What books are you reading for pleasure these days?

agentlossing

All-Pro
Location
S. Oregon Coast (the Northernmost-Cal of them All)
Real Name
Andrew Lossing
Yesterday I finally finished First King of Shannara, the 9th and last of the Shannara prequels. Today I begin Brooks’s debut novel, The Sword of Shannara, published in 1977. This book was my original introduction to sci-fi fantasy. This is the only one of Brook’s novels that I have in paperback, and my copy is well worn.

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One of Brooks' best, and yet paradoxically his least original, maybe. This book is based so heavily on Lord of the Rings, relies on it for so many of its story and character beats, that it shouldn't be a good book. But, perhaps because its predecessor is just so great, it somehow works. Grand and epic in all the right ways, with actually a lot of world building that has always been Brooks' strong suit. I need to read it again.
 

tonyturley

Legend
Location
Scott Depot, WV, USA
Real Name
Tony
One of Brooks' best, and yet paradoxically his least original, maybe. This book is based so heavily on Lord of the Rings, relies on it for so many of its story and character beats, that it shouldn't be a good book. But, perhaps because its predecessor is just so great, it somehow works. Grand and epic in all the right ways, with actually a lot of world building that has always been Brooks' strong suit. I need to read it again.
It's funny, copying seems to engender copying. Just as Shannara seems to have been heavily influenced by Tolkein, the dark wizard Voldemort in the late 90s and early 2000s Harry Potter novels seems to be a near copy of the dark Druid Brona, aka the Warlock Lord. He was vanquished in the book I just finished, reduced to his non-corporeal form, wandering the lands for centuries until he could rebuild his power and attempt to exact revenge. Sounds a lot like Rowling's later He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.
 

Richard

All-Pro
Location
Marlow, UK
I’m just reading this, the autobiography of test pilot Eric “Winkle” Brown.


Wings On My Sleeve.JPG



I’m not keen on the cover, nor the title actually, but the book itself has been a pleasure to read – a real ‘Boys’ Own’ adventure story.

A natural and very skilful pilot, Eric Brown joined the British Fleet Air Arm in 1939 at the outbreak of World War II. He flew against the Luftwaffe in the Atlantic, gaining valuable experience of aircraft carrier operations before his ship was torpedoed and sunk.

As an exceptional pilot and a fluent German speaker he was given the job of locating and evaluating various German military aircraft at the end of WWII, including the famously dangerous Me-163 Komet. He also conducted interviews with Herman Goering and other captured Nazi officials at that time.

Later, he became an acknowledged expert in aircraft carrier deck landings - he holds the world records for the most aircraft carrier deck take-offs and landings (2,407 and 2,271 respectively) and was the first person to land a jet aircraft on an aircraft carrier.

Brown went on to fly 487 different aircraft types, which is more than any other pilot in history.

The list of records goes on, and the book also catalogues a series of nasty accidents and near-misses plus some tragic losses of close friends and colleagues along the way. Fatalities aside, it’s an enjoyable book written by a charming and modest man (who died in 2016, at the age of 97).

-R
 

theoldsmithy

Hall of Famer
Location
Cheshire, England
Real Name
Martin Connolly
Recently I have picked up my reading speed again since the two Rose Tremain books. I had a change of gear and whizzed through Jo Nesbo's latest Harry Hole book, The Knife. Then I went for Kate Atkinson's companion to Life after Life, "A God in Ruins". Thoroughly recommended apart from the ending which had me furious for several days! I moved on quickly to Susanna Clarke's latest, Piranesi, which was really imaginative and (unlike the Kate Atkinson) wrapped everything up in a satisfactory manner. Now I'm re-reading the wonderful Gormenghast trilogy by Mervyn Peake. I now have the characters from the TV adaptation a few years ago in my mind, which always irritates me. I much prefer having my own vision of how characters look. Still, the prose is as fabulous as it ever was.
 

Richard

All-Pro
Location
Marlow, UK
I now have the characters from the TV adaptation a few years ago in my mind, which always irritates me. I much prefer having my own vision of how characters look.
I think I prefer that scenario to the reverse, where a familar character in a book is played by a TV or film actor who is very different to the person you had in your head. Sometimes just the voice can be all 'wrong'.

I've never read Gormenghast (saw the BBC adaptation a few years ago), but I've got a thick single volume of it somewhere. Maybe I should give it a go now that we've all been given a lot of time for reading ;)

-R
 

theoldsmithy

Hall of Famer
Location
Cheshire, England
Real Name
Martin Connolly
I think I prefer that scenario to the reverse, where a familar character in a book is played by a TV or film actor who is very different to the person you had in your head. Sometimes just the voice can be all 'wrong'.

I've never read Gormenghast (saw the BBC adaptation a few years ago), but I've got a thick single volume of it somewhere. Maybe I should give it a go now that we've all been given a lot of time for reading ;)

-R
Yes, like in the “His Dark Materials” adaptation. Lyra is completely wrong!

Gormenghast is well worth the read. It’s one of those books (or series) where the pleasure is as much, or more, in the writing as in the plot or characters. I wouldn’t worry too much about Titus Alone; the first two books are basically the main story. But, like you say, what else are we going to do for the next couple of months?
 

Richard

All-Pro
Location
Marlow, UK
As a break between volumes of Gormenghast (thank you Martin for that - I think!) I’ve just finished Chris Frantz’s autobiography, “Remain In Love”.


Chris Frantz.JPG



This was an unexpected and very welcome Christmas present from my partner, particularly since it’s a signed copy. It’s probably fair to say that this is not one of the great barnstorming rock biographies. It’s not “Life” by Keith Richards for example. But if you’re interested in the subject matter, which is the life and times of the drummer in Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club, then it’s a good read. Along the way you’ll encounter Debbie Harry, Lou Reed, the Ramones, Andy Warhol and many others from the New York punk and new wave music scene of the 1970s and 80s.

The writing style can be a bit pedestrian – this happened and then that happened – but there are some good stories mixed in. My favourite concerns a chance encounter between James Brown (the soul music legend) and the author’s father (General Robert Frantz, then a senior army lawyer) on a beach in the Bahamas. James Brown had recently forfeited his car in a divorce settlement, and was clearly very sore about it. On hearing that Frantz Snr had a connection with the judge in the case, the Godfather of Soul became very animated. “General Frantz, that judge took my car away! Yes sir! Can you talk to him and get it back?”

Much of the book concerns the relationship between Chris Frantz and his wife Tina Weymouth, the bass player in Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club. As well as forming one of the great rhythm sections in popular music, Chris and Tina have one of its more enduring marriages. They’ve always struck me as being likeable, decent people, and the book supports that view.

-R
 

phigmov

Probably Not Walter Kernow
Location
Aotearoa
Current pile (at least the pile which has the least unread-guilt associated with it at this point in time) - working my way slowly through The Knowledge, and William Gibsons latest 'Agency', plus Becky Chambers has a new one out in her excellent Wayfarers series, then hopefully I'll get to 'Daughters of Kobani' (about the women soldiers of the YPJ) which should be a corker.

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by Walter Kernow, on Flickr
 

donlaw

Hall of Famer
Location
Texas
Real Name
Don
After years of putting it off, I finally started reading Robert Jordon’s Wheel of Time epic series. I never thought I would since there are so many volumes. But a good friend convinced me to do it. The first volume certainly has the Tolkien influence, but doesn’t follow as closely as Terry Brooks did in his initial Sword of Shannara series.
I know there is a Amazon TV WOT adaptation coming out sometime this year. I hope it is better than the really lame effort MTV did on the Shannara books.
 

agentlossing

All-Pro
Location
S. Oregon Coast (the Northernmost-Cal of them All)
Real Name
Andrew Lossing
After years of putting it off, I finally started reading Robert Jordon’s Wheel of Time epic series. I never thought I would since there are so many volumes. But a good friend convinced me to do it. The first volume certainly has the Tolkien influence, but doesn’t follow as closely as Terry Brooks did in his initial Sword of Shannara series.
I know there is a Amazon TV WOT adaptation coming out sometime this year. I hope it is better than the really lame effort MTV did on the Shannara books.
I read several of them, I can't remember how far into the series I got. Probably around book five. Be prepared for a lot of "war of the sexes." For whatever reason that was a favorite recurring element for the author, the male and female characters are endlessly squabbling with each other. At least that's something I remember about it (as a teen. It would probably be more amusing to me now).
 

agentlossing

All-Pro
Location
S. Oregon Coast (the Northernmost-Cal of them All)
Real Name
Andrew Lossing
I recently finished William Gibson's Spook Country (shout out to @phigmov above) and it was excellent! Gobson's Neuromancer will always be one of my favorite books, period. But his stylized, frenetic, neon-drenched cyberpunk has given way to a cyberpunk that is really just the modern day - which is all the more scary, because it means we are living in a real dystopian future. Spook Country dealt with some of the overwhelming surveillance state in America post 911, VR, wireless networks and a bunch of other stuff that is sort of everyday, but, seen through Gibson's fantastic viewpoint, suddenly becomes something more. Highly recommended.
 

phigmov

Probably Not Walter Kernow
Location
Aotearoa
I recently finished William Gibson's Spook Country (shout out to @phigmov above) and it was excellent! Gobson's Neuromancer will always be one of my favorite books, period. But his stylized, frenetic, neon-drenched cyberpunk has given way to a cyberpunk that is really just the modern day - which is all the more scary, because it means we are living in a real dystopian future.

I have to admit - I really struggled with his cyberpunk stuff. 'Neuromancer', 'Idoru' etc. His recent stuff set in the very near future like 'Spook Country', 'Zero History' etc are more my thing - just enough interesting & believable 'future' stuff to keep the story afloat but nothing too fanciful. 'Peripheral' and 'Agency' push things a little bit more into the fanciful future but still grounded in the near present. Glad you enjoyed it @agentlossing !
 

kyteflyer

~@¿@~
Location
Newcastle, Australia
Real Name
Sue
Just recently finished my second reading of The Expanse series. Missed a lot on the first read. I’ve also been watching the TV series, and its interesting how many of the characters are changed, dropped, killed off early (or late) etc. I suppose they have to, in order to cram it all into the available time. I like both.
 

MiguelATF

Hall of Famer
Location
Talent, Oregon (far from the madding crowd)
Real Name
Miguel Tejada-Flores
Good thread here. It is both inspiring me (because of all the books I now want to read) and depressing me as well (when the hell am I going to find even a fraction of the time necessary to ready even some of them?).

I just finished re-reading the fourth and final volume of the late (he died, sadly, in 2020) and brilliant Spanish novelist, Carlos Ruiz Zafón's quartet of remarkable novels, The Labyrinth of Spirits (El laberinto de los espíritus). All four books are known, collectively, as The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, series. This time, for the first time, I read it in the original Spanish (my español has been improving significantly these last few years) - and Zafón is not only a master story-teller... but an artist with language. His original Spanish is elegant, beautiful and complex; the voices of his characters (especially the hyper-loquacious Fermín Romero de Torres) are unique and wonderful. The good news is that the English translations of all his works are equally masterful and inspired. Reading his novels... is like listening to a great recording of a complex symphony on the best speakers in the world, where you can hear each note, and each individual instrument both apart from and also as part of the whole.

I think I'm going to have to go back to the first novel of the series, The Shadow of the Wind (La sombra del viento) and reread it one more time. But that might be dangerous, because once you start down that garden path... it's hard to stop.
 
Location
Switzerland
Real Name
Matt
I'm reading - or should I say "tackling"? - "Legends of the Condor Heros" by Jin Yong, a hugely successful series that so far wasn't available in its entirety for the non-Asian market. It's a Chinese classic with a strong emphasis on martial arts. It's definitely gripping - even though it's written for more avid kung fu fans than myself, and you'd better be somewhat adept at interpreting the fighting scenes that happen constantly in order to follow some passages. But for me, it opens up another perspective: Stylised though it may be, it gives a very thorough insight into values and thinking that pervade the Asian (or at least the Chinese) mind. Biographies, character traits and generally the psyche of its protagonists, heros and villains alike, are a major factor as well, as are notions of honour and loyality that far exceed everything I've come across so far (including medieval European literature!). Certainly instructive, on many levels - and entertaining enough that I've so far kept going.

As a side note: Without the possibility to use my e-reader, I'd never have gone for those books - the shortest one is almost 900 pages long ...

M.
 

tonyturley

Legend
Location
Scott Depot, WV, USA
Real Name
Tony
I've kind of fallen off track in reading the "Word-Void-Shannara" 32-book lineup. After reading 8 of his novels in November and December, I'm stuck about 2/3 of the way through the original Sword novel that started it all. I find that Brook's writing is more fast-paced and engaging in the later series like The Genesis of Shannara than in his early novels.
 

Richard

All-Pro
Location
Marlow, UK
As a side note: Without the possibility to use my e-reader, I'd never have gone for those books - the shortest one is almost 900 pages long ...

M.
I'm just getting to the end of the third part of Gormenghast. This version is all three parts in one thick book of about 950 pages, so I'm looking forward to something lighter (in both senses) next.

-R
 

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