What we are Reading - The 2019 Edition

SarasaSarasa Shipmate
I couldn't see a general reading thread for this year, so I've decided to start one. Apologies if I've missed it, if so can you move this post?.

I've just read E.Nesbit's The Lark. I'm a big fan of her children's books, but apart from a few ghost stories, haven't read any of her adult work. This was fun up to a point. Very similar to her children's books with people getting into unintended scrapes, and a few bits of social comment thrown in. It was written in t e early 1920s so very much dealing with the aftermath of WWI, though it's handled in a very light-hearted way. What annoyed me was that she wrapped the story up double quick in the last chapter as though she'd got bored with the whole thing and just wanted it finished. It was her last book, so maybe she knew she didn't have time to edit it properly and sort out a better ending. Glad I read it though.
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Comments

  • NicoleMRNicoleMR Shipmate
    edited January 14
    I just read the Wayfarers trilogy by Becky Chambers. Science Fiction, character-driven rather than plot heavy, mostly slice-of-life in a time far, far in our future. Funny, and lots of fun, especially the first book, Long Trip to a Small Angry Planet.
  • I've read the first of that series and wondered if it was worth reading the next two. I really enjoyed A Long Way from a Small Angry Planet.
  • SarasaSarasa Shipmate
    My son is reading the Becky Chambers books at the moment and said how much he liked the characters, but wished there was a bit more plot. I might try A Long Way from a Small Angry Planet and see what I think,
  • I am 3/4th of the way through "JELL-O Girls," by Allie Rowbottom. It is the story of what happened to the women who inherited the Jello product family fortune. It is a truly feminist story with some interesting cultural history thrown in the mix.
  • I’m reading a book called Stiff by Mary Roach, which was unexpectedly put through my door by a local ex-councillor. It is a rather straightforward factual book about cadavers (dead bodies) and what happens to them; it is somewhat of a niche read and not for the faint hearted.

    (I will give this some context; I’m an ex-nurse teaching a module on death and dying, she’s an ex-nurse who wants me to help her set up a local death cafe - a place where people can discuss death and dying openly)

    After this I’m reading Cold Comfort Farm as light relief.
  • ClimacusClimacus Shipmate
    I'm devouring the Jack Reacher novels...nice summer night reading.

    Also, one month late or 11 months early, I have just started reading The Indisputable Existence of Santa Claus by Drs Hannah Fry and Thomas Oléron Evans. It is a book that looks at the festive season via mathematics, looking at all manner of things such as proving Santa exists to how to best wrap presents to predicting the Queen's Christmas Message.
  • I had planned to read all 22 of Muriel Spark's novels in 2018, the year of the centenary of her birth. Didn't quite manage it, but I finished the last one yesterday. I felt the last two Aiding and Abetting and The Finishing School (published when she was 78 and 82 respectively ) were patchy. I suspect that she could have published her shopping list to critical acclaim by that point.

    I also read her autobiography of her early years Curriculum Vitae and found it splendid. She skimmed over anything unpleasant (such as her marriage) and focussed on her triumphs and delights. She had a marvellous eye for detail and a talent for succinct and sharp observation.
  • EigonEigon Shipmate
    I've just finished The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter, which I very much enjoyed. It's got an airship in it, a cheerful AI who claims to be a reincarnated Tibetan motorcycle repair man, and sympathetic nuns.
    The Long Earth of the title is a seemingly infinite succession of parallel worlds, which can be reached with a simple device called a Stepper - and none of those worlds have humans in them.
    They touch on a problem that Charles Stross also talks about in his Merchant Princes series, which is that nowhere is secure in such a world - a burglar can just step to the next world across, walk a short distance to where the inside of the building would be, and step back - into the bank vault or whatever. In Charlie Stross's books, only a select number of families have the ability to cross between worlds, and all his worlds are inhabited by humans at various stages of development.
  • TrudyTrudy Heaven Host
    Thanks so much for starting this, Sarasa ... we hosts were late getting around to starting new annual threads, but you have reminded me to get on with it.
  • TrudyTrudy Heaven Host
    Last year's reading thread has been re-shelved in Limbo, if you need to refer back to it.
  • NenyaNenya Shipmate
    I've just started "Home Going" by Yaa Gyasi for a real life book club just starting up. I'd be interested to hear from any Shipmates who have read it. I've not got very far yet, my first impressions are that it's well written but depressing!
  • TrudyTrudy Heaven Host
    Oh, I loved Homegoing. Really loved how it delved into the complexities of the slave trade and all the different ways it played out in the lives of those involved. Of course it's going to be a bit depressing because it does deal with such a dark subject, but ultimately it felt life-affirming to me.

    At first it was bit jarring to realize as it moved to each new section that we wouldn't be finishing the stories of the person we'd just been reading about but jumping a generation into the future to follow their children's stories each time. Once I got used to that structure I loved it -- one of my favourite books I read last year.
  • EigonEigon Shipmate
    I've just started Dying Fall by Elly Griffiths - a mystery starring forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway who, for this story, is out of Norfolk and heading for Blackpool and Ribchester Roman fort.
    This makes me happy because I spent my school holidays in Blackpool, and later went to Lancaster University to do archaeology, so I know the area.
  • rolandroland Shipmate
    Just finished 21 Lessons for the 21st Century - Yuval Noah Harari. An excellent book well worth the time.
  • NenyaNenya Shipmate
    Trudy wrote: »
    Oh, I loved Homegoing. Really loved how it delved into the complexities of the slave trade and all the different ways it played out in the lives of those involved. Of course it's going to be a bit depressing because it does deal with such a dark subject, but ultimately it felt life-affirming to me.

    At first it was bit jarring to realize as it moved to each new section that we wouldn't be finishing the stories of the person we'd just been reading about but jumping a generation into the future to follow their children's stories each time. Once I got used to that structure I loved it -- one of my favourite books I read last year.

    I agree - now that I'm getting used to the structure I'm enjoying it more. I need to sit down for a few hours with it as it's easy to lose the thread, I find.
  • NicoleMRNicoleMR Shipmate
    I just finished a silly Mercedes Lackey fantasy novel, The Hills Have Spies. She's mental popcorn, but fun.
  • Lily PadLily Pad Shipmate
    Just finished, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman. It was an intriguing read. Now I am curious to know if the author has completed her second novel or not. :)
  • NenyaNenya Shipmate
    I'm battling on with "Homegoing" but have realised I'm not really enjoying it. It's a book I feel tells an important story but I'm only reading it because I feel that not to would be closing my eyes to uncomfortable truths that I should know, and because we're discussing it at my new book group this week.

    I don't know whether it's because of its episodic nature, more like a series of short stories, or because I can't connect with any of the characters. Or both.
  • Just finished reading Abide with Me by Elizabeth Strout, about a young new minister who melts down and finds grace. It was a gift from a relative (but why, oh why, do folks think clergy want to get books about clergy?). It was touching, but filled with stereotypes -- gossipy parishioners, a minister who seemed to quote scripture every time he looked out the window, a child acting out her grief after her mother’s death with no one understanding it, a man who’d served in the army and had what we’d now call PTSD running off to wild sexual liaisons, and on and on.

    The poor minister seemed woefully unprepared for the emotional parts of the ‘job’, with no support group of former fellow students or neighboring clergy to help keep him on balance. The saving grace came nicely, from hurting person to hurting person, and that felt to be about the only true thing in it.

    It was a difficult read, mostly because I kept wanting to slap someone for being so stupid -- either one of the characters or the author, I’m not sure. But, the moment of grace, when it comes is as grace should be -- holy and life giving.

    Just starting Three Bags Full, by Leonie Swann, a murder mystery with a flock of sheep for the sleuths. Great fun!
  • BabyWombat wrote: »
    Just starting Three Bags Full, by Leonie Swann, a murder mystery with a flock of sheep for the sleuths. Great fun!
    I loved this book so much. Having bought it for my Mum I leant it to a list of people and had to buy her a second copy when it wasn't returned.

    The characterisation of the sheep is perfect. Swann is careful not to make them do anything that sheep would not do.
  • I can recommend 'An Inheritance' by Caro Fraser. Full of clever little plot twists and turns, great ending.
  • I really enjoyed Caro Fraser's books when I found them a few years ago. I must go and rediscover her.
  • TukaiTukai Shipmate
    A tree grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith.
    My wife bought this at a church fete on the grounds that we had just visited Brooklyn as part of our [first and only] visit to New York. It turns out to be an American classic, about a girl growing up there in poverty in the years leading up to WW1.
    Such memoirs don't usually appeal to my male mentality, but this one did, probably due to the fantastic detail which the author recalls of those times (according to Introduction in the edition I have the book is a lightly fictionalised autobiography). Most striking to me was her primary school, in one of the poorest parts of New York, which had about three thousand pupils and a very disengaged and/or cruel lot of teachers.
  • I loved the book Tukai when in High School. Thanks for the reminder to re-read, these many years later.
  • NenyaNenya Shipmate
    edited January 30
    Tukai wrote: »
    A tree grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith.

    I too love that book. We had a copy when I was growing up and I read it and reread it. Sadly, when we came to clear the house after my mum died, it was one of several books and other things that had gone missing but I remain hopeful of coming across a second hand copy one day.
  • NicoleMRNicoleMR Shipmate
    Nenya, I don't know where you are, but A Tree Grows in Brooklyn should be easily available through Amazon or other on-line ordering. It's considered a classic; I'm sure it's still in print.
  • Just finished Shaun Bythell's The Diary of a Bookseller. A lot of fun to read about him, his cranky staff and even crankier customers, and he tells a lot about the way the second-hand book trade works. With a bit of luck, the next time I'm in Scotland, a trip down to Wigtown to visit his shop will be on the itinerary.
  • ClimacusClimacus Shipmate
    Showing I'm nothing if not obsessive, I've now moved from 10 straight Jack Reacher novels to Marion Nestle and am reading all about food.

    Just finished her new book Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eat (thank you uni library...) which was a fascinating, and frightening, look at the conflicts of interest when large food multinationals fund research into public health or use food science to convince us their products are healthy.

    I've now just started reading Why Calories Count, written together with Malden C. Nesheim, which looks at what calories are and how they work.

    I did also start reading John le Carré's The Night Manager, but could not get into it. I've renewed my loan, and will try again in a week.
  • ClimacusClimacus Shipmate
    Just finished Shaun Bythell's The Diary of a Bookseller.
    ...
    Sounds like fun. And the local library has multiple copies. I shall pick up one.
  • AravisAravis Shipmate
    The local library has a book of around 100 of Ray Bradbury’s short stories, so I’m working my way through those. I know the Martian Chronicles pretty well, but not the others; a lot of the stories in this collection aren’t science fiction. He has some ingenious plots and he also writes beautifully.
  • BelisariusBelisarius Admin Emeritus
    Tukai wrote: »
    A tree grows in Brooklyn...is a lightly fictionalised autobiography).

    While it has many vivid moments, I wish it were more fictionalized. Several characters could have been combined as composites, and the ones apparently put in simply to be described should have been left out. Several events also break the "Fiction must be more probable than Fact" rule. The movie version of the novel, though leaving out its darkest elements, was a much more coherent story.

  • Tree BeeTree Bee Shipmate
    Eigon wrote: »
    I've just started Dying Fall by Elly Griffiths - a mystery starring forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway who, for this story, is out of Norfolk and heading for Blackpool and Ribchester Roman fort.
    This makes me happy because I spent my school holidays in Blackpool, and later went to Lancaster University to do archaeology, so I know the area.
    I enjoy the Ruth Galloway books too, and for the same reason as you. I grew up in Norfolk and worked in King’s Lynn for a while so this series takes me back there. Funny too, with always an element of controversial spirituality of some sort.
  • Jane RJane R Shipmate
    Just had the latest Ruth Galloway mystery (The Stone Circle) arrive on my Kindle - looking forward to reading it, although I experienced King's Lynn mainly as a road sign indicating that I still had a long way to go to get to Norwich (I did a course at the University of East Anglia, *ahem* sometime last century).

    I recently discovered 'Knife Children', the latest novella by Lois McMaster Bujold. Ties up a loose end from the 'Sharing Knife' sequence; well up to her usual standard. And I am currently working my way through L.C. Tyler's historical mysteries, set in 17th century England. Well worth reading.
  • NicoleMRNicoleMR Shipmate
    edited February 7
    Yes, Knife Children is very good. And can be read on it's own.
  • TukaiTukai Shipmate
    The Invention of Nature by Andrea Wulf

    Helpfully subtitled as "The Adventures of Alexander von Humboldt , the lost hero of science", this is both a biography and a description of what he found. Humboldt was one of the most famous people in the world in his heyday , the first half of the 19th century.
    Left a fortune by his rather unloving parents, he spent it all on his scientific expeditions and on preparing his voluminous writings about them.

    His most famous expedition was to South America, where he collected plants and animals, explored remote parts (including climbing what was then the highest known mountain) but his fame came from his descriptions and analysis of how these things grouped into systems whose distribution varied with the climate, the altitude (which he also measured) and with human activity (if any) around them. In short, he was the first to think and write in terms of ecosystems and a pioneer of earth systems science, and a major influence on such later scientists as Darwin and many geologists. Much of his writing and lecturing (in at least 4 languages) was also in layperson's terms, including about the politics, resources and economy of South America (mostly then a set of Spanish colonies) - he was a strong supporter of Bolivar and a strong opponent of slavery - and as such much sought after by Jefferson and other leaders of the newly independent US of A.

    The book is nicely written in English and beautifully illustrated (often with reproductions of illustrations from his orginal books) .
  • Tukai

    thank you for writing that - it prompted me to go to Wikipedia and I can see I have some interesting reading to do today!
    When I was about 14 I read The Kon-Tiki Expedition which tracked the Humboldt current, so that name has always been of interest to me.
  • SarasaSarasa Shipmate
    After people on here and my son recommended Becky Chambers A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet I picked it up. I think I'm in agreement with everyone else, the characters are great, but the plot could do with a bit of sorting out.
  • Jane RJane R Shipmate
    It's less obvious that she's a Firefly fan in the other two Wayfarers books. I like all of them, but possibly number 2 is my favourite (it's a hard choice).
  • One of the advantages of using Synthetic Dave is that it doesn't get tired reading, however long the article is! Anyway, the Wikipedia page on Alexander von Humboldt was very interesting indeed.
  • Having read Winter Solistice for the book club I went on to read Coming Home by Rosamund Pilcher, which I much preferred, far more interesting background to that story - based on Pilcher's autobiography.
  • I’ve just finished David Boulton’s ‘Who on earth was Jesus?’.
    OK OK for many on the Ship this may be old hat but for me it was both truly fascinating and educational.
    I was converted to non-theism from a background in a fundamentalist church and then gone on to a similar Bible College. Some might say this book ‘confirmed my prejudices’ and perhaps it did. But I now realise I should have known this stuff when I was preaching. Full of detail from all sorts of sources, a real attempt to discover the ‘Historical Jesus’ and presented well in (largish) bite sizes.
  • ClimacusClimacus Shipmate
    edited February 12
    Thanks from me also Tukai. I've meant to read that book for a while (read a glowing review of it somewhere), but keep forgetting when I'm in a bookstore or a library. I shall make an effort to hunt it down now.

    I am currently reading How to Bake π : An Edible Exploration of the Mathematics of Mathematics by Eugenia Cheng. Each chapter starts with a recipe (she loves cooking), then she explains a bit about the foodstuff or the process, and then links it to a mathematical concept. Then we are off and away. I am finding it rather interesting. And I may even try a dessert recipe or 2. :smile:
  • EigonEigon Shipmate
    I'm reading The Long War by Stephen Baxter and Terry Pratchett.
    There was a moment when I had to flick to the front of the book to check when it was written - one of the main characters and his family are going through a pointless and threatening immigration procedure on Datum Earth (this being the original of all the parallel worlds that people can reach by "stepping"). The American president is against all the colonists who have moved to the parallel worlds, and is demonstrating how strict his immigration policy is. It was extremely reminiscent of a certain Trump and his Wall - but it was published in 2013.
  • Currently enjoying the short stories of Dylan Thomas (when in Wales....) I am really not all that enamoured with his poetry (apart from 'Do not go gentle'), but the word painting in his stories is tremendous, and the subject matter is often so, so dark.
  • Climacus wrote: »
    Just finished Shaun Bythell's The Diary of a Bookseller.
    ...
    Sounds like fun. And the local library has multiple copies. I shall pick up one.

    I have.

    Several chapters in and I am greatly enjoying it. Thank you, Stercus Tauri.
  • A few months back I discovered that Penguin Books has been reprinting all the Georges Simenon Maigret books. (Apparently, they have been doing so since 2013--so, welcome to MY life; a 5-year delay in realizing something is what passes for normal).

    I have already finished Pietr the Latvian which was the first book published. I am just starting The Carter of 'La Providence', which Penguin Books is considering #4 in the series although other internet sources tell me was actually book #2.

    It doesn't really matter, because Simenon bounced back and forth through different periods in Maigret's career. Heck, Pietr the Latvian kills off a character who becomes a semi-regular in later books! But I like publication order.
  • EigonEigon Shipmate
    I'm now reading Swordpoint by Ellen Kushner.

    I'd been hearing about the series in a vague sort of way as something I might like, as a fan of old swashbuckling movies. Then I saw a copy at Forbidden Planet, and the blurb on the back has Guy Gavriel Kay describing it as a cross between a Georgette Heyer Regency romance and Fritz Leiber's Lankhmar, and Gene Wolfe saying it's as if Noel Coward had written a vehicle for Errol Flynn!

    The opening sword fight turns out to be a set up for later political intrigue, and I was certainly seeing the Georgette Heyer similarities in some of the early scenes. And there are low taverns in Riverside (the poor area of the city) which are straight out of the old swashbucklers.
    So far, this seems as if it's tailored to my own particular tastes in fiction, and I'm having a great time reading it.
  • NenyaNenya Shipmate
    I'm away for a few days and have brought with me the book club book for our next meeting - The Hard Way by Lee Child, not an author I'm familiar with. I've read the first chapter.

    Fortunately I've brought other reading material with me as well.
  • CaissaCaissa Shipmate
    I finished Simenon's The Shadow Puppet last night. Now reading Hugo Gernsback's last novel, Ultimate World. The Hugo's are named after Gernsback.
  • I just finished King of Scars, by Leigh Bardugo. It's set in her fantasy "Grishaverse" world, and really should be read in conjunction with the other books in that world. But an interesting take on a world with both magic (called "grisha") and technology are used.
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