aberration: Leslie from Parks and Rec in a hospital bed and munching on a waffle. (work is third)
So I have clearly failed in my attempt to actually post about my reading (or... anything). BUT I did still read a lot this year, and will probably not manage to finish anything else in the next... day, so here is my reading list for 2016!

Books read in 2016 )

And even though I didn't do it on my own, let me know in the comments if you want me to talk/answer any questions about any of these books. Because I'm on break from school right now so whatever!

Also, fyi, I finally wrote a couple posts about Mongolia, here (general update) and here (on the Mongolian language).

Шинэ жилийн мэнд!
aberration: Fruit pies arranged on a rising set of circular shelves. (warm and safe and)
Trying to play catch up, here are two books I read this year and... didn't like so well. So I'm grouping them together:

I picked up Blink by Malcolm Gladwell mostly out of curiosity – for specific personal reasons I'd met him one time and knew about his work, but had never actually read anything by him.

I ... wasn't impressed by this. While the overall point seems to be about our tendency to make snap judgments, what those mean, and how helpful they are, this floundered throughout the book. In part, this was because it felt less like a well-researched, scientifically-based approach, and more like Gladwell had talked to a lot of friends-of-friends. It amounted to a relatively small pool of loosely connected anecdotes, and what felt like a lot of coastie-elitism. I also grew a little tired of Gladwell's invented terminology, like "thin-slicing" and especially "temporary autism." Which I just found flippant and, aside from anything else – well, terminology is important, and that term is imprecise and unhelpful.

So, it just came off as a weak popular press book, with a nebulous point of "snap judgments are good, except when they're bad." Parts of it reminded me of Gavin de Becker's The Gift of Fear, which I'd also recently read, and which handles concepts like instinct, snap judgments, and fear reactions with more clarity and insight than I think Gladwell was able to afford, in part because de Becker drew from a wider range of experiences to shed light on a more specific point. The Gift of Fear isn't heavy academic reading, either – but by comparison, Blink goes so broad, in such a shallow way, that it doesn't really say anything.




I think my mom bought The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, presumably because it's been a big bestseller? I don't really know, I chose it at random.

This is a novel about two French sisters during World War II, one of whom becomes involved in the French resistance, the other who is more pressed with maintaining her daughter's and her own safety, particularly when a Nazi officer is quartered in their home.

This story is pretty much everything you'd expect from an American woman writing about WW II France, and … nothing else. Almost every cliché imaginable comes to pass, from postcard-perfect France to Stupid Americans to Woman Super Proves Wrong The Man Who Doubts Her (I'm not like… always opposed to such things, but this just doesn't add to it, and I didn't care enough about the characters to get much from it) to unspoken illicit romance and tragic wartime romance to Jewish Best Friends, and etc. I just can't say I found anything new, or especially interesting, in this story – it read like the book version of blatant Oscar-bait. And while generally decently written, the use of figurative language could be cringe-worthy at times. Overall, if I weren't in my I'M GOING TO FINISH EVERYTHING binge, I might not have finished it.
aberration: Anthy and Utena in the Utena movie, dancing in the flooded rose garden above their reflection. (we shall all be healed)
So among the books I managed to collect before coming here was Wandering Stars: An Anthology of Jewish Fantasy and Science Fiction. This is a collection of fourteen stories by mostly pretty well-known sci-fi writers. I really enjoyed quite a few of them, though I think some venture further into "hard" sci-fi than I usually am interested in going. Over on goodreads, some reviews accuse the authors of too often relying on stereotypes. I don't feel like I can say anything on that, though I do think it's fair to note that in this case "Jewish" means Ashkenazi American overwhelmingly (12/14) male authors born in the first half of the 20th century. Most stories do clearly draw from a male Jewish-American experience, so I'd understand that objection, even if I also don't think I'm the one to make it. And as these stories dealt with issues often outside my cultural context, there are likely going to be instances where I didn't pick up on or understand some aspects, so I'll just leave this acknowledgement here. But these are the stories I particularly liked:

Under the cut; some mentions of antisemitism and sexual assault, but only very briefly. )

And I'm really behind on this now, but my general progress for reading in 2016 is also here.
aberration: Pabu from LoK taking a nap next to an old-fashioned radio. (smoke you out)
And with what I think will be the last of these that I actually started in 2015: a couple months ago on the bus ride back from UB (or to, I can't remember), I started reading John Grisham's The Innocent Man. This was Grisham's first nonfiction book – the only other Grisham book I'd read was A Time to Kill, which while I'd found it interesting, I hadn't been that impressed with the characters or prose.

Not exactly spoilers, as all of this really happened. But it does include discussion of physical and sexual assault, and mental health issues. )
aberration: Anthy and Utena in the Utena movie, dancing in the flooded rose garden above their reflection. (we shall all be healed)
And then there's The Complete Stories of Flannery O'Connor. I'd read A Good Man Is Hard to Find and a few of her other stories that weren't in that collection, so a lot of this was rereading. Though that led to a lot of "was that… especially upsetting... or did I not come in... prepared..." (The Lame Shall Enter First, I don't know.) Reading so many of O'Connor's stories at once also reinforced what seem to be her favorite conventions, which include:
- Underachieving grown men living with their mothers.
- Young women and girls who are intelligent, ugly, bookish, "precocious," cruel, and very clear author stand-ins.
- Middle-aged or older women so unable to deal with their reality that they feel temporally displaced. (This is not the best way to phrase it, and I'm no trying to write off racism as "unable to deal with their reality," but it does feel like a point that these women seem to be almost simultaneously in two spaces at once.)

Read more... )
aberration: Katara from A:TLA leaned forward, her braid and arm behind her as she directs a whip of water. (there is a war coming)
So the second book I've finished this year is the Welcome to Night Vale novel. I know WTNV has sort of cycled in and out of fannish interest at this point, but with ample time to listen to podcasts while I do chores, I've managed to catch up on it. Though my mom was actually the one to buy this.

I'd wondered how well something like Night Vale, which really can't be constrained by things like consistency or logistics, would work as a novel, rather than the snippet views provided by the podcast. I do think it managed to pull off what it does in the show in this longer form – which is to continue to side-step the need to structure its weirdness by making its unreality a lens on reality. A lot of the Night Vale's attraction in the first place is less about glow clouds and hooded figures, I think, and more about its straightforward acknowledgment of many bizarre truths: how death is both always distant from and very close to us; that time and space aren't real things as we understand them, and that even the way we personally perceive them can vary so much; that the most dangerous things in the world are largely intangible; that our lives may be parts of dystopias, but you often don't call your home a dystopia. It is a little too long, and I found the resolution kind of talky and easy, but overall I felt that it did what it needed to.

I try to avoid spoilers, but there are more details under the cut. )
aberration: Asami Sato from Legend of Korra, looking rather glowy. (give your eyes to the sky)
So because I need to write about SOMETHING, I'm going to make some effort to post here, at least, about the books I read. Starting now. In 2016. I'd call it a New Year's Resolution but I... really, really don't want to. Plus I'm reading five books at once (complete with designated categories: 2 nonfiction, 2 long form fiction, 1 short form fiction), which really just means it takes me forever to finish anything. But I did finish something! And it's the first thing I finished in 2016, setting aside that I started it... much earlier in 2015. In any case, it was Parallel Worlds by Michio Kaku.

Read more... )

Also let's be honest, my "various reasons" for reading this book at this time included the Divine Comedy/multiverse theory Hannibal fanfiction I'm still trying to write. I do feel like I have a much better understanding of quantum physics than I do Dante and Ovid talking about... something, while I guess some lizard monster is just running around nearby. (In other words, it will be a very long time before The Divine Comedy appears here.)
aberration: Sailor Mars from Sailor Moon transforming, her body surrounded by rings of fire. (scorched earth)
So now that I've finished the LoK meta from hell, I can post about other things!

Um.

- Mongolia is steadily approaching, and I'm really more apprehensive about the transition than the actually being there. I just want that part to be over with. That being said there are also a zillion things I need to do before I go, and I really need to ... get them done.

- I guess there are other tv shows I watch. I GUESS. But I don't have any theses to write on them. Parks and Rec was pretty much everything I wanted it to be, though I think my favorite episode of the final season was "Leslie & Ron." I loved the finale, but that one really broke my heart in ways I wasn't expecting. The whole season was pretty much great, though.

And... other things I don't have a lot to say about. I somehow feel lucky that more than one of the shows I've been following for ages wrapped up or is wrapping up this year. Except for Hannibal, which I think will probably air entirely during my PST. So I will probably have to wait and download it all during a visit to Ulan Bataar/someone will have to send it to me and I can watch it while freezing in my wherever and hoping no one randomly shows up while I have the cannibalism show open in one tab and like korrasami fanart in the other. Sadly I am already considering how I'm going to have to put all femslashy fanart I have in my rotating wallpapers folder in a separate folder so that doesn't... just pop up :(

In any case, I'm going to move on to a question for you guys. Reading definitely seems to be a major PCV activity, and I want to take this chance to read some books/authors I haven't yet. I've already started making a list of what to collect (preferably in kindle editions) before I leave, but! What are your favorite books/what books would you recommend to me?

(I know the biggest difference between me and a lot of my friends is that, to a degree, I've never been that into sci-fi/fantasy books. It's hard to say how exactly this works for me, because I loved books like Never Let Me Go and Slaughterhouse Five, which I'd consider sci-fi, and then of course Harry Potter, but I couldn't get very far in say, A Game of Thrones or Fellowship of the Ring. That being said, I don't necessarily want to put particular limitations on recommendations – who knows what I'll get into now! So.)
aberration: Close up of Anthy looking down, her hair falling over her shoulders. (found myself an old solution)
More Hannibal liveblogging! And a little long again, especially with my sidetracking off into gender and queer stereotypes and etc. Warnings for discussion of child abuse, sexual assault, some really gross sexism, homophobia, violence, and yep cannibalism.

Hannibal liveblogging part 5, chapters 50 to 61 )


Next Time: An unparalleled understanding of piggishness, and maybe the last set before my liveblogging pretty much devolves into incoherent screaming.
aberration: Pabu from LoK taking a nap next to an old-fashioned radio. (smoke you out)
So this got really long. Maybe a little because I was using this to procrastinate on actual work, and also because my way of determining how many chapters I'll cover are what seem like good endpoints at the time/when I get tired of screencapping. There were also just more instances here where I started rambling. And a few of those instances involve discussion of potentially triggering material, including child molestation, rape and sexual assault, homophobia, and sexism. As well as the violence, cannibalism, and death you'd generally expect, so. Fair warning.

Hannibal liveblogging part 4, chapters 42-49 )

Next time: Thomas Harris' divided universe, and how Hannibal Lecter is on the wrong side of it.


Also I really shouldddddd do Korra meta again because 1) WOW; and 2) it's weird to have the feeling "that's... the character I fell in love with and have been writing she's actually here omg." But. Yes. 40% terror, 60% fist pumping glee.

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