What Are You Reading?

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Another 50-90 is upon us. And thank goodness for it!

What have you lot been reading lately? Any special books you’d recommend? Any that might inspire you to write a lyric or a song?

As well as my usual fare of top-notch psychological crime thrillers (e.g. ‘Bone by Bone’ and ‘The Judas Child’ by Carol O’Connor, and ‘The Survivors’ by Jane Harper), I seem to have reverted to my study days, and have been reading books on language and poetry: ‘The Book of Forms: a handbook of poetics’(Lewis Turco) and ‘Thesaurus of the Senses’: a tool for writers, teachers, students, and word lovers’ (Linda Hart). Excellent resource material. Also picked up a couple of books of poetry: ‘Essentials’ by David Whyte (glorious!) and ‘White Spaces’ by Paul Auster (equally wonderful). Some of you might know Auster from his excellent novels (e.g. ‘The Music of Chance’ and ‘New York Trilogy’, among others).

I look forward to titles you folks here will recommend.

Imma readin' "Opossums: Misunderstood Critters (Love of Nature)", "Appleblossom the Possum" and "War and Peace"!

@Ray D. Opossum, that sounds like a mighty fine combination. Wink

Music related... currently reading Writing Better Lyrics by Pat Pattinson. Over the past year I've read a lot of fiction. My favorites almost all have continuations that are not out yet: The City We Became by N K Jemisin, The House on the Cerulean Sea by T J Klune, Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton, and A Declaration of the Rights of Magicians by H G Parry.

Just started Ritchie Robertson's The Enlightenment: The Pursuit of Happiness, 1680-1790, which looks to be a splendid read, and am finally getting around to reading Kermit Scott's somewhat historical/materialistic take on Augustine: His Thought in Context. Also, lots and lots and lots of student essays. Smile

Just finished several. Bob Dylan: No Direction Home by Robert Shelton and a couple of art biographies (with lots of painting pictures) about Pablo Picasso and Wasily Kandinsky. Not sure what is next. Likely to be a reread of one of my songwriter biographies.

Reading two entirely different books right now.

"Heavier Than Heaven", a Kurt Cobain biography by Charles Cross.
I'm finding it really readable and entertaining, unlike a lot of biographies I've read.
I still miss Kurt a lot, even after all these years. Sad

I'm also reading "A Pattern Language", which is super interesting, but a really dense read.
Really "textbooky", if that makes sense.
It's a curious combination of urban planning, architecture, philosophy, and utopianism.
Each short chapter details one of 253 "patterns" or suggestions, each successively more focused, for everything from designing a world government, through how to plan a livable city, how to build a pleasing house, right down to how to arrange your possessions on your shelves.
Really hard to explain, but entirely fascinating.

As usual, I'm reading mostly speculative fiction. Currently: "All Those Explosions Were Someone Else's Fault" by James Alan Gardner.

Recently read "How to Write One Song" by Jeff Tweedy. Re-reading "The War of Art" by Steven Pressfield (a must-read for anyone who struggles with following through on your creations), and starting in on a Mark Twain anthology that my son left behind on his recent move to NYC.

@Fuzzy "A Pattern Language" looks really cool. And I am sitting here wondering how I have never heard of it. Smile Just ordered a copy!

You won't regret it, @TomS!!

Yes, I too think that patterns book sounds interesting. And I like the recommendations for thriller and sci-fi, too - I've been thinking that I need to read some fiction.
I'm re-reading for maybe the fourth or fifth time the Bhagavad Gita. Each time has been with a different commentary. Yoga/Hindu philosophy, a small part of a massive epic poem.
And I just started yesterday Ten Poems to Change Your Life by Roger Housden. My wife had a copy of it on the kitchen counter, and I picked it up to just look at casually, and now I'm really into it. And he has other Ten Poems books, too.

Jerry Nolan's Wild Ride A Tale of Drugs, Fashion, the New York Dolls, and Punk Rock / To Hell and Back: My Life in Johnny Thunders' Heartbreakers, in the Words of the Last Man Standing / I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp by Richard Hell / And few others not worth noting in this context.

Just finished Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan-pretty good
Recently "Where the Crawdads Sing-my favorite this year ,great book. "The house perched on its brick chicken legs"
Kings of Crypto- meh, but fertile ground for song prompts."Bitcoin Jesus" comes to mind
'Later" Stephen King-good, "My thoughts were drowning in blood" , about having a stroke.
Currently halfway through "The Only Good Indians"-don't like it
50 pages into "The Memory Police"-_Yoko Ogawa
Reread Asimov's "Foundation"-not as good as i remember

I've just begun reading Heather Young's 'The Distant Dead'. Absolutely loving it. It's kind of a cross between supernatural and murder mystery, and truly transcends genre. Wonderful writing, well-drawn characters, gorgeous imagery. And would also appeal to lovers of mathematics and anthropology.

@katpiercemusic I loved 'Hollow Kingdom'. Now I feel like reading it again. Wink (I'm not normally a fan of books whose main characters are animals, but Buxton's are heartbreakingly human and delightful. And of course Richard Adams' 'Watership Down' is a classic. A recent animal-based series I know of is Chris Watts' 'The Ravenstones', whose characters are charming. )


You can't go wrong with any of the writing books by Pat Pattison. Two others I can recommend are his 'Songwriting: Essential Guide to Lyric Form and Structure' and 'Songwriting: Essential Guide to Rhyming'. He gets down to the nitty-gritty.

@RalphCarl, interesting that you're not enjoying 'The Only Good Indians'. (But tastes differ, which is a good thing. Wink ) I loved it. Found it to be a well-crafted, sombre book, but with flashes of unexpected humour and delightful imagery. Intriguing theme and sympathetic protagonist. I've read a couple of the author's other books as well. Chilling stuff but written in his inimitable style.

Thanks for the heads-up on 'The Memory Police'. Feel I'd like to check that one out.
I hear you on re-reading 'Foundation'. That's happened to me a couple of times with books that I'd loved on a first reading. Sometimes a wonderful experience is best left untouched in one's memory. Wink

Bacchanal by Veronica G. Henry
Just finished it and enjoyed it quite a lot. Fast, easy read. A bit predictable but fun!

Anomaly (First Contact) by Peter Cawdron
Just finished this one as well. Entertaining but not great. Felt kinda like it was inspired by Sagan's Contact (and other first contact stories). The author has written a bunch of books around the same theme so I may give one or two a more a try.

The Precipice: Existential Risk and the Future of Humanity by Toby Ord
Currently reading. Brilliant take on where humanity is heading and what the cost will be of exterminating ourselves!

Otherland series by Tad Williams
Just bought this series for my Kindle to reread. Hope they withstand the test of time!

How to Write One Song by by Jeff Tweedy
Recently finished this one. Quite short. Could have shared the same insights in a blog post or three.

The Pleasure Trap: Mastering the Hidden Force that Undermines Health & Happiness by Douglas J. Lisle
Just starting this one. I have a lifetime of poor eating habits to work on. Hope this helps!

How the World Works by Noam Chomsky (Author), Arthur Naiman (Editor)
I'm an admirer of Chomsky but I need to read more of his writings so I'm working my way through this collection. This is not happy stuff.

The Saga of Pliocene Exile series by Julian May
Another series I bought for my Kindle to reread soon. Fingers crossed that I still love this adventure!

Hey @johnstaples, I recently re-read the Pliocene Exile series myself.
The story still holds up really well, although I found the books to be a little dated; I winced occasionally at the blatant racial stereotyping, and if I recall correctly there's some misogyny in there too, which is surprising from a female writer.
But yeah, it's an original and complex series for sure.
I still really enjoyed it despite its flaws!

Just read Carl Hiaasen's latest called Squeeze Me.
It is laugh out loud funny
For any Hiaasen's fans, this is a must.

cts's picture

Currently reading Prince and the Parade & Sign "O" the Times Era Studio Sessions 1985 and 1986. Absolutely fascinating.

I've been hovering on the edge of finishing "Revenant Gun" for weeks now, third in Yoon-Ha Lee's Machineries of Empire series (starts with "Ninefox Gambit").

It's really clever, inventive scifi, mostly focused on obedient soldiers with no free will in a vast despotic government, and what happens when they're given the ability to question serving that government. Highlights include space intrigue, 'vaguely East Asian' as the default cultural setting (rare in scifi), complex and original war mechanisms + political structures (seriously, love those) and interesting gender dynamics. I'm enjoying it, although in terms of inventive, genre-bending scifi I would definitely recommend Ann Leckie's fantastic Imperial Radch trilogy (which does something similar, but better) over this one.


Oh, and I'm also just about to reread Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan series! Also scifi, but much more human, emotional and relational--it's a lot of fun. Mostly follows a brilliant, hyperactive, shit-stirring, too-clever-for-his-own-good disabled guy (in a very prejudiced society) as he thinks, schemes and lies his way out of challenging situations he probably got himself into in the first place (usually by being too clever for his own good). The first book is him accidentally lying his way into leading an entire mercenary company, and then frantically paddling to keep up with that lie as it grows (lots of seat-of-the-pants desperate scheming, which will never not delight me).

I just finished reading "Ancillary Justice" by Ann Leckie, coincidentally the first book in the trilogy that @thedustcollector mentioned in the above post.
I'm always enthused when I find quality SF, so I really enjoyed this novel about a splinter of a starship-level AI that's trapped in a human body.
Of course, there's much more to it than that.
Totally looking forward to reading the rest of the trilogy and then tracking down the rest of Leckie's books and reading them, too!

@Fuzzy Yessss Ancillary Justice! Speaking of anything that might inspire a lyric or a song (as per Donna's OP), there's that really lovely thread of music that runs all through it ("my heart is a fish hiding in the water-grass, in the green, in the green--"). Interesting to consider what songs might sound like in Raadchai space, on top of what Breq brings up in the book.

Thanks @Fuzzy and @thedustcollector. 'Ancillary Justice' is now on my Kindle. I love sci-fi literature (and movies/series). It's inspired many a lyric/song. Smile My most ambitious musical venture in that regard was a mammoth three-part prog-rock opera type of thing based on the classic film 'Silent Running'. And I wrote a few lyrics (which became songs) that were inspired by the unforgettable 'Babylon 5' series.

Just finished three articles: The first was all about AI algorythms developing new experimental techniques for finding solutions to problems in Quantum Physics. The second was regarding Logic & some problems with Values & Relationships (I'm not talking about dating services here Wink ) & a third one on the Epistemology of Friedrich Nietzsche (one of my favourite Philosophers & one of my favourite Philosophical subjects (i.e. Epistemology)). Might have to dig out my Portable Nietzsche & read the entire piece quoted in the article. But it's almost 1 AM here in almost-central Soviet Canukastan, so the great Nihilist will have to wait until after I get some sleep.

Yeah, "light reading" before bed. Gotta love Firefox's Pocket Worthy articles Biggrin

See You In The Shadows…

p.s. if one of my 50/90 songs tomorrow ends up being about one of the above subjects (so Aristotle, the Buddha, Friedrich Nietzsche & Erwin Schrödinger all go into a bar… Wink ), you'll all know why! Of course, now I want to try & come up with a punch line for the above "Philo-Mystical-Quantum-Physical" joke Lol I'll have to sleep on that as well…

Reading some mainstream fiction, a supernatural fantasy novel, a sci-fi first contact novel and a genealogical journey/memoir. All in pieces-- my writing group brings some wonderful stuff to our meetings.

No one's done any reading in the past two weeks? Sad
I'm about a third of the way through "The Dispossessed" by Ursula K. LeGuin.
It's supposedly her best work and a "pinnacle of Science Fiction", but I'm finding it a little dry so far.
Seems to be a political and philosophical discussion of governmental and societal control systems like Anarchism, Socialism, and Consumerism disguised as a novel.
Not half as good as "The Left Hand of Darkness".

Just finished "The Wrath of Tiamat", the most recent book in "The Expanse" series of space operas by the two authors working under the name James S.A. Corey (last book in this series reportedly coming in November). Currently working on "The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet" by the genius English novelist David Mitchell. For this community, I can't recommend highly enough his "Utopia Avenue", about a fictional English band in the late '60s. Artistic, but also incredibly engaging writing & plot line and it has amazingly erudite insight into the creative process of the band member characters, all of whom are songwriters.

I’m reading all the American classics like catcher in the rye and huck Finn

eugene o neill's one act plays about sailors and the sea,,,but my real project this month has been re-watching the 50 john ford films i have in my library in chronological order. four of those plays were the basis for fords film, the long voyage home, which was the inspiration for phil ochs' pleasures of the harbor.

I’ve been making slow progress through Swamplandia! by Karen Russell in the last couple weeks. It’s kept me guessing where it’s going so far. I’m not usually a fan of occult themes unless it’s horror and more so in movies but the unreliable narrator combo has a really cool effect here. Very refreshing.

@Fuzzy, my favourite of LeGuin's is 'The Left Hand of Darkness'. I read it so often, it literally fell apart. Got hold of another copy second hand.
@NuJ4X, 'Catcher in the Rye' is a wonderful book. Holden Caulfield is an unforgettable and compelling character. Amazing that the book at some point was banned from being studied in schools because of the swearing.
@Jeff9, thanks for the heads-up on 'Utopia Avenue'.

Yeah, @Donna Devine, "The Left Hand Of Darkness" is one of my favourite books.
As for "Catcher In The Rye", I have come to see that Caulfield youngster as a whiny little brat who needs to get with the program!!

Another fan of "Left Hand of Darkness" here. But I too am of the opinion that Holden Caulfield was a spoilt brat.

Current read is Ouspensky's "A New Model of the Universe". Perhaps the ur-text for all books written by angry philosophers taking the line "Scientists! What do *they* know, eh?" which scientists either find hugely amusing or get extremely huffy about (Prof. Brian Cox gets *very* heated when asked to talk about whether or not philosophy has any value. I've seen it happen.)

Ouspensky was a Russian mystic who studied with Gurdjieff. He started writing the book in 1914 and was clearly quite upset that the First World War had caused him such inconvenience, but he gets on to the topic of the October Revolution about five pages in to the introduction and a couple of paragraphs later he's *steaming* (he didn't complete the work until 1930). It has not aged well. The man was quite happy making claims that he had telepathic conversations with his mentor, but couldn't accept that new species could arise either randomly or deliberately through evolution (I'm guessing he never owned a dog...)

Very entertaining, all the same. Cosmology was a hotbed of very strange ideas back then. Some of them make Velikovsky's theories seem almost rational.

I am currently reading through First Comics' run of E-Man from the early eighties. First Comics was part of an independent comics boom aimed at direct sales audiences eg adults rather than children. Don't mistake me, it's not sexy or anything, it just means they didn't have to worry about the restrictive regulation of the Comics Code Authority.

Anyway, the editorials and letters pages, as well as the content, refer to all sorts of political and social issues of the day. When I first read these they were barely ten years old. It is very weird reading them again now nearly thirty years later and feeling how dated some of the political commentary is, not in a bad way, just like reading through a tube leading back to the last century, just a very different experience from reading them the first time, that I didn't really expect.

Left Hand of Darkness is very good imho, btw. Fans of that one might also enjoy "Shikasta" by Doris Lessing.

I recently finished Steven King's second-last book, 'Billy Summers'. A really good read. Compelling characters, and strong writing and dialogue. Unfortunately, like most or maybe all of King's books, it kind of fizzled out at the very end. It's odd that he has such a gift for beginning and then building up a tremendous story, full of suspense, but doesn't seem to have a sold grasp on how to make the climax soar. Ah well. Maybe it's just me. But I can recommend the book in any case. The protagonist - a hired assassin who only kills 'bad guys' - is a thoroughly sympathetic character.

Artaud Anthology

Donna Devine in my experience reading king, i am always ahead of the plot, having been given information unknown to the characters. the effect of this is that i read faster and faster, eager to get to the next part in which new information is given, this is kings technique in fashioning a page-turner, a book so exciting you cant put it down. but when we approach the climax, there is nothing more to look forward to. we know what will happen, so our reading pace slows and we just want to finish the book.

Bill, that's a great description/explanation regarding King's technique. Thanks! Smile But I'm not convinced it covers why the stories end in such an anti-climax. I feel it's more to do with the writer than the reader. It's as if King isn't sure of how to tie up all the loose ends and bring things to a believable and impactful conclusion, still strongly connected to what had gone on before.

I remember reading 'The Stand', and - at the end of such a rivetting story - feeling angry at the piss-weak way the novel finished. He left so many loose ends. Lots of other readers felt the same kind of disappointment. It was like that TV series, 'Dexter', about the serial killer who only went after 'bad' people. After such an interesting series, the final episode was disgraceful, and like a slap in the face to viewers. A D-grade, completely unbelievable and unlikely conclusion. There was almost a riot about it at the time! LOL

Here's another good book I've recently finished. A thriller with a difference: involves 'a brilliant skewering of social media and the influencer culture'.

'People Like Her' by Ellery Lloyd.

Donna. endings are problematic. you have a choice of maybe three logical resolutions . or you can pull off a twist at the end, taking the reader by surprise. but that is a trickster's game, not worthy of a novelist. leaving loose ends is just sloppy, but fabricating corny resolutions can be just as negligent, personally, although my favorite ending of all time is the incipient apocalypse of king lear, i tend in my own writing to favor the transcendence of the tempest, in which everyone simply takes off their masks and goes home.

Bill, I think this is the camp King sometimes falls into: In your own words, "or you can pull off a twist at the end, taking the reader by surprise. but that is a trickster's game, not worthy of a novelist. leaving loose ends is just sloppy, but fabricating corny resolutions can be just as negligent."

I've been making my way through Making Music by Dennis DeSantis at @headfirstonly's recommendation. It's really well written and thought provoking, and it mentions FAWM!

@Donna Devine you are spot on about King! He is far and away my favorite writer! I read everything he writes. And I just love how he crafts his stories. His characters are interesting. His story lines are fantastic. His horror is secondary to me. BUT, you are right that he sometimes (often?) seems to completely blow the ending of an otherwise great story. So many times I have dreaded the ending of a King story, not because I hate ending a good story, but because I sense that he is going to fail to wrap it up properly.

But, with that all said, I will continue to read his stuff as long as I can read!