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    Originally posted by Tony C View Post
    About 100 pages into Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's 'Americanah' - the best novel I've read in some time.
    Oh yes, I loved this too. Prompted me to read her volume of short stories, and put the rest of her books on my to-read list.

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      Have been reading JG Ballard's The Terminal Beach a collection of his early short stories. I'm not always a big short stories fan. Some have been really good, others less interesting to me. I didn't know much about Ballard before starting this, I haven't read any of his other stuff before and I only really knew about Crash.

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        Originally posted by imp View Post

        God, how I did. It's shot in to my top 10 novels of all-time. What an incredible, epic, evocative, all-encompassing work of fiction. I really did not want it to finish.
        I'm only 60 pages into this and I'm already in love with it. [Independent People, that is.]

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          Put a hold at the library on Underland by Robert Macfarlane after I read some rave reviews of it. It's a new book, so I only get 2 weeks for it, and I was a bit afraid that I wouldn't be able to finish a 425 page travel/nonfiction book about exploring places underneath cities and natural places...god, how wrong I was. It's fascinating, gripping stuff. My palms were sweating and I was short of breath as he described squeezing through some passages in the Paris catacombs, and I just finished an astonishing chapter about a river that starts in Slovenia then goes underground as it passes into Italy near Trieste. He's a really gifted writer, I'm putting all of his previous books on my to-read list after finishing this.

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            I love Ballard and have been gradually buying/reading his early stuff. My most memorable experiences, borrowed in my teens from public libraries, were High Rise and Concrete Island

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              Seconded on High Rise, which I thought was utterly brilliant. Concrete Island too.

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                Another fan of Ballard here. The Miracles of Life autobiography is a really good companion piece that helps explain his outlook that drove his fiction. I became a fan also of the later novels, which I guess to a large extent follow on from High Rise and Concrete Island, with the contained societies getting ever more crazed while retaining aspects of polite middle-class suburbia

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                  Books I found very thought-provoking recently, although some were too dark to call enjoyable:

                  House of Meetings - Martin Amis
                  Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie
                  Indignation - Philip Roth
                  With Billie - Julia Blackburn
                  The God of Small Things - Arundhati Roy

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                    The only Ballard I've read was Cocaine Nights, which I read when I was 15 or 16 and didn't like at all.

                    Midnight's Children is glorious.

                    I have just this hour finished The Golden Atlas, which I would love to proofread the second edition of, but which is otherwise a lovely book. Got to take a decision on what's next, now. If I go back to the Kindle now it'll probably be Mrs. Caliban and Other Stories by Rachel Ingalls or Black Sea: Coasts and Conquests from Pericles to Putin by Neal Ascherson. Or perhaps Arun Kundnani's The Muslims Are Coming!: Islamophobia, Extremism and the Domestic War on Terror. If I go for another paper book then the contenders right now, I think after a quick look on the shelves, are Black Leopard Red Wolf by Marlon James or On Beauty by Zadie Smith.

                    I probably won't start it tonight, as I'm editing the podcast and watching pool videos now, so any votes or opinions are welcome.

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                      Midnight's Children feels like it was written yesterday rather than in the late 70s. The irreverence of early Philip Roth about families and sex but the sense of biography and history that is also in The God of Small Things. Brutal in how characters are killed off but reflective of those times and the callousness of gangsterism and war. Certainly a pessimistic vision, but beautifully expressed with constantly daring narratives and a conversational style that connects directly to the readers.
                      Last edited by Satchmo Distel; 12-07-2019, 05:02.

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                        Started reading Epic Rivalry: The Inside Story of the Soviet and American Space Race by Gene Eisman and Von Hardesty a couple of days after watching Apollo 11 at the cinema. I've had a book a wee while, and not sure why I waited so long to start it. It's absolutely brilliant.

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                          Originally posted by Sam View Post
                          The only Ballard I've read was Cocaine Nights, which I read when I was 15 or 16 and didn't like at all.

                          Midnight's Children is glorious.

                          I have just this hour finished The Golden Atlas, which I would love to proofread the second edition of, but which is otherwise a lovely book. Got to take a decision on what's next, now. If I go back to the Kindle now it'll probably be Mrs. Caliban and Other Stories by Rachel Ingalls or Black Sea: Coasts and Conquests from Pericles to Putin by Neal Ascherson. Or perhaps Arun Kundnani's The Muslims Are Coming!: Islamophobia, Extremism and the Domestic War on Terror. If I go for another paper book then the contenders right now, I think after a quick look on the shelves, are Black Leopard Red Wolf by Marlon James or On Beauty by Zadie Smith.

                          I probably won't start it tonight, as I'm editing the podcast and watching pool videos now, so any votes or opinions are welcome.
                          You lot were as much use as a chocolate teapot in helping with this, so I've started Black Sea. I've read the introductions so far (one for the original edition, one for the new edition) and already I think I'm going to enjoy this.

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                            Originally posted by WOM View Post
                            DITWC is brilliant. As is Dead Wake, about the sinking of the Lusitania. Put that high on your list.
                            Finished this yesterday... Despite knowing how it ends, I found it a remarkable book. Tense and moving. Thanks for the recommendation WOM.

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                              Black Sea is a very good book - although I don't recall the subtitle which must be a new addition or possibly a new edition. The only problem with it is that for a while afterwards I conflated Neal Ascherson with Niall Ferguson which became pretty confusing.

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                                Haha, I can see how that would be quite discombobulating. It is indeed a 'new' edition 2015, I believe.

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                                  Originally posted by gt3 View Post

                                  Finished this yesterday... Despite knowing how it ends, I found it a remarkable book. Tense and moving. Thanks for the recommendation WOM.
                                  My pleasure, gt3.

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                                    Originally posted by Sam View Post

                                    You lot were as much use as a chocolate teapot in helping with this, so I've started Black Sea. I've read the introductions so far (one for the original edition, one for the new edition) and already I think I'm going to enjoy this.
                                    God I have to retrieve my copy of the new edition from my old flatmate who borrowed it two year back. Bet he never even opened the lyrical beauty. That book makes me wet.

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                                      I'm just finishing Brian Hanley and Scott Millar's history of the Official IRA and the Workers Party The Lost Revolution.

                                      It's a decent read, though a bit of a slog at times - and I reckon it has a few issues given how heavily it depends on interviews with the main participants (some, like Seamus Costello who left Official Sinn Fein to form the Irish Republican Socialist Movement and the INLA, don't really get the opportunity to put their side of the argument across by virtue of being dead).

                                      It's quite hard to pin down the Stickies. In one sense, they were correct on most of the important matters affecting Irish politics, advancing a principled stances against sectarianism, southern irredentism and the clerical domination of Irish life that helped to usher in the peace process and the modernisation of the republic. In other senses they were an odd Stalinist sect whose hatred of the provos (essentially justified) and the rest of the Irish left (entirely unjustified) and cut them off from swathes of the working class they sought to lead. And in other senses they were a gang wedded to criminality and extortion who brutalised working class people in their own communities.
                                      Last edited by Bizarre Lw Triangle; 18-07-2019, 08:38.

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                                        'Eleni' by Nicholas Gage, about the murder of his mother by Communist guerilas in the Greek Civil War of 1948 and his attempts to track down the killers. Originally published in 1984. I am only a chapter in but am hooked by the brilliance of the storytelling and openness of the writer's honesty.

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                                          Finished Sprawball, by Kirk Goldsberry, who came to prominence by being Grantland's basketball infographics guy. Copying my review from Goodreads:

                                          Seems a little padded out and repetitive in parts to be book length--felt like I read the same anecdotes and specific stats about certain players in multiple chapters. Plus, not really sure what Ryan Anderson did to Goldsberry but boy does he get a lot of mileage out of using Anderson as example #1 with what's wrong with 3-point heavy basketball now. Goldsberry gets revenge on Charles Barkley complaining about analytics by making a lot of fat jokes about Barkley--not exactly original.

                                          But where the book is best is when Goldsberry points to how rule changes and how the game is officiated has led to teams shooting more three-pointers than ever before, making you realize that this is the result of decisions taken to "solve" problems previously, and not just teams like Houston and Golden State deciding to play this way because they are geniuses.

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                                            'The Three of Us' by Julia Blackburn. Horrible childhood events described with beauty and compassion.

                                            ' The Bastard of Istanbul' by Elif Shafak. Got a bad review in The Guardian but I am giving it a go. So far it reminds me of Arundhati Roy in its feminism, bravery and anger.

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                                              Recommended - 'Mailman' by J Robert Lennon, whose 'Broken River' I think I mentioned a few pages back. Published 2003 and set in 2000, it had somehow escaped my noticed, but has me determined to read everything he's ever written. Apparently he plays in bands too, multi-talented bastard.

                                              Currently on 'Das Braune Netz' by Willi Winkler, about how leftover large numbers of former Nazis built the Bundesrepublik. Now, I knew about this on one level - that hundreds of thousands of NSDAP and SS members were granted amnesties by the western occupiers and seamlessly resumed their careers. But I'd always assumed there'd still been a certain amount of silent shame and guilt among the majority of those involved. Far from it - seems that most of them were still very much Nazi-oriented in attitude (or, at least nationalistically oriented) and quite openly so in the academic, political, judicial and military fields, for example. Quite a shocking read. Those who fled the Nazis into exile were regarded by many as cowards and traitors, and those who fought in the war or were in party positions throughout the war saw themselves merely as having served their country, and as having stuck out the hard times. No wonder the 68 generation went fucking nuts on them.

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                                                That sounds really interesting, imp. Unfortunately it doesn't appear to have been translated into English.

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                                                  It only came out in German earlier this year. I'm sure a translation is in the works.

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                                                    A couple of recent & decent holiday reads:

                                                    Adrian Tchaikovsky Children of Time. Dystopian space opera stuff that won the Arthur C Clarke Award in 2016. Humans fuck up Earth, boffins terraform other planets to seed with new life, but end up with creepy crawlies evolving super fast to provide competition for whats left of humanity. A very good yarn indeed.

                                                    Kamila Shamsie Home Fire. A modern take on the Antigone story featuring Brit siblings of Pakistani descent caught up in Islamic fundamentalism and the States heavy handed response. Thoughtful and nuanced tale.

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