Anyone read any good books lately?

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sheeba
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Postby sheeba » Fri Sep 15, 2006 2:56 pm

Just finished two great books by Anchee Min, Empress Orchid and Becoming Madame Mao...both historical fiction. Anchee writes about strong enigmatic female figures in Chinese history. The books are very well researched. She sends you into the minds and hearts of the characters/historical figures. Can't wait to read her memoir, Red Azalea.

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Postby Grumpy Frenchman » Sat Sep 16, 2006 8:53 pm

Not sure if it's appropriate to post reading advice when you're a total board newbie, but I'm a bookworm and can't resist the temptation! ^_^

I just finished reading 3 books by Steven Pressfield: Gates of Fire, The Afghan Campaign, and Tides of War.
All 3 are set in Ancient Greece - and all three are full of war. The Afghan Campaign is about Alexander's "pacifying" of that country; Tides of War centers on the Peloponesian War and the character of Alcibiades, and Gates of Fire is about the Battle of Thermopylae.

All three are outstandingly written. It feels like the word "gritty" was invented for them - especially Gates of Fire. They bring Ancient Greece to life in an incredible fashion, and the battle scenes are so realistic they're actually painful to read. I used to think a good writer could make me see and hear a scene; Pressfield managed to make me smell and taste it too.

Granted, it's not peaceful litterature; but it is brilliant, and not war for the sake of war (it's not Tom Clancy). I'd highly recommend reading at least Gates of Fire.


For more peaceful reading, I can only agree that Terry Pratchett is indeed a genius and should be read again and again. All his books. They're all that good! :mrgreen:


Edit: on the subject of Japanese internees - I discovered recently a marvelous song by James Keelaghan, a Canadian folk (country?) singer. It's called Kiri's Piano.
It's one of the most beautiful and haunting songs I've ever heard. I cannot recommend it enough.

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Postby rahau » Fri Nov 23, 2007 10:47 pm

I just finished reading “Look Me in the Eye – My Life With Asperger’s” by John Robison.

Some quick background – the “Asperger’s” he refers to is Asperger’s Syndrome. The typical Aspergian is someone who is very intelligent, often quite brilliant, but with deficient social skills. They don’t have the ability to read such nonverbal cues as body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice. As a result, they have trouble making and maintaining friendships, and often exhibit eccentric, sometimes offensive behavior. One telltale sign is their aversion to making eye contact – hence the title.

In addition to his Asperger’s, Robison had other troubles. His father was an alcoholic, and his mother suffered from mental illness. Those of you who read Augusten Burrough’s “Running With Scissors” will recognize the parents – Burroughs is Robison’s younger brother.

By the time he was sixteen, Robison was scoring in the 98th percentile on intelligence tests, and was flunking out of school. Most of his classmates derided him for being weird. Luckily for him, a teacher noticed his gift for electronics, and put him to work fixing the school’s AV equipment. After dropping out, he got a job with Pink Floyd as an audio tech. Later, he went to work for KISS, where he designed and built guitars that set off smoke bombs and rockets.

Soon, he grew tired of the rock music scene, and went to work for Milton-Bradley, where he worked on the first electronic games. But he was still hamstrung by his Asperger’s. As long as he worked with electronics and machines, he was fine. In his words, “Machines aren’t mean.” But dealing with people remained a frustrating mystery, especially when he was promoted to management, and told to act like a Corporate Team Player. Eventually, he turned to his other love, cars. He started a high-end car repair and restoration business - Jaguars, Porsches, and Mercedes. One of his customers was a psychiatrist who told him about Asperger’s.

At last. At long last, he had the answer. He wasn’t weird, or psychopathic, or stupid. His problem had a name, it was definable. There were ways to compensate for it. Best of all, he discovered he wasn’t alone - there were plenty of people who shared the same problem. Many were brilliant and creative, like him. Instead of feeling ashamed, he is now proud to be an Aspergian.

Like his beloved high-end cars, Robison’s book is quite a ride. Funny, outrageous, harrowing, and deeply moving. The behind-the-scenes accounts of KISS and Pink Floyd tours are worth the price alone.

Most of us know at least one or two people who exhibit symptoms of Asperger’s. Read this book, and you’ll see them in an entirely new light. If they read it, they will, too.

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Postby CandaceC » Sat Nov 24, 2007 6:45 am

sheeba wrote:Just finished two great books by Anchee Min, Empress Orchid and Becoming Madame Mao...both historical fiction. Anchee writes about strong enigmatic female figures in Chinese history. The books are very well researched. She sends you into the minds and hearts of the characters/historical figures. Can't wait to read her memoir, Red Azalea.


Oh I love all three that you mentioned. I think though, reading the follow up to Empress Orchid, I think it's called The Last Empress...it sort of bored me. Wasn't as riveting. I'm waiting on purchasing Wild Ginger by her as well.

My recent favorites? I have a Haruki Murakami book called Dance, Dance, Dance which, of course, sort of belongs in his own funny universe. After Dark (same author) was also wonderful. If anyone is into historical fiction, there's a great Marie Antoinette book called Abundance by Sena Jeter Naslund. I'd type far more but I'd be here forever. Plus I just got new books today. <3

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Postby sheeba » Sun Dec 02, 2007 4:58 pm

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel is a masterpeice. One of my very favorite books. You can read it twice in one sitting and believe me you will! Time magazine voted it best book of 2006 which is so cool given it's a graphic memoir. It's about Alison's childhood and her bizarre relationship with her parents who are English teachers and run a funeral home i.e. "Fun Home". It's funny, sad, beautiful, quirky...just brilliant. It's "low brow" cartoons/comics meets "high brow" literary writing...and it's just a great story. I strongly recommend this to everyone!

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Postby Ang Mo » Thu Dec 06, 2007 3:57 am

The typical Aspergian is someone who is very intelligent, often quite brilliant, but with deficient social skills. They don’t have the ability to read such nonverbal cues as body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice. As a result, they have trouble making and maintaining friendships, and often exhibit eccentric, sometimes offensive behavior. One telltale sign is their aversion to making eye contact – hence the title.


I can relate to that, when I was talking to my psychiatrist about my cooking class and I explained about this Wolfgang Puck wannabe who gave me two strips of bacon rather than the Panchetta (Italian Bacon) I needed to perfect my dish. I told him he was the equivalant of a tone deaf lowlife Elvis impersonator who has just thrown a B Flat into my A Sharp Major Concerto and all this moron could say was sorry.

All my stupid psychiatrist could say was that I should be nice and even a cave man could do that. I thanked them for making me feel like I was in a Geico commercial, paid my bill, and left disenchanted as always. I did look them in the eye though, so I am probably just bitter rather then Aspergian.
--the only adults who are never depressed: chuckleheads, California surfers, and fundamentalist Christians who believe they have had a personal encounter with Jesus and are saved once and for all. Would you trade your depression to become any of these?

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Postby playforchrissy » Thu Jan 03, 2008 11:11 pm

I have read a lot of books by Nicholas Sparks and I absolutely love them. I want to read "I Am Legend" because I just saw the movie but I heard the book was completely different.

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Postby Ang Mo » Fri Feb 08, 2008 3:58 am

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain is a great book. The only problem I have is it makes me bust out laughing really loud in places that really don't cater to that kind of behavior so I have to be careful where I read it. Every chapter is filled with entertaining stories told in some of the most sarcastic prose one could imagine. The one blurb on vegetarians and vegans got me laughing. Let me just quote the book:

Vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter faction, the vegans, are a persistent irritant to any chef worth a damn. To me, life without veal stock, pork fat, sausage, organ meat, demi-glace or even stinky cheese is a life not worth living. Vegetarians are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit, an affront to all I stand for, the pure enjoyment of food. The body, these water heads imagine, is a temple that should not be polluted by animal protein. It’s healthier they insist, though every vegetarian waiter I’ve worked with is brought down by any rumor of a cold. But let me tell you a story.

A few years back at a swinging singles joint on Columbus Avenue, we had the misfortune to employ a sensitive young man as a waiter who, in addition to a wide and varied social life involving numerous unsafe sexual practices, was something of a jailhouse lawyer. After he was fired for incompetence, he took it on himself to sue the restaurant, claiming that a gastrointestinal problem, caused apparently by amoebas, was a result of his work there. Management took this litigation seriously enough to engage the services of an epidemiologist, who obtained stool samples from every employee. The results--which I was privy to--were enlightening to say the least. The waiter’s strain of amoebas, it was concluded, was common to persons of his lifestyle, and to many others. What was interesting were the results of our Mexican and South American prep cooks. These guys were teeming with numerous varieties of critters, none of which, in their cases, caused illness or discomfort. It was explained that the results in our restaurant was no different from the results at any other restaurant and that, particularly among my recently arrived Latino brethren, this sort of thing is normal--that their system is use to it and it causes them no difficulties at all. Amoebas, however, are transferred most easily through the handling of raw, uncooked vegetables, particularly during the washing of salad greens and leafy produce. So think about that the next time you want to exchange deep tongue kisses with a vegetarian.

Your body is not a temple, it is an amusement park, so enjoy the ride.


He is very amusing and his show on the travel channel is entertaining as well.
--the only adults who are never depressed: chuckleheads, California surfers, and fundamentalist Christians who believe they have had a personal encounter with Jesus and are saved once and for all. Would you trade your depression to become any of these?

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Postby -Dexter- » Mon Feb 11, 2008 1:47 pm

I finished John Wyndhams "The Chrysalids" lately and am eager to get a hold of his other stories in the future. He's a very nice sci-fi read for in between, because his books aren't usually very long.
At the time I'm into Murakamis "Coin Locker Babies", which thus far is one hell of a ride.

I finally purchased Charles Dickens "Our Mutual Friend" and "A Tale of Two Cities", both long time wishlist-ers of mine. I just took a peek into the latter and I'm seeing a hard time of understanding in front of me. He certainly had some vocabulary. :P

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Postby spyfferoni » Wed Feb 13, 2008 9:07 pm

I normally don't read very often because I am the type of person who can't put a book down once I get started. That doesn't work too well being a busy Mom of three kids. I've been on a reading rampage lately though since my husband has been out of town for a month. I finally had to limit myself to reading only on the weekend. Anyway I've been reading Salvatore's Drizz't books---It's only been since I saw Lord of the Rings the first movie that I started reading fantasy and discovered that I enjoy it. I read the trilogy after the first movie, and then I read Eragon with my 9yr old son and enjoyed it and read Eldest the 2nd book. Then this summer my brother gave me the Dark Elf Trilogy to read and so I've been checking out Salvatore's other books this past month. I've also read a couple of Mary Higgins Clark mystery novels, a John Grisham novel, and a biography of Harriet Jacobs who wrote, "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl." She lived six years in hiding in a space 9' by 6' and 3' high. Incredible! I can't believe some of the inhumane things done in the history of our world and even the United States---The Japanese interment camps were not so long ago---We've come a long way, but still have a ways to go! I read that Topaz book in 7th grade---and I'll never forget it! I'll have to check out some of the books mentioned on this thread.

Tyffanie

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Postby if(!u){i=null;} » Thu Feb 14, 2008 12:50 am

spyfferoni wrote:I can't believe some of the inhumane things done in the history of our world and even the United States---The Japanese interment camps were not so long ago---We've come a long way, but still have a ways to go!

Try Iris Chang's The Rape of Nanking when you're up for some light reading. We humans are a sad lot. Although it doesn't say so on her website, Ms. Chang became a recent victim of this inhumanity.

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Postby rahau » Thu Feb 14, 2008 7:22 am

if(!u){i=null;} wrote: We humans are a sad lot. Although it doesn't say so on her website, Ms. Chang became a recent victim of this inhumanity.


About thirty years ago, I had lunch with an aviation accident investigator. He told me most accidents are rarely the result of one thing. Usually, it's a combination of events that build to a critical mass. If any one or maybe two of those events do not occur, the accident might be avoided.

I thought about what he said as I read Finding Iris Chang - Friendship, Ambition, and the Loss of an Extraordinary Mind, by Paula Kamen. Chang and Kamen were classmates, competitors, and friends at the University of Illinois. Like many others, Kamen was shocked and baffled by Chang's suicide. Chang seemed to have it all. She was brilliant, beautiful, and successful. Her books not only sold well, they made a difference, they made people think and take action. Her husband adored her, and they had a beautiful son. What went so terribly wrong?

Like an aviation accident, it was a number of things. Kamen says Chang was, in all likelihood, bipolar. Under normal circumstances, it might have been manageable. But there were aggravating factors. Kamen reveals that Chang had trouble conceiving, and took fertility drugs. The drugs boosted her hormone levels to more than ten times the level most women experience during menstruation. The traumatic nature of her work, both the Nanking book and her work in progress about the Bataan Death March, only added to the stress. Kamen says Chang's image as The Woman With The Perfect Life was carefully cultivated by Chang. Once that image was shattered by her first breakdown, she may have felt a deep sense of shame.

Part biography, part memoir of their at-times strained friendship, and part investigative report of Big Pharma, the book avoids easy or pat answers. As someone who was, and remains, a fan of Chang's, I found Kamen's book deeply moving and terribly saddening. I found myself wishing, If only she could have held on just a little longer. Just a little longer, until the effects of the fertility drugs eased. Just a little longer, until she no longer needed the antidepressants, which may have hurt as much as they helped. Just a little longer, until she understood the nature of Bipolar Disorder, and how to manage it, and not feel ashamed of it.

Kamen has come in for some criticism for mixing her personal memories of Chang with the straight biographical sections. It's unwarranted. Her up-close memories and observations shed an intimate light on Chang's life, and help the reader to understand what drove her, to both her success and her death.

No one is perfect, and Chang was certainly not the superwoman she would have had us believe. But her flaws don't change the facts. She was heroic - a brilliant writer, a brave and honest historian, and a dedicated advocate for human rights and justice.

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Postby Ang Mo » Wed Feb 20, 2008 8:04 am

A book called "The Backpacker" by Albert Saijo, who calls himself the oldest Asian hippie. It is an exceptional book, one is which I have a copy of. Saijo was very good friends with Jack Kerouc and was written about in Kerouc's books.

http://starbulletin.com/97/06/27/features/story2.html

He now lives in Hawaii on the Big Island. He use to live in San Francisco. Interesting life he has led. His reasons for moving to Hawaii were interesting.

Saijo moved to the Big Island because "I got tired of living in a white-male dominant society. That sounds racist but after 60 years you think there must be another way. I find Hawaii more realistic. I like the interracial society, even though politics are bull---- wherever you go."
--the only adults who are never depressed: chuckleheads, California surfers, and fundamentalist Christians who believe they have had a personal encounter with Jesus and are saved once and for all. Would you trade your depression to become any of these?

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Postby Scot » Thu Feb 21, 2008 7:44 am

Ang Mo wrote:He now lives in Hawaii on the Big Island. He use to live in San Francisco. Interesting life he has led. His reasons for moving to Hawaii were interesting.

Saijo moved to the Big Island because "I got tired of living in a white-male dominant society. That sounds racist but after 60 years you think there must be another way. I find Hawaii more realistic. I like the interracial society, even though politics are bull---- wherever you go."


Ha! He has a point, though. I do find the multi-cultural/-ethnic aspect of
the Big Island to be quite refreshing!

scot- another white guy in Hawaii! ;)
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Postby Ang Mo » Fri Feb 22, 2008 3:34 am

Well he lives in the town of Volcano. How far is that from Hilo? I think it is another good reason for Vienna to go to Hawaii. Lots of interesting people to meet. I think Saijo and Vienna would have an interesting philosophical discussion.

I know when I grow up, I want to have a philosophical discussion with the singing Hobbit. It is a lofty goal, I better gain some knowledge of something first though.
--the only adults who are never depressed: chuckleheads, California surfers, and fundamentalist Christians who believe they have had a personal encounter with Jesus and are saved once and for all. Would you trade your depression to become any of these?


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