arduinna: a stack of books, with the top one opened (book stack)
Both [personal profile] dorinda and [personal profile] rosaw asked what I've been reading lately, so it seemed like a good one to tackle next. I've gotten weirdly out of the habit of reading novels in the past few years, but started picking up nonfiction. Sloooowly, though; and huh, I just realized it's because I have a mental block against getting too involved in anything in case I need to drop everything and Go Do The Thing (whatever the thing may be). That is an incredibly useful thing to know, so yay for this question!

Anyway. Novels/fiction may finally be working their way back into the mix, as I settled in a few days ago with Anne of Green Gables (♥) on the theory that I could really use something gentle and charming to sink into in the midst of this political miasma - and wow, good call, I felt much better afterward. I have oodles of fiction on my to-read list, so am looking forward to getting back into that. I got Ted Chiang's Story of Your Life and Others for Christmas, after loving The Arrival, so that will be up soon.

But other than that, it really has largely been nonfic for a good while now. I am still reading Ron Chernow's biography of Hamilton - I was going great guns with it but put it aside and haven't gone back to it yet. I will, though. It really is that good. (And then up: Chernow's Washington. Good writer, Ron Chernow!)

I'm also reading (about 3/4 done with) And Then I Thought I Was a Fish by Peter Welch. I got there via a metafilter post about something else this guy posted to his website, and in the comments someone linked to his essays recording his psychotic break. I went to read them (still online for free here) and got so sucked in that when I hit the point where he posted a link to the $2.99 kindle version, I had to buy it.

I'm ALSO reading (well, listening to - it's good highway listening) Elizabeth Warren's A Fighting Chance. She does the Audible narration herself, which is sort of fabulous. I just kind of want to follow her around like a puppy, really. She is amazing.

As for stuff I've finished more-or-less recently (past couple of years):

I'd been hearing about 1491 and the sequel, 1493, off and on for years, and finally pushed 1491 to the top of my list to see if the hype was really justified. It was; I have to force myself not to shove copies in people's hands and tell them to read them. I knew I'd been taught mostly incorrect history, and had picked up bits and pieces of better information as I could, but these laid things out as a cohesive whole I'd never seen before. It was one of those worldview-shifting experiences for me.

A whole bunch of epidemic/disease-related books, of which my favorites were:

* The Great Influenza: The Story of the Greatest Pandemic in History

* Polio: An American Story

* On Immunity: An Innoculation

* The Great Mortality: An Intimate History of the Black Death, the Most Devastating Plague of All Time

* The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World

And not a disease but my favorite of the disaster books I read during the same phase: Dark Tide: The Great Molasses Flood of 1919 (true story!)

And finally to lighten things up a bit, two books by Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess). Both draw heavily but not exclusively on her blog, and her writing just cracks me the hell up.

* Let's Just Pretend This Never Happened

* Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things

... and now I've written this list up and am suddenly re-interpreting the request to be "talk about the actual content of things you're reading", but it's nearly midnight and that will have to be another night. *g*

Wired Love

Sep. 9th, 2013 11:46 pm
arduinna: a stack of books, with the top one opened (book stack)
A while back, someone somewhere on DW recced this book; I've long since lost the tab I had open for it, but thank you, if it was one of you!

The full name is "Wired Love: A Romance of Dots and Dashes", and it's available on Project Gutenberg for free download in multiple formats.

I downloaded it when I first spotted the rec, because it sounded interesting: a 19th century novel about a romance conducted over the telegraph. It's a pretty straightforward, gentle romance as they go, with some misunderstandings and broken hearts and quiet jealousy mixed in before the inevitable happy ending. But it's fascinating in many other ways. It really doesn't feel like it's more than 130 years old.

The protagonist is Nattie, a young woman (about 18 years old) making her way in the world; she lives in a boarding house with several other young adults -- both men and women -- with two older landladies in residence (one sympathetic to youthful spirits, one emphatically not) but no real chaperonage to speak of. Only one young woman is there with a parent; the others are all living on their own, making friends and social connections on their own terms. Two of them, a man and a woman, are self-identified bohemians.

Nattie works as a telegraph operator, a field that was apparently quite open to women; when a new operator appears "on the wire" one day, she wonders whether it's a man or a woman. The two of them start chatting back and forth (to the annoyance of some other operators on the wire), and Nattie immediately becomes very interested in this "C", even unsure of whether it's a man or a woman. The mystery doesn't last long, of course; "C" turns out to be a man, and eventually she finds out his name is Clem, but it's really cool, this century-old gender-uncertain interaction. Very Internet-y. *g*

I had to stop reading a few chapters in and go look up the author -- Ella Cheever Thayer -- because it felt so much like a put-on, or like a Victorian AU of a modern internet romance. It wasn't just the relatively modern sensibilities of the characters, either, but the steady underlying awareness of tech.

Spoilery examples )

And some general spoilers for the rest of the book )

And more specific, major spoilers for the ending )

There's nothing particularly deep in the story itself, but it's a lot of fun reading something from so long ago that could so effortlessly be transplanted to internet-based life today. And if you're looking for some pleasant fluff about decent people who treat each other well, with a few small exceptions to keep things from being too bland, this may be right up your alley.

... I am ridiculous, and have been arguing with myself for an hour whether I should split this into two posts to avoid spoiling people who maybe want to read some of this but not all of it. Never mind that I've got cut tags in to keep that from happening.

Or that this is a 130+ year old book that I think got mentioned on Boing Boing a few months ago and really, 130 years old. And not very fannish, other than the fun culture echoes.

But still, sometimes you hit "reply" and then you've got the bottom of the post with all its spoilers right in your face!

So, um, have some journal-based spoiler space. La la la.
arduinna: a stack of books, with the top one opened (book stack)
Someone on my network is subscribed to the Mark Reads feed ([syndicated profile] markreadsstuff_feed -- this is the Mark Watches Things guy, but writing up reactions to books he's reading, chapter by chapter. I had no idea he was doing this, and the first post I stumbled over was him reading chapter 4 of Squire, in the Protector of the Small quartet by Tamora Pierce.

... I am so screwed. I love Pierce's books; many of them are a nearly-annual reread for me, series after series after series all in a row. Kel's quartet was the first Pierce I ever read, and I adore her, and her books are always on the re-read list, along with Daine and all the Circle books.

And I read Mark's reaction to that one chapter, and then went back to the very beginning of his Tortall tag, to read along as he reacts his way through every book. He started with Alanna, and I found myself liking those books so much more through his eyes (I never disliked them, it's just that I didn't read them first, and they're the weakest writing and the most Mary Sue trope-y, so they suffered in comparison to what I'd already read).

He's huge fun to read along with, because he approaches everything with enthusiasm and willingness to be entertained and amazed, rather than cynicism and looking to score points. It's not that some stuff doesn't bug him, but mostly he's just diving into the stories and characters and having a blast, and it is so much fun, and makes me want to pull out my books for my umpteenth re-read.

So far he's read all of Alanna, all of Daine, and is currently through Chapter 7 of Squire. He reads a new chapter every other day (not counting weekends), so some weeks he gets through two chapters, some weeks three. (He alternates with a completely different book on the other days - right now, it's John Dies at the End.) I'm subbed to his feed so I don't miss anything.

And now I'm halfway through First Test. Again. ♥ Kel! ♥
arduinna: a barcode of my DW user name (barcode)
I was just catching up on the fail anon meme and came across the very useful bit of info that Diane Duane is working on getting her books into ebook format, including the Middle Kingdom, aka Tale of the Five (aka "Door Into...") series.

The first two books are already available on her site at very reasonable prices (US$2.99 and US$3.99, respectively), with the third coming eventually. (Naturally, no mention of the fourth, woe.)

They're DRM-free, and are available in ePub (most readers other than Kindle), mobi/PRC (Kindle, Palm), LRF (Sony), PDF, and PDB (Palm) formats.

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