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Author Topic: What books are you reading?  (Read 98491 times)
kyrathaba
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« Reply #225 on: May 24, 2011, 07:05:25 AM »

Last 2 I've read:

The Wise Man's Fear, by Patrick Rothfuss
Blindsight, by Peter Watts


Currently reading:

Anathem, by Neal Stephenson
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« Reply #226 on: June 01, 2011, 07:58:42 AM »

I'm about half-way through "Behind Deep Blue", the accidental story of the Deep Blue, the first computer chess machine to get good enough to beat the world's best human chess players.  It's written by the engineer who led the team (Feng-hsiung Hsu).

Although there is a lot of hardware engineering that I don't understand, and very little discussion of AI, which i would have really appreciated, it's still very enjoyable reading and is one of those books that makes you want to go out and tackle an interesting scientific/engineering problem.  Lot's of discussion of the human emotions and misteps behind the race to build the world's best computer chess hardware.

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« Reply #227 on: June 03, 2011, 02:56:37 AM »

This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly
http://www.amazon.com/Thi...-Financial/dp/0691142165/



Description:
Throughout history, rich and poor countries alike have been lending, borrowing, crashing--and recovering--their way through an extraordinary range of financial crises. Each time, the experts have chimed, "this time is different"--claiming that the old rules of valuation no longer apply and that the new situation bears little similarity to past disasters. With this breakthrough study, leading economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff definitively prove them wrong. Covering sixty-six countries across five continents, This Time Is Different presents a comprehensive look at the varieties of financial crises, and guides us through eight astonishing centuries of government defaults, banking panics, and inflationary spikes--from medieval currency debasements to today's subprime catastrophe. Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, leading economists whose work has been influential in the policy debate concerning the current financial crisis, provocatively argue that financial combustions are universal rites of passage for emerging and established market nations. The authors draw important lessons from history to show us how much--or how little--we have learned.
_____________________________
So far it's good (and dense), but after the fact, you can see the financial collapse coming a mile away. My takeaway is that when things are too good, get the hell out of there, be ye government, individual, or foreign creditor!
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40hz
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« Reply #228 on: June 03, 2011, 08:44:24 AM »

Recently finished Brave New Worlds: Dystopian Stories, an anthology edited by John Joseph Adams.



Quote
YOU ARE BEING WATCHED.

Your every movement is being tracked, your every word recorded. Your spouse may be an informer, your children may be listening at your door, your best friend may be a member of the secret police. You are alone among thousands, among great crowds of the brainwashed, the well-behaved, the loyal. Productivity has never been higher, the media blares, and the army is ever triumphant. One wrong move, one slip-up, and you may find yourself disappeared -- swallowed up by a monstrous bureaucracy, vanished into a shadowy labyrinth of interrogation chambers, show trials, and secret prisons from which no one ever escapes. Welcome to the world of the dystopia, a world of government and society gone horribly, nightmarishly wrong.

.
.
.
When the government wields its power against its own people, every citizen becomes an enemy of the state.


A nightmarish collection of 33 short stories that posit a not too distant future that's disturbingly not very different from our present world.

All the usual suspects and favorites are here. There's Shirley Jackson's chilling The Lottery LeGuinn's eerie The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas, and Harlan Ellison's brilliant "Repent Harlequin!" Said the Ticktockman. But there's also a number of excellent stories from some of the 'newer' authors such as Neil Gaiman and Cory Doctorow.

My favorites include Red Card by S.L. Gilbow. It's a story that posits an interesting solution to widespread incivility. What if the government issued (at random) special cards which gave the bearer a single use permit to kill any one person, at any time, for any reason - or even no reason at all - with guaranteed full immunity from prosecution? And along with each of these cards came a government issued handgun?

Knowing something like that was out there would probably go a long way towards cutting down on road rage incidents, graffiti sprayers, and rude bank tellers.  Grin

More disturbing by far is Sacrament by Matt Williamson. IMO it's the single most disturbing 11 pages found in the entire collection.

Sacrament is a first person narrative by a future U.S. military interrogator operating in one of those secret  "places without a name" that have made a mockery of everything the United States once stood for.

I'm not squeamish nor given to histrionics. But I must admit this one story left me feeling sick (as in physically ill) by the time I was finished with it. IMHO Matt Williamson comes very close to capturing the essence of true evil through the words of one of the darkest and most functionally psychotic characters in the history of fiction. No mean feat for a story this short.

For the curious, a few 'milder' excerpts follow.  

There was a time when I would have read a story like this and taken it as pure fantasy. But in the wake of some of what we learned went on (and is likely still going on) during this never-ending (by design) War on Terror, I'm not so sure about just where fantasy leaves off and reality begins these days.

Anyway...it's a great book, even if it may keep you awake a few nights wondering just how far down some of these frightful pathways humanity's future will eventually wander.

Recommended! Thmbsup

« Last Edit: June 03, 2011, 06:29:21 PM by 40hz » Logged

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« Reply #229 on: June 03, 2011, 03:52:55 PM »

Harlan Ellison's brilliant "Repent Harlequin!" Said the Ticktockman.

His "I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream" has to be one of the most terrifying and horrifying short stories in all SF.

Quote
What if the government issued (at random) special cards which gave the bearer a single use permit to kill any one person

Read another story on a similar theme, long ago: they didn't get cards, but had to go through the prison sentence that would be applied for whatever crime they wanted to commit, before committing it, labelled as "precriminals."
« Last Edit: June 12, 2011, 11:10:46 AM by rjbull » Logged
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« Reply #230 on: June 03, 2011, 06:05:58 PM »

Recently finished Brave New Worlds: Dystopian Stories, an anthology edited by John Joseph Adams.

Damn, damn, damn, 40hz! I got to have it now.
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« Reply #231 on: June 12, 2011, 03:21:10 PM »

Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire. Edward Gibbon. Classic.
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« Reply #232 on: June 12, 2011, 03:23:08 PM »

Harlan Ellison is a minor deity. However he's just starting to become eclipsed. I Have No Mouth is fading just a little to 1984 and Fahrenheit 451.

Tech is doing just fine when we can use it. It's Government and Corps that are deadly today.
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« Reply #233 on: June 17, 2011, 05:50:58 AM »

Harlan Ellison is a minor deity. However he's just starting to become eclipsed. I Have No Mouth is fading just a little to 1984 and Fahrenheit 451.

That's a good point, and one I hadn't thought of.  Well put.
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« Reply #234 on: June 17, 2011, 06:16:29 AM »

Currently reading: a tale etched in blood and hard black pencil by Christopher Brookmyre, one of his free-standing novels (i.e., not part of a series).

[Edit 2011-06-19, 20:53]
Finished it now.  I was expecting an exuberantly rude story like his first novel, Quite Ugly One Morning, but this is different.  Lots of schoolboy bad language and scatology, but cleverly constructed and well written.
[/Edit]

Quote
Synopsis:

We could tell you about the bodies. We could tell you their names, where they were found, the state they were in. We could tell you about the suspects too, the evidence, the investigators; join a few dots, even throw you a motive. But what would be the point? You’re going to make your own assumptions anyway. After all, you know these people, don’t you? You went to school with them. We all did. Granted, that was twenty years ago, but how much does anybody really change? Exactly. So if you really knew them then, you’ll already have all the answers. If you really knew them then…

Put on your uniform and line up in an orderly fashion for the funniest and most accurate trip back to the classroom you are likely to read, as well as a murder mystery like nothing that has gone before it. Forget the forensics: only once you’ve been through school with this painfully believable cast of characters will you be equipped to work out what really happened decades later. Even then, you’ll probably guess wrong and be made to stand in the corner.
« Last Edit: June 19, 2011, 02:58:31 PM by rjbull » Logged
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« Reply #235 on: June 18, 2011, 05:31:46 PM »

I'm about half-way through "Behind Deep Blue", the accidental story of the Deep Blue, the first computer chess machine to get good enough to beat the world's best human chess players.  It's written by the engineer who led the team (Feng-hsiung Hsu).

After IBM's 100th anniversary last week, this book just got more interesting to me. IBM's ability to adapt over the decades has allowed it survive where most tech companies rise quickly only to flame out.
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kyrathaba
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« Reply #236 on: July 09, 2011, 09:01:23 PM »

Just finished Neal Stephenson's Anathem.  Whew!  What a read!  I found the pacing a bit slow at some points, but overall it's very good:  intellectually stimulating, and a book that you cannot read on auto-pilot, not if you want to appreciate it. 

Now I've downloaded the Kindle version of K.C. May's first book in The Kinshield Legacy.  At over 600-pages in the paperback edition, I figure I got a steal with a 99 cent download ($1.05 final charge).  Compare that to the $11+ price on Amazon for the paperback.
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« Reply #237 on: August 02, 2011, 09:59:21 PM »

Finished Part I of II of the Kinshield Legacy.  Actually, not bad.  Kinda put me in mind of some of the old Forgotten Realm adventure novels.  Interesting, entertaining, but not too strenuous on the mind.  And better written that I'd anticipated it would be.  Certainly worth more than the 99 cent price.  There's a sequel due out sometime this year.
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« Reply #238 on: August 02, 2011, 11:42:15 PM »

Just finished rereading Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings by Paul Reps and Nyogen Senzaki. I try to reread it at least once every few years, both for pleasure and for the new insights it provides.



Amazon has a pretty good description of what it's about:

Quote
With over one million copies sold fifty years after its first printing, Zen Flesh, Zen Bones has inspired countless lives. Hailed as the most profound religious philosophy ever, this far reaching system of aesthetics truly tackles the question: What is Zen?

Zen Flesh, Zen Bones has been sharing wisdom and enlightenment with readers since 1957. An inspirational four-books-in-one volume at your fingertips, this collection of Zen and pre-Zen writings includes: 101 Zen Stories, a collection of tales that recount actual experiences of Chinese and Japanese Zen teachers over a period of more than five centuries; The Gateless Gate, the famous thirteenth century collection of Zen koans; Ten Bulls, a twelfth century commentary on the stages of awareness leading to enlightenment; and Centering, a 4,000 year-old teaching from India that some consider to be the roots of Zen. ..

About the Author

Paul Reps was the author of several books of poems and prose inspired by Zen, including Zen Telegrams.

Nyogen Senzaki, an internationally renowned Buddhist scholar, was a homeless monk studying and wandering the land from monastery to monastery. His wandering eventually brought him to the United States, where he lived for over 50 years.

I first read this book the summer before the start of my freshman year in high school.

My grandmother had a house on Cape Cod that she occasionally rented out during the summer to friends and people with 'good references.'  

In keeping with one of the many traditions of Cape Cod "summer house" residence, her guests often left behind whatever books they read while on vacation. Over the years, my grandmother's house (by the beach rather than "over the meadow and through the woods") acquired a fairly large library of abandoned paperbacks and inexpensive hardcovers that spanned the gamut of reading interests.

Her living room had a wall of bookshelves on either side of a built-in fireplace. When she first bought the house, these shelves mostly held knick-knacks and her antique Sandwich Glass collection. As the years went by, the books gradually crowded out her collectibles, forcing her to finally move them to a locked (to keep out the books!) curio cabinet she bought specifically to house them.

Most of the books were the usual "summer fare" light espionage, murder mystery, 'bodice-ripper', horror, and (rarely) fantasy & sci-fi titles. But hidden within this collection of literary trash were a few dozen real gems such as The Hobbit and Frank L. Baum's complete collection of 14 illustrated Oz Books in hardcover.

One day, while rummaging, I found a slim little book wedged between and half hidden by a couple of large craft books. It was Zen Flesh Zen Bones. I started reading it, and got hooked before I got less than ten pages into it. And while it may sound trite, I can honestly say this little book changed the course of my entire life - and set me off on a spiritual adventure that's continued to this day.

Dynamite little book.

Read it! Thmbsup

-----------------------------------------------------------
Cautionary note: This book will change you.

The interesting thing about Zen, and it's way of looking at the world, is that it will change you. And it will do it without your doing anything other than becoming aware of what Zen teaches.

No need for rituals (although there are ritual practices if you want them) or complex rules of ethics (Zen is both ethical and moral - yet it paradoxically professes no creed or moral dogma).

Just read through this book and you'll find your perceptions and beliefs changing in many subtle ways - whether you agree or disagree with what you read. Not that there's anything to really disagree with since Zen doesn't espouse any specific beliefs or doctrines. It simply asks you to become consciously aware of what you think of as yourself and the world around you.

Then, once you've reached that level of awareness - look both inward and beyond. (Note: see the Ten Bulls for one roadmap of how to get there!)

What comes next will both amaze and delight you - even if you'll never be able to actually put into words what you've discovered.

   Fun stuff if you're up for it!  Thmbsup





« Last Edit: August 03, 2011, 10:27:31 AM by 40hz » Logged

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« Reply #239 on: August 03, 2011, 12:29:47 AM »

40hz, i live for recommendations like this.. thanks, ordering..
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« Reply #240 on: August 03, 2011, 01:09:47 AM »

40hz, i live for recommendations like this.. thanks, ordering..

I'm glad to hear that. Hope you enjoy your journey.

As T.S. Elliot so nicely put it:

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.


That pretty much sums up what Zen's all about..

Onward! Thmbsup

----------------------------

P.S. If you're interested in a detailed 'operator's manual' after you finish ZFZB, check out Philip Kapleau's
  Three Pillars of Zen: Teaching, Practice, and Enlightenment.



This is THE "first book" if you want to start putting some of ZFZB into actual practice.

Unless, of course, you're already half-enlightened.  Wink

In which case Centering or The 112 Sutras (included in ZFZB) is all you'll need.  huh



« Last Edit: August 03, 2011, 01:29:51 AM by 40hz » Logged

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« Reply #241 on: August 30, 2011, 04:04:33 PM »

Just finished:  If The Dead Rise Not  by  Philip Kerr.
Quote
[Meyer Lansky]: "You read much, Bernie?"
  "More and more," I admitted.  "And for me it's like the French Foreign Legion.  I do it to forget.  Myself, I think."
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kyrathaba
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« Reply #242 on: August 30, 2011, 05:15:05 PM »

I just finished The Omega Point, by Whitley Streiber.  Pretty entertaining.



Now, I'm reading the Kindle edition of China Mieville's Perdido Street Station:

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« Reply #243 on: August 30, 2011, 05:29:17 PM »

I'm currently getting through "A Dance with Dragons" -- George R. R. Martin's latest.

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kyrathaba
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« Reply #244 on: August 30, 2011, 05:34:05 PM »

I've read the first 5 books in that series.  Is the one you're reading #6, skwire?
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« Reply #245 on: August 30, 2011, 05:34:51 PM »

Nope, it's Book 5, I see.  I guess I've only read the first four...
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« Reply #246 on: August 30, 2011, 06:19:21 PM »

Nope, it's Book 5, I see.  I guess I've only read the first four...
Yep, it's the fifth.  Huge book, too...over 1000 pages.
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« Reply #247 on: September 01, 2011, 03:01:45 PM »

Now, I'm reading the Kindle edition of China Mieville's Perdido Street Station
The Ur-text of New Weird?  I also read the sequels, of sorts, The Scar and Iron Council.  I'd rate Perdido Street Station the best, though the others have their moments.
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« Reply #248 on: September 01, 2011, 05:18:33 PM »

I've read "The Scar".  Loved it!
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« Reply #249 on: September 02, 2011, 11:27:40 AM »

Just started to read "An Introduction to Relational Database Theory", by Hugh Darwen.
(Trying to better understand the potential of CHS.)
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