Metatalktail Hour: Fine Print March 11, 2023 2:17 AM   Subscribe

Happy weekend everyone, I hope you are well! For this metalktail hour topic, I'd like to ask what you are reading, or what you last read, or what you are looking forward to reading ... and also, actually, um, are you reading? Or has the combination of the always-on instant news cycle, ballooning world crises, and overbearing social media interrupted, slowed, or stymied your flow? Or intensified it?

Also, also, any recommendations for books you've liked lately? Finally, I noticed a thread a while back in Mastodon that asked people to give their suggestions for "If you liked [book], you might like [other book]," so if you have any ideas to share, or recs to solicit of this kind, fire away!

Or just tell us what happening with you these days, what's on your mind, what are your plans — but no politics, please and thank you!
posted by taz (staff) to MetaFilter-Related at 2:17 AM (74 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

My reading slowed way down in the 2010's because that was The Decade Of Life Overwhelm.

Something I've still kept reading are cookbooks; I have a stupidly big collection. I also joined a book club for post-apocalyptic fiction about 10 years ago now, and have been keeping up with that. VERY gradually I am expanding back into other things; short fiction and essays, mostly. I've recently been getting weirdly into herb-related things - herbal tea lore, herbal bath lore, things like that.

....In other news - I finished watching the Best Picture nominees last night (well - all but AVATAR, but I'm refusing to see that and I saw RRR instead); I'm heading to a theater to watch the ceremony broadcast in a room with a bunch of other film geeks. Last night's movie was ELVIS, and...I now get why it was nominated and why Austin Butler is a contender for Best Actor. I'm still holding out hope for Brendan Fraser there, though....
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:23 AM on March 11

Just recently downloaded Clean by James Hamblin, which is a pop sciencey book about how he stopped bathing. In January, I read/reread all the Animorphs books, which I had started as a kid. I probably would have read more in between, but the job I started back in November, which carries with it a lot of downtime, apparently does not allow for reading books? So I’m trying to get around it now by having Libby pulled up on my computer, but I feel like I can’t focus reading in that format.
posted by Night_owl at 4:35 AM on March 11

I'm currently reading True Things About Me by Deborah Kay Davies, about 1/4 of the way in, and quite enjoying it. It's a bit bleak, but I can identify with the self-destructive behaviour of the protagonist, having been there, done that, when I was her age.

Before that I re-read Zoe Heller's Notes on a Scandal (known as What Was She Thinking? in the USA). It's such a well-written book and one that the film did justice to, thanks to perfect casting and wonderful performances.

My book group imploded spectacularly over the summer due to political differences, and I'm not missing feeling obliged to read other people's choices, far too many 'worthy' novels about subjects I'm not interested in, particularly historical novels which generally bore me to tears.

Once I've finished True Things About Me I've got Cleopatra & Frankenstein next on my list.

Empress Callipygos: I would also love Brendan Fraser to win.
posted by essexjan at 5:13 AM on March 11 [2 favorites]

Earlier this year I finally got round to reading Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl by Andrea Lawlor, and that made me finally get round to reading Orlando, which sent me further down a Woolf hole with re-reads of To the Lighthouse and Mrs Dalloway.

I then tried to read The Waves, which defeated me at university for reasons I couldn't remember. Well, now I remember them. It's because I absolutely hate the narrative style! And too much of the content the narrators narrate in that book is essentially nature writing, which I feel slightly ashamed to admit how not-into I am. I love writing that's rich with descriptions of people and relationships and interactions, and descriptions of plants and flowers just leave me cold for some reason.

I jettisoned The Waves gleefully and without shame after understanding at last why it's Not For Me, and moved on to Hermione Lee's biography of Woolf, which is exactly what I wanted next and very much hitting the spot.

I'm having surgery next month and planning to indulge a much less academic selection of SFF during the recovery phase, hence trying to do some slightly more brain-intensive reading beforehand.
posted by terretu at 5:18 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]

I'm reading The Things They Carried and I honestly don't know what to think of it so far.

Also reading The Confusion and I know one thing, Eliza's letters are boring as hell. I don't remember that from my previous read through. But that was quite a while ago.
posted by Splunge at 6:28 AM on March 11

I am on a Project this year to read 5000 pages of Spanish prose. Please don't make fun of me for mostly reading translations of American pop fiction; I've tried four or five times to read A Hundred Years of Solitude, everyone tells me to read the YA trilogy that Isabel Allende wrote but I read half of the first book and I just don't think it's very good. I've tried to read half a dozen serious literary Latin American novels, and my reading level isn't there yet.

That's next year. (Also, next month I'm starting a new job at a university that offers tuition benefits and Spanish literature courses, so I'm looking forward to having someone hold my hand through some of the classics.)

So I've read Fairy Tale by Stephen King, and L.A. Weather by María Amparo Escandón, and Return to Sender by Julia Alvarez, and now I'm reading The Return of Carrie Soto by Taylor Jenkins Reid, even though I didn't much like Daisy Jones and the Six. It's OK. I appreciate her willingness to have an entirely unlikeable female main character, and her calling out of how awful media culture was to women in the 80s-90s, but like with Daisy Jones, I keep wanting just a little more psychological depth and complexity.

(Obviously media culture continues to be awful to women, but the book is set in 1994-1995, so I won't be too much of a grump about that.)

The last thing I read in English was Ducks by Kate Beaton, which I cannot recommend highly enough.
posted by Jeanne at 6:41 AM on March 11 [6 favorites]

Favorites from the last few weeks:

Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver
Age of Vice by Deepti Kapoor
School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan
Crossroads by Jonathan Franzen
posted by kiwi-epitome at 7:07 AM on March 11

The Return of Carrie Soto Carrie Soto is Back
(I back-translated the Spanish title without thinking about it.)
posted by Jeanne at 7:07 AM on March 11

I recently finished Charles Yu's Interior Chinatown. It was very good! Yu's other stuff hasn't really landed with me, but this very literary fantasy about Asian-American identity, race in America, belonging, and a police procedural TV show with protags named Black and White really worked for me.

I am currently reading:

Joe Abercrombie's The Trouble with Peace; enjoying it. Nice callbacks to other bits of the First Law world, but a little too much of the flashy transitions that others have loved in his work but aren't really for me.

Japandemonium Illustrated: The Yokai Encyclopedias of Toriyama Sekien, which is nicely framed by the editors/translators, and I'm really enjoying it.

Monica Heisey's Really Good, Actually, which is like a Nora Ephron story written by an elder Millennial, both dark and hilarious, and which I've seen described as an anti-romantic comedy. Heisey wrote for Schitt's Creek, and you can believe it while reading. It's great so far!

I'm also rereading or reading a bunch of fiction and theoretical work associated with media horror, for a paper I'm giving next week. As always, this makes me want to recommend Experimental Film, Gemma Files' outstanding horror novel about haunted film shenanigans.
posted by cupcakeninja at 7:10 AM on March 11 [2 favorites]

The Survivalists (Fanfare) was a light read and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow (Fanfare) was not. I enjoyed them both, but felt much more strongly about Tomorrow as a piece of writing: there is more there, there. I liked The Survivalists! But like a few other things I've read in the last few years, it struck me as a bid for a television adaptation rather than its own claim as a book (my current pet peeve). Sketched-out characters waiting for mannerisms and facial expressions to be filled in, a roughed in account of internal states, a narrative reliance on appearance--I have trouble imagining these characters as people who could conceivably be in the world. Whereas with patient descriptions of internal states, I can resonate with the experience in some way. I was afraid that Tomorrow would be along the lines of Ready Player One (ugh) and was delighted to find that it was anything but. Yes, cultural touchstones, but they were somewhere in the way background of a story about relationship and creative partnership over decades. I am still deciding what I thought of it, but it was well worth reading.

Oh, Ducks was so good! I still struggle a little bit with graphic novels, but this memoir was beautiful.
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:12 AM on March 11

The last book I finished was Alone, a YA novel written in free verse about a 12-year-old girl who wakes up to find that her entire suburban Denver town (and all the adjacent towns) was evacuated overnight, and she got left behind.

I should finish up Sub Rosa by Auden Lly this weekend. It's kind of a dark fairy tale set in a modern NC mountain town.

My favorites from this year so far are The Measure: A Novel by Nikki Erlick and The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd.
posted by COD at 7:23 AM on March 11

I just started The Veiled Throne by Ken Liu, a few months after reading the previous book in the series due to library wait lists. I was a bit confused at the start and wanted to find a synopsis of The Wall of Storms to refresh my memory. I was disappointed to find that the books apparently don't have much of a fandom (yet, anyway - hope it might grow with time), since most of what's online is about the first book, The Grace of Kings. I think these are brilliant books and have dipped a little bit into Liu's writing about them, which I find very thoughtful and compelling. Fortunately, it's also a epic that's complete as of last year, which is good since I recently broke my "no more investing in incomplete epics" rule for Brandon Sanderson (The Stormlight Archive got me).
posted by EvaDestruction at 7:25 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]

I just acquired a copy of Moominvalley in November, which I'm excited about, because that book has never been translated into my language and so I wasn't really aware of it and I've never read it before!

In other news: one of our cats, described in this AskMefi, has recently been unhappy and unhealthy. It turned out that his teeth were really bad. He's one of those cats who you only take to the vet when it's really neccessary, because it stresses him out so badly, but in this case it was definitely time to go.
All of his teeth were removed on Thursday. It made me very sad, I felt so guilty, as if this was something that we had done to him. On Friday, he was already looking a bit better and by the end of the day he ate a small soupy meal (also containing his medication). Today, he had a decent breakfast made of soft and tasty things, so he is clearly showing good progress. I suspect that all will be well.
posted by Too-Ticky at 7:43 AM on March 11 [12 favorites]

I just started reading The Stick Chair Book by Christopher Schwarz. I do not need a chair, I do not really care about chairs, but the process by which one builds a chair seems really interesting so I think I'm gonna have to build a chair.
posted by bondcliff at 7:44 AM on March 11 [7 favorites]

Currently reading Blight's biography of Frederick Douglass. Very good, but Douglass' life is (for all his flaws) the heroic arc of an exceptional individual, and Douglass himself refined his own narrative to make it compelling, so I kind of think it's an easy one to make an exciting bio out of.

Last read what I think was my first Jack Vance novel, The Star King, which is a revenge space opera. It's very 1960s. There's a fairly eloquent "defund the police" speech right in the middle of it that I didn't expect to find in a vigilante story, but it is exactly as bad with women characters the one woman character as you'd expect.
posted by mark k at 8:03 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]

I used to read a lot. The rate slowed somewhat a few years back and then the pandemic just killed it entirely. But I've been trying to read more again lately!

So wandering the book store the other day I came across The Kaiju Preservation Society. I always enjoy Scalzi's books, they're just straight-up fun to read and this one—although I've just started and am only a few chapters in—seems to be no different. Great way to ease back into the habit.

For non-fiction I've also been meaning to start This is Your Brain on Music. So far I've only read the introduction but it seems interesting. I've also been dipping in and out of Musical Composition: Craft and Art but that one's not really a sit down and spend the afternoon reading kind of book being, basically, a textbook.
posted by Mister_Sleight_of_Hand at 9:13 AM on March 11 [2 favorites]

I just finished Honor by Thrity Umrigar this morning, and it was one of the best books I have read in a long time. It’s not an easy read - it centers on fallout when a Hindu woman in India marries a Muslim man, and her brothers try to murder both of them. But still well worth reading.

That’s my 18th book of the year, which is definitely the fastest pace I’ve ever read at. I think my ongoing post-covid fatigue contributes to my really enjoying sitting on the couch reading.

I’m looking forward to reading Diary of a Void by Emi Yagi not necessarily for the book itself, but because my friend’s book club is reading it, and their meeting will be while we’re in town visiting. So it’ll be fun to participate in that. Also looking forward to Solito by Javier Zamora which has been highly recommended and on my list for a while, and it was finally on the shelf at my library.
posted by obfuscation at 9:18 AM on March 11

Just finished a reread of Gideon the Ninth and Harrow the Ninth, both of which (especially the latter) made more sense and had a bunch of second-time-only jokes in them that I really, really appreciated. Now I need to wait four weeks for my hold to come in on Nona so I can see where the hell this is going.
posted by cortex (retired) at 9:40 AM on March 11 [8 favorites]

I have been reading pretty much non-stop since I was six.

If anything I read more, due to lockdown, anxiety etc., than ever.

Just finished Network Effect by Martha Wells, just started Annihilation by Jeff Van der Meer.
you can probably guess where I get some of my book recs lol...
posted by supermedusa at 9:44 AM on March 11 [3 favorites]

oh and also slowly working my way through The Horse, the Wheel and Language by David W Anthony, which is quite interesting so far.
posted by supermedusa at 9:57 AM on March 11

I have been reading! Not always new stuff, although I just ordered Max Gladstone's new one and may reread the series before I get to it. I also just reread my favorite Star Wars fanfic because the end finally came out and I wanted to get the whole thing at once. (It's Kylux fic, which is not something I am baseline interested in, and it's baaaaarely Star Wars anyway, but it's really good.) I also have She Who Became the Sun on the top of my to-read list, and I've been reading kind of a lot of fluffy sapphic romances, now that that's a genre that exists in enough volume for there to be a lot of them.
posted by restless_nomad (retired) at 10:21 AM on March 11

Last night, I finished a rough translation of Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de La Force's short novel Les Jeux d'esprit. La Force was a fairy tale author writing at the same time as Madame d'Aulnoy, Charles Perrault, etc., but this is a book of "Games of Wit," which includes a novella-length fictionalization of a collaborative storytelling game as well as a game of dream fabulation/interpretation and a semantic triangulation game essentially the same as the 19th C. game "What is My Thought Like?" but with extra questions giving even more absurd possibilities.

I doubt La Force's semantic triangulation game has a relationship to much later games like Got It, which went viral on TikTok, but it's fun that the idea of players having to find connections between unrelated words was reinvented. I'd guess La Force's game probably does have a relationship to the Surrealist game "One Into Another" [PDF], which combines the more usual version of the game "Metamorphoses"--a little different from La Force's version--with a semantic triangulation problem similar to "What is My Thought Like?"

For what it's worth, her collaborative storytelling game probably has a pretty close relationship to 19th C. storytelling games, though throughout the 18th C., a 17th C. variant requiring someone to incorporate a specific list of words into a story has been much easier to document and may have a more direct relationship.
posted by Wobbuffet at 10:28 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]

I’ve been reading so much! Covid finally got me this week so the last few days were comfort reading-reread The Goblin Emperor and its two sequels-the second of which, Grief of Stones, I hadn’t read yet. And picked up a nonfiction book by Pico Iyer-Autumn Light-a comfortable and lovely book about his community in Japan, which was a nice escape from feeling trapped at home. Our 13 year old son is going through a particularly asshole-y phase at school (including doing some bullying-probably the single most upsetting realization I’ve had about one of my kids in 26 years of parenting) and one of the ways we are trying to respond is by pulling him closer and into positive things. He and I have both recently learned (from a question here!) about hiking the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage in Japan and he’s really interested in it-so I’m starting to explore more travel and other literature re Japan.
posted by purenitrous at 10:41 AM on March 11 [3 favorites]

I've been a reader my whole life, and still read almost every day - usually I can time the breaks in my reading to when something big is going on at work or when I'm traveling...

Currently reading Immortality: A Love Story, which is the second in a series by Dana Schwartz. It's interesting and easy to read. Just finished Scalzi's The Interdependency Series - liked the first book when it came out, then hadn't read the other two until now. Been gorging on Brandon Sanderson (Tress of the Emerald Sea) and Alix E. Harrow mostly so far this year.

Trying to build up my courage to re-read Gideon and Harrow the Ninth so I can read Nona (which I've already purchased). I bounced off Harrow and didn't finish it (very unusual for me), but I want to push through because I loved Gideon and think I will ultimately end up loving the series.
posted by gemmy at 10:55 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]

My attention span has been abysmal lately, trying to get back into reading, books and audiobooks.

Just started Madame Restell: The Life, Death, and Resurrection of Old New York's Most Fabulous, Fearless, and Infamous Abortionist by Jennifer Wright - depressingly timely! - but interesting. Listening to the audiobook narrated by Mara Wilson.

Also reading Small Game by Blair Braverman, a thriller about a survivalist reality TV show gone wrong.

My TBR pile is so big, so I should dig into that next, but it's the time of year I usually reread Watership Down so that's probably what's really on deck.
posted by the primroses were over at 11:22 AM on March 11 [3 favorites]

Some recent highlights include A Mountain to the North, a Lake to the South, Paths to the West, a River to the East by Hungarian misanthrope László Krasznahorkai and Language for a New Century ("Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia, and Beyond") a frequently-fascinating and generously-porportioned anthology.

I recently leaned about Charco Press, a UK publisher specialising in transaltions of Latin American fiction. I'd not heard of any of the authors in their catalogue but took a chance on a couple of their titles, which is how come I'm currently reading Havana Year Zero by Karla Suárez, a treasure-hunt tale of sorts set in crisis-hit, post-Cold War Cuba.
posted by misteraitch at 11:24 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]

the primroses were over of course.

My last copy of WD fell apart last year. time to order a new one!
posted by supermedusa at 11:30 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]

Near-lifetime reader here. You can recognize me, the skinny guy always carrying a book around. But in the first grade, my parents realized I wasn't learning to read. One problem diagnosed was, I couldn't see the blackboard, and the teacher was mean when I tried to get closer, to see. The other problem, which has become a fascinating political football in some quarters, was the method they were using to teach reading: what has become known as Whole Language. Makes sense when learning kanji; preposterous when learning English, or any language which uses letter-phonemes to build words. Why do certain educators insist? Makes no sense to me. And my parents, realizing what the problem was, taught me how to sound out words. (Yes: Phonics.) Suddenly, I could read! Not the blackboard, yet (it was a year or two before I got my first glasses) but the Dick&Jane readers they put into my hands at school. And then, soon, everything else.

I try to read at least one classic, acknowledged volume of Literature every year, and over the past two years I've finished three huge volumes. First two not really literature, I guess, being non-fiction; The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes, and A World At Arms by Gerhard Weinberg; but the real Literature was actually a re-read of a once popular author people don't care for anymore, not Tom but Thomas Wolfe. Like The Catcher in the Rye, I've heard it's important to read Look Homeward, Angel at the right age, of about 21, which I did. This was actually my third or fourth re-read of this Bildungsroman but this time it was Wolfe's original, pre-Maxwell Perkinized version, published in 2015 as O Lost. (I was waiting for it to appear in a reasonably-priced paperback version, but alas. Thank you library!)

But now, back to the modern rubbish. Reading Dead Meat by Philip Kerr (the first of his non-Bernie Gunthers I've ever opened) and finally, Days Between Stations by Steve Erikson (after having, and then losing this book, in a first edition hardback, which I started many times) but now I'm actually about halfway through. Also, the first collection of Fantastic Four Life Story.
posted by Rash at 11:43 AM on March 11 [2 favorites]

I love Moominvalley in November, Too-Ticky! It's great to actually read it in November, because it's so perfectly Novembery.
posted by Redstart at 12:15 PM on March 11 [4 favorites]

I am rereading David Copperfield in preparation for a talk I'm giving in May. Next week*, I hope to be combing through the Brontes' annotations to various books (e.g., the Rev. Patrick B's Bible).

*--supposed to be this week, but the snowstorm shut down the archive (along with everything else)
posted by thomas j wise at 1:21 PM on March 11 [2 favorites]

got an ILL for a Nimoy biography coming soon.
posted by clavdivs at 1:45 PM on March 11

I'm looking forward to reading Don't Fear the Reaper by Stephen Graham Jones.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:01 PM on March 11 [3 favorites]

I'm continuing my policy to read F/SF written only by women/non-binary/trans authors. I usually read over a hundred of them a year. I stopped making a log because, I dunno, I just stopped. I'm presently reading Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty. I am also reading a book of essays called The Black Friend by Frederick Joseph which every white person should read immediately.
posted by seanmpuckett at 2:16 PM on March 11

Guido Crepax’s comic works are now available from Fantagraphics. I have seen bits and pieces before, but I am currently reading his adaptation of Dracula, and yesterday I read his version of Frankenstein. Frankenstein was created at the end of his life when his drawing ability was waning, but is perhaps more effective because of it. I am enjoying reading both of these works.
posted by wittgenstein at 2:21 PM on March 11

I've been reading Bleak House and I'm getting close to the end. I was expecting something a lot bleaker! It's largely a book about a bunch of nice people being nice to each other. I have no complaints about that, it's just not what I had expected. (No spoilers please! If something unexpectedly terrible happens at the end, beyond the heavily foreshadowed bad thing I've been assuming all along is coming, let me find out on my own.)
posted by Redstart at 2:30 PM on March 11 [2 favorites]

I’m waiting for my library to get some copies of All the Beauty in the World: the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Me by Patrick Bringley. I am reading my way through the Lutheran study Bible, cover to cover.
posted by manageyourexpectations at 2:34 PM on March 11

Started reading very early in life and haven't stopped since then. My "read too fast, need more books" situation was solved as soon as the small form factor pda's arrived and I could load them up with ebooks. Saved SO MUCH space when travelling! Now I have a Kindle Paperwhite and it's quite nice.

I just discovered and read "The Expanse" series, and it is amazing! Stayed in sci-fi and just finished "The Spare Man", by Mary Robinette Kowal who also wrote the "Lady Astronaut" series.
posted by alchemist at 5:46 PM on March 11

I’m not very good at reading just at a time (a leftover skill from my college major), I like to have a few going at the same time. I just finished Deanna Raybourn’s A Sinister Revenge , which was an indulgent delight. Now I’m working my way through the endnotes of From Hell (Master Edition), Nine Liars by Maureen Johnson and Rupert Holmes’ Murder Your Employer, McMasters Guide to Homicide.

I’m also listening to Cherie Priest’s Flight Risk.
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 7:06 PM on March 11 [1 favorite]

I started a reread of Gravity's Rainbow after hearing of the 50th anniversary on Feb 28th. Enjoying it again so far.
I'm also reading The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn
Nona the Ninth is on my to read next list or one of several books gleaned from the Tournament of Books, which is happening right now.
posted by OHenryPacey at 10:23 PM on March 11

Oh, The Expanse!

So fun fact: James S.A. Corey is a pen name for the authors Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck and what eventually became the Expanse books started off as the authors' home brew RPG campaign. The books were/are, obviously, popular spawning the TV show official tabletop RPG bringing things nicely full circle. I'm running a one-shot of it for my group in a couple weeks after having the book on my shelf for a few years now.
posted by Mister_Sleight_of_Hand at 3:38 AM on March 12 [1 favorite]

I was a voracious reader and then I just sort of stopped. The internet, smart phones, Twitter, it just took the place of books. A couple members here got me back into reading a bit in or around 2020 (who even knows anymore). In the last couple of years, I read the Fifth Season (great), Station Eleven (fantastic), Consider Phlebas and Player of Games (interesting) before bouncing off of Look to Windward and not picking it up again. I read the first book of the Expanse series, and it’s been the closest to “don’t want to stop reading, just one more chapter” I’ve been in years, and I’ve got the second book, just haven’t picked it up yet. I read Stories of Your Life by Chiang, and What Time is Black Future Month by Jemisin. I hit a wall with Ministry for the Future, there was just so much world building that felt unexplored in favor of characters that felt underwhelming to focus on? It took a while to finish, and I slipped away from reading again for a bit. I found out about and fell in love with Stephen Graham Jones. The Only Good Indians had several moments of such utter disquiet that I had to set it down a couple times, and My Heart is a Chainsaw was really good, but felt a little, I don’t know, messy or scattered at times? I am very much looking forward to his new book continuing that story.

I’ve got Leaving Isn’t the Hardest Thing on my nightstand, but haven’t started it yet. I found myself at the largest foreign bookshop here while they were having a year starting sale, and went a bit nuts. I’ve got the second book in the Jemisin series, the aforementioned Expanse second book, Sea of Tranquility, and Heat 2, which I’m really looking forward to. I have this creeping feeling that I’m amassing books like Burgess Meredith in anticipation for some sort of Time Enough At Last moment.

Damn. Looking back over all of that, I’m realizing that I’ve honestly read a decent lot in the last couple of years. It might not be the two or three novels a week when I was a kid, but Kid Ghidorah didn’t have the internet, streaming services, a mortgage, or a global pandemic to deal with, that lucky schmuck.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:11 AM on March 12 [1 favorite]

Sort of reading Thirty Years War: Europe's Tragedy. This is really the first time I'm reading about this period. It's a bit of a slog. I was told the book was a good mix of notable weird/jawdropping events (like the 1618 defenestrations of Prague) and facts/analysis but urgh there's not enough of the former to sweeten the medicine. I feel like I need some kind of course of study (or at least a great infographic) just to understand the workings of the HRE omfg. And sometimes just small side details will make me reel: like the way that the border with the Ottoman Empire was handled, forces in distant border towns were just expected to sustain their pay by raiding; just trying to imagine that kind of reality. Or lil facts like how the indigenous population of Spain's colonies going from 34+ million to 1.5 million; or how the amount of silver brought from the New World roughly doubled the amount of silver in Europe, and which, a lot went into armies to fight each other.

Another side drop I didn't know anything about was about Justus Lipsius and neostoicism that overhauled armies but also got into, like, dance; apparently stiff weird robotic movement was what people's hearts hungered for. O to be a cog in the grand machine (vs an impenetrable messy pile of ad hoc bullshit)! Modernity crowning??

The book drops these things and keeps trundling ahead. It's a nightmare and I'm not even to the war yet.

Taking breaks from that I've read Final Girl Support Group which was amusing, and I'm now reading a wuxia novel, or maybe THE wuxia novel by Jin Yong. When I skimmed through the dramatis personae in the beginning, amongst all the grandiose martial artist names "The Seven Freaks of the South" really stood out. I was like, I want to know these guys. And lo, they've figured in heavily. It has delivered on the freaks. I've read some of Water Margin, and this is similar. Wuxia gets compared to a lot of western things, and doesn't have any real analogue; but the relentless plot advancement/reversals are probably most like western soap opera. And like it's about on that level of ridiculousness. A martial arts soap opera is a fine way to kill some time imho.
posted by fleacircus at 6:55 AM on March 12

I wrapped up my little beginning-of-the-year mystery-and-crime spree with Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl, so I finally understand why that book was so popular--it's so good and nasty and hateful and fun! But then it was time to get back to the climate, which is my big over-arching reading project, and I began by reading Omar El Akkad's American War, a story about a near-future America wracked by climate, plague, and civil war. Not as fun! Currently I'm reading Jake Bittle's The Great Displacement, which is about where people go when their homes and communities are destroyed by climate change--very similar, I think, to Samantha Montano's Disasterology which I read late last year, and enraging for much the same reasons. Next up, assuming I don't get distracted, is Michelle Dowd's Forager: Field Notes for Surviving a Family Cult, which I ran out and bought immediately after reading the recent excerpt on Lithub. (I also got Soren Mau's Mute Compulsion but I'm not sure I'm ready to dive back into economics and Marx and all just yet...I spent WAY too much time on that during the pandemic.)
posted by mittens at 7:24 AM on March 12 [1 favorite]

cortex, you might be slightly disappointed in Nona, in that you're not really going to find out where things are going? But in the VERY BEST WAY.
posted by cooker girl at 9:44 AM on March 12 [3 favorites]

A very nice thread to read!

I've got bookmarks in Black empire by Georg Schuyler, The vagrants by Yiyun Li, Not without intent by Muriel Spark, a biography of Charles Fort, Geena Davis' memoirs, Cymbeline by Bill.
posted by philfromhavelock at 9:52 AM on March 12

Oh, heh, to be clear I mean more "where it's going next". If I'd come out of Gideon and Harrow thinking "clearly the next book will provide clear, straightforward answers" then more fool I, really.
posted by cortex (retired) at 10:35 AM on March 12 [3 favorites]

I'm preparing material for a two-hour gig next weekend at a local coffee house. I've chosen a range of songs from pre-ragtime to Americano. Shelton Brooks to Jimmy Rogers, Blaze Foley, Merle Travis to Todd Snider, Robert Earle Keen, to name a few. I thought I'd have to scrape the bottom to find enough material to do two hours. As it turned out, dropping songs was he hardest part of this project. Another difficulty was limiting the commentary between songs. Some things--Jimmy Rogers, for instance--were written in contexts that were unique to the times, and to more modern ears, they resonate differently than, say Guy Clark's music will. I think of my parents response to Kitty Wells and Glen Miller, and my response to Aerosmith to inform my editing.

Anyhow, for the most part I've decided to let the music speak for itself, and keep the narrative thread based around times when I have to stall while I check my tuning.

I ran into a problem a couple of months ago by letting one of my guitars, the D-28, become overly dry (the humidity here in SW New Mexico stays in the single digits in the summer). The result was a small crack in the back. I had it repaired, but this is the sort of thing that sends guitar players to one of the circles of Hell. I've been using the D-15 in the meantime. My guitars have preferences, and they become cranky when I try to cross-train them.

I've been working on another project for later in the spring. A group of veterans have planned a horseback trip along the Pacific Crest Trail, from the Mexican border to a hypothetical objective some 500 miles to the north. Most of them are horse owners, but none of them have any back-country equestrian chops. I scouted for them last year, identifying trailheads for entry and egress, and other things relative to such a trip. They won't have pack horses, so they'll have to come off the trail every night to camp and feed the horses. They had no idea how complex this task would be when they started this venture, but in the past few months we've picked up folks with the appropriate experience.

We'll start this venture the first of May. theJenny and I'll will move from one camp ground to the next for a few weeks in support--move horse trailers, camp supplies and such. I doubt they'll get much past the San Gorgonio area in the time they've allotted, and some of the Bear Lake and Laguna areas may be problematic because of lingering snow. Either way theJenny & I will get to linger in desert campgrounds and watch desert wildflowers come to blossom after having been invigorated by the severe winter storms inflicted on California.

The downside for me is that I can no longer straddle a saddle, so I'll have to content myself to sniffing wet saddle-blankets and listening to the horses on their picket lines flubber in the evenings while I prepare to crawl into my sleeping bag. Well, the desert sky at night is its own adventure.
posted by mule98J at 11:30 AM on March 12 [7 favorites]

Ghidorah have you read The Glass Hotel by Emily St John Mandel? Sea of Tranquility is its sequel, which I did not know when I read it. I was confused and not impressed. then I found out I hadn't read the first book! Glass Hotel is lovely and the reread of Sea of Tranq was vastly more rewarding!

re Nona the Ninth. each book is very different in style and content. Nona is REALLY different. so set aside your expectations and enjoy. its well worth the read and left me eager for the next book.
posted by supermedusa at 11:40 AM on March 12 [4 favorites]

I bounced off Harrow and didn't finish it (very unusual for me)

I loved Harrow, but it's definitely not for everyone. If you bounce off it a second time, I don't think anyone would judge you for reading a synopsis so you can then move on to Nona. Nona is a bit more... straightforward, for lack of better term, so that may be easier to get into.

Although I feel like there was a pretty solid payoff toward the end of Harrow that would make it worth the read even if I didn't love the wonkiness. So I really encourage a second try.

Right now I'm in the middle of the Tide Child trilogy. Between being sick, a sick cat, and then a sick dog it's taking me way longer to read than it should. But the slower pace means I get to really enjoy the setting.
posted by ghost phoneme at 4:09 PM on March 12 [3 favorites]

I don't read much these days, but I am currently in the middle of one of those trashy series of novels (on book six of nine) where a British police detective with a chequered past, PTSD, a drinking problem and a sex addiction somehow manages to solve crimes that baffle everyone else. They are very formulaic and predictable, but they're my guilty pleasure.

I have been working through some of my Stephen King favourites over the past year or so, most recently 11.22.63. Like all King's books, there's quite a bit of suspending disbelief required to get involved in the story, but this one really makes me wonder about the possibilities given the various shit-fights going on in the world today. The more I read this one. the more I like it.
posted by dg at 4:45 PM on March 12 [4 favorites]

supermedusa, I hadn’t heard that, thanks for the heads up. All I’d heard about it was people saying they liked it even more than Station Eleven, so I thought I should check it out. Thanks!
posted by Ghidorah at 5:06 PM on March 12 [1 favorite]

One of the things I regret about grad school is that it pretty much killed my ability to read for pleasure, for nearly a decade even after I finished, and I'm really only recently rediscovering it. (Not a universal experience with grad school, but not an uncommon one, either.) Rekindling my joy in reading for pleasure has been really good for my mental health recently.

Right now I'm reading Herodotus's Histories, in English translation by Robin Waterfield. It's actually quite enjoyable, more than I expected! Herodotus rambles and digresses quite badly, but it kind of reminds me of the way my family tells stories where you often have to wait for paragraphs worth of speech before you find out what the relationship between the current digression is to the story that was previously ongoing... Assuming the speaker still remembers it by then, themselves. Some of it is intensely boring discussions of name after name of some Greek or barbarian who was wronged by some other Greek or barbarian (Waterfield always translates "βαρβάροισι" as "non-Greek"), but in between that are really fascinating ethnographic descriptions (which may or may not be remotely accurate), tall tales about gold-digging ants the size of dogs, and entertaining anecdotes about a world that shaped our own but vanished over two millennia ago.

I am also rereading James Herriot's memoirs, which are great comfort books. Reading these two alongside one another also happened to help me notice an interesting aspect about one of Herodotus's stories about the Scythians, which I posted about on Mastodon.
posted by biogeo at 10:03 PM on March 12 [4 favorites]

This is the best-timed post ever! I am about a fifth of the way through "Emma" by Jane Austen! Yes indeed, feel free to draw all the conclusions you like about me and my reading, which you are no doubt assuming to be extremely highbrow all of the time, and never to involve giant exploding spaceships!
posted by TheophileEscargot at 2:50 AM on March 13 [2 favorites]

Posted an AskMe recently on how I've been struggling to read, but since posting that I have started reading - and very much enjoying - Excellent Women by Barbara Pym.

This is a great thread. Lots to add to my increasingly unwieldy TBR list.

To jump in on the Locked Tomb discussion: I absolutely ADORED Gideon, Harrow and Nona, although Harrow felt like a bit of a struggle going in, before becoming extremely gripping at about the halfway point. Can't wait for Alecto.
posted by unicorn chaser at 4:23 AM on March 13 [4 favorites]

I'm currently rereading Pamela Dean's Secret Country trilogy, which I happen to love (though some people dislike it intensely apparently.)

Mr. gudrun and I are also co-reading and slowly getting to the end of the interesting but massive (and a bit overstuffed) non-fiction history of New York City called Gotham by Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace, which covers up to 1898. It came out in 1998 and a bit of language here and there makes me wince, but the amount of research and detail covered makes it worth a read, though sometimes a bit of a slog. It is also sadly interesting to see some of the attitudes of the past (towards immigrants, the poor/poorly housed, workers ...) that are still very much present today. I'm glad to be reading it, though I think I will need a reward at the end, and will need to digest it a bit before tackling the second volume. It reminds me of when I spent a summer reading War And Peace. I'm very glad I did, though it took a real effort to get through, and I had a bit of a "book hangover" after I was done.
posted by gudrun at 9:33 AM on March 13

I've never read Moby Dick but before starting on it, I thought I'd pick up Ahab's Rolling Sea which covers Moby Dick as a Natural History book. I am about 2/3 the way through and it is fantastic and given me more things to explore, which doesn't help with keeping my book reading under control.

We were in Paris a few weeks ago and I bought a few books at the Japanese bookstore Junku. This includes the manga Midnight Diner which I am reading right now. It is making me feel confident, like I can actually read Japanese.
posted by vacapinta at 9:44 AM on March 13 [2 favorites]

I still read all the time but my reading just gets lighter and lighter as I get older; soon we will float away altogether. To that end I have discovered Grace Burrowes and if you like Regencies and historical light mysteries and can tolerate some anachronisms, I recommend her highly. I just finished P. Djeli Clark's Master of Djinn and didn't like it as much as I wanted to and Darynda Jones, A Good Day for Chardonnay, which I liked more than I wanted to. I started Alice Hoffman's White Horses at 3 this morning and it's a nice comfort read so far. It occurred to me that if you like Alice Hoffman, Sarah Addison Allen scratches the same itch. I'm blanking on a lot of books right now but I will add to this thread when I get home tonight!

I liked Gideon okay but also bounced hard off Harrow and I doubt I can go back for Nona. They are just too violent for me. I find I really can't take violence anymore. I'll read murder mysteries all day long but I need the violence to happen off page, as it were.
posted by mygothlaundry at 10:01 AM on March 13 [2 favorites]

I read Sea of Tranquility last month and was surprisingly underwhelmed. I expected so much more after reading Station 11 during the pandemic lockdowns.

Apparently, I should have read The Glass House first.
posted by COD at 10:26 AM on March 13 [2 favorites]

After discovering scifi.stackexchange awhile ago in tracking down Fritz Leiber's short story Time In The Round after my AskMetaFilter question regarding it went unAnswered, I thought to try it again in searching for what turned out to be Judith Moffet's The Ragged World trilogy. My luck was not so good.

But then someone on scifi.stackexchange suggested I try Mike Glyer's scifi newsletter File770 and dang, Judith Moffett herself appeared in the thread that ensued!

She even offered to send me a free ebook but what do I know about ebooks? So I ran down to Twice Sold Tales, Seattle's greatest used bookstore, and scored the first two OP volumes.

Turns out I must have read excerpts that ran in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction because what I vaguely remembered was not what I read in those books. I was blown away by the multi-deck cities of tumbling houses of cards and swirling labyrinths of falling dominos over hills and dales that the books have turned out to be.

The tl;dr of it is the human race is told to shape up or be exterminated by an alien race more than capable of doing so. Shape up as in stop climate change now for the sake of the planet. Not humans but Earth itself.

I am blown away by the scope, imagination and execution of these two novels. She must have a couple of boxcars on a siding somewhere full of preparatory notes. It was and is an insanely ambitious project. And now we are exchanging emails. I am beside myself. File 770, kids, is a fount of wonders, however difficult it is to read on my phone. Please make a note of it.
posted by y2karl at 11:26 AM on March 13 [4 favorites]

I used to read and re-read things voraciously growing up; that slowed down a bit as I got older and then took a turn for the worse in the last few years. So this year I've set a goal of one book per month. In January I read The Memory Librarian by Janelle Monáe. A series of interconnected stories that no doubt will be turned into a series somewhere. In February I read Laser Writer II by Tamara Shopsin which was a nostalgic trip back to my days of working in tech/publishing in NYC in the 90s. I have plenty of books to choose from that have built up over the years (of course I never stopped BUYING books), and am leaning towards The Disordered Cosmos next.

I did read all of The Unbeatable Squirrel girl comics in the last couple of years and highly recommend those!
posted by mikepop at 11:39 AM on March 13 [1 favorite]

I am piddling through various books, some of which I have not been able to dig up much enthusiasm to finish even though I like the series. Right now the main books I'm actually reading are the new Elizabeth Taylor biography by Kate Anderson Brewer and the new Seanan McGuire InCryptid.

I definitely read more books when the Internet was not perpetually available.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:54 AM on March 13 [3 favorites]

Lifelong reader, re-reader, book buyer and checker-out-of-library-er. I just finished The Baroque Cycle by Neal Stephenson, again; and once again I got nearly 3/4 through The System of The World and gave up, peeked at the ending--yup, as remembered-- and gave up for good. Just too many detailed descriptions of geographical locations and directions, and combat between adversaries with unequal weapons so we need to describe it all in slow mo.
Alan Cummings Not My Father's Son: A Memoir was very good, aching, and I enjoyed the format of different time frames for different chapters. A good way to show memory, I think, and what it's like to try to verify your story against the people in your life.
My Lunches with Orson, Conversations between Henry Jaglom and Orson Welles, is at first the blistering dishing of everyone in show business you'd expect. The format is good, it's simply transcribed conversations with no visual descriptions added unless they're spoken by someone. By the end of the book, all kinds of thinks about both our lunchers and what they discuss; some revealing contradictions, much unpleasant harping about nationalities, race, etc.
Menopause: A Comic Treatment, edited by MK Czerwiec, a very good collection of comics commissioned especially for this book.
The Stand: the complete & uncut edition, Stephen King. My rough guess is I've read the original about 10 times since initial publication in 1978, so it will be interesting to see what else is in this one. However, since I just finished a Big Thick Book (at top) I'll probably just snack on little bits of David Sedaris diary excerpts for a bit before wandering off into this one. Oh and I just realized I definitely haven't read The Stand since, er, 2020, so let's see how this goes.
posted by winesong at 2:42 PM on March 13 [2 favorites]

I loved Station Eleven, liked The Glass Hotel, was underwhelmed and mildly annoyed by Sea of Tranquility.
posted by betweenthebars at 3:54 PM on March 13 [1 favorite]

Saturday I finished Twilight, which reminded me of nothing so much as riding your bike home in the rain--when the rain first starts you're in a rush, then if you're in it long enough you realize you cannot get any wetter and reach a grim indifference to it all. Eventually you'll get home and can dry off and change clothes; until then there's nothing to do but keep pedaling.

Yesterday and today, for a palate cleanser, I listened to I'm Glad My Mom Died which, yeah, wow. Good book. I found it funny and disturbing and raw and true.

After work today I started Chemistry by C. L. Lynch, which was the entire reason I subjected myself to Twilight. It's approximately 5,000% more interesting--smarter and more sensible, with better-drawn characters--than the material it's satirizing. I'm only 20% through it but am really enjoying it so far.
posted by johnofjack at 4:47 PM on March 13 [1 favorite]

The other day someone handed me a book about the life of a guy from Statia in the northeast Caribbean. He recounted his life (born in the late 1800s) to his niece, who wrote it down much later. Anyhow, it goes from memories passed down from his father, born into slavery, to his own adventures as a sailor who jumps ship in the US and joins the navy. It’s a pretty fascinating story and we will publish it so we can get copies into schools on Statia and so it’s just generally out in the world.
posted by snofoam at 4:51 PM on March 13 [2 favorites]

To clarify, what was handed to me was a manuscript, not really a book, but I did read it.
posted by snofoam at 4:52 PM on March 13

This thread, and unicorn chaser's related AskMe, are very helpful. Once a voracious fiction reader, I too just quit, in my case right around November 2016, when Trump was elected and my mother died (not completely unrelated events). After his inauguration, I felt the need to bear witness to every awful thing that happened during Trump's presidency and became a hate-consumer of the news, megathread devotee and unrepentant political junkie. Even after Trump [finally] left office, the ongoing COVID situation, January 6th, the War in Ukraine, the hope of indictments, all affected me the same way; various Internet addictions I developed over the preceding years didn't help, though I could read non-fiction related to my obsessions. Somehow I remained able to be a useful early reader for my author friends, but it got to the point where I couldn't even manage to finish simple "airplane" thrillers (looking at you, Jack Reacher), let alone literary fiction.

So this year I vowed to read 50 book-length works of fiction, a quantity that in olden days I would have knocked off by, say, June without breaking a sweat. And I have read... none. But I have some truly marathon travel days to endure coming up and it's occurred to me that maybe I should dip my toe back in the water by re-reading some beloved books. Hopefully, travel boredom and a loaded Kindle will be the cure!
posted by carmicha at 6:25 PM on March 13 [4 favorites]

We accidentally showed up an hour early to a school event this past weekend, so we spent some lovely bonus time in the nice library down the street. I've been meaning to read something by Connie Willis for years but have never managed to remember while in an actual library or bookstore, until this time, and walked out with a copy of Blackout. Whoo! It is gripping but frenetic and I feel like I need some sort of cognitive performance-enhancing drug to keep track of everything happening in those scenes in the time travel office.
posted by eirias at 5:25 AM on March 14 [2 favorites]

I’ve just finished ‘The Fortnight in September’ by RC Sherriff, which is a straight account of an old-fashioned British seaside holiday in the thirties. Nothing much happens. I read it because Kazuo Ishiguro spoke highly of it. Now I’m on to ‘Six Gothic Tales’ by ‘Isak Dinesen’ because Margaret Atwood spoke highly of it. Lots of stuff happens (or is related)
posted by Phanx at 5:37 AM on March 14 [1 favorite]

eirias, the payoff in the sequel (All Clear) is so worth it. My favorites of her books, although maybe tied with To Say Nothing Of The Dog.
posted by joannemerriam at 7:03 AM on March 14 [3 favorites]

I just finished reading At the Feet of the Sun, by Victoria Goddard, sequel to The Hands of the Emperor. These books are exactly the type of writing my brain needs after everything that's happened over the past how every many years it's been. I'm sure I found out about The Hands of the Emperor here, and whoever recommended it has my enduring thanks. For me, they're up there with Becky Chambers's Monk and Robot series for the feelings they evoke.
posted by mollweide at 7:42 AM on March 14 [1 favorite]

Currently re-reading Book 2 of the Sarantine Mosaic by Guy Gabriel Kay.
posted by dhruva at 9:38 AM on March 14 [3 favorites]

The Power by Naomi Alderman, oh my! Only halfway through this rec from a new coworker but it's a heady mix of big fun ideas so far, hard to put down.
posted by riverlife at 10:16 PM on March 14 [2 favorites]

Last weekend, friends and I went to see The Quiet Girl. At the end, people stayed in their seats for a bit, then most walked out speechless as if dazed. I immediately started reading the story at home. The girl narrates the story.

After finishing it, I moved on to the author's Small Things Like These. I can't stop thinking about it.
posted by jgirl at 9:05 AM on March 16 [1 favorite]

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