The Skeptics Guide to the Universe is $2.99 on kindle today. The reviews are overwhelmingly positive except for people who are fans of acupuncture or salt rooms or who hate Hilary Clinton. Sounds interesting.
They’re mostly new authors, usually with a few books in a series (amazon wants you to buy the other books in the series by the author). There’s usually several genres to choose from. Sometimes they suck. For free, and you-pick-em, what do you want?
I’m most of the way through “Exhalation” the collection of stories by sci-fi author Ted Chiang. Meh.
I liked the stories in his other collection, “Stories of Your Life and Others”, but none of the ones in this book have impressed me at all, and I think I’m on the last one.
This one’s probably the most promising of the lot, with a great title - “Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom” - and an interesting premise of a world in which there’s a device that lets you communicate with an alternate you, in an alternate timeline - a branching of reality that’s precipitated by activating the machine in the first place - and the consequences of such a technology.
The story itself is not turning out to be as interesting as the title and premise would suggest.
I’ve been thinking that it’s like a P.K. Dick story that was written by an author of historical biographies or something similarly dry.
Can someone remind me who was the Meh staffer who recently published their first novel, and the title of the book? A link to it on Amazon would be even better.
I think it was ChadP, but my memory sucks, and a search of these forums for “ChadP” didn’t find me the answer after several pages of search results.
That book of the Brit economy looks kinda interesting. Or perhaps a summary would be interesting.
Re Graham Greene
He is viewed as a substantial novelist. Was Nobel shortlisted.
And also was reputedly often in a quite miserable frame of mind.
I have been reading a bit about his private life:
and he seems to have been a talented, tormented, educated, privileged shit for much of the time.
And, as judged by his contemporaries, often a notable and total hypocrite.
In his case this perhaps these judgments matter because he was so willing to actively participate in profiting (sexually, reputationally, esp financially) from practices and institutions he condemned;
and to betray, lie to, or undercut, so much (institutions, persons, and esp values and beliefs) he praised or claimed to espouse.
I am no Greene expert and this is just a quick take based on a bit of reading.
But, if one wants to know a little of “the person behind the work”, well, Greene looks to be quite a case study.
@f00l - I’ve seen a couple Graham-Greene based movies but I don’t think I ever actually read one of his books. Someday I’ll read “Our Man in Havana” (but the film had Alec Guinness and Maureen O’Hara in it!!!)
I’m kind of regretting “Surrender”, which is pretty much a continuous stream of bad news, baldly presented. A better (and shorter) book on the British economy is supposed to be “Forging Ahead, Falling Behind and Fighting Back: British Economic Growth from the Industrial Revolution to the Financial Crisis” by Nicholas Krafts.
@f00l - As for a summary, “Surrender” (by Nicholas Comfort - funny about the names) largely blames British businesses for failing to modernize and government for failing to coordinate policy with reality. Of course he can’t ignore the impact of the British unions, which were stupefyingly obstructive and greedy. I haven’t finished it yet, but he speaks glowingly about the German and French governments for protecting their industries while supporting continuous equipment improvements and support for industrial education.
I’m reading Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History by Kurt Andersen. It was a kindle deal-of-the-day which I did not buy because my library had a digital download available (also a hard copy, but I’m still semi-boycotting the library, even though I only know two people who work there now and like them both). It’s very openly anti-Trump and anti-Evangelical Christianity (which I don’t have a problem with, but feel should be clear about in case someone else does), but as far as the introduction goes puts the ultimate blame for current American culture on Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press and everything that happened in the 1960’s.
When I saw the title I thought, hot damn, this is going to be about the Burned-Over district and Spiritualism and Mormonism and the New Thought movement! And it is, but Andersen is a novelist and not a historian, so the book is not quite as wonky and historically detailed as I’d like. It’s funny, but I WANT MORE HISTORY AND FOOTNOTES. For an example of my state of mind: he quoted Keith Thomas, author of Religion and the Decline of Magic and I squealed because I’ve read that book three or four times (I love that book).
@mossygreen Update: He goes into no detail on anything and it’s driving me crazy! Quotes w/out footnotes and it doesn’t look like there’s a bibliography. I think he oversimplifies a lot of things as well, spends no time on the New Thought Movement and so (perhaps inadvertently) presents How to Win Friends and Influence People as a new thing rather than a direct continuation of it. So far has ignored all weird religious movements and cults that aren’t at least nominally Christian except for Scientology, and I’m up to the '60’s, so it’s not going to happen. Really, I’d just like to read all the books he read in order to write this one.
@sammydog01 I have an irrational dislike of J.K. Rowling and that book in particular because I read it at the same time I read Tanith Lee’s first published book, which was also for children, and which I thought was much better. I had a very emotional why aren’t people reading this other, much better writer?! reaction which is probably not fair.
The HP series is a lot of fun. And Rowling is amazingly inventive in that series; the whole thing seems to thoroughly engage most readers from the start.
She’s just a damn fine writer. And her sometimes annoying public persona (she’s active on Twitter) should not (I hope) count much against her books.
Re Tanith Lee
I’ve never read her. But it’s pretty commonplace for very talented writers to get overlooked.
JK Rowling’s series had the ability to really engage so many readers.
Remember the worldwide all/night book launch parties?
That summer camps that could not get kids to sign up for camp the week of a Rowling book release, unless the camp offered every child who wanted one their own hardback copy, and gave each child many days off regular camp activities in order to finish reading it?
For the last few HP book releases, I stayed up all night reading the books the day they came out. They were and are just plain fun.
So did many friends, and their children.
And I think some people still play quidditch.
For me, the memory of the series that sticks is how she got childhood/adolescence right. You can see how the characters stumble through the same errors, embarrassments, humiliations, angers and resentments we all felt and feel; they want to be strong and competent, and their stumble forward, getting in their own way.
Creating half the own problems. Not being able to get over being obsessed and angry, or feeling inferior or rejected, even tho they want to. Even tho they know they are being stupid.
But these are no “troubled youth” stories. She was writing for a PG-13 audience and stays within that boundary; and she’s inventive, full of wonder, and funny as hell. She never pays out the reader into total hopelessness.
Both the Brit (narrated by Stephen Fry) and the American/worldwide (narrated by Jim Dale) audiobook series are some of the best ever recorded. Both excellent.
Both versions won numerous awards.
The voice narration style starts “youngish” (late elementary school expectations) and grows with the series and characters.
If you are interested in the audiobooks, don’t be put off if the opener sounds like a kid’s book. Both the narrators’ voice styles start there, and then grow, with the deepening complexity and maturity of the books.
@sammydog01 I really like the series. The first couple books seem geared younger and less complex to me. I would love to see JKR do an extended version. I didn’t find the series until I was in England when the parties were happening for the third book. I had to read them to find out what everyone was talking about. By the final book I was preordering and staying up to read it so I didn’t have anyone spoil it! I also recommend the audio versions. Both of them. I bought both and listen to the often.
@sammydog01@speediedelivery One of the reasons the books held their audience is because Rowling did an incredible job of growing the content and characters with the readers. My wife (huge HP fan) started these at 11yo when no one knew what HP was. She followed them all the way through. The early stories seem aimed at a younger audience because they were.
also recommend the audio versions. Both of them. I bought both and listen to the often.
I love them both. I borrowed the CD Fry versions from a friend who was getting them sent each release from a U.K. relative. I bought the CD Jim Dale ones her, split the ($$$ for audiobooks) expense w a friend.
been a few years, but I remember loving the Fry versions for their combo of both taking the stories seriously, and adding a droll quality, without overdoing either.
I love the Jim Dale versions for the incredible range of character voices, and even more, for his ability to convey emotion perfectly, again without overdoing it
As I recall, both narrations got better (for me) as the series progressed and moved further from the “children’s lit” category toward emotional and narrative maturity.
I think there are two versions of the audiobooks because there are two versions of texts. In the original manuscripts, Rowling used so much insular BritSlang that, when she signed a worldwide contract (smd got her first serious $), a US/Worldwide publisher condition was to lighten up on the slang.
She was not so far from a “nobody” then, and agreed. I think she has said in interviews that, had she been sure of supporting herself in the future, she would have held out on that.
Anyway, there are the two text versions: “BritSpeak” and “less BritSpeak”. What you get depends on what country your copies are published in smd those sorts on publisher contracts.
And, hence, there are two different audiobooks versions to match the two diff text versions.
Both Stephen Fry and Jim Dale are UK natives, who narrate the books in modern “relaxed proper” UK accents.
Re the films: my favs are 3 and 4. I’m not a huge fan of the film versions of 5-8. They’re ok. My take.
And I esp love Kenneth Branagh in the second film.
And my fav thing in all the films is prob Alan Rickman as Snape.
I was trying to find a list of good books on Kindle Unlimited and I found this analogy on Reddit:
Imagine going to the grocery store and wanting to find some spaghetti noodles, but all 20 aisles are filled with dick shaped pasta.
Then you have to go down each one and look in every nook and cranny to find the normal shaped noodles.
You pick up a promising looking box, but upon closer examination realize that it says “Pusta” instead of “Pasta”.
Reading the ingredients, you come across foreign looking words such as “Wheet”, “Flowr” and “Eg”. You know that perhaps this could be the most delicious pasta in the world, but the frequent and offputting spelling has completely turned you off.
After 2 hours of searching, you are relieved to find a normal box of spaghetti noodles. You take them home and open the box to pour into boiling water. What’s this? As the noodles begin to cook, they expand into some kind of strange shape. God damnit, you’ve been tricked! Before you know it, tiny edible dicks are overflowing out of your pot and into your kitchen.
Frantically, you call the store for help. “It’s all dicks!” you scream. But they laugh as you hear the sound of money being counted on the other end.
I looked up the HP kindle books. They don’t have whispersync-for-voice enabled. So no freebie listens. : (
I was gonna suggest you check the library for the HP audiobooks, if you are interested in giving those a try. I thought most public libraries would have either insta-download versions or cd versions or both, and I also thought - stupidly thought, it seems - that, 12-13 years after the final book in the series was published, they ought to be available; that library demand would have slackened, as people either finally read them, or finally a bought them.
And perhaps that’s true for the audio versions. Huh. Dunno.
But I really should have guessed there would still be a library wait-list.
Because, 12-13 years after publication, all 7 books are almost always in the top 50 list of fiction bestsellers (physical and digital versions I think but not certain), often in the top 20 fiction books, and not unusually in the top 10 fiction bestsellers. Esp around Nov-Dec each year.
This in spite of secondhand physical books (and pirated digital versions ) being available all over the place.
I and my HP-liking friends consider these to work great as re-reads or re-listens. One friend (not any kind of HP fanatic) likes to re-read or re-listen when he is stressed enough that he doesn’t want any new material in his heads at that moment; he just wants something familiar that gives him a long “mood vacation”.
I do love the audio versions of these. If you have a taste for that format, I hope you can find audio copies.
Last night I finally finished Stephen King’s The Stand. This was the “author’s edit” version which restored hundreds of pages of content which was cut by Doubleday in the original 1978 edition. The original version was 823 pages. The updated edition is 1152 pages.
It was long. I don’t know which portions were restored, as this was my first time through the story, but there was lots of stuff that could have been sliced from the book and wouldn’t have affected the overall story. Stu and Tom’s trip back to Boulder, for example. It was much longer and more detailed than it needed to be and didn’t really add a thing to the plot.
Still, I enjoyed it. Despite the few spots that drag on, I would recommend.
A couple weeks ago I ordered a DVD of the six hour miniseries which aired on ABC in the spring of 1994. I’ve been holding off on watching it, waiting to finish the book. I’m curious to see how badly ABC butchered this one. I remember watching The Langoliers on ABC in the mid-'90s and it was pretty bad.
Ten Essential Pieces of Literature
The prophet [Khalil Gibran],
Treasure Island [Robert Louis Stevenson],
White fang [Jack London],
The Time machine [H. G. Wells],
The Battle of Life [Charles Dickens],
The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes [Arthur Conan Doyle],
The Three Musketeers [Alexandre Dumas],
The adventures of Pinocchio [Carlo Collodi],
Robinson Crusoe [Daniel Defoe],
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn [Mark Twain].