What are you reading?

Discussion in 'Other Topics' started by keithburgun, Jun 10, 2015.

  1. Laukku

    Laukku Well-Known Member

    Crime & Punishment is actually what I'm reading currently. It's been better than Karamazov so far (Raskolnikov is more interesting than anyone in that book), but I'm almost halfway through already and the "punishment" part still hasn't happened yet. Also I've been very busy with IRL projects so that's also slowing me down.
  2. richy

    richy Well-Known Member

    Check out the lead story in this month's ClarkesWorld- "Two Ways of Living" by Robert Reed. It's about a 15 minute read, really worth the time.

    Great punchline too - kind of reminded me of us all this week scratching our heads over what the value of games might be :)
    Kadir likes this.
  3. keithburgun

    keithburgun Administrator, Lead Designer Staff Member

    Been reading my ass off but mostly pretty dense history books. Here are some:

    America's Longest War (about Vietnam)
    Rise to Globalism (about the cold war mostly)
    Thirteen Days (A book by RFK about the Cuban Missile Crisis)
    Four Hours In My Lai (about Vietnam and total horrible things US soldiers did)
    Hillbilly Elegy (JD Vance is some guy who will run for Republican office in like 2024 and he's just a typical Republican in every way basically but this is him trying to market himself early)
    Takeover (About George W. Bush's signing statements and other similar executive branch power grab moves - the "Unitary Executive" theory)
  4. Eji1700

    Eji1700 Well-Known Member

    More fiction (i find I prefer videos/audio for my non fiction, especially history as there's always so much I need to look up anyways):

    The black company saga and now Garret PI by the same author.

    Black company was pretty impressive, if varied. I liked the much quicker pace of the earlier books, but the eventual scope and plan is interesting, and dear god was there a lot to read (a problem I seldom have). I hear there might eventually be more, but it did feel like something the likes of which I've never really read before. I'd tried malazan and felt that reeked too much of a dnd campaign (with literally everyone being epic and amazing and untouchable and blah and blah. No one felt real).

    This felt a lot more real, especially since for a good majority of the books your protagonists are NOT good guys in the slightest and aren't hand waved at all. Or rather they are, but obviously ineffectually as it's the narrator justifying his or her (depending on the book) actions (or actions of companions/others), but this makes sense as it's what they'd do, and not ever really endorsed.

    There does feel like a lot of Mary Sue stuff, but overall the book feels like history as much as fantasy fiction in many ways (although sometimes it feels like it swings from happy ending to filling a despair quota).

    Garret is....eh not really good. I read dresdon because it's gotten better over time. I skipped a TON of the campy and downright bleh shit in the early books because it was just bad, but the world building kept me around. Garret feels like the reverse in some ways. Its still got awful campy shit (and probably downright offensive stuff in many ways....depending on if you think its sexist or just fanservice I suppose), but in a weird way I feel the world building is worse while the campy is handled a bit better. None of the characters are great, but they're consistent enough to be "fun". Feels almost like old saturday morning cartoons. Not great but it helps occupy my time and gives me something to read while I pass out (there being a zillion of them helps).

    Oh i also read some of the Sanderson shorts. Snapshot and Perfect State

    Perfect state is eh, but what I like about Sanderson even having read a lot of his works, I'm still 100% willing to believe this one is him just phoning it in on a totally stupid cliche. Story is eh but the climax might be one of my favorites.

    Snapshot is good, but nothing special. Its a neat idea and very well executed. I won't forget it but I can't really think of more to say on it either. It did feel decently unique, and again he pulled his trick well.
  5. GSGBen

    GSGBen Active Member

    "How i escaped my certain fate" by Stewart Lee. In it, he deconstructs and explains his own comedy routines, while detailing his middling success and failures in the alternative comedy scene. Really good. Stewart Lee is probably worth a post of his own in the comedy thread at some point too. His lack of mainstream full-on success has allowed him to go in some good directions.
    BrickRoadDX likes this.
  6. Erenan

    Erenan Well-Known Member

    I'm reading The Richest Man in Babylon because Jason Stapleton recommended it. It's pretty good so far. I feel like I could be just as greedy as the greediest capitalists.
  7. Rellarella

    Rellarella Active Member

    Just finished up Economism: Bad Economics and the Rise of Inequality, pretty great. It's about how a little bit of knowledge is more dangerous than ignorance, specifically regarding economics and the current political climate. Lessons learned in Econ101 regarding supply & demand, comparative advantage, etc are influencing the worldviews of both politicians and their constituents despite both data and higher level economic concepts proving that basic economics can't be applied to many problems such as taxes or health care because they're based on models that don't reflect reality or the minutia of each issue. Was released this year as well so all the information is quite current! Highly recommended if you're curious as to how we came to the modern political climate regarding inequity and the poor.
    BrickRoadDX likes this.
  8. Erenan

    Erenan Well-Known Member

    About to read some short Thomas Sowell: "Trickle Down Theory" and "Tax Cuts for the Rich"


    EDIT: In case anyone is wondering what it is about, Sowell argues that Trickle Down Theory is not a real theory and not the argument anyone actually makes in support for tax cuts for the rich. Instead, Sowell claims, they argue that lowering tax rates on the highest income brackets incentivizes high income earners to bring their money back to the US where it can be subject to domestic taxation instead of squirreling it away in foreign investments where it's safe from taxes. The expected result is that more of the income is taxable, thus increasing overall tax revenues. Sowell claims that this effect is empirically well supported and has been a strategy used successfully by both Democrats (mostly just JFK, IIRC) and Republicans (Andrew Mellon, Reagan, GWB) over the last century. Sowell claims that he asks people to point to an advocate of tax cuts for the rich explicitly appealing to a Trickle Down Theory, and invariably people produce a variety of opponents of such tax cuts attributing the theory to conservatives, but never a single example of a conservative explicitly endorsing such a theory. I kinda feel like there must have been someone who did, but a cursory search reveals nothing and I don't really feel like spending more time on it.

    The paper is short and available on Kindle for $2.
    Last edited: May 16, 2017
    keithburgun likes this.
  9. Laukku

    Laukku Well-Known Member

    Whoohoo! It took more than half a year and 74 reading hours, but I finally managed to finish the first half of Umineko! It feels fanfictiony at times, especially during the magic fight scenes, but I'd definitely recommend it over most other VNs. The author tries to tackle family issues such as child neglection but to me it comes off as excessively melodramatic compared to the family slice-of-life in Anna Karenina. It also sometimes spends waaay too much time on the magic stuff, which IMO works against its premise - the audience is supposed to doubt whether magic exists or not. Due to its length and being a deconstruction of the mystery genre, I have made these huge excel sheets where I've written anything that might be a clue and other noteworthy stuff. Not going to post a score before finishing the second half too, and I don't know when it'll be available.

    Crime & Punishment I also recently finished. Compared to stories such as Breaking Bad or Death Note, in which the premise is pretty much "main character slowly becomes increasingly EEEVILL morally ambiguous", it's more profound: it's about being a character study and trying to understand the thought process and emotions of a criminal and his relationship to his environment. The ending was a little anticlimactic; I was expecting an intense interrogation scene akin to 1984, and there wasn't really even anything on the level of the courtroom scene in The Brothers Karamazov either. But overall the reading experience was much better than The Brothers Karamazov, which was long, dull and dry in comparison. And one thing I really appreciate about Dostoyevsky's writing style is the voices he gives to his characters - they ramble, they swear, they mumble... It renders his characters very vivid, at least on a superficial level - much better than whatever the monotonous mess of Jane Austen is supposed to be. 9.5/10

    Now I'm going through Dune (which so far has strongly felt like an inferior version of the original Star Wars trilogy to me) and after that I'm planning to finally read War and Peace. Sinuhe the Egyptian is the best novel I've ever read so far but Tolstoy's more famous novel might be even better.
  10. keithburgun

    keithburgun Administrator, Lead Designer Staff Member

    Next on my list is The Things They Carried, which I actually have never read before for some weird reason.
  11. Laukku

    Laukku Well-Known Member

    I've been slowly reading War and Peace for the last half year or so, and am well over halfway through.

    I's been a surprisingly easy read – I'd even go as far as to say that the reading level is kinda low (contrast with e.g. The Great Gatsby which is filled subtle symbolism). I don't mean that the novel would lack depth, it's just presented in a very accessible manner.

    The large cast of characters does complicate things, though. There's a ”quantity over quality” approach taken to characterisation, with screen time spread somewhat thinly over multiple personas. The closest thing to a main character is Pierre, who so far is the best developed character with some well-chosen attributes to define him. He fits the adorkable archetype (possibly as a shortcut to make him easily likable?), is well-meaning but his morality is limited by human shortcomings, and has a memorable appearance (fat and wears glasses). The rest of the cast is a little flat by comparison, but still distinct enough. Overall they are a step above Anna Karenina, though, as they have more humour and emotional sincerity to them, and I'm even finding myself emotionally invested at times. Tolstoy's description of Rostov's infatuation with the tsar was hilarious.

    I'm consistently impressed by Tolstoy's ability to describe human emotion. Every once in a while he goes in a character's head and describes with shocking vividness what they feel – Pierre experiencing lust over Helena for the first time and his conflicted thoughts about it, Maria's inability to perceive her actual sincere smile when examining her face in the mirror, Andrei understanding the beauty of the sky for the first time when lying wounded on the battlefield, Rostov's infatuation with the tsar, and so on. Tolstoy also did this in Anna Karenina (such as when describing an artist's changing perception of his own work when listening to criticism, and even going inside Levin's dog at one point), but they feel more natural and inspired here. Psychology is also a major theme in the book, as characters instinctively do things they didn't consciously plan. I have to say though that Tolstoy repeats certain rhetoric tricks in a seeming attempt to appear more observant than he might really be – variations of the phrase ”[person X] [did thing Y], like whenever a [group that person X belongs to] [does thing Y]” have reappeared enough times for me to perceive it as a cliché.

    In spite of his positives however, a glaring weakness of Tolstoy's writing skills is his atrocious pacing. While the individual scenes are rarely boring, they (so far) haven't formed a compelling whole; the plot meanders and devolves into a ”list of events”, compounded by the constant jumping between different plotlines. There was an underwhelming love triangle plotline involving Natasha that took hundreds of pages. The lack of an obvious hook has been making it increasingly difficult for me to muster the motivation to read on. Even in Karamazov, where nothing much happened in the first half (besides one character vomiting a 11-page philosophical essay onto his brother), there was the tease of an upcoming murder.

    After I'm done reading War and Peace, I'm going to go back to finish Umineko (the Answer Arcs have now been released on Steam too). I'm also planning to acquire and read two non-fiction books, War and Peace and War: The Rise and Fall of Empires and The Evolutionary Psychology Behind Politics: How Conservatism and Liberalism Evolved Within Humans, before doing a reread of The Egyptian, as they explore largely the same themes. A few years ago I read the amazing essay Fate of Empires (available on the net as a PDF and which I recommend for everybody to read BTW), which was a massive influence on how I perceive humanity and society, and War and Peace and War looks like essentially a more thorough and developed version of the same theory. Also, my mother has been bugging me to read Anton Chekhov's short stories, so I 'm going read those too (but they were on my list anyway).

    Mini-review of Dune: Best part were the world-building and cultural relativism involving the fremens and their religion. The overall plot/premise of being backstabbed by a Bad Guy and getting revenge on him I didn't find compelling. Characters I found to be mostly flat, especially main character Paul. Worst part of it were the magical abilities of Paul and his mother, which were poorly defined and practically allowed them to do arbitrary things required by the plot – that was just sloppy writing, a deus ex machina really. 4/10
  12. keithburgun

    keithburgun Administrator, Lead Designer Staff Member

    I've been reading a bunch of really boring old wrong philosophy like Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau and stuff like that, which is boring and time consuming. But I have also been reading Neil Gaiman's Ocean at the End of the Lane and it's really interesting. Started off slow, and overall I'm not sure what to think of it yet but I am curious. I saw a talk from Neil Gaiman the other day and it was really great so it inspired me to want to read his stuff.
  13. Bucky

    Bucky Well-Known Member

    I'm currently reading "The Ardennes: Battle of the Bulge" by Hugh M. Cole.

    It's a huge bloated slog to read though in one go. On the other hand it has a sprinkling of stories of general interest and I even managed to pull a very interesting game-design sketch out of it.
    keithburgun likes this.
  14. Erenan

    Erenan Well-Known Member

    How did you decide to read that, @Bucky ?

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