Read, Mark, Learn, Inwardly Digest: Books We're Reading in 2024

TrudyTrudy Heaven Host
Another new thread for a new year -- here's the place for book recommendations, book questions, and general discussion about anything we're reading in 2024. I'll be locking the 2023 book discussion thread, but will leave it on the board for a little while in case anyone needs to leaf through its pages to carry forward a question or comment from something discussed on that thread.

(Note for those unfamiliar: this is different from the 2024 Book Club thread, which is for an organized monthly reading and discussion of a specific book. This is a more general book discussion where we can talk about any books we might be reading).
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Comments

  • North East QuineNorth East Quine Purgatory Host
    I have just finished Columba's Bones by David Greig.

    It's part of the Darkland Tales series - Birlinn Press have commissioned writers to write short novels on events from Scottish history. I have read three -Rizzio by Denise Mina, Hex by Jenni Fagan, and now Columba's Bones.

    I didn't think much of the original premise of the series as the events - the murder of Rizzio, the Berwick Witch Trials, the Viking attack on Iona - are tales which have been told and retold often before. Plus, I wasn't convinced that a series in which each book is by a different author could form a cohesive series. But these three books have been spectacular, told from a different angle, gripping, enthralling.

    I think they feel like a cohesive series because each one has a tight focus. Hex is set within a single day. Columba's Bones is set within the confines of the island of Iona.

    I have one more to read - Alan Warner's Nothing Left to Fear from Hell. After that I will be anticipating further titles with keen interest.
  • CaissaCaissa Shipmate
    It's been 42 years since I took a Greek literature in translation course in my first year of university. I just completed a book that would have been valuable to have been written then, Natalie Haynes' Pandora's Jar: Wome in the Greek myths. Written for the educated layperson more than the specialist although it does include footnotes. I recommend it to those with a passing knowledge of Greek mythology. https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/51135393
  • DoublethinkDoublethink Admin, 8th Day Host
    You might enjoy this - she’s done a whole series of them.
  • CameronCameron Shipmate
    I have just finished a couple of good books:

    James Martin’s Come Forth - which organizes historical and theological ideas, along with art and personal experience while travelling in Palestine and beyond, around the story of Lazarus. Engaging writing and some thoughtful reflections.

    Evie Woods’ The Lost Bookshop - it’s been a while since I read something so clearly positioned as magical realism, but that worked really well for this story of women’s struggles across generations and the world of books and those who seek out rarities. It is a cracking read with some really engaging characters and a brilliant plot that roves back and forth over about a hundred years.
  • TrudyTrudy Heaven Host
    Caissa wrote: »
    It's been 42 years since I took a Greek literature in translation course in my first year of university. I just completed a book that would have been valuable to have been written then, Natalie Haynes' Pandora's Jar: Wome in the Greek myths. Written for the educated layperson more than the specialist although it does include footnotes. I recommend it to those with a passing knowledge of Greek mythology. https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/51135393

    On a similar but fictional note, Haynes's A Thousand Ships is a wonderful retelling of the Trojan War through the women's stories.
  • EigonEigon Shipmate
    I saw Natalie Haynes at Hay Festival last year, and I've been listening to her series on Radio 4. She's very good!
  • KendelKendel Shipmate
    Just got my ILL of History and Eschatology by N.T. Wright, and am still working on the (sub)set of discourses by Kierkegaard call The Gospel of our Sufferings.
    I need to finish a terrific bio of Wittgenstein, "The Duty of Genius" by Ray Monk.
    And I'd like to gorge on Elizabeth Gaskell and Chuck Dickens this year. Maybe some Brontes, but never again open WH.

    So many great stories I haven't read.
  • So I have now finished Catch 22. It really is a work of genius - but most definitiely not for everyone, because it really is dark, and gets darker and darker as it goes on.

    But if you like your humour very dark, it is probably the epitome of dark humour. And does it very well.
  • KendelKendel Shipmate
    I was looking at this yesterday at the book store with Eldest Daughter. Downloaded the Kindle sample and listened during KP.

    I think I will purchase "How to Think Like A Woman" by Regan Penaluna today and finish listening this week. Then get a copy for my friend, Val, a historian, who doesn't realize she is also a philosopher already.
  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    edited January 8
    Mrs Gramps and I are sharing Liz Cheney's book Oath and Honor. It is about how the Republican congresspeople caved into the pressure of the 2020 Trump campaign from the time of the general election through January 6, 2021. She is pretty damning of Kevin McCarthy and Mike Johnson.
  • KendelKendel Shipmate
    "“[T]he male glance.” Not to be confused with the male gaze, which objectifies women’s bodies, the male glance does the opposite to women’s creative work: it barely gives it a second look. Those under its spell decide after cursory examination that the work in question isn’t of much value. The male glance “looks, assumes, and moves on. It is, above all else, quick. Under its influence, we rejoice in our distant diagnostic speed . . . it feeds an inchoate, almost erotic hunger to know without attending—to omnisciently not-attend, to reject without taking the trouble of analytical labor.” It turns away without a care."

    Penaluna, Regan. How to Think Like a Woman (p. 168). Grove Atlantic. Kindle Edition.
  • CaissaCaissa Shipmate
    Trudy wrote: On a similar but fictional note, Haynes's A Thousand Ships is a wonderful retelling of the Trojan War through the women's stories.

    Caissa replies: I bought it on Sunday.
  • TrudyTrudy Heaven Host
    I hope you enjoy it! I just finished her latest, Stone Blind (a retelling of Perseus and Medusa) and enjoyed it, though not as much as A Thousand Ships.
  • HedgehogHedgehog Shipmate
    I have been struggling through In League With Sherlock Holmes. It is a short story collection, but the editors did not want to just run a book of pastiche stories of Holmes & Watson. Instead, the instruction to the writers was to provide a story "inspired" by the Holmes stories. Oh, and as a further gloss, the writers requested to provide stories were all writers who had no history of writing Holmes-related stories.

    It has been dire. "Inspired" is, of course, flexible word and, arguably, writing any sort of detective mystery story could claim to be inspired by Holmes (and Agatha Christie and Edgar Allen Poe and....) Some of the writers show their inspiration by writing a period piece and just making Sir Arthur Conan Doyle a character. Others wrote stories set in the current day and the characters have names that are Holmes-related or sound like they are. For example, one decided to have a character named "Sher Lock" (the "Sher" possibly short for Sherman although I don't think the author took the effort to say that). Others went the oh-so-obvious descendant route. One just lazily called characters in a tissue-paper thin mystery by names from the Holmes stories: The victim was called John Watson (no relation) and the two suspects (there were only two suspects) were his wife Mary Watson and his friend Dr. Joseph Bell (no relation). I imagine the writer thought it clever to use Bell's name. 16 stories in the book, and 3...maybe 4....were worth the effort to read.

    I have already promised myself that, to make up for the suffering of reading In League..., I will next do a pleasure re-read of Edmund Crispin's Love Lies Bleeding.
  • KendelKendel Shipmate
    @Hedgehog , don't waste your eyesight or patience. Drop that literary failure like a hot potato! Move on to your desired book.
  • SandemaniacSandemaniac Shipmate
    edited January 24
    Hmm. I thought I'd posted this last week, which shows you where my head is right now but, luckily,
    it's hung around in my reply box so you get the benefit.
    So I have now finished Catch 22. It really is a work of genius - but most definitiely not for everyone, because it really is dark, and gets darker and darker as it goes on.

    But if you like your humour very dark, it is probably the epitome of dark humour. And does it very well.

    I would add to that that you also need to not mislay your bookmark. Really, DO NOT put your bookmark in the wrong place.

    Intriguingly, it seems that Joseph Heller left the European Theatre of Operations early to take part in a recruitment film for the US Army, you have to wonder whether there was guilt there that led to Catch-22.
  • Scots LassScots Lass Shipmate Posts: 17
    I have one more to read - Alan Warner's Nothing Left to Fear from Hell. After that I will be anticipating further titles with keen interest.

    I'm keen to know what you thought - the Warner was my least favourite of them all! My own 2024 reading has been slow and bitty, the only book I've finished was a Diana Wynne Jones that I've read before, despite starting three others which I'm still working through.
  • Hmm. I thought I'd posted this last week, which shows you where my head is right now but, luckily,
    it's hung around in my reply box so you get the benefit.
    So I have now finished Catch 22. It really is a work of genius - but most definitiely not for everyone, because it really is dark, and gets darker and darker as it goes on.

    But if you like your humour very dark, it is probably the epitome of dark humour. And does it very well.

    I would add to that that you also need to not mislay your bookmark. Really, DO NOT put your bookmark in the wrong place.

    I keep a copy of 'The Orkneyinga Saga' for reading in waiting rooms for the opposite reason. It really doesn't matter if you lose your place or leave it for a few weeks - it's pretty much the same story of feuding and bloody murder no matter which page it opens at. This makes it especially good before encountering the dentist on a bad day. I've almost finished it and am not sure what the follow-up book will be.
  • TelfordTelford Deckhand, Styx
    My daughter bought me Great Uncle Harry by Michael Palin for Christmas.

    I thought it was a comedy book but it's actually about his search to find out everything about the youngest son of his grandfather's youngest brother who died on the Somme in 1916 at the sage of 32.
  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    edited January 25
    I am currently reading an intriguing book on schizoaffective spectrum disorder. Rattlesnakes on the Floor: A Successful Life on the Schizoaffective Spectrum by E. Kristen Peters. ISBN9798865249665. The book is self-published.

    I have known Kristen for over ten years. She is a retired geologist who taught at Washington State University. She has a PhD through Harvard. Needless to say, she is a very successful woman, but she really struggled with her malady for much of her life. It is amazing what she went through over the years. @Doublethink I think you would like this book.

    Kristen is a late middle-age woman. I can say she has a sardonic sense of humor. She attended our church over the past decade, but she has returned to the Episcopal Church now that she has moved to a retirement village.

    Dr. Peters has written a number of scholarly books in her field and a few fictional books through a pen name.
  • Jane RJane R Shipmate
    I wouldn't be able to read the Orkneyinga Saga in a waiting room for the opposite reason: despite having read it before I would get too absorbed in the story and forget to listen for my name being called.

    Have just acquired a copy of 'Relight my fire' which is the latest instalment in the 'Stranger Times' series by C.K. McDonnell. Looking forward to reading it this evening.
  • EigonEigon Shipmate
    Hedgehog - if you like fantasy, can I recommend my favourite "inspired by Sherlock Holmes" story? It's The Angel of the Crows, by Katherine Addison, and her Holmes is an angel called Crow (the wings make it difficult for him to take hansom cabs!) and her Dr Doyle has been invalided home from Afghanistan with a rather unusual magical injury. It includes versions of the Hound of the Baskervilles and Jack the Ripper.

    Meanwhile, I am reading To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers - four astronauts have been sent out from Earth to explore three planets and a moon for new life, but half way through the mission, they lose contact with Earth. I've got as far as the fourth planet they are about to survey, and I'm getting quite worried about them.
  • HedgehogHedgehog Shipmate
    Kendel wrote: »
    @Hedgehog , don't waste your eyesight or patience. Drop that literary failure like a hot potato! Move on to your desired book.
    Ah, perhaps I misled a bit. I tend to have several books going at once, so I am almost assured of having something good to read at some point during the day. The Holmes book (and next Crispin) are in the "Lunchtime Reading" slot. I have other books currently in the "Evening Reading" slot and of course the "Bedtime Reading" slot.

    (Breakfast reading is more complicated---generally the newspaper but there is a "just in case" book I can read if the paper doesn't show up on time. That sort of book tends to be one that can tolerate being picked up at only odd intervals. Right now the emergency breakfast read is
    The Dictionary of Imaginary Places.
    If I remember correctly, I am up to the Ls.)

    But I digress.

    For some time now my Evening Reading has primarily featured Simenon's Maigret novels. He wrote 75 of them, and I am current halfway through #74. So that well is running dry. But I have its replacement lined up.

    I have often been frustrated that many characters that were in a series of novels tend to only have their first appearance readily in print. For example, Zorro. It is easy to find a copy of the first book, The Mask of Zorro. A classic, it is seldom out of print. However, Johnston McCulley wrote a number of Zorro novels plus a goodly number of Zorro short stories, and finding those was always difficult. Several years back, a publisher finally did publish the "complete" Zorro stories, for which I was grateful. Except that the publisher was sloppy. They clearly just had a scanner scan the text from the original publications, and then reformatted that text and bound it as a book----without bothering to proofread. Oh, I imagine that they ran a Spellchecker on it, but the volumes are littered with Wrong Words---in one of the novels, a main character's name keeps changing back and forth (sometimes in the same paragraph!) based on how the scanner perceived the original type. It is abundantly clear that no editor or proofreader actually read the stories before the publisher issued the volumes. So, while it is nice to have all the stories in one set, it is also very frustrating that the set is so poorly produced.

    But that brings me to a recent happy discovery about another long-sought collection: The Scarlet Pimpernel stories of Baroness Orczy. Again, the original novel is almost always available and in print, but the rest of the books are very difficult to locate. Until now. Leonaur Books has issued an 8-volume set of the "Complete Escapades" of the Scarlet Pimpernel--and on its website it proudly states that the books are newly typeset and NOT reproductions. I was so delighted by this, that I sprang for the higher priced hardback version of the set. And I do not regret it for an instant. Leonaur did a wonderful job, presenting every novel and short story of the Scarlet Pimpernel--including the two novels featuring an ancestor of Sir Percy and the one novel featuring a descendant of Sir Percy. Volume 1 contains the original "The Scarlet Pimpernel" and its immediate successor "I Will Repay." Althoguh I am still finishing up the last two Maigrets, I was so eager that I have started re-reading "The Scarlet Pimpernel." It is such a pleasure to read it in such a well-made volume.

    I note that Leonaur publishes quite a bit of adventure and detective fiction (if you like Edgar Wallace, this is the publisher for you), as well as an impressive amount of Non-Fiction history books covering all sorts of periods. It is worth checking them out.



  • Thanks for that @Hedgehog . I have several of the Scarlet Pimpernel stories as e-books from the Gutenberg Project, but the only Baroness Orczy I have in hardcopy is The Man in Grey. Another publishers site to add to my bookmark list...

    Another person with several books on the go at any one time here. The one I'm going back to in a mo is Stephen Fry's Heroes, as I felt like re-reading that set on Monday. A recent non-fiction read was Persians: The Age of The Great Kings by Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones. History of Persia from approx 1000 to 330 BCE using Persian & Mesopotamian sources. A good look at the other side of all the classical Greek history I've read.
  • KendelKendel Shipmate
    I had no idea there more SP stories. Must find them.

    Elusive.
  • SandemaniacSandemaniac Shipmate
    edited January 25
    I'm another one with any number of books on the go at once, but I've read a few I wouldn't normally find time for this week owing to enforced time off work.

    What I'm currently actually reading though, is the previous week's Ringing World.
  • TrudyTrudy Heaven Host
    Eigon wrote: »
    Meanwhile, I am reading To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers - four astronauts have been sent out from Earth to explore three planets and a moon for new life, but half way through the mission, they lose contact with Earth. I've got as far as the fourth planet they are about to survey, and I'm getting quite worried about them.

    I love Becky Chambers and love that series. A Closed and Common Orbit is my favouritel

  • jedijudyjedijudy Heaven Host
    I'm about 4/5 through The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride. It takes me longer than normal to read books since the only reading time I can manage is after going to bed and reading until my eyes slam shut!

    This is a different type of book than my usual, but I'm fascinated by the stories of the people in it. I'm also horrified with the racism and the resigned acceptance of that racism.

    Hopefully I'll finish the book and find a happy ending. Or not!
  • EigonEigon Shipmate
    Trudy - I love A Closed and Common Orbit too! Pepper and Lovelace are such marvellous characters!
  • I've just finished The Naturalist of Amsterdam, by Melissa Ashley. I've read her previous books and found this to be in the same vein, women working in science and in this work science illustration within the social conventions of the late 1700s. I did enjoy the independence of the women, in their thinking and in being financially independent, running their own lives. I do love the detail of botanical prints and to learn about the Merian women in this novel was very enjoyable. I would highly recommend it
  • I need to read the latest in the Steel and Thunder series by Dominic N. Ashen. It’s on my Kindle…
  • MaryLouiseMaryLouise Shipmate, Host Emeritus
    I've just finished The Naturalist of Amsterdam, by Melissa Ashley. I've read her previous books and found this to be in the same vein, women working in science and in this work science illustration within the social conventions of the late 1700s. I did enjoy the independence of the women, in their thinking and in being financially independent, running their own lives. I do love the detail of botanical prints and to learn about the Merian women in this novel was very enjoyable. I would highly recommend it

    Can't wait to get my hands on this @ChastMastr and have just spent a very happy hour looking at the exquisite botanical art of Maria Sibylla Merian and Dorothea Graff. Imagine venturing into the jungles of Surinam in 1701! I am passionate about plants growing in the wild (my garden is mostly indigenous) and the lives of explorer botanists and painters like Marianne North or Elizabeth Blackwell.
  • Another Carlo Rovelli book - Helgoland. He is a superb writer, who enables the reader to understand better the incomprehensible* world of quantum physics.

    * By his and others own judgement, i should point out. If you understnad it, then you haven't yet understood it.
  • @Mary Louise, I enjoyed the book very much, even with no knowledge of Suriname at all. I've just checked out an online 'pedia to read more about the country. If you enjoy the Naturalist book, you may also like The Birdman's wife, her first novel set in UK/Australia. That's how I came to her writing
  • EigonEigon Shipmate
    I'm splitting my attention between The Archaeology of Herefordshire: An Exploration by Keith Ray and The White Trail by Fflur Dafydd.
    I found the archaeology book on the free shelf we have locally, which amazed me because it's pretty much up to date for the area, being published in 2015. It includes the Rotherwas Ribbon (an early trackway that might be ritual) and Arthur's Stone - I've visited the excavations there several times over the years.
    The White Trail is a modern re-telling of the tale of Culhwch and Olwen from the Mabinogion, and it is very well done. For instance, the castle of Ysbaddaden, Olwen's father, is now the private estate of a reclusive millionaire. I'm going to be looking out for more books by Fflur Dafydd.
  • CaissaCaissa Shipmate
    I am reading Scattershot, Bernie Taupin's new autobiography. The ratings on Goodreads tend to reflect my ambiguity about the work.
    https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/85157765
  • Another short novella that can highly recommended - This is How You Lose the Time War. Which is - romance? SF? A retelling of Romeo and Juliet? No idea, but it is extraordinary. Very clever, and totally engaging. A beautiful story.
  • KendelKendel Shipmate
    Just started reading Caste: The Origins of our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson. This will be rough and valuable as such reading is.

    This bit made me cringe. It could be about me.
    "It felt like an initiation into a caste to which I had somehow always belonged. Over and over, they shared scenarios of what they had endured, and I responded in personal recognition, as if even to anticipate some particular turn or outcome. To their astonishment, I began to be able to tell who was high-born and who was low-born among the Indian people among us, not from what they looked like, as one might in the United States, but on the basis of the universal human response to hierarchy—in the case of an upper-caste person, an inescapable certitude in bearing, demeanor, behavior, a visible expectation of centrality.

    After one session, I went up to a woman presenter whose caste I had ascertained from observing her interactions. I noticed that she had reflexively stood over the Dalit speaker and had taken it upon herself to explain what the Dalit woman had just said or meant, to take a position of authority as if by second nature, perhaps without realizing it.

    We chatted a bit, and then I said to her, “I believe you must be upper caste, are you not?” She looked crestfallen. “How did you know?” she said, “I try so hard.” We talked for what seemed an hour more, and I could see the effort it took to manage the unconscious signals of encoded superiority, the presence of mind necessary to counteract the programming of caste. I could see how hard it was even for someone committed to healing the caste divide, who was, as it turned out, married to a man from the subordinate caste and who was deeply invested in egalitarian ideals."
    (9% Bookshare edition in Calibre)
  • I haven't begun reading yet, but have just ordered two more novels by Trent Dalton and David Mitchell's Unruly. I randomly came across a Youtube video where DM was being interviewed and thought I'd have a go at it. The two Trent Dalton's are All our shimmering skies and Lola in the mirror. I'll report back on all 3 when done. Normally I prefer to purchase from book vendors, but could not pass up the Trent Dalton's being on special at one of our chain stores and postage of only $4 for home delivery!!
  • TrudyTrudy Heaven Host
    I really enjoyed Unruly, though I listened to it as an audiobook which I think enhanced the pleasure.
  • NenyaNenya All Saints Host, Ecclesiantics & MW Host
    I'm currently reading my real-life book club book, The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett. I can't remember whether this is a book we asked for from the library or whether the library selected it for us on the basis that other book clubs have enjoyed it. Either way I'm finding it a slog. I keep taking it, and no other book, everywhere with me, knowing that if that's all I've got to read I will read it. I'm still not making very good progress.
  • HeavenlyannieHeavenlyannie Shipmate
    edited February 7
    Gramps49 wrote: »
    I am currently reading an intriguing book on schizoaffective spectrum disorder. Rattlesnakes on the Floor: A Successful Life on the Schizoaffective Spectrum by E. Kristen Peters. ISBN9798865249665. The book is self-published.

    I have known Kristen for over ten years. She is a retired geologist who taught at Washington State University. She has a PhD through Harvard. Needless to say, she is a very successful woman, but she really struggled with her malady for much of her life. It is amazing what she went through over the years.
    I might have a look for this, having spent this morning writing a presentation of what it is like to study for a doctorate when you have bipolar disorder. On that vein I recommend ‘An unquiet mind’ by Kay Redfield Jamison, a memoir of a manic depressive academic which is something of a classic.
    (ETA, I think the title is ‘schizophrenic’ not ‘schizoaffective’, they are different disorders with schizoaffective combining schizophrenia and bipolar affective disorder.)
  • Trudy, thanks for your comment re Unruly. I am looking forward to reading it and the others. I popped back in to say all 3 books arrived this morning. Quite pleased but shocked that the parcel has arrived so quickly!!
  • NicoleMRNicoleMR Shipmate
    The new Jonathan Kellerman mystery just came out. It's the new Alex Delaware novel and it's called The Ghost Orchid. I started it the other night.
  • EigonEigon Shipmate
    I'm looking forward to my Hugo voting package to come through - nominations for the Hugos have just opened. In the meantime, I'm catching up on some of Aliette de Bodard's work - she has several works eligible this year. First up is Of Wars, and Memories, and Starlight, a collection of short stories.
  • I finished the Jonathan Kellerman book I was reading, The Ghost Orchid, and have also gone though and finished the most recent Janet Evanovitch Stephanie Plum book, Dirty Thirty. I think my next is going to be the fourth Richard Osman, The Last Devil to Die.
  • EigonEigon Shipmate
    When Richard Osman came to Hay Festival, the local booksellers couldn't keep up with the demand for his books!
  • EigonEigon Shipmate
    Aliette de Bodard's short stories are excellent - I'm savouring them one at a time.
    In the meantime I've picked up a copy of Merry Hall by Beverley Nichols, which is a light, easy read about the house and mostly derelict 5 acre garden he bought just after the Second World War.
  • I am starting another volume from the British Library Crime Classics (referenced here): "It Walks By Night" by John Dickson Carr. I believe it is his first novel (1930). While I am familiar with his famous detectives Dr. Gideon Fell and Sir Henry Merrivale, this book features another series detective: M. Henri Bencolin, an examining magistrate of Paris. The volume also includes an earlier short story (written in 1926, when Carr was still in college) which features the first appearance of Bencolin. It features a "locked room" style mystery, which, of course, became Carr's specialty.

    The book should be a fun read, if only for the light it sheds on Carr's early writing style.
  • Jane RJane R Shipmate
    I recently read another of the crime classics, 'Impact of Evidence' by Carol Carnac (who also wrote as E.C.R. Lorac). It's set in an isolated farming community in the Welsh Borders. Worth reading for the setting alone, but I didn't spot the murderer until the detective caught them.
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