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Jamie John

What books did you read in 2019?

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7. Them by Jon Ronson

Them: Travels With Extremists sees Jon Ronson spending time with various people who all believed in a secret world government of some description, from David Icke's lizards to Alex Jones conspiracy of globalists. It came out not long after the September 11 attacks and makes a brief mention of this in the introduction, but most of the events took place in the late-90s/2000. It does document a period where these kind of conspiracy theories were moving away from obscure magazines and hidden groups onto the internet, which in this book is still the old net, the haven for outsiders, a far cry from today's social media world. This does date the book but it was still an interesting read, not least for Ronson's languid, slightly mocking tone.


 

Spoiler

 

1. The Panama Papers by Frederik Obermaier and Bastian Obermayer
2. Broken Skin by Stuart McBride
3. Can't Stand Up For Falling Down by Allan Jones

4. Masters Of War by Chris Ryan

5. The Speed Of Sound by Thomas Dolby

6. Divine Justice by David Baldacci

7. Them by Jon Ronson

 

 

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The Quiet American by Graham Green

 

Set during the conflict in Vietnam between the French and Vietminh it's a story of a love triangle between an older English journalist, his young Vietnamese girlfriend and a young, idealistic American diplomat, i.e CIA  . It's pretty on the nose as a metaphor for the English, Vietnamese and American nations in respect their characters   and escalating  American involvement in the region while still maintaining an interesting and engaging story.  I understand a lot was based on the author's own experiences  so it's pretty on the nose in that regard and at 180 or so pages is not a lengthy  or difficult read. haven't seen either of the movie versions  so can't comment on their faithfulness but will probably check at least one of them out.

 

Recommended.

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19. Six Days of War by Michael Oren. I hoped this might help me better understand the Isreal / Palestine conflict and shaping of the Middle East. It's certainly a very thorough book, but the complexity was probably a bit beyond me, and I struggled to keep up at various points.

 

Previously:

 

Spoiler

1. The Body Library by Jeff Noon

2. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

3. Enlightenment Now

4. The book of Humans

5. Little Fires Everywhere

6. Everything Under

7. The Stand

8. Roadside Picnic

9. The Retreat of Western Liberalism

10. Things Fall Apart

11. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

12. Hello World

13. All the Pretty Horses

14. The Tatooist of Auschwitz

15. Normal People

16. The Undoing Project

17. The Fifteenth Life of Harry August

18. The Hobbit

 

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6. The Dead Zone - Stephen King

 

My chronological King read-through continues with the first of his books that I'd neither read before nor knew anything about, which turns out to be a great story with the usual King qualities. It's the story of a man, set over about 25 years from the early 50s to the late 70s (it was published in 1979), who suffers a head injury and realises he has psychic abilities - whether caused, amplified or unlocked by the injury, he has no way of knowing. And being a King novel, it's then straight into high-concept territory, a what-if story of the fantastical in small-town America. I really enjoyed it and I really must get round to watching the film, which must be due a modern remake.

 

 

1. The Long Walk - Richard Bachman (Stephen King)
2. The Martian Chronicles - Ray Bradbury 
3. Interview with the Vampire - Anne Rice  
4. Neurotribes - Steve Silberman
5. Star Wars: Thrawn Alliances - Timothy Zahn
6. The Dead Zone - Stephen King

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20. The Expert System's Brother by Adrian Tchaikovsky. This is a short book that certainly doesn't outstay its welcome. There are some enjoyable elements and the first half reminded me a bit of Hothouse. I'd put it a little behind Tchaikovsky's Dogs of War, and it's definitely not in the same league as Children of Time. 

 

Previously:

 

Spoiler

1. The Body Library by Jeff Noon

2. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

3. Enlightenment Now

4. The book of Humans

5. Little Fires Everywhere

6. Everything Under

7. The Stand

8. Roadside Picnic

9. The Retreat of Western Liberalism

10. Things Fall Apart

11. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

12. Hello World

13. All the Pretty Horses

14. The Tatooist of Auschwitz

15. Normal People

16. The Undoing Project

17. The Fifteenth Life of Harry August

18. The Hobbit

19. Six Days of War

 

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8. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson

 

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I enjoyed the central locked-room (or closed-off-island) mystery in this and found it suitably unputdownable in places. The sub-plot, however, involving the protagonist's involvement in a magazine, was less interesting and seemed a bit superfluous, like padding at the beginning and start of the novel, and it's quite telling that the film version (from what I can remember, at least) left much of it out. I'd be interested in reading the sequels but I'm not in a rush to go and buy them.

 

Next up: I downloaded a few 19th century sci-fi novels a few years ago that I've not got round to, so I'm going to give those ago, starting with The Lost World, by Arthur Conan Doyle. Hopefully I'll like it more than The Time Machine.

 

Previously:

Spoiler

1. Life, the Universe and Everything, Douglas Adams.

2. The Spy Who Came In From the Cold, John Lewis Carre

3. The Fishermen, Chigozie Obioma

4. Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson

5. The Black Echo, Michael Connelly

6. Ready Player One, Ernest Cline

7. American Gods, Neil Gaiman

 

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7. The Dragon Queen - William Andrews

 

This is the sequel to Daughters of the Dragon which I read and enjoyed last year - both bought for 99p in Kindle sales, bargain! The first book was about Anna, a Korean-American teenage girl learning for the first time about her heritage, particularly her grandmother's horrific experiences as a "comfort woman" in WW2. In that story, Anna learned that her grandmother and herself are descended from Queen Min, who ruled Korea in the late 19th century. Although Anna and her grandmother are fictional characters, the grandmother's story was based on historical events and real accounts from those who survived them. The framing narrative for this book is set about ten years after the first, and now Anna is a junior diplomat working at the US Embassy in Seoul, and this time it's her turn to tell a story - that of her ancestor, Queen Min. It's never explained how Anna knows this tale, and in fact the whole framing device is pretty implausible, but the historical story that forms the bulk of the book is much better. This is a fictionalised account of a real person, and of events that shaped modern Korea. It's not harrowing in the way the first book was, but it's a good read, and an easy one too - like the first book this is written in a YA style so you can rattle through it without worrying you might be missing some subtle nuance.

 

Incidentally I should say I love Kindle sales for tempting me to buy books like this which are nothing like the things I'd normally read, but look interesting enough to be worth a punt for a quid. Although I'm building up quite a virtual pile of shame...

 

 

1. The Long Walk - Richard Bachman (Stephen King)
2. The Martian Chronicles - Ray Bradbury 
3. Interview with the Vampire - Anne Rice  
4. Neurotribes - Steve Silberman
5. Star Wars: Thrawn Alliances - Timothy Zahn
6. The Dead Zone - Stephen King
7. The Dragon Queen - William Andrews

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21. All the President's Men. I thought this was really great - firstly for just how incredible the Watergate scandal was (I confess I didn't really know much about it before now), and secondly for the brilliant account of the investigative journalism Woodward and Bernstein undertook to uncover it.

 

Also, I now know where the term "ratfuck" comes from. 

 

Previously:

 

Spoiler

1. The Body Library by Jeff Noon

2. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

3. Enlightenment Now

4. The book of Humans

5. Little Fires Everywhere

6. Everything Under

7. The Stand

8. Roadside Picnic

9. The Retreat of Western Liberalism

10. Things Fall Apart

11. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

12. Hello World

13. All the Pretty Horses

14. The Tatooist of Auschwitz

15. Normal People

16. The Undoing Project

17. The Fifteenth Life of Harry August

18. The Hobbit

19. Six Days of War

20. The Expert System's Brother

 

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1. The Finance Curse: How Global Finance is Making Us All Poorer (2018) - Nicholas Shaxson

 

Following his exposé of tax havens in Treasure Islands, Shaxson delves into the world of Big Finance. The central thesis is that despite the headline tax revenues generated by the City of London and other financial centres, when evaluated on a macro level, they are actually a net drain on the economy, and a huge drain at that. We're taken through the costs that Finance's extractive behaviour imposes on consumers and governments, along with the damage wrought by its tendencies to generate unsustainable bubbles in non-productive parts of the economy and starve genuinely productive sectors of much needed investment. The book also tackles the 'competitiveness' agenda and the race to the bottom in corporate tax rates that we've seen in recent years - unsurprisingly, there is no real evidence that these measures actually benefit the countries that adopt them.

 

Like so many of these books, it's strong on the diagnosis, less so on the cure. Shaxson clearly favours much tighter regulation of Finance, from a "saving capitalism from itself" perspective, but there's little discussion of specific measures or any overarching look at credit allocation as a whole and the role of the state vs. the private sector in that process.

 

Overall, it's a decent read with some good insights, but not as substantive as Michael Hudson's books, which I consider the gold standard when it comes to the maladies of the FIRE sector and what we need to do about it.

 

 

2. Steppenwolf (1927) - Hermann Hesse

 

First time reading Hesse. You can see why this book was latched onto by the 60s counter-culture scene - there's an isolated outsider protagonist, psychoanalytic elements, music as a recurring theme, drug use, and a surreal hallucinogenic denouement.

 

That really doesn't do it justice though. The Steppenwolf is neither hero or anti-hero, his isolation from society comes more from a place of weakness as it does any actual superiority over it. As the novel goes on, he actually finds liberation and it seems perhaps some salvation in embracing much of the popular culture that he had previously treated with contempt. It's a journey for him from despair to life affirmation in a Nietzschean kind of sense, from passive self-destructive thought to literal dancing. But a journey only made possible by engagement with the Other (the dreamlike women that float into his life at just the opportune moment, Pablo the jazz musician), not from more self-indulgent and circuitous self-reflection.

 

There's the spectre there in the novel of the growing jingoistic sentiment in Germany, and flashes of a society's capacity for violence ready to erupt again. My favourite parts are the long, rambling sections in which Hesse is channeling his own reflections on everything from Mozart to the technology and social implications of the radio. In a passage on the latter he actually comes pretty damn close to anticipating the internet.

 

It's no hippie treatise, what it is is inescapably the work of a tortured and divided and fascinating soul.

 

 

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I’ve always found Steppenwolf curiously unreadable, in that I never get much past the opening. I love Herman Hesse, and Narcissus and Goldmund is one of my very favourite books, but that one’s always been a stumbling block for me.

 

Although having said that, I last gave it a go about twenty years ago, maybe I should tuck into it again.

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Echopraxia - Peter watts

 

 lifted directly from Wikipedia:

Quote

t follows the story of a biologist who gets caught up in a voyage into the heart of the solar system among members of a transcendentalist monastic order and allies (including a vampire escaped from a research facility and her cadre of zombified soldiers) to investigate a mysterious signal seemingly coming from the mission sent to initiate first contact in Watts' previous novel, Blindsight.

 

Zombies, vampires, aliens, cults, genetic mutation, cybernetic implants  etc all together in one story . Sounds like a shitty movie thrown together by the Asylum or some other low budget studio  in a bid to capture the interest of as many people as possible. Except a lot of it's based on hard science and it appears meticulous research has gone into pretty much everything  even if it's a bit far fetched...

Anyway, it's not a long book, there's a few decent set pieces in here , a lot of talk about the divide between God and Science   but no real connection to any of the characters.Some of the concepts , of which there are many ,are explained in too much detail pulling momentum from the story.It got to the stage  I was skim reading towards the end and by then my emotional investment had waned to the point I was happy it was over.

 

That makes it sound much worse than it is but it's worth a read, especially if you enjoyed Blindsight.

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9. The Lost World, Arthur Conan Doyle

 

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As an adventure story this is quite good fun. It rolls along at a fair clip and includes some fairly entertaining scenes, although I was surprised at the relative lack of dinosaurs in it.

 

Reading it from a post-colonial perspective, however, as source material for early 20th century imperialist attitudes to non-white people, it's quite fascinating in how unremittingly racist it is. There's a big section that focuses on the four main male (white) characters literally wiping a race of endangered indigenous peoples off the face of the earth with their modern weaponry and then congratulating themselves afterwards. It's absolutely shameless. A product of its time, for sure, but pretty remarkable nonetheless.

 

Next: I Think You'll Find It's a Bit More Complicated Than That, Ben Goldacre

 

Spoiler

1. Life, the Universe and Everything, Douglas Adams.

2. The Spy Who Came In From the Cold, John Lewis Carre

3. The Fishermen, Chigozie Obioma

4. Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson

5. The Black Echo, Michael Connelly

6. Ready Player One, Ernest Cline

7. American Gods, Neil Gaiman

8. The Girl With the Dragon's Tattoo, Stieg Larsson

 

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8. Firestarter - Stephen King

 

After I enjoyed The Dead Zone so much I was keen to get onto the next instalment in my King read-a-thon, and I'm glad I did. I've never read this before, or seen the film, and had always imagined it as a cheap knock-off of the author's own Carrie. But while it has superficial similarities to Carrie (young girl has powerful and destructive psychic abilities; chaos ensues) everything beyond that ten-word summary is quite different. This is at least as good as the earlier book and should be regarded as a King classic, not least because this time around the protagonist's powers are artificial (she inherited them genetically, but her parents' genes were altered by the government in a shady scientific experiment) and only get out of control when the same people responsible for "creating" her make a mess of their safety monitoring, panic and set off a chain of events that lead to, well, fire. Lots of fire. So in some ways it's a cross between Carrie and The Stand, and indeed the dodgy government agency responsible here is the same one that attempted and failed to stop Captain Trips in the latter. But it's much shorter than The Stand (as are most books, to be fair) with absolutely no let up from beginning to end. And as usual for Stephen King the characters are all wonderfully fleshed out, and the central relationship between the protagonist and her father is beautifully and poignantly written. Reading King in publication order (with this book I'm up to 1980) it's obvious why going into the 80s he was already a superstar author who had studios queuing up to buy the rights to his books. It's a pity so many of them ended up as trashy films but that's hardly King's fault. The novels themselves are always excellent and this is no exception.

 

 

1. The Long Walk - Richard Bachman (Stephen King)
2. The Martian Chronicles - Ray Bradbury 
3. Interview with the Vampire - Anne Rice  
4. Neurotribes - Steve Silberman
5. Star Wars: Thrawn Alliances - Timothy Zahn
6. The Dead Zone - Stephen King
7. The Dragon Queen - William Andrews
8. Firestarter - Stephen King

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8. Rip It Up And Start Again: Post-punk 1978-1984 by Simon Reynolds

2014016578_Rip_It_Up_and_Start_Again-_Postpunk_19781984_cover.jpg.98a94dbd109047b14d0bb47417a2c882.jpg

No messing about, this is an absolutely superb book about a period of real innovation in pop music. From the formation of Public Image Ltd after the collapse of punk to "new pop" groups like Frankie Goes To Hollywood. Synthpop, the roots of goth and industrial, punk-funk, and loads more besides. Hugely in-depth book jam-packed with info and insight. Did I say this was good? I have his huge book about rave culture - Energy Flash - on my Kindle. I just want to get cracking on that right now. If it's as detailed and interesting as this one then it can only be a good thing.
 

Spoiler

 

1. The Panama Papers by Frederik Obermaier and Bastian Obermayer
2. Broken Skin by Stuart McBride
3. Can't Stand Up For Falling Down by Allan Jones

4. Masters Of War by Chris Ryan

5. The Speed Of Sound by Thomas Dolby

6. Divine Justice by David Baldacci

7. Them by Jon Ronson

8. Rip It Up And Start Again: Post-punk 1978-1984 by Simon Reynolds

 

 

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22. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel.

 

I think I got this after it was recommended on here. It's post-apocalyptic fiction, but understated and thoughtful, focusing on themes such as loss, regret and the role of art. That probably makes it sound far more pretentious than it is - I really enjoyed it. 

 

Previously:

 

Spoiler

1. The Body Library by Jeff Noon

2. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

3. Enlightenment Now

4. The book of Humans

5. Little Fires Everywhere

6. Everything Under

7. The Stand

8. Roadside Picnic

9. The Retreat of Western Liberalism

10. Things Fall Apart

11. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

12. Hello World

13. All the Pretty Horses

14. The Tatooist of Auschwitz

15. Normal People

16. The Undoing Project

17. The Fifteenth Life of Harry August

18. The Hobbit

19. Six Days of War

20. The Expert System's Brother

21. All the President's Men

 

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23. In Order to Live by Yeonmi Park. I listened to this on Audible. It's a story of a pretty amazing girl's escape from North Korea. What she and others went through is horrific and scary and utterly depressing. It's a story that very much needed to be told, though for my money Nothing to Envy covers some similar ground and is more impressive in terms of the quality of writing. 

 

Previously:

 

Spoiler

1. The Body Library by Jeff Noon

2. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

3. Enlightenment Now

4. The book of Humans

5. Little Fires Everywhere

6. Everything Under

7. The Stand

8. Roadside Picnic

9. The Retreat of Western Liberalism

10. Things Fall Apart

11. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

12. Hello World

13. All the Pretty Horses

14. The Tatooist of Auschwitz

15. Normal People

16. The Undoing Project

17. The Fifteenth Life of Harry August

18. The Hobbit

19. Six Days of War

20. The Expert System's Brother

21. All the President's Men

22. Station Eleven

 

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14. Straight Outta Crawley: Ramesh autobiography This was bought for me as a present and despite his increasing overexposure I do tend to enjoy his documentary stuff. As it turns out, he was a teacher at my local secondary before he was a comedian. So a few of the chapters featured experiences and situations I could relate to. He’s also pretty open and describes a few occasions where he’s been a selfish prick. It’s a very easy read, funny in parts and entertaining. Having said all that, I’m also reading David No ven’s autobiography which is not so much as a cut above Romesh’s, but a full-on beheading.

 

Spoiler

1.The Life and Rhymes of Benjamin Zephaniah

2. Borne by Jeff VanderMeer.

3. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.

4.In your defence:Stories of Life and Law by Sarah Langford

5.My Thoughts Exactly by Lily Allen

6. Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky

7. 84k by Claire North

8. Chalk Man by C. J. Tudor

9. The Water Cure by Sarah MacIntosh

10. Journeyman by Ben Smith

11.Do you dream of Terra-Two by Temi Oh

12. The Wall by John Lanchester

13. Blood, Sweat and Pixels by Jason Schreier

14. Romesh autobiography

 

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9. The Sirens of Titan - Kurt Vonnegut

 

I’m slightly ashamed to say this is the first time I’ve read Vonnegut, but it won’t be the last. This is just brilliant. Big, mind-blowing sci-fi that isn’t really sci-fi at all but rather an excuse to ask lots of questions about Life, the Universe and Everything without it all seeming po-faced and heavy. Sometimes confusing (until you catch up with what’s going on a bit later) and frequently hilarious, in tone it reminded me of Catch-22 from the same era, but along the way I realised that this, apart from being brilliant in its own right, was clearly a formative influence on both Douglas Adams and Alan Moore, and includes multiple characters and plot points that were echoed in Hitchhikers and Watchmen.

 

 

Hitchhikers:

 


- all life on earth being manipulated for their own ends by aliens who never even visit us

- spaceships powered in bizarre and inexplicable ways (Universal Will To Become/Infinite Improbability Drive)

- a robot who has “lived” so long he has become depressed and suicidal

- apparently momentous messages/revelations turning out to be trivially mundane (Greetings/42)

- a megalomaniac who considers the universe to be their playground

 

- explanatory exposition provided by quotes from in-story reference books

 

Watchmen

- a man who has a cataclysmic accident, is destroyed as a human but lives on in a new form with the ability to see all of time, who consequently becomes detached from humanity, loses his partner to another main character, and at the end of the story leaves the solar system forever

- a megalomaniac who brings about world peace by convincing the world it’s under attack from outer space

(In Sirens it’s one character, Rumfoord, who is the prototype for Dr Manhattan, Ozymandias and Zaphod Beeblebrox.)

 

 

But that’s just an interesting aside, and perhaps not surprising that such a great book should prove so influential a few decades later. Now I see why Vonnegut is so well regarded. I look forward to reading more from him.

 

Previously:

 

 


1. The Long Walk - Richard Bachman (Stephen King)
2. The Martian Chronicles - Ray Bradbury 
3. Interview with the Vampire - Anne Rice  
4. Neurotribes - Steve Silberman
5. Star Wars: Thrawn Alliances - Timothy Zahn
6. The Dead Zone - Stephen King
7. The Dragon Queen - William Andrews
8. Firestarter - Stephen King
9. The Sirens of Titan - Kurt Vonnegut
 

 

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Yoinks!

 

It’s hard to know where to start with Vonnegut as it’s all so amazing, but my personal favourite is ‘Slapstick or Lonesome No More!’

 

It’s so deliciously light and bittersweet for a tale about the end of the world.

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So what should I read next from Vonnegut? I have Slaughterhouse Five on my wish list but are there any particular gems or is it all good?

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Previous

 

Spoiler

 

1. Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky

2. Sea of Thieves: Athena's Fortune by Chris Allcock

3. How To Be Right in a World Gone Wrong by James O'Brien

4. Old Too Soon, Smart Too Late by Kieron Dyer with Oliver Holt

5. Our Story by Ron and Reg Kray with Fred Dineage

6. Step By Step - The Life in My Journeys by Simon Reeve

7. How Not To Be A Boy by Robert Webb

8. Cheer Up Peter Reid by Peter Reid

9. The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski

10. Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View by various authors

 

 

11. Survivor – Auschwitz, The Death March and My Fight for Freedom by Sam Pivnik

 

A riveting - if at times very harrowing - account of a young Polish Jew's ordeal which started soon after the Nazi's invasion of Poland in 1939.  The author had to endure life in the ghetto, seeing friends and neighbours from his home town executed in the streets in broad daylight before his whole family was sent to Auschwitz.

 

One of those 'how on earth did they survive?!' type books which may lack the writing quality of Primo Levi's If This Is A Man but is just as hard hitting.

 

Picked this up for about £3 in The Works as I'm going to Krakow in a few weeks and will visit Auschwitz so I wanted to read some first hand accounts of the place.

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21 hours ago, Darren said:

So what should I read next from Vonnegut? I have Slaughterhouse Five on my wish list but are there any particular gems or is it all good?

 

Just go for what you like the look of. Iirc he rates Slapstick as his ‘worst’ novel and it’s my personal favourite, I often re-read it, so who knows. S5 is the most ‘recognised’ Vonnegut - and indeed it’s a wonder.

 

Make sure you have Galapagos on your list though!

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9. Flesh House by Stuart McBride

The fourth DS Logan Mcrae book, usual entertaining combination of gruesome and complex murder mystery and bawdy banter. It's one of those series where it feels good to be back in that area with those characters. This one took me longer partly due to suffering an eye strain at work that made reading painful for a couple of weeks, but this one sagged in the middle somewhere, although it did pick up towards the end. Other than that if you've read the first three you'll be invested in this, so try Cold Granite, the first book, if you like the sound of it.


 

Spoiler

 

1. The Panama Papers by Frederik Obermaier and Bastian Obermayer
2. Broken Skin by Stuart McBride
3. Can't Stand Up For Falling Down by Allan Jones

4. Masters Of War by Chris Ryan

5. The Speed Of Sound by Thomas Dolby

6. Divine Justice by David Baldacci

7. Them by Jon Ronson

8. Rip It Up And Start Again: Post-punk 1978-1984 by Simon Reynolds

9. Flesh House by Stuart McBride

 

 

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10. God Emperor of Dune - Frank Herbert

 

This is a strange one. I read it when I was about 13 but I can't remember what I thought of it. The thing that strikes me this time is how little actually happens in this story. It's mostly chapter after chapter of scenes with two or three characters declaiming aphorisms at one another. Having said that, what little story there is is a good one, and I read it in less than a week, so it obviously held my interest. But it's nowhere near as good as the brilliant original Dune.

 

Previously:

 

1. The Long Walk - Richard Bachman (Stephen King)
2. The Martian Chronicles - Ray Bradbury 
3. Interview with the Vampire - Anne Rice  
4. Neurotribes - Steve Silberman
5. Star Wars: Thrawn Alliances - Timothy Zahn
6. The Dead Zone - Stephen King
7. The Dragon Queen - William Andrews
8. Firestarter - Stephen King
9. The Sirens of Titan - Kurt Vonnegut
10. God Emperor of Dune - Frank Herbert

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24. The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read by Philippa Perry‎. My girlfriend and I read this after it was recommended by a friend. I wasn't especially attracted by the title, but it's actually not as preachy/patronising as I'd feared, and is quite effective in how it makes you think about parenting, how we communicate with our kids, and how they perceive our behaviour. I've already modified some of my approach and communication techniques based on this, and do feel like it's having a positive impact. Valuable, but not the most thrilling read of the year.

 

Previously:

 

Spoiler

1. The Body Library by Jeff Noon

2. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

3. Enlightenment Now

4. The book of Humans

5. Little Fires Everywhere

6. Everything Under

7. The Stand

8. Roadside Picnic

9. The Retreat of Western Liberalism

10. Things Fall Apart

11. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

12. Hello World

13. All the Pretty Horses

14. The Tatooist of Auschwitz

15. Normal People

16. The Undoing Project

17. The Fifteenth Life of Harry August

18. The Hobbit

19. Six Days of War

20. The Expert System's Brother

21. All the President's Men

22. Station Eleven

23. In Order to Live

 

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15. The Kraken Wakes by John Wyndham. Disappointed to say I didn't get on with this; which surprised me as I've always enjoyed Wyndham's works. Just thought the story meandered along and the writing, characters and the plot was very much of the '50's.   It's a fantastic companion piece to the sci-fi films of the era and for that it's worth a read. The central plot is great though but I didn't really click with the narrative. 

 

16. Submission by Michel Houellebecq. This stirred up a fair bit of controversy when it was released, imagining a France that elects a Muslim Party to office in the 2022 elections. By chance, it was released on the day the Charlie Hebdo offices were stormed, which exacerbated the debates it was already creating. When the book was released, it received a fair deal of criticism for being anti-Islamic and at times, there were sections that felt a bit close to the bone. Yet, he paints the main muslim character as hugely impressive. The main protagonist, a French lecturer was quite unlikeable though and deeply flawed. More than a novel that is proclaiming or dismissing Islam, I found it was a book that looked at the weakness of men. It's a bit self-indulgent in places but thought it worked fairly well as a satire whilst being  a bit uncomfortable at the generalisations that were evident in places. Definitely worth a read, although that's more down to the provocation it presents the reader with. 

Spoiler

 

1.The Life and Rhymes of Benjamin Zephaniah

2. Borne by Jeff VanderMeer.

3. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.

4.In your defence:Stories of Life and Law by Sarah Langford

5.My Thoughts Exactly by Lily Allen

6. Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky

7. 84k by Claire North

8. Chalk Man by C. J. Tudor

9. The Water Cure by Sarah MacIntosh

10. Journeyman by Ben Smith

11.Do you dream of Terra-Two by Temi Oh

12. The Wall by John Lanchester

13. Blood, Sweat and Pixels by Jason Schreier

14. Romesh autobiography

15. The Kraken Wakes by John Wyndham

16. Submission by Michel Houellebecq

 

 

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11. The Song of Achilles - Madeline Miller

 

This is one of those books that I wouldn't normally look at twice, but it was 99p on Kindle one day and it seemed worth a punt. It's a retelling of the story of Achilles, from the point of view of his friend, lover and soul mate Patroclus. As my prior knowledge of the classics is based on Jason and the Argonauts, Clash of the Titans and the cartoon version of Hercules, I had no real idea what this story involved, and I still don't know how faithful this adaptation is to the "original" or how much is the author's invention. But what I do know is it's a great story, beautifully told. If this is what they're like, I can see why they're called the classics.

 

 

 


1. The Long Walk - Richard Bachman (Stephen King)
2. The Martian Chronicles - Ray Bradbury 
3. Interview with the Vampire - Anne Rice  
4. Neurotribes - Steve Silberman
5. Star Wars: Thrawn Alliances - Timothy Zahn
6. The Dead Zone - Stephen King
7. The Dragon Queen - William Andrews
8. Firestarter - Stephen King
9. The Sirens of Titan - Kurt Vonnegut
10. God Emperor of Dune - Frank Herbert
11. The Song of Achilles - Madeline Miller
 

 

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6 hours ago, Darren said:

11. The Song of Achilles - Madeline Miller

 

This is one of those books that I wouldn't normally look at twice, but it was 99p on Kindle one day and it seemed worth a punt. It's a retelling of the story of Achilles, from the point of view of his friend, lover and soul mate Patroclus. As my prior knowledge of the classics is based on Jason and the Argonauts, Clash of the Titans and the cartoon version of Hercules, I had no real idea what this story involved, and I still don't know how faithful this adaptation is to the "original" or how much is the author's invention. But what I do know is it's a great story, beautifully told. If this is what they're like, I can see why they're called the classics.

 

  Reveal hidden contents

 


1. The Long Walk - Richard Bachman (Stephen King)
2. The Martian Chronicles - Ray Bradbury 
3. Interview with the Vampire - Anne Rice  
4. Neurotribes - Steve Silberman
5. Star Wars: Thrawn Alliances - Timothy Zahn
6. The Dead Zone - Stephen King
7. The Dragon Queen - William Andrews
8. Firestarter - Stephen King
9. The Sirens of Titan - Kurt Vonnegut
10. God Emperor of Dune - Frank Herbert
11. The Song of Achilles - Madeline Miller
 

 

 

I read this last year and loved it. Her next book, Circe, is just as great. 

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25. Senlin Ascends. Saw this recommended on here so gave it a punt. I have very little interest in most

fantasy (despite loving Tolkien), so the genre wasn't entirely appealing, but in truth this wasn't at all what I expected or feared. I loved the central concept of the tower, and Senlin is a great character who really grows believably through the book. It's not a short book yet I raced through it in a week, so I'll definitely pick up the others in the series.

 

Previously:

 

Spoiler

1. The Body Library by Jeff Noon

2. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

3. Enlightenment Now

4. The book of Humans

5. Little Fires Everywhere

6. Everything Under

7. The Stand

8. Roadside Picnic

9. The Retreat of Western Liberalism

10. Things Fall Apart

11. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

12. Hello World

13. All the Pretty Horses

14. The Tatooist of Auschwitz

15. Normal People

16. The Undoing Project

17. The Fifteenth Life of Harry August

18. The Hobbit

19. Six Days of War

20. The Expert System's Brother

21. All the President's Men

22. Station Eleven

23. In Order to Live

24. The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read

 

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