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Thread: The Book Thread

  1. #2221
    Cricketer Of The Year trundler's Avatar
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    Just finished this behemoth. Pretty informative and coherently compiled. Do have few gripes with it. Some events like the Cuban Missile Crisis were merely mentioned, underselling their importance. Obvious but expected ideological bias too. Still a fantastic read though. I feel like my virginity just upgraded.

    On to The Lessons of History by Will and Ariel Durant.
    Last edited by trundler; 23-04-2019 at 01:57 PM.
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  2. #2222
    123/5 Flem274*'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by trundler View Post
    On to The Lessons of History by Will and Ariel Durant.
    i haven't read that one but im making my way through their story of civilization and they are superb writers.
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  3. #2223
    International Coach ankitj's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flem274* View Post
    i haven't read that one but im making my way through their story of civilization and they are superb writers.
    Isn't that a multi volume book? You are reading all the volumes?

    I read Story of Philosophy by Will Durant. It was a great read.
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  4. #2224
    Global Moderator Spark's Avatar
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    I have volumes 8 and 10 (or VIII and X for the more pedantic amongst you). These are seriously weighty books; the full set would take a loooooong time to read.
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  5. #2225
    Cricketer Of The Year trundler's Avatar
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    I've read Story of Philosophy. Still the best introductory book on the subject I've read. Simply captivating.

    I'm going to attempt Story of Civilization over the summer and see how far I can get by the end.

  6. #2226
    Cricketer Of The Year trundler's Avatar
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    So far, Lessons of History is superb. If you've read Sapiens and liked it, you must read this one too.

    Side note: there are some predictions made in the book, regarding the 21st century such as the number of Catholics exceeding the Protestant population in the US by the year 2000. Didn't materialise. Goes on to show what a wicked thing history is.

  7. #2227
    123/5 Flem274*'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ankitj View Post
    Isn't that a multi volume book? You are reading all the volumes?

    I read Story of Philosophy by Will Durant. It was a great read.
    i think it'll take me literal years to do them all. read most of the medieval one when the exes dad lent me it and i'm working my way through #1 (our oriental heritage).

    i really need to stop reading several books at once, especially since it's so hard for me to quiet my brain enough to read these days. currently have the below all on the go:

    -our oriental heritage (the durants)
    -the children of hurin (tolkien)
    -the ascent of man
    -the early history of rome (livy)

  8. #2228
    rather mad Norwegian Magrat Garlick's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flem274* View Post
    i think it'll take me literal years to do them all. read most of the medieval one when the exes dad lent me it and i'm working my way through #1 (our oriental heritage).

    i really need to stop reading several books at once, especially since it's so hard for me to quiet my brain enough to read these days. currently have the below all on the go:

    -our oriental heritage (the durants)
    -the children of hurin (tolkien)
    -the ascent of man
    -the early history of rome (livy)
    have you considered some lighter reading, like, say, the conquest of Gaul in the original Latin?
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  9. #2229
    Global Moderator Spark's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by trundler View Post
    So far, Lessons of History is superb. If you've read Sapiens and liked it, you must read this one too.

    Side note: there are some predictions made in the book, regarding the 21st century such as the number of Catholics exceeding the Protestant population in the US by the year 2000. Didn't materialise. Goes on to show what a wicked thing history is.
    In general all these books have the problem that they assume current trends are necessarily long-term ones. In that case, that's one trend which abruptly flipped several years ago and no one really noticed.
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  10. #2230
    Cricketer Of The Year trundler's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Spark View Post
    In general all these books have the problem that they assume current trends are necessarily long-term ones. In that case, that's one trend which abruptly flipped several years ago and no one really noticed.
    Yeah, no advantage of hindsight and all that.

    I must reiterate that Lessons of History is much like Sapiens. What is remarkable is that it was written 43 years before the latter back in 1968. Yet it takes the same objectively-drawn stances on things like religion and morality.

  11. #2231
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    Was in Waterstones today and one of my daughters wanted to sign up for a loyalty card, having recently learned of the scheme when I got one.

    Unfortunately we were advised you have to be 16, but the helpful lady behind the till proceeded to advise us of ways around said restriction. She then went onto tell me how some poor lad had been in with his Nan recently and she’d refused to endorse said workaround because she didn’t like him reading.

    I was gobsmacked. Good old Birkenhead.

    Anyway, wanted to share my outrage somewhere so I chose here
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  12. #2232
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    I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O'Farrell is a phenomenal little book. Ms. UC finished it in a day but it took me a couple of weeks because every chapter was so poignant that I felt like I needed a walk afterwards.

  13. #2233
    123/5 Flem274*'s Avatar
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    i thought i'd make a list of my favourite or most influential (to my reading) books for fun. who wants to do the same? i've decided against a 'best' books since i feel like people would feel compelled to include stuff they're 'supposed' to like the most rather than what touched them personally.

    fiction and non-fiction allowed, but i'll limit myself to one book per series. there might be mild spoilers. sorry. what i've learned writing this is that while the genre i've read most of is crime/thriller, none of them get on this list. it appears to be mostly genres that are extremely hard to get right on here but when they get it right, it has more of an impact on me.

    10. Mistborn: The Final Empire - Brandon Sanderson

    The concept of this book is a lot of fun - the chosen one, after saving the world, decided to become an immortal god and rule a totalitarian empire and essentially go evil.

    enter Our Heroes(TM) who plan to collapse his empire not by raising a new chosen one or defeating him with the magicz (though as usual with sanderson there is fighting with a hard magic system) but by stealing all his money to crash his economy. this book is a lot of fun and a shining light in modern fantasy that keeps twisting right to the end.

    modern fantasy sometimes overcompensates for the campy fun novels of decades gone by swinging to the exact opposite, but this book manages to both be modern and play with tropes in a grounded, dark setting without being cynically nihilistic.

    9. The Little Yellow Digger - Betty Gilderdale

    it's the first book i can remember reading, and i punished my parents by reading this thing again and again and again and then getting them to read it to me over and over and over and over. there are good diggers in this book.

    8. Black Beauty - Anna Sewell

    probably one of the first animal welfare novels to be published, and ahead of its time. written when the world viewed (and needed) animals to be servants rather than further toward the companion and friend end of the scale the west sees them as now. this short little book captures the lives and emotions of those who cannot speak our language perfectly, and how their fates are ultimately ruled by lucking into a good home.

    ginger is the perfect example of the downward spiral. she is angry because she was abused so she is abused because she is angry and sold on to a worse and worse fate until her spirit is broken.

    7. White Fang - Jack London

    i think i was 6 or 7 when i read this and because i was mildly obsessive i read it over and over. i'm pretty sure my teachers forced me to read something else. i don't actually remember much about this except that it was my favourite book for literal years.

    6. The Pillars of the Earth - Ken Follett

    a masterpiece of historical fiction, probably the best historical novel i have ever read and easily the most influential on me. normal people struggling through normal lives in a setting so familliar yet so distant, and the story spans generations in a single door stopper without feeling rushed or thin. this in itself is a triumph (looks pointedly at the fantasy genre and its tendency for absurdly long series).

    i loved and hated so many characters in this book, and found myself empathising and even cheering for characters with world views i would otherwise abhor. my only gripe would be i'd like to go back and reread one of the romances to see how well it has aged, because i feel like it's a big risk of not aging well at all.

    6. Artemis Fowl - Eoin Colfer

    i was 11 when i read this for the first time, and the title character was 11, and the bad guy. an unrepentant, scheming little **** he was. i loved it, and i loved the setting. colfer took stereotypical fantasy creatures and reinvented them for the young readers genre. the setup - 11 year old evil genius takes a fairy police officer hostage to extort money - was fun, i don't think it had been done before (it was certainly the first time i came across an 11 year old as the villain) and i don't think colfer ever wrote an artemis fowl book this good again, though book two with its interesting structure, a still villainous fowl going up against another villain and the general tension of the teaming up did come close.

    5. A Storm of Swords - George R. R. Martin

    this is one of the greatest fantasy novels of all time. i will go ahead and say that apart from neds death, this series had by and large been following the template of its time until this book. there is magic, and politics, and a massive scale. the genre savvy reader would assume going into this book, even with the rules established in book 1, that here we are setting up for the big mess and that big mess will look something like starks and lannisters fighting each other to exhaustion, the wildlings getting through the wall to make a mess and setting up westeros for a double slam of others/wildlings and dany invading a pathetically weak seven kingdoms.

    but no, totally not aragorn repels the wildlings (sort of) but robb stark is dead. i suspected what was coming when i read it, but if i were unsullied i would have predicted he had an ultimate date with dany since that would make an interesting character meeting.

    i don't actually think the plot is the most interesting thing here though. coming to this from wheel of time and the lord of the rings, i expected a messy downward spiral for the country to set the stage for We Are ****ed. the true victory of this novel is it is character driven and wide in scope but keeps the plot rolling at pace.

    this is really hard to do, since realistic characters don't really like to jump from plot point to plot point. you only need to look at the next two books in the series for examples of how character driven fiction can get bogged down (rival series wheel of time also suffers from this). the plot says dany should go to westeros, but she's hardly going to abandon meereen to plunge into chaos. she desperately wants to be a good ruler.

    this is a rare book that combines nuanced characters with a fast paced but epic scope plot except for bran, who suffers from the fact it's difficult even for atgs to write 9 year old cripples that are interesting instead of annoying and boring.

    4. The Gathering Storm - Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

    yep, out of all 14 door stoppers, this is the best. we're a long way from the tolkien homages in the eye of the world here. 'darth rand' as he's known in fandom is probably the most interesting to me version of rand we get. a true anti-hero, insane, volatile, under immense pressure and truly goes through hell in this book. if i may dare to mention the culture war, this book (and indeed this series) is a real highlight on 'toxic masculinity'. this series has its flaws but was ahead of its time in so so many ways.

    the mirror to rand is egwene and her theme of reconciliation and healing. her chapters are greatly helped by sanderson putting the book together instead of jordan getting to write his near mary sue, and she shines in this book. she too, is under massive mental and physical pressure but because of her character and maturity is able to endure and overcome.

    this one has flaws (mat's few chapters feel off - sanderson took a while to get to grips with his character) pips the towers of midnight, the fires of heaven, a memory of light and the shadow rising for best in series. this book is about rand and egwene, and their climaxes are atg fantasy scenes.

    martin might be the character killer, but jordan keeps them breathing to torment them. he is the best character torturer in the genre. why is this book ahead of a storm of swords in my favourites? it has the advantage of character arc payoff and being towards the conclusion of the story. the story Is Getting Serious here, and this books true competitor is the unreleased winds of winter.





    i'll do the top 3 tomorrow.
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  14. #2234
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    Great list. Absolutely love White Fang and The Pillars of the Earth too.
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  15. #2235
    123/5 Flem274*'s Avatar
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    3. Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King - J. R. R. Tolkien

    a truly unique novel in its time and even now. the characters in here have their echoes down through genre history from jon snow and perrin aybara to moiraine damodred, kelsier and bloodraven.

    i adored this series through my teens before falling into the trap in my early 20s of thinking it outdated and stale. after a recent reread i think this book remains as relevant and unique is ever.

    the good guys never actually win. the last stand at the black gate, even with eagle intervention, is ultimately screwed. frodo fails at the last hurdle to destroy the ring, and the fallen and broken gollum gets his prize. sauron is only killed because gollum doesn't watch his step while gloating and falls into the fire.

    sauron himself is never confronted, even though the text implies gandalf could hold his own, and the world is still irreparably damaged. the elves still leave, and the hobbits return to find the shire being scourged by a petty, broken secondary villain thought defeated. even when the shire is 'saved' frodo can't enjoy it, his failure and his wounds are too much.

    a good third of the book is spent examining the fallout of the war of the ring (rather than saurons fall happening in the last couple of book chapters), and what i got from it was that you can't really save or conserve anything. the elves tried and failed, and now the hobbit band have too.

    malevolence and selfishness was never defeated by kindness and selflessness, the shadow defeated itself. this is pretty bleak, and it's interesting many "the power of friendship!" stories are inspired by tolkien's works when the lord of the rings is a rejection of that. the power of friendship delayed the inevitable, it took gollums obsession with the ring to accidentally ruin sauron.

    the story also ducks away from thematically appropriate final confrontations. aragorn never fights anyone important, frodo never meets sauron face to face, and the closest we get is gandalf v the witch king which is interrupted by the rohirrim arriving and the witch king falls to a couple of spuds.

    my only real nitpick with the story is i think a lot of the lore about sauron and his character and motivations that we get in the silmarillion and unfinished tales should have been used in this story.

    there are lots of little tidbits about sauron originally being a good person and being only a general of a greater menace in earlier days, and while i understand no one was about to go to barad dur for a cup of tea and a chat about his feelings i think the story suffers somewhat because of saurons distance from the story. he was obsessed with order and organisation, and was a great craftsman and a political extraordinaire who told people what they wanted to hear to guide them to their own ruin.

    overall though, this book and series are the foundation of an entire genre. even those desperately trying to subvert every page of this series are still working within tolkiens foundations. they're inescapable. the only way to break free is to accept he is your daddy and to make sure your story has a powerful identity of its own, because what ultimately decides a good fantasy book isn't the mechanics of the story or the tropes used but the immersion. fantasy books need personality, they need to simultaneously focus on the smallest hope within the heart of a character and make us care, and they need to immerse us in a continent or more of made up culture and history.

    tolkien op. tolkien h4x. pls nerf.
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