jjwilson61's 2017 Reads
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I've been on LT for a long time and I thought it might be fun to finally track my reading in a public thread. I've been alternating Fiction and Non-Fiction and for about the past year my fiction reading has been Pratchett's Discworld series which I've finished except for the Rincewind books since I saw in the reviews that those weren't as good. At some point I'd stopped reading fiction or much of anything really but I used to read a lot of fantasy and science fiction and I'm hoping to explore some of what I've missed from the past 20 years. I've been going through other people's reading threads and best-of lists for the past year but if anyone has any suggestions for best books or series since the 80's I'd be grateful. I'd prefer short series or stand-alones since my reading time is relatively limited or I'm just a slow reader compared to some here.
My non-fiction has been a mix of history of science, military history, languages, history of life, and urban design/transportation issues and I expect to continue along those lines.
>1 jjwilson61: Hi! I’m pretty new to this group myself, but I’ve had a lot of fun with my reading journal thread so far. It’s a good group.
I’m in the middle of reading through Discworld for the first time. I’ve been going in publication order, so I have read some of the Rincewind books. Are you planning to try those now that you’ve finished the others? I think the stories themselves are some of the weakest ones in the series, but I actually like the character of Rincewind. His unique personality grew on me, and there are usually some other fun characters in his books.
I really enjoyed City of Bones. I hope you do too! I look forward to following your thread this year.
>1 jjwilson61: Welcome to the pub and the threads! And a happy New Year.
>1 jjwilson61: Nice to have you here! I will be rereading the Discworld series this year in publication order. Last time I read them by character arc. I am an oddball who loves Rincewind and the novels he appears in. If you don't read them, you will never meet the Luggage! Or Cohen the Barbarian! Not sure why I like Rincewind so much, except that he is very honest in his reactions to being cast as a heroic character (run!).
Have you read Brandon Sanderson? or Janny Wurtz? You might want to check out some of the links on this group's homepage, which are our 100 best scifi/fantasy and mystery recommendations. We have also had some terrific group reads which I think are linked to there. People are always welcome to comment on those threads, we do not believe in thread extinction around here.
>1 jjwilson61: Welcome! Funny you should mention Discworld. I just started The Colour of Magic as my first read of the year. I've been reading the Discworld books for several years now and never got around to reading the first book. I figured it was time to finally fix that :) I started the series with Equal Rites.
I'll echo MrsLee's recommendation of Brandon Sanderson. I started his Mistborn series last month and was blown away. The third Mistborn book will be my next read when I finish The Colour of Magic. If you like epic fantasy with great world building and believable characters you may want to check out Robin Hobb's Realm of the Elderlings. Some really great books.
Lovely to see you here in the pub! We'll be peppering you with recommendations before you know it :) I'd plug Becky Chambers as some of my favourite feel-good recent SF - while her 2 books are set in the same universe, each can be treated as stand-alone.
Welcome! Happy new year! ^_^
I don't like the Rincewind books as much as the rest of the Discworld books. As YouKneeK said, the stories are some of the weakest in the series, but the characters themselves are a lot of fun to read about even so. ^_^
Thank you for your kind words. I read the Mistborn trilogy a couple years ago when I believe there was a group read of the first one and found them excellent. I'd rate them as among the best fantasy I've ever read.
And I may get back and finish the Rincewind arc at some point but I think I'll take a break from Discworld for a while.
Ooh, good, another person's reading to spy on! I hope 2017 brings you some great books.
Happy New Year - sending you good wishes for lots of exciting books in your future.
Glad you are joining us in the pub! Happy reading! Just watch out for the Roombas.
Welcome, dude! Be careful what you ask for when requesting suggestions around here. You may get buried in them.
I'm already buried. But at least I have some idea what to get from the library when I return the current batch.
>1 jjwilson61: What a coincidence you mention Discworld. I have yet to read any Terry Pratchett *hides* But was actually looking at a few of the Discworld books last evening wondering what to start with.
Welcome and happy 2017 reading! Mind the book bullets. They buzz around quite happily in here ;)
>18 thehawkseye: Don't start with the first book! I'm reading it now and it reads more like a short story collection than a cohesive novel. This is not bad. It is just not a good indicator of how the rest of the series goes. You could probably start with any of the other "firsts" in the various story threads and be good to go. Equal Rites for the Witches, Mort for Death or Guards, Guards for the Night's Watch are all great starting points.
>17 clamairy: as blankets go they can be a bit bruising, but I'm perfectly happy to snuggle up under them any time
I finished City of Bones and gave it a rating of 4 stars. The post-apocalyptic world was intriguing and the characters realistic I thought. Although
Next up is my next non-fiction read Transforming California and after that The Rook.
Just de-lurking long enough to let you know that people do stop by to hear what you're reading and what you think of it!
Finished Transforming California which I really enjoyed, politics geek that I am. It's a history of California politics with an emphasis on land use and resource management (forest management, fishery management, etc.) issues. A large portion of the book was devoted to the Jerry Brown through Pete Wilson years in which I grew up and it was interesting to see an analytical overview of those years I lived through. It ended with a discussion of what is wrong with California politics today (well as of 1999) and the meaning of citizenship in a democracy. I gave it 4.5 stars.
Next up, The Rook which is a bit outside my usual genre but I saw it recommended here and I love the "I just woke up with no memory and have to figure out what's going on" trope.
...and I have The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, What Hath God Wrought, and Uprooted waiting for me at the library. I'm excited to get to TLWtaSAP since I've seen all the comments here. I'll probably break tradition and read it next, making two fictions in a row, especially since What Hath God Wrought is so long.
The Rook. This was a fun mystery although light on characterization and the powers a but too fantastic for my taste. I don't, of course, expect fantasy to be realistic but I do like to see some sort of system behind the magic or whatever.
I really enjoyed The rook but agree, you do need to suspend a lot of disbelief. It is very easy for Myfanwy to hide her amnesia, for example.
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. I enjoyed it although after a while it seemed that every chapter was to illustrate a different type of interspecies hanky-panky which I thought detracted from the story. I actually thought the love story with the ship's AI was more believable.
Was that too spoilery? I have a hard time saying what I think about a book without giving something away.
Next up is What Hath God Wrought which is an history of the USA from 1815 to 1848. It's part of the Oxford Histories of the United States of which I've previously read Battle Cry of Freedom (Civil War) quite a while back, and Empire of Liberty (1789 - 1815) last year. They're each by a different author but I very much enjoyed them both so I expect this one will be up to the same quality.
>28 jjwilson61: Spoilery is in the eye of the beholder. :)
What Hath God Wrought. Another solid entry in the Oxford History of the United States series. I didn't know a lot about the antebellum period and this 900 page tome was very enlightening and never dull. From politics to technology and social and religious movements there was a lot going on in this 33 year period which had a momentous effect on later events. I learned how Martin Van Buren invented the political party and how really horrid a human being Andrew Jackson was (and how he reminds me in a lot of ways of Trump).
Next up Uprooted.
I forgot to mention that I started Uprooted and now I've finished it. It was an entertaining read but I didn't like it as much as some here. It felt to me that the story rushed along but it didn't have a center. The romantic relationship between Agnieszka and the Dragon didn't really work since it all happened so fast in just a couple of scenes. Most of the time he was being gruff and inexplicable and she was being timid. I enjoyed the contrast between their different types of magic with hers being more organic and his being structured although I would have liked a little more logic behind how the magic worked. For example, all the magic words they used seemed to come from books, but how did the people who wrote those books discover those words?
My next non-fiction is Spooky Action at a Distance and the next fiction is The Lies of Locke Lamora.
Spooky Action at a Distance was an enlightening exploration into the history of non-locality in physics although there are several aspects to it and in many places in the text I was unsure exactly how the phenomenon being explained qualified as non-local. The premise of the book is that space, and likely time as well, are emergent properties of whatever is going on in a level below quantum mechanics and general relativity, but it couldn't in the end come up with more than a quick sketch of what a physics without space or time would look like. Still, I'm glad I read the book to see where the current frontier of physics is at.
Next up, The Lies of Locke Lamora, Arcanum Unbounded, and Cities in the Wilderness.
I finished The Lies of Locke Lamora last weekend but I haven't had a chance until now to put my thoughts together. I gave it a solid four stars due to its excellent world-building and characterization, but I couldn't push it any higher because the skill of the Gentleman Bastards at con games and larceny was unbelievable. I also had a problem with the bondmages that they were too powerful
>35 jjwilson61: >36 pgmcc: I rated it 3 stars, (I consider 6/10 to be above average). While I liked the writing well enough, I felt it vacillated too much from violently gory to flippant and back again. I read the sequel and liked it about the same as the first book but have no real inclination to go further with the series.
Cities in the Wilderness: Although published 12 years ago this is still interesting as a historical account of many of the initiatives of Bruce Babbitt to push land-use planning at the federal level. Of particular interest to me was his account of the negotiations to set aside land in Orange County, California after the endangered-species listing of the gnatcatcher. He tries to draw lessons of what worked, and although we know now that many of the projects didn't last, many of them did. This was a short and easy read and I thought it was well worth my time even if it is a bit dated.
I'm currently reading Arcanum Unbounded.
I finished Arcanum Unbounded a couple of weeks ago and have a hard time with what to say about it. I skipped two of the stories because it said they contained spoilers for books I haven't read yet. What I liked about the Mistborn series was the elaborate magic system and world building and there isn't much time to develop that so perhaps that's why the stories didn't grab me. I am going to read more Sanderson in the near future, probably Alloy of Law.
In the two weeks since I finished Arcanum I also started and finished Six Armies in Normandy by John Keegan which was a fairly quick overview of the Normandy invasion until the capture of Paris by focusing on six particular engagements, some lasting a few days and others a few weeks. While I picked up a thing or two, it makes me want to read a more thorough treatment of the invasion and since I've read the first two of Rick Atkinson's Liberation trilogy, I'll put The Guns at Last Light in my next military history slot.
I'm currently about half-way through Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho which kept me up reading late last night which hasn't happened in a while.
Sorcerer to the Crown kept my interest but it suffered from a lack of flow in the story lurching from event to event. And some of the descriptions could have been written with more attention to detail, at one point during a chaotic scene the female lead was, as far as I could tell, miles away from the male lead but she stops speaking at a glance from him. The story had a lot of interesting ideas, maybe too many, but this was her first novel so I'll probably try something else of hers sometime.
>40 jjwilson61: I liked the characters and the plot, but thought the pacing seemed off.
>42 jjwilson61: I read a short book many years ago with a title something like, "The Theory of Relativity Explained". I was most disappointed. All it did was describe the observable effects of relativity. It was a bit like a book claiming to explain a major disease and simply describing the symptoms.
I finished QED : the strange theory of light and matter and I think I understand the ideas a little better now, although I'd like to read some other non-technical books on quantum physics to get other perspectives. Also the book was written in 1985 and I know there have been more developments since then. I liked that he explained it in a way that made it clear exactly what is being calculated and why but not actually how to do the calculations.
Having seen Netflix series I couldn't help comparing the book The Magicians to it as I read and I'm afraid the book suffered by comparison. Many of the scenes were the same but in the book they were just events that happened one after the other and the series managed to tie them together into a more coherent story. It also had the same characters but again those in the series were much more fleshed out. Julia was barely mentioned in the book but she was practically co-equal to the time that Quentin got.
I said earlier that I was enjoying the book when I was about half-way through but the ennui of the characters after they left the College was hard to take and by the end I was just trying to get to the end.
I also finished A field guide to sprawl which was an overview of different terms associated with sprawl accompanied by aerial pictures. It was interesting but only just.
I'm now reading Warchild. The first introductory section was written in second person point of view which I found really odd and hard to get into. Luckily that section only lasted 36 pages.
>49 jjwilson61: Our reactions to The Magicians were remarkably similar. Mine: http://www.librarything.com/work/7789355/reviews/114940675
I've never before read a book about magic with so little charm or joy.
I finished Warchild a few days ago. I enjoyed it and the ending was satisfying but there were a few things I found annoying. For one thing the aliens were not really very imaginative; they were humanoid with just minor differences and they had a vaguely Japanese martial culture. And the plot seemed to drag in places with what seemed like standard student learns from the (pick your martial art) master and learning to be a grunt tropes stuck together.
>50 stellarexplorer: Well put. I found the subject matter interesting enough, but the book itself depressing.
Fever of 1721 by Stephen Coss. This book chronicles the events around the Boston small pox epidemic of 1721 concentrating on the stories of Cotton Mather, a Puritan preacher, Zabdiel Boylston, a doctor, James and his younger brother Benjamin Franklin, printers, and Elisha Cooke, a politician. In short, Mather convinced Boylston to perform innoculations, an unproven procedure at the time that involved placing the puss from a small pox victim into a cut made in the skin of an unaffected person, which for some reason usually results in a much milder course. Cooke led the opposition to the crown-appointed governor and was a mentor to Samual Adams who was born after the epidemic. The Franklins launched America's first independent newspaper which opposed the governor and innoculation.
Steven Coss weaves these threads into a captivating story about the political environment that started America on the road to independence.
Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson. This is a continuation of the Mistborn series which is among my favorite all-time reads. It takes place much later when the civilization had developed into something similar to the American West of the late 19th century. My biggest problem was not remembering the details of how the previous trilogy had ended, which didn't really affect my understanding of the plot it was annoying that I couldn't get all of the references. Waxillium is a lawman in the roughs who returns to lead his noble house in the city after his Uncle dies and he is the only heir. He is determined to leave his old life behind but the kidnapping of his fiance force him to fight outlaws in the city with his old partner Wayne and Marasi, the cousin of his fiance, who studies criminology at the University.
The magic is the same as in the first trilogy but there are no Mistborn anymore, everyone can have at most one Allomanctic and one Feruchemical talent (although most people don't have any). Wax is a twinborn with one of each kind of magic, one which gives him the power to push powerfully against metals allowing him to fly through the air and change the trajectory of bullets and the ability to make himself lighter or heavier which enhances what he can do with his first power. Wayne is also twinborn with the power to slow down time within a bubble, which he uses quite effectively to quick-change costumes among other things, and the abilty to store health in order heal himself quickly. The imaginative use of these powers allow some incredible fight scenes with our heroes flying around, stopping time, destroying buildings, etc. Of course the villain has an even more potent combination of powers.
This book had a different tone than the first trilogy, less epic and with more humor, and I don't believe it was quite as good. But it was still better than anything I've read since finishing The Hero of Ages.
>55 Sakerfalcon: Good to hear. I'll definitely keep reading the series.
>54 jjwilson61: I want to read that one so bad but am trying to hold out until the 4th book is written so I can read the completed quadrilogy in one shot. So maybe next year.
I've gotten behind on entering my reading here so I've gotta do a data dump.
Weapons of Math Destruction -- This is about how data mining is so often misused. I think this one's important for everyone to read.
2010 -- A decent read but it didn't really do much for me. Maybe because I kinda knew the plot from seeing the movie many years ago.
The Great Divergence -- This lays out a lot of the data about how income equality has changed in America and the world and evaluates its causes. It lays the main blame for the inequality that's developed since the 70s on the decline of unions.
The Library at Mount Char -- I initially enjoyed this but I eventually got tired of the extreme power of the main character and the complete lack of limits on what she could do.
Your comments on Weapons of Math Destruction may lead me to reading this book. You might find The Rise of the Robots of interest. It looks at the implications of all the technology being used to eliminate the need to have people employed. It came out in 2015 and contains plenty of up to date statistics to support its arguments. It looks like the arguments in The Great Divergence will be related to those in "The Rise of the Robots".
I read 2010 when it came out and I would have the same feelings about it as you. I read the next one too but hadn't the heart to read more. I loved the novel of 2001. It was so much more than the film having been written in parallel with it but not directly dependent on the movie script.
I loved 2001 as well, but it was so long ago I no longer remember why. I read the reviews for 2061 and decided not to continue with the series.
I'll check if the library has The Rise of Robots.
Through the Language Glass. The author makes some sensible arguments that while the Sapir-Whorf hypotheses that language can limit how someone thinks is false, that language can influence the way one thinks and gives examples of the experience of color, the shading of objects with gender through gendered nouns, and whether people primarily orient themselves using themselves, (left, right, front, and back), or through fixed directions (North, South, East, West). The latter is the most surprising and results in the people in some cultures having internalized all sorts of methods for keeping track of which way North is so that they always know which way they're facing and they don't even consciously realize what they're doing.
But overall, the effects of language seem to be minor and I have a hard time working up any enthusiasm for the subject.
Hey, I've been working on Our Mathematical Universe for what seems like eons now. It's good, but it's my designated bathroom book. It's only getting read one paragraph (really more like one sentence) at a time. You'll probably finish before I do.
I've gotten way behind. I'm just going to list out the reads since my last post and fill in details later.
This is the sequel to Sabriel but it takes place a generation later with 2 new main characters. The chapters with the girl were mostly interesting but the ones with the boy were full of angst and self-pity and I couldn't wait to get back to the girl chapters again. This book isn't a complete story with the ending in Abhorsen.
Our Mathematical Universe
It's been a while, but I remember two things about this book, the many different kinds of multiverses and the argument that the ultimate basis of the everything is mathematics. The multiverses were interesting, but ultimately even though there might be other versions of me out there, I can't ever interact with them so what difference does it make? As for the second point, I'll take it under advisement.
The last part of the Lireal story. More action but with kind of a steam-punky vibe since there's more of a mix of science and magic. I didn't think the story was as good as Sabriel but it did explain the origin of the charter magic and how the the magic world and science world were joined.
The Fifth Season
The most unique world-building I've seen in a long time, although exactly how unique isn't revealed until the last book of the series.
The Invention of Nature
It's fascinating that someone so famous just 100 years ago is so forgotten today. This book gave an insight into German poets and philosophers (he was friends with Goethe), the difficulties in mounting a scientific expedition at the time (he never could get permission from the East India Company to go to India and he was lucky to get permission to visit Latin America from the Spanish King), Latin American revolutionaries, and descriptions of expeditions through jungles and to the tops of volcanoes, in South America and Russia.
The Obelisk Gate
The sequel the The Fifth Season.
Rise of Robots
Convincing argument that the current wave of automation is different than the past and will result in there being less jobs for people, and not just blue color jobs but many tech jobs as well. Concludes by examining various options for a universal basic income.
The Stone Sky
The sequel to The Obelisk Gate and the last book of the series.
A good book about the problems of suburban development, but I already knew most of it so it wasn't exactly riveting and the details of this book are already fading from my mind.
This was really different with a protagonist who has borderline personality disorder and had almost killed herself by jumping off a building. The author did her research with a lot of the symptoms of the disorder such as black and white thinking when under stress and blinding rages being integrated into the plot as well as the details of dealing with two prosthetic limbs. And the background of all the creating geniuses in history (that includes scientists and inventors) being that way because they had found their muse in fairyland was really different and disturbing with the suggestion that we'd still be in the stone-age if it weren't for fairies. And the connection works in the other direction as well; fairies being almost pure imagination and their connection to human muses brings levels of organization to their world that allows them to do things that otherwise they couldn't do.
I was underwhelmed by this book, but I can't remember it well enough to critique anything in particular. I just remember feeling that much of the time he was belaboring the obvious.
The Graveyard Book
A good story but not exactly riveting.
I really enjoyed The Rise of the Robots. Apart from its main thesis regarding mass unemployment it is a great update on the state of technology in 2015. The supporting data for his argument is also useful.
I have come across a number of arguments for a universal living salary but I have not come across anyone explaining how that would work in an economy and how one would avoid all the potential problems it would cause if consequences were not addressed before its introduction.
I look forward to your views on The Graveyard Book. I have mine but I shall keep them to myself until you have read it.
I look forward to seeing what you think of Natasha's dance. It's been on my tbr pile for years but because my copy is a huge hardback that I can't carry around I haven't made much headway with it.
I'm about half-way through Natasha's Dance and it's easier reading than I thought, although a bit long-winded sometimes (pages and pages of descriptions of the Moscow social scene). A great deal is made of the effects on society of Napoleon's 1812 invasion and the Petersburg (West)/Moscow (Nativist) dynamic. The Russian names can be hard to remember but it hasn't been a problem since he's only focused on a few people in detail so far, and many of the novelists and composers he mentions are already familiar names to me. Overall, I've been able to maintain my interest level, but I did take a break to read The Graveyard Book.
This was an enjoyable, although a bit long-winded at times, book on the cultural history of Russia from Peter the Great to the present time. It covered among other subjects the western-oriented court scene in Petersburg vs. the social scene of Moscow which was more hedonistic, the effect of Napoleon's 1812 invasion on the political opinions of who came to be known as the Decembrists, and the identification of the Russian soul with the serf class and how brutal the reality was to how the nobel artists imagined it. It also followed many poets, composers, novelists, and other artists and how their lives interacted with these trends, including their fates after the revolution, which was often short. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to know more about Russia and Russians.
This is the sequel to Ancillary Justice. I wasn't going to continue this series since the main character was diminished in the course of the first book from being a ship who experienced the universe through hundreds of bodies or ancillaries to only a single body. That journey was interesting but I couldn't see how that interest could be maintained in the sequels, but I read some encouraging reviews and I decided to try it.
While it was an enjoyable read, the second book is on a much smaller scale than the first and there just isn't as much going on. And the conceit of her language not distinguishing between the sexes was still annoying. Maybe it's just me but I find it's distracting to imagine the characters being described if I don't know what sex they are.
I haven't had much time for updating my reading thread lately but I finished two book in December.
You are what you speak
This wasn't a very memorable read since I can't really remember it. I gave it 3.5 stars so I liked it some.
The bands of mourning
This was a fine addition to the second Mistborn series but now I have to wait at least a year for the last one.
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