What are you reading (non-SF)? (2015-16)

Discussion in 'Other Literature' started by Boreas, May 2, 2015.

  1. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    Besides the Baxter/Reynolds SF book, I'm also reading Mansfield Park.
     
  2. kenubrion

    kenubrion Well-Known Member

    Legends and Stories of King Arthur: The Story of King Arthur and His Knights; The Story of the Champions of the Round Table; The Story of Sir Launcelot ... Story of the Grail and the Passing of Arthur.
     
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  3. TomTB

    TomTB Administrator Staff Member

    Catchy! Rolls right off the tongue ;)
     
  4. Jack Brewhouse

    Jack Brewhouse Well-Known Member

    'Siddhartha' by Herman Hess and ... it actually hurts me to say this... 'The Duff'. I'm doing summer school at the moment and covering 2 grades and these are the assigned books. Today we started reading. Siddhartha is a story of the journey towards spiritual enlightenment, a study of rejecting the outer universe and accepting the self within. We discussed the work of C.G. Jung, the collective consciousness, synchronicity and the foundation of psychology. In my next class we discussed 'The Duff.' Honestly, it's embarrassing. It's actually got product placement in the book. Seriously. The tale of the fat girl who ends up with the hottest guy in school. I don't know how this rubbish gets published. The students are laughing at it. It's utterly america-centric and doesn't realise how selfish and spoiled the main character is, even though she's meant to be downtrodden (in her own mind).
    We haven't even started on Siddhartha yet. We went through the complex introduction as I wanted the students to get a firm understanding of the concepts first. Some of them are really getting it, which is very good to see. I've skipped ahead and the book seems quite good, for a foreign book translated to English is reads very well. Quite looking forward to that one.
     
  5. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    I just looked this up. This is seriously assigned reading?
    You have your own teaching methods, but I would think it's a better idea to have students read the main text through an unfiltered lens. Academic introductions can be useful but are also often overrated. And especially for students who, by reading first what an expert has to say on the matter, go into the text with pre-conceived notions of what they're supposed to be looking for or appreciating.
     
  6. Jack Brewhouse

    Jack Brewhouse Well-Known Member

    I've been working here for a while. If I don't push hard, you get nothing from them. They're never taught to think, they're taught to lie and to cheat and to steal. School is seen as a punishment for most of them, boys especially. It's still rare for girls to get an education and they do appreciate it more and generally work harder but still, they don't push themselves.
    The Duff... I know. Our head of department thought it would be a good idea. I'm putting in a complaint and getting it removed from the schedule so it won't happen again. I did manage to get 'Animal Farm' into one of the lower grades. To be honest, it's seen as a victory if you can get them to read a book. Any book will do...
     
  7. kenubrion

    kenubrion Well-Known Member

    I've finally started The Darkness That Comes Before and I'm alternating it with Voice of the Whirlwind because the former is pretty heavy reading.
     
  8. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    I've had the whole trilogy by Bakker on my Kindle for a while now. Keep thinking I'll start it and then keep putting it off. How are you finding it besides it being heavy reading?
     
  9. kenubrion

    kenubrion Well-Known Member

    I was just thinking yesterday that while it's ponderous, it doesn't have any of the characteristics that I don't like in big stories. It's readable, and I will get used to his writing. I have no complaints about his characterizations, and his worldbuilding is enormous, and lots of long names of people and places. But characters with a lot of bottom to them. I'm reminded of when I started Malazan. Dense but you get used to it and then the story just starts unfolding. This will be like that. Plus there are six books and another trilogy planned. So yeah, Malazan all over again which is great.
     
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  10. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    Good to know. And I really have to find the time to invest in the Malazan series at some point. It just seems a little unnecessarily demanding, so I keep putting it off.
     
  11. Diziet Sma

    Diziet Sma Administrator Staff Member

    I think right now I need I little break from SF. My sister has given me They Were Counted by Miklós Bánffy, a depiction of pre WWI in Hungary. As I don’t want to stop halfway through Forging Zero, I will try to read both. I’ll see if I can manage to keep both books going at an even pace...
     
  12. Diziet Sma

    Diziet Sma Administrator Staff Member

    ... and failing miserably. Obviously, I'm "one trick pony" and bi-reading is not for me...:oops:
     
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  13. Jack Brewhouse

    Jack Brewhouse Well-Known Member

    We're getting close to finishing both 'The Duff' and 'Siddhartha' in class now. Both are dreadful. Siddhartha was my favourite of the pair, being the journey of a man towards enlightenment but the writing is quite poor, even by contemporary standards. The main character seems to have no obvious motivation. At one point he is close to achieving his goals and then diverts to a wild tangent, doing something hopelessly out of character, bemoaning everyone around him and patting himself on the back at how smart he is. Then, he's suddenly 20 years older which is made as a casual revelation which didn't make sense the way it was written. The class are tearing it apart. Now we're at a point where he's using metaphor but the message is hammered home appallingly, the narration even telling you it's a metaphor in so many words. It's hard to like.
    Duff began as a fat-acceptance fairytale, a romantic adventure of the least attractive girl in school hooking up with the most attractive boy. Then it actually gets worse, the behaviour of the main character is so poor that the students are offended by her. All of a sudden, it's revealed that she's not fat or unattractive, which felt like the audience was being completely sold out. Up to this point, she's fat, she's ugly, she's angry at skinny girls, jealous of pretty ones but her relationship with the boy is almost likeable as it becomes an emotional one, both finding common ground beyond the mundane concerns of physical appearance. Then the rug is pulled out from under us.
    It's hard to find books here but this weekend, I'll be out scouring the second hand shops for something of a decent quality to read. Also beer... lots and a lots of beer. Actually the beer here is made of rice and taste like lemonade with alcohol mixed in it. It's not good.
     
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  14. Diziet Sma

    Diziet Sma Administrator Staff Member

    I’m loving They Were Counted and consequently I have put to a hold Forging Zero.
    I will continue with The Transylvanian Trilogy.

    Happy and successful hunting. Tough when you dislike what you are teaching...
     
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  15. Jack Brewhouse

    Jack Brewhouse Well-Known Member

    With respect to 'The Duff', the editing is top notch and there are some very nicely written parts. It was a bit much when the entire concept of the book was pulled out from under it. It's incredibly American and has some very negative themes but is interesting because of them. Siddhartha could have, and should have been good but it just seems like a bunch of ideas thrown in a pot. It doesn't help that we researched the story. Siddhartha is high-born and preaches about leaving it all behind to find a better way which is exactly what the author, Herman Hess didn't do. It's hard not to see it as hypocritical.
    Last year we did HHGTTG by Douglas Adams. My sheer enthusiasm sold a lot of students on sci-fi.
     
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  16. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    Have they read any more science fiction, either as a class effort or independently?
     
  17. Jack Brewhouse

    Jack Brewhouse Well-Known Member

    Not really, at least not that I know of. I did creep in a few Asimov short stories, a short Arthur C Clark and 'The Egg' by Andy Weiss. The Egg, especially went down very well, a few of them sat back just stunned by it. That's great to see.
     
  18. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    Asimov is great to assign to a class. I also really recommend his stories "Nightfall" and "The Last Question". Probably two of his best and not only very entertaining, but also thought-provoking. Maybe also the stories "Flowers for Algernon" by Daniel Keyes and "Blood Music" by Greg Bear and "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card. All of these except for TLQ have been expanded into novels.
     
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  19. Diziet Sma

    Diziet Sma Administrator Staff Member

    I have only read I, Robot by Assimov but I should think it is a great read for students. Some thought experiments to keep them engaged...
     
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  20. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    Another fantastic book for a class assignment would be A Separate Peace by Jonathan Knowles. I read it when I was 11 and it had a huge impression on me. An absolute classic.
     

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