What are you reading?

Apologies if I just missed a thread about books/reading, but I didn’t see anything. I feel like I add 10-15 books to my to-read list for every one that I actually complete, but I’m always on the lookout for something new (or old).

I finished Anthony Doerr’s Cloud Cuckoo Land last night and absolutely loved it. Parts of it felt heavy-handed, but the intertwined narrative across 600 years and multiple POV characters was beautifully done. If you read his Pulitzer-Winning All the Lights We Cannot See I suspect you’d enjoy it. It felt very similar to another of my favorites, Tom Robbins’ Jitterbug Perfume, which also features converging storylines separated by hundreds of years.


Hitler by Ian Kershaw. This is a one volume “condensed” version of his multi-volume work, but it still is plenty long.

I’m currently reading Joe Abercrombie’s Age of Madness series. If anybody else enjoys fantasy in the vein of a Song of Ice and Fire, you should check out Joe’s work, particularly his First Law series which Age of Madness is a sequel series of.

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Reading Robert Tombs The English and their History. Long, but something interesting on every page.

Am just about to finish Neal Stephenson’s colossal Baroque cycle. It’s amazing. Also just finished Philip Roth’s second Zuckerman novel, a book called Life’s Edge about the search for the difference between animate and inanimate matter (by NYT science writer Carl Zimmer), and recently finished Franzen’s new novel, Crossroads. Highly recommend all.

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The First Law series has been on my to-read list for a long time. I’ll have to finally get to it next year.

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I liked Crossroads too. If you liked Franzen’s other stuff, you’ll like it.
I just finished The Nickel Boys, and before that I read The Underground Railroad and Harlem Shuffle. Whitehead is great.
Before those, I read a few Chuck Klosterman books and a few by Richard Lange. All well worth reading.

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It’s been years since I read it, but I loved The Baroque Cycle. Cryptonomicon, too. I think Stephenson has something new due right about now.

I just finished Lonnie Wheeler’s The Bona Fide Legend of Cool Papa Bell, which is a biography. It’s excellent. Kris listened to the audio book first, and said it made her cry. I’d bought it a year ago so I finally read the hardcover, but vowed that I wouldn’t cry. I guess I’m not trustworthy. There are so many good things about the book, but the best is Wheeler’s portrait of Bell as a truly good man.

I re-read Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead earlier this year, which is one of the great books. I liked it better the second time, so I’m reading Home, the second book in the series. Robinson is brilliant.

The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene.

Not exactly racing thru it.

You tube videos on various concepts are helpful.

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Currently reading SPQR by Mary Beard (finishing in this case), A Year of Swollen Appendicies by Brian Eno, The Second World War by Anthony Beever, and The Mezzanine by Nicholson Baker, although I just started that one. I’m really bad about reading multiple books at once. My second tier reading book list is probably twice as long.

I use to fret about reading multiple books because it took longer to read each individual one but then somebody gave me some great advice. She said, when you watch a TV show do you watch only 1 at a time or do you watch a few? You might watch only 1 if it fully grabs you and you can’t watch anything else until you finish, or you may watch many depending on mood. Books work the same way.


Crypto… Verata… Niahcoughcoughcough.

I cannot, do not, read more than one book at a time.

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I basically read what I’m in the mood for, like your TV analogy. If I feel like history I read history, if I feel like Pratchett I read Pratchett. It’s entertainment (or that’s entertaaaainment…that’s entertasaaainment)

I listen to a lot of audiobooks, but don’t really care what I listen to and am careless about whether I listen closely. There are a lot of mysteries of dubious values. I’m more careful about reading hard copies, and these days only read one prose book at a time (unless I’m looking for something). I’ve had a post-covid ritual where I get up in the morning, read a Bible chapter, read some poems, and read at least 10 pages of whatever prose it is I’m reading currently. It works for me. I’m not sure if that counts as reading more than one book at a time.

I have simultaneously read a lot of poetry since Covid, mostly because I don’t think anything makes me read more carefully. Right now I’m reading the English poet Thomas Campion, and the American Sidney Lanier. Campion was involved in one of the most bizarre episodes in British royal history, the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury, who if I’ve got this straight was a lover of James I. The story is on Wikipedia, and is fucking nuts.

Lanier’s name was spread throughout the South as a Southern literary light by the Daughters of the Confederacy, and then later he was denounced by Southern critics, Robert Penn Warren’s crowd, as being insufficiently Southern. He of course was long dead, so I guess he didn’t care. His name was removed from Lanier Middle Schools in Houston and Austin few years ago because he was a confederate private, which was sort of a shame but sort of not. His poems are difficult, but they have nothing to do with the Confederacy.

Campion was a musician as well as a poet, and he wrote one of the loveliest poems about music and love that I know of. Rose-Cheeked Laura by Thomas Campion | Poetry Foundation .

Lanier was a HS in Austin, and I never really understood why the Name Police went after him.

He’s a pretty good poet, but not great. I doubt if he’d have much named for him outside of Georgia except for the Daughter’s of Confederacy. For a while he would be mentioned along with Dickinson and Whitman as one of the great American 19th century innovators, and he is innovative, but not always successful at it. He died pretty young, 39, of TB. He was actually best known in his life as a scholar and musician, but he seems to have been a fellow of immense charm and good will. What I’ve read of him and about him make him immensely likable, though naming schools after him probably didn’t have much to do with either his talent or his likability.

My thought of the why was he was a famous Southern poet, but I never thought of him as any sort of Confederate hero.

No. He was a foot soldier, and then a pilot for blocade runners. He was captured and caught TB in a Northern prison. I think he was about 19, and served for maybe 2 years of the war.

ETA. I think the only real justification for the removal would be that the schools would have never been named for him except for post-War glorification of the Lost Cause, and that’s probably true. He himself just wasn’t a Lost Cause poet. There are some, but not Lanier.

ETA some more. It’s what makes the case for the change of those names a bit over the top and careless.