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¶ Favourite books read in 2020?

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Perception de Ambiguity
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¶ Favourite books read in 2020?

#1

Post by Perception de Ambiguity »

Carmel, whose prerogative this thread usually is, is for now taking a break from iCM, so for the benefit of the community I am carrying the flame this year, alas I myself am a poor poster child for such a topic, for I have fallen out of favor with the reading gods (were it not so my studious buttocks would know their names), though I have given attempt this year to come anew into the habit of this virtue that I so scarcely have ever possessed, so at least from the books I have begun to shift my glazzies over I will deem "The Mind Illuminated: A Complete Meditation Guide Integrating Buddhist Wisdom and Brain Science for Greater Mindfulness" (John Yates) (with no person but Carmel to thank for the recc) the most practical, and "Gravity and Grace" (Simone Weil) the most enriching of my soul. During this year the lessons and guidance of both their contents I have been believing worthy to internalize and aspire to utilize for the work that shall never cease, which is the betterment of the self that does not end with the self.
Signed, Ghost Turtle



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#2

Post by mightysparks »

Fell behind on my reading during the last month or so of semester and haven't gotten back into it since, so didn't quite make my goal of 30 books (22, with three others in progress).

Best stuff I read this year:

1. Les Misérables / Victor Hugo
2. Untouched By Human Hands / Robert Sheckley
3. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft / Stephen King
4. The Left Hand of Darkness / Ursula K. Le Guin
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#3

Post by kongs_speech »

The last book I read was Inherent Vice ... in 2015, right after the film came out.

Edit: wait, was that before or after I read High Fidelity? Either way, I don't do a whole lot of reading, and I'm going to try to do better in 2021.
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#4

Post by Traveller »

Below the list of what I read this year. I've read everything up to Moore's Evolution until March, which is where I hit a big reading slump. After that, I had a hard time getting into books again and still am - Curse of the Mistwraith I stopped one third in (can't get into Fantasy anymore) and Anti-Oedipus was over my current head. The biggest surprise was probably Madness and Civilization, which I enjoyed thoroughly. Others worth noting were Decoding Schopenhauer's Metaphysics and The Philosophy of Disenchantment.

I'm starting with Allison's Kant's Transcendental Idealism: An Interpretation and Defense next year, hoping to read more again.

Nausea - Jean-Paul Sartre
Starry Speculative Corpse - Eugene Thacker
Tentacles Longer Than Night - Eugene Thacker
The World Viewed: Reflections on the Ontology of Film - Stanley Cavell
All Gall is Divided - Emil M. Cioran
History and Utopia - Emil M. Cioran
The Temptation to Exist - Emil M. Cioran
The Philosophy of Disenchantment - Edgar Saltus
The Evolution of Modern Metaphysics - A. W. Moore
Thomas the Obscure - Maurice Blanchot
The Three Body Problem - Liu Cixin
(Curse of the Mistwraith - Janny Wurts)
Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason - Michel Foucault
Decoding Schopenhauer's Metaphysics - Bernardo Kastrup
(Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia - Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari)
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#5

Post by prodigalgodson »

Ah this one I will contribute to early since I won't be finishing any other books this year.

1. Middlemarch (George Eliot)
2. Warlock (Oakley Hall)
3. War and Peace (Leo Tolstoy)
4. Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (James Joyce)
5. The Doomsters (Ross McDonald)

I feel like there was something else I liked better than that McDonald book but I can't think what it was...
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#6

Post by burneyfan »

Favorites this year in the order I read them (no special preference):

Circe - Madeline Miller
The Hireling - L.P. Hartley
Being Mortal - Atul Gawande
The King Must Die - Mary Renault
Love in a Fallen City - Eileen Chang
Black Cherry Blues - James Lee Burke
Slaughterhouse-Five - Kurt Vonnegut
The King at the Edge of the World - Arthur Phillips
Sand - Wolfgang Herrndorf
Call for the Dead - John le Carré
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold - John le Carré
The Looking Glass War - John le Carré

I've been reading le Carré's Smiley series in order, and Smiley's People is shaping up to be another favorite, so far -- I'll probably finish it today or tomorrow.
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#7

Post by brokenface »

Lockdown helped me make it scrape it to 50 which is almost at the book/week I aim for.

Highlights, finally read some I've long meant to, like Dune and Gravity's Rainbow, as well as The Parade's Gone By which I'd previously only dipped in. Jean Rhys' Short Stories, she's a really evocative writer, bleak but it hit the spot in early lockdown for sure.

I made a bit of an effort, particularly early on, to read people I'd not tried before and found some who I'll try to explore more like Vladimir Sorokin, Alfred Hayes, Clarice Lispector, Keri Hulme, Alfred Bester, Anna Kavan. But then found myself drifting back to a number of old favourites as the year went on (Doyle, Vonnegut, Highsmith, Ballard, PKD, Murakami, King, Le Carre, Greene, Hemingway, Yates, Eco).

Disappointments - Bellow's Herzog was an effort that didn't seem worth it, Slapstick felt like weak Vonnegut or maybe I'm not so keen on the style as I used to be. Also had mixed feelings about Murakami's Killing Commandatore. Something didn't quite work there.

Next year I've got my eye on Grossman's Life & Fate. And more non-fiction.
Book Log 2020 (* = top 10, unordered
Jan 2020
Joan Lindsay - Picnic at Hanging Rock
Julian Barnes - The Sense of an Ending
Julian Green - Paris
Vladimir Sorokin - The Blizzard

Feb
*Frank Herbert - Dune
*Alfred Hayes - My Face for the World to See
Richard Brautigan - Trout Fishing in America

Mar
Jeff Vandermeer - Annihilation
Clarice Lispector - Hour of the Star
Simon Armitage - Walking Away
Erin Morgenstern - The Starless Sea

Apr
*Keri Hulme - The Bone People
Aldous Huxley - Jesting Pilate
Arthur Conan Doyle - Favourite Sherlock Holmes Stories
*Jean Rhys - The Collected Short Stories

May
Haruki Murakami - After the Quake
Ernest Hemingway - The Snows of Kilimanjaro & Other Stories
*Thomas Pynchon - Gravity's Rainbow
Andrea Camilleri - The Voice of the Violin
John Le Carre - Our Game
Philip Kerr - March Violets

Jun
Philip K Dick - A Maze of Death
Saul Bellow - Herzog

Jul
Charles Bukowski - Hollywood
Graham Greene - No Man's Land & The Stranger's Hand
Ian Fleming - Diamonds are Forever

Aug
*Ahmet Altan - I Will Never See the World Again
Chester Himes - A Rage in Harlem
Andrea Wulf - The Invention of Nature
*Patricia Highsmith - Carol

Sep
Mary Butts - Armed With Madness
Stephen King - The Institute
*Kevin Brownlow - The Parade's Gone By
Haruki Murakami - Killing Commandatore
Anna Kavan - Ice

Oct
John Le Carre - Agent Running in the Field
Carrie Fisher - Wishful Drinking
Umberto Eco - Baudolino
JG Ballard - The Wind From Nowhere
Philip Pullman - Lyra's Oxford
Woody Guthrie - Bound for Glory

Nov
Jasper Fforde - Shades of Grey
Robert Sheckley - Dimensions of Miracles
*Alfred Bester - The Demolished Man

Dec
*Richard Yates - A Special Providence
Chuck Palahniuk - Fight Club
Kurt Vonnegut - Slapstick
Hermann Hesse - The Prodigy
Yoko Ogawa - The Memory Police
Philip Kerr - The Pale Criminal
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#8

Post by Carmel1379 »

Perception de Ambiguity wrote: December 29th, 2020, 6:56 pm Carmel, whose prerogative this thread usually is, is for now taking a break from iCM, so for the benefit of the community I am carrying the flame this year, alas I myself am a poor poster child for such a topic, for I have fallen out of favor with the reading gods (were it not so my studious buttocks would know their names), though I have given attempt this year to come anew into the habit of this virtue that I so scarcely have ever possessed, so at least from the books I have begun to shift my glazzies over I will deem "The Mind Illuminated: A Complete Meditation Guide Integrating Buddhist Wisdom and Brain Science for Greater Mindfulness" (John Yates) (with no person but Carmel to thank for the recc) the most practical, and "Gravity and Grace" (Simone Weil) the most enriching of my soul. During this year the lessons and guidance of both their contents I have been believing worthy to internalize and aspire to utilize for the work that shall never cease, which is the betterment of the self that does not end with the self.
Signed, Ghost Turtle



Yours?
Love you, PdA ♒♎☸️ (& everyone else (& Anima Mundi (& "perspectives" (& "intergalactic noise" (despite/because of everything I just can't help having a hyperthymic temperament either))))) 🧡🧡 It's nice to connect, like notes between the silences:) Best wishes for 2021 all!

I was reminded of your Simone Weil signature recently by this passage from that mammoth unfinished Austrian novel:
Life’s deepest truths are not arrived at in debate, as Plato already said. Man hears them as the living meaning and fulfillment of his self. Believe me, what makes the human being truly free, and what takes away his freedom, what gives him true bliss and what destroys it, isn’t subject to ‘progress’—it is something every genuinely alive person knows perfectly well in his own heart, if he will just listen to it!
++ from that same book, haphazardly, since I got them at hand, for you:
Spoiler
There is the well-known path of devotion to all mankind that begins with an inability to get along with one’s neighbour, and just so may a deep latent yearning for God arise in an antisocial character equipped with a great capacity to love
Our entire modern neurosis, with all its excesses, arises solely from a flabby inner state in which the will is lacking, for without a special effort of will no one can achieve the integrity and stability that lifts a person above the obscure confusion of the organism!
➰🧿➰
Let's talk sometime soon after the Earth makes its symbolic (re)turn around the Sun

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***

My matrix of flower petals, enamel leaves, glowing crystals, succulent tentacles, dillentantish manic stoned diagramming, inconclusive communications, & bookz of all kinds I actually managed to finish reading during this personally most transformative rollercoaster year 2020, among the strange traficks of templex:

McCarthy, Blood Meridian
Lawrence, Lady Chatterley’s Lover
Musil, The Man Without Qualities (trans. Wilkins & Pike)
Liu, The Dark Forest
Homer, The Illiad (trans. R. Fagles)
Logo_Daedalus, Selfie, Suicide: or Cairey Turnbull’s Blue Skiddoo
Calvino, If on a winter’s night a traveller
Bonnet, After Death (trans. qdn & kgwof)
Rilke, Selected Poetry (trans. S. Mitchell)
Melville, Bartleby the Scrivener
Siné, Je ne pense qu'à chat
(meditation: Culadesa, TMI & Ingram, MTCTB)
(maths: [redacted, but more will come next year])
& more
Clark, Surfing Uncertainty
Guibert, Ariol #1 Wszyscy Jesteśmy Osiołkami
Borges, Fictions
Stross, Singularity Sky
Wilson, Prometheus Rising
Herbert, Dune
Danielewski, House of Leaves
Anon, Tales From The Thousand And One Nights (trans. N.J.Dawood)
Yeager, Negative Space
Michaux, Anthology (trans. D. Ball)
Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet
Berg, With Deer
Subject A, Verses from the Underlands
Zero HP, God-Shaped Hole
Novalis, Hymns to the Night
Burroughs, The Soft Machine
Delicious Tacos, Finally Some Good News
Anon, The Epic of Gilgamesh (trans. A. George)
Laozi, Tao Te Ching (trans. Red Pine)
Vyasa, The Bhagavad Gita (trans. E. Arnold)
Shea & Wilson, The Eye in the Pyramid (Illuminatus! #1)
Hesiod, Theogony / Works & Days
Signed, Manny (L'enfant perdu) & Cokzxqs Lolztk
arritame no yume nikki & I suppose I’ll have to add the force of gravity to my list of enemies

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#9

Post by blocho »

burneyfan wrote: December 30th, 2020, 6:46 pm Call for the Dead - John le Carré
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold - John le Carré
The Looking Glass War - John le Carré

I've been reading le Carré's Smiley series in order, and Smiley's People is shaping up to be another favorite, so far -- I'll probably finish it today or tomorrow.
I really hope you didn't read Smiley's People without first reading Tinker Tailor.
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#10

Post by hurluberlu »

I guess lockdown was also for me the perfect occasion to start off Proust's A la recherche du temps perdu. Volume I was great, on par with Flaubert's L’Éducation sentimentale, one of my favourite. I am now finishing Volume II and the first part, Autour de Mme Swann, was the brightest piece of classic literature I have read. I will probably continue reading two volumes a year just to let them sink and get excited again with the idea of reading the next one. I will try to (re)watch film adaptations in parallel but Godard is probably right when he says such masterful literature is too complete, there is too much invention already, to create anything meaningful on film out of it.

Other favourite reads from this year

A Confederacy of Dunces (John Kennedy Toole)
The Science of Interstellar (Kip Thorne)
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Mark Twain)
Nu avec Picasso (Enki Bilal)
Strange Tales (Pu Songling)
The Man Who Loved Dogs (Leonardo Padura)
#JeSuisCharlie Liberté, Liberté chérie !

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#11

Post by burneyfan »

blocho wrote: December 30th, 2020, 9:24 pm
burneyfan wrote: December 30th, 2020, 6:46 pm Call for the Dead - John le Carré
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold - John le Carré
The Looking Glass War - John le Carré

I've been reading le Carré's Smiley series in order, and Smiley's People is shaping up to be another favorite, so far -- I'll probably finish it today or tomorrow.
I really hope you didn't read Smiley's People without first reading Tinker Tailor.
I didn't!! I'm reading them strictly in order, most of the way through Smiley's People now. I liked Tinker Tailor a lot, but I liked those three that I listed EVEN more, perhaps. They've all been great. Are you the one who listed his/her favorite le Carré novels in order on the R.I.P. page when le Carré passed away? If that was you, it was what inspired me to read the whole Smiley series -- that, and the fact that I've never read anything of his before. I'm looking forward to A Perfect Spy and The LIttle Drummer Girl after I finish all the Smileys, as well -- le Carré has made my December vacation particularly delightful, as far as reading goes.
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#12

Post by blocho »

burneyfan wrote: December 30th, 2020, 11:04 pm
blocho wrote: December 30th, 2020, 9:24 pm
burneyfan wrote: December 30th, 2020, 6:46 pm Call for the Dead - John le Carré
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold - John le Carré
The Looking Glass War - John le Carré

I've been reading le Carré's Smiley series in order, and Smiley's People is shaping up to be another favorite, so far -- I'll probably finish it today or tomorrow.
I really hope you didn't read Smiley's People without first reading Tinker Tailor.
I didn't!! I'm reading them strictly in order, most of the way through Smiley's People now. I liked Tinker Tailor a lot, but I liked those three that I listed EVEN more, perhaps. They've all been great. Are you the one who listed his/her favorite le Carré novels in order on the R.I.P. page when le Carré passed away? If that was you, it was what inspired me to read the whole Smiley series -- that, and the fact that I've never read anything of his before. I'm looking forward to A Perfect Spy and The LIttle Drummer Girl after I finish all the Smileys, as well -- le Carré has made my December vacation particularly delightful, as far as reading goes.
That was me. I'm honored and delighted that my words influenced you to read Le Carre.
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#13

Post by prodigalgodson »

Damn, you guys are bananas on the reading! Smh, I need to put down the weed and pick up the books a little more.
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#14

Post by blueboybob »

Covid messed up my reading. I used to read to/from work. But no more commute :( Anyway, best things I read this year (also follow me on good reads -- https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/4735233-john)


Truman
Skin in the Game: The Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life
John Adams
The New New Thing: A Silicon Valley Story
My Own Words
The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine



I also, only read non-fiction. I can't remember the last fiction book I read
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#15

Post by Perception de Ambiguity »

Carmel1379 wrote: December 30th, 2020, 8:22 pm
Perception de Ambiguity wrote: December 29th, 2020, 6:56 pm Signed, Ghost Turtle
Love you, PdA ♒♎☸️ (& everyone else (& Anima Mundi (& "perspectives" (& "intergalactic noise" (despite/because of everything I just can't help having a hyperthymic temperament either))))) 🧡🧡 It's nice to connect, like notes between the silences:) Best wishes for 2021 all!

I was reminded of your Simone Weil signature recently by this passage from that mammoth unfinished Austrian novel:
Life’s deepest truths are not arrived at in debate, as Plato already said. Man hears them as the living meaning and fulfillment of his self. Believe me, what makes the human being truly free, and what takes away his freedom, what gives him true bliss and what destroys it, isn’t subject to ‘progress’—it is something every genuinely alive person knows perfectly well in his own heart, if he will just listen to it!
++ from that same book, haphazardly, since I got them at hand, for you:
Spoiler
There is the well-known path of devotion to all mankind that begins with an inability to get along with one’s neighbour, and just so may a deep latent yearning for God arise in an antisocial character equipped with a great capacity to love
Our entire modern neurosis, with all its excesses, arises solely from a flabby inner state in which the will is lacking, for without a special effort of will no one can achieve the integrity and stability that lifts a person above the obscure confusion of the organism!
➰🧿➰
Let's talk sometime soon after the Earth makes its symbolic (re)turn around the Sun

Image

***

My matrix of flower petals, enamel leaves, glowing crystals, succulent tentacles, dillentantish manic stoned diagramming, inconclusive communications, & bookz of all kinds I actually managed to finish reading during this personally most transformative rollercoaster year 2020, among the strange traficks of templex:

McCarthy, Blood Meridian
Lawrence, Lady Chatterley’s Lover
Musil, The Man Without Qualities (trans. Wilkins & Pike)
Liu, The Dark Forest
Homer, The Illiad (trans. R. Fagles)
Logo_Daedalus, Selfie, Suicide: or Cairey Turnbull’s Blue Skiddoo
Calvino, If on a winter’s night a traveller
Bonnet, After Death (trans. qdn & kgwof)
Rilke, Selected Poetry (trans. S. Mitchell)
Melville, Bartleby the Scrivener
Siné, Je ne pense qu'à chat
(meditation: Culadesa, TMI & Ingram, MTCTB)
(maths: [redacted, but more will come next year])
& more
Clark, Surfing Uncertainty
Guibert, Ariol #1 Wszyscy Jesteśmy Osiołkami
Borges, Fictions
Stross, Singularity Sky
Wilson, Prometheus Rising
Herbert, Dune
Danielewski, House of Leaves
Anon, Tales From The Thousand And One Nights (trans. N.J.Dawood)
Yeager, Negative Space
Michaux, Anthology (trans. D. Ball)
Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet
Berg, With Deer
Subject A, Verses from the Underlands
Zero HP, God-Shaped Hole
Novalis, Hymns to the Night
Burroughs, The Soft Machine
Delicious Tacos, Finally Some Good News
Anon, The Epic of Gilgamesh (trans. A. George)
Laozi, Tao Te Ching (trans. Red Pine)
Vyasa, The Bhagavad Gita (trans. E. Arnold)
Shea & Wilson, The Eye in the Pyramid (Illuminatus! #1)
Hesiod, Theogony / Works & Days
Signed, Manny (L'enfant perdu) & Cokzxqs Lolztk
I love you too, in a seraphic, impersonal, hard-shelled, antisocial way. Every quote from that book seems to speak of me. Amazing. I might even succumb to temptation and end up chewing on that mammoth (only to get as far as gnawing on its pelt).

Looks like you read all the books that I too should have read this year given my current active interests. I guess I'll just rely on you to give me the summary on them, anon. The type of summary, in each case, I trust, that provides the most elating impact to my soul.

The quotes from Rilke that I picked up here and there over the years I seem to remember were very welcoming, definitely somebody I am interested in looking into proper, perhaps once I have grown out of accepting Master Rogan as my supreme sage.
We do not have to understand new things, but by dint of patience, effort and method to come to understand with our whole self the truths which are evident.Image
LETTERBOXD | MUBI | IMDb | tumblr.
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#16

Post by blocho »

Heavy doses this year of Stephen King and 20th century American political history. In chronological order:

Edmund Morris - Colonel Roosevelt
Robert Caro - The Path to Power
Richard Russo - Chances Are ...
Robert Caro - Means of Ascent
Stephen King - The Green Mile
Philip Kerr - March Violets
Gay Talese - The Kingdom and the Power
Stephen King - Misery
Stephen King - The Institute
Stephen King - The Stand
Robert Caro - Master of the Senate

Caro's LBJ series is magisterial. Talese's book was very important for helping me better understand the history of my frenemy, the New York Times. Among the King books, I thought Misery was the best.
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#17

Post by RolandKirkSunglasses »

2020 provided ample reading time, I even managed to squeeze in a little fiction.

Non fiction:
Russia against Napoleon: The Battle for Europe 1807-1814 by Dominic Lieven
Dostoevsky: A Writer in his time by Frank Joseph
Civilisation & Capitalism Vol 3: Perspective of the World by Fernand Braudel
A Short History of Russia's First Civil War by Chester S.L Dunning

Fiction:
Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
Hero of our Time by Mikhail Lermontov
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
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#18

Post by matthewscott8 »

Nada by Jean-Patrick Manchette
Les Antiquités de Rome by Joachim du Bellay
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#19

Post by Leopardi »

2020 was the worst year for books I've had since I learned to read, at least in terms of pages read. Back in early December of 2019 I started a book I wound up enjoying thoroughly, The Mysteries of London. It was a big one (two volumes, each 1100-1200 pages), and since I'd fallen into the bad habit of only reading on the commute to/from work I knew it would be around for a while. When the quarantine hit in mid-March I effectively stopped reading, with the commute gone and work kicking into overdrive for several months (from home, for the most part) leaving me with no time to read even from home.

I Think I really only picked up the book again in the summer, and was only able to get through a few pages each day, maybe a few days per week. Things started to pick up in late September, but in early November I developed an eye issue that's still with me and haven't been able to read since then. So, long story short, 2020 will be the only year since the age of five or so where I did not start and complete a single book. So, no books for me to mention, although, once again, The Mysteries of London has been enjoyable (volume 1 more than volume 2, at least so far).
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#20

Post by fakeusername2 »

Ah, yes, the yearly book thread -- a place where I can add something since I watch maybe ~15 movies a year now, not counting the rewatches of popular movies. Goodreads has me down at 111 books in 2020. The problem is, sadly, most of them are terrible, or at least not noteworthy. I vowed to read more interesting books this year but I've started with several books on finance. Why must I punish myself? Perhaps I'm getting old and feel it's obligatory. . . .

Fiction
I technically read most of House of Leaves in 2019, I think, but finished it in January. Instant favorite; it immerses the reader in such an uncanny, unsettling world that you feel yourself slowly slipping into madness with the lead character. I'm not sure I ever recovered, to tell the truth. I imagine you can't get any closer to a David Lynch novel than this one, perish the thought.

My sci-fi literature quest continues with Stranger in a Strange Land. It starts out too slow, too conventional, but picks up once Jubal Harshaw enters the picture. What man doesn't feel a little like him as he ages? I should revisit this again in 20 to 30 years to see if the transition is completed. I've read that a lot of people hate the abrupt jump from conventional sci-fi to wild, '60s counterculture madness, which is a shame because for me that's one of its most exciting qualities.

Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs are both excellent -- perhaps the best crime novels that I've read. You need an appreciation of pop-psychoanalysis (yet one that's refined enough that it isn't cliched or stupid) to get really into the characters and events and luckily that's just my style. Not that the movies aren't good, but these really surpass all expectation. And, man, that ending to Red Dragon; Harris holds nothing back.

Robinson Crusoe, the original and classic man-on-an island tale. It's a lot of fun and funny too, although maybe it just seems that way through 21st century eyes. I mean, the dude gets shipwrecked three times in the first twenty pages. And I can't help but find comfort in the kind of solitude that Crusoe finds for most of the narrative; it has a romantic quality, one that few (myself included) would actually want to live but calls one nonetheless.

Mishima's Runaway Horses and The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea are pretty amazing. I read Temple of the Golden Pavilion as a teenager and loved it and watched Schraeder's Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters around the same and just forgot to read his other books. It's easy to forget that Mishima was actually a hardcore rightist and relates entirely with the main characters, although because of this you really get a portrait of types of characters that are seldom depicted with such depth. And besides, what man never in his life, to paraphrase HL Mencken, doesn't feel the urge to don the black mask at one point or another?

Now that I've read them all, The Killing is the only Kubrick adaptation where the novel is better than the movie (well, actually, Lolita is too, maybe). It's extremely short, tightly written, no nonsense, brutal, and is written almost entirely as dialogue -- one two-hour throttle to whatever optimism you still cling to, everything you want in a noir.

Man, that Houellebecq. Platform is depressing as fuck and great for it.

The Killer Inside Me is another noir, this time told entirely from the perspective of the murderer. Great leap inside the mind of a killer. Unlike most noir, there's really not much going for it in terms of plot but what it lacks in narrative cleverness it makes up for in brute force.

Run. (Yes, in one single, chilling word the author of Lust, Caution captures the entire philosophical and experiential essence of existentialism. Take that, "Jesus wept.")

Underperformers

I think The Gunslinger is one of those novels that Stephen King wrote stoned out of his mind. It has a good concept, some cool characters, yet the whole thing is odd and at times kind of retarded.

Drive is not bad, just a letdown compared with the movie. Utterly forgettable, every part, except for one surprise departure from the movie.

I have no clue what's going on in Hawkes' The Cannibal. I think I like it, and that there's something going on there, but I wasn't quite captivated enough to actually figure it all out. One day maybe I'll return.

Atonement is actually a very good book. I just can't get past that it sounds so British -- it feels like reading a boring BBC period drama.

Nonfiction

Most of the nonfiction I read is simply too insufferable to mention. (I should have been a novelist or something). A few stand out, though.

Talk about upending my view of the American Founding. The Royalist Revolution, by some Harvard guy, very convincingly argues that the founders were actually monarchists who were largely loyal to the crown but wanted independence from British parliament. Apparently, as he writes and some additional digging I did shows, this was once common knowledge but discarded for a more progressive narrative after WWII. Interesting stuff.

Social Sciences as Sorcery isn't quite as cool as it sounds but it's a great, albeit dated, takedown of the sophistry that is social science and the ways it obfuscates its clear inability to come to 'truthful' conclusions. It's more down-to-earth than, say, Foucault, but as a now firm #Science denier I enjoyed this a lot.

Since riots were back in the news, I reread Banfield's classic The Unheavenly City. It's amazing how even within a single lifetime history repeats itself and yet the extremely obvious similarities go completely unnoticed. Too many brains have been Matrixed or something.

I read about ten new machine learning books, most of which are pretty terrible since I already read the classics and everyone seems to want to hop on this gravy train. But The One-Hundred Page Machine Learning Book, despite the dumb title, is quite elegant and fun to read. Like most it repeats things most things will have likely encountered a hundred times already, but it has such clarity and concision that it's a good read still.

I read about fifteen books on terrorism. Most suck, except the 9/11 Commission Report. Not as good as The Looming Tower, but it almost feels like you're reading a narrative rather some dry government report, which it is in actuality.

Braudel's A History of Civilizations is another great, but much more sweeping, narrative. All the material on plagues is relevant, though he dwells a lot on foodstuff and mundane things. Maybe that's part of the charm of his books -- they really capture everyday life across the old civilizations, a picture that is often lost in all the high-level, macrohistorical, here's how we got the modern world blah blah kind of stuff.

Robert Lindner's Must You Conform? is a pocket-sized book of periodical-like takes on counterculture, sociopathy, and psychoanalysis -- the kind of cheap paperback that's fun to read and insightful, if short on all the details, that it's impossible to find now because a publishing house can't charge enough for it to be profitable. It's the equivalent of reading a blog, but a good one.

Lyotard writes about The Postmodern Condition. I actually thought about writing my take on the book and topic using They Live as an illustration but it didn't go anywhere. Needless to say, it's great stuff even if Jean later admitted he has no idea what he was writing about and didn't read the sources he claims he did. Sometimes the culture uses an unwitting writer for its own purpose.

Carl Schmitt wants everyone to know that The Concept of the Political is that all politics boils down to friend/enemy distinctions. Noted, and timely.

Leonard Cohen, of writing that song that plays in Natural Born Killers fame, has a volume of poetry called Flowers for Hitler. Out of all the poetry books I read last year, this one is the best. Not surprising because he's the only one that wasn't primarily a poet by vocation.

Not many underperformers so much as bad books, but I suppose I was extra disappointed by Capitalist Realism. Yeah, yeah, it's hard to imagine something outside capitalism, and once you get past that point the whole book is annoying. It's a never-ending source of frustration that the original postmodernists are so interesting yet their next-generation piggy-backers are so banal. All rebels, intellectual or otherwise, become boring DMV workers eventually. I also enjoyed Bostrom's Superintelligence quite a bit but it's so logical, so rational, that in the end you feel like all he's doing is writing a step-by-step outline of the all the potential consequences of superintelligence that you could write yourself if you cared to crank out 400 pages.


**********

Now, as for everyone else, there are only a few that I've also read. My biggest shock is that, Carmel, I can't believe you actually read Logo Daedalus' book lol. Baby Kantbot isn't my worst follow, I guess, but I can't help imagining that his book would be very, very annoying. I'm excited about the Musil book though -- I have a copy but haven't gotten around to it yet. And, of course, the McCarthy, Calvino, and Rilke books are great. (I have to read Blood Meridian again soon; read The Road in '19 and loved it).

Now I haven't read The Mind Illuminated but I've been meaning to take a shot on meditation and that seems like a good place to start. I'll get a copy of that. And while I never actually read Gravity and Grace from cover to cover, Weil holds a special place in my heart. I'm ordering this one soon too.
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#21

Post by sebby »

blueboybob wrote: December 31st, 2020, 3:49 am Anyway, best things I read this year (also follow me on good reads -- https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/4735233-john)
okay
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#22

Post by prodigalgodson »

fakeusername2 wrote: January 23rd, 2021, 7:11 am Ah, yes, the yearly book thread...
Ayyy, f_u! Long time no see old friend.
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#23

Post by Perception de Ambiguity »

fakeusername2 wrote: January 23rd, 2021, 7:11 am Ah, yes, the yearly book thread -- a place where I can add something since I watch maybe ~15 movies a year now, not counting the rewatches of popular movies. Goodreads has me down at 111 books in 2020. The problem is, sadly, most of them are terrible, or at least not noteworthy. I vowed to read more interesting books this year but I've started with several books on finance. Why must I punish myself? Perhaps I'm getting old and feel it's obligatory. . . .
Your person hitting the scene without fail triggered a dream that night, in which I visited the States and you showed me around. You said you had a pleasant surprise for me as we headed to some unspecified shop and you walked up to a woman, you greeted each other and then whispered something into her ear while both of you were looking at me. Her expression turned to amazement and she called me over to her with a big smile on her face. I said to you: "Wow, OK, you NEED to tell me what you said to her about me." She asked me if I still remembered or liked Tic Tac Toe (they were a German hip hop girl group) to which I replied: "Of course." She told me that she was their producer and asked me that if there was a film about them to be made who I think should play them. She said to think about it and to get back to her once I had some ideas. You and me were about to leave when I noticed a woman through the shop window who looked like one of the members of said long defunct music group, and who would have been privy to the conversation we just had inside the store since it seemed to be about the size of shoe box. I went back in and questioningly greeted her "Jazzy?" to which she responded by aping my greeting. We exchanged cheek-kisses and some friendly words and then you and me continued our tour in which we suddenly found ourselves in the middle of the TV set of "Home Improvement", production in full swing. This was maybe too weird, because that's when I woke up and it's the only reason why I'm now able to recollect the dream. The story probably began earlier but this is the bit I remember.

Are you aware of the existence of Charlie Kaufman's recent debut novel "Antkind"? I started reading it last year and think it would probably be of some interest to you, at the very least be a poignant diversion dealing with the grandmaster of self-deceit whose relatable insecurities make him easy to despise, for he can make us worry that we are in some aspects as pathetic as this guy, or that we are perceived as as ridiculous as thon (his preferred gender pronoun). Likewise we can see it as a cultural satire, with this caricature of the modern man, exemplary self-centered and hyper-liberal, delusional to the point of living in an alternate universe of his own creation. It's incessantly self-referential and full of references to high and low culture (and many film references), some real ones, some made up ones, and many erroneous ones, all told with dry humor. In other words it's vintage Charlie Kaufman, a Kaufman person probably won't be disappointed.
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#24

Post by fakeusername2 »

prodigalgodson wrote: January 24th, 2021, 6:52 am
fakeusername2 wrote: January 23rd, 2021, 7:11 am Ah, yes, the yearly book thread...
Ayyy, f_u! Long time no see old friend.
Hey Prodigal, man; long time no see is right! How's life going, besides Tolstoy and Joyce? I feel the older I get the more I see life like the first ten pages of Portrait---a short, first-person blur into the present.
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#25

Post by fakeusername2 »

Perception de Ambiguity wrote: January 27th, 2021, 12:35 am
fakeusername2 wrote: January 23rd, 2021, 7:11 am Ah, yes, the yearly book thread -- a place where I can add something since I watch maybe ~15 movies a year now, not counting the rewatches of popular movies. Goodreads has me down at 111 books in 2020. The problem is, sadly, most of them are terrible, or at least not noteworthy. I vowed to read more interesting books this year but I've started with several books on finance. Why must I punish myself? Perhaps I'm getting old and feel it's obligatory. . . .
Your person hitting the scene without fail triggered a dream that night, in which I visited the States and you showed me around. You said you had a pleasant surprise for me as we headed to some unspecified shop and you walked up to a woman, you greeted each other and then whispered something into her ear while both of you were looking at me. Her expression turned to amazement and she called me over to her with a big smile on her face. I said to you: "Wow, OK, you NEED to tell me what you said to her about me." She asked me if I still remembered or liked Tic Tac Toe (they were a German hip hop girl group) to which I replied: "Of course." She told me that she was their producer and asked me that if there was a film about them to be made who I think should play them. She said to think about it and to get back to her once I had some ideas. You and me were about to leave when I noticed a woman through the shop window who looked like one of the members of said long defunct music group, and who would have been privy to the conversation we just had inside the store since it seemed to be about the size of shoe box. I went back in and questioningly greeted her "Jazzy?" to which she responded by aping my greeting. We exchanged cheek-kisses and some friendly words and then you and me continued our tour in which we suddenly found ourselves in the middle of the TV set of "Home Improvement", production in full swing. This was maybe too weird, because that's when I woke up and it's the only reason why I'm now able to recollect the dream. The story probably began earlier but this is the bit I remember.

Are you aware of the existence of Charlie Kaufman's recent debut novel "Antkind"? I started reading it last year and think it would probably be of some interest to you, at the very least be a poignant diversion dealing with the grandmaster of self-deceit whose relatable insecurities make him easy to despise, for he can make us worry that we are in some aspects as pathetic as this guy, or that we are perceived as as ridiculous as thon (his preferred gender pronoun). Likewise we can see it as a cultural satire, with this caricature of the modern man, exemplary self-centered and hyper-liberal, delusional to the point of living in an alternate universe of his own creation. It's incessantly self-referential and full of references to high and low culture (and many film references), some real ones, some made up ones, and many erroneous ones, all told with dry humor. In other words it's vintage Charlie Kaufman, a Kaufman person probably won't be disappointed.
I am honored to be the catalyst for a surrealist dream; nothing better captures the role I feel I play in the lives I encounter, a kind of absurdist joke that punctuates the great illusion. And, you know, whenever you decide to visit the States I would certainly introduce you to the most interesting women the world has to offer. I don't know Tic Tac Toe, but I'm sure they do, and all the greatest poems, plays, and jams from Germany to Cambodia. A tour would be in order but I'm afraid I'm not well-acquainted with Tim Allen and I'm not sure the show is still in production (a great shame). I admit that I thought, when I first read your response, how can you really have a dream with someone you've never met? And then, lo and beyond, I had a similar dream, but I cannot now for the life of me remember what we did or what happened. Sadly I never remember my dreams now; they are suppressed by nicotine and alcohol, I suppose, and I never remember to jot them down after waking. But now I realize how it's possible: the inner-mind is all symbolic representation. Perhaps that old Jung was right after all.

I hadn't heard about Kaufman's Antkind but it's now top of my buy-list. (One good thing about being an academic sell-out is that I am able to get taxpayers to bankroll my book purchases). As you've described it, of course, it sounds exactly like what I'd enjoy reading---too much seriousness in the books I've read lately---and my expectations are high. At latest, it will feature in the 2021 favorite books thread.
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