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12 September 2008

So whatcha reading? You Mechazens read such a variety of interesting stuff. What's on your list at the moment?[More:]

I'm currently reading Mario Vargas Llosa's Death in the Andes (my god, but I love his writing), and for my mindless diversion reading, a Martha Grimes mystery, The Grave Maurice. Last night I perused James Beard's Beard on Bread (bread being the latest of my many brief but all-consuming enthusiasms), and now am inspired to make lots and lots of different kinds of bread, even though we don't actually need any any and could probably use less starch in our diets, not more. On preview, perhaps I should pick up a copy of How Not to Use Commas Like Pez and Run-On Sentences: Not the New Black, but nah, I don't think I will.

And you?
I'm taking FOREVER to get through two biographies...One is "Redemption Song - The Ballad of Joe Strummer" and the other is "Iggy Pop: Open Up and Bleed". So far, I'm really loving the bio on Joe, and I'm sorta liking the Iggy bio!
posted by richat 12 September | 08:28
I have a 'train book' that I read on the train, and for ten minutes in bed each night, which is usually something light and fluffy, short chapters, nothing too taxing. This week it's a Trollope - Joanna not Anthony - called 'Second Honeymoon'. Candyfloss for the brain.

I read so much heavy, boring, turgid stuff for work that my leisure reading tends to be much lighter.
posted by essexjan 12 September | 08:30
I just started The Autograph Man - Zadie Smith.
posted by rainbaby 12 September | 08:33
Just finished The Conquest of Happiness by Bertrand Russell. I liked the first half: "causes of unhappiness". Found the second half, "causes of happiness" a bit depressing though, since he seems to think I'm pretty much screwed.

Before that it was The Myth of Mars and Venus: Do Men and Women Really Speak Different Languages? by Deborah Cameron. Excellent myth debunking. More on my blog. I think I linked to her before.
posted by TheophileEscargot 12 September | 08:36
Halting State by (yep, MeFi's own) Charles Stross. His best book yet. His books have previously been a bit uneven, great ideas but the execution would fall apart halfway through. I'm almost done and its holding together nicely.
posted by doctor_negative 12 September | 08:40
1491. It's good, but looong, and taking me forever to finish.
posted by amro 12 September | 08:42
I'm reading Little Green Men by Christopher Buckley. I'd picked up his more recent novel Boomsday on a whim last week and devoured it. I'm really enjoying his stuff.

After that I've got Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policemen's Union, which I'm looking forward to.
posted by ufez 12 September | 08:48
Not reading anything at present - I've so many books waiting to be read that I simply don't know where to begin. The last book I read was How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read by Pierre Bayard. Before that, I read Naive. Super by Erlend Loe, and before that, the whole of Robin Hobb's Tawny Man trilogy.

The next one on the list is probably Paul Ricoeur's Memory, History, Forgetting. I started reading it in spring, but didn't have time for it back then. I felt back then, and still feel that it's something that will be useful in the longer run.
posted by Daniel Charms 12 September | 08:54
A friend lent me Never Let Me Go, which is really compelling so far. I put down The Known World when I picked up Never Let Me Go, but I was really enjoying it. Also compelling, but in a very different way. Never Let Me Go has a feeling of looming horror and creeping disquiet. The Known World is meandering and rich. Of the two, it's probably better to plow through Never Let Me Go and slowly dip in and out of The Known World.
posted by crush-onastick 12 September | 09:07
"Gotham: A history of New York City to 1898." by Michael Wallace. One of the most readable long histories I've ever read, excellent.
posted by Melismata 12 September | 09:08
Brain Greene's "The Fabric of the Cosmos". It'll take me a while to get through.

Finally finished reading the Narnia books to my daughter. Now we're on to "The Worry Week"

There were a couple of book sales this week nearby. Netted ten or so, but half of them were cookbooks or photoshop reference stuff.
posted by DarkForest 12 September | 09:19
I just finished Edward Chancellor's "Devil Takes the Hindmost: A Financial History of Speculation", which was great--it's amazing, though predictable, that speculative bubbles in the 1720's were basically the same as they are in the 2000's.

I've been alternating between work-related finance/economics books and fiction, so now I'm reading another Philip K. Dick novel, "The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch."
posted by mullacc 12 September | 09:29
Just picked up a new round of books at the library last night:

Parenting, Inc.
Buying In
A Woman in Charge (I've been recording sections from this the past two weeks at the library for the blind & dyslexic, and now I want to catch up on the sections I haven't read!)
Working With You Is Killing Me (a repeat; I may have to buy a copy, it's that good)
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 12 September | 09:31
I need more books. I've been rereading, which is nice, but I'm in the mood for new books. With the rereading, I just went through all the Donna Leon mystery novels I have, and now I'm rereading Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake. I had forgotten how good it was.
posted by occhiblu 12 September | 09:35
In fiction, I'm moving from a David Goodis (Shoot the Piano Player is a particular favorite) kick to a David Corbett one (I love Done for a Dime). Marcus Sakey and Michael Harvey are on deck. In nonfiction, I'm reading a Michael Jackson book about single-malt scotches, a book about Five Percenters by Michael Muhammad Knight and a couple books about Fay Jones and his architecture.

In my professional life, I need to skim through The Complete Idiot's Guide to Alchemy, in order to determine whether it better belongs in the 540s with the chemistry books or in the 133s with the palmistry books.
posted by box 12 September | 09:55
Just finished Peter Carey's True History of the Kelly Gang, which I loved, and started Sarah Waters' The Night Watch, which I expect to love because everything else she's written is fab.

Staying on Alone: The letters of Alice B Toklas has been my cigarette book for, ooh, most of this year.
posted by goo 12 September | 09:57
Babyplans TPS?

I picked up A History of the Arab Peoples at the airport. But now I look it up on amazon it seems to be biased, boring and dense. Hm.
posted by jouke 12 September | 09:58
Oddly enough, nothing currently. I just finished "Mindstorms", and "Who Really Matters". I've got Victor Frankl's "Man's Search for Meaning" on my night table, so I might pick that up in a few days.

posted by lysdexic 12 September | 10:05
Finally finished the latest biography of Franklin. . .it was very interesting. . .Franklin would have been a great blogger. . .

Which lead me to read a few chapters in Gotham, which I actually picked up a few years ago from THAT bookstore but it's a hard cover to cover read so I am just reading it in sections. . .this time I read the sections that covered the occupation by the British during the Revolutionary War.

And now, almost through Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream which is kind of a factoid-laden survey of various current research of human anatomy and physiology and even though Sex is the lead word, there is precious little discussion in the actual book. The book is mildly diverting and I'll finish it but it's hardly earth-shattering.
posted by danf 12 September | 10:08
to determine whether it better belongs in the 540s with the chemistry books or in the 133s

Do individual librarians decide stuff like that? I often get a laugh about the shelf pairings of subjects due to the Dewey system. I always imagined that stuff was figured out when the book was published.
posted by DarkForest 12 September | 10:08
Spook Country by William Gibson - I've been reading it for two months and haven't really gotten too far but that's mostly because I needed new glasses. I've finally gotten to the point where I need bifocals to be able to read small print. My new glasses come in next week so hopefully I'll be reading more.
posted by octothorpe 12 September | 10:10
Why Beauty Is Truth: The History of Symmetry

On deck is The Great Railway Bazaar. And if anyone sees a copy of Jupiter's Travels by Ted Simon, please let me know. Oh wait, I see now I can order it directly from him. Take that, local booksellers!
posted by Eideteker 12 September | 10:13
Babyplans TPS?

No, none for me! Just thought the book looked interesting.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 12 September | 10:18
I am reading 2666. It's long. And despite those great reviews, I am not really enjoying it. But I feel like I should finish it because I am already 400 pages in and it is an "important book."

I am also trying to catchup on my New Yorkers.
posted by rmless2 12 September | 10:20
I actually haven't been reading anything "heavy" lately, in lieu of trying to finish two Apple U download/podcasts I discovered - a Photoshop tutorial, and a physics lecture series from Harvard.

I typically have a "bus book" in my messenger bag; these are usually always completely frivolous massmarket paperbacks. Right now I'm reliving my teens by enjoying a new Raymond Feist sword-and-sorcery novel.
posted by lonefrontranger 12 September | 10:20
That's how it starts....
posted by jouke 12 September | 10:20
David Sedaris's new one, When You are Engulfed in Flames, which I got for my birthday.
It's funny in parts but lacks the punch that Barrel Fever or Naked gave when I first read them over a decade ago. Still good, though, and I'll always read anything he writes.

I just finished two crappy biographies from the library, obtained during a week when there was NOTHING there of interest:
Marlene Dietrich, a bitchy biography by her daughter, Maria; and Alan Alda's Never Have Your Dog Stuffed.
posted by chococat 12 September | 10:26
I just finished Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks, and have turned to All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy. I'm thinking of finally digging into The Elegant Universe next.
posted by middleclasstool 12 September | 10:37
Wow, I feel like a total lightweight. I just finished Diana Wynne Jones's Deep Secret and promptly started The Merlin Conspiracy. And before that I worked my way through all seven Harry Potter books. Because I am not up for any heavy reading right now (I figure grad school will take care of that for me.)

Before I started Harry Potter I read The Ruins, which is...pretty shudder-inducing.
posted by Fuzzbean 12 September | 10:43
Do individual librarians decide stuff like that? I often get a laugh about the shelf pairings of subjects due to the Dewey system. I always imagined that stuff was figured out when the book was published.

It usually is. Most cataloging is 'copy-cataloging,' where the person at the local library just gets the info from either the Library of Congress or OCLC (the Dewey overlords). People involved in archives and special collections and whatnot get to do more original cataloging. And I'm not a cataloger, so I don't normally do this kind of stuff at all.

In this case, though, it looks to me like somebody far up the chain made a judgment call that I don't agree with, and so I'd like to get the catalogers in my library system to take a closer look before I put it out on the shelves at my branch.
posted by box 12 September | 10:47
Aside from school stuffs, I've been slowly picking my way through Kushiel's Scion, which is part of a series I heard good things about. (I've already read the first 3 books, and this book is the start of the final part of the series, I believe.)
posted by sperose 12 September | 11:04
Recently finished A Walk in the Woods, now reading Among the Thugs.
posted by Hellbient 12 September | 11:40
I'm in the middle of re-reading Jack of Kinrowan (Charles de Lint), just starting Fast Food Nation (Eric Schlosser).

I just finished the first three Kushiel books and now that I know about the ~next~ three I'm going to have to stock up at Powell's.
posted by oreonax 12 September | 11:44
The British version of Deathly Hallows
LouAnne Johnson's Teaching Outside the Box
Finishing a weird bio of Peter Sellers written by someone who both didn't like him and inserted way too much of himself into it.
posted by brujita 12 September | 12:21
I'm also reading The Yiddish Policeman's Union. That, and George Borrow’s Lavengro.
posted by misteraitch 12 September | 12:23
I'm slogging through Augustine's City of God. I finally got into book 10 so now it's finally talking about theology rather than wrestling with the old pagan gods of Rome. I am enjoying how my translator keeps leaving footnotes about all the times augustine is wrong when it comes to his tendency to not know where words come from.
posted by stynxno 12 September | 12:36
Don Quixote (never've read it before and it is FUN) and The Complete Concrete (for my comix fix).
posted by not_on_display 12 September | 13:25
Best books so far this week:

1. Dark Dude by Oscar Hijuelos. Pulitzer Prize-winning author's first teen novel.
2. Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson. Slavery during the American Revolution. Pubs in October -- you should pre-order it.
3. Paper Towns by John Green. Also pubs in October. John is not only a great writer, he's also totally hot in the nerdy way. Le sigh.

I think that's my list. I think I read Paper Towns this week, but maybe it was last week. And I bet I'm leaving stuff off, but three is a good number. I'm sticking with it.
posted by brina 12 September | 14:23
I just tonight finished The War of the Flowers (Salon review). Before that, I read The Lathe of Heaven and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime (NYT).

And before that, the first two books of the Wheel of Time series. Before that... I don't remember.

Next, I haven't decided. Has anyone read or started "Anathem" yet?
posted by taz 12 September | 14:48
oooh taz! What did you think of War of the Flowers? I didn't much like his Otherland (?) series and quit in the middle, but I could NOT put that one down. Fantastic characters.

Wheel of Time... started great but I gave up about 4 or 5 books in. Hope I don't discourage you but ultimately it gets really tedious and recursive (at least I thought so).
posted by lonefrontranger 12 September | 14:52
and I feel like such a dork but Williams' poetically spooky/sad/apt references to Goodnight, Moon absolutely made me weep.
posted by lonefrontranger 12 September | 14:54
I liked War of the Flowers a lot, and it was exactly what I wanted - a nice, chubby, involving "other world" fantasy that wasn't a part of a series... with a little bit of a "Little Big" feeling thrown in. I liked the strong political overtones, but was slightly disappointed with what someone has called something like the "California voice" of the novel, or something. I do think I would have liked a bit more literary elegance, which you do find in some passages, but it sort of points up the lack of same in the rest of the book.

Wheel of Time... yes, nice, but I too was finding it very same-y even by the second novel. I was, like, "wait, didn't we already do that?" I'll probably read the third one later on down the line, and see after that.
posted by taz 12 September | 15:16
Interesting. To me the "California voice" was very much in keeping with the protagonist's view of things, almost like he was telling it first-person. There was even a nod to this concept of voice when the protagonist alluded to how he initially struggled with (what he felt to be) the antiquated, Edwardian prose in his uncle's diary. I mean, he was a 30 year old slacker musician from L.A. I kinda don't expect him to spout Tolkien-esque metaphor. I thought there was elegance in the way he tried to describe trippy concepts in modern-day terms (the "Van Gogh" stars were a cool analogy).

I found it to be an engagingly intertwined combo of fantasy, post-apocalyptic sci-fi, Celtic myth, and horror, with a soupcon of steampunk and a ton of well-rounded characters. I admit I also related well to the protagonist, whom I felt to be sort of a slacker avatar for GenX at large. Also, he pretty much reacts the way I'd imagine any one of us "everymen" would if thrown into completely bizarre and unpredictable circumstances. And there wasn't much, if any deux ex machina crap, he just kind of muddles through on intuition and luck.

posted by lonefrontranger 12 September | 15:34
I just finished Tim Sandlin's Rowdy In Paris which was funny and moving, as is per usual for him. I bought a 70's vintage bio of Hugh Hefner from the bargain bin today. That should be fun. I also got a DVD of old Mr. Ed episodes, but I have a feeling pips will make me watch them when she's not home.
posted by jonmc 12 September | 20:00
I'm on a short story kick. I just finished Self-Help and Life Stories by Lorrie More. Now I am reading Honored Guest by Joy Williams. I am also "reading" Into Thin Air on my iPod speaker thingie. I read Into Thin Air when it first came out, but since that was a long time ago I decided to listen to it. When I listen to a book on tape my husband almost always gets interested in the story. Our last book on tape was Garlic and Sapphires. It was a lot of fun.
posted by LoriFLA 12 September | 20:27
I'm in the process of packing up my bookshelves and I came across this book by N. Lee Wood called Looking for the Mahdi that I'd never yet read. (I buy books at the Goodwill, 10 - 20 at a time, based on the covers, mostly.) It's a dated but enjoyable cyberpunk thing from 1996. Before that I just reread Sean McMullen's first two Moonworld books and before that, when things were first starting to really break apart, I was obsessively rereading pretty much everything Charles de Lint ever wrote. Which was really good for me and total comfort food and I owe him a fan letter on the strength of it.

Psst, Elizard! You have Beard on Bread!?! I've been looking for a copy of that for YEARS, since I loaned mine out and it never returned. I neeeeed the potato bread recipe and the simple french bread recipe and the chili cornbread recipe. Pleeeeease.
posted by mygothlaundry 12 September | 21:45
In case elizard misses the comment, mgl, there appears to be a copy at the West Asheville library.
posted by box 12 September | 21:54
I fairly recently finished the short little Murkami memoir What I Talk about When I Talk about Running. I've been a big Murkami fan for a long time and have read pretty much everything you can get translated. I got quite a bit out of this book, Murkami and myself share many tendencies and have similar outlooks. I've never really found that to be the case with favorite writers whom I've read bios or memoirs on. There is this feeling I get from Murkami's books that I can't really describe but it is something I've found in a few other books, a couple of films, certain TV shows. I wonder if in some way this is recognition of a kindred soul?

"I've had this tendancy ever since I was young, when, given a choice, I much preferred reading books on my own or concentrating on listening to music over being with someone else. I could always think of things to do by myself."
-Haruki Murakami, What I Talk about When I Talk about Running p. 15
posted by kodama 13 September | 00:26
Just got back from vacation, during which I read three (two were fluff, sheerly for fun):

- I'm With the Band, Pamela Des Barres -- read most of it on the plane between Burbank and Seattle. Amusing groupie escapades. I was actually most interested in her anecdotes about Gram Parsons, Chris Hillman, and that crowd.

- No Touch Monkey, Ayun Halliday -- episodic travel misadventures, which started out funny and eventually became tedious, as the same theme emerged every time: she shows up flat broke in a far-flung place she knows nothing about, then proceeds to get into some mishap that can be traced directly to her lack of planning and funds, combined with a mysterious unwillingness on the part of locals to provide her (presumably free of charge) with storybook-quality shelter, weather, food, and events. All of which may be wryly forgivable (if exasperating) from a 22-year-old, which is her age in the first essays, but in a 30something (particularly one with a baby in tow) it approaches special-snowflake loathsomeness of an almost infuriating degree.

- Foucault's Pendulum, Umberto Eco -- a bit of a cheat, as I've read it twice before (though not since sometime in the '90s). Still a great, compulsive, mind-bending read.

Next up: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, newly arrived from Woo!
posted by scody 13 September | 02:12
Just finished Field Work, by Mischa Berlinsky, for book group tomorrow. Interesting & enjoyable. Now I can go back to 10 Days in the Hollywood Hills by Jane Smiley; best part is her rants on politics. Then Yiddish Policemen's Union or Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. I'm more solvent than I was for a while, so will be able to re-up the New Yorker, which will be a treat.
posted by theora55 13 September | 10:02
scody, I've read a few of Halliday's columns in Bitch (I think -- or is it in Bust? I get them confused), and I've always had the same reaction. I feel like I'm supposed to find her more charmingly every-woman than I do. I've kind of come to the conclusion that I might like her in person, but the persona she's created for herself in writing is too limiting ("Time to be clueless and overwhelmed again!").
posted by occhiblu 13 September | 12:48
Just finished (and loved) Anne Fadiman's The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, a totally gripping read about Hmong immigrants and their conflicts with Western culture, told through the story of one family's drastically ill child and how they experience our medical system. Now I'm reading The Tender Bar, a memoir which I love for depicting an environment I grew up in - a mixed-class, mixed-ethnic, metro-NY-area town with a community life centered on the local watering hold. I also like it because it's the story of a son with an absent father, and how he reaches out to find men to model himself on, while being very sensitive to the women in his life - a nice counterpoint to Rick Bragg's The Prince of Frogtown, which I read early this summer, and which was very hung up on a bullshit idea of Southern manhood that his own violent, alcoholic father messed him up with (the two would make an awesome book-discussion pairing - Prince was still a well-written book that was historically fascinating). I'm slowly working my way through Worse Than Slavery - the book contains knowledge I want, but it's incredibly hard to read, as it's full of detail about lynching, rape, violence, and cruelty in Mississippi from American onward. I can manage about half a chapter at a time before getting really upset. While at the beach last week I read about half the stories in Elizabeth Berg's The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted - I enjoyed them and found them well observed and sympathetic, but pretty light-duty nonetheless. Good beach material.
posted by Miko 13 September | 13:09
Over a year's New Yorkers wait for me, and i've wanted a big thick escape book for a while, but i've got a stack of great books i haven't read yet. i've started at least three books, all good (Anansi Boys, Fortress of Solitude, I Love You, Beth Cooper) but they didn't fit my mood and mode, so i'm bouncing between two books of essays (When You are Engulfed in Flames and the afore mentioned DFW which both contain bits i've read elsewhere, but well worth rereading again.
i'd love a big thick comic book before i finally dive into the stack of last year's best picks taunting me with gathering dust.
The place is just dusty. So very dusty.
posted by ethylene 13 September | 17:59
Has anyone read or started Anathem yet?

I'm about a quarter of the way in. I picked it up on Friday night when he was down here reading at Kepler's, and haven't been able to put it down since. I'm also in the middle of Tobias Wolff's Our Story Begins, which is an enormous collection of stories.

Recently finished Joshua Ferris's Then We Came To The End, Daniel Levitin's The World In Six Songs, and more stories: Deborah Eisenberg's Twilight of the Superheroes.
posted by tangerine 14 September | 18:19
OMG! Turtle! || Babe's wife mothers a tiger, true story.