Tämä viestiketju jatkaa tätä viestiketjua: QUESTIONS FOR THE AVID READER.

Tämä viestiketju jatkuu täällä: QUESTIONS FOR THE AVID READER, Part 3.

KeskusteluClub Read 2020

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Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 14, 2020, 12:00pm

Still aiming for putting these up on Fridays, but since responses have died off for #8, I thought I'd post #9 a wee bit early.

Question 9: Diversity in Books (begins post #2)
Question 10: Your Prescriptions for Needy Readers (begins post#20)
Question 11: Problems with Reading Older Books (begins post #48)
Question 12: Two March Days (begins post #82)
Question 13: Movies vs Books (begins at post#100)
Question 14: Humorous Books (begins at post#121)
Question 15: Your reading and the pandemic (begins at #134)
Question 16: Genre: Science Fiction (begins at #158)

Muokkaaja: helmikuu 20, 2020, 5:39pm

Thanks very much to lilisin for the original question. It's been edited and expanded a bit to provide more of a transition. Examples to illustrate your points are encouraged but not required.

Question 9:
Characters —>Diversity in Books

How important are character descriptions to you? With a description are you able to actually visualize the character? If there is no description do the characters remain faceless to you?

If not given clear description otherwise, do you tend to imagine characters who look more or less like yourself re: skin color, ethnicity…etc.?

What about gender? If pronouns were neutral, what would your default be?

What about when you are reading literatures other than your native lit? Say you are reading Italian, Japanese, or Nigerian literature? Are you visualizing the characters differently?

Is it important to you that there are characters who look like yourself? Is it harder to identify with characters who don’t look like yourself?

Beyond the visual, is it important to you that characters in books are also representative in other ways (i.e. religion, location, economic status…)

Do you hold the authors responsible for including that diversity in their books or the publishers for their choices as to what to publish? Or, is it on all us, the readers, to find diversity by our reading choices? And do you consider those questions differently if regarding children’s or YA lit?

Muokkaaja: helmikuu 21, 2020, 12:20am

Interesting question. The protagonist is always me. I may have shape shifted to another age, time period, socio-economic class, gender or ethnicity, but whatever happens to the protagonist happens to me, and I feel as they do if the writing is any good Depending on the writer, I might share the protagonist's experience more or less intensely. I have greatly enjoyed or been moved by being the following:

Genley Ai from Left Hand of Darkness
Lady Murasaki The Diary of Lady Murasaki
Anne Elliott Persuasion
Therese Belivet The Price of Salt
Tom Ripley The Talented Mr. Ripley
Joe Pitt Already Dead
George and Lenny Of Mice and Men
Birdie Lee Caucasia

I suppose reading is, for me, primarily an exercise in empathy and imagination. Publishers have an obligation to present a wide variety of characters to readers to feed that imagination and empathy.

Stories should be as diverse as they need to be. Not the author's job to fill a quota.

I don't have different opinions about children and YA books.

helmikuu 21, 2020, 3:54am

I don’t think I’m a very visual reader: the “mental picture” I establish of a character can go on quite happily without me agonising about the hair-colour the author forgot to specify, I don’t have to make a string of imaginary phone-calls to Wardrobe to figure out what sort of shirt an eighteenth-century character would be wearing. And indeed, if you asked me whether it’s ever mentioned what colour Mr Darcy’s eyes are, I would have to go and look it up: visual details don’t necessarily stick in my mind.

I think I do fill in missing details on the basis of plausibility some of the time, at least. There’s an Ali Smith novel where one character is “I” and the other “you” and no gender-specific terms are ever used for either: I didn’t notice this explicitly until almost the end of the book, I’d just been taking it for granted that the narrator of an Ali Smith novel and her lover would both be women...

Protagonists that look like me — no, not really. In fact, that would be more likely to make me avoid the book than read it. A lot of the fun of reading is to get an imaginative insight into lives quite different from your own. That doesn’t mean that you actually get to experience what it’s really like to live in a different social or historical setting, have a different gender and sexuality, or whatever, but it at least gives you a better feel for what it might be like than you had before.

But that’s basically the typical grown-up model of reading-for-enjoyment. On the other hand, kids use storytelling to help build models of the world they’re growing up in, and for them it really matters that at least some of the books they read have people “who look like them” in them, and show them finding a good path in the world. Obviously, they should also be reading books with characters who look like the other kids n the class/the kids from the school down the road, etc. And they shouldn’t be treated as idiots: not all books need to be didactic/contemporary/full of good role-models. Just as long as there are enough of the other sort in the school library to give a bit of encouragement during the less pleasant bits of growing up.

Similarly, there’s an important place in adult reading for books that deal fictionally with situations we’re facing in our own lives: it’s good to be reminded you’re not the first to be going through this horror. And I’ve got shelves and shelves of 80s and 90s LGBT/AIDS fiction to prove it...

Muokkaaja: helmikuu 21, 2020, 11:54am

I like some character descriptions, but not minute details. I do not need to know the brand of clothing the character is wearing all the time, or the detailed account of their breakfast or jewelry. To me, those are a distraction or serve as filler, and I skip over them. I can imagine the characters myself, without needing a movie script.

I usually imagine myself as the protagonist, whether descriptions are provided or not. I mentally morph myself to fit the character. I usually imagine the protagonist as female, unless specified as male. I read a lot of cozy mysteries, and many of the sleuths are female. I do not usually think about the other characteristics, such as religion, location, etc, as being important to whether I read the book or not, unless I am selecting a book for a challenge.

I think reading should be for enjoyment as well as learning. I do not need to read for grad school or faculty development any more, so I read whatever I want. I think the reader needs to choose what diversity they want in the books. It is not up to the publisher to try to meet the needs of readers. On the other hand (and there is always another hand, according to Tevye), diverse kinds of literature offer many choices to readers. Example: Once I had a migraine headache on my way home from a conference. I read The Lightning Thief during the flight to keep my mind off the headache as I flew home. I picked the book up at the airport book store. I really find it offensive when people are critical of what others are reading. I used to read a lot of romance novels, and other teachers would criticize me for "reading that trash." I had to hide my book in my book bag.

Books for kids and YA should provide opportunities for them to learn about people who differ from themselves. However, kids also need to find reading material that mirrors themselves, as a security kind of thing and an enticement for reluctant readers. When I taught middle school, my study hall students would read Garfield and joke books until they fell apart, and then they would read the sections that fell apart. I just wanted them to develop a love of reading, outside of the usual literary cannon, and I always had a box of different kinds of books in my classroom. Another teacher and I ran a book club, and we often let the kids suggest the books we would read. The best courses I had in library school were the children and YA literature and library services courses.

helmikuu 21, 2020, 12:35pm

This is a group of difficult questions. I don't think I have a default position on the identity/description of protagonists. I don't picture them or their surroundings. I don't need to know about their clothes, and I would forget them if I knew. I believe I may start with myself in that place, but I'm not necessarily female or old when I do.

I do think I have more trouble with characters less like myself, but I have always assumed that people all work quite a bit like me. I have a little trouble remembering how children think--it has been along time, and I wasn't very "childlike" even as a child. (I was generally shunned for it.) I have the hardest time with people who have a negative view of things and especially of other people, but I don't mostly worry about looks or appearances of houses or clothing. In fact, I sometimes think I am too abstract about it--later comments may miss their marks or plot points of minor importance may go right past me if they involve things like appearances.

It may be wrong of me, but as I am not involved in publishing I hold no one accountable for diversity. If I were a publisher I might think it was worth some effort as a matter of ethics, but I think it comes out in the wash and circumstance will somewhat take care of itself. I do not seek wide diversity in reading, I think that is because I feel we are all so alike interiorly. I am well aware that some writers are disadvantaged by reason of race or gender, but I don't feel a personal responsibility to engage in this problem. I'm not sure why, because I think it is very important.

I think people are too judgmental about reading. I feel I read a lot of trivial things, like paranormal romance, but in my youth I read all the tough stuff. I was a terrific fan of Beowulf when I was 8 or 10, and Morte D'Arthur a little later. In my teens I tackled the Russians, including Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and Solzhenitsyn by my late teens, and a lot of the "classic" writers. I have always read YA, the trivial, and the difficult, although I have had a few very trying years, and I am not reading much that is difficult now. The pain is just too painful. I don't want to spend my time appreciating pain; I have a chronic pain condition and recently had serious spinal surgery due to acute spinal changes. I have pain of my own, and a lifetime of dealing with my own and others' pain (as a nurse) has made me oversensitive, I think.

I feel similarly about YA literature. Kids need both stuff to stretch their ability to identify with others, and proof that they are themselves like others, and quite acceptable as they are. All that can be addressed in literature, and adults can and should have a role as providing possibilities. I have a little problem with when children should be exposed to the morbid and the abnormal, especially the perverse, but in general I believe they should be able to read almost everything--but they need a person on whom they can bounce their impressions. I hate it that some years kids get a bath in literature about the Holocaust. It is so important that they read and imagine it, to an extent, but light-hearted and enchanted are very important, too. There needs to be humor and magic in their thoughts, too. The most important thing is to have the habit of reading, including reading for pleasure and mirth.

helmikuu 21, 2020, 1:30pm

Character Description:
In an interview, William Faulkner claimed that “all Tolstoy said about Anna Karenina was that she was beautiful and could see in the dark like a cat.” No idea if that’s all Tolstoy said but Corncob makes a good point.
Without a description, I might put someone's face to the character.

Gender, Pronouns Neutral:
I don’t remember having read something where an important character’s gender wasn’t clear. Sometimes a name doesn’t signal gender. If it’s not important to the author to specify, I’m just going to roll with it.

Non-Native Literary Characters:
No question I’d “visualize” characters in Japanese or Nigerian literatures differently, unless I were told the Japanese person was “Nigerian-Japanese” or the Nigerian were described as “Japanese-Nigerian.”

Characters That Look Like Me:
Impossible to know. My appearance is so fantastically and breathtakingly amazing that no character ever could look like me. Honest!

Representative in Other Ways (Religion, etc.):
Sometimes that is important to why I pick up a book.

Author Responsibility for Diversity:
I hold Publishers responsible.

Muokkaaja: helmikuu 21, 2020, 2:00pm


I have opinions. Let me attempt at organizing them.

Children's lit: I have been involved with a children's literacy non-profit since its inception and so have learned along with the other people involved about this issue even as we attempted to do something. At the most basic level, in order for a child to move from being read to, to reading independently, they must have books in which the main character or characters looks like them. Not just the sidekick. Not the guest appearance in a series, but the protagonist. This is still something publishing is failing at, although there have been significant steps forward in the past decades. Finding the quantity of suitable books we need takes effort because there are not enough of them. And too often books that feature a black or brown protagonist emphasize worthiness or struggle. Kids want books that are fun and need fun books in order to learn that reading is fun.

As to the responsibility of publishing to actively seek to publish diverse books, that reflect the diversity of the world we live in, yes they do have a responsibility -- one that they might do quite a bit better at were they to hire a diverse staff. And that means the current system of needing to do a few years of unpaid (or low paid) internship in order to get a foot in the door is unsustainable. Yearly reports of diversity within publishing show stagnation. It's hard to break away from the comfortable, but unless they find a way to do so, readers end up with books that are alike and of lower quality than we might otherwise get to enjoy.

Is the reader responsible for reading diversely? Yes and no. We read for different reasons and many, many people read relax and don't want to find themselves challenged by their entertainment. And there's nothing wrong with that! If you like romance novels or novels with spies and explosions, go enjoy those things. And I think that serious readers who look down on popular fiction are perhaps missing out. A little escapism is useful.

But we are responsible for stretching ourselves. And if you hesitate to pick up a novel where the protagonist is different in a way that makes you uncomfortable, it's not a bad idea to examine why that is. And to listen to communities when they say that a book or an author or a line of books is doing them harm. I am extremely prone to jumping to defensiveness when my choices are questioned, so I do understand that reaction, but as purposeful readers, we have to constantly examine our choices and engage with the world. Enjoying problematic books is fine (we all do!), but we need to be willing to understand how and why a book or an author is problematic and engage with that as part of the whole.

As for the first part of your question, the book that challenged me most on this issue was Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie. I highly recommend it.

helmikuu 21, 2020, 9:57pm

>8 RidgewayGirl: Thank you for this thoughtful post.

helmikuu 22, 2020, 2:28am

I don't tend to visualize characters in any concrete way; I do recall a couple times when I've been surprised at a late description, which indicates to me that I tend to see an undescribed character as white (like me). Not sure about gender - I may even default to male (for an active character), although I'm female.

A recent book (by Leslie Fish - I forget the title of the book) had an aggressively non-gendered character. They start out discussing their wife, which made me default to male - but then there was something about long hair, which made me wonder. They are never addressed by name or pronoun - it's all first person - and having finished the book, I still have no idea what gender they were or were supposed to be (what Leslie thought they were).

If culture visibly differs in the story, I can generally visualize the character as fitting that culture (as far as my visualization goes). If it's, say, an SF story by a Nigerian author, and the setting is generic SF, I'll tend to visualize the characters as white unless they're explicitly described otherwise.

It's not really important that the characters look like me - which is partly because most of them do, anyway. White, I mean - and in real life I act more like a male than a female, so male characters are close enough (what they do is mostly what I'd do, given similar skills). But a character from another ethnicity...isn't particularly different. It's the actions and the thoughts behind it that are important. I have a hard time identifying with manipulators or people who have given up - whether they're white or Asian or...or non-humans, or whatever. People who try, and try to help others - that's me, or at least my ideals.

Again, I'm pretty much majority. So no, it's not important to me that people in the books are like me - though it does delight me when an asexual character shows up. What's important to me is that the character is representative of what they are. If there's a Muslim character - that's described as being an important part of their life/personality/character - then they should be thinking about the five daily prayers and the direction of Mecca and so on. If there's a character that's described as X, who then does not demonstrate any of the characteristics of X (the guys-in-drag version of the Strong Female Character is an extremely annoying example), that seriously bothers me.

There are two abysses in diversity. One is, every character is white/male/able-bodied/hetero/American (or at least Western) - that's a serious limitation on possible viewpoints. The other is, every book must include one "diverse" character, who stands in for every other person in that category - the Smurfette syndrome, where there were the smart Smurf and the noisy Smurf and the leader Smurf and the girl Smurf...yeah, and what else is she?

So I delight in authors who can produce real characters - full, rounded, complex people - who have as part of their characteristics some of the "diverse" checkboxes. An author who grimly includes one non-hetero/non-ablebodied/non-white person per book...yeah, not so much.

Which is to say, I don't think any author (or publisher) should have those diversity checkboxes in mind. Write _characters_, and write them beyond the majority characteristics. Publishers need to look at more diverse authors, because if every author fits that majority template, it will only be the exceptional authors who can write beyond it; if the author is, say, a black female, her outlook - her template - is going to be different from that of a white male and she's likely to be able to write beyond the majority template. But publishers should not publish an author _because_ she's a black female, but because she's writing good books (with non-majority characters, yay, bonus). Quotas make for bad product, in just about anything.

All of this is somewhat more important for kids, because they're forming the opinions that are going to guide them through their lives. So yeah, characters like them, and yeah, characters _not_ like them (especially if the child fits the majority template, or close to it). Empathy and seeing different ways of seeing things. But it's also far more important for the kids books _not_ to have the check-off "diverse" character. They need to be good books, with rich, complex characters, not a list of single-facet puppets (and especially not ones who "overcome their handicap" to be more like the majority template). I find way too many kids books that have Exciting! Adventures! but the plot doesn't really make sense and the characters are wooden puppets, changing how they act/speak/think from chapter to chapter (or paragraph to paragraph) to suit what the author needs them to do to advance this bit of the plot...ugh. There are adult books like that, which I dislike just as much (too much of monthly romances - but not all), but it's even more important for kids books.

Muokkaaja: helmikuu 22, 2020, 2:34pm

>3 nohrt4me2: "The protagonist is always me." - that's a really interesting assertion, especially in this context.

I spend a lot reading effort trying to adapt to the author and what's important to them, and trying to put my own expectations somewhere else. Not that I do this successfully, it's a big struggle for me - hence the effort. Also, it's easier with older books than ones. But I suspect I'll answer coming from this perspective.


my brain visualizes characters without my knowledge. When the physical aspects of a character are described, it always requires me to modify my predefined character. So, I guess these descriptions by the author are optional to me, I'll fill in the blanks. (All my characters are paper thin. No clue why. I forget to add any flesh or volume. Whenever I see a dramatization of a novel, my first thought is along the lines of: "this character is wrong, they have way too much volume." Keep in mind, I'm evaluating movie stars and whatnot, good looking healthy people)


I don't think much about default gender. Hasn't come up much that I've noticed. I do think about race. In Toni Morrison's Paradise her opening line is something like, "They killed the white girl first." I had picked the "white" girl early one and read the whole book that way. But, I was wrong. Morrison never tells which is the white girl. I constructed it myself through my own, apparently racist, connotations. That opened my eyes on assumptions.


Since I generate characters unconsciously, I can't say for sure how I handle various ethnicities. I clearly make assumptions, but I don't know what they are. Usually, the book comes to undermine my assumptions, if it's any good. The truth is, I shouldn't be making any.


Characters don't need to look like or specifically different from me. I always look for points of commonality, but visual isn't one I think much about.


Characters should undermine ethnic, or gender or other assumptions, always. These assumptions are always wrong. People are all different.


Authors should write what they know. They should push themselves to understand other people, but if they start writing about characters types they don't know, they're going to drift into stereotypes.


Publisher's responsibility is more tricky. Ethically they should be driving to expand diversity...I think always. They should be looking for authors who can cover new ground, or have new talents. Still they should favor talent first. But, also, publishers aren't working for free. They work in a money society, they get paid and they have to justify that salary. Those two needs - ethical and $$ value - are not compatible. The value will always win.

As readers, our responsibility is also tricky. For one, just being a reader is a nice thing, and really alleviates other responsibilities. Ideally we should push ourselves to read more diversity from more cultures and perspectives. And we should do what we can to nudge publishers to put focus on the talented authors that do this (or are this). With books, we are ultimately the source of the "value", through purchase. So, we have some potential power. But also we should read what we value ourselves. Not everyone wants to rearrange their head every time they pick up a book.


great series of questions!

helmikuu 22, 2020, 4:50pm

Wow, some great responses, and everyone is so honest. I find myself nodding my head in agreement here and there.

I agree with nohrt4me's statement that reading fiction is for me "primarily an exercise in empathy and imagination."

I like a bit of description for the characters. Physical appearance can give a character, well, character. Those adjectives, depending what and how used can draw a picture, set up expectations, tap into preconceived notions, elicit sympathy or encourage solidarity. Conversely, a lack of description can perhaps make a story less visual, maybe a bit frustrating, but possibly more open and liberating without those expectations and preconceived ideas. That said, I'm happy to have characters that look different from myself.

I'm not sure I have any definitive answers about the way I see characters beyond the what is given by the author. I do visualize some characters if given enough. I assume my default visualization with regards to race, when no description is given, is white because I've been told it is by current culture. I'm accepting of that, it makes perfect sense. Did anyone tell me Pollyanna, Pippi Longstocking, Tom Swift or the March sisters were white when I was young? Well, yes, the cover illustrations did. With regards to gender, I'm not sure I have a default anymore. I can't be sure now but chances are 50/50 that my default as a child was male, maybe well into adolescence. I'll have to think about that more.

I suppose I have generic defaults for various countries & ethnicities which come into play. I visualized the characters in O'Brien's Girl set in Northern Nigeria as black, unless told otherwise.

Last year I read and enjoyed Ayesha at Last, a sort of Muslim Pride & Prejudice. Nearly all— the characters were Canadian Muslims, 1st & 2nd generation. Did I visualize them white, no I did not. As it happens I pictured Ayesha as the actress Mindy Kaling - it's just who came to mind when her character was introduced and I couldn't shake it.

I visualized the transgendered character Ry Shelley in Frankissstein as described (I also learned a lot from that character).

I visualized all the characters in Leila a dystopia set in India as natives of the country. I'm reading the Memory Police by Yoko Ozawa now and I seem to be visualizing all the characters as Japanese. I think these are hazy visualizations based on what images are already stored in my head, because as we all know there is infinite variety within any category.

And there were the blue women in Joan Slonczewski's SF A Door into Ocean. I pictured them as blue women :-)


I wholeheartedly agree with RidgewayGirl regarding children's lit and also our responsibility to stretch ourselves.

helmikuu 23, 2020, 2:24pm

Been trying to figure out my response and noticing places where I agree with those who've responded already.

I do like a little physical description, but am happy to fill it in from setting, dialog, location, action as I read. I suspect having grown up as a white cis female that my default is the same unless it's expliciity stated otherwise, or there are obvious cues otherwise. (It may have been male growing up, I first became aware of how many books I read were written by men and about men in college.)

I like what >3 nohrt4me2: said about reading being about empathy and imagination. I also look for commonalities in character or motivation in stories I read, even if culture or location are different from what I experience.

I also identify with >11 dchaikin:, that my brain visualizes characters without my knowledge. Something in the text may challenge and shift that visualiztion. '

I haven't read Toni Morrison's Paradise, but I find auther techniques like the one mentioned here - about not identifying which woman was the white woman -enlightening and intriguing. Ann Leckie's Ancillary trilogy was challenging in that respect; the culture she wrote about used her as the default pronoun, but the protagonist was not male or female. (Although I never was able to think of her as not female.)

Having said that, what I primarily look for is, as >10 jjmcgaffey: says, "I delight in authors who can produce real characters - full, rounded, complex people"

As far as who is responsible for diversity in books - in my opinion, it is primarily publishers, as they choose which authors to publish. Authors can write across gender and culture lines, and bravo to those who do it well. But if you're going to write about someone different from you, it takes research and imagination to do it well.

Us readers? Well, we're already privileged in being readers, and having time to read for pleasure. I hope we'll take some time to stretch ourselves, but as Sally says, sometimes you need to escape or just have fun.

Kids & YA literature? I think it's even more important that diversity is reflected in this literature, as children are learning what the world is like in part from the books they read, and need to see characters like themselves. It was particularly interesting to see >8 RidgewayGirl: statement that kids need to see a protagonist that looks like them.

On a side note, I'm involved in culling damaged/outdated books from our children's collection at work, and noticed in looking through our books on families that the oldest ones (15-20 years) seemed to have only white heterosexual families in them. It's interesting to see how things change over time. I think it's much easier to create a picture book collection that is diverse than it would have been when I was a child. I think we still lag behind in chapter books and easy readers (for kids just learning to read.)

Thanks for this set of questions, and for everyone's thoughtful responses!

helmikuu 28, 2020, 3:29am

I'm so happy that everyone was so inspired by the questions and am amazed by the very thorough answers!

As the creator of these questions I thought I'd explain the process of thinking that led me to want to ask these questions of myself and others.

I'm a big follower of Booktube, a community within Youtube where people discuss their love of reading. They post book hauls, and monthly TBR piles and wrapups, participate in community readathons and vlog about that experience. It's a fun little community with a lot of variety in Booktubers. While the majority is mostly YA focused as these teenagers were the first to start filming (many are now in their young 20s) their reading experiences, it has since branched into Booktubers who focus on thrillers, or classics, or contemporary literature, or a mixture of it all.

Although I am not a YA reader at all, I follow quite a few YA readers on Youtube as their enthusiasm for books is infectious and they have fun friendly personalities to listen to. I have a few favorites whom I love listening to while washing the dishes or folding laundry.

In any case, the YA crowd, following trends in other media and in general American society has a whole, has recently gotten into this strong idealism of wanting/needing more diversity in their books (and in Booktube in general). They want to see non-white POC main characters, and fat representation, and LGBT representation, and non-able-bodies representation.

All worthy things of course but this activism has spread and almost gotten to a point where it seems a book can't have literary merit if it doesn't focus on POC-LGBTQ+-non-abled character(s) and so this made me think about characters in general. Basically, character descriptions.

It made me wonder, when I read, whether or not I default to white characters. But after careful consideration I realized that characters remain faceless to me no matter what country they are from, or what race they could be. If I read a contemporary book that isn't about a topic where explicitly stating race is important, and you were to ask me what the main character looked like and what race they were I couldn't tell you.

If I could describe it the image in my head sort of looks alienesque with long limbs, elongated head, almost flattened. The figures I imagine are more feminine in their softer details but there is no protruding chest. The characters in my head never have clothes but are not naked. But really I don't even often imagine this at all. Sometimes it looks more like a first person shooter game where I am holding the video game controls.

I wouldn't automatically think they were white though. Because books to me (at least those trying to delve into the deeper human condition) should be universal in theme and applicable to all race and gender. Even if the book itself is set in a certain country or culture or within a certain race, reading the book I will obviously acknowledge the fact that oh hey, this book that takes place in Japan is probably going to have Asian Japanese main characters. But still the characters themselves will remain faceless as there is a human condition being discussed.

I think a lot of this Booktube generation has also started to confused diversity in books with reading diversely. Reading books from other countries is something I highly recommend but if you are reading a Japanese book because you feel like you need to read more books from Persons of Color, then I feel like you're not understanding the concept you're trying to argue for.

Because reading a book about a Japanese person in Japan, is like reading a book about a White person in Finland, or a Black person in Ethiopia. These people are the majority in these countries and thus these books don't have diversity in their books. Here, you should be reading books that talk about the human condition that a person of any country should find means to relate to. And to truly read about diversity one would need to read about a Latin American in the US, a Black person in Japan, an Asian person in the Republic of Congo.

So I think it is both important to read diversity and to read diversely. Reading diversely becomes the responsibility of the reader while reading about diversity becomes the responsibility of the publishing industry as they control what goes out into the market.

In any case, that was my thought process. Again I thoroughly enjoyed reading everyone's answers.

helmikuu 28, 2020, 12:00pm

I confess I felt a bit uncomfortable sharing this answer. That tells me that how we respond to reading is awfully personal and self-revealing. While I liked thinking about the questions and felt my answers offered some insights for me personally, my discomfort after the fact with sharing has also opened some insights about my limits in participating here.

helmikuu 28, 2020, 12:46pm


How important are character descriptions to you? With a description are you able to actually visualize the character? If there is no description do the characters remain faceless to you?

I like to have physical descriptions in general (at least tell me if someone is 5'5'' or 6'6'') but beyond the basics, most descriptions are lost to me. I do not really think in images so someone's green eyes or crooked nose does not make a difference in how I see the characters. Which is why I rarely have issues with casting choices when something is filmed - whatever the actor looks like is what becomes my mental image and that's it. I had been known to read some books almost to the end before my brain process the race of a character (even when they are clearly marked) - unless there is a reason for me to know that, it simply does not register. Same with gender in some cases...

I do tend to consider everyone white unless mentioned otherwise. It is partially because of what I am but also partially because until a few decades ago, that was a fair assumption and I tend to read a lot of older novels.

Genders are complicated. The first two languages I started reading it have their adjectives and verb forms gendered. So pulling a non-gendered story is extremely hard. As a result, I did not even realize that this can be a problem at all - a character was either female or male -- there was no middle ground. English changed that a bit - now you can have long passages without mentioning a pronoun or by using a gender-neutral one. So when one is not mentioned, I just... don't assume. I think of the character as they until we learn what they are (very useful when the character turns out to be a robot or a dog for example).

Most of the literature I read when I was growing up was in translation so I do not think of characters differently than if it was Bulgarian (mostly anyway - with Bulgarian characters I tend to inject a lot of features and thoughts that are not written - based on subtle cultural clues and what I do know). I would switch the default race if I am reading a Chinese novel or a Nigerian one but... for the most part, unless the author name is obviously non-white, I don't even check that...

Years ago (think middle school), I had some ideas about writing so I even created my own character (she is what I cannot be in a lot of ways). These days, if a book (or a TV show) impresses me enough, I would construct stories in my head which explore the world that was built, injecting her (with a changed background). It is like fan fiction that never gets written. It is my form of day dreaming -- and sometimes because I know I can do that, I am not bothered by the lack of women in a novel (I know it does not make sense but...). Because of having that though, I don't have issues not identifying with a character. I rarely do actually - even when they can be me, my brain separates us.

I like diversity. I think we need diversity. BUT... I also think that a lot of people are swinging all the way to the other side - old white men had won all the awards and had been published almost exclusively - so let's start boycotting them. Or let's decide to read books only because they are written by women or by non-white writers. I read for the stories. I do not care who wrote them if I like the story and I don't think that anyone is owed an award or a publication or whatever just because of their skin color or physical attributes or country of birth. Of course, we are all subjective so things don't always end up black and white... but I wish we as a society would stop obsessing about how the author looks like and start obsessing about their craft.

Same applies to characters - you don't make your detective a midget Native-American with an wooden leg just to be diverse - you make them whatever the story needs them to be. Some stories make sense with only male characters. Some make sense with only a single race ones (being it white or not - if you set the story in Bulgaria for example, especially on a small village, adding a non-white, non-Roma character does not make sense for the most part - with a few exceptions of course). And I really hate authors who write minority and non-male characters as if they were white/male but just with a different description. Each story needs its own characters - and they do not always need to cover all races and all religions and what's not.

As for who is responsible - it is complicated. It is both - but I also think that we may be trying to over-correct again. Publishers seem to be always screamed at when they keep signing the next white writer or when the ratios in their lists is wrong - so some of them just make sure the ratios are correct, regardless of books quality. Which does not mean that a lot of what is produced by white writers is not drivel - bad (and good) writing is not a feature of one race or gender. In a perfect world, we would not care who the author is and what they are -- but we do not live in a perfect world. So choices need to be made and it ends up in a no-win situation - if someone wants to write a story which has virtually no diversity of any type, chances are that they won't be able to sell it - so they inject a character who do not belong. Or they try to publish anyway and get crucified for its lack of diversity.

Children's and YA literature is a bit different because it has two goals - entertainment and teaching the kids about the world. As such, there should be choices - but there is still space for stories that show that not every group of five needs to follow a specific pattern of types and that diversity is not all about having one of each in every situation (which is where some books ends up - almost like check-boxes being checked). Should every kid has a book that has a character that could be them? Absolutely. Should the kid read only books where the main character looks like them? Not at all - variety goes both ways.

I hope that the publishing industry will self-correct and get back to "stories are important" and get away from "the message is more important". But we seem to be sliding more and more in the other direction... And yes - I do know that if I were not white, I may have a different opinion. But I am a Eastern European girl who immigrated to the States - and I do not believe that a Bulgarian author has the right to be published in English just because they are Bulgarian. So... there is that.

helmikuu 28, 2020, 1:35pm

>14 lilisin: Thank you again for this question. I appreciate your distinction between reading for diversity and reading diversely.

>15 nohrt4me2: Thanks for sharing what you did. I also struggle sometimes with my personal limits - wanting to be authentic, but not wanting to overshare.

>16 AnnieMod: I share your dislike of stories that have a different race dropped in to check a diversity box.

And it is a complictated situation.

I wish it was a simple case of publishers seeking out and publishing the best writing they can find. I think there are other factors involved as well.

Access to education (quality of public education in the US varies widely), having/making time to read and write (and still pay the bills and clean the house, etc.) and understaning how publishing works and having access to editors/publishers . . .

This stuff isn't all something publishers can fix. Or something there is a quick and easy fix for. I do think it benefits us all when there are good books available from a broad range of the cultures represented in the US.

Muokkaaja: helmikuu 28, 2020, 1:50pm

On another note, I think it's interesting that we have a variety of visualization-while-reading styles. I hadn't reallly thought about it before, although I do remember wonderingin my early twenties about how we can know what someone else perceives visually except through visual descriptions or their reproduction of something they see in some visual medium.

A quick google search found some interesting-to-me articles from Book Riot, Tor, The Guardian and a study being run at the University of Exeter.

Apparently there are a variety of visualization and imagination skills possibly related to our neurological wiring.

helmikuu 28, 2020, 2:52pm

>18 markon: Thank you! I look forward to reading these!

Muokkaaja: helmikuu 29, 2020, 6:43am

Question 10: Your Prescriptions for Needy Readers

Magic has turned you temporarily into some kind of litera-pathic doctor and now you must assist needy readers who are looking for certain kinds of books. Below are the readers and their needs, what good book can you personally recommend to these readers? (answer any or all; if not specified can be nonfiction or fiction)

Reader 1: A humorous novel:
Reader 2: A history that’s engaging but not too dense:
Reader 3: An unusual mystery or crime novel:
Reader 4: A really good biography or memoir:
Reader 5: A nonfiction or fiction book about or set in WWII:
Reader 6: A science fiction book for someone who has not read science fiction before:
Reader 7: A trilogy or series one can lose oneself in:
Reader 8: A book capable of transporting you elsewhere:
Reader 9: A volume of short stories or essays:
Reader 10: A book about religion/s, or a novel where religion figures into the story:

* you can probably cut & paste this list into your response post....

Muokkaaja: helmikuu 29, 2020, 12:31pm

Reader 1: A humorous novel: "The Finishing School" by Muriel Spark works if you like black humor.

Reader 2: A history that’s engaging but not too dense: "Goodbye, Fred Voodoo" by Amy Willenz. Includes a brief history of Haiti while exploring the country's current events.

Reader 3: An unusual mystery or crime novel: "The Quincunx." Forget the author name.

Reader 4: A really good biography or memoir: "Harry Truman" by David McCullough.

Reader 5: A nonfiction or fiction book about or set in WWII: No idea.

Reader 6: A science fiction book for someone who has not read science fiction before: "The Martian Chronicles" by Ray Bradbury.

Reader 7: A trilogy or series one can lose oneself in: Madd Addam by Margaret Atwood.

Reader 8: A book capable of transporting you elsewhere: "The Once and Future King" by TH White.

Reader 9: A volume of short stories or essays: "Olive Kitteridge"

Reader 10: A book about religion/s, or a novel where religion figures into the story: "The Corner That Held Them" by Sylvia Townsend Warner. Fictional history of a convent during the Black Plague.

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 2, 2020, 3:31pm

Hmm. Well, I'll make an effort...

Reader 1: A humorous novel: The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fford. It's been a long time, but I remember this being quirky, irreverent and, well, funny. And it's literature-based. Might be worth a re-read, hmm.

Reader 2: A history that’s engaging but not too dense: New England Bound: Slavery and Colonization in Early America by Wendy Warren. Slavery was not limited to the south; but also occurred in the north (we're talking slavery, not servitude here).

Reader 3: An unusual mystery or crime novel: The Wolf and the Watchman by Niklas Natt ooh Dag, a relatively recently read crime novel set in 18th century Sweden. Very vivid portrayal of the time & place and a satisfactory crime and resolution.

Reader 4: A really good biography or memoir: Speaking Truth to Power by Anita Hill. A sobering and powerful memoir.

Reader 5: A nonfiction or fiction book about or set in WWII: A Meal in Winter by Hubert Mingarelli. A short book that still haunts. It presents a moral dilemma & its resolution.

Reader 6: A science fiction book for someone who has not read science fiction before: The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell (Jesuits in space! Seriously, a very readable and thoughtful "first contact" novel)

Reader 7: A trilogy or series one can lose oneself in: The Raj Quartet by Paul Scott (a story of the British in India, was adapted to television in the 80s. But, I wonder how it will read now...) or how about Isaac Asimov's Foundation trilogy (these were some of my first SF reads back in the early 80s when I had small children and little quality reading time. I was completely entertained and loved the idea of "psychohistory" presented in them.

Reader 8: A book capable of transporting you elsewhere: Wegener's Jigsaw a.k.a. One Day the Ice Will Reveal All Its Dead by Clare Dudman (Greenland). Such a fabulous novel of science & exploration. Recommended to me by Jeff & Ann VanderMeer.

Reader 9: A volume of short stories or essays: The Bloody Chamber and Other Adult Tales by Angela Carter. What can I say about Angela Carter. I love her combination of darkness and humor. She is one of my three literary mothers.

Reader 10: A book about religion/s, or a novel where religion figures into the story: The Sacrament by Olaf Olafsson (Recently read it's part mystery and part the recollections of a retired nun) or Religion in Society: A Sociology of Religion by Ronald Johnstone. This is a textbook for a fascinating class I took, another great way to take a step back and look at religion more objectively.

So many choices for some of those categories....

helmikuu 29, 2020, 2:03pm

Reader 1: A humorous novel: The ballad of Peckham Rye
Reader 2: A history that’s engaging but not too dense: Mary Shelley
Reader 3: An unusual mystery or crime novel: Aiding and abetting
Reader 4: A really good biography or memoir: Curriculum vitae
Reader 5: A nonfiction or fiction book about or set in WWII: The girls of slender means
Reader 6: A science fiction book for someone who has not read science fiction before: Robinson
Reader 7: A trilogy or series one can lose oneself in: Muriel Spark Omnibus 1, Muriel Spark Omnibus 2, ... (OK, cheating a bit here!)
Reader 8: A book capable of transporting you elsewhere: The Mandelbaum Gate
Reader 9: A volume of short stories or essays: The Golden Fleece
Reader 10: A book about religion/s, or a novel where religion figures into the story: The prime of Miss Jean Brodie

...wasn't really what the question was asking for, but Spark was such an astonishingly varied writer, it's only a bit of a strain to squeeze her into all ten of those categories.


More serious answer, from my recent reading:

Reader 1: A humorous novel: P G Wodehouse's The luck of the Bodkins is the one I always suggest. Possibly his most nearly perfect book.
Reader 2: A history that’s engaging but not too dense: Una historia de España by Arturo Perez-Reverte — a gloriously cynical and opinionated view of Spanish history since prehistoric times that you can read in a few hours
Reader 3: An unusual mystery or crime novel: The Pendragon legend by Antal Szerb is about as unusual as they come, (and only about 15% of the length of The Quincunx!)
Reader 4: A really good biography or memoir: The photographer at sixteen, George Szirtes's recent memoir of his mother, is the best I've read for a long time.
Reader 5: A nonfiction or fiction book about or set in WWII: of those I've read recently, The cone-gatherers by Robin Jenkins really stands out. But there are hundreds I could come up with, given time...
Reader 6: A science fiction book for someone who has not read science fiction before: Much more difficult, I've yet to read the science-fiction book that convinces me that science-fiction is essential ... of the handful I've read recently, Solaris was probably the best
Reader 7: A trilogy or series one can lose oneself in: Zola's Rougon-Macquart series is the main one I'm currently lost in (a three-year project), and it has just about everything you might want in it.
Reader 8: A book capable of transporting you elsewhere: when I was very small, we used to build steps out of the encyclopaedia, and use them for indoor mountaineering - does that count? Otherwise, Gerald Murmane's The Plains will take you to a marvellous place you wouldn't otherwise be able to reach.
Reader 9: A volume of short stories or essays: I wasn't really expecting them to blow me away, but as it turned out the best I've read for quite a while were Susan Sontag's Collected Stories
Reader 10: A book about religion/s, or a novel where religion figures into the story: 2084: The end of the world by Boualem Sansal is a striking satire of what happens when religion becomes a political tool.

helmikuu 29, 2020, 2:42pm

Interesting discussion starter. In my imaginary library books are arranged by malady or problem: books for depressives, books for people lacking empathy, books for parents at the end of their tethers, books for people in bad relationships, books for people worried about money, books for people with their heads in the clouds, books for people with annoying in-laws.

And so on ...

helmikuu 29, 2020, 10:39pm

Reader 1: A humorous novel: Terry Pratchett, maybe The Light Fantastic or The Fifth Elephant
Reader 2: A history that’s engaging but not too dense: One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson
Reader 3: An unusual mystery or crime novel: The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
Reader 4: A really good biography or memoir: Just Kids by Patti Smith
Reader 5: A nonfiction or fiction book about or set in WWII: Empire of the Sun by J. G. Ballard
Reader 6: A science fiction book for someone who has not read science fiction before: Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
Reader 7: A trilogy or series one can lose oneself in: The Neapolitan Quartet by Elena Ferrante, starting with My Brilliant Friend
Reader 8: A book capable of transporting you elsewhere: The Prospector by J.M.G. Le Clezio
Reader 9: A volume of short stories or essays: The Collected Stories by Grace Paley
Reader 10: A book about religion/s, or a novel where religion figures into the story: Religion and the Decline of Magic by Keith Thomas

maaliskuu 1, 2020, 1:11pm

Reader 1: A humorous novel: A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. This seems to be a "love it or hate it" book. Having lived in New Orleans for several years, I loved it. It's a classic social satire about a certain segment of New Orleans culture, and as such is essentially dead on.

Reader 2: A history that’s engaging but not too dense: The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783-1789 by Joseph J. Ellis. A fascinating account of the four men responsible for the writing and adoption of the U.S. Consitution.

Reader 3: An unusual mystery or crime novel: The Ghosts of Belfast (a.k.a. The Twelve) by Stuart Neville. A hitman during the Troubles in Belfast, recently released from jail, is haunted by the ghosts of 12 people whose deaths he has caused either directly or indirectly.

Reader 4: A really good biography or memoir: Speak to Me, Dance with Me by Agnes de Mille. A compelling memoir of de Mille's early days as a dancer and choreographer.

Reader 5: A nonfiction or fiction book about or set in WWII: Catch 22 by Joseph Heller. "Everyone has a share."

Reader 6: A science fiction book for someone who has not read science fiction before: Hardwired by Walter Jon Williams. A fast-paced "first of a series" about a dystopian Earth where the rich live on giant space stations and control the populace by raining giant boulders onto the populace. But gritty planet-bound outlaws are beginning to foment revolution.

Reader 7: A trilogy or series one can lose oneself in: the Under the North Star trilogy by Väinö Linna, a classic of Finnish literature. One of the most compelling and moving reading experiences I've ever had. This series was recommended to me by a bookseller in Helsinki as one that truly represents Finnish social history. All as seen by one rural peasant-stock family over several generations, from pre-independence days through the heartbreak of the Finnish Civil War to the wars against Russia just before and during World War Two.

Reader 8: A book capable of transporting you elsewhere: GraceLand by Chris Abani. GraceLand follows the exploits of a young boy named Elvis as he makes his daily way through the slums of Lagos, Nigeria.

Reader 9: A volume of short stories or essays: Tierra del Fuego by Francisco Coloane. I'm still working my way through these wonderful stories by Coloane, a Chilean author of renown in his native country and, I guess, all South America. They are mostly stories of men trying to survive, physically, politically, spiritually, in the harsh, beautiful country of the collection's title.

Reader 10: A book about religion/s, or a novel where religion figures into the story: In My Father's Court by Isaac Singer. Singer takes us into his childhood household in pre-WWI Poland. Gradually, the focus broadens out from the close confines of his father's role of rabbi and arbiter for the local Jewish community to the world as a whole, as the war begins and changes society profoundly.

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 1, 2020, 1:29pm

Coming in late to Question 9:

How important are character descriptions to you? With a description are you able to actually visualize the character? If there is no description do the characters remain faceless to you?
I like character description but I find that those descriptions only stay with me as I read as a kind of guideline to the character's appearance. I mostly take in and remember the impression that the author is trying to convey about the character via the description. If there is no specific character description, I generally let the context of the story create a picture in my mind's eye, but I don't create a specific picture, more a sort of shifting chimera.

If not given clear description otherwise, do you tend to imagine characters who look more or less like yourself re: skin color, ethnicity…etc.?
No. See above

What about gender? If pronouns were neutral, what would your default be?
Hmmmm. Male, I guess, though, again, context would fill this in.

What about when you are reading literatures other than your native lit? Say you are reading Italian, Japanese, or Nigerian literature? Are you visualizing the characters differently?
Certainly. Back to the context point again.

Is it important to you that there are characters who look like yourself? Is it harder to identify with characters who don’t look like yourself?
No and no. Part of the fun of reading fiction is picturing new people and places. I have to shave four or five times a week and also occasionally have the misadventure of looking at recent photos of myself. I know what I look like already.

Beyond the visual, is it important to you that characters in books are also representative in other ways (i.e. religion, location, economic status…)
Well, it's important that the writing and storytelling be good. It's better if I'm reading outside my own common experiences (although within what I already see as universal human nature). Though, on the other hand, sometimes it's quite thrilling to be drawn into a world I already recognize. That's one of the reasons I love Philip Roth's work so much.

A) Do you hold the authors responsible for including that diversity in their books or the publishers for their choices as to what to publish? B) Or, is it on all us, the readers, to find diversity by our reading choices? C) And do you consider those questions differently if regarding children’s or YA lit?

A) Authors, no. I hold authors responsible for good storytelling and good writing. I do hold them responsible for authenticity but I don't mind authors trying to imagine people/world's outside their own direct knowledge. They just have to do it well and with integrity. Publishers, yes. I think they should try to reflect a multiplicity of voices and perspective in their offerings.
B) Yes. If diversity is important to you, it's on you to do your own searching. Happily, these days it's getting easier to engage is such a search successfully
C) I don't read YA very often, but if I were trying to create a reading list for a young adult, I would definitely try to create a diverse list as part of that young person's education and entrance into the wide, wide world of people and perspectives and cultures.

maaliskuu 1, 2020, 5:43pm

Very interesting responses to date. My tuppence:

Reader 1: A humorous novel: Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre

Reader 2: A history that’s engaging but not too dense: The Past is Myself by Christabel Bielenberg (a fly on the wall account of what WWII was like for non-Nazi supporting Germans)

Reader 3: An unusual mystery or crime novel: We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

Reader 4: A really good biography or memoir: Open by Andre Agassi (and I'm not into tennis)

Reader 5: A nonfiction or fiction book about or set in WWII: The Reader by Bernard Schlink

Reader 6: A science fiction book for someone who has not read science fiction before: pass. I am Reader 6.

Reader 7: A trilogy or series one can lose oneself in: The Rabbit quartet of novels by John Updike (well, 4 and a half really as there's a final novella too).

Reader 8: A book capable of transporting you elsewhere: The Children's Book by A. S. Byatt

Reader 9: A volume of short stories or essays: Everything is Nice: Collected Stories, Fragments and plays by Jane Bowles

Reader 10: A book about religion/s, or a novel where religion figures into the story: The Anchoress by Robyn Cadwallader

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 2, 2020, 11:04am

Reader 1: A humorous novel: Skios by Michael Frayn (a classic farce which is kicked off when a man gets off a plane and decides to pretend he's one of the people that a driver is waiting to meet)
Reader 2: A history that’s engaging but not too dense: Ten Cities That Made an Empire by Tristram Hunt (the history of the British Empire through looking at ten cities, at different stages in the Empire's development - a fascinating read and one that made me realise that all my images of the Empire were from the late, Raj-era Empire, and didn't reflect the full complexity of its history)
Reader 3: An unusual mystery or crime novel: any of the four books written by Sarah Caudwell (sadly few before she died - cosy mysteries solved from a distance)
Reader 4: A really good biography or memoir: Teta, Mother and Me: Three Generations of Arab Women by Jean Said Makdisi (this is probably the one book I've read that I wish was better known - a great combination of the personal and political histories of a 'Syrian' family in Palestine)
Reader 5: A nonfiction or fiction book about or set in WWII: Child of All Nations by Irmgard Keun (narrated by a young girl displaced by the war)
Reader 6: A science fiction book for someone who has not read science fiction before: Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang (short stories, which have really interesting things to say, on topics as varied as artificial intelligence, our increasingly recorded and measured lives, and communication - one of these stories became the film Arrival)
Reader 7: A trilogy or series one can lose oneself in: the Ancillary Justice books by Ann Leckie (science fiction, fantastic worldbuilding, a great plot and characters - has everything)
Reader 8: A book capable of transporting you elsewhere: The Day Lasts More Than A Hundred Years by Chingiz Aitmatov (a recent read, set on the Central Asian steppe in the mid-20th century - a real insight into a world I couldn't have imagined before)
Reader 9: A volume of short stories or essays: A Manual For Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin (I've just finished this - fantastically written, and very moving)
Reader 10: A book about religion/s, or a novel where religion figures into the story: The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman (possibly a cheat answer, but an excellent book - this is about a Hmong family in California with a severely epileptic child, and the way that their belief system clashed with the modern medical belief system of the hospital trying to treat their daughter)

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 2, 2020, 9:21pm

So, who are these readers? What other sorts of books do they like? Well, absent that information:

Reader 1: A humorous novel: 18854::Nice Work by David Lodge. The last of his "Rummidge" trilogy, set at universities in Birmingham, England (renamed Rummidge) and California, USA. Many amusing recognitions of human and academic foibles.

Reader 2: A history that’s engaging but not too dense: 20488::...The Heavens and the Earth : a Political History of the Space Age by Walter A. McDougall. This 1988 book is a well-written overview of rocketry and space flight from the 1940s. I learned that President Eisenhower understood space-related matters better than conventional wisdom gave him credit for.

Reader 3: An unusual mystery or crime novel: Obviously The City & The City by China Mieville, where the nature of the setting is as mysterious as the identity of the killer.

Reader 4: A really good biography or memoir: Kansas City Lightning by Stanley Crouch, first of a projected 2-volume biography of supreme jazz musician Charley Parker.

Reader 5: A nonfiction or fiction book about or set in WWII: 31075::Wartime : understanding and behavior in the Second World War by Paul Fussell. Fussell fought in the European theater, and burns away misty cliches about the war with a rhetorical flamethrower.

Reader 6: A science fiction book for someone who has not read science fiction before: The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin. A thoughtful examination of how an anarchist society might work. About social and personal relations, with some easily digested speculative science. Has the best literary description of the subjective feeling of discovery or insight I've ever read.

Reader 7: A trilogy or series one can lose oneself in: The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkein. I suppose.

Reader 8: A book capable of transporting you elsewhere: 14481435::Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente A "...decopunk alt-history Hollywood space opera mystery thriller. With space whales." Very elsewhere. Numerous elsewheres.

Reader 9: A volume of short stories or essays: Most any SF anthology edited by Jonathan Strahan.

Reader 10: A book about religion/s, or a novel where religion figures into the story: Don't have an answer here.

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 2, 2020, 1:53pm

>29 wandering_star: I almost listed that Lucia Berlin short story collection, which I'm currently reading myself, but went instead with another I'm in the midst of, Tierra del Fuego by Francisco Coloane of Chile.

maaliskuu 2, 2020, 2:58pm

>30 dukedom_enough: I did put brackets around my book and author references, don't know what's wrong.

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 2, 2020, 3:52pm

Oh, now I feel I must return to my post and elaborate on the books chosen.... (done!)

I find myself reading these and thinking, oh yes, that was a great one, why didn't I think of that.

>26 rocketjk: I'm convinced that I read that Walter Jon Williams novel, even the cover looks familiar...but I can't be sure.

maaliskuu 2, 2020, 3:16pm

>32 dukedom_enough: sometimes my square brackets don't work if I do it on my phone rather than on the laptop...?

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 2, 2020, 3:44pm

>33 avaland: Me, too!

>32 dukedom_enough: Try editing your post and submitting to get brackets to work. I have to do this once or twice to get touchstones.

maaliskuu 2, 2020, 7:36pm

>32 dukedom_enough: Search was down (or semi-down anyway) around the same time you posted - which causes the touchstones to fail as well as they rely on that. If you edit now, they should work.

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 4, 2020, 1:36am

My attempt at this prompt trying to list only books translated into English except for the crime novel which I don't read much of so had to choose one that hasn't been translated.

Reader 1: A humorous novel: The Roads to Sata by Alan Booth
- a great travel memoir of Alan Booth's adventure walking the entire length of Japan; running into Japanese who have never seen a foreigner leads to many amusing interactions

Reader 2: A history that’s engaging but not too dense: God's Chinese Son by Jonathan D. Spence
- a great readable history about the Boxer Rebellion in China

Reader 3: An unusual mystery or crime novel: 聖母 by 理香子 秋吉
- a killer is on the loose killing little kids and one mother will do what it takes to protect her daughter; a great twist in this one!

Reader 4: A really good biography or memoir: No Surrender by Hiroo Onoda
- about a Japanese soldier who kept fighting in the Philippines even 35 years after the Japanese surrender

Reader 5: A nonfiction or fiction book about or set in WWII: Fires on the Plain by Shohei Ooka
- just one of my favorite war stories ever; set in the Philippines during the Japanese attempt at occupation

Reader 6: A science fiction book for someone who has not read science fiction before: The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
- I've only recently ventured into some classic sci fi and I quite like this one; good for dystopian readers

Reader 7: A trilogy or series one can lose oneself in: The Three Musketeers trilogy
- love

Reader 8: A book capable of transporting you elsewhere: Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
- love

Reader 9: A volume of short stories or essays: Distant View of a Minaret and Other Stories by Alifa Rifaat
- don't read many short story or essay collections so had to go way back; instead of choosing a collection of horror stories I thought better to choose something that reflects more the tastes of Club Read so I went with a short story collection about the female experience in Egypt

Reader 10: A book about religion/s, or a novel where religion figures into the story: The Monk by Matthew Lewis
- about an untemptable monk who falls into temptation; I was swept away by this book I loved it

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 4, 2020, 8:59am

Reader 1: A humorous novel: Three Men in A Boat - To say nothing of the Dog by Jerome K. Jerome, I thought it had a few good lines
Reader 2: A history that’s engaging but not too dense: The Annals of the Former World by John McPhee, am I stretching the shit out of the meaning of history, yes I am.
Reader 3: An unusual mystery or crime novel: Every Dead Thing by John Connolly a mix of a super natural horror and crime fiction.
Reader 4: A really good biography or memoir: Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout A beautiful graphic novel about life and work of the Curie's what's not to love.
Reader 5: A nonfiction or fiction book about or set in WWII: Hiroshima by John Hersey, there are so many that fit here, but Hersey I re-read over and over again.
Reader 6: A science fiction book for someone who has not read science fiction before: The HitchHiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, it's the gateway drug.
Reader 7: A trilogy or series one can lose oneself in: The Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson, it occurs to me that I don't read much in the of trilogies but I think this one has a little something for everyone
Reader 8: A book capable of transporting you elsewhere: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, it reads like a movie.
Reader 9: A volume of short stories or essays: Edgar Allan Poe old stories but they are masterfully done.
Reader 10: A book about religion/s, or a novel where religion figures into the story: Ummm... Yeah I got nothing here, When She Woke has a religious cult in it.

maaliskuu 4, 2020, 1:43pm

>38 stretch: Funny you should chose the Jerome, I originally wrote as an answer to the humorous novel quest as To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis, which of course is a nod to the Jerome. But, I changed my mind last minute.

Speaking of funny... Did you know that the author John Connolly is the funniest guy? (who would guess from his writing!?) We had him at the bookstore more than a few times early in his career and he told the funniest anecdotes (there's one about mixing up reject letters from publishers with the one's from women...).

maaliskuu 4, 2020, 2:28pm

A humorous novel: Why Me? by Donald E. Westlake -- There's very little as funny as the first nine Dortmunder novels, and this one stands alone quite well.

A history that’s engaging but not too dense: Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard -- Detailed, yet very narrative. Switching between focusing on President Garfield, his shooter, and his doctor also adds to readability yet there's loads of detail.

An unusual mystery or crime novel: Brat Farrar by Josephine Tey -- All of hers are just a bit different in the world of golden age mysteries, but I think this is her finest work.

A really good biography or memoir: Wild Swans by Jung Chang -- A biography and memoir in one, and capsule history of China in the 20th century.

A nonfiction or fiction book about or set in WWII: 1941: The Year That Keeps Returning by Slavko Goldstein -- A less common arena of the war (Croatia). Extremely well-written. For fiction try The Street of a Thousand Blossoms by Gail Tsukiyama

A science fiction book for someone who has not read science fiction before: Little Fuzzy by H. Beam Piper -- Interesting, funny, no wars or revolutions.

A trilogy or series one can lose oneself in: the Falco mysteries series by Lindsey Davis -- Davis is one of the funniest writers I read, and the sense of place and time is very strong.

A book capable of transporting you elsewhere: The Siege by Ismail Kadare -- Read it straight or as allegory, either way it's a wonderful book.

A volume of short stories or essays: The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie -- I don't really like short stories, but I loved these.

A book about religion/s, or a novel where religion figures into the story: Children of the Alley by Naguib Mahfouz -- The history of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam as allegory.

maaliskuu 4, 2020, 2:33pm

>39 avaland: Yeah it was strange seeing an interveiw of Connolly and see just how personable and humorus he was. Considering that he is so capable of writing truly creepy and disturbing stuff, it didn't fit my image of him at all. He's one of my favorites probably becuase he is so affable.

maaliskuu 4, 2020, 3:02pm

>41 stretch: Yeah, we told him Every Dead Thing (his first book) was a wee bit over the top and we used to recommend new readers start with the second book. He was okay with that, of course.

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 5, 2020, 1:48am

Q9 - Going back briefly to the last question (on descriptions and visualisation), I just came across this in B.S. Johnson's novel Christie Malry's own double entry (Opening of Ch. VI):

An attempt should be made to characterise Christie’s appearance. I do so with diffidence, in the knowledge that such physical descriptions are rarely of value in a novel. It is one of the limitations; and there are so many others. Many readers, I should not be surprised to learn if appropriate evidence were capable of being researched, do not read such descriptions at all, but skip to the next dialogue or more readily assimilable section. Again, I have often read and heard said, many readers apparently prefer to imagine the characters for themselves. That is what draws them to the novel, that it stimulates their imagination! Imagining my characters, indeed! Investing them with characteristics quite unknown to me, or even at variance with such description as I have given! Making Christie fair when I might have him dark, for an instance, a girl when I have shown he is a man? What writer can compete with the reader’s imagination!
Christie is therefore an average shape, height, weight, build, and colour. Make him what you will: probably in the image of yourself. You are allowed complete freedom in the matter of warts and moles, particularly; as long as he has at least one of either.

maaliskuu 5, 2020, 12:17pm

Question 10:

Reader 1: A humorous novel: Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons. This book is a joy - reminiscent of Wodehouse, just better.

Reader 2: A history that’s engaging but not too dense: Fashion Victims: Pleasures and Perils of Dress in the 19th Century by Alison Matthews David. A gorgeously illustrated book that will have high appeal to those among us who like beautiful clothing and grotesque injuries.

Reader 3: An unusual mystery or crime novel: Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann - a mystery where the sleuth is a sheep, trying to discover who murdered her shepherd.

Reader 4: A really good biography or memoir: The Giant of the French Revolution: Danton, A Life by David Lawday. Lawday's biography is so clear in laying out the factions and order of events of the Revolution and so empathetic in his portrayal of a complex historical figure.

Reader 5: A nonfiction or fiction book about or set in WWII: This is probably the most expected choice, but Suite Française by Irene Némirovsky.

Reader 6: A science fiction book for someone who has not read science fiction before: I'm not a reader of science fiction, but I was delighted and astonished by Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie.

Reader 7: A trilogy or series one can lose oneself in: I'm going to be boring and predictable again and suggest Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan Quartet.

Reader 8: A book capable of transporting you elsewhere: The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers by Thomas Mullen transports the reader into the Hoovervilles and bank robbers of the Great Depression.

Reader 9: A volume of short stories or essays: Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado.

Reader 10: A book about religion/s, or a novel where religion figures into the story: The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber.

maaliskuu 5, 2020, 12:59pm

>44 RidgewayGirl: reminiscent of Wodehouse, just better.

Aaaargh! Heresy! :-)

Much as I love Cold comfort farm, I don't think it should be compared to Wodehouse. Both brilliant, but in quite different ways. Gibbons managed to be funny and outrageous enough to get away with a rather creaky and overcomplicated plot once (none of her other books seems to have that touch); Wodehouse was a pro who never really managed to be outrageous, but he put together immaculately crafted plots with weirdly funny language time after time (about a hundred times, in fact...).

But CCF is wonderfully quotable, I remember how it became a cult thing during part of my student days ("There've always been Starkadders at....")

>37 lilisin: I don't think The roads to Sata is a novel, but I enjoyed it very much!

Interesting that no-one's mentioned Alexander McCall Smith yet — I'd rate him as one of the best humorous writers of our time, especially his Edinburgh stories.

maaliskuu 5, 2020, 1:52pm

>44 RidgewayGirl: noting the book on Danton by Lawday

maaliskuu 5, 2020, 4:56pm

>44 RidgewayGirl: We just watched the adaptation of Cold Comfort Farm the other night (for the the umpteenth time). So, so funny.

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 6, 2020, 11:05am

Question 11: Problems with Reading Older Books (i do aim for Fridays, but I'm posting a bit early this week)

Are there some older books that you just can’t read any more because of racist, misogynist, homophobic, and other offensive content? Is the reading of these older books any different if you are aware of the problematic features or nature of the book, or is it okay to just read through and ignore the problematic stuff? Do you think we are more forgiving with regards to classics? If an older book has won a prestigious literary prize, should we assume that there will always be worth in reading it despite problematic content? Are there some books once highly praised that are just not worth reading anymore? Can you share some examples of older books you have read or tried to read that that you had problems with?

ETA: What about children reading older children's books with problematic content?

maaliskuu 5, 2020, 6:43pm

Question 11: Problems with Reading Older Book

"Worth reading" is one of those terms that always make me answer with "worth to whom"? I read a lot of Victorian novels (and non-English novels from the same period or older) and lately I had been working through quite a lot of SF and crime/mystery novels from the 1930s-1960s (yes, I know - long period). A lot of them have elements which will make me throw the book away if it was in a new novel set in the nowadays. But knowing when it was written and having the story and characters behave appropriately for the period make it work.

Plus... when we stop reading the books with the problematic contents, we stop thinking about the problems. Which will allow them to crop back (not that most of them had really disappeared...). Part of reading is understanding the cultural and moral norms and background of the period the book is written in and the period it is written about. Reading books allows you to explore those times (and sometimes abhorrent practices) in a safe environment and seeing it outside of the 2 lines in a history textbook. I do not expect the good guys to always win and I definitely do not expect to agree with the author or his characters.

Non-fiction is slightly different. Most of the old stuff there is problematic not just because of the offensive contents but also because of the dated scholarship. Not all of it - some of the major research studies for the Tudors are from the middle of the last century for example. But I am more likely to just stay away from authors I strongly disagree with - I am open to opinions but there are lines I would not cross (and there is a difference between opinion and lunacy) :)

As for awards and prizes and praised books -- I tend to look at these a lot more critically than I used to. I know that some of them just clash with my idea of what a good book is -- so I look at the lists occasionally but I generally ignore them. Most of them are for modern non-genre fiction -- what the world likes and what I do differ a bit it seems like so... I just ignore the awards. And that is valid both for modern times and for any old award...

If anything, I am more annoyed with books seemingly set in the past but having the heroes (and especially the heroines) behaving as if they were born in the 21st century and having all the questionable parts of the era scrubbed clean and removed or muted.

maaliskuu 5, 2020, 8:20pm

I cannot stand Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. A world full of eugenically engineered caucasian heterosexual women with suppressed sex drives governed by a central committee of control freaks.

That said, it's worth reading if only as a measure of how feminist thinking has changed over time.

I like what >49 AnnieMod: said: "When we stop reading the books with the problematic contents, we stop thinking about the problems. Which will allow them to crop back (not that most of them had really disappeared...)"

maaliskuu 5, 2020, 10:07pm

>49 AnnieMod:, >50 nohrt4me2: I was going to pick out that quote too. I think it's important to learn the historical lesson that what is perceived as acceptable changes over time, because it encourages us to think about our own beliefs and assumptions, and wonder what we do now that will seem crazy in the future. I don't really like attempts to hide that away (like airbrushing the cigar from photos of Churchill). And when there is controversy* about whether to keep a statue, for example, I think it would be best to keep the statue but add something which makes people think about the past, and what we choose to commemorate, and what that says about us. (I have heard about this happening somewhere, I think in Australia or New Zealand, but my google skills have failed me).

*I don't mean that statues should never be replaced. But if two groups of people disagree about whether a statue should stay up, why not use that as an opportunity to think about modern society?

In terms of the content itself, I am always startled by the anti-semitism in early C20 novels - you often find a passing remark which is completely extraneous to the plot - which I suppose is a sign of just how pervasive it was in the society.

But in terms of continuing to read and appreciate a book, I think there's a difference between an outdated attitude being expressed through one comment or scene, and that attitude showing through in the plot, or continuously through the descriptions of the characters.

I tend to stop reading books if they are very 'male gaze' but I find recently written books can be as bad at this as the mid-C20 examples. Earlier work doesn't seem to be like this.

maaliskuu 5, 2020, 10:07pm

>45 thorold:

That's true! I had forgotten about the word "novel". But The Roads to Sata was such a smooth read and with so many funny bits it seemed fitting to add!

The only way to add humor + novel would be for me to recommend Victor Hugo's The Last Day of a Condemned Man but that is very much DARK humor. Not exactly a giggle on the bus kind of read but definitely a dry haughty laugh at the absurdity of a situation kind of read.

maaliskuu 6, 2020, 5:05am

>49 AnnieMod: Well said!

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 6, 2020, 5:44am

Q11: Yes, I think >49 AnnieMod: has almost killed the discussion on that one: we have to go on reading old books, with an awareness of the times they were written in. If we don't, it turns into Brave new world or Fahrenheit 451 — which both also count as old books, by now!

A couple of months ago I saw the exhibition "Foute boeken" ("incorrect books") at the Meermanno Museum here in The Hague ( - it ran up to the end of February). They picked out an astonishing variety of books that for one reason or another we would have a problem with — colonialist missionary literature; children's books featuring comic characters who are negative racial stereotypes; books about conversion of Jews to Christianity; medical/anthropological textbooks full of dehumanising photos of naked non-white women; hideous racist propaganda from the thirties and from the German occupation; careers books showing boys growing up to be doctors, managers and engineers and girls becoming housewives, nurses and shop-assistants; seventies paperbacks (many of them by Jan Wolkers) with gratuitous naked women on the covers; and much more, right up to current schoolbooks published by Saudi or US religious organisations for use in developing countries. (And upstairs they had a complementary exhibition of "banned books" of the 17th century, featuring people like Spinoza....)

Very interesting, in a lot of different ways, but especially because of the way it showed you a lot more of the iceberg than you normally get to look at. We generally only come across those items that we still have a good reason to look at, because they have some value apart from being "wrong", we forget what huge quantities of books there were that don't qualify for the "controversial classic" label, and which just echoed the attitudes of the time in a commercially-attractive way without any obvious added value for our own times. Thankfully there are librarians who take on the unpleasant job of preserving at least a sizeable fraction of that ephemeral junk so that we can study it if we want to.

It did make me wonder a bit (as I think it was meant to) about the whole idea of a "negative" exhibition. You couldn't help thinking about the Nazis and their shows of "Entartete Kunst" ("degenerate art"), in which visitors had to walk past a display of stuff they were meant to disapprove of. However, even though many of the exhibits were absolutely repulsive, there were also others that I couldn't help finding charming, despite knowing how wrong they were. Especially all those picture books with the naughty little black boy...

Before seeing that show, I would probably have answered the question with "no, I'll read anything". I read a lot of old books that have negative stuff in them (about race, gender, sexuality, religion, politics or whatever) that is more or less incidental to the main purpose of the book, and I think I'm grown-up enough to deal with that. My reading is unconsciously influenced by the ideology of the 21st century that I'm living in, of course, but I can be consciously aware of what I know of the ideology of the period the book was written in.

But now it's obvious to me that there's also a lot out there that no sensible person would want or need to read, except for the purpose of research (that was a Dutch exhibition, but mutatis mutandis the same must apply to the English-language space). So there are limits, but I wouldn't like to say exactly where they are...

(You can see some images from the exhibition here, even if you can't read Dutch:

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 6, 2020, 5:39am

Thought I'd throw this 2011 opinion piece from the NY Times on Uncle Tom's Cabin (the #2 bestselling book of the 19th century in the US—after the Bible).

and two response letters:

maaliskuu 6, 2020, 8:44am

Question 11

Yes! I read a lot of classics and this is a constant problem. Off the top of my head, these books were problematic for me because of the inherent prejudices they contained.

A Passage to India by E.M. Forster
"golden age" mysteries by Josephine Tey
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Evelyn Waugh

Many of these (and more I can't put my finger on right now) are British authors writing during a time when there simply was a perspective that white, English speakers were better than and more advanced than everyone else. They also contain many off hand derogatory references to Jewish people and black people. I think the scope of the book can affect this for me. If it's a big book with many themes and ideas and the racism is a small part of it, I can more easily see the big picture of the book and compartmentalize the rest - not accepting it, but adding it to my "knowledge bank" of how pervasive those sentiments were in that culture (this happens to me with Trollope sometimes who I've read extensively and is one of my favorite authors). I also am aware that there are likely plenty of books that I love now that 50 years down the road will be viewed as narrow-minded in some way or other that I might not see now.

Gone with the Wind is a huge issue for me. I LOVE that book - the characters, the romance, the dramatic setting - but it is hugely racist and perpetuates this idea that is still wrongly held in way to many American's minds that slaves were treated as part of the family and that many were "better off" as slaves or would have chosen to remain slaves if they could. I can read it knowing that that is absolutely false but knowing there are large pockets of people who STILL believe that has definitely colored by love of that book. I'm considering a reread of this on audiobook soon, and this will be something I ponder constantly if I reread it.

maaliskuu 6, 2020, 9:06am

>56 japaul22: I think Forster would have been rather upset at the suggestion that he thought "white, English speakers were better than and more advanced than everyone else" — from his point of view he was writing a book that pilloried exactly the sort of people who had opinions like that. It's only from our perspective a hundred years on that we start to see his portrayal of some of the Indian characters as rather more patronising than he would have wanted. I don't think he's really any more patronising to Doctor Aziz than he is to Leonard Bast in Howards End — there's far more class prejudice in Forster than there is racism.

maaliskuu 6, 2020, 10:15am

>56 japaul22: This occurred to me in the previous question when I answered the question asking for a recommendation for a series one could get lost in. And I thought about Scott's Raj Quartet. I haven't read it since the 80s. I remember thinking it was kind of edgy back then. How would it read now, I wonder? (I'm unlikely to re-read it; too many other books I haven't read.

maaliskuu 6, 2020, 10:39am

I enjoy reading older history very much for the "double-story" that one can get. First is the historians relating of the history at hand and second is the information that one gets about the attitudes prevelent at the time of the book's writing by the attitudes the historian reveals in his or her writing. Not long ago I read a long, in-depth biography of Andrew Jackson which won a Pulitzer Prize for Biography when it was published in the 1930s. Not only did the author go out of his way to assure us that Jackson's slaves were well treated, he took the time (the author, this is) to offer us a whole-hearted defense of slavery. Again, that book won a Pulitzer. So I not only learned a lot about Jackson and his era (filtering out, as best I could, the hagiography aspect of the work), but I also learned a lot about the racial attitudes that a well-respected historian felt comfortable including in his works.

In fiction, certainly many novels hold at least a trace of the prejudices likely to be inherent in the culture being written about and written by (i.e., the author). Offhand examples I can, as others have said, compartmentalize. When the author is purposefully trying to show us what he or she perceives to be the bad aspects of his/her subjects ("look how lazy the so and so's are" "look how the watchamacallems love their money"), that's when I find the book unsavory and may set it aside if I don't feel like I'm somehow being educated about the prejudice(s) at hand in terms of time and place in a worthwhile manner.

maaliskuu 6, 2020, 11:02am

I'm going to add afterthought to that question....

maaliskuu 6, 2020, 11:24am

sorry accidentally unstarred this thread so i am behind

9. I am a visual learner, and have a vividly imagined film playing in my head as I read, So the characters are sort of flat, but I imagine me as the character/narrator, and vier whatever that character is doing, who she interacts with, what he is seeing through that movie in my head. I might notice race, gender, disabilities and such but until the plot demands I pay attention I am apt to keep that in the background and still keep myself as the unseen narrator/character.

Sometimes I can hear a particular actor when I read; if they ever make a movie of Doc he must be played by Tom Hanks!

As an aside, growing up I really didn't pay much attention to who the author was, and often would be reading assuming it was a certain gender then be very surprised when I found it was different. .Am always impressed by authors who can write outside themselves and sometimes cringe when its really really obvious that they can't.

I like some descriptions, but a pet peeve is a decription that is repeated ad nausum (yes yes, she has large blue eyes, got it, carry on) I love the description of Miss Havisham in Great Expectations. You get the background (jilted bride) and then the way the house is all set up for the wedding after many decades (cake and all) and then to the character herself. I see every part of that still in my mind )

One problem with that is going to an adaptation, and what I see is not the same as whats in my head. Lots of times its ok, other times it makes the movie hard to watch. (this years Little Women was so perfect in that so much came right from the book, and yet watching it did not bother me when it strayed, in fact I rather liked most of what I saw)

Re diversity - I taught children with special needs for most of my adult life, and found it frustrating not to find realistic, complex characters in books for children who were the same. The stereotypes and myths that were perpetuated and still exist. fortunately t has changed considerably since I started in the 80s, there are so many wonderful fiction and non fiction reads that children and YA can enjoy and relate to. I think it is important for children to have that connection while at the same time give them opportunities to read books with characters different from themselves.

One of my favorite books as a child was The Five Chinese Brothers. I had it on my bookshelf at school till a teacher told me how much it hurt her as a child, and how children bullied her over it. I was sorry, and I removed the book but I think you could make those five brothers any race or nationality and the story would still work. There are problems with lots of older books, but I think they can be used with some adult guidance (either teacher or parent)

gads this is long! sorry bout that but once I started thinking about diversity my mind went a bit wild. Would be interested in comments tho.

maaliskuu 6, 2020, 1:04pm

>51 wandering_star: I don't mean that statues should never be replaced. But if two groups of people disagree about whether a statue should stay up, why not use that as an opportunity to think about modern society?

Yeah and replacing just because they were set there from the previous regime (previous generation/whatever) erases history. When communism fell in Bulgaria, the new rulers decided that the best way to distance themselves from the old regime was to destroy anything created by it. It did not matter if it was good or bad - if it was created during the regime, it had to go. Statues, monuments, factories, the novels and the poetry written from the "communist writers" (not the propaganda ones - these were weak to start with... some people convinced themselves that if the writer is a communist, everything they write is tainted), the educational system - you name it, it had to go. Some things survived as shells and some monuments survived just because they were dealing with older periods (even if they were created during communism) but the attempt to erase history was there - and noone was shy about it - some of the big platforms people were elected on were "let's erase the last 45 years". Yes - some things had to go. But not on the scale it happened.

I have a similar vibe from the South here in the States. Yes - a lot of the statues are offensive but they were built because people thought that they make sense. Leave them in place, add a second one next to them to balance it, add explanations and use them to teach why they are wrong always sounded a better way to deal with them. On the other hand with the current society climate, that will probably backfire anyway. Damned if you, damned if you don't.

Erasing history and forgetting it are bad. Germany could have chosen that path after WWII and chose a different one - and if there was one country that really wanted to forget and erase what was done in its name last century, that was it. And yet, that lesson never took elsewhere.

OK... end of rant. Sorry about that :)

>54 thorold:

I wish I could have seen that exhibit. Comics especially tended to be really tied to stereotypes (easier to write for children this way I guess) - I had been reading the very first Golden Age comics on the DC side and some are cringe-worthy in that regard...

>56 japaul22:

That is interesting. That list does not trigger such a reaction from me - if anything, I actually find them less problematic than some other stuff I had read. I wonder how much of it is how I grew up (outside of the English cannon) and the fact that for me, these are stories and not part of my history. The Golden Age mysteries and Gone with the Wind especially - I expect them to have the racial and class-based stereotypes so I just... read through them. But then Uncle Tom's Cabin and Gone with the Wind were some of the first books I ever read about African slavery -- long before it was covered in my history lessons or I was aware just how close to nowadays it ended - slavery in my part of the world had been something in the pre-Medieval periods (we've had other problems in the area...)

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 9, 2020, 12:25pm

Wow, am I behind on this thread. Lots and lots of interesting discussion here! Guess I'll chime in with my own two cents on on these last three questions.

Question 9:

I don't think I really have anything particularly good or useful to add to the discussions about diversity in books here. But I will say that the question about visualizing characters, and the answers to it, fascinate me in this weird sort of way. Because I myself have almost zero visual imagination whatsoever, to the extent that for a good chunk of my life I took it for granted that when people used phrases like "the mind's eye" or "picturing it in my mind" or "well, there's an image!" they meant them entirely metaphorically. Because that's how I meant them when I used them. I mean, who actually imagines seeing pictures in their head, right? I have since learned that this kind of assumption is very common with people who don't mentally visualize things, and that that moment when you realize other people aren't actually kidding about that whole "mind's eye" thing is pretty much always mindblowing for everybody who experiences it.

Anyway, yeah. I don't visualize characters at all. I do sometimes (but not always) imagine distinctive voices for them. I may have a vague sense of what they ought to look like, whether they're fat or thin, that sort of thing (which, yes, may -- or may not -- include race and usually does incude gender, although there are interesting exceptions). Just enough so to be able, sometimes, to look at an actor who's cast to play a part in a TV/movie adaptation and say "Yes, I think they have the right sort of look" or "No, that doesn't strike me as being what that character is like at all," but often not to be able to tell you why. It's not a question, I think, of them matching some internal visual, but whether they give me the right feel when I look at them.

My lack of visualization, or concern about visuals, can make me very impatient with long visual descriptions of people, too. I am always particularly annoyed by the writing cliche of having a character look into a mirror and describe themselves. (And a zillion times more so when it's a male author writing a woman looking into a mirror and evaluating herself with what is clearly a male gaze. Ugh.) Slipping in little descriptive cues are fine, but stopping a narrative cold to describe people, or worse scenery, in exhaustive detail bores me. I never understood the whole "long descriptions of scenery" thing, to be honest. It was only embarrassingly recently that it suddenly occurred to me that the reason writers do that sort of thing is either because they have a detailed visual image in mind that they feel compelled to capture, or because they figure visually-oriented readers need something to picture in their own minds.

That got long and I'm being interrupted by actual work to do, so I'll come back and talk about the other two questions a little later. :)

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 9, 2020, 12:27pm

>63 bragan: I have since learned that this kind of assumption is very common with people who don't mentally visualize things, and that that moment when you realize other people aren't actually kidding about that whole "mind's eye" thing is pretty much always mindblowing for everybody who experiences it.

Hee works the other way too. We have a mountain in our city called Camelback because well it looks like the back of a camel and his head. A guy I was dating in college came to visit me here and I took him around town. I mentioned the mountain, and he honestly could not see why it was called Camelback. Now he could have been messing with my head, but he had similar problems with descriptions of any kind when he was reading. Didn't occur to me at the time that people do have different ways of reading, and this esp occured to me when I started taking classes in teaching children to read, and realized that they were all different as well! And learned that as a teacher who is very much a visual learner I can not expect the same of my students and need to adjust accordingly.

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 9, 2020, 12:28pm


Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 9, 2020, 12:28pm

>64 cindydavid4: The breadth and depth of human diversity is always greater than we think it is!

maaliskuu 9, 2020, 12:31pm


maaliskuu 9, 2020, 1:32pm

OK, I made short work of the other stuff I had to do, so I'm back for the rest of my answers!

Question 10

Reader 1: A humorous novel: I'm going to have to go with The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams and its continuation The Restaurant at the End of the Universe for this one. I feel like a giant geek cliche saying it, but Hitchhiker's is honestly the only single answer I've ever been able to come up with for the answer to "What's your favorite book?" And it is darned funny! You really do have to read both books together, though, so maybe that's cheating slightly.

Reader 2: A history that’s engaging but not too dense: At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson. A very wide-ranging, very engaging history of all kinds of things. It's on the long side, but a very fast and not remotely dense read.

Reader 3: An unusual mystery or crime novel: Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan. Which is unusual in that it seemed much less about the mysteriousness of the mystery and far more about the characters. As I recall, none of the things that gets revealed by the end surprised me at all, which is usually a recipe for a really boring mystery story, but it this case it all just felt very satisfying,

Reader 4: A really good biography or memoir: I'm going to go for Jenny Lawson's utterly hilarious Let's Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir). The follow-up to it, Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things is great too, and lives up to the title in ways you might never imagine possible.

Reader 5: A nonfiction or fiction book about or set in WWII: WWII is not my favorite period to read about, so I think I have fewer of these to recommend than one might expect. Let's go with Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayal by Ben McIntyre, which is one of those true stories that is far, far stranger than fiction.

Reader 6: A science fiction book for someone who has not read science fiction before: Picking something I've re-read recently, so it's still fresh in my mind, I'm going to go with The Word for World is Forest, by Ursula K. LeGuin, at least for readers who might be interested in reading something that uses science fiction to address themes of colonialism in a really effective and impactful way.

Reader 7: A trilogy or series one can lose oneself in: I've only read the first book so far, so I can't speak with certainty about the rest of the series, but The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty gave me that "getting lost in a story and a fictional world" feeling in a way that's sadly rare for me nowadays.

Reader 8: A book capable of transporting you elsewhere: I find this one weirdly hard to answer. But I'm going to go with the first thing that came to mind: An African in Greenland by Tété-Michel Kpomassie, which I'd say successfully transported me to both Africa and Greenland.

Reader 9: A volume of short stories or essays: Stories of Your Life and Others (aka Arrival) by Ted Chiang. Top-notch mind-stretching science fiction!

Reader 10: A book about religion/s, or a novel where religion figures into the story: I have to go with Doubt: A History by Jennifer Michael Hecht. A book about religious doubt still counts as a book about religion, right? In fact, I apparently described it this way in my review of it: "Jennifer Michael Hecht presents a comprehensive look at the world history of religious doubt, particularly doubt about the nature and existence of gods. Which, in a way, also makes it a history of religion and philosophy, from an enlightening alternate point of view. " And it's really, really good.

(And now I'm going to go back and scan everybody else's answers for recommendations. As if I needed more of those!)

maaliskuu 9, 2020, 1:43pm

One more, and then maybe I'll shut up for a while!

Question 11

The only answer I really have for this one is "it varies." There are older books where I might find myself cringing for a moment at racist language or any number of other elements that are Really Not OK by modern standards, but am able to carry on past them and try to take from the book the things that I think are still good or insightful or fun, or whatever makes it still worth reading.

There are other instances, though, where a certain wrong-headed and offensive worldview seems baked right into the narrative. Such works may be interesting from a historical perspective as illustrations of their times, and still have some interesting characters or good prose or whatever, but not have much of anything to say to modern readers that's worth listening to, except as a cautionary tale about what kinds of thought patterns we ought to leave behind us.

In other cases, there might still be stuff in there that's good or valid, but the offensive, cringe-inducing stuff is too unpleasant, too hard to get past to make the reading experience feel valuable or worth it. I will admit here that to what extent that's true for me very often depends on whether whatever-it-is pushes my own personal buttons. Anti-semitism might make me wince a lot, for instance, but it's not personal for me the way misogyny is, being female but non-Jewish, so while it upsets me on principle, it doesn't give me the same invountary blood pressure spike, and it's easier to put out of my mind and go on with things. I suspect that's true for pretty much everybody, whatever your own personal buttons are. And I feel like not wanting to suffer through reading something that feels like it hates or disrespects or attacks you personally is always a valid response, whatever else the work might or might not also be doing.

maaliskuu 9, 2020, 10:32pm

>63 bragan: I ran into this on a Twitter thread...years ago, no idea when. And found out a) while I do visualize, it's not _nearly_ as clear or vivid as some people...and b) Ursula Vernon, who is an author with many (self)-illustrated books, has less visualization than I do. The quote I remember (and it's kind of approximate, so many years later) was "I just draw lines and fiddle until it looks like a hamster".

Her Harriet Hamster series is amazingly funny - Harriet is a (hamster) princess who doesn't like the limitations it puts on her - until she finds out she's under a 'die/sleep on your sixteenth birthday' curse and figures out that that means she can't die _until_ then. And goes off to do adventures...and then stuff happens...and it's a lot of fun. And heavily illustrated.

So if she can be an artist, so can I - if I could figure out what I wanted to draw.

maaliskuu 9, 2020, 10:38pm

>70 jjmcgaffey: I think I've seen at least one other artist say they don't visualize things in their head, either. Which seems quite strange and interesting to me. (I have a negative amount of artistic talent, myself. I can just about manage stick figures, on a good day.)

maaliskuu 10, 2020, 2:13pm

>71 bragan: I did not get the artistic gene in our family either, although my sister and her daughter both have it.

maaliskuu 10, 2020, 5:52pm

>63 bragan: >64 cindydavid4: >70 jjmcgaffey:

Cognitive scientists have recently coined aphantasia to describe people who don't visualize. Here's a BBC article.

In my case, I do some visualizing, but there are long stretches while I read where I don't picture anything.

maaliskuu 10, 2020, 6:01pm

Question 11.

I have had some problems with older books, here's one example. Sybil (rebeccanyc) and I met very early on LT on a early group called "What Are You Reading Now?" and we traded some excellent recommendations in those early years (oftentimes different books by the same author). She always recommended Phillip Roth, so I eventually picked up his first collection Goodbye, Columbus: And Five Short Stories published in 1958 and the National Book Award winner for 1959. I thought it was a good place to start. The stories were very good but the misogyny really got to me. I also understood there were probably things in his writing related to being Jewish that likely spoke to her but not to me.

So, here's what I wrote at the end of my review dated 2010: Will I go on to read more Roth based on his short stories and this one novella/novel (130 pgs)? I don't know. This collection felt somewhat dated in its cultural underpinnings and certainly in it's assumptions of the ultimate importance of all things male that I seemed relieved to start the {Colum} McCann

I did keep some Roth books around for quite a while thinking I might pick one up, surely the dystopia, but alas there are just too many other choices I don't see the necessity.

maaliskuu 10, 2020, 8:09pm

>73 dukedom_enough: Yes, I've recently started hearing the word "aphantasia" and seeing people paying attention to the phenomenon, which I find very strange, considering that I've been failing to visualize stuff for decades, and nobody seemed interested in talking about it for most of that time. :)

maaliskuu 10, 2020, 8:46pm

Question 11 - Problems reading older books.

I obviously have no problems reading older books, because more often than not they are the only books I read. I would rather read an older book with all it's inherent racist, misogynist, homophobic, anti-Semitic content than the flippant, wisecracking, pseudo philosophic content of some of todays contemporary authors.

In my opinion allowances must be made for older books that express the thoughts and attitudes of the times in which they were written. I personally give them much more leeway than I would for a contemporary writer. I hope that my reading experience of older books has given me a way into the thoughts and attitudes of the characters and perhaps also of the author, these maybe attitudes and viewpoints with which I now violently disagree, but they can't be ignored. I am not about to stop reading older books because I find them racist, misogynistic etc.........., but I may well express my opinion of those thoughts and attitudes when i write a review.

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 11, 2020, 10:23am

11. I love travel narratives, from victorian ladies touring Africa or scaling the alps, to women who traveled through the middle east during the ottoman period (Geraldine Bell, Freya Stark), back to 14th century traveler Ibn Battutah probably the greates traveler of his time Travels with a Tangerine follows his travels around the then known world,* and then all the way to our time Patrick Leigh Fermor, Jan Morris For the most part these travelers seem to share similar attitudes about other cultures and peoples.

However,., Richard Halliburton is another kettle of fish, an American travel writer, adventurer, and author who is best known today for having swum the length of the Panama Canal and paying the lowest toll in its history—36 cents in 1928. His final and fatal adventure, an attempt to sail the Chinese junk Sea Dragon across the Pacific Ocean – from Hong Kong to the Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco, California cost him his life at 36 years of age. He wrote several books and they are all wonderfully glorious, with observations of he world around him. But he had some issues - he had many prejudices and wasn't shy about saying and writing about them, and he tended to to consider other cultures and people to be lesser. I cringed many times, but dammit that man could write! Id still recommend his books today, with a caveat .

>76 baswood: In my opinion allowances must be made for older books that express the thoughts and attitudes of the times in which they were written. I personally give them much more leeway than I would for a contemporary writer. I hope that my reading experience of older books has given me a way into the thoughts and attitudes of the characters and perhaps also of the author, these maybe attitudes and viewpoints with which I now violently disagree, but they can't be ignored. I am not about to stop reading older books because I find them racist, misogynistic etc.........., but I may well express my opinion of those thoughts and attitudes when i write a review.

I share the same feelings. I have some issues with some books geared to children, but would never ban them, and think some discussion with a teacher or parent would be needed. But giving allowances to the thoughts and attitudes of the time does not mean I agree with them. Its a history lesson really. I wonder how many cringe worthy readers a hundred years from now about books written today!

* I finished all of these books and frequently hear about a name or place on the news or in reading that he journeyed too. Horribly sad to hear news of ISIS destroying so many of these places. Why do people want to destroy part of themselves. No answer for that but knowing that some of these placs now only existed in writing makes me very sad

maaliskuu 11, 2020, 7:51am

>75 bragan: Please, don't say "failing." Your brain just works differently. Maybe you'll be immune to the Sigil That Drives People Mad when it shows up!

maaliskuu 11, 2020, 10:29am

what he said!!! I to understand:I love reading but I was really horrible in math - suspect if I'd been a kid today I'd be getting some special ed help for it. While im much better at it than I was since I became an adult, I remember feeling like a 'failure' too, But neither of us are, How we learn, how we read is you. Its not a disease or a disability. I stopped a long time ago trying to do things perfectly and its really impossible, not worth your time or energy . So go out and read some more!

maaliskuu 11, 2020, 12:47pm

>78 dukedom_enough:, >79 cindydavid4: Oh, I wasn't necessarily using "failing" in a deliberately negative sort of way. I think my brain is the normal one and the rest of you are just weird. :) And visualizing things as you read seems like a troublesome way of doing it to me, to be honest. All those details you have to invent when they don't come from the book itself at all! It just sounds confusing and counter-productive to me.

Anyway, not only do I have possible handy immunity to madness sigils, but I never have the problem of "Ugh, now I can't get that image out of my head!" in any but the most abstract sort of way. Which, if getting images stuck in your head is anything remotely like getting songs stuck in your head, can only be a good thing.

On the other hand, my complete inability to remember what anyplace looks like does often make navigation challenging. You don't want to know how often I come out of a building and have literally no idea which direction I need to turn to get back the way I came, because I didn't bother describing the street to myself so I could remember it. Thank goodness for GPS!

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 12, 2020, 2:51pm

>80 bragan: I understand the directional disability thing. I almost always turn the wrong direction inside a hotel when I get off the elevator or leave my room. Once I went to a conference at a large hotel that had two wings. I went out one door to go for a walk and came back in a different door. I was lost inside the hotel for 90 minutes, until I finally figured out my room was actually in the other wing. The different kinds of carpet was finally the tip off. I had to go downstairs to the conference center to get my bearings. GPS has gotten me out of a lot of tight spots when driving.

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 12, 2020, 5:57pm

Keeping this question/s light :-)

Question 12: Two March Days

This coming week we will celebrate Pi/Pie day (March 14th) and the Ides of March (March 15th). Please share with us a few short recommendations for any or all of the following:

—Fiction or nonfiction with a math/science connection.
—Fiction or nonfiction regarding anything Roman (or related to the Roman empire) *
—An Awful warning novel (a kind of dystopia like 1984 or Handmaid’s Tale)
—A declaration regarding your favorite sweet or savory pie (ok, not a review, but it will be interesting....)

As always, feel free to think outside the box.

*We’ll save Shakespeare for another time, shall we?

maaliskuu 13, 2020, 5:27am

—Fiction or nonfiction with a math/science connection.
For Pi/Pie day, it's got to be How to Bake Pi: An Edible Exploration of the Mathematics of Mathematics by Eugenia Cheng - category theory and recipes.

—Fiction or nonfiction regarding anything Roman (or related to the Roman empire)
Cookery and Dining in Imperial Rome by Apicius - one of the first cookbooks in world history.

—An Awful warning novel (a kind of dystopia like 1984 or Handmaid’s Tale)
So many possibilities! I'll go with It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis.

—A declaration regarding your favorite sweet or savory pie (ok, not a review, but it will be interesting....)
It's hard to just choose one... For sentimental reasons - it's a family recipe - I'll say flamiche, a leek pie from Northern France. I'd link to the Wikipedia article, only it's nothing like the one I make... Mine has a filling of leeks, eggs and cream (seasoned with salt, pepper and nutmeg), and a pastry top and bottom.

maaliskuu 13, 2020, 7:00am

—Fiction or nonfiction with a math/science connection.

Two books come quickly to mind... One Day the Ice Will Reveal Its Dead by Clare Dudman is a first person account of the life of the German meteorologist Alfred Wegener (1880-1930) who is notable to us now for his pioneering arctic explorations and his theory of continental drift. From my review: "It is Wegener's voice that carries us through this book, indeed, it is a baptismal immersion of a kind. Oftentimes it is infused with wonder, the joys of discovery, a reverence for the physical world that sometimes seems spiritual. Yet we also feel his frustrations and deep disappointments. We seem him in love, and we see him at war. We understand what drives him.

And I Married You for Happiness by Lily Tuck. A love story between a mathematician and an artist as told to the reader by the inner thoughts of Nina (the artist) as she sits bedside through the night next to her husband's body. "It’s a believable narrative; a lovely, tender, completely absorbing story—very hard to pull away from once started. And I think, as the book blurb suggests, the reader is left wondering how much of our lives is ordered by intent or chance.... "

—Fiction or nonfiction regarding anything Roman (or related to the Roman empire) *

Best I can come up with here is Pompeii by Robert Harris, a decent thriller about the eruption or....reaching way back, The Robe read at about age 12 and which liked enough to later chase down more of his novels. Although it was popular in its time, I'm fairly certain the novel was in the house because my father shared the name of the author, Lloyd C Douglas (although my father had a double S )

—An Awful warning novel (a kind of dystopia like 1984 or Handmaid’s Tale)

Leila by Prayaag Akbar. The warning, I'm sure, is meant for India, the author's native country, but it rings true in the rest of the world, I think, which is why a television adaptation quickly appeared (in the states it's on Netflix). It a short book, but powerfully presents a future where there is an obsession with purity and most people are literally separated by caste and class, have and have nots, often in high-walled communities with armed security at the gates.

—A declaration regarding your favorite sweet or savory pie (ok, not a review, but it will be interesting....)

At this moment, the fave is strawberry-rhubarb pie. But ask me again and I'll probably give you another answer. And if we are talking books, one of my newer favorites Pie: 300 Tried-and-True Recipes for Delicious Homemade Pie and a well-used oldie Blue-Ribbon Pies.

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 13, 2020, 8:06am


It's a shame about the Shakespeare ban — Titus Andronicus brings together Romans and pie in memorable ways...

—Fiction or nonfiction with a math/science connection.
Fiction: I really enjoyed El viento de la luna, Muñoz Molina's novel about the magic of experiencing the Apollo programme as a small boy in Spain.
Non-fiction: I've just been listening to the recent audiobook version of Carl Sagan's Cosmos: a personal voyage, and found it stands up better than you might have expected forty years on.

—Fiction or nonfiction regarding anything Roman (or related to the Roman empire)
Fiction: I think either Astérix Légionnaire or Astérix chez les Bretons have some of the best and funniest things to say about the Romans that you could need. Equally funny in the original or in Anthea Bell's translations (you can read both, the jokes are different each time).
Non-fiction: Everybody's going to be saying Mary Beard, and they'll be right to do so... For the sake of variety, how about the unexpectedly amusing, if somewhat dated Engineering in the ancient world by J G Landels? One of the pioneers of the experimental approach in history.

—An Awful warning novel (a kind of dystopia like 1984 or Handmaid’s Tale)
For a (moderately) funny dystopia, how about Anthony Trollope's unlikely venture into the field, The fixed period? Comes complete with steam-powered cricket.

—A declaration regarding your favourite sweet or savoury pie
I'm not much of a pastry-cook, so I don't make many pies. Maybe I should nominate my mother's cheese-and-onion pie, if sentimental reasons are allowed. (But I'd not be averse to trying a slice of Dilara's flamiche, provided it's not got bacon in it...)

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 13, 2020, 8:15am

>81 LadyoftheLodge: Oh yes, I am horrible at navigating! I have been lost like that too, My cars model and color are very popular, and I can't tell you how many times Ive stood a the door of a car wondering what was wrong with my key till I looked inside., Oh never mind. Fortunately I have not encountered an angry driver accusing me of auto theft!!

Thank god for GPS!

maaliskuu 13, 2020, 8:34am

>85 thorold: I'm sorry about the ban, but Will, with his star power, has the potential of overwhelming the rest. But, I welcome ideas for a Shakespeare question/s to be used some time during the year (send to me). I have a list of ideas and questions that I add to when the inspiration strikes or as I spot something as I roam the threads here.

maaliskuu 13, 2020, 8:39am

>85 thorold: But I'd not be averse to trying a slice of Dilara's flamiche, provided it's not got bacon in it...
No bacon, no cheese. The horror ! ;-) And the pastry is lard - or other animal fat - free. You're safe.

maaliskuu 13, 2020, 9:20am

I have opened a separate thread to discuss the Covid-19 pandemic, if anyone is interested.

maaliskuu 13, 2020, 12:24pm

—Fiction or nonfiction with a math/science connection.
I'll go with Packing for Mars by Mary Roach. What's the bodily science of longterm space travel?

—Fiction or nonfiction regarding anything Roman (or related to the Roman empire)
All I can think of is A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. So I'll just go with the script for that.

—An Awful warning novel (a kind of dystopia like 1984 or Handmaid’s Tale)
At this point, I've got to go with The Andromeda Strain.

—A declaration regarding your favorite sweet or savory pie (ok, not a review, but it will be interesting....)
Not really a pie, but . . . Bonet, a delicious chocolate flan-like dessert that my wife and I first encountered during our week in Turin, Italy, several years ago. When we got home, my wife found the recipe and has made it often! Lucky me!

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 14, 2020, 11:37am


Reader 1: A humorous novel: Being There, Jerzy Kosinski
Reader 2: A history that’s engaging but not too dense: An Introduction to Contemporary History, G. Barraclough (less contemporary now)
Reader 3: An unusual mystery or crime novel: Foucault's Pendulum, U. Eco.
Reader 4: A really good biography or memoir: Tolstoy - Confession (short). Also Ray Monk's biography of Wittgenstein (big)
Reader 5: A nonfiction or fiction book about or set in WWII: Gravity's Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon
Reader 6: A science fiction book for someone who has not read science fiction before: Contact, Carl Sagan
Reader 7: A trilogy or series one can lose oneself in: Dune, Frank Herbert
Reader 8: A book capable of transporting you elsewhere: A Time of Gifts / Between the Woods and the water - Patrick Leigh Fermor
Reader 9: A volume of short stories or essays: Labyrinths, J-L Borges (still thinking of getting lost - or maybe his collected fictions)
Reader 10: A book about religion/s, or a novel where religion figures into the story: The Power of Myth, Joseph Campbell

q. 11 - I've been reading The Secret Garden and found some of the language and attitudes of chracters on race quite difficult? - noticeable for sure - I don't think I read it as a kid but some is familiar and must have seen more of telly adaptation than I thought. I'd tend to try to forgive, but I also tend to thik manners and respect as ideas are not so different - and of course some may write to highlight bad practice. In the past I read a lot of history so am used to some difficulties and recognising context.


-- Fiction or nonfiction with a math/science connection. -- I've just said Contact above, heck, I really like it on Pi. The Phantom Tollbooth I like. I read a mystery once think it was The Oxford Murders which I enjoyed and remember maths was involved

—Fiction or nonfiction regarding anything Roman (or related to the Roman empire) -- ooo I should like this but I'm stuck -- but there are Cavafy poems to think of, or Ovid or the others -- Cavafy's Waiting for the Barbarians

—An Awful warning novel (a kind of dystopia like 1984 or Handmaid’s Tale) -- Dante's Inferno (see recent discussion with Dan)

—A declaration regarding your favorite sweet or savory pie (ok, not a review, but it will be interesting....)
-- not good at favourites of things these days, but preferably with a pastry that does not give indigestion

maaliskuu 14, 2020, 2:50pm


--Science and math--I have tons of faves here, since I am a retired middle school science teacher. Microbe Hunters by Paul de Kruif, The Double Helix by James Watson, Descartes' Secret Notebook by Amir Aczel, Don't Swallow Your Gum by Aaron Caroll and Rachel Vreeman, The Bad Food Bible by Aaron Carroll, Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv or any Dorling-Kindersley EyeWitness books

--Related to the Roman Empire or Rome--The Buried City of Pompeii by Shelley Tanaka--a kid's book account of the eruption and includes lots of archaeological information and photos

--A warning--Joshua Son of None by Nancy Freedman which is about cloning John F. Kennedy, written in 1973

--My favorite pie--would have to be pumpkin

maaliskuu 15, 2020, 2:22am


—Fiction or nonfiction with a math/science connection.

There's no way I could narrow this down if I went with science books, or probably even sciencey science fiction, so I'm going to go with a mathy one: A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper by John Allen Paulos.

—Fiction or nonfiction regarding anything Roman (or related to the Roman empire)

Wait, has nobody said I, Claudius yet? I'm going to have to say I, Claudius, by Robert Graves.

—An Awful warning novel (a kind of dystopia like 1984 or Handmaid’s Tale)

I'm sure I've read lots of these, but it was remarkably hard to come up with a good one. Scrolling back through my last few years' worth of reading, the first one that leaps out at all is California by Edan Lepucki, so I'll go with that.

—A declaration regarding your favorite sweet or savory pie (ok, not a review, but it will be interesting....)

I'm extremely fond of apple pie, but I can't think too hard about that right now. I've just been sternly ordered onto a low-sodium diet, and fear I may never be able to eat anything tasty ever again.

maaliskuu 15, 2020, 7:20am

>93 bragan: Wait, has nobody said I, Claudius yet? — Astonishing! We certainly should have.

maaliskuu 15, 2020, 11:03am

—Fiction or nonfiction with a math/science connection.

As How to Bake Pi and The Phantom Tollbooth have already gone, I'll say Cosmicomics.

—Fiction or nonfiction regarding anything Roman (or related to the Roman empire) *

Pompeii: the life of a Roman Town by Mary Beard

—An Awful warning novel (a kind of dystopia like 1984 or Handmaid’s Tale)

Not a novel, but the most vivid explanation of how we've ended up where we are in terms of lack of public trust etc. and how much we could still decline - Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible, about the author's time working on Russian reality TV.

—A declaration regarding your favorite sweet or savory pie (ok, not a review, but it will be interesting....)

Cherry clafoutis. Cherry anything, really.

maaliskuu 15, 2020, 4:29pm

—Fiction or nonfiction with a math/science connection.
Spaceland by Rudy Rucker Starts with intrusions into our world from 4-dimensional creatures, then goes on a tour of worlds having dimensionalities from zero to infinite. A sort of update of Flatland. Fortunately has less of Rucker's usual hippy material.

—Fiction or nonfiction regarding anything Roman (or related to the Roman empire)
Lest Darkness Fall by L. Sprague de Camp A contemporary (I.e. 1941, the year of publication) man is transported to sixth-century Rome and tries to stop the fall of the empire. Probably has many racist and sexist bits, but still worth reading.

—An Awful warning novel (a kind of dystopia like 1984 or Handmaid’s Tale)
The Peripheral by William Gibson Awful because, these days, awfully convincing. The world of the 2130s is wealthy, but ruled by kleptocrats, and 4/5 of the planet's population died in the "jackpot", a series of wars, plagues and climate events.

—A declaration regarding your favorite sweet or savory pie (ok, not a review, but it will be interesting....)

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 15, 2020, 6:30pm

Fiction/non-fiction with math connection: 0

Fiction/non-fiction Roman: Claudius the God by Robert Graves

Awful warning: A Friend of the Earth by TC Boyle

Fave pie: I hate pie, but will take a pasty. If made with lard.

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 15, 2020, 9:04pm

what happened to my post? Ok lets see what I remember..

Reader 1: A humorous novel: This actually could work for #10 but small gods by Terry Pratchet was my first experience with that author, and I could not get enough of him. The book is a stand alone to his discworld series

Reader 2: A history that’s engaging but not too dense:Wild Swans book about three generations of women in China. Very well written, opened my eyes to the Cultural Revolution.

Reader 3: An unusual mystery or crime novel: Stones Fall Journalist is hired by widow to find out why her husband jumped out of a window, and who his child was. Starts in present day tells the story backwards, leaving all sorts of clues along the way. Second time I read it, I started from the last chapter forward which was really interesting

Reader 4: A really good biography or memoir: Becoming for a memoir, Becoming Dr Seuss for the bio I have had problems with books in this genre, but these two are among the best

Reader 5: A nonfiction or fiction book about or set in WWII:The Bielski Brothers: The True Story of Three Men Who Defied the Nazis, Built a Village in the Forest, and Saved 1,200 Jewsfascinating story; The adaptation is well worth watching

Reader 6: A science fiction book for someone who has not read science fiction before: Ray Bradbury Fahrenheit 451. Amazingly prescient

Reader 7: A trilogy or series one can lose oneself in: Sharon K Penman starts her series on British history with here be dragons, takes you through the plantagent kings and Welsh resistance from 13th century to the tudors. Brilliantly written.

Reader 8: A book capable of transporting you elsewhere: travels with a tangerine a journey in the footnotes of ibn battutah The author takes you back to the famous 13th century traveler ibn battutah, following along with his memoir. The first one is fun, he has several others that I haven't read but all about ibn battutah

Reader 9: A volume of short stories or essays: The View from the Cheap Seats talks about books, reading, authors, children and everything related.

Reader 10: A book about religion/s, or a novel where religion figures into the story: do not read this if you take any offense at playing around with the story of jesus, but this is my fav religious story Lamb

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 15, 2020, 8:59pm

—Fiction or nonfiction with a math/science connection. Phantom Tollbooth gifted this to many many children, reason its a classic

—Fiction or nonfiction regarding anything Roman (or related to the Roman empire) * I Claudius

—An Awful warning novel (a kind of dystopia like 1984 or Handmaid’s Tale) Good Omens its a warning novel with a happy ending. Or The Time Machine

—A declaration regarding your favorite sweet or savory pie (ok, not a review, but it will be interesting....) I love pumpkin pie, and one of my fave books to read to kids is
Big Pumpkin we act it out afterwards!

maaliskuu 20, 2020, 6:27am

Thanks to lilisin for her contribution to this set of questions, and nohrt4me2 for the activity as used with her students.

Question 13 Movies vs Books

As we all know, movies and television series are constantly being made from the books we read, now more than ever. Do you think books are often written with this—or the hope of this—in mind? Generally, do you see many movies or much television? Do you enjoy seeing dramatic adaptations of the books you read?

How much does it bug you that the stories deviate from the book? Does it make a difference if you know the author was involved with the adaption? Does it bother you when an adaptation casts an actor who doesn’t resemble the character as described by the author or visualized by you? What if they changed the race or sex of the character? How do you feel about a change in time period or place?

Feel free to discuss examples, past & present, and any recommendations of newer adaptions.

*Fun bonus activity: pick one of your favorite books and dreamcast it. Who would you cast for those main characters?

maaliskuu 20, 2020, 8:13am


Do you think books are often written with this—or the hope of this—in mind?
— That sounds like an invitation to plunge down the rabbit-hole of "authorial intent" :-)
Thrillers and crime stories often seem to be written like scripts, with a lot of fast cutting between scenes and some unnecessarily juicy locations. But there's nothing new in that: look at the bestselling thrillers of the fifties and sixties (Alistair MacLean and so on). I don't often get that impression with mainstream novels, though.

Generally, do you see many movies or much television?
— Not much: maybe one or two films a week at home and a couple of quiz shows I'm addicted to, and in a good month I remember to go to the local arthouse cinema once or twice. In summer I might go for weeks without watching anything.

Do you enjoy seeing dramatic adaptations of the books you read?
— Occasionally. I have fond memories of some really good TV adaptations, like the P&P with Colin Firth and the Barchester Chronicles with Donald Pleasence and Nigel Hawthorne. And just last week I enjoyed watching Schlesinger's film of A kind of loving and Louis Malle's Zazie dans le Métro. But more often these days they irritate me and I give up before the end...

How much does it bug you that the stories deviate from the book?
— I don't mind a film or TV adaptation that does something original and creative with the idea of the book, like the BBC Sherlock or even Gurinder Chadha's Bollywood-inspired Bride and Prejudice. And of course you can't make every speech and plot-twist in a novel work on the screen. The Fry and Laurie Jeeves and Wooster adaptations mixed up content from all over the place in the books, but they ended up very faithful to the spirit of Wodehouse.

I do get irritated by gratuitous "improvement" of stories (which are otherwise being adapted straight) to squeeze in incongruous characters meant to appeal to modern viewers, and of course by shows that spend a fortune on getting the costumes exactly right for the period, and then use dialogue with words and phrases in it that weren't current until two hundred years later. My father always gets worked up with films and shows that get army protocol wrong, I'm sure we all have our pressure-points.

*Fun bonus activity
— I'll come back to this one!

maaliskuu 20, 2020, 2:12pm

I basically don't watch movies - the last one I saw in a theater was Frozen (not II, the original). There are few actors I recognize, so I'm not going to do the bonus activity.

There are some books (thrillers and so on) that seem to be written to be movies; I tend to dislike those books and find them dull.

I get extremely irritated when they take a book that people love, and "just change a few things" like the plot and the characters and whatever to "make it a better movie". There are two movies that drive me nuts - mostly I don't watch adaptations of my favorite books because they get it wrong, but I tried these and was confirmed in my opinion.

My Side of the Mountain - kind of the whole point of the book is that the boy ran away and is trying to be invisible. In the movie, he's there for a school project. The same events may have happened, but the frame is so warped I couldn't stand to watch it.

And even worse - Mrs. Miniver. The book is the thoughts (sort of a diary/observation journal) of a middle-aged woman (that's important, that's part of the story) shortly before and into the beginning of WWII. The a cute sitcom about a young woman and her new husband. I was unable to watch more than the first couple scenes, seeing stories - events - I loved warped into this (in the book, she buys a sober sensible calendar planner book, then goes back and buys one in green leather to hold her year's events. In the movie, she buys a reasonable hat and then goes back and buys a ridiculous one. For instance).

On the other hand, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe - the movie (the most recent one) was actually _better_ than the book. I love the book, but the movie had a lot more depth (not usual!). The book (it became clear in hindsight) is fairy-tale style; people do things because the story demands it, without any thinking or clear motivation. In the movie, there's a lot more reasons and a lot more frame to it. And I've been afraid to watch the rest of the series for fear they will mess up this great start.

There are some movies where I saw the movie first and that's the "real" story to me. And there are some where the movie was first, I loved that story, I love the story in the book, there's no relationship between them. But not many.

Oh, funny - I saw 101 Dalmations, the Disney animated version, when I was 11. Then I didn't see it again for 5-6 years, and in the meantime I found the book (which is a lot deeper - there's more characters, more events, and more characterization/motivation) and read and reread it probably half a dozen times. I've seen the movie since, I still like it for what it is - but I can, in my mind's eye, see the events in the book in Disney animation, including of characters that never appeared in the movie (there's a collie, an Irish setter, a the terrier in the movie? Eating toast behind the chair? or is that book only? I can't remember!).

maaliskuu 20, 2020, 3:01pm

I don't go to the movies or watch TV, so I cannot comment on the bonus activity.

I really enjoy seeing live performances of books I have enjoyed. Seeing how the directors have chosen to portray the characters and scenes is always interesting.

I have seen A Midsummer Night's Dream and Romeo and Juliet plus other Shakespeare plays in many different settings, both classic and modern.

I recently saw Murder on the Orient Express (before the theater shut down for the rest of the season) and it was delightful, although Poirot was portrayed quite differently than the last time I saw it on stage, and it is one of the few films I have seen, both past version and newer version.

I have also seen several different portrayals of Sense and Sensibility on the stage. These plays have all stayed pretty true to the original editions, although Murder on the Orient Express changed the characters onstage from the book; this did not detract at all from the play. I had to go home and look at the book to actually compare the characters.

maaliskuu 21, 2020, 1:09pm

I firmly believe that books and films/tv are different genres and if you're adapting a book into a film/TV series, you have to do what's best for the new medium, rather than replicating the old one. I know that fans of the book often object to this but I have found that sometimes trying to stick too much to the book causes flaws in the film/show.

That said, there is one huge exception to this which is that I really disliked the film of The Last King of Scotland because to my mind it completely undermined the core of the book. The novel is narrated by a white British man who is doctor to Idi Amin. The reader (or at least I did) kind of assumes that he will turn out to be a good guy, because as we read we (I) identify with him, and we have been exposed to this white saviour narrative so many times before. So when he turns out NOT to be a good guy, our own assumptions are turned against us. In the film, he IS the white saviour character, which just had me gesticulating angrily in the dark cinema when I realised that was what was happening.

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 22, 2020, 3:10pm

>104 wandering_star: I agree with wandering_star's first paragraph, above. Sometimes a movie/tv show maker has to adapt a book to make better art. Of course, sometimes the changes are made to appeal (or so the producers think) to a larger audience. I also go to a movie of a book I care about with the idea in mind that there are probably going to be differences and that I should judge the movie on its own merits instead of judging the movie against the book.

Most of my movie viewing now is via Netflix, etc., due to my location. I've got a fairly long journey to movie theaters now, as I live in a very rural area. Also, my movie/tv watching is self-limited. My wife and I keep only one or two series going at once and don't watch movies at home that often because we don't want the TV to dominate our evenings. Too many books to read!

However, last night we watched the first episode in David Chase's TV adaption of The Plot Against America. Roth is one of my very favorite authors, so I had some trepidation. On the other hand, The Wire, which Chase created, is probably my favorite television series, ever. Also, I had read that Roth gave Chase his blessing to adapt the book for TV. I saw an interview with Chase on this topic, I think in the New York Times, wherein Chase was talking about visiting Roth to discuss the project. When Chase expressed some concern over the book's ending, Roth reportedly replied, "It's your problem, now." At any rate, the first episode of the series is excellent.

As an aside, there is a Marc Leyner short story about a special invention that allows you to view any movie you wish to but with Arnold Schwarzenegger inserted as the male lead.

maaliskuu 22, 2020, 12:42pm

Question 13 Movies vs Books

Do you think books are often written with this—or the hope of this—in mind?

I think books are generally written to be books. If someone who is a screenwriter or a playwright writes a novel it may be more easily adaptible to screen or stage.

Generally, do you see many movies or much television? Do you enjoy seeing dramatic adaptations of the books you read?

I do attend movies in the theatre, but don't have a working television at this time. Haven't been to a play in a long time -not sure why. I have some hesitation about going to movies made from books, and have to remind myself that the experience will be different - the story has to be adapted to fit the medium.

How much does it bug you that the stories deviate from the book? Does it make a difference if you know the author was involved with the adaption? Does it bother you when an adaptation casts an actor who doesn’t resemble the character as described by the author or visualized by you? What if they changed the race or sex of the character? How do you feel about a change in time period or place?

I'm with wandering star here, the story has to be adapted for the medium. And I don't care whether the author has been involved with the adaptation.

I liked the casting choice of Storm Reid in A Wrinkle in time, and appreciated the film's take on her anger at her father for abadoning their family.

I've seen Shakespeare set in different time periods, and sometimes it works and other times it doesn't. Can't think of a good example right now.

Don't keep up with actors well enough to cast a story.

maaliskuu 22, 2020, 5:59pm

Question 13

Do you think books are often written with this—or the hope of this—in mind?
-I suspect most modern authors have at least one eye on media rights. Interestingly, I once heard John Crowley say that there'd be no way to make a film out of Little, Big, even though he has (or had) a day job writing narration for already-made documentaries (apparently, documentarians sometimes put all their effort into accumulating the visuals, only to realize that they don't have any voice-over for their film.) It'd mean money for him, but he just couldn't see it. Then.

Generally, do you see many movies or much television?
-Fair number of series, not too many movies.

Do you enjoy seeing dramatic adaptations of the books you read?
-When well done, of course. There are, though, numerous books I love that I hope will never be filmed during my lifetime.

How much does it bug you that the stories deviate from the book?
-No single answer here. Sometimes you just have to think that the producers wanted the title but nothing else.

Does it make a difference if you know the author was involved with the adaption?
-No; I don't think many authors really have much say even if they are involved.

Does it bother you when an adaptation casts an actor who doesn’t resemble the character as described by the author or visualized by you? What if they changed the race or sex of the character? How do you feel about a change in time period or place?
-No to all.

-I thought Arrival was a good adaptation of Ted Chiang's "Story of Your Life." I enjoyed Orson Welles's take on Shakespeare's John Falstaff character in Chimes at Midnight, but that was in the 1970s, so maybe memory doesn't serve. The Thirteenth Floor is a good version of Simulacron-3 by Daniel F. Galouye. Annihilation, for Jeff VanderMeer, was well done.

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 23, 2020, 6:02am

Question 13

I love stories in any form and yes, I do watch quite a bit of visual storytelling in the evenings as reading in the evening tends to make me sleepy these days. And there are so many wonderful choices these days. I particularly enjoy a really good limited series. And I very much agree with WanderingStar up there in #104. A book, for example, can include a character's thoughts, whereas in other mediums those thoughts must be shown outwardly somehow

I don't think that authors necessarily have a potential movie adaptation in mind when they are writing their novels, but the visual medium, particularly television, has been around their whole lives so it seems it may well affect how we tell a stories.

I don't mind liberties taken in an adaptation most of the time. Take, for example, a dystopia I read somewhat recently, Leila set in a near future India. I learned of the India-produced series before I read the book, but I did first read the book and was very interested to see how it was adapted. Truth be told, except for the very basics, they changed quite a lot of it. At first I was a bit annoyed but as the story progressed and I compared the book to the series, I came to appreciate the way the series changed the story (deep down it's the same story)

Sometimes the adaptation will inspire to me to read the books, i.e. various television mystery series watched in the 80s - is how I found the books of PD James, Dorothy Sayers but the reverse is also true. I read Peter Robinson and Ian Rankin before I saw the adaptations. I read the Raj Quartet in the 80s after seeing in on the television (PBS here in the states).

My 37 yo red-headed daughter (and major Anne of Green Gables fan) got me to watch the newish limited series on Netflix "Anne with an E" and she cautioned me that it does stray some from the books and that I should think of it more as Ann of Green Gables "Fanfic" (we liked it) Would it had bugged me that they had cast a teen beauty who was NOT red-headed in the role? Indeed it would.

And we could discuss and argue all afternoon the various Pride & Prejudice ( or Jane Eyre adaptations (how dare they cast an actress with very prominent features (I refer to her as "eyebrow" girl) as Jane Eyre!

****Fun bonus activity: pick one of your favorite books and dreamcast it. Who would you cast for those main characters?

The Idea of Perfection by Kate Grenville. A slightly taller Toni Collette (she's only 5'8") as Harley Savage, a slightly younger Martin Clunes as Douglas Cheeseman, and Natalie Portman as Felicity Porcine.

maaliskuu 23, 2020, 3:54am

I really don't think authors write books with the idea that it'll get transformed into a movie. Even Stephen King who has had many of his books transformed; especially considering directors tend to always change his ending (to the better often according to King).

I watch both tv and movies although I have a tendency to rewatch stuff I've already seen dozens of times. Not sure why. Maybe because I don't really have to pay attention if I don't want to.

I don't mind if a movie deviates from a book visually or timeline-wise. I'm not going to be one of those people who cries when the actor doesn't have the same color eyes as their character from their book. Or that the director chose to leave out that really trivial scene that the reader connects with but serves nothing to further the plot especially in movie format. But I will get annoyed if say the ending is changed to such an extent that the entire tone of the book changes. As in The Three Musketeers where for some reason the villain isn't killed and instead .... I don't remember exactly but it was some weird huh? moment.

Jose Saramago's Blindness made for a horrible movie. Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men was a stunning adaptation and I wasn't really bothered by the slight change in the end. I didn't understand the need for it but I wasn't against it either.

I really enjoy when directors adapt a book and experiment with the time period. For example the Leonardo DiCaprio version of Romeo and Juliet. The updated setting worked so well especially when paired with the scenery, stunning visuals, cinematography and amped up soundtrack. I still enjoy watching that movie and always wish it were on Netflix.

maaliskuu 23, 2020, 1:31pm

>104 wandering_star: Excellent comments, ws, I agree.

Question 13

Do you think books are often written with this—or the hope of this—in mind?
Sometimes, but when the book is written like this, it shows and is the worse for it.

Generally, do you see many movies or much television?
My husband and I try to watch things together, and manage to watch something once or twice a week. It takes us some time to get through a series.

Do you enjoy seeing dramatic adaptations of the books you read?

How much does it bug you that the stories deviate from the book?
I consider them different works. Slavishly following the exact plot of a book does not make for the best adaptation (the exception is, of course, the BBC production of Pride and Prejudice, although there were alterations there). And the best adaptations often stray far afield -- like with the recent movie version of Little Women, the BBC production of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, which changed the ending, and the Hayao Miyazaki adaptation of Howl's Moving Castle.

Does it make a difference if you know the author was involved with the adaption?
No, and sometimes they shouldn't be.

Does it bother you when an adaptation casts an actor who doesn’t resemble the character as described by the author or visualized by you? What if they changed the race or sex of the character? How do you feel about a change in time period or place?
No. It's an adaptation.

maaliskuu 23, 2020, 2:22pm

I liked the movie of Howl's Moving Castle, but only after I gave up thinking of it as related to the book. It has some themes in common, but it is so much not the same story. Still, it's an excellent Miyazaki movie.

maaliskuu 23, 2020, 2:51pm

Do you think books are often written with this—or the hope of this—in mind?
--I assume most consider this, at least briefly, but the hope is small, and probably most think of it as if they won the lottery.

Generally, do you see many movies or much television?
--No, very few. My husband watches some, and I will sit near him and do crafts, or read to myself.

Do you enjoy seeing dramatic adaptations of the books you read?
--I usually have great trepidation over this, and I choose sparingly. I'd say there is about a 50/50 outcome.

How much does it bug you that the stories deviate from the book?
--Occasionally I don't mind, and find the new work worthy, but my general feeling is, that if you must change the story, do your own story, not the book's.

Does it make a difference if you know the author was involved with the adaption?
--No, I usually don't know.

Does it bother you when an adaptation casts an actor who doesn’t resemble the character as described by the author or visualized by you? What if they changed the race or sex of the character? How do you feel about a change in time period or place?
--This answer would have to be mixed. If the character is beloved, I might care. Other times it doesn't matter. Race or sex, I usually don't care. Time or place, I seldom care.

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 23, 2020, 3:59pm

Brief addition to my comments above: I just remembered reading an early essay by Larry McMurtry about watching the filming of his first novel, Horseman, Pass By, which was made into the Paul Newman movie, Hud. At the end of the essay, McMurtry, who by the time he wrote the essay no longer had much use for his own first novel, said that the main flaws of the movie stemmed from the movie makers' adhering too closely to the storyline of the book! The piece I'm referring to appears in the collection In a Narrow Grave: Essays on Texas.

maaliskuu 25, 2020, 4:38am

I don't want that many book adaptations, or not knowingly! I like to watch the visual version first though, because then I can more easily separate the two works and enjoy both. If I read the book first I'll always be comparing the movie/TV show to that.

Deviations bothering me depends on how much I like the source material! I think Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries really improved on the books, for instance (making a female character OLDER in the visual adaptation is so rare). Changes just depend. Do they make it less progressive? Then no thanks (looking at you, Stephen Moffat).

I'm not a visual reader, so I don't imagine actors as character very often. I do know when something is blatantly wrong about a casting, like picking a slim woman for Sybil Vimes in the ever more awful sounding City Watch series (inspired by Terry Pratchett's books). Especially when they've got Liza Tarbuck right there.

I think the most faithful adaptation of anything I've seen is The Slap (the original Australian version of the show). It was remarkable how closely it mirrored the book, and both were very good if horrifically realistic displays of misogyny.

My favorite adaptation is probably North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. It's just beautiful, and some of the scenes match the feelings in the book so amazingly perfectly. The leads really seem to inhabit the roles so well.

maaliskuu 25, 2020, 6:43am

>114 mabith: The BBC adaptation of North and South is fantastic.

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 25, 2020, 10:51am

>114 mabith:" If I read the book first I'll always be comparing the movie/TV show to that. "

On the other hand, there is a great line in one of the later of Jasper Fforde's "Thursday Next" novels about Bookworld, a reference to the fact that the character Harry Potter is endlessly irritated that he has to go around looking like Daniel Radcliffe because that's how readers always picture him.

If you haven't read them, those Thursday Next books are a howl.

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 25, 2020, 11:04am

>116 rocketjk: John Mortimer complained that he could never get Leo McKern’s voice out of his head once he’d heard him doing Rumpole. All the later stories ended up being about the actor, not about whatever character had been in his head when he wrote the first ones.

maaliskuu 25, 2020, 7:18pm

>115 RidgewayGirl: Yes, that's the one I mean. So good.

>116 rocketjk: Ha, I remember that bit. Those books were so much fun.

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 27, 2020, 6:59pm

Question 13 Movies vs Books

As we all know, movies and television series are constantly being made from the books we read, now more than ever. Do you think books are often written with this—or the hope of this—in mind? Generally, do you see many movies or much television?

- I do think this is often in writer's minds. I think given how tv and film are so present it is hard not to have them in mind at times. Some may be more influenced by them then not. I don't read much popular fiction now, but it always seemed to me that some is written for that purpose. One that occurs to me that was a bit different was Hannibal by Thomas Harris which seemed especially written to tempt over visuals but in some ways deliberately to be unfilm-able as the story panned out, especially with a much loved leading actor and character as it was written - not a bad position to be in as a writer if so, maybe I am wrong, though not a book I'd ever read a second time.

- my tv is only letting me switch it on twice in about any 2 week period, some known issue - but usually I see a fair bit, less in recent years, or just what I want. I usually see 100-150 films a year, keep a rough track, especially of those seen in groups.

Do you enjoy seeing dramatic adaptations of the books you read?

- depends on the film. I can do. often the film is seen first.

How much does it bug you that the stories deviate from the book?

- it can when I feel what is shown is not in the spirit I feel. I suppose as I learn more when production is problematic we may see changes piled on changes that mean something that did make sense just doesn't now (just try updating a blog you've changed theme on).
It bothered me more when I was younger and worse read.

Does it make a difference if you know the author was involved with the adaption?

- might do, cannot think of examples - oh Bohumil Hrabal was involved with closely observed trains and love both book and film,

Does it bother you when an adaptation casts an actor who doesn’t resemble the character as described by the author or visualized by you?

- sometimes the idea of it irks me but when I watch them I usually put it aside - I know someone irked by Tom Cruise playing that former military policeman who was well over 6 feet tall. also bothered me more when younger.

What if they changed the race or sex of the character?

- why not - diversity is good, makes us think - though can think of ways it'd have to be adapted, maybe, in some ways. but why not.
I can be a bit former history student about what is in and what is not - but as soon as I get serious with such arguments I think why not challenge them and how imagination is infinite and let kit be - I just wish more people got history so they can judge how to let it go better

How do you feel about a change in time period or place?

- no problem -- but be open about it? as above - its a dialogue with it, may help others think on it too

*Fun bonus activity: pick one of your favorite books and dreamcast it. Who would you cast for those main characters?

- I struggle for favourites these days, mind goes blank.

- Often see films and only then learn of the book - could play this game that way and think who I'd have liked to write it (at least until I know who did)

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 27, 2020, 8:31pm

On this topic, anyone interested in my descriptions of the many ways in which the book The Off-Islanders differs from The Russians Are Coming The Russians Are Coming, the hilarious Cold War Era movie the book inspired, can read all about it on Post 89 of my personal CR thread:

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 28, 2020, 3:40pm

Question 14

Life is a bit tough these days for some of us, so let’s talk about books which made us laugh (or snicker, smile, snort, chuckle, guffaw…etc.)

There are so many kinds of funny: satire, farce, gallows humor, ironic, parodic, situation comedy, dark comedy, comedy of manners, romantic comedy…to name just some. Surely we have all read some amusing books, whether it’s been Trevor Noah’s memoir Born a Crime, Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, or fiction like Catch-22, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Cold Comfort Farm, Hogfather, or My Man Jeeves.

Please share with us some of your various humorous reads. Do you like different kinds of humorous books? Do you have a definitive favorite? is there one you would deem “funniest book you ever read”? Are there authors you follow because their work amuses you? Are there certain kinds of humorous books that you are attracted to (i.e. satire, dark comedy, parodies). You don’t have to answer these specific questions; they're just to get you thinking.

maaliskuu 28, 2020, 9:59pm

>121 avaland: Although good comedy is hard to find, there has been enough published over the years that it is hard to stop listing.

Favorite authors: Pratchett, Wodehouse, Christopher Moore (try him!), Benchley, Douglas Adams, Kurt Vonnegut, Steve Martin, Oscar Wilde. James Morrow, James K Schmitz, Christopher Stasheff, Eric Frank Russell, Piers Anthony, Lawrence Block.

I know I could think of others if I worked at it.

maaliskuu 29, 2020, 8:27am

I just came across this, in the “questions for students” at the end of a story someone sent me:
3. This short story is full of mirth and humour. Explain why this is so.

Sometimes I’m glad I never became a proper teacher...

Humour in books matters a lot to me, as it does to everyone, I suppose. But it’s a horribly tricky thing to pin down. A book that made you laugh madly fifty years ago — or last week — might turn out to be full of clumsy, dull passages when you come back to it, or relying on types of jokes you don’t find funny any more. And things you took entirely seriously when you were young and innocent might turn out to be full of buried satire or double entendre.

- Wodehouse, obviously: his were the first “books for grown-ups” I ever read, and I’ve grown up with his type of humour, for better or worse. I’ve read nearly everything he wrote, plus all kinds of biographies and critical studies, and despite that I still think of The code of the Woosters, Hot water, The luck of the Bodkins, and Uncle Fred in the springtime as some of the funniest ever written. (Until I remember Joy in the morning, The ice in the bedroom, ....)

- I capture the castle — Dodie Smith was another stage-trained writer like Wodehouse, and she deployed all her technique in a brilliant impersonation of a naive teenager, far better than any real naive teenager could ever manage.

- Cold Comfort Farm — another brilliant one-off, a parody that has weirdly outlived the genre it is supposed to be parodying. When I was a research student, for some strange reason, our lab was badly infected with CCF quotation mania: we were forever reporting sightings of “something naaaarsty in the fume cupboard.”

- Classic Edwardian humour has trouble surviving a hundred years on. W S Gilbert is very clever, but I suspect you wouldn’t laugh much if you hadn’t been brought up with that sort of thing, and the same applies to Three men in a boat and England, their England — some glorious passages, if read aloud by a talented reader, but there’s also a lot to make your heart sink in between them. We had a teacher at school whose end-of-term party piece was a magnificent performance of the cricket match chapter from England, their England that had us all rolling in the aisles, but I had real trouble finding the funny bits when I went to look for the book itself.

- Lawyers aren’t meant to be funny, but John Mortimer’s Rumpole stories and Alexander McCall Smith’s Edinburgh books seem to be the exceptions that prove the rule.

- “German humour” often features with “English cooking” and “military intelligence” in lists of oxymorons, but I grew up with Wilhelm Busch and Erich Kästner, both very funny writers when they wanted to be. And later on I loved Siegfried Lenz’s stories about the village of Suleyken and the Irisches Tagebuch by Heinrich Böll (not a writer otherwise famous for being funny!)

maaliskuu 30, 2020, 7:47am

>123 thorold: That's so true about the "tricky thing"...

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 30, 2020, 11:09am

>123 thorold: Great description of the manner in which books can be funny in different ways. Here are some of the books that have always topped my "funny" list (all adjectives are presented as my opinion, not as fact):

Catch 22 is a brilliant book that starts out funny and gets progressively darker. But, from beginning to end, the best word for it is "absurd." I already said "brilliant," so I won't say "brilliantly absurd."

It's been a long time since I read Emma, but my memory of that novel is that it had something to make me laugh on just about every page.

Don Quixote is absolutely one of the funniest books I ever read. I just ate it up. My wife, whose reading tastes usually match up pretty well with mine, couldn't get past the halfway point. C'est la vie. I found the world view, the commentaries on human nature and folly and the self-referential aspects to be delightfully dry.

A Confederacy of Dunces is one of those "love it or hate it" books, and there's a lot of passion on both sides of that equation. When I read it, I had just moved to San Francisco after having lived in New Orleans for seven years, and the book rang absolutely true to me. Toole nailed the segment of New Orleans culture he was satirizing dead solid perfect.

Of the genre of smart-ass crime novels, I have to go with Carl Hiaasen. I haven't read that many of his books, actually, but the one I've read most recently, Razor Girl, was just a blast.

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 30, 2020, 2:46pm

I would have to say Wodehouse is my fave author of humor. I love Bertie and Jeeves, and that silly cow creamer just keeps resurfacing. Wodehouse fans will "get" this!

Two of my fave kids' books are A Year Down Yonder and A Long Way from Chicago both by Richard Peck and both humorous yet poignant. I want to be Grandma Dowdell when I grow up.

maaliskuu 30, 2020, 3:30pm

There are indeed so many kind of humor. Some of the books or authors I have enjoyed:

There is Austen, of course, and I'll not forget to mention Fielding's take on P&P, Bridget Jones's Diary. And Angela Carter with her sometimes intentional over-the-top prose (there's a favorite passage in Nights at the Circus)

Margaret Atwood's MaddAddam trilogy is a decent satire, but a favorite is Joyce Carol Oates's, A Bloodsmoor Romance, a somewhat homage but also a send-up of the Alcotts & Little Women. Another favorite is Kate Grenville's The Idea of Perfection which I think would be classified a romantic comedy (I tend to bring those two books up a lot). Alex Capus seems to have an amusing tone in most (but ot all) of his books. His A Matter of Time was a retelling of a WWI farce: some saber-rattling between forces on Lake Tanganyika in Africa.

I've read a couple of early Viktor Pelevin novels (who said Russians weren't funny?). I'm not sure I "got" all the humor but I kept reading. I'll leave him for the hubby to explain as he has read more and his more recent work. How could I forget Nicola Barker? (oh, damn, I see she has a new book out....)

I have never been attracted to "smart-ass crime novels" (as rocketjk calls them) but I have dipped in somewhat into humous SF&F: Good Omens by Pratchett & Gaiman, The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fford but also authors who have been known to employ humor from time to time i.e. Adam Roberts, Connie Willis, James Morrow, Douglas Adams, and Jonathan Carroll.

With regards to nonfiction, I loved Tiny Fey's memoir on audio and I'll not forget pulling into a toll booth just as she was telling this really funny bit about getting her period. Best I could do, was smile sheepishly at the toll booth operator an accelerate when the light turned green.

And Sarah Vowell is the funniest historian (probably not a lot of competition there), especially on audio, whether she is skewering, with her dry wit, the Puritans in The Wordy Shipmates or Lafayette in Lafayette in the Somewhat United States (her most recent books).

maaliskuu 30, 2020, 4:20pm

>127 avaland: " The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fford"

Great googly moogly! How did I forget Thursday Next?

Also, since I'm back on this thread, I'd like to add how much sly, dark humor I found in William Faulkner's "Snopes Family" trilogy which I just completed a week or so ago.

Switching to non-fiction, I haven't read any of Sarah Vowell's books yet, but I have enjoyed her op ed pieces. Kinda sorta along the same lines, however, we have the books of Mary Roach, which combine solid, serious research with a terrific sparkling wit that keeps her books moving along.

huhtikuu 1, 2020, 1:22pm

>20 avaland: Going all the way back:

QUESTION 10: Your prescriptions for needy readers

Reader 1: A humorous novel:
The Golden Calf by Ilya Ilf - too silly by far in a good way

Reader 2: A history that’s engaging but not too dense:
Mauve: How One Man Invented a Colour that Changed the World by Simon Garfield how chemistry changed fashion and manufacturing in the late C19

Reader 3: An unusual mystery or crime novel:
The Seventh Function of Language by Laurent Binet definitely a laugh out loud kind of book with great send-ups of academics desperately searching for a stolen theory
This also fits into category 1

Reader 4: A really good biography or memoir:
Zhou Enlai: The Last Perfect Revolutionary by Gao Wenqian
There are only 84 entries for this book on LT, but it was excellent and also a great reference

Reader 5: A nonfiction or fiction book about or set in WWII:
Transit by Anna Seghers, a novel which beautifully portrays the desperation of trapped civilians as borders close.

Reader 6: A science fiction book for someone who has not read science fiction before:
Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea by Jules Verne
This probably says more about me than science fiction, as I would definitely be one of those needing recommendations for this genre. Verne is about as recent as my reading is for this area.

Reader 7: A trilogy or series one can lose oneself in:
absolutely, definitely the Wolf Hall trilogy: Wolf Hall, Bring up the Bodies and The Mirror and the Light (currently reading this last, all 882 pages of it)
For those who turn away from this series, I would say the Kristin Lavransdattar trilogy: The Wreath, The Wife and The Cross, but only if you have the Tiina Nunnally translations. All others reduce it to romance writing

Reader 8: A book capable of transporting you elsewhere:
for me this will always be Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson, a book that has me fleeing across the moors in my imagination every time I read it

Reader 9: A volume of short stories or essays:
Sightlines by Kathleen Jamie, an amazing writer who views things just enough off kilter from orthodoxy to make you think and think again

Reader 10: A book about religion/s, or a novel where religion figures into the story:
The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan, first published in 1678, a book given to me for my 10th birthday, which has been reread at various times over the years, from completely differing perspectives.
This is a book that gave us so many literary references, for characters, places and themes. Looking at place names alone, there is the Slough of Despond, Vanity Fair, and the Celestial City to name just a few.
Try to get an illustrated edition.


How about needy child readers?

huhtikuu 1, 2020, 1:57pm

>121 avaland: Humour isn't something I deliberately look for in my reading, I prefer listening to it, so I don't have many recommendations here. However, looking through the responses for Reader 1 in Question 10, the suggestions are as follows:

The Ballad of Peckham Rye by Muriel Spark

Being There by Jerzy Kosinski

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

The Fifth Elephant by Terry Pratchett

The Finishing School by Muriel Spark

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett

The Luck of the Bodkins by P G Wodehouse

Nice Work by David Lodge

The Roads to Sata by Alan Booth

Skios by Michael Frayn

Small Gods by Terry Pratchett

Three Men in a Boat: To Say Nothing of the Dog by Jerome K Jerome

Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre

Why Me? by Donald Westlake

huhtikuu 1, 2020, 4:06pm

Q. 14

yes Douglas Adams, pretty much anything, I liked his Dirk Gently books too.

I don't seem to select by humour either - Catch 22 too, check.

I did laugh quite a bit reading Gravity's Rainbow, though overall blown away (/shocked). I love A prayer for Owen Meany. Infinite Jest makes me laugh, especially eschaton, but then so sad I did I've never got much further. I love Being There by Jerzy Kosinski. Does Salinger make me laugh? maybe a bit, often makes me feel good . . . can you tell I am searching the shelves desperate to have a sense of humour?

huhtikuu 2, 2020, 12:00pm

I love a funny book, but there's really no one who lives up to the works of Terry Pratchet and Donald E. Westlake (particularly the first nine Dortmunder books).

After them I do enjoy P.G. Wodehouse, and for humor in classics Elizabeth Gaskell. Even her more serious Wives and Daughters has so much humor in it. I always find a lot that makes me laugh in Lindsey Davis' novels too.

A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel is a standout funny memoir for me (especially as an audiobook).

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 2, 2020, 2:00pm

Choosing a book for humor is tough for me because a lot of humor works by not being anticipated, or not being the primary purpose of the book, just a way to make the book more enjoyable (and, I imagine, in some cases to keep the author more sane.). So, just by saying, here, read this, it’s funny, often makes it not funny.

But, of course, authors overcome this. Terry Pratchett might kill with crockery or some other unexpected humor. Sometimes it’s just funny to have the lethal device recharacterized as crockery. At his best, he disarms skeptics.

Also, I might add, it seems a large portion of books are funny at some level - even serious ones. Catching the humor is a part of getting the book.


I fell way behind here, missing pretty much all March. I think I’ll spare everyone my catchup answers, but did enjoy reading your answers.

huhtikuu 2, 2020, 8:19pm

Question 15. Here’s an obvious question. How has the pandemic affected your reading?

Are you reading more or less? Or not at all? Have your reading habits changed in some way? Are you reading differently…lighter books? shorter books? different genres? comfort reads? buried in dystopias? nonfiction instead of fiction? Are you reading for comfort? distraction? stimulation?

huhtikuu 3, 2020, 12:16am

I can't tell that I have changed anything with my reading due to the pandemic. I feel the separation with my kids and grandkids painfully, but I'm still trying to read some of my TBR stuff that just sits on my bed because there is no other room for it.

huhtikuu 3, 2020, 12:16am

My reading feels like it crashed and burned. I lost my structure working from home, and I have some worry and I'm distracted. Now when I read, I just try to find some normalcy, and it's elusive.

At the moment I'm trying to find some home life/work life structure and that also means finding the structure that will allow me to read regularly and more. (Working from 6:30 to 11:00 doesn't help, even i I take breaks for walks and whatnot)

huhtikuu 3, 2020, 3:00am

I was slogging through a bunch of books, nothing feeling right, and then I discovered that what I wanted was rereads - comfort reading. So I started the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs.

However, I have a rule this year (and the last several) that I have to pay, in advance, for any reread by reading a BOMB. So I'm searching my boxes for short, light, quick reads that I can get through quickly and get back to my urban fantasy. I thought I'd done it and then got to the point where the Mercy Thompson series intersects with her Alpha & Omega series - so now I need 6 more BOMBs. Working on one now. It's not a bad book (Emily Climbs by L.M. Montgomery), but it's very much not what I'm in the mood for right now - still, it's light and interesting enough that I'm getting through it pretty fast. I'm still 6 or 7 books ahead, so I can read the series(es) interspersed with the BOMBs - but I need to be careful about plunging ahead, especially as (if I recall correctly) late books in the series run together with little or no pause in the story so I don't want to have to stop and read something else.

There are 12 books in MT and 6 in A&O. But I'm reading one or more a day, so this isn't going to last me long...ah, I can read some Annie Bellet. The first few are rereads but most of her series is new to me (not BOMBs because they're ebooks, but new reads which don't count either way). Or maybe I'll be burned out on urban fantasy when I finish the Briggs and will pivot to something else.

I don't know that it's directly related to the pandemic - I've had these retreats into rereads before - but that's what's going on with my reading right now.

huhtikuu 3, 2020, 6:20am

So far, it's mainly been a matter of more reading time at home: if it hadn't been for the virus I'd have been out enjoying the good weather, so I would have had less reading-time and been reading fewer physical books and maybe one or two more ebooks (on the train) and audiobooks. Not going out in the evening makes a difference too, of course, but I've compensated for that to some extent with several "film-nights" a week.

Longer-term, the closure of the library is sure to have an effect on what I read, but we're only just out of the first normal library loan-period since it started (I got a pile of books out a couple of days before they shut). I actually still have two unread library books left, but of course that's because I knew I needn't hurry with them.

I don't normally read much in the way of dystopias and plague-novels, and I'm not likely to start just now! But I have got through a few long books in the last couple of weeks.

The TBR shelf hasn't benefited greatly from the virus yet, but there's every chance it will have some effect. My book-hoard will last a lot longer than my pasta-hoard, though...

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 3, 2020, 6:43am

As retirees, the pandemic hasn't dramatically changed our lifestyle. I hadn't thought my reading was effected at all until recently. I seem to be reading about the same, perhaps a bit less, but I have noticed a possible swing in what I'm reading. I seem to be, of late, attracted to 1. short stories and 2. reflective books.

I used to read many more short story collections or anthologies but have generally moved away from them over the last 4 or 5 years. I have read the occasional collection, of course. The two short story collections I'm alternating between, one by Margo Lanagan, the other by Lidia Yuknavitch, are not light & cheery. The Lanagan is a collection of dark fairy tales (the first story, set during the Black Plague, is of Hansel as an adult revisiting rather unwilling that cottage in the woods). The Yuknavitch are hard stories of brokenness and survival; of human resilience.

The reflective books: After reading the most recently published Olaf Olafsson novel—a story about a retired nun being asked to do something in the present, which is the cause of her reflecting over her life. I liked that book well enough that I read another of Olafsson's novels, one that has been kicking around the house since 2003. It's a story of William Randolph Hearst's butler, who in his downtime is writing reflective letters he does not send to a wife he abandoned decades earlier. There is something soothing in the act of reflection. As it turns out, most of Olafsson's books share this reflective structure, so I went on a little used book binge chasing down his other novels.

Maybe there is something in all that, and maybe I spend too much time in my own head :-)

I think I am getting around the threads here on Club Read a bit slower....

huhtikuu 3, 2020, 7:18am

I'm attempting to read the same way I would normally read. Overall, it's working but I do find myself having a harder time settling into books. I usually rarely check in on internet news or social media sites and I've been unable to stay away the last couple weeks. So I find myself reaching for my phone a lot while I'm trying to settle in to reading. I'm also getting dozens more texts every day (if I'm totally honest probably up to a 100 more) from various social groups that I can't see in person. This is important to me socially but it is distracting.

And then, of course, my kids are home all day and I'm trying to teach them for now and then help them when distance learning starts on April 14. And keep up with some of my work (most of it can't be done from home so my work load is lighter).

I expect to see a lower amount of books read this year for myself, but we'll see.

huhtikuu 3, 2020, 7:44am

Not too much difference for me, really, as my own schedule hasn't changed much. I'm still going into work because I'm somehow deemed "essential" and can't really do my job from home, and I already don't leave my house much normally. I am a little more stressed out and distracted, though, which can't help but affect my reading some. Enough so that I pulled out some P. G. Wodehouse for my current reading. The world could literally be ending, and Wodehouse would probably still be able to make me smile.

I like dystopias and apocalyptic stories and books about plagues normally, but I find myself very much shying away from them at the moment. I actually find it a little bemusing how many people are suddenly more interested in such things now rather than less, but maybe I'm just odd that way. As I said to my sister when she brought the subject up, I'm also someone who really only likes Christmas music in July.

Mind you, I am nevertheless eying the unread copy of Virus X sitting on my shelves and may feel compelled to read it at some point, anyway.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 3, 2020, 9:25am

>141 bragan: Would recommend Gish Jen's latest, if you don't mind baseball: I'd call it an upbeat dystopia, if I thought those two words belonged together. It's amusing and hopeful.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 3, 2020, 10:05am

>129 SassyLassy: I own both Zhou Enlai: The Last Perfect Revolutionary and a different book of Kathleen Jamie essays so this spurs me on to try and get to both of them (possibly after finishing War and Peace which is what I am currently reading differently, inspired by the Yiyun Li guided reading).

huhtikuu 3, 2020, 11:42am

I have been reading mostly the same kinds of books as before, but I have a hard time settling down without my mind running all over the place. I am reading mostly novels for NetGalley and for the Challenges.

I am having similar issues to >140 japaul22:. I rarely would look at news on my phone, but I seem to have turned into a news junkie lately. This disrupts my reading, along with texting friends and family members.

Since we are both retired from full time work, our days are not that much different except that we can't go to the theater or music events that we regularly attended, all our travel is cancelled, my music rehearsals and performances are cancelled until August, and our church is not having services either. The only places we go are the grocery and pharmacy. We are usually active retirees, and sitting at home all the time is very difficult.

I am usually booked constantly to teach online, but as luck would have it, I did not have a teaching assignment in March (I am affiliate faculty, part time). I am anxious to get started again next week.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 3, 2020, 11:51am

I'm retired, as well, but of course spending much more time at home, and so reading more. My stay-at-homeness hasn't affected my reading selections, though. I'm still trying to keep my reading scattered all over the place. I recently took my recently purchased copy of Pogrom: Kishinev and the Tilt of History off the shelf. My wife said, "Really, you're going to read that now? Don't you want to find anything less depressing?" But the book was so interesting that I was quite happy to be reading it despite it's less than cheerful subject matter. So I guess the takeaway is what I'm really looking for in reading matter is "engrossing" rather than, necessarily, "cheerful"

Best to all!

huhtikuu 3, 2020, 2:36pm


As I can work from home, I am as busy as I had always been - in some ways even more because it is harder to keep the line of "no early or too late calls" when I am home and I am not very good at stopping to work on time (I am a bit better when I physically need to go elsewhere). And still I read a bit more than usually - partially because my insomnia is back (tied to my allergies and the season) and partially because I have no desire to even look at a movie or a screen once I am not working (the paid work or some other personal projects).

The types of books I read are a bit off though. Crime novels, far-future SF and children books (think Ages 8-12 and middle grade marked ones and not YA books) had always been part of my reading diet but this seems to be all I am reading now.

The crime novels (mystery, spy, crime, you name it) allow me a high speed (or sometimes low speed) action with a "bad guy" who is actually a man - and not a virus or another silent killer that you cannot win against. Even when the good guys lose, they lose because they were outwitted (or betrayed) and not because a virus mutated or the aliens came.

The children books tend to be so naive and somewhat optimistic even in their dark varieties -- even in the worst of times, there is a glimmer of hope.

For pretty much the same reason, far-future SF works -- Earth is missing or lost already (or away), what happens does not clash with today. I love post apocalypse and dystopia stories usually but just now I don't have the stomach for them. I am sure that will change. Fantasy can work just now as well I think but for some reason I needed the reality of the crime novels -- go figure...

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 3, 2020, 4:59pm

Reading less. Concentration is difficult even when I ration the news. I am reading books about plague, contagion, and death. It's on my mind anyway, and it seems to be cathartic. Speaking only for me ...

On Tom Perotta's The Leftovers at the moment.

huhtikuu 3, 2020, 11:13pm

I'm reading less with the loss of my two-plus hour commute every day—that was my reading time. And at the same time, because the news cycle has ramped up so hard and I'm in the news business, work has just expanded to fill the cracks of whatever time I stole back from the subways. Like you, dchaikin, it's a struggle to keep those boundaries intact. Also spending a lot more time on correspondence—email, texts, phone calls, largely reassuring people that I'm not one of the many ill New Yorkers—and also pen-and-paper correspondence on my end, which I've always really enjoyed and right now find very calming. Also writing more in my own notebooks... I've got a little angsty graphomania going, I think, but I could have all sorts of worse reactions than that.

I'm also reading two REALLY dense books, Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall (a reread, but it doesn't require any less attention the second time around), and for the first time, Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway—a friend organized a loose reading of the book last Sunday, the idea being that the story takes place in one day and we’d do it in real time, commenting on social media using the hashtag #SunDalloway. For most folks taking part it was a reread, but I had somehow never read it before, though I had a copy—an ancient Harbrace Modern Classics edition that was my mom’s in the 1940s or 1950s, given her first married name on the flyleaf. Which is probably why I didn’t finish it either—Woolf takes such close, close attention, especially the first time with a book.

So: less time, more work, denser material = slower reading. But my attention span is OK when I do have a chance to sit down. And I'm staying well away from falling down into the news rabbit holes. Those aren't good places for me.

huhtikuu 4, 2020, 4:15am

>142 avaland: I do mind baseball, I'm afraid, but "upbeat dystopia" does sound like something that would work for me, so maybe I'll keep it in mind, anyway.

huhtikuu 4, 2020, 4:39pm

I am retired and fast approaching that magic age of 70 (birthday in a couple of weeks) when there will be a police guard on my front gate to ensure I don't go out. Yes lockdown restrictions are tough in France.

Seriously I have been reading less over the last few days because I have been digging over my vegetable patch. I had let it grass over during the last four years because I found that I could get good produce in the local market, but now there is no market. I can see no end to the pandemic over the next few months and so I figure that the more food I can grow the better. When I am reading I keep to my program which has included a couple of Dystopia novels by John Wyndham. I will probably be reading more books from my bookshelves and any books I buy will be on my kindle.

huhtikuu 5, 2020, 7:09am

>150 baswood: That's interesting, the no market. I wonder if the growers will try to find a way to get their produce to people like you?

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 5, 2020, 12:08pm

>151 avaland: I’ve been seeing a lot of ads for produce “direct from the farm” lately, either delivered or order-and-collect. In addition to all the “weekly box of stuff you don’t know how to cook” services.

ETA: Just checked F—-book, and it’s now proposing to sell me a deer (dead) over the internet. No thank you! Also an article about a farmer who is sitting on tons of potatoes that would normally sell to fast-food restaurants. Presumably somebody somewhere is getting healthier as a result of not eating all those chips, but not the farmer or the people who work in the restaurants.

huhtikuu 5, 2020, 1:36pm

I've also lost my reading structure. I miss my short commute into Belfast - it gave me some lovely uninterrupted reading time. Now, when I'm not working I'm focusing on home schooling the children, which isn't leaving much free reading time at all.

Although I keep thinking we're all handling the quarantine situation well in our house, I think it's actually making me more anxious than I care to admit to myself, and some days I've just not had the head space to read much at all. Now that I'm finished Ducks, Newburyport, I fancy some light, pure pleasure reading, although I have a couple of interesting heavier library books out on loan that are still tempting me.

I fall more on the introvert side of the tracks, and it's been 3 solid weeks now with everyone together in the house. I'm missing my own quiet time, so I find myself staying up later than normal when everyone goes to bed, but lethargy has set in and I keep falling asleep mid-read. I forced myself out for a run today which did me the world of good - I need to get my exercise discipline back again as I think it helps the rest of the day fall into place.

huhtikuu 6, 2020, 12:50pm

My reading came to an almost complete halt last month, as I was busy keeping abreast of the ever changing recommendations about diagnosis and management of COVID-19, Children's and CDC recommendations on use of personal protective equipment, and almost daily WebEx conferences and hundreds of emails about the pandemic, and because I was very worried that I would become infected and become seriously ill. I'm now much more relaxed, although still nervous, and I started to pick up my reading yesterday.

huhtikuu 6, 2020, 1:15pm

>143 wandering_star: Thanks for the link to the guided read. That looks like a good one. Maybe I can catch up with it after finish The Mirror and the Light, which currently has me immersed. Nothing like two massive books in a row!

With regard to The Last Perfect Revolutionary, you may find given your reading, that you don't need the early part about the PRC and its history, but it is always interesting to read the author's perspective. Apparently this bit of history was added on the the translation into English, in case readers weren't familiar with it. That made me wonder why someone not familiar with the PRC would be reading this book, but that's a different matter!

>56 japaul22: Gone with the Wind is a huge problem for me too. Scarlett O'Hara was in many ways a hero for me when I was in my early teens. After all, here was a woman who was smart, independent, resourceful, knew her own mind, and could move in a man's world, not to mention being beautiful. She defied the conventions of her day for female behaviour, and they needed defying. On the other hand, there was just so much wrong too...

I used to reread it frequently, but haven't done so for some time now, and don't even have a copy anymore. I'm almost afraid to think how a reread would go now.

huhtikuu 10, 2020, 12:34am

My reading moods have definitely been impacted. I'm still reading, but it's the 9th and I've only finished two books in April, which is unusual for me. Just general worry living in a state with a high proportion of elderly, lung impaired, and below the poverty levels folks (not to mention a lot of grandparents being full-time carers for grandchildren).

I've started a George Eliot novel and that seems to have helped. Always such lovely writing and characterizations.

huhtikuu 10, 2020, 4:12am

Such an interesting conversation going on here. It is interesting to see how each of us is impacted differently by those suddent changes in our lifes.

In terms of reading, as I answer late to the question, I can see that my response has evolved. It is linked to what I was reading when the confinement started (a huge book, from which I had only read about one third at that moment), and to how I tended to (unconsciously) manage this crisis. As many others I have spent a lot of time reading news, trying to understand this virus, this disease, but also what was expected from me in terms of what confinement means. During the first ten or fifteen days or so, there was little reading going on, and little time for LT as well.

Then, I think I have come to terms with the uncertainty of the situation: yes, things are evolving, yes there are questions we can't answer yet. I still read a lot more news on internet, I spend more time digitally communicating with my family, but now I think the family found a balance and a routine, and I start having more "productive" time (I mean, time "wisely" spent, although the definition of "wisely" will depend on people).
Here, wisely means gardening for M'sieur Raton, playing football in the garden for P'tit Raton, listening to audio books for M'ni Raton, cooking and reading for me.
After my long book (that took me all of March to read), I am reading some shorter books, and I feel like reading books with "fresh air". Not sure if it is a consequence of my precedent reading or an adaptation to the current situation, though.

huhtikuu 10, 2020, 7:52am

Question 16: Genre: Science Fiction

Genre can be a contentious conversation in some circles. In a perfect world perhaps there would be no genre, but, we don’t live in a perfect world. Functionally, it’s a literary or marketing categorization, a way of helping readers who like certain kinds of books to find other books they may like (and cover art often reinforces that). And one could argue endlessly that a book belongs in one category or another. Genre could certainly be a conversation in itself (and maybe we’ll save for later in the year) but instead, it’s being used here as a preamble to another subject…

Science fiction (a.k.a. Speculative fiction). According to the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, the term “science fiction” came into “general use in the 1930s” and became a publishing category in the 1940s. Definitions vary (and it sounds like there will never be an agreement on it) but many authors have written it, either exclusively or occasionally. Living authors include names like: William Gibson, Margaret Atwood, Nnedi Okorafor, Ted Chiang, David Mitchell, Ann Leckie and the two authors who call themselves James S.A. Corey.

Do you read SF (as you define it)?* Has your SF reading changed over the years?
Are you attracted to certain kinds of SF? Are you more about the ideas or is excellent writing also a factor? Novels, shorter fiction, or series? Old or new writing? Do you find it difficult to read dated SF these days?

As always, feel free to include examples.

*For discussion purposes we will leave Fantasy, Folk & Fairy Tales for another time (I know it’s difficult to create clear cut genre lines these days, but let’s go with what you think of as SF)

Note: Over the year other genres will be discussed.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 10, 2020, 11:15am

Question 15:
When the pandemic started, I was reading John Crowley's latest novel. After finishing that, I went for a horror novel, Robert Jackson Bennett's American Elsewhere. Somehow, with the anxiety level generally so high, it still made sense to go for something like this. After that, I'm most of the way through Starfish by Peter Watts. This is the first of his Rifters trilogy, which involves...a world threatening plague! Just the thing, right?

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 10, 2020, 11:26am

Question 15: Pandemic (Update)
Further to >138 thorold: I've finished three from the TBR shelf in the last week, including one very thick one that's been hanging about far too long. I think the novelty of the situation and the compulsion to click news sites is wearing off, as well, especially since we've had a few days of lovely warm weather and I've been out on the balcony all day.

Question 16: Genre: Science Fiction
As everyone knows, I have trouble overcoming my prejudices against science-fiction, and I read very little of it, even though I'm well aware that "it's not all like that" and there are a lot of interesting and well-meaning writers doing subversive things with the genre. It's just that it's so very difficult to get past the idea that it goes together with unpleasant things like football, prog rock, role-playing games and the smell of school changing rooms. As long as I have a lot of other things I particularly want to read, I'm not really bothered enough to make the effort to cross that threshold.

Insofar as I have a rational objection to science-fiction, it's that it often (in my admittedly limited experience) gets so tied up in the technological ideas that the characters are left stranded in banality and cliché. And at least some of the writers who have been praised to me by knowledgeable experts turned out to be barely able to write good English. I found Asimov completely unreadable.

huhtikuu 10, 2020, 12:25pm

I don't read a whole lot of science fiction or fantasy these days, though when I was younger I read a lot of it. I have no prejudice against the genre, though. Good story telling is good story telling. I read Walter Jon Williams' HardWired, a couple of years back, which is the first book in a series of the same name. I thought that first book was very good and keep meaning to get back to the series. At any rate, these days I'm not particularly drawn to science fiction. But, who knows, I may decide to circle back to more of the genre in the coming months. I do have a couple of shelves of pulp paperbacks in the house and of course a significant percentage of those are science fiction.

huhtikuu 10, 2020, 12:36pm

I do not read science fiction now, but I also read a lot of it when I was younger. I had a colleague who also read it, and we would compare notes and share books. I belonged to the "science fiction book club" (think Literary Guild) and bought the books on a regular basis. I read Dragonriders of Pern and was a big fan of the Thendara series by Marian Zimmer Bradley (I even wrote her a fan letter and got a personal response). I have read some YA dystopian fiction though, especially when I was still teaching middle school full time and ran the book group with another teacher.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 10, 2020, 3:23pm


I have 1,375 books I've read in my LT catalogue, and 6 are tagged sci-fi, so you might guess that I'm not a fan. I generally find it excruciatingly boring (I'm looking at you Demolished Man, Neuromancer and War of the Worlds). I also have Fahrenheit 451, which was pretty good. Do Margaret Atwood's dystopian novels count? Nineteen Eighty-four? I liked those. And I love fiction that I label "Twilight Zone" -- I'd put John Wyndham in this category, and some early short stories by Stephan King. However, I don't usually think of those as sci-fi.

But iif it's truly a good story told well, then in theory I'd like it, even if it's set in space.

huhtikuu 10, 2020, 5:01pm

Yes, I read a lot of "science fiction," though it tends toward the dystopian, which I consider speculative social fiction. The best literature (imo only, of course) is about people in dire straits. And nothing creates more dire straits than an apocalypse.

In plague-related SF, I have to say I enjoyed the Charlie Huston vampire noir series (vampirism is a disease that creates social problems). I liked The Strain; even though it was too long, I lapped it up. I really liked Station Eleven and The Stand, which I see they are re-making for TV. And, of course, Atwood's Maddaddam Trilogy.

Kurt Vonnegut's Galapagos, about retro-evolution is interesting. Ditto T.C. Boyle's A Friend of the Earth, in which everything is going to hell in a handbasket due to climate change.

huhtikuu 10, 2020, 6:16pm

>164 nohrt4me2:

Oh, the Stand. That was my favourite book years ago -- I read it three times.

huhtikuu 10, 2020, 6:38pm

Well, speculative fiction technically is a much broader term than science fiction but who cares about definitions.

SF is my genre -- most of the time I am more likely to read SF than anything else. Older SF is not a problem either - understanding the times and the conventions makes it as readable as a Victorian novel if you understand its times.

My SF reading had broadened together with my out-of-genre reading as I was maturing. And as with all books there are authors I read for the ideas and some I read for the language (and a few I read for both).

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 12, 2020, 5:04pm

The identity scifi puts my inner skeptic on high alert. I'm expecting poor writing, bad plots, thin one-dimensional characters, and cheap plot-friendly ideas. Hows that? It gets worse, I'm expecting lazy authors taking advantage of the trope to cut corners and get another title out (and to sell more books). And, I never go into the scifi sections of book stores. Of course, that doesn't accurately characterize the genre. And I will read "scifi" books - not because they are scifi, and not specifically because they defy scifi - but in hopes of finding a rewarding book. I don't mind when non-scifi books have scifi elements (Atwood, Vonnegut). So, it's not the idea of science fiction that turns me off, it's the negative associations.

ETA: I haven't changed to original post above, but want to add a note of apology. This post, while purposely provocative, was also intended to be playful and generate conversation. Instead it came out offensive, an error in my judgment. My apologies for that.

huhtikuu 10, 2020, 6:50pm

>167 dchaikin: I don't mind when non-scifi books have scifi elements (Atwood, Vonnegut).

That's like saying a little pregnant. If a book has SF elements, it is a SF book regardless of what the author claims it to be. :)

huhtikuu 10, 2020, 7:11pm

>168 AnnieMod: That's fine by me. i was thinking of Slaughterhouse 5. There is an almost removable sci-fi element. It enhances the book, but it's not center of it. Same with Atwoods Blind Assassin - although there it's entirely removable.

huhtikuu 10, 2020, 7:32pm

>169 dchaikin: Even if it is removable, the author made the choice to add it - so it became an SF book :) Slaughterhouse 5 even got nominated for the 2 biggest SF awards in its year (both were won by The Left Hand of Darkness in that year incidentally). And I would argue with anyone that without the speculative elements, the book will be a lot weaker. Books don't need to belong to a single genre and books don't get ejected from a genre for failing to have a percentage of that genre in them.

The Blind Assassin is indeed one of those borderline books - which happen in two ways - either the author just cannot resist adding a SF element (like in this one) or the author just cannot figure out what else to do but keep insisting that the book is not SF. :)

I don't like the whole genre vs mainstream conversation usually - there is no real border there and a lot of books can live on either side depending on how you look at it. Take historical novels for example - they are definitely not SF. But add a time-traveling element, even if the person ends up just observing and now it is technically genre.

huhtikuu 10, 2020, 7:50pm

Speculative fiction and fantasy for me is about a story that uses fantastical elements to explore the nature of humanity. Either that is through hard science fiction or dystopian hell it's about the bigger ideas and themes. I don't expect an inner exploration and discovery through character growth. This can happen of course just not something I expect, there are other types of fiction that can cover the kind introspection better.

I tend to push back on the idea that Science Fiction is contrived genre, with wooden characters, and relying on overused tropes. To me that is people describing bad writing. And bad writing is a thing prevalent in all genres and types of writing, including capital "L" literature. No one escapes a bad book and conversely there are great books within the genre. Stereotyping an entire genre of books is closing off the possibility of exploring a new depth of the human condition. To me that's why finding communities of readers are so important; to separate the good from the bad. Everything else is down to subjective taste. To me a story is a story, if it is captivating and can enlist some emotion or empathy then I am down for it regardless of genre.

huhtikuu 10, 2020, 9:36pm

>171 stretch: "To me a story is a story, if it is captivating and can enlist some emotion or empathy then I am down for it regardless of genre."

Yes, I grok that.

Maybe there's a difference between pulp science fiction and literary science fiction. But if there is, I'm not sure what it is. I remember reading sci-fi books for a buck from the drug store when I was a teenager. My best friend Carol and I would each buy different one and then sit reading them over coke and french fries at the soda counter.

Then we would swap and buy more the next week.

We had stacks and stacks of A.E. van Vogt, Jack Vance, James Blish, Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, etc. They all fell apart long ago, and I have thought I would like to re-read them.

At the time, I recall feeling they were nicely written and I enjoyed them.

huhtikuu 11, 2020, 12:09am

I primarily read SF - though I don't separate fantasy from science fiction in that category, mostly because I'd then have to figure out how to shelve stuff like the Blue Adept series that literally alternates chapters of fantasy (magic, unicorns) and SF (colonized mining planet).

There is certainly a lot of bad SF. There's also a lot of bad romance, thriller, and "literature". I actually feel about literature much what several people above have said about SF - books I'm unwilling to bother to try. Clunky writing about nasty people doing nasty things to each other and themselves - if you want to call that personal development, go ahead. I'll read my space exploration and time travel and so on stories and leave the "literature" to others.

What I love is culture clash - which can be anything from spacers dealing with planetbound or different planets/classes/cultures, to first contact with aliens. I have read SF since I was a kid; what I read has changed, partly because what's available has changed. I prefer stories that have something to achieve (I like mysteries too) rather than vague wanderings about or just "life stuff" - that usually comes too close to the literary angst stuff.

huhtikuu 11, 2020, 1:13am

>155 SassyLassy: I like the idea of two massive books in a row. I am toying with the idea of moving on to Life and Fate after War and Peace (although am also reading lots of 'snack books' in between chapters of the Tolstoy).

As for PRC history, my knowledge is so patchy that I always find something new and interesting in a good overview!

>158 avaland: Science fiction. I read a lot of science fiction, sometimes for the ideas, but what I really like is good world-building. A place where things function differently, which the writer has really thought through, but which is not explained to us in big chunks of exposition but in subtle description as the story is told. One example of this which someone else spotted but has stuck with me is a story being told by someone from an alien culture who describes something as being 'as ugly as water flowing over rocks' which of course is a simple way of saying to us humans how different this culture is from ours.

Dated science fiction can still be interesting for what it says about the concerns of its own time, plus the assumptions of the things which *wouldn't* have changed a thousand years hence...

My two favourites are probably:
- The Ancillary Justice trilogy - great writing, great worldbuilding, and a story which twists and turns and nestles in on itself and suddenly at the end all comes together
- short stories by Ted Chiang - take his first collection Stories of Your Life and Others - good stories with really big ideas behind them - I think he is almost the only person who has really interesting things to say about the impact of technology on our lives.

huhtikuu 11, 2020, 3:44am

>173 jjmcgaffey: Looking at everyone’s posts so far, I’m wondering if the main difference between those of us who say we don’t like science-fiction and those who do might be the categories we assign the good and bad books to for ourselves? Along the lines of “I like that one, yes, but it doesn’t prove anything, because it’s not science-fiction, it’s magic-realism.” (Or “OK, that’s a bad book, but it’s not proper speculative fiction, it’s dated space-opera, you should read some real cutting-edge stuff...”)

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 11, 2020, 4:11am

Nah, there's plenty of stuff that I'll call SF that's just plain bad. But I'll keep trying - maybe not by that author, but another SF book. I don't give literature a chance because I've been burned so often.

I got an ER book a few years ago that I thought of as SF; it fit all the categories for me (non-Earth place, culture clash, quest...) but when I looked at the description again it called it literary fiction. If I'd read that, I wouldn't have chosen the book - and I enjoyed it tremendously. I got another one by her that wasn't nearly as good, a few months later, and haven't seen any since (the good one was The Braided Path, the later one Dreamers by Donna Glee Williams). Dreamers was also SF-y (fantasy-like, actually) but it was also very angsty and inward-looking, so far less interesting to me.

There are SF (and other genre, including literature) books that are just plain badly written (poor grasp of language, nonsensical plot, etc), and there are SF books that are too angsty (literary!) for me. Most of the ones mentioned here fall into those categories - I really should read The Dispossessed or The Left Hand of Darkness or The Handmaid's Tale because they're classics, but I don' wanna. I don't like books that leave me depressed, thanks. I don't need happy happy joy joy, but hope and at least some good stuff happening makes me a lot more pleased with a book than one without those.

ETA - I mentioned I like mysteries as well - those start in a bad place but (usually) end in a better one, with someone dangerous dealt with and solutions found for problems. Same thing with the SF I like, and even romances (though those, the basic criteria for "good" is characters with some depth). Too many "literary" books start out with people in a bad place and end with them in a worse one - and I say "why bother to read this?".

huhtikuu 11, 2020, 10:25am

Does anyone else find the term "literary fiction" meaningless?

huhtikuu 11, 2020, 11:39am

>177 nohrt4me2: "Does anyone else find the term "literary fiction" meaningless?"

When I first bought my used bookstore (I've since sold it after almost 8 happy years running it) I had a long conversation here on LT about what to call the non-genre fiction section. I couldn't stand the term "general fiction" because it seemed too blah. So I did go with "Literary Fiction" basically because I couldn't think of anything better. The term has a funny attribute: I agree that it is "meaningless," and yet at the same time everybody has an idea of what it means!

I was trying to find the original thread, but I couldn't. I posted the question looking for advice, starting with the question of whether I should have a separate "Classics" section in the "Booksellers" group and in one other group, but I now can't recall which. The thread on the Booksellers Group page is easily found because the group is not very active. It's a nice, calm, interesting discussion. I remember the second conversation, though, devolving into a (gentle) spat between the "General Fiction" and "Literary Fiction" camps.

huhtikuu 11, 2020, 12:49pm

>177 nohrt4me2: >178 rocketjk:
I’m itching to leap in, but maybe we should stick to science-fiction for the moment, as more genre discussions are promised...

huhtikuu 11, 2020, 1:28pm

>179 thorold: "but maybe we should stick to science-fiction for the moment,"

In the world of the future, these questions will all have been solved. How's that? :)

Or, to put it another way, sorry to topic jump.

huhtikuu 11, 2020, 1:40pm

>180 rocketjk: ...but in the bookshop of the future, there's no "Science-fiction" section, because it's all happened already. :-)

huhtikuu 11, 2020, 2:28pm

>181 thorold: Well, I guess you've got me, there.

huhtikuu 11, 2020, 2:41pm

>177 nohrt4me2: >179 thorold: but it’s such an touchstone question here. Actively restraining my own not too enlightening answer.

huhtikuu 11, 2020, 4:19pm

>168 AnnieMod: Huh? I guess you can call it what you want, as long as the name is not derogtory to the genre. But I assume the author knows what she claims her book to be. (interestingly both Atwood and Vonnegut fought the pubishers not to label it sci fi, for fear it would not sell. I would hope nowadays readers and publilshers would realized the genres labels are in the eye of the beholder (or reader) and mean nothing except a convenient way to categorize ones bookstore.

BTW I usually conflate sci fi/fantasy since they often are a mixture of both. Are we just talking straight sci fi hre, or both?

I have been reading sci fi since childhood, fell in love with Time Machine, 20000 leagues under the sea, Frankenstien Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and other books considered 'literary' but with decidedly sci fi elements. Got into the genre as a teen and have loved it ever since. I tend to like sci fi that is less aliens and space wars, and more the nature of humanity, now and in the future (read The Sound of Thunder or Fahreinheit 451 by Bradbury,books that say something about us, in a way of warning what might come.

Anyway, getting off my soap box...I am interested in what others are reading or have read in the 'genre'. Lately my sci fi book group ha been dipping into classics from the 60s. This month its Solaris by the author of Road side picnic

huhtikuu 11, 2020, 4:50pm

Anyone, I taught literature for 30 years in college. I understand what the distinction between literary fiction and genre fiction is supposed to be. But, practically speaking, genre slicing and dicing is more a marketing imperative than a help to readers looking for good books.

I will shut up and let the discussion about sci-fi continue. Sorry for the distraction.

huhtikuu 11, 2020, 5:23pm

>167 dchaikin: I felt moved to say, "Shame on you!" for your lazy expectations, but I wouldn't say something like that to a fellow reader whom I often admire. I think this is an example of lazy thinking, which isn't usually your vice. You are simply assigning stereotypes which allow you to disregard some books.

I agree with AnnieMod and Stretch that you describe simply the bad or early growing-pains type of SF. You have simply defined SF books as not-SF so you don't have to despise those. You, apparently read SF but don't admit it, because you think that lowers the tone of your reading. Vonnegut thought of himself as an SF writer, so you should think of yourself as an SF reader. Do you similarly despise mysteries and other "genre" books? Is Lonesome Dove a "western", or is it literature? Does it matter? Only if you profess to despise "Westerns" but yet find value in Lonesome Dove.

And just think of how much literature includes love, courting, and marriage in it. Some of those would easily fit into "Romance", the genre. Pride and Prejudice, for example. Doesn't Jane Austen write mostly romances? Where would the Arthurian cycle be without Lancelot and Guinevere's romance? And does Robin Hood truly breathe without his Maid Marian? Romance is a central issue in most people's lives. Surely it isn't wrong to write about it, and consider it as important.

I, like jjmcgaffey, think culture clash is a prime topic in SF, and one of the most interesting threads in it. I like books about anthropology, archaeology, religion, and linguistics in other vastly-different cultures.

Like wandering_star, I love the world-building, too. Think of the repercussions on the science of different worlds! How thrilling to imagine a world in which life-forms took a different pattern, or in which the shape of the land determines a lot about the language? I am thinking of Brian Sanderson here. I could read some of his stuff for the biology or the meteorology alone. The Stormlight Archive is a good example.

And don't you read Dorothy Sayers, Dan? Mysteries, I suppose, but so fine! Some Lord Peter books are just for fun, but others are fine fiction. The Nine Tailors, for instance? By the way, she published an important translation of The Divine Comedy, Dan.

Getting off my soapbox, now. You pressed my buttons, Dan.

huhtikuu 11, 2020, 5:55pm

Glad you are all having fun. I thought there might be more books/authors mentioned but it's only been a couple of days....

>167 dchaikin: Dan, once at a literary SF convention I went to initially to scout for authors to come to the bookstore, I got cornered by a guy when he heard me use the phrase "sci-fi". He told me that it originated as an offshoot of "Hi-fi" during that time -- yada, yada --and that I must not call it that, the proper abbreviated form would be S.F. I didn't get to participate much in the conversation...just listened and smiled. I imagine, if he is still alive now, he's more upset that women, people of color...etc are ruining the genre :-)


Perhaps instead of 'genre' I should have used something more broad, "category" perhaps. Genre may be only a category of literature, but I was thinking at the time of all the sections of bookstores and libraries. My bad (as a former bookseller I should have caught that). That said, genre applies for subsets of fiction, so I'm using it this time to single out SF as a part of general fiction.

huhtikuu 11, 2020, 6:11pm

I have read science fiction since I was a teenager and at times I might have said it was the only genre worth reading although I would not say that today. I read science fiction for that sense of wonder, I want to be taken out of myself, I want to imagine what the future could be like. When I feel the need to release the shackles of being earthbound I want to take to the stars, I want to explore I want to free my imagination. I hope I never get too old to lose the excitement of reading science fiction.

As in any other genre there is good and bad writing, but in few other genres can a badly written book still be an imaginative read. There has been some excellent writing in the science fiction genre and there is I think more of an opportunity for some writers to develop a style that is all their own. Free your mind, reshape society, explore the cosmos, be both in awe and afraid of the future, don't worry if you don't understand everything, go with the flow.

Perhaps it all started with The Divine Comedy

I love science fiction

huhtikuu 11, 2020, 7:31pm

>188 baswood: "...but in few other genres can a badly written book still be an imaginative read..." I certainly agree with that!

huhtikuu 11, 2020, 7:37pm

>188 baswood: >189 avaland: Oh that is so true, and I hadn't thought of it.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 11, 2020, 11:46pm

So thinking of themes in sci fi, a few of my favorites:

world building Dune, Games of Thrones

time travel The first fifteen lives of Henry August

first contact Sparrow Way Station

dystopia Brave New World

utopia Lost Horizon

'hard' sci fi The Three Body Problem

funny sci fi Good Omen

sci fi 'be careful what you wish for' Beggars in Spain
The Speed of Dark

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 11, 2020, 11:51pm

nvm, double post

huhtikuu 11, 2020, 11:52pm

>188 baswood: Perhaps it all started with The Divine Comedy

hee, yes it just might have!

huhtikuu 11, 2020, 11:56pm

>186 sallypursell: Vonnegut thought of himself as an SF writer,

Im not sure; I know that he fought hard for Slaugter House 5 not so labeled....But so many of his do feel like it Cats Cradle was the first I read of his in Jr Hi and have been hooked ever since.

huhtikuu 12, 2020, 12:05am

No one has mentioned The Martian, which I enjoyed, even though there was some argument about how accurate the science is. Wired Magazine says hard science fiction doesn't need to be 100 percent accurate. Article here:

huhtikuu 12, 2020, 12:06am

Funny I was about to include that under 'Hard Sci Fi' and yes it certainly fits the bill.

huhtikuu 12, 2020, 12:12pm

>186 sallypursell: sending you a hug. My post was an effort to characterize the stereotype as I understand it. It was meant to be provocative ... which I know is dangerous, or, if you like, it’s fine until someone really personalizes it, as an attack on themselves. Please accept my apologies for being insensitive. It was not intended as a personal attack, but as an exploration to how we readers respond to these stereotypes laid out. Because, when it comes to most genres, that’s where I begin. The stereotypes always have a problem and the closer the book is associated with that stereotype, the less it becomes in my eyes _before_ I’ve read it.

What I think I was trying to say is I don’t want to read a stereotype. And yet most books...

>188 baswood: I’m tempted to agree with you about The Divine Comedy. Reading it, it really feels like he stumbled onto a literary landscape - with so space much for possibilities. His hell becomes an sample landscape, and his passage through becomes a sample of literary time and movement through a literary landscape. Scifi is the most natural child of the former. Most storytelling deals with the second.

huhtikuu 12, 2020, 4:16pm

>197 dchaikin: thank you for that from me as well. I see what you were trying to do; the problem with the net is that we don't have a good way of reading the meaning behind what a post says. There needs to be emoticons, or maybe framing the meaning before posting. I cant tell you how many times my sense of humor has gotten me in trouble online. So I always add a little smile, and hope they get the idea (most of my friends do thankfully)

I was thinking of adding magic realism to my sci fi themes, but I think those books fit more with fantasy or historic fiction. Thinking of books like One Hundred Years of Solitude or maybe House of Spirits by Isabel Allende. I know for me it adds a sense of other worldleness , tho others get really frustrated by it when they read. Just interesting to think of the range that sci fi can encompass, and yet there needs to be another term that can include MR, with fantasy, even with horror. Well if they did find a word it would play havoc on all bookstore's shelves!

huhtikuu 12, 2020, 4:54pm

>198 cindydavid4: Apologies to you too. CR is a pretty safe space and I do feel responsibility for keeping it that way. There was definitely a playful intent in my post, but I should have worded it differently. (I'm not going to change it, but I will add a little comment making that point)

huhtikuu 12, 2020, 9:42pm

>197 dchaikin: Oh, thank you for the hug, and for not being at all offended...I think. I didn't take your post personally, and I was not personally offended. Science Fiction is dear to me, though. It gave me my best start reading, other than mythology and folklore.

I am offended, in general, by stereotyping, and this one is so very far off the mark. At least it seems so to me. I find science fiction to be some of the most sensitive literature to unimaginable differences between vastly different cultures, and the exaggeration in that of differences with aliens points up how unknowable other cultures can be. Something like certain stories by Paul Bowles. His genius is that he doesn't seem to need science fiction to do this.

Please excuse me for misapprehending you. I should have realized that it truly wasn't like you to think this way, only you had told me how little you read speculative fiction and Fantasy, and I thought there must be some reason. After all, is not The Divine Comedy a work of Fantasy? Yet you don't seem to define it that way, I would.

Anyway, I agree that missing the tone of the thought is a problem in conversations over the internet, because there simply isn't any way to delineate it. As cindydavid4 does, that is the usual time when I use emoticons--when I mean something satirically or covert humor. I will try to remember to think twice next time, if you will forgive me.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 13, 2020, 8:30am

I read a lot of sf as a teen—both because it was a pretty seamless transition from the fantasy I loved as a kid (Narnia, Moomins, anything with talking animals) and as I hit those harder-sell years I think it was one of the first genres that felt like it could delivery the degree of far-out, iconoclastic ideas I was hungry for at 14, 15. I remember especially Harlan Ellison's anthologies Dangerous Visions and Again, Dangerous Visions got me all fired up and turned me on to some great writers—Ellison, Theodore Sturgeon, J.G. Ballard, Fritz Lieber, Poul Anderson, Philip K. Dick, R.A. Lafferty... and because I was a library-going kid I dug into all those and more. Including some stuff that I think back on now as a bit more pop—I was very into Jack L. Chalker's Well World series, stuff like that.

But I also read Isaac Asimov's Foundation Series (which I remember almost none of) and C.S. Lewis's Perelandra trilogy (ditto), so I was definitely stretching. I was also very into underground comix at that time and found an after school job at a comix/sf/head shop when I was 14 and 15, so that gave me great access to good stuff (and rolling papers) and people were always eager to recommend to this nerdy little girl who was happy to take her wages in books.

I fell off that boat in college, I guess, once I figured out that I could also get far-out and iconoclastic through literary fiction (yes, another discussion for another day, but I'll have plenty to say on that count when it rolls around), essays, poetry, narrative nonfiction. Not as simple as that, of course, but my interest in sf fell by the wayside for many years. In the past 5-10 years I've gotten interested again, with the conditions that any sf I take on needs to be both really well written and strong ideologically—also no crap tropes, please, no sexism or colonialism... I probably got enough of that in my reading without recognizing it when I was 14 and 15. Ted Chiang's Exhalation got me excited about the idea of philosophical sf. And I like authors who cross-pollinate, like Rion Amilcar Scott's short story collection The World Doesn't Require You, or Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah's Friday Black, or Lesley Nneka Arimah's What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky... hm, I'd say it's interesting that I'm pointing to a lot of cutting-edge work by young black authors, but I think I've been gravitating to them over the years so I'm not sure if that's a literary trend or not. I'd also put in Paige Cooper's Zolitude as a recent collection that reminded me strongly of the socially edgy stuff I loved as a teen.

I also see that my sf reading is more short stories than novels, which is also probably not a big surprise—I read a lot of brand-new short stories for my work on the LJ Best of the Year judging, so it probably comes out in the wash that way. One exception to the short story sf preference is that I love a good dystopian novel. And I'm interested in reading more book-length work. My library hold on Sarah Pinsker's A Song for a New Day just came in, so that's up after Wolf Hall... that should be an interesting contrast. And I have a bunch of stuff on my wish list that falls into the category as well.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 13, 2020, 8:43am

Hi Lisa! you started alot like I did, but didn't get to the classics (like Poul Anderson) till I joined a RL sci fi group and Im really in to those now. Might be time for something new so Song for a New Day might work for me, tho it sounds almost too much like reading the news....tell me what you think (how are you doing with Wolf Hall?)

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 13, 2020, 9:02am

>202 cindydavid4: At the 88% mark with WH, according to the ebook stats, and loving it even more the second time around. I'd really like to go back to some of those classic sf authors I read as a teen and see what I think, if I ever have the time. That may not happen, though... Time being eternally in short supply.

huhtikuu 13, 2020, 1:13pm

I appear to be coming in quite late to the SF discussion, which is a pity, as it's a subject I tend to have a lot to say about!

For my own part, I've been a reader of science fiction (and of speculative fiction more generally) my entire life, since well before I had any understanding of genre as a concept. Many of the earliest books I remember reading in my life come under the heading of science fiction, and for much of my childhood I just categorized SF and fantasy, in my own mind, as something along the line of "the books with the cool, interesting stuff in them!" And the more I look back on that now, the more I think I had the right idea back then, honestly. Trying to define my tastes by genre later in life did me no favors, really.

My SF reading has changed over the years, to be sure. It no longer makes up as much of my reading as it once did, as my tastes have expanded and I've overcome some of my own misguided prejudices against other genres and fields of writing. (Hey, look, books that are about real people doing mundane things don't always have to be insufferably boring!) I've also come to appreciate good prose more the older I get, and to have less patience with really bad writing, which means that some of the type of the SF I was perfectly capable of enjoying once just for the escapism or neat ideas is less readable to me now. In general, I've found myself far less interested in hard SF with cardboard characters than I once was. Science and technology are still interesting to me, but if I'm going to read a physics lecture, I'd rather just read a physics lecture, not a physics lecture disguised as a novel.

But, of course, that's only one tiny part of SF as a genre! I'm probably going to just end up recapitulating a lot of the back-and-forth people have already been having here, but I feel the need to say it, anyway. Science fiction is, in fact, a ridiculously broad umbrella term that covers an incredibly varied array of fiction. Yes, there certainly is poorly written pulp adventure and works that care very, very much about the workings of spaceship engines and not at all about the workings of human beings. But those who dismiss science fiction in general because they don't like either of those things are, indeed, engaging in stereotyping, of a kind based very much in ignorance. And the tendency for works that are very clearly science fiction, as recognized by those of us actually familiar with science fiction, to be brushed off by the ignorant with the assertion that clearly that must not be science fiction because it doesn't fit the stereotypes... Well, it does make those of us who know better want to bang our heads against the wall. And, I gotta say, I feel really, really sorry for those out there who will get past that stereotype enough to read and appreciate LeGuin, for instance, or Tiptree. You have no idea what you're missing, you poor, poor things.

I could go on and on about the immense value of science fiction in pondering the impacts of new technologies and social changes on human beings before they happen, or about how it can give us new perspectives on the reality and the society that we live in by showing us alternatives or by reflecting the familiar back at us in new and altered ways. But maybe I've gone on long enough already. So all I'll say in conclusion is that if you think, say, 1984 isn't science fiction, you're just simply wrong. And one of the reasons I know you're wrong is that I know there's plenty more science fiction out there like it. You just don't know that because nobody's bothered to come along and reassure you that isn't really science fiction so it's OK for you to read. :)

huhtikuu 13, 2020, 1:37pm

>204 bragan: Exactly :)

And to add one more point: I never understood why people hear "science" and think ships and physics. Social sciences are also science for example. :) Not to mention biology and all different disciplines around it. Yes, I know this is where the genre technically started but all genres have their start somewhere.

huhtikuu 13, 2020, 1:44pm

>205 AnnieMod: And there is so much SF that deals with social science and biology! And in genuinely relevant ways, too. All of the debates that we're having in the real world right now about things like genetic engineering and cloning were already active in science fiction decades ago. (I'm not even going to say anything about all the SF about pandemics...)

Oh, and don't forget environmental science, either. Science fiction was pondering the possible effects of climate change long before the rest of the world felt compelled to start thinking about it.

huhtikuu 13, 2020, 1:50pm

>206 bragan: And also philosophy, which encompasses bioethics, civics, and so much more. Cf Ted Chiang. for instance.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 13, 2020, 1:59pm


huhtikuu 13, 2020, 1:59pm

>167 dchaikin: Look what you started, Dan! Such an interesting discussion. And we are all over the map in how much we read Science Fiction (Speculative Fiction, etc.)

huhtikuu 13, 2020, 2:04pm

>204 bragan: >205 AnnieMod: Not sure if you can hear me cheering the both of you!!! Speaking of science, I love reading non fiction, and quite a bit of it is science, as well as archaeology, geography, social studies. In fact, that could be another Question - what non fiction books have you read, what non fiction books are you drawn to, whats a non fiction book that had an impact on your life......

anyway, for another day

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 13, 2020, 2:40pm

>206 bragan: That is why I said "for example" :) Science is definitely not just physics and maths. Which is why I never understood people not reading SF because it is branded SF (which led to authors trying not to be branded SF and people sending the genre even lower in their opinion and so on).

I've always called SF the genre of ideas -- the "what if" and "what about" literature if you prefer. Some are far-fetched but some are almost unrecognizable from the here and now until you see something weird (a double moon for example...or a belief that is just a bit off... or a history detail that just does not match). But the well written SF can be as powerful (if not more powerful) than any of the great contemporary novels (a lot of which I find unreadable but that's just me).

>207 lisapeet: That falls under sciences. And he mixes linguistics in there quite often as well. His first collection should be something that anyone should read (not that the second is not good but the first one is brilliant).

huhtikuu 13, 2020, 2:10pm

>200 sallypursell: definitely wasn’t offended, just worried about offending. I appreciate your passion, and Betty’s ( >204 bragan: ) And, Betty, I haven’t read LeGuin yet. I went through a fantasy phase, as that’s what got me seriously reading for enjoyment, so to speak, but never got into scifi (although I’ve stumbled in here and there)

huhtikuu 13, 2020, 2:11pm

>209 sallypursell: yes - helped spark some really good discussions. 🙂

huhtikuu 13, 2020, 2:13pm

>204 bragan: How well you expressed that! I wish I had done so, but I am glad that you happened along to this discussion.

huhtikuu 13, 2020, 2:20pm

>207 lisapeet: I was gifted that book during our sci fi book group gift exchange and I keep wanting to read it but keep getting distracted - now might be the time!

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 13, 2020, 3:59pm

Damn, lost my post. No patience to re-create.

Short version: Didn't read much SF before I was 30 but after a co-worker suggested it to me and I asked for a short list of recommendations, I then read it heavily, but not exclusively, for about 20 years (the same 20 years I was raising 3 children) before moving away from it. Not exactly sure why, but this was also about the time more translations of global fiction were coming available....

I have enjoyed SF of most kinds, from Asimov's Foundation series to John Crowley's Engine Summer, from Suzy Charnes's Holdfast Chronicles (which begins with Walk to the End of the World) to everything Octavia Butler wrote. From Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and LeGuin's The Dispossessed to Iain M. Banks' A Player of Games, Stephenson's The Diamond Age to Maureen McHugh's China Mountain Zhang. I was probably less impressed with Dune and Enders Game than many (I think I had a 'mother' response to Ender), while both were decent reads. I suppose I am attracted most to SF that deals with questions related to what is sometimes called the "soft sciences" -- psychology, anthropology, sociology...etc.

For example: I'm no longer religious any more but it's still interesting to read about Quakers on a self-sustaining spaceship looking for a new home (The Dazzle of Day). Jesuits in space and making first contact (The Sparrow), Catholic missionaries in future Africa (The Great Wheel), a philosophical conversation between humans and aliens about the existence of god/s (Calculating God) and Jesuit scientist is puzzled by an alien race who relies only on pure reason A Case of Conscience.
One could take almost any topic...

Currently, I read a few books annually that I might call science fiction, mostly dystopias or novels/short stories from the few SF authors I continue to follow, or an occasional new author whose book catches my attention. Hubby and I have read many of the same books, and there are authors we have both liked and continue to like. He remembers the content of books far longer than I do. We still share some authors i.e. China Mieville, Jeff VanderMeer, Gwyneth Jones, Adam Roberts....

>211 AnnieMod: Agree about a "genre of ideas"!

huhtikuu 13, 2020, 2:37pm

>204 bragan: Great post, well said.

huhtikuu 13, 2020, 2:49pm

>216 avaland:

I am not surprised you did not like Dune and Ender as much...both are somewhat of odd ducks in the genre

The big secret of Dune is that it is not SF at all, it is actually a fantasy novel (and I know I will catch a lot of fire for that statement but...). Look at its structure (especially when you look at the next few of the series as well) - it is an almost standard heroic fantasy in a universe that is not our own. Its SF elements are great and make it one of the standard-bearers of the genre but its structure makes another genre predominant for it. Strip out the hero journey and it is a much weaker book but that is where the ideas are and that is what carries the actual strength of the message.

Same applies to the Star Wars franchise in my book - for all the battles and ships, it is a closer to fantasy than to SF in its structure. Although it depends on definitions - and those are tricky at the best of days.

Ender... is Ender. It is a YA series in the real sense of the term (even pre-YA for the first one) and even though it is readable later on, if you never read it early on, it does not invoke the same feelings. I love it - but I was probably 12 when I read it. It made me realize that the genre is a lot wider than I thought it was. I reread it a few years ago and I liked it enough - but I could also see that my emotions lead in different directions.

huhtikuu 13, 2020, 3:22pm

>212 dchaikin: LeGuin has also written some (excellent) fantasy as well, of course.

>214 sallypursell:, >217 avaland: Thank you! This is not remotely a new soapbox for me, but, hey, I think this particular variation on it came out well. :)

>218 AnnieMod: While, as mentioned above, I don't think it's too worthwhile getting hung up on definitions and categorizations anyway, I have occasionally found "science fantasy" to be a usefully descriptive term. I think Star Wars is pretty much the premiere example of that.

huhtikuu 13, 2020, 3:59pm

>219 bragan: Yep. I was trying to step around the term :) Although Dune does not fit it as well...

huhtikuu 13, 2020, 4:08pm

A great discussion from everyone.

My library and my reviews make it clear that I mostly read science fiction, fantasy, and related genres. My progression was fairly similar to that of >204 bragan: a movement from a plain sense of a cool story to a more sophisticated appreciation for those and more challenging stories. Since the 1960s, when the import of themes and methods from the literary world became common in SFF, it's always been possible for me to find stories which were like literary ones, but with genre elements, or so it feels. I feel fortunate in that I discovered SFF in the years just after Sputnik, and read progressively more adult stories while the Moon expeditions came to be; it was a bit like the fulfillment of some promise.

More recently there's been a grand turn to stories by and about more-marginalized people - LGBTQ, persons of color, women. For example, there are no men in this year's Hugo Awards novel shortlist, and no white men in the other three fiction categories. I'm all for it. I've been hugely impressed by many of these stories; my main problem is that there are too many for me to keep up with.

>160 thorold: It's striking, to me, that you associate SFF with "the smell of school changing rooms." When and where I was in secondary school, the jocks gave no sign of any interest in reading these stories. The expansion of SFF into the blockbuster, moneymaking genre it is today was far in the future. Maybe this is just another lesson in how capitalism appropriates everything?

>176 jjmcgaffey: Hard for me to see how The Dispossessed could leave anyone depressed. It's about scientific discovery, and a society that works a bit better than our own. Similarly for Le Guin's other novels, at least those I've read. Can you say a bit more?

>187 avaland: He's still alive, and I expect he is unhappy about current trends.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 13, 2020, 4:20pm

No matter what Dune is, it continues to be a book near and dear to my heart. I was 14 and the guy that I was dating handed me the book, said it was the best book hed ever read (he was 17) Oh man he wasn't kidding! I read that so often, loved the world building and Paul and his mother and sister. I only went up to the third book, they just got too weird (and actually I think the second one is the best of the three) but still love it

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 13, 2020, 4:31pm

>218 AnnieMod: hee I was big on Heinlein, Clark, Bradbury, Vonnegut at that age. Heinlein does not age well but the others, classics. I probably was more into fantasy than hard sci fi then, so in HS I was reading Jennifer Robinson, Raymond Feist, Octavia Butler, Barbara Hambly, Ursula Le Guin ...gosh many others I cant remember.


Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 13, 2020, 4:19pm

>218 AnnieMod: I stopped the Dune series with the third book. And I think I have heard that before. Hey, I'm not going to give anyone flack for calling or not calling something SF. I'm not that kind of fan :-)

I came to Ender late maybe, read at 40-something, was appalled that parents were willing to turn the upbringing of their children to the government, appalled that he was pushed (abused) the way he was. So, read as a mother of three instead of an adolescent.

huhtikuu 13, 2020, 4:30pm

>219 bragan: This is where things get so muddied. I see Star Wars as sci fi, as well as Dune, but i get what you are saying. Thinking about Jurassic Park; read it long before the movie. Im thinking its in the same category as any of the Jules Verne books. I think its more like Star Wars, both are listed as sci fi

huhtikuu 13, 2020, 4:40pm

>222 cindydavid4:

I never said it is a bad book - I love Dune :) I was just pointing out why I understand how a SF reader may have issues with it. :) And I've read most of the series - including most of the Brian Herbert/Anderson continuations and prequels. While some are weird, the whole universe is fascinating... I had been thinking of going back and rereading the whole thing... Some of it is a slog but... it hits something that I do crave in the speculative genres.

>223 cindydavid4:

I think I am a few decades behind you and I grew up in a small country in Eastern Europe - a lot of books people read in the 70s and 80s did not make it to us until a decade or 3 later (and some never did - but being able to read in English and Russian later in life, I could catch up). I also got lucky - by the time I got interested in the genre, the system had collapsed - but the problem was the sheer amount of books that the publishers were looking at - they had to balance new with old (printing runs were small even that way, over-saturating the market would have made it even worse)

>224 avaland:

Ah, see... that is the part I did not even blink at - possibly because of where I was born. It was a very small leap from the kindergarten-school system that I grew up into anyway. It was not all that bad, don't get me wrong but... different times.

huhtikuu 13, 2020, 5:13pm

>I never said it is a bad book - I love Dune :) I was just pointing out why I understand how a SF reader may have issues with it. :) And I've read most of the series - including most of the Brian Herbert/Anderson continuations and prequels. While some are weird, the whole universe is fascinating... I had been thinking of going back and rereading the whole thing...

Understood :) I did a reread of the first three when my sci fi group was discussing them. Still loved it but some things were different from an adult view. I saw Paul as a chilld rather than my age, and I well understood why jessica made the decisions that she did. I agree,the world building is amazing here, as are the appendices explaining the envirnmental impact of Spice mining and other subjects. And I just might try the other books in the series.

BTW if you haven''t seen in, the sci fi channel did a 6 part series of the book and it really was a good adaptation (as opposed to the movie which was cringe worthy for me)

huhtikuu 13, 2020, 8:55pm

>218 AnnieMod: etc - and then there's Pern, which is the reverse - the trappings are fantasy but the structure is SF. Dragons! Oh, but it's a lost colony...

>221 dukedom_enough: Yeah - I think I'm the victim of stereotypes, the reverse of what dchaikin was saying. I have heard a lot of people who read books that I think of as literary (stereotype: boring, depressing) praise Le Guin's chunksters like The Dispossessed. Therefore, while I own it (and others - Left Hand, etc) I have not yet read it. Maybe I'll read it in my current push for BOMBs. Thanks for the push!

I think of the whole group as Speculative Fiction - science fiction and fantasy, at least. I have an SF category, but that doesn't stand for science fiction, in my mind...

BTW, if anyone wants some fascinating biology, biological sciences, and complex characterization - read Janet Kagan's Mirabile. And her Hellspark for culture clash and AI, and her Uhura's Song (yes, Star Trek) for culture clash, biology/medicine, and some of the funniest scenes I've read anywhere. And complex characters - in all of her work. Her short stuff has been collected by Baen (The Collected Kagan), and unfortunately there will be no more (sniffle).

huhtikuu 13, 2020, 10:35pm

>228 jjmcgaffey:

Ah, Pern. There was a time when I refused to read fantasy (teenagers will be teenagers) so I ignored that series because of its title. Taught me never to assume anything about a book just because of the title.

huhtikuu 14, 2020, 2:21am

oh my how did I forget Anne McCaffrey?! Read every single one, several times over the years

>228 jjmcgaffey: I have never heard of this author before. I will definitely be checking out Mirabile! Thx for the rec!

huhtikuu 14, 2020, 2:36am

>228 jjmcgaffey:
These are unknown to me, too ... mostly. I look forward to a new author you like, Jennifer.

huhtikuu 14, 2020, 3:24am

She mostly wrote short stuff (thus the Baen collection). Mirabile is actually a compilation of stories, with a frame - not wonderful, but the stories are great. Uhura's Song and Hellspark are real novels, her only ones. And she died a while ago, so we'll never get more. But what she wrote is SO GOOD I press it on everyone - I have two copies of each book so I can pass one out (and I buy them when I spot them in yard sales and the like, to pass them on).

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 14, 2020, 9:30am

Since we're talking about Dune, the movie is coming up. Opening December 18.

huhtikuu 14, 2020, 11:52am

wow, good cast and interesting changes. Hope we are done with this virus by then!

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 14, 2020, 12:55pm

I've always called SF the genre of ideas -- the "what if" and "what about" literature if you prefer.

That works for me.

I dislike multi-volume "what if" books that end up being major time drains because of an excessive (to me) focus on fantasy-world-building. That includes Dune, LOTR, Game of Thrones, everything by Stephenson and McCaffrey, and a lot by Mieville.

But that's just my personal problem. Book sales indicate that millions disagree. :-)

huhtikuu 14, 2020, 1:26pm

>235 nohrt4me2:

You may want to look at the novellas (and shorter works) of the genre - despite being declared dead for decades they are alive and well - and more often than not are exactly what you are looking for - the ideas without too much world building.

I like multi-volume works because it allows you to spend longer in the world but it is not for everyone :)

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 14, 2020, 4:10pm

>235 nohrt4me2: you might want to look at writings pre 70s, many authors wrote amazing works and didn't feel the need for a lot of world building. The world was the background of the story and not part of it.. Hence they tend to be shorter and stand alone (not in a series) My favorite is probaby Pohl Anderson but there who wrote in the 30s 40s and 50s

That being said I do love a meaty book with world building that takes me out of where I am. Which is probably why Dune and Game of Thrones were among my favorite books!

huhtikuu 14, 2020, 5:38pm

>236 AnnieMod:, >237 cindydavid4: I liked the vampire noir of Charlie Huston a few years ago. It was a series, and I ate them like popcorn. World building was woven in with exciting plots and punchy noir narrative.

I recently re-read and enjoyed Richard Matheson's I Am Legend, which is novella length. Had read it back in junior high, likely one of those drug-store books we used to buy in the mid-1960s.

huhtikuu 14, 2020, 6:11pm

?15..... My reading does not really change because of an outside event or a holiday; Its pretty dependent on my mood, and what title grabs me at the moment. So no I am not reading differently, tho I do have more time to read so I am going through some of my books on my every expanding TBR shelves

Thinking about it, I am definietly avoiding certain books. I had planned to read The Road Back sequel to All Quiet on the Western Front that I read for another book group back in November. I had already finished half, when I tried today um no, I just cant do that never ending agony and pain that was going on at the time. Put it aside and now reading a collection of Chiang short stories.

huhtikuu 14, 2020, 6:17pm

>all our travel is cancelled, my music rehearsals and performances are cancelled until August, and our church is not having services either. The only places we go are the grocery and pharmacy. We are usually active retirees, and sitting at home all the time is very difficult.

yeah that is us as well. He's still doing some online teaching but both of us are feeling confined and not able to go do things we enjo y At least we can still walk, talk to friends and work in the yard. And then read....

huhtikuu 14, 2020, 6:28pm

>163 Nickelini: And I love fiction that I label "Twilight Zone" -- I'd put John Wyndham in this category, and some early short stories by Stephan King. However, I don't usually think of those as sci-fi.

Oh I think they do, and its usually the type of story I enjoy - takes place now, with a subtle twist puts things off. Loved TZ as a kid, also watched Outer Limits tho I got nightmares from them

I sorta lump those books/tv shows into another genre that hooks into SciFi - horror. Generally I can not read these, I have way to vivid imagination and really can't sleep. Funny I don't mind ghost stories, or classics like Frankenstien or Dracula, but anything else I avoid.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 14, 2020, 6:41pm

>158 avaland: I keep getting Chiang mixed up with Ken Lui short storie, they both feel similar. But the latter had in his collection Paper Menageri a story called
The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary. Absolutely devasted me and it still haunts me (the rest of the storiess in that book were great, esp the title on. But on man.....

huhtikuu 14, 2020, 7:31pm

Following this only sporadically, so apologies if I missed it. George Saunders short story collections and novella, The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil fit generally into sci-fi/speculative fiction. Ditto Peter Carey's short story collection, The Fat Man in History. And Max Barry's novels, e.g., Jennifer Government.

huhtikuu 16, 2020, 2:17pm

I've started a new thread as this one was getting a bit long. Come on over and discuss histories...
Tämä viestiketju jatkuu täällä: QUESTIONS FOR THE AVID READER, Part 3.