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Read The Books You Should Have Already Read

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Leopardi
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Read The Books You Should Have Already Read

#241

Post by Leopardi » May 18th, 2017, 2:57 am

I'm just about finished A New Kind of Science. I wasn't sure what to expect from it - I didn't really know Wolfram's thesis and some Goodreads reviews are particularly unkind - so I went in with a more or less clean slate, but also with some misgivings about starting such a large book that wasn't highly acclaimed. In general, I'm happy to say, I'm glad I read it, but I can only give it a tempered positive review.

The book is essentially broken up into three sections. In the first section Wolfram starts off slowly, giving simple examples of various patterns that arise from elementary algorithmic processes (a famous example is the algorithm for Pascal's Triangle, where a given number in the triangle is equal to the sum of the two flanking numbers preceding it). This section I found uneven; some obvious points were belaboured excessively, while more complicated patterns that weren't immediately obvious (to me, anyway) weren't handled clearly enough. There were a few patterns that, even with slow, repeated readings, I wasn't able to properly understand, to be honest. The section was about 400 pages long, without a clear statement of where this all was going (beyond stressing that some of these patterns arising from simple algorithms create complex patterns), which required a lot of patience to get through.

The second section (another 400 pages) goes on to relate these various complex patterns to those seen in nature, for example, in the colour patterns in seashells, chaotic behaviour, etc. Here Wolfram takes the plunge and (with a warning that his beliefs are speculative) advances his theory that these similarities between simple algorithmic patterns and what we see in nature, that nature and its processes are fundamentally discrete and made up of simple algorithms that we can't easily discern because they've progressed far enough that we only perceive them as random and complex (from a quantum mechanical perspective, this seems to me a distant cousin to Bohmian mechanics in that it demands a hidden variable of sorts). My main criticism with this section is with how vague and opaque it is in places. The section on how general relativity ties in to Wolfram's theory, for example, is in places hand wavy and heavy with breezy references to complicated topics, almost as though he's trying to convince his reader by wearing them down with daunting physics theories. Ultimately Wolfram makes some big claims here (e.g. that the Second Law of Thermodynamics is incorrect) with not much more than "I strongly suspect that" to back his claims too often not to notice.

The third section was for me the most challenging, and I have to admit my background in mathematics and computer science wasn't strong enough to grasp everything that Wolfram was saying, so I'm not terribly comfortable evaluating it. Still, I didn't feel it made the connection to the previous section that it needed to do, it felt somewhat disconnected except in an overarching philosophical sense, so purely from a reader's point of view it was a bit awkwardly constructed.

Despite all these criticisms, I freely concede that Wolfram has an absolutely brilliant mind and that the breezy approach he takes in the second section is more due to his trying not to bog down the reader with all the details of each and every topic he discusses rather than an attempt at obfuscation. I actually think he might be on to something here, and I fall into the 'soft believer' category. That is, I think his point that scientists have had a love affair with defining the world with equations, but that this may not be the only way to describe nature, is very intriguing, and the connections he makes in his book are compelling. I hesitate to go as far as he does, devaluing the equation-based description of the universe that we have in favour of a pattern-based description, but his thoughts do resonate with me more than I was expecting they would. With all its flaws, A New Kind of Science is a bold and thought-provoking read that should not be dismissed out of hand.

Funky, if it's not too late I'll choose Melville for you; I've only read Moby Dick but I genuinely loved it and am interested in hearing your opinions on his other works (especially Billy Budd, the 1962 film adaptation of which I absolutely adore).

Here's my updated list:

1. Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression (Studs Terkel). A fascinating topic taken on by the inimitable Studs Terkel. Who wouldn't want to read this?

2. Childhood in the Middle Ages (Shulamith Shahar). A history book I thought sounded interesting.

3. Mapping St. Petersburg (Julie A. Buckler). Recommended to me, but I don't know much about it.

4. The Return of Martin Guerre (Natalie Zemon Davis). I thought the film adaptation was quite interesting so I thought I'd give the book a try.

5. My Sister and I (Unknown, attributed by a handful of people to Friedrich Nietzsche). Almost certainly a fake, it's still a part of Nietzsche's legacy (for right or wrong) and students of Nietzsche should be familiar with it.

6. The Devil's Doctor: Paracelsus and the World of Renaissance Magic and Science (Philip Ball). Another fascinating history book!

7. The Death and Life of Great American Cities (Jane Jacobs). After reading about Burnham and urbanism lately, I figured I'd add this classic of the field. I didn't even realize we owned this one until my girlfriend pointed it out to me!

8. Victorian London: The Tale of a City 1840-1870 (Liza Picard). Since I had such success with Dr. Johnson's London by the same author, I'll throw this one on the list next.

9. Alexander Hamilton (Ron Chernow). I had the good fortune to see the Broadway production inspired by this book back in January - even with all the hype it didn't fail to impress me - and so this is a natural follow-up.

10. The Feynman Lectures on Physics Volume 1 (Richard Feynman). One of the great minds in 20th century physics, Feynman was considered one of the great educators on the subject as well. This is the first volume (of three) of his lectures, covering mechanics, radiation and heat, and once this one is crossed off the list I'll add volume 2 (and, later, volume 3) - I'm not keen on taking them in all at once. This is considered one of the more popular physics books ever written, so it really is one I should already have read.

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#242

Post by funkybusiness » May 18th, 2017, 4:27 am

interesting read about A New Kind of Science. I doubt I'll take a crack at it as I'd be extremely lost in those woods but I enjoyed your write-up. (and google tells me I was correct in assuming this Wolfram is the same of Wolfram Alpha)

and it's never too late for Melville! I've also only read Moby Dick, a couple times, and place it among my most favorite books. I'll be posting write-ups in this thread, most likely, as I make my way through his works, chronologically, seeing his progress from Popular Adventurist to High Allegorist to Epicist and beyond.

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#243

Post by Kowry » May 18th, 2017, 8:58 am

I tried reading Moby Dick (in English) when I was 19 or so. Gave it up maybe halfway through, the archaic whaling vocabulary was a bit much for me then. Should maybe give it another try sometime. More condfident in my English now and with Kindle it's a bit easier to look up unknown words...

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#244

Post by funkybusiness » May 18th, 2017, 9:37 am

Kowry on May 18 2017, 02:58:02 AM wrote:I tried reading Moby Dick (in English) when I was 19 or so. Gave it up maybe halfway through, the archaic whaling vocabulary was a bit much for me then. Should maybe give it another try sometime. More condfident in my English now and with Kindle it's a bit easier to look up unknown words...
Moby-Dick is a difficult book if English is your native language so I applaud your effort. I'd suggest getting an edition with foot/end-notes like the penguin, norton or oxford editions.

(here are some isbn #s if anyone is interested)
Spoiler: click to toggleShow
Penguin standard: 978-0142437247
Penguin Deluxe (no difference, just larger design and better paper quality (oh and a foreword by that dude what wrote the Ron Howard not-Moby Dick-but-totally-Moby-Dick-movie book): 978-0142000083
Norton 2nd edition: 978-0393972832
Oxford World's Classics: 978-0199535729
Last edited by funkybusiness on May 18th, 2017, 9:39 am, edited 1 time in total.

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#245

Post by Leopardi » June 18th, 2017, 5:59 pm

funkybusiness on May 17 2017, 10:27:42 PM wrote:interesting read about A New Kind of Science. I doubt I'll take a crack at it as I'd be extremely lost in those woods but I enjoyed your write-up. (and google tells me I was correct in assuming this Wolfram is the same of Wolfram Alpha)
I think I wrote that review while half asleep from Benadryl so I'm just glad I was more or less coherent!

I've now finished The Belly of Paris. What a brilliant read! Zola creates a masterful mix of colourful, memorable characters in a melodrama that takes place in the endlessly fascinating setting of Les Halles, the central historic food marketplace of Paris. Those vivid descriptions of the foods and food preparation will stay with me for a lifetime. Honestly, reading this book made me feel like I was reading Les Misérables (a lighter version) all over again, which is just about the highest compliment I can pay a novel. Very highly recommended.

I'll pick My Sister and I for my next read as I've been putting it off for far too long. Here's my updated list:

1. Selected Journalism 1850-1870 (Charles Dickens, 1850-1870). "[Selections] from the pieces Dickens wrote after he founded Household Words in 1850 until his death in 1870. It contains 'Night Walks', 'On Strike' and 'New Year's Day' which are among Dickens' most remarkable pieces." One of my favourite writers.

2. Tea Table Talk (Jerome K. Jerome, 1903) "...an eye-opening glimpse into this now almost extinct art. The participants are already bemoaning the lack of invigorating conversation in society: 'Conversation has become a chorus; or, as a writer wittily expressed it, the pursuit of the obvious to no conclusion.'" Jerome charmed me with Three Men in a Boat and I try to read anything from him I can get my hands on.

3. The Victim of Prejudice (Mary Hays, 1799). "Mary Hays' passionate tale of a girl who is raped but refuses to marry her seducer offers a powerful alternative to Victorian constructions of the 'fallen woman.' This early feminist novel...should be read by anyone interested in the literary history of the sexualized female, in women's studies, or in British Romantic literature." - Anne K. Mellor (UCLA)

4. Italian Mysteries (Francis Lathom, 1820). A lesser known, later title by one of the infamous Horrid Novel authors. Hooray for cheap thrills!

5. What's Bred in the Bone (Robertson Davies, 1985). The second novel in Davies' celebrated Cornish Trilogy, this series, and Davies' writing in general, so affected my sister that she actually got a tattoo of the title quote some years ago. Shortlisted for the 1986 Booker Prize.

6. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (Mary Wollstonecraft, 1792). "Writing in an age when the call for the rights of man had brought revolution to America and France, Mary Wollstonecraft produced her own declaration of female independence in 1792. Passionate and forthright, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman attacked the prevailing view of docile, decorative femininity, and instead laid out the principles of emancipation: an equal education for girls and boys, an end to prejudice and a plea for women to become defined by their profession, not their partner." (from back of book). One of the seminal books of feminist literature, and a key work from one of the more interesting literary families of all time.

7. Mysteries (Knut Hamsun, 1892). "Mysteries is the story of Johan Nilsen Nagel, a mysteries stranger who suddenly turns up in a small Norwegian town one summer - and just as suddenly disappears. Nagel is a complete outsider, a sort of modern Christ treated as a spirit of near tragedy...But there is a sinister side of him: in his vest he carries a vial of prussic acid..." (Penguin Classics description). A much-lauded work by one of the creators of the modern novel.

8. The Enormous Room (e e cummings, 1922). "From the twentieth century's most inventive poet, a story of wartime imprisonment that is by turns comical, lyrical, and obscene." (From the back of the book). My first exposure to cummings' writings (including his poetry, I believe).

9. The Art of Travel (Henry James, 1870-1905). A collection of James' most famous travel writings from the U.S. and Canada, England, France and Italy, first published in 1958. This will be a short one, since I've already read much of his travel literature and will just fill in some of the gaps using the material included here.

10. In the Days of the Comet (H.G. Wells, 1906). The Earth passes through the tail of a comet and mysteriously causes people to change their way of thinking. Controversial in its endorsement of polyamory, this is considered one of Wells' lesser novels as he made his shift from science fiction to social commentary.

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#246

Post by brokenface » June 18th, 2017, 9:42 pm

I've now finished The Belly of Paris. What a brilliant read! Zola creates a masterful mix of colourful, memorable characters in a melodrama that takes place in the endlessly fascinating setting of Les Halles, the central historic food marketplace of Paris. Those vivid descriptions of the foods and food preparation will stay with me for a lifetime. Honestly, reading this book made me feel like I was reading Les Misérables (a lighter version) all over again, which is just about the highest compliment I can pay a novel. Very highly recommended.
I've only read one Zola and it was great (Therese Raquin), been meaning to read more, shall seek out this one next.

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#247

Post by Leopardi » June 24th, 2017, 11:57 pm

brokenface on Jun 18 2017, 03:42:25 PM wrote:
I've now finished The Belly of Paris. What a brilliant read! Zola creates a masterful mix of colourful, memorable characters in a melodrama that takes place in the endlessly fascinating setting of Les Halles, the central historic food marketplace of Paris. Those vivid descriptions of the foods and food preparation will stay with me for a lifetime. Honestly, reading this book made me feel like I was reading Les Misérables (a lighter version) all over again, which is just about the highest compliment I can pay a novel. Very highly recommended.
I've only read one Zola and it was great (Therese Raquin), been meaning to read more, shall seek out this one next.
I remember being sorely tempted to pick up Thérèse Racquin back when I was an undergrad, and yet somehow it's still not on the bookshelf yet. I'll make sure to get my hands on a copy soon - thanks!

I'm now just about done My Sister and I, and I can say with complete confidence (along with virtually everyone else) that the work is a fraud. I won't get into the various reasons given (for a quick summary of the book's history and some of the evidence for it being a forgery see here and here), but generally speaking the writing itself is enough to come to this conclusion: The book reads like it was written in part by someone with good (but not great) knowledge of Nietzsche's life and his writings and in part by a sex-obsessed thirteen year old boy.

One piece of evidence I haven't encountered elsewhere: The book was supposed to have been completed in early 1890, a year or a year and a half after Nietzsche was institutionalized, when he would have been 45 years old, and yet he states in one of the later chapters that he is 50! Despite his mental breakdown (which the book argues was minimal during this period, and a claim that may actually have been true, at least in part) I'd be very surprised that he would make such a mistake. I'd tie this in with other suspicious anachronistic content like the mention of Detroit (long before it became famous as an automotive powerhouse) and the death of his mother (which actually occurred seven years after it was said to be completed). Too many sloppy mistakes, too needlessly provocative and too many outright deceptions (like Levy's involvement) to be taken seriously.
Some brief notes while readingShow
Thoughts on My Sister and I

- Stewart stresses that Nietzsche had the desire to write based partially on anecdotes that he hungered for paper and writing instruments (even though in one note it's mentioned Nietzsche had a notebook). if Nietzsche was hungering for paper, how did he write his book? Admittedly, perhaps the hunger went away when he was given something to write in (maybe the aforementioned notebook?), but the anecdotes mention Elizabeth, which would date his paperless period too closely to his acknowledged final breakdown (I think) for such a book to have possibly been written by him.

- Stewart shares anecdotes in which Nietzsche's mental state was 'normal' in conversations with doctors and friends post-breakdown. If this is the case (and I'm not disputing this, as the evidence does point to it), why does the text read so differently from his previous writings?

- Impressions of the first chapter of the text: Provides too many simple, stereotypical, Freudian answers (e.g. suggesting that he wrote misogynistically because he hated his mother and his sister, grew to hate religion because of his father), tries to wax eloquent with too many flat notes, jumps very quickly into the scandalous details with Elizabeth. Very much reads like someone wanting to fill in (obvious) answers to questions people had in the decades ahead, which is likely the purpose of the forgery, provide titillating details that corroborate the biases and impressions that people have about Nietzsche.

- Why did Nietzsche so early in this document write that he felt the need to hide it from everyone? Seems like something a forger would put in to 'spice things up', to foreshadow the mentions of incest that soon follow.

- If he's referring to the section at the very beginning of the book, Kaufmann's criticisms of the anachronism of Nietzsche's mother's death does seem to be unfounded, as it is clearly being written as a dream (at least in the version I'm reading - was this altered following Kaufmann's review?).

- The most damning evidence that doesn't seem to be adequately addressed: Someone had taken Levy's name and put it on the introduction, attached him to the story and claimed he translated the work, even though his daughter (who would know very well what her father had written, being his editor) vehemently denied his association with it and Levy never would have felt himself strong enough in English to do such a translation (despite being the editor of Nietzsche's Nachlass, he never translated any of the books, for example). Direct signs of an attempt at duplicity, hard to ignore.

- Interesting that Kaufmann's anecdote of Plotkin's admission that he wrote My Sister And I for a flat fee is disputed. Hadn't realized that, would be nice to know more about the circumstances but it doesn't seem that any are available (only the footnote in Kaufmann's book).

- Also damning is the preposterous story of how the book came to be (missing manuscript, confiscated translation that turned up years later, etc.), strains credulity to say the least. Roth's 1927 'advertisement' of the book seems suspicious as well, although the claims he was planning to publish only a digest of the book for fear of reprisals from the Nietzsche family might be plausible, though. Still, no mention of his 'great find' is highly suspicious, there's no need to hide this fact if all you're planning to do is publish a digest (I believe).

- Those few that believe the work is genuine cite as proof that there's information contained in it that a writer at the time (say, 1940-1951) couldn't have known certain details about Nietzsche's life. It might be because I'm writing much later but there doesn't seem to me to be anything completely arcane that would constitute evidence. Stewart's book is the book to read for this, apparently, but I don't feel particularly compelled to read it.
I'll pick The Victim of Prejudice next, as it sounds like a dark but interesting read.

Here's my updated list:

1. Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression (Studs Terkel). A fascinating topic taken on by the inimitable Studs Terkel. Who wouldn't want to read this?

2. Childhood in the Middle Ages (Shulamith Shahar). A history book I thought sounded interesting.

3. Mapping St. Petersburg (Julie A. Buckler). Recommended to me, but I don't know much about it.

4. The Return of Martin Guerre (Natalie Zemon Davis). I thought the film adaptation was quite interesting so I thought I'd give the book a try.

5. The Devil's Doctor: Paracelsus and the World of Renaissance Magic and Science (Philip Ball). Another fascinating history book!

6. The Death and Life of Great American Cities (Jane Jacobs). After reading about Burnham and urbanism lately, I figured I'd add this classic of the field. I didn't even realize we owned this one until my girlfriend pointed it out to me!

7. Victorian London: The Tale of a City 1840-1870 (Liza Picard). Since I had such success with Dr. Johnson's London by the same author, I'll throw this one on the list next.

8. Alexander Hamilton (Ron Chernow). I had the good fortune to see the Broadway production inspired by this book back in January - even with all the hype it didn't fail to impress me - and so this is a natural follow-up.

9. The Feynman Lectures on Physics Volume 1 (Richard Feynman). One of the great minds in 20th century physics, Feynman was considered one of the great educators on the subject as well. This is the first volume (of three) of his lectures, covering mechanics, radiation and heat, and once this one is crossed off the list I'll add volume 2 (and, later, volume 3) - I'm not keen on taking them in all at once. This is considered one of the more popular physics books ever written, so it really is one I should already have read.

10. Printer's Error: Irreverent Stories from Book History (Rebecca and J. P. Romney). The title says it all - I like books and like history, so this will be right up my alley, I'm sure. The excerpts I've read so far show great promise.
Last edited by Leopardi on June 25th, 2017, 12:17 am, edited 1 time in total.

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#248

Post by Leopardi » July 8th, 2017, 5:30 pm

I'm all done The Victim of Prejudice now, which was an interesting read for me. It wasn't always the easiest read, Hays' use of pronouns made it a little difficult for me to follow at times, but that's not uncommon with writing from that era. It also had a few too many unlikely coincidences that strained credulity, and I would have liked to have had a lengthier final act (i.e. the section following her decision to find her own way in the world), I think it would have made for a stronger message overall, but nevertheless it was an engrossing read (enjoyable isn't the word here, considering the subject matter) that works well as a companion piece to Liza Picard's Dr. Johnson's London, which described London life just a few decades before this book was written. I don't yet have her Memoirs of Emma Courtney, but will keep an eye out for it after this.

I'll choose Childhood in the Middle Ages for myself next. Here's my updated list:

1. Selected Journalism 1850-1870 (Charles Dickens, 1850-1870). "[Selections] from the pieces Dickens wrote after he founded Household Words in 1850 until his death in 1870. It contains 'Night Walks', 'On Strike' and 'New Year's Day' which are among Dickens' most remarkable pieces." One of my favourite writers.

2. Tea Table Talk (Jerome K. Jerome, 1903) "...an eye-opening glimpse into this now almost extinct art. The participants are already bemoaning the lack of invigorating conversation in society: 'Conversation has become a chorus; or, as a writer wittily expressed it, the pursuit of the obvious to no conclusion.'" Jerome charmed me with Three Men in a Boat and I try to read anything from him I can get my hands on.

3. Italian Mysteries (Francis Lathom, 1820). A lesser known, later title by one of the infamous Horrid Novel authors. Hooray for cheap thrills!

4. What's Bred in the Bone (Robertson Davies, 1985). The second novel in Davies' celebrated Cornish Trilogy, this series, and Davies' writing in general, so affected my sister that she actually got a tattoo of the title quote some years ago. Shortlisted for the 1986 Booker Prize.

5. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (Mary Wollstonecraft, 1792). "Writing in an age when the call for the rights of man had brought revolution to America and France, Mary Wollstonecraft produced her own declaration of female independence in 1792. Passionate and forthright, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman attacked the prevailing view of docile, decorative femininity, and instead laid out the principles of emancipation: an equal education for girls and boys, an end to prejudice and a plea for women to become defined by their profession, not their partner." (from back of book). One of the seminal books of feminist literature, and a key work from one of the more interesting literary families of all time.

6. Mysteries (Knut Hamsun, 1892). "Mysteries is the story of Johan Nilsen Nagel, a mysteries stranger who suddenly turns up in a small Norwegian town one summer - and just as suddenly disappears. Nagel is a complete outsider, a sort of modern Christ treated as a spirit of near tragedy...But there is a sinister side of him: in his vest he carries a vial of prussic acid..." (Penguin Classics description). A much-lauded work by one of the creators of the modern novel.

7. The Enormous Room (e e cummings, 1922). "From the twentieth century's most inventive poet, a story of wartime imprisonment that is by turns comical, lyrical, and obscene." (From the back of the book). My first exposure to cummings' writings (including his poetry, I believe).

8. The Art of Travel (Henry James, 1870-1905). A collection of James' most famous travel writings from the U.S. and Canada, England, France and Italy, first published in 1958. This will be a short one, since I've already read much of his travel literature and will just fill in some of the gaps using the material included here.

9. In the Days of the Comet (H.G. Wells, 1906). The Earth passes through the tail of a comet and mysteriously causes people to change their way of thinking. Controversial in its endorsement of polyamory, this is considered one of Wells' lesser novels as he made his shift from science fiction to social commentary.

10. The Graveyard School: An Anthology (various authors, 18th-19th c.) "The poetry of the Graveyard School - gloomy meditations on mortality, often composed in churchyards - was immensely popular in 18th century England and was an important forerunner of the Romantic period and a major influence on the development of the Gothic novel. Yet, despite the unquestioned significance of the Graveyard Poets, critical attention has been scant, and until now there has been no anthology of their writings." (back cover). Another great publication by Valancourt Books featuring thirty-three writers from this group.

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#249

Post by Leopardi » July 16th, 2017, 7:15 pm

I've finished Childhood in the Middle Ages. Pretty dry and repetitive, and has a surprisingly strong Freudian bent to it which I wasn't expecting. Still, it was pretty much what it claimed to be, a survey of how children lived in the middle ages. Life was hard, the survival rate for children was low and they had to grow up fast. One of the recurring points was that parents (both mothers and fathers) tended to have a strong emotional bond with their children, which I never really doubted, so I felt the research wasn't as revelatory or provocative as I was hoping for.

I'll start The Art of Travel next. As mentioned, I've already read parts of this so it may very well be a quick read. Here's my updated list:

1. Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression (Studs Terkel). A fascinating topic taken on by the inimitable Studs Terkel. Who wouldn't want to read this?

2. Mapping St. Petersburg (Julie A. Buckler). Recommended to me, but I don't know much about it.

3. The Return of Martin Guerre (Natalie Zemon Davis). I thought the film adaptation was quite interesting so I thought I'd give the book a try.

4. The Devil's Doctor: Paracelsus and the World of Renaissance Magic and Science (Philip Ball). Another fascinating history book!

5. The Death and Life of Great American Cities (Jane Jacobs). After reading about Burnham and urbanism lately, I figured I'd add this classic of the field. I didn't even realize we owned this one until my girlfriend pointed it out to me!

6. Victorian London: The Tale of a City 1840-1870 (Liza Picard). Since I had such success with Dr. Johnson's London by the same author, I'll throw this one on the list next.

7. Alexander Hamilton (Ron Chernow). I had the good fortune to see the Broadway production inspired by this book back in January - even with all the hype it didn't fail to impress me - and so this is a natural follow-up.

8. The Feynman Lectures on Physics Volume 1 (Richard Feynman). One of the great minds in 20th century physics, Feynman was considered one of the great educators on the subject as well. This is the first volume (of three) of his lectures, covering mechanics, radiation and heat, and once this one is crossed off the list I'll add volume 2 (and, later, volume 3) - I'm not keen on taking them in all at once. This is considered one of the more popular physics books ever written, so it really is one I should already have read.

9. Printer's Error: Irreverent Stories from Book History (Rebecca and J. P. Romney). The title says it all - I like books and like history, so this will be right up my alley, I'm sure. The excerpts I've read so far show great promise.

10. 1066: The Story of a Year (Denis Butler). An in-depth look at what went on that fateful year, starting with the death of Edward the Confessor and ending with the crowning of William the Conqueror.

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#250

Post by Leopardi » July 23rd, 2017, 4:31 pm

I've finished The Art of Travel, or rather I've finished enough of it to make me decide to pick up the originals rather than continue with this digest of James' travel writings. I focused specifically on his essays on various towns in France that he compiled in A Little Tour in France, and loved how detailed a picture he could conjure of these places while still making the writings so personal. I'll be hunting down all his travel books that I haven't already acquired and read, starting with one of his earlier ones, Transatlantic Sketches.

I'll select Volume I of The Feynman Lectures on Physics next, which have been sitting on my shelf for more than twenty years now, shamefully.

1. Selected Journalism 1850-1870 (Charles Dickens, 1850-1870). "[Selections] from the pieces Dickens wrote after he founded Household Words in 1850 until his death in 1870. It contains 'Night Walks', 'On Strike' and 'New Year's Day' which are among Dickens' most remarkable pieces." One of my favourite writers.

2. Tea Table Talk (Jerome K. Jerome, 1903) "...an eye-opening glimpse into this now almost extinct art. The participants are already bemoaning the lack of invigorating conversation in society: 'Conversation has become a chorus; or, as a writer wittily expressed it, the pursuit of the obvious to no conclusion.'" Jerome charmed me with Three Men in a Boat and I try to read anything from him I can get my hands on.

3. Italian Mysteries (Francis Lathom, 1820). A lesser known, later title by one of the infamous Horrid Novel authors. Hooray for cheap thrills!

4. What's Bred in the Bone (Robertson Davies, 1985). The second novel in Davies' celebrated Cornish Trilogy, this series, and Davies' writing in general, so affected my sister that she actually got a tattoo of the title quote some years ago. Shortlisted for the 1986 Booker Prize.

5. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (Mary Wollstonecraft, 1792). "Writing in an age when the call for the rights of man had brought revolution to America and France, Mary Wollstonecraft produced her own declaration of female independence in 1792. Passionate and forthright, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman attacked the prevailing view of docile, decorative femininity, and instead laid out the principles of emancipation: an equal education for girls and boys, an end to prejudice and a plea for women to become defined by their profession, not their partner." (from back of book). One of the seminal books of feminist literature, and a key work from one of the more interesting literary families of all time.

6. Mysteries (Knut Hamsun, 1892). "Mysteries is the story of Johan Nilsen Nagel, a mysteries stranger who suddenly turns up in a small Norwegian town one summer - and just as suddenly disappears. Nagel is a complete outsider, a sort of modern Christ treated as a spirit of near tragedy...But there is a sinister side of him: in his vest he carries a vial of prussic acid..." (Penguin Classics description). A much-lauded work by one of the creators of the modern novel.

7. The Enormous Room (e e cummings, 1922). "From the twentieth century's most inventive poet, a story of wartime imprisonment that is by turns comical, lyrical, and obscene." (From the back of the book). My first exposure to cummings' writings (including his poetry, I believe).

8. In the Days of the Comet (H.G. Wells, 1906). The Earth passes through the tail of a comet and mysteriously causes people to change their way of thinking. Controversial in its endorsement of polyamory, this is considered one of Wells' lesser novels as he made his shift from science fiction to social commentary.

9. The Graveyard School: An Anthology (various authors, 18th-19th c.) "The poetry of the Graveyard School - gloomy meditations on mortality, often composed in churchyards - was immensely popular in 18th century England and was an important forerunner of the Romantic period and a major influence on the development of the Gothic novel. Yet, despite the unquestioned significance of the Graveyard Poets, critical attention has been scant, and until now there has been no anthology of their writings." (back cover). Another great publication by Valancourt Books featuring thirty-three writers from this group.

10. The Conquest of Gaul (Julius Caesar, 58-49 BCE). "It was partly as a piece of personal propaganda that he recorded his campaigns against the various Gallic tribes in Latin; nevertheless these simple, direct and lucid texts are a unique direct source on Gaul in that period and also the only narrative actually written by a great general of antiquity about his own campaigns." (from back of book)

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#251

Post by funkybusiness » July 24th, 2017, 1:54 am

I'm way behind on my reading sorry Leop.

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#252

Post by XxXApathy420XxX » July 24th, 2017, 2:10 am

I'll join. I need to get back into reading and my latest thriftbooks shipment came in.

I'll choose Tea Table Talk because that looks like one you want to read the most.

1. Love in the Time of Cholera - Gabriel García Márquez
2. The Idiot - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
3. Metamorphoses - Ovid
4. The Average American Male - Chad Kultgen
5. The Prose Edda - Snorri Sturluson
6. Beware of Pity - Stefan Zweig

I am thinking about going back to Book of Disquiet but last time I attempted to read it some passages cut me way too deep.
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#253

Post by Leopardi » July 24th, 2017, 4:12 am

funkybusiness on Jul 23 2017, 07:54:55 PM wrote:I'm way behind on my reading sorry Leop.
No problem Funks, I know you're loaded down with Melville this summer so I figured it would be pretty quiet around these parts. And it looks like we have Art joining in, so everything's working out fine.

Art, I already know which book of yours I'm going for but I'll hold off saying which one until it's my turn (should be done in about two weeks). If you need a decision before then just let me know. Thanks for participating!

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#254

Post by RBG » July 24th, 2017, 5:35 am

i'll join but not for awhile... i'm halfway through dostoyevsky's demons

stuff on my shelf i haven't read yet:

middlemarch, george eliot
the red & the black, stendhal
the savage detectives, roberto bolaño
st. petersburg, andrey biely
the land at the end of the world, antonio lobo antunes
a high wind in jamaica, richard hughes
infinite jest, david foster wallace
a confederacy of dunces, john kennedy toole
lulu in hollywood, louise brooks
memoirs of hadrian, marguerite yourcenar :happy:
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#255

Post by funkybusiness » July 24th, 2017, 7:40 am

RBG, who are you, me? I have six of those titles waiting for me + Demons. Wanna room together so I can steal your books and vice-versa?

You read Anne Carson? She's a woman writer I enjoy. I try to get everyone to read her. (it's not going great)
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#256

Post by insomnia » August 2nd, 2017, 9:40 am

I'll join too with some classics that have managed be on, but never actually move to the top of, the reading list:

1. Nicomachean Ethics - Aristotle
2. A Farewell to Arms - Hemingway
3. The Castle - Kafka
4. Fathers and Sons - Turgenev
5. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer - Twain
6. 20.000 Leagues Under The Sea - Verne
7. Child of God - McCarthy
8. Ten Days That Shook The World - Reed
9. Don Quixote - Cervantes
10. Pygmalion - Shaw

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#257

Post by Leopardi » August 12th, 2017, 7:19 pm

It's great to have some new faces on this thread - it hasn't seen this much activity in quite a while!

I've now finished volume one of the Feynman Lectures on Physics. It's widely considered one of the most sophisticated and comprehensive college-level introductions to physics, and I'm ashamed to have waited this long to crack it open (I bought the set back around 1995). And now that I'm done the first volume, I'm finding it hard to put into words how I feel about it. From a pedagogical point of view it's tricky: Feynman launches into sometimes very challenging topics in lectures intended as introductory courses for undergraduates at Caltech. There's a fair bit of math and it's often kept at a level that advanced students might pick it up, but for the most part I'm not sure your average undergrad would grasp all that much beyond the basic subjects.

Having said that, from the point of view of someone that has a background in this area, if the first book is any indication this series is just an incredible showcase of how one of the brighter physicists of the 20th century thinks about the fundamentals of his field, and how the person often described as 'The Great Explainer' actually goes about explaining these complicated topics at a level the average person can understand. I'm not sure there's anything quite like it; he will happily write down what would for many be daunting equations and has the patience to break each term down and explain them, sometimes at great length, putting them in context and connecting them where relevant to analogous terms in other areas of physics. He does this with a facility that's both daunting and exhilarating. This is not your average popular science book - the reader will be challenged and isn't shielded from equations the way many such books today try to do. As a standard physics text book it falls short, but as compendium of thoughts from a brilliant physicist on his field from the ground up it's second to none. Outstanding, and I would love to see a new edition (if one doesn't exist already) that is heavily annotated and updated for material that has evolved since Feynman's lectures.

(And a minor quibble: I found a significant typo in one of the equations in this volume, in the chapter on coupled pendulums - how is this possible 30+ years after the first edition was released? The online edition has corrected this mistake, thank heavens!)

It looks like you still need someone to pick for you, Art, so I'll go with Beware of Pity. I was agonizing over whether to pick up his Chess Story while in NYC earlier this year and finally decided against it (too many other books to lug home at that point). I haven't read anything by Zweig before and I'm curious to know whether you take to him.

Insomnia, since it's usually one pick per person I'll hold off selecting anything for you unless you need something soon - let me know! Here's my updated list:

1. Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression (Studs Terkel). A fascinating topic taken on by the inimitable Studs Terkel. Who wouldn't want to read this?

2. Mapping St. Petersburg (Julie A. Buckler). Recommended to me, but I don't know much about it.

3. The Return of Martin Guerre (Natalie Zemon Davis). I thought the film adaptation was quite interesting so I thought I'd give the book a try.

4. The Devil's Doctor: Paracelsus and the World of Renaissance Magic and Science (Philip Ball). Another fascinating history book!

5. The Death and Life of Great American Cities (Jane Jacobs). After reading about Burnham and urbanism lately, I figured I'd add this classic of the field. I didn't even realize we owned this one until my girlfriend pointed it out to me!

6. Victorian London: The Tale of a City 1840-1870 (Liza Picard). Since I had such success with Dr. Johnson's London by the same author, I'll throw this one on the list next.

7. Alexander Hamilton (Ron Chernow). I had the good fortune to see the Broadway production inspired by this book back in January - even with all the hype it didn't fail to impress me - and so this is a natural follow-up.

8. Printer's Error: Irreverent Stories from Book History (Rebecca and J. P. Romney). The title says it all - I like books and like history, so this will be right up my alley, I'm sure. The excerpts I've read so far show great promise.

9. 1066: The Story of a Year (Denis Butler). An in-depth look at what went on that fateful year, starting with the death of Edward the Confessor and ending with the crowning of William the Conqueror.

10. The Feynman Lectures on Physics Volume 2 (Richard Feynman). One of the great minds in 20th century physics, Feynman was considered one of the great educators on the subject as well. This is the second volume (of three) of his lectures, covering electromagnetism and matter, and once this one is crossed off the list I'll add volume 3 - I'm not keen on taking them in all at once. This is considered one of the more popular physics books ever written, so it really is one I should already have read.

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#258

Post by blueboybob » August 12th, 2017, 7:37 pm

As a reader of only non-fiction, I like your list. Definitely going to check out the ones I havent read.

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#259

Post by Kowry » August 13th, 2017, 9:50 pm

Guess I'll try this again...

insomnia: I'll pick Child of God for you, just because a friend read it recently.

1. Throne of the Crescent Moon (Saladin Ahmed, 2012) - I used to be a pretty voracious reader of fantasy lit as an adolescent, but haven't really read much lately. This seems interesting, from what I've read about this beforehand it's something like "Middle-Earth with djinnis".
2. The Blank Slate (Steven Pinker, 2002) - I'm not sure what to think of Pinker, having read some of his articles, so maybe I should read one of his books to find out more - this seems to be his most well known one. I've got it for some time, but have been putting it off.
3. Battle Cry of Freedom (McPherson, 1988) - I haven't read any real books about US history, and especially know very little about the Civil War. Guess this wouldn't be the worst book to read about that.
4. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry (Neil DeGrasse Tyson, 2017) - another book I've bought to become a bit more knowledgeable about things I don't know anything about.
5. Warped Passages (Lisa Randall, 2002) - See above.
6. The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (Tom Wolfe, 1968) - borrowed this from a friend who praised it.
7. The Complete Short Stories Vol 1 (JG Ballard, 2006) - haven't read any Ballard yet!
8. The Haunting of the Hill House (Shirley Jackson, 1959) - Loved the film based on the book, and very much liked the short story collection from Jackson I read earlier this year, so probably will like this too.
9. The Art of Deception (Mitnick, 2001) - The infamous hacker tells how to fool people, and how to prevent getting fooled.

Can't bother finding a tenth book at the moment, sorry!




[Wasn't picked for me here, but finally finished The Making of the Atomic Bomb. It was great, enlightening. It explains the development of nuclear physics that made the bomb possible, the political background that led to the development and subsequent use of the bomb, all told in great detail. Not exactly light reading though- it's mostly a very demanding read and haven't ever really studied physics, so it took me time to get through certain portions of the book (I think I started reading it in March...) And though I enjoyed learning about the physics / engineering stuff, there is a lot of that, plus such a great number of people involved in the project were told about that I really got a bit lost about who's who at various points. If you're more interested in the political/ethical side of it, you might want to read something a bit more concise (though I'm not really sure what that would be). But to repeat, it's a remarkable book on the whole.]

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#260

Post by Leopardi » August 15th, 2017, 2:48 am

blueboybob on Aug 12 2017, 01:37:24 PM wrote:As a reader of only non-fiction, I like your list. Definitely going to check out the ones I havent read.
Thanks! Nonfiction books are welcome here too, so feel free to take part. As a fellow physicist I'd love to hear any recommendations you have on the physics front.

I finished up Tea Table Talk today, a quick and entertaining read, if a little on the light side. There's really not much more to it than a small refined group sitting for tea and conversing on a variety of topics, but it's interesting to see the perspective from 1903 on subjects that are still discussed today, such as gender relations and the rise of socialism. The latter was particularly engaging and was presented as a conflict of society vs. the individual (just a small spark of existentialism here), and hints of the global community are in the air when he writes:

"One hundred and fifty years ago old Sam Johnson waited in a patron's anteroom; to-day the entire world invites him to growl his table talk the while it takes its dish of tea...One would be blind not to see the goal towards which we are rushing. At the outside it is but a generation or two off. It is one huge murmuring Hive - one universal Hive just the size of the round earth...We are losing the talent of living alone; the instinct of living in communities is driving it out."

Lynchings in the Southern U.S. are brought up as evidence that civilization hasn't let go of its primitive, ignorant, barbarous streak. I would say the events of this weekend reinforce that notion.

All in all, a short but interesting read, probably not a great introduction for Jerome (that would be Three Men in a Boat, of course) but certainly a worthwhile read.

If no one minds, I'll pick for both myself and Kowry so we're back to being caught up. I'll just pick Volume 2 of The Feynman Lectures since that's the obvious choice, and for Kowry I'll go with Throne of the Crescent Moon since it sounds like ideal summer reading material (I'm tempted to pick The Haunting of Hill House, but since it's a great October/Halloween read I'll hold off until then). The Making of the Atomic Bomb sounds like a good one - I may just check it out myself, thanks!

1. Selected Journalism 1850-1870 (Charles Dickens, 1850-1870). "[Selections] from the pieces Dickens wrote after he founded Household Words in 1850 until his death in 1870. It contains 'Night Walks', 'On Strike' and 'New Year's Day' which are among Dickens' most remarkable pieces." One of my favourite writers.

2. Italian Mysteries (Francis Lathom, 1820). A lesser known, later title by one of the infamous Horrid Novel authors. Hooray for cheap thrills!

3. What's Bred in the Bone (Robertson Davies, 1985). The second novel in Davies' celebrated Cornish Trilogy, this series, and Davies' writing in general, so affected my sister that she actually got a tattoo of the title quote some years ago. Shortlisted for the 1986 Booker Prize.

4. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (Mary Wollstonecraft, 1792). "Writing in an age when the call for the rights of man had brought revolution to America and France, Mary Wollstonecraft produced her own declaration of female independence in 1792. Passionate and forthright, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman attacked the prevailing view of docile, decorative femininity, and instead laid out the principles of emancipation: an equal education for girls and boys, an end to prejudice and a plea for women to become defined by their profession, not their partner." (from back of book). One of the seminal books of feminist literature, and a key work from one of the more interesting literary families of all time.

5. Mysteries (Knut Hamsun, 1892). "Mysteries is the story of Johan Nilsen Nagel, a mysteries stranger who suddenly turns up in a small Norwegian town one summer - and just as suddenly disappears. Nagel is a complete outsider, a sort of modern Christ treated as a spirit of near tragedy...But there is a sinister side of him: in his vest he carries a vial of prussic acid..." (Penguin Classics description). A much-lauded work by one of the creators of the modern novel.

6. The Enormous Room (e e cummings, 1922). "From the twentieth century's most inventive poet, a story of wartime imprisonment that is by turns comical, lyrical, and obscene." (From the back of the book). My first exposure to cummings' writings (including his poetry, I believe).

7. In the Days of the Comet (H.G. Wells, 1906). The Earth passes through the tail of a comet and mysteriously causes people to change their way of thinking. Controversial in its endorsement of polyamory, this is considered one of Wells' lesser novels as he made his shift from science fiction to social commentary.

8. The Graveyard School: An Anthology (various authors, 18th-19th c.) "The poetry of the Graveyard School - gloomy meditations on mortality, often composed in churchyards - was immensely popular in 18th century England and was an important forerunner of the Romantic period and a major influence on the development of the Gothic novel. Yet, despite the unquestioned significance of the Graveyard Poets, critical attention has been scant, and until now there has been no anthology of their writings." (back cover). Another great publication by Valancourt Books featuring thirty-three writers from this group.

9. The Conquest of Gaul (Julius Caesar, 58-49 BCE). "It was partly as a piece of personal propaganda that he recorded his campaigns against the various Gallic tribes in Latin; nevertheless these simple, direct and lucid texts are a unique direct source on Gaul in that period and also the only narrative actually written by a great general of antiquity about his own campaigns." (from back of book)

10. Selected Writings on Art and Literature (Charles Baudelaire, 1845-1863). "Baudelaire...brought to bear the same standards on the works of others as he applied to his own: that beauty of idea and style are paramount, that art is useful if its function is the pursuit of beauty and that a quality of strangeness and originality are what make a work of art unique." (from the back of the book - this is a Penguin compilation). I don't think I've ever read anything by Baudelaire before, so I'm looking forward to giving him a try!
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#261

Post by Kowry » September 9th, 2017, 4:12 pm

So if nobody minds, I'm going to post here though I'm only halfway through Throne of the Crescent Moon. It's pretty fun reading, but I'll probably say a bit more about it when I've actually finished it, which should be soon. To keep this thread going, for Leopardi I'll choose A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, which I would probably read out of the bunch. My list:

1. The Blank Slate (Steven Pinker, 2002) - I'm not sure what to think of Pinker, having read some of his articles, so maybe I should read one of his books to find out more - this seems to be his most well known one. I've got it for some time, but have been putting it off.
2. Battle Cry of Freedom (McPherson, 1988) - I haven't read any real books about US history, and especially know very little about the Civil War. Guess this wouldn't be the worst book to read about that.
3. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry (Neil DeGrasse Tyson, 2017) - another book I've bought to become a bit more knowledgeable about things I don't know anything about.
4. Warped Passages (Lisa Randall, 2002) - See above. Physics, multiple dimensions, science stuff!
5. The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (Tom Wolfe, 1968) - borrowed this from a friend who praised it.
6. The Complete Short Stories Vol 1 (JG Ballard, 2006) - haven't read any Ballard yet!
7. The Haunting of the Hill House (Shirley Jackson, 1959) - Loved the film based on the book, and very much liked the short story collection from Jackson I read earlier this year, so probably will like this too.
8. The Art of Deception (Mitnick, 2001) - The infamous hacker tells how to fool people, and how to prevent getting fooled.
9. A Mathematician's Apology (G.H. Hardy, 1940) - A classic essay by the famous mathematician about the aesthetics of mathematics, and how a mathematician's mind works.
10. Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! (Leighton & Feynman, 1985) - Collected reminiscences of the legendary physicist.

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#262

Post by Carmel1379 » September 9th, 2017, 6:43 pm

Kowry on Sep 9 2017, 10:12:27 AM wrote:1. The Blank Slate (Steven Pinker, 2002) - I'm not sure what to think of Pinker, having read some of his articles, so maybe I should read one of his books to find out more - this seems to be his most well known one. I've got it for some time, but have been putting it off.
I'm around a fifth through it now, and it's certainly enjoyable and informing, although I'd estimate to have known already 95% of the content presented by the end of my secondary school. This was the same with Dawkins' Selfish Gene for me, both books contain ideas and concepts that have spread so thoroughly throughout society that one must be really cut-off from reality not to be acquainted with them already [not to imply the book doesn't have questionable ideas, it's just that they're popular]. But it does rectify many erroneous assumptions, by reading it you get the feeling it's the ultimate accessible takedown of blankslatist behaviourism, and it's still a direly relevant book. And there's obviously nothing bad with reading things you already know about, with it being phrased differently (/well, Pinker is a nice writer) and supported by memorable examples. But I wouldn't recommend it if you want any technical text, for that I suppose you'd have to pursue its references.
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#263

Post by insomnia » September 10th, 2017, 4:06 pm

I read Child of God and quite liked it. Very bleak, and somewhat post-Faulkner in style. Not as ornamental as Blood Meridian but not as stripped down as I understand his more recent novels to be.


1. 20.000 Leagues Under The Sea - Verne
2. A Farewell to Arms - Hemingway
3. The Castle - Kafka
4. Fathers and Sons - Turgenev
5. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer - Twain


Going to present a smaller list as I've got 'projects' lined up for some of the other ones. Going to read a bunch of lefty texts in october (100 year revolution) and probably read some ancients in november or december.
So once again some classics I should've read for you to pick from.

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#264

Post by Kowry » September 11th, 2017, 2:00 pm

Insomnia, don't forget to pick something for me :P

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#265

Post by insomnia » September 12th, 2017, 11:58 am

Kowry on Sep 11 2017, 08:00:35 AM wrote:Insomnia, don't forget to pick something for me :P
Oh sorry!

Read the Ballard, he's great. I've recently read and very much enjoyed Concrete Island.

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#266

Post by Kowry » September 12th, 2017, 10:02 pm

Ballard it is! Long-neglected author for me.

So, I finished Throne of the Crescent Moon. Enjoyable middle-eastern fantasy, well written, though not fully fleshed out. The book has interesting elements but leaves many of them a bit unexplored - like, the antagonist and his motivations were left very vague and then the resolution was kinda rushed. So it kinda felt like a 400-500-page novel compressed into 300 pages.

Anyway, I'd recommend the book if you generally like adventure fantasy and would like to take a break from the usual Eurocentrism. It was entertaining enough that I might very well check out the promised follow-up novel when it gets released.

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#267

Post by Leopardi » September 18th, 2017, 12:17 am

Insomnia, I'll choose The Castle for you, since it's been too many years since I've read anything by Kafka and I've always looked forward to reading this one in particular.

I've nearly finished The Feynman Lectures Volume 2. I'll try not to repeat what I said about Volume 1, so I'll say here that despite never really having been excited about this area of physics, Feynman somehow makes it jump off the page (for the most part - some chapters even Feynman can't save the topic from being dull). I've taken five courses in E&M in university, plus a bunch of classes that were related, and can definitely say I learned a lot from this book, the field is vast and it takes a really special mind to tie it all together. Feynman has one of those minds, and if you're up to a challenge math-wise I highly recommend the book. That can be a big if - as Feynman mentions, he's covering topics right up to and including graduate level theory, so there may well be places you'll have to just shrug your shoulders and trust him (or spend days working out his little side problems he leaves for 'those interested' if you like). Is this book as much of a challenge as the infamous Jackson text that plagued so many physics students over the years? No, but I'd say it's a more worthwhile read for those with the patience for it.

Here's my updated list:

1. Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression (Studs Terkel). A fascinating topic taken on by the inimitable Studs Terkel. Who wouldn't want to read this?

2. Mapping St. Petersburg (Julie A. Buckler). Recommended to me, but I don't know much about it.

3. The Return of Martin Guerre (Natalie Zemon Davis). I thought the film adaptation was quite interesting so I thought I'd give the book a try.

4. The Devil's Doctor: Paracelsus and the World of Renaissance Magic and Science (Philip Ball). Another fascinating history book!

5. The Death and Life of Great American Cities (Jane Jacobs). After reading about Burnham and urbanism lately, I figured I'd add this classic of the field. I didn't even realize we owned this one until my girlfriend pointed it out to me!

6. Victorian London: The Tale of a City 1840-1870 (Liza Picard). Since I had such success with Dr. Johnson's London by the same author, I'll throw this one on the list next.

7. Alexander Hamilton (Ron Chernow). I had the good fortune to see the Broadway production inspired by this book back in January - even with all the hype it didn't fail to impress me - and so this is a natural follow-up.

8. Printer's Error: Irreverent Stories from Book History (Rebecca and J. P. Romney). The title says it all - I like books and like history, so this will be right up my alley, I'm sure. The excerpts I've read so far show great promise.

9. 1066: The Story of a Year (Denis Butler). An in-depth look at what went on that fateful year, starting with the death of Edward the Confessor and ending with the crowning of William the Conqueror.

10. The Feynman Lectures on Physics Volume 3 (Richard Feynman, Robert B Leighton & Matthew Sands). One of the great minds in 20th century physics, Feynman was considered one of the great educators on the subject as well. This is the third volume (of three) of his lectures, covering quantum mechanics, the field where Feynman made his most significant contributions, so it's the one I've been looking forward to most of all. This is considered one of the more popular physics books ever written, so it really is one I should already have read.

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#268

Post by Kowry » October 1st, 2017, 1:11 pm

For Leopardi, I'll choose Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression. Hopefully it's as good as you're expecting!

I've about one third through the Ballard collection. Definitely an author worth reading, all of the stories I've read this far have been from good to great. But feeling like taking a short break from his dystopias for now and returning briefly to non-fiction:

1. The Blank Slate (Steven Pinker, 2002) - I'm not sure what to think of Pinker, having read some of his articles, so maybe I should read one of his books to find out more - this seems to be his most well known one. I've got it for some time, but have been putting it off.
2. Battle Cry of Freedom (McPherson, 1988) - I haven't read any real books about US history, and especially know very little about the Civil War. Guess this wouldn't be the worst book to read about that.
3. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry (Neil DeGrasse Tyson, 2017) - another book I've bought to become a bit more knowledgeable about things I don't know anything about.
4. Warped Passages (Lisa Randall, 2002) - See above. Physics, multiple dimensions, science stuff!
5. The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (Tom Wolfe, 1968) - borrowed this from a friend who praised it.
6. Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (Hannah Arendt, 1963) - Documents the trial of Adolf Eichmann, one of the people responsible for organizing the Holocaust. Based on what I've read about the book it seems immensely interesting.
7. A Million Years in a Day - A Curious History of Daily Life - what the title says.
8. The Art of Deception (Mitnick, 2001) - The infamous hacker tells how to fool people, and how to prevent getting fooled.
9. A Mathematician's Apology (G.H. Hardy, 1940) - A classic essay by the famous mathematician about the aesthetics of mathematics, and how a mathematician's mind works.
10. Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! (Leighton & Feynman, 1985) - Collected reminiscences of the legendary physicist.

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#269

Post by Leopardi » October 10th, 2017, 2:01 am

Thanks, Kowry! I'm going to give the October book club(s) a try and so I'll get those underway before I start Hard Times. I'll choose Hardy's A Mathematician's Apology for you, since I've always had it in the back of my head that I'd like to read them myself. Hardy's been a prominent figure in a few books I've read (Kanigel's biography of Ramanujan, The Man Who Knew Infinity and a very engrossing book on the history of the Riemann Hypothesis, Prime Obsession by John Derbyshire) and he definitely seems like someone I would like to know more about.

I've finished A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, an exhilarating and passionate exhortation to apply the same reasoning Rousseau (and others) had used to appeal for the education of the masses just a few decades before to women, arguably one of the first works of feminist philosophy ever written. The writing is fresh and Wollstonecraft doesn't pull punches when criticizing the treatment of girls and women of her day, who weren't allowed the same education as boys and men. While fascinating in content, it does suffer from repetitiveness at times, but this is a minor criticism of what is undoubtedly one of the most important philosophical works of the 18th century.


1. Selected Journalism 1850-1870 (Charles Dickens, 1850-1870). "[Selections] from the pieces Dickens wrote after he founded Household Words in 1850 until his death in 1870. It contains 'Night Walks', 'On Strike' and 'New Year's Day' which are among Dickens' most remarkable pieces." One of my favourite writers.

2. Italian Mysteries (Francis Lathom, 1820). A lesser known, later title by one of the infamous Horrid Novel authors. Hooray for cheap thrills!

3. What's Bred in the Bone (Robertson Davies, 1985). The second novel in Davies' celebrated Cornish Trilogy, this series, and Davies' writing in general, so affected my sister that she actually got a tattoo of the title quote some years ago. Shortlisted for the 1986 Booker Prize.

4. Mysteries (Knut Hamsun, 1892). "Mysteries is the story of Johan Nilsen Nagel, a mysteries stranger who suddenly turns up in a small Norwegian town one summer - and just as suddenly disappears. Nagel is a complete outsider, a sort of modern Christ treated as a spirit of near tragedy...But there is a sinister side of him: in his vest he carries a vial of prussic acid..." (Penguin Classics description). A much-lauded work by one of the creators of the modern novel.

5. The Enormous Room (e e cummings, 1922). "From the twentieth century's most inventive poet, a story of wartime imprisonment that is by turns comical, lyrical, and obscene." (From the back of the book). My first exposure to cummings' writings (including his poetry, I believe).

6. In the Days of the Comet (H.G. Wells, 1906). The Earth passes through the tail of a comet and mysteriously causes people to change their way of thinking. Controversial in its endorsement of polyamory, this is considered one of Wells' lesser novels as he made his shift from science fiction to social commentary.

7. The Graveyard School: An Anthology (various authors, 18th-19th c.) "The poetry of the Graveyard School - gloomy meditations on mortality, often composed in churchyards - was immensely popular in 18th century England and was an important forerunner of the Romantic period and a major influence on the development of the Gothic novel. Yet, despite the unquestioned significance of the Graveyard Poets, critical attention has been scant, and until now there has been no anthology of their writings." (back cover). Another great publication by Valancourt Books featuring thirty-three writers from this group.

8. The Conquest of Gaul (Julius Caesar, 58-49 BCE). "It was partly as a piece of personal propaganda that he recorded his campaigns against the various Gallic tribes in Latin; nevertheless these simple, direct and lucid texts are a unique direct source on Gaul in that period and also the only narrative actually written by a great general of antiquity about his own campaigns." (from back of book)

9. Selected Writings on Art and Literature (Charles Baudelaire, 1845-1863). "Baudelaire...brought to bear the same standards on the works of others as he applied to his own: that beauty of idea and style are paramount, that art is useful if its function is the pursuit of beauty and that a quality of strangeness and originality are what make a work of art unique." (from the back of the book - this is a Penguin compilation). I don't think I've ever read anything by Baudelaire before, so I'm looking forward to giving him a try!

10. The Metamorphosis, The Penal Colony, and Other Stories (Franz Kafka, 1909-1924). "Had one to name the artist who comes nearest to bearing the same kind of relation to our age that Dante, Shakespeare and Goethe bore to theirs, Kafka is the first one would think of...Kafka is important to us because his predicament is the predicament of modern man." (W.H. Auden, from back of book). This is the Schocken Books edition. I've already read The Metamorphosis, so I'll only be reading The Penal Colony and whichever short stories I haven't already read. This collection consists of everything Kafka actually published in his lifetime.

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#270

Post by Leopardi » November 20th, 2017, 4:28 pm

I've finished Hard Times - what an amazing read! Not for everyone, I'm sure, since the topic of the Great Depression isn't exactly uplifting, but for those who want something more than just the facts and figures, to understand how peole really lived during these trying times, this is the book for you. Terkel interviewed all sorts of people from all walks of life, from hobos to captains of industry, from coal miners to art dealers, to get their stories and impressions on what they went through (and for the cinephiles out there, a short but amusing interview with Myrna Loy as well). You get to hear them all in their own words, which really brings a personal touch to each of these stories. Very effective.

I would say the latter third of the book was less interesting to me because it focussed more heavily on the political side of things rather than anecdotes from the common folk, but this is a small quibble, all in all it was a fascinating read from cover to cover. What an ugly time to live, poverty, suffering and racism that almost defies belief. I can't imagine how we'd fare if we had to go through that again.

I'll choose In the Days of the Comet for myself, since it appears to be the less well received of all the books on the list (I just want to get it over with, honestly!). Here's my updated list (with Mapping St. Petersburg removed, since I found out it centers around the places discussed in Crime and Punishment, which I haven't read yet, and I think it would be better to read it after it rather than before):

1. The Return of Martin Guerre (Natalie Zemon Davis). I thought the film adaptation was quite interesting so I thought I'd give the book a try.

2. The Devil's Doctor: Paracelsus and the World of Renaissance Magic and Science (Philip Ball). Another fascinating history book!

3. The Death and Life of Great American Cities (Jane Jacobs). After reading about Burnham and urbanism lately, I figured I'd add this classic of the field. I didn't even realize we owned this one until my girlfriend pointed it out to me!

4. Victorian London: The Tale of a City 1840-1870 (Liza Picard). Since I had such success with Dr. Johnson's London by the same author, I'll throw this one on the list next.

5. Alexander Hamilton (Ron Chernow). I had the good fortune to see the Broadway production inspired by this book back in January - even with all the hype it didn't fail to impress me - and so this is a natural follow-up.

6. Printer's Error: Irreverent Stories from Book History (Rebecca and J. P. Romney). The title says it all - I like books and like history, so this will be right up my alley, I'm sure. The excerpts I've read so far show great promise.

7. 1066: The Story of a Year (Denis Butler). An in-depth look at what went on that fateful year, starting with the death of Edward the Confessor and ending with the crowning of William the Conqueror.

8. The Feynman Lectures on Physics Volume 3 (Richard Feynman, Robert B Leighton & Matthew Sands). One of the great minds in 20th century physics, Feynman was considered one of the great educators on the subject as well. This is the third volume (of three) of his lectures, covering quantum mechanics, the field where Feynman made his most significant contributions, so it's the one I've been looking forward to most of all. This is considered one of the more popular physics books ever written, so it really is one I should already have read.

9. Working (Studs Terkel). "Perhaps Studs Terkel's best known book, Working is a compelling look at jobs and the people who do them. Consisting of over one hundred interviews with everyone from a gravedigger to a studio head, from a policeman to a piano tuner, this book provides an enduring portrait of people's feelings about their working lives." (from the back of the book). I'm hoping to have the same success with this book as I had with Terkel's Hard Times, a masterful oral history of the Great Depression.

10. Connections (James Burke). "In this highly acclaimed and bestselling book, James Burke brilliantly examines the ideas, inventions and coincidences that have culminated in the major technological advances of today. With dazzling insight, he untangles the pattern of interconnecting events: the accidents of time, circumstance, and place that gave rise to the major inventions of the world." (from the back of the book). I loved the television miniseries way back when, so I'm not sure why it took me so long to pick this book up.

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#271

Post by insomnia » November 23rd, 2017, 6:15 pm

Leopardi, for you I'll pick The Death and Life of Great American Cities, for the slightly out of left field reason that I'm reading and greatly enjoying Caro's The Power Broker, which also deals with urbanism.

I've read The Castle. I realise that some find a certain kind of humour in Kafka, but I honestly had to take a few breaks going through this book. It certainly didn't help that I had to go through some daunting paperwork in the past few months. The book's treatment of bureaucracy is completely anxiety inducing. That's not to say it isn't good. But I won't be powering through his bibliography any time soon.

An updated list of shorter works that I can use as a break from the above mentioned The Power Broker:

1. Regarding the Pain of Others (Sontag)
2. Pygmalion (Shaw)
3. Julius Caesar (Shakespeare)
4. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (Solzhenitsyn)
5. The Birth of Tragedy (Nietzsche)

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#272

Post by Kowry » November 24th, 2017, 12:00 am

I haven't read any Kafka in quite a while, but I remember Trial being a pretty difficult read, whereas I really enjoyed some of his short stories. So maybe you insomnia could give those a try?

(Still have not even started reading A Mathematician's Apology. Got derailed by other books. I'll get to it sometime soon, hopefully!)

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#273

Post by insomnia » November 24th, 2017, 9:13 am

Yes, I read The Metamorphosis before and while that's also not the cheeriest story in the world, it felt more manageable than this one. I'll probably read Penal Colony or Hunger Artist next.

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#274

Post by Leopardi » December 20th, 2017, 5:58 am

I've finished In the Days of the Comet and, as I was expecting, this one was underwhelming to say the least. It took a long time to set up the premise, the sci-fi aspect was weak and uninspired, and the social commentary was stale, unconvincing and overlong. Definitely one of Wells' lesser novels.

Insomnia, I'll pick Julius Caesar for you since I have a Caesar title on my own list - clearly the universe is telling us we should read these next!

Here's my updated list:

1. Selected Journalism 1850-1870 (Charles Dickens, 1850-1870). "[Selections] from the pieces Dickens wrote after he founded Household Words in 1850 until his death in 1870. It contains 'Night Walks', 'On Strike' and 'New Year's Day' which are among Dickens' most remarkable pieces." One of my favourite writers.

2. Italian Mysteries (Francis Lathom, 1820). A lesser known, later title by one of the infamous Horrid Novel authors. Hooray for cheap thrills!

3. What's Bred in the Bone (Robertson Davies, 1985). The second novel in Davies' celebrated Cornish Trilogy, this series, and Davies' writing in general, so affected my sister that she actually got a tattoo of the title quote some years ago. Shortlisted for the 1986 Booker Prize.

4. Mysteries (Knut Hamsun, 1892). "Mysteries is the story of Johan Nilsen Nagel, a mysteries stranger who suddenly turns up in a small Norwegian town one summer - and just as suddenly disappears. Nagel is a complete outsider, a sort of modern Christ treated as a spirit of near tragedy...But there is a sinister side of him: in his vest he carries a vial of prussic acid..." (Penguin Classics description). A much-lauded work by one of the creators of the modern novel.

5. The Enormous Room (e e cummings, 1922). "From the twentieth century's most inventive poet, a story of wartime imprisonment that is by turns comical, lyrical, and obscene." (From the back of the book). My first exposure to cummings' writings (including his poetry, I believe).

6. The Graveyard School: An Anthology (various authors, 18th-19th c.) "The poetry of the Graveyard School - gloomy meditations on mortality, often composed in churchyards - was immensely popular in 18th century England and was an important forerunner of the Romantic period and a major influence on the development of the Gothic novel. Yet, despite the unquestioned significance of the Graveyard Poets, critical attention has been scant, and until now there has been no anthology of their writings." (back cover). Another great publication by Valancourt Books featuring thirty-three writers from this group.

7. The Conquest of Gaul (Julius Caesar, 58-49 BCE). "It was partly as a piece of personal propaganda that he recorded his campaigns against the various Gallic tribes in Latin; nevertheless these simple, direct and lucid texts are a unique direct source on Gaul in that period and also the only narrative actually written by a great general of antiquity about his own campaigns." (from back of book)

8. Selected Writings on Art and Literature (Charles Baudelaire, 1845-1863). "Baudelaire...brought to bear the same standards on the works of others as he applied to his own: that beauty of idea and style are paramount, that art is useful if its function is the pursuit of beauty and that a quality of strangeness and originality are what make a work of art unique." (from the back of the book - this is a Penguin compilation). I don't think I've ever read anything by Baudelaire before, so I'm looking forward to giving him a try!

9. The Metamorphosis, The Penal Colony, and Other Stories (Franz Kafka, 1909-1924). "Had one to name the artist who comes nearest to bearing the same kind of relation to our age that Dante, Shakespeare and Goethe bore to theirs, Kafka is the first one would think of...Kafka is important to us because his predicament is the predicament of modern man." (W.H. Auden, from back of book). This is the Schocken Books edition. I've already read The Metamorphosis, so I'll only be reading The Penal Colony and whichever short stories I haven't already read. This collection consists of everything Kafka actually published in his lifetime.

10. Darkness at Noon (Arthur Koestler, 1940). "Originally published in 1941, Arthur Koestler's modern masterpiece, Darkness at Noon, is a powerful and haunting portrait of a Communist revolutionary caught in the vicious fray of the Moscow Show Trials of the late 1930s...A seminal work of twentieth-century literature, Darkness at Noon is a penetrating exploration of the moral danger inherent in a system that is willing to enforce its beliefs by any means necessary." (from the back of the book) Placed #8 on Modern Library's list of the 100 best English language novels of the 20th century.

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#275

Post by insomnia » January 4th, 2018, 3:23 pm

I finished Julius Caesar, which I quite liked. I should probably make an effort and go through some Shakespeare.

Leopardi, for you I pick Darkness at Noon, which I read last year and was impressed by.

New list:

1. The Periodic Table (Levi)
2. A Farewell To Arms (Hemingway)
3. 20.000 Leagues Under The Sea (Verne)
4. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (Twain)
5. Fathers and Sons (Turgenev)
6. A Confederacy of Dunces (Toole)
7. The World of Yesterday (Zweig)
8. The Dispossessed (Le Guin)
9. Midnight's Children (Rushdie)
10. Don Quixote (Cervantes)

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#276

Post by Leopardi » January 5th, 2018, 6:51 am

I've finished The Death and Life of Great American Cities. I thought it had a very strong start, with lots of interesting, breezy perspectives on how city planners could do better - I'll never look at sidewalks and parks the same way again - but the second half I found went on for too long for my taste. It wasn't that I didn't agree with it or that it wasn't well-written or well-argued, I just feel I reached my limit on how much detail I need to know about the ins and outs of urbanism. Definitely a worthwhile read overall, I would say, even if I drowned in the details from time to time.

Insomnia, I'll choose The World of Yesterday for you, because Zweig has kept coming into my sights over the last year or so and I'd like to hear how other people feel about his work (I haven't read anything by him yet, personally).

Here's my list:

1. The Return of Martin Guerre (Natalie Zemon Davis). I thought the film adaptation was quite interesting so I thought I'd give the book a try.

2. The Devil's Doctor: Paracelsus and the World of Renaissance Magic and Science (Philip Ball). Another fascinating history book!

3. Victorian London: The Tale of a City 1840-1870 (Liza Picard). Since I had such success with Dr. Johnson's London by the same author, I'll throw this one on the list next.

4. Alexander Hamilton (Ron Chernow). I had the good fortune to see the Broadway production inspired by this book back in January - even with all the hype it didn't fail to impress me - and so this is a natural follow-up.

5. Printer's Error: Irreverent Stories from Book History (Rebecca and J. P. Romney). The title says it all - I like books and like history, so this will be right up my alley, I'm sure. The excerpts I've read so far show great promise.

6. 1066: The Story of a Year (Denis Butler). An in-depth look at what went on that fateful year, starting with the death of Edward the Confessor and ending with the crowning of William the Conqueror.

7. The Feynman Lectures on Physics Volume 3 (Richard Feynman, Robert B Leighton & Matthew Sands). One of the great minds in 20th century physics, Feynman was considered one of the great educators on the subject as well. This is the third volume (of three) of his lectures, covering quantum mechanics, the field where Feynman made his most significant contributions, so it's the one I've been looking forward to most of all. This is considered one of the more popular physics books ever written, so it really is one I should already have read.

8. Working (Studs Terkel). "Perhaps Studs Terkel's best known book, Working is a compelling look at jobs and the people who do them. Consisting of over one hundred interviews with everyone from a gravedigger to a studio head, from a policeman to a piano tuner, this book provides an enduring portrait of people's feelings about their working lives." (from the back of the book). I'm hoping to have the same success with this book as I had with Terkel's Hard Times, a masterful oral history of the Great Depression.

9. Connections (James Burke). "In this highly acclaimed and bestselling book, James Burke brilliantly examines the ideas, inventions and coincidences that have culminated in the major technological advances of today. With dazzling insight, he untangles the pattern of interconnecting events: the accidents of time, circumstance, and place that gave rise to the major inventions of the world." (from the back of the book). I loved the television miniseries way back when, so I'm not sure why it took me so long to pick this book up.

10. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams). I've had this series recommended to me more than any other book, I'll bet, and I may be the last person on Earth to read it, so now is as good a time as any.
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#277

Post by Leopardi » January 14th, 2018, 10:57 pm

I finished Darkness at Noon this morning. It's a strong novel, although maybe not worthy of its high ranking of #8 on the Modern Library Top 100 20th Century Novels in the English Language (I see I've read 36 on this list, including one in each of the last three years, incidentally). I thought the scenes in the prison proper were very strong, reminiscent of Sartre's The Wall in places (which is high praise from me, as it's one of the better short stories I've read), but I felt confused by the shifting narratives at times, which probably would be remedied by a closer reading on my part. I was especially impressed Rubashov's diary fragment near the end, and the last six pages had me in tears, I'll admit (I'm not sure the last time this happened, to be honest).

I'll pick the last book of the Feynman Lectures on Physics for myself, just so I can claim the series as completed.

1. Selected Journalism 1850-1870 (Charles Dickens, 1850-1870). "[Selections] from the pieces Dickens wrote after he founded Household Words in 1850 until his death in 1870. It contains 'Night Walks', 'On Strike' and 'New Year's Day' which are among Dickens' most remarkable pieces." One of my favourite writers.

2. Italian Mysteries (Francis Lathom, 1820). A lesser known, later title by one of the infamous Horrid Novel authors. Hooray for cheap thrills!

3. What's Bred in the Bone (Robertson Davies, 1985). The second novel in Davies' celebrated Cornish Trilogy, this series, and Davies' writing in general, so affected my sister that she actually got a tattoo of the title quote some years ago. Shortlisted for the 1986 Booker Prize.

4. Mysteries (Knut Hamsun, 1892). "Mysteries is the story of Johan Nilsen Nagel, a mysteries stranger who suddenly turns up in a small Norwegian town one summer - and just as suddenly disappears. Nagel is a complete outsider, a sort of modern Christ treated as a spirit of near tragedy...But there is a sinister side of him: in his vest he carries a vial of prussic acid..." (Penguin Classics description). A much-lauded work by one of the creators of the modern novel.

5. The Enormous Room (e e cummings, 1922). "From the twentieth century's most inventive poet, a story of wartime imprisonment that is by turns comical, lyrical, and obscene." (From the back of the book). My first exposure to cummings' writings (including his poetry, I believe).

6. The Graveyard School: An Anthology (various authors, 18th-19th c.) "The poetry of the Graveyard School - gloomy meditations on mortality, often composed in churchyards - was immensely popular in 18th century England and was an important forerunner of the Romantic period and a major influence on the development of the Gothic novel. Yet, despite the unquestioned significance of the Graveyard Poets, critical attention has been scant, and until now there has been no anthology of their writings." (back cover). Another great publication by Valancourt Books featuring thirty-three writers from this group.

7. The Conquest of Gaul (Julius Caesar, 58-49 BCE). "It was partly as a piece of personal propaganda that he recorded his campaigns against the various Gallic tribes in Latin; nevertheless these simple, direct and lucid texts are a unique direct source on Gaul in that period and also the only narrative actually written by a great general of antiquity about his own campaigns." (from back of book)

8. Selected Writings on Art and Literature (Charles Baudelaire, 1845-1863). "Baudelaire...brought to bear the same standards on the works of others as he applied to his own: that beauty of idea and style are paramount, that art is useful if its function is the pursuit of beauty and that a quality of strangeness and originality are what make a work of art unique." (from the back of the book - this is a Penguin compilation). I don't think I've ever read anything by Baudelaire before, so I'm looking forward to giving him a try!

9. The Metamorphosis, The Penal Colony, and Other Stories (Franz Kafka, 1909-1924). "Had one to name the artist who comes nearest to bearing the same kind of relation to our age that Dante, Shakespeare and Goethe bore to theirs, Kafka is the first one would think of...Kafka is important to us because his predicament is the predicament of modern man." (W.H. Auden, from back of book). This is the Schocken Books edition. I've already read The Metamorphosis, so I'll only be reading The Penal Colony and whichever short stories I haven't already read. This collection consists of everything Kafka actually published in his lifetime.

10. Doctor Faustus (Thomas Mann, 1947). "'The great German novel', part melodrama, part collection of essays, part torture-chamber of language...Doctor Faustus is a monster...but it is part of the mystery of art that a work of art can be full of faults and yet worth ten thousand petty 'successes'" (R. J. Hollingdale)
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#278

Post by insomnia » January 18th, 2018, 9:28 am

Leopardi, I'll pick Italian Mysteries for you, as a change of pace can often do good.

I read The World of Yesterday and thought it was really fantastic. Zweig is fascinating, elusive, irritating but never boring. I appreciate the melancholy nostalgia that seems to seep through just about every sentence. I also made the mistake of reading the NYRB review for this book, which is just an execrable screed against Zweig himself. Anyway, I'm quite eager to read his fiction after this.



1. The Periodic Table (Levi)
2. A Farewell To Arms (Hemingway)
3. 20.000 Leagues Under The Sea (Verne)
4. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (Twain)
5. Fathers and Sons (Turgenev)
6. A Confederacy of Dunces (Toole)
7. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (Solzhenitsyn)
8. The Dispossessed (Le Guin)
9. The History of Sexuality Vol. I (Foucault)
10. The Birth of Tragedy (Nietzsche)

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#279

Post by Kowry » February 10th, 2018, 6:59 pm

insomnia, read The Dispossessed. It's the only one on your list I've read, interested to read your opinion on it.

I've finally read G.H. Hardy's The Mathematician's Apology, with introduction by C.P. Snow. It was a pleasant read. Snow's introduction about Hardy's life and personality was very interesting, and highlighted Hardy's underlying sadness about his waning mathematical skills and the ongoing war.

1. The Evolution of Beauty(Richard O. Prum, 2017) - How mate selection has influenced evolution.
2. Battle Cry of Freedom (McPherson, 1988) - I haven't read any real books about US history, and especially know very little about the Civil War. Guess this wouldn't be the worst book to read about that.
3. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry (Neil DeGrasse Tyson, 2017) - another book I've bought to become a bit more knowledgeable about things I don't know anything about.
4. Warped Passages (Lisa Randall, 2002) - See above. Physics, multiple dimensions, science stuff!
5. The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (Tom Wolfe, 1968) - borrowed this from a friend who praised it.
6. Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (Hannah Arendt, 1963) - Documents the trial of Adolf Eichmann, one of the people responsible for organizing the Holocaust. Based on what I've read about the book it seems immensely interesting.
7. A Million Years in a Day - A Curious History of Daily Life - what the title says.
8. Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! (Leighton & Feynman, 1985) - Collected reminiscences of the legendary physicist.
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#280

Post by insomnia » February 11th, 2018, 2:52 pm

Kowry, I'll choose Eichmann in Jerusalem for you, an important book that has often guided my thinking. It's also just a very compelling read for the history itself.

Turns out I've already read The Dispossessed, prompted by Le Guin's death shortly after I made my previous post in this thread. It's a very interesting book that manages to not drown the reader in sermons while having a clash between different ideologies going on at the center of the narrative.
I'd never read one of her books before and I now understand why Le Guin is seen as outmoded/dated/hippie-like by some sci-fi readers. I assumed that it was silly tech that they had problems with, turns out it's probably more of an ideology issue. I thought it was vital and vibrant.

My list:

1. The Periodic Table (Levi)
2. A Farewell To Arms (Hemingway)
3. 20.000 Leagues Under The Sea (Verne)
4. A Confederacy of Dunces (Toole)
5. Fathers and Sons (Turgenev)
6. Lysistrata (Aristophanes)
7. Nicomachean Ethics (Aristotle)
8. Letters From a Stoic (Seneca)
9. The History of Sexuality Vol. I (Foucault)
10. The Birth of Tragedy (Nietzsche)
Last edited by insomnia on February 11th, 2018, 2:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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