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For those who are new ... we discuss books.  I list what I'm reading, and people comment with what they're reading.  Sometimes, on Sundays, I post a special edition on a particular genre or topic.

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I've written some book reviews on Yahoo Voices:
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Readers and Book lovers schedule

Readers & Book Lovers Series Schedule

DAY TIME (EST/EDT) Series Name Editor(s)
SUN 6:00 PM Young Reader's Pavilion The Book Bear
Sun 2:00 PM What's on Your E-Reader? Caedy
Sun 9:30 PM SciFi/Fantasy Book Club quarkstomper
Bi-Monthly Sun Midnight Reading Ramblings don mikulecky
alternate Mondays
2:00 PM Political Books Susan from 29
Mon 8:00 PM Monday Murder Mystery michelewln, Susan from 29
Mon 11:00 PM My Favorite Books/Authors edrie, MichiganChet
TUES 5:00 PM Indigo Kalliope: Poems from the Left bigjacbigjacbigjac
alternate Tuesdays 8:00 AM LGBT Literature Texdude50, Dave in Northridge
alternate Tuesdays 8:00 AM All Things Bookstore Dave in Northridge
Tue 8:00 PM Contemporary Fiction Views bookgirl
WED 7:30 AM WAYR? plf515
Wed 2:00 PM e-books Susan from 29
Wed 8:00 PM Bookflurries Bookchat cfk
THU 8:00 PM Write On! SensibleShoes
Thu (first each month) 11:00 AM Monthly Bookpost AdmiralNaismith
alternate Thursdays 11:00 PM Audiobooks Club SoCaliana
FRI 8:00 AM Books That Changed My Life Diana in NoVa
Fri 8:00 PM Books Go Boom! Brecht; first one each month by ArkDem14
Fri 10:00 PM Slightly Foxed -- but Still Desirable shortfinals
SAT (fourth each month) 11:00 AM Windy City Bookworm Chitown Kev
Sat 12:00 PM You Can't Read That! Paul's Book Reviews pwoodford
Sat 9:00 PM Books So Bad They're Good Ellid

Just finished

Now reading

On politics: A history of political thought from Herodotus to the present by Alan Ryan. What the subtitle says - a history of political thought.  But he should add the adjective "Western" or something as he doesn't discuss other traditions or writings.

Leibniz: An intellectual biography by Maria Rosa Antognazza.  Leibniz was co-inventor of calculus (with Isaac Newton) but he also made contributions to law, philosophy, physics, economics, chemistry, geology, medicine, linguistics, history and more. This book is good, but fairly dense.

The Conquest of Happiness by Bertrand Russell.  The philosopher writes about why he thinks a lot of people are unhappy when it is not justified by their external circumstances. Written in 1930, this is partly interesting as a time capsule and partly as advice (quite a bit of which remains valid, 80 years later).

I play bridge and I decided to start listing bridge books I am reading

Bidding, probability and information by Robert MacKinnon. Appeals to both the bridge player and the statistician in me. Not very well written, unfortunately, and aimed at better bridge players than me, but still interesting.

Card Play Technique by Victor Mollo and Nico Gardner. One of the classics of bridge literature. Subtitled "The art of being lucky". Very well written, intended for that huge class of bridge players called "intermediate".

Stone Spring by Stephen Baxter. Prehistory with an SF feel. First of the Northlands trilogy. This takes place when "civilization" is just getting started in the West; Jericho is a new town. This isn't anything profound, but it's fun. I needed something light to leaven things up.

Stiff by Mary Roach. A re-read for me, with the History group on Goodreads. This is about what happens to us after we die. It ain't pretty.

Turing and Burroughs by Rudy Rucker.  This is a deeply weird book. Not in a bad way at all, but .... odd. It starts off with the (possibly true) attempt of someone in the British government to kill Alan Turing with cyanide laced tea. But Turing's lover drinks first and dies. Then Turing uses biological tools he has been working on to switch faces with his friend. Then the tools get loose, Turing escapes to Morocco where he meets (and melds with) William Burroughs.... This is strange stuff but fascinating. Rucker captures Turing quite well in my view (I have read a lot about Turing).

American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House by Jon Meachem. A well-researched and well-written account of Jackson, concentrating on his White House years. Meachem has a dual view of Jackson: Positive on most things, very negative on dealing with Indians and Blacks. This book won Pulitzer Prize

Steel Beach by John Varley. A re-read for me. Part of Varley's loosely knit future history in which humankind has been exterminated on Earth but is thriving elsewhere in the solar system. Varley is an excellent writer, one of my favorites. For more about him see this article I wrote on Yahoo!

Just started
21st Century Science Fiction ed. by David Hartwell and Patrick Nielsen Hayden. A collection of shorter length SF from the first decade of the 21st century.

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Comment Preferences

  •  These (7+ / 0-)


    Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

    and in Asimov's Science Fiction: Lockstep by Karl Schroder. Both of these are space opera that has no FTL. Read 'em both. They're great. Lockstep's a serial.

    Dawkins is to atheism as Rand is to personal responsibility (not an original but rather apt)

    by terrypinder on Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 04:45:16 AM PST

  •  A fascinating book on American regional history (9+ / 0-)

    American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America, by Colin Woodard.  

    He has some amazing insights into how much continuity there has been in some of these "nations" from Colonial times to the present.  For example, what he calls "New Netherlands (the greater NYC) area has always been highly multi-ethnic (including having both Jewish and Muslim residents back to when it was a Dutch colony), socially tolerant, and commerce-oriented. He also points out that some of the differences between what he calls "Tidewater" (most of Virginia and parts of Maryland and North Carolina) and the Deep South arise from the fact that the "Tidewater" area wasn't originally a slave society and always had some ambivalence about slavery, while the "Deep South" spread from Charleston, SC, which was founded by British planters from Barbados and was a slave society from its very beginnings.  I'll probably finish it today, and it's been a fascinating read.

    Bin Laden is dead. GM and Chrysler are alive.

    by leevank on Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 04:53:45 AM PST

  •  Ready for this? "The American Georgics: (8+ / 0-)

    Writings on Farming, Culture, and the Land"

    Drawing inspiration from Virgil's agrarian epic poem, "Georgics", this collection presents a complex historical portrait of the American character through its relationship to the land.
    From Jefferson vs. Hamilton on, at the heart of the book lies the conviction that agrarianism is good for America, balancing out urban industrializing market-oriented tendencies.  This excerpt is from "I'll Take a Stand: The South and the Agrarian Tradition" (often denounced as a nostalgic, reactionary defense of the confederate South):
    "It is an inevitable consequence of industrial progress that production greatly outruns the rate of natural consumption. To overcome the disparity, the producers, disguised as the pure idealists of progress, must coerce and wheedle the public into being loyal and steady consumers, in order to keep the machines running. So the rise of modern advertising - along with its twin, personal salesmanship - is the most significant development of our industrialism. Advertising means to persuade the consumers to want exactly what the applied sciences are able to furnish them. It consults the happiness of the consumer no more than it consulted the the happiness of the laborer"
    Can't argue with that.

    Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree. -Martin Luther

    by the fan man on Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 05:01:33 AM PST

  •  Recently finished... (5+ / 0-)

    Simon Winchester's The Men Who United the States. Overall, pretty good.  There were some dry spots here and there.  I've come to the conclusion, however, that I prefer to listen to audiobook versions of his stuff since he always does his own readings.  He's got a great voice for it.

    Started the audiobook version of Joe Hill's Horns earlier this week. Hill is the son of Stephen King and he also writes horror type stuff.  This one's pretty good so far.  The main character wakes up one morning to find he's grown a pair of horns (as in a devil), and this results in people telling him their deepest darkest secrets. As for himself, he's under suspicion of raping and killing his long-time girlfriend.  He's innocent, of course, but he's faced with nothing but hatred and suspicion even by his own family.

  •  What I'm reading... (7+ / 0-)

    Already finished:
    A Brewing Storm by Richard Castle
    William Shakespeare's Star Wars by Ian Doescher
    The Cat Who Sniffed Glue by Lillian Jackson Braun

    Currently reading: Imager's Battallion by L.E.Modesitt, Jr.
    The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe

    Antiago Fire by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
    Show me how to plan my quilting : design before you piece, a fun, no-mark approach by Sandbach, Kathy
    The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan
    The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

    The End of your Life Book Club is something I picked up on a whim, it's not my normal type of book. It's a bit dry in places, and I'm skimming parts of it, but I'm about 75% done. It caught my eye listed as the book the library book club was doing this month. It's about a son's journey through his mother's cancer treatment and end of life, they read books and discuss them during the appointments. It's not a light read, but isn't as dark as one would think, more a celebration of her life than anything else.

    "Madness! Total and complete madness! This never would've happened if the humans hadn't started fighting one another!" Londo Mollari

    by FloridaSNMOM on Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 05:23:25 AM PST

  •  Nixon and Kissinger by Robert Dallek (4+ / 0-)

    NY Times review here.. I'm not sure why I'm reading this, as I know more than enough about the paranoid Nixon and the execrable Kissinger---two power-mad blights on history. Dallek is author of An Unfinished Life: John F.Kennedy, which I read and remember liking, though it may be because the subject matter was so much more appealing.

    Dallek's writing style in this book leaves much to be desired, and while obviously well-documented, the text (and notes) leave out details (like people's names) that make the reading dry. He also has an annoying tendency to alternate references to Kissinger by referring to him as "Henry," while never referring to Nixon as "Dick." I think that may betray his own attitude toward the two.

    His account of the episode in the fall of 1973 during the Yom Kippur war, when Nixon was often too drunk to carry out his duties and ceded complete authority to Kissinger---who then took  the U.S. to Defcon4, the highest stage of military alert before war with the Soviets---is a chapter everyone should read.


    Resist much, obey little. ~~Edward Abbey, via Walt Whitman

    by willyr on Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 06:00:09 AM PST

  •  'The Circle' by Dave Eggers (5+ / 0-)

    Almost done with 'The Circle' by Dave Eggers.  This is, I guess, his rewrite of Orwell's 1984, so much so that if the last line doesn't turn out to be 'She loved Big Brother', I know I'm going to be disappointed somehow.

    But what Orwell does in 300 pages Eggers tries hard to cram into 500 pages.  The pacing is all over the place.  The mysteries are all sort of easily seen through.  It seems to start off as one kind of book and then evolves into this goofy apocalyptic fairy tale.  It is not exactly bad.  At times it is really interesting and there are some supremely funny bits.  But it feels like it needs another two rewrites or something to get it to a more appropriate length, and a little more confidence from the author that the reader gets the metaphor and doesn't need as much help as he's giving.

  •  Finished Diaries of a Dwarven Rifleman (6+ / 0-)

    by Michael and Linda Pearce.  Fantasy set in your basic world with dwarves, goblins, trolls, elves and humans.  Readable enough and breaks the mold a bit in that not all goblins are bad guys, not all dwarves are good guys and the female characters are more than just window dressing.  (The trolls and elves barely show up, but presumably this is intended as the first in a series.)  But on the whole, it's pretty routine.

    Inspired by Inside Llewyn Davis (maybe the Coens' best yet), I am almost halfway through The Mayor of MacDougal Street, Dave van Ronk's posthumous memoir, from which the movie is (very) loosely drawn.  A breezy, funny and well-written recollection of a time in the Village that I was just a few years too young to have experienced first-hand, but has always held a romance for me.

  •  hi (5+ / 0-)

    I have finished reading:

    The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

    Verdict of Twelve by Raymond Postgate

    I am reading:

    Pandora’s Star by Peter F. Hamilton (pg. 38 of 988)

    The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill by Mark Bittner (pg. 80 of 288)

    Join us at Bookflurries-Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

    by cfk on Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 08:25:42 AM PST

  •  What a good mankind we have become (5+ / 0-)

    I am presently reading The Better Angels of Our Nature:  Why Violence Has Declined, by Steven Pinker.  In this work, Pinker argues that when it comes to violence, we are better than we have ever been:  in the twenty-first century, mankind has reached the lowest level of violence ever.  For those who like to wring their hands about how violent we are today, this book will be most unwelcome, and probably ignored.

    What is interesting is that Pinker argued in a previous work, The Blank Slate, that much in man’s mental and moral nature is innate.  Usually, those who advocate the blank-slate theory of psychology are the ones who think that man can be improved by education, whereas the ones who emphasize instinct and innate ideas tend to regard man as hardwired, and thus resistant to improvement. Therefore, it is ironic that someone like Pinker would argue that man’s violent nature has been radically modified through the influence of civilization.

    •  Interesting point (3+ / 0-)

      However, I think Pinker's views are consistent.

      Few people (certainly not Pinker) is going to argue that every aspect of our lives is written in our genes. (The only people I can think of who would argue this are those who believe there is no free will).

      Both biological and cultural evolution show that, given even small variation, huge changes can ensue.  There could be changes in degree of sexual selection, for example, that lead to large changes in "average" level of "tendency to violence".

      Further, one reason Pinker gives for the decline of violence is the increasing trust in the rule of law. So, suppose people are hardwired with something like:

      If I can get help from the authorities, I will. If not, I will take matters into my own hands
      Then a change in how we are governed results in large changes in how we behave.
  •  Chapter 23 (3+ / 0-)

    CHAPTER 23 : How the CIA Sent Nelson Mandela to Prison for 28 Years

    Obama said the U.S. has fallen behind other advanced countries in income mobility. The idea that a child might never be able to climb out of poverty “should offend all of us,” Obama said. “We are a better country than this.”

    by anyname on Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 08:29:24 AM PST

  •  The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (10+ / 0-)


    And it's a riot.

    Yes, I see the "deeper" messages in the book.

    For example, Adams' take on contemporary literary criticism through Dent's and Ford prefect's analysis of the Vogol poem is hilarious and devastating.

    But...I'm really just sitting back and enjoying it.

  •  Micro-Climate The Biological Environment (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FloridaSNMOM, plf515

    by Norman Rosenberg (1974)

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013

    by annieli on Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 09:26:38 AM PST

  •  Mornin' all ! (5+ / 0-)

    I finished yesterday City of Night by John Rechy.  I mentioned this book last week when I had just started it.  You may have seen within the last week over at a big write up on Rechy and the republication of this 1963 novel of his.  After having read the whole thing, the first 100 pages were quite good.  The novel is divided into 4 parts and is most likely based on Rechy's own life.  The first part is the unnamed narrator's childhood in El Paso, the subsequent parts cover his journey as a male hustler in NYC, LA and, finally, New Orleans.  

    The book must have been groundbreaking for its time and Rechy offers a riveting portrayal of the gay scene and gay life, he writes beautifully and has a well-developed and unique style and voice, there is much to admire and I do recommend it, I just have to say, sadly, however, that, after being blown away by the first part, there was a sort of let down especially after or midway through the second section.  

    The freshness of Rechy's style starts to wane a bit as it becomes clear as to what he is doing; telling a sort of gay street life story with an interesting cast of characters and what not, first in New York, then it's off to Los Angeles, etc.  Then on the last page we come full circle.  

    Still, I applaud Rechy and his work; he is a great storyteller and literary groundbreaker in many ways--gay/Latino themes and his stylistic innovations; he shows a certain amount of fearlessness and took risks not only in the subject matter but in his craft and the way he bends the language and the rules to fit what he has to say.

    The Democrats care about you after you're born. --Ed Schultz

    by micsimov on Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 09:43:58 AM PST

  •  Dan Brown; Historical Linguistics (6+ / 0-)

    Just finished Dan Brown's 'Inferno', latest novel. He writes in such a pot boiling, Deus ex Machina style it drives me to distraction, but I stuck the book out because of the them. He seriously was going after the Malthusian prediction that we as a species are going to overpopulate and self-destruct. And what would happen if a brilliant scientist decided the only way to save the human race was to destroy half of it through releasing a plague.

    For the ideas, and the never ending tour guide to Florence, Italy, and then Venice, the book is worth reading. Just don't burn your neurons on the pot boiling style.

    On the meatier side, I am ending each day before I turn out the light reading a few pages of "Trask's Historical Linguistics" by Robert McColl Millar.

    This introduction to historical linguistics is written in a style accessible to an literate reader, it does not bog down in theory or jargon. He introduces key terminology, but everything is illustrated with wonderful examples of how of words and how their meaning and pronunciation changes over time in a language; how languages exchange words through borrowing. The section on Japanese words imported and pronunciation changed to fit Japanese sound system is a delight. I highly recommend it.

    My wife has read Ace Atkin's Spenser novels. After the death of Robert B. Parker, Atkin's received rights from the estate to continue the series. My wife tells me they are as good as the early Spenser, which is good, because Parker's Spenser was getting stale and repetitive before in the last few books before his death.

    "You've got to be very careful if you don't know where you are going, because you might not get there." “When you come to the fork in the road, take it.” --Yogi Berra

    by HeartlandLiberal on Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 10:01:59 AM PST

  •  Tana French (6+ / 0-)

    writes police procedurals about the Irish Guardia and modern Ireland.

    Great views of the underbelly of the Celtic Tiger from the folks in the Bogside neighborhoods.

    In the Woods

    Broken Harbor

    Faithful Place

    and others.

    don't always believe what you think

    by claude on Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 10:29:46 AM PST

  •  I just re-read Amy Tan's novel about Burma, (4+ / 0-)

    "Saving Fish From Drowning."  It was a good read b/4 our recent trip and is a good read afterward.

    Book club on deadline:  "The Calligrapher's Daughter,". Historical fiction by Eugenia Kim, who was born in the U.S. of Korean immigrant parents.

  •  Nasty Reading (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I picked up a collection of G.K. Chesterton essays from the library the other week.  I enjoy reading him, but I kind of have to space him out; reading too much of him at once   can get tiresome.  The title of the volume is The Spice of Life and is taken from the title of one of the collected essays.  The funny thing is, that essay was written by request as part of a series on the general theme of "The Spice of Life", so the title was not one of his choosing and in fact he spends much of the essay arguing that it is entirely possible for Life to have too much Spice.

    And on the theme of Great 20th Century British Writers Who Were Also Christian Apologists, I also picked up a copy of the play Shadowlands by William Nicholson, which tells the story of the relationship between C.S. Lewis and Joy Gresham and how, as he falls in love with her and then has to face her immanent death from cancer, he finds his own ideas about suffering and God challenged.

    At the moment I'm slowing working through Thomas Nast: The Father of the Modern Political Cartoon by  Fiona Deans Halloran.  It's an interesting read and I might be writing more about it this week.

    Read my webcomic, "Hannibal Tesla Adventure Magazine" at

    by quarkstomper on Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 01:09:37 PM PST

  •  Just finished "The Riddle of the Labyrinth" (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    about cracking the code of the ancient language Linear B. I think I first read about the book somewhere in DK.

    Put it down and immediately picked up "Who Murdered Chaucer" by Monty Python's Terry Jones and others. That was recommended by DK's 714day, who is friends with Jones.

    TBR: Anna Trollope's modern day version of "Sense and Sensibility". There is, of course, no copyright on the title and she uses it again.

    Thanks for the recs way up thread, terrypinder. They are on my list.

  •  I'm reading the newest Daisy Dalrymple. (0+ / 0-)

    I'm also still working my way through the Septimus Heap books.  I'm in the middle of Syren and have Darke and Fyre to finish - all before the 19th, since that's when the loan on Fyre expires.  This will be no problem, I read all of them when they were new and I read quickly.  I believe I've said already that they are more complex and just as much fun as I remembered.

    Strength and dignity are her clothing, she rejoices at the days to come; She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the law of kindness is on her tongue.

    by loggersbrat on Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 02:58:18 PM PST

  •  guilty, guilty, guilty!!! most of the way through (0+ / 0-)

    The Last Centurions by Ringo. AGAIN! what you call it? "riveting dreck" ?!?!?! sigh, you think you've finally outgrown the "bad-boy" attraction...

    "real" work : a job where you wash your hands BEFORE you use the bathroom...

    by chimene on Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 03:30:16 PM PST

  •  Mrs. Dalloway (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    After various coughs and sputters, the thing finally took hold of me on my fourth attempt and I am now convinced Woolf is a sort of mad genius.  I am completely hypnotized and will not discuss the thing further until it is through with me.

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