52 Weeks of Reading - 2017

Discussion in 'Arts and Literature - Second and Better PPR Forum' started by Jolly Ol' Saint Galefore, Jan 5, 2017.

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    Saria Dragon of the Rain Wilds

    Saria Dragon of the Rain Wilds CROAK Staff Member

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    Short Bus Hero, Shannon Giglio
    All Together Dead, Charlaine Harris
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    United Nations

    United Nations Edward Wong Hau Pepelu Tivrusky IV

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    6. The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil by Stephen Collins
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    Galefore

    Galefore Chill Penguin's Abandonment Issues

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    11: Despair by Vladimir Nabokov.

    In this (intentionally) grandiosely written novel, Nabokov gives us a first person view of a narcissistic sociopath. Our narrator Hermann, a cold businessman who thinks quite highly of his station in life, stumbles upon a vagabond who bears him uncanny resemblance. This chance meeting weighs on Hermann, who eventually is driven to a criminal plot involving his double (that I'll avoid detailing). Two things made this both challenging and exhilarating. One, this novel is written with careful hands, a lot like the other first- person sociopath tale I just finished, and it depicts the cruel thoughts of its protagonist with an artsy, overwrought flourish. Nabokov effortlessly melts into this voice, and toes the line between the narrator's own toxic self obsession and the cold truth of his actions, even as he depicts them himself. This made the novel thickly worded and a bit chewy to read sometimes, but it effectively gave me a portrait of the disgustingly pretentious "protagonist" of this story. In a lot of ways, Hermann resembles Walter White. He's smart, yes, but his ego runs the show more than his calculating intelligence. As for the second thrilling feature, well, it's super cool that this is a late career revision by Nabokov himself to a translation of an earlier work of his in Russian. Who better to preserve the power of his words in a second language than the author himself? His unique imagination is given free space to shine here. Though this book was read on and off over the course of a couple of weeks, I found it to be a really cool crime thriller with a little knife- twist of philosophical examination of ego.
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    Galefore

    Galefore Chill Penguin's Abandonment Issues

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    12: The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka. This is the well- known and extremely influential story of a man who awakes transformed into a giant insect, which understandably sorta doesn't go over well. Kafka was the master of constructing dreamlike scenarios without crossing into complete nonsense, which is why his surreal work makes up so clear a chunk of modern literature's DNA. This story was told in a matter- of- fact, slightly detached way, but the whole thing is steeped in Kafka's clever strangeness.
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    Galefore

    Galefore Chill Penguin's Abandonment Issues

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    13: Journals by Kurt Cobain. I confess to a bit of an ethical dilemma reading something that was intended to be entirely private, but Kurt was a lot less of a withdrawn misunderstood mystery man and a lot more of a huge music nerd with dreams of making something truly sincere and man, man do I personally feel a lot of his sentiments here. Unfiltered and unedited (save for his sloppy scribbled self-edits, themselves still mostly legible beneath the squiggles of ink), these are the ideas and thoughtful responses of a dude who just wanted to make good music. I'll take the circumstances of his death entirely out of the equation here for the sake of this writing, because these journals would be astonishing whether he were still here today or not because of the actual chart-able progression of Kurt's music and even business skill. It's the truths and hard work of a talented and genuinely savvy dude, a guy for whom luck had nothing to do with his success (he entirely networked with people by persistence and good-old-fashioned DIY correspondence), and then later on a man struggling against a flawed public image that captured maybe one millionth of the artistry and personality within that unit called Nirvana. This was a grimy punk rock kid who loved obscure records and had chronic ulcers. Even his drawings are kind of impressive. I'm glad I took the time to read this entire thing, because no matter how you view Kurt (Kurdt) Kobain, he really was just a dorky kid tryna do his best. I think we can all feel that.
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    Valigarmander

    Valigarmander Creepy Mario Mod Staff Member Supporter

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    Read the second volume of Meredith Gran's Octopus Pie. I think the first collection was a little better, though that's not to say this one was bad by any means. OP is hilarious, but can also do sad or dramatic scenes as well. I think it's strongest asset is the cast, each character being funny and deep and memorable in their own way. I've got volume three on my shelf, and I'll be breaking into it soon.

    1. Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko - 4/5 (Jan 15)
    2. The Nazi Conscience by Claudia Koonz - 5/5 (Feb 4)
    3. The 120 Days of Sodom by Marquis de Sade - 2/5 (Feb 28)
    4. The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien - 4/5 (Mar 6)
    5. Octopus Pie, Vol. 2 by Meredith Gran - 4/5 (Mar 22)

    Man, I have some catching up to do.
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    Galefore

    Galefore Chill Penguin's Abandonment Issues

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    14: Sayonara Gangsters by Genichiro Takahashi. Welp, I wanted something really different and unique and I got it here. This is a truly imaginative and exciting book. The basic plot follows a poetry teacher and his encounters with students and extremist politics... but that does not even roughly describe the work you're in for. It features an appearance by Virgil the poet (who has metamorphosed into a fridge) and follows an unpredictable dream logic, so every path the story takes is anything but predictable. This one was right up my alley, sometimes unbearably sad, and even more times very ****ing funny. Give it a read if you need something really one- of- a- kind to keep your reading fresh!
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    Saria Dragon of the Rain Wilds

    Saria Dragon of the Rain Wilds CROAK Staff Member

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    From Dead To Worse
    and Dead and Gone, Charlaine Harris
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    Galefore

    Galefore Chill Penguin's Abandonment Issues

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    15: Ice by Anna Kavan. I love that I found and read this book, which heavily uses a slipstream technique to depict manic thinking, after I presented a short fragment of writing of my own using a very similar technique. Nice to get some more perspective on that technique. This book, which is the first- person view of an unnamed man chasing a frail woman around the world as the planet succumbs to war and famine in a literal ice apocalypse, masterfully slips in and out of narrative focus, which gives the reader a seamless sort of daydream feel. The writing is aggressively simple, which drives home Kavan's portrait of a desperately obsessive narrator. Events happen jarringly quickly, and almost TOO conveniently smoothly, though I felt this was done to highlight the narrator's narcissism and scattered brain. I found the plot repetitive, though again I feel like this was done for effect, WHICH, I mean, even so, there's a lot of back and forth that I could have done without. But that's honestly a nitpick. The cleverly sparse looks into the worldwide chaos that pepper this near- obsessive chase story and the dreamlike, creepy stuff that works to give the whole novel a vibe, this all creates a very cool experience. Oh Christ, there's a pun.

    Edit: upon sitting on it a night, I wanted to add to this write- up that I've been marvelling at Anna Kavan's simple sentences and how they easily communicate and build a world and characters without ever using names. I was very heavily drawn in and I'm still drawn in by it now. I wanna elaborate on how I interpreted the protagonist, but I'll save that for its own essay, I believe.
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2017
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    Galefore

    Galefore Chill Penguin's Abandonment Issues

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    16: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time by Yasutaka Tsutsui. I miiiiiight have underestimated this one's brevity and simplicity. This little time travel tale flew by over the course of one sitting. That said, it was a refreshingly simple little book and I bet the film they made of this is magnificent.
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2017
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    Valigarmander

    Valigarmander Creepy Mario Mod Staff Member Supporter

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    Finished The Fellowship of the Ring a few days ago. I saw the movies like everyone else, but apart from The Hobbit I've never actually read any of Tolkien's books. This one didn't disappoint, although the first third of the book was rather dull and dragged on for a while. Everything started getting better after they arrived in Bree. I think Tolkien's greatest strength is his worldbuilding: the peoples, nations, places, languages, and history of Middle-earth all feel real, they all occur and interact in believable ways. Often times I'm less excited about Frodo's quest than I am about learning more of Dwarven culture and history, or hearing about the politics of Men, or gaining some new insight into Quenya or Sindarin. Starting The Two Towers next.

    1. Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko - 4/5 (Jan 15)
    2. The Nazi Conscience by Claudia Koonz - 5/5 (Feb 4)
    3. The 120 Days of Sodom by Marquis de Sade - 2/5 (Feb 28)
    4. The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien - 4/5 (Mar 6)
    5. Octopus Pie, Vol. 2 by Meredith Gran - 4/5 (Mar 22)
    6. The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien - 4/5 (Mar 26)
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    Valigarmander

    Valigarmander Creepy Mario Mod Staff Member Supporter

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    Finished The Two Towers by J. R. R. Tolkien. Being sandwiched in the middle of the LotR trilogy, I was somewhat expecting this one to be the weakest of the three books, but to my pleasant surprise it felt much stronger than the first. I'll be starting the third shortly.

    Frodo and Aragorn are kind of dull protagonists, to be honest. Sam is still the best character.

    1. Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko - 4/5 (Jan 15)
    2. The Nazi Conscience by Claudia Koonz - 5/5 (Feb 4)
    3. The 120 Days of Sodom by Marquis de Sade - 2/5 (Feb 28)
    4. The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien - 4/5 (Mar 6)
    5. Octopus Pie, Vol. 2 by Meredith Gran - 4/5 (Mar 22)
    6. The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien - 4/5 (Mar 26)
    7. The Two Towers by J. R. R. Tolkien - 5/5 (Apr 14)
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    Galefore

    Galefore Chill Penguin's Abandonment Issues

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    i'm glad i got way ahead because boooooooyyyyyy has
    depression
    been eating my motivation alive. i've made some headway into a couple of novels and read a lot of poetry, though, and i did sort of jump like a whole month ahead there so it's a good time to slow down.
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    Saria Dragon of the Rain Wilds

    Saria Dragon of the Rain Wilds CROAK Staff Member

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    The Nightly Disease, Max Booth III
    Dead in the Family
    Dead Reckoning
    Deadlocked
    and Dead Ever After, Charlaine Harris
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    Valigarmander

    Valigarmander Creepy Mario Mod Staff Member Supporter

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    Read The Return of the King, finishing off The Lord of the Rings. When I started reading these books I was somewhat worried that they'd turn out to be overrated, and not as great as fans make them out to be. Thankfully I was wrong, and I can see why LotR is considered a classic. Apart from a handful of flaws (Fellowship's tedious first half, the occasional racist subtext, Aragorn being a boring Mary Sue) I enjoyed the saga immensely.

    1. Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko - 4/5 (Jan 15)
    2. The Nazi Conscience by Claudia Koonz - 5/5 (Feb 4)
    3. The 120 Days of Sodom by Marquis de Sade - 2/5 (Feb 28)
    4. The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien - 4/5 (Mar 6)
    5. Octopus Pie, Vol. 2 by Meredith Gran - 4/5 (Mar 22)
    6. The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien - 4/5 (Mar 26)
    7. The Two Towers by J. R. R. Tolkien - 5/5 (Apr 14)
    8. The Return of the King by J. R. R. Tolkien - 5/5 (May 4)
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    Saria Dragon of the Rain Wilds

    Saria Dragon of the Rain Wilds CROAK Staff Member

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    Galefore

    Galefore Chill Penguin's Abandonment Issues

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    17: Popular Hits of the Showa Era by Ryu Murakami. Welp, I definitely don't regret manically surging ahead with reading this year, because now that that's caught up I only just now managed to finish a 17th (though I admit I'm being easy on myself about actually completing this as it was mostly just an exercise in getting through my backlog). That said, this book is another completely original story from a strange Japanese author. This Murakami, who is actually quite a bit unlike the other, more famous post-modern superstar he shares a name with, is very blunt and direct, fills his pages with visceral descriptions and humor that can be described as nihilistically absurdist, and loves to escalate. This book follows two groups of satirical Japanese folks: a loosely connected group of 6 Karaoke obsessed young men and a group of sexually repressed "Oba-sans" (mid-30s Japanese "aunties"). One of the derelict men thrill-kills one of the Oba-sans, which leads to an out-and-out, insanely violent war of revenge between the two groups. This book is confrontationally vivid in parts while being cheery and fun in others by way of loving descriptions of innocent and simple things, including the tunes that serve as chapter titles and centerpieces (that I admittedly know jack-all about), and it's often bleakly hilarious in its over-the-topness. I found myself particularly amused by the scenes with a young college girl whose slight facial asymmetry is blown to unbelievably powerful proportions by characters within the story. It's paced very quickly and often incredibly strange, and I'm certain some of its over-arching points about Japanese society are lost on me as a non-Japanese, but I certainly appreciated the story's satire of the "battle of the sexes", if you will... though I'd describe it even moreso as a generational conflict compounded by the influence of stereotyping.
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    ScottyMcGee

    ScottyMcGee Super Lab Tech

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    Man, I'm really behind.

    1. Death Note Black Edition IV by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata - YEAH
    2. Death Note Black Edition V by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata - YEAH
    3. Death Note Black Edition VI by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata - YEAH
    4. The Only Pirate at the Party by Lindsey Stirling and Brooke Passey - Okay
    5. The Steam Man of the Prairies by Edward S. Elis - Meh

    6. The Heads of Cerberus by Francis Stevens (penname of Gertrude Bennett) - YEAH
    7. The Gift of the Magic and Other Stories by O. Henry - HELL YEAH
    8. Double Indemnity by James M. Cain - HELL YEAH
    9. Henchgirl by Kristen Gudsnuck - HELL YEAH
    10. Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne - HELL YEAH
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    Valigarmander

    Valigarmander Creepy Mario Mod Staff Member Supporter

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    Read Discovering Fossil Fishes by John G. Maisey. It gives an overview of the evolution and relationships between fishes, living and extinct. Very informative, I learned a lot from it that I didn't know before.

    1. Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko - 4/5 (Jan 15)
    2. The Nazi Conscience by Claudia Koonz - 5/5 (Feb 4)
    3. The 120 Days of Sodom by Marquis de Sade - 2/5 (Feb 28)
    4. The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien - 4/5 (Mar 6)
    5. Octopus Pie, Vol. 2 by Meredith Gran - 4/5 (Mar 22)
    6. The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien - 4/5 (Mar 26)
    7. The Two Towers by J. R. R. Tolkien - 5/5 (Apr 14)
    8. The Return of the King by J. R. R. Tolkien - 5/5 (May 4)
    9. Discovering Fossil Fishes by John G. Maisey - 4/5 (May 24)
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    Valigarmander

    Valigarmander Creepy Mario Mod Staff Member Supporter

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    ...And I also just finished another book I was reading concurrently, Concealing Coloration in Animals by Judy Diamond and Alan B. Bond. It explains the evolution of camouflage in animals, and does a very good job at that. It accomplishes a lot for such a short book.

    1. Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko - 4/5 (Jan 15)
    2. The Nazi Conscience by Claudia Koonz - 5/5 (Feb 4)
    3. The 120 Days of Sodom by Marquis de Sade - 2/5 (Feb 28)
    4. The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien - 4/5 (Mar 6)
    5. Octopus Pie, Vol. 2 by Meredith Gran - 4/5 (Mar 22)
    6. The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien - 4/5 (Mar 26)
    7. The Two Towers by J. R. R. Tolkien - 5/5 (Apr 14)
    8. The Return of the King by J. R. R. Tolkien - 5/5 (May 4)
    9. Discovering Fossil Fishes by John G. Maisey - 4/5 (May 24)
    10. Concealing Coloration in Animals by Judy Diamond & Alan B. Bond - 5/5 (May 25)

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