What are you currently reading? (part 2)

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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby Ciarán12 » 2018-03-30, 21:07

I'm currently reading two books (I normally never do that, but I couldn't wait to finish one of them before starting the other, so here I am reading both....):

Uma Breve História do Brasil - My fiancée got this for me as a surprise present. As yuo can probably tell from the title (even if you don't speak Portuguese), it's a brief history of Brazil, very accessibly written, I'm enjoying it a lot. sofar I'm about a quarter of the way through, I'd recommend it for anyone a) who speaks or is learning Protuguese and b) is interested in learning about Brazilian history juuuuust enough, i.e. not so much that you get bored, but enough that you feel you learned something valuable and could discuss the topic with a fairly decent grasp of how shit went down.

Shogun - The pt-PT translation of James Clavell's Shogun (the pt-BR version is called Xógun, I believe), a book I've read several times in its English original (though not for some years now) and which has to rank as one of my favourite books. I already know I love the book, and that's sort of why I couldn't just not read it until I finished Uma Breve História do Brasil, it sucked me in!

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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby Luís » 2018-04-03, 9:15

I started reading Israel: A History by Anita Shapira. It mostly covers the time period between the end of the 19th century and the year 2000. I think it'll be a good complement to my Hebrew studies :yep:
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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby IpseDixit » 2018-04-11, 11:32

Lately I've picked up the habit of starting new books without finishing the ones I'm already reading, so I've ended up with this list:

- Languages of the World by Asya Pereltsvaig. It started quite well but the more I progress with it, the more it looks like a language version of an IKEA catalog, and I'm just 30% through it. I really hope this trend will be reversed.

- Suspicious Minds: Why We Believe Conspiracy Theories by Rob Brotherton. The title is quite self-expanatory. The book has a scientific take on the issue, we're constantly presented with empirical data taken from experiments conducted by actual researchers, so it's not just groundless philosophical speculation of this phenomenon.

- Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond. In this book the author (a biologist) - using a highly interdisciplinary approach - tries to prove that the reason Europeans took over the world and had a very advanced technology in comparison with other peoples' has nothing to do with race. I'm still at the very beginning so I don't have much to comment on.

And now on to novels:

- The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin. It's probably the most challenging among her novels (at least the ones I have read). It's crammed full of notions, the storyline is quite intricate and non-linear, nonetheless it's definitely worthwhile. I don't know what it is about her novels, but every time I read one of them it's such a different experience from reading other authors. The pacing of her stories is so unique.

- The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov. Well, I'm not super-fond of the Dune-like "medieval sci-fi" turn that it takes around page 100 but there are so many good things to ditch it, above all psychohistory.

- Harry Potter (I don't think I need to mention who the author is). I was very curious to re-read it after 15-ish years from the first time, and this time in its original language (I also have to confess that the first time I didn't even finish the entire series, I got bored at book number four, so that's one more reason). So far I've read the first book and... ok, I know it's a children's book, but I didn't expect to find J. K. Rowling's writing style so dull. Hopefully, it will get better with the other books in the series.

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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby Yasna » 2018-04-11, 14:25

IpseDixit wrote:- Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond. In this book the author (a biologist) - using a highly interdisciplinary approach - tries to prove that the reason Europeans took over the world and had a very advanced technology in comparison with other peoples' has nothing to do with race. I'm still at the very beginning so I don't have much to comment on.

I read the book, and while he makes some good arguments, he doesn't approach the issue in a scientific manner. If I recall correctly, he saw a group of Papuans doing some complicated tasks, and decided then and there that race was irrelevant to a population's success. And the rest of the book was him confirming this bias. Ongoing genetics research is likely to challenge this book's premise.

How Genetics Is Changing Our Understanding of ‘Race’
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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby Osias » 2018-04-11, 15:19

I didn't read the book but I read once some kind of lecture transcript outlining the ideas. I found they are convincing, but I'm afraid the problem is we don't have a control group: a parallel universe with no steel, guns and germs in the hands of the Europeans where they didn't dominated other peoples.
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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby IpseDixit » 2018-04-11, 15:40

Yasna wrote:I read the book, and while he makes some good arguments, he doesn't approach the issue in a scientific manner. If I recall correctly, he saw a group of Papuans doing some complicated tasks, and decided then and there that race was irrelevant to a population's success. And the rest of the book was him confirming this bias.


I haven't read enough of it to say that I agree with this or not. I'm not even sure whether the author was really claiming to have the ultimate, scientifically watertight answer to this question, however it would be a shame if it really turned out to be a huge confirmation bias.

I was also a bit skeptical about picking a book written 20 years ago, since it can be quite a long time when it comes to scientific research, for example I've already spotted a mistake: J. Diamond says that we have no proof of neanderthals and modern humans interbreeding, well, now we do have that proof. And since I have no academic training in biology, I wonder how many other similar mistakes I will overlook.

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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby linguoboy » 2018-04-11, 15:54

If you're interested in criticisms of Diamond from experts in the field, you might look at Questioning Collapse, a collection of essays published in 2000. (Although the title references his follow-up book Collapse, it includes critiques of Guns, germs, and steel as well.)
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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby Osias » 2018-04-11, 15:56

Thanks a lot!
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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby Yasna » 2018-04-19, 4:42

I finished reading the first volume of 騎士団長殺し (Killing Commendatore). Like with other Murakami books, the writing is a delight, but it could have used an aggressive editor to improve the pace. I hope for international readers' sake that the translators condense the book.

I also read Systematic: How Systems Biology Is Transforming Modern Medicine by James Valcourt. It started out a little slow, but ended up delivering a solid introduction to an exciting field with mind-boggling potential.

I'm currently reading The Day the Leader Was Killed by Naguib Mahfouz.
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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby vijayjohn » 2018-04-19, 5:23

I recently started reading (or at least skimming through) Alitjinya Ngura Tjukurtjarangka/Alitji in Dreamland, an Australian Aboriginal retelling of Alice in Wonderland, narrated by Nancy Sheppard in both Pitjantjatjara and English side by side. It begins with Alitji and her sister playing a traditional storytelling game. The first paragraph in the English version is mostly dedicated to just explaining this game. (The first two paragraphs in Pitjantjatjara correspond to the first five in English. To be fair, the second paragraph in Pitjantjatjara is fairly long).

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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby Yasna » 2018-04-20, 19:01

I finished reading The Day the Leader Was Killed. The author was trying to do way too much in 100 pages. Needed to be fleshed out.

I'm currently reading The Master Algorithm: How the Quest for the Ultimate Learning Machine Will Remake Our World by Pedro Domingos.
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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby linguoboy » 2018-05-03, 15:12

Finally on the last section of the James. While I greatly admire his artistry, he spends more time with some of the characters than I feel necessary. In fact, I'd've been perfectly happy if he'd just stuck with the one female protagonist throughout. (She was the one who had me skipping ahead to read the next installment in her storyline.)

For my trip to New Mexico last weekend, I started two new books, one fiction and one nonfiction. The former is Ceremony by Native author Leslie Marmon Silko, which I already owned, and the latter is The great Pueblo Revolt, about one of the few successful Native American uprisings in USA history. Unfortunately, the narrator keeps inserting himself in the story in a way that isn't particularly enlightening so I haven't read much of it. But the Silko is really terrific, with an intriguing premise and a skilled interweaving of Keresan myth and more conventional narrative.
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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby TheStrayCat » 2018-05-11, 16:25

12 Rules for Life by Jordan B. Peterson.

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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby linguoboy » 2018-05-15, 14:52

TheStrayCat wrote:12 Rules for Life by Jordan B. Peterson.

:doggy:

Finally finished the James. What spurred me was running into someone on the shuttle who had him as a thesis advisor. I could tell he was trying to glimpse the cover so I held it up so he could see clearly and we had a nice little chat. He actually hasn't read the novel, despite having his own (presumably autographed) copy at home.

Over the weekend, a friend visited and lamented that he wasn't reading for pleasure these days so I dragged him to my bookshelf and sent him away with two or three volumes. One was The god of small things; I can't remember what else he took. He talked up Rohinton Mistry's A fine balance, which is on my to-read shelf, so I began reading it later that day after finishing up Silko's Ceremony. Seems good so far.

Last week someone challenged me to name "Seven Novels You Love". One of them was Genji, so I began reading the Royall Tyler translation. (Like most people, my first version was the Seidensticker.) I'll never get over how pleasurable it is to read a novel that's a thousand years old about people whose existence could hardly be more unlike mine.
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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby france-eesti » 2018-05-17, 11:12

Currently reading "As valquirías" in Portuguese (Paulo Coelho). Reminds me of "O Alquimista" because it takes place in the desert, and "O Zahir" too... Not my favourite book so far by Coelho but I'll carry on, not just because my Portuguese needs emergency refreshing, but also because I'd like to make sure I don't like Paulo Coelho anymore :roll:
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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby Lutrinae » 2018-05-19, 21:44

I've just finished Omon Ra and The Helmet of Horror from Victor Pelevin and I am absolutely in love with the later ! It seems simple in writing and yet complex enough in the ideas. Haven't felt that way about a book in a while !

Now I am currently reading tome 3 of Elric from Michael Morcook, 1808 from Lorentino Gomes (VO), and the less interesting, the Official driver theory test '-_-. If learning driving rules was as easy as learning a language...

@france-eesti I've read the Alchemist like 15 years ago and I absolutely didn't like it, while everyone I know did. Maybe I should try in Portuguese ^^
Thanks for any correction :)

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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby france-eesti » 2018-05-20, 6:05

Lutrinae wrote:@france-eesti I've read the Alchemist like 15 years ago and I absolutely didn't like it, while everyone I know did. Maybe I should try in Portuguese ^^


Thanks - I think I no longer like Paulo Coelho's esoteric side... Well maybe we grow up and change and... :|
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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby Osias » 2018-05-20, 14:22

Lutrinae wrote:I've read the Alchemist like 15 years ago and I absolutely didn't like it, while everyone I know did. Maybe I should try in Portuguese ^^

I don't think it'll make any difference. The language used is purposely/intentionally made simple. It's not Guimarães Rosa, there's not 'beauty' or anything in the prose. Its success is due its message and due being easily understood.

I'm not saying it's bad. I liked when I read.
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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby Ciarán12 » 2018-05-20, 15:18

france-eesti wrote:Currently reading "As valquirías" in Portuguese (Paulo Coelho). Reminds me of "O Alquimista" because it takes place in the desert, and "O Zahir" too... Not my favourite book so far by Coelho but I'll carry on, not just because my Portuguese needs emergency refreshing, but also because I'd like to make sure I don't like Paulo Coelho anymore :roll:


That's a pity - As Valquírias was actually the first book I read in Portuguese (I read O Alquimista afterwards) and I really liked it. I've bought Aleph and it's in the queue to get read once I'm done with my current book.

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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby Lutrinae » 2018-05-20, 15:37

Yes I don't remember it very well, except that there was the word “personal legend“ or something similar every page, and this annoyed me a lot. But that person recommended me another book which became my favourite, so I was not too mad :)
Thanks for any correction :)


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