Whatcha reading recently? Love it? Hate it? Discuss below.


According to Hubski, it's been 69 days since we've had a book thread:

And, seeing as I have about an hour and a half each way, 5 days a week, at 2x to do audiobooks, I've done a lot of books. That doesn't include time on planes or trains.

- Notes on a Foreign Country - a bored grant winner discovers that Turkey is not in fact an Islamic hell, and that the totalitarianism of Attaturk was not, in fact, a 100% undiluted good for freedom of expression or religion. who knew? I got about halfway through.

- The Quiet American - geopolitical Twitter is all about this book right now. Maybe because the guys who were active for Vietnam are all dying. I didn't make it fifteen minutes. "Oh, those poor Americans, forced to oppress Vietnamese geishas."

- Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets - Harry Potter books are fucking fun. But - more on that.

- Seeing Like a State - Fuck this book. Archetypal right-wing conservative "I reject your facts and substitute my own A Modest Proposal was a how-to manual."

- Our Man - there's a broad swath of the intelligentsia that are deeply disturbed that Richard Holbrooke never became president or secretary of state or some shit who also acknowledge he was an asshole that hated people. The biggest problem with the intelligentsia, in my opinion, is that they don't understand that assholes that hate people are dictators, not diplomats, and that the world is a fucking shithole right now because they feel entirely okay compelling the world to their worldview rather than attempting to help out the small folk who are just trying to live their lives. If you wanna know why "neoliberal" became an epithet, it's not because of Richard Holbrooke, it's because of people who lionize Richard Holbrooke. They also want you to read The Quiet American, by the way, and they need to fuck off with that shit.

- Casino Royale.

- The Spy In Moscow Station.

- Zero History by William Gibson. I decided to mainline me some William Gibson while waiting for more Harry Potter books from the library. Zero History is of a trilogy with Pattern Recognition and Spook Country. It was familiar. Not great, but certainly familiar. Curtas, Festo, International Klein Blue... Gibson and I read the same shit.

- The Peripheral by William Gibson. Actual sci fi from Gibson for a change, about a future in which 80% of the world is about to die, and another future in which 80% of the world has already died. It's kinda fun. It makes you realize that pretty much everything Gibson has ever written is about an organization attempting to increase its power through the surgical application of rogue freelancers, basic noir storytelling with lots of glitzy atmospheric bits. I mean, it worked for Raymond Chandler.

- Idoru by William Gibson. Basically a remix of Neuromancer. Eh.

- Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban. Azkaban is probably where I noticed that the fundamental characteristic of the good guys in the Harry Potter universe is "incompetence." I think that's something that's always bugged me about the HP universe: the grownups universally fucking suck at their jobs. This is how plot is advanced - by tossing the idiot ball around.

- Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire. Except that Death Eaters? Death Eaters, in general, have their shit together. And while bureaucracy isn't necessarily evil, it always benefits evil. Is Goblet of Fire where Hermione starts spending every free moment on freeing the house elves? I have thoughts on that as well.

- The Aeronaut's Windlass by Jim Butcher. Jim Butcher wrote the Dresden Files, about a wizard who pays the bills by being a private investigator. That always struck me as a little too trite but people seem to dig it. I'm now literally thumbing through Overdrive looking for shit to read while waiting on Harry Potter books, and this came up. It's kind of a Master & Commander book where the ships are magical zeppelins and the port cities are giant magical arcologies and by the way cats can talk. I enjoyed it. It's definitely a Dudley DooRight vs. Black Bart setup where the good people are very very good and the bad people are horrid but it's enjoyable.

- Range by David Epstein.

- Distrust that Particular Flavor by William Gibson. A bunch of essays written by Gibson for magazines, newspapers and as introductions for other people's books. Disneyland with the Death Penalty is worth reading.

- The Uninhabitable Earth. I mean... yeah. Global warming is bad. This book is someone shouting at you THAT GLOBAL WARMING IS BAAAAAAAAAAAAD largely through analogies. Over and over again. There's no real call to action, nothing is added to the greater narrative, it's pure disaster porn. didn't finish it.

- Bond investing for Dummies. LOOOOL. Everybody's all "pile into the bond market, equities are tanking" but fuckin' hell I can get a better rate out of a 3 month CD than I can out of any bond worth buying. I read this book to see if there was something I was missing about bonds. There is not. They are fundamentally a bad deal for retail investors. The end.

- The Hidden Life of Trees. Trees are cool, and this book explains that they are even cooler than you think. I doubt this book will change anyone's life but it sure is a fun examination of plant life.

- Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. This is one of those thrillers that everyone thought was bugshit awesome back in the '80s, probably because the BBC did an adaptation of it but it's fucking boring. Also I'm really getting sick of the British pretending that the sun didn't set on the British Empire at fucking Dunkirk. I gave it a few days but fuck this book.

- Whirlwind by James Clavell. Clavell is mostly famous for Shogun because it was a Richard Chamberlain miniseries. But he was also a prisoner of war in WWII who based his first book on his experiences. Then he wrote the script for The Great Escape. Then he wrote some more stuff. Whirlwind is his incredibly long distillation of the true events of a helicopter company operating in Iran during the two weeks immediately following the Revolution. He clearly hates Iranians and as it was written in 1986, everything is the USSR's fault. I'm probably a third of the way through it, and will likely continue, but it moves with the agility of a retreating glacier.

- Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix. I'm still reading this, too - put Whirlwind down so I could focus on something lighter. PSYCH! this is a book about how everyone is a dick to Harry Potter because they're incompetent adults. I'm enjoying it but halfway through this book is about where I decided that the whole of the Harry Potter series is an interesting, unintentional portrait of Brexit politics, which is a Bl00's Review that you are all going to be subjected to whether you like it or not.

- Showa: A History of Japan by Shigeru Mizuki. This is a five volume set that covers the history of Japan from the start to the end of the Showa Era (1926-1989). I'm two volumes into it. It's brilliant. Imagine a History of The United States from the Depression to the fall of the Berlin Wall, drawn by Will Eisner, interspersed with the personal life of the author as he grows up, goes to war, and becomes a famous cartoonist. Oh, and it's narrated by Donald Duck. I know what I know of the Japanese War in the Pacific I know through Toland's Rising Sun and Mizuki's book is the exact same facts with a lot less distance.

- Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths, also by Shigeru Mizuki. This is Platoon if instead of Americans in Vietnam you have a Japanese garrison in New Guinea. And they will lose. Based on Mizuki's own experiences. This is an anti-war graphic novel written in 1973, right about the time America was pulling out of Vietnam, and it's powerful. It wasn't translated into English until like 2011.

- Appleseed. Because Mizuki demonstrated that I can read graphic novels and comic books while working so I downloaded all of it. So far? Meh.

posted 323 days ago