Book Club

So, what’re you reading?

(This is blatant filler while I’m going to be on airplanes and in departure lounges for the day)

Lately I’ve been reading my way (slowly!) through the Fred Vargas books that Caine turned me on to. They’re really good – some of the best detective fic I’ve ever encountered. Reminds me somewhat of Peter Robinson’s “Inspector Banks” novels.

I always lug around a stack of books that I have been meaning to eventually do postings from or about. Right now my lugging pile is a copy of The Kallikak Family (one of the founding texts of Eugenics) and Paul Popenoe’s wretched Applied Eugenics. I’ve also been carrying around Peter Gay’s Voltaire’s Politics which is a great dense wad of brilliant thinky stuff that I want to write about some day. And then there’s Richard Hofstadter’s The Paranoid Style in American Politics, and Hanson’s The Second World Wars. And now you know why my right shoulder hangs a bit low! When I travel, my day-bag with clothes and stuff usually weighs half as much as my briefcase, which is usually a solid wad of paper.

At least I have managed to stop reading about Vietnam and Afghanistan. I’m sure that’s only temporary, though. Too much military history makes sad Marcus, yet I am fascinated by human stupidity.

Lately I have been obsessively listening to Leonard Cohen’s You Want It Darker [amazn] it must have felt bittersweet for him to know he was going out on a masterpiece. The bass lines on the title track are as good as it gets and the lyrics and delivery…. brr. It’s an album for our time, that’s for sure.

So, what’re you reading?

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The “book club” prop is cast polyurethane resin, from one of my soap molds. The master of the object was CNC machined in Delrin by Scott Conti [spdtool]. I haven’t made a batch of soap with those molds for a while but if there’s enough hopping up and down and going “me! me!” I might be moved to get it done. For that matter, if anyone really wants an indestructible pink polyurethane “fight club” or “book club” prop, let me know – it takes less than a minute to make one.

The side of the Book Club prop says “The first rule of Book Club is: we talk about books.”

And yes that’s what my hand actually looks like after a day of pulling wire through the ceiling of my studio. You can chalk it up to my being ashamed I’m so white, if you want.


  1. jrkrideau says

    <And yes that’s what my hand actually looks like after a day of pulling wire through the ceiling of my studio.

    Actually it looked like something ready for the BBQ. I was wondering if I should ask for the marinade.

    If Caine’s recommendation showed up in the blog I, clearly, missed it. A quick check with the local public library shows a number of her books—thank you.

    Thanks Caine.

    It looks like her most recent book “Quand sort la recluse” is not available in English at least at the local library, they only have the French version.

  2. says

    Just finished The Penguin Book of the Undead: Fifteen Hundred Years of Supernatural Encounters, by Scott G. Bruce. Very good, and a potent reminder of just how damn silly christianity happens to be.

    Started Terminal Alliance, Jim C. Hines’s new series.

  3. jimmf says

    I just finished _The Complete McAuslan_ which had several stories I’d not read I’m gratetfull that you mentioned it.. I’m in the middle of _The Great Hedge of India_ and _The Prince_ . On Deck is _I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings_ by Maya Angelou and a couple Terry Pratchett book I never got around to reading.

  4. felicis says

    Just finished “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” – which I have never read. It’s interesting to see how they pulled “Blade Runner” from that.

    Just starting “The Three Body Problem” by Liu Cixin. I’ve heard good things. Also just recently read the latest in Steven Brust’s Vlad series, “Vallista”.

  5. DonDueed says

    I’ve been somewhat obsessed with Parshall and Tully’s Shattered Sword. It recounts the events surrounding the battle of Midway from the Japanese perspective. The authors correct several misconceptions in the canonic tale as told by previous American historians, but what got to me are the stories of sailors who survived the burning ships.

  6. says

    @ 1:

    It looks like her most recent book “Quand sort la recluse” is not available in English at least at the local library, they only have the French version.

    Translations take a while. The very last to offer English will be uStates. You can usually grab a copy of the first English translation from Abe Books, because Australia and England get them first, and fairly quickly. It will probably be two, three years before uStates publishers have a translation out.

  7. says

    felicis@#4: there is a book called Future Noir about the evolution of the script, and shooting, etc. it’s mandatory for the hardcore Blade Runner fan. Worth a read!

  8. jrkrideau says

    @ 6 Caine
    Yes translations take a while. The uStates delay is not usually a problem as I don’t buy books there on a regular basis. I think the last books I bought there were the three volumes (paperback) of the “Lord of the Rings” way, way back in the last century.

    I see that I have enough earlier Vargas works available that I can probably wait, though I suppose if desperate I can fire up Google translate, dig out the pocket English–French dictionary and attack the book. I don’t like doing this for fiction though.

  9. says

    That sounds interesting but grim!

    The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors is also full of terrfiying floating survival tales, if you want more. The things young humans subject themselves to are truly mind-boggling.

    I may check that out, it sounds good.

  10. Owlmirror says

    I’m currently working my way through Bruce Hood’s Supersense, which argues that humans often have an innate tendency to feel that the supernatural exists, or that things exist or are true that would only make sense if the supernatural existed.

    I just recently stumbled on Archaeopress Open Access — scholarly works available for free download. Art motifs, metallurgy, pottery styles, rock art from North America and elsewhere, Roman military remains, English castles: very specific works and also very general ones. Lots of different themes and topics for anyone with an interest in the past.

    You can get hard copies, if you really want, but they cost from £15-£80, and presumably shipping from England is neither cheap nor quick.

  11. DavidinOz says

    Just finished Lee Child’s latest Jack Reacher yarn, “Midnight Line”. Typical Reacher story, well enough written to maintain interest, easy to read so the brain gets a rest from the harder non-fiction I usually read.

    Now reverted to the non-fiction with Nancy MacLean’s “Democracy In Chains”. Looks like a good explanation of how the US got from  Government of the people, for the people, by the people to the current omnishambles clusterfuck kleptocracy.

  12. John Morales says

    I haven’t been reading any books lately.

    Probably a good thing, since I tend to devour content relentlessly when in the mood.

  13. John Morales says


    Just finished Lee Child’s latest Jack Reacher yarn

    Had a friend who strongly recommended the series and also had a full library; while visiting I read the first book (surprisingly good if Gary Stu) and then the 12th or so (unsurprisingly formulaic).

    Haven’t read any others.

    PS Movie was both bland and woefully miscast.

  14. says

    John @ 13:

    Had a friend who strongly recommended the series and also had a full library; while visiting I read the first book

    The first six or so are quite good; after that, they get stupider and stupider, and intensely jingoistic.

  15. cvoinescu says

    I’ve just finished re-reading Uprooted, by Naomi Novik. It’s a different sort of fantasy novel (but being different comes naturally to it, not in a forced, trying-to-hard way). It’s simultaneously social commentary and escapist story pleasure. It’s my favorite book I read this year (tied with Ancillary Mercy).

  16. DavidinOz says

    John, I ignored the existence of the movie as soon as I saw who was to play Reacher, just couldn’t see how it it would work. It would be like getting Danny de Vito to play Paul Bunyan. :-)

    Caine, agreed to a point, but I like the stupid for relaxation, a bit like chewing gum for the brain. But sure, if you want jingoistic dross, this latest one is the king.

    Anywho, off to finish Democracy in Chains, and then might tackle “Future Noir”

  17. chigau (違う) says

    I intend to pass the N5JLPT on December 5, So, now I am studying.
    After that, I will re-read Robert Ferrigno’s Assassin trilogy.
    Because I fucking well want to.

  18. says

    The BBC In the Studio podcast has a pretty good interview with Child
    He sounds a bit touchy about the novel as art versus novel as entertainment debate (one I do not want to engage with!) He seems like a pretty down-to-earth fellow.

  19. says

    I’m currently reading Geoffrey N. Leech’s A Linguistic Guide to English Poetry. I tend to read about all sorts of semi random topics, so the question “what are you reading now?” is highly unlikely to result in a useful book recommendation from me.

    A few months ago I read some stuff from your recommendations list.
    “The Mismeasure of Man” – Really liked it.
    “The Phantom Tollbooth” – Also, really liked it. The book supposedly being children’s literature made me somewhat skeptical. I remember deeply hating everything labeled as “children’s literature”. “Winnie-the-Pooh” is my all time most hated book. My school teachers forced me to read it again and again and again despite the fact that I just hated this stuff. When I was a child I preferred to read books that were supposedly not intended for children, for example, when I was 10 years old my favorite book was Alexandre Dumas’ “The Three Musketeers”. Anyway, I decided to give “The Phantom Tollbooth” a chance, and I was happy to find out that not everything labeled as “children’s literature” sucks.
    “Bellwether” – Also, I normally don’t read anything even remotely “romantic”, but I still liked it anyway. The parts about science and research made this novel really interesting.
    “Last Call” – After the first pages I almost quit reading the book. Novels are supposed to capture reader’s attention with the first few pages. Reading descriptions about how a father plays with his son is the last thing that could potentially grab my attention. Anyway, I’m glad I didn’t quit the book after the first few pages. It got a lot more interesting afterwards. Although, in some places of the book I was tempted to switch to my speed reading mode and skip whole paragraphs. Some descriptions of people doing their daily stuff didn’t exactly seem interesting.
    Oh, and I remember reading “How to Lie with Statistics” years ago. I really liked that too.

    some of the best detective fic I’ve ever encountered
    My favorite detective was probably “The Name of the Rose” by Umberto Eco.

    I always lug around a stack of books
    This is why I own an e-ink reader. I have one of those large screen models made by a manufacturer who doesn’t tie the device with their own e-book shop. It weighs less than an average book while being able to display any file format. I refuse to lug around anything except the lightest books. Which is why poetry is pretty much the only thing I ever read in non electronic format outside of my home (unlike the rest of stuff I tend to read, poetry is pretty much the only thing that gets printed in lightweight books).

  20. jrkrideau says

    @ 21 Ieva Skrebele
    Humm, I may have to give “The Name of the Rose” another try. When I tried reading it 20 or so years ago it seemed a pretentious “literary” novel.

  21. says

    I just finished Name of the Rose for the first time. I found it really interesting, but suffering from some weird author quirks. Especially the use of repetition annoyed me. I don’t need the abbott to list every single jewel on his ring, along with their associated symbolism, according to several different systems by various saints and popes. It’s tiring as hell. If I were editing it, there are several paragraphs I would just have deleted outright.

    Still, the detective aspect was good and the theological/political issues were quite fascinating. It has some good discussions of the interactions between religious ideas and secular politics.

    Previously, I’ve only seen the movie and it was fun to see which characters and scenes had been included, modified and combined. Some people might not like that, but I enjoyed it a lot.

  22. says

    I’d also like to throw a plug for Caldwell/Thomason The Rule of Four for those that enjoy literary mysteries. It’s somewhat reminiscent of The Club Dumas (which I also love).
    There was another really cool literary mystery I read but I forget the title – it involved the discovery of clues to a previously unknown Shakespeare manuscript. It was very moody and fun.

    I liked The Name of The Rose but I mentally edited out a lot of Eco’s early semiotics porn.

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