Discussion: What Are You Reading?

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.”

Stephen King’s not wrong: books are awesome. Especially in the summer, since it’s so much easier to bring a book to the beach than to bring a TV. That’s why we’re celebrating the long Fourth of July weekend with a discussion question for all you readers out there: what are you reading this summer?

I’m reading two books right now: Colleen McCullough’s The Thorn Birds and Ada Palmer’s Too Like the Lightning.

Palmer, a historian at the University of Chicago, wrote Too Like the Lightning as the first novel in a planned four-part series. Set 500 years from now in an almost-utopia based on Enlightenment ideals (broadly conceived and conveniently updated to get rid of the racism and sexism), Too Like the Lightening has fascinating worldbuilding and does a great job of playing with gender and narratorial reliability.

But it’s not the easiest of reads. The narrator’s voice is sometimes affected, and there are an awful lot of characters to keep straight. As just one quarter of the planned total series, the book’s focus is on laying groundwork, which means that there’s not a huge amount of suspense or momentum.

Enter: The Thorn Birds. If you’re forty or under, you’ve heard of it in a vague way. If you’re over forty, you probably remember the massive miniseries from 1983. It was watercooler television practically on par with Roots.

I haven’t watched the miniseries yet, but the book is awesome. The travails of the Cleary clan in the Australian outback is immersive, complex, and heart-wrenching. McCullough demonstrates both nuanced understanding of character (she seems to be just enough of a Freudian to make things interesting) and a keen eye for the social details of early-to-mid-twentieth-century Australia. It’s like a well-written soap opera, and you get to learn some stuff, too.

What about you? What are you reading this summer?

Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)

19 comments:

migmit said...

Currently — “The Girl with Seven Names” by Hyeonseo Lee. An autobiography of a North Korea defector.

I'm also, very slowly, re-reading “Az elveszet cirkáló“ (“The Vanished Cruiser”) by Rejtő Jenő — trying to improve my Hungarian; I've read it before, in Russian, and liked it. It's pure fun, over the top (“Doctor Who”-style), but quite enjoyable.

Anonymous said...

I was so excited to see this article! I love reading and hearing about what other people are reading!

I'm currently reading Abaddon's Gate by James S. A. Corey. It's book three in The Expanse Series. It's sci-fi. The books are the basis of The Expanse TV series, which is also really good.

Billie Doux said...

I love talking about books. :) I'm working my way through the sci-fi novels of Douglas E. Richards, who is being referred to as the "new Michael Crichton." He writes very near future books with a chewy technological center and pretty good characters.

His first book is Wired, and I loved that it was a story about an absolutely brilliant woman scientist who is five steps ahead of everyone else. There's a good sequel to it called Amped. So far, I've been most impressed with Richards' Split Second, a page turner about a world-changing discovery that turns out to be actually about something else that is also world-changing, and see how I'm trying not to spoil anyone here?

toby martin said...

I'm reading American Psycho at the moment. Very dark and disturbing but extremely funny at times too. The films one of my favourites and slowly this books becoming one of my favourites too. I'm also reading a comic book series called Y: The Last Man which is about a virus killing every man on earth except the women and this one guy and his pet monkey. I'm nearly halfway through and think it's one of the best comics I've read in awhile, highly recommend if you want to get into comics or want something new.

Patrick said...

I'm currently working on finishing the Silo series by Hugh Howey. I'm re-reading the first book, "Wool", as it's been a while since reading it the first time. Then I'll get to the other two, "Shift" and "Dust". If you haven't read Wool, I can't recommend it enough. It was originally self-published via Kindle in 5 short stories, the first of which you can now get for free. The "Omnibus Edition" collects them together as a complete novel. I can't recall the last time I was as blown away by the reveals of a book, and I'm super excited to see what the sequels have in store.

Other than that, I mostly look for books to pass the time between Jim Butcher's new releases. The next book in the Dresden Files(my all-time favorite book series) is next, followed by the second book of the Cinder Spires(the first of which was AMAZING).

Billie Doux said...

Patrick, I read all of Hugh Howey's series. Pretty darned good.

Lisianpeia said...

Billie, I'll write down the name Douglas E. Richards. I'm really into reading sci-fi/space opera right now and I've been trying to move through classic stories and newer ones. The last two books I read were Infomocracy by Malka Older and Babel-17 by Samuel Delany. They are both incredible in their own ways. Infomocracy is more of a discussion on information, politics and democracy in the near future. Babel-17 is more space opera style and is, ultimately, about communication. And both books have great believable characters, especially the women.

Also, I've been rereading Harry Potter with a friend ^^

Toby, Y: The Last Man is on my list!

Paul Kelly said...

Looking at my Kobo, I'm currently 49 percent into 'Cibola Burn' by James S.A. Corey, 84 percent into 'Catalyst' by James Luceno, and 90 percent into 'Make Room, Make Room' by Harry Harrison. All totally zarjaz reads.

Mark Greig said...

A few months back I vowed to not buy any new books this year until I'd read the large pile of unread books I already own. That quickly went out of the window when I won £300 in gift vouchers at work that I can use at my local book store. Now I having a second go at all the books I gave up after a few chapters. I've just finished reading The Children of Hurin by Tolkien, am currently 600+ pages into The Once and Future King by T.H. White and just started the first of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time books. After I'm done with that I'm going to try Tad Williams' Memory, sorrow and Thorn series again and finally cross The Silmarillion off the bucket list.

Logan Cox said...

I'm currently reading L.A. Confidential by James Ellroy. A very punchy, hardboiled book, and a great expansion from what I saw in the movie adaptation. The author has a very economical writing style, neatly compacting a lot of information with a minimal amount of detail, so the book flows really well. Almost finished, might try No Country For Old Men by Cormac McCarthy next.

paladinteacher said...

The Once and Future King. Aaahhhh. I love that book! Now I might have to go find my copy and re-read it. I just finished The Bone Collector by Jeffrey Deaver. (I know, really? I've read several of his books, just somehow not that one until I ran up on it at a used book sale.) Just before that I read The Overlook by Michael Connelly. Sensing a theme for police procedurals, except that the book I'm in the middle of at the moment is a trashy romance. I will say that it's to balance the professional reading that I'm having to do for an online class I'm taking.

magritte said...

I just finished the Bone Clocks by David Mitchell. It's a fascinating read which follows several characters over a span of decades ranging from the 1980's to the 2030's. Though the point of view changes to different narrators, the chief protagonist is a young Englishwoman who becomes inadvertently involved in an occult war between two groups of immortals. One group is born with the innate ability to reincarnate and retain memories of their past lives while the opposing forces derive their immortality by draining souls. While fascinating, I felt it lost a little steam toward the end. I feel like I should have read this book before Slade House, as it reused some of the same concepts and mentions some characters. Actually, I think there are some characters referenced from Cloud Atlas in the book, too.

Onanymous said...

I'm nearly done with a reread of Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman, a sort-of sequel to American Gods (I finished my reread of that one just in time for the show to start).

Next up is Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes. It's a crime thriller with a paranormal twist. I loved her previous book, The Shining Girls, about a time-travelling serial killer, so I'm hoping this one will be just as good.

drnanamom said...

Ah so many good books...I am considering rereading the Dark Tower series for the fourth time but there are so many new books to read! I am presently reading "The Ministry of Utmost Happiness" by Arundhati Roy. It is a beautiful and sorrowful book about India generally and Kashmiri specifically and the conflict between Hindus and Muslims. I find fiction a good way to wade into difficult things about which I have little knowledge. I also particularly enjoy writing that is a little unusual and because of this is able to evoke powerful connections and feelings. This isn't a fluffy summer read for the beach but I am still enjoying it, albeit in small doses. Maybe for a break I'll reread American Gods next.

magritte said...

Drnanamom, have you read Shalimar the Clown, Salman Rushdie's Kashmir book. Maybe not his best book, but it has its moments, and his writing is certainly unusual.

Laure Mack said...

I've been really considering diving into the Game of Thrones book series. Has anyone read them? Are they worth it if I've already seen a few seasons of the television series?

paladinteacher said...

Laure, I would definitely go for reading Game of Thrones. Full disclosure, this is coming from someone who has read all of the books so far, and only seen one season of the show. (No HBO, but I am slowly acquiring the season DVDs.) I really can't comment on how faithful the show adapts the books, but the books are compelling and complex. (And very long - but I'm sure you're aware of that.)

Mallena said...

I've just started M.R. Carey's "The Boy on the Bridge," which is a prequel to "The Girl with all the Gifts." I love a good apocalyptic novel. These days there are so many to choose from. Is that a good trend, or a bad one? I used to read sci fi novels about humans colonizing other planets, now it's mostly death and mayhem here on Earth.

Anonymous said...

Laure Mack, I wanted to second Paladinteacher's comment. I think the book series is worth it. I've read all the books thus far and have seen the entirety of the tv series. You'll see some overlap, like some of the major events, but other things were changed for the tv series, so you'll get to see a slightly different version. The books are great at fleshing out the characters. Of course, you'd be in it for the long hull; the books are long, but so worth it.