Those of us in the Northern Hemisphere are well into the time of year when we tend to spend a lot of time indoors, so naturally, we spend more time pursuing indoor activities of all types. Of the ones it’s appropriate to discuss in detail here (ahem), one of my favorites is, simply, reading. I’ve been a bookworm pretty much my whole life. So for those like minded folks who are members of the same club, what are you reading right now? Or have just finished? Or have near the top of your list?
I’ll start. I just finished William Manchester’s magisterial three volume biography of Winston Churchill. I could go on at stultifying length about how enlightening and absorbing it was, but I’ll just use Spock’s word: fascinating.
I recently had cataract surgery in both my eyes. They are getting back to normal slowly, but now my gasses prescription is not good. So I read a lot of online books, and since I am cheap, I get mostly free or low-cost books. They quality of writing has been so-so at best, but I can make the font Nice and Big!
So, I recently read a rather good sci-fi book (I’m not a huge sci-fi fan, normally). In fact, I think it’s one of the best novels I’ve ever read (and I’ve read a lot), although I suspect I am drawn to it because the driving themes of the novel are mathematics and linguistics. These are my two longest standing intellectual interests. Anyhow, the book:
Anathem Neal Stephenson (a good Pacific Northwesterner)
For my yoga book club (yes, I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, we have yoga book clubs!), we just finished The Goddess Pose, which is about the life of Indra Devi, who studied with Krishnamacharya. It was written by a celebrated journalist, and she spent many years doing her investigative work. The book was interesting in terms of the yoga aspect, but even more interesting in terms of the historical aspect (Devi had to flee Russia at the Revolution, and her life during WWII was quite amazing (she was in Shanghai for much of WWII). Great book!
I have been reading a few books recently, and one that I highly recommend is Tribe by Sebastian Junger (author of The Perfect Storm, and a war correspondent). The book is ostensibly about vets returning from war/PTSD, but in my mind it is really about the importance of tribes in our lives–our personal tribes. For example, TuDiabetes is a tribe, in that there is moral support and encouragement, assisting others, etc. Family is a tribe, friends are a tribe, work friends are a tribe. Our lives are made better by the strength of our tribes. It is a slim book, so an easy read. Then, I read Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen, his autobiography. A great book by a great musician, who shows a lot of guts by talking openly about the depression that has plagued him much/most of his life. Not a slim book, but excellent.
julia navarro´s “tell me who I am”. that is the translation directly from spanish. it is excellent. its about an out of work journalist who is comissioned to investigate his great grandmother, a revolutionary and a spy during the spanish civil war and ww2. its like 1000 pages and i will be so sad when it ends. you know when you are reading a book and it finishes and it just blows you away? thats how this one is.
another two that i can recommend would be “a prayer for owen meany” by john irving. ive read it a million times. i usually dont read books twice but owen and “to kill a mockingbird” i read every couple of years.
and another by a german man who lived in berlin in ww2, hans fallada, called “alone in berlin”. that was another one that was fabulous. i just checked online for the name of the author and apparently theyre making a movie of it!
The Gene by Siddhartha Mukherjee
$2 a day by Kathryn Edin
But what if we are wrong, Chuck Klosterman
Playing to the Edge by Michael Hayden
Screening room by Michael Lightman
Between the world and me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
And am currently reading
Tribe by Sebastian Junger
Paper by Mark Kurlansky
I’m also reading Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn and Thich Nhat Hanh.
And some “meh” fiction books I randomly bought off Kindle. I need to find some good science fiction to read (my favourite genre). I just downloaded Anathem, which @David49 recommended, so I’m looking forward to starting it.
I hope you like it! It’s a bit funny, quite profound, and extremely sciencey As a scientist, I prefer my sci-fi to be firmly on the “full of science” rather than shiny suits and laser guns side. Not that there is anything wrong with the latter, just my preference.
I really quite like all of Neal Stephenson’s work. It’s challenging stuff, usually, and occasionally he loses the plot (quit literally), but every book the man has ever written has made me think quite a lot. If you like his work, I would highly suggest another author and book as well.
China Mieville’s Embassytown is probably the second-best Sci-fi novel I’ve read after Anathem. That book is very strange, but truly beautiful and as thought-provoking as any book I’ve read in any genre.
I grew up in the “golden age” of science fiction and absorbed it like a sponge. Matter of fact, my favorite novel of any type is from that era. But and most of what has been written since leaves me pretty cold. Once in a very VERY great while I find an exception, but they are few and far between.
I can totally understand that. I’m not a “fan” of sci-fi or fantasy, generally preferring “literary” novels for better and worse. I do like an intellectually challenging novel on occasion, though. I’ve found that some sci-fi is excellent for that purpose. That’s the reason I quite like Stephenson’s novels. But, they don’t have a lot in common with those classic sci-fi novels from the golden age. I do love Clarke and some Asimov, though…
Asimov is a quandary. His ideas are incredibly original and brilliant, but his narrative style (and especially his dialog) simply don’t stand up against his better contemporaries. Frustrating, sometimes.