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Book Notes

Amazon recommends me Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel. So too have various friends via LJ posts, recently. Amazon, however, unlike those friends, I suspect, recommends it on the basis of my having once bought The Oxford Companion to Wine.

At fjm's recommendation, I read Shards of Honor a couple of years ago. It gave me no incentive to keep reading the Vorkosigan series. Neither did reading excerpts from the companion volume, which I browsed last year as a Hugo-nominated non-fiction book. It was the cumulative recommendation of friends who were particular Bujold fans which led me to request Barrayar from the library. It has that same inner stillness, despite all the action, that Shards of Honor had, but with a much more coherent plot to hold it all together. It really is quite good, for quite a number of reasons, particularly its compelling doing-what-needs-to-be-done in a pragmatic way approach to resolution. I liked it enough that I recommended it to C., who has now also read it. He's not sure it passes the Bechdel test, however.

I'm always charmed that one of the libraries in Essex with good science fiction collection, and thus one from which my requested books sometimes come, is the Tiptree library.

The problem with being a completist about finishing books is that I rarely feel I can put my academic reading down on my list of books-I-have-read, unless I have really read the book entirely, all chapters, all appendices, and made good inroads on the notes and bibliography. Research-reading, excerpting chapters and relevant selections, is pratical and necessary - but doesn't come with that moment's satisfaction of feeling the book is really, truly Read.

Comments

( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
fjm
Mar. 11th, 2010 09:35 am (UTC)
I, too, only include academic books if I've read them completely.
the_lady_lily
Mar. 11th, 2010 10:21 am (UTC)
I don't feel I can have academic books read for academic projects on my reading list either - my private reading and my professional reading are entirely separate. The only exception are things that come into my 'professional development' pile, things I don't have to read for any impending project but am choosing to in order to widen my mind, and that's a bit different again.
sartorias
Mar. 11th, 2010 10:30 am (UTC)
Shards was her first. Barrayar was much later, after she'd learned a lot.
coth
Mar. 11th, 2010 10:46 am (UTC)
I recommend you persevere. For starters the individual Vorkosigan books get better as they go on - my favourites so far are Mirror Dance and Komarr, both of which are probably good enough to stand alone but are richer for knowing the back story. But mostly because I am fascinated by them as an ongoing literary project: Bujold follows Miles life story, and reflects on how his life is woven with the history of Barrayar, while in doing so she uses many different kinds of novel: the early ones are mostly boys' own adventures, but the later ones include romantic comedy (A Civil Campaign, a must for any fan of Georgette Heyer), detective stories (Cetaganda) and serious noir thriller (Mirror Dance).

At the end of the last book we left Miles with new-born children. I don't know whether Bujold will ever publish another book about him, but I will certainly read it if she does.
drplokta
Mar. 11th, 2010 11:48 am (UTC)
The next Vorkosigan novel, CryoBurn, is finished -- should be published this autumn.
austengirl
Mar. 11th, 2010 11:20 am (UTC)
Funny you mentioned Wolf Hall, I bought it yesterday when I was looking for another book. So many people have recommended it, and I think the reserve list is pretty long at the local library, I thought it was worth taking a chance on.
owlfish
Mar. 11th, 2010 11:25 am (UTC)
I haven't read it - or any Mantels - although I have bought The Little Princess sequel she wrote. I bought it from Amazon. Which is why it's particularly funny to me that the system generated the recommendation based on a wine book.
austengirl
Mar. 11th, 2010 11:39 am (UTC)
Yes, their circuitous recommendation process is sometimes amusing. The book is now in my to-read pile, and I'll try to review it on Goodreads when I get to it.
drplokta
Mar. 11th, 2010 11:48 am (UTC)
Can a book retroactively fail the Bechdel test when it turns out that the unborn baby that two women have been talking about is male rather than female?
owlfish
Mar. 11th, 2010 11:53 am (UTC)
Interesting question!

I introduced C. to the Bechdel test a few weeks ago, so we've been talking about it, and what might and might not count, quite a bit lately.
a_d_medievalist
Mar. 11th, 2010 11:50 am (UTC)
I have loved every Vorkosigan book I've read. And sometimes I really don't worry about books passing the Bechdel test. Lots of Bujold's do, but sometimes they don't, and that's ok.
owlfish
Mar. 11th, 2010 11:54 am (UTC)
The test is new to C. in the last fortnight or so, so we've been discussing its applications regularly - that's why it came up in particular.
intertext
Mar. 11th, 2010 02:00 pm (UTC)
I feel ignorant that I don't know what the Bechdel test it - will go hence and Google it.

I recommend Wolf Hall very highly; I loved it. I also adore the Miles books - like Coth, I think Mirror Dance and Komarr are the best, and A Civil Campaign, which I'm sure you would love.
(the Little Princess sequel is Hilary McKay, not Mantell)
owlfish
Mar. 11th, 2010 02:09 pm (UTC)
That explains why Amazon didn't use McKay's book as a reason to recommend Wolf Hall then! (Although it doesn't explain the wine - does it?)
4ll4n0
Mar. 12th, 2010 03:19 am (UTC)
I find my pleasure reading slackened off considerably as my academic career set into high gear. Reading for (unadulterated) pleasure is one of the few distractions I deny myself consistently.

On the other hand I have a tendency to read some academic books of interest (sometimes of tangential interest) cover-to-cover. This is a trifle ineffective, but I've never felt entirely comfortable with the opportunistic reading that academic research unfortunately.
owlfish
Mar. 12th, 2010 09:18 am (UTC)
This may be why I'm doing some academic work - still recognizably tied to medieval technology - based on science fiction and fantasy these days. It helps justify it. On the other hand, I think variety in reading is healthy, when I have time to do so. (I too almost entirely denied myself pleasure reading when I was doing my PhD however.)

Not an example of pleasure reading per se, but a good reason for reading around when possible: it's been a revelation to me how much media studies has in common with history of technology. I had no idea. It also means I'm now getting the theoretical underpinnings and historiography for approaches I've been taking for granted to years.
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )