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Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by DaveF, Dec 31, 2008.
See y'all here in '09
I've got some finance books and non fiction I'm looking forward to.
Just started reading this morning:
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz
I'll be curious to hear what books you are going to be reading Dave.
I recently finished The Pixar Touch by David A. Price. I thought it was a great read and there was a lot I didn't know about their history and it there was also some nice insight into Steve Jobs, George Lucas and others. There is a bit of something for everybody-- from fans of the films, to the business minded and those interested in the history of computer animation.
I also finished listening to Proust Was a Neuroscientist by Jonah Lehrer which I also found interesting. It asserts the importance of both art and science in understanding the mind. It also provides a bit of a survey through artists I'm sure we've all heard of, but may not know much about (or forgot about since high school or college).
I started both of those in '08, but I did start and finish one in '09-- Ellie Wiesel's Night. I read it last night and if you haven't read it I would encourage you to. It is his first-hand account of what he experienced during the Holocaust. It is not an easy read and that is one reason that I read it all last night. Honestly, I didn't want to meditate on or take my time with it. I wanted to get through it, but I've still been thinking it about it all day. My wife also read it recently and it has stayed with her as well.
I hope this thread picks up a bit or is everyone too busy watching tv and movies?
I'm sure it'll pick up as everything starts working through the books received as gifts. Plus, I'm sure many people are swamped at work, post-vacation new year style, and don't have much reading time just now (or maybe it's just me)
The Pixar Touch sounds interesting; I need to put that on my Amazon wishlist.
it's taking me a while to get through my books, just because I have been so busy with work, coaching my daughtes team and trying to fit in my workouts. Normally, I am not an audio book kind of gal, but lately I have been trying to listen to my books when I can (driving, on the lot, cleaning house) just because sitting and reading has become a hard thing to find time to do.
My free-time is about to evaporate as well so I'm sure my reading will slow down-- at least my pleasure reading. Even though I'm going to be very busy, I'm trying to make a more concerted effort this year to continue reading. I'm not calling it a "resolution" because there would be almost no chance of it happening. I fell well short of my goal last year.
Lucia, it'll be interesting to see how you take to listening to books. I've grown to like it, but I don't get through many that way. My time seems to come in short bursts that I find inconvenient when trying to listen to books. I sometime wish I had a slightly longer commute. I do listen to books and podcasts when exercising. I just don't exercise enough.
The Gunslinger -- Stephen King
I read much of it years ago but didn't finish it. I was at Borders the other day, picked up the revised edition and ended up reading it pretty much in one sitting (finished right before they kicked me out at 11.) Even with all those years between, I could tell the revised edition was much more readable and just better than the original. I went home and read parts of the original just to make sure... it was dry as hell.
Currently taking my time with The Drawing of the Three. Whereas the Gunslinger a rather surreal, at times contemplative affair, this one wastes no time throwing you in the thick of things. I am having a blast.
I didn't realize how much I missed the internal monologues of Stephen King's character.
Between all the people in town for the holidays and struggling to look for/keep employment, I just haven't been reading as much as I'd like.
Happily, though, I've finally made it through a couple books this year:
Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone by Rajiv Chandrasekaran. The author's depiction of post-war Iraq is definitely colored by a strongly-held point of view. His descriptions of what he encountered are at times absolutely merciless. Yet the facts, which Chandrasekaran lays out with careful and deliberate precision, seem to merit his scorn. The first half of the book recounts the lack of planning following the invasion and the extraordinary hubris that followed. One week before the United States pulled down Saddam's statue, the section of the "Unified Mission Plan for Post Hostilities Iraq" pertaining to civil administration had yet to include a mission statement, a concept of operations, or any timelines. The retired U.S. Ambassador assigned to manage Iraq's Foreign Ministry, left in the dark by the government, turned to an internet message board for guidance. As massive looting and riots ravaged Baghdad after the invasion, the Americans assigned to manage the provisional government tried to match the buildings being pillaged on CNN with their assigned ministries. "It was like, 'There goes your ministry!' 'There goes mine!'" Chandrasekaren quotes the interim minister recalling. The list of sites that needed security never made it to the military, leading to Secretary Rumsfeld's infamous explanation that "freedom's untidy." Decision-making before and after the invasion Secretary Powell at the State Department against Rumsfeld and Vice-President Cheney at the Pentagon. The intelligence and advice coming out of State conflicted with the Pentagon's vision of a democratic, Western-friendly Iraq. When L. Paul Bremer was appointed to lead the provisional authority, he came to Iraq with the desire "to make some bold decisions." His boldest decisions came right out of the gate, with the first two Coalition Provisional Authority Orders. Order Number 1 called for the "De-Ba`athifcation of Iraqi Society", banned anyone from the top four tiers of Sadaam's party from future employment in the public sector. This resulted in the firing of just about everyone with specialized knowledge needed to run the country, along with nearly all of the teachers. Order Number 2 disbanded the Iraqi military, putting 250,000 - 300,000 military-trained personnel out on the street, with a grudge against the people who did it. They would come to form the backbone of the Sunni insurgency. Example after example follows.
The second half of the book, in which the CPA (nicknamed "Can't Produce Anything" by the U.S. military forces within the Green Zone) eats humble pie time and time again, is bookended by violence. It opens with the October 26, 2003 rocket attacks against the Al-Rasheed hotel, which shattered the illusion of peace and safety from within the fortified Green Zone, and more or less ends with two crucial military engagements: the March 19, 2004 ambush of three Army humvees in Sadr City that followed Bremer's decision to silence al-Sadr's Al-Hawza newspaper and the all-out assault on the city of Fallujah in April 2004 launched in retaliation for the brutal deaths of four defense contractors. Chandrasekaren does find a few positive forces in the mix. Jim Otwell, the outspoken and pragmatic fight fighter from Buffalo, separated the fight directorate from the corrupt police force and got funding to replace the equipment damaged in the initial looting. Because of his work with the firefighter's union in upstate New York gave him the most experience with labor relations in the CPA, he is tasked to be the interim minister of labor and social affairs. In this role, he fought to stop food subsidies from being monetized: the women handled the food rations, he noticed, and there would be no guarantee that the men would spend the equivalent money as efficiently. Steve Browning, a specialist with the Army Corps of Engineers, was put in charge of four ministries in the immediate aftermath of the war. As head of the health ministry, he got generators for all the Iraqi hospitals. Despite not being an electricity expert, he was tasked with restoring electrical output to pre-war levels, and accomplished it in just over two months. But for the most part, the second half of the book chronicles the idealistic but unqualified and unrealistic CPA staffers butting up against the entrenched Iraqi status quo and the consequences of their own incompetence. Browning's plan for future development of the electrical grid, for instance, envisioned small power plants close to communities, so the locals would have an incentive not to sabotage them. Instead, the CPA decided on massive power plants that became targets for insurgent attacks and were still uncompleted when sovereignty was handed back to the Iraqis. His replacement at the Health Ministry envisioned a system of local clinics and unsubsidized medicine while the hospitals lacked sterile conditions and basic equipment. In the epilogue, nonpartisan diplomats and technocrats from the State Department with local expertise and fluency in Arabic take over as the Republican Palace becomes America's largest embassy, but in Chandrasekaren's view it's too little, too late. "If this place succeeds," one CPA employee told the author amid departure preparations, "it will be in spite of what we did, not because of it."
Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor by Matthew Stover. One of the most acclaimed authors to stoop to Star Wars tie-in fiction finally tackles the classic heroes of the series and the result is… decidedly mixed. The prose is as sharp and vibrant as ever, if a little self-satisfied. He does not waste the opportunity that Luke Skywalker presents as a protagonist, offering his most nuanced exploration of good and evil yet. Luke's perspective forces him to adopt a sunnier outlook than he's known for, which made for a nice change of pace. unfortunately, his characterizations otherwise fail to line up with what we've previously been presented for these iconic characters. Much of the humor that comes naturally to other, less ambitious authors feels strained here and often falls flat. The dynamic between Han and Leia, while compelling, was a very vague approximation of what we got in the movies and other tie-in fiction. His attempt to spice up the storytelling with frequent profanity is undermined by the cringe worthy lexicon of vulgarity that has sprung up since the movies, when "hell", "damn" and other earthly swearing was sufficient. Because the novel uses the framing device of an intelligence report, it's hard decipher whether the defects are intentional or not. Either way, they detract from a great if overly complicated story shoehorned into the immediate aftermath of Return of the Jedi.
Also, I'm repurposing my reviews here:
Mass Media Review - Book Reviews
I'll still be posting them here in full, but if you want a slightly prettier presentation with cover art and buyer links, check it out.
Well, listening to books hasn't been working out for me. I just find it too hard to listen to someone reading.
Looks like I am going to have to sit down and try to read Odd Thomas now.
Just finished Brian Keenes Dead Sea. Great read about a zombie apocalypse.
I got bored with the Eyre Affair, but I think that is because right now I am getting back into my PAW books. I picked up Dies the Fire by S.M Stirling again as well as The Road by Cormac McCarthy.
I've read the Road atleast 5 times already, but I joined a book club for it and I need to reread it.
I also joined a Twilight book discussion with my daughter at our local library, which meets one day a month.
The Blade Itself - Joe Abercrombie
From Publishers Weekly
British newcomer Abercrombie fills his muddled sword-and-sorcery series opener with black humor and reluctant heroes. Logen Ninefingers, a barbarian on the run from an ex-employer who's now king of the North, finds his loyalties complicated when he switches sides and becomes a valuable source of intel to the beleaguered Union. Glokta, a torture victim turned torturer, gets roped into securing the Union's position against both the invading Northmen and the incompetent Union king and council, and ruthlessly wields his skills in attempts to weed out traitors. Foppish Jezal, a preternaturally excellent swordsman, manages to win the contest to become the Union champion, thanks to a little help from Bayaz, a mage with his own agenda. The workmanlike plot, marred by repetitive writing and an excess of torture and pain, is given over to introducing the mostly unlikable characters, only to send them off on separate paths in preparation for the next volume's adventures. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
I was going to finish up one of my books yesterday until I stopped in this thread and started reading Adam's reviews.
I've never been a good enough typist to write down lengthy thoughts and I envy those who can. I am trying a typing tutor demo to try to learn how to type the correct way, so watch out...
Chandrasekaran's book sounds quite interesting, but I'm not sure I would be in the mood for something like that right now.
I just finished reading American Lightning: Terror, Mystery, the Birth of Hollywood, and the Crime of the Century by Howard Blum. I thought it was a great read and one of the more entertaining non-fiction reads. James L. Swanson's back cover blurb says it best:
"An unforgettable tale of murder, deceit, celebrity, media manipulation and film as propaganda...Gripping surprising, often thrilling, American Lightning ranks among the most riveting works of narrative history."
All back cover, book selling hyperbole aside it is a very interesting book that starts with the 1910 bombing of the Los Angeles Times building that killed 21 people and seems to have been part of a violent battle between Labor and Capital. It then tracks the investigation, trial and the lives of Billy Burns, Clarence Darrow and D.W. Griffith. Fascinating characters at a fascinating time in the U.S.
I've also recently finished listening to Outliers by Malcom Gladwell. If you like Gladwell's work, you will most likely like this one too. It is not as entertaining as Blink nor will it have the popular impact of The Tipping Point, but there is still a lot of good stuff in it.
That's too bad, but understandable. I don't think it is for everyone. I would mention that the narrator can make a world of difference. A bad narrator can ruin the experience and a good one can make the book. Gladwell reads his own material and it works for him. Other authors, not so much.
Oh, and I just started reading An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943, Volume One of the Liberation Trilogy by Rick Atkinson. I'll probably take me a while to get through it so I might as well mention it now.
The funny thing is, I took keyboarding a few different times in school, and never managed to master touch-typing. It was only once I started spending a lot of time online for university and then work that I reached a proficiency level where I didn't have to look at the keyboard.
Just finishing up "Plague Ship" by Clive Cussler, and starting "The Chase." I didn't read any fiction last year except for a couple of new Destroyer books last year, but I am committed to reading more books just for fun this year.
Just about ready to finish up Infected by Scott Sigler.Great page turner, graphic and violent. Screen-play writer Eric Bernt has recently signed to do a treatment for the big screen. Recommended.
Just started Ted, White and Blue by Ted Nugent
I know the year is only a couple of months old, but I can't remember if I read Stephen King's The Stand this year or last. I'll say 2009 . I borrowed my friend's unabridged version and enjoyed it a great deal. Like the tv mini-series, I did feel it ended slightly weakly, but not enough to take away from it.
Just a few minutes ago I finished Steven Erikson's Toll the Hounds. This is the 8th book in his Malazan Empire series and is not the place to jump in if you have not read the other books. I started it probably around a year ago and just found myself not getting into it. This time around was different though, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. Yes, his style requires your full attention a lot of the time, but I find the characters and the events that take place quite compelling. Some pretty major things happen in this book and I can't wait until this August to read the next entry.
I just finished Kiss Her Goodbye, by Alan Guthrie. It's a Scottish crime novel about a legbreaker trying to find out who murdered his wife and drove his daughter to suicide. Some of the dialogue falls flat as it tries a tad too hard but it's a pretty good read.
Also reading: Sharpe's Eagle, by Bernard Cornwell. I suppose this isn't the first in the series chronologically but I gather it was the first one published and I like to read series like this in publication order. I'm digging it so far. Good historical fiction in a setting with which I'm not very familiar.
The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard. I think Howard is hugely underrated as a horror author, so I very much appreciate this volume even if I'm slightly irritated by the inclusion of a few Solomon Kane stories, which are good but were already included in the previous Solomon Kane book in this series. This book also uses a Solomon Kane cover, which was I don't think was a good idea. Regardless, though, a lot of good horror fiction in this one.
Currently halfway through the book Bob Marshall in the Adirondacks The first recorded person to have hiked the 46 peaks above 4000' in the Adirondacks (or at least throught to be above 4k' at the time). A great history of hiking the high peaks.
I'm have two books going, currently .
I'm re-reading Jay Winik's April 1865: The Month that Saved America, about the often-contingent events surrounding the end of the American Civil War. The image in the popular memory is that the war ended with Lee's surrender to Grant at Appamatox Courthouse, VA. In fact, neither Lee nor Grant had any authority to negotiate the surrender of the Confederacy as a whole, either politically or militarily. Lee only surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia, the portion of the Confederate Army under his direct command. That left three full armies and any number of irregular units and guerrilla bands still fighting, and a Confederate government under Jefferson Davis still vowing to fight on. It is easy in hindsight to see the end of the war and what followed as inevitable. In fact, it was anything but. Rather than formally surrendering, the Confederate armed forces could have melted back into population and launched a hit and run insurgency against the Union army of occupation. Sound familiar? It was an option seriously considered by many, probably including Lee himself, and would have changed American history profoundly. A fascinating story, well told.
I'm also reading Victor Davis Hanson's The Soul of Battle: From Ancient Times to the Present Day for the fist time. Subtitled, "How Three Great Liberators Vanquished Tyranny", the book examines three military campaigns against slave-holding or totalitarian regimes:
1) The effective destruction of Spartan helotry and its military state by Epaminondas of Thebes, an obscure ancient general who should be better known.
2) Sherman's march through Georgia from Atlanta to the sea.
3) Patton's dash across Europe to the Rhine and beyond in WWII.
I'm about midway through the Patton section now, and thoroughly enjoying the book.