Currently Reading – Late November 2011

Adam Levin's 1000-page monster, The Instructions

There are a lot of good books that have come out since mid-October. The flood hasn’t stopped and I am currently reading 8 books at the same time, which is unusual. I usually like to read one book at a time, maybe too. This is probably down to the fact that The Instructions is such a time-consuming read. Unlike 1Q84, which is of similar length, and Reamde, the words seem to flow less in The Instructions, making it a harder read.

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Bibliophilia: Combining Library with Home Office

It’s natural to try and combine rooms when you haven’t got enough space, but many people use their home office as an ad hoc library to store their books. Granted, sometimes they end up in piles near a desk, but books are something that bibliophiles love, so they are worth making the effort to store them adequately.

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Reading Ebooks without Ebook Readers

100511_rg_EbooksnoEreader_01.jpgOver the last few months, we’ve started to make a switch towards ebooks. While most of the reasons behind the switch are practical, we’re not using an ereader to read our ebooks and we read every single day. Ereaders are nice devices, but the technology evolves so quickly and we don’t want to upgrade it every single year.

NPR’s Top 100 Science-Fiction & Fantasy 2011


Check out NPR’s listing of the top 100 science-fiction and fantasy books submitted by fans. Out of these 100 books or series of books, I have read 48. There’s another 10 or so that I am planning on reading, that I already have in ebook or book format.

There are some of my favorite authors missing from this list. One of the most important, at least in my opinion, in science-fiction is Alastair Reynolds. House of Suns and Pushing Ice are great for people wanting to try him out with standalone novels, but the Revelation Space novels are incredible. Even though Iain Banks is on the list with his Culture series, one of his best novels, Transition, is missing. Peter F. Hamilton is also missing with his Void Trilogy.

The ones marked in bold after the jump are the books that I have read.

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Awaiting A Dance with Dragons

Cover of the next volume

Last night, I finished A Feast for Crows. I finished it quite quickly. I’m wondering what I’ll read next (not really, Bolaño, or Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi) and I will patiently await the next volume, A Dance with Dragons. Things have gone from bad to worse for the Lannisters.

Warning: spoilers ahead!

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Christopher Hitchens Reviews David Mamet’s The Secret Knowledge

I found this review pretty funny. Christopher Hitchens was definitely the right person to review Mamet’s book.

This is an extraordinarily irritating book, written by one of those people who smugly believe that, having lost their faith, they must ipso facto have found their reason. In order to be persuaded by it, you would have to be open to propositions like this:

“Part of the left’s savage animus against Sarah Palin is attributable to her status not as a woman, neither as a Conservative, but as a Worker.”

Or this:

“America is a Christian country. Its Constitution is the distillation of the wisdom and experience of Christian men, in a tradition whose codification is the Bible.”

Propagandistic writing of this kind can be even more boring than it is irritating. For example, Mamet writes in “The Secret Knowledge” that “the Israelis would like to live in peace within their borders; the Arabs would like to kill them all.”

On the epigraph page, and again on the closing one, Mamet purports to explain the title of his book. He cites the anthropologist Anna Simons on rites of initiation, to the effect that the big secret is very often that there is no big secret. In his own voice, he states: “There is no secret knowledge. The federal government is merely the zoning board writ large.” Again, it is hard to know with whom he is contending.

Carmela Ciuraru on Histoire d’O

Carmela Ciuraru on Histoire d’O, the famous sadomasochistic love affair written by Anne Desclos, aka Dominique Aury, aka Pauline Réage.

A Game of Fools: Foolish Things the Starks Have Done in Song of Ice and Fire Books I to III

A Song of Ice and Fire

On the weekend, I managed to finish A Clash of Kings and promptly started A Storm of Swords. I’m  about a third of the way through A Storm of Swords. The POVs are an interesting of reading this story, but they do have their faults as well. George RR Martin isn’t afraid of killing off main characters in order to forward the plot, which is something that not many writers will do. However, it served him well. I’ll be ordering A Dance with Dragons this week.

Warning: spoilers ahead.

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Jessa Crispin on Publishing and Anne Roiphe

Jessa Crispin’s column on publishing over at the Smart Set.

In the week it takes me to read five different books on how to be a writer, approximately 30 books are delivered to my Berlin apartment. This is a decline from the 15 to 30 that used to be delivered every day, and I’m grateful for the barrier of costly international postage that keeps these numbers down.

A book making a lot of noise right now is Anne Roiphe’s Art and Madness: A Memoir of Lust Without Reason, a woman’s account of the years she didn’t feel she had permission to be a writer, and so she just slept with any male writers she came across in order to gain access to the literary world by proxy.