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  1. #1826
    imp's Avatar
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    Yes, the book brushed over too many interesting topics - not enough on Claudius or Nero, for example. But then it was supposed to be about the city rather than the emperors, as such. Not that you can really divide the two, which made it a difficult brief.

    I never knew the Romans invented concrete. After reading that I wanted to hear who, how, when and why - but it was never mentioned again. Perhaps that information is unknown.

  2. #1827
    Lang Spoon's Avatar
    Couldn't tell Lou Reed from Doug Yule
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    Even older than the Romans, imp. The forerunners of the builders of Petra were using concrete cisterns to store their water about 8000 years ago. Mycenaean Greece, Assyria, Egypt all used it as well. I think the Romans may have refined the technique though, before it all but died out till post Black Death Europe.

  3. #1828
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    I'm reading The Stones Speak by Thórbergur Thórdarson at the moment, which is an account of late 19th century rural life in south east Iceland. Somewhat to my surprise, I'm really enjoying it. Next up, and by way of contrast, is Memoirs Of A Geezer by Jah Wobble.

  4. #1829

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    If you're on an Icelandic run and haven't read it yet, you really should read Halldor Laxness's Independent People.

  5. #1830

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    I've just finished Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple. It started off OK, but finished very flat - it's nothing like as fun as Where D'you Go Bernadette. Before that the excellent little Italian novel I'm Not Scared by Niccolo Ammaniti, a sort of thriller written through the eyes of a 9 year old boy. And now I'm finally reading The Broken Road, the unfinished third part of Patrick Leigh Fermor's walk to Constantinople in 1933. I loved the first two, although his language was a little florid for my taste at times. It'll be interesting to see how the mode and language changed as he was finishing it decades after the first book was published and three quarters of a century after he started actually made the walk.

  6. #1831
    Benjm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by San Bernardhinault View Post
    If you're on an Icelandic run and haven't read it yet, you really should read Halldor Laxness's Independent People.
    Thanks for the tip; I've just ordered a copy.

  7. #1832
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    Same here. It gets great reviews everywhere I look. Have ordered for L for Christmas.

  8. #1833

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    Masha Gessen's The Future Is History is kind of a funny book. She follows the lives of a half-dozen Russians from the late 80s to now, as a way to show how Russia collapsed, revived, and then fell under the spell of Putin. Fantastic, except for one thing: she insists that Putin's regime is totalitarian when it pretty clearly isn't. So I'm in the weird position of recommending this book strongly while simultaneously recommending that you ignore its central thesis.

  9. #1834
    WOM's Avatar
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    Sorta like the bible.

  10. #1835

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    Old testament maybe. New testament is probably the reverse.

  11. #1836
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    If you can't say anything nice...
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    Stuart Jeffries' book on the Frankfurt School, Grand Hotel Abyss, is a treat.

  12. #1837
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    There is no "Grand Hotel" in Frankfurt, which I imagine is the point . . .

  13. #1838
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    Try to be kind. Even when you don't want to.
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    I finished 'Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator' on the train today. Two things struck me. 1) The extraordinarily racist stuff about people from China, which I'm surprised hasn't been redacted by the publisher. 2) The president of the USA is a whiny insufferable man-baby, which seemed eerily close to real life.

    I then started 'Our Friends from Frolix 8' by Philip K Dick and got about 120 pages in. This means I still have 3 books on the go. I have read some more of 'Seinfeldia' but it's not very well written. There are nuggets to be dug out but they require a lot of digging.

  14. #1839
    Gerontophile's Avatar
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    "Clockwork Dynasty". Daniel H Wilson. A bit of history with science fiction. Really good.

  15. #1840
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    Finished Seinfeldia. There are better books yet to be written about Seinfeld.

  16. #1841
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    A lovely sense of entropy here
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    'Frolix 8' is a pretty hardcore choice. I know I've read it, but can't remember it. There'll be something good buried in there - Dick's like The Fall in that even their most offhand works aren't completely disposable.

    On which note, I'm reading 'The Big Midweek' by Steve Hanley & Olivia Piekarski, which is fascinating and more straight-up entertaining than the John French book which obviously inspired it. It's long, and there's a lot of mundane detail; initially this seems like slack editing but it really serves to convey the everyday reality of working in The Fall. Like French on Beefheart, Hanley seems to treat MES fairly and respectfully, but without eliding bad behaviour. So yes to this, and I think it would be a good train read.

  17. #1842
    Patrick Thistle's Avatar
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    I finished Frolix 8. I'm not really sure it was worth it. He spins a nice turn of phrase and the envisioned world was interesting. But the sexism dated it badly, along with the idea of room sized computers. 1970 was more than just a generation ago. We are separated by an entire future now.

  18. #1843
    Sam's Avatar
    You never can tell with bees.
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    I have just this minute finished Swing Time, by Zadie Smith. It's wonderful. The first novel I've read in a while for which, on realising the chapter I was about to start was the final one, I took a deep breath to get myself ready. Some of that will be the fact I was reading it on paper rather than in the Kindle, but most of it is because it's fantastic. I'm going to need a while on Tuesday to decide what to pick up next, I think.

  19. #1844
    imp's Avatar
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    Sea Room by Adam Nicolson. Posh English bloke inherits three uninhabited Scottish islands, the Shiant Isles in the Outer Hebrides, off his dad, who bought them off Compton McKenzie in the 1930s. I would never have dreamt that I would enjoy such a book so throughly from start to finish. Beautiful writing about an isolated, inhospitable (unless you're a bird, sheep or rat) but mystical, magnificent place. It was written in 2000 - Nicolson was planning to pass the islands on to his son in 2005 on his 21st. birthday. If you fancy going, he prints both his own and his son's email address - they will happily send you the key to the two-room house if you fancy staying, but there's no running water or electricity.

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