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Books Read 2020

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Re: Books Read 2020

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Re: Books Read 2020

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Jeff V wrote:
Fri Apr 03, 2020 5:53 pm
freelunch wrote:
Fri Apr 03, 2020 3:54 pm
I enjoyed Sputnik Sweetheart. and that was before my eventual ascent into sappy love angst forever
I figured you and Kasey would probably like it. :P
Hey, Murakami is literature! Most of what I read now is pretty far from it. :)
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Re: Books Read 2020

Post by Jeff V »

freelunch wrote:
Sat Apr 04, 2020 5:31 pm
Hey, Murakami is literature! Most of what I read now is pretty far from it. :)
Literature compared with....graphic novels? :D He's managed to get his stuff translated to English, that alone does not make his writing profound. Then again, perspective is everything, and I'm not going to question his relevance just because he doesn't speak to me. I will, however, continue to give tepid reviews to his shit because it doesn't speak to me.

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Re: Books Read 2020

Post by freelunch »

Jeff V wrote:
Sat Apr 04, 2020 5:36 pm
freelunch wrote:
Sat Apr 04, 2020 5:31 pm
Hey, Murakami is literature! Most of what I read now is pretty far from it. :)
Literature compared with....graphic novels? :D He's managed to get his stuff translated to English, that alone does not make his writing profound. Then again, perspective is everything, and I'm not going to question his relevance just because he doesn't speak to me. I will, however, continue to give tepid reviews to his shit because it doesn't speak to me.
point taken :)
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Re: Books Read 2020

Post by Hipolito »

Nora Simeon Investigations Book 1: The Demons of Wall Street by Laurence Raphael Brothers (ebook, LibraryThing Early Review). This is the first book I received in the LTER program. And I'm the first LT user to review the book, I'm proud to say. At first, I enjoyed this story about a hot-tempered detective and the demonic underworld she has to infiltrate. The demons are incredibly cool and quite distinct from any other type of beast (so much so that, as the book admits, the term "demon" is a misnomer). The detective's fiery attitude is exactly what's needed to get these freaks to cooperate. But the second act of the story is taken up by an uncharacteristic romance with a Marty Stu. The third act wraps things up through dissatisfying exposition. This could have been a sassy, supernatural potboiler had it maintained the spark and moxie of its first act. 2 of out 8 Japanese take-out meals shared with someone who, just a minute ago, made love to you or pointed a gun at you.
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Re: Books Read 2020

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The Fool’s Assassin by Robin Hobbs. This is the first book in the Fitz and the Fool Trilogy.

It was nice to get back to Fitz after taking some time off. Hobb’s is a little wordy, and Fitz needs a shrink but the character itself is interesting and the world she has created is interesting. I have already read one trilogy based on the main character and this picks up some 20 +/- years after that.

One thing I wasn’t a fan of was Hobb’s using a second character about halfway thru the book for a point of view. But near the end it becomes obvious why and so I guess it was something she felt she had to start earlier. The ending is of course a cliffhanger. But as is my normal practice, I will read something else before diving into book 2 of the series.

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Re: Books Read 2020

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malchior wrote:
Thu Jun 27, 2019 3:36 pm
coopasonic wrote:
Thu Jun 27, 2019 2:58 pm
More politically aware people, what's the best book that lays out how we got here? I've recently gained an appetite for non-fiction and I'd like to learn more. I know it happened over the course of my lifetime, but I wasn't paying attention. Help me get up to speed.
Super wide-scope view: Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-year History

Narrow scope on recent insanity: Even Worse Than It Looks
I am finally finishing up Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-year History. It has been an interesting read, but I think it would have been four times more interesting if it were about half as long. It's amazing how recklessly ignorant we are collectively.
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Re: Books Read 2020

Post by malchior »

coopasonic wrote:
Wed Apr 08, 2020 4:42 pm
malchior wrote:
Thu Jun 27, 2019 3:36 pm
coopasonic wrote:
Thu Jun 27, 2019 2:58 pm
More politically aware people, what's the best book that lays out how we got here? I've recently gained an appetite for non-fiction and I'd like to learn more. I know it happened over the course of my lifetime, but I wasn't paying attention. Help me get up to speed.
Super wide-scope view: Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-year History

Narrow scope on recent insanity: Even Worse Than It Looks
I am finally finishing up Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-year History. It has been an interesting read, but I think it would have been four times more interesting if it were about half as long. It's amazing how recklessly ignorant we are collectively.
I agree on the volume of the book. He could have scooped out some of the middle. He seemed to really want his argument to stick and sacrificed brevity for over the top completeness. That said, I think he did a great job arguing it and providing examples but maybe 75% depth in each chapter would have been good enough.

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Re: Books Read 2020

Post by Archinerd »

Off to a very slow start this year, but I finally finished my first book, Finished Dungeoneers: Mazerynth.
Another fun read, thanks for the escape from reality!

Next up is supposed to be The Handmaid's Tale. I've never read it and I had it on the list for awhile... but I'm not sure I want something this grim right now.
Last edited by Archinerd on Mon Apr 20, 2020 10:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Books Read 2020

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Would it be a bad idea to start Midnight in Chernobyl during this pandemic? :D I picked up a copy last week.
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Re: Books Read 2020

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Finished Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco.

ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!?!?!
Spoiler:
The murders were caused by an old blind monk who was worried that if the copy of Aristotle's legendary mythical second book that he had were read by others, it would lead to blasphemy? So he hid it in a secret part of a labyrinthine library instead of just destroying it? And I had to read "conversations" between monks that would have had Ayn Rand saying, "You know you really should have the second party in a conversation say something more than every 2 pages"? And endless descriptions of doors and illuminations in ancient texts? SERIOUSLY?
Whatever.

I'm still reading my hard copy of The Institute by Stephen King and will figure out soon what I'm going to read electronically.
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Re: Books Read 2020

Post by El Guapo »

Rumpy wrote:
Thu Apr 09, 2020 1:58 pm
Would it be a bad idea to start Midnight in Chernobyl during this pandemic? :D I picked up a copy last week.
I just finished that the other week! Great book. One interesting thing I found was that the 'heroes' (such as they are) of the HBO series come off as decidedly less heroic here (although Legasov does ok overall). And one nice thing is that the long form of the book allows it to get much more into the history of the Soviet atomic energy program, and how the design flaws led to the explosion.

Anyway, as the coronavirus hit while I was in the middle of this book, I couldn't help but think about it in light of the pandemic. But it was fine, in part because this is an entirely different type of disaster. Themes of government mismanagement, bureaucracy, and corruption definitely parallel each other, though.

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Re: Books Read 2020

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El Guapo wrote:
Fri Apr 17, 2020 10:51 am
Rumpy wrote:
Thu Apr 09, 2020 1:58 pm
Would it be a bad idea to start Midnight in Chernobyl during this pandemic? :D I picked up a copy last week.
I just finished that the other week! Great book.
Good to hear. I figured with my interest in it, I couldn't go wrong. In general, I've been reading more non-fiction as of late, my latest being The Spy and The Traitor by Ben McIntyre which was a riveting read about a Russian KGB agent who defected to MI6. That was an amazing story.
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Re: Books Read 2020

Post by hitbyambulance »

i can't read all of this because it gets into spoilers into the few books i haven't yet read, but i'm saving this for later: https://lithub.com/a-feminist-critique- ... i-himself/

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Re: Books Read 2020

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The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough

A very interesting book about Americans who made the pilgrimage to Paris, from roughly 1830-1900, for the purposes of learning medicine, or for writing, painting or sculpting. The book mentions so many names I couldn't have come up with on my own but once mentioned I recalled them from either school studies or works by other authors. It also provides a history of Paris during those years, and how much of the city was changed by artists and architecture.

I sometimes find McCullough rather dry and wordy, perhaps trying to stretch out a subject that just doesn't need that many words, but this book was very interesting and I wanted more.

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Re: Books Read 2020

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Finished The Handmaid's Tale.
I should have stopped before the epilogue though, it didn't really add anything and only limited the possibilities of the ending.

Next up, The First 15 lives of Harry August.

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Re: Books Read 2020

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Finished The First 15 lives of Harry August, and I really enjoyed it.

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Re: Books Read 2020

Post by xwraith »

Looks like two Dresden files books coming out this year. Preordered for Kindle.
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Re: Books Read 2020

Post by Hipolito »

The Vision: The Complete Collection by Tom King (trade paperback): I'm not much into comics or superheroes, but I bought this on a friend's recommendation and enjoyed it. Vision, a Marvel Avenger android superhero and his android wife and kids try to live normal lives in suburban Washington, D.C. The 12 comics in the collection raise a lot of intriguing psychological and philosophical questions. Things get disturbing when characters have to choose between serving their family and serving society. I was a little confused by the interaction with other Avenger superheroes since I don't follow their stories, but I got the gist. 6 out of 8 homemade cookies.

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Re: Books Read 2020

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Class wars on Mars! I just finished Red Rising the first in a series by Pierce Brown. I was a bit skeptical reading the rave reviews, but when I found out it devolves into a cross between Hunger Games and Battle Royale I was sold. I will probably hold off for a while before continuing the series, but this one gets 7/8.
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Re: Books Read 2020

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Be Strong and of Good Courage: How Israel's Most Important Leaders Shaped Its Destiny, by Dennis Ross and David Makovsky.

Picked this up when I saw the authors speak earlier in the year. It's a pretty interesting book. Dennis Ross (who served in a few administrations and was Clinton's Mid-East peace envoy) wrote this with a professor (David Makovsky). It's a profile of four Israeli leaders (David Ben-Gurion, Menachim Begin, Yitzakh Rabin, and Ariel Sharon) and various hard choices they made. Basically sort of a profile in courage for each of them, meant to set up a discussion of whether Israel's current leaders can rise to the occasion and make hard choices on the Palestinian issues. It's pretty interesting. It mostly functions as a mini-biography of each of the leaders, which was useful, although the analysis of their decisions was kind of limited in many ways - it describes their leadership styles and thinking, but doesn't really go too deep on what one could learn from their style, how their decisions played out over time, etc.

I'd recommend it as kind of an intro to Israeli history and Israeli leadership.

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Re: Books Read 2020

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Finished reading The Gunslinger by Stephen King. Admittedly I am not a big fan if the Kingmeister, but I wanted to get an introduction to the Dark Tower series and I am waiting for delivery of my next serious read. It was about what I expected.

A couple of observations: Where was the gunslinger getting all that ammunition? Actually I noticed a missed opportunity:
Spoiler:
After he shot up the town of (Jethro) Tull, he could have explicitly raided the general store.
King sure likes the word, "palaver."
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Re: Books Read 2020

Post by Jeff V »

Jaymann wrote:
Tue May 05, 2020 2:04 pm
Where was the gunslinger getting all that ammunition?
Spoiler:
In later books you'll find him time-traveling to the US. Obviously, one of those times lifted a Hollywood prop gun and therefore has unlimited ammo.

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Re: Books Read 2020

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Finished The Institute by Stephen King. I read this book in physical copy (hardcover), and I really enjoyed it. Luke Ellis is a brilliant tween who also happens to have a touch of telekinesis. He's abducted from his home by a professional team and when he wakes up he's in a simulation of his bedroom. He opens to the door to an unfamiliar hallway, and when he ventures out he finds other kids of telekinesis or telepathy. These kids aren't Firestarter level or anything. On Luke's best day, he can unintentionally knock a pizza pan to the floor at a restaurant. The people who run the facility where the kids are (the titular Institute) subject the kids to all kinds of experimentation for a few weeks until they move to the next phase. The next phase involves the kids banding their powers together to "save the world". The folks running the institute didn't account for having a certified genius in Luke and a particularly powerful telepath in another kid. They're figuring out a way to take down the Institute.

I really enjoyed this one. Granted, I'm a Stephen King fanboy, but this was tightly plotted with interesting philosophical questions. Upon release some people were trying to equate the abduction of the kids in The Institute with the caging of immigrant children by the Trump administration, but frankly that's a bit of a stretch. King hates Trump, but there's more complexity here than is evident in this facile comparison.

For what it's worth, this had a fine conclusion - it doesn't suffer from the stereotypical Stephen King ending problems.

Next I'm reading a couple of books. I'm well into The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman on my Kindle app, plus I've also started Zero K by Don DeLillo in hardback.
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Re: Books Read 2020

Post by Jeff V »

ImLawBoy wrote:
Fri May 08, 2020 12:23 am
Finished The Institute by Stephen King.
I liked that one as well. Unfortunately, I think it has parallels to what's happening today, the question of what are we willing to sacrifice to maintain our relatively easy life? Substitute children for elderly and the lines are pretty strong.
Last edited by Jeff V on Fri May 08, 2020 11:19 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Books Read 2020

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Jeff V wrote:
Fri May 08, 2020 10:36 am
ImLawBoy wrote:
Fri May 08, 2020 12:23 am
Finished The Institute by Stephen King.
I liked that one as well. Unfortunately, I think it has parallels to what's happening today, the question of what are we willing to sacrifice to maintain our relatively easy life? Substitute children for elderly and the lines are pretty strong.
Yeah, I think that's a better parallel than the "kids in cages" one people were making upon release.
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Re: Books Read 2020

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Just finished Race of Aces by John R Bruning, the same guy who wrote Indestructible (i.e. Pappy Gunn story). (In fact, Pappy Gunn makes quite a few appearances, both his super-B-25's with a howitzer in the nose, and later, how he got wounded by a Japanese fighter raid) Basically, in order to boost morale in New Guinea as the Japanese were ready to invade, American needs heroes, and General Kenney may or may not have encouraged the competition of various fighter pilots attempting to be the first to be the Ace of Aces, beating Rickenbacker (26 from WW1). In fact, Rickenbacker himself went to New Guinea and offered bourbon to the first guy to break his own record in 1942. But there was resentment about how some got special treatment, while others may have gotten "Zero Fever" and violated tactical doctrine and get themselves or their wingmen killed. It was even more surprising that Charles Lindberg (yes "Lone Eagle" himself) actually, as a civilian, talked his way to New Guinea and actually flown several combat missions and even gotten a few kills with the P-38 squadrons, and even taught the pilots a fuel management technique that expanded their range tremendously. But even as he got kill fever, he was appalled at how low the in-theater pilots had sunk in the moral scale, in his eyes, such as strafing Japanese parachutes (in retaliation for how Japanese pilots do the same). And it's also sad that out of the five major aces who had a chance to claim, only 2 survived the war. Bong was actually yanked out of combat, got a CMOH pinned on him by MacArthur himself, and moved home to get married, only to die flying an experimental jet stateside. McGuire died in combat chasing Bong's record very late in the war. And Gerald Johnson... was lost flying a transport into Japan AFTER V-E day, and hit a storm... and gave the parachute to the passenger, and the plane was just lost and never seen again. If you like the sort of stories from WW2 that was kinda glossed over in the other history books, you should get a kick out of this one.
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Re: Books Read 2020

Post by Formix »

The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates - Not what I was expecting based on the blurbs I had heard. I was expecting lots more mysticism but was very happy with what I got instead. A very well written book, easy to read, but full of thought-provoking ideas and terms. I found myself googling lots of terms, from ash cake to catercorner. I highly recommend it.

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Re: Books Read 2020

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Yeah, I read it recently as well. It's quite a good read. I found it quite engaging and the ending was quite powerful. At times I felt it could even be the next Gone with the Wind.
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Re: Books Read 2020

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Finished The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. This short novel was easy to read and enjoyable. It lacks the humor of many of Gaiman's works, but it's still got a lot of bizarre stuff. The main character is a seven year old boy who befriends an eleven year old girl who lives in a farm house at the end of the lane with her mom and her grandmother. The girl is very mature for her age, and at one point the boy asks her how old she really is. She says she's eleven. He asks how long she's been eleven, and she just smiles back at him.

It's hard to describe what was going on in this book, and I'm not going to bother. Gaiman's imagination seems to know no bounds, though.

Up next electronically is Point B (A Teleportation Love Story) by Drew Magary. Magary is probably best known as a sarcastic sports writer (formerly of Deadspin), but his last book The Hike was just a tremendous mind fuck, and I'm looking forward to this. I'm also continuing to read Zero K by Don DeLillo in hard copy.
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Re: Books Read 2020

Post by Jaymann »

ImLawBoy wrote:
Mon May 11, 2020 12:34 am
Finished The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. This short novel was easy to read and enjoyable. It lacks the humor of many of Gaiman's works, but it's still got a lot of bizarre stuff. The main character is a seven year old boy who befriends an eleven year old girl who lives in a farm house at the end of the lane with her mom and her grandmother. The girl is very mature for her age, and at one point the boy asks her how old she really is. She says she's eleven. He asks how long she's been eleven, and she just smiles back at him.

It's hard to describe what was going on in this book, and I'm not going to bother. Gaiman's imagination seems to know no bounds, though.
I just read this in eBook format today, obviously I was hooked. Really enjoyed it, but it seemed a bit of a one trick pony.

Edit to add: I also enjoyed The Hike - amazing premise that does not let up. The ending was somewhat contrived, but one hell of a ride.
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Re: Books Read 2020

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Finished Zero K by Don DeLillo in hardcopy. The title is a reference to absolute zero, and this short (but deep) book centers around The Convergence, where the super wealthy can be cryogenically preserved, either to halt a fatal disease or just to wait out the current phase of humanity. The narrator is called to The Convergence in a remote Asian location where his billionaire father is with his dying stepmother as she prepares to take the next step. There's very little in the way of action in this book, but it asks the reader to consider a lot about life and death, the nature of existence and consciousness, and a lot of philosophical elements. To be honest, I'm still processing the book. Among the modern "high literature" (for lack of a better term) authors I've read, DeLillo is probably the easiest to read in terms of prose, but that doesn't mean his books and themes are simple. I recommend the book if you're looking for something really philosophical.

I'm still reading Point B by Drew Magary on my Kindle app, and I'm probably starting Bleeding Edge by Thomas Pynchon in hard copy next. I'm not sure it's such a great idea to follow up DeLillo with Pynchon, but I'll give it a whirl.
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Re: Books Read 2020

Post by hitbyambulance »

Fyodor Dostoyevsky - Notes from Underground : pretty crazy this was written in 1860, as it feels quite a bit ahead of its time. the takeaway is that people will actively undermine reasonable best outcomes for their country, others and themselves just to prove that they have 'free will' and 'individuality'. a rewarding read.

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Re: Books Read 2020

Post by Scuzz »

The British are Coming by Rick Atkinson, part 1 of his new American Revolution trilogy. This book covers 1775-1776, with a brief look at the winter of 1777. The book jumps pretty much right into the Concord and Lexington, with little explanation of the causes of the war. He does go into them later but the emphasis of the book is more on the war itself and the men involved. He does a great job detailing the players and what is going on, both in America and England.

One of the amazing things about this time in history is how much alcohol plays a role in the armies of both sides. Atkinson details supply requests and troop inventories, and often booze replaces guns and gunpowder. Can’t supply the needed gunpowder or muskets, then send them 50 hogsheads of rum. And even Washington, while trying to avoid the British is found entertaining his officers with fine Madeira wine.

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Re: Books Read 2020

Post by xwraith »

Re-read Dune for the first time in decades — funny how I confused some parts of the 80s movie plot with what actually happened in the book.
I forgot to call it "a box of pure malevolent evil, a purveyor of
insidious insanity, an eldritch manifestation that would make Bill
Gates let out a low whistle of admiration," but it's all those, too.
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Re: Books Read 2020

Post by paulbaxter »

hitbyambulance wrote:
Sat May 23, 2020 4:37 pm
Fyodor Dostoyevsky - Notes from Underground : pretty crazy this was written in 1860, as it feels quite a bit ahead of its time. the takeaway is that people will actively undermine reasonable best outcomes for their country, others and themselves just to prove that they have 'free will' and 'individuality'. a rewarding read.
I'm pretty sure that of all the books I was assigned to read in college, this was my favorite. Certainly the most modernist 19th century novel I've read, and the one that I felt I comprehended very directly. Terrific book, though not a happy one, for sure.
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Re: Books Read 2020

Post by El Guapo »

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup, by John Carreyrou

This is a great book - one of my favorites in awhile. It's about Theranos, the company founded by Elizabeth Holmes which purported to revolutionize blood testing (claiming that they could replace needles with a few drops of blood taken from a fingertip). But they consistently overpromised what they could deliver (even what was possible), so when they couldn't fulfill their promises they started cheating - basically running tests on commercially purchased blood testing equipment and then claiming that it had been tested on their proprietary technology. On top of that to make the small amounts of blood work they had to dilute it, which made the test results (from the commercial analyzers) wildly inaccurate.

The aggressively bullied and intimidated former employees who tried to reveal the truth, and they kept up the charade for a remarkably long period of time, but eventually a WSJ reporter (who wrote this book) started digging and talking to former employees and it all came crashing down. The founder and COO of the company were indicted, and are scheduled for a trial later this year.

Anyway, just really well written, and makes for a pretty gripping story.

Also, as a side note one of Theranos's biggest investors was Betsy DeVos and the DeVos family - lost over $100 million that they had invested in Theranos.

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Holman
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Re: Books Read 2020

Post by Holman »

xwraith wrote:
Sun May 24, 2020 9:00 pm
Re-read Dune for the first time in decades — funny how I confused some parts of the 80s movie plot with what actually happened in the book.
Heh.

I wonder if people will be pissed off at Villenueve when he "leaves out the Weirding Modules."
Much prefer my Nazis Nuremberged.

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hitbyambulance
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Re: Books Read 2020

Post by hitbyambulance »

El Guapo wrote:
Mon May 25, 2020 1:47 am
Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup, by John Carreyrou
this one is destined to go down as a classic of investigative reporting. i would have read this all in one sitting if i could have. as it was, i churned through it in record time. the writing style very much annoyed me at first, but i'm assuming that's so the events could be rendered with as little ambiguity as possible. (also, the author is a journalist, so that plays into it as well)

my favorite parts was the detailing of the high-profile individuals who completely bought into Holmes' little cult.

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Jaymann
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Re: Books Read 2020

Post by Jaymann »

Just finished Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames. It's about "getting the band back together" only in this case they are not rock stars, but a band of mercenaries in a fantasy world setting. Of course they go on an epic quest, and it strikes a welcome balance between humor, action, and gritty characters. Highly recommended.

Strangely, I received the second book in the series, Bloody Rose, first, and couldn't resist starting it. Although it follows the first book chronologically, it concerns a whole new band of mercenaries, so reading the first third didn't really spoil very much. Although they could be considered stand-alone, you should definitely read in order. A third book is in the works.
Jaymann
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