The Literature Thread: It's the Reading Raaaainboooow

Forgive me if we already have a thread on this, but yeah, it’s literature! What sort of books do you enjoy? Is there anything you’re reading now?

For me, I tend to read a lot of nonfiction. I’m typically fond of books dealing with political history and economics, though I enjoy sometimes reading about some of the sciences and whatnot. I’ve also recently been reading through some issues of Nature, which has been a pretty interesting albeit challenging read.

Right now I’m reading The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America by George Packer. It’s a book about the economic history of the US in the late 20th century, and talks about the rise of movements like neoliberalism and contemporary populism. It’s pretty fascinating, and it manages to be fairly nonpartisan with its presentation most of the time.


I’m reading Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Nightwatch right now.

Not to mention the horrendous backlog on my kindle which i won’t touch at the moment.

I’ve been working through my goal of reading every Neil Gaimen recently. Just finished The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and just picked up Norse Mythology.

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I’m still in the process of reading through every Disney canon Star Wars book. It counts as literature! But it’s pretty fun yeah, a lot of nice adventures and thrilling stories with only a few stinkers. Currently reading Heir to the Jedi and I’m struggling to focus enough to sit down with it. That’s always my problem with reading is I need to have a lot of focus and no distractions.

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I am currently working my way through Warbreaker by Sanderson, who never ceases to amaze me with how incredible his books are. After this I am diving back into the Malazan Book of the Fallen, a book series that introduces at least 200+ new characters per book, and then only kills 3/4 of them. Each book being 600-700 pages easy, this is a goal I hope to complete before my 60’s. (For reference, there are 10 books, and each one is longer than the last.) They are really good though!

My uncle got me Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle for Christmas, so I’m checking that out right now. I’m only one chapter in, but it’s pretty interesting.

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Everyone I know who’s read Murakami is absolutely raving about how good his books are, and they’re all super mad he hasn’t gotten the nobel prize for literature yet. I really should get around to reading one of his books some time.

As for myself, well, considering that reading is a quite significant part of my job, I tend to read a lot of musicology books. Last thing I read all the way through was for a course I’m teaching on blues music, It was The Devil’s Music by Giles Oakley. An absolutely fantastic study especially on the early blues, though it has to be said that due to the books age, it’s missed a few major developments since the 1970s which are only glanced over in the later edition from the 1990s. It is however still one of the most comprehensive studies on blues I’ve read so farm and Oakley’s enthusiasm for the topic really makes it a joy to read.

The last book I read for myself was Use of Weapons out of Iain Banks’ culture series. Since I’m a huuuge science fiction fan, I really enjoy Banks’ crazy universe, it’s really science fiction extrapolation cranked up to 11. Although I have to say I did prefer the two earlier entries in the series, for a number of very spoilery reasons. It’s still a very good novel though, I’d recommend the culture series in general to science fiction fans to get a glimpse of just how far you can really take this stuff. To me, the Culture itself is really the main protagonist of these stories, and it never ceases to amaze me.

Currently rereading Antony Beevor on the Battle of the Bulge. On the dock: W E B duBois, Black Reconstruction, James Stewart, DisneyWar, Vasily Grossman, Life and Fate.

I’m a huge mythology nerd, so I’m a huge fan of Rick Riordan’s various mythology series (Percy Jackson, Kane Chronicles, and Magnus Chase). I’m also a big fan of fantasy and would recommend Sanderson’s Mistborn series to pretty much anyone and to a slightly lesser extent, his Stormlight Chronicles. Unfortunately, I’m stuck waiting for him to hurry up and write the next books in both universes.

I generally also like sci-fi, but more of the old school stuff. Robert L. Forward’s Dragon’s Egg has forever shaped my love of the genre and I haven’t found anything that measures up to it in any media. He’s Rocheworld series is also pretty great, all his stuff is about exploration and first contact.

I just started reading A Handmaiden’s Tale. It’s terrifying, but very well written so far. I love what the author seems to be doing with dialogue and quotations.

Currently reading Septimania by Jonathan Levi. It’s like a Gaiman-esque Foucault’s Pendulum. I’m invested in it so far, but I’m really irritated by the protagonist’s tendency to stand there, slack-jawed while the plot happens at him (and not to him). I’m a third of the way in and so far I’ve counted four occasions when the main conflict of the novel would have been resolved painlessly if the protagonist had just said, “no wait, let’s not” instead of letting himself be dragged (literally) around the world (literally) by the arm (also literally).

I’m reading The World’s Religions by Huston Smith. My grandfather gave it to my dad as a Christmas gift 25 years ago, and recommended I read it too since he’s been rereading his copy to help him cope after he was diagnosed with colon cancer.

Currently reading through The Scruffy Drunk, the second volume (read: Troughton Years) originally from Neil Perryman’s blog, Adventures with the Wife in Space. I read through the first installment, The Miserable Git, last month, deciding to take a break from The Boy Who Could Change the World which showcases the blog posts, speeches, and articles written by Aaron Swartz.

I got introduced to the Wife in Space blog, and book series, through Neil’s other project, Tachyon TV, where it originally began as a side-project–from what I remember. Been following it ever since, to the end, and finally got the chance to donate to get a print copy of The Fit One (read: Peter Davison years) that should be published this month.

The whole series is a really good look at Doctor Who from outside the fandom while also being funny overall.

Recently I’ve been trawling local charity shops looking for interesting stuff to read and what I’ve found is that lots of people seem to chuck out their old sci-fi and fantasy novels. I do like me some fantasy and sci-fi but I’ve not really read that much of it so I’ve been digging through them looking for anything good.

Some of the stuff I’ve found has been pretty good! I got Consider Phlebas, one of Ian Banks’ Culture novels and that was an awesome space opera; I also just recently finished Sight of Proteus by Charles Sheffield and that was a fantastic cyberpunk-esque detective story. At the minute I’m working my way through Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep though it is making me think that at some point soon I’m going to have to watch Blade Runner.

Been reading Ulysses by James Joyce, and it’s…interesting! The stream-of-consciousness prose is unlike anything I’ve ever read before, and I mean that in a genuinely positive way. I dunno if I’m gonna be able to hold with it for 700 whole pages, though, without addressing some sort of guide. The plot is easy enough to understand, but I feel like there’s so much I’m missing out on.

I’ve also been reading Parting the Waters: America in the King Years by Taylor Branch, a book about the civil rights movement (something I’m woefully unfamiliar with). Really fascinating stuff! The book manages to go super in-detail about stuff like the origins of black churches and their contribution to the movement, without ever feeling bloated or slow-paced.

On a slightly unrelated note, do any of you guys have a Goodreads account? I’ve got one here; I don’t use it very often, but it’s a nice way to organize my backlist.

Molly’s Game, by Molly Bloom. The charm and flow of the story is very engaging; it’s hard not to burn through it in a single sitting. A tale that presents some juicy moral questions, but won’t tie you up in knots for days.


I recently gave up on Witches Be Crazy. It’s the author’s first book, and you can tell; and the author is like 23, and you can tell. Still, he was doing pretty well until the protagonists took a trip to the Village of the Straw Feminists, which he clearly added in a fit of great offense after someone tried to explain privilege to him.