find it a LOT more readable than Ulysses (much less playing with words for the fun of it, or for the sake of showing how clever the author is) but I've never made it through much of Ulysses so I might not be the best person to make that comparison.
  • It's a lot smoother, to be sure. Her writing is almost dainty, where Joyce's is choppy. But the subject matter, so far, is much the same. Girl goes nowhere, does nothing. Repeat.
  • FirenzeFirenze Purgatory Host, Host Emeritus
    One of the advantages of age is that you can’t remember books you read 30 years ago. So I am currently re-enjoying stacks of green penguins of the likes of Gladys Mitchell and John Dickson Carr.
  • Currently reading The Summer Book by Tove Jansson. I knew of Jansson from the Moomin books, though I haven’t read those either. The Summer Book is about a little girl who goes to stay on a Finnish island with her Dad and Grandma, after the death of her mother.

    It sounds like it might be awfully depressing, or mawkish and sentimental, and it’s none of those things. It’s gentle, very funny in parts, and totally lovely. Not much happens - they get a cat who turns out to be feral so they swap it for another one, they discover the island a bit, there’s midsummer and fireworks. Grandma and the little girl have a loving and sparky relationship. Grandma is a bit of a bad influence, in a good way, she lets Sophia swim where her Dad probably wouldn’t let her. It’s a wonderful book, it’s made me happy. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
  • OrpheusOrpheus Shipmate
    Currently reading Thomas Piketty's Capital. It took a little while to get into due to its sheer size and the nature of the text (an economic treatise on inequality) but it is very interesting, and seems to be worth the time to read.

    The book before I started Capital was Charles Williams' Many Dimensions a classic supernatural thriller much praised at its time of publishing. A cracking good read if not quite as absorbing as War in Heaven which I still think is my favourite of his novels.
  • I have just ordered The Other Dickens from Ebay. It's a biography of Mrs. Catherine Dickens, wife of the Inimitable and mother of his numerous children. In middle age Dickens became enamored of an actress and ditched her, but his fame has mostly eclipsed his wife's side of the story. And then there's the whole Victorian thing about not being able to divorce your spouse even after the marriage is dead.
  • MooMoo Kerygmania Host
    I have just ordered The Other Dickens from Ebay. It's a biography of Mrs. Catherine Dickens, wife of the Inimitable and mother of his numerous children. In middle age Dickens became enamored of an actress and ditched her, but his fame has mostly eclipsed his wife's side of the story. And then there's the whole Victorian thing about not being able to divorce your spouse even after the marriage is dead.

    I bought a copy of that a few years ago. It was a real eye-opener. Dickens was a control freak who insisted on making household decisions that were normally left to the wife. After years of being dictated to, Catherine became quiet and passive.

    When Dickens decided to separate from her, he publicized many untrue things about her. That book is a real eye-opener. Their daughter Katey confirmed the fact that Dickens seriously misrepresented, not to say libelled her.

    Moo















  • He had no choice, not if he wanted to leave her. She had a be put in the wrong.
  • TrudyTrudy Heaven Host
    edited March 2018
    I'm in the middle of several longer books but I took time out last night and this morning to finish a very quick read: Everything Happens for a Reason, and Other Lies I've Loved, by Kate Bowler. Kate is a religion prof at Duke University who specializes in studying the "prosperity gospel" movement and wrote an earlier book about the history of that movement called "Blessed." At 35 she was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer (this was a couple of years ago now and she is still in treatment, basically living "scan to scan" as she says). She is keenly aware of the irony of spending several years in academic study of people who believe God will grant all your wishes if you have enough faith, and then finding herself in a situation where she desperately needed an answer to prayer. She is a Christian, though not of the "prosperity gospel" variety herself, and her short book is a wonderful, witty, moving memoir about facing terminal illness early in life, and grappling with her faith amid crisis. Very lovely read which I'd highly recommend.
  • I just finished reading The Dawn Watch by Maya Jasanoff, sort of a biography of Joseph Conrad situating his work in historical context.

    It's an interesting book, obviously coming from a very different headspace than Conrad's own, but worth reading if you're interested in Conrad and the world he lived and wrote in.
  • Reading Jo Nesbo's Scandi noir thriller Thirst. I'm a bit fed up with serial killers and don't share the detective's obsession with this one. Also a bit fed up with alcoholic could-relapse-at-any-moment angsty depressed detectives.

    Next on the list is Xan Brooks' The Clocks In This House All Tell Different Times. New weird in the English countryside.
  • HuiaHuia Shipmate
    I know what you mean about the angsty, depressed, alcoholic detectives - I found myself wishing that one would relapse so that he would be carted off to rehab, thus ending the story. :naughty:

    Trudy, Kate Bowler's book sounds interesting. I'm reading Barbara Ehrenreich's Smile or Die which is about "How positive thinking fooled America and the world" according to the note on the cover. I have found that the chapter on the Prosperity Gospel churches fascinating.

    The dark side of positive view that you can create your own reality is really nasty though and she quotes people being blamed for natural disasters because they attracted them by their negativity, with a similar attitude to people who develop cancer. There doesn't seem much room for compassion in such a worldview.

    Huia
  • BelisariusBelisarius Admin Emeritus
    edited March 2018
    Recently finished The Diary of a Nobody, another book apparently without dramatic incident or overall theme (One contemporary review: "...the book has no merit to compensate for its hopeless vulgarity, not even that of being amusing...Besides, it is all so dull."), but which has become a minor classic. Written by George Grossmith (better known for originating several Gilbert-and-Sullivan Comic Roles) and his brother Weedon (who also illustrated).

    Yep, no particular profundity (at least to an American), but a surprisingly interesting record of the Late-Victorian Middle Class.

    Wiki Link
  • AmyAmy Shipmate
    I just finished Jonathan Stroud's Lockwood & Co series. (Middle grade/children's fiction, if you're wondering — that tends to be what I read.) I heartily enjoyed it! It's set in an alternate present where Britain is beset by dangerous hauntings. Since adults can't see the ghosts, there are teams of psychically inclined kids who go and deal with the problem while the grownups stay inside under curfew. It's remarkably well imagined, with some really interesting worldbuilding.
  • Belisarius wrote: »
    Recently finished The Diary of a Nobody, another book apparently without dramatic incident or overall theme (One contemporary review: "...the book has no merit to compensate for its hopeless vulgarity, not even that of being amusing...Besides, it is all so dull."), but which has become a minor classic. Written by George Grossmith (better known for originating several Gilbert-and-Sullivan Comic Roles) and his brother Weedon (who also illustrated).

    Yep, no particular profundity (at least to an American), but a surprisingly interesting record of the Late-Victorian Middle Class.

    Wiki Link

    One of my favourite books when I was a teenager. Less subtle, but more American (well, Canadian), was my other favourite - Stephen Leacock's 'Nonsense Novels'.
  • bassobasso Shipmate
    Belisarius, it's good to see you here. I've thought of you now and again while reading the ship.
  • jedijudyjedijudy Heaven Host
    basso wrote: »
    Belisarius, it's good to see you here.

    I agree! It's fantastic to see you here in Heaven!

  • BelisariusBelisarius Admin Emeritus
    Thanks, basso and Judy. And thanks, Chorister, for mentioning Stephen Leacock--I hadn't heard of him before (couldn't find any details on the 'Nonsense Novels', but 'Arcadian Adventures with the Idle Rich' sounds interesting).
  • TrudyTrudy Heaven Host
    I think "Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town" is probably what most Canadians think of as Leacock's best-known work. He's funny with a dark edge, as is often the case with the best humour. The award for best humour writing in Canada is called the Leacock Medal in his honour.
  • MooMoo Kerygmania Host
    My favorite Leacock sentence is, "He jumped on his horse and rode off in all directions."
  • 'Nonsense Novels' is a collection of short stories. Hilariously funny - to my sense of humour, anyway.
  • BelisariusBelisarius Admin Emeritus
    Thanks for the info--will have to see what Leacock is available on Kindle.
  • EigonEigon Shipmate
    I can recommend the Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town, too.
    And at the moment I'm reading some short stories. I'm doing a bit of writing, in a Steampunk environment, and I wanted one character to be reading while he was waiting for another character. This led me down a wonderful research tunnel, where I found the Experiences of Loveday Brooke, Lady Detective. Apparently she was one of the first fictional female detectives, and the stories, written by Catherine Louisa Pirkis, appeared in the Ludgate Magazine. Seven of them have recently been republished by Wildside Press, and I'm thoroughly enjoying them. Loveday is sensible, and notices things - but the author does kind of cheat by not making the clues available to the reader until after Loveday has solved the mystery!
  • BelisariusBelisarius Admin Emeritus
    Belisarius wrote: »
    ...will have to see what Leacock is available on Kindle.

    Just ordered both Sunshine Sketches and Arcadian Adventures. :smile:
  • Huia wrote: »
    I'm reading Barbara Ehrenreich's Smile or Die which is about "How positive thinking fooled America and the world" according to the note on the cover. I have found that the chapter on the Prosperity Gospel churches fascinating.

    The dark side of positive view that you can create your own reality is really nasty though and she quotes people being blamed for natural disasters because they attracted them by their negativity, with a similar attitude to people who develop cancer. There doesn't seem much room for compassion in such a worldview.

    Huia

    I loved this book! I loved it so much. I have a habit of passionately recommending it to people all the time, which I'm sure they love. :wink: I read it a few years ago when Mum was having cancer treatment, and the cancer sections really resonated - this evil, insidious idea that if your cancer hasn't gone away, it's because you haven't forgiven all the people who have hurt you, you're not thinking positively enough, and it's basically all your fault. (I think the guilty party was Deepak Chopra in that particular bit). It also attacks the pink sparkly tweeness which often goes along with breast cancer awareness.

    Goodness I loved that book. Did I mention? :smiley: It's the first of Ehrenreich's I've read, I'm definitely going to keep my eyes peeled for more.
  • sabinesabine Shipmate
    edited March 2018
    Just finished Tattoos on the Heart by Gregory Boyle, SJ. He's a priest who has worked with gangs in LA for a couple of decades and runs Homeboy Industries for people who want to get out of gang life.

    He's down to earth (drops the f bomb occasionally) and quotes poetry as much as scripture. His ministry is grounded in love but is also very real.

    I listened on audio because of my eyesight and found that he read the book himself.

    I found him to be the embodiment of compassion and am now on his second book, Barking at the Choir.

    Both titles are things one of his ex gang members said, and he teases out meanings to these and other aspects of the words and world of the young men and women with a large and accepting heart.

    sabine
  • SarasaSarasa Shipmate
    At the moment I'm struggling with Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair. My son recommended it, and usually we have similar taste, but this isn't doing a lot for me.
    I read the first Lockwood and Co., again on his recommendation, though I pointed him in the direction of Stroud's Bartemaeus books first, and loved it. Must get the rest of the series,
  • latepaullatepaul Shipmate
    On another forum we're currently voting on the April book for the book club there. The Eyre Affair is one of the possibilities.

    Over the past few weeks I've caught up with the Peter Grant/Rivers of London books. Just finished The Furthest Station which is a sort-of stand-alone novella.

    I am now embarking on a short trip with Three Men in a Boat. What could possibly go wrong?
  • Curiosity killedCuriosity killed Shipmate, 8th Day Host
    edited March 2018
    I love Three Men in a Boat and also Three Men on the Bummel. I wouldn't recommend reading them in company. They are both books I was banned from reading aloud as bed time stories because I giggled too much.

    The Rivers of London series are cool, but I haven't read the graphic novel extras, and am aware that I'm missing various plot lines as a result.

    I'm another one that doesn't get on with Jasper fforde - I've tried because he's so lauded here, but have struggled and failed to get into his books.
  • HuiaHuia Shipmate

    Goodness I loved that book. Did I mention? :smiley: It's the first of Ehrenreich's I've read, I'm definitely going to keep my eyes peeled for more.

    I was so angry. As if a tsunami, cancer or fatal earthquakes weren't enough to bear, without being made to feel responsible for them too.

    I hadn't read any of her other books either, but am going to check the library for others. I have been reading almost exclusively fiction lately and it was satisfying to read a good, strong non-fiction book.

    Huia

  • LibsLibs Shipmate
    The Rivers of London series are cool, but I haven't read the graphic novel extras, and am aware that I'm missing various plot lines as a result.
    I wasn't aware there were graphic novels, so thanks for that tip. I do enjoy the books, but somehow I often end up feeling a bit short-changed.

    I've been reading a book called 'Final Notice', currently Book of the Month on Another Website. It's set in the USA and envisages a scenario in which there is a smart watch that can warn people when (for biological/medical reasons) they have only 30 days, or less to live. Marry that to the NRA encouraging senior citizens to own a gun and you get....? OK, great literature it ain't, but its heart is in the right place AFAIC; some of the characters are quite engaging and it is worth plodding through (and it is a plod) to the end, which I very much enjoyed.
  • NicoleMRNicoleMR Shipmate
    I finished A Darker Shade of Magic and have gone back to Throne of Jade (the sequel to His Majesty's Dragon) while waiting for my reserve on the sequel, A Gathering of Shadows to come in. Interesting effect reading two different series at the same time.
  • HuiaHuia Shipmate
    Libs wrote: »
    The Rivers of London series are cool, but I haven't read the graphic novel extras, and am aware that I'm missing various plot lines as a result.
    I wasn't aware there were graphic novels, so thanks for that tip. I do enjoy the books, but somehow I often end up feeling a bit short-changed.

    Libs, interesting that you mentioned feeling a bit short changed by the Rivers of London books. I hadn't articulated how I felt, but that sums it up beautifully. I have seem some of the graphic novels, but it is a format I really don't like, which surprised me as I loved comics as a child.

    Huia
  • Lily PadLily Pad Shipmate
    Sarasa wrote: »
    At the moment I'm struggling with Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair. My son recommended it, and usually we have similar taste, but this isn't doing a lot for me.
    I read the first Lockwood and Co., again on his recommendation, though I pointed him in the direction of Stroud's Bartemaeus books first, and loved it. Must get the rest of the series,

    I'm reading this right now and am finding it both odd and compelling. :)
  • latepaullatepaul Shipmate
    I love Three Men in a Boat and also Three Men on the Bummel. I wouldn't recommend reading them in company. They are both books I was banned from reading aloud as bed time stories because I giggled too much.

    I had expected to laugh more than I did. I liked it well enough just not quite as much as expected. By the way, if you like this sort of thing I can recommend The Ascent of Rum Doodle which does for mountaineering what Three Men in a Boat does for boating.

  • FirenzeFirenze Purgatory Host, Host Emeritus
    Moo wrote: »
    My favorite Leacock sentence is, "He jumped on his horse and rode off in all directions."

    [pedant] ‘galloped madly in all directions’ [/pedant] from ‘Gertrude the Governess’ (all of whose ancestors, and even business acquaintances, had perished in the French Revolution).

    I read the first of the Bartemaeus books and while a rollicking read, I felt the trajectory of the final resolution was so clearly signposted it felt unnecessary to read the rest of the trilogy. The Lockwood & Co ones I might come back to.

    At the moment I am reading John Dickson Carr ‘The Case of the Constant Suicides’ which is that rare thing, a Golden Age detective novel set in Scotland (the vast majority of them happen in London or the home counties).
  • latepaullatepaul Shipmate
    Firenze wrote: »
    Moo wrote: »
    I read the first of the Bartemaeus books and while a rollicking read, I felt the trajectory of the final resolution was so clearly signposted it felt unnecessary to read the rest of the trilogy. The Lockwood & Co ones I might come back to.

    My boss was telling me I should read the Bartemaeus books the other day. He said he wasn't a fan of the Lockwood & co ones though.

    I just finished Love May Fail which is by Matthew Quick who wrote Silver Linings Playbook. It was OK but lost its way a bit in the final third I felt. It was a multi-pov book which sections from four different characters and I feel like at least one of them could have been absorbed into the background of the other three.
  • I read The Eyre Affair a couple of months ago and loved it, but can totally see that it could be a Marmite book (you either love it or you hate it).

    I also read Three Men in a Boat last year and couldn't see what the fuss was about at all.

    I'm currently reading Whatever Happened to Billy Shears? by the Ship's own Steve Goddard. I'm enjoying it, it's the kind of nice gentle character-focused read I like (I'm a bit of a literary wimp, no grit or gore for me thank you!), although some aspects of it are more convincing than others. I'm a quarter of the way through so far.
  • TwilightTwilight Shipmate
    I'm in the middle of, The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro and just blown away by it. I had read most of his other novels but thought I could give this one a miss as I've seen the movie many times. Now I'm actually glad I saw the film first because it's a first person narration and I can hear Anthony Hopkins's voice in every word -- but the book is so much more somehow.

    Ishiguro won the Nobel Prize for Literature and he discusses this one in his acceptance speech. Interestingly, he says he had finished the novel and collapsed on his couch to listen to music. He played Tom Waits singing, "Ruby's Arms," and the line where the singer says his heart is breaking made Ishiguro realize he needed to go back and rewrite the ending to show more of the final heartbreak when his protagonist understands that he has lived his life with the wrong values and lost his one chance at love.

    I had thought Ishiguro's Never Let Me go was the saddest book I ever read, but this one may overtake that spot.
  • Just started the Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. It's been on the shelf for ages, but I've been slightly intimidated as it's quite long, and has been raved about so much on book programmes on the radio etc. I thought it would be too literary and clever for me. 50 pages in, however, and I'm hooked. I think it's going to be brilliant.
  • TwilightTwilight Shipmate
    It is brilliant, Jemima! I read it when it first came out and it had a huge influence on me and how I see missionary work. Enjoy!
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