Books! What are you currently reading or just finished?



Eco-pragmatist manifesto by the creator of the Whole Earth Catalogue.

also this:

It’s a biography of John Aubrey — writer of Brief Lives and the creator of modern biographical writing — written in the form of a diary, but entirely from his own letters and papers. Absolutely fantastic.


I finished Stubbs’ Fear of Music: Why People Get Rothko But Don’t Get Stockhausen. I found it wholly enjoyable - both the long romp (with a clearly opinionated eye) through 20th century art, and the final “conclusion”. Mind you, I wouldn’t call it a “conclusion” so much as just thinking about possible reasons why… (my husband wanted a definitive answer, which Stubbs doesn’t really have). I did enjoy thinking about the ironies of it all, and interesting parallels and orthogonalities I hadn’t thought to draw: Like photographs and field recordings.


Books read in August:

Peter Watts’ The Freeze-Frame Revolution: I haven’t read the related short stories yet, but the standalone novel(la) is really solid. It’s hard-hard sci-fi, but also poetic. The end is so tight, it’s almost more of a very expensive Twilight Zone episode, but if hard-hard sci-fi about the deep future and space travel is your thing, then this is your thing. It was my thing. In essence, a ship travels to the furthest reaches of the universe, planting wormhole gates as it goes, and it is filled with people who wake up only every few thousand years when the AI that runs the ship needs help or feels lonely. And a small number of that massive crew decide to mutiny against the AI (not a spoiler — this is literally on the back cover). Needless to say, an already complicated situation gets way more complicated.

Malka Older’s Null States: The first book I dug, and yet it in no way prepared me for this major step up, between the myriad charterizations, and the complexity of the politics within the organization that, in the first book, was presented more as naively monolithic. It’s the second book in a series about a whole other form of global political organization, in which the world is broken into these distributed nations that are like franchises. It’s a bit like Neal Stephenson’s Snowcrash in that regard, but more with the resulting practicalities thought through — way through in this book. The third book in the trilogy comes out this month.

William Gibson’s The Peripheral: This was a re-read. The first time, when it came out, I didn’t like it much. Second time through, reading in advance of his next one, I focused on how he handled the time travel aspect, really made it his own, made it something unique to the book rather than a hand-me-down sci-fi setting he took for granted. I also appreciated how the chapters — and there are lots and lots of chapters — ended less with cliffhangers than with these casual observations about the characters. There’s a murder witnessed by someone — the murder’s in the future, the witness in the past. The witness thinks the future is just a video game, and the past turns out to be something that super-powerful people in the future treat as their own plaything.

John le Carré’s Our Kind of Traitor: The first third is where it’s at. You could just read the first third and get most of what it has to offer, but he is so elegant and fierce, and the way he jumps between characters? — he’s just a master. A literature instructor and his lawyer girlfriend end up helping a Russian mobster communicate with British Secret Service. They don’t even know why they choose to do such a thing. No one trusts anyone, and even less so as the thing progresses.

Somehow I didn’t finish reading a single graphic novel in August. It was a busy month


Sounds interesting, willl check it out! I have wondered for a long time why the general public has accepted modernism in the visual arts a long time ago, but still have a hard time swallowing modernism in music (and the level of fury modernistic music evokes!).



A darkly-comedic Chinese novella about a guy who builds custom tube-amps.


[EDITED: I’ll just update this post since it’s the last post in this thread anyway :slight_smile: ]

I could only get through 50 pages yesterday because every 20 pages or so I bawl my eyes out. Will try for another 30-50 today.
EDIT: I regret to say that in the end, I found this book underwhelming. Of course, this is auto-biographical and very personal so how can one criticize this? It is very honest. And I get the sense she was more dead-pan/as-a-matter-of-fact than usual precisely because these things did happen to her, and so why dress it up? She knows what happened and is just telling you. Having said that, I couldn’t help but think that this is good practical information to know when Rod dies … : (

This one was truly fun:

Just today I started Don DeLillo’s Americana. He’s a new author for me. I’d seen his name around associated with some other authors I like (like Martin Amis I think), and 100 pages in it’s really good! I love 80s style protagonists (you know, fast-talking, quick-witted, Cusak and Downey Jr. types) and this is just. like. that.


Stephen King - The Wastelands.


I may have to get the book this came from when it’s available.

Currently reading:

Edit: I’m finding “Port of Shadows” very problematic in its treatment of women and young girls, and generally not up to the level of quality of the rest of the Black Company books. It’s partially pieced together from short stories, with an attempt to weave it together with an ongoing flashback that doesn’t answer the more interesting questions it raises and just sort of fizzles out; old familiar characters don’t act like themselves and some of the new ones are iffy. As a “midquel” it seems the events and character development are going to be undone by memory loss (and presumably the written records lost or destroyed as well) and the stakes are nonexistent. Overall it’s reading like a poorly considered fanfic, and I fear Glen Cook may have lost his touch with age.


This is fantastic and essential. Deserves to be more well-known. Ambient Media: Japanese Atmospheres of Self


Just getting going with this. I love the notion of “polyphonic assemblage” obviously. :slight_smile: also love the author’s Santa Cruz background. I imagine I’ll make quick work of this book. Thanks so much for the recommendation!


Once again reading “The Magic Mountain” by Thomas Mann (but in my native tongue German, of course, so it’s “Der Zauberberg” for me). Summary from goodreads:

In this dizzyingly rich novel of ideas, Mann uses a sanatorium in the Swiss Alps, a community devoted exclusively to sickness, as a microcosm for Europe, which in the years before 1914 was already exhibiting the first symptoms of its own terminal irrationality. The Magic Mountain is a monumental work of erudition and irony, sexual tension and intellectual ferment, a book that pulses with life in the midst of death.




I’m in the process of reading the entire “Jack Reacher” series. Having read 5 or 6 individual books in the collection, I decided to start at the beginning and work my way through.

Interesting fictional fact: Reacher has a remarkably accurate internal clock.


Q1: In that he knows what time it is at any point in the day, or wakes up at the same time each day, or knows how long it’s taken from event x to y?

I remember George Michael Bluthe saying he’d make an excellent drummer because he’s always places on time.

Also reminds me of Hudson Hawk who can gauge how much time has passed by knowing songs of various lengths then singing them to himself accurately.

Q2: Any Jack Reacher time idiosyncrasies/insights like this for how he does what he does…or left unexplained?


Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. Really, really enjoying the novel format with his writing- very fun and heartwarming read.


Seconding Lincoln in the Bardo! I bought it as soon as it came out and loved it! Haven’t checked it out yet, but the audiobook has a pretty stacked cast and the structure of the novel seems like it’d lend itself especially well to that format. Saunders’s short stories are also pretty good, though I may be a little biased because we both grew up in the same dumpy SW Chicago suburb (not at the same time or anything though).

As for current reading, I’m finishing off an English major that didn’t work out so well for me on the first go-around, so I just started a mandated Chaucer course a couple weeks ago. We haven’t approached Canterbury Tales yet, but “House of Fame” has some pretty interesting ideas that come across as kinda Modern-ish, though actually reading it was a slog; 2000+ lines of rhyming couplets in Middle English was a bit much for Week Two of the syllabus.


Awesome. I would love to listen to it as an audiobook now that you mention it. It’s written very play-like indeed.


I was lucky enough to see him when he came through Chicago promoting the book, and the (segment) reading they did that evening was amazing, primarily due to the format of the novel.

I haven’t tried the audio book, but based on the live experience, I think I may well :slight_smile:


Nothing as interesting as your references, sad to say. Jack Reacher simply needs no alarm clock. If he needs to wake up at, say 6am, he just wakes at then.


Just finished this, subtitled “Forty tales from the afterlives”. Very short (2-3 pages, mostly) descriptions of possible afterlives or sometimes just more like an imagined meaning or backstory to our existence. Written in 2nd person gives it an almost relaxation / visualisation tape kind of feel. “You are sitting in a room. You find yourself…” etc.

I plowed through it in a week and could’ve easily read it in a day. Not sure I’d recommend that though - the whimsy and summary of Twilight Zone plots feeling gets a bit much. Anyway, a nice wee read.

Amused to see Brian Eno giving the celebrity endorsement on the cover.