What are you reading?



  • Snow Crash. It's a good intro to his style, but isn't as dense (or tedious) as say The Baroque Cycle.
  • I'm finally reading A Dance with Dragons.
  • @maletero, that depends on how daunted you are by high page counts. :)

    Cryptonomicon is far and away my favorite, but unless you're a big fan of WWII and/or 90s Unix culture, it might not be the most accessible place to start, and it's definitely an investment.  For ease of entry, I'd probably go with either Snow Crash or The Diamond Age; choose based on whether you prefer cyberpunk or (neo-Victorian) steampunk.
  • Cryptonomicon is the only one of Neal Stephenson's books that I've enjoyed--specifically because I'm a big fan of both WWII and 90s Unix culture. I think I enjoyed learning about cryptography even more than I appreciated the story.
  • I recently read "Dead Until Dark," the first of the Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris. I've never seen the HBO show based on the series, and I didn't know much about it. At first, I couldn't figure out why the books were so popular. The mystery was pretty thin (and, to this avid mystery reader, transparent), and Sookie wasn't even responsible for solving it. She kind of drifted through the plot. Then I realized that although it is considered a mystery, the mystery isn't what the book is about. The most important storyline is Sookie's transition into adulthood, and in that plot, Sookie is a very strong, dynamic character who actively seeks to control her fate. Once I gained that perspective, the popularity of the books made sense. 
  • I've been reading (and re-reading) A Brief History of the Samurai by Jonathan Clements. If any of you have even a passing interest in history or samurai, I can recommend it whole-heartedly. It's a scholarly work that manages to be entertaining AND engaging.
  • edited January 2013
    I just finished Emperor Mollusk versus the Sinister Brain by A. Lee Martinez. It's quite a ridiculous book, full of every mad science cliché  imaginable. I recommend it if you are looking for a quick read that's fun and not meant to be taken seriously at all. I mean, evil overlord octupus and talking brains... how fantastic is that? :)

    I just picked up Phoenix Rising: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris. So far it's looking like a nice secret agent/steampunky adventure.
  • Just read John Byrne's Next Men volume 1 and a load of Captain America comics. I wouldn't ordinarily mention comics but I tend to get compilations rather than single issues so they are more book like. Also, just finished American Gods which was a really good read and am now starting on Game of Thrones finally! I am a little behind on my reading but have about a dozen books waiting!

  • Someone gave me the first deluxe edition of Y: The Last Man last year. Really good story and I've gotten the rest of the volumes from the library so I can finish reading it.
  • http://www.jonathancoulton.com/wiki/Book_Monkeys  I'll throw this out here too  :)  My general disclaimer is I used an auto metadata for the books so some didn't get labeled totally right, and I do not necessarily endorse any of the books I own.  Some are pure trash that I am embarrassed to own, and I blame my sister  :)

    I've read Y, the last man, it was definitely interesting. 

    @SaintPeteSam ; I also found the quality of the Sookie books went up with time.  Initially Harris was a romance writer and it showed.  As time went on, she discovered she could write more plot and the sex took a less prominent role in the stories.
  • @Colleenky I agree, I've re-read The Diamond Age and Snow Crash many times.  Just got out of the reading mood before I finished this time.

    @maletero Perosnally, I like Snow Crash and The Diamond Age more than anything else by Stephenson.  I think both are good to re-read on occasion.  I'd start there.  I like Cryptonomicon, but don't care to re-read.  Reamde is the same way - I enjoyed it, but don't see myself reading it again.  I forget which other books I read, none of them have stayed with me.

    Another option is The Mongoliad, which might give a different experience.  I've read the first, and have the next 2 pending.
  • Thanks, everybody, for the recommendations! I have a few books on the list before I get to Stephenson, but I think I'll start with Snow Crash.

    Right now I'm reading The Violinist's Thumb by Sam Kean. It's a really well-written book all about the weird world of DNA. I had no idea how much chemistry is going on in our cells on a regular basis. Amazing. It also provides an excuse for me to sing JoCo's That Spells DNA! I've heard Kean's other book, The Disappearing Spoon is a great read about the history of the periodic table, so that's on the list, now.

    There are way too many good books out there!
  • Oh, and @stationary, the last Wheel of Time book and Sanderson's 1280 page behemoth, The Way of Kings are next on my list, so it's not the page counts I'm scared of! 
  • Oh look, a draft I started writing a few months ago...

    I got behind on New Scientist magazines because I hadn't realised there was a new one and I spent a train trip writing postcards instead of reading, and I am still reading A Short History of Nearly Everything between issues of that. But a couple of days (uh… now a month or so) ago, I started wondering to myself whether Jonathan Allday had published his new book, Quantum Realities, yet (I sent him a fan letter about another book of his several years ago, and his response included a few chapters of the book he had in progress.) Then the very next day, while I was rearranging my bookcase for the JoCo Day video, I found that very book behind some of the others. It turns out I'd already wondered about it, and bought it, and I probably didn't start reading straight away because it's a big book to carry around on the bus and/or I was in the middle of a New Scientist (that damned magazine! It's had me hooked for more than a decade now!) So I'm really looking forward to reading that as soon as I finish A Short History of Nearly Everything. Maybe I'll read the two in parallel; A Short History of Nearly Everything on the bus (it's an e-book, so I always have it with me) and Quantum Realities at home.

    Also, a friend just gave me Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco, which she says made a book group she was in very wary of her suggestions. So that's up next. But apparently Douglas Hofstadter's releasing a new book this year, so that might get priority.

    I seem to have a lot more time free for listening than reading, and have somehow run low on podcasts (very weird for me, since I usually have at least 24 hours backlog; something must have stopped updating so my podcast queue doesn't refill as quickly as it empties) so I listened to Redshirts, but I still don't have many unlistened podcasts, so I'm looking for audiobook recommendations.
  • This may be a dumb question, but do you follow the Thrilling Adventure Hour podcast? I only came very late to that one fairly recently, and then went back and caught up with every episode available. I love that podcast so much, I feel so foolish for not checking it out sooner.

    Again, probably obvious but I really love Tompkins's Dead Authors podcast too.

  • Do I follow the Thrilling Adventure Hour podcast? I do now.
  • @Angelastic I read and loved Eco's Name of the Rose when I was pretty young, picked up Foucault's Pendulum shortly thereafter, and have since never been able to get through more than one chapter or so of the latter. And I don't usually give up on books. Maybe I should go look for my copy again, it's been years since I tried it.

    I got Short History of Nearly Everything as an e-book, devoured it pre-book-club kickoff, then wanted to go back and write up responses to things, but the e-book format made it really difficult (also I got busy/lazy). I've become aware that one of my friends has a paper copy, which I may try to borrow at some point, as if anyone still cares about my opinions :)

  • @mikesphar: I do now.

    @Bry: I've been highlighting things I want to respond to in my Short History of Nearly Everything e-book as I go along, so I can go back and write about them later. It actually seems easier than filling a paper book with bookmarks or something.
  • @Angelastic I'm a fast reader, so even when I intend to highlight as I go, I tend to read whole chapters before remembering I was going to highlight something. Then the slow refresh rate of my e-book reader makes it really frustrating to go back and try and find what I wanted to talk about.

    E-books also throw off my spatial memory -- when reading on dead trees, I can remember that there was something interesting in the lower right hand side of the page, about a third of the way in, but e-books continually repaginate, and it's hard to skip chunks very accurately.

    What I really want to be able to do when I read a book for discussion is read it once, then flip quickly through to find the passages I wanted to talk about.

    I have never tried reading e-books on the computer. Perhaps I should give that a shot.
  • Bry - which ebook reader have you tried?  I use a 1st gen nook, and then on my tablet/laptop/phone for convenience. 
  • The friend who gave me the Eco book said the same thing about spatial memory and e-books (and was able to quickly locate a particular passage in the dead tree book she gave me.) She finds this skill particularly important, as she's a traveller (she's been travelling for 11 months on her current trip) and when she's staying at someone's place she has a habit of reading one of their books quickly (to be sure to finish it before leaving) and then going back and reading specific passages more slowly if she has time.

    I guess I don't read books enough these days to miss that; the only thing that bothered me (in the Kindle reader for iPad, the first thing I read an e-book in since the Newton MessagePad) was not being able to skip forward to find how much further I had to go in a chapter without losing my place. So I quite like that the iBooks reader on iPad tells me how many pages I have till the next chapter. Also, I like that it's easy to search for the bits you want to go back to if you remember the keywords. Maybe I have a better keyword memory than spatial memory. All in all, for me the lack of comforting treecorpse is made up for by the fact that with just this one thin device in my bag I have no danger of running out of things to read (though in theory I could run out of battery), plus I have a few dozen dictionaries, which are my favourite books.

    Of course, some books can't be automatically paginated to the author's satisfaction, so naturally I'll get Hofstadter's book on paper.
  • @SapphireMind I've got a not-very-new Kindle (roughly two years old now, keyboard, no touchscreen or ads). I hear the refresh rates are faster these days.
  • I've enjoyed reading through this thread, I'm sort of nerd adjacent, although this is my 2nd JCCC. Mostly last year I read books during the cruise, I'm a book nerd I guess. I wrote down a few books mentioned here, But my 'Want to Read list is over 250 books right now.
    I don't read a lot of fiction normally. Last year I totaled 107 books, this year I've finished: Lucky (Alice Sebold), Far From the Tree (Andrew Solomon) The Most Dangerous Thing (Laura Lippman), Pet Food Politics (Marion Nestle), Telegraph Avenue (Michael Chabon), Help Thanks Wow (Anne Lamott), and The Twelve Tribes of Hattie (Ayana Mathis). Right now I'm working on Brief Interviews with Hideous Men (David Foster Wallace) and Riding the Bus with My Sister (Rachel Simon).
    I bought a bunch of Kindle books from the $1.99 sale they had after Christmas that I'll probably bring on the cruise, but I'll bring a couple throw-aways too, I like to leave books on vacation.

  • FWIW, I'm now just over halfway through listening to The Android's Dream by John Scalzi, read by Wil Wheaton. I enjoy Scalzi's work and Wil is a great reader; it's almost as if he has acting experience or something. ;) I think I have an eBook of Scalzi's from a Humble Bundle, so I'll put that somewhere on my 'to read' list; also, I must check out his non-fiction. I like non-fiction because it is about the world and the world is awesome!

    I've already listened to the other two audiobooks featuring those two, starting with Fuzzy Nation since P&S did the theme song for it. That one also included an audiobook of the original 'Little Fuzzy' by H. Beam Piper, who, if nominative determinism were a real thing, would surely be working as a vacuum tech for a particle accelerator.
  • Speaking of non-fiction, I forgot to include this one in my recommendation list:

    Charlatan: America's Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam

    Really fascinating and interesting look at a bizarre part of American history, which is actually not all that long ago when you think about it. It's especially fascinating to read about how many things we take for granted today about politicking and advertising and radio, and the rise of the AMA as a powerful force in medicine, and in some ways the legitimization of the medical profession itself, that the author argues can be traced back to this charlatan and the man who chased him.

    If you read only one book about a man who got rich implanting goat testicles into people, read this one. Or Wuthering Heights. (It's subtle, but it's there.)

  • @mikesphar ; I like the sound of the charlatan book, sounds right up my alley!  I'll have to check it out.
  • @mikesphar - What @SapphireMind said. I've added it to my reading list.

    I just finished Suspect, the latest novel from crime writer Robert Crais. This is new territory for Crais, primarily known for his hard-boiled novels about private detective Elvis Cole and his sidekick Joe Pike. Suspect features Maggie, a former Marine bomb-sniffing dog and LAPD Office Scott James. Both Maggie and Scott were shot and lost their partners; now they are teamed up as K9 officer trainees. The mystery centers around the search for the people who killed Scott's partner, but the heart of the book is how Maggie and Scott help each other recover from their physical and psychic injuries. It's a sweet read.

    Next up: The Revisionists by Thomas Mullen. In nonfiction: The Terror Factory - Inside the FBI's Manufactured War on Terrorism, by Trever Aaronson
  • I unexpectedly finished A Short History of Nearly Everything a couple of days ago (it turns out it's about 20% notes and references) so on my iPad I'm reading Old Man's War by John Scalzi, while still listening to The Android's Dream by the same author. I might start on Allday's Quantum Reality when I'm at home surrounded by dead trees.
  • I'm trying to finish up Dust of Dreams (book 9 of the Malazan Book of the Fallen), by Steven Erikson before JCCC3 so I can bring book 10 (the last one!) on the ship with me.  This one's been slow-going.  I devoured the first 8, but I've been working on 9 on & off for the past 3 years.  I'd still highly recommend the series to anyone who appreciates gritty fantasy novels.

    I also got a Kindle a couple days ago.  I really like that I can carry several extra books with me on a trip just in case I finish one too soon.  Now my overpacking habit won't weigh me down as much!
  • I finished gave up on after 100 pages The Revisionists. Really interesting concept: an agent of the future goes back in time to ensure that no one stops the global cataclysm that is responsible for creating his "Perfect Society" -- the deaths of millions are necessary to create his world. Unfortunately, the characters are veneer-thin and the prose is not particularly compelling. It's a shame because I really wanted to like the book, just for the concept.
  • I'm slowly digging through Kelly Link's Stranger Things Happen (part of the humble ebook bundle that includes Scalzi) but I keep getting distracted by podcasts and things. It's good, I just keep getting - hey, what's that? Ooh, shiny!
  • edited January 2013
    I'd picked up a copy of "Sporting Chance" by Elizabeth Moon at the last library book sale given that I've enjoyed some of her other Sci-Fi and am finally getting around to reading it.  What a fabulous read it has been- kind of a mystery theme with exceptional characters.
  • @Oboewan: Tell her: She's emoontx on Twitter. :)
  • I'm ever so slightly tempted by the "Left Behind" books this week.
  • All this talk of Stephonson and no one mentioned Anathem? I know JoCo did. It's got to be one of my all time favorite books.
    Hip deep into George RR Martin's A Clash of Kings. Hoping to get into A Storm of Swords before the next series starts.
  • Finally cleared out the queue, just having finished That Is All (the ending honestly caught me by surprise), The Violinist's Thumb, and Agent to the Stars. I'd recommend them all, in that order, with Agent to the Stars coming in a distant third. 

    Now I'm reading Hyperion and started to listen to Anathem on audiobook. I figure if I like the first part of the audiobook, I'll get a physical copy. Listening isn't the same as reading, for me. The first time I started listening to it, I was very confused. had heard Stephenson could be a little hard to really get into, but this was ridiculously non-linear. Then I realized I had it on shuffle. Now I need to start over.

    I also recently read a book called 5 Levels of Gifted, because we have a 5 yr old kid and we think he's smart (don't most parents??). He loves to listen to JoCo with me, so at the very least he has good taste! Favorite song - The Presidents.
  • @angelastic, you were a Newton person? 
  • @maletero -- Your experience with a shuffled audio book reminds me of when my ex wife wanted to watch "Dr. Zhivago" and the tapes were mis-labelled. We put in "part one" but were watching part two, and couldn't for the life of us figure out what was going on. It wasn't until the credits rolled that we finally realized why we'd been so confused; we'd missed all the set up in part one.
  • @chetman: Yeah, back in 1998 I picked up a secondhand MessagePad 110 fairly cheaply, and used it to take notes at university and everywhere else. I loved reading from it on long trips; it felt like the future. People thought it was some fancy futuristic thing, though it was an old model in a product line that had already been abandoned by then. Over the next few years I got a 130 and an eMate, continuing to impress my classmates (the eMate was great for maths classes; I could type the English and write the maths.) My brother in law somehow had the use of his colleague's 2100 for a while; that was faster than my Mac at the time, and could run a web server. I was always a little sad that my Newtons didn't have enough memory to have dictionaries on them (I love having a dictionary handy), but now I have an iPhone IIIgs (called Newton MessagePod; the Newtons were iZac, iiZac and ProZac, FWIW) with a few dozen dictionaries of various languages, so I consider the Newton replaced. :) Back on topic (for this forum, not this thread) I found an old box at my mum's place (no idea how it got there), and my main motivation for buying an iPad was so I could make this 23-second Apple tablet unboxing video set to a Jonathan Coulton song:

    Back on topic (for the off-topic part of this thread): @maletero and @SaintPeteSam: I bought a DVD of Planet of the Apes (which I've never watched before, though I've heard how it ends) a while ago, and when I eventually watched it I was surprised to see the [SPOILER ALERT] Statue of Liberty in the very first scene. I discovered it was a mislabeled copy of the sequel.

    Back on topic (for the actual topic of this thread): I finished The Android's Dream, did not start Quantum Reality, and am currently catching up on the New Scientists I didn't read during the cruise. I must figure out if it's still possible to suspend delivery now that I've switched to the electronic version.
  • I finally finished A Dance with Dragons and am now reading Quiet.
  • will finish Storm of Swords today or tomorrow. I have a Brother Cadfael waiting for me (One Corpse Too Many) but will probably just go onto A Feast for Crows.
  • I am into A Clash of Kings, also trying to get through the story before the people I know who are watching the HBO show spoil it for me! I have finally picked up a copy of Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. Third one of Cory Doctorow's that I will have read. Not to be too far from a text book of course I have a Beekeeping book on the go as well. For me three books is some kind of record and I am managing to keep up with what is happening in them too.
  • Down and Out is one of the first Doctorow books I read, and one of my favorites.

    I just finished Kelly Link's Stranger Things Happen (short stories) and have finally started reading Old Man's War, which I am enjoying a great deal. Oh, and about halfway through David Rees' How to Sharpen Pencils. It'll go next to my Henry Petroski books when I'm done.

  • I just got my copy of David Weber's lasted Honor Harrington novel Shadow of Freedom but it arrived in the middle of my annual Steven Brust Dragaerathon......
  • Tell me how you like the Honor Harrington book I only read the first 4 or 5 it seemed to go down hill for me after that.
  • I have not read Honor Harrington, but Patrick gave me a play-by-play of how one he was listening to on audiobook was pissing him off not that long ago.
  • @robgonzo they pick up again for sure- I really enjoyed Honor Among Enemies and In Enemy Hands (6&7)not sure how soon I can get to the new one though (#14?) as I still have Phoenix Guards, 500 Years After and the 3 Khaavren Romances to get through

    @villicious I'd be curious to know which book it was and what pissed him off about it

  • I don't think Down and Out is one of his best written of the three I have read but I really liked the story. For an opening salvo I think Doctorow did very well. I've now finished Clash of Kings and have moved on to Toll of The Hounds by Steven Erikson, part of the Malazan Book of the Fallen. That is a big series of books but they are a finished cycle so I am happy. I have Storm of Swords waiting after that as I want to catch up with at least the TV series so my friends who watch it don't spoil anything for me. Then I have the remainder of the Malazan books to read so that should keep me going a while. I have also moved back into text book territory sadly as I try to teach myself html and CSS and maybe PHP as well. 

    I am definitely enjoying reading again though.
  • @St_Trousers -

    I was a little underwhelmed with Toll The Hounds, and Dust of Dreams took a LONG time to get moving, but I'm really looking forward to starting The Crippled God. You might like Joe Abercrombie's books too. I'm reading Best Served Cold now. Dark fantasy revenge novel.

    One of these days I'll get around to reading A Feast For Crows. I was kinda waiting until the entire series is finished, but I guess I'll need to read it before season 4 of the HBO series next year.
  • Crippled God was one of my favorites in the Malazan Books of the Fallen- finally finished the series out before 2013 ;-)
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