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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

what are you reading at the moment?

greatnorthroad

I recently finished rereading, in story chronology order, Lois McMaster Bujold’s [Amazon U.S.] [Amazon Canada] [Amazon U.K.] entire Miles Vorkosigan saga. It was torture. Because I love Miles so much, and I love all his friends and family, and I love the universe he lives in — a human civilization about 800 to 1000 years in the future spread across multiple star systems, with no aliens but lots of varied human cultures — and from the moment I started, I was dreading being finished. Bujold’s writing is, stylistically, simple and straightforward yet it creates a vivid tapestry, and I get truly lost in it. (I almost missed my tube stop one day because I was so deep in whatever adventure Miles was having that day, and that hardly ever happens to me.)

But then I was finished — hopefully not forever; Bujold had better be writing some more — and I almost didn’t want to go on to something else so that Miles would linger with me, but I can’t not have something to read on the tube. (It’s just about the only time I do get to read.) So I picked up Peter F. Hamilton’s Great North Road [Amazon U.S.] [Amazon Canada] [Amazon U.K.], a science fiction murder mystery set about 150 years from now in Newcastle… and also on the tropical superearth planet St. Libra, which is accessible via what is basically a stargate in Newcastle. I’m only maybe a quarter of the way in so far, but I’m pretty caught up in it. My only complaint at the moment is that almost all the female characters are so distractingly beautiful and described in such exquisite detail that it’s pretty absurd, especially when the physical appearance of the male characters is only briefly sketched… even when they’re being described from a woman’s perspective. I’m not letting it stop me reading, however.

So: What are you reading at the moment? Got any recommendations from your recent reads?

(If you have a suggestion for a Question, feel free to email me.)


  • Jan_Willem

    The Gardener’s Year by Karel Capek, a gently funny book about human foibles and obsessions by a Czech author from the 1930s that’s even enjoyable if – like me – you don’t have green fingers. His dystopian and satirical War with the Newts from 1936 is also pretty fantastic and deserves to be better known that it probably is. (Can’t judge the English translations, as I’m reading both books in Dutch.)

  • rurugby

    The very fun “Hyperbole and a Half” by Allie Brosh. She does long autobiographical comics on the web, sort of like the Oatmeal. http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/

  • Tony

    Call the midwife…great book

  • Chris

    “I am Malala” by Malala Yousafzai. Fascinating book about a ridiculously brave young woman

  • I’m belatedly experiencing “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell”, which is quite unlike anything I’ve read. And perfect for this weather.

  • Bluejay

    I thought it was wonderful. Hope you’re enjoying it too.

  • Bluejay

    I’m a quarter of the way through The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. Sort of a cross between Ocean’s Eleven and Game of Thrones. Fascinating characters and very well-written — there’s a one-sentence description of a pub that puts the “scum and villainy” description of Mos Eisley to shame.

  • Jay

    I love the Vorkosigan Saga! Make sure to read her Chalion series too! I might name my next child Miles…..

  • althea

    I’m in the middle of a couple of other books, one of which is Cat Sense by John Bradshaw, a more in-depth survey of cat behavioral science – only recommend if you’re very into that, it’s kinda dry. There’s Revelations by Elaine Pagels, about, natch, Revelation in the Bible, she’s written a lot on the Gnostic Gospels.

    However, I recently finished The Virginian by Owen Wister, and I heartily recommend it. It’s glorious – who knew there was a source for all the Out West and cowboy tropes that we’ve lived with all out lives, from the movies to the TV series, to Louis Lamour and Zane Grey. You’ll recognize all the characters but they’ll come to life as the best of their genre. A wonderful story, fantabulous scenery – it’ll make you want to saddle up and go explore the Grand Tetons and sleep out under the stars – beautifully drawn scenes that you’ll think will lead you to cliche cowboy action but instead are wonderfully evocative of real life. You’ll revel in the heroism of the main character, the lovely narration – there are parts where the narrator disappears, but in the rest he makes you feel as if you were there with him – and you’ll love the new perspective you get on life in the 1870s, both out West and other parts of the country. I can’t say enough about this book! Go get it!

    By the way, reading it was inspired by also reading (still more) about Wyatt Earp – specifically Wyatt Earp, A Vigilante Life by Andrew Isenberg, and The Last Gunfight by Jeff Guinn – and as a matter of fact another I finished recently was Jeff Guinn’s Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson, which was fantastic. What I’m reading now isn’t nearly so absorbing.

    Okay, that’ll do for the moment.

  • Ooo, this sounds like something I would like. On the wish list it goes!

    <–gardening nut

  • Wow, those books you’re reading sound great. I’ll have to look them up.

    I’m on book 9 (The Kindly Ones) of the sandman saga. Some serious shit is going down now, and I don’t like where it’s heading. Not that I didn’t know it may go that route, but I’m still feeling the melancholy starting to well up.
    My next book is The Stars My Destination. I’ve been looking forward to reading it for awhile.

  • loopus

    I just finished a book called Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. It is the most fun, imaginative book I’ve read in a long time. Hilarious nerdy dystopian adventure thrill ride. Highly recommend.

  • RogerBW

    MarkyD, Bujold posted some notes on reading orders here. Note further that if you want hardcopy, quite a few of the novels are only available in collected editions; see Wikipedia.

    Most recently, I’ve been catching up with Louise Penny’s Québec-set detective series, and re-read Cold Comfort Farm. There are also some rather nifty free ebooks from NASA that I’ve been gradually getting through.

  • Danielm80

    I’m reading a whole stack of books, as usual, but the one I most want to recommend is a novel I finished a few months ago, Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, about a comic-book-loving music geek who falls in love with a girl who’s even more of a social outcast than he is.

  • prunk tanner

    M. T. Conard’s philosophy of the Can Bros.

  • prunk tanner

    COEN BROTHERS I SHOULD HAVE SAID

  • cinderkeys

    I recently finished _The Magician King_ and am eagerly awaiting the last book in the trilogy now that I know there is one.

    At the moment I’m reading _APE_ by Guy Kawasaki, but it’s slow going. I’d really rather be reading fiction.

  • Arthur

    Morris Dickstein’s DANCING IN THE DARK, about the Great Depression. Seems pertinent to today…

  • PJK

    I’m currently reading my way through Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett, the next book in his Moist von LipWig cycle.

  • bronxbee

    for my book clubs: Killing Kennedy (i *know* but i didn’t actually purchase it); and The Book Thief. for my own pleasure i’m finishing the Magus of Hay, the latest in the Merrily Watkins books (a CoE vicar who gets caught up in mysterious murders and other mysteries) and i have Dust lined up next the third in the Wool series, a social science fiction series.

  • bronxbee

    start with Shards of Honor, then Barrayar, then the Warrior’s Apprentice, and in the books is a chronology of Miles’ life with the names of the books to read.

  • Erwin

    “The Other Side of the Window” by S.Z. Berg. It was a fantastic, uplifting novel that helps you see how some people see the world. It has mystery, romance, and suspense built in and great character development. I couldn’t put it down once I started reading.

  • Drave

    Currently reading book two of the Grisha series by Leigh Bardugo. Really awesome worldbuilding, and it’s interesting to see fantasy with a Russian flavor. Next up is The Book Thief to prepare for the movie, and then I’m going back to the Divergent trilogy for the same reason.

  • LaSargenta

    The Sunday New York Times.

    But, recently re-read Brat Farrar by Josephine Tey.

    Last night thumbed through Green Architecture by Brenda and Robert Vale looking for two specific buildings. The book is a little dated, but, still interesting. Also re-read the chapter on saws in Klingshott’s Sharpening:The Complete Guide.

  • FormerlyKnownAsBill

    rereading “The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science- and Reality”, by Chris Mooney. can’t get enough of this guy.

  • LaSargenta

    This morning I was reading Chapter 7 of the Foundation Engineering Handbook by Winterkorn & Fang … all about compacting fill for construction. Sounds dry, but you actually need between 6 and 13% moisture content. (*rimshot* Sorry…)

    Actually the reason I was posting again is that I saw someone on the train reading Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Talents. It reminded me how much I enjoyed Kindred and Wild Seed and how I wanted to read more of her work. So, as soon as I can, I’m going to be diving into Butler.

  • Lydia

    I just finished an excellent collection of stories called “How to Breathe Underwater” by Julie Orringer. The writing style was packed with realistic detail and extremely sympathetic to the narrators’ problems and conflicting emotions. All of the stories starred young women, most of whom were dealing with some sort of loss or personal struggle. Orringer doesn’t shy away from children’s cruelty to children, either (teasing, etc.). I was reminded a little bit of Flannery O’Connor.

  • Hey – yes, enjoying it very much :-) Along with the period style it affects comes that certain enveloping quality that really adds to the experience. And the whole alternative history setting is a stroke of genius, and executed superbly.

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