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What are you reading? (The Book Club thread)

Discussion in 'Ne Obliviscaris' started by Tim Charles, Apr 16, 2009.

  1. Willow of oz

    Willow of oz Enter custom user title:

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    100 Must Read Science Fiction Novels. As per title. And it's pocket sized! This was a real boon for when you're heading off gigging via train, etc - you can just pop it in a back pocket at the gig, whip it out and read it whilst on PT. Fairly good, gave me some inspiration (not that I needed it). Actually, sometimes it was rather frustrating since reading about other books makes me want to go off and actually read other books.
    Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy. It's not bad, but damn it felt like it really sucked the life out of me. Difficult and slow to get into at the start, probably for several reasons, including 1) it's about late 19th century russia, an unfamiliar setting; 2) the people have many (long) names, so there were times when I thought there was a crowded room, when it was really only two people talking to each other. Once I got further into the book and more familiar with things, and once I actually got on a bit of a roll reading a section (picking it up, even after a short break, took a bit of ramping up), then things started to flow more. Interesting story, quite fleshed out characters.
     
  2. chrisdoig24k

    chrisdoig24k Boom King

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    Finished a stack while I was overseas.

    Murray Rothbard - Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature and other essays
    A little far-fetched at times, some of the chapters were more him ranting than sound philosophical analysis, but by and large it was great fun.

    Ayn Rand - The Fountainhead
    Same kind of thing except rather than being essays, this was a fiction story. Infuriating at times, but again, a good story with a fairly good message.

    John Hyde - Dry: In Defense of Economic Freedom
    This was a real winner. Explained and documented the rise of true economic liberalism from the late 70s to around 2000 in Australia, with particular reference to the influence by a small group of Liberal MPs.

    Now working through Baabar - From World Power to Soviet Satellite: History of Mongolia
    Picked this up at the airport. Written by a member of Mongolia's Social Democratic (eww!!) party, and it should have some lovely chronicles of the rise and fall of the Mongolian empire in the 1100AD-14000AD period and also the rise and fall of communism from 1921-1990. Very cool!
     
  3. Willow of oz

    Willow of oz Enter custom user title:

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    The Quiet American by Graham Greene - Americans in Vietnam prior to the start of the Vietnam War. Not bad, a little slow.

    Microserfs by Douglas Coupland - Humorous look at a bunch of nerds who leave Microsoft in the mid 90s to work at a start-up tech company in silicon valley. Quite good, especially if you're in IT.

    Stone by Adam Roberts - In the far future, a criminal jailed inside a star is sprung loose in order to kill everyone on a planet without being told why or for who. Pretty good read, not long enough to get hard-core about the science.

    Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon - An autistic child investigates the death of his neighbour's dog, with his family life unfolding throughout the story. Highly readable.

    Interestingly, all the above books are first-person POV.
     
  4. chrisdoig24k

    chrisdoig24k Boom King

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    Finished the Mongolian history book.

    Finished Murray Rothbard's 'The Case Against The Fed' which was quite good. He did go a little gold-fetishist at time, but it wasn't bad, especially in the history of the federal reserve.

    Also read Ron Paul's 'End The Fed'. Very simple and easy to read, but moderately insightful when it came to some of the people involved right now. A lot of the history and theory seemed to be reworded Rothbard. Less gold-fetishism.

    Reading Hayek's 'A Free Market Monetary System and The Pretense of Knowledge', which is very VERY good indeed. Short but sweet.

    Also reading A C Grayling's 'Towards The Light', which is about the history of pro-liberty movements, albeit written from a slightly positive-rights-inclined social democratic point of view.

    My girlfriend gave me the ultimate TOME for my birthday though - Murray Rothbard's 'Man, Economy and State', which should take me a good six months to read, it's a beast!
     
  5. Willow of oz

    Willow of oz Enter custom user title:

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    Damn, that's a lot of economics!
     
  6. chrisdoig24k

    chrisdoig24k Boom King

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    And not a lot of physiology :(

    Having a look at Bastiat's classic essay 'The Law', wonderful and insightful!
     
  7. requiem

    requiem I bleed sir, but not killed

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    I've been finishing some reading for my Masters in English Literature that is due in two and a half weeks. It will be done. And oh, it is glorious.
     
  8. Willow of oz

    Willow of oz Enter custom user title:

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    For bookclub, someone (half-jokingly?) suggested we read Plato's The Republic. Didn't end up getting picked though.
     
  9. requiem

    requiem I bleed sir, but not killed

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    Chris, I hear Ayn Rand is largely discredited and that she purports outdated modes of thinking. How do you respond?
     
  10. chrisdoig24k

    chrisdoig24k Boom King

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    How long have you got?

    As for her modes of thinking that she really shoves down one's throat, I partially agree and partially disagree. The 'mode of thinking' she really supports is that things exist objectively. People who say 'there is no right or wrong', or 'There is no objective reality', or 'perception is everything', or 'facts are not as important as feelings' etc., are all dicks. This is something that I can agree with I am a strong believer that things do in fact exist independently of our awareness and perceptions.

    She was also a believer in rights - predominantly that those who had created something had the right to ownership of it. Now this unfortunately made her call on government to protect abstractions such as intellectual property, but by and large that notion remains applicable to this day. To suggest that this is 'outdated' is somehow to say that once, people did have a right to their belongings but now that we are 'enlightened', we can see that people actually have no claim to that which is theirs. Nonsense, as anybody can see.

    This is the philosophy that underscores free market capitalism - that, regardless of outcome, one's right to property is inviolable by any other individual who can forcefully remove that property from you.

    There are, however, several problems with her philosophy. While claiming to be for individuality, she was remarkably hostile to those with different aesthetic preferences to her. Stemming from the idea of rational, absolute, universal truths of logic, came this bizarre hatred of anybody with a different view to her on things from art to music to architecture, and the claims that they despised life and reason, and all this totally irrational nonsense. Now I'm all for calling a spade a spade and acknowledging when some music is genuinely terrible, but the idea that anything I dislike is automatically a denial of life... well, it's just mad.

    And then there's her perversion towards gold. And, in fact, money. Yes, money is the central thing that brings economies and economic activity together, but it doesn't mean it's the sole thing which governs humans and human activity. She accurately gauged the morality of economic activity (as I mentioned before with the property stuff, and also that transactions must only ever be voluntary - this is quite ok), but then extrapolated that so that it was somewhat the only morality of all human activity. This is just weird. The goal of making money is quite a legitimate (and anything but immoral) goal when voluntary transactions are occurring (just by their very nature). But to say that the goal of making money is the only noble goal for humans, well, that just doesn't follow logically.

    Then there are her assertions about gold. For somebody so staunchly anti-conservative, she really likes enforcing the preservation of monetary history. While it is true that economies around the world have largely used gold as a medium of exchange (due to several qualities it possesses - it can be minted, divided, weighed, and it is generally considered desirable), she takes from that the idea that gold is therefore the only acceptable medium of exchange. In contrast with an alternative, such as fiat money, yes, gold is the better option. But her addiction to gold is a fetish, and is not consistent with the rest of her philosophy.

    For example, she strongly opposes religion, dismissing it as irrational and inconsistent with objective reality. But, all civilisations (correct me if I'm wrong) have all adopted a form of religion to explain the universe. Does this mean that, like her obsession with gold, religion must be the best option? No. Her positions on the two are inconsistent, despite her apparent hate for inconsistency.

    The point is, she's far from perfect. But she's definitely relevant. Reading Atlas Shrugged, I was rather surprised at how much of it was spot on with what was going on in the economy at the time. This was reflected in the sales of that book, which skyrocketed during the crisis. Every politician could get a lot from reading some of her stuff. But, there are better things to read. Secondly, her zealotry, and the cult of personality around her, really turns people away from her stuff.

    And her writing isn't very good. Enjoyable, but not good, literarily (is that a word?) speaking. I really enjoyed the books, but to be honest, you could do away with most of the philosophy in there. Rather than developing concepts through the book, every character is thoroughly one-dimensional, and they hammer the same words into you again and again and again, so after you've met all the characters and assumed that the bad ones will fuck the world up while the good ones will be good, you've pretty much got the novel down, so you can spare yourself the other 1,999 pages.

    There are a million criticisms one could throw at her. Some of them would be highly valid. But to respond to your statement that she purports outdated modes of thinking, I'll have to disagree. The inconsistencies and failures of her philosophy are not a result of time, they are a result of logic (or lack thereof). The truths in her philosophy are similarly, a result of logic, not time, and are very relevant today.
     
  11. Willow of oz

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    I read Dan Brown's the Lost Symbol. It was good. I lieked it.
     
  12. Willow of oz

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    Recent stuff:
    The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown, as mentioned above. I'd avoided any Dan Brown stuff in the past, but this was chosen by one of the book clubs I'm in. Although it's a sequel of sorts to the Da Vinci code, not having read the prequel is of little matter from my experience. I went in with low expectations, but I found it quite a fun read. The story is part thriller and part religious intrigue, often evoking memories of Tilley's Mission and any one of Matthew Reilley's books.
    Tomorrow When the War Began by John Marsden. Aussie book set in the countryside following a set of teenagers after Oz is invaded. A lot of colloquialisms add to the general aussie feel. Aimed at the YA market, so a pretty light read but enjoyable nontheless. First in a series of 7 or so (+ supplementaries).
    Transmetropolitan by Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson. Probably the second graphic novel I've read, with the first one being maybe 10-15 years ago. I actually quite liked it and really got into the whole storyline. Set in the future in a generic megatropolis sprawling with vice and sin, the story follows journalist Spider Jerusalem who seeks out 'truth' to combat what he sees as the general ill. General themes of oppression, politics, religion, media saturation, consumerism and hedonism. First in a series of 10 or so.
     
  13. Arcotide

    Arcotide New Metal Member

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    Currently reading Richard Dawkins - The Greatest Show On Earth.
     
  14. gileslol

    gileslol Scum Of The Law Faculty

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    read the first one in this series a while ago, top read. spider jerusalem is very hunter s. thompson :p
     
  15. chrisdoig24k

    chrisdoig24k Boom King

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    Received Henry Hazlitt's classic 'Economics in One Lesson' in the mail today, very exciting!
     
  16. Benj

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    Just finished the Gospel of Pilate by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt,

    just mind-blowing and an absolutely must-read for everyone, really nice thoughts and ideas about God, civilisation, perceptions, incredibly well-written ( although i didn't check the English version ). Finished 1984 by George Orwell, great classic, and now starting The Animal Farm ( another classic ) i can't believe this man already saw the worst our civilisation would do in 1948 !
     
  17. Willow of oz

    Willow of oz Enter custom user title:

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    Ah, I tried to pick up Fear and Loathing in borders just before xmas, but failed.
    Someday, someday.
     
  18. Willow of oz

    Willow of oz Enter custom user title:

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    * Brasyl by Ian McDonald - Well, on the back it claims the book will change how you think about everything, so that may top the claims of Life Expectancy :lol: Sci-fi with three threads set in current brazil, future +30yrs brazil and brazil 200 years ago. Not bad, but I think I was expecting something more out of it, so I'm somewhat disappointed. But I really don't think it's the book, I think it was me. Reminds me of Gibson, and stuff like Neuromancer. Liked it, but at the end had nfi about what had happened, and shortly after I couldn't even remember a single character's name. Read it a second time and it all just gelled. Suspect Brasyl might be like that, though it has the hurdle that a lot of the barrier is from the portuguese that's smeared on thick. Yes, there's a glossary, no I didn't refer to it enough, and no it doesn't cover half the words I did try looking up.
    * The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov. A classic from several decades ago exploring the scientists surrounding a free-energy machine. Highly readable. In fact I started and finished it at the hair dressers just the other day.
     
  19. Xochi

    Xochi New Metal Member

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    Right now I'm reading 'Turn on, Tune in, Drop out'. And since I got them I've been rereading 'Reality Sandwiches' and 'Howl, Kaddish, and other poems' by Allen Ginberg and 'The Metaphysical Poets'.
     
  20. chrisdoig24k

    chrisdoig24k Boom King

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    Got Ludwig von Mises' 'Theory of Money and Credit' in the mail the other day. I.e., all other life stops while I read it!
     

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